Genius: The Transgression by Cythereal
IntroductionOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression
Have you ever wanted to play a mad scientist in the World of Darkness? Someone brilliant but fundamentally unstable, dreaming impossible dreams that seem to defy the laws of physics?
Genius is not the game for you.
Genius: The Transgression is a fan-made game line for the New World of Darkness, probably the largest and best-known of its kind. Genius proudly presents itself as a game about playing mad scientists, ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Dr. Frankenstein to Bruce Banner. However, when you get right down to it Genius is a game about playing unappreciated sperglords who struggle with unemployment while building nuclear weapons in their garage.
Let's get down to it.
He looked like a bad bitmap, sort of fuzzy and indistinct, with little blue eyes like smears on a round gray face. He said he was out of the game.
"The game?" I asked. My voice sounded so bored - ten years of this, I thought, next month - but the man intrigued me. I had never been intrigued before, not in medical school, not when they told me their problems, not when they cried. I remember caring once, when I was young and I dreamed of how other people saw the world, but that had been a lifetime ago and now I felt raw and tired.
As traditional for the World of Darkness, Genius opens with some introductory fiction. Our unnamed protagonist here is a psychologist, talking with a disillusioned scientist. He used to be a brilliant aeronautical engineering type working on the space program, but he grew disillusioned and cynical when the popular imagination turned away from that vision of the 50s and 60s. Despite coming across as just a crotchety old jerk who hates that his field has moved past his youthful dreams, we're assured that he's somehow incredibly smart and that the psychologist's notes on the guy are self-contradictory and nonsensical.
I backtracked, suddenly lost. I looked down at my notes. They didn't make any sense. I had added to Mike's chicken-scratches, but what I had written was all nonsense, like a psychology primer run through a German-English translator a dozen times, or some other world's definitions for id and ego...I found myself pondering how other worlds would conceive of the mind, what coincidences would occur there, or not occur there that occurred here, from which they would try to build up a model of the mind. How much would they have missed, just by accident? What had we missed?
I pulled myself back. My head felt all stretched and deformed, and suddenly I was afraid of looking at Jonas, like he would see a monster. Stop it. What had he asked? What would I do if...
Despite there being no evidence whatsoever of anything weird going on beyond the author's say-so, what's happening here is that the psychologist is beginning to awaken as a Genius.
I remembered being seventeen, and imagining what other minds must be like. I remembered models leaping into my mind, unbidden, like someone had been sending mail to my brain in the middle of the night. It had been horrible, those half-glimpses of a greater truth, that sickly light bubbling up from my own mind, and I shuddered at the memory. I had pushed it away, disgusted. It had been outside me. It had wanted something. Thought without mind, idea without intellect. Genius, pure and beautiful.
The fiction goes on for fifteen more pages where nothing really happens beyond a massive infodump about the setting and important terms. However, it does get across a decent idea of the fundamental premise behind the Geniuses, which the game interchangeably calls the Inspired: there is a force of intellect and creativity somewhere outside us that can press its way into the mind, making you dream and think impossible things, and make them all somehow make sense to you despite the obvious illogic and insanity of it. This alien light, called Inspiration, can make the impossible happen when someone afflicted by it puts that energy to work, provided the Genius has a proper mental framework for it.
Yes, Inspiration is basically magic and Geniuses are wizards who simply need to channel their magic through a focus. To use their magic, Geniuses need a pseudo-scientific world view to use as a framework for their abilities - need a paradigm, you might say.
Then we get a table of contents and another page of fiction where a random guy busts into a Genius's lab where he's plugged a few people into an ugly machine, so his bracelet turns into a shotgun and kills everyone, then he torches the place.
Now on to the introduction proper!
Ever since we bent our minds to technology - not with the computer or the automobile, but with fire and
language and visions of tomorrow's hunt - we walked away from the path laid out before us. No longer were
we to struggle and die like the other animals. No longer would we be allowed lives defined by a blissful
eternal now. We opened our eyes, regretted the past, feared the future, and became fully human.
But there were some who wished to know more, and to see farther, no matter the price. Mortals accepted into
their midst tricksters who delighted in showing the failure of the powerful, visionaries who dreamed of
worlds never before seen, fanatics determined to change the world by changing how we thought. The genius
stands outside of society and its narrow bounds, whether hailing from some crude some village where no one
knows what lies beyond the forest or gleaming metropoli whose inhabitants are bored with walking on the
Moon. They bring us marvels, and we make them pay for their transgressions.
As humanity has always admired and feared its law-givers, it has always admired and feared its law-breakers,
its madmen, its geniuses. Every society has stories of those who went too far, who asked too much, and who
suffered for it. The mad scientist is new, but the genius is an old dream indeed: the prophet, the trickster-god,
the master of techne, the artificer who makes the world, the demiurge who seeks to control, bind, and direct
Genius: The Transgression is a game about those men and women and almost-gods, the ones who went too
far in their and hope and spite and fear and arrogance. They are doomed to watch their discoveries dissolve
into dust and broken lines of code, to see their inventions rampage out of control. But between that first
discovery and their last, when they transgress once too often and the universe wipes them away, they can
So yes, the Geniuses are wizards with a fresh coat of paint as mad scientists.
A Game of Forbidden Science:
Break the rules and you get in trouble. Break the law and you go to jail. Mouth off to your boss and lose your
job. Jump off a building and...But it doesn't have to be that way, says that little voice in the back of your head,
your personal genius. You ignore it, but you can't silence it. But a genius gives in to that voice, becomes that
rules-breaking thing, that maker-trickster-savior, and begins a life of pain and glory unimaginable to mere
The genius sees the truth, but she cannot get there. In her heart she knows, but she cannot explain why. She
flouts social convention, ignores the sneering voice of authority and dogma, and casts aside the ethical
concerns of her peers. She breaks the rules of the universe we know to glimpse the truth of the universe as it
must be. But there's a price. There always is. She is not just isolated from the "common man," but from the
very discipline that birthed her. In her heart, she knows that what she does is not science, which is ultimately
about systems and about cooperation. Alone, she walks a new path, wearing the trappings of her old life but
no longer capable of touching its essence.
Genius: The Transgression takes place in the World of Darkness, a world like ours but with darker nights
and deeper stains. People don't connect to one-another as they do in our world. They live in the shadows of
ancient conspiracies and the shadows cast by old things, and this infects the geniuses: for every mad scientist
working in silicon and plastic, another labors with greasy cogs and steam pumps, while another never left
behind the gleaming chrome and atomic dreams of the 1950s. For one of the Inspired, there is no escape from
the fetters of superstition and occult dread, the lurking horrors at the edge of consciousness. Though cobbling
together elements from our past, the genius ultimately belongs to no place and no time, and walks alone into
And also disaffected sperglords.
A little knowledge is a hideous thing and it will drive you mad.
The genius is a rule-breaker, a trickster, a liar, a thief of wonders, and a maker of false dreams. Tenuous
threads bind him to the mortal world, and every wonder is a violation of the rules of the universe. On the one
hand, Obligation binds a genius to humanity; on the other hand, Inspiration tells him to do things that no sane
person would ever want to do. The genius can be humanity's damned savior, destroying himself to safeguard
a society that will never know his name and would hate him if they knew what he had done to preserve them.
A genius is never entirely in control. His inventions are always one step away from freeing themselves and
rampaging through his lab, or his city. The ideas and dreams come too fast for him to write down, let alone
study and examine. The deadlines are constant, the pressure to find equipment, money, and research time
mind-breaking, and humiliation is a constant companion. Mad scientists burn with a passion for their work,
and though that passion is glorious and often contagious, the hunger to know and to control consumes them
from the inside-out. They cannot obey the rules that normal society has set down for its members. They can
only choose what laws they will break, and how they will look at themselves afterward.
Still wizards, just less hippy and more steampunk.
Mood: Bitter Disappointment
The hideous freedom of transgression is matched by the choke-chain of necessity. A genius finds herself
surrounded by failure and broken dreams. For every wonder that lurches, blasphemously, beautifully, to life,
another turns to smoking scrap in the testing phase, or lies forgotten in a corner, half-made, because the
genius couldn't pay for the right permits or find the right materials. This juxtaposition of Inspired triumph
and mundane failure defines a genius' life.
And even if the genius succeeds more often than he fails, he sees dead dreams all around him. Once-great
geniuses, their radiance reduced to cinders from a lifetime of crushing defeat and humiliation, stock the
shelves at the electronics store in the mall, too ashamed to take up the wrench again. Those Inspired who
provide a genius with the supplies he needs are hollow, miserable people, chewed apart by the failure of their
philosophies to gain acceptance. And in the end, rare is the genius who makes a measurable impact on the
world: no matter how successful a genius might be, his wonders still crumble when exposed to the light of
day, reduced to malfunctioning piles of components. Many of the Inspired, after that initial burst of delight,
feel the circle of possibilities shrinking around them, until they are little different from before, except that
now people who once respected them now snicker behind their back at the "maniac" who cracked under the
Who wants to bet "bitter disappointment" accurately describes the mood of the author when it comes to his real life dreams?
Next up is the standard list of suggested inspiration (hur hur), which I will present without commentary.
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Baroque Cycle
(Okay, one commentary: no Jurassic Park?)
Bob the Angry Flower
The Venture Brothers
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Nine Inch Nails
Next time, The Cosmos! (Yes, that's what the introduction to the world of the gameline is called).
Next in the pdf after the introduction is a glossary filled with terms that haven't been explained yet. I'll note the important ones here, but I'll explain the rest as I reach the appropriate sections.
Axiom: Genuises do everything through constructs called wonders, and building wonders goes through a variety of disciplines called axioms. The axioms are Apokalypsi, Automata, Epikrato, Exelixi, Katastrophi, Metaptropi, Prostasia, and Skafoi.
Catalyst: A race/subtype style division, all Geniuses belong to one of five Catalysts that has a substantial impact on their motivations and what kind of mad scientist they are: Grimm (rage), Hoffnung (hope), Klagen (sorrow), Neid (rejection), or Staunen (curiosity). From a fluff perspective, your Catalyst is the emotion driving your descent into madness.
The Peerage: The good guy mad scientists, and the PCs are probably members. Divided into Foundations that grant benefits while focusing on a particular type of mad science. Each PC probably belongs to one.
Lemuria: The evil mad scientists, basically the Illuminati. The Peerage know they're all insane. Lemurians think they're right. Divided into Baramins based on how they approach the world through the lens of their [mad] science.
Inspiration: In crunch, it's the power stat. In fluff, it's the alien force of creativity that makes Geniuses what they are.
Mania: The energy of Inspiration. It's your blood points, mana, what-have-you.
Havoc: Yeah, it's Paradox. Backlash from mortals interacting with Genius stuff or Genius stuff going wrong.
Obligation: Morality stat.
Illuminated: What happens when Obligation reaches 0. Complete monsters and whatnot.
Beholden: Ghouls, now in lab assistant flavor.
Collaborative: Group of Geniuses that work together (the PCs are probably this).
Bardos/Manes: Supernatural entities, basically, spawned from ideas that have been scientifically proven not to exist. You can play as one.
The CosmosOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression Part 2: The Cosmos
You will notice I'm not posting any art or graphics. That's because there is none. The Genius online book is 488 pages of nothing but text and charts.
A genius is a mortal man or woman gifted with extraordinary insight and technical brilliance. A genius is also
a concept, an extra-worldly thing, a muse, an eidolon of imagination and beauty, something that alights for a
time upon mortals or, sometimes, buries itself deep in the soul of a person and does not leave.
This double-truth follows a genius through life: are they extraordinary individuals gifted with a touch of the
impossible, or are they mere conduits for a greater and inhuman power? This question torments many of the
Inspired, and they pore over the accounts of their predecessors and propose monstrous and baffling
philosophies in order to learn what they are: gifted mortals, or mere shells for the idea of genius? Every
genius must ask herself, at some point, am I real? And they must discover for themselves the origin and true
nature of their ideas. Are they Inspired, or are they Inspiration personified? Where do the terrible, beautiful
ideas come from, if not from their own mind? Are they, in some sense, worthy of the wonders they make, or
are they mere midwives for things more beautiful than they―things in some sense, more real?
I actually kinda like this premise for Geniuses: Inspiration is what makes them what they are, but it's dangerous, alien, and potentially horrifying. We then get some elaboration on the danger Inspiration poses to geniuses, that it's the force driving them away from humanity into the realm of mad science. It's the mundane parts of human existence that keep geniuses grounded for the most part, maintaining ties to mundane human existence rather than deciding they're above it all. It's appropriate for the mad scientist mythos, though there isn't a whole lot of crunch to back it up - Genius pretty much expects you to slide into insanity.
At Last I Understand
A genius' Breakthrough―the moment she stops being a normal mortal, however naturally gifted, and
becomes Inspired―is often a traumatic experience, though it is rarely sudden. Over the course of weeks,
months, or even years, a mortal's perspective begins to change. Ideas that once made sense become dubious,
unintuitive, even suspicious, while new notions seem to leap unbidden into the person's mind. These might
be dismissed as madness, if the ideas don't work, or unexpected leaps of intuition, if somehow they do, but
the nagging suspicion remains that the ideas are coming from Outside, that somehow they are not one's own.
Most reasonable people, at this point, retreat from the strange revelations: they shut themselves down, force
themselves to go about their day-to-day lives, and if they're lucky or determined, they won't experience a
Breakthrough at all. They will live out their little lives like the rest of us. But some rush headlong toward
these new experiences, while others cannot or will not escape them, perhaps seeing answers there that have
eluded them before. This is how a genius is born.
The first few months after the Breakthrough are traumatic and infuriating: Inspiration, for all its brilliance,
fears the light of day. Answers that seem so obvious as the genius labors by night in rented laboratory space
turn to nonsense when shown to one's fellows. Many geniuses think they are going mad. Their friends almost
certainly think so. Isolation and madness set in as the Breakthrough drags on: the genius is Inspired, but lacks
any ability to produce something. He is not yet a maker of wonders.
The Breakthrough is what turns a mortal into a genius. It's that moment where a sane scientist starts to go mad, obsessed with peculiar and brilliant ideas that often make sense to the genius but no one else. Of course, in Transgression's case you're going insane on two levels, with the latter being that the source of your sudden brilliance really is an outside force, and it's not really compatible with the human mind.
Also, it's a recurring theme that mortals simply can't understand the mad super-science of the Inspired. Their stuff simply doesn't work by the rules of the normal world and shouldn't work at all. It's the power of Mania and Inspiration that makes these impossible wonders work - that tesla gun, that super-suit, that cybernetic rig... so yeah it's magic for all intents and purposes but dressed up as science.
At this point in the mortal's descent into Inspiration, most go one of three ways: joining the Peerage (the organization of relatively sane good-guy mad scientists the PCs are assumed to be a part of), joining Lemuria (the organization of relatively insane bad-guy mad scientists the PCs are assumed to be enemies of), or becoming Illuminated.
The Illuminated are what happens when something goes deeply wrong or a Genius' morality stat hits 0: the alien force of Inspiration completely consumes the human mind and what emerges is an alien force of intellect and creativity in a human suit. We'll get some more detail on the Illuminated later on, but for now the Illuminated are noted to be very explicitly no longer human in any real sense of the word, and there is no cure of any kind for Illumination. Most end up killed by the Peerage or Lemuria because of the danger they pose to everyone.
On to demographics and the question of who tends to become Inspired.
According to Genius: A Complete Psychological Breakdown, published by Ayako Von Schreber and Bob "Doc"
Sandwich in 2005, the Inspired are primarily drawn from the scientific, academic, and educational fields. It
should come as no surprise that almost nine in ten Inspired work or worked in such fields: they are or were
scientists, researchers, philosophers, sociologists, professors, mathematicians, engineers, technicians, medical
doctors, or computer experts. Many others are drawn from related fields: Inspired populations boast many
librarians, historians, field guides, teachers, explorers, mechanics, architects, and all-purpose scholars. This is
what geniuses call the breeding pool, the usual "spawning ground" for new geniuses.
Inspiration isn't always random - it can be cultivated in someone, though not reliably. It does take a certain mindset to become Inspired, mainly a mindset capable of thinking and planning, seeing a problem and working out a solution or being struck with some vast question.
We're told now that about 60% of all Inspired come to it naturally, just regular people who suddenly start to see impossible answers to their questions and theories. The rest were deliberately guided as Beholden (read: ghouls) and either deliberately cultivated by geniuses to become Inspired themselves or were intended to be mere lab assistants and servants who suddenly became much more.
Don't really want to play a mad scientist? Worry not!
About 12% of geniuses become Inspired though they possess no particular scientific or technical background,
nor formal training time under another genius. The old term for such a person was a raudus, a raw "lump" of
genius. They possess no training, but they have raw talent and some kind of frantic drive that pushes them
into a Breakthrough. The beat cop who sees one crime too many and decides to mess around with an armored
suit, the mother whose children are menaced by mysterious underground machines and who ransacks
libraries to find out how to stop them, the laborer who watches a loved one wither of untreatable cancer, and
who starts asking around about "impossible" cures...all these people are geniuses for whom the Breakthrough
comes first and mundane knowledge comes later.
There's a lot of room and suggestion in Genius that if you want to you can play the game as superheroes who build their own super-gadgets, and here's your out. Bruce Wayne and Viktor Frieze can both be reasonably approximated as Inspired.
Next we're told that about one in three Inspired actually has a PhD, but that most are hobbyists. Genius does have a curious blind spot about professionals whose work gives them the opportunity to become Inspired but aren't interested in becoming doctors or professors themselves. Despite all this ground to play a Genius who isn't a mad scientist , the fluff assumes that you're just that.
There are a lot of Inspired, a fact that startled the Peerage when it was first discovered. Estimates are as high
as one person in five thousand being a genius, though many are lonesomes with no idea of what they are.
More conservative estimates make Inspired rarer, but there are still a good number of them in any major
Uh... I'm pretty sure this many mad scientists would be noticed, though we're also told that 30-50% of all Inspired don't know what they are. Which seems weird given that there's an alien power burning in their skulls and Inspired are pretty good about recognizing mad science in action. I can only assume that most Inspired don't actually bother with becoming mad scientists and instead post really weird conspiracy theories and fanfic on the internet.
More demographics come up, telling us that despite the promise that Inspiration can happen to anyone mad science is actually pretty expensive and so Inspired tend to be highly educated and wealthy, with the exceptions being notable and peculiar.
From Up Here They Look Like Ants
A genius' Breakthrough, once she has mastered his first Axioms and created her first wonders, is often
accompanied by a godlike feeling of invincibility and of escape from the fetters of the mundane world. But a
genius cannot escape humanity, at least while keeping his humanity intact.
Instead, a genius is bound to humanity by ties of Obligation. The genius can never again be part of everyday
humanity, or return to his old life. He can never again walk among his former peers as equals, at least not
without danger to himself and to them. But the genius cannot simply be a watcher. Instead he must become a
monitor, a guardian of his world from both his own wonders and horrors and those unleashed by others.
Often dispassionate, but never disinterested, the genius becomes a protector of common humanity
Obligation is the morality stat of Genius, and while it's flavorful and appropriate I don't see why Inspired have to abandon traditional morality. The best analogy I can think of for Obligation is looking at superheroes, actually. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark would be good examples of high obligation Inspired - they're volatile, egotistical, more than just a little removed from ordinary humanity, and definitely a bit crazy, but they view their powers as an obligation to protect mundane people from dangers they can't fight. Mister Freeze and any of the bad guys from the Iron Man movies would be examples of low obligation Inspired.
Too much Maniacal activity, too fast, can result in the genius cracking as Inspiration overrides parts of her
thinking mind. When this happens, the genius becomes an unmada: the raw energy of Mania echoes her own
thoughts, confirming her prejudices and beliefs. Those beliefs then reinforce her Inspiration, which produces
more bent Mania, producing a hall-of-mirrors or echo-chamber effect where the genius' own subconscious
continually validates her opinions while wiping away contradictory data. Some geniuses escape this fate;
others revel in it.
All Inspired are insane. Period. But some become special types of insane, altered by Inspiration. Unmada/Maniacs are the most common type: Inspiration has warped their senses and minds to the point that not only do they wholeheartedly believe that they are absolutely correct about what to anyone else is patent insanity, they can start warping reality around them to reflect their particular world view. This latter ability is part of what makes Unmada dangerous: if you run into one who's convinced that electricity doesn't work, there's a good chance that anything around them that runs on electricity will simply stop working.
Part of the reason Lemuria are the bad guy mad scientists is because they're comprised exclusively of Unmada, though it's noted that a fair few Peers and independent Inspired are like this as well.
I Still Remember The Scorn of My Peers
Two geniuses in every three come from some kind of "scientific" background, and one of the first things they
learn is that, after their Breakthrough, they can never return to their former lives. Their mere existence
disrupts research, clouds statistics, and makes a mockery of the scientific method. A genius is not a scientist; a
genius is a wonder-worker whose miracles are technological in nature.
Because of this, the life of a genius is a lonely one. Other Inspired can be allies, but are more often competitors
for the same meager resources. Mortals can turn a wonder into a pile of scrap with a moment's handling, and
the insightful nature of those mortals geniuses most want to associate with―fellow scientists and
thinkers―merely hastens the process of disintegration. Those mortals who have embraced the genius'
worldview, her beholden, embrace it with such feverish devotion and faith that, whatever their other merits,
they are no more than echo chambers for the genius' thoughts.
This is one of the beefs I have with Genius, to be honest. We're told, abstractly, that not only do mortals cause problems when they start handling stuff fueled by Inspiration (which there are rules for), Inspired mess up conventional work... somehow, despite Inspired being assumed to be holding down a regular job. Also, geniuses are explicitly not lonely - that is the entire point of the Peerage in fluff, providing a friendly network of mad scientists to keep you grounded, sane, and funded. There are plenty of real life scientists who hold all manner of bizarre beliefs and crazy ideas, but they still get good work done.
In fact, the very next segment is about Collaboratives and the Peerage and how they exist precisely to provide cooperation, trust, and fellow people who don't think you're any more insane than they are.
No One Is In Charge
Much of Earth's scientific history is due to subtle manipulation by Lemuria. It is unclear how much control
this group had, and it has become increasingly obvious that Lemuria had far less influence on the
development of the mortal world than they often boast. But what is clear is that for centuries―millennia,
perhaps―they kept a rein on the progress of science, mad and otherwise. Their program for the development
of humanity, the Race History, stamped out innovation and development wherever it appeared, replacing it
with developments spoon-fed to humanity by the Lemurians. Free geniuses were converted or killed.
This system never worked perfectly, and by the 17th century it had begun to unravel. Lemuria took centuries
to die, and it fought for every second of life, crushing intellectual revolutions that threatened to destroy its
hegemony. But new ideas swept across the world, and the Lemurians could not hold them back. Their
techniques grew more severe and unyielding, their philosophy more intransigent, and when they moved to
"set back the clock" in a series of wars that would have left humanity a burned-out shell, the free Inspired
were moved to action: they confronted the Lemurians in open battle, chased down and killed the Secret
Masters that controlled them, and ruined the careful planning behind the Race History. By the middle of the
20th century, humanity was free...and no one was in charge.
No one is in charge now, either. That, say many Inspired, is why we didn't get the future with the flying cars
and the "televisors" and the moon bases: those things were in the works, all set for the Lemurians to hand
them down to us like manna from heaven, and we were supposed to accept them and let our betters maintain
them while we lived our happy, comfortable lives. But Lemuria got its ass kicked, and has your life ever been
comfortable? It hasn't, say many in the Peerage, because humanity is off the rails, free from control or
So no one is in charge of humanity, mundane or Inspired. We've been forging our own path for fifty years―or
500 years, depending on how you count it. It's been a terrible mess, but it's been our mess. There are no
Secret Masters, no answers hidden by centuries-old secret societies―well, not anymore―no Golden Age in the
past, no Utopia in the future, no free rides, no easy answers, and no one at the wheel. It's just humanity, some
of whom can create fifty-foot-tall robots, trying to get by.
This? I genuinely like this part of the setting. Part of Genius' attempt at horror is the idea that for most of human history civilization was guided in secret by hidden masters that offered stability. A ruthless, tyrannical stability, but someone was in charge of humanity and had a plan. Not any more, though. The Inspired secret societies have no large-scale political power and the aggressive manes (we'll get to those later, in short they're theories literally spawned by their own disproof) like the Martians, Ophidians, and Moon Nazis literally can't exist or impact human civilization in any meaningful way. The godlike beings at the end of time have been wiped out, and the remaining time police are overworked and corrupt.
It's down to just humanity now.
This post is getting rather long, so I'm calling it short.
Next time: More of the Cosmos
The Cosmos continuedOriginal SA post Genius: the Transgression Part 3: The Cosmos continued
As a corollary to the fact that no one's in charge anymore, we're given another insistent beat of the game: mad science is expensive, and doesn't pay the bills. Given that all Inspired are insane, many of them have trouble holding down regular jobs, much less keeping the kind of money or access to exotic materials that mad science often requires. This is one of the draws of Lemuria: the organization is shattered, its leadership annihilated, its grand plan for the human race at an end, but the infrastructure backing up Lemuria's agenda of world domination is still there and is always willing to do business... for a price.
The Monorail of Broken Dreams
Mania is the energy of Inspiration; if Inspiration is the generator, Mania is the electricity. But Mania is a
strange phenomenon. It is not generated by geniuses alone. Instead, all kinds of mortal thought can generate
low amounts of Mania, with scientific or mathematical thought generating more, and the sort of thought one
might call "revolutionary" (politically, scientifically, ethically, it doesn't matter) generating the most.
Mania windfalls occur during times of revolutionary scientific development, especially when an old idea is
rejected and supplanted by a new one. These "Maniac Storms" have two effects. First, they birth new
geniuses, as regular scientists (or just normal people with a touch too much curiosity) grow obsessed with
the new revelations about the world. Second, they generate manes, which are places, things, and even
creatures birthed from pure Mania.
When dreams, plans, and revolutions appear, or when they break down in neglect and failure, Maniac Storms
sweep across the world. The twentieth century was practically one big Maniac Storm, and no one knows if it's
over. (Brief periods of peace, such as immediately after World War Two and the Vietnam War, were shattered
by events as momentous as Sputnik and the computer revolution.) These storms leave the world littered with
bardos, false realms brought into existence by their own disproof. Bardos and the manes within them feed on
Mania, and even the most hopeful, Utopian bardo either decays into nothingness or finds some way, however
brutal, to steal Mania from the real world.
You might be detecting echoes of old Changeling. Inspiration is waxing in the modern world, accelerating with the breakneck pace of technological and social change in the modern world. Bardos and manes are name dropped again, visions of reality proven scientifically false but maintain a flickering existence by the desperate belief and Mania that they are still out there. And they're growing in number every year.
Genius in History and Legend
"3. And Jesus made of that clay twelve sparrows, and it was the Sabbath. And a child ran and told Joseph, saying:
Behold, thy child is playing about the stream, and of the clay he has made sparrows, which is not lawful. And when
he heard this, he went, and said to the child: Why dost thou do this, profaning the Sabbath? But Jesus gave him no
answer, but looked upon the sparrows, and said: Go away, fly, and live, and remember me."
-The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Roberts-Donaldson Translation (Second Greek Form)
The history of Inspiration is shrouded in myths, tall tales, and botched attempts at time travel. What is clear is
that there have been geniuses for nearly as long as there has been civilization. The oldest orphans―wonders
whose creators have disappeared or died―were found in Irem in the 1980s and dated to around 2500 BCE,
and rumors of even older Egyptian orphans and ones of unknown origin are common. Wonders have been
found from ancient Egypt and China, Babylon, Mesoamerica, and the Indian subcontinent. The remnants, no
longer functional, of Greek, Roman, Persian, and Medieval Muslim wonders are common collector's items
among the Inspired, and many orphans from the Renaissance and early industrial period are still in working
order, and treated as status symbols by powerful geniuses.
Like any World of Darkness game line, Genius claims that Inspiration has existed as long as human history, starting in India and the Middle East before the rise of Lemuria with the Romans. Most of Inspiration's ancient history is vague myth and legend, obscured by Lemurian historical revision and the impact of time travel (which is both possible for Inspired and not all that difficult). Lemuria's historical stronghold was in China, leaving the free-willed geniuses who would become the Peerage to the primitive technological backwater of Europe. This status quo changed with the Renaissance, and from the 15th century onwards Lemuria slowly withered and collapsed.
Genius is fairly restrained about claiming historical figures as Inspired, accurately pointing out that one of the main characteristics of a good scientist is an ability to communicate effectively with others and very few Inspired fit that description. The book claims Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Hooke, and of course Nikola Tesla as Inspired, but notes that cases for anyone else you'd care to name are very circumstantial. The Manhattan Project is specifically named as having zero Inspired involvement - both the Peerage and Lemuria watched the program closely, fearing what Mania interference could do.
The early 20th century was Lemuria's last roll of the dice for control of the human race in the form of the World Wars, which were intended to grind humanity back into the stone age. Lemuria failed, bringing us to the modern world where no one's in charge, breakneck technological development brings with it an acceleration of Inspired growth, and the internet has brought Inspired of all stripes together like never before.
Sometimes it seems like the modern world is all about brand identity. The ancient one was, too. Even if it
doesn't matter―especially if it doesn't matter―it's important for humans to have tribes, to divide themselves
into us and them, and to maintain nested dolls of familiarity and distance. A genius might be walking around
with an entire universe in his head, but he's still a human being and possesses the same needs and impulses
as any other.
But the foundations―the divisions of the Inspired―do more than just give geniuses a team to root for. They
provide a set of core assumptions that a genius needs to not go mad. Foundations provide axioms as well as
Axioms, setting the genius on the path to understanding Inspiration, Mania, Obligation, and the wider world
into which she has emerged. Further, each foundation offers a clear focus and identity. This is part of a
deliberate effort by the Peerage to help a new genius quickly find a place and a purpose before she succumbs
to one form of insanity or another.
Axioms are the principles and disciplines by which Wonders are built, and we're now given a brief overview of the Foundations.
Artificers practice mad engineering. They're builders, tinkerers, robot-makers, and sometimes computer hackers. Artificers are in this for the sheer love of making stuff.
Directors practice mad psychology. They're interested in the science of power - not just politicians, though they are the political leaders of the Peerage, but information scientists and more.
Navigators practice mad physics. They're Void Engineers from oMage, and they live to do stuff with mad science, frequently with a militaristic air.
Progenitors practice mad biology. They're weird even by Inspired standards, going whole hog on transhumanism and self-transformation.
Scholastics practice mad philosophy. They're the oldest and most traditional mad scientists and scholars, but the new generation style themselves trickster gods.
PCs are assumed to belong to the Peerage, and therefore to one of the Foundations. Like any group of scientists, though, every Foundation is riven with internal divisions and controversies, so there's no groupthink here.
We're also given name-drops of the Baramins of Lemuria, but I'll add a bit more detail. They're divided based on where and how they think human civilization went wrong.
Atomists are technocrats who believe that technology can fix anything and everything, and would have if not for that pesky human element.
Etherites believe in some Grand Unified Theory that completely explains all science, usually one long discredited like the Luminiferous Ether.
Mechanists believe in a possibly literal clockwork universe where everything boils down to predictable scientific equations and concepts like free will don't actually exist.
Oracles hate the modern concept of science in general and want to take humanity back to a time of mysticism and magic.
Phenomenologists are chaos theory types who believe everything is fundamentally chaotic and trying to impose order or morality on it is futile.
The Nature of Inspiration
There Is A Pattern In This Chaos
"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own
mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."
Ideas come from somewhere. At least the big ones do. Even the most staunchly rational peer recognizes that
there is something extraordinary at work in the making of wonders. A thing outside the genius, that
transcends mortal ideas of brilliance and talent, is born when a wonder awakens for the first time and stares
down at its creator with eyes of smoky agate or photosensitive titanium alloy. An Inspired is nothing without
Inspiration, and Inspiration is greater than any mortal mind.
But what is it? What is Inspiration? Geniuses throughout history have tormented themselves with that
question, developing philosophies, theories, and incomplete, lurching models to account for all the
phenomena that Inspiration gives rise to. Over the years, those Inspired that comprise the Peerage―the
society of free geniuses―have produced five foundations with philosophies to explain the nature of
Inspiration and to guide new geniuses through their first hesitant experiments.
There is no canon explanation for what Inspiration is or how it works. Instead we're told how each Foundation tends to view it.
To the Artificers, Inspired who delight foremost in the creation of new wonders, the universe in which we live
is broken, or sick. Once, it worked perfectly, a single, vast organism. But something wounded it, ripped it
apart, flinging scraps of broken life across a dozen realities and leaving howling voids between them. But so
perfect was Creation that the disparate organs still function: this physical world, the world of mechanical law
where people live in skins of meat, still works. It works so well, in fact, that mortals can construct
explanations for how this maimed world functions. The genius, however, sees the whole picture: the physical,
the psychical, the statistical, mathematical, and teleological; she sees it all at once, and those are her laws, not
the half-truths and shadow-answers of mortal science. A genius performs True Science, as if the cosmos were
whole and healthy. What she does looks impossible to mortals, but only because they can only see a single cell
of a far vaster organism.
Directors, with their focus on social interaction, see Inspiration as the big lie. A genius, the Directors say, has
learned the science of "tricking" the universe. Modern Directors invoke the principles of quantum mechanics:
the uncertain nature of the universe means that, for very small scales of space and time, the impossible
happens with troubling frequency. And like particles and antiparticles appearing simultaneously out of a
common nothing, the genius' deranged inner state and the mad things he produces exist for a time before
falling back into mundanity. Inspiration is the art and science of bringing those impossible things from the
quantum world into our own macroscopic world, and greater Inspiration allows the genius to maintain her
wonders―and her own perilous, half-mad existence―for longer periods of time. There is no final cheat;
there's only keeping the ruse going for just a little longer.
To the Navigators, Inspired who are as interested in using inventions as conceiving and building them, there
is a sort of existence even in non-existence. "Existence" is merely another property, they say, like "being
green," and things that don't exist still possess properties, not as a sort of play-on-words, but literally. It
doesn't matter that Darth Vader isn't real, right? He's still evil. So it's no surprise that impossible things
happen all the time: a bit of genius, to break down the barriers between the real world and the infinite
reaches of the Not, and a person can call the impossible into the possible realm. It's not easy, and it's
definitely not safe, but it can be done. And impossible things are not limited in such mundane ways as those
things that make up the World That Is. They can be contradictory, deranged, beautiful, and meaningful: they
can be wonders, things that should not be, in a world all too cluttered with Stuff That Just Is.
To the Progenitors, those geniuses obsessed with growth and change, Inspiration is the result of "sheer force"
between what is true and what is false. Their flexible minds embrace the paradox of Inspiration: a genius is
Inspired because he can do the impossible, and since he can do things impossible in this world, he is Inspired.
Little glitches in mind and nature, in the world within and the world without, add up, and at times of great
internal and external stress, spiral out of control. "Impossibility" itself is a sort of power, and that power can
reach a critical mass, and ignite like a new sun. When it ignites, a genius is born.
To the Scholastics, geniuses who see idea and concept as paramount, Inspiration is the manifestation of a
more pure universe, a realm of Idea, as it struggles to enter this dark world. There are things in that realm of
Idea, living concepts, "intelligences" of a sort, and they are curious. Not malevolent―though their intrusions
can be destructive―but determined to enter. Yet they cannot survive in our ruinous world, no more than a
human could survive at the black bottom of the sea or in a poisoned wasteland. Instead they have found a
halfway point in mortal thoughts, "piggybacking" in minds and (now) in computer code. Some minds, the
Scholastics say, are special, somehow uniquely formed, and around these minds, for a time, those beings of
Idea can live for a time in our world, as the wonders a genius creates.
Lemuria, on the other hand, prefers to invoke the Many Worlds model and claims that what the Inspired do is see through the infinite possibilities and can wield influence over all things unlike mortals, who are restricted to their one singular world and interpretation of what is possible.
It's important for Inspired, the game notes, to form some sort of model of how it all works if they are to remain sane. The mind, even the minds of the Inspired, needs a [more or less] rational framework through which to think about and understand the world even if you know you're crazy. Those who believe that they're the sane ones and everyone else is crazy quickly become Unmada, and those who simply don't care about the reasons or logic, however twisted, of what they do are a skip and a hop away from Illumination.
This is the critical difference between the Peerage and Lemuria. Lemuria believes they're all sane - they're Unmada to the last. The Peerage knows they're insane and tries to keep its members grounded in that fundamental fact.
The Peerage, therefore, maintains a set of informal laws of mad science.
The Law of Broken Theory (aka Popper's Little Secret)
Geniuses are not scientists and once a genius catalyzes he will never again do science as he previously
understood the practice. His Mania makes that impossible. Geniuses aren't clear what Mania is, but it's clear
that the stuff gets into a genius, changing his perspective and disrupting how he relates to the world. In short,
it drives him mad. Not the full-on delusional insanity of an unmada or Lemurian, or the alien psychopathy of
the Illuminated, but Mania changes a genius enough that he is no longer in sync with the rest of humanity.
In short, that you are insane and are no longer playing by the same rules as the rest of humanity. What you do is not science, and you are no longer a rational human thinker.
The Science Is Science Law (aka the Anticlark Corollary)
Geniuses can no longer engage in traditional scientific research. Nonetheless, they are not "wizards." They do
not do "magic." That is, what they do conforms at least in part to what sane scientists would recognize as the
laws of physics, and is not entirely a product of the genius' peculiar internal state. Even geniuses who have a
strong interpretation of the Law of Broken Theory recognize that wonders can't just pop into existence,
fueled by will and desire. No genius can just wave a magic wand and make wonders happen. Even very old
wonders―ones built centuries or millennia ago―function in ways that seem recognizable as technology.
A flying machine built by a Song Dynasty Taoist who believes in the five Taoist elements will still fly, and it
will fly based on modern principles of aerodynamics, even if it also conforms to other, weirder laws. Even if a
wonder circumvents or ignores physical laws, such as using some kind of anti-gravity technology to fly, a
wonder never flatly ignores the laws of physics. A genius can't just build a wooden bird, dump Mania into it,
and expect it to fly because it's "enchanted." The Inspired are miracle-workers, yes, but they're also
technologists. There are principles at work behind what a genius does, even if they apparently lack
consistency and repeatability, and even if a genius can't figure them out.
Even so, what you do is internally consistent with your personal model of the universe. Your personal conception of science is probably unique to you, but it is still science in your mind and not magic (unless it's magic as a science with predictable laws).
The Mere Mortal Law (aka Gilligan's Rule)
Regular people screw up wonders. No one's sure why this is so, but mere mortals have a near-miraculous
ability to damage mad science, destroying it or causing it to run amok. If they get their grubby little hands on
a wonder, they'll break it and it will explode or eat them. Geniuses don't know exactly why this happens, but
every genius knows that letting a regular person near a wonder is like giving revolvers to monkeys: only
hilarious from a safe distance. Scientists (sane ones) are included here as mere mortals, and they can be even
worse: a group of trained scientists know just how to fiddle with a wonder in a way that will cause it to break
down. This further alienates a genius from regular humanity: she cannot communicate her ideas to her peers,
or even show off her creations, without risking disaster.
Gilligan's Law, coupled with the Black Box Law, explains why a genius can't just build a teleporter and market
it for three easy installments of $19.99 on her Website: a mortal who gets his hands on a wonder will break it,
and due to the nature of Mania, every mortal who messes around with it will break it in a unique and uniquely
horrific way. Attempts to predict what will go wrong are impossible, and will probably just make things
Mortals do not play by the same rules that you do, and when they intersect it never ends well. Mortals cannot do what you do or use your mad science.
The Obvious Truth Law (aka Mulder's Lament)
While mere mortals will screw up a wonder something fierce, there is no cosmic principle or conspiracy at
work that relates to wonders or Inspiration. A mere mortal can see a wonder and she will not forget the
experience. There is nothing in a wonder that "clouds men's minds" or that will cause them to grow confused.
Wonders show up fine on cameras and videos. There are no vast conspiracies to hide the truth from regular
mortals. In fact, the vastest conspiracy out there, Lemuria, wants to make regular mortals aware of their
The nature of Inspiration, instead, remains hidden because wonders are not repeatable and testable. A
regular scientist who handles a wonder will break it, and if she doesn't break it, she's already well on her way
to becoming a genius herself (or at least a beholden). The only results, then, are that a mortal will mess up the
wonder (possibly killing herself in the process) or will turn into a beholden or genius and join the ranks of the
Inspired, which in turn insulates her from regular people.
There is no Hysteria protecting you. If your wristwatch fires blaster bolts at a man who's turned himself into a spider-creature in the middle of Times Square, everyone is going to see it. The problem is that while they will be able to see it, they will never be able to duplicate it unless they become Inspired themselves.
Geniuses do not know what they are, and this torments them. Is a genius a mortal touched by something
transcendent, or is he transcendence itself, a mathematical icon given form and temporality in the body and
mind of someone who was once human? What is the "genius"? The man, with his unique gifts, or the spirit,
that takes up residence in the cramped and fleshy home of a mortal mind? Many peers torment themselves
over these questions, for there are no clear answers. A genius' Breakthrough is a traumatic experience that
can wipe away sections of memory and radically change parts of a new mad scientist's personality; for every
one of the Inspired who catalyzed gradually, her mundane concerns slowly transforming over the course of
weeks or months into Inspired conceptions, another experienced a Breakthrough like a lightning-stroke that
wiped away consciousness and intellect and left mind and spirit utterly transformed.
Every genius has a Catalyst, an emotional drive that fueled their Breakthrough and descent into madness. This emotion is what fundamentally ties the genius to humanity and propels their use of Inspiration. A genius' Catalyst does not and cannot change, and may or may not reflect the kind of person they were before their Breakthrough. Either way, it defines how they achieved that shattering moment of revelation and is a measurable psychological phenomenon common to all Inspired. Among their effects is that each Catalyst gives the Inspired a natural channel to one of the Axioms, and an innate disposition towards a particular Derangement. There are five Catalysts altogether: rage, hope, sorrow, rejection, and curiosity.
In a collaborative, each Catalyst brings a different kind of personality or drive to the table, and geniuses who Catalyzed the same way are not guaranteed to get along.
Next time: Grimm, the Catalyst of Fury
Grimm, the Catalyst of FuryOriginal SA post
Because I have nothing to do tonight...
Genius: The Transgression, Part 4: Grimm, the Catalyst of Fury
The Catalyst of Fury
Traditional Planet: Mars
"You will pay for what you've done!"
The pious recall stories of God's wrathful messengers, wreathed in darkness and fire, sent to punish the
wicked. From the heartlands of civilization spring stories of banishing angels with flaming swords, of furious
Asuras whose anger and passion shake the Heavenly Mountain. Wherever their names are mentioned, these
creatures are seen as more than human but less than gods, and lit from within by a fire that cannot be
quenched. Some are righteous, and seek their own brutal sort of justice; others are merely brutal, and visit
devastation upon the mortal world. All are defined by the fury felt during their catalyst.
A genius who breaks through in rage and fury is a Grimm, and is stamped forever by that initial, primal anger.
This might be a vicious hatred for mundane humanity, or a noble fury at the injustice of this cruel world, or a
more personal hate, but it is always terrifying, and Grimms are rightly feared for their uncontrolled rages.
Bruce Wayne on a good day, Ivan Vaanko on a bad day. Grimms are your angry mad scientists, typically as brilliant and creative as any Inspired but driven by a deep-seated fury that can mask their intellect. If all this sounds like a serial killer, you're not wrong.
Many Grimms are furious and temperamental throughout their youth and adolescence. Moody, dangerous,
often irrational, they become soldiers, police officers, and brutal overseers. A life of discipline and service
tempers some future Grimms, though their rage always burns beneath the surface. Grimms are the most
likely geniuses to come from a military or combat tradition, though many come with extensive technical
training, as pilots, cyber-crime specialists, or military engineers. Others seem never to learn, and find
themselves trapped in low-prestige, high-stress technical jobs in their chosen field, working as EMTs, code
monkeys, and construction workers. The least stable fall out of the technical world entirely, or never focus on
those pursuits, and drift through life as unstable low-level criminals and violent thugs, though often ones so
smart they never get caught.
Most Grimms have suffered heavily themselves, usually but not always the result of personal tragedy or living in an area fraught with physical conflict or violent, forceful cultural change. Others are removed somewhat, driven to fury against some greater injustice or ideal. Either way, Grimms as a rule are not out to change something for the better, mend wounds or stop them from happening to others, be recognized for how right they are, or find a better world. These mad scientists intend to fight, whether that means becoming super-powered vigilantes, becoming revolutionary firebrands, or the like. Grimms are universally aggressive, smart, and determined to do something about or more likely to whatever problems attract their attention.
Few Grimms catalyze simply by beating a man to death in a back alley, though that's sometimes how a
Breakthrough begins: a sudden, horrible act of violence, followed by the realization on the part of the pregenius
that she is too smart to get caught. This violence need not be physical: ambitious scientists or scholars
might realize that they can crush their opponents in debate with tactics so brutal no one questions them,
while lawyers and preachers discover they can sway people as if by the sound of their voice alone. They're
cheating, these new Grimms realize. They're breaking the rules, and there's no one there to stop them. From
that it's a short, fast plunge, either into catalysis or oblivion.
Not all Grimms catalyze through an active desire to fight back. Some are survivors of brutality and insanity,
sometimes at the hands of other Inspired. These Breakthroughs can take a long time to develop, as an Asura
cultivates rage, hatred, and intricate plots for revenge. A girl whose family burns to death in a house fire
caused by an insane arsonist might work carefully through most of her twenties before unleashing bloody
retribution against the arsonist and against the corrupt and incompetent police and firefighters who did
nothing to stop the killer. Another pre-Grimm might swallow years of torment and bullying at school, only for
his tormentors to watch their chances at an Ivy League college slip away amidst digitally-planted accusations
A Grimm's Breakthrough is not simply about revenge, however. A Grimm's catalyst shows her that her act of
vengeance was not merely about her and her enemies were not just the ones in front of her. She sees a larger
world, one dictated by strength and weakness, power and helplessness, honor and injustice, and chooses to
embrace that vision. Many Grimms describe religious-like transformations, as if an Angel of the Lord
descended from On High and set itself up within (or instead of) the frail and fallible human soul. Those
Grimms who come from scientific fields describe a falling away of the world's vagaries, a severed Gordian
Knot that frees the genius to act with clarity, certainty, and purpose.
Grimms are typecast as the most direct and pragmatic of all Inspired, and often the purest in their motivations. They might be patient, they might fashion elaborate plots, but a Grimm is usually either looking for a target or has one and is working towards bringing it down. Shut-ins and ivory tower intellectuals, Grimms are not, though they can be as brilliant at research and planning as any of their fellows.
All Catalysts bestow a favored Axiom on the Genius, a principle of Wonder construction that the Genius in question has a natural affinity for, needing less experience to get more dots in it and enjoying bonuses towards building wonders of the type. For Grimms, their catalyst makes them naturals at Katastrofi, the axiom of destruction. Katastrofi as an axiom has one purpose: to break things, violently. Appropriately enough, the Inspired who break through in fury and rage have a natural inclination to build weapons.
All Catalysts also have a favored Derangement that is always the first an Inspired develops. For Grimms, it's Irrationality.
The rest is fluff and suggestions on building a typical Grimm:
Grimms gravitate toward aggressive Skills, and many focus on Resistance Attributes to survive their harsh
lives. They are hard, tough, and no longer willing to suffer. Those that focus on vigilante justice often train in
Investigation (to track down their quarries) and Intimidation (in case physical deterrence is inappropriate).
Since many begin life in a rough place, they can lack the Social Merits that other geniuses take for granted,
making up for that absence with an impressive array of Skills designed to keep a person going when
outnumbered and outgunned: Athletics, Drive, Medicine, and Streetwise.
Their irascible personalities can make Grimms difficult to get along with: many have poor Social attributes,
and may prefer the company of wild places to that of man; non-urban Grimms pay particular attention to
Animal Ken and Survival, allowing them to get by when not supported by their fellow man. "Firebrand"
Grimms, by contrast, can come from careers in religion or lobbying that require impressive Social Skills; these
simple personalities sacrifice Mental Attributes for Presence and Composure. They might not be stupid, but
they are direct and uninterested in subtlety.
Most Grimms, whatever their origin, develop an interesting selection of combat skills to survive the scraps
they get into, and may focus on Brawl, Firearms, or Weaponry, usually depending on what sort of wonders
they built with their knowledge of Katastrofi.
Those Asuras who let their anger get the better of them before their Breakthrough have few Social Merits.
Most are poor, with few Allies or Contacts. Even those who began life acclaimed and influential may lose it
after their Breakthrough, becoming insular and strange, abandoning their old connections and forging new
ones―which takes time. Physical Merits, by contrast, are common, and may be geared toward a Grimm's
Breakthrough. A Grimm who was poisoned by a political rival but survived through determination and mad
botany might have developed Toxin Resistance, while one who spent his Breakthrough chasing criminals
across the city's rooftops may have Fleet of Foot.
Concepts: Sadistic vigilante, quiet security specialist, terror of the school board, guardian of the innocent,
high-pressure company manager, passionate antiquarian orator, ex-military tech specialist, plague lord,
politician with a dark secret
"I am nanometers from perfection and no longer answer to any mortal authority. They weren't there for me and I
won't waste time helping them as I rise asymptotically toward the ultimate virtue. Every corpse I leave should be
one less investigation to make, instead of one more open case. But I'm not here for human justice any more. When
you see the Paolenti penthouse burn with white fire and the dreams of serpents, you'll know that, and so will every
other man-mask-wearing machine-demon in this city. They'll never love me for the things I've done, but I never
asked for love. Only for perfection."
Hoffnung: Things only get better in one way, and "wishing it were so" is not that way.
Klagen: Your cowardice is a veil, not a shield. You cannot even protect yourself, let alone fight back.
Neid: "Injustice" is a bit broader than "things that make me sad." Everyone's in pain, not just you.
Staunen: I think I would have understood you, once. There is something amazing out there, but I cannot
remember what it was.
Next: Hoffnung, the Catalyst of Vision
Hoffnung, the Catalyst of VisionOriginal SA post
Yeah, I'm not saying it's bad. Just that, like - what you do at your home game is cool, but it would not be published in an nWoD book, and neither would anything about Genius.
Fair enough. Which, I suppose, brings us to...
Genius: The Transgression, Part 6: Hoffnung
The Catalyst of Vision
Traditional Planet: Jupiter
"We won't have these problems when I...RULE THE WORLD!"
If rage and fury against some problem or injustice are what propel Grims into madness, for Hoffnungs it's a vision of a better world. Of all Geniuses, Hoffnungs are the most prone to interacting with and most able to really change the mundane world. They're insane to be sure, but they have vision and a drive to bring it about - that's how they became Inspired. Of course, a Hoffnung's idea of a better world is just as likely to be horrifying to others as it is to be inspiring.
Geniuses of Vision often think big before their Breakthroughs. They are politicians, reformers, dreamers, and
futurists, obsessed with what's coming. All hold a picture of what they want the world to be. Hoffnungs may
or may not be wealthy, but most are influential in one way or another: those that aren't powerful lobbyists
are passionate orators, dedicated civil servants, or just very good at arguing for their ideas on the Internet.
Few come from desperate straits, as people in those environments are more interested in day-to-day survival
than the transformation of the world.
A Principality is the most likely of all geniuses to receive direct, deliberate training from an existing genius.
These Hoffnungs are often gifted mundane scientists in whom a genius sees the spark of future brilliance.
Others might start as beholden who are trained (often brutally) to escape their master's worldview and to
find their own. Many Hoffnungs, regardless of their precise origin, are heirs to some other genius' legacy. One
might work to fulfill the dreams of her dead mentor, to wipe out the Ubermensch infestation of Antarctica,
while another surpassed and supplanted his teacher longer ago and now works to transform the world's
economy from the CEO chair of one of Europe's most powerful technology companies.
Personally, I greatly disagree with the claim that Hoffnungs are unlikely to come from desperate circumstance - I think that such environments would be highly conducive to those who dream of change and will bring it about if given the opportunity, if perhaps they're focused on a smaller scale than the entire world to begin with.
Vision is the salient characteristic of Hoffnungs, and they have the will and ability to have a good shot at bringing it about. Whatever idea, beautiful or nightmarish, of a better world a Hoffnung has, they're likely to spend the most effort towards making it happen. This also tends to make them experts at Havoc, given that most Hoffnungs want to change the world of mortals, not just the world of Inspired, and seek to understand the limitations of their Wonders towards that end. Or they become Unmada. Both equally likely, really.
Many geniuses think Hoffnungs join collaboratives so they can get other people to work on their projects. This
isn't entirely fair, but there is some truth in it. Hoffnungs rarely cooperate with their fellows, with the
exception of "multigenerational" Hoffnung clans created by a long line of genius-cultivators, and even those
groups are prone to self-destruction―not to mention being weird and intellectually incestuous. Instead,
Hoffnungs seek out other geniuses whose values and dreams don't differ too much from their own, or who
lack the sort of ambition that defines a Hoffnung. In these groups, a Principality can feel at home, working on
her grand projects while not stepping on anyone else's vision.
A collaborative with a Hoffnung always has an excellent source of new plans. Geniuses can benefit materially
and scientifically by following in a Hoffnung's wake. A Hoffnung's ambitions can get her (and the rest of the
collaborative) into trouble, but it can also offer a group direction, energy, and ambition.
The favored axiom of Hoffnungs is Metaptropi, the Axiom of Transformation. This axiom is pretty much your Transmutation school of magic from Dungeons and Dragons, and Hoffnungs are naturals for a more direct approach to making the world change.
Narcissism is the derangement of choice for Hoffnungs, and it's a song and a dance from there to becoming Unmada. Which, to be fair, is true of many Inspired of all catalysts.
Hoffnungs want to change the world, but they can take almost any approach to doing so. Their polemics make
Expression a common and useful skill. Those that want to change human behavior are adept at interpersonal
interaction, with high Social Attributes along with good scores in Socialize, Persuasion, and Politics.
Hoffnungs who want their wonders (or something close) in every home focus on high Crafts or Computer
scores and Social Merits like Allies, Fame, and Status. Those Hoffnungs who trace their lineage back to older
members of their catalyst often benefit from inheriting a Laboratory, and may still have a Mentor.
Not all Hoffnungs are benevolent dreamers: those that want to twist the world into conformity with their
deranged imaginings emphasize Manipulation, Intimidation, and clandestine skills like Larceny and
Subterfuge. Many monstrous visionaries―and a few extropic idealists―are experts in Medicine. The more
aggressive masterminds often keep groups of beholden on retainer to intimidate and silence enemies.
Not many Hoffnungs are physically oriented, though some prefer to change the world one ass-kicking at a
time. These crusaders rarely possess the sadism of Grimms―though their clinical precision may offer little
comfort to their victims―but they learn many of the same Skills: Investigation and Intimidation to learn what
they need, Drive to cover ground, Larceny and Stealth to get in unnoticed, Brawl to teach someone a lesson,
and Firearms and Weaponry, to make someone into a lesson.
Concepts: Cold fusion researcher, deranged medical eugenicist, acolyte of the Singularity, guerrilla
revolutionary, post-Y-chromosome feminist, ruler of a hidden Utopia, (virtual) town planner, cyberneticreplacement
addict, guy who's really excited about fluoride in the drinking water.
You've seen it on the billboards and the trash-strewn alleys, amidst the halls of the powerful and in the tenements
of the desperate: the Change. It's coming, and soon everything will be different. Our world will transform itself―in
fire, if necessary, in blood, certainly―and be reborn, fresh and new, to gaze out on the universe with innocent and
wondering eyes. And I am the herald of that Change. So forgive me if I cannot hear your words or your screams.
They are too small. Do you hear the mayflies screaming tonight? Neither do I.
Grimm: Punching the broken computer does not fix the broken computer. Repairing the broken computer
fixes the broken computer.
Klagen: It doesn't do to feel sorry over this death or that atrocity; you must feel sorrow over the entire
structure that allows such horrors to unfold.
Neid: There's a reason that everyone thinks you're crazy. It's because you haven't yet shown them how right
Staunen: Stop staring slack-jawed and get to work; Utopia isn't going to achieve itself.
All in all, I feel this Catalyst has the potential for more than just wanting to rule and reshape the world. I think there's a lot of room for Hoffnungs who simply have a really neat vision they want to show everyone - the John Hammond approach, and just as likely to end horrifically.
Next: Klagen, the Catalyst of Loss.
Klagen, the Catalyst of LossOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Part 7: Klagen
The Catalyst of Loss
Traditional Planet: Venus
"No, you fools! You'll doom us all!"
Mister Freeze. If Grimms are the angry mad scientists and Hoffnungs are the mad scientists with a vision, Klagens are the mad scientists filled with regret and pessimistic views of the world, trying to set right some personal tragedy or stop a looming threat on the horizon. That being said, Klagens are as nuts as any other Inspired so don't be surprised if their quest takes some peculiar turns.
Klagens are the least likely of all geniuses to bear seeds of their catalyst before the tragedy that defines them.
They may be sad, thoughtful people, but others are equally likely to be exuberant, full of life, and
passionate―though rarely is a pre-Klagen abstractly disinterested in human affairs. But despite this common
thread of being connected to humanity, Klagens come from all walks of life. They don't start off angry like
Grimms or cultivate jealousy like Neids.
Mad doctors are more often Klagens than any other catalyst, since there is so much potential for tragedy in
the healing arts. Even Klagens who begin in other fields can experience a desire to study medicine after their
Breakthrough. But people who will become Cassandras come from nearly any walk of life, since tragedy can
strike anywhere. Some are construction workers and machinists who lose friends to accidents,
mismanagement and plant closings (often caused by their own failures; catalyzing mortals who can blame
someone else more often become Grimms or Neids). Others are researchers who watch friends grow
obsessed with studies that eventually destroy them―some Klagens almost seem like echoes of another
would-be genius, annihilated during their Breakthroughs―while others grow obsessed with their own
studies, only to wake up one day and realize that everyone has left them, and all that remains is their work.
Comparatively few Klagens come from outside the scientific community, however; most regular people faced
with tragedy move on, or fall to despair; few see a solution or a way to stop those tragedies from happening
Klagens are the rarest of all catalysts for a simple reason: most people with the potential for Inspiration in their situation tend to respond with anger (Grimms), have a new vision for the future (Hoffnungs), or blame someone else (Neids). A Klagen is usually created when someone in that kind of situation decides that it is their own fault, either directly or blaming themselves for not being smart enough, not paying enough attention, missing something that's obvious in retrospect.
However, the Mania coursing through Klagens does not let them simply rest and grieve. They must do something about their loss, whether that means setting things right in their minds or trying to prevent their personal tragedy from happening to anyone else. On a good day, a Klagen is the most empathetic and human of the Inspired, knowing so well the potential for tragedy and sorrow. On a bad day, a Klagen is probably the one kidnapping little girls across the city and using mind control and memory editation to try to make them a new version of their dead daughter.
The favored axiom of Klagens is Exelixi, the axiom of restoration. That Klagens would be partial to the axiom of healing and buffing is unsurprising, but Exelixi is also the axiom that leads to raising the dead and even true resurrection.
As you might expect, the first derangement Klagens always develop is Depression.
Klagens come from backgrounds that see great suffering. Many are ex-military or former doctors, with the
Skills to back up those origins. They are often gifted, possessing high Intelligence or some other Attribute, but
prone to moral failings that imply a feeble Resolve. Cassandras that come from technical or blue-collar
positions, such as auto-mechanics and construction workers, often have excellent Dexterity, Intelligence, and
Wits, while those who saw their political dreams destroyed can be highly influential speakers when they find
With so many Klagens coming from the medical world, Medicine is a common Skill. Others see the world of
the metanormal and supernatural as the quickest route to healing the damage they've caused, and become
masters of the Occult, while others try to escape humanity entirely for a time, and learn self-sufficient Skills
like Survival and Animal Ken. Those that fall out of society completely become the wandering mad, their
street-level experiences reflected in Skills like Brawl, Larceny, and Streetwise―though few Klagens remain in
this state for long.
Concepts: Disgraced software engineer, geneticist who made a fatal error, unwitting creator of monsters,
shack-dwelling crazy person, prophetic ecoterrorist, fallen trophy wife, nihilistic politico, scholar of genocide,
hollowed-out social worker.
"When I was in high school my teacher told me that there are more people alive today than have ever lived. Don't
worry: she lied, then got cancer. (Not my fault.) We live atop a mountain of corpses. The Earth is swimming in
humans, above and below the ground, so when I see you trying to raise the dead, I'm torn. On the one hand, I
recognize your despair. On the other hand, do you really want to spend the rest of the week fending off a zombie
apocalypse as the Earth vomits up her dead? AGAIN? Come on, man, think this through: every time you try this, we
end up fighting zombies. I hate zombies. Just put the syringe down."
Grimm: Rage just makes more hurt. Reflect on what has hurt you; that will stop it from happening again.
Hoffnung: We can hope for small victories, maybe. Revolutionary change is beyond the reach even of
Inspiration in this awful world.
Neid: The terrible truth is that no one cares about you enough to hate you.
Staunen: What childish whimsy, to pretend to see "beyond" the horrors of this world. In truth you just ignore
Next: Neids and Staunens. These Catalyst sections are pretty short, so I'm just going to finish the last two in one post.
Neid, the Catalyst of Banishment; Staunen, the Catalyst of CuriosityOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Part 8: Neids and Staunens
The Catalyst of Banishment
Traditional Planet: Saturn
"Scoff at me, will you? I'll show them! I'll show them all!"
This Catalyst shouldn't need any introduction. Neids are mad scientists characterized by jealousy, paranoia, and rejection by their mundane peers. Most Neids fundamentally want to be recognized by others, especially those who called them mad, for the brilliant scientists that they think they are - and indeed often genuinely are, they're just insane.
Neids are the most likely of all geniuses to have been part of the traditional breeding pool. Many belonged to
cutting-edge research groups and saw something none of their peers could see; others were trapped in safe
but mediocre scientific careers until one day Inspiration hit. All, of course, suffered during their
Breakthrough, usually leaving trails of broken friendships and destroyed reputations. Despite their origin,
almost no Neids remain in science after their Breakthroughs; while some geniuses can fake legitimate
research, the Banished are often too bitter and resentful to remain amidst the consensus.
Of all geniuses, Neids are also the most likely to go crazy well before their catalysts. This madness is subtle, at
first, and usually begins either as skewed reasoning or paranoia. Skewed reasoning quickly results in a
decline in the pre-Neid's job performance; this, especially if it's coupled with claims of "miraculous" results
(caused by stray Mania as the genius begins his Breakthrough), results in resentment and pity from the
budding genius' peers. Those Neids that catalyze first through paranoia often do excellent work, but they
become increasingly afraid of sabotage or theft, that someone is trying to destroy or steal their research. Even
if this is the case, as a pre-Neid grows more paranoid, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and
We're told that most Neids get their start with a remarkable achievement, creating a proto-wonder with stray Mania that's capable of something not quite miraculous but a good step or two ahead of current technology. Inevitably, this proto-wonder falls apart or is revealed to be a freak accident that can't be duplicated, and that tends to send the proto-Neid into a tailspin to Inspiration. Others come up with some brilliant scheme or idea that inevitably doesn't quite work out when the proto-Neid tries to apply it in the real world. Those who realize that their idea genuinely was crazy or simply won't work are the ones who back away from Inspiration and resume their lives. Those who do not, those who want to show everyone how brilliant they are - for selfish or altruistic reasons - become Neids.
Neids almost always develop a powerful sense of paranoia, either before jealousy consumes them or afterwards, but in the World of Darkness their suspicions identify real rather than imaginary enemies more often than not.
Epikrato, the axiom of control, is the catalyst's gift to Neids. This is the axiom of mind control in various degrees first and foremost, but also probability manipulation and weather control. If people won't listen to the Neid, the Neid will make them listen.
No prizes for guessing that Suspicion is the Neids' derangement of choice.
Wyrms are often the most security-minded of the Inspired, focusing on acts of subtle retribution: Computer,
Investigation, Stealth, and Larceny are areas of particular focus, and most Neids favor Subterfuge over other
Social skills. Generally, Neids prefer the oblique approach.
Many Neids are brilliant, and even those that were mediocre scholars before their Breakthrough feel their
intellects transformed by Mania upon becoming Inspired, meaning that most favor Mental Attributes. Many
Neids make poor Social specimens, though, with arrogance, suspicion, and sheer orneriness limiting their
ability to make friends and influence people. A few Neids, though, keep their bitterness well-hidden, and are
often masters of Manipulation, but few of the Banished have much Composure; the slightest hint of rudeness
can send one careening into an insane rant. Whether a Neid is physically-oriented varies greatly; most come
from academic or technical fields, which makes it unlikely, but the few non-scientific Neids who appear are
often tough and physically capable, and others see fitness of body as an important adjunct to fitness of mind.
Despite their frequently limited Social abilities, many Neids have old contacts and favors owed that give them
an impressive collection of Social Merits: Allies might be rare, but Contacts, Resources, and especially Status
are all very common, and even Fame is not unheard-of; at least one infamous Neid even has a late-night radio
show where her rants about the government destroying her research have made her a local celebrity.
Concepts: Paranoid hacker, pyramid scam victim, tale-telling Ufologist, neurotic security consultant,
calculating mastermind, betrayed researcher, ex-CEO holed up in the woods, jittery cat burglar
"First let me tell you that human beings without mathematical souls are transparent to God and thus mean nothing
to Him. So you ask, why does God (who is the Equation) care about window-souls? He doesn't, but the Devil, whom
I define as our negative thoughts, does, and directs window-soul humans at us to destroy us. These humans think
they think and feel, but they are without the highest Number and their feelings are only our self-doubt. Destroy
your self-doubt, be free of their hatred. Or destroy them, and be free of your self-doubt. Vengeance is time- and
space-symmetrical, like any good equation."
Grimm: Anger is good, but ask yourself, what right do you have to be angry? That's right: you deserve to be
angry because they hate you, and they've taken away what you love.
Hoffnung: Alright, "make it better." I can get behind that. But you need to know who wants to make it worse
Klagen: Other people get hurt all the time. Why can't you see the pattern in it?
Staunen: Yes, it's a candy-coated wonderland, isn't it? The cosmos has its boot on your throat, and you're
admiring the shoelaces.
And the last Catalyst, the Staunens.
The Catalyst of Curiosity
Traditional Planet: Mercury
"Oh, the things I have seen..."
Other than Neids, Staunens are the classical mad scientists. These are the people who caught a glimpse of something extraordinary, and that sense of awe and wonder consumed them. Staunens are the catalyst least involved with the mundane world, with no interest in changing or doing something about it. Their quest is to learn, to explore, to push back the limits of the unknown. Pity they're as nutty as any other Inspired, and what fills a Staunen with wonder can be horrific beyond description to a more rational individual.
The Staunens saw something before their Breakthrough and it consumed them. Most Staunens were
hobbyists: not full scientists, but not rank amateurs either; they were explorers, tinkers, and investigators.
Seeing something new and strange, whether in the flicker of a telescope or the scrolling lines of computer
code, they grew hungry for more. Staunens not drawn from the breeding pool are often investigative
journalists or private investigators who stumble upon something too weird to dismiss but not quite
horrifying enough to bury behind fugues and night-terrors. They might never even see what they hunt,
whether it's an immortal Ophidian who controls the town's mayor or a secret spawning-ground of electronic
manes. Instead, the fascination itself is what drives these amateur sleuths and mystery-seekers.
As a rule, the mental breakdown for Staunens is unusual in that it tends to come at the moment of revelation rather than as they drive towards Inspiration. Invariably, whatever a Staunen finally sees breaks their brain, whether from wishing they had never found the answer to their question or from snapping into a whole new world of possibilities. However it happens, Staunens have seen too much and looked too far, and now there is no turning back. Not that the idea would occur to most of them.
Some Staunens devote their entire lives to one question, looking for one holy grail of [mad] science. Others are more impulsive and constantly flit from project to project as ideas and questions capture their interest. Be they obsessive-compulsive or merely obsessive, Staunens stand out in a collaborative for their general lack of interest in the human world. A Staunen wants to learn more about the world, not change it, though being Inspired they can't help but leave change and chaos in their wake.
Staunens receive Apokalypsi as their favored axiom, the axiom of discovery. Apokalypsi is where sensors and information gathering devices of all kinds lurk, from tricorders to brain scanners to interdimensional telescopes. Staunens have seen something, and they want to see more.
Being the obsessive spergs that they are, Fixation is the common derangement of Staunens.
Staunens are often more like "pure scientists" than other catalysts, exploring the world for its own sake. They
often study Computer and Science more than Crafts, and they are the most likely to study the Occult. Those
that seek out the weird and extraordinary have a variety of Physical Skills like Larceny and Survival, while
Staunens who began their careers as journalists or investigators usually possess Investigation, Politics, and
Catalysts of curiosity often result in a more stable personality than with other mad scientists, granting higher
Composure. Those Staunens able to articulate their amazement at the world often possess blazing Presence.
Staunens without Social Attributes are also common, though; these often possess staggering Intelligence and
Wits to record and make sense of observations, as well as high Resolve to survive weeks or months of
repetitive study for little reward.
Many Staunens let their previous social engagements melt away upon their catalyst, meaning that Social
merits like Allies and Fame are comparatively rare. In contrast, Staunens often have excellent senses and
memories, making Merits like Eidetic Memory common.
Concepts: Forgotten stargazer, cryptid-hunter, bright-eyed theologian, cartographer of mysterious places,
obsessed genealogist, manipulative social engineer, lucid dreamer
"I'm afraid I don't see things like you do. I mean it: I'm afraid. What if the things I find beautiful drive you mad?
What if they hollow you out like clever little squirrels getting nuts for the winter, except the nuts are your eyes, and
winter is, I don't know, maybe the Rapture or something? And I'm just smiling while your face gets ripped apart
because I think it's beautiful? These things worry me sometimes, when I'm not not looking at the night sky. So I
spend a lot of time looking at the night sky, and not looking at your face and thinking about squirrels."
Grimm: Some people mistake blind fury for a sense of true justice. There is justice in the world, but beating up
polluters like you're Captain fucking Planet isn't what it looks like.
Hoffnung: The world is magnificent as it is, not just as you want it to be.
Klagen: Sorrow is a local and ultimately futile feeling before the majesty of the cosmos.
Neid: There is more to Heaven and Earth than your endless, insufferable whining. I have heard the song of the
universe, and it's telling you to shut up.
Next: Wondrous Aesthetics (It's brief, but it's something Foundations and Baramins talk about so I'll get it out of the way)
Wondrous AestheticsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression: Wondrous Aesthetics
The book doesn't discuss this until a long way into the book, but the next section is Foundations, which talks about aesthetics common to the Foundations, so I'll go over this now.
Wonders can look like damn-near anything depending on a genius' tastes, insanity, and their individual model of how the world "works." In game terms, there's not much difference between a home-built tesla tank, a cyborg dinosaur, or a steam-powered walker. Most geniuses therefore adopt a particular style to their work and their constructions, which can be useful to think about during character creation. Do you like steampunk? Cyberpunk? Enjoy building your wonders out of scraps and garbage? Prefer a more biological look? Most geniuses tend to pick one and stick with it.
While it's purely fluff and RP for most geniuses, aesthetics matter more to Unmada - those Inspired so insane that they think they're the sane ones.
To an unmada, an aesthetic is even more important. It is a picture of their philosophy, of what they think is
true. A medical Etherite who rejects the vulgar fallacies of modern genetic science simply cannot build a
wonder that resembles a modern genetic research lab: if he tried, his Inspiration would leave him.
Mechanically, attempts by an unmada to "disguise" a wonder, to make it resemble someone else's aesthetic or
a different aesthetic entirely, incurs a -1 penalty in the building phase. If the aesthetic fundamentally violates
the genius' approach to Inspiration or wonder-working, the penalty becomes -5 and building the wonder also
requires a dot of Willpower.
Geniuses are welcome to select one of the aesthetics below or to create their own. Some geniuses combine
different styles, while others try to stick with functional creations, and others still are defined more by their
"medium"―something like "sonics" or "mirrors"―than by a formal aesthetic.
I'm simply going to present the game's suggested aesthetics as written.
Sometimes called Technomancer, this aesthetic replaces the normal trappings of science and technology with
a "magical" look, ranging from traditional alchemical laboratories (hence the term) to glowing "runes of
power." The latter was considered half-baked before it premiered by many older geniuses, though the
traditional "dirty mortar and pestle" look is popular with some Progenitors and Scholastics. Geniuses with a
specific cultural or ethnic identity or a specific interest in ancient cultures focus on specific Alembic styles,
such as Egyptian or ancient Chinese. It is also the most common Oracle aesthetic, alongside Crystal Future.
Some geniuses who favor this style sincerely believe in the unity of science and "magic" (however they define
it); others are playing around with semiotics and what it means to be a wonder-worker.
A modern organic style that came about around the same time as Digital Chrome, Black Plastic encourages an
organic look to its technology (even the non-organic stuff), usually casting everything in asymmetric black
rubber that is designed to unsettle viewers. Black Plastic is a perennial favorite, with its popularity oscillating
but remaining fairly constant in the Peerage. Progenitors are very fond of this aesthetic; they often
incorporate insect motifs into their creations. A combination of Black Plastic and Trash Praxis has recently
become popular; its most common nickname is Crawling Rusty Meat.
An outgrowth of the Functionalist anti-movement of the 70s, which basically said "Stop dressing up your
fucking wonders and just make sure they work," the Brutalist doctrine goes one step further, encouraging a
deliberately functional and inelegant look. Wonders in this school are made from pre-fab parts, if possible,
because that's cheaper, or unpainted (or camouflage) custom parts if necessary. Components look strippeddown,
ugly, and exposed. The Brutalist style is popular with Navigators and some Mechanists, and with many
militaristic and survivalist geniuses. Exposed metal and clashing combinations of alloys and polymers are
common in this style.
One of the oldest aesthetics that is self-consciously an aesthetic, clockwork is exactly like it sounds: geniuses
who adhere to this style favor mechanical devices if at all possible, using springs and muscles for power and
intricate assemblages of gears for moving parts. For Axioms where this maxim might seem inapplicable, such
as Apokalypsi, Inspired employ clever mirrors and prisms. This aesthetic is of course most popular with
Mechanists, though it is also popular with many older and more traditional Inspired. An older variant, called
Baroque, mixes Clockwork with rococo fashions; it is little-practiced today.
"Crystal Future" refers to the images of the future or of "lost" but advanced civilizations popular from the
19th century well into the mid or late 20th. In this Utopian vision, the streets are clean, machinery is powered
by crystals or other nebulous sources, and everyone wears togas and seems very calm all the time. Its
practitioners are an equal mix of sincere devotees and snickering parodists. This aesthetic is still popular in
Lemuria, especially among Oracles, as well as certain Etherites and those Mechanists focused on Apokalypsi
or Katastrofi. Among the Peerage, this aesthetic has a faintly sinister reputation, despite its squeaky-clean
appearance, as many of Lemuria's Secret Masters maintained this style before they were wiped out.
The current "far future" style, with the hard edge of reality coupled with the optimistic vision of a transhuman
future, is termed Extropic. In this aesthetic, the genius focuses on advanced speculative science such as
nanotechnology, gene-line body alteration, and digital consciousness. Extropy is as much a philosophy as an
aesthetic, and the actual appearance of wonders varies, though effort is put into making technology appear
elegant, unobtrusive, and functional. But the core of the Extropic aesthetic is not the appearance, but an
approach to technology that focuses on cutting-edge research and the blurring of the concept of "human."
Another perennial aesthetic, dating back at least to 15th century Italians imagining what Aristotle's wonders
might have looked like, Macedon sees surges in popularity every few decades. The current return to the
spotlight is probably the fault of "Greek-punk" movies and video games, just as the previous jump began
during Hollywood's Golden Age of sword-and-sandal flicks. The Macedon aesthetic uses as its starting-point
the steam-powered machines of Hero of Alexandria. Stylistic elements include the use of bronze instead of
more advanced metals, Hellenic friezes, and intricate mirrors to engage in long-distance communication and
attack. Variant styles, based on the ancient bronze-steam-and-glass wonders of Persia, Egypt, and India have
also seen intermittent popularity; these styles are distinguished from their Alembic equivalents by being
more explicitly technological, often sporting exposed Antikythera-style clockwork.
"Cyberpunk" stylings are called Digital Chrome by mad scientists. Typical affectations include heavy chrome
or plastic cybernetics, thick plugs bolted into flesh, and chunky, bulky communication devices, coupled with
bright colors, neon, and vinyl. Digital Chrome was the look back in the 80s, though it has since declined in
popularity. It now sits between modern and properly retro, and has few new adherents, though geniuses who
catalyzed in the midst of that era (now in middle age) still sport the look. The colonization of the Grid may see
a resurrection of the style.
A popular style during the "golden age of science fiction" and a little bit beyond―from the late 40s to the late
70s―"Oscilloscope" was the first aesthetic that actually received a name, rather than "that style that the
geniuses in California are into now" or whatever. Oscilloscope style focuses on plastic, aluminum, chrome,
atomic power, jets, and radio technology. Expect big computers, angular machinery in that off-beige "old PC"
color, and track suits. It is deeply uncool among modern geniuses, and practically marks one as an Atomist, for
whom the Jet Age and Space Age dreams have yet to die. A few young geniuses have begun wearing this style
ironically, or mixing it with Extropic, but the Oscilloscope aesthetic is still associated with earlier generations.
While this aesthetic got its start among underwater-themed geniuses, it has spread onto land with the rise of
modern biotechnology. The Home Grown look features organic components, subtle curves, and
bioluminescent illumination, giving it a warmer and more humane appearance than Black Plastic. It is popular
among ecologically-minded geniuses in the Peerage as well as some Oracles, and is well-regarded among
geniuses for whom the biological sciences are of primary interest. Experiments with overlapping Home
Grown and Alembic led to a short-lived fad that is now referred to (contemptuously) as Fairy Princess.
This term was originally an insult, though many of its practitioners have co-opted the term as their own. Pod
People aesthetic includes a sleek, refined look, usually in all-white or some other solid color, with rounded
edges, a "finished" appearance (in contrast to the rough appearance of many wonders), and a user-friendly
interface with as few buttons, gadgets, and doo-dads as possible. (A one-panel comic in Alloy Blend shows the
standard Pod People ray gun: a smooth-cornered hand-held white rectangle with a single black button
labeled "Kill.") This aesthetic also favors small, elegant devices, and practitioners often try to make handheld
wonders as small and unobtrusive as possible. Pod People aesthetic is sometimes held in low regard,
especially by Steampunks and Functionals; its adherents are thought to spend too much time polishing their
devices to look pretty, and not enough time working out the bugs. The style is most popular among Directors
and some Progenitors; it is extremely rare in Lemuria.
The most common term for the "retro-future" look that dominated mad science (and some sane science) from
the 1930s to the 1950s. Common elements of Ray Gun styling include fins and "fiddly bits" on Skafoi devices,
Jacob's ladders, big cylindrical robots, and a focus on electricity and chemistry. (Chrome and atomic power
are generally considered late Ray Gun or Oscilloscope) Ray gun fashions are, of course, huge among Etherites,
though it also has many adherents among Directors, who favor the classic image of power and confidence it
provides. Googie is a sort of West Coast "beachfront" ray gun style in pastel colors and eye-assaulting fonts;
Raygun Gothic mixes the classic Ray Gun look with baroque spires and exposed metal.
If Oscilloscope is not quite retro and Digital Chrome is just past its sell-by date, Steampunk is the current too-cool-for-school
"big thing." All the kids are doing it: brass goggles, clanking mechanical servants, radium guns,
and rivet-covered work uniforms are currently all the rage among the postgrads. (The Martian Empire is
confused, but happy, that they are now "totally hip"). Steampunk is deliberately retro and it reflects a past
that never was: even the geniuses who lived in the Victorian era dressed practically or in traditional fashion,
rather than the "brass rivet" look, and many wonders from that era actually affected a Baroque look (which
was, in its own time, deliberately retro and reflecting a 17th century aesthetic that also never existed).
Steampunk aesthetic is popular in the Peerage, particular among Scholastics. In Lemuria, it has begun to
eclipse Ray Gun styles for Etherites.
First appearing in the 80s, Trash Praxis (named after the now-defunct magazine of the same name) is the
name for a style based on scavenging whatever one can in order to build one's wonders. Trash Praxis is
popular among geniuses in impoverished nations (though they aren't making a damn fashion statement) and
with the poor, the disaffected, and the self-styled punks of the modern world. The Dumpster Diver Merit is
nearly a prerequisite for this aesthetic. It is rare in Lemuria, but many Artificers and no-nonsense Navigators
like the brutal effect of a wonder built out of trash and discarded normal machinery.
Named for the movie studio, not any sense of universal style, this aesthetic dates from an era before geniuses
thought much about "aesthetics" and just used what was at hand. In fact, it was nearly the last such style
before the 20th century ushered in a new sort of self-awareness among the Inspired. Resembling
Frankenstein's laboratory from the movies (hence the name), this bubbling, crackling, cluttered look was
common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially among remote geniuses who were forced to use and
re-use specimens. An elegant aesthetic for a more civilized age, Universal has mostly been usurped by
Steampunk, Alembic, and other deliberately "retro" stylings on one side, and more modern functional
aesthetics like Oscilloscope or Brutalist on the other. Nonetheless, it was so common in Europe and America
for so long that old labs (some labs have been in continuous use for centuries) still feature the stitched
homunculi, sizzling Jacob's ladders, and stained beakers that came to symbolize "mad science" in the minds of
a century of movie-goers.
Next: Foundations and the International Union of Artifice
Foundations and the International Union of ArtificeOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Foundations and the International Union of Artifice
"The fear of infinity is a form of myopia that destroys the possibility of seeing the actual infinite, even though it in
its highest form has created and sustains us, and in its secondary transfinite forms occurs all around us and even
inhabits our minds."
A genius' Breakthrough is an amazing and hideous event, and a great accomplishment: those who survive the
experience (somewhat) sane and whole should be commended merely for making it through in one piece. But
catalyzing is only the beginning of a genius' journey. For weeks or even months, a genius might flail about
with nothing but raw Mania and the effects it can engender. Some lonesomes might stay here indefinitely,
with a touch of insanity separating them from mere mortals and a gift for understanding machines and
pushing them to the limit.
But eventually, most geniuses, even isolated ones, start to recognize patterns and systems. They look past the
apparently random shifts of Mania, the equations that dance on the page or behind the computer screen, and
find tangles of predictability and repeatability, something they can hold on to: the Axioms of mad science.
From there a genius can start to build up a system and a philosophy.
Geniuses are somewhat unusual in the World of Darkness in that they aren't necessarily created by another of their kind. Many are, but the majority of geniuses become Inspired on their own. Those who realize what they've become naturally tend to wonder if there are other people like them out there, and indeed there are. Lemuria and the Peerage keep an active lookout for the newly Inspired, and most geniuses who realize what they are drift into one of the two groups sooner or later, or find someone knocking on their door. The Peerage's sales pitch is that you're insane and need others of your kind to keep you relatively grounded and human, that Inspiration is a double-edged sword but it's a livable condition. Lemuria tells you that no, you're not insane, everyone else is.
The Peerage was founded in 1814 when the mad scientists free of Lemuria in Europe, North America, and the Middle East came together to oppose Lemuria and bring relative rationality and sanity to mad science. None of the original founding groups of the Peerage remain as such today, growing, changing, and occasionally dying in the two centuries since. Today, five great foundations dominate the Peerage along with a host of smaller organizations, and it's assumed that most if not all PCs belong to one of the foundations (there are rules for playing a genius unaffiliated with any of them, be they members of a smaller group or completely independent of the Peerage, as well as rules for playing Lemurians). The Peerage hasn't always been this way, but today it's an open and non-hierarchical organization. There are no codes of laws, no mad science police, no secret handshake. What the Peerage does offer is a social and academic network of like-minded mad scientists, invaluable both psychologically and for more practical reasons like access to a Foundation's research journals and other resources.
Mechanically, there are two big draws to being part of a foundation: you receive a second favored axiom (in addition to the one your catalyst grants - each foundation has a choice of two), and each foundation has a grant, a special ability or effect that all members of the foundation enjoy.
Joining or leaving a foundation is simple: sign up for the free journals, forums, listservs, and the like, and contribute regularly. In game terms, you bind (permanently store away) one point of Mania into the foundation, which represents your active research work and ongoing contributions to the foundation. You can cancel at any time, and continue to receive foundation benefits for one month until they run out, at which point you also get your point of Mania back.
Changing foundations - including going rogue, joining Lemuria, or joining the Peerage if you were previously rogue or Lemurian - is a little more complicated. The foundation requires a donation of Mania equal to the genius' maximum Mania at the time, paid off all at once or over time, and needs to gain one dot in a specific skill - or gain a Specialization if already at maximum dots. Going rogue automatically happens a month after canceling your subscription to a foundation/baramin, and requires no skill or Mania contribution.
One cannot be Unmada if you want to join the Peerage (no rules against going Unmada if you're already a member, though), and one must be Unmada if you want to join Lemuria.
Requisite skills for each foundation/baramin:
Artificer: Computer or Crafts
Director: Persuasion or Socialize
Navigator: Athletics or Drive
Progenitor: Medicine or Occult
Scholastic: Academics or Investigation
Which brings us to the first foundation, The International Union of Artifice.
The International Union of Artifice
Nicknames: Makers, Tinkers, Artisans
The Artificers are the youngest, fastest-growing, and most actively dynamic foundation in the Peerage, and their specialty is simple: they build stuff. They build lots of stuff, and build it quickly. Thinking about the potential consequences of what they build is an optional extra.
More so than most foundations, Artificers tend to scare people with their work. You know every fearmonger ranting about robots taking jobs, doomsday weapons accidentally unleashed, or the Third World developing technology that will let them hurt the industrialized world? Artificers can potentially unleash all of that. Historically the Artificers simply built for the sake of building, they loved what they did and didn't need much of a reason. Times are changing, though, and the Artificers are by far the most active group of mad scientists in the impoverished and strife-ridden parts of the world, notably Central America and sub-Saharan Africa. If any geniuses are likely to strike out against The Man, it's probably the Artificers.
Despite the fear the Artificers engender, no one better exemplifies the new spirit of creation that has swept
the mortal world and now echoes in the society of the Inspired. Artificers literally create their own worlds: a
Maker's laboratory, and even her home, takes on the forms and aesthetics she admires. Flowers grow to cover
wrought iron when a floral Maker takes up residence. Art spreads across walls and ceilings wherever an
artistic Artificer rests his head for the night. Charming electronic machines appear in the windows of a digital
Artificer's office. This isn't magic, of course, but the byproduct of creation; Artificers are too full of life and
passion to contain it all within their wonders, and it spreads out of them, in their work and free time, to
transform the world.
The Artificers are masters of mad engineering. They're designers, builders, and draftsmen, and these days their choice of materials is far more wide-ranging than clockwork and steel. There are carpenter Artificers, computer hackers who build immaterial software-based wonders, and even a growing crop of genetic engineers. No matter the medium, Artificers build stuff and build more stuff, more quickly, and more effectively than any other foundation. They're also the poorest of the foundations: they attract the people building robots and plasma cannons in their garage more than serious architects and aerospace engineers.
Historically, the Artificers as a concept have always been around in the world of mad science - they were never organized or widespread, but there have always been those mad scientists more interested in making stuff than figuring out how it works. Only in 1752 did hundreds of like-minded tinkers, smiths, and artisans meet in Philadelphia to ultimately found the Brotherhood of Artifice and Mechanism, and to reject Lemuria's insanity. The Brotherhood quickly found a friendly rivalry in the Invisible College, and in 1814 were one of the founding members of the Peerage.
Before and since, the Artificers have always been considerably rougher around the edges than the rest of the Peerage, taking interest in mad scientists the rest of the Peerage didn't want to touch: African shamans whose rituals really worked, lunatic American and British gunsmiths, Rom tinkers, Jewish watch-makers, pretty much anyone the squeaky-clean Renaissance Men of the Peerage thought beneath them. Anyone interested in making stuff, the Artificers offered a hand to. In the history of mad science, the Artificers had very little interest in politics or large-scale activities until very recently. At most, they served as useful auxiliaries during the Invisible Wars between the Peerage and Lemuria (and on occasion, other, weirder threats), but most of the time they just kept on building stuff because that's what they liked to do.
This changed in the late 20th century, with Lemuria's collapse and human civilization unleashed. People who traditionally did not catalyze were starting to: the poor, the desperate, and the oppressed. Whereas other foundations rejected these sorts of post-modern mad scientists, the Artificers welcomed them, and the new generation of Artificers often come from crime-ridden slums and barrios, war-torn hellholes, and depopulated villages. Not all of them, certainly - the traditional eager young builders of stuff still dribble in - but it's heavily colored the modern Artificers and their political direction. Embracing this movement has also made the Artificers by far the poorest and least-respected foundation, but they're working on that.
The Artificers are the least organized of all the foundations, and they've always been that way, despite
occasional attempts to revive the Medieval guild system of Masters, Journeymen, and Apprentices. Currently,
however, some Artificers take the "Union" part of their title seriously. In some cities where Artificers are
numerous and times are hard, Artificers form into Unions, made up of workers and led by a figure referred to
simply as Boss. Artificer Bosses keep in touch at an International level via email and Apokalypsi, but there's
no head to the organization, at least not currently, though they do produce a newszine called Collaboration.
A Union Hall provides a place to stay, protection, and equipment, forming a sort of extended collaborative that
resembles a Lemurian zotheca in its sprawling extent. Most Union Halls don't mind members of other
foundations using their facilities, as long as they give back in kind. A few of the more powerful Unions work to
regulate Mania and technological supplies, and have begun to encounter harassment and attacks from
Lemurians, who don't appreciate a disorganized mess of a foundation honing in on their turf.
Other than the Unions, the Artificers are mostly a bunch of harmless old tinkers and punk kids. The older
generations of Artificers, those who haven't been radicalized by the influx of new blood, are almost entirely
unaware of the younger generation's activities, or really of anything else. Though there are numerous shortlived
zines, forums, and magazines, the newsletter Mechanical Experimenter is the best-regarded piece of
print that Artificers reliably produce; everyone reads it, from the most clueless old kitbasher to the most
Most geniuses build compulsively, but Artificers are far more inclined to get their hands dirty and use whatever is at hand. They expect members to be self-sufficient, and many Artificers make it a perverse point of pride to build wonders of awe-inspiring power out of the contents of the local dumpster. Or from the neighborhood sewer. Many young Artificers style themselves the New Makers and go whole hog on the punk attitude - probably a bit juvenile and more than a little bit hipster among the New Makers from less impoverished circumstances, but there's a lot of potential for serious change brewing there.
Older Artificers, and those who don't buy into the New Maker attitude, are much more diverse in their aesthetic. They like to build stuff, and even Artificers fond of clockwork and steampunk (usually emphasizing the grease monkey punk) tend to build their stuff fast and hard, and their aesthetics reflect it.
All of this makes the Artificers the fastest-growing foundation in the Peerage, and there are more non-academics in the Artificers than any other foundation. Mechanics, militia members, and unlicensed doctors all fill the Artificers' ranks, and unsurprisingly the most common catalysts among the Artificers are Grimms, Neids, and Hoffnungs. There's a lot of rage and resentment in the new generation, but also a strong spark of hope. Staunens are very rare, however, given that most Artificers want to build something new rather than admire something that already exists.
Most Artificers, with their interest in creation over theory, favor Craft over Science and Science over
Academics. They put little stock in hypotheticals and abstract reasoning, but many are nonetheless gifted
mathematicians and draftsmen. Those Artificers who think to record blueprints of their wonders take up
Expression. Artificers are increasingly diverse today: hackers and roboticists bolster their Crafts Skills with
Computer, while genetic engineers favor Medicine.
Many Artificers have a gift for bashing together an immediate solution, meaning that Wits is as important as
traditional brainpower. Embracing the New Makers' gutter-punk ethos means good Survival, Streetwise, and
Investigation, to find what they need, and often a bit of Stealth, Larceny, and Subterfuge to grab it. Artificers
like their Katastrofi, too, which means that combat training is common, with a focus on unusual Firearms.
The Dumpster Diver Merit is popular among the younger set, though Social Merits are comparatively rare: the
New Makers are rarely scions of the powerful. Most Artificers, in addition to their intense focus on whatever
helps them build the next wonder, pick up an eclectic mix of Skills and Merits due to their haphazard lives.
The Artificers' favored axioms are Automata (make robots and zombies and whatnot) and Prostasia (the axiom of protection - armor, force fields, etc), though Katastrofi is very popular as well. An Artificer can choose between Automata or Prostasia for their second favored axiom.
Their foundation grant is two-fold: Artificers make stuff faster than anyone, and their improvised wonders hold together remarkably well. Artificers reduce the time needed to build or fiddle with any wonder by one step (to a minimum of one day for non-kitbashed wonders), and suffer no penalty for doing this. For kitbashed wonders, this time reduction does not make the wonder fall apart faster. A two-step kitbashing job falls apart after one day for Artificers, not one scene. We'll get to the rules for kitbashing and wonder construction later.
And finally, the obligatory fluff.
Concepts: Back-alley machinist, caffeine-addled computer hacker, master bladesmith, automotive greasemonkey,
Quote: "Good, fast, and cheap: you get all three. And if you talk like that to my people again, you're going to
wake up as a collection of spare parts."
Directors: Rich idiots in charge of other rich idiots. They don't own me.
Navigators: Someone needs to test this thing out. I bruise easy.
Progenitors: They make okay stuff, but this "Long live the new flesh" crap has to stop.
Scholastics: They actually believe that we've already figured everything out. Weird.
Rogues: A million wannabe punks all pulling in different directions, getting nothing done.
Lemurians: Oh no! That Lemurian went and built a Tandy-9000! And that other one just designed a steam
locomotive! However can I compete?
The Illuminated: A polite reminder that metal and tools go in one category, and your fellow human beings go
in another category.
Other Creatures: These monsters might last forever, but the things they make don't.
Mortals: There's no love in what they make. It just gets churned out, then forgotten. What a waste.
The Fellowship for Manifest DirectionOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, The Fellowship for Manifest Direction
The Fellowship for Manifest Direction
Nicknames: Overlords, Disputers, The Loud
Most mad scientists are fairly antisocial people, at least around non-Inspired. Not so the Directors. Directors, in general, are the people people of the Peerage and their mad science is often far more subtle than the other foundations. What interests the Directors most is power: the science of it, and the practical applications. On the face of it, the Directors are an Illuminati style organization, the rulers behind the throne and the faceless suits in the corporate boardroom. While they definitely look and act the part, the Directors are very explicitly not actually such an organization: they only wish they had that much power. But in the end, mad scientists are mad and that invariably does a number on plots for world domination.
Each Director burns with ambition, with vision,
with a terrible yearning for more: more power, more wealth, more control, more safety, more revenge. It
doesn't matter what it is, but all Directors live lives of restless dissatisfaction. An individual Director might be
afraid, or uneasy, or ambitious, or merely curious, but all want the same thing: to accumulate power, at nearly
any cost. It's the naked ambition that shocks people, more than what the Director plans to do with all that
power. A genius' catalyst often strips away certain subtleties in a person's nature, exposing something
smooth and archetypal, and in the Directors is this tendency most strongly manifested. Some might climb the
greased pole to escape the machinations of their underlings, to exercise control over the pitiful world of
mortals, or merely to get laid every weekend, but all Directors possess a horrible, blank, all-consuming lust
for power that exists outside of any concrete goal or desire. A Director is a scientist-aristocrat, a wealthy
master of hypnotism, a would-be ruler of the world, who wouldn't even know what to do if at the end he sat
alone and unchallenged on a throne of pure diamond and looked out over his dominion of the Earth.
Yes, they're the New World Order from oMage with the serial numbers filed off.
The Directors specialize in mad psychology, many of them masters at mind control or creating entirely new life. However, where they really stand out among their Peers is in their social ability - more than any other group of mad scientists, Directors are good with people, even mundanes. Not every Director is a psychologist or would-be political mastermind, either. Software engineers and AI researchers are increasingly common, and there's a strong contingent of Directors who study related fields including economics, sociology, history, even ecology and agriculture. There's even a smattering of geniuses who study completely unrelated fields, provided they have the requisite people skills and lust for power.
As an organization, the Directors are an artifact of the Invisible War between the Peerage and Lemuria. Lemuria was (and still is) nothing if not highly organized, whereas the 19th century Peerage was decidedly not. In response, the Peerage appointed a council of directors to organize the war effort against Lemuria and the Directors have been a significant presence in the Peerage ever since. The Directors came to the fore during the early 20th century when they began to champion business and industry, bringing those assets to the Peerage's side against Lemuria. Ruthless, exploitative, and greedy, the Directors weren't exactly models of behavior but were invaluable for their ability to organize the Peerage, build an infrastructure, and keep the mad scientists pointed in the right directions.
Like most of the Peerage, the Directors have since found themselves divided and deeply conflicted after Lemuria's defeat. They were as an organization created to lead and fight a war, and with the war's end the Directors have found themselves at a loss for a purpose. Many retreated into good ol boys networks and secret societies only interested in preserving the status quo, but as with the Artificers a new generation of Directors has emerged. These New Directors are not apprentices to old men in smoke-filled back rooms, rather they style themselves capable of ruling the world through a smartphone. Old Directors are prone to volcano fortresses and underground sanctuaries, but the new breed are mobile, connected, and growing. Whereas the Artificers have pretty well run with their new generation, the Directors are growing tense and the spectre of a civil war within the Peerage or a splitting of the foundation is looming.
The Directors are more organized than other foundations. Every Director, whether she knows it or not,
belongs to a Dominion, a geographic region that contains from ten to 30 million mortals. The United States
contains twenty-three Dominions. Each Dominion is run by a Heterogeny, made up of three, five, seven, or
eleven influential Directors called Dispensers, one of whom is appointed the Overlord and manages the
regional finances. Many lesser ranks exist beneath the Dispensers. This group manages the affairs of the
Directors in that area from some central location. Every ten years, the Heterogenies vote on a Clade, which
consists of 44 Directors (currently; the population grows with the total number of Directors). The Clade, in
turn, sets policy for all the Directors from a central location in one of the world's major skyscrapers. (The
exact location varies from year to year.)
Directors technically have a single source for all Director-related scholarship, a monthly magazine called
Control. However, that's the old way. The new Directors, the up-and-comers, favor an ever-shifting network of
newsgroups and contacts squirting micro-assessments to their phones or laptops in a constant stream of
evaluation and analysis.
Most rank-and-file Directors, whatever their style, interact only vaguely with the hierarchy of their Dominion,
instead working on small-scale projects within their collaborative. Those that focus inward often serve simply
by remaining loyal to those on top and fighting for scraps of power in predictable ways. Others, though, join
some of the cultural groups within the Fellowship for Manifest Direction, organizations that exist not for the
benefit of their individual members but to protect and enhance the foundation as a whole. The Jaguar People
serve as the Directors' elite guards. The Mirror People handle counterintelligence and espionage. The
Stochastic People deal with issues of raw material, transport, and extraction. The Sigil People monitor
internal affairs and handle audits and personnel. The Tower People (whom everyone calls the People
People) deal with the mundane population. These groups were once vitally important to the foundation's
well-being and had intricate hierarchies and protocols; now, with the power structures of all the foundations
flattened, most of these groups are little more than a news feed with jobs to be done and rewards to be
As the political scientists and students of power within the Peerage, the Directors are some of the most subtle mad scientists and often the least reliant on wonders. Some Directors have a variety of styles and adopt whatever look they think is most effective in a given situation, but the majority generally favor a clean, professional aesthetic to their work. Some affect a bizarre, horrific, or just plain improper aesthetic for the shock value, while a few see their Director and genius roles as distinct and employ a brutally functional look when the fangs come out.
The Overlords focus on Social Attributes and Skills as much as Mental ones. They are orators and
administrators, and they often view themselves as the "elite" of the Inspired, best able to command the efforts
of other geniuses. Composure often trumps Resolve, as looking in control is more important in the Manifest
Fellowship than actually having it together. Physical Attributes are sometimes neglected in favor of
Intelligence and Presence, especially among Directors who prefer to act through proxies.
Social Skills are also prioritized, though Directors of different styles focus on different approaches: a
scheming, manipulative genius may focus on Subterfuge, while an expert at raising money and giving
presentations might emphasize Expression and Persuasion. This is not to imply that Directors neglect their
scientific training: most are as technically competent as members of the other foundations, though they often
seem reticent to emphasize that fact. Academics and Computer, to fit their favored Axioms, are common,
though medical Directors, aeronautics Directors, and even occult research Directors all exist.
Many Directors define themselves by their Social Merits: Allies, Contacts, Status, and Resources are all
common. Some even stay in the mortal limelight with Fame. Directors enjoy large numbers of beholden, and
can always find work for them. They're rarely the Dumpster Diver sort.
Unsurprisingly, in a group of PCs the Directors are usually the party face, though Automata means they can be formidable in a fight when need be.
Directors can choose between Automata or Epikrato (the axiom of mind control and whatnot) as their favored axioms, and rarely dwell on the blunter axioms like Katastrofi. Apokalypsi for information gathering and Exelixi for body and mental enhancements are popular.
Their grant further reinforces the Directors as social types: they can spend Mania to enhance their social attributes and when they do so, they do not suffer penalties for low Obligation, nor do they suffer Jabir penalties (Jabir will be covered in character creation, but it's the sperglord penalty).
Concepts: Lab director, wannabe Bond villain, professional debunker, millionaire industrialist, member of
the Mad Ethics Board, unconventional psychologist, New Age techno-guru
Quote: "Like even the strongest iron bar, every man has a weak point, and it can be found."
Artificers: If only we could convince them to make something useful.
Navigators: Arrogant, insufferable hotshots! I like that. Besides, someone has to break heads when
negotiations break down.
Progenitors: Busy swallowing their own tails. At least they won't take too many people with them this time.
Scholastics: Research and development, that's where it starts. It's just not where it ends.
Rogues: Usually poor and looking for work. But I'm glad to work outside the system...when it benefits me.
Lemurians: How sad it is, to watch gifted geniuses worshiping at the altar of their dead ancestors.
The Illuminated: No, I'm not like them. They don't pay their test subjects.
Other Creatures: Generally dangerous, horrible, and uncouth, with a frightening lack of manners.
Mortals: They never listen.
Navigators and ProgenitorsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Navigators and Progenitors
I'm not dignifying either of these foundations with a proper write-up for the simple reason that they're really, really blatantly the Void Engineers and... Progenitors... from the Technocracy in oMage. There isn't even the token effort made with the Directors to distinguish them from the New World Order. The Navigators even used to be part of Lemuria but were of course treated as second-class citizens by everyone else so they jumped ship, while the Progenitors keep the oMage Progenitors' issues with their members going nuts.
The Center for Circumferential Navigation
Nicknames: Daredevils, Guardians, Fire Bait
Navigators are the physical-oriented group of the Peerage, specializing in mad physics and being the guys who love to use their crazy shit and explore deep space and other dimensions. They have a militaristic air bordering on fascism depending on the Navigator.
Favored axioms for the Navigators are Katastrofi and Skafoi. Katastrofi we're already acquainted with, but Skafoi is a new one. Skafoi is the axiom of travel and movement: if it makes something go, it's Skafoi. Three dots is interplanetary travel, four is FTL and interdimensional travel, five is time travel.
Just like the Directors' grant lets them spend Mania to improve their social attributes, the Navigators' grant lets them spend Mania to improve their physical attributes.
Deep sea or deep space colonist, jet pack flyboy, trailblazer, guardian of the city streets, spatiotemporal
researcher, cynical scout
Quote: "I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Hell, I've seen things I don't believe."
Artificers: Reliable, quality construction and professional design. I can't say anything bad about that.
Directors: Someone has to provide organization and funding. Shame it's these assholes.
Progenitors: Their desire for bettering themselves is commendable, but change for change's sake is pointless.
Scholastics: Evenly divided between useless antiquarians and people who know that real knowledge is
farther away than the bookshelf.
Rogues: Unpredictable when the shit starts. Don't trust 'em and don't turn your back.
Lemurians: They're not pathetic or harmless. They're dangerous killers, and they need to be respected for
that, if nothing else.
The Illuminated: You can go out into the Void, but you always need to come back.
Other Creatures: Good in a fight, and usually a lot more reasonable than people make them out to be.
Mortals: A bit too obsessed with creature comforts, but in a pinch, it's nice to have some ex-special forces to
point their guns at the problem.
Fortunately, no Threat Null in Genius so be a faux Void Engineer to your heart's content. Don't be an actual Void Engineer, though. Void Engineers are a specific and very different thing in Genius, and not really suitable for PCs.
The Reformed Society of Progenitors
Nicknames: Breeders, Gardeners. Old Breeders are called Demiurges.
Genius honestly has no idea what the Progenitors should be, so they're wacky biologist types obsessed with transhumanism and self-transformation, and they're considered dangerously insane even by other geniuses. Like the oMage Progenitors they used to be filled with lunatics (Lemurians and Illuminated in this case), but they swear they're better now even as the game tells us all Progenitors have a dead spot in their body or soul and universally get up to shit that's weird even by genius standards.
In other words, go play oMage.
Favored axioms for Progenitors are Automata or Exelixi. Exelixi has only been briefly mentioned before, but it's the axiom of healing, buffing, and even true resurrection at five dots.
The Progenitors' grant makes them experts at making tiny wonders, so they don't suffer a -1 penalty for building a wonder of Size 1, and suffer only a -1 penalty (not a -2 penalty) for building a Size-0 wonder. Large wonders are unaffected, but tiny wonders like these can be implanted into bodies. Progenitors also gain a bonus when fiddling with their wonders equal to their dexterity score, which is another mechanic that will come up later.
Concepts: Revolutionary gene-hacker, man-beast hybrid, posthuman aspirant, fecund brood-mother,
aristocratic uplifter, replicant pimp, drug-fueled psychonaut
Quote: "It'll work this time, I promise. It won't hurt anyone."
Artificers: Trashy self-styled revolutionaries building the disposable future.
Directors: Charming, vacuous creatures. No, I'm not jealous. Not at all.
Navigators: Brave and smart, but incurious and unwilling to take the final step.
Scholastics: They pretend that the world they study doesn't transform them.
Rogues: There is strength in following one's own path. Sometimes there is folly.
Lemurians: The walking abortions of a failed space-time continuum.
The Illuminated: They are not the next step in human evolution.
Other Creatures: They change themselves, but they don't remake themselves.
Mortals: They'll understand soon enough.
Iteration X may have been a more interesting bunch to try rehabilitating as good guys, Genius.
The College of Scholastic Theory and RoguesOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, The College of Scholastic Theory and Rogues
The College of Scholastic Theory
Name: The Scholastics
Nicknames: Bookworms, Invisibles, Collegiates
Mad Scientist Classic. The Scholastics don't need much explanation: they're the academics, naturalists, and archaeologists of the Peerage, and the most politically powerful foundation.
The Scholastics are a diverse and terrifying bunch. They wake things up that people thought were dead, dig
up secrets that people want buried, and bring to light monstrous truths when people would rather believe the
lies. They are investigators and inquisitors, tomb robbers and temple raiders, philosopher-thieves who can
desecrate and exalt with a single act. Rumors in the mortal community of deranged scholars whispering
forbidden words from books long forgotten, of explorers disappearing into ancient Mayan and Egyptian
pyramids, of archaeologists finding pieces of ancient technology in million-year-old rock, all point to the
activities of the College. Scholastics are masters of secrets and revelations, and not just from the ancient past:
a Scholastic might just as easily uncover the dead girls in a local mayor's basement as some squamous alien
nightmare from between the galaxies. Wherever Scholastics go, the earth seems to give up her dead that they
might live again: old secrets, old lies, old betrayals, and old crimes of passion, ignorance, and calculation all
leap back into the light of day, bringing with them tragedy, recrimination, and knowledge long thought lost.
Sorry if the foundation sections have been boring, but the foundations themselves have been pretty dull and most of them are lifted directly from oMage.
In short, the College has basically no unique history or attributes because it's synonymous with the Peerage: it's the oldest, biggest, most powerful foundation, and other foundations are mostly distinguished by how they differ from the College. Genius says they practice mad philosophy, but in the olde schoole natural philosophy kind of way i.e. omnidisciplinary science.
Scholastics don't just organize themselves; due to their influence and pervasiveness, they influence most of
the rest of the Peerage. For centuries, their magazine, Inspiration, has served as the major source for peer
review. (It's also why geniuses refer to themselves as the Inspired; even Lemurians, who once preferred to be
called "the Enlightened," now use the term.) Inspiration has migrated to the online world, and its forums are a
tangled, disorganized, nightmarish back-and-forth of accusations, ridiculous claims, and harebrained
schemes, just the way geniuses like it.
The organization of the Scholastics themselves is based on fields of study, rather than geographic location, a
tradition that began when peers in a dozen major cities installed mass communication devices in the mid
18th century. (These devices, the Mirror-Stones, still stand in Lisbon, Cairo, and Nagasaki; others were lost
but have since been replaced, though their utility is limited today.) Each field is a meritocracy, with rank-andfile
members called Reviewers making up the bulk of the population. Scholastics in the field who can build
rank-4 wonders are called Analysts, and those that can build rank-5 wonders are called Chairmen. Each field
is controlled by a Master, chosen after a contest of Inspired talent called a Sigil Moot.
As always, there's a difference between the hidebound older generation and a new generation of spirited youngsters, and the New Scholastics are what internet trolls wish they were.
The Scholastics of today are trickster figures,
walking enigmas, the lying demiurge of pagan myth made flesh: a Scholastic is Loki, or Coyote, or a
modern-day druid speaking only in cant and rhyme. Linear thought is not prized among newer members of
the College. This sort of deep weirdness is not well-regarded by the elders of the College, who view these
young riddlers and brain-hackers as damaging the proud, antique reputation of the College.
The remaining fluff is equally flavorless and generic, so on to the bits of crunch.
Favored axioms are Apokalypsi or Metatropi, and their grant makes no sense without Wonder creation rules that we'll get to later. A Scholastic can select her fault from two offered by the Storyteller with a regular Success rather than an Exceptional Success. An Exceptional Success allows her to choose from three faults selected by the Storyteller. An Exceptional Success and double the usual Mania cost is still needed to build a wonder without any faults. Also, Scholastics always know their wonder's faults immediately upon handling the wonder.
Zen machinist, dimensional theorist, historian of mad science, shadowy information broker, prophecyobsessed
survivalist, peripatetic troubleshooter, shaman of higher mathematics
Quote: "If it's true, someone wrote it down, even if just to refute it."
Artificers: Whatever you cobble together, I can show you a diagram of something better.
Directors: Close your mouth. Listen. Put down your pen. Read.
Navigators: The Navigator of today produces the travel journals of tomorrow. If only they knew what they
Progenitors: I don't think they've thought about what they're doing to themselves.
Rogues: A confused rabble.
Lemurians: You're not supposed to believe everything you read.
The Illuminated: They fall the same way, every time: through arrogance and blindness.
Other Creatures: The source for first-hand reports about the strangest things, if they don't tear your head off
Mortals: History is built on their backs. I say this to imply that they are not standing up.
You can also play as a Rogue, which means you're either part of the Peerage but don't belong to one of the foundations, or you're simply not a member of either Lemuria or the Peerage. You have no grant, and your second favored axiom is whatever you want.
That does it for the foundations, so question: should I briefly cover the Lemurian Baramins next, or move on to the actual crunch of creating a character?
Also, any suggestions for improving the review in general?
An Introduction to LemuriaOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, An Introduction to Lemuria
As an organization, Lemuria in the 21st century is a shattered wreck. Its leaders are dead, their secret agenda defeated, their numbers few. But Lemuria's infrastructure is still intact, and geniuses continue to go insane every year. For these people, Lemuria's immense resources are attractive, and even more seductive is their promise that no, you're not crazy. You're so very sane, and everyone else is insane and jealous of you.
Lemurians are Unmada to the last, geniuses so convinced that they're the sane ones that their Inspiration warps their own mind to that end. Powerful Unmada can even begin warping reality around them to fit their own view.
This isn't to say Lemurians can't be reasoned with, or that they're all trying to rival the reputations of Dr. Mengele and Unit 731. Indeed, many Lemurians are perfectly decent people with basically good intentions. The problem is that they're dangerously insane to a man, and their Unmada nature means their deeply warped view of reality can be difficult (not impossible, there are rules for Unmada regaining their relative sanity) and quite often dangerous.
Like all Inspired, each Lemurian has their own individual madness, but most Lemurians come to decide that human civilization went wrong at some point and fall into one of five major paradigms called baramins. Lemurians, and Unmada in general, are nothing if not masters of cognitive dissonance, so baramins and Lemuria as a whole are much more highly organized and able to cooperate with each other than you might think.
Appearance: 1962 AD
Favored Axioms: Apokalypsi or Automata
Grant: Atomists, of all geniuses, build wonders that are closest to regular pieces of technology. Their wonders make Havoc checks with a bonus equal to the Atomist's Resolve
The youngest full baramin, Atomists are proof that Lemuria's collapse did not mark the end of their ideology. During the 50s and early 60s, futurists around the world painted a lovely picture of a future world where all the world's ills would be cured by technology. Jetpacks, flying cars, space exploration, robot butlers, the works. When it became obvious during the 60s and 70s that that vision was a pipe dream, the Atomists emerged. They still believe in that promise of a world made better through technology, and many of them blame Lemuria's defeat in the mid-20th century for us not getting it.
Atomists are true political technocrats, seeing every problem as solvable - only solvable - through technology. Scientists, they say, should be the masters of humanity, not politicians, and would be if not for that pesky human element. Atomists are, at best, indifferent to the human condition and human behavior, if not actively hostile to these bugs in the code of human civilization. Some Atomists might be charming and gregarious one on one, but larger social and psychological dynamics inevitably escape them or are dismissed as irrelevant herd responses that can be corrected through technology.
Not all Atomists are futurists from the mid-20th century, though that's certainly their core leadership. More recent Atomists tend to see dystopian cyberpunk futures as a good model where the technological megacorps just need to be more efficient about stamping out the punks, or think the machine civilization from The Matrix sounds like a really good idea. Biotechnology Atomists are also starting to crop up, and they tend to get horrifying in the blink of an eye.
Appearance: 1915 AD
Favored Axioms: Katastrofi or Skafoi
Grant: Etherites' unified theories give them an unshakable grasp of their wonders' inner workings. When an Etherite channels Mania into one of his own wonders to gain additional dice, it will not suffer damage from the Mania, and it gains an additional +1 bonus for the rest of the scene. (This bonus can only be gained once per scene per wonder.)
The Luminiferous Ether (or Aether) was an interesting and popular scientific theory in the 19th century that explained much of that time's understanding of physics and electromagnetism. When the Ether was conclusively disproven in the early 20th century and then buried by relativity and quantum theory, quite a few scientists were dismayed and horrified at just how complex and goddamn weird the universe turned out to be. Those Inspired who rejected this modern view of physics and other important scientific developments of the 20th century, to the point that they became Unmada, formed the Etherite baramin.
Despite the name, Etherites do not necessarily believe in the Ether itself. What unites the Etherites is what the Ether represented: a grand unified theory that comprehensively explains all of physics, typically without any of that yucky weirdness that modern-day physics entails.
Etherites seize on different self-evident physical absolutes, from baffling subatomic particles to all-explaining biopsychic fields.
So yes, you have Genius' blessing for Lemurian Jedi who really do believe in the Force.
Etherites live and die by their personal theory of everything, insisting on jamming everything they encounter into their model, or for the relatively lucid Etherites adjusting their model to account for the new observations. Blatant contradictions to their model tend to meet with either the Etherite utterly ignoring it (and sufficiently powerful Etherites really can make contrary evidence simply disappear) or with extreme violence. Etherites tend to be touchy and violently reactive about their theories, which combined with their natural affinity for Katastrofi and their grant makes them Lemuria's most destructive agents when firepower is called for.
Appearance: 1895 AD
Favored Axioms: Automata or Prostasia
Grant: A Mechanist's wonders function unusually smoothly. They do not suffer rust or mundane wear-and-tear. Regular wonders gain a +1 bonus to Durability (added after all other sums and multiples) and wonders of Prostasia gain a +1 bonus to their Core Modifier.
If Atomists believe everything can be solved through science and Etherites have a scientific theory that explains everything, Mechanists offer a simpler view of the world: the nature of the universe is simple and mechanical, everything boiling down to simple physical laws and the process of cause and effect. Though the Mechanists only emerged as a full baramin at the end of the 19th century, the idea has been around for a very long time that the universe is ultimately simple and works according to a logical process. Abstract ideas like the soul and free will are irrelevant artifacts of humans reading too much into things.
This is not to say that Mechanists all believe in a literally clockwork universe: the current theory of the day is believing the universe runs on market principles. What they share is a belief in a systemic, mechanical nature of the universe, and Mechanists tend to be coldly inhuman in their insanity, utterly refusing to take responsibility for their actions. They aren't fanatics or utter idealists, they simply and wholeheartedly believe they're not in control of their own actions and indeed that no one is. It's the genetic lottery, one might say, or simply the will of God. Others draw up designs for a God Machine that directs the functions of the universe and creates an illusion of free will.
Mechanists form much of Lemuria's organizational and infrastructural backbone with their natural affinity for planning and organization. They're rarely much for other people, and more than any other baramin Mechanists have a tendency to go into solitary seclusion, preferably in a fortress guarded by an army of robots.
Appearance: 1274 AD
Favored Axioms: Exelixi or Metaptropi
Grant: Oracles possess non-material ways of knowing that are seemingly impossible. They can spend a point of Mania to know, instantly, a specific fact that a specialist in a particular academic or scientific field could gather after several hours' research in a world-class library. (A regular library, not one with hidden treasure maps or schematics for amazing wonders.) If the knowledge is outside the reach of this grant, the Oracle knows so and spends no Mania.
Unlike the previous three baramins, Oracles are a distinctly older, non-technologically based baramin that hearkens back to an earlier view of the cosmos and humanity. They got their start in the classical world, as Aristotle swept aside old Platonic views and the Islamic Golden Age dawned, replacing a mystical view of the universe with something beginning to resemble science and conventional philosophy. Even modern theology is a bit too cut-and-dried for many Oracles, and they grew in power over the centuries as mystics and philosophers in the East and West alike rejected the beginnings of modern science and natural philosophy. Gnosticism, Taoism, and the Kabbalah are all popular with Oracles, and it is not uncommon for Oracles to be genuine priests of older religious traditions from around the world.
Oracles are wonder-workers in an older sense of the word, practicing alchemy and what some genuinely believe to be outright magic in their work rather than mad science (and don't try telling an Oracle that what they're doing is actually a form of science). They're dwindling in number today, as most people who believe in overturning modern science for the betterment of humanity fall into the Atomists and Etherites. Modern Oracles are typically devotees of New Age religions/philosophies, neo-pagan movements, or hardcore anti-intellectual strains of modern religions and philosophies. Others that aren't partial to religion still view the world in more mystical terms, often believing in ideas like geocentrism or psychic powers.
Despite their waning power, Oracles are still the dominant political force in Lemuria as they were for centuries. Given their mystical and often moralistic views of the universe, Oracles almost invariably see the world in black and white terms. Their terminology and way they sort things may differ from Oracle to Oracle, but it is an extraordinarily rare Oracle who grasps the idea of neutrality, moral ambiguity, or subtlety in general.
Appearance: 1939 AD
Favored Axioms: Apokalypsi or Epikrato
Grant: Phenomenologists are blithely unconcerned with concepts like truth and falsehood. By spending a point of Mania, a Phenomenologist automatically receives five successes (an Exceptional Success) on any Subterfuge check. A Phenomenologist can spend Willpower or additional Mania in the same turn that this grant is used.
If truth is in the eye of the beholder, then clearly there is no objective truth at all. This is the fundamental conceit of the Phenomenologists, a philosophical backlash against notions of objectivity and a rational view of the universe. To a Phenomenologist, reality is what you make of it. Certainly it's not down to any claim of truth or fact. The alien power of Inspiration doesn't help their claims to sanity, and Phenomenologists in general are a skip and a hop away from Illumination. Lemurians in general want the world to know about their existence, their power and brilliance, and if there's any overall philosophy to the Phenomenologists beyond a belief that the universe is fundamentally irrational and subjective, it's that if there's any truth to be had in the world it's in the power of Inspiration.
Despite this patent insanity, Phenomenologists can and do find comfortable homes in modern science. Psychology and other social sciences are popular, but economics and theoretical physics are a growing field of interest as well for those Phenomenologists who see past Genius' presentation of them as fishmalks.
Really, they are fishmalks.
Like the foundations, these five baramins are not the whole of Lemuria, just the ones large enough to have a favored axiom and grant. Just going to leave this here.
Numericals, An Incipient Baramin:
Appearance: Earliest evidence comes from September 1993
Favored Axioms: None yet
Grant: None yet
Sometimes we get the future we want, but we never get the future we expect. Go back to the early days of the
personal computer and of the Internet and you see, in the imagination of those digital pioneers, a very
different world from the one we now inhabit, a world of techno-cowboy bit jockies, AI constructs housing the
secrets of international megacorporations, and endless holographic gridlines representing an infinite virtual
expanse. It was supposed to be a realm of superpowers and supergeniuses, where the brilliant would rise
above all others, buoyed by intellect alone.
It was not, many geniuses insist, supposed to be a place where housewives could post pictures of their cats.
Or businessmen could shop for golf shoes. Or where anyone save the Elite should ever be permitted to set
virtual feet, at any time. The Internet, some geniuses insist, has gone astray, replacing a potential
technological Utopia based on merit and ability with more of the same stupidity we get in meatspace. And
from some place between the servers comes an answer, an echo, saying that's true, it should never have been
this way...something went wrong with the Internet. And slowly, a new baramin draws itself into existence.
The Numericals, who consist mostly of rogues, mathematical Artificers, Atomists, and a few disgruntled
Internet Navigators, are not yet a true baramin. They resemble the Atomists of the 1960s, a loose-knit group
of angry and disaffected eggheads just past their prime, watching their visions of paradise fade away. Time
will tell whether they scatter to the winds or form into a true baramin, vengeful, bitter, and determined to get
digital civilization back on track.
Character CreationOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Character Creation
The first parts of character creation for geniuses are standard nWoD stuff: choose your concept, your skills, your attributes, etc. However, there are some notes to the process that may be helpful to the particular needs and concepts of Genius. Intelligence and mental attributes are prized, while the fundamental madness of geniuses means that most severely lack resolve and composure, leaving them psychologically vulnerable.
A genius' Skills often determine what approach he takes to his Inspiration. Mental Skills are often primary,
but which Skills receive the most attention can tell a person much about a mad scientist. Experts in Computer
research artificial intelligence and networks beyond the dreams of MIT or Tokyo Tech, while Inspired who
take up Academics are super-psychologists and philosophers. Students of Medicine are not just doctors, but
biologists, surgeons, and biochemical engineers. Geniuses who focus on Crafts can master everything from
aerospace engineering to transatomic metallurgy, and experts on the Occult can catch amazing glimpses of
worlds far removed from this one. The Science Skill serves as the one field tying these disparate branches of
knowledge together, but some geniuses specialize here, too, becoming renowned theorists among the
The mortal Skills a genius gained before his Breakthrough can also determine his foundation. Psychologists
and people with high Social Skills are likely to become Directors, while experts in Medicine look toward the
Progenitors. High-energy physicists and explorers often end up as Navigators, as do scientists with high ranks
in Drive and/or Survival, while Academics, Investigation, and Occult are important to Scholastics. Fiddlers,
hackers, and craftsmen often join the Artificers and focus on Crafts or Computer. Conversely, a genius may
take the opposite approach, getting picked up by a foundation first, and then fleshing out the most useful
Skills with the help of a tutor.
I don't know how standard this is, but geniuses receive three skill specialties.
Next is adding the genius template, and the standard no overlap between supernaturals applied. Inspiration will never come to a mage, werewolf, vampire, or other supernatural being. Geniuses never Awaken as a mage, experience a werewolf's First Change, cannot turn into a changeling if taken by True Fae, die if a vampire attempts to Embrace them, and a promethean made from a genius is simply a promethean.
Geniuses receive a free dot in a mental attribute of their choice, subject to normal limitations on attributes.
Every genius receives three favored axioms: one predetermined by her catalyst, a choice between two from their foundation or baramin if they belong to one or one of their choice if not, and one purely of their own choice. A favored Axiom costs fewer experience points to increase. Further, a genius receives a +1 bonus to all attempts to build a wonder from one of her favored Axioms. Finally, a genius can buy her favored Axiom up to any level. Non-favored Axioms can be no higher than the genius' Inspiration.
If for any reason a genius develops a derangement, the first derangement is preselected by their catalyst. Subsequent derangements are rolled normally.
Inspiration is the genius' power stat and all geniuses begin with one dot. Additional dots may be purchased with three merit points each.
A beginning genius has three dots in axioms, which must be selected from the genius' favored axioms but can be distributed between them however she wishes, be it three dots in one, one dot in all three, etc.
Seven dots of merits.
Willpower seems to be standard, adding three dice to any roll and may be spent in the same turn that the genius spends Mania.
A genius' flesh is mortal, but her mind is something greater, and the Inspiration enhances more than just her
intellect. It somehow redefines her moral system, elevating her to a position of guardianship or stewardship
over humanity. Though a genius might loathe the common man, she is charged with protecting and guiding
her fellow human beings.
Many of the Inspired have an ideal in their minds: the cool watcher of humanity, aloof from its everyday
affairs but concerned with its development as a whole, not passionate but acting out of compassion for those
teeming masses that deserve the benefits of the genius' work. During the Breakthrough, the genius' mortal
Morality is superseded by this new, stronger sense of Obligation.
Ridiculed by peers and despised by common people, many geniuses nonetheless realize that to abandon their
Obligation to humanity entirely reduces them to cruel and inhuman manipulators, utterly alone and willing to
interact with others only as victims, lackeys, and test subjects.
It's the morality stat.
Virtues and vices are normal.
New geniuses are allowed five rolls to build their first wonders, receiving a +1 to each roll due to them being from favored axioms, and represent the fruits of the genius' initial forays into mad science. However, these first wonders have the following restrictions:
* They cannot be kitbashed, nor can they benefit from extra time spent on their creation.
The genius cannot spend Willpower or Mania.
The genius can internalize or graft these wonders to himself automatically with no additional rolls.
If a "failure" result is obtained at any point, the genius loses the roll but can immediately try again to create the same type of wonder.
The genius can benefit from Beholden Ability, but cannot receive aid from anyone else or anyone else's beholden.
The Assembly Line Merit does not apply to these wonders.
The genius gains the full benefits of her Laboratory Equipment or the collaborative's shared Equipment.
The genius must finish construction of at least one wonder. If he has failed to construct a wonder after five rolls, he gains additional rolls until he finishes at least one wonder.
The genius can scrap wonders with which he is not satisfied at any time during this initial creation process, though making the wonder still costs at least one roll.
The genius can stop making wonders at any time once she has at least one.
Standard DM caveats and options for more advanced gameplay rules are sprinkled throughout - obligation drops for more inspiration, starting with more dots of experience, etc.
Geniuses begin with a full pool of Mania as determined by their Inspiration. Mania is a pool of points that can be spent, not a dot rating.
After that, it's the standard advice for starting up a character and a chronicle - determining who you were before the Breakthrough, how the Breakthrough happened, etc. It's all very par for the course.
What Do You Look Like?
What is your ethnicity? What fashions do you favor? Do you have a separate "mad scientist" wardrobe, or do you
wear regular clothes in the lab? Or do you walk around "in character" when interacting with normal society? Do
you look like a scientist, mad or otherwise, or would be people be surprised if they found out you have a death
ray in your briefcase?
How Hard Was Your Breakthrough?
Was it a process of gradual revelation, or a sudden thunderbolt from the Heavens that burned out most of your
normal-person circuitry? Did you lose your job, your friends, or your mind, or did you manage to hide the
madness? Are you trying to rebuild, trying to hide what has happened, or happy to let your old self disappear?
How Much of "You" Is Left?
Do you view yourself as basically the same person as you were before your Breakthrough, or do you see yourself
as an inhuman mentality inhabiting a mortal body? How certain are you of that assessment―do you feel
comfortable relating the disparate parts of your higher and lower thoughts, or are you tormented by your new,
Who Matters To You?
Are any other geniuses your friends, or just co-workers? Are you married? In love―perhaps unrequited? Do you
have a beautiful daughter? (If so, be careful―if you turn evil she'll probably betray you to the hero and let the
monster eat you.) Do you have an extended family, or a network of friends that care about you, or are you alone
in the world except for your fellow geniuses? Do you have a home, or just a workplace where you spend the
What Are You Working On?
What are your long-term mad science plans? Do you have a half-built time machine that you lack the expertise
to finish lying around the lab? What sorts of wonders do you want to build, once you master the necessary
Axioms? Do you have ambitions in the mortal world―in politics, in finance―or in the weird halls of power
created by the Inspired?
Names among geniuses tend to be standard given that they're [crazy] humans, but most geniuses call themselves Doctor or Professor or the like whether or not they actually have a degree, and many opt for witty or fanciful names and titles based on their field of study like Doctor Horrible or Mister Thinkgood. Asking a genius if they actually have a degree is considered a major faux paus in mad science circles.
Next time, we'll get to the down and dirty of Inspiration, Obligation, and Mania.
Inspiration, Obligation, and ManiaOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Inspiration, Obligation, and Mania
Time for a lot of crunch!
What does Inspiration do for you mechanically? Quite a lot, actually.
First, it determines your maximum Mania and how much Mania you can spend in one turn. More dots in Inspiration, more Mania.
Second, it determines the number of dots in non-favored axioms you can buy. Favored axioms can be bought to any level, but for the other five your maximum number of dots is limited to the number of dots of Inspiration you have. If you somehow have more dots in a non-favored axiom than you have dots of Inspiration (say, by losing dots of Inspiration or changing foundations), you don't get the benefit of the excess axiom dots until your Inspiration grows to match.
Third, through unspecified self-experimentation or sheer power of Inspiration and/or insanity, at Inspiration 6 or higher a genius can increase their attributes and skills past the normal human maximum of five dots.
Fourth, when targeted by supernatural effects, a genius adds their Inspiration to the relevant stat to resist.
Finally, geniuses never suffer penalties from unfamiliar application of a skill due to Inspiration - a genius with the Drive skill is equally adept at driving cars, motorcycles, semis, planes, starships, etc.
Inspiration | Stat Maximum | Max Mania | Max Mania/turn | Jabir Penalty
● 5 10 1 -1
●● 5 12 2 -1
●●● 5 16 3 -1
●●●● 5 20 4 -1
●●●●● 5 25 5 -2
●●●●● ● 6 30 6 -2
●●●●● ●● 7 40 7 -2
●●●●● ●●● 8 60 8 -3
●●●●● ●●●● 9 80 10 -3
●●●●● ●●●●● 10 100 15 -3
Jabir is the genius' sperg mechanic I've referred to before.
As a genius grows more powerful, his Inspiration shines out of him to illuminate the world. This can be a
curse for those mad scientists who want to look more "scientist" than "mad." The genius' Mania begins to
tamper with perception and procedure, skewing any attempt to engage in normal science or to perform
normal experiments. Though the genius himself suffers no penalties―the odd effects from his perception
"cancel out" when brought into conjunction with the odd effects from his behavior―he struggles to
communicate his ideas to others. Modern geniuses call this "technobabble" in an attempt to soften the horror
of the phenomenon, but it's formally known as Jabir, a sudden, paralyzing loss of clarity and coherence when
a genius interacts with a regular mortal.
Any attempt to explain research or to communicate ideas with mere mortals suffers a -1 penalty as the
genius' own Mania scrambles the presentation of his ideas. At Inspiration 5, this penalty grows to -2, and then
to -3 at Inspiration 8. This penalty covers a number of scenarios. It arises if the genius: "talks shop" with a
group of mortal researchers (Presence + Socialize), attempts to cooperate with a group of technicians in fixing
a computer (Intelligence + Computer), defends a new scientific theory (even a mundane one) before a group
of scholars (Wits + Expression), and so on. In general, it is an indicator of how badly a genius can alienate a
crowd once he starts talking about his ideas.
Unmada and Illuminated crunch!
Certain actions, like engaging in Deep Inspiration or transferring excessive Mania to oneself, trigger an
unmada check. To make an unmada check, the genius rolls Obligation.
Dramatic Failure: The genius becomes an unmada.
Failure: The genius becomes an unmada. She can spend a point of Willpower to resist the effect. If she spends
Willpower, the genius instead gains a mild Derangement, or an existing mild Derangement becomes severe,
for the duration of the scene. This Derangement is usually the sort that reinforces the genius' own belief in the
correctness of his worldview: Suspicion, Narcissism, and Avoidance are common.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius feels a brief surge of madness but suffers no ill effects.
Suggested Modifiers: Every additional unmada check in one day (-1), using Deep Inspiration to gain additional
Mania (penalty equals Mania gained), unmada check related to genius' catalyst (+1), unmada check related to
genius' Obligation (+2)
Unmada who trigger an unmada check risk becoming Illuminated. Roll Obligation.
Dramatic Failure: The genius becomes Illuminated.
Failure: The genius becomes Illuminated. She can spend a point of Willpower to resist the effect. If she spends
Willpower, the genius instead automatically loses a dot of Obligation.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius feels something alien slithering behind her eyes but suffers no ill
Once a genius is Illuminated, she can continue to perform actions that grant unmada checks, though she need
not roll. The only exception is Deep Inspiration: an Illuminated cannot attempt Deep Inspiration.
Only Inspired beings can become unmada or Illuminated. Beholden and unInspired manes cannot suffer these
Mania crunch! Stuff you can do with Mania:
● Enhance Mental Attributes. Mania is, among other things, pure intellectual and creative energy. Every point
of Mania grants a +1 bonus to any one Mental Attribute (Intelligence, Wits, Resolve) for one turn. This can be
any Mental Attribute or combination of Mental Attributes. Geniuses who are also Directors can use Mania to
enhance their Social Attributes in exactly the same way. Navigators can similarly enhance their Physical
Attributes with Mania. Only members of these foundations can enhance non-Mental Attributes with Mania.
● Power mundane technology. By manipulating a machine in ways no sane person could, a genius can keep a
machine running even when it has no ordinary power source. How much one point of Mania buys depends on
Lights in a room: 1 day
Flashlight, cell phone: 1 hour
Portable camera: 10 minutes
Computer: 10 minutes
Automobile: 1 hour
Big Truck: 30 minutes
Prop Plane: 10 minutes
Construction Equipment: 10 minutes
Jet: 1 minute
Every time a genius feeds a point of Mania into a machine, roll one ten-sided die. If the result is a 10, the
object immediately loses one-quarter of its Structure as the genius rips the guts out of the machine and
pushes it beyond the limits of its functionality. A genius can only power mundane technology this way;
wonders have their own ways of using Mania.
● Enhance technology. Every point of Mania grants a +1 bonus to any piece of technology in the genius'
possession for one turn. (A "piece of technology" is any object that an intelligent creature has worked or
modified to use; once someone pulls the leaves off a stick to make a club, it's "technology" and can be affected
by Mania.) Roll the bonus dice for enhanced technology separately. Every 10 that is rolled in this pool causes
the tool to lose one-quarter its maximum Structure. (So, four 10s will destroy a tool.) The tool takes damage
after it is used, not before. Mania can be spent to grant additional dice to wonders as well as conventional
● Understand technology. Geniuses have an intuitive understanding of technological items. Spending a single
point of Mania allows a genius to understand the function and nature of any mundane or wondrous piece of
technology, as well as how to turn it on and operate it (to the limit of the genius' Skills). This requires one
turn of exploration and physical contact with the device. It will not reveal hidden functions or who made it,
nor will it allow a genius to do anything she lacks the Skills to do, but this ability can answer important
questions about what an item is and how it is meant to be used.
● Dismantle technology. A genius can make a Dexterity + Crafts check as an attack roll against any wonder,
mane, mundane technological artifact, or miscellaneous super-science artifact. (Entirely organic devices use
Medicine instead of Crafts.) The genius must spend at least one point of Mania to perform this attack, which
represents quickly analyzing and then ripping apart the target. The number of Mania points spent are added
to the attack roll. The attack causes Lethal or Bashing damage and ignores Durability. The Energy Channeler
Merit can turn this into a ranged attack. A target's Defense subtracts from any attack of this sort. Geniuses
often use this technique when faced with high-Durability wonders that are functionally invulnerably to smallarms
● Using and activating wonders. Many wonders of mad science require Mania points before they can be used. The
expenditure usually activates the wonder for a whole scene, though some wonders require Mania for every use. See
the "Mania" entries under each Axiom. A genius can pay the cost to activate a wonder over the course of several
(consecutive or nonconsecutive) turns within a single scene; once enough Mania is in the wonder, it activates.
Personally, I think a lot of these clash pretty badly with the nature of Mania and Inspiration. Inspiration is flatly supernatural and what geniuses do explicitly is not true science or engineering. Yet somehow they have a special affinity for all forms of genuine technology. I appreciate that it's invariably destructive to the machine in question, but I think it's still a case of the writers trying to have their magic/tech cake and eat it, too.
How do you recover Mania? A number of ways.
First, geniuses regain one point of Mania every day because they're "constantly thinking and scheming." Unmada, however, do not. More will be explained in their crunch section later, but Unmada actually lose a point of Mania every day.
A genius can also perform research to generate Mania. "Research" can take several forms: building interesting
but useless gadgets, reading the latest literature, talking with other scientists or researchers, performing
experiments and test-runs, even just standing in front of a blackboard and thinking very hard. A genius with
some kind of "prop" upon which to work (some tools and cogs, a Scientific American she hasn't read before,
another scientist to talk to, or even a note pad and paper) regains one point of Mania per hour of research. A
genius who is simply thinking recovers one point of Mania per two hours. Research dominates a genius' full
attention: she cannot perform research while building wonders, making repairs, conducting investigations, or
even participating usefully in a stake-out or negotiation.
A genius can normally spend up to six hours per day in this kind of research. Every additional hour in one day
requires an unmada check, with a cumulative -1 penalty per additional hour.
Before I Kill You I Will Tell You My Plan:
If the genius has an unwilling person captured and restrained, he can regain a number of Mania equal to his
Inspiration + Presence. This requires at least thirty seconds of ranting and can only be done once per day.
This triggers an unmada check. The act itself is not a transgression, but getting there often is (kidnapping is
an Obligation-6 transgression), and triggering an unmada check is an Obligation-8 transgression.
I Hope This Wasn't Important To You:
The unmada (and only they) have one additional avenue of Mania recovery. Destroying an object of particular
value that the genius disagree with, such as burning an ancient scroll containing "unlawful" secret techniques
or smashing a laptop that was set to broadcast the indiscretions of the unmada's group, nets a number of
Mania equal to the genius' Inspiration + Resolve. This can only be done once per day. Lemurians call this
technique "editing" and use it to dispose of unwelcome ideas and artifacts that contradict their pet theories.
Editing, whatever a genius calls it, is an Obligation-6 transgression.
A genius can spend Mania she doesn't have by reaching deep into her psyche. This is a reflexive action. She
can channel the normal amount of Mania per turn based on her Inspiration. Upon doing so, she makes an
unmada check with a penalty equal to the number of points of Mania channeled.
These additional Mania points do not add to the genius' total Mania score; they must be spent immediately.
Illuminated cannot perform Deep Inspiration.
"Doing Science To It":
Transferring Mania from a "thinking" source to a "motive" one (such as a genius "feeding" Mania to a wonder)
requires that the genius "Do Science To It." This requires physical contact and involved flipping knobs,
removing superficial damage, tightening bolts, and other technological activities that are outside the scope of
mundane technological activity. Going the other way―a wonder "feeding" stored Mania to a genius―requires
"Doing Analysis": analyzing readouts that come out of the machine, measuring it with calipers, and other
behavior that makes no sense from the perspective of normal science but that nonetheless gives the genius
vital insight, which translates as Mania.
I like these, no complaints. They're thematically appropriate and work to encourage thematic mad scientist behavior.
We're now briefly given some uninteresting rules for transferring Mania and functionally they're simple. Geniuses can freely share Mania with each other but run into trouble if they start to receive more Mania than they can normally deal with per turn.
Obligation now crops up again, and it's still the morality stat. While fundamentally insane, most geniuses feel some sense of duty to the rest of the world to do something with their gifts. A genius who truly cares for nothing but herself and her work becomes Illuminated.
10: Allowing one's wonder to risk Havoc. Using
wonders to accomplish a task when it could
have been accomplished just as well with
mundane science or skill. Experimenting on
animals. (Roll five dice)
9: Allowing one's wonder to turn temporarily
orphan. Altering oneself or another person with
mad science, even temporarily (not including
healing). Going a day without human contact.
Minor selfish acts. Performing surgery. (Roll
8: Injury to another (accidental or otherwise).
Failing to help a victimized innocent in need.
Triggering an unmada check in oneself.
Emotional manipulation. Grave-robbing,
dissection, or making zombies. Allowing one's
wonder to turn permanently orphan. (Roll four
7: Petty theft (shoplifting). Allowing an innocent
to die or be seriously injured without making
effort to save the person. Making a person
beholden. Mind control. Experimenting on
willing human subjects (including oneself)
where there is some possibility of harm.
Unintentional mass property damage brought
about by Inspiration. (Roll four dice)
6: Grand theft (burglary). Kidnapping. "Editing" to
gather Mania. Going a week without human
contact. Creating an intelligent machine
(Automata 4+). Body swapping. (Roll three
5: Killing an intelligent being. Intentional, mass
property damage (arson, most doom cannons).
Experimenting on willing human subjects
(including oneself) where there is a serious
possibility of death or harm. Programming
permanent psychological limitations into an
intelligent being. (Roll three dice)
4: Impassioned serious crime (manslaughter).
Sadistic mind control (of the "forcing two
friends to fight for your amusement" variety or
similar acts of cruelty.) Permanently and
significantly altering your physical form
(adding two more arms, etc.) (Roll two dice)
3: Going a month without human contact. Planned
serious crime (murder). Slavery. Experimenting
on unwilling human subjects where there is a
serious possibility of death or harm.
Permanently and entirely altering your physical
form (uploading yourself into a computer or
becoming a giant caterpillar). (Roll two dice)
2: Bringing the dead back to life. Rape or sexual
mind control. Serial murder. Spreading massive
plague and devastation. (Roll one die)
1: Mass murder. Hideous experiments on
unwilling human subjects. Scientific torture.
Genocide. (Roll one die.)
Sucks to be you, AI researchers and especially transhumanists. The Progenitors are boned.
And a few last bits of crunch for this part.
Benefits of Obligation:
A genius with an Obligation of 7 or higher qualifies as a Paragon. People have difficulty imagining that the
genius is up to no good. Even the most maladjusted genius, if he possesses high Obligation, is automatically
seen as a trustworthy authority figure by regular mortals, someone to be admired for his intelligence and
contributions to humanity. The genius gains a +1 bonus to all Social checks when acting from a position of
knowledge or authority. Further, anyone trying to tar the genius' reputation suffers a -3 penalty to the
Drawbacks of Obligation:
Stunted Social Skills:
The Inspired are often awkward and isolated people, and as Obligation falls, this problem grows worse. A
genius with Obligation 5 or higher suffers no penalty. A genius with Obligation 3 or 4 suffers a -1 penalty to all
Social checks, while a genius with Obligation 1 or 2 suffers a -2 penalty.
One of the Illuminated, who has no Obligation, is as charming as any other psychopath and suffers no such
caps, though many are so insane they cannot communicate meaningfully. Directors are also immune to this
disadvantage when they spend Mania to boost their Social Attributes, which only encourages some to neglect
their Obligation further.
The Broken Chains:
Should a genius reach zero Obligation, she becomes one of the Illuminated. Freed from all ethical constraints,
she becomes an abomination of science and forbidden secrets, able to see humans only as victims and objects.
More MeritsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, More Merits
Right off the bat in the merits section we get a detailed addition to the Resources merit. As Genius likes to dwell on, mad science is expensive, mad science doesn't pay the bills, and you're crazy so you don't function well in society. The DM is therefore actively encouraged to fuck with the PCs' sources of income and probably get them fired.
Adopted Orphan (● to ●●●●●):
When a genius dies or abandons an experiment, or a wondrous mane escapes its natural home, the result is
an orphan, a feral wonder that survives by scavenging or stealing Mania. These creatures are often dangerous,
but a genius can instill a sense of loyalty in some such creatures through regular feeding and kindness. Such
orphan wonders are said to be "adopted" by a genius.
This Merit grants a genius one or more such orphan wonders. The genius did not build this wonder. Instead
she acquired it. This means that she need not possess the necessary Axioms or training to build the wonder.
Many mad scientists seek out complementary orphans in order to begin a symbiotic relationship: the genius
provides a regular supply of Mania, while the orphan grants the genius abilities she would not ordinarily
Wonders act like living creatures in some ways, and all wonders are dependent on Mania to exist. Without a genius binding Mania into a wonder, it falls apart. This merit represents a genius with a wonder (or at higher dots, multiple low-rank wonders) that someone else built.
Assembly Line lets a genius use the Mania investment for one wonder to power multiple identical wonders. Say you can build a jetpack for two Mania. At one dot, you can use that two Mania to supply two jetpacks rather than one, and the number of identical jetpacks you can support for two Mania goes up 2/4/8/16/32 with more dots of the merit.
Beholden are, well, ghouls from Vampire. They're the loyal, empty-minded if highly competent minions and assistants to your mad scientists, and completely lack free will, independent thought, or any ability to create or understand a view of the world of their own. They're hollow and empty, and latch on to geniuses who give them purpose and let them understand the world. Yeah, it's as creepy as it sounds and Genius spends no time at all dwelling on the implications.
Mechanically, there's a whole bunch of tables associated with beholden reflecting how many you have and how effective they are at lab work or what genius simply calls "dirty work." In short, beholden can help build wonders and can use them without risk. Want to play Mr. Freeze with his army of goons that are sometimes kitted out in Freeze's own super-science stuff? This is how you do it.
Calculus Vampire lets a genius (or just as often, a mane) siphon Mania and mental skills (drained mental skills are converted into Mania) from willing and unwilling subjects - geniuses, laypeople, wonders, doesn't matter. Supernaturals of all stripes are immune, but anything else with a Mania pool or mental skills is fair game. Doing this, even to a willing subject, is of course an Obligation transgression. How exactly Calculus Vampire works varies from individual to individual, but it always requires physical contact and that the victim be forcibly restrained.
Dumpster Diver lets a genius treat their Resources merit as two dots higher when building wonders, provided they have a source of refuse to sift through for parts. Very popular with the Artificers, seen as undignified by Directors and Lemurians.
Energy Channeler lets a genius transfer Mania or use Mania to empower or damage technology at range. Yawn.
Generator (● to ●●●●●):
The genius possesses an object that generates Mania. These extraordinary devices are found, not made, and
represent peculiar relics of mad or sane-but-terrifying science: alien elemental dynamos, self-transforming
equations scribbled in forgotten notebooks, mundane objects "imprinted" with the energy of scientific
breakthroughs, highly radioactive atomic piles, and radios for talking to God. These strange one-off devices
exist partly in our world and partly in the realm of Idea, and some have been fought over by mad scientists for
generations or millennia.
The amount of Mania generated per day and the maximum amount of Mania it can store depends on the
Generator's Size and rank.
I'm honestly surprised Genius doesn't encourage the DM to fuck with these things should a PC take one.
Kitbasher negates penalties for kitbashing wonders. No, the game hasn't told us how to build wonders yet, let alone kitbash them.
Laboratory is the standard big, complicated merit representing a place of your own. One dot in any category makes it equivalent to a garage lab. Five dots is a supervillain's volcano fortress.
Mane ... Hoo boy. Forget the standard stuff about geniuses, you are officially not human if you take this merit. You're a thing of Inspiration and Mania, a product of super-science or a seemingly normal resident of a bardo at the most mundane. On the upside, you get Calculus Vampire for free and can spend Mania to heal yourself. On the downside, you don't receive a Mania point every day and you're susceptible to Havoc (which means even shaking hands with a normal person can kill you). Mane comes in three dots: one makes you utterly inhuman-looking, two makes you largely human but with an obviously unnatural feature or two, three makes you look completely normal.
Science Hero , yeah Genius went there. Jabir penalties are reduced and you get a bonus to social skills if you have very high Obligation.
Technomancer lets a genius freely convert metanormal energy (Glamour, Vitae, etc) into Mania and vice versa. A genius can't hold non-Mania energy at all, but they can immediately discharge that energy for something that requires it. If the Technomancer also has Calculus Vampire, they can drain metanormal energy as well.
Tenure is mostly a role-playing merit, but also has a benefit for wonder-making that we'll get into later.
Universalist lets a genius use another genius' wonders without penalty. More dots in this merit lets you use higher-dot wonders.
Utility Belt (● to ●●●●●):
A Utility belt is a handheld device (Size 2) that grants a genius a +1 bonus when working on wonders. All
utility belts grant a +1 to Science. Each rank in this Merit grants the genius another +1 bonus with one other
Skill: Academics, Computer, Crafts, Medicine, or Occult. This bonus is typically used to build and repair
wonders, but it can be used for mundane applications of the Skill too. A Utility Belt also removes the
rank/Resources penalty due to kitbashing. (See Kitbashed Wonders, Page 138.)
Utility belts are portable while laboratories are not, but utility belts (which are not always belts; some
Inspired prefer tool cases or rucksacks) cannot be combined with a lab's Equipment bonus. They are most
popular with geniuses on the move. A genius cannot use another genius' utility belt.
Technomancer can potentially raise a lot of eyebrows if you're trying to crossover Genius with a regular WoD game line, and Mane is extremely problematic due to the Havoc issue. Everything else is fairly run of the mill, and I think systems like Beholden are in other game lines.
WondersOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Wonders
Time for a whole lot of crunch.
Wonders are a genius' "inventions," products of Inspiration and Mania. Without wonders, a lone genius is little different from a baseline human. She has a longer lifespan, is resistant to supernatural attacks, can screw with technology, and is a major sperg, but nothing really significant. Wonders are what changes that, and building them is a complicated process.
Building wonders is akin to making magic items in D&D: fairly simple if all you want is a laser gun, but can get faintly ridiculous if you want something more complicated and you probably do. Hope you like playing an artificer from 3.5E!
First, you need Resources equal to the dot rank of the wonder you want to build (per its relevant axiom). Every dot less of Resources incurs a -1 penalty to the dice roll. Yes, making wonders comes down to a dice roll. A genius also needs materials to work with, tools to build with, and time to design and build it - if you simply don't have one of those things, you can't build a wonder and the DM is encouraged to add penalties for things like noisy neighbors, slow internet speed, and a pet cat that gets in the way when it wants attention. However, if you have the Laboratory merit or access to someone else's, you get a +1 to the roll for every dot of Laboratory Equipment (a subfield of the merit I glossed over) the lab has. In a rare display of generosity, a genius is assumed to automatically have all the basic bulk material for the wonder from the Resources merit, whether that means organic sludge for biological wonders or gears for clockwork wonders or what have you.
The dice pool for building a wonder is Inspiration + Attribute + Skill. Intelligence is the default Attribute, but when kitbashing Wit is used instead. Which skill is used is mostly down to DM fiat but is given the following guidelines:
Academics: Any wonder designed to engage in mind control or sociological manipulation or analysis. Any
wonder that manipulates or analyzes probabilities. Any four- or five-dot Automata wonder. Any mind-reading
or thought-projecting wonder of Apokalypsi, or any entirely organic wonder of Apokalypsi.
Computer: Any wonder of Automata not entirely organic. Any wonder of Apokalypsi except except those built
to detect or project thoughts or that are entirely organic. Any wonder that can manipulate or seize control of
Crafts: Any wonder defined primarily by its structure and shape, including all wonders of Katastrofi not
entirely organic and all Skafoi vehicles not entirely organic. Any wonder of Automata that possesses
manipulators or the ability to move and that is not entirely organic. Any wonder of Prostasia not entirely
organic or based on "shield" or "screen" technology. Any wonder designed to upgrade, repair, or transmute
mechanical, electronic, or other non-living devices.
Medicine: Any wonder made out of organic material. Any wonder that uses poison, or that deploys or launches
organic material. Any wonder designed to perform healing, surgery, or biological shape-changing or
manipulation. Any wonder of Automata with organic components.
Occult: Any wonder of Automata that was once a corpse. Anything that explicitly targets a metanormal being
Science: Any wonder of Katastrofi that emits rays, beams, or energy rather than physical particles to cause
damage. Any wonder of Katastrofi that deals Aggravated damage. Any wonder of Skafoi of rank 3 or higher.
Any wonder of Prostasia that uses "shields," "screens," or other non-physical means of protection. Any
wonder that manipulates the weather. Any wonder that employs telekinesis. Any wonder of Metaptropi. Any
wonder where no other Skill applies.
If multiple skills apply (say, you're using Prostasia to create a tribble that projects a force field when petted), you use the lowest relevant skill - so for the shield tribble, it's whichever of Medicine or Science is lower.
Then it's time to figure out how long building it takes. Minimum is one day, but there are steps shorter than that if other modifiers are in play. How long it takes is based on how big the wonder is.
N/A. One turn
N/A. One minute
N/A. One hour
0-5: One day
6-10: One week
11-15: One month
16-20: One year
21-25: One decade
30+ (small warship): 100 years
Destroyer or cruiser: 1,000 years
Battleship or carrier: 10,000 years
City-size: 100,000 years
Death Star: 1,000,000 years
If a genius works double-time (12 hours a day), the time it takes to build is halved but an Unmada check is forced.
Contrariwise, if a genius increases her time taken by one step, she receives a +1 bonus to the roll.
Kitbashing wonders has been talked about for a while, but it means hastily throwing a wonder together from whatever's at hand, taking one to three steps less time than normal. Kitbashing uses Wits rather than Intelligence, and inflicts a -2 penalty to the roll for one-step reductions, -4 for two steps, and -6 for three steps. If the genius doesn't have access to a lab or utility belt, she suffers an additional -1 penalty per dot of the wonder (this is where the Dumpster Diver merit comes into play). Kitbashed wonders also still require the basic raw materials to build the wonder appropriate to its size. However, kitbashed wonders are fragile and quickly fall apart, lasting for one day for one-step, one scene for two-step, and turns equal to the genius' Inspiration for three-step. Beyond that, a genius can expend one point of Mania to lengthen the wonder's lifespan for another cycle.
Mania and Willpower:
A genius can spend both Mania and Willpower on building a wonder, if desired. A genius can spend an
amount of Mania on building a wonder equal to his per-turn expenditure (based on Inspiration), and can
spend up to one point of Willpower.
Wonder Rank and Bound Mania:
A wonder has a rank equal to the highest number of Axiom dots in the Axiom or Axioms needed to create the
wonder. This is always the dot score of the "primary" Axiom; for example, to build an illusion-generating
machine, Metaptropi 2 is needed. Automata can be added to make these illusions self-sufficient or capable of
learning, but the Automata score does not matter, only the Metaptropi score: Metaptropi 2 yields a rank-2
wonder. Likewise, a jet plane made with Skafoi 3 that is normal-looking (a variable that geniuses can apply to
their wonders, and that requires Metaptropi 1 to select) is a rank-3 wonder because jets are built at Skafoi 3,
not a rank-1 wonder because of Metaptropi, nor a rank-4 wonder because you've added the numbers
A wonder's rank determines how many points of Mania must be bound into it in order to sustain its
functioning. A wonder needs a number of bound Mania points equal to its rank. (Some wonders with special
abilities also require additional bound Mania.)
These bound Mania are "locked up"; they cannot be used, accessed, or regained while the wonder still exists.
So, a genius with one dot of Inspiration and ten Mania points, who has built three one-dot wonders, has seven
Mania points available to him.
Even if a wonder is destroyed or becomes an orphan, the genius does not immediately regain the Mania
bound to the wonder. She gains the ability to regain those Mania points, however, and the Mania returns at
the normal rate.
Good news for the not terminally maladjusted geniuses: other people can help build your wonders. To briefly skim through things, other geniuses apply Teamwork benefits as normal to the wonder construction roll, every dot of Beholden Ability (another subtable for that merit) adds to the genius' roll, automatons and manes can only contribute a Teamwork die if they have three dots in the relevant skill for the wonder, and a genius can't borrow another's axioms for building something - you want that go-kart with a tesla cannon, you need Skafoi and Katastrofi yourself. Getting help can also make wonders build faster: one step for one extra person, two steps for 2-5, three steps for 6-11, four steps for 12-29, and five steps for 30+.
You can also integrate mundane technology into wonders, provided you have the relevant Resources and ability to purchase such equipment - say, adding a coaxial machine gun to that tesla cannon, as long as the mundane technology is only something added to the supernatural core of the wonder. You can't add a coaxial tesla gun to a heavy machine gun. Given the nature of wonders, though, the operations of mundane technology bolted on to wonders suffer a -1 penalty per dot of the axiom used to build the wonder. The one exception to all of this is that Apokalypsi stuff works just fine with the internet, telephones, and the like.
Larvae are an additional mechanic that boils down to "Power your machine with the heart of a forsaken child, suffer Obligation transgression and get bonuses."
Rolling the Dice:
At the conclusion of the design time, the genius rolls:
Inspiration + Attribute + Skill + Laboratory Equipment + Beholden Ability - Wonder Rank
Add an additional die if the wonder is of the genius' favored Axiom.
Dramatic Failure: The wonder activates as an orphan. It possess at least one fault, perhaps more, as
determined by the Storyteller. The wonder immediately turns against its creator and tries to escape, if
Failure: The genius is unable to complete the wonder. Immediately roll again.
Dramatic Failure: The wonderful activates as an orphan, as if the Genius rolled a Dramatic Failure on
the previous roll.
Failure: The Genius needs some vital ingredient that he does not possess to continue development.
The Storyteller may allow the sacrifice of one dot of Resources to obtain this ingredient more or less
immediately. Otherwise the genius will have to find it through investigation, legwork, and perhaps a
visit to the Lemurians, whose possession of rare and weird ingredients is legendary.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius fails to construct the wonder. He can try again. Since
wonder-construction is not an extended action, successes do not transfer over to the next attempt.
Success: The genius completes the wonder. It possesses one fault.
Exceptional Success: The genius completes the wonder. Further, the genius may choose between two faults
that the Storyteller offers. (Geniuses who belong to the College of Scholastic Theory may choose from among
Yes, you're expected to repeatedly fail to build wonders, contributing to the game's stated mood of bitter disappointment. You can't make every brilliant idea a reality, and some are going to [probably literally] blow up in your face when you try.
On the upside, Genius now clarifies that you can stop and resume work on a wonder at any time without penalty.
Faults are irritating quirks and flaws that crop up in almost every wonder - we'll see what kind of faults are presented as default when we get to axioms. The game encourages faults to be worrisome to the genius but not so much so that the genius doesn't simply refrain for using the wonder. However, if a genius has a higher Inspiration than the wonder's rank, rolls an exceptional success when making it, and binds twice the normal Mania into the thing, then her wonder in question has no fault. In addition, if a wonder ever develops more than five faults, it breaks down entirely and is destroyed.
A bunch more rules I won't detail unless someone's interested, concerning damaging, repairing, and modifying wonders. Only interesting bit to building one in the first place is that a destroyed wonder can be salvaged to grant +1 to the roll to make a new wonder of similar design.
Then more rules about creating wonders from schematics and established procedures (which grant bonuses to making the specified wonder) and creating said schematics and procedures.
Next we'll briefly cover general wonder variables before diving into the axioms and what they can do.
General Wonder VariablesOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, General Wonder Variables
Now that we know how to build wonders, it's time to start looking at options beyond basic functionality. Variables in Genius are special quirks and functions that can be assigned to wonders when building them, usually making the wonder easier to build if the variable is a penalty, or harder to build if the variable is a bonus. Each axiom has a long list of their own variables we'll get into with each axiom, but we'll start with the general variables that can apply to most any wonder.
Basilisk Method means that people have to look at the wonder when it is used for it to work - it's a medusa's gaze or a neuralyzer from the Men in Black movies. Looking away or just closing your eyes protects you from a basilisk wonder, and there's a long list of rules about how to apply that in mechanical terms, but basilisks do work through mirrors and real-time video links. Basilisks grant a bonus to the construction roll.
Charge-up Time is what it sounds like. The wonder takes between three turns and a full day to power up, with an increasing bonus to construction as the charging time increases. To prevent the most obvious cheap tricks, charging a wonder requires the genius' full attention, and the charge is only retained for a scene.
Collapsible requires Metatropi 1 and lets the wonder shrink down when not in use and expand again when desired. Just how far a genius can shrink a wonder depends on her dots in Metatropi - at five dots, any wonder can be reduced to size zero. Yes, you can have a space battleship shrunk down to microscopic levels.
Concealed lets you disguise a wonder as a mundane piece of technology, though its true nature will still be revealed when it activates. That garage door opener isn't going to fool anyone when it starts shooting lasers at people, though it looks like a perfectly innocuous garage door opener unless someone starts fiddling with it and concealed wonders are more difficult to detect as products of mad science. Concealed adds a penalty to construction.
Fragile is self explanatory. The wonder has no durability and will injure its holder if and when it's destroyed (and Katastrofi wonders do extra damage). Unless you have Metatropi 1 and choose otherwise, fragile wonders always look the part. Adds a bonus to construction, though.
Grafted makes the wonder a permanent implant to someone, though grafting wonders to mortals triggers a Havoc check. Does add a bonus to construction, which is increased if the grafted wonder can't be concealed.
In Pill Form makes it a one-shot expendable wonder like a potion, and can't trigger Havoc even when used by mortals unless they start fiddling with it beforehand.
Integral lets you start attaching one wonder to another. If you want to be Iron Man, you'll probably start with a Prostasia wonder for the suit itself, then add separate integral wonders for the weapons, flight systems, sensors, etc. Grants a bonus to construction, and a genius can build a wonder integral to another genius' wonder. You can't, however, make an integral wonder to another integral wonder. No nested dolls here.
Internalized wonders are inside a living person's body - rewriting brain chemistry, turning yourself into Wolverine, etc. Internalized wonders must be size 0.
Limited Use is another self-explanatory variable, offering a bonus to construction that increases the less times the wonder can be used. Can't be combined with In Pill Form.
Mania Cost lets you modify the amount of Mania a wonder costs to use. Get bonuses to construction if you increase the Mania cost of the wonder, and penalties if you decrease.
Normal-Looking (requires Metaptropi 1):
The wonder looks like a normal object of its type. Without this Variable, wonders have a distinct "mad
science" look to them. Even a simple Katastrofic knife does not look like a regular bayonet: it might possess an
unusual metallic hue, an unlikely shape, or have a big battery bolted onto the side. Vehicles look, at best, as
normal as Doc Brown's DeLorean in Back to the Future, and usually look like nothing that should be driving
down a suburban road. These items call out for poking and prodding, which may trigger Havoc.
This variable makes a wonder look like a normal specimen of its genus: a Katastrofi-based ray gun might look
pretty much like a modern automatic pistol, while a supersonic rocket-craft that can travel into other realities
resembles a normal airliner, perhaps of slightly unusual make, but recognizable as "some kind of jet" rather
than "some sort of whacked-out mad science invention." An Apokalypsi scanner looks like a digital
thermometer or radar display rather than some crazy analysis unit covered in blinking lights that keeps
shouting "Danger! Danger!"
Wonders with no natural analog, such as Metaptropi transmuter, gain a more respectable and mundane look:
an Epikrato controller or hologram machine might resemble some kind of metal detector or an unfamiliar
wrist-mounted device, and can blend in well enough to be dismissed as some kind of gadget rather than
something obviously weird.
There is no penalty for this variable.
Peculiar Requirement is what it sounds like. Say your laser gun is powered by reflected sunlight from the moon and therefore requires that you be able to see the moon to use it, or your mind control device requires that both you and the subject be taking a bath. Adds a bonus to construction.
Resilient makes the wonder resistant to Havoc, adding a growing penalty to construction the more resistant to tampering it is.
Size is another big silly chart. Make a wonder bigger or smaller, and gain a penalty or bonus depending on whether increased size is a boon or a hindrance.
Shapeshifting Wonder requires Metatropi 4 and gets rules later.
Slow Reload is self-explanatory and gives an increasing bonus based on just how slow the reload is.
Next, we dive into our first proper axiom! Five dots lets you scan other dimensions and timelines, and get the "Ask the DM a question that must be answered as straightforwardly as the question permits" power.
AutomataOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Automata
It's alive! It's ALIIIIIIVE!
That's what this axiom boils down to, creating artificial life. Whether that means compliant and non-sentient robots, self-aware AI, zombies, houseplants that secrete pure cocaine, or a new human species, this is the axiom to do it. In general, anything that can act on its own without direct human input requires Automata.
Mechanical brains, AIs, and robots all use Computers to build, organic and formerly organic beings need Medicine to get them up and thinking, Au-4 and higher automatons need Academics to give them a functional psychology, and automatons made from corpses require Occult.
Factories can be constructed as well, and they require any relevant skills to build their products, Craft for physical objects, Medicine for living things, and Academics for intelligent wonders.
There's a whole slew of rules regarding how to design and upgrade your creations, and in short their abilities end at about human level. For enhanced senses beyond human limitations, weapons beyond bashing with a convenient appendage, or the like, you need integral wonders of the relevant axiom or graft on mundane technology.
All automatons require 1 point of Mania per day to function and suffer no ill effects if they go dormant.
Each tier includes a bunch of rules and details about precisely what a given tier of automata can and cannot do, but I'll skip over these unless someone's curious.
Automata 1 allows for simple trigger-based devices. Nothing really capable of acting on its own, but able to follow if/then instructions.
Automated factories can also be constructed with Automata, and at this rank are only capable of producing one specific task. What factories are capable of manufacturing, if provided the necessary materials, depends on the genius' Craft skill. Rank 1 in Craft means a factory that can't work with metal. Rank 5 means factories capable of producing modern 21st century technology.
Organic factories can't produce living things, but they can produce processed organic materials.
Artificial limbs are also possible at this rank, and get a bunch of rules I don't think anyone cares about.
Finally, at rank 1 Automata a genius can make a Mania-powered computer that has all the functionality of a regular computer but give an Equipment bonus based on the genius' Inspiration and rank of Automata.
Automata 2 is zombie-level intelligence. These automata are capable of understanding and following simple instructions but are extremely literal-minded and incapable of reasoning or independent thought. They're also completely loyal to their creator, and if a genius tells one to accept commands from someone else the automaton will default to the genius' commands if its maker and the second person come into conflict.
Factories at this level can produce simple living creatures: bacteria, fungi, and plants based on the genius' Science skill. One dot is algae and bacteria. Four is trees. Five is entirely new species.
Automata 3 is animal-level intelligence, comparable to a dog or monkey. Au-3 automatons are intelligent enough to have their own initiative and reasoning, and while they might make mistakes they're generally well-intentioned.
Factories at this level can produce living, though unintelligent, animals based on the genius' Medicine or Science skill (whichever is lower). One dot is insects and the like. Four is unusually intelligent animals like ravens or dolphins. Five is new species.
Fodder for these factories comes from an organic slurry that's up to the genius to provide - Genius suggests grinding up stray cats. Additionally, all animals produced by Automata factories (and presumably the plants from Au-2 factories though that's not addressed) are manes.
Automata 4 is human-level intelligence, though the people produced at this tier start as blank slates without any capacity for initiative or independent thought. However, that can change depending on the whims of the genius and the DM...
Factories at this tier are full-on cloning vats and using one is an Obligation-6 transgression. One dot of Academics, Medicine, or Science can only produce infants. Five is designer people full-grown. Like with Au-3 animals, people produced this way are manes.
Automata 5 is superhuman intelligence on par with the geniuses themselves, and that's before they get Inspired which many of them do.
Factories at this tier can build wonders, though the Mania cost of doing so can get very high very quickly.
Automated Repair requires Exelixi 1 and gives an automaton passive self-repair abilities but adds a penalty to construction. Cannot be combined with Biological (I personally disagree with this and would waive that, justifying it as automatic cellular regeneration).
Biological makes an automaton a living creature, exchanging the various perks of being a robot like not needing to breathe for the ability to heal at the normal human rate.
Brain Backup gives the automaton a backup tape of its brain, letting the genius reset its memories and mind or restore them after the automaton's destruction.
Cannot Move is what it sounds like and grants automation points (part of rules I skipped, in short it gives the automaton more points to buy other abilities or improved functionality or the like).
Contact Trigger is for Au-1 wonders only and makes the wonder go off when touched. Tripwires, mines, etc.
Control Surface requires Skafoi 1 and lets the automaton be piloted like a vehicle.
Craniac is scooping out a person's brain to put in a new one of the genius' design. This is of course a major transgression and probably murder (though Epikrato 5 can "merely" wipe the brain clean of its existing mind and let a new one be programmed in).
Decentralized Anatomy is the favorite of DMs everywhere who hate people with sneak attack and downgrades many forms of lethal damage (notably bullets) to bashing.
Dexterous Limbs creates super-agile limbs.
Durable is what it sounds like and cannot be combined with Biological (again, I disagree).
Dynamic Factory lets a factory produce more than one specific type of object.
Extra Manipulators gives an automaton three or more limbs beyond the default setting of two.
Free Roaming requires Apokalypsi 1 and makes the automaton a computer program, mental simulation, etc that resides in a computer or mass of nervous tissue and has a slew of rules attached.
Increased Manipulator Range makes the automaton's limbs longer or otherwise adds a tractor beam or some such.
Limited Battery Life is again what it sounds like.
Looks Human makes an automaton... look human.
Low Intelligence creates an automaton with the power and flexibility of an automaton of one tier, but the intelligence or lack thereof of a lower tier. Bigger bonuses the further you downgrade.
Low-Light Vision requires Apokalypsi 1 and is self-explanatory.
Mute is only applicable to tier 4 and 5 automata and explicitly forbids easy workarounds like a text-based screen or telepathy.
Night Eyes requires Apokalypsi 1 and makes Low-Light Vision completely redundant.
No Fine Manipulators means an automaton has limbs comparable to tentacles or paws rather than something like a human hand.
No Manipulators yeah you know what this does.
Normal Power Source means an automaton doesn't run on Mania and instead plugs into a normal power source for an hour each day. Does not forbid being used with Biological, oddly enough, for all you Matrix and Lin Kuei Cyber Initiative fans.
No Senses is what it sounds like, though integral Apokalypsi wonders may be used as a workaround.
Only One Manipulator is yet another self-explanatory variable and makes me think there maybe should have been a table regarding limb functionality.
Remote Control requires Apokalypsi 1 and, well, lets the automaton be controlled remotely.
Size lets a genius customize the automaton's size.
Smartification Node is a science thingy you can attach to an animal to make it smarter and is usually combined with Uplift below.
Strong Limbs makes super-strong limbs.
Uplift erases a living creature's mind to turn it into an automaton, usually combined with a Smartification Node. Doing something similar to humans creates a Craniac instead, discussed earlier.
Wheels replaces an automaton's default legs with... wheels.
Sample Automata faults!
1. The wonder is a bit unhinged. It suffers from one mild Derangement.
2. The wonder is very unhinged. It suffers from one major Derangement or two minor Derangements.
3. The wonder is physically shaky. It suffers a -1 penalty to all Dexterity actions related to manual actions.
4. The wonder radiates a sense of "wrongness" that offends all living things. Mortals grow edgy and irritable
around the wonder, and animals act fearful or aggressive.
5. The wonder emits a kind of low-level radiation that damages the world around it, spreading plague,
disfigurement, and disease for as long as it remains in one place out to 100' per rank. This is too subtle to
cause damage, but it will result in still births, sickly plant life, and even out-of-control storms.
6. The wonder interprets commands with bloody-minded, almost spiteful, literalness.
7. The wonder is highly susceptible to mental influence. It suffers a -5 penalty to resist metanormal control
and command, such as a mage's Mind Arcana or a vampire's Dominate powers.
8. The wonder requires some sort of "living" fuel, from blood to live mice to human souls, to continue
functioning. Every day that goes by without feeding, the wonder suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to all actions,
until it shuts down at -5.
9. The wonder is not particularly loyal. It will side with a genius with higher Inspiration if the other genius
asks and succeeds on a competing Manipulation + Persuasion check.
10. The wonder requires a special condition to keep functioning. Roll on the special conditions chart, below
See the special conditions chart in my post on Apokalypsi.
EpikratoOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Epikrato
Epikrato, the Axiom of Control, has a bad reputation in the Peerage and with good reason. While it's capable of other things, Epikrato's signature ability is mind control, and even its other functions tend to come across as weird and profoundly unscientific - telekinesis, weather control, probability manipulation, and more. Many experts at Epikrato like to further play this up by grafting and internalizing their wonders, granting them what look for all the world to be psychic powers.
Unmada and especially Lemurians love it, though, for the same reasons the Peers dislike it. Unmada take "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" as a mission statement, and Epikrato lets them make their reality yours as well.
Conventional mind-control Epikrato wonders use Academics, mind control through manipulation of brain chemicals, meat puppetry and the like use Medicine, and Science is for wonders controlling the physical world.
There's a bunch of rules for opposing Epikrato, though wonders that simply affect the physical world not in someone else's possession, like a handheld tractor beam, don't involve opposed rolls.
Epikrato 1 is simple feats of seeming telekinesis, remotely controlling physical objects to do something they are naturally capable of. A genius can use this to open a door but not rip it off its hinges, for example. Unattended physical objects are all fair game, though trying to seize control of and use a machine requires a relevant skill. Remotely operating someone's laptop to hack into its files requires Computer, for example. If the genius also has an Apokalypsi-1 communicator with access to another machine, E-1 wonders can work through that.
Epikrato 2 is tractor beams, telekinesis, and the like, and we get a big table covering how much material an E-2 wonder can move and how fast. We also get some rules about using this to attack people, either by flinging objects at the person or flinging the person at something.
However, this is also the tier where taking control of someone's body becomes a possibility, by forcibly moving their body around like a puppet. Alternatively, by yanking on a particular nerve or moving some chemicals around E-2 wonders can force someone into unconsciousness, a berserk rage, or fleeing at top speed.
Not providing the specific rules unless anyone's interested.
Epikrato 3 is full-on mind control, and is always a Transgression when used on a sentient being. However, it's very difficult to force a mind-controlled subject into self-harm or suicide, even by telling them to stand still while another genius lines up a shot with their death ray, and even more so to force someone into what would normally trigger a Degeneration check by violating their moral principles and character. It can still be done with great difficulty, but fortunately for the victim any ethical violations committed while mind controlled do not trigger Degeneration - that check is merely used as a guideline for what the subject will violently resist doing with everything they have.
Other applications of E-3 are draining people of willpower, and the old psychic invisibility trick of making the genius not actually invisible but instead making other people simply not register their presence.
Epikrato 4 is large-scale probability control. Hoo boy, though each of these is at least a separate and distinct wonder...
Wealth and the Market:
The genius can manipulate her or other people's Social Merits. Merits that can be targeted include: Allies,
Contacts, Fame, Mentor, Resources, Retainer, and Status. She can also control Beholden Number, Generator,
Tenure, and any other Merit that is based on wealth, status, or windfalls.
The genius rolls Manipulation + Politics and spends an hour of work ( a minute at -2, or a turn at -4; very
short spans of time may be deemed impossible by the Storyteller). If attacking another person who does not
want to be influenced, the genius rolls vs. the target's Resolve + Composure + the highest Merit dot that the
genius is targeting.
If the genius wants to manipulate crowd density, this requires one hour (one minute at -2, or one turn at -4)
and a Manipulation + Politics check.
Movement of People and Things:
The genius can also influence specific people or things, causing them to move about. This is nothing so crude
as telekinesis or teleportation. Instead, events conspire to move people or things where the genius wants
them to go. This requires one hour of work (one minute at -2, or one turn at -4) and a Manipulation + Politics
check, with a -1 penalty for every object to be moved at the same time past the first. If attempting to move a
person who does not want to move, the Manipulation + Politics check is vs. the subject's Resolve +
Metanormal Advantage. The genius must know the target's current location in order to use this ability.
The genius can cause noticeable changes in large public events, such as elections, stock markets, and large
social gatherings. The time taken depends on the number of people involved in the event.
We're told that people (and probably vampires) will immediately deduce unnatural involvement in that last one and most likely pay the genius a hostile visit. How they would deduce it's the result of a mad scientist playing with probability and determine which mad scientist it is are questions left to the DM to answer.
Weather control also becomes an option at this point, though we're likewise immediately told that any unnatural weather patterns will be noticed, determined to be from an E-4 wonder, and met with an angry and probably lethal response.
Finally, in a use of E-4 not immediately pissing off vaguely described people who somehow know how and why strange things happened and who did it, an E-4 wonder can add or subtract dice from a dice pool by twisting the probability of specific discrete events occurring.
Epikrato 5 allows for total mind domination, editing and transferring memories, personalities, and consciousness at will. This is almost always a serious Transgression, but can do things like reduce a genius' Inspiration (or any other supernatural's comparable power stat), edit someone's Morality/Obligation/what-have-you, turn someone Beholden or a Beholden normal, edit someone's personality as the genius pleases, swap minds between subjects (willingly or otherwise), completely erase someone's mind, and similar feats.
Epikrato Ray turns the wonder's effect into a ray that must hit its target rather than an emanation that automatically hits. Rays are more powerful than simple emanations, but have to roll to actually hit.
Invisible Effect makes the wonder have no noticeable effect. We're now told that every Epikrato wonder produces some sort of weird light or sound effect unless you take this variable, which adds a penalty to construction.
Long Range yeah.
Many Minds lets any mind-affecting Epikrato device affect multiple people. The more people it can affect, the steeper the penalty to construction.
One-Purpose Manipulator grants a bonus to construction at the price of narrowing what the wonder does or who it can affect, say by making an E-2 wonder only inflict fear or the wonder only affect normal humans.
Weather Manipulator is similar and uses the advanced rules for weather control I skipped over. The narrower the focus of what it can do, the bigger the bonus to construction.
Well that was short.
Sample Epikrato faults!
1. The effect ends suddenly if the subject is exposed to a particular, common element, such as wood or silver.
2. The invasive control of a person causes mental instability in the user. For the extent of the control and for
one day afterward, the user suffers from a mild Derangement, or a preexisting mild Derangement becomes
3. The control is physically taxing on the user. When operating the wonder, the genius suffers one level of
Bashing damage, plus one additional level per minute of use.
4. That infuriating concept, "goodness of heart," makes the subject more difficult to control. Subjects with
Morality (or equivalent) 7 gain a +3 bonus to resist the wonder; subjects with a score of 8+ are entirely
5. The godlike control over the world strips the genius of moral integrity. He cannot regain Willpower from
his Virtue for one week after using the wonder.
6. The effect may surge wildly out of control. If the genius rolls a Exceptional Success, the effect surges,
growing dangerous and impossible to control: a love-struck subject becomes insane with lust, a trick meant to
summon a person instead summons his entire family, etc.
7. The subject remembers his control as explicitly unnatural and will almost certainly resent the user of the
8. Animals grow fearful due to the wonder’s power. Whoever uses the wonder suffers a -5 penalty to Animal
Ken, with the effect reducing by one point per day. If the user's Presence + Animal Ken pool is reduced to a
chance die, animals attack on sight.
9. Using the wonder causes mental instability in the user. While operating the wonder and for one day
afterward, the user suffers from a mild Derangement, or a mild Derangement is upgraded to Severe.
10. The effect only works when the subject meets one of the special conditions. Roll on the special conditions
ExelixiOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Exelixi
The popular nickname for Exelixi, the Axiom of Restoration, is not entirely accurate. This is the axiom used to build healing machines, yes, but it's capable of much more than that. Fundamentally, Exelixi improves things. Stimulant drugs, strength-amplifying exoskeletons, and even resurrection are all to be found in this axiom.
Medical and healing devices require Medicine, resurrection devices require Occult, and devices designed to work on machines require Craft or Computer as appropriate. Wonders designed to work on biological creatures and wonders designed to work on machines are two separate wonders. By default, Exelixi wonders have a range of touch.
Exelixi 1 is basic healing and repairs, mending lethal and bashing damage. Nothing fancy, and can't touch aggravated damage.
Ex-1 wonders can also cure non-supernatural diseases, with the difficulty increasing based on the the severity of the disease. Curing a cold is simple enough, but curing something like AIDS or most forms of cancer is difficult at this stage.
Also an option is an Ex-1 wonder to create a life support system, providing food, water, and air for a number of people determined by the wonder's difficulty rating. If installed in a spaceship, Genius pays a nice bit of attention to detail by specifying that it prevents bone degradation due to long-term exposure to low gravity (or you can use an Epikrato-2 wonder to provide artificial gravity).
Exelixi 2 allows wonders that increase the performance of a creature or machine, choosing one or multiple from the following:
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration when using any mundane object.
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Katastrofi, to the damage caused by
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Prostasia, to an object's Durability.
(This cannot apply to armor or to wonders of Automata or Skafoi.)
• +1 to any Attribute, if the object possesses Attributes, not to exceed the genius' rank in Automata.
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Skafoi, to a vehicle's Handling.
• +20% increase in Safe Speed, Maximum Speed, and Acceleration, not to exceed 20% per dot of Skafoi
the genius possesses, per dot of Inspiration.
The duration of this effect is for one scene on a success, or indefinitely at the cost of binding one or more Mania points on an exceptional success.
Ex-2 can also be used to create exoskeleton-type wonders, mechanically assisting an individual by providing a bonus to physical attributes or granting physical merits that could conceivably be granted by direct mechanical assistance. Or both, if the genius has enough Inspiration. Exo-rigs like this do not function as armor - that's the Prostasia axiom, though adding an Ex-2 exoskeleton as an integral wonder to a suit of Prostasia armor is a popular choice.
Exelixi 3 permits wonders that use some form of stimulant, drug, or other effect to boost any attribute, any physical or mental merit, or the social merits Inspiring or Striking Looks.
Exelixi 4 is a major step up in healing technology, allowing Ex-4 wonders to regenerate lost body parts and the like. These wonders can heal aggravated damage, reattach or regenerate lost limbs, and put living creatures into stasis.
Or for those of you who don't care a whole lot for Obligation, Ex-4 lets you use the Grafted variable with an exo-rig from Ex-2 to create synthetic limbs to replace lost ones (which may have been lost on the operating table moments before...). These cyborg limbs have all the functionality of regular organic limbs, plus the benefit of the exo-rig.
Exelixi 5 is the big tamale: resurrection, life extension, and rejuvenation. All of these are moderately to very terrible ideas with absolutely massive potential to go horribly wrong even by mad science standards and involve serious transgressions. But the option is there, and success, while unlikely, is nevertheless possible...
Or for the really terrible ideas, you can try to deliberately create a supernatural being from a corpse, like a vampire or promethean. This is not going to end well for you. Trust me.
Autonomous Regenerator means that once the wonder's effect starts, the wonder no longer needs to be attached to the subject. Cannot be combined with Monitored Regeneration, and adds a penalty to construction.
Exelixi Ray is just like Epikrato Ray, but now for healing.
Flexible Upgrade lets an Ex-3 upgrade wonder choose what bonus it grants to the target rather than being built with a set bonus like normal, but is more difficult to use.
Focused Restoration is the standard "restricts what kinds of things it can be used on for a bonus to construction" wonder. Genius advises the DM to not let this be combined with Self Only for a freebie bonus.
Focused Mechanical Upgrade combines the above variable with making an Ex-2 upgrade effect specific in nature. By default Ex-2 upgrades (unlike Ex-3) can apply any effect.
Greater Effect Only is another post facto bit of info about how healing wonders work, that any healing wonder above Ex-1 can also perform all the healing functions of lower Exelixi ranks (healing bashing damage, curing disease, etc). This variable removes that functionality and only the healing effect from the highest rank used to build the wonder works. So you can have a wonder that heals aggravated damage, but not lethal or bashing.
Increased Range adds a penalty to construction but lets a wonder be used beyond touch range. Can't be combined with Exelixi Ray.
Monitored Regeneration adds a bonus to construction but a genius with at least four dots in Exelixi or a Beholden of a genius with such must always be attending to the wonder's operation.
Sarcophagus halves the Mania and whatnot costs of healing and upgrading people, but only things of smaller size than the wonder can fit inside and the wonder can't be moved under normal circumstances (you can probably fit one in a spaceship or a big rig, but not your car).
Self Only adds a bonus to construction but the wonder can only be used on its builder.
1. The wonder's healing or enhancing effects leave a unique color or texture. Skin will heal this naturally, if
slowly, but devices will remain noticeably altered.
2. The wonder drains the "life force" from things around it: immediately when used, plants wither and
everyone within five feet per rank of the wonder suffer one level of Bashing damage.
3. The wonder requires at least one pint of fresh blood (no more than an hour away from a living being) to
function every time it is used.
4. Transformations or healing leave the subject sick and drained once the effect comes to an end: the subject
suffers a –1 penalty to Strength and Stamina for one day.
5. To activate the effect requires one point of Willpower from the user.
6. The wonder’s effect scrambles the brain of its subject, who suffers a –1 penalty to all Mental Attributes for
7. While under the effects of an enhancement or for a day after a work of healing, the subject suffers from a
mild Derangement, or one of his mild Derangements becomes severe.
7. The subject suffers from near-pathological hunger for one hour after the use of the wonder. His Vice
becomes Gluttony, and if near food and not in immediate danger, he must spend a point of Willpower for that
scene to resist gorging himself.
8. The wonder doubles the subject’s sleep requirements for the next night. In this sleep, the subject cannot
easily be awakened.
9. The wonder’s Mania cost is tripled.
10. The wonder works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
KatastrofiOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Katastrofi
Stuff go boom. If you want a wonder that hurts something, this is your one stop shop to the point that every other axiom has lines about "If you want to use this axiom to make something whose main job is to hurt or destroy things, stop and use Katastrofi." Katastrofi, in short, has no purpose but to destroy things. In this respect it's refreshingly straightforward.
Skills are pretty obvious. Crafts by default, Medicine for purely organic weapons or weapons that use poison, Science for energy weapons, and Occult for weapons that hit other dimensions (yes, this is a thing you can do - you can build a laser gun that hits people on the other side of the Veil/Gauntlet/whatever-this-game-line-calls-it).
One point of Mania is good for ten shots. Melee and thrown weapons don't need it, and base damage for all Katastrofi wonders is 5.
Range-wise, weapon wonders are divided into several bands. Melee (none), thrown, pistol, rifle, light artillery, heavy artillery, and bombardment artillery. Bombardment artillery weapons have no maximum range, so you can theoretically build an intergalactic weapon. You do need some way of pointing extremely long-range weapons, probably an Apokalypsi wonder.
Katastrofi weapons can cause aggravated damage, and weapons that do so ignore mundane armor. Supernatural defenses, including Prostasia armor, still work.
Dots are simple and self-explanatory.
Katastrofi ●: Agonizers, voltaic stunners, and energy-draining rays
A student of Katastrofi is limited to Bashing damage with his weaponry. His attacks can overwhelm a targets nervous system, produce microwave-induced agony across the targets skin, or drop an enemy with envenomed darts, but cannot kill outright.
Katastrofi ●●: Ultra-sharp swords, ray guns, heat rays, and other instruments of death
The second dot of Katastrofi allows the genius to get on with the business of killing her fellow human beings. She can create a rich selection of death rays and Lethal-damage weapons that can kill her targets through ballistic force, massive concussion, cold, electricity, or simply raw "killing energy." She can also significantly enhance the destructive power of her stunning weaponry. When designing the weapon, the genius must specify the type of damage done. This is important because some wonders and many creatures in the World of Darkness are vulnerable or resistant to different types of damage. Common damage types include electricity, cold, ballistic (like a bullet), acid, neural, bladed, crushing, and miscellaneous "destructive energy."
Bashing attacks from a scholar of Katastrofi benefit from the 9-again rule. Lethal attacks do not benefit from the 9-again rule.
If the genius desires, she can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to five yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●: Annihilating force and concussive devastation
The third dot of Katastrofi allows the genius to hone her destructive power, mastering the energies of annihilation. She can rend apart space and time or hurl globs of plasma or disintegrating force. These first attempts at annihilating weaponry are crude, but devastating. At the same time, her blades are sharper, projectiles move faster, and energy weapons pump out more killing energy. Stunning weaponry reaches its technological peak at this level of Katastrofi.
Bashing attacks benefit from the 8-again rule. Lethal attacks benefit from the 9-again rule. At this level, attacks that cause Aggravated damage are possible, but they do not benefit from the 8-again or 9-again rules.
A doctor of Katastrofi can employ the "disintegration" variable (see below).
If the genius desires, he can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 20 yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●●: Atomic fire, neurotoxins, and space-warping Armageddon
At this level of power, the genius can channel destructive cosmic forces, ripping apart the laws of the universe to obliterate her enemies. Her weapons reach their peak of Lethal damage. Her Aggravated weaponry is terrifying, and it shows: cryonic weaponry freezes the atmosphere itself, while lightning-projectors vomit plasma that fluoresces in the far ultraviolet and turns everything before it to smoking atomic ruin. Even a simple sword at this level of technological mastery dissolves flesh and titanium with equal efficiency.
Bashing and Lethal attacks benefit from the 8-again rule. Aggravated attacks benefit from the 9-again rule.
If the genius desires, he can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 100 yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●●●: Long-range city-devastators and monster-busters
Mastery of Katastrofi offers near-complete command of the powers of devastation. The genius weapons can scorch whole cities, and he turn mortals to ash and cinder. This level of power is not for the subtle: rank-five Katastrofic devices veritably burn with malevolent technological energy, and usually channel powers far beyond anything available to mortal science. To unleash his devastating designs, the genius harnesses miniature suns and black holes, rends space and time, and makes a mockery of laws like thermodynamics and the conservation of matter.
All attacks benefit from the 8-again rule.
If the genius desires, she can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 1,000 yards (¼ mile) for free. See that variable, below.
Adjusted Range lets you adjust a weapon's range up (for a penalty to construction) or down (for a bonus) a band, to a maximum of bombardment and a minimum of pistol. Doesn't say this can't be applied to melee weapons so you can probably do a whipfist or extend-o-sword deal.
Armor Piercing lets a weapon ignore armor, for a -1 penalty per three points of armor the weapon ignores. Doesn't affect Durability, just armor.
Artillery requires Apokalypsi 1 and a minimum size of 5, but lets a wonder shoot indirectly at targets it doesn't have line of sight to. You probably want some way to aim the thing, either hooking up to a mundane sensor or an Apokalypsi wonder.
Attribute Damage lets a wonder exchange levels of health damage it would inflict for attribute damage at a 3:1 swap.
Autofire lets you shoot your wonder on burst or sustained automatic fire.
Bleeding is like Continuing Damage below, but only works on things that can bleed in some form and can't be washed off.
Blinding weapons can target any sense, not just vision. If the effect is successful, its duration depends on whether the wonder is designed to inflict bashing, lethal, or aggravated damage. Aggravated blinding weapons inflict permanent disability if they work, though medical science might be able to cure them.
Some weapons, such as napalm flame-throwers, poison gas, or clouds of flesh-eating nanites, continue to
cause damage after their initial attack has concluded. If an attack using a weapon with this variable hits and
causes damage, it attacks its target(s) automatically again at the beginning of the next turn with a number of
dice equal to the weapon's base damage -1. It attacks on the subsequent turn at base damage -2, then at base
damage -3, and so on until no damage dice remain.
Continuing damage causes the same type of damage as the initial attack: Bashing, Lethal, or Aggravated.
Continuing damage never benefits from the 8-again or 9-again rules.
Continuing damage from a weapon with the "disintegration" variable will disintegrate a target killed by its
Weapons with an explosive radius and this variable continue to cause damage to anyone and anything
affected by the initial attack with a number of dice equal to their explosive force.
This variable incurs a -1 penalty.
Continuing damage can be ended immediately and entirely by immersing oneself in water. If this is not true
(such as with poison-tipped darts), the variable incurs a -2 penalty.
Curing the damage caused by this attack, such as with an Exelixi wonder, also immediately stops the
Defensive can only be applied to melee weapons and grants a +1 to defense when wielded.
Disintegration can only be applied to weapons that cause aggravated damage, and completely disintegrates someone and everything they carry if the weapon kills them.
We're now given a brief sidebar about using appropriate wonders (mostly energy weapons) to burn through and vaporize solid materials, and rules for how much they can destroy.
Explosive Weapon has a long slew of rules but in short grants an area of effect to the weapon.
Explosive Accuracy lets an explosive weapon reduce their area damage to do more damage to the primary target.
Extradimensional Attack requires Skafoi 4 and lets a weapon strike targets in one or more other dimensions and can be flipped instantly to choose which dimension(s) it affects.
Good Balance and Weight lets oversized weapons be handled and used more easily.
Immobilizing Attack has another bunch of rules but lets a weapon work like a tentacle or glue gun or the like.
Knockdown lets a weapon... knock down its target.
Lingering Area Damage combines the properties of Explosive Weapon and Continuing Damage and can last for a duration measured in weeks.
Melee Weapon is self-explanatory. If the weapon has to be turned on (like a lightsaber), doing so costs 1 Mania point but grants a bonus to construction. If it doesn't (like a monomolecular-edged sword), no Mania cost and no bonus.
No Visible Attack allows for lasers at frequencies other than visual light, colorless poison gas, and the like. Cannot be combined with melee weapon (though I'd consider allowing it for monofilament style weapons).
Only Against Certain Materials is how you get your rust rays, EMP guns, poisons geared to a specific anatomy, and the like. Only works against certain materials or kinds of targets.
Orbital requires size 8 or bigger and is for true heavy guns, making such weapons much more effective against massive targets but very inaccurate against small targets.
Railgun is a lesser version of Orbital in all respects. In a nice touch I like, "railgun" in this case specifically refers to Victorian and WW1 era artillery weapons so large they were mounted on railway cars.
Returning requires Automata 1 and some form of Skafoi, usually 2. Returning weapons automatically return to the user if they leave their owner's possession, assuming they can reach her (Skafoi 4 permits teleportation, for example, lesser dots have to physically travel). Very handy for throwing weapons, but can be used for any weapon.
Thrown Weapon is what it sounds like and usually uses either the Limited Uses or Returning variables, or sometimes both.
Variable Damage lets a weapon dial down its damage type (from aggravated to lethal or bashing, or from lethal to bashing), reduce its damage type, or overcharge for more damage. Useful for both the overcharge function and for giving a weapon a stun setting.
Variable Explosion requires Explosive Damage but lets the genius adjust the weapon's blast radius as desired.
Sample Katastrofi faults!
1. The weapons damage type is downgraded by one step (Aggravated to Lethal, Lethal to Bashing). Bashing
weapons cause -1 damage.
2. The weapon requires one point of Mania per shot or attack.
3. The weapon requires one turn to charge up per point of Size before it can be used. Once charged it remains
active for the rest of the scene.
4. One of the weapon's special conditions (knockback, disintegration, etc.) does not work. If the weapon has
no special conditions, its reroll number increases by 1. (A wonder that only rolls 10-again does not reroll at
5. The weapon backlashes, causing one Health level of Bashing damage to the user every time it is used.
Armor does not protect.
6. The weapon is poorly mounted, and suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to hit per shot. Straightening the sights
requires one turn of fiddling and a Wits + Crafts roll, with each success removing one point of penalty.
7. The weapon is fragile. (See that variable, Page 150.) If it is already fragile, it causes the listed damage in
explosive force within five feet, with a secondary blast radius of ten feet.
8. The weapon has been infected with a peculiar pseudo-intelligence. Whenever using a weapon for the first
time that scene, if the user cannot make an instant Manipulation + Computer check, the weapon refuses to
fire. A new attempt can be made every turn.
9. The weapons attacks are stopped entirely by a certain material and will not harm it or anyone protected by
it. Common materials include glass, copper, or anything blue.
10. The weapon works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
MetatropiOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Metatropi
Your Transmutation and Illusion schools of magic, Metatropi is all about change and usually in an alchemical way (but not too alchemical, that's Promethean). Not much more to say than that.
All Metatropi wonders require Science to build, then Medicine for stuff working with organics or turn anything into organic material, and Craft likewise for non-organics and turning organic material into non-organic.
Most transformations cost one point of Mania for every five Size points worth of material or fraction thereof.
Changing Size requires one point of Mania per two points of Size changed.
An Exceptional Success often allows for an indefinite transformation. To maintain an indefinite
transformation, the genius must bind the spent Mania into the object.
Illusions and holograms require one point of Mania per five points of Size or fraction thereof. (Sound-only
illusions cost one point of Mania.) Illusions last for a full scene and can be deactivated by the genius at any
time by using the wonder again (no roll needed).
The transformation of a discrete target only occurs when enough Mania has been spent to trigger the entire
transformation. For example, a person-to-elephant transformation that costs six points of Mania only causes
the person to transform once all six points of Mania have been spent; points cannot be assigned turn-by-turn.
Releasing transformations is simple as long as you have access to the wonder used to do it and the subject. Spending willpower can recover the bound point of Mania from a permanent transformation without releasing it. Also, unless otherwise specified a high-ranking Metatropi wonder can perform all lesser transformations as well.
If the subject chooses to resist a transformation, rules are provided.
Metatropi 1 allows a genius to change the appearance of a subject, though such transformations are strictly cosmetic. You can make a squirt gun look like a real gun, or look like it's made of glass, but it still just shoots water. Additions and changes cannot alter the functionality of the subject in any fashion.
A bunch of rules are given for using this tier of wonder to disguise a person as someone else, or do the chameleon trick for camouflage.
Metatropi 2 allows direct changes of one material into another, growing more difficult if transforming organic materials to non-organic or vice versa, changing a solid to a liquid or gas or vice versa, etc.
By fiddling with a subject's biology with this level of wonder, a genius can also alter a subject's physical attributes. Doing so is only an adjustment, though, and say increasing Dexterity by 2 would require reducing either Strength or Stamina by 2, or both by 1.
Transforming stuff into valuable materials (specifically the kind that can destabilize the world economy) is more difficult and complicated and gets its own table.
This level can also be used as a weapon, though Metatropi wonders that would cause simple health levels of damage are instructed to use Katastrofi instead. However, fair game includes all-or-nothing, save-or-die type effects like turning someone to stone, or indirect damage with the given example being turning someone's hat into acid. Bunch of rules for either.
A whole slew of rules follows next, because this level of wonder can also create free-standing illusions and holograms. Not getting into this unless someone's curious.
Metatropi 3 allows for growing and shrinking objects in size, with another page full of rules about it.
Metatropi 4 is full shape alteration, capable of turning a harmless bunny into a T-Rex or vice versa, or that handy cinder block into an assault rifle. Yet another page full of rules.
Also at this level are shapeshifting wonders - this is how you get your space fighter that turns into a suit of powered armor or a tank on command, and turns into a wristwatch for easy carrying when not in use.
Metatropi 5 makes all bets off. Want to turn someone into a conscious and able cloud of smoke? You can do that. Invisibility? Sure. Phasing so you can pass through solid objects? Yep. Full on dimensional folding so you have something much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? Can do! Not including the three or so pages worth of mechanical rules about all of this.
Attached Transformation requires that the wonder remain attached to the subject to maintain the transformation. Removing the wonder immediately ends the transformation. Does grant a bonus to construction.
Increased Range you know what this does.
Limited Illusions is the standard "restrict what it can do for a construction bonus based on how specific it is" variable.
Metatropi Ray is just like all the other axiom rays.
Self Only you've seen this before, and can't be combined with Attached Transformation to prevent a gimme doubling up on bonuses.
Specific Transformation see Limited Illusions.
Transmutation Booth see Sarcophagus in Exelixi.
Sample Metatropi faults:
1. All changes that the wonder induces have a distinct "theme," often a color but sometimes a general style,
that sets such transformations apart.
2. The subject reverts when placed in contact with a fairly common material, such as silver or wood. The
genius can spend one point of Mania per turn of contact to maintain the current form.
3. The transformation is exhausting. Once it concludes, the subject suffers a -1 penalty due to fatigue for the
rest of the day. If targeting inorganic material, once it turns back it turns brittle and may fracture or break.
Multiple alterations are cumulative.
4. The transformation automatically incurs some mental instability. For the extent of the transformation, the
subject suffers from a mild Derangement, or a preexisting mild Derangement becomes severe. If used to
target inorganic material, the material radiates "wrongness" to such an extent that all who approach it suffer
a Phobia toward it.
5. Returning to normal is painful and dangerous to the subject. She takes one Health level point of Lethal
damage upon return per ten minutes spent transformed, to a maximum number of Health levels equal to
twice the wonder's rank. Inorganic material will shatter when restored.
7. The transformation can "lock up," preventing return. There is a 50% chance that the transformation locks
up. If this happens, there is a 10% chance that the subject will return every hour.
8. The subject becomes hideously, monstrously ugly during the transformation. All Striking Looks merits are
lost and the subject suffers a -2 penalty to Presence and Composure (minimum of 1). It takes time, after the
transformation is over, to return to normal: after one hour, the penalty is reduced to -1, and after one day, the
penalty is gone and the subject regains his normal Striking Looks merit, if he has it. Material so transformed
becomes stinking and aesthetically repulsive.
9. The transformation taxes the subject’s immune system. For one week after use, the subject suffers a -4
penalty to any Stamina-related checks to resist poison, illness, or disease. If used against inorganic materials,
they tend to attract germs and illness, making them dangerous to handle.
9. The weapon works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
10. The subject reverts instantly if not in its special condition. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
ProstasiaOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Prostasia
Prostasia, the Axiom of Protection, works differently from most axioms in that its functionality does not change or expand at higher dots. Prostasia wonders provide Armor: 3 at one dot, 4 at two, 5 at three, 6 at four, and 7 at five dots. However, what form this Armor takes can vary, typically between worn suits of armor and various forms of shield devices. When applied to vehicles or automata with the Durable variable, Prostasia grants durability based on the vehicle's size.
Physical armor uses Craft, shields and energy fields of all kinds use Science, and organic armor uses Medicine but for some reason also requires Exelixi 1.
By default Prostasia armor is not bulletproof, provides equal amounts of general and ballistic damage resistance, and does protect from aggravated damage.
For extra functions, any shield or armor suit that protects the whole body (so no vests or directional shields or the like) automatically protects the wearer from any form of high-pressure environment like the deep ocean and makes the wearer invisible to radar, sonar, and other mundane sensors.
Wondrous armor stacks only at certain times and in certain ways. Physical armor, mundane or wondrous,
never stacks with other physical armor. Shielding devices do not stack with other shielding devices. Shielding
devices do stack with physical armor, whether it's mundane or wondrous, but in this case, the Armor rating
for the two types of Armor is equal to the higher Armor rating +1, not to the sum of the two Armor ratings.
Stacking ablative armor is ineffective, as equal damage is caused to every type of ablative armor worn. So if an
attack causes three levels of Lethal damage, the attack removes three levels of ablative Health from each type
of ablative armor worn.
If one set of of armor is bulletproof, the armor set is considered bulletproof and ballistic damage is reduced to
Stacking ablative and regular armor is difficult. First, one must be physical armor and the other must be a
shielding device, as required by the above stacking rules. Even then, the ablative armor automatically loses
two Health levels of damage per point of Armor offered by the regular armor.
Ablative Armor lets a Prostasia suit or shield exchange points of armor protection for temporary ablative health levels that are removed first from any attack and can be recharged with Mania.
Anti-Scanning/Teleport Field has the wonder project a field that stops Apokalypsi scanners and Skafoi teleportation in or out. The bigger the field projected, the steeper the construction penalty.
Ballistic/General Rating lets the genius fiddle with the wonder's ballistic and general armor rating - they're the same by default, but this lets the genius decrease one to increase the other by the same amount.
Barrier downgrades the device's armor in exchange for creating a physical barrier that makes physical passage and contact difficult.
Bulletproof makes the wonder downgrade any lethal or aggravated ballistic damage to bashing.
Cage flips the device inside out and makes it resistant to damage and movement from within.
Data Security is a mad science security and firewall program for a computer, wheeee.
Expandable makes a wonder that can physically expand itself or its field to great distance on command but at a cost of armor rating.
Heavy Armor grants a bonus to armor rating but requires a minimum strength score, slows movement, and reduces defense.
Invulnerable armor ignores Armor Piercing from mundane weapons and five points of automatic success damage per point of armor from any source.
Limited Protection only resists certain kinds of attack, like fire or physical attack. Other forms completely ignore the armor/shield.
Lockbox makes a chest or secure room that's difficult to break into.
Mental Shield protects the wearer from any form of mental attack.
Opaque to Air makes the armor airtight, protecting against poison gas and the like but requires the genius to bring their own air supply, mundane or otherwise.
Reflection bounces missed attacks back at the attacker.
Shielding Device makes an energy shield or other activated form of armor that costs Mania to activate but is easier to build.
Targeted Deflection makes you Wonder Woman with her bracers, requiring the wearer to spend an action to actively deflect attacks.
Vest is a vest or breastplate or the like that can be concealed but isn't as effective as a full suit and called shots to the arms and head ignore it.
1. The armor is dangerous, producing random, destructive discharges of energy. Once per session (on
average), a discharge from the armor will damage, destroy, or push away an object nearby (usually something
the genius needs or wants).
2. The armor is vulnerable to one type of element or material, such as wood or silver. Attacks from that
material pass through it and ignore Armor.
3. The armor possesses a small but noticeable gap in its protection. This requires an active examination for a
full turn and a Wits + Crafts check vs. the Prostasia level to notice. However, once noticed, attackers can make
called shots (-1 to hit) to ignore Armor.
4. The armor grows constrictive if used for too long. Every minute of use incurs a cumulative –1 penalty to all
5. The armor is a power-hog, requiring a number of Mania per minute equal to its rank; otherwise it locks up
(if solid) or deactivates (if a field).
6. The armor will fail when exposed to some common material, such as water or plastic. The wonder
reactivates one turn after being removed from the substance.
7. The armor rattles its user around: an attack that causes no damage instead causes one Health level of
8. The armor can get knocked out of alignment. Every hit has a 10% chance of knocking it out of alignment,
halving its effectiveness until it is fixed (which takes a Wits + Crafts check and one turn of work).
9. The armor is physically exhausting to use, reducing the user’s Strength by one per minute of use (minimum
10. The armor only functions when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below
SkafoiOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Skafoi
The last axiom in Genius is Skafoi, the Axiom of Travel, and like Automata it has a shitload of rules attached to it that I'm not going to detail. Skafoi moves things - not just vehicles, but gates and teleporters of all stripes can be built with this axiom.
Good news regarding Skafoi vehicles is that you don't have to worry about mundane fuel - Mania is all they need to run, though Mania costs can quickly get very steep at the high end of the axiom.
Skipping over a bunch of rules, one important rule to note about Skafoi vehicles is that each is capable of only a single mode of transportation by default, separated into the following types: ground-based, surface boat, mole machine, Skafoi 2 flying machine, Skafoi 3 aerospace vehicle, and submersible. By binding additional Mania into a wonder, the vehicle can encompass more than one - a jet fighter that turns into a submarine, for example, or a tank that can drill its way underground.
Skipping over even more rules regarding speed, passenger capacity, vehicle size, etc.
Skafoi 1 is limited to basic ground and water transportation - relatively conventional cars, boats, and the like. However, bouncing wonders are another option: spring shoes, grappling hooks, short-range jetpacks, and the like that let a genius jump around, and they get a slew of rules for operation.
Skafoi 2 opens up underwater, subterranean, and flying vehicles.
Skafoi 3 brings on the frontier of space, though restricted to sublight speeds.
Skafoi 4 is where shit starts to get weird: teleportation, FTL travel, and interdimensional travel. Whole bunch of rules I'm skipping over here.
Skafoi 5 is the big tamale, time travel. Or on a lesser scale, temporal distortion devices to speed up, slow down, or entirely stop time.
Clinging lets a vehicle (or automaton, this can be applied to Automata wonders or full-body Prostasia suits) cling to surfaces of all kinds. Does slow down overall speed, though.
Exposed Cockpit creates a vehicle that does not fully enclose its pilot, ranging from a jeep to a motorcycle in effect. The steeper the cover penalty, the bigger the construction bonus.
Hovering lets a flying vehicle hover but adds a penalty to construction.
Increased Range is a variable that's cropped up many times before. When used with Skafoi, it affects non-vehicle wonders like gates and teleporters.
Increased Bouncing Range gives S-1 bouncing wonders more range and requires Katastrofi 1 for some reason.
Legs Instead Of Wheels makes a vehicle that's slower than conventional vehicles but has an easy time with difficult terrain and can jump (physics majors may want to avert their eyes).
Maniacal Speed Increase adds a Mania-powered nitro boost.
Off Road makes all-terrain vehicles, but they still can't jump like walkers.
One Location Teleporter makes a teleporter with a single preset destination.
Remote Control requires Apokalypsi 1 and lets the vehicle be controlled remotely for all your rigging/batmobile/drone/etc needs.
Self-Sealing Mole Machine adds a penalty to construction but makes subterranean vehicles collapse the earth behind them rather than leaving behind tunnels like default.
Skafoi Ray is like all the other rays, and is used for non-vehicle wonders ala Increased Range.
Rails means the vehicle can only follow preset paths, like trains or non-maneuvering spacecraft, but moves faster.
Slow Acceleration slows the vehicle's acceleration in exchange for a construction bonus.
Speed and Handling lets the genius trade Speed for Handling and vice versa when designing the wonder.
Transporter is for your Beam Me Up Scotty needs and does not travel with the teleporting subjects.
1. The wonder accelerates very slowly, at 10% Safe Speed.
2. The wonder can get "locked" into acceleration mode. In a dangerous situation, there is a 10% chance that
this happens: the wonder increases to its Maximum Speed as quickly as possible. Fixing this requires an
Exceptional Success on a Wits + Crafts check with one check allowed every turn, or somehow damaging the
engine, which requires only a regular success and causes all movement to stop until the engine can be
3. The wonder suffers a -2 penalty to Handling.
4. The wonder operates under some kind of "taboo," and will stall if brought across certain areas, such as over
running water or into tunnels.
5. The wonder provides a horrible, rattling ride. It is impossible to sleep within, and all actions except driving
are at -3 due to the shaking. Every six hours spent within causes one Health level of Bashing damage.
6. The wonder is dreadfully loud and incapable of stealth when it moves, and isn’t very quiet idling, either.
7. The wonder is prone to stalling if it takes damage. Any hit incurs a 10% chance that the wonder stalls out.
Restarting it requires a Wits + Crafts check.
8. The vehicle controls are laid out in a lunatic fashion, and probably change when you’re not looking. Upon
first sitting down every time to use the controls, the subject must make an Intelligence + Computer check.
Every success reduces the penalty to use the vehicle by 1. The penalty starts at -4.
9. The wonder possesses a tediously legal quasi-intelligence and will not function outside of the proper traffic
lanes. Flight plans must be filed, lane shifts must be signaled, and so on, or the wonder stalls and requires a
Wits + Crafts check to restart.
10. The wonder only functions in a specific environment. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
With this, we are now done with axioms and will begin more miscellaneous crunch and rules.
Miscellaneous RulesOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Miscellaneous Rules
First things first, Havoc!
Havoc is Paradox from oMage. Mad science is not real science, and mortals interacting with wonders always results in Havoc checks, one per round the mortal does anything more than look at it - and even then, if the mortal looks at it and starts thinking about how it [can't] work, Havoc. If a mortal for whatever reason does not trigger Havoc - which is up to the DM - you've got a beholden or a new genius in the making. Now, simply seeing a wonder in action or using one on a mortal doesn't trigger Havoc - you're free to zap mortals with your ray gun or dump them in a healing vat - but physical contact of any kind does. A mortal can punch your mad science battlemech and make it fall apart.
That's not an exaggeration. A dramatic failure on a Havoc check either turns the wonder permanently orphan (which I'll explain below) or outright destroys it. An ordinary failure turns the wonder into a violent orphan for the duration of the scene, and it will do anything it can to hurt, break, or otherwise attack everyone in the vicinity, especially the mortal who triggered the Havoc check. On a success, the wonder survives but acquires a new fault. Only on an exceptional success does the wonder have no ill effects.
Intelligent wonders (Automata 4 and 5) and manes are somewhat more resilient to Havoc - they won't trigger Havoc checks from simple touch, but prolonged physical contact like active hand to hand combat, first aid, or feeling up will. Even so, a dramatic failure turns the wonder or mane permanently, incurably insane, and may kill them outright. Failures drive them temporarily violently insane, and so on and so forth.
In short, keep wonders and manes the hell away from mortals if it's at all possible. This would also be one of the reasons why the Mane merit, letting you play as one, is such a problem. Particularly if you are by all appearances a normal human being.
For a bit of good news, a mane inside their native bardo or Unmada field never rolls Havoc. Though Genius suggests Havoc checks for dramatic failures using wonders, so...
All wonders have an owner, drawing their functionality from the Mania and Inspiration of the genius who created them. However, it's possible for wonders and manes to go rogue and have no owner. These are called orphans.
There are five ways for this to happen. A dramatic failure during the construction of a wonder can turn it orphan, the wonder's creator may die (triggering all of their wonders to self-destruct or turn orphan, which Genius probably should have mentioned before now), a mane can leave or be taken from its home bardo, a genius can deliberately abandon and liberate a wonder (this is an Obligation-7 transgression), or an intelligent and willful wonder may go rogue of its own initiative if mistreated and abused.
When this happens, the wonder in many ways becomes a living creature.
When a wonder turns permanently into an orphan―not just temporarily―it twists and mutates, its form
changing as maniacal energy washes over it, instilling a bestial urge to survive. Orphans become creatures,
rather than just extraordinary things, with their own desires and motivations.
An orphan automaton retains its Attributes, Skills, and assorted special abilities.
An orphan of some other Axiom receives Attributes as follows:
Strength: Size/5 (round down, minimum one dot)
Dexterity and Stamina: 2
Intelligence, Wits, Resolve, Presence, Manipulation, and Composure: 1
Species Movement: 0 (without other ways to move, an orphan can inch slowly along the ground, based on its
combined Strength and Dexterity scores)
Limbs: Unless otherwise noted, no manipulators
Senses: Similar to a normal human's
A wonder that is temporarily orphaned by Havoc gains all the above benefits, but does not mutate.
For full orphans, roll a number of dice equal to the new orphan's Rank and consult the chart below to
determines its mutations.
Skipping over a bunch of rules about intelligence and morality of orphans, all orphans face a fundamental problem: they require Mania to survive, but cannot generate Mania of their own. While they can perform integral abilities without using Mania (an orphan death ray needs no Mania to fire), all orphans face creeping degradation and eventual destruction unless they find a source of Mania. This can be the Calculus Vampire merit, a genius can tame an orphaned wonder, or the wonder can put itself into stasis.
This is how a genius increases their Inspiration.
Different theses can vary enormously in scope, style, and approach. Though they are all designed to teach the
genius something about Inspiration and her own abilities, they can take many forms. However, a genius'
catalyst often guides the sort of theses she undergoes as her knowledge and power grow. Below are some
very general guidelines for what the different catalysts focus on during a thesis.
A Grimm's thesis is the most direct. He must overcome a challenge, often a threat that infuriates him
personally. This danger is a source of direct, personal anger, something visceral: a sexual predator for Grimms
who suffered sexual abuse, an Ubermensch infestation for a Grimm whose first collaborative died in a Lunar
Nazi assault. Grimm theses are the least connected to Inspiration and to mad science and the most connected
to the genius' mundane personality. In fact, many Grimms' theses stipulate that Mania should not play a major
role in their completion, or force a Grimm to rely on Skills and abilities other than wonders and mad science.
In his thesis, a Grimm pushes himself, physically, mentally, and psychologically, to new limits, simmering
slowly as he suffers and struggles, hoping to unleash his rage in a titanic blast that will, ideally, destroy his
enemies and lead him to enlightenment. The Grimm's thesis works to channel, hone, and shape his rage, from
something mindless and atavistic to the clean, precise surgical instrument of a true genius.
The Klagens are the doom-sayers of the Inspired, and their theses focus on warning or protecting people from
an upcoming disaster. Cassandras find themselves struggling to stop an onrushing catastrophe. It may be a
natural disaster, but often it is a disaster that people (including geniuses) have made for themselves. Klagens
find themselves struggling to make people see the doom racing toward them. Some force people to change
their ways―through persuasion or threats―while others ignore the voice of those they need to save and rush
head-long into protecting them, whether or not they want (or need) the help. Other Klagens merely study the
concept of sorrow. This can be the most abstract and least direct of theses, except perhaps those conducted
by Staunens, as a Klagen wanders the halls of the sorrowing and ruined, seeks out those whose lives she
destroyed―the families of enemy beholden she has killed, for example―and otherwise explores the nature
and extent of sorrow, misery, and loss.
A Hoffnung's thesis is perhaps the easiest to conceptualize: every Hoffnung has an image of how the world
should be, so a Hoffnung's thesis works to bring that world closer to reality. A Principality who dreams of a
worldwide Libertarian paradise may work to bring down government-backed financial institutions or turn a
bardo into a microcosm of his political vision. One who wants humanity to move beneath the oceans might
find herself in an ideological struggle with another Hoffnung for the ear of a mundane scientific policy
director at NASA. Hoffnungs work to promulgate and spread their policies, and their theses are the most
likely to connect to the mundane world, though they concern themselves with far-reaching ideas and policy
decisions, not individual changes. Anything that moves a Hoffnung's vision closer to reality―even symbolic
victories―can serve as a thesis.
A young Neid's thesis is often simple and may resemble that of a particularly unsubtle Grimm: she seeks
restitution for the wrongs done to her, either during her Breakthrough or in her Inspired career. While she
rarely dwells on the suffering (real or imagined) she experienced in her earlier life, which distinguishes her
from a Grimm, Neids may find themselves continually seeking out enemies to enact plans of revenge,
justification, or humiliation upon. But not all Neids are so simple, and as a Wyrm grows in experience, her
theses can become some of the most sophisticated and philosophical of all mad scientist's, focusing on the
nature of exclusion and inclusion, the paths that acceptance and outsider-status can take, and the trajectory of
isolation and abandonment. They never forget their feeling of betrayal and banishment, but they learn to
study it with more objectivity than many catalysts can analyze their own archetypal natures.
The thesis of a Staunen is based on the Watcher's fascination with the world. It is often a a journey of
discovery, a mixed exploration of one's self and one's object of fascination. A Staunen's thesis focuses not just
on an engrossing (and perhaps dangerous) aspect of the world that is not entirely understood, but parts of
the Staunen's own personality. All geniuses form connections and patterns easier than regular humans, and in
his thesis, a Staunen will weave together discoveries of the inside and outside worlds in ways that would
baffle most normal people, leading to a final key discovery that transforms his understanding of the Staunen's
object of study, and transforms a Grigori's understanding of himself.
Not every thesis is drawn from a genius' catalyst. Theses are intensely personal and can take many forms.
Some draw from the mad scientist's foundation: Artificers build new things, Directors explore interpersonal
relationships, Navigators engage in exploration and conflict, Progenitors transform and evolve themselves,
and Scholastics study riddles and mysteries. Some theses are drawn from much more personal experiences,
unanswered questions or unresolved obsessions in a genius' own life. As a genius' Inspiration climbs, she will
find herself darting from one inspiration for a thesis to the next, always finding new directions for selfimprovement.
In general, the Thesis is a rare moment of personal introspection, self-discovery, and self-actualization in the game line, putting aside wacky mad science adventures and sitting down to chew on the genius' insanity, vision, and inspiration. You're going down the rabbit hole, acting on and furthering your insanity to cultivate the alien energy of creativity that burns inside you.
We get some rules for the Thesis, but Genius emphasizes that this is between the player and the DM, and may not be represented by a simple roll or series of such. I approve, and rather wish Genius emphasized more of this in its rules.
Next up is a whole smorgasbord of rules for Beholden: how they can be created, how to use them for lab work or Dirty Work (i.e. making them your troupe of minions ala Mister Freeze's followers or the like), how to use them in large battles, etc. They're also creepy and disturbing as fuck from an ethical standpoint:
Beholden are interesting psychological studies. Though as intelligent, creative, and competent as they were
before their change, beholden are incapable of engaging in high-level theoretical thinking. They lack
metaphysical, philosophical, political, religious, ethical, or scientific thought-structures. (Or perhaps their
conscious minds simply can't access them.) A beholden has no preference for political candidates or political
parties. She does not subscribe to any religion, nor does she actively reject the tenets of any religion. She
cannot formulate an argument for or against any ethical or political stance, such as vegetarianism or welfare.
She may still cling to vestigial beliefs out of stubbornness, habit, or cultural identity, but she cannot really
understand why she does.
The only exception to this behavior is when a beholden interacts with a genius. Then, the beholden takes on
the philosophy and thinking mode of that genius. This ideological parroting is what makes a beholden so
useful to the Inspired.
This condition affects beholden surprisingly little. They still retain an instinctive moral system (measured by
Morality). Most beholden would feel disgusted and repulsed by cold-blooded murder, but when asked to
justify this feeling, they would be unable. Beholden can still engage in planning and form practical models of
the world around them: a clatch of beholden sent to kidnap a doctor can prepare, coordinate, and execute a
plan as well as their Skills and Attributes would allow. But they would be unable, for example, to offer an
ethical or philosophical justification for their actions.
Yeah, they're ghouls. But beware: Beholden are very likely to catalyze as geniuses themselves, and a mistreated Beholden is more than likely to catalyze as a Grimm...
This is getting a bit long, so next time we'll cover among other things bardos: places and ideas brought into existence by their own disproof.
Bardos and ManesOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Bardos and Manes
What happens when an idea long believed in a world that operates to some extent on oMage's consensual reality is conclusively proven wrong? In Genius, it suddenly appears, brought into existence by its own disproof.
A mane is what happens when a theory is abandoned. Paradoxically, the moment the Community decides that
something is not true, that thing immediately comes into existence, held together by the burst of Mania
released by the changing winds of scientific orthodoxy. Among geniuses, the best-known (and most
devastating) recent example occurred in 1971, when the Viking lander touched down on Mars and at last
showed it to be a barren, lifeless world, noticeably lacking intelligent aliens. Within seconds of that revelation,
the Martian Empire appeared and launched an attack on Earth.
It could have been worse: the notion of "life on Mars" had been fading in the scientific community for decades,
and was supported, mostly, by fervent wishes and hopes, especially among amateur scientists and
planetologists, so the Inspired community had time to prepare. But the damage was still extraordinary:
hundreds of landing pods crashed to Earth all over the world, and only the sacrifice of dozens of mad
scientists stopped the Martian Empire from growing powerful enough to endanger the lives of billions.
I'm at a loss for what kind of threat the Martian Empire actually could have posed. Bardos and manes are susceptible to Havoc, so normal mortals would have dispatched the Martians in short order just by thinking really hard about how they work and where they came from.
Still, it's an idea I really like for a world of mad science, a fine alternative to standard supernatural realms and alternate dimensions. Bardos and manes require Mania to survive, and get it by the undefined force of people who still believe in them and sending out manes, all of whom possess the Calculus Vampire merit. Which... only lets them drain Mania, and there aren't that many geniuses in the world unless you take Genius at its previously discussed word that there are a lot of mad scientists. So... moving on.
Yet by their very nature, and the failing trickle of Mania to sustain them, all bardos represent failed dreams and they're all in slow collapse. The magnificent Space Age vision of Space Station Colossus is a hive of corruption and degenerate society in a barely functional L5 colony. The Grid, the cyberpunk vision of the Net, is growing dim and outer reaches are vanishing. Every bardo is fundamentally on the way out, though that doesn't mean they're not dangerous or have nothing to offer. Orphan inanimate manes and wonders from bardos are always handy, and the intelligent manes can be useful allies, dangerous enemies, or even PCs - if you took the Mane merit at character creation (a dumb idea in my opinion due to Havoc), one of the most likely explanations is that you're from a bardo.
In game terms, entrances to a bardo are located "near" it in physical space; a bardo located on the bottom of
the Atlantic Ocean can only be accessed when at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Entrances range in size
from just large enough for a human to slip through to big enough to pass a planet. People and creatures
within a bardo can leave through these entrances without difficulty, but one must spend a point of Mania to
activate an entrance and get into a bardo. Once opened, a bardo is revealed, even to mere mortals: one can
glimpse alien cityscapes, distant prehistorical animals, or strange mechanical walkways, rather than what's
on the other side of the entrance in normal space. Once activated, an entrance remains active for a number of
turns equal to a genius' Inspiration, and people and objects can pass in and out freely during that time. When
the time is up, the entrance once again only shows (and allows access to) normal space, and the bardo is
On to sample bardos!
The Crystal Spheres would make Dyson shit a brick were he to witness the great winged beings of light pushing the seven planets around unending planes of glass, all revolving around the immobile Earth at the center of the universe. This is the last remnant of geocentrism, and it is a place of bleak, empty beauty. Some Peerage and Lemurian starships journey deep into the cosmos of the Crystal Spheres, looking for other realms beyond or remnants of Dante's vision of the cosmos, but there is little here of interest to most geniuses.
The Grey Plateau of Tsoska is the metaphysical melting pot for every dystopian Communist and fascist dream of the 20th century. Tsoska was born in the early 20th century as the first idealistic socialists saw the cold, brutal reality of the Soviet Union replace their workers' utopias, then grew and thrived during the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall sounded the death knell for Tsoska and the bardo has gone into decline, but it remains a powerful, influential realm in the world of mad science. As long as a genius' papers are in order, Tsoska is welcoming to foreigners, eager to demonstrate its glory and accomplishments, and there's a lot of interesting science and art going on in the shadows of the Party's nearly omnipresent eye.
The Grid is the 80s vision of the Internet, and anyone who's played Shadowrun or seen Tron or Hackers will be at home in this electronic world connected to every hooked up computer on the planet. Computer hackers have a field day here, though it's not all sunshine and roses. Electronic programs give rise to peculiar life forms that dwell in the Grid, and the security programs are aggressive and lethal. The Grid is a popular neutral meeting ground for mad scientists, though like all bardos the lights are beginning to dim and outer reaches go dark as this vision of the electronic future fades away.
The Hollow Earth is a weird one even by bardo standards. The idea of an interior surface of the Earth that was inhabited, with a strange not-star at the Earth's core and vast realms of fungi and dinosaurs was never seriously believed to any wide extent, and science fiction's never paid the idea much mind, so geniuses aren't quite sure how the Hollow Earth survives. They have noticed, though, that primitive humans coexist side by side with misimagined dinosaurs and every mistake of paleontology over the centuries. Also, there are Nazi supermen down here.
Lemuria began as an idea to explain how animals got to different continents before plate tectonics and continental drift became things, and began specifically as a land bridge that connected Madagascar to Africa. As time went on, Lemuria became similar to Atlantis and Mu, a lost world or great unexplored island filled with strange people and technology and God knows what else. Unlike Atlantis and Mu, Lemuria begged to differ when the world decided Lemuria never existed, and we'll see later how this gave birth to Lemuria the organization. Lemuria today is a blasted wasteland, utterly crushed by the Invisible Wars, its natives and their mysterious technology functionally extinct. A few Peers and Lemurians have begun to explore the shattered ruins of Lemuria, but it remains a dangerous and inhospitable place.
The Martian Empire:
Sometimes called Cydonia or Barsoom, the Martian Empire is located, naturally, on Mars, but not the frozen,
almost airless wasteland that we know. Supported by a sea of ever-shifting Mania, the Martian Empire's air is
breathable, if thin, and there walk the strange beings called Martians. Divided into three known castes (the
brain-on-a-stalk Overlords, the spindly Technikers, and the brutal but humanoid egg-laying Throgs), the
Martians threatened to conquer Earth less than half a century ago, and they still eye our world with cold
This avarice is tempered, now, with the knowledge that Earth stomped them in the last war: even were it not
for Inspired super-science, Earth science has advanced far since Percival Lowell read of Martian canali and
decided that the canals channeled water from the icy poles to a dying civilization. Mars is not exactly safe, but
the Martians are more interested, now, in what a genius knows and what knowledge she is willing to trade,
than in destroying her as a threat to their plans.
And Mars is an extraordinary place, its dusty streets full of haggling merchants and exotic alien spices, its
people enlightened masters of sciences humans have never imagined, and its libraries possessed of arcane
and super-scientific wisdom. Even if the genius does not wish simply to grow rich on Martian sapphires by
filling her rocketship with fresh water (worth more than gold to the dry world), a lifetime can be spent
wandering the million-year-old universities and speaking with the incredible beings there.
Mad scientists who reach Mars are encouraged not to wander too far from the city, where the Mania can
sustain humanoid life, and are advised to have an escape plan ready at all times in case the warlike factions of
the Martian government take over and once again launch an all-out assault on the Blue Planet.
Space Station Colossus was the grand dream of the Space Age and the Golden Age of science fiction, an idea born from Clarke, Heinlein, and countless other visionaries who saw the future of mankind in space. Colossus is an enormous O'Neil cylinder floating near the L4 point, ten miles long and, at first, a glittering jewel in the skies. But Colossus first appeared in 1984, and today the space station is a shambling ruin filled with malfunctioning systems, charming "futuristic inventions" fallen to pieces, and a fair few embittered Atomists. That's not to say Colossus is without value to Peers: the station has become the great marketplace between Earth and the realms of space, and if you can name it it's for sale somewhere in this decaying sci-fi paradise.
Autocthon, Vulcan, Planet X, and Nemesis are barely existent bardos, various visions of planets in the solar system that don't exist - an alternate Earth on the far side of the Sun, a rogue planet beyond Pluto, the planet that shattered into the asteroid belt, etc. Little is known about them, for they flicker into existence only briefly ever so often, and only might become real if they somehow obtain a source of Mania.
Next time, more miscellanea.
Odds and EndsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Odds and Ends
Not much to this section, just miscellaneous crunch.
A genius' life is often a lonely one. You know you're brilliant, filled with such amazing ideas, yet everyone you try to explain your ideas to thinks you're eccentric at best, genuinely insane at worst. They just can't see the things you do, make the connections you can. The fundamental purpose of the Peerage is to remind you that no, they're not crazy for not seeing things the way you do. You're the crazy one. Unmada, on the other hand, believe they're the sane ones and it's everyone else who's crazy. Now for some crunch on them.
An unmada experiences the following modifiers and special conditions:
Attempts to argue against them (usually Persuasion checks) based on external facts about the world,
or to change their mind with regard to facts about the world―but not about moral or Obligationbased
considerations―suffer a penalty equal to half their Inspiration.
An unmada suffers double the normal Jabir penalty.
An unmada loses one point of Mania per day instead of regaining one like other geniuses. The genius
cannot refuse to spend this point of Mania.
An unmada generates a field around herself, called an unmada field, its extent based on her
Inspiration. An unmada who cannot spend a point of Mania (see above) cannot sustain her field,
which collapses until she gets a point of Mania. (Once she has Mania, she immediately spends one
point to restore the field.)
The unmada field is what makes them so dangerous. Within an area based on their Inspiration, reality itself warps to conform to the unmada's views, starting with just the size of a building at Inspiration 1 and creating manes of small objects and plants to entire cities filled with intelligent and even Inspired manes at 7 dots and above. These manes know their survival depends on the unmada and the unmada remaining crazy, so they'll do everything in their power to keep the unmada the way they are.
We're not given any real crunch for precisely what an unmada field does, but the fluff is interesting. At the lowest levels of Inspiration, people within the unmada field simply agree with the genius' insanity. Scientific journals publish articles agreeing with the genius' personal theory of science or philosophy or what have you. Any arguments made against the unmada's views become uncertain, self-contradictory. As their power grows, so does the field's effects. A genius who believes all organic life to be fundamentally mechanical might pet a clockwork cat in the city park and feed pigeons made of glass. Domestic appliance stores start selling android assistants. Hover-cars flit through the skies powered by etheric crystals. An extraordinarily powerful unmada is all but a god within her realm, sovereign of an impossible land that bows to her every whim for they know even if she doesn't that her insanity gives them life.
Geniuses can detect unmada fields, but no rules are given for mortals or other supernaturals detecting Maniacal activity. Which leads to all sorts of potential amusing scenarios where a vampire or werewolf stumbles into someone's unmada field and completely loses their shit because what the goddamn fuck.
Next we're given some rules for detecting mad science activity. Geniuses can natively see at a glance any transfers of Mania, unmada fields, and wonder creation. Given time to take a closer look, they can determine more:
To gain more information, the genius can spend a minute examining the object. A genius also needs to analyze
an object this way if it is partially hidden (a mane in a long coat, for example) or if a wonder has the
"concealed" or "normal-looking" variables. Roll Inspiration + Wits.
Dramatic Failure: The genius completely misinterprets what he's seeing.
Failure: The genius gains no further information, and cannot try again on that subject for the rest of the scene.
Success: The genius gains more information, answering the following applicable questions:
Whether something is a wonder; its rank, primary Axiom, and any "support" Axioms of a wonder
Whether a wonder is an orphan
Whether something is a mane
Whether something is a Larva, and if it is a transgressive Larva
Whether something is a capacitor, and how much Mania it currently holds
A genius' Inspiration (low, medium, or high)
A Clockstopper's Acedia (low, medium, or high)
How much Mania someone or something has spent with its last action
Exceptional Success: The genius gains even more information, answering the following applicable questions in
addition to those available from a regular success:
A wonder's faults
A wonder's creator (if the genius knows the creator)
What Axioms are influencing a person or object (Exelixi stat boosts, Metaptropi polymorphing, etc.)
The idea or philosophy that birthed the mane
A genius' catalyst, foundation, and highest Axiom
Whether or not a genius is unmada (this will not reveal Illumination)
A Clockstopper's highest Void
How much Mania a genius, mane, or automaton currently possesse
Suggested Modifiers: Genius has a relevant Apokalypsi gizmo (bonus equals rank of wonder), genius cannot
touch subject (-2), genius takes only one turn in analysis (-2), genius has encountered a genuinely new or
unique phenomenon (-3), genius has encountered a "common" mad science phenomenon (+1), genius is
studying a member of his own foundation (+2), target is partially concealed (-1 to -3)
Next we're given some rules for people other than a wonder's creator using one. In short, a genius' own beholden can use them without penalty as can geniuses who match the creator's Inspiration and axioms involved. Mortals and other supernaturals take penalties when using wonders and mortals trigger a Havoc check every time.
Internalized Wonders are a genius experimenting on herself, installing a wonder directly into her own body. In short, it's risky, dangerous, and an Obligation-7 transgression (personally I disagree with this last one).
Capacitors are special devices, not quite wonders, that allow geniuses to store, transfer, and withdraw Mania with a whole bunch of rules. With Automata-1, they can also serve as a mundane power generator.
Next are some rules and notes about geniuses and mortality. Geniuses are physically human before wonders get involved, with no special resistance or vulnerability to damage. Genius then contradicts what it previously established about dots of Inspiration increasing a genius' lifespan by saying that only dots of Exelixi increase a genius' lifespan by 20 years per dot. That being said, while often highly unethical, there are few supernaturals better than geniuses at cheating death: clones, brains in jars, consciousness transfers, neural uploading, etc.
In short, a genius by her lonesome with no wonders isn't noticeably different from a regular [crazy] human, and so it's her wonders that really make her more than human.
This is a doozy in science-fiction, and geniuses do it with regularity. Anyone with Skafoi 5 can make a time machine, and Genius' metaplot involves quite a lot of it.
It used to be (excuse the past tense screaming in agony) that godlike beings called the Terminals at the end of time curb-stomped anyone who tried meddling with time. Until someone (Lemurians) changed the timeline so that the Terminals never existed.
Now it's a kind of temporal free-for-all, with mad scientists and arch-magicians and alien psychics from the black hole in the
center of the Galaxy all running about history, mucking things up. However, this did not (and again, the past
tense would like to apologize) last long. A détente settled into place, agreed to by various powerful factions
and enforced by a group calling itself the Guardians of Forever, the Terminals' former servants. This
group―not a fellowship, as it includes much more than just mad scientists―allows others to "blow off steam"
by permitting minor changes to the timeline: a murdered wife rescued here, a genius' wretched younger
brother striking it rich there. The idea is that the relentless enforcement of absolute causal stasis is what
eventually forced the rebellion against the Terminals that resulted in their destruction.
Nonetheless, the Guardians of Forever enforce the unfolding of the grand sweep of history: the dinosaurs
must perish, whether by an asteroid or a plague or a volcanic apocalypse. Rome will fall, as will the Spanish
Empire and the Eternal Terran Dynasty of Yao Ming. The Guardians' solution is simple and expedient:
whenever a major shake-up occurs, they travel back in time to shortly after the event (or sometimes during, if
they cannot fix the problem afterward) and juggle events around so things unfold as they always have. When
a furious genius went back in time and killed Helmut Schenk, the cruelest genocidal mastermind of the 20th
century, as a child, the Guardians of Forever went back and elevated the art student Adolf Hitler to that same
It's not like they enjoy doing that. In fact, the genius who made the above "swap" committed suicide a week
later. But the Guardians have discovered that the Terminals were not acting entirely out of self-interest: the
timeline that leads to the Terminals' existence, despite its horrors, produces a universe of boundless life and
richness. It may be the best of all possible timelines.
Thing is, the future is unstable in the extreme and growing more so all the time [pun intended]. The Guardians of Forever are losing control, and enterprising supernaturals of all stripes are outpacing the Guardians' ability to keep things in order. Feel free to go back in time and kill Hitler - the Guardians have a cloning facility dedicated to churning out Hitlers because he gets killed so often. Thanks to the Terminals and Guardians, this particular timeline we currently habit is remarkably stable as things go and it takes some serious effort to produce substantial changes in history. At which point the Guardians will put a strike team together and erase you from the timeline if they can - which they're pretty damn good at doing, they're not to be messed with lightly.
Time travel is a tricky business, and anyone familiar with the tropes and problems of time travel in sci-fi and fantasy can put together most of Genius' exposition themselves. Yes, you can be your own grandfather. No, the universe doesn't actually care very much. And yes, you can delete yourself from existence by killing your past self. Again, you're not very important to history.
We get some rules about making said serious changes to the timeline and what's likely to get the Guardians' goat, and in short their policy is don't rock the boat. In general the Guardians don't give a shit about what you do as long as you don't make serious changes to the timeline, they just expect payment in Mania for not kicking your ass. That being said, the Guardians are outnumbered, overworked, and as corrupt as any police department, so your mileage may vary.
Also, when time traveling please don't interact with your past/future self who's on another time jaunt in the same time frame. Please. It's a horrible idea even by time travel standards and causality hates you for it.
StorytellingOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Storytelling
We're out of the crunch and into Genius' chapter on storytelling and antagonists.
Mad science is an old cliche, a time-honored idea that traces its lineage back well before the Victorian era that crystallized the mad scientist in the public imagination. Genius incorporates into its ideas old myths of Prometheus, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and Odin hanging himself from the World Tree: the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, the transgression against established morality and beliefs because you think you know better. In the World of Darkness, Geniuses epitomize those with the power to do just that.
Genius encourages more player initiative than usual in the World of Darkness, thematically emphasizing the mad scientists as the ones who act and push against the boundaries of established knowledge and ethics. Give the player characters power and see what they do with it. The fundamental power of the Inspired is to make the impossible, the implausible, and the merely unlikely real, at least for a time.
Science has always horrified us. Today it's the nightmarish specter of misapplied genetic engineering, the real
possibility of a surveillance state, and the proliferation of psychiatric medication. Fifty years ago it was
nuclear Armageddon, sociology that reinforced or subverted the racial and sexual standards of the time, and
the mysterious power of hypnosis. A century ago we feared surgery, chemical annihilation from poison gas,
and the yawning gulfs revealed by relativity and quantum mechanics. And always, always, horror comes not
just from the technology―the killing bomb, the all-seeing eye of surveillance―but from the knowledge itself.
Knowing hurts. We project not just our fears into the unknown, but our hopes and dreams, and to see those
dark places where we left our fancies revealed can cut like a knife. Everything we learn is a betrayal of what
someone hoped for.
There's a famous saying about the relationship between power and corruption. Genius encourages giving that ball to the players and seeing what they envision and unleash.
The Dark Mechanical is Genius' particular take on the World of Darkness, how it's different, darker than our own. In Genius, technology is a genie we've never quite put back in the bottle. We can control it to a degree, use it to serve our purposes in small ways, but we can't stop or escape it. Wires take over our civilization like kudzu, electrical and telegraph and fiber-optic and who knows what else. Listen to the ancient radio of your grandfather's, still producing better sound than your latest iWhatever. You don't see the stars much anymore, obscured by light pollution from our ever-present attempts to beat back the dark. Even out in the open ocean, far away from any human life or civilization, a few of the stars glittering in the sky are made of aluminum.
The Dark Mechanical reflects the inner state of the genius. Is a genius a mortal in charge of the higherdimensional
mathematics that dance in her brain? Or is she a knot of Uttermost Reality slumming it in the
physical world, taking up residence in a human mind like a virus invades a cell? Is humanity in charge of the
things it creates―are humans demiurges, creating the new―or are they thralls to an existing and alien order,
one that spreads and lives and grows on its own, and for which humans only opened the gates? The genius,
like every human alive today, finds her sense of control and normality slipping, as the world transforms itself
into something more terrifying, or more beautiful, than she can possibly imagine.
Mania isn't something that just exists as points, and it's everywhere. Technology doesn't quite operate as it should, and people see glimpses of mad science everywhere. That car rusting in front of an abandoned house hasn't moved in decades, but turn a knob on the dashboard and you'll hear radio broadcasts from the other side of the world. The fridge in the school cafeteria never seems to run out of food, even though the lunch ladies haven't used it in years. Out of curiosity you measured it with a ruler. It's a quarter of an inch wider on the inside than the door, yet the door fits perfectly. There's a Nintendo 64 in the children's section of the public library, kids in the after-school program spend hours upon hours trying to beat the evil witch. But there's a weird graphics glitch: the witch doesn't look like she should, and in fact looks like the librarian. She claims it's just a prank, but she never wants to talk about it or who did it. And so on and so forth.
Being Inspired is not as easy to live with as one might think. Geniuses are fundamentally insane, their brains are wired differently. The human brain is one of the best pattern-recognizing devices ever made - look at the whole idea of star constellations in the night sky. We see things, make connections informed by our education. See a pin drop, gravity did it. See a red piece of fruit candy, it's cherry or strawberry. Geniuses don't quite make these connections, or make other ones that sane people don't. What is self-evident and patently obvious to a Genius is madness to a mortal. Perhaps beautiful, perhaps terrifying, but when you apologize for getting in late to work because of a traffic accident and your coworker off-handedly says it's no trouble, the local animal shelter has been generating too much phlogiston after rescuing a bunch of cats from a hoarder, without explanation and acting like you should instantly grasp why that would have caused an accident, you realize that these people don't quite live in the same world that you do.
As the Storyteller, you need to play up this unique form of Mania. Geniuses form connections with things that
aren't "really" there for regular people. Their entire essence screams to reduce reality to a handful of elegant
equations that are obviously, self-evidently true. The Peerage exists almost entirely to fight this tendency,
because once a genius believes he's figured it out, he's mad. The light eats out the back of his eyes and he'll
probably never see straight again.
And geniuses live with this fear every day, an aspect any Storyteller should emphasize. The characters should
never entirely be sure that they see what is or what they want to see. "Technobabble" is a playful name the
peers use to downplay a terrifying phenomenon that all geniuses eventually experience. Talking with regular
mortals can be a painful experience for geniuses, as the mask of sanity slips. A Storyteller can even use
mundane events―buying a new stereo system, going to a PTA meeting―to demonstrate this tendency of the
Inspired to "slip," just a little: turns of phrase that don't make sense, explanations that link things that do not
connect, and other acts of Jabir.
The difference between a genius and a normal insane individual is that the genius can fight her madness. She can feel the alien energy of Inspiration in her brain, twisting what she used to know and believe, and she can struggle to dismiss the lunatic thoughts in her mind, or accept them only as knowing insanity that can be used. If she never stops fighting Inspiration, will probably end up killing her as her brain tears itself apart, unable to reconcile the two halves of the genius' mind. Even if she gives in, in an ecstatic spree of release, that only brings another struggle as she fights to escape being completely consumed by Inspiration.
And the real twist of the knife is that no one will ever think she's something beyond a garden-variety crazy person. Therein lies one of the great personal horrors of being a genius. The Inspired aren't like vampires or mages or werewolves. They don't enforce any sort of masquerade to keep their existence secret from mortals because the nature of their powers does that job plenty well. The world of science won't recognize or validate the Inspired if they level New York City with a giant robot because none of the principles by which the robot worked can be reproduced. Its existence and miraculous construction will be dismissed and debunked. All the brilliant ideas in your mind? All the wonders you can build and grand visions you have? The only people who will ever think you're anything but a madman are your fellow Inspired. The simple quest for validation, for people to say "Yes, I believe you" is one of the most common and insidious roads to terrible transgressions and oftentimes Illumination.
The Peerage exists to fill this gap, founded a long time ago by geniuses who realized that loneliness and utter insanity - unmada and Illumination - go hand in hand. That's not to say they're benevolent by any stretch of the imagination, but a federation of mad scientists willing to slap you across the face then have tea over discussions of orgone and the Akashic Records is a more valuable service to keeping you sane than you might think. Still, the name implies an aristocracy with good reason. The Peerage have no desire to rule over mankind or guide it in secret - Lemuria was the world champion at herding those cats and look how well it worked out for them - but see themselves oftentimes as humanity's guardians and overseers. Distant, cold, and more than a little crazy, but Obligation is an equally cold measure of tying you back to a humanity you no longer belong to. No longer belong to, and probably can't help in any but the smallest of ways. Again, have a look at Lemuria for those who think they can use mad science to save humanity. No, seriously, have a look. Genius encourages the players to actively question the Peerage and what they'd lose and gain by jumping ship to Lemuria or simply going rogue.
Running out of time, so next time more storytelling.
More StorytellingOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, More Storytelling
At its heart, Genius is a game about creation. Creating stuff, beautiful or horrific, is what the mad scientists do and their mechanics reflect that. Genius again encourages the DM to put a lot of power in the players' hands: let them create things, let them be forces of change, and have the world react to that. It's a common idea in stories about mad scientists and wizards that they create their own worst enemies, their own nightmares and destroyers, and given the themes of Genius it's quite likely that the PCs will follow that example. That said, Genius does encourage the DM to put a leash on what axioms PCs have - higher ranks of many axioms, notably Skafoi, can put a severe crimp on many campaign stories, so the DM may not wish to bother.
This is a lot to ask, especially of new players. Sometimes your players will get stuck. The variations of mad
science present in Genius are legion and can paralyze a new player. One solution is to point to different
historical and fictional mad scientists. Ask the player if she's aiming for more of a Nikola Tesla "electricity and
dynamism" mad scientist, or maybe a deranged biologist like Dr. Moreau. (Just listing the major branches of
science and craft, and putting "mad" in front of each one, can help. Mad archeology, mad acoustics, mad
macramé...) But a better technique is to ask the player, not who she wants to play, but what she wants to
make. Wings made of iron and stolen clocks? Feline servants, each made from miles of tangled electrical wire?
Beautiful glass spheres that spread nightmare-gas? Have images on hand and gently prod players who seem
at a loss. Remember: the story is about the players' characters and what they create.
Genius next delves into a brief discussion of science fiction, horror, and weirdness, three concepts and genres that lend themselves to Genius stories. Science fiction in its purest form is about asking questions: break one established rule of science or technology, and what happens? Invent a new machine, and who does it affect? Technological proliferation usually isn't a valid option to explore in Genius, given the nature of Havoc, but almost any wonder can draw someone else into the plot as victim, antagonist, ally, or some or none of the above. Build a gate into the realm of spirits, and you might invite the wrath of a pissed off werewolf or a curious werewolf intrigued by this anomaly. Or an old woman who thinks she's talking with her dead husband. Or hunters who think you've built a gateway to hell. Or a tech-spirit that wants to use the Inspired to build more such portals. Take a wonder, think about the consequences.
I think we're all familiar with the tropes and forms of horror attendant to mad science, so I'll skip over most of that except for Genius noting the most banal, mundane fears that are also among the most insidious for geniuses: simple fear of failure, and fear of insanity. That creeping fear that you really don't have everything figured out, that your ideas don't work, that your family you don't talk to anymore because they think you're mad are actually right. Inspiration tears every genius away from humanity to some degree, but the only salve it offers to that bleak, mundane everyday horror of a dead-end life chasing immaterial dreams is genuine insanity. For every genius who proudly marches into unmada triumphantly proclaiming their righteousness and superior intellect, there's two more who quietly retreat into it looking for a mental happy place that Inspiration denies them.
The power and value of high weirdness is in the juxtapositions it can produce. Weirdness is invaluable when
something in your story―a character, a wonder, a place―doesn't yet seem extraordinary enough to merit
inclusion in the chronicle. You can enrich an idea through several kinds of juxtaposition. Try...ancient and
modern: the Oracle hunting the collaborative wields an obsidian axe in one hand and a crackling energy-whip
in the other. Biological and mechanical: the wolf lopes forward, revealing the AA batteries driven into its
cranium like a crown of thorns. Beautiful and hideous: the mane's exquisite ruby mask hides a face of putrid
rot and dripping meat. High culture and pop culture: a Scholastic's office is full of ancient Roman busts and
velvet paintings of Elvis. Wealth and poverty: the Director's magnificently appointed townhouse has no
windows through which one might glimpse the favela's feral children just outside.
Using all three ideas - science fiction, horror, and weirdness - is what Genius strives for to present a rich setting. One of my favorite examples, taking from Genius' suggestions as ideas, comes from a book I enjoy called Riptide . In a lonely, mysterious island off the storm-battered Maine coast, a high-tech archaeology company explores a doom fortress built by a legendary pirate to conceal his accumulated treasure, and the place's architect was a visionary so brilliant that the traps and defenses confound even modern technology and kill the best-prepared treasure hunters. As the protagonists research what went on there to warrant such a fortress, cracking seemingly impossible ciphers in the architect's journal, they learn that the prize at the bottom is a sword said to belong to the archangel Michael, and the blade killed everyone it ever came into contact with, and indeed its very presence laid waste to entire cities. What is the sword? Why did the architect go to such lengths to protect it? And can they stop the increasingly insane man leading the expedition who's obsessed with finding the sword? That's pretty much all you need for a good adventure right there.
Genius ' theme is Transgression. In his quest to create, to transform, and to transcend, a genius can commit
acts of monstrous cruelty, and even when he does not, his behavior and ideas are not palatable to most
regular people. Its mood is Bitter Disappointment. A genius might fly, but she is still chained to our mundane
reality, and the forces of Havoc and simple, human cruelty will wipe away all her accomplishments in the end.
But as a Storyteller, your chronicle, too, can have its own theme and its own mood, something that
complements or contrasts with the literary elements of the larger game.
Genius' default mood is one of Bitter
Disappointment: triumphs vanish, brilliance goes ignored, great works fail for stupid, common reasons, and in
the end, a genius never achieves the recognition, respect, or even understanding she desires. In other words,
life sucks, and not in a grand way―there's no vast conspiracy holding the genius down. He's not chosen as a
scapegoat by a vindictive God. He's not punished by Nemesis. Terrible things just happen because we live in a
broken, imperfect world, and those imperfections destroy the most beautiful and brilliant among us first.
The discussion of themes and moods is old hat to anyone familiar with the nWoD so skipping over it. Next time, which may be sometime tonight, I'll delve into the storytelling section on antagonists and plots.
AntagonismOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Antagonism
Just a short section here, the rest of this chapter is standard "how to tell and run and play in a chronicle" with little specific to geniuses.
Who are a genius' enemies? Certainly they exist. The mere fact of being Inspired is enough for some to want a mad scientist dead, but through action and inaction alike geniuses are very good at making enemies for themselves. As Tony Stark has been reminding us frequently in the movies, people often create their own worst enemies. Honestly, Tony Stark would be easy to stat up in Genius, probably a Hoffnung (catalyst of hope and vision) Artificer with a high Obligation and two to three dots at minimum in everything but Epikrato. Batman? Grimm (catalyst of rage) Navigator, also high Obligation.
Antagonizing the Powerful usually means other Inspired: Peers, Lemurians, and manes. The conflict may be ideological in nature, different mad scientists with different plans for humanity or just for this city block. Just as common are conflicts over resources - there are only so many desirable locations for mad scientist lairs unless you have the resources to construct a proper hidden fortress, and even then the choice locations are a seller's market, not to mention that there's only so much iridium and xenon and other rare raw materials to go around on the planet. Competing grant proposals also have a tendency to turn spectacularly nasty, even lethal, or competition for a prized tenure position at the local university. Then there are the Lemurians, Void Engineers, and powerful manes like moon Nazis, Martians, and the odd sentient orphan wonder running amok. Geniuses have no shortage of powerful enemies they may find themselves up against, and that's just within their field. It doesn't take any imagination to find mad scientists in violent conflict with other supernatural denizens of the World of Darkness, or hunters out to end the genius' insane schemes.
New geniuses and new collaboratives are often the targets of poaching attempts by established groups that
resent the intrusion or just see an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable. This is how these chronicles can
start: with a new collaborative moving in and sending ripples of anger and avarice through the Inspired or
preta communities. Lemurians are notorious for nighttime thefts, protection rackets, and other bullying
tactics, and many are so blinkered that they won't back down even when outgunned. The results can turn
violent quickly. Other dangers include powerful manes, who may view young geniuses as a potential source of
food, or peers who see suckers and proxies for their own petty wars.
This is the most traditional type of antagonist, and oddly one of the most difficult to run well if you want horror and to a lesser degree personal drama. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a straight heroic adventure story if that's what the DM and players want - Genius does swashbuckling mad science like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or a modern-day Jules Verne tale quite well if that's how you want to play it.
Antagonizing the Masses is one of the most common stories with mad scientists in literature. Torches and pitchforks may have gone out of style, but mad scientists have a tendency to drive down property values, accidentally or deliberately loose dangerous creations on the world, and unwittingly do weird things to nosy neighbors and curious kids who peer in the genius' windows. A genius' wife may also be curious about what exactly she does in the basement behind that locked door that keeps her so busy she forgot their anniversary (incidentally, Genius notes that this is one of the reasons why romantic relationships are very common between Inspired, though it's just as likely to exacerbate their insanity as ground them both). There are worse things that can happen to normal people who stumble into a genius' life of mad science than Havoc checks, like becoming Beholden or even becoming Inspired themselves. Antagonizing the masses is common as seasoning for other types of conflicts, but can potentially sustain a low-scale campaign or story arc itself.
The story usually begins before or immediately after the Breakthroughs that create the collaborative. A
vignette format works well for this sort of chronicle: the Storyteller can allow geniuses to make hard
individual or group choices where they decide between their normal lives and the new world they've
discovered. As this chronicle progresses, it's possible that different geniuses will come to different
conclusions―some may reject the regular world altogether, while others fight to maintain their normality.
(The Storyteller should make the players aware that these rifts are tools for more drama, not for bickering at
the table or splitting up the collaborative so they never interact and the chronicle dissolves into a series of
unconnected stories.) The creation of new wonders is also a time for new vignettes, as regular people in the
genius' life discover the wonders and trigger Havoc. This can be especially poignant if the genius created the
wonder to help him in his regular life: an Exelixi wonder that's cured the cancer of a genius' sick mother
might fall into the hands of the hateful old woman up the road; if her fiddling causes it to spread sickness
throughout the community, will the collaborative blame the old woman and keep their reputations in the
community, or fess up while still hiding enough of the truth that people don't ask too many questions?
There's ample opportunity to mix things up through mad science threats, too. A genius in the area kidnapped the next-door-neighbor's dog as a test subject. An orphan robot haunts the streets at night, harvesting bits and pieces of cars in a futile effort to repair itself. Dealing with the problem is no trouble from a perspective of power and force, but dealing with it without rousing the neighbors' suspicions might be trickier.
Antagonizing the Righteous mostly means hunters, organizations that want to stop a genius' insanity unaware of their supernatural nature, and Clockstoppers (we'll get to those later). Basically, take any traditional story with an evil mad scientist and tell it from the mad scientist's point of view. Genius also displays a welcome note of self-awareness about how this can go:
One danger of this sort of chronicle is that it can degrade into back-patting masturbatory nonsense, where the
characters spend their time smugly protecting the very people trying to destroy them. There's a place for
martyrs in fiction, but if the theme of the chronicle is an answer, and the answer is "Yes, we are all special
snowflakes who are tremendously put-upon by ignorant mundanes," maybe it's time to cut back on the self-congratulation.
Remember that if you're Inspired, you are legitimately crazy and that alien force of creativity and knowledge in your head is not your friend.
Antagonizing Oneself runs with those facts. More so than most supernaturals in the World of Darkness (mages and changelings can definitely give them a run for their money), geniuses are very often their own worst enemies and are eminently capable of destroying themselves with no outside assistance beyond the Inspiration in their skull. Every Inspired, consciously or otherwise, chose to become what they are and go down the rabbit hole of mad science when they had the opportunity to turn back and leave well enough alone. This is probably the most difficult sort of adversary to run a big story arc or a full campaign on due to the intensely personal nature of the conflict as I'm sure anyone who's familiar with Promethean can attest.
A genius' wonders turning against them or getting loose is the most obvious form this kind of story can take, but the Illuminated are also good external agents of a genius' own insanity. Many Illuminated are blatantly evil monsters, but others - and unmada - can be dangerously persuasive and downright seductive, encouraging the genius to let it all go, to stop pretending to be what they patently aren't.
This sort of chronicle is the hardest to run because a character's internal mental states don't mean anything
unless they're out there on the table for all the players and the Storyteller to interact with. A private journey
from despair to either exaltation or self-destruction can be carried out entirely in a player's head like some
sort of weird computer simulation, but that's not role-playing so much as a fancy internal monologue. The
Storyteller needs to work to bring the genius' inner state out into the shared space where the game actually
gets played. A number of techniques are applicable here. Theses are obvious ways for a genius to inflict his
inner self upon the world, and long, complicated theses can be strung together to define this sort of chronicle.
The creation of wonders, and the failure to create, can serve as springboards for understanding how and why
a genius does what he does, and thus what's going on in his mind. Interactions with other characters―either
other geniuses in the collaborative, or other people or creatures―helps the players express the nature of their
characters in words or actions.
Personally, I'm inclined to use this as seasoning for other antagonists and conflicts during a campaign, taking the odd session out to look at the toll the campaign is taking on the PCs themselves as people.
Next time, we dive into Lemuria.
LemuriaOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Lemuria
I've talked about Lemuria a lot throughout this review, including a brief overview of the organization and its beliefs , but now it's time to delve into just what humanity's past secret masters were and are today after their defeat.
Are geniuses scientists? Are geniuses sane?
Two good questions with no clear answers―unless you're a Lemurian, in which case the answers are yes, and
yes, of course, it's everyone else who's crazy.
Lemurians are unmada one and all, meaning they take "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" as a mission statement to the point that they literally live in a somewhat different version of reality from everyone else and can make it your version of reality, too, but Lemuria as an organization is more than just a bunch of unmada who have joined together. Lemuria believes that at some point, human civilization went off the rails from what it was meant to be. Precisely where or how they think the course of civilization went wrong depends on the individual Lemurian, and the baramins in the linked post above cover five of the most common (well, four and fishmalks). This is not to say non-Lemurians don't share these views or aren't unmada, or that Lemurians are universally bad people. There are plenty of unmada in the Peerage and as loners, and most Lemurians are fundamentally decent people. They're just dangerously insane, and being unmada can be extraordinarily difficult to reason with.
The smallest unit of organization in Lemuria is the zotheca, a private facility where multiple Lemurians can get together, share resources, and talk. It's exactly the same as a Peerage collaborative, but every zotheca has a mercatus, a front-man. Whereas collaboratives tend to be secretive and suspicious of outsiders, zothecae want to be noticed and welcome anyone who drops by, Lemurian, Peer, rogue, mortal, or other supernatural alike. Lemuria as an organization may be leaderless and slowly collapsing, but their infrastructure and logistics division are second to none, and mercati will happily trade information, lab workers, hired muscle, raw resources, Larvae, orphaned wonders, cooperative or non-sentient manes, special jobs, and indeed just about anything the zotheca has access to, no questions asked, as long as you can meet their price. Lemuria is charmingly up front about it and is happy to hand out business cards. So up front about it that many in the Peerage secretly have a working relationship with Lemuria, finding them and their resources too useful to smash like they're supposed to.
If mercati are Lemuria's front men on the local level, the Bureaus handle Lemuria's relations with mortal authorities. Prior to the Invisible War the Bureaus were your typical Illuminati-style conspiracy, but since then they've mostly fallen apart. That doesn't mean they don't exist anymore or that they aren't very capable of wrecking a thorny collaborative's shit if they feel the need, but these days they're just a sideshow to Lemuria, staffed by mid-level bureaucrats and mediocre masterminds who think puppeteering government agencies is an impressive feat. It doesn't help that there are currently five separate Bureaus working in North America alone.
The Office of the Seventh Treasury (originally the Office of the Lost Treasury; its initials are still OLT), located
out of Washington, D.C., is nominally the bureau for the entire United States, but its effective power is limited
to states north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi.
The Confederate States Intelligence Agency partially joined with the Seventh Treasury in 1914, becoming the
Joint American Intelligence Agency, before falling apart again; the JAIA covers most of the southern and parts
of the central US as well as Texas and operates out of Raleigh.
Texas has its own organization, the Texan Bureau for Mechanical Development, though the TBMD's reach is
limited only to that state―if it is still extant at all, which is not clear. There has been no activity from the
bureau's central office in the Alamo's basement for fifteen years.
California's old Lemurian front, the Agency for the Future of the Republic (AFR), has spread up and down the
west coast of the United States and down to the edge of Mexico, where it abuts the jurisdiction of Mexico's
Oficina Veintidos (and Offices 18 through 25; it's unclear which Oficina is currently active).
Most of Canada is covered by the Royal Order of the Black Prism, a secretive and occult organization that can
be found anywhere that still recognizes some element of British rule―including India, parts of Africa, and the
original thirteen colonies.
We're now given a brief aside on Lemurian terminology, who have different names for all the Genius concepts in case a DM wants to use it, but the game also notes that most Lemurians also know the Peerage terminology and may only use the Lemurian versions in Lemurian company. Most Lemurian terms are in bad Latin, though you should beware a Lemurian who correctly declines and pluralizes their Latin - you're dealing either with an obsessive or a very old individual, and both mean serious trouble. For their part, Lemurians refer to themselves as the Enlightened and the Peerage as the Invisible Empire.
Language, Obsession, and the Needle Grail:
Lemurian's refusal to recognize the "mad" in their mad science leads to a frequent belief that "Mania" is in fact
another energy source that can be studied and manipulated. Those Lemurians who do identify distinct
Axioms in their work often believe that a ninth, secret Axiom exists, that allows for direct alteration and
adjustment of Inspiration and Mania. With this Axiom, sometimes called Apekrina or Pankosmoi, but often
referred to in Lemuria as the Needle Grail, Lemurians claim that they will be able to build wonders to ignore
Havoc, enhance a genius' Inspiration, and harvest Mania from reality itself. While the search for the Needle
Grail is sometimes a hobby to peers, many Lemurians and Lemurian-aligned rogues take its study very
seriously, and many even believe that they have mastered the Axiom and can create wonders using it. So far
there is no evidence that Pankosmoi exists, let alone that its study can produce wonders.
The main writer for Genius has said in the forums that this axiom does exist but won't provide any rules for it. DMs, go nuts if you want to include this in some capacity.
Next will be the history of Lemuria. Prepare for weirdness.
The History of LemuriaOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, The History of Lemuria
The history of Lemuria... where to fucking start? If you include Genius in the World of Darkness, the history of Lemuria is perhaps the single most obtuse subject in existence.
In the present timeline, Lemuria is a bardo that began as a rough amalgamation of all the lost worlds and undiscovered continents proven not to exist when the world was mapped. Many theologians and mystics and whatnot had attributed special spiritual significance to these lost worlds, and so Lemuria popped into existence as a powerful bardo, inhabited by a highly intelligent and civilized race of immortal serpent-people.
Now, most manes in the world today are aware that they're somewhat less than real, but this self-styled Third Race was not content to be a figment of humanity's imagination doomed to decline and eventual oblivion as humanity forgot them. Waging a conventional war on humanity was not possible: unlike the later Martians, the Third Race realized that they were susceptible to Havoc and so any such campaign was doomed to failure. Brilliant, Inspired, and with the endless patience of immortality, the Third Race developed a plan: using the most extreme depths of Skafoi, the serpent-people hurled themselves back in time to the dawn of human civilization and became the secret rulers of humanity, retroactively inserted the day humans began to move past the hunter-gatherer stage. The temporal effects were devastating, twisting and warping the entire timeline and destroying the Terminals, the godlike beings at the end of time. In this timeline, the Third Race were the next thing to gods.
But there were unintended consequences as well. The temporal shift wiped away Lemuria itself, an idea that now had never been taken seriously, and the Third Race found they could no longer reproduce themselves. The change in the timeline never stopped humans from becoming Inspired, either, but now these Inspired were brought before the secret rulers of mankind and swore fealty to their serpentine overlords. They became the Secret Masters, the agents of the true Lemurians. Lemuria the organization was born in the time-warped cradle of mankind.
How true any of that is is anyone's guess. It's the best guess anyone in the present state of reality has put together, but when you're dealing with a bunch of secretive, reality-warping egomaniacal madmen, rogue figments of the human imagination, and there have been this many disturbances in the timeline, "truth" is a funny story you share with your friends over beer.
What is known for certain is that the Third Race's numbers had thinned by the time recorded history began. Some in accidents (these are mad scientists after all), some in internecine violence, at least one was slain by some group fighting Lemuria even then - take your pick of myths this might have inspired. The nine surviving serpents abandoned their cages of flesh to become beings of pure intellect and thought, appearing to humans as sages and holy men. These were the Nine Unknown Men, and they created a book called the Race History, a development guide for human civilization should even the Nine Unknown Men fall.
The point of all of this was to engineer a reality where Lemuria exists. Not just as a bardo, but truly exists as a natural part of the world with the Third Race intact are more than mere manes.
Lemuria quietly ruled humanity in the shadows and guided human civilization for centuries, always seeking to bring about Lemuria - possibly by engineering human civilization to the point where they could change the timeline again and bring Lemuria into being, no one knows for sure. Those who fought back were crushed. Or so the Lemurians claim. That pesky issue of them all being unmada rears its head again. What is known for certain is that Lemuria's decline and the birth of what would become the Peerage began with the Renaissance in Europe and the Islamic Golden Age in the Middle East. Becoming Inspired is part chance, but also in large part based on the mentality of the individual. One must have a mindset to identify problems and figure them out to have a Breakthrough, and the Renaissance was a sea change in how people in Europe fundamentally saw the world, and the Golden Age in the Middle East - most of Asia was too conservative, too culturally stagnant to trigger Inspiration in large numbers, and much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Western Hemisphere hadn't yet undergone the transformation of thought sweeping through Europe and the Islamic world. Geniuses began to appear everywhere, too many for Lemuria to destroy or control, and the Invisible War began.
By the dawn of the 17th century, the Invisible College had been founded, and the organizations that would become the Progenitors, the Artificers, and other members of the Peerage were beginning to take form. They were united by a common enemy that recognized them as an existential threat, and Lemuria fought back with a vengeance. It is an amusing irony, then, that as 21st century geniuses look back it's become clear that the real value of the Peers' struggle against Lemuria was in distracting them from the real problem upending all of their plans and destroying the Race History: mortals. Mortals were doing things they weren't supposed to while Lemuria battled the Peerage, coming up with ideas meant to come later if at all and generally making an incredible mess of the Third Race's carefully cultivated timeline. Cracks began to appear in Lemuria, the Third Race's human servants began to question their masters even as Lemuria threatened to burst into existence again as a bardo. Not ideal, but it could turn the tide against the Peerage and the unwitting mortals.
The war against Lemuria proper when it appeared was devastating, but at the end of the day humanity prevailed. The great machines housing the Nine Unknown Men were destroyed, all brain tapes, clones, psychic duplicates, and alternate timeline copies eradicated. The Secret Masters were destroyed. Lemuria itself was reduced to a smoking wasteland. The death toll on both sides was horrific, and many survivors on both sides are haunted by memories of terrible but necessary things they did during the war. Still, it was a victory for the Peerage. Humanity at large, fortunately, never realized what was going on - the mortal world was preoccupied with World War Two, and the great battle that ended the Invisible War slipped into the shadows of history.
And that, say most Inspired, as if Lemuria were a just-so story, is why we didn’t get the rocket cars and robot
butlers and meals in pill form we were promised. We got something far stranger, instead, the result of free
and independent inquiry. But there is a price: no one is in control. No one is there to be blamed or praised; no
one is, ultimately, responsible. Lemuria was an evil, brutal, dictatorial, racist, dream-killing organization, but
like a crooked casino, it was the only game in town.
Not all the Lemurians died during the last Invisible War. And the idea that Lemuria represented, that
humanity had gone wrong and needed to be led back to the right path, hadn’t been killed by killing a bunch of
old conspirators and mechanical serpent-gods. Much of the bureaucratic infrastructure still remained, in fact,
and the Peerage realized that the edifice of human knowledge that they relied upon was threatened with
collapse. Slowly, like cockroaches edging in darkness toward table-scraps, the Lemurians crept back in.
After all, the free Inspired told themselves, someone had to make sure that the universities didn’t collapse, or
accidentally open rifts into the Chaos Realms. Someone had to maintain the ridiculous illusion that paper with
dead presidents possessed value. Someone had to be in charge. Right?
So the institution of Lemuria was restored. Crimes were pardoned, sentences commuted. The Peerage pushed
the whole rotting edifice back up, because the alternative was worse: collapse, complete collapse, for the
Inspired world and perhaps for the mortal world as well.
Still, Lemuria remains shattered and leaderless. No one knows how to operate the last machines of the Secret Masters and the Nine Unknown Men, but many Lemurians blindly follow their dictates anyway. Other Lemurians simply continue as they always have, pretending that someone is in charge, must be in charge. But there is not.
No one is in charge of humanity anymore.
The last stars went out so long ago no one remembers what they were like. Protons have dissolved. Black holes have disappeared in bursts of gamma radiation. Here dwell the Cold Ones: the last intelligent beings in the universe, whose thoughts are measured by the stray background fluctuation of quantum nothingness.Original SA post Genius: The Transgression, Odds and Ends
We're nearing the end of Genius, so now it's a random deluge of whatever the writers thought was interesting.
The Illuminated are what happens when a Breakthrough goes spectacularly awry, an Unmada delves too deeply into madness, or a genius' Obligation hits 0. That last one is actually pretty rare, considering that the kinds of things it takes to hit Obligation 2 and 1 usually result in someone, Inspired or otherwise, coming along to kill for revenge or simply for the good of humanity.
What are the Illuminated? They are once-humans completely consumed by the alien light of Inspiration and no one, Peer or Lemurian, can tell you anything more than that about what precisely they are. What they are not is human. They retain the memories of the person they used to be, and can mimic their former personality for a time, but it's very clear that there's an alien intelligence inhabiting that body now and only death will release the former genius.
As far as behavior goes, Illuminated are completely unpredictable beyond genuine psychosis: they have no sense of right or wrong. Some act like charmingly psychopathic killers, others are frenzied monsters, still others only desire to be left to their [usually horrific] work. In short, they're whatever the DM needs them to be for the story and have no actual characterization or rules of behavior.
This next thing... I have no idea why it's here, or who would use it. Presented without comment.
The future isn't what it used to be. Once a linear progression of events leading eventually to the Terminals,
the timeline is now a mess of pocket chrono-fiefdoms and unstable causality. This increasing disorder,
coupled with the fact that time-traveling into the future necessarily removes the genius from the timeline,
means that rarely will two trips into, say, the year 3,000, produce the same result. But here are the most
common destinations when one travels certain spans of time into the future.
+10 Years: The Rapture. No, bear with us, really. Tens of thousands of people disappear, almost all with
Morality 8+, and are assimilated into some kind of computational overmind. The barrier between the living
and dead worlds temporarily breaks down, flooding the world with ghosts, while wars sweep across the
world until stopped by a genius who seizes control of the United Nations and forms an Anarchosyndicalist
world government that manages to maintain the illusion of normality while returning the dead to the earth.
Afterward, the government disintegrates, while humanity studies new technology that allows it to speak with
the world of the dead.
+50 Years: The Machine Ragnarök. A massive cold snap caused by environmental changes freezes most of
the northern hemisphere. A genius' attempts to fix the problem by redirecting sunlight off other heavenly
bodies backfires, blacking out the sun and moon. The Illuminated, seeing their chance, unleash a technological
plague on the Earth, transforming common machinery into murderous titans of steel and plastic. The most
common result is a coalition of Inspired beating back the catastrophe and slowly working to restore the
Technology ten or fifty years hence generally remains the same, except it's smaller, faster, and more
"universal," meaning that single gadgets tend to do more. Anyone who's anyone has some kind of universal
PDA/cell phone/AV player about the size of a paperclip on their person. People who make use of advanced
technology, such as soldiers from first-world armies, can be treated as having 1-3 Axiom ranks worth of
wonders. These advanced technologies do not suffer from Havoc.
+100 Years: Lemuria Ascendant. After centuries of carefully infiltrating regular terrestrial society, the Third
Race uses its (previously-unknown) total dominance of the 22nd century's Internet to take over
cybernetically-modified brains (that is, most people's brains) and enslave several billion people directly. The
rest fall into line, but the Ophidians' empire lasts for only a few decades as the ever-changing nature of the
World Network breaks down their lines of hierarchical control, forcing the Third Race to confront a fate even
worse than imprisonment on their island kingdom: one baffling people among many, they are, even after the
cruelties they inflected on Earth and its colonies throughout the inner solar system, assimilated into regular
+300 Years: The Martian Colonization. The Martian Empire, after gaining enough Mania to make itself fully
real, reveals itself and quickly dominates Earth's cultural landscape with its sophisticated and newly-dynamic
culture. Together, Earth and Mars colonize the solar system, with the Martian Overlords forging ahead to
"standardize" the other bardos, rendering them down for Mania before they are annihilated by the Havoc of
encountering mere mortals. A Golden Age of commerce and philosophy begins in the solar system.
A few hundred years from now, technology is extraordinary and commonplace. The average person owns
(though does not necessarily carry) the equivalent of one Axiom rank worth of orphans for every dot of
Intelligence + Resources they possess. Many people, especially scientists, police officers, and spies have the
equivalent of Inspiration 1 due to internal AI systems. By this time, the difference between geniuses and
regular people breaks down a bit: mere mortals do not trigger Havoc merely by using or holding wonders.
+1,000 Years: The Confederacy of Worlds. Humanity knows that strange beings walk among them, and have
eagerly exploited these powers. A polyglot empire of squabbling human and posthuman "tribes" has arisen,
supported by economic need and connected by a loose affiliation of interests. Sometimes called the "Pirate
Empire," the Confederacy is a place where anything can be had for a price, where information, money, and
political power blur.
+10,000 Years: The Brutal Empire of Yao Ming. As humanity begins its spread to the stars, a ruthless
technologist and dictator appears at the edge of the Solar System. Calling himself Yao Ming, he gives wonders
beyond anything seen before to the rulers of several worlds, but they are subtly trapped: he binds them to
service, and using economic and military leverage, gains executive control over the Engines of Immortality.
Only those loyal to Yao Ming will be resurrected from their brain tapes; the rest perish. In a few short years,
Yao Ming establishes himself as mankind's most brutal dictator.
Barring significant technological collapse, technology a few thousand years from now is so common that to
replicate it, treat everyone as "possessing" an inner genius in the form of a bound artificial intelligence. This
genius has an Inspiration equal to the person's Intelligence or Resources, whichever is lower (minimum 1).
Humans are a cautious race in this time frame, as "braintaping" is often available. While full immortality is
(usually) still beyond humanity's reach, vastly extended lifespans are possible, and dying humans often join
strange hive-minds to preserve their thoughts.
In particularly oppressive regions (such as Yao Ming's), advanced technologies may be limited only to the
elite, with mundane humans getting by with a few orphan wonders.
+50,000 Years: The Celestial Dynasty. United after centuries of war and cruelty, humanity has formed into a
vast machine dynasty. Technology has reached the Clarke limit, becoming indistinguishable from magic, with
humans channeling their "inner power" to perform seeming miracles and live forever. The River of Heaven
unites a billion worlds in superluminal commerce and contact. On the greatest planets, immortal scholars
meet "ghosts" of the long-departed and warriors who can break moons in half and perform other marvels.
+100,000 Years: Machine Earth. Years ago, a technological singularity swept across the Earth, converting
everyone into computer data, that they might live forever in an artificial Utopia. As pampered as babies and as
powerful as gods, humanity lives, invisible, somewhere within the eight thousand mile-diameter Earth (or
elsewhere, on other worlds, ringworlds, or Dyson Spheres) The surface of Earth is a bleak, often airless place,
where only machines walk, protecting humanity.
"People" from this far in the future are often surrounded by nanotech swarms, possess what previous
centuries would call psychic powers, or can manipulate energy fields at will using the power of super-science.
Assume that a typical human, in reality or computer-space, is a genius possessing Inspiration equal to
Intelligence + Resources. In their own digital realms, humans are basically limitless in their power.
+One Million Years: The Metahuman Empire. Humanity and its metanormal companions have transcended
their limitations and become a race of immortals, reaching for the stars and other realities. Engineering
wonders such as Dyson Spheres and worlds made of pure Computronium running computer simulations of
life are common. The "humans" in this era are nearly incomprehensible, their behavior fey and often
seemingly without sense.
Visitors to this far in the future will often confront various metahumans. Treat a metahuman as a genius with
Inspiration ten, all Axioms at five, and all Attribute and Skill dots at ten. Humanity, at this level of
development, is terrifying and godlike, and (depending on the time frame in which a genius lands) may have
no trace of human morality (treat Obligation as 0).
+100 Million Years: The Solar Wastelands. Humanity is extinct, but its progeny live on: alternate races,
beast-men, androids, and captured aliens occupying a new super-continent. Their technology nearly lost,
these Children of Mankind live in a world of barbarism, sorcery, and super-science, torn by savagery and
endless war, manipulated by the remnants of vast, Galaxy-spanning super-minds, most long mad. The solar
system is terraformed, with Venus covered in dense jungles, Mars an endless savanna, and Jupiter a second
sun lighting alien moons.
+One 500 Million Years: Solar Transformations. With humanity gone, new intelligent races move among an
Earth that appears almost new-born, beneath an orange-yellow sun. Intelligent octopods swing through
Earth's jungles like monkeys, while schools of fish use electrical impulses transmitted through the water to
form gestalt intellects. The technology level varies enormously, according to visitors' reports, from barely
Stone Age to meta-posthuman, but it is generally primitive, with a few enclaves of "favored races" guided in
their development by discarded thinking machines that can still remember the day humanity left them.
+One Billion Years: Age of the New Concordat. Earth still remains as hub of activity, and it's a destination for
countless strange alien races. The entire solar system is a network of starship docks, banks, data centers, and
sleazy taverns, full of more aliens (some of them uplifted posthumans) than a 21st-century genius might find
possible. On Deimos, the Traveler's Moon, can be found any conceivable good, service, or industry, and beings
willing to do anything for credit and favors. Most beings can be treated as geniuses of various sorts, running
the gamut of power levels from creatures that possess a few orphans to vast intellects one step away from
meta-sentience. The general technology level, though, is not very high, resembling interstellar versions of
what humans had in the 19th or 20th centuries. Creatures live in societies that are little transformed by the
machinery around them.
+Five Billion Years: The Ends of Earth. Drained of its resources, the Sun is now no more than a dim coalcolored
star, a smear that spreads across half the sky. Abandoned and forgotten, the Earth is home to
scuttling, crab-like creatures called the Methc, the last intelligent beings to evolve on Terra. They spend their
lives scrambling between the hot pools that birthed them, amidst a black wasteland of carbon and rust pitted
occasionally by the remnants of eons-old technology. Beyond Earth, the combined Milky Way-Andromeda
galaxies lies exhausted from eons of war and exploitation.
+Ten Billion Years: Rouge Gothica. The sun is a boiling red giant surrounding the Dyson Sphere constructed
around it and kept forcibly alive by long-forgotten technologies. Built to expand along with the Sun, the
sphere is a vast, inward-looking cathedral of steel and metamaterials, eternally shifting as the dying star
flares and trembles. Here live dream-beings pulled from the collective memories of humanity's last ancient
computers, together with the remembered fears of a thousand races: manes of a thousand types dwell here,
taking on the forms humanity feared, forming cruel empires in the vast areas of the Sphere.
+One Trillion Years: An Empty Universe. What remains of the Local Group is a blur of interstellar dust and
dead stars circled by slowly cooling worlds. Red stars shine in the sky: fossil light from suns that perished
ages ago and whose radiation still travels through space. Those races that remain―none remotely
human―concern themselves with frantic, doomed attempts at prolonging their existence by tapping the
rotational energy of moons or incinerating black holes. A few welcome visitors, but most only make a being
feel at home long enough to dissect him for his technology, heat, and information.
The End of Time: Endless Darkness.The last stars went out so long ago no one remembers what they were
like. Protons have dissolved. Black holes have disappeared in bursts of gamma radiation. Here dwell the Cold
Ones: the last intelligent beings in the universe, whose thoughts are measured by the stray background
fluctuation of quantum nothingness. Each thought takes an hour, or an eon, but they persist nonetheless―and
all they can do is persist, thinking of themselves and their eternal lives. These wretched gods are all that live.
But they are not helpless: over the eons, they have learned of beings foolish enough to travel to the End of
Time, and they wait patiently, weaving webs of stray photons and pseudomatter, waiting to trap an unwary
traveler, to feast on her warmth and ordered state, or even―if the Cold Ones dream, this is their dream―to
return to a universe of light and warmth, free from the killing clutches of entropy.
The Terminals once dwelled at the end of time. They are no more, replaced by the Cold Ones.
Next is a sample list of old, discarded ideas and beliefs that geniuses - especially Lemurians - might latch on to, either whole-hog or updating it to the modern world and the genius' own particular views.
Artistotle is an old favorite among Inspired for being one of the first Western scholars in general and for being among the first to present a complete, structured view of the world. He was of course wrong about an awful lot of things and his methodology doesn't meet modern standards, but some geniuses like to run with his work or make up various theories about what he was really writing about. A few theorize Aristotle was himself Inspired, but evidence is sketchy at best.
Religious creationism (of any religion, not just Christianity) has always been a common view in the world, and it's consistently had its devotees among the Inspired. Lemurians are more prone to it than the Peers, especially those of the Oracle and Etherite baramins. Geocentrism is a spinoff of this idea and geocentrists are frequently creationists as well. As absurd as it sounds to most people these days, it still crops up among the Inspired, especially Lemurian Oracles and fundamentalist evangelical Christians or similar religious zealots like ISIS who become Inspired (rare, given the way of thinking such an upbringing often creates, but it does happen every now and then).
Descartes conceived of a vortex theory , doing away with the concept of a vacuum with a whirling vortex of particles. Geniuses uncomfortable with the idea of a vacuum and general Newtonian physics often incorporate this into their views.
Lamarckism is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring, like giraffes evolving long necks because each successive generation kept stretching their neck further and further and passed on their exercise. Lamarckian inheritance tends to actually happen in bardos, but not so much in the real world. Inspired who have run with the idea of Lamarckism are having a field day as epigenetics has started making waves in the scientific community. Lysenkoism is a common spinoff idea that I honestly don't understand the differences from Lamarckism.
Materialism/Reductionism is the idea that everything fundamentally comes down to particles and mass. If the soul exists, it's a product of particles in some way. Seems bizarre, but a lot of Mechanists like it.
Mesmerism simply posits a magnetic-like force to explain personal attraction and charisma and the like. Crops up a fair amount in Epikrato wonders.
Miasma theory is a pre-germ theory concept of disease, that disease is mostly caused by various forms of "bad air." Not common even among the Inspired, but some use it to explain certain mad science diseases and manes and the odd Inspired who disdains any form of biology that requires a microscope will champion it.
Phlogiston and Caloric:
These two related ideas attempted to explain heat as a sort of "fluid" or "particle" (separate from atoms
bouncing around, which is what heat is normally understood to be today). Phlogiston was an attempt to
explain the oxidation process, including rust and combustion: substances were said to contain phlogiston that
was released in burning, leaving a remnant called calx. Caloric is a slightly later conception intended to
explain heat as a kind of porous substance that could move between physical objects. Though current
thermodynamic theory has abandoned both concepts, geniuses often find these ancient concepts useful for
their inventions. The use of caloric and phlogiston and often less ideological in nature and more practical:
certain wonders are easier to understand, mathematically, if one uses these older ideas. Direct manifestations
of phlogiston theory are often evident in older bardos from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Phrenology is the idea that a person's mental and psychological attributes are evident by the shape of their head. Has extremely racist overtones, both in real life and among the Inspired community. Even most Lemurians don't touch this one with a ten foot pole.
Platonic Philosophy should be familiar to anyone who's played Mage, running with the idea of this world being only a reflection of a great realm of Idea. Many geniuses who regularly interact with mages and learn of the Supernal Realm adapt it into their theories, others postulate a realm of mathematics or quantum weirdness.
Genuine, philosophical racism - think Nazi racial theories - have an unfortunately long history with the Inspired, the Peers much more so than Lemuria. The Peerage's roots are in Europe, after all, and for a long time prevailing attitudes among the Peers reflected European attitudes and beliefs regarding race. The Artificers have always been the one huge exception and have consistently been very egalitarian, but in modern times philosophical racism has fallen by the wayside both among Peers and Lemurians. It still crops up now and then, unfortunately, but it's now generally the subject of ridicule.
The idea of a steady state universe is a collection of various theories that reject the Big Bang for an eternal cosmos. Some take into account the apparent expansion of the universe and create various theories to incorporate that into their beliefs, others reject much of modern cosmology. Ironically, the most popular reason for rejecting the Big Bang is the same reason the theory was met with intense skepticism in the mortal scientific community: it's awfully similar to creationism.
Linguistic relativity is a seldom invoked field of study among the Inspired, but when it crops up it's usually an amalgamation of the theories of Sapir and Whorf, postulating that one's language determines one's thoughts and changing one's language determines how and what you think. Like phrenology, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has a bad reputation among the Inspired for its racist connotations, though there are occasional geniuses from linguistic and literary backgrounds obsessed with the [mad] science of language.
In the World of Darkness, even mortal biologists and doctors understand that some phenomena don't make
sense from a strictly reductionist standpoint, that some activities of the living world are just weird, and will
probably remain that way no matter how long they study them with mundane methods. Vitalism, then, is not
simply a belief in an "animating spark" for living things; it is in getting the details of that spark wrong.
Inspired Vitalists obsess over weird, self-contradictory, or counterfactual sorts of cosmic essences that only
make sense in light of Mania powering a wonder. Vitalist theories are common among Etherites and Oracles.
Most geniuses give a name to the "life force" that they can manipulate with wonders, whether it is a
traditional term (Chi, Prana, Vril, Orgone, Odic Force) or something of their own devising.
Next time, that weird sound you're hearing is the world's Luddite population simultaneously shitting their pants.
ClockstoppersOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Clockstoppers
Clockstoppers are functionally a gameline within a gameline, a breed of supernatural human with their own power stat and abilities that come in one to five dots variety. They are, essentially, anti-Inspired. The Inspired are filled with creative energy, an unstoppable vision of creativity and imagination. Clockstoppers, the Hollow Men, have only emptiness inside, a suffocating void that devours light and artifice. Most Clockstoppers are only a threat to the Inspired, but powerful ones tear down mortal technology as well. The greatest of the Hollow Men would plunge humanity into worse than the Stone Age, for even clubs and stone axes are nature repurposed to human design.
How human Clockstoppers are is debatable. Some seem to be perfectly ordinary humans for the most part, just ones with a grudge against [mad] science who have developed a preternatural gift for opposing it and its makers. Others seem to be some form of supernatural being in their own right, a dark, empty counterpart to the Illuminated.
The power of Clockstoppers is measured by their own power stat called Acedia, and it works like any other super's power stat. In addition to powering a Clockstopper's own abilities, called Voids, Acedia lets Clockstoppers detect Mania and all things of mad science like an Inspired can, and projects a field equal to ten feet for every dot of Acedia. There is no turning off the Acedia field short of the Clockstopper's death, no reducing its size, and within the Acedia it's impossible to transfer or gain Mania by any means.
Beings of mad science, be they Inspired, manes or anything else connected to Mania, are immediately and viscerally aware of what's happening when they enter an Acedia field. They may or may not know what an Acedia field is or who's projecting it if they're aware of Clockstoppers, but they can feel the void's razor kiss on their soul, cutting away and bleeding the Mania and Inspiration at their heart.
Brotherhood of Righteousness is the first Void, and it's the ability to call up an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. Unlike most Voids, Brotherhood of Righteousness doesn't grow in power with a Clockstopper's Acedia, a higher Acedia just makes it more likely to work and work better. On an exceptional success, the target of this Void has an angry mob hellbent on killing them.
Corrupt the Hated Enemy is another roll-based Void, and it lets a Clockstopper subvert a genius' own wonders, turning them feral and orphan or even converting them to the Clockstopper's side. A Clockstopper can potentially come well equipped with subverted wonders, a number equal to the Clockstopper's dots in Acedia + Corrupt the Hated Enemy. Clockstoppers do trigger Havoc checks like mortals when using wonders, though.
Hungry Emptiness amplifies the Clockstopper's internal void into a black hole that devours thought and reason, and it's the first of the passive abilities that gets horrifying even to mortals very quickly.
Hungry Emptiness ●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses one point of Mania per minute. Any use
of Mania costs one additional point of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -1 penalty.
Hungry Emptiness ●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses two points of Mania per minute. Any
use of Mania costs two additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -2 penalty. Mathematical
equations become meaningless and incomprehensible.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses three points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs three additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -3 penalty. Art and
music become meaningless and incomprehensible.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses four points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs four additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -4 penalty. Written
communication becomes impossible to understand or create.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses five points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs five additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -5 penalty. Verbal
communication becomes impossible.
Natural Body proofs a Clockstopper against unnatural attack. At first only wonders fail to harm the Clockstopper. Then guns and explosives stop working. Then any form of technology whatsoever down to stone axes that tries to influence, move, or impede the Clockstopper in any way breaks down. Might want to be calling in werewolves or something at this point, because even wooden clubs aren't going to leave a mark on a Clockstopper with five dots in this...
Purify the Wounded Earth turns the Clockstopper's Acedia into a technological dead zone, and like Natural Body its effects grow more severe with increasing dots. First technology made after 1990 or so fails, then 1950, then 1850, then the Dark Ages, then fire, stone axes, seeded crops, irrigation, and domesticated animals. Advanced materials retain their structural integrity, so skyscrapers won't collapse right away, but they become no more than tinfoil or simple wood against attack. And by spending Willpower, the Clockstopper can utterly destroy any item of mundane technology that's failed in their presence with a considerable (and lethal) blast radius.
Next time, miscellaneous bad guys and critters.
Miscellaneous Critters and AntagonistsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, Miscellaneous Critters and Antagonists
The Guardians of Forever are what's left of the time police after the destruction of the Terminals, and they're as overworked, underpaid, and corrupt as any real-world police agency. Mechanically speaking, they're Inspired - powerful Inspired. Every Guardian has Skafoi 5 at absolute minimum and a functioning time machine, and it's an extremely rare utterly raw recruit who doesn't have several dots in other axioms and a kit of powerful wonders, especially wonders that work by messing with time. They may or may not be somehow affiliated with some version of the Peerage or Lemuria or another organization from some point in time and have various bonuses and endowments to those ends, and from a strict mechanical point of view they're functionally like any other genius.
The Illuminated are likewise just geniuses with Obligation 0 from a mechanical point of view.
Void Engineers are another subset of Inspired devoted to a peculiar ideal, specifically the Cold Ones from the End of Time in the far future timeline. Void Engineers work to break the Guardians of Forever and shatter the timeline to bring the Cold Ones into a pre-Heat Death universe, and they are believed to have infiltrated both the Peerage and Lemuria. If there's any sort of large-scale organization of Void Engineers, no one trustworthy has talked about it.
Then there are manes, most notably the Ubermenschen. The Nazi Party as such is long dead, but National Socialism lives on in many bardos and hundreds of manes. These are the works: genetically engineered super soldiers, Nazi occult research and more conventional mad science, treasure hunters looking for the Ark of the Covenant, and worse. Anyone who's played the Wolfenstein games, particularly 2009 or The New Order, has a good idea of what to expect. Nazis are most common in the Hollow Earth, but have secret bases in Antarctica, the dark side of the Moon, the mountains of Argentina, and elsewhere. They're still manes, meaning they and their wonders trigger Havoc, but they aim to gather enough Mania to turn themselves real and conquer the Earth.
The Martian Empire has accepted a peace treaty with Earth and relations are currently friendly, but it's all too possible that the disembodied brains of the Overlords and the barbaric Throgs might change their minds, especially now that the Overlords understand the nature of Havoc. On the other hand, there's quite a lot of Martians happy to trade and work side by side with the Blue Planet, and most of Mars is safe for a curious genius to visit.
Boltzmann Brains are weird as hell even by Inspired standards, disembodied brains that pop into existence from random quantum fluctuations. Created by pure abstract quantum chaos, Boltzmann Brains are utterly unpredictable and have no connection whatsoever to the rules, principles, and facts of reality as everyone else understands it. Puts them in good company with the rest of the Inspired world, but these things still give even Lemurians the creeps.
DeRos are primitive subterranean sadists, savages, and the occasional amok robot (thus the name "devolved robot.") A CHUD or Crawler by any other name.
The Fallen are a collective grab-bag of religious beliefs and spiritual entities long disproved by modern science. If you want to take the stance that such things are real or use the ideas presented by other game lines like Demon or Promethean, go nuts, but if not they serve just as well as manes.
The Third Race are the snake-men who created Lemuria, and while they are believed extinct it's possible that a few somehow survived in secret. They're pretty typical Inspired manes with a snake theme.
Quote: "When you lack the needed lore/And cannot manage applications/All you'll get is 404/To test the limits
of your patience."
Machine elves, sometimes called transforming elves or fractal elves, are the names given to creatures created
by failed calculations and equations. They are birthed, not solely by the broken dreams of the scientific
consensus, but also by the failed thoughts of their computers. The children of botched and unfinished
calculations, of paradoxical mathematical systems, machine elf populations have exploded since the
proliferation of the personal computer. Though the first reports of these shy, clever creatures go back to
Newton's time, they are now one of the most common kinds of manes, living rich and intricate lives behind
computer terminals and under the floors of server stations. Lemurians, who call these creatures kobaloi,
possess a unique affinity for the creatures, and the machine elves in a Lemurian's unmada field often come to
represent the Lemurian's dreams and beliefs.
Paper goblins are manes born from the failed dream of a paperless office and society, and are more or less standard urban fantasy goblins just made out of paper and susceptible to Havoc. They really, really hate Atomists and the feeling is reciprocated.
Phantom Slaver Yetis are mostly born out of the disproof of the classic Himalayan cryptid, but with some other weirdness thrown in for good measure. True PSYs are incorporeal creatures of light, but they can and often do possess people, transforming them and their offspring into more conventional Yetis and basically doing the Body Snatcher routine.
Orphans are rogue, feral wonders trying to survive by absorbing Mania however they can. I've covered them previously.
And finally, the other supernaturals.
Even Stranger Phenomena:
Not every strange thing in the World of Darkness stems from Mania. In the shadows of the cities and the
savage places where humans rarely go, the dead walk, beast-men hunt, and sorcerers twist and warp the laws
of nature. Some of these beings can be allies to mad scientists, but others are deadly threats that view
geniuses as just another kind of prey. Geniuses must tread carefully around these creatures, and though
alliances and treaties are possible, the dark things of the world are products of insanity and twisted logic
every bit as bizarre as what Mania can spawn.
Inhabiting every city, feeding on the vulnerable and working to maintain systems of exploitation and brutality
where their behavior fades into the bleak statistics of urban violence, are once-human things that sustain
themselves on the blood of the living. Geniuses call them hemophages, a detached and clinical term for
monsters that can't easily be categorized or understood. Several cities have seen all-out wars between
geniuses and hemophages, brutal cycles of violence and revenge. While a mad scientist's grasp of fire and
solar power is enough to keep many hemophages at bay, they are cagey, shadowy creatures who possess a
variety of psychic and biomorphic abilities, as well as control over mortal servants.
While violent clashes have occurred, many cities see a coexistence between hemophages and the Inspired―or
complete ignorance from both sides. After all, geniuses and blood-suckers have very little reason to interact.
The walking dead make dangerous and rather useless test subjects, and while a mad scientist's blood is as
nutritious as any human's, hemophages are predators, and only desperate or foolish predators target the
strongest in the herd. Weirdly, this near-complete lack of common ground can allow harmonious existences
between geniuses and vampires, who, if they know of one-another, may find themselves passing dreary
nights together as the mad scientist performs experiments and the vampire merely exists in its frozen,
deathless state, connected together only by a common separation from humanity.
Not all geniuses are city dwellers, but those that favor isolation in the deep wilderness know that ancient
spirits stalk the forests and wastes of the world. These shapeshifters are part of a self-propagating pattern
within the larger human genome, a code that's passed through certain lineages and that occasionally activates
to produce a full-blown "wolf-man." Some geniuses have hypothesized that these creatures are a sort of
planetary white blood cell, destroying dimensional infestations from hostile aliens. Others are comfortable
with a more bald-faced explanation: the wild places are full of nature spirits, cruel and primal, who keep their
own counsel and their own laws.
Genius-shapeshifter interactions in the wild rarely end well. Werewolves have been known to tear apart
whole collaboratives for offending against obscure spiritual or philosophical concepts, and an unprepared
genius is easy sport for a pack of hungry shapeshifters. This often results in retaliation, as well-briefed
geniuses armed with scanners and Katastrofic silver weapons drive the monsters off. Others even try to hunt
and harvest them, though shapeshifter-hunting offers a very short life expectancy. But times are changing for
both mad scientists and the "nature spirits," as the peers try to reach out and find common ground with these
alien beings. And increasingly, even the "spirits" have come to live in cities, stripping them of their mystique
and making them just another part of the weird concrete ecology that geniuses must navigate. These urban
hunters are more comfortable with both regular humans and the geniuses among them, allowing for greater
cooperation, or at least tolerance, between the two groups.
There are other ways of transforming the world, ways based on ancient tradition and transcendent
understanding, of glimpsing something beyond and above this world. Those humans who glimpse what
overlies everything are called mages, and they can work terrible sorceries: flying, stepping across space and
realities, hurling elemental devastation. While a genius can do all of these things, mages work their wonders
with will and lore, not machines and madness. At first glance, there seems to be common ground between the
Inspired and these mages: both are, at least outwardly, humans who have seen beyond the gray raiment of
this world. Though this is the attitude of many curious mad scientists, mages who know of Inspiration seem
unanimous in their opinion of geniuses: the Inspired are simply not human. They are human-shaped things
inhabited by cosmic intelligences of unknown motivations and origins. This has produced a great deal of
friction and even violence in the past, as fundamental language barriers prevent cooperation between the two
groups. It seems as if, when dealing with mages, a genius' Jabir becomes a toxic, infuriating thing that drives
sorcerers into paranoid rages.
One of the few exceptions to this fearful hostile is the relationship between the Scholastics and a mage
"foundation" called the Free Council. These two groups have found some common ground and can, to a
limited extent, communicate meaningfully. This is important, for―whatever mages' opinions on what the
Inspired "really" are―geniuses and mages can look a lot alike from the outside. The two groups have
occasionally been forced to get together when a mistake is made, and a new "mage" turns out to be a recentlycatalyzed
genius or a "genius" betraying weird and unusual abilities is in fact a newly-Awakened sorcerer.
These awkward and embarrassing exchanges must be made quickly, before incorrect training drives the
student insane or exposes him to dangerous extradimensional intellects.
The only other unusual aspect of genius-mage interaction is when Lemurians interact with the "Seers of the
Throne," a magical organization dedicated to control and world domination in the name of their transcendent
posthuman masters. Since both groups are, nominally, in the world domination racket, one might expect
competition, cooperation, or even outright war. Instead, the groups seem literally unable to notice oneanother.
Individual members can, if forced, recognize one-another's existence, but the memory quickly fades
and the incident is soon forgotten. No one is sure what causes this unusual effect.
There are odder and rarer things than the walking dead, nature spirits, or magic spells in the World of
Darkness, and geniuses are familiar with only some of them. The most difficult aspect of these interactions,
for the Inspired, is sorting out what is the product of Mania from what operates by its own set of rules. Ghosts
and spirits certainly exist, whatever pseudoscience a genius uses to justify them, but whether they're selfactualizing
memory engrams or trans-organic monitoring agents, they aren't properly part of a mad
scientist's "world," and they exist and function based on a closed set of rules to which Inspiration does not
have special access. Sometimes it's harder to tell: some reanimated dead things are the products of mad
science, while others are a different order of creature entirely. Certain alien abductions and hybridizations
bear the mark of Mania and the frantic dream-energy of a bardo, while others are outside of a genius'
purview. Cryptids, zombies, ape-men, golems, elementals, gods, and rarefied essences all move through the
World of Darkness, and distinguishing those that, however powerful and terrifying, follow the warped
dictates of mad science, from those that represent doors to an even larger and stranger world, is nearly
impossible for all but the most gifted scholars of the weird.
Of course, everyone knows these things don't actually exist, right? Right? Depending on the needs of the game, vampires and werewolves and mages and more might simply be more manes or particularly twisted Inspired.
Next time, the z-splat stuck in the back of the book for some reason.
Fellowships, Part 1Original SA post Genius: The Transgression, Fellowships
Tucked away at the back of Genius is a third splat, fellowships. If I'd realized this was here, I'd have covered it early with the first two Genius splats, but no one would ever accuse this pdf of being well-organized.
Fellowships are mad scientist organizations dedicated to the study of some particular subject, smaller and less influential than foundations or baramins but still capable of providing resources, funds, and a network for interested Inspired. Membership comes in two tiers: scholarships and research fellows.
Scholarships are fairly basic: pay three experience points, express interest and competence through either RP or a simple mechanical roll, exchange a wonder schematic relevant to the fellowship's subject for archiving, and you receive a bonus to building and modifying wonders relevant to the fellowship's specialty, plus you'll never run out of materials for building said wonders. Once you have a scholarship, it renews automatically every year.
Research fellowships, however, receive a new merit called a syllabus that rises in dots as the genius gains prestige, influence, and general status. Syllabi grant increasing benefits for making and using wonders relevant to the fellowship's specialty, and there are a bunch of miscellaneous rules. Of note, a genius can have scholarships with as many fellowships as she wants, but can only be a research fellow of one.
Finally, all presented fellowships are Peerage-friendly, catering to Peers and friendly rogues. Relatively lucid and ideologically compatible rogue unmada can also join, but Lemurians suffer penalties to gain scholarships and cannot normally join as research fellows. Genius tells us that Lemurians have their own fellowship analogues but says nothing more about it. Up to the DM how to play Lemurians with fellowships if you want to involve it.
The Elders of the Third Law
So as it turns out Leonardo da Vinci, previously established as Inspired, had an evil twin named Orfeo and lead a mad science crusade to save the Mediterranean from Orfeo's insanity. His followers called themselves the Order of Vinci, and they have continued to safeguard the region.
The Elders, who renamed themselves in honor of Newton's Principia Mathematica, were and are horrified at what mundane science has done in the world. Steam power, electricity, and nuclear power have all resulted in lots and lots of dead people, Inspired and mundane, and so the Elders spend most of their time hunting Illuminated and people who abuse technology to hurt others. The Elders were unsurprisingly part of Lemuria at first, but eventually went rogue and these days have found themselves intermediaries between Lemuria and the Peerage. Lemurians can and often do join the fellowship, ignoring the preceding stuff saying no Lemurians can't do that, and for some reason not really stated the Elders love the Crystal Spheres bardo.
As far as membership and wonders go, Inspired who like any form of technology more advanced than clockwork need not apply - the Elders are very conservative, and consider even steam power a dangerous and irrational new-fangled invention best left alone. As a result, they're known for their expertise at mechanical engineering and primitive craftsmanship, plus their love of the Crystal Spheres (it's not stated that most Elders are geocentrists, but that seems probable). Scholarship applicants must have Craft Specialization: Mechanics or Science Specialization: Mechanics to prove their common interests with the Elders, and among other requirements anyone wishing to become a research fellow of the Elders must have visited the Crystal Spheres.
The Scholarship and fellowship for the Elders of the Third Law benefit any device entirely based on
mechanical principles. This includes mechanical brains and clockwork people (Automata), crossbow-like
weapons and wind-up swords (Katastrofi), spring-powered carts, self-powered ornithopters and helicopters,
dirigibles, and balloons that can reach the Crystal Spheres (Skafoi), mechanical suits of armor (Prostasia), and
other devices constructed entirely on mechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic principles.
The Hermetic Order of the 28 Spheres
The Hermetics were born in the 18th century when significant contact between Europe and India began, and a loose collection of Inspired Indian mystics came into contact with the Invisible College. The Invisible College insisted that what they did was a form of science and Inspiration is not magic thank you very much. The mystics told the College to prove that Inspiration and Mania aren't magic, and had a good chuckle when the College couldn't demonstrate that to their satisfaction. The Hermetic Order has continued on ever since with their perspective that Inspiration need not be a thing of science and craft, but instead magic and mysticism.
All wonders are fundamentally rooted in some form of artifice and mechanism, but Hermetics constantly push the boundaries and ask what exactly a wonder needs to be in order to function. Futuristic death rays and biological wonders grown rather than built sure don't look like gears or engines, after all, and the only difference between a magic potion and a vial containing a nanite suspension or a carefully calibrated chemical mixture is rhetoric. They're big on various forms of Eastern mysticism, but really any genius who creates in a mentality of enchanting rather than building is welcome. For that matter, many Hermetics genuinely believe themselves to be magicians or psychics or mystics of some form rather than mad scientists. Unmada Hermetics almost invariably end up as Lemurian Oracles.
A basic familiarity with the occult is of course necessary to pursue a scholarship with the Hermetics, and only true technomancers (a merit previously discussed) can become research fellows.
Upon initiation, geniuses who claim a Scholarship or fellowship in the Hermetic Order select one of six "chief
spheres" that will represent them. These "chief spheres" are:
Air (including all gases). Poison gas wands (Katastrofi), breath-stealing phantoms (Automata), storm
Earth (including metal, stone, dirt, and dead organic material). Rune-graven armor suits (Prostasia), "fair
folk"-fast item repair (Exelixi), cockatrices (Automata and Metaptropi)
Fire (including light, lightning, and most electromagnetic phenomena). Flaming swords (Katastrofi), Phaethon
chariots (Skafoi), amulets vs. fire (Prostasia)
Water (including all liquids, as well as ice). Blood-freezing charms (Katastrofi), enchanted boats (Skafoi),
water elementals (Automata)
Life (plants, animals, and the human body). Loup-garou hexes (Metaptropi), potions of healing (Exelixi),
Spirit (including thoughts, memories, and non-corporeal beings). Evil eye (Katastrofi), mind control powders
(Epikrato), circlets of mind-reading (Apokalypsi)
Any wonder that falls into the appropriate category benefits from the Scholarship or fellowship so long as it is
built in the Hermetic's unique style. Generally, the more of a stretch the wonder is, the more egregious and
"magical-seeming" are any faults. A genius cannot change his chief sphere once it is selected (either for a
Scholarship or a fellowship).
The Phantom Foundation
The Phantom Foundation was once a full Peerage foundation, but has since fallen on lean times and become a fellowship as worldwide interest in their area of interest wanes (and there are rules provided for those still technically belonging to the full foundation). That area of interest is an old one: what happens after death. No one in the Inspired world knows more about ghosts, zombies, and post-death phenomena in general than the Phantom Foundation, including investigation into what post-death phenomena are fueled by Mania (no such Inspired ghosts or undead or whatever are ever named or listed, unless you say ghosts and zombies and whatnot are manes) and what such phenomena are not. Also, the group makes its money by offering their services to the world as the Ghostbusters - even to mortals, who take one look at the weird stuff the Phantoms have and don't ask questions. Yes, this directly contradicts a lot of stuff established in Genius about why you can't do things like that.
As aesthetics and wonders go, the Phantom Foundation thinks mostly in terms of psychic phenomena and electricity. It's easy to spot a Phantom conducting field research by the smell of ozone and the massive number of batteries, conductors, and sparking electrical equipment they have.
Expertise at the occult or Technomancer is required to have a scholarship or research fellowship with the Ghostbusters.
The Phantom Foundation Scholarship and fellowship benefits any wonder capable of detecting, controlling,
communicating with, or interacting with the dead. "The dead" include corpses (which may or may not be
slated for resurrection), ghosts, vampires, miscellaneous "walking dead," and certain other natural
inhabitants of Twilight or other death-realms, shadow-realms, or netherworlds. This includes ghostbuster
guns (Katastrofi), necroscopes (Apokalypsi), gates to the Other Side (Skafoi), and wards, hedges, and shields
against the dead (Prostasia).
Next time, more fellowships.
More FellowshipsOriginal SA post Genius: The Transgression, More Fellowships
The Perfected Vision Institute began in the middle of the 20th century as a group of Inspired dedicated to unlocking the secrets of telepathy through brain experimentation and internalized wonders, but has expanded in recent decades to studying the human mind in general with cybernetics, neurochemistry, and whatever else new researchers have brought to the table. Many members of the institute are shadowy would-be manipulators and masterminds, but there's a strong contingent of idealistic scholars who simply want to figure out what makes the mind tick. Nevermind that being Inspired, every last one of them is insane.
Contrary to what you might think, the Institute is firmly affiliated with the Peerage, and in fact is more than a little paranoid of Lemurian infiltration. Whether of occult or more traditional scientific bent, members of the Institute are the world's experts at internalized wonders and at least a basic familiarity with Epikrato is required of all research fellows.
A genius can gain the Institute's benefits with any wonder that possesses the "internalized" variable. Originally only
wonders based on brain augmentation and alteration could receive this benefit, but the Institute has expanded a bit
in recent years, allowing for a variety of internal mechanical and chemical enhancements. This benefit includes
telepathic nodes (Apokalypsi and Epikrato), inner "third eyes" for remote-viewing (Apokalypsi), internal healing
and biofeedback enhancement (Exelixi), and even strange powers like levitation (Epikrato) and internalized
Want to be mad scientists with fancy armor who prowl the streets and fight crime? The Iridium Sentinels have you covered. This loose coalition of Inspired dress up in identity-concealing suits or costumes (they're built with Prostasia so even the spandex option provides considerable protection) and take to the streets with the most sophisticated crime-fighting gadgets mad science can make to protect the innocent, battle gangsters, and generally live out their superhero fantasies. Unsurprisingly, they're a very popular fellowship and every city of note has at least one or two mad scientist vigilantes running around. Yeah, you might want to decide these guys don't exist if living in a world of superheroes doesn't fit your game.
Any style of suit or armor is acceptable to the Sentinels, from high-tech powered armor to "enchanted" leather coats to plate mail forged with titanium alloys. There's even a handful of genetic engineer Sentinels who grow their own suits. If you've got a suit and the athletic prowess, the Sentinels will extend a scholarship. Want to be a "research fellow" of the Avengers League of America (or whatever nation you call home)? Better know how to throw a punch and have spent at least three months protecting your city.
Honestly? I kinda want to try running an Iridium Sentinels game of Genius now.
Scholarship and fellowship in the Iridium Sentinels grant a bonus to any wonder that qualifies as an "armored
suit." To qualify as an armored suit, the suit must fit over a human body (or some other body; if you really want
to build a battle-harness for your guinea pigs, go ahead; the Sentinels will spot you the cash) and possess a
Prostasia rating of at least 1. Weapons, scanners, and other wonders also receive the benefit of the Iridium
Sentinels, so long as they are integral to the suit and cannot be removed from it.
The Malcolm T. Washington Fellowship was created fifty years ago for the advancement of mad scientists of African descent who specialize in the creation and deployment of genetically modified arthropods. Might seem narrow, but it's a very respectable fellowship even in Lemuria and when there's grant money involved many African-American and African-Canadian geniuses take a sudden interest in bugs. Bugs that eat nuclear waste, bugs that eat racist cops who are acquitted for murdering black people in cold blood and get off free, riding spiders for competitive racing... sky's the limit, really. If you're black and like making bugs, you have a place with the fellowship.
The Malcolm T. Washington Scholarship and fellowship benefit any independently-functioning life form of
arthropoidal origin and appearance. The "independently functioning" element is important: the bonus applies
when building fully independent insect-like automata, as well as automata-that-are-mostly-Skafoi and
automata-that-are-mostly-Katastrofi, but they must be automata: a flying beetle that spits acid is fine, but an
acid-spitting proboscis strapped to the wrist is not; a near-mindless (Automata 2) fifty-foot riding centipede
is acceptable, while a surgically-grafted set of butterfly wings will not offer the bonus. The wonders must also
be at least mostly organic; insect-shaped robots or clockworks do not qualify. Integral wonders of these
arthropods that are also mostly organic also benefit.
Just in case you weren't detecting a whiff of Orkiness among the Inspired, the Nine Devils Vertex Club are the Speed Freeks. Created in California by a group of Chinese-American geniuses who loved Skafoi as a quarterly mad science rally-car race across the desert, sea, bardos, and other planes of reality, the group has exploded in popularity and is now a fellowship dedicated to pushing the limits of single-seater racing vehicles of any description. They meet four times a year in California and China to hold races, with separate categories for land vehicles, air vehicles, spacecraft (from Earth to Space Station Colossus and back), and are thinking about sea vehicle and mole machine competitions. Joining up with the Club is simple: know how to drive and know how to build an Inspired vehicle. In addition to skill requirements, fellowships with the Club are exclusive to those who have won at least one race. Lemurians have been sighted among the Club, invariably of Atomist or Etherite persuasion, but as long as they don't talk politics they're accepted.
To gain the benefit of this fellowship, a genius must construct a wonder of Skafoi that is large enough to have
a seat but not so large it requires more than one person to operate. Further, the wonder must "move" in some
way, that is, its primary mode of operation must use the Drive skill. Hot rods, jet bikes, personal spaceships or
submersibles, and sports cars all qualify; large vessels like multi-crew starships do not, nor do worn wonders
like jet boots and grafted wings. Any wonders integral to this vehicle also qualify for the fellowship's benefits,
as do any wonders of Exelixi that can modify or upgrade those vehicles or their integral gear.
Finally, the Resurrection Consortium is a small but highly prestigious fellowship descended from an ancient Egyptian cult of mad scientists obsessed with immortality. That's still the nominal goal of the group, but they've since expanded their interests to resurrection and various forms of healing in general. There's still lots of obsessives, of course (generally aiming for immortality, resurrecting the dead, or curing some particular ailment), and they have an entire cryogenic mausoleum full of research fellows who didn't quite succeed but believe the group will in time. The Consortium also has a very popular and active message board open to any interested member of the Peerage (and Lemurians, it's something of an open secret that some Oracles among other baramins are affiliated with the group).
The Resurrection Consortium Scholarship and fellowship can benefit any attempt at procedures that restore
life to the dead, rejuvenate old, damaged, diseased, or dead tissue, increase life span, or animate dead flesh or
brains. This includes the animating of chemical, cryogenic, or techno-occult zombies (Automata) as well as
any attempt to heal, repair, or restore (though not upgrade) organic tissue (Exelixi).
Next time, conclusions.
ConclusionsOriginal SA post
So I completely forgot I had said I'd do a conclusion to Genius: The Transgression which I reviewed earlier in the thread. For completion's sake, here it is.
Genius: The Transgression, Conclusions
At its core, I think Genius does have a good kernel of horror to it in the highway of broken dreams. Our minds work in part through recognizing connections and patterns, self-evident and beyond merely elementary. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, things fall down, the Chicago Cubs don't win the World Series. The Inspired do not make the same connections everyone else does. Their minds fundamentally work differently, and there's reason to believe that many forms of autism and genuine Asperger's Syndrome work like this. To Geniuses, the way the world works is self-evident, logical, and rational. But most everyone they encounter disagree, call the Genius crazy. No one likes being called insane, and the minds of the Inspired are suffused with a manic, creative energy. There's a mystery in front of them that they must explore, but just as important to many Geniuses a simple and profound human need: the quest for validation.
Perhaps a Genius can convince a few people that the Genius is right, but by necessity what the Genius sees - what the genius knows - is at odds with the world's scientific establishment and vast bodies of knowledge. And driven in part by the light inside their heads that never shuts off, Geniuses build. They build devices based on their unique theories to demonstrate that they're right, that their ideas everyone else calls crazy really do work. Every success is a triumph, often creating wonders beyond the limits of recognized science and technology. But... and this is supported by the rules, so many inventions aren't successes. They require some rare component that the Genius can't afford or obtain, or requires a moral cost the Genius is unwilling to pay. For every wonder the Genius builds that works, there are two or three half-finished creations in her lab that just didn't work out. Even those that work, though, are largely imperfect. Only a very few devices are free from irritating faults that crept in from nowhere. They work... but they're almost invariably flawed in some way that no amount of tinkering and refinement can seem to get rid of.
So the Genius can prove to herself, maybe, that her ideas are conceptually sound. Proving it to others, though... that perfect built flying machine falls apart at a touch if she tries to show it off to a friend, to prove she's not crazy. Her friend notes that airplanes just don't work that way, and he's right. The flying machine spontaneously falls apart under close inspection. Or, perhaps worse, it doesn't and her friend agrees completely with her brilliance. In fact, he agrees with her about everyone. A spark has gone out of him, his creativity and free will. He's become a beholden. Or just maybe, he starts thinking about the flying machine and how it does seem to be impossible but how might it be possible... and he's staring down a rabbit hole.
That constant doubt would eat away at anyone. That constant vision that no one else can see, that you fundamentally can't show . Remember that every Genius is ultimately self-inflicted. When they find that rabbit hole, they realize that things are making less and less sense. They can feel a pressure in the back of their minds letting in strange ideas. They can stop there, retreat safely back into a world where things make sense and logic and reason are shared by everyone. But what makes a Genius is the decision not to, to pursue those answers and ideas no matter how crazy they seem. Every Genius knows, consciously or otherwise, that they chose this path. They did this to themselves, and the question always lurks: was it worth it?
Playing as a Mane is just as bad, and cribs more than a little from Promethean. Most Manes know that they're less than real. Even if they appear to be human, they're not and only survive by the dreams and thoughts of people - real people. A young Ubermensch from the Nazi base on the far side of the moon comes to Earth to scout out a target. She looks human. She is human in most respects, a tall, fit, blonde-haired blue-eyed beauty and specimen of physical and mental perfection. But she's a moon Nazi, and the Nazis never made it to the moon. National Socialism has been dead for seventy years and isn't coming back. The moon base's planned invasion is doomed to failure. This young woman walks through a world where everyone about her, everything that she is, is the butt of jokes and comically over the top video games. She really is a Nazi from the moon... and anyone walking down the street can kill her with a handshake because she can't exist. G:TT hints that it's possible for Manes to become real somehow, but that may not be much comfort to this figment of the human imagination.
Genius' stated core mood is bitter disappointment for a reason. No matter how strong or clever or brilliant a Genius or Mane is, they're all but incapable of really affecting reality. They can travel through time, but does that really change anything? Was Lemuria, the root of the Illuminati and Templars and Masons and a million other conspiracies, anything more than a waking dream that never really mattered? Or was it all real, and now the guiding force of human civilization is gone? Lemuria was monstrous in many respects, but no more so than many entirely non-Inspired organizations and governments, and in fact less so than some. Now that's gone, leaving humanity alone in the dark to chart its own destiny.
Of course, that's all well and good in theory. Getting less poetic, Genius riffs hard on oMage a lot. Two of the five Foundations are transparent copies of the Technocracy, and I'm sure people more familiar with oMage can point out more examples of direct lifting. Nothing about a game of playing mad scientists pays more than lip service to the science part. Inspiration is magic by any other name and wonders are no different from magic wands or enchanted swords and that's not talking about the Geniuses who think they are doing magic and making just those things.
While there's a good core of horror and self-examination to be had in Genius, the game itself keeps departing that tone to emphasize wacky powers and mad science adventures. That's all well and good in its place, but reconciling those tones as equally valid ways to play one game is a tougher task than I think Genius' writers were up to unless it's meant to be during the denouement of such an adventure, the realization that fundamentally nothing you just did matters and you're all insane anyway. The Phantom Foundation and Iridium Sentinels give an out to play Genius as a game of Ghostbusters or Justice League America. Not bad options, but do call upon the DM to embrace and expand upon, or completely ignore the concepts involved as the game requires.
Perhaps appropriately, my closing thoughts on Genius are that there is definitely a strong game idea to be found, but is let down and shackled by poor execution, being too beholden to oMage, and a general lack of focus for what the game is about.