Alternate Vampire: Sabbat

1 Comment

The previous entries in this series were influenced by the pathways character creation, but a lot of it was ideas I’d had before starting. For example, based on the connections established, it made sense to make The Fire-Drinker a sorcerer and the Darkling Hound a fae beast, and those decisions influenced the cosmology as a whole, but there were a lot of other ideas involved from before character creation.

The Sabbat changes were different. I went into the game knowing that for some reason a bunch of neonates had been created recently (to explain all the PCs), but not much else. Various elements that came out of character creation demanded that most of the elders had also come to the area very recently, and led to an idea of taking back the city from the Sabbat. But other elements gave new definition to what that might mean. Effectively, I was using the players’ preconceptions of “the Sabbat is a rival sect of inhuman vampires” to set up the real mystery of what happened in the city in 1988… which was far stranger.

Recent History

Player Notes

In hindsight, 1988 must have been the year where it all began to change for the Kindred of Atlanta.

With a Democratic convention early in the year and a growing campaign to attract the Olympics to the city, of course the growing murder rate was suppressed. But those that were local at the time can’t help but recall the almost unconscious foreboding that grew throughout the year. It seems that everyone was only a few acquaintances removed from someone that had just gone missing or turned up mysteriously mauled by some kind of animal. Even in nicer neighborhoods, you just didn’t go out at night unless you absolutely had to. If your neighborhood wasn’t nice, the only thing scarier than the rise in “gang violence” was the realization that the local thugs were staying indoors at night too.

Then, after the long nights of that year’s winter, it was all over. No more strange rumors, no more scared citizens, no more mysterious deaths. The news had never made a mention of it, so it was easy to forget. If the occasional gossip wanted to talk about how someone swore he’d seen cracked-out hobos tearing at each other like animals at 3 am sometime over the winter, it was easy enough to laugh off.

But then you were embraced, and began to pick up clues from your sires that most of them were recent immigrants to the city. The former Camarilla presence had fallen to some kind of “sabbat” and they had taken it back; to the conqueror, the right of rulership. The city had been mostly emptied of Kindred, not enough established Camarilla members wished to make the trip, so they found all of you to welcome to the eternal night and help them shore up their new power structure.

Any inquiries on this subject of what a “sabbat” is, what happened to the previous Camarilla, or what went on three years ago seems to be a secret that all of your elders have agreed not to share with their childer.

The Galilee Codex

Player Notes

From the 1991 translation by Dr. Thomas Gregory:

165 The moon was setting when Cain made his plea to Christ: “If you are truly the son of Jehovah, please, take this mark I have borne so long from me and free me from the land of Nod.”

166 Jesus looked upon the man sadly. “Long have you suffered a curse you believe was given to you by my Father. Never have you thought that your pain was of your own making? If it is true what you have told me about your parentage, then your curse was imposed not by God, but by tainting your own unearthly blood with murder and by the vengeance of the mother of the step-brother you slew. 167 I forgive you. My Father forgives you. But your pain will not end until you gain the forgiveness of the mother of Abel, and until you forgive yourself.”

168 The First Murderer thought for some time on this, and began to look like he might speak in anger to Christ. 169 But the sun was rising over Galilee, and Cain fled back to the Land of Nod, never to speak with the Son of God again.

Significant Connection: Reveals the means of supplication for (Baraquiel the Grigori)

Baraquiel the Grigori

Player Notes

“Quiet, everyone, I’ve never had one of my classes kicked out of Woodruff, and I don’t want you to be the first. This is Theology 101, and we’re very lucky this semester that the library has an exciting bit of apocrypha on loan from the owners. How many people know what apocrypha is? Yes, young lady with the braid?”

“Alice, ma’am. Books that could be part of the Bible but aren’t?”

“Close enough. That’s one of the first things we’ll talk about in the class: all of the holy books we have today are a collection of translated stories and histories often assembled by people with an editorial intent. There are dozens of stories that could have been part of the Bible but weren’t included. Some of them were clearly written after the fact by unrelated authors; you wouldn’t put them in the Bible any more than I would include your Hobbit fan fiction in the next printing of Lord of the Rings. But some of them have a bit more historical argument that they could be valid. But they weren’t included. Why? Yes, young man in the back?”

“Because the editors of the Bible had their decisions guided by God.”

“That is one of the common arguments, yes. I can tell you’re going to be a big talker in the second half of this semester when we start contrasting Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. Others would argue that the people in charge had a very deliberate political agenda in their choices. My friend, Professor McKinley, likes to spend a lot of time on the Mary Magdalene apocrypha in her Feminism courses. Anyway, that brings us to this particular document, the Galilee Codex. Does anyone know what it is? Yes, young lady in the red shirt?”

“Isn’t it supposed to be a conversation between Jesus and Cain?”

“That’s right. Its exclusion from the Bible is potentially a mixture of provenance and politics. For one, we can’t really prove that it is even from the right time period, though the Aramaic used is apparently accurate. The politics are more interesting. The modern Catholic church likes to leave itself some room on taking Genesis literally, but tends to say that the New Testament is pure fact. Adding a book to the New Testament that has the potentially thousands of years old son of Adam and Eve talking to Christ would make that a much thornier road to walk. Yes, boy with the Braves cap?”

“But he’s not the son of Adam.”

“Excellent! Someone did the reading. Yes, that’s one of the most interesting things about the passage. Scholars are still debating the translation, but the document sets up a contrast between Jesus being the son of Mary and God with Cain being the son of Eve and an angel, as a way for Cain to build a rapport with Jesus. Specifically, a fairly obscure angel named Baraquiel. This would make Cain one of the Nephilim, and I’ll leave it to you all to look that up if you’re interested. But, more importantly, it gets me back to politics: none of the modern Judeo-Christian religions are particularly interested in adding a chapter to Genesis where, right after leaving the Garden, Eve gets seduced by a fallen angel and then Adam hooks back up with his ex-wife, Lilith, as payback. It complicates the narrative and raises too many questions without answers. For next class, I want all of you to read the translation of the Galilee Codex and write a five paragraph essay supporting that the passage wasn’t included due to it not being provably true or because it wasn’t good for politics. Or both, but be careful you don’t half-support both ideas. See everyone on Friday back in the classroom.”

GM Notes

“Where the father of monsters goes, the mother of monsters follows.”

The Garden of Eden was raised to mythical status by the children of Seth, but it was not the true genesis of humankind. Instead, it was something of an experiment: an attempt to create a more perfect humanity by raising two innocents free of want and fear. It worked out about as well as has been recorded.

What is only included in apocrypha, and even then wrong, is what happened after Adam and Eve left the Garden, and had their first experience with infidelity. Both angry at Jehovah for different reasons, Baraquiel and Lillith, powerful earthbound celestial spirits, separately seduced Eve and Adam. In time, Eve bore Caine and Lillith returned to them Abel to raise as their own, never to admit their failings.

Again, the rest of the story proceeded as recorded, save that Caine’s curse was not imposed upon him by Jehovah, but was a catalyzing of his own unearthly powers by the act of kinslaying. He, in essence, became the Nephilim of kinslaying. The weaknesses he picked up as curses from Lillith, as punishment for the murder of her son (though he did not know this, and she would continue to manipulate him for the next few aeons as capricious as ever).

A few hundred years ago, the Galilee Codex revealed how to summon Baraquiel and, through him, Lillith. Both are required to construct a Red Forge.

Since the latest escapades left the Forge active but not empowering anyone, Baraquiel remains tied to the city. It is his goal to either see all last infections destroyed so he can leave or tempt the city back into congress with the device. His pawn of choice in this is Montoya, as he believes she could be persuaded to kill Niki’s friend Lucille (and thus break the last minor die empowering the Forge) or take up the power of the Forge herself.

Unfortunately, despite his immense power, he can only manifest in Hallowed Ground due to its deliberate thinness to contact with the celestial realms.

Little Five Points

Player Notes

The area that is now known as the center of Atlanta’s counter-culture started off as a more traditional sort of shopping district, dating back to the 1890s. For more than half a century, it was little more than that, but in the 1960s something strange happened.

According to mortal historians the population packed up and moved because of a proposed freeway, one that eventually got built elsewhere. For some reason, they never mention that the kids growing up there in the years following WWII got weird. The families tried to keep it quiet, sure, and they hired the best psychologists money could buy to “fix” their troubled youths. When that didn’t work, well, there was no choice but to pack up and move to the country, where people were still decent and wholesome, and hope the fresh air and isolation would do what shock therapy couldn’t.

Maybe it was just because there weren’t enough locals left, or maybe the influence was growing somehow, but after a decade or so of quiescence, the weirdness escalated. There weren’t a whole lot of residents left to strangify, so maybe that’s why all the oddballs from the rest of the city started converging there. New Agers, punk rockers, stoners, and wanna-be mystics all found a haven for themselves inside the borders.

As the major Occult gathering area for Atlanta, it’s pretty easy to find theories for why this might be among the locals. The most common supposes that the growing city and realignment of the roads was having a major impact on ley lines. Creating a potential but never implemented freeway moved a line that should have been along the road into the air right down Euclid, its energy out of tune due to its accidental nature but calling out to individuals that are a little off-key themselves.

What really weirds people in the area out is that around ‘88 the squares started coming back. Ever since, the neighborhood has been fighting corporatization. Maybe the tourist money in safely packaged counter culture finally overwhelmed the strange vibes enough to draw in the suits. But locals worry that their “exposed wire” finally settled back down and there’s no longer a mystical tune that keeps the normals out and the cool people in. Some worry that whatever happened to their vibe was deliberate.

Attempts to follow up on this information result in the city elders pointing out that, if true, it sounds a lot like something involving elves or sorcerers, and maybe it’s better left alone for now. Kindred aren’t banned from the area, but it’s suggested they should take the situation as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of what’s apparently on the way to becoming a popular and profitable night spot rather than interfering with the mystic power sources of other supernaturals.

The Red Forge

GM Notes

The Red Forge is the focus of a sabbat, an altar to Lilith where Cainites can make blood sacrifices to gain her favor. With each such sacrifice, pouring the life’s blood of an innocent mortal upon the Forge, Lilith strengthens the blood of the supplicant. Each such sacrifice lowers the Generation of the Cainite by one and raises each of the three categories of Beast Trait by one. It is not long before the Cainite is completely in thrall to the Beast, a potent-blooded monster.

The Red Forge was dedicated in a vault beneath Little Five Points and snatched the rogue ley line out of the air to fuel its power. It remains empowered by the line, and no Cainite can safely get near it without risking it getting its hooks into them. It remains linked to Lucille, from when she tried to turn it off. The Kindred of the city do not know how to turn it off, and don’t want to risk telling mortal sorcerers about it for fear that they would use it as an unassailable seat of power. Ultimately, the only way to be rid of it for good would be to kill Lucille and wait for the energies to dissipate with no further direct link to the world or to somehow move the ley line sufficiently to break the connection to the device.

Recent History, Revisited

GM Notes

  • 1985: [Dead Kindred to be named later] arrives in the city with plans to turn them to Lillith worship.
  • 1986: The Red Forge is consecrated beneath Little Five Points.
  • 1987: Social conflict in the city heats up as advantage shifts to the Kindred that are newly ruthless and strangely possessed of more potent blood.
  • 1988: Most Kindred in the city are either destroyed, hiding, or have almost totally succumbed to their Beasts. Lucille sends to Silas for help, and The Vigil arrives and begins to establish a base of operations. They realize the situation is dire enough to begin inviting other Kindred to help retake the city.
  • 1989: Nearly all of the forged Kindred are destroyed in January and February, with the remaining few hunted down over the course of the year.
  • 1990: Given that the new guard cannot honestly say that the problem is totally secured, given the continued presence of the Forge and no clear way to remove it, recruitment is sparse. The Kindred of the city agree that it might be wise to shore up their numbers through Embrace, and they begin to turn likely candidates.

Bonus Entry: Golconda

(This wasn’t directly related to the Sabbat, but I liked the spin that some of the player connections put on Golconda)

GM Notes

Foreward

I met the notorious former Justicar in New York, 1939. I don’t know what I’d expected. Legend had painted him as an Egyptian mystic, and certainly some of that came through in what he would tell me. But the legends also said he was a Ventrue, and I would never expect one of them to be less than impeccably and fashionably dressed. Perhaps I thought he’d be taller, or even less blond. Let us just say that my first impression was underwhelmed. My second, after he began to speak, was that none of the legends captured a fraction of his power.

What follows is a recounting of our conversations, after he was kind enough to grant me a week of guidance after years of seeking him. I haven’t followed it all myself, yet, but I write it down so that others might be set upon the same path as I now tread. It’s everything I could remember of the man’s wisdom distilled from centuries of travel, conversations with the greatest minds of the past, and, if I read his insinuations correctly, a little bit of ineffable divine aid.

So read on, if you have set yourself on the path to transcending the mark of Caine. Just be wary: once you have started this path, you must complete it. There is no going back to the way you were, and should you stop or fail, the consequences are truly dire.

Chapter 1

“We are here to recover the soul star fragments of Aten.”

His look dares me to challenge this insight. Is this a strange koan that is the secret to everything I have sought? Aten? My new mentor is, of course, Egyptian, but I know little of the term other than it is a heretical belief of a long-deposed pharaoh.

He takes pity, and rephrases. “We are all seeking Ananda, the heartbeat of the world. We have no greater need than to feel again the touch of the almighty. We crave the return of the touch of sunlight. We yearn to touch the skin of another and feel something other than the beat of food beneath the flesh…

“But I like the soul star fragment metaphor best. If you’ve spent enough time with Catholics, you’ll believe we’re damned. That’s not precisely true: it’s more precise to say we’re shattered. The Embrace tore your soul to pieces, they cling to your dead body out of habit, and they will fly into oblivion upon your final death.

“Worse, some of those pieces are everything that is wrong with your soul. When you were mortal, your dark thoughts and evil actions were spread out, like adding dye to a pond: it took a lot to truly blacken it beyond saving. Now, it accumulates in something most Cainites call ‘The Beast’ and cannot dilute itself. The lights of your soul can shine brighter than any star, but none of that can burn away the shadows of your crimes.

“That is the secret of your condition: your darkest nature—my friend Jung would literally call it your shadow—is all but impervious to your will to improve, for it is untouched by your better nature. If you wish to transcend your undead state, your goal should be to reintegrate your soul.

“We are here to recover the soul star fragments of Aten.”

Alternate Vampire: Elves

Leave a comment

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.

Alternate Vampire: Lycanthropes

Leave a comment

It turns out I wrote a LOT of words for my game notes, so you may get these for a couple more weeks. For Werewolves, I wanted to move far away from “noble protectors of the Earth” and focus more on “bogeymen for Vampires.” I wound up borrowing from lots of sources, Dresden Files among them, to heavily spin most of the canon tribes to fit that decision.

Occult 0

Perhaps the greatest supernatural threats to Cainites are werewolves. They do not appear to follow the dictates of Hollywood: a lupine can be active any night of the month and even during the day (admittedly less of a problem for the Kindred). It is true that they are vicious killing machines, and they seem to have a particular hatred of confirmed Cainites. Even a weak werewolf seems to have supernatural physical gifts combining the powers of the Brujah and the Gangrel, and they seem undaunted by many disciplines of control.

Kindred of Atlanta are advised that lupines have been encountered in the suburbs, particularly forested areas north of the city. For safety, Kindred are expected to stay within the Perimeter unless given special dispensation by their sires. If you believe you are being hunted by a lupine, or you spot one in the city, contact your sire or the Sheriff immediately and do not return to your haven or any other safe place until you have taken sufficient automotive or public transportation to lose pursuit and erase any trail.

Any Kindred proven to have deliberately used, agitated, or otherwise interacted with lupines without special dispensation will be censured.

Occult 1

There are very few reliable tales of lycanthropes, which is odd given that their nature is so violent. Logic would indicate that they are very rare or somehow keep themselves hidden.

Most occultists believe that aconite is completely ineffective, though some insist that, while it doesn’t help ward against the beasts, it may create an unusual reaction in a lycanthrope in its human form.

Silver seems to be more widely regarded as effective, though most believe that it should be inherited and blessed before it is truly useful. Since someone who tries to use silver weapons that are not effective doesn’t often live to pass on the tale, there is very little useful evidence on this point.

Occult 2

Part of the problem with classification of lycanthropes is that there are so many types, at least in the historical records. Curses, insanity, diseases, deliberate skinchanging, and possession by demons are all commonly listed causes of lycanthropy. Perhaps the most interesting fact is that all of these methods result in such a similar result, perhaps because fear of beasts is deeply ingrained in the human psyche.

Some more new age thinkers have proposed that lycanthropes are a mystical immune system for the planet, as they have decent anecdotal evidence that raging beast men tend to prefer destroying unnatural targets to the innocent. Most laugh at this presumption, as there are clear conflicting examples of terrible things done by weres. If there is a tendency to attack “unnatural” targets, it may simply be that those tend to have the most distinctive smells and appearances to attract the attention of rampaging beasts.

Occult 3

The confusion of blessed, inherited silver is almost certainly due to the different methods of creating a werewolf: those with transformations associated with the moon are sympathetically harmed by silver, those possessed by evil spirits are the most vulnerable to blessed weapons, and those laboring under bloodline curses are similarly weak to inherited possessions (silver or not). Clearly, a weapon with all three traits will harm the widest assortment, but there are more types that might have an entirely different weakness, or none at all. For example, deliberate skinchangers, such as Native American Shamans, have no tie to the moon, traditional demons, or curses, while the plight of the Wendigo is much more likely to render the beast vulnerable to fire than to any material weapon.

Occult 4

The more new agey believers in lycanthropes as some kind of good thing are almost certainly being manipulated by the beasts themselves trying to provide a cover for their transformed exploits. There are hushed rumors of a group calling itself the “Children of Gaia” that seem interested in recruiting lycanthropes of all stripes. This is not more widely known purely because of a grave realization: most of the time, lycanthropes are almost certainly undetectably human, but likely have a vested interest in infiltrating occult groups that might seek to hunt them. Can we trust anything we “know” about them?

Occult 5

I’ve heard many names…

Black Fury, Fenris’ Get, Lords of Shadow, Striders in Silence, Fangs of Silver, Uktena: all of these have a great deal of control over their transformations and can be reasoned with, though they are best avoided.

Gaia’s Children, Fianna, Stargazers, Red Talons: these are less rational, and less in control, but can still be trusted to try to manage their depredations in most cases. Best to avoid, but likely not vindictive in human form.

Gnawers of Bones, Walkers of Glass, and Wendigo: These you must truly fear. If they appear human, it is only a thin veneer. If they suspect you know them, your life is forfeit. If you think one is chasing you, do not stop running until there are oceans between you.

GM Notes

  • Black Furies: Hekate’s matrilineal curse causes these women to turn into wolves whenever they are angry or afraid.
  • Bone Gnawers: Animalistic nature spirits trapped in the stone of the city sometimes possess those already on the fringes of reason and society (street people) and turn them into bestial monstrosities. Their rampages are often random, but occur more often with the moon.
  • Children of Gaia: Some of the other types of lycanthrope have banded together, believing they have a higher purpose to protect the wild spaces.
  • Fianna: Several European curses follow family lines, causing them to transform under the moon or other strange circumstances. These are especially common in the British Isles.
  • Get of Fenris: The Norse berzerkergang traditions are not forgotten, and modern Asatru sometimes wear the bear shirt for their own purposes. They are often mistaken for wolves in their furs and rage.
  • Glass Walkers: Who knows why various corporations sometimes try to make wolflike monsters in their labs? They seem to escape with alarming frequency.
  • Red Talons: Sometimes wolves are born with human-level intelligence… and vindictiveness.
  • Shadow Lords: European warlocks have long held skin dancing secrets to turn themselves into wolves. Sometimes, Gangrel infiltrate such covens.
  • Silent Striders: African shamans have a tradition of skin dancing as well, though they typically do so for more laudible ends than European mystics. Some travel the world and some maintain the tradition from slavery (and used it to good effect to escape).
  • Silver Fangs: A strange line of mystically-augmented, porphyria-suffering Russian nobles still lives in the world and can transform at will into a semblance of wolf shape. This ability almost makes up for their other crippling problems from inbreeding.
  • Stargazers: It is said that Hanuman played a merry trick on this bloodline of Eastern werewolves. Their triggers are strange to Western thought.
  • Uktena: The Native American tradition of skin dancing pays particular attention to using these gifts to protect the holy spaces and police the spirit world.
  • Wendigo: Cannibals in North American blizzards often find themselves transformed into wolflike monsters. Even if they exit their rage with the fading of the snow, they transform again, inevitably, in future snowstorms wherever they may be.
  • Anansi: African trickster shamans
  • Bastet: Shapeshifting descendents of Egyptian priests
  • Corax: European trickster shamans
  • Mokele: A bizarre Florida urban legend that may be shockingly correct…
  • Nuwisha: Native American trickster shamans

The Circle of Silver

Player Notes (Academics or Occult 3)

From The Sunset of the Golden Dawn, 1975

Rival Orders?

The memoirs of one of the members of the London lodge refer to an argument in 1899 between two leaders about refusing advancement to Crowley, suggesting that “If he doesn’t like the decision, he can go join the Argent Moonrise.” The context makes it unclear whether this is a joke, or actually refers to a derivatively named lodge. The name comes up again nearly fifty years later. During the Nuremberg Trials, one of Hitler’s aids refers to a communique he read in 1935 from Thule Gesellschaft listing the assets they could mobilize for the Führer, which included “der Silbern Mondaufgang.” If these references are even connected, it implies that there was such an order, and it was eventually co-opted by Germany. No further reference has been found since, so it is unclear what happened to the order after the war.

GM Notes

The Order of the Argent Moonrise was a tongue in cheek response to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Initially, it was a collection of occult dabblers that couldn’t make it into the Golden Dawn. Over time, its dilettante members became a useful screen for practitioners of black magic to hide from the temporal and occult authorities. By the 1920s, it had succeeded in remaining secret while the Golden Dawn had become public and essentially failed, and it was held together by a global leadership that controlled lodges in several major cities. It also included, known only to its ultimate leadership, several supernatural creatures interested in the networking opportunities inherent in the order.

During the 1920s, the Munich branch of the order was essentially indistinguishable from the Thule Society, and leaders of that cult eventually worked their way into prominence in the Order’s global leadership. They began to encourage the other supernaturals in the order to recruit their peers, and by the 1930s they had a clear goal of organizing a secret occult army for Germany. In the early 1940s, they began deploying these groups to achieve ends against the Allied countries. Most were defeated by the native supernaturals, but not without great loss in some cases.

The order as a whole laid low for the next couple of decades, and the worst of the Nazi leadership died off in this time. But the will to power remained strong among its members, and it has recently begun to recruit and move again. Now referring to itself as the Circle of Silver in casual conversation, its focus has changed to accruing power for its members beyond what they can achieve in their own political groups.

The lodge in Atlanta includes several lupines and elves, as well as a couple of sorcerers. It formerly included three Cainites, but they were lost to the sabbat (which the Circle is still interested in learning more about, as its members refused to share such power). They have their fingers in several areas of occult significance in the city, and are willing to obliterate anyone that gets in their way (though they’ll try to suborn first).

Devin joined the society on a lark back in the 1920s but abandoned it and worked against it once the Thule control became apparent. The city’s leadership is still aware of her and unsure how much she knows about them.

Empress Anna

Player Notes

  • Title: Harpy
  • Coterie: None
  • Generation: 9th
  • Clan: Nosferatu
  • Sire: “Some Ottoman troublemaker…
  • Childer: Adam, Brett
  • Concept: “Our Imperial will…” (Pride)
  • Trouble: “I will not be spurned!” (Vengeance)
  • First Impression: Towering, annoyed, out of style and overdressed, illusory mask clearly some moderately famous fashion model oddly stretched across her size
  • Other Notes:
    • Scouts for talent at (The Tabernacle)
    • Has knowledge about (The Galilee Codex)
    • The Bishop: Obsessed with
    • She frightens him (The Fire-Drinker)
    • The Gunsmith: Spurned and shot her

GM Notes

Anna would have been a classic Nosferatu punishment-embrace if not for her own dark secret. Embraced in 1739 by a Cainite whose descendents had been badly hurt in her reign, he had no expectation that she would wake from her death, transform into a slavering wolf creature, and diablerize him. It was unexpected that the embrace of a Silver Fang would work so seamlessly, or that she would retain her powers through death; it was only his use of Animalism to render her pliable that had kept her from slaughtering him before the embrace.

Now powerful in mortal life and two supernatural spheres, Anna “died” and began to govern Russia from the shadows, becoming a persistent power behind the throne. She was instrumental in forming the Shadow Lords alliance of lupines, and at one time controlled most illicit activities in Russia. That was before the twofold punch of Rasputin and Communism broke much of her powerbase in the early 1900s. When she tried to recover, she found new Kindred in power and mortal criminals being carefully manipulated by a shadowy figure behind the scenes known as The Bishop. Despite her best efforts, she was able to acquire only a modicum of her previous power, and found all of her attempts to expand thwarted at every turn.

And for a time, a small piece of a superpower was sufficient as she bided her time, but the fall of the USSR shattered her influence once again. Annoyed and ready to try again in greener pastures, she moved to Atlanta, which she heard was newly devoid of Camarilla to get in her way. She was shocked then, to see a strong leader already in place, and shortly thereafter to see a familiar face from Moscow, Sinclair, as well as hear rumors about The Bishop moving to Atlanta as well. Convinced they’re both deliberately maneuvering against her, she has begun to seek for allies wherever she can to uncover their plot and punish them for the past century.

Alternate Vampire: Sorcerers

1 Comment

Continuing from last week, for Mages, I stuck closer to the canon splats, but the whole idea of Paradox, consensual reality, and all the normal magely threats seemed like too much baggage for a Vampire game. Instead, I gave them the simpler problem of whether to pursue safe magic that’s incredibly slow to learn, or quick power that’s dangerous as hell. That created some ideas for how to realign the Traditions.

Occult 0

There are a number of mortals that can manipulate supernatural forces via various mystical traditions. Some of them are powerful enough to battle a Kindred head-to-head, particularly if given time to prepare ritual magic. It is uncertain how many are present in Atlanta, as the term “Arcane” originates with the Wise.

While there are no specific accords with magi in the city, they tend to leave Kindred alone if left alone and claim little territory that the Camarilla is interested in. Kindred of the city are not barred from antagonizing them if the situation demands it, but should avoid doing so for the safety of others if at all possible. Many sorcerers seem content to be left alone to research, but leap into action to burn to ash any clear and present threats to their security.

When in doubt, contact the Tremere to investigate further (a boon will be owed).

Occult 1

The ability to perform magic is actually surprisingly common. Not just the charms peddled in the mall bookstore’s New Age section, but acts that would make even the most hardened skeptic admit something strange was happening.

The problem is, you have to have real skill to reliably, repeatably perform these actions. Any kid with a spell can sometimes get a result on Samhain at midnight in a graveyard using inherited candles and a real Latin incantation. Sometimes. And half the time, it’s more dangerous than was intended.

So, yeah, magic’s not really a secret. It’s just the people that can do it reliably don’t like to advertise. Too many rival groups might try to co-opt them, and too many impressionable kids might try to copy them and screw it up.

Occult 2

There are two paths to magic: the easy way and the hard way.

The hard way requires decades of study. It’s the historical wizarding traditions you see in all the fiction: you might apprentice for seven years before you cast your first spell. But it’s safe power. You’re going to be the most terrifying elderly person on the planet.

The easy way is to make a deal for power. Otherworldly entities and the things that go bump in the night love to offer you abilities beyond your wildest dreams. A lot of times, the price is obviously too high. But some things don’t ask for outright supernaturally enforced obedience and corruption, they just shove years of magic right into your brain. Even if you didn’t owe (and you do), the spells aren’t really yours in the same way they would be if you’d practiced for years. You’re bound to screw them up magnificently in a pinch.

So if you see a kid claiming to be able to do magic, stay away: she’s a danger to herself and everyone around her. If you see an old person claiming the same thing, run. If she’s on the level, you’re screwed.

Occult 3

Why don’t wizards make themselves more well known, other than just general self-protection?

Magic, when it comes down to it, is arcane: it works best when done in secret. A powerful sorcerer in the country in the middle of the night with only his victim to see him can work terrible magics indeed. The same spell is virtually meaningless in the middle of the city at noon with hundreds of watchers.

Nobody really knows why this would be the case, other than it just feels right, and feel is very important to magic. Places where your intuition tells you the walls of reality are thin are the places where wondrous things can happen. So if you’re being pursued by a sorcerer, get to somewhere brightly lit and populated as soon as you can.

Of course, if it’s a wizard skilled enough to curse you from a little dark shop across town… well, people collapsing mysteriously in a crowd is tragic, but it’s not exactly weird…

Occult 4

All scholarly traditions of magic are directly linked to the Hermetics: it all shares a unifying series of praxis. The practitioners of these traditions might not get along, but they can learn from one another to a large extent if they do.

There are several broad types of shamanic traditions that are much less closely linked:

  • Those who speak to the spirits of nature and dreams
  • Those that learn from the spirits of the dead
  • Those that reach to spirits of the body and soul
  • Those that take inspiration from the intelligences of the astral plane

Occult 5

There are five houses of Hermes:

  • Akasha: Eastern wizards that merge martial art and magic
  • Celestine: Catholic wizards that see magic as part of the divine
  • Flambeau: Wizards that fit the expected pop culture stereotypes
  • Thig: Modern wizards using computers to aid in mystical calculations
  • Vervaine: “Hedge wizards” that master magic mixed with naturalism

GM Notes

Sorcery is dominated by two methodologies, the practice of which is not compatible and the practitioners of which don’t really get along:

  • Hermetic Traditions follow a slow and hierarchical path of discovery about the self and the world. They pick up magic very gradually, but minimize risk and can reach a quite powerful old age.
  • Shamanic/Warlock Traditions bargain directly with spirits and other beings for power. They are typically solitary or in small groups, each with a very different style. They tend to become powerful quickly and then die young as their bargains catch up to them.

Hermetic Traditions

  • House Akasha (Akashic Brotherhood): Representing much of the Eastern thought that incorporated Hermeticism, this group tends to be blend rituals with martial arts. They thrive on enchanted equipment and even spelled tattoos. Flashier magic tends to focus on scrolls and herbalism.
  • House Celestine (Celestial Chorus): A splinter of the tradition that went very religious in antiquity, they house most of the Catholic mystics within the orders. They like to hide their workings in Christian trappings, chanting spells, using Bible codes, and the like.
  • House Flambeau (Order of Hermes): A collection of elementalists, these sorcerers tend to be the most like the common conception of a wizard. They have no particular agenda other than attempting to amass the most possible mystic power within their lifetimes.
  • House Thig (Virtual Adepts): A recent splinter of several of the other houses, this group seeks to use computers to speed up a lot of the long calculations inherent in the art. Since this involves a lot of time around these devices, they’ve also begun experiments using the Internet and other telecommunication to send spells all over the world.
  • House Vervaine (Verbena): Sometimes called “hedge wizards,” this group tries to live in harmony with nature and invest their magics in gardens and preserves. Unlike traditional witches, they command spirits rather than the other way around, spending years working at their arts. They have the best magics of healing of any group.

Shamanic Traditions

  • Cult of Ecstasy: A loose term for Tantric and other hedonistic paths that consider pursuit of Ananda/Bliss to be the foremost goal of a sorcerer. They tend to pursue magics to alter and affect the human form and manipulate the perception of and actual flow of time.
  • Dreamspeakers: A vaguely derogatory term for a vast swath of dissimilar native shamanic traditions. They are becoming increasingly marginalized over time. They tend to be the best at actually controlling spirits rather than being controlled by them, and manipulating magical energies.
  • Euthanatos: A catchall for death cultists in all their stripes, most of these serve ghosts: either to gain power from them, or help them move on. They are the best at energies surrounding death and fate, and often deft hands at manipulating minds and spaces.
  • Sons of Ether: Inheritors of the tradition of the muse, these are largely secular humanists that attempt to channel extraplanar genius into their works. Rarely flashy, they instead tend to have a tremendous collection of holdouts and enhanced equipment.

The Fire-Drinker

Player Notes

“And on to general warnings for this Elysium… It has been brought to my attention that Devin recently had her work to gather influence in the local churches stopped by a local pastor. His name is Benjamin Crow, and he preaches in a Pentecostal church up somewhere in Marietta. He apparently drinks fire as an alternative to snake handling; our research into his background reveals that he was in a carnival before getting religion in World War II, so it’s likely just a trick. More importantly, Basil’s investigation of the man turned up a strong feeling of True Faith, including possibly the ability to sense the presence of Kindred.

“Until we know what we’re dealing with, Kindred of the city are not, under any circumstances, to engage with Pastor Crow. It’s entirely likely that he’s just a clever old preacher who noticed some irregularities with his friends in the business, but the Faith would make it dangerous to risk a confrontation. He’s old and has so far only been a nuisance, so it’s best to just wait him out. If you do catch wind of his involvement in any other Kindred business, inform your primogen or me immediately.”

GM Notes

Benjamin Crow was born in 1922 and may be an illegitimate son of Aleister Crowley. He was raised in a carnival, and had become an expert entertainer by the time he was 18, specializing in fire-eating. He fought in WWII, where he came to the attention of the Order of Hermes. Initially apprenticed in Flambeau, his religious convictions led him to House Celestine.

Now 70 (but barely looks 60), he had retired to Marietta to simply preach to a small, pentecostal church. However, he quickly began to pick up that Atlanta was a hotbed of supernatural problems, particularly from the Cainites. While he’s wise enough to not begin any encounter by throwing fireballs, they’re never far from his fingers and he’s largely convinced that Cainites are better off being burned in celestial fire to free them from their unholy existence.

He’s been quietly working to try to find and destroy Kindred influence in the city, particularly over religious leaders. He managed to completely stymie Devin’s takeover of the Methodist convention, and she’s now aware of his involvement, and he’s learned enough about Anna to be worried. He’s gotten word of Niki, and is saving her as a potential ally if he requires one, as she seems to have no interest in religious institutions.

Most Physical Rolls: 3 (6 if given time to prepare)
Most Social Rolls: 8 to persuade, 6 to lie
Most Mental Rolls: 7

Has Stamina 3 and, unless completely caught off guard has, 5 points of Forces armor. Is old, so first health level is permanently lost.

Prefers to use what is effectively Forces/Prime to attack with 4 dice in public up to 10 dice at the heart of his power or at other significant mystical location/event. This is often a celestial fire attack (aggravated damage) coupled with flight and invisibility for mobility.

Has True Faith.

The Gunsmith

Player Notes

“In other news, we’re pleased to note that Silas tracked down and dealt with the source of incendiary bullets that some of you were reporting. If you hear of any more, let one of us know.”

Dear Mr. Powers,

I heard about you on several technologist BBSes. For various reasons I am unable to travel out of the South to look for venture capital. I know what I am offering is not exactly your standard investment, but I hope you will at least consider funding my research.

I have enclosed a simple example of what I can do. It is a .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge. I have replaced the standard load with a heat seeking explosive round. It should attempt to tumble toward the center of mass of the heat source within two degrees of its firing direction to compensate for movement or poor aim.

If you like the sample and would like to talk about funding, please contact me at the attached pager number and I’ll call to set up a meeting.

Thanks!

A Local Inventor

GM Notes

Elaine Brown (b 1976) is a 16 year old Son (Daughter) of Ether whose muse has brought her a lot of skill in designing weapons. She works after school for her cousin, Al Brown, who runs a gun store in Druid Hills. His shop has become renowned for its variety of custom rounds. By night, she invents a wide variety of munitions and automated weapon systems, as well as miscellaneous tech that strikes her fancy, a large number of which only work for her.

Her more mundane loadouts included some experiments with incendiary and wood rounds that came to Kindred attention. At Joseph’s urging, Silas got in contact (though she dealt with him via an armed, voice-altering remote drone) and offered to fund her work in exchange for avoiding selling certain types of weapon to the general public (and alerting him if anyone else requested the work).

The first one to look for such things was Anna, a few days later, working on her own to try to make a deal; Elaine saw her off with shots and Anna probably wants payback. Meanwhile, Burdell is more surreptitiously asking around and trying to find her actual workshop. If this keeps up, it might quickly ruin the deal with the Prince and turn Elaine into a heavily armed threat for the Kindred of the city.

She might be interested in trying to get some alternate startup funding from Maxwell…

Most Physical Rolls: 4 dice (6 if given time to invent something to help)
Most Social Rolls: 5 dice
Most Mental Rolls: 8 dice

Stamina 3, Armor 3 (microweave body armor with reactive force fields)

Attack: Various guns with 7 dice and special loadouts (likely doing agg damage) as well as potentially two or three other 6 die attacks from automated drones.

The Danforth Archive

Player Notes (General)

From The Who’s Who of Amazing Stories published in 1981:

Danforth, Alexandria – While most likely a pseudonym, the name Alexandria Danforth is remembered for inspiring several pulp and sci-fi novels in the 1950s.

The woman herself appears as a footnote in the World War II history of MI5. While her background with the agency was not recorded, it is most likely that she was a maths teacher brought in to help with what would eventually become the Ultra project to decrypt Axis communications.

She is recorded as having a stubborn belief in the “universal unconscious” and a specific theory that any plan committed to paper, especially if of sufficient “weight” to the course of history, would be imprinted on this unconscious. She agitated for resources to develop a machine that could access this information and, thus, copy Axis plans “from thin air.” Her superiors found this theory to be “the worst kind of mystical hoodoo” and never funded or even encouraged pursuit of the theory.

The idea did come to light after the war, and became a common trope in several short story magazines of the next two decades. Danforth was not heard from again after the war, and her fate is uncertain.

(Specific PCs)

A few months ago, your sire had you go dumpster diving for shredded documents at a few tech and financial firms. You’ve been meticulously reassembling them, and she’s been very pleased when you get her a list of bank data or passwords. Recently, one of the documents turned out to be a dot-matrix wireframe blueprint with the caption “Original Plans, Temple of Zeus?” and the page header “Danforth Test 5.” Unfortunately, it could have come from one of several dumpsters you hit in your original search…

A few years ago, “The Danforth Deconstruction” began to circulate as an interesting variation of the Traveling Salesman problem among computer scientists. They are thought exercises revolving around the most efficient way to search a non-indexed database for fuzzy search terms. The common theory on the BBSes discussing the problem is that someone’s gotten access to a mass of scanned and badly OCRed data that they need to sort through quickly.

GM Notes

Alexandria Danforth was an apprentice of House Bonisagus before being drafted for the war, and returned to her training afterwards. Her quest to apply modern technology to the problems of magic was instrumental in reforming the tradition as House Thig. While she disappeared even to her own house in the 1970s, she left behind copious notes. As computer processing power has increased, the house has come up with prototype systems that can access what they have come to refer to as The Danforth Archive.

Unfortunately, information appears to be stored by an unintuitive format that pays more attention to the date of creation and emotional state of the creator of documents than any more searchable type of order. Documents appear easier to find the older and more important they are and may only appear if they’ve been subsequently destroyed. Thus the operators of the device are having a tremendously hard time producing anything of value, or, more importantly, even verifying that what they’re finding is genuine archaeological data or some kind of obscure wish-fulfillment of the operators (always a problem in psychosciences).

Thus, House Thig is discussing trying to make peaceful contact with a Cainite of sufficient age and reasonable disposition that could point them at a plan created in the past and verify its accuracy when retrieved.

Alternate Vampire: Ghosts

2 Comments

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

Alternate Vampire Backgrounds

2 Comments

Yeah, it’s another Vampire post.

On starting to put together a game, I noticed that some of the backgrounds had explicit benefits, while others were entirely based on fiat (how useful is a dot of Retainer vs. a dot of Resources?). This is an attempt to make every background at least have some explicit system effect that can’t be produced from another source. I don’t know if they’re actually balanced against one another, but they should each generally give some kind of predictable mechanical benefit.

Three backgrounds are removed from the standard list because they are subsumed into group generation or other city systems (Allies, Generation, and Influence), and because Generation is too desirable of a buy to be left to a cheap background. Three others are newly added to address certain elements that lost their position as skills in my game (Linguistics) or were Merits not easily reproducible with Distinctions (Arcane and Touched). I also drastically reduced Resources, as being a millionaire always drastically changed the game too much for a very cheap buy.

  • Arcane: You have a subtle supernatural field that makes you hard to find, follow, or even remember. Your dots in this background are added to any Stealth rolls to blend into a crowd. They are a dice penalty to anyone attempting to track you or research information about you (trails and records go missing). Recordings of you tend to blur or have static and lose one identifying feature per dot. You cannot buy Fame if you have any dots in this background.
  • Contacts: You have contacts throughout the city not directly tied to your Influence structure that feed you information and help you out when possible. Once per night, you may ask a question and roll Contacts to find out information about it (the difficulty and required successes depend on the obscurity and relevance of the information). You can use Contacts to gain Influence favor points.
  • Fame: You are a local celebrity within the city. You can add your dots in this background to any social rolls against targets impressed by your renown and who recognize you. You can use Fame to gain Influence favor points. It is difficult for opponents to try to marginalize you or remove you secretly, and you can add your dots to your defense against Status loss.
  • Herd: You have a safe hunting area, dedicated blood dolls, access to a blood bank, or some other easy way of finding blood. Your dots are added as extra blood points to whatever number the GM tells you to start at for a session and added as bonus dice to any rolls to hunt in the city.
  • Linguistics: You fluently speak one additional language per dot in this background. You may roll the background (plus Charisma) to make yourself understood in related languages in which you are not fluent (difficulty depending on how closely related your fluent languages are). Dead languages are generally covered by Academics unless you want to be conversationally fluent in them.
  • Mentor: Your sire or another elder has decided to be especially helpful to your education and passage into Camarilla society. You can learn any traits your Mentor surpasses you at faster: your dots count as additional “weeks” each month that you can dedicate toward improving such traits. You may add your dots as a bonus to any social rolls against your mentor. If your mentor is present at a social gathering, you may add your dots to your defense against Status loss.
  • Resources: You have wealth and the capability to make more. You generally have your rating in this background squared times $100 in free cash at any given time (resetting the next week if spent). Similarly, your rating squared times $10,000 roughly indicates your yearly gross salary and general lifestyle. All numbers are in 2012 dollars. You can temporarily expend dots to make larger purchases by taking on credit or mortgages. You can use Resources to gain Influence favor points.
  • Retainers: You have several loyal mortal assistants: friends, employees, or ghouls. Each dot represents one relatively complicated (but not dangerous) errand you can have accomplished which would otherwise take your full attention (or require going out in daylight) and a significant fraction of your time. You can use Retainers to gain Influence favor points.
  • Status: You have a rank within a large organization (and this background can be purchased multiple times to represent different organizations). One dot indicates entry level, while five indicates the highest rank possible that is not in direct control of the organization (these titles vary from status to status). You can use your status in mortal organizations to improve your Influence. Status within the Camarilla cannot be purchased, but must be earned and defended in play, and indicates your social clout among Kindred in the city.
  • Touched:You have one or more strange abilities that are holdovers from your mortal life. Spend the dots in this background to select from the following abilities (and you cannot buy more than five points worth of abilities representing five dots in this background):
    • Magic Resistant (X): You increase your resistance pool to Thaumaturgy and mortal magic by the number of dots invested in this power. You cannot learn magic.
    • Medium (1): You can sense the presence of ghosts and communicate with them.
    • Prescient (2): You sometimes receive premonitions of the future and can enter a trance to deliberately invoke such a vision. You add +1 to your Initiative rolls and have a minimum of 1 success on Perception rolls to detect danger.
    • Lucky (2): You gain an additional Distinction, “Lucky,” that can be used on any task heavily controlled by chance.
    • Unbondable (3): You cannot be blood bound, no matter how much vitae you drink.
    • Neutral (4): You are mysteriously immune to Dominate or other direct mind-control effects. Presence still affects you normally.
    • True Faith (5): You can manifest your faith through a holy symbol to drive back or harm other Kindred. You can invoke minor miracles in especially appropriate situations. You are not harmed by the true faith of others.
    • Former Ghoul (5): You were granted the Embrace after service as a ghoul. You gain a dot of Potence but start play blood bound to your sire.

Vampire: Alternate Degeneration

Leave a comment

Yes, I’m still on a V:tM kick. This week: an alternate system for managing “Humanity.” It, like the influence system, is heavily inspired by the Mind’s Eye Theater rules.

For this hack, I’ve collapsed the Virtues into the Attributes to create something more similar to the nWoD power/finesse/resistance breakdown. That is:

  • Physical attributes remain the same, though Stamina gets involved in degeneration as seen below.
  • Social attributes compress Manipulation and Appearance into “Poise,” the social finesse stat. Charisma remains and becomes the power stat. The Self-Control virtue becomes “Composure” and represents social combat resistance as well as ability to hold out against anger.
  • Mental attributes drop Wits (its effects are spread between the other attributes). Intelligence is the power stat and Perception is the finesse stat. The Courage virtue becomes the mental resistance stat.

I’ve also simplified the Attack>Dodge>Damage>Soak mechanic universally such that Dodge is pre-subtracted from attack dice before rolling and Soak is pre-subtracted from damage dice before rolling. This should work about about the same statistically and speed up the oWoD combat round a bit.

If you prefer to use the rest of V:tM as written, you can sub in the Virtues for defensive uses below and slightly change the combat order to allow for rolling defenses rather than pre-subtracting them.

Beast Traits

A character’s humanity is measured in control over the Beast. As you commit monstrous acts, your Beast grows stronger and your Humanity fades… eventually it becomes easier to relent before the urgings of the Beast than to risk Frenzy and total loss of control. Each character begins with a single Beast Trait in one of three categories; the number of traits in a category is a bonus to the Beast’s attempts to drive the character to Frenzy in those situations. The more Beast Traits you have, the later you wake up after sunset (generally a quarter of an hour for each trait).

  • Rage: Invoked when hurt or otherwise provoked; resisted with Composure
  • Hunger: Invoked when spurred by hunger or greed; resisted with Stamina
  • Fear: Invoked when afraid or faced with fire or sunlight: resisted with Courage

Gaining Beast Traits

Beast Traits represent the strength of the beast within a Cainite. Even the most noble and ethical heart means little against a failure to reign in the Beast, while a near sociopath can still lead a blameless unlife if her violent urgings are kept in check. Thus, there is no real concept of a morality or hierarchy of sins, merely actions that cause the Beast to grow and gain more power over its host. You can be as moral or immoral as you like, as long as you maintain a leash on your inner monster.

The easiest way to gain Beast Traits is killing. While there is no hierarchy of sins, there is one of murder:

  1. True accidental deaths, killing in self defense (no quarter offered or given), killing an antagonistic supernatural
  2. Careless deaths (could have been prevented with some foresight but it was an accident), killing out of expediency (dangerous, untrustworthy, but inactive opponent)
  3. Killing a non-innocent during a Frenzy, killing a violent opponent (who was only threatening injury, not death), killing out of a sense of justice (the target wasn’t deadly but was mounting up small horrors over the long term)
  4. Killing an innocent during a Frenzy, killing a non-innocent in the heat of the moment out of anger, hunger, or fear
  5. Killing an innocent in the heat of the moment, premeditated murder on a non-innocent
  6. Premeditated murder of an innocent, cruel/unusual/torturous death, mass murder or serial killing

When your character kills, determine whether the motivation is out of rage, hunger, or fear (if it’s not obvious, as in a frenzy, the player chooses what makes the most sense). Find the type of kill on the chart and reduce the number by the number of current Beast Traits you have in that category (even the Beast gets jaded after a while). If the number is 0, you don’t gain an additional Beast Trait this time (though repeatedly performing the action may bump it up). If it is 1 or more, you gain another Beast Trait in that category.

While the Beast is less interested in actions that don’t involve death, a history of cruelty or otherwise unnecessary harm short of killing someone may eventually catch its attention. In these cases, the player will be warned after such an action that the Beast is waking and her character can feel that it will grow if the actions continue to be repeated.

Frenzy

Rather than making a simple check to avoid Frenzy, it is a drawn out series of attacks against the character’s mental fortitude (represented by an additional mental damage track). It does not generally take place in rounds, but the Beast attacks when provoked, slowly wearing down the character.

The Beast attacks whenever the character faces a trigger event:

  • Rage: The character is provoked or threatened and Fight reflexes would kick in
  • Hunger: The character spends down to one or zero blood or is faced with an obvious chance to feed when low on blood
  • Fear: The character is faced with fire, sunlight, or something else that would trigger Flight reflexes

Actions

Characters can take an action to respond to attacks by the Beast. If a trigger comes in combat rounds, defending against the Beast uses an action similarly to Dodging (either the whole round’s action, or splitting dice pools between acting and defending).

When the Beast attacks, the sequence is as follows:

  1. The Beast declares a dice pool based on the significance of the trigger.
    1. A very minor stressor might only be 1 die, while a major event might be 4.
    2. The character’s Beast Traits for that stressor are added to the total.
  2. The character can decide to relent and do what the Beast wants (attack, feed, or flee). If this is chosen, the Beast deals no damage because it got what it wanted.
  3. The character decides whether to use an action to defend. If she does:
    1. Subtract Perception from the attacker’s dice pool. Willpower can be spent to reduce it further.
    2. If there are no dice left, the attack simply misses.
  4. If the attacker still has dice, roll them against difficulty 6. If there are any successes, the attack hit.
  5. Add the successes on the attack to the appropriate Beast Trait.
  6. The defender Soaks, subtracting Composure (Rage), Stamina (Hunger), or Courage (Fear).
  7. Roll the remaining dice against difficulty 6. The successes are the damage taken by the target.

Wounds

As with physical damage, most characters have seven boxes of Frenzy Levels. Most damage is normal, but a mental wound might be counted as “Aggravated” if the Beast is somehow being stressed by an external supernatural force. As with physical damage, the wounds carry penalties (to mental actions related to thinking clearly and social actions to act like a human with other mortals).

When a character is “killed” mentally, she enters Frenzy and takes actions related to the last trigger (attacking until the provocation is destroyed, feeding until sated, or fleeing and fighting anything in the way). At that point, all mental damage is healed as the beast is quiescent (but the player probably has a new Beast Trait). If not “killed,” the mental damage heals slowly (similar to the mortal healing rate). On rising for the evening, a player can choose to heal one normal mental health level instead of receiving a point of Willpower (Aggravated damage can only be healed with time).

Older Entries