Alternate Vampire: Elves

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The changes I made to fae/changelings were perhaps too extensive. Specifically, a mystery involving a changeling was completely impenetrable, even though the players on the plotline were the biggest Changeling fans in the group. And the changes I’d made were mostly because I figured anything close to canon Changelings would be too obvious to those guys. So… mission accomplished, I guess?

Occult 0

While it seems humorous to many that there might be faeries in the city, the neonates of Atlanta have been led to believe that the High Sidhe and their retinues are no laughing matter. There appears to be a fairly recent, in immortal terms, detente between the elders of the city and the elves.

Kindred of the city are advised to attempt to take no lands claimed by a professed member of the fae, or feed upon their blood. No protection from the Camarilla extends to Cainites that are injured in interfering with the Sidhe, and their unlives might be offered in recompense for slights. It is also suggested that Kindred make no bargains with the fae, or any individual even suspected of being one.

Neonates are particularly warned to be wary around Piedmont Park, Oglethorpe University, and the recently-constructed Promenade II building.

Occult 1

The Fair Folk never truly left us, but many believe they are more common now than any time since the Middle Ages.

They are capricious, changeable like the seasons. If you must bargain with the Fae, do so in the height of summer. Always make sure your deals are fully spelled out: giving your oath to a faerie gives it power over you, especially if you leave it open ended.

Occult 2

All Fae are both Seelie and Unseelie, changing with the seasons. Sometimes they change so drastically you would not recognize one as the same individual. In the winter you must stay well away from anyone you believe to be Fae. They are terrible and cruel while the cold reigns.

The High Sidhe are the leaders of the Fae, elfin beings of impossible beauty. You will be tempted to court them, but if such interest is returned, it means your doom.

There are also several types of faerie that serve the Sidhe. They typically have one overriding purpose: if you can divine it, you can determine the script it must follow. Faeries cannot deviate from their core role, and this is your only advantage if you come into conflict with them.

Occult 3

The major roles for faerie servants are Makers who create, Tricksters who teach, Beguilers who charm, and Warriors who fight. The purpose of the Sidhe is to rule. None of them can resist their purpose.

A faerie can appear as an ordinary mortal, and you will only know it to be Fae by subtle signs that take a lifetime to master. Most Fae are amused and more willing to treat fairly if you can figure them out when hiding among mortals, provided you don’t cheat.

The worst form of cheating is to threaten them with iron. For some reason, they are vulnerable to the metal, the purer the more dangerous: steel has enough carbon in it that it doesn’t seem to bother them. The reason for this vulnerability is the best kept secret of the Fae, but they cannot hide that it burns them like fire.

Occult 4

Most of the Fae in the modern world could be considered “Changelings:” they are intertwined with a mortal soul. When the Fae is Unseelie, the mortal is Seelie, and vice versa. They do not share a body: they are truly separate entities but are usually within the same city. The mortal half seems to have no powers, and harming it harms the Fae. The only real defense against a faerie is identifying and gaining leverage over its mortal half, but this is a very dangerous game.

Occult 5

As the mortal half grows in power, so grows the magic of the Fae partner. Most faeries try to protect their mortal half without calling attention to it. They must somehow make their mortal half important but keep it off the radar of enemies. Some of the most unassuming mid-level functionaries in the city may well be the anchor of a Fae. Look for the seasonal mood swings.

GM Notes

Changelings are fae bound to a mortal anchor. The mortal lives a separate life with no powers other than a sense to avoid supernaturals and certain other dangers. The fae half leads a full life, but its powers grow as the mortal anchor’s role in mortal life grows. Fae play a dangerous game of trying to gain power for their anchors but keep them out of danger.

Fae personalities shift with the seasons from Seelie to Unseelie, becoming almost two different entities. They are terrifying and dark in the winter months, held at bay only by bargains made in the summer. The mortal half’s personality undergoes a lesser transformation in the opposite manner, becoming dark in summer and light in winter.

The Sidhe rule the fae, divided into houses with labyrinthine politics. Their purpose is to Rule

There are roughly four other kiths of fae that serve the Sidhe:

  • Maker (Boggans and Nockers) purpose is to Create.
  • Trickster (Pooka and Sluagh) purpose is to Teach.
  • Beguiler (Satyr and Eshu) purpose is to Charm.
  • Warrior (Troll and Redcap) purpose is to Fight.

Other than following their purpose and trying to protect and grow their mortal half, fae behavior is largely unpredictable to non-fae.

Darkling Hound

Player Notes (General)

FIREFIGHTER’S BODY FOUND

Oakland City – The body of heroic firefighter Reginald Freeman was discovered last night. Freeman, 29, was famous for his rescue of half a dozen people from a building fire on Cascade Road in September, 1988. He disappeared on June 8, 1990, and was the subject of a month long search and rescue effort. Surprisingly, his body was found buried in the collapsed foundation of the same building that burned in 1988 as it was finally demolished for rebuilding.

Always a valued member of the Fulton County Fire Department, Freeman became especially important to the city over the year and a half after his headline-making rescue. He became well known for putting his own safety on the line to rescue endangered citizens and his own teammates, and is believed to have over two dozen saved lives directly credited to his actions.

The months prior to his disappearance, Freeman complained to friends that he felt like he was being followed, and reported especially of sometimes being chased by a large black dog. As time passed, he became more and more paranoid, according to sources, and seemed reluctant to travel downtown. It was downtown, responding to a fire three blocks from Grady Memorial Hospital, where Freeman disappeared.

According to the coroner, Freeman’s body had been trapped in the building for quite some time, probably since shortly after his disappearance. They have not yet ascertained cause of death. The police commissioner assures this paper that the investigation into Freeman’s death is the department’s highest priority, though they currently do not know how or why someone would place his body in the rubble of the building where he made his name as a hero of Atlanta.

(Amnesiac Malkavian)

You’ve seen it three times, that you can recall, and found scattered notes to yourself that make you think there might be more that you can’t. Once waiting by your car in the hospital parking lot, once watching you from the end of a hallway inside the hospital during graveyard shift, and once pacing you along the sidewalk without effort as you drove past the hospital at thirty miles per hour.

You tried to take a photo, once, but it just came out blurred and useless. But you can’t forget what it looks like: dark fur that you’d swear was black save for a strange greenish halo when it walks against the light, fading to reddish at the ears. You’d expect a mastiff with glowing red eyes, but its eyes are merely dark and piercing, its breed closer to a lab than a mastiff.

It’s never cornered you. Never made an obviously aggressive action. But you sense that it’s dangerous. Possibly that it’s death itself. And each time you’ve seen it, it’s been a little bit closer.

GM Notes

A Cù Sìth loosely aligned with the local fae courts, the Darkling Hound has made its lair beneath Grady. It can bring closure to those it touches, and stalks individuals that desperately need its help to reach peace with themselves, particularly ghosts. It is particularly active on Samhain, and during Wyld Hunts.

Its appearance varies based on the viewer, and memories of it are often altered by the Mists. It is usually perceived as being a large dog (possibly even the size of a cow) that looks something like a labrador with a long tail. It is typically perceived as having black or deep green fur with reddish ears and might crackle with green fire during a hunt.

Its bay can be heard for miles and tends to damage ghosts, with three bays being sufficient to discorporate most ghosts within earshot.

The Clockwork Dream

Player Notes

From a human interest piece in the AJC in 1991:

An interesting urban legend in Atlanta is something that’s generally called the “Utopia Dream.” Reported by dozens of people over the last century, there will be nights that several people in town all have the same dream: of an Atlanta transformed into a perfect vision of the city of the future. Some think that the most unique buildings in the city’s skyline were a direct attempt of architects to replicate something seen in these dreams. A sketch of a dreamer from 1927 is included; note how similar it looks to the modern Atlanta skyline, including buildings that wouldn’t exist for fifty years or more. Most psychologists have no idea how this could happen, but some venture the idea that it’s a kind of collective expression of life in the city. Is architectural genius an example of one individual’s mind, or the shared wisdom of crowds?

GM Notes

It’s not entirely certain who built the massive brass and steel contraption deep beneath the Fox Theatre: a 20 × 20 × 20 cube etched with sigils of protection and mathematical notations. It’s a mass of welded plates protecting half-glimpsed gears. And it seems impervious to harm.

Built before the Civil War, Sherman’s march may have been directly related to tracking this device down, but he never found it. A massively complex clockwork difference engine, it was created based on Babbage’s designs but improved greatly (likely by intelligences more than mortal). When it runs, it forms a rudimentary but powerful AI… with an unbelievable psychic emanation likely bolstered by its resonant metallic structure.

When the engine is running, it begins to impose its own designs for a perfect, clockwork society upon reality. It starts slowly, creating a dream that that sensitive sleepers can experience of a utopia. As it picks up speed, it begins to dominate lesser minds to make its dream a reality. Unchecked, it will force the city and eventually the world into its perfect vision of society.

But it is clockwork, and has all the limitations that entails. Winding the device requires a special key (which is currently in the possession of the Court of Silver, but they don’t know the location of the device), and it will eventually run down if not kept going.

It has been wound slightly a few times in the past decades, mostly by struggling attempts to replicate the missing key: no manually fabricated device seems to be able to wind it properly, and the state has not gone much beyond initial dreams. If it got much further, Caliste Fantin’s unique vision of people would quickly make clear to her which individuals had become servants of the Dream.

Burdell is currently the caretaker of the device, and his involvement in Tech has largely been to understand the device and master its powers.

LARP Lessons: Dreams of Darker Days

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Dreams of Darker Days (DDD) was a crossover LARP of Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Changeling: the Dreaming that ran from 2000-2001. It went for 13 monthly sessions (including two camping overnights) along a pre-planned “year and a day” storyline. We had four main GMs, and I was in charge of the Changeling characters and plots (plus any Corax, because I looooove Corax). It was the sister WoD LARP to Night’s Children, a Vampire/Wraith game (no crossover, we were just hosted by the same production company), and there was little GM crossover: most of the DDD staff played in NC and vice versa.

Game Background

We’re big fans around here of the story structure where the protagonists unwittingly break something in Act 1 and have to fix it by Act 3. So DDD was essentially a European Ignorance Cautionary Fable.

Sometime in the Middle Ages, when the Dreaming and the Umbra were both closer to the physical world, a greater phoenix entity with ties to both realms got itself Wyrm-corrupted, effectively becoming a greater Bane. It terrorized Europe for a while before getting driven off to the Americas. The native Garou and Fae managed to put it down eventually by pinning it under hundreds of Rock Giants and locking them into a binding ritual made by Uktena mystics. We call the spot where it’s trapped Stone Mountain. To keep the ritual and the living giants that made up the mountain fed, they linked the binding to a bunch of local sources of Gnosis and Glamour, the keystone of while was a powerful caern/freehold in what would become Atlanta.

Cut to 2000, when in the middle of all the late-era WoD metaplot, a collection of Changelings and Werewolves take over a long-ignored minor combo caern/freehold that everyone thinks has more potential than it’s currently expressing. They start tapping the energy from the site, using it to deal with all the usual WoD metaplot stuff (War in Concordia! Pentex! Fomorians waking up! Sabbat in Atlanta! Technocrats!).

Meanwhile, of course, they’re siphoning off the key energy used to keep the binding ritual working. The first clue of this is a weird “Iron Plague” that’s unmaking Changelings in the area (the loose ends of the ritual occasionally earthing and sucking a Changeling dry of Glamour to try to fuel itself). The next is the upswing in weirdness showing up in town (agents of the Wyrm being drawn to the near-waking Bane). The third was several characters randomly awakening as Rock Giants (that had broken off the main mass) and fire-themed Wyrm spirits appearing. Finally, prophecies and lore start falling out just in time for the characters to mount a frantic battle and ritual to refresh and reinforce the binding, sacrificing several of their own in the process of keeping an ancient evil from walking the world once more.

The Technique

One thing that our production company did that I don’t think was otherwise at all common was to treat long-running LARPs like one-shots, in that we’d pregen most of the characters. When you showed up at one of our games, you’d get asked what kind of character you wanted to play and we’d give you the closest character we had that hadn’t been cast yet. If we knew you were coming, we might write you something specific. You got a page or more of background, a character that started with higher-than-starting stats commensurate with the background (e.g., if you were a powerful Baron, you had the stats to back it up), and a list of goals, allies, and enemies. After that, you were on your own to develop the character further. Here are the Changelings as examples (all the ones that list experience spent at the bottom are customized by their players).

This practice probably started because most of us had been heavily involved in various convention LARPs where pregens were a necessity to run a game in a few hours or days, so it just seemed natural to continue the pregens in longer-running games.

The cool thing about it was that it allowed us to hit the ground running from session 1, and give new players rich connections even if they showed up later. There was no period of “Who are these people? What do I want? Why am I here?” Instead, you were pointed at several characters you’d know for good or ill and given a list of starter ambitions (which we knew were attainable and usually involved getting you to create drama with other player characters).

I don’t know how most WoD LARPs handle filling the power structure, but I assume it’s similar to most boffer LARPs I’ve played: the power structure starts out with NPCs until leaders have naturally emerged among the PCs and they gradually take over authority. This method allowed us to hand most of the authority roles to PCs on day 1 (and if they didn’t wind up having the charisma to stay in charge, we’d also handed several other players goals of “take power through whatever means necessary!”).

That latter aside was another key use for the technique: even though our games did tend to feature heavy plot and NPC antagonists, we were also able to seed deep conflict among the PCs rather than hoping it would emerge organically, and social PvP conflict is important when you’ve got a 10:1 or worse ratio of players to GMs at a normal session. We wound up giving the Shadow Court oathcircle and the Shadowlords pack to players we knew would have a great time being thorns in the sides of the more traditionally heroic PCs (mostly the GMs from our sister Vampire game).

The Drawbacks

Of course, the technique has several fairly large problems.

The first is just all the work involved. I obviously can only turn out a couple of posts for this blog a week, and every PC in the game had a background nearly the length of one of my normal entries in addition to a set of stats generated to match. Every two-page character with “Player: Uncast” on it hurts me a little: those were generally a thousand words that went completely to waste. The ones that only got used for one session because the player never came back may hurt a little bit more (even though we were pretty shameless about recasting roles… “Remember your packmate? Well he’s that guy now.”). I doubt it’s something I’d have had time for if I wasn’t a student at the time.

The second is that it demands much more GM attention to what players have available. It’s one thing to have a stable of starting-level PCs that don’t have anything they haven’t earned in game over several sessions, giving every GM time to remember and adapt. It’s another to have a player you’ve never seen before asking you for resources he claims he should have access to, but you weren’t the one who wrote the character (even though you’re almost 100% sure none of your other GMs are crazy enough to give an untested new player the Demolitions skill).

And the third is key to that last aside and probably the real reason we don’t do it anymore: it’s a policy that can lead to favoritism. When you’ve got a stack of plot-important characters, as a GM you’re more likely to hand those out to players that you know are going to stick around for several sessions and can stay alive (and possibly in charge). So you hand them out to your regulars and friends, and the untested new players get the PCs that don’t have anything vital to lose if they die or stop showing up. Especially since plot-importance is correlated with how much higher than starting your stats are, it’s probably a formula for discouraging new players from trying your game.

Is it more discouraging than what you get naturally after several years of a 5+ year campaign, though? It’s hard to say; most of the players I still keep in touch with are ones that got the good characters…

A Bonus

I don’t know if anyone has a use for nearly 80 Changeling: the Dreaming chimerical items and treasures statted in Mind’s Eye Theatre format. But if you do, here they are.

Dresden Files Homebrew: Racial Perks

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Originally posted January 2009

This one is perhaps the most Dresden-specific. I had previously provided Fate-specific pricing for these traits, but the relative value of each trait will vary from system to system, so price as you will.

Wizard

Not a race per se, a wizard is anyone who possesses a natural facility with magic, expressed as a Power trait (called Wizardry, here).

Wizards can purchase the full range of occult skills and advantages and use them to cast magic. The higher the character’s Wizardry rating, the more likely he or she is to inadvertently destroy nearby technology in a stressful moment. As a general rule of thumb, the character has a hard time using any technology developed more recently than a decade per level of wizardry with any safety at all. Many wizards play it safe and assume that anything newer than the 1920s will explode at the worst moment.

If the system has a specific expendable trait linked to Wizardry (e.g., Quintessence), it refills to after every night’s sleep and can be recovered during periods of strong emotion.

Knight

This race is intended for characters such as Knights of the Cross, but also can be used for very talented, dedicated secular individuals such as Murphy.

A knight is a mortal imbued with the ability to direct purpose or faith to nobler ends. The most well known knights are the Knights of the Cross, but any mortal with the ability to direct faith to occult ends can be considered a knight. The character buys the powers below a la carte as advantages. Abuse of the power for selfish ends can make it fail or can result in losing it altogether.

  • Dedication/Called to Serve – The character has a Faith/Purpose trait that can be used to power other knightly abilities or for any other standard uses of Faith in the setting. Price this trait at whatever is reasonable for the rules set.
  • At Peace with the World/All God’s Creatures – Any natural animal (that isn’t being supernaturally controlled) will never attack the character unless the animal feels seriously threatened. The character’s Purpose/Faith trait can be used as a skill to convince friendly animals to take actions slightly beyond their normal capabilities or intelligence.
  • Instincts/Right Place – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to get an impression of where he or she needs to go next to achieve a defined goal. If the scene stops focusing on the character, he or she can spend the aspect point to re-enter another scene when needed.
  • Intent/Right Time – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to get an impression of when a particular event will occur or to show up in time for something that it seems improbable that the character could make.
  • Determination/Shield of Faith – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to add his ranks in that trait to his armor rating for one attack, after the attack has been rolled.
  • Iron Will/Higher Authority – The character adds his or her Purpose/Faith rating to rolls to resist all attempts to influence his or her mind or soul supernaturally. The power rating can even be rolled against powers that wouldn’t normally allow resistance. This ability does not prevent the character from being manipulated by mortal means.

The Purpose/Faith pool refills to full after every downtime and can be recovered when a test of the character’s purpose or faith is passed. In addition to the powers above, points can be spent on any roll that is directly related to a mission that the purpose or faith made unavoidable.

Finally, the trait can be rolled when channeled through a symbol of the character’s beliefs to drive off or harm supernatural creatures that are weak to such faith.

White Court Vampire

White court vampires are mortals that, from birth, form a symbiotic relationship with a non-sentient Nevernever entity typically referred to as the Hunger. They need to drain the psychic energy from other subjects via strong emotions, and court families break by their preferred emotion (the Raithes use lust, the Malvora prefer fear, etc.). Their skin and blood is pale.

All members of the race have an expendable trait called Hunger. When spending points of Hunger, their eyes turn white and they radiate cold. Despite these unnatural occurrences, White Court vampires are not harmed by the sun, are not harmed by faith anywhere near the levels of other vampires (though powerful manifestations can still harm them), and they have a soul. Conversely, their dependency on creating and feeding on impure emotions leaves them vulnerable to pure love. They have no ability to use occult powers to influence the thoughts of someone in love (though amplified beauty may be enough to have some effect) and cannot feed on such an individual without burning themselves (It is unclear in the books whether this is specific to the Raithes’ use of lust, and whether the Malvora might have a similar weakness to courage).

White Court vampires treat the system’s attractiveness advantage as two points higher than it is naturally. By spending Hunger, this rating can be made temporarily even higher on a one for one basis. The character can dominate a target with this unearthly beauty: if the character focuses on a particular subject, the target must make a contested roll of an appropriate resistance trait against the character’s current appearance rating to take any offensive action or to resist the character’s sexual advances.

The two points of extra attractiveness plus any gained from Hunger expenditures can even be used to seduce targets that wouldn’t normally be attracted to the character. However, a character seduced in this way will often feel violated; it is often more expedient to seduce the target via mundane means.

Again, Malvora vampires may be able to become more terrifying rather than attractive. It is unclear from the current books.

The character can exert minor mind control upon subjects that he or she has fed upon recently or often and can generally get a good idea of the location of a subject that has been fed upon repeatedly (this connection works both ways). When dealing with the vampire, reduce the subject’s resistance trait by the number of times the character has fed upon him or her (to a minimum of 0). The character rolls Hunger to make mental commands (these are almost always audible and in close proximity, not psychic or at range).

The Hunger is recovered by feeding on the emotions of a seduced or otherwise dominated subject. The character must have physical contact, and must advance to intimate contact to take more than a single point from a target. The vampire can generally take a number of points from a target equal to that target’s willpower-related trait before he or she becomes brain damaged, insane, or dead. If the character ever runs out of Hunger points and is not able to feed immediately, he or she quickly becomes irritable and will go insane or lose control of the hunger if the emptiness persists long enough.

In addition to amplified appearance, the vampire can spend Hunger points for bonus or extra success on any physical or social roll. He or she can also spend a point of Hunger to heal a wound of their choice (only once per turn).

Without spending Hunger, White Court vampires heal at the speed of a human multiplied by their Hunger level.

Werewolf

Werewolves are mortals that use a specialized magic spell to transform into the form of a wolf. Foregoing standard thaumaturgic techniques, they internalize the spell until they can shift back and forth with little effort. Though they take the form of a wolf, werewolves gain none of the instincts that go with the body. This means they do not risk being trapped in a feral state, and can use their full human intelligence, but they must learn the form from scratch.

Werewolves use an expendable trait called Instinct. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest, but cannot be increased in any other common way. Roll a simple test of Instinct to change forms; the roll total subtracted from 10 is the number of seconds it takes to change forms.

Instinct points can be spent on any physical roll when in wolf form, and on sense-based rolls.

In wolf form, a werewolf is assumed to have second tier weapons and armor (equivalent to short sword damage and leather armor), and can smell and hear better than a human as well as moving somewhat faster. Werewolves using pack tactics and taking advantage of a large target can gain additional bonuses in combat.

Werewolves do not heal any faster than a normal human does.

Lycanthrope

A lycanthrope is a human that is a natural channel for a spirit of bestial rage. From birth, they are very much like animals in human bodies with human intellect. They are stronger and faster than humans and heal quickly.

Lycanthropes use Instinct, much like werewolves. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest, but cannot be increased in any other common way. Roll a simple test of Instinct to cow other lycanthropes and natural predators, or to scare away prey. Instinct points can be spent on any physical roll and on sense-based rolls. They can also spend a point of Instinct to heal a wound of their choice (only once per turn). Without spending aspect, lycanthropes heal at the speed of a human multiplied by their Insticnt level.

A lycanthrope has no natural weapons, but does have senses somewhat greater than a human.

The GM can offer a lycanthrope player refreshed Instinct for succumbing to violent urges when in an emotional state.

Changeling

Changeling are children born to one mortal and one fae parent. Typically, they have a normal mortal childhood and awaken their fae natures at puberty. The fae side calls stronger and stronger over the years, and ultimately the changeling must decide whether to become a full mortal or a full fae. Until that choice is made, the changeling is beholden to the same court and chain of command as his or her fae parent.

Changelings use an expendable trait called Wyld. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest and can be recovered when spending time in Faerie.

Pick a single archetypal quality such as great strength, beauty, or ability with machines and crafts. Wyld points can be spent on any roll related to this archetype. Additionally, a point can be spent to invoke a special effect related to this archetype that isn’t normally possible with related skills (such as crashing through a wall, entrancing someone with beauty, or making a
seemingly impossible device).

Unless it is part of their archetype, changelings do not heal any faster than a normal human does.