Overview: The Formbound Institute is not found in any one building. In fact, the Formbound Institute is best described as existing in and through the world whether the world recognizes its presence or not. The truth is that there are many instances of Formbound Institutes within a world, and most distinct regions or countries have their own instance of a Formbound Institute. The Formbound Institute for any given region is comprised of many individuals who are set on understanding the boundaries of shapechanging and formbound powers. All of the members of a Formbound Institute seek to use these powers to the best of their ability. Some seek the power for their own glory, power, prestige, or even profit. Others seek the power for the benefit of the world around them. Still others seek to understand their power so that they can teach those who can benefit from their experience.
Base of Operations: Most countries or regions have a designated place where members of a Formbound Institute – hereafter called Transbound – gather together once every three years. This could be thought of as a general assembly or perhaps even a base of operations, although no true base of operations exists. This weeklong triennial gathering is filled with seminars on ways to expand the powers they hold and these seminars are taught by high-ranking Transbound. Also included in this week are mock battles to allow Transbound to practice their arts while receiving critiques from members they may not see at any other time. Finally, this gathering is when Transbound can put their skills to a test in order to improve their rank within the Formbound Institute.
In addition to this triennial gathering, most Transbound have a personal private base of operations. Those living outside of civilization may live in wild groves of trees, simple or well furnished caves, or impressive dwellings that have been constructed in remote places. Transbound who live within a town or city may work out of their simple home, an impressive tower, or even from within a library or museum as curator. There is no telling where you might find a Transbound living or working.
Although no true base of operations exists, it is up to the leader, the Archshaper, to maintain some contact between members. To some, perhaps the true base of operations for any Formbound Institute would be the personal home or business of the head of the Formbound Institute for a given region. Usually the Archshaper uses whatever staff they may have in their own personal business to keep in touch with other members. Sometimes this may be as simple as a newsletter, psionic missive, or some other loose means for tying people together. Other Archshapers may take a more direct approach to leadership in requiring members to appear periodically at his or her residence to pay dues and apprise the Archshaper on developments of note. However, these means of keeping in contact between Triennial gatherings vary widely among regions, Archshapers, and the needs of the community.
Alignment: Characters of any alignment can join the Formbound Institute, however usually only those who have the social graces to at least coexist with other people choose to do so. Formbound characters that are the worst of all evil may join, but typically their selfishness and hunger for absolute power drives them away from the purposes of the institute. In the same way often the rigidly good are not members of the Formbound Institute because of its willingness to coexist with less than good members. However, most formbound characters who are willing to at least coexist with other people’s agendas find the Formbound Institute welcoming.
Members: Members are typically found by other Transbound. Most are discovered as their powers are young and are thus honed through training. However, it is not impossible for a Transbound to find an individual who has escaped detection and is already well on their way to developing into a dominant Transbound. In any case, there is usually some amount of instruction that happens when an individual is made aware of the fact that their developing gifts may fit into a large culture of similarly gifted people.
There is no test to become an initiate within a Formbound Institute. All that is necessary is that a person be capable of learning how to either alter their shape or learn the ways of creating astral constructs by tapping into the astral plane. So long as either of these conditions is met, anyone can be invited to become an initiate rank (and thus a transbound) within a Formbound Institute. Regarding higher levels than the initiate, the ranks of the Transbound are given in the following table.
In order to improve in rank within the Formbound Institute, a Transbound must defeat an astral construct of an appropriate level made by another Transbound of Dominist rank or higher. For example, to become a Journeyman Transbound a character would have to defeat a 2nd level astral construct in a solo battle. To become a 1st Erudist Transbound a character would have to defeat a 6th level astral construct in solo battle. The dismiss ectoplasm power (and other powers that are designed to terminate astral constructs by psionic/ectoplasm means) are strictly forbidden in these matches. The battles are designed to be tests of combat prowess and not avenues for demonstrating ability to dismiss ectoplasmic forms.
These battles are seldom lethal as the contestant has the right to forfeit at any point if they feel that they are overmatched. Once forfeiture is announced the astral construct is dismissed by the Dominist manifester and the battle is over. There is no penalty or scorn for failing a test, but a Transbound is only allowed one failed test per triennial gathering. There is no limit to the number of successful tests that can be accomplished within each triennial gathering.
Once a Transbound defeats a 9th level astral construct they become the highest rank possible through the means of the trials: a Dominist. There is no limit to the number of Dominists that any triennial gathering of the Formbound Institute may contain at any one time. Anyone who is capable of defeating a 9th level astral construct and who has the psionic power worthy of assuming alternate forms can become a Dominist. However, there are only three Triadists and a single Archshaper among any one instance of the triennial gathering of the Formbound Institute. In order to become a Triadist, a Dominist must call out an existing Triadist in a nonlethal challenge. Each Triadist can only be challenged once per day of the gathering and both parties involved in a challenge have the right to request complete healing before any challenge begins. If nobody is found to provide healing, the challenge does not take place. A Dominist may only make one failed challenge per triennial gathering.
A Transbound can only become an Archshaper after they are a Triadist for at least three years. The process of becoming an Archshaper also lies along the path of challenges. A Triadist can challenge the reigning Archshaper to a nonlethal combat with the winner becoming the Archshaper and the loser returning to the Triadist rank. The loser can then be challenged by any Dominist the next day once his power point reserve has been replenished and he has had a chance to heal from the prior day’s challenge. What this implies is that at one triennial gathering an Archshaper could descend in
rank the whole way down to Dominist.
Size: The Formbound Institute fluctuates in size from gathering to gathering depending on how many initiates have been taken in and how many Transbound have died since the last triennial gathering. However, it is rare for any instance of a Formbound Institute to have less than 150 members. The example in the sample Formbound Institute given in the table at the end of this section has 246 members.
There are a few regulations regarding size that can be guaranteed. The first regulation that helps to keep size limited is that only Transbound who have attained the level of 1st Erudist are allowed to find and teach initiates in the ways of the formbound powers. Typically, Erudists are also smart enough to know that their ability to train initiates and keep them safe grows as they grow in power. Thus, usually most Erudists do not have many initiates until their own power levels have increased.
The second guarantee is that the Dominist rank often has an equal amount or more members than any other rank besides the initiate ranks (Initiate, Apprentice, and Journeyman). While this may sound counterintuitive at first, it is a reality because of the way that the ranks are administered. The tests up to the Dominist level ensure that Transbound will increase on their own ability into the Dominist level. However, they bottleneck at the Dominist level since advancement beyond is limited by a Dominist’s power compared to the Transbound around the Dominist. With advancement limited, the only other things holding down the number of Dominists within a Formbound Institute are death and aging.
Motto: “Give me enough time, and I can do plenty more than you’ll ever need.”
Description: Most people think of the Formbound Institute as a place for the social mutants to go and gather. That is not to say that they disapprove of the Formbound Institute or the Transbound themselves. In fact, most people are glad that they have a place to go to perform their talents away from civilization. What most people don’t understand about the Transbound is their desire to change the shape of their own skin in the first place. In general, an instance of the Formbound Institute is typically nothing more than a convention of highly specialized manifesters who are intent on improving themselves – and sometimes others around them. In many ways it feels like a cross between a jousting tournament and a scientific conference. There are places for physical challenges and arenas for cheering – but just as many places for learning, teaching, and general improvements.
Of course, there is often the element of a traditional bar as well. There are friendly (and not-so-friendly) rivalries. There are competing egos that out-boast their actual prowess. Promises are made that aren’t quite capable of being fulfilled. In general, however, an instance of a Formbound Institute is a gathering for good-spirited improvement.
Joining: As stated earlier, joining the Formbound Institute is by invitation (usually this is reflected mechanically by a character gaining the formbinder feat or even simply having access to a Formbound power). As an institute grows in power and more apprentice level Transbounds become capable of taking on recruits there are often more and more invitations presented into the communities within any given region. In some cases Transbounds will travel to regions with Formbound Institutes that are significantly less developed in order to search for undiscovered talent to bring home. As always, these new recruits may be sought in genuine motive or through a selfish attempt to gain power, prestige, and followers.
Duties: Most apprentice level Transbounds are expected to devote their focus to understanding their developing powers. In most cases when the apprentice is under the tutelage of a higher ranking Transbound the apprentice is responsible for undertaking research, experiments, and other suitable tasks for the mentor Transbound. In all but the most abusive apprenticeships the tasks handed out are fairly mundane and within the capabilities of the apprentice.
Soloist Transbounds, the lowest ranking Transbounds who are not underneath a mentor, are simply responsible for paying reasonable dues to the Formbound Institute for purposes of paying for the triennial gathering, any research presented at the next gathering, and any special needs anticipated by the challenges expected at the next gathering (such as psionic items for healing, creating ample amounts of astral constructs, etc). Under most circumstances the monthly dues for Soloist Transbounds is equal to 1 gp per Soloist level (IE 1st Soloist = 1 gp/month, 2nd Soloist = 2 gp/month, 3rd Soloist = 3 gp/month).
Erudist Transbounds are responsible for paying higher level dues in accordance with their heightened prestige in the community. Erudist Transbound monthly dues are 5 gp per Erudite level (IE 1st Erudist = 5 gp/month, 2nd Erudist = 10 gp/month, 3rd Erudist = 15 gp/month). However, Erudists are also expected to be able to provide for any apprentices that they may invite into the Formbound Institute. This includes a reasonable monthly pay as well as lodging and boarding.
Dominist Transbounds, Triadist Transbounds, and the Archshaper Transbound have monthly dues of 20 gp per month. In addition, each of these Transbound ranks is expected to care for their apprentices as with the Erudist Transbounds.
In addition to dues, Transbounds are expected to assist other Transbounds wherever reasonable. A Transbound who is in danger from an outside source can usually expect assistance from another Transbound so long as their goals are not in conflict with one another and they can find each other when it is not during the time for the triennial gathering. This is not a mandatory compulsion to being a member in a Formbound Institute, however. Rather, it is a common agreement among colleagues. In most cases the Transbound who needs help pays for reasonable expenses accrued by the assisting Transbound(s).
The Triadists and the Archshaper have two greater duties to the Formbound Institute. First, they are responsible for orgainizing the upcoming triennial gathering. It is their task to determine what teaching and research is to be presented at the gathering. It is their task to ensure that the proper items and needs of those who will be testing are available. It is also their job to uphold community relations with those outside the Formbound Institute. Second, the Triadists and the Archshaper are the ultimate judges among the community. If there is a dispute among members, the Triadists and the Archshaper may be called in to settle the dispute. Often their ability to settle the dispute fairly (or not) leads to an avoidance of challenges (or increase in challenges if the dispute is settle unfairly or in a prejudiced manner) at the next triennial gathering of the Formbound Institute. Additionally, Triadists and Archshapers often have a strong hand in determining the work, goals, and research being done throughout the years between gatherings of the Formbound Institute.
Benefits: The primary benefit to the Formbound Institute is the knowledge gained through a community of manifesters. Transbound who are in search of learning certain powers have access to those who can teach them. Transbound who do not have the resources to research on their own have access to others who are willing to do it for them. Furthermore, the Formbound Institute is often a great place for those looking for work to find employers willing to pay. Transbounds are often willing to pay for others who are willing to adventure for things that might be needed. As the Archshaper and Triadists continue through their duty to community relations they often have jobs and tasks that need to be done outside of the Formbound Institute. In this manner, Transbounds can benefit from many aspects of the Formbound Institute.