After a good character creation process and a few weeks of entertaining play, my Vampire game went the way I hear most play-by-post games go: stalled out due to lack of momentum. I may sum up my lessons learned in a later post, but the chief of them is that I’m happier devoting a couple of hours at a scheduled time each week for a live chat game than essentially being constantly on call as a GM.

The unfortunate early end of the game does mean that I get to go ahead and reveal some of the background plots I invented. Since I was trying to make a largely mystery-based game with several players that were already thoroughly familiar with the classic WoD metaplot, my goal was to subtly or drastically change most of the assumptions that would be known to an experienced player but shouldn’t be known to a Camarilla neonate. I took a lot of inspiration from the existing sources for a starting point, and the pathways character creation threw up a lot of additional ideas that got rolled in. Here are a few.

Ghosts

I scrapped Wraith the most thoroughly of any of the core creature types, and pretty much verbatim made ghosts like Being Human.

Occult 0

The restless dead are known to exist, though ones that can affect the mortal world seem few and far between. Kindred that encounter a haunted location are advised to treat it carefully until the details can be worked out, and to contact the Tremere if investigation is required (a boon will be owed). Kindred are particularly advised to contact the Tremere if they believe they are being specifically haunted by a spirit.

There are no known organizations of spirits with which to bargain, and the local Camarilla bars no interaction with ghosts save anything that would harm the Masquerade or potentially bring harm on other Cainites.

Occult 1

Ghosts are just people with unfinished business. If you think you’re being haunted, your best bet is to figure out who by and try to help the person move on.

Some ghosts are too dark for that, though. There are totally ways to exorcise a ghost and force it to move on. The church is a good start.

Occult 2

Ghosts have several standard and well-documented abilities. They can exert force on the world, either as if they were a physical person or across a whole location. They aren’t limited by physical boundaries. They can sometimes inflict illusions or strange sensations on people. And they can possess the unwary or receptive. Virtually anything else you’ve heard in the stories is some misunderstood combination of these powers.

And all their powers are stronger if they’re in the location where they died or near other things of significance to them in life.

Occult 3

Ghosts are literally the souls of the dead, not some pale reflection. Trapping a ghost against its will is perhaps the most awful thing a person can do, and many religions would make helping ghosts move on a moral duty if they believed.

Ghosts tend to fluctuate in power: the more energy it has, the more easily it affects the world, and the easier time it has manifesting. If a ghost is trying to hurt you, if you can wait for it to manifest you can injure it, discorporate it, and force it to recover energy before it can threaten anyone again.

Most ghosts will move on once they resolve their problems from life. Fortunately for the world, ghosts that have been around long enough to become powerful tend to be right on the verge of passing on. The scariest ghosts are those that hang around for decades without gaining closure, and they have power and might use it when disturbed.

Occult 4

Ghosts act the way they do because death is the greatest trauma a soul can endure: each is suffering from terrible neuroses and some psychoses. They behave irrationally because they’re to some degree insane. The upside is that the soul is more plastic than the living brain: most ghosts can resolve their issues over time (and this is key to passing on).

A less than ethical individual could probably use a ghost’s tendency to mental confusion to manipulate it, but such is a very dangerous game.

Ghosts don’t just manifest for short periods. It seems that way because ghosts tend to expend their energy quickly and discorporate when dealing with people that recognize them as ghosts. However, an undisturbed ghost can remain manifested indefinitely: most individuals won’t even notice that it’s anything but a strange person with some mental issues.

Many individuals of other supernatural types can perceive a ghost before it manifests to mortals. They might fall into the same trap unless they’re constantly wary to note whether there are individuals that they notice and mortals don’t.

Occult 5

Most supernatural beings don’t ever become ghosts. Their souls are not compatible for various reasons.

Old ghosts that stick around can gain powers to rival other supernaturals. If the ghost remains insane and unresolved, these powers can be quite dangerous indeed.

Many such powerful ghosts, however, had the opportunity to pass on and stayed in the world for some reason. On the plus side, this usually means they’re totally sane and able to be reasoned with. On the minus side, this usually means they’re very smart and capable, and able to carry out complex plans against those that get in their way.

GM Notes

Ghosts are troubled souls that were not ready to depart the mortal coil. They theoretically possess all the cognitive abilities of the person they once were, but in practice each is suffering from the overwhelming traumatic stress of death. This results in neuroses and even psychoses of a great magnitude, keeping most ghosts from dealing rationally with the world.

The primary purpose of a ghost is to come to terms with her death. A soul that has closure immediately departs (though there are rumors that some choose to stay behind as luminous beings if they develop a new goal after their death).

A ghost’s being is dominated by:

  • Pathos: This is the emotional strength of the ghost, and the stat that fluctuates the most. Low Pathos makes the ghost completely unable to affect the world. Moderate amounts makes it visible to sensitive people and most supernaturals, and able to exert force. High Pathos makes the ghost almost lifelike, visible in all but the least spiritually active locations in the world. Damage to a ghost is dealt to Pathos, so a manifest ghost can be discorperated and made unable to affect the world for some time.
  • Logos: A ghost’s Logos determines how much trauma it has overcome. Raising this to 10 typically means the ghost is ready to pass on. Low values mean the ghost is confused and acts incredibly erratically. It is the difficulty for most rolls to manipulate the ghost socially or mentally.
  • Ethos: Fortunately for the world, the most vengeful ghosts have the least control over their powers. A ghost’s Ethos rating indicates its general level of compassion for the living, and corresponds directly to its ability to control its powers and generate them at will. It is rolled as the dice pool for most ghostly powers.

Ghostly powers include:

  • Teleportation: Ghosts don’t pass through walls so much as teleport short distances. This is easier to control when close to a fetter.
  • Telekinesis: Many examples of poltergeist activity are just a moderate-pathos ghost interacting with the environment using its manifested strength. Ghosts can exert more powerful telekinesis at need.
  • Illusion: Most ghosts can afflict the living with visions from their minds, generally either images of their death or dark musing on oblivion.
  • Possession: Ghosts can sometimes take over the minds of receptive individuals. Those truly trained to be spirit horses can take in a ghost and become a gestalt entity, using the ghost’s traits to to shore up their own.

Most supernatural creatures cannot become ghosts (possibly because their lives are so dangerous they’re always prepared to die or because their souls are wounded).

Particularly old ghosts can develop even more unusual powers and wisdom to pass on to mages.

The Terminus

Player Notes

“Hey, what’s that tape?”

“Oh, that… Terminus bootleg.”

“Wasn’t that the band that got murdered a few years ago?”

“Yeah. ’88. Cautionary tale about hanging out at the train tracks in the middle of the night. Their parents covered most of it up, but word is they got robbed and stabbed to death by some hobos coming in on the trains. Maybe worse.”

“Right… right… ’cause they were rich, right? Bunch of suburban white kids hanging out downtown with fat pockets. No surprise, yeah?”

“Guess not. It was pretty sad, though. They were pretty decent. If they’d stuck around for a while longer, they would have tore up at the Masq. Not enough good local goth bands.”

“Yeah. Hey, wait! Didn’t their singer survive? Raven?”

“Raven was the keyboardist. Singer’s ‘Ronnie. Veronica Cox. Yeah, one of those. I heard she’s been in an institution instead of college for the last few years. Saw all her buddies murdered. Probably there for the rest of her life.”

“No way, man! That’s the thing I just remembered! Friend of mine ran into this really intense looking goth chick walking near the rail yard. He totally went to try to pick up on her. He said he talked to her a while and she mentioned she’d been in a band, and she was going to pay her respects to her friends. Must be her!”

“Whoa, dude. You think she’s going to try to start the band up again?”

“I dunno… but I didn’t tell you the f’ed up thing. Remember, my guy was trying to pick up on her? He said he kept seeing things out of the corner of his eye, felt like someone was behind him, saw stuff moving weird in the road, got all cold, and chickened out. You know what I think? I think that girl is haunted.”

“That… is f’n metal!”

GM Notes

Atlanta’s railroad tracks make up some of the single most haunted locations in America. All that iron, all contiguous: anyone that dies near the tracks might make those tracks their fetter. They can exert this power all over the city… and those with magics that tap the energies of the dead can access this power from anywhere in the city.

Dooley has a tap into the lines, and has for some time, using the deathly vibrations in his workings.

Veronica Cox comes by it naturally, a Euthanatos mage working with her slain friends to find out what happened and protect the lines.

Caliste isn’t in it for power. She’s steadily trying to meet the dead and put them to rest, one at a time, learning their stories as she goes. So many of them were killed in 1988, and with each one she befriends she learns a little more of the story of what actually happened.

The Sickle of the Dragon

Player Notes

Sometimes attacks against mortals by Cainites, Lupines, and Elves in the city are stopped by strange, serious men in ritual garments that appear out of nowhere and disappear just as soon as the attackers are run off or the prey escapes. Analysis of their robes turns up the name of a Masonic/Golden Dawn-style occult lodge called the “Sickle of the Dragon” that was believed to be disbanded before WWII. Further information has not yet entered the general Kindred rumormill.

GM Notes

The closest thing that the ghosts of Atlanta have to an organizing body, the Sickle of the Dragon was an obscure cult of masons and occult dabblers that was murdered by the Thule society in the 1940s. It was unusual how many of them became ghosts, but it was perhaps due to the particularly violent and ritualistic way they were murdered. They were instrumental in helping The Vigil defeat the society at the time (though the Kindred involved were only slightly aware of the invisible assistance they were getting). Several members passed on after this defeat, but several more resolved their deaths but stuck around to defend other mortals from supernatural death. Since then, the Sickle has tried to recruit other ghosts that were murdered by supernatural forces, or at least mobilize them when necessary.

Several years ago, the Clockwork Dream was activated for the longest time yet, and the members of the Sickle were controlled by its attempts to take the city, as were many other ghosts. Hating this sudden lack of free will, they endeavored to prevent it from ever happening again… particularly when they dug up a connection that indicated the Circle of Silver might have the power to restart the engine permanently and were descended from the Thule society.

They’ve gotten clues that the Clockwork Dream is aptly named, and are thus seeking Simon, the premier clockmaker for help in dismantling it.

Meanwhile, as representatives of the dead Terminus members, they’re not too keen on violent supernaturals using the railyard. They’ve started trying to make trouble for Darian to keep his guns from creating more ghosts.

Vincent has covered up most of the acts of the group over the years, as he considers them an interesting wild card in the fate of the city and they have yet to take issue with him.

The Bishop

Player Notes

“You up for some work? I got a good lead on the new security down at First Union.”

“Naw man, I ain’t freelance no more. And you might want to clear that job with the new boss, too. Sounds like the kinda thing he’s puttin’ his fingers in.”

“New boss? Wait, you talking about that Catholic guy everyone’s been talking about.”

“The Bishop, yeah. But I doubt he’s Catholic, I think he just likes the name. Russian, they say. Aren’t all’a them commie atheists?”

“Maybe not anymore? Man, times is changing, yeah? When I went in, we were about to drop a nuke on ‘em any day. I get out, now they’re in charge of our town. What’s the guy got? Buncha them ex-KGB heavies?”

“I dunno. They say he’s creepy old… that he’s so good at chess that, when death comes for him, he challenges the Reaper to a game and always wins. You don’t mess with a guy like that.”

“Yeah… don’t wanna get offed my first week out, ‘specially not by some Ruskie bogeyman. I guess I’ll sign up with the guy. Hope he don’t take too much of a cut…”

GM Notes

Prince Sergey Urusov was born in 1829, became one of the premiere chess players of his age, and died in 1897. Death didn’t stop him for long. Sergey claims that his skill at chess allows him to challenge Death and continue living. In actuality, he is a very strong-willed ghost, so corporeal and powerful as to seem alive. His original focus was to bring down the Tsars, but he refused to pass on after this was accomplished, and turned his focus to protecting the world from Anna.

Sensing that his brother was losing focus on the mission, and bored with the failing Soviet Union, The Bishop, as he is known in crime circles, began an elaborate plan to ensure that his brother and his enemy, Anna, both wound up in the same place. Fettered to his brother, that would mean he could go there too. He did, indeed, show up only shortly behind and began to gather temporal power among the criminals of the city. It is uncertain what his end game is, and he is not entirely rational. Fortunately, he is entirely humane, and he organizes crime for low bloodshed and is, somewhere in his heart, trying to save Cainites from themselves and reveal the greater monsters of the world, like Anna.

In the meantime, it’s possible that a huge amount of what transpires in Atlanta is all according to his plan.

Pathos: 10     Logos: 7     Ethos: 9

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