Hunter: The Vigil: Compacts and Conspiracies by Mors Rattus
Post 1Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
This was the first book not to be about a specific type of monster besides the Core. Instead, it focuses on the organizations that Hunters belong to. It begins quickly with Ashwood Abbey. Why would anyone join the Abbey? Well, it has benefits. The best alcohol, cigars and food you'll ever have, access to the best resorts and golf courses, the joys of the wealthy. But you probably had those already if you're being considered for the Abbey. Really, it's about if you're interesting. Sure, they have a rep as rapists and monsters, but for most of them, it's all about thrill. They have power - they want excitement . Boredom is the greatest enemy. Some cells fight it with parties, inviting monsters - friendly-like. No hunting, just consensual sex, sometimes public and sometimes not, drugs and lavish meals. Others go for a big charity gala followed by a midnight hunt of captive monsters in golf carts. Yet more just hang out with monsters and help them out occasionally. Others attack monsters, bother them a bit, then flee like hell for the thrill of escaping. Yes, it's often about hedonistic sex, but really, the point is to play with monsters like toys. Some people treat their toys well, others badly.
Recruitment's rarely formal, but it does have a cost. There are dues, set by the local cell and club, but a thousand a month is usual, plus fees for golf course usage, weapons maintenance and parties. And, of course, there's the work - hiding bodies and so on - that you can't just leave to the servants. If you're the low man on the totem pole, that's your job. Oh, and there's no leaving the club. Sure, some of them use contracts - legally unenforcable, of course - but for most, if you're in, you're in for life. Period.
The Abbey itself is run like a pyramid scheme - each club pays dues up the line to the club they got their charter from. What keeps it stable and not overrunning us all? Well, firstly, the cost, which is prohibitively expensive for most people. It's upwards of a hundred thousand to set up a club, if not more. Second, they don't advertise. The club is secret and exclusive by design - it's part of the elite privelege. If you just go around handing out licenses, well, someone's going to notice and take offense. Fatally.
Generally you find three rough types of Abbey club. The Old World clubs are extremely exclusive, often populated mostly by the elderly, often accented, even if it's just New England. Pipes, leatherbound books, that kind of thing. The old money. They often have big, entangled families, and they often run things like an old-school gentleman's club, less about debauchery and more about hunting with the old boys. They're often rather snobbish towards other clubs. The New Blood clubs are the opposite - new money, CEOs and Wall Street types. They care more about your wallet than your ancestry, and for them, Ashwood Abbey's more of a country club - people between 30 and 60 who've earned their piece and are looking for the next big thing - monster hunting. And the third kind? The Rich Young Punks. These are your children of privelege, straight from the night club and the gossip column. Rock stars' kids, the Trumps, people too young to really be bored but too rich to be easily entertained. They're growing within the Abbey, and have muscled their way up the ranks with money - lots of it - and cunning. They're often as likely to be friendly to monsters as violent, at least until they get bored and decide bullets will be more entertaining.
There's also a few cliques in Ashwood Abbey, and belonging to one now gives a free Specialty. The Competitors grant Intimidation (Boast), and they're in this as a game. The monsters are just the pieces, the wager. It's all about who can have the biggest boasts and not be called a liar. Book quote: "First one to knock up a shapeshifter - or get knocked up by one, miss - is the blue ribbon winner." (What, you thought that'd change?) It's all about what's newest, freshest and biggest, and who can do it first. They are often least devoted to actual hunting, as it's really all about oneupsmanship for them. Secretly, those who rise high enough in their ranks will learn of the great granddaddy of all competitions - the Black Royal Regatta, or Bee Double Arr. No boats involved - that's misdirection to throw off those who hear the name. Those who discover the truth are either invited or killed, and others get picked by the so-called Royal Council to participate. The goal is different every year - the Council names a target, usually an item of importance held by a known monster but sometimes just a specific monster's head - and whoever brings it in first gets a million dollars and a lot of status.
The Pursuit get Stealth (Hide in Plain Sight), and they are the hidden world's gossip-mongers. They hunt out secrets and hidden information for the fun of it. They're like a smaller, more salacious Network Zero in that way, sharing snuff films and forbidden documents or setting up events to spy on some unsuspecting monster (or hunter) for days at a time, recording it all. They're actually one of the most useful groups in the Abbey as a result - not on purpose, of course, they're doing it for entertainment, but their secrets can be quite potent and dangerous. In secret, within the group is the Ring, a group of privileged hunters with a collection of bizarre artifacts and information - a strange video of the Kennedy assassination from a weird angle, shadowy photos of the Cheiron Board of Directors, stolen passages of Vlad Dracul's ritual texts. They are very dangerous because they know far too much about monsters and other hunters, and sometimes they'll even sell some of their collections in secret online auctions.
The Libertines get Persuasion (Seduction). They're the ones with the rep as perverts and rapists. Perverts, yes, rapists, not always. They're more interested in wearing down social mores and norms, and tend to prefer willing partners. They take all the drugs, have all the sex, touch all the glowing artifacts to see what they do. Life is pleasure, and while pain can be part of that, it's usually consensual. Their view of hunting is rather different than most others', primarily about conquering ideas and preconceptions. They're a lot less likely to hurt a monster than to exploit its desires to get off. Several end up as ghouls or, quote, "brood mares to shapeshifters." More get weird addictions, like huffing whatever it is that circulates inside Frankensteins, trying to fuck tentacle monsters or eating demonic food. Yeah, they can be thrilled by killing, but that's the minority. Secretly, one of their number was recently impregnated by a vampire. That's supposed to be impossible, but it happened. The woman - Bethany or Beth-Ann or something - is now a figure of great interest to them. However, while she's a Libertine, most of the others want to kill the child - it just wouldn't do for people to think that their habits could get them into that kind of unwanted trouble.
There is an Endowment provided for Ashwood Abbey: the Bacchanal. It's the art of throwing a party. Once per arc, you can throw a giant-ass party for up to (20*Bacchanal dots) people and get twice your dots as a pool to buy benefits. These benefits can be: Abbey Influence, providing a bonus to social rolls with other Abbey members. Famous Guests: Ensure the attendance of some specific famous people. Sphere of Influence: a bonus to social rolls with some specific group, like cops or advertising agents or supermodels. Supernatural Sway: That social bonus with some specific group of supernatural beings. Tactical Advantage: a bonus to a specific Tactic to be used at or immediately after the party due to pre-preparation.
We also get rules for the Orgy, which is really just a dice roll to see how much of an ass of yourself you make or don't make at a big party.
Next time: It's a long, long night.
Post 2Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
The Long Night come in many varieties of Christian. You get survivalists, conservatives, social liberals, violent youth ministers, elderly academics, all sorts. As a result, they're rather divided. Their cells may operate individually or come together as small armies. They're a loose confederation, and they don't need to agree with each other. All they need to do is share information and resources. What binds them, though? Easy: eschatology. The world is ending, and that's a good thing. The world is sinful, wayward. It is damned. Christ will remake the world as a better place. It's a great thing!
Not that they agree on the specifics, but that's a general agreement. Right now is the Tribulation, the literal long night of persecution for the faithful. The Rapture isn't coming, not yet. Christ will not come until the faithful prove themselves against the dark, opening a path for His return. The Long Night will open that path, and that's when the Rapture comes. The Long Night aren't afraid of the End Times - they want them. They're watching for the sins, because those mean they're winning .
What signs are those? Well, the Rapture is not shown by trouble - that's a sign of the Tribulation. Wars, famine and plague are signs of the world breaking. They want to see signs that the Tribulation is ending. That means an Antichrist - a liar claiming to be the savior, but so far, no dice. They've tried to fit Kim Jong-Il and Osama Bin Laden into that mold, but it's never worked. They don't fit the profile. Miracles are required - real ones, not just a face on toast or something. Cures of blindness, resurrections, that kind of thing. White animals that can't be slaughtered. There's also numerology to consider - mostly the number seven, though three, four and twelve are also prevalent, so that can lead to conflicting signs. Angels showing up is also a thing. The Long Night know that doesn't mean glowing men and women with halos, though - they're expecting fiery wheels, many eyes and many mouths. Which does mean that alien horrors might be mistaken for angels. Oops.
I love this sidebar unironically. Always do this.
There are doctrines in the Long Night. The Hopeless get Survival (Trauma), and that's because often, they've had to. They are the ex-ghouls, the addicts and alcoholics, the formerly possessed. They have been abused by the world, themselves or monsters. They are here for salvation, for themselves and others, but they often accept that they are damned. It's not a healthy belief or group, but they are functional. They have nothing to lose, after all. A secret group of them has gathered out in the Badlands, calling themselves the Army of Sinners. They scare even the other Long Nighters, and that's because they are suicide bombers. They have nothing to live for, so they want to maximize the damage they deal to evil. They load up with guns and bombs and go in shooting. Then they hit the button. They're focusing on monsters, not people...but bystanders absolutely are in danger. It's inevitable.
The Faithful get Athletics (Feats of Strength). They believe they are ordained by God to be soldiers, and they are driven by blind, zealous faith. They're typically more conservative than the rest of the compact, though not universally. They read the newspapers for the signs, watch the skies. Their inner strength comes from faith - a miraculous, brilliant faith. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy - they're not strong because of God, but because they train themselves to be stronger for God. Secretly? They're everywhere. They've infiltrated government, business and entertainment. They push an agenda: furthering the Apocalypse. They want it to come, and when the time is right, they will use their influence to push back the dark and usher in the end of the world. Even some of their own would be disturbed to learn this.
The Merciful get Socialize (Questioning). They want to save the monsters. God was wrathful, sure, but Jesus was a manifestation of His love, and He changed with the New Testament. They don't want to harm monsters, by their definition, anyway. Most want to convert monsters or even cure them of their conditions. Within them is a secret group, the Lion's Den. They have a goal that would appall others - they wnat to become monsters. They want this because they believe they are so righteous that they can walk right into the lion's den but not be eaten, that they can infiltrate these monsters but keep their mission and righteousness.
The Long Night Endowment is the Prayer. It's not supernatural, but it can seem to be. Their faith brings them strength, you see. At the dawn of each day, provided they prayed before sleeping, they get (Prayer dots) Prayer Points. Prayer Points can be spent to gain Willpower, or transfer Willpower from themselves to other hunters - not creating those ones, mind you - or you can ignore wound penalties for a turn, or you can use them to resist mental domination for a turn, increasing their resistance. Your prayers before sleep must last a full hour to get your Prayer Points.
We get some side rules on using mercy and empathy to to draw information out of monsters, and some talk about deprogramming people of magical control. It also talks about the possibility of curing monsters of being monsters - but it should be hard, if you decide it's possible, and you shouldn't force it on PCs unless they want it.
Next time: Loyalists.
Post 3Original SA post
Compacts and Conspiracies tried to rehab the Abbey a bit, particularly by spending a good chunk of page space talking about the Old World and New Blood clubs. Up to you if it succeeded.
Compacts and Conspiracies
The Loyalists of Thule are scholars. Strength is great, sure, but they focus on information above all. When they hunt, they use traps, manipulation and as much information as they can possibly get. Some say they play it so safe - but why? Well, part of it is because they've messed up. Everyone in the Loyalists has fucked up or is related to someone who did. They messed with the occult, and bad things happened, and now they have to repay that debt. Maybe Grandpa was part of the Thule Gesellschaft. Maybe you awakened an ancient vampire to get a favor and let the thing loose. Someone has to pay for these mistakes. The Loyalists keep an eye out for fuckups like that - they know it so often has a human origin, which they will find. And when they do, they have one demand: pay your debts. Take responsibility. You can't just let something loose and walk away.
The Loyalists are not Nazis. They hate that people sometimes think they are, that it was their origin. They hate fascism and authoritarianism, they reject any form of racism and discrimination. The problem is, there's Nazis out there. Neo-Nazi movements pop up, and for some reason a lot of monsters seem to latch onto the Nazi 'brand' of sorts as a way to control people or to call up old evils. That is the greatest foe the Loyalists have. Any time they find a Nazi, they fight. Even if they're just humans. Usually, with humans, they'll go the legal route and use the system to bring them down. It doesn't always work, and when it doesn't, vioience is an old, familiar answer.
The Loyalists hunt secrets. Metaphorically, they call this searching for Thule - discovering lost truths and potent secrets. It's not easy, and it means they need tools. Weapons. Most Loyalists keep a library of books and occult implements of all kinds - ouija boards, incense, tarot cards, anything stolen from monsters - plus practical tools like shovels and glass cutters. Usually they'll own one small weapon, too. But not all of them stop at a metaphor and a book. Some literally do search for Thule, claiming that the ghosts of Thule's giants are still around if you can find one, and that they have great secrets. Sometimes, both types of Loyalist will use magical rituals to solve problems - but always carefully, hesitantly. They know the price of fucking up with magic.
The Three Old Men of Munich don't really run the Loyalists - the compact basically runs itself. They just watch, collect and disseminate information. And hate each other, and most of the world. They were young once, in 1933, and now they're all at least 90 years old. They know that each of them is guilty, and so they hate each other. Their names are Otto Lanz, Christoph Dahmer and Alois Steiger. They can be mentors, but it's never pleasant for anyone involved. They have secret retainers throughout the compact, collecting information for them. The old men determine if it's worth distributing, when they will pass it to those who need to know, or if it is worth burying, in which case they lock it in their great vault, Das Archiv.
The Scholar faction of the loyalists get a Research specialty for either Academics or Occult. They are mostly academics who focus on a slow, steady pace. They know it's best to understand their foes thoroughly, and they may seem passive...but that's only until you realize that sometimes they have to blow up walls and kill zombies just to get to old scrolls. Usually, they aren't a cell to themselves, but a part of one, always keeping their affiliations secret. Their biggest secret is that they know too much and keep a lot to themselves. The knowledge they have is dangerous , and giving it away freely would be like handing guns to children. They know where ancient vampires are buried, how to summon elder demons. They have maps to ancient Thule, archaeological finds from Atlantis - but anyone could put those to terrible use. So they guard these secrets. From everyone .
The Penitents get Firearms (Pistol). They're an unofficial club, really. You want in, you get a pistol. A Nazi pistol. It's a reminder that the gun killed people - Americans, Jews, the French, anyone in the way. You hold a simple and terrible weapon, and you must use it for good now. Penitents, unlike Scholars, form whole cells. They are still academics, but are rather more violent about it. They're not content to help others - they want to fix things themselves. The real secret they have? Those guns...well, some of them are haunted. Not just by one ghost, but legions. A Nazi got his head blown off holding it? A Roma was shot in the head with it? An American soldier killed? Their voices are in the gun. They wqant release. They remind you of your guilt. And sometimes, they drive you mad.
The Advance get Persuasion (Leadership). Thy're a small, but growing core - not well-liked by other Loyalists. They are proactive, almost cocky, in how they resolve their debts. They feel that they must lead the fight, and often are self-madel eaders. Unfortunately, they're trying to lead a group of self-loathing scholars who have little interest in being leaders. It opens you to error, after all, and is what got the original Thule Society into the Nazi mess. Everyone thinks that, secretly, some of the Advance are neo-nazis. They're not. They're just as anti-fascist as everyone else, if not moreso due to defensiveness. What they want is to remake the Loyalists into a legitimate occult society, the go-to organization for the occult, and not secret, either. They want to tell people their secrets, which can put them at odds with the rest of the compact.
The Loyalist endowment is Unearthed Secrets. The Loyalists share their information between themselves with little infighting or paranoia. The more you share, the more you get told. At the start of each arc, you can gain a number of important 'secrets' about the monsters or other hunters equal to your dots in Unearthed Secrets. Also, it functions as the Contacts merit for occultists.
So, what else do they get? The Rmoahals. Rmoahals are the ghosts of the giants of Thule, a sub-race of Atlantean descendents or competitors. Their tombs are well-hidden and mostly underground, in ancient catacombs lined with elaborate and complex traps. No one knows who trapped the tombs. The ghosts also sleep, and to awaken one, you must sacrifice a magical item - in Hunter terms, a Relic of three or more dots. The ghosts are much like any ghost in some ways - they have the same powers, and are anchored by their tombs and treasures. But they're immense, twice the size of a man. Their flash is pale and sickly, often blue or yellow. Their eyes are blind with cataracts, but they have a third, clear eye in the middle of their forehead, which never sotps moving. They are naked and have genitals of both sexes. Their mouths are a tangle of barbed fangs, and their tongues are marked in strange and ancient symbols. Also, they're insane, or perhaps hyper-sane, or differently sane. They speak in song and tongues and animal cries, but they understand anything. Speaking to them will damage your sanity, at least a little, and leave you detached and unbalanced. Why would you ever talk to one? Well, first, they were said to conjure the physical world into being by the power of Logos, the word. By singing or speaking, they could create things. Their ghosts rtain this power. If you need something, even a person, living or dead, they can conjure it by speaking it s name. It's real, permanent and flawless. No curse, no catch. Second, that extends to conjuring information . Instead of asking for an object, you can ask a single question, and the Rmoahal will answer you with a scroll or an inscribed stone or even an audio casstte. No matter what, you only get one request. Any more and it will kill you. Very violently.
Next time: We are the Network.
Post 4Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
Network Zero are on the cusp of something really big. I mean, it makes sense, right? Privacy is dead. Cameras everywhere, wiretaps let you listen in on cell phones even when the phone isn't in use , nothing stays deleted. The All-Seeing Eye is everywhere - and it's not just the government or big business that can use it. The Secret Frequency understand that. Monsters live in the shadows, but in the modern world, those are very small. EVery new CCTV system, cell phone and satellite shrinks them. Some monters hide deeper, but many can't, or underestimate how curious people really are. The Network is happy to exploit that idea. They just want to get the message out: Monsters are real.
In the old days - that is, ten, fifteen years ago - it was a lot harder. Getting the message out was ragtag. You have to go out, shoot footage with a crappy camera, transmit the footage somehow - ad dialup's shit for uploads. Maybe you broke into a public access station or bought airtime. Audience was small, either way. Quality was shit. And just getting the footage there could be deadly. But now? You go out with a handicam that fits in the palm of your hand. Full HD, GPS, geotagging every video. If you use a smartphone, a little bit less quality but you can upload it immediately . A high quality or interesting video might have an audience of thousands. If they each link it to three others, or tweet about it to whatever their audience is, it goes viral. That's just this year. What happens next year? Five years from now? Not that the Network is always top of the food chain, mind you. The monsters are catchup up, too. Sure, vampires are stagnant, but a few have realized they need younger vampires who understand computers, and many vampiric havens are now protected by cell scramblers. Plus, tech's still no good off the grid. A werewolf in the middle of the Badlands means the old model, still, where you have to get the footage and survive to broadcast it.
The Network's big weapon is communication. It's disorganized, with little in the way of joining. Post something online that could be weird and you're in. Maybe you use Zero Channel - it's one of the big ones, a YouTube channel which is actually a source of some argument. I mean, YouTube, really? That's amateurish and their Terms of Service about ownership are weird. Plus, only one user moderates it: Colt45, whom no one has ever met. To his credit, he has a 24-hour turnaround at worst, which makes some wonder if he's just a bot. And then there's the Panoptic Cons, a subgrouping of the Army of Truth, that want to shove the message into people's faces, often with elaborate stunts. They hack networks, cell phones, public WiFi, even the TVs at big box stores to display their stuff. They break into homes and business to leave behind DVDs or USB keys containing video and audio. The idea there is that the victim finds the stuff, disseminates it and is the one who ends up targeted by any angry monsters. Or gets recruited into the Network, either-or. Hell, sometimes they even set up projector traps - a handheld or concealed projector tied to a tripwire so that anyone who trips it gets a facefull of monster recording. And...well, you know numbers stations? Shortwave radio, you get tones, frequencies, numbers and so on in a loop? Some of those are, in fact, ciphers sent out for active spies and terrorist groups. And some of them are communications from monsters or aliens. And a very small number are Network Zero communications channels - not to show the world, but to send coded messages to field hunters. Often they direct people to areas of supernatural activity for recording, with the cells getting a key that helps decipher the code. Decryption of the code without the key is very difficult, and by the time you crack it, the event's probably over already. Some NetZo numbers stations are run by known operators, but others are a mystery.
The Record Keepers are one of the bigger crews in Network Zero, and they get Computer (Multimedia). They aren't really big picture guys. They go out, capture video of the supernatural, and maybe do some work to disseminate it. Maybe not, though - often that's left to the Army of Truth. Mostly they just put their videos up on the net and are happy. If you get big enough in their community, you'll start to hear about the Zero Registry, a sort of online database tracking mosnter sightings, with a lot of data. Truth is, it's a wiki, and if you get big enough, get enough views and status? You get a password and edit access.
The army of truth get either Firearms (Rifle) or Firearms (Shotgun), and they call themselves an army because they go armed. Long guns are easy enough to get without much paper trail, unlike pistols. They head out with the material the rest of the compact collects and show it by any means possible. If that means taking over a TV station at gunpoint, well, so be it. They used to be more peaceful, but they are a particularly apocalyptic group, and as long as the message gets out, well, that's what's important right now. They have secret caches - not the kind of caches of cameras and cell phones and coded USBs that most NetZo guys have, but weapons caches. Big ones. No one really expects Network Zero to be dangerous, but rumor has it that the Army of Truth might have anything from smallpox vials to a Soviet-era dirty bomb. That's true. These are people with access, people very good at lying to get into places. They've stolen some very dangerous weapons and are looking for more, so that when the shit hits the fan, they will have the tools needed to secure the airwaves.
The Secret Keepers get Intimidation (Keep Quiet). They're people who learned something they shouldn't have, and they want to keep that information hidden. Free exchange of supernatural evidence is dangerous, it pisses off the monsters and makes them go to ground. The Secret Keepers will threaten and steal if they have to, but they never destroy what they hide. They hoard it. Waiting for the right time, see. They think that time is soon, it's coming. They don't want a slow drip of information, but a bomb of it - something so large it can't be denied. The hard part is getting that bomb made before the rest of the Network gets too sick of them. Secretly, they often work with other hunter groups more than the rest of the Network - you know, the guys who also want to keep secrets from getting out. For example, some of them work with Task Force: VALKYRIE.
The NetZo Endowment is All-Seeing Eye. For every dfot you get, you have access to one normally private information stream, within reason - maybe local ATM cameras, stop light cams, the CCTV at a local company, whatever. You can access it whenever you have an internet-capable device that can view the video. You cannot use this to get into supernaturally-held systems, though, like a vampire haven's CCTV network. Every time you connect to a stream this way, though, the GM rolls a die. If it comes up 1, you get caught and lose access to that stream. You get half the XP used to buy that dot back, but now you're on the radar and are down a dot.
The bonus material is that NetZo is really on the verge of becoming a full-blown conspiracy. They're global, clandestine and pioneers of the New Media. The main things they need are organization and operations. Conspiracies have leaders, 99% of the time. They're top down. Someone will have to run the show. Their operations will need to be picked up - their own satellite, maybe, to piggyback on all kinds of transmissions. They'll need more people, too. And they'll need a more potent Endowment. Which the game provides.
Monster Media, specifically. Each dot of Monster Media lets you upgrade one specific piece of technology so that it can capture and ID a monster in its true, exposed form. Like, maybe your cell phone can capture ghosts as diaphonous and hazy spirits, or werewolves as people with bright, glowing yellow eyes. Or maybe your button mic can pick up ghost voices and let you hear them even when others can't.
Next time: No mysteries.
Post 5Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
Null Mysteriis are hobbyists. They're academics, paid often quite well to do work entirely unrelated to their hunting. They often at least start fless attached to the Vigil - they may grow to obsession, sure, may let it ruin their day jobs, but most ease into it. Of course, even as a hobby, monster science is dangerous and expensive. Over time, most of them do get obsessed, chasing after dragons. Each answered question opens ten more. Once you begin to look, all sorts of problems start. Unlike most hobbyists, however, Null Mysteriis is exceptionally organized and built around their organization. You usually get in by running into something weird, try to expose it to others, try to prove it was real. Or maybe you quite your job, your certainty in science shaken. These red flags draw the compact's attention, and they try to intervene, if the person involves seems like they could bring something to the table. Nit, mind you, that it's about exposing the supernatural. They know that's pointless and just spooks people and clouds the minds of the all too many who are less rational than they are. They need evideence first. And, really, it's quite competitive. So many committees and ranks and bickering over status and elections, so many journals to apply to and fill...and the data gathering, well, often it isn't new. Often it's just the same stuff that keeps getting found over and over. Oh, and of course there's the thousand-a-year dues.
Many of the members of Null Mysteriis are entirely rational, but in recent years there's been a bloom of psuedoscientific research among them. It's easy to see how. Scientists want rational explanations and rigorous testing, but not all of the horrors they run into can be explained rationally. The truly diligent accept that this is not a failure, that the explanation is there, deeper. Others are less diligent. Their minds become damaged by their experiences, and it's a lot easier to find answers if you loosen your standards...so they do. Eventually, they give way to psuedoscience. It's a slippery slope from there, and it's causing schisms in the compact. The current, rationalist General Secretary Alexander Watt has been winning elections for years, but each year by less of a margin, while the provost and treasurer, Vincent Fielding, is leading the psuedoscientific group that is growing. A third contender, IRanian-American Mahasti Jalili, has a guru-like standing, with few but zealous adherenets who advocate outright quakcery, mixing science and miracles into something she calls 'Spiritual Science.'
The Rationalists get Science (Experimentation). They are academics who believe that the supernatural is really just the undiscovered natural. To many outsiders, it's a lot of borign work, mostly seen through a microscope...but to them, it's exciting - every clue and detail are answers to a mystery. Sure, most of them don't really know how to use weapons very well, but they're still doing their work. They know that the compact is under siege by people they see as crazy, and they want to get rid of them, leave them to some other group to deal with. A darker trend among the higher-ups, including Alexander Watt, are contemplating getting rid of the competing leaders by force.
The Open Minds get Expression (Argument). They range from psuedoscience like Kirlian photography or Zener cards to quackery like hollow earth theory and theosophy. They don't want to close the door on anything, because they're too afraid that strictly rigorous standards damage their progress. They lump their beliefs with the monsters - if vampires are real, who says psuedoscience can't become science? Among them, secretly, is Jim Taylor, though he goes by the Contactee. He's in his mid-50s, an ex-researcher for pharmaceutical companies, but lately, he believes he's been inhabited by another consciousness, an underworld-spirit known as the Taker of Children. He claims it came to him when he fell through a frozen lake and nearly died of hypothermia. He believes it is an ancient spirit, able to answer many questions. Mahasti Jalili is keeping him hidden in secret, interrogating him and the spirit. She thinks the Rationalists want him dead. (They don't; they want her dead.)
The Cataclysmicists get Investigation (Paranormal). They're what you get when scientists fear the world is ending, noting all the critical systems that are subject to cascade failures. More and more, the world is bound up in those, so more and more of the world is in danger when one big failure comes. The rise of the paranormal is a warning sign. Sure, some of them believe the 2012 end of the world thing or Nostradamus, but most of them are actual scientists who just think it's all going to break down, unheralded by any angels. The secret? The Human Preservation Project has entered full swing. It's an unforuntate alliance with some other end-of-the-world types, even strictly religious ones, to fund underground shelters to protect humanity from the end of days. There are seven of these shelters now, built in mountain ranges around the world.
Science: not always wrong. Or right.
The endowment is I'm Doing Science. It's less social and more built on your approach and equipment. Basically, it assumes you have access to certain tools and approaches and know how to use them in the hunt - pH strips, microscopes, maybe PKE meters or Kirlian cameras. At the start of any hunt-related scene, you roll some dice representing five minutes or so of examination. Successes are spent to track monsters that left behind evidence, or to learn critical details on the monster that could discerned by scientific examination, or to gain a bonus to attacking a monster once, finding some trace of weakness that could be taken advantage of - a bad leg, maybe, or proof that magic is born from the palm and fingers.
Yeah, it works because it works.
The bonus matyerial is just examples of what scientific evidence of monsters might look like. Changeling cells may have their DNA replaced by those of plants or animals, or stranger material yet, like stone or water. Reanimated flesh comes to life briefly when electricity is run through it - or not so briefly. If it's bigger than a fist, it might grow legs and a mouth and try to eat people. Vampire blood can be tested to identify the victims the vampire has fed on.
Next time: The Union
Post 6Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
The Union are, essentially, tier 1 hunters with tier 2 organization. They're quite a young group, and have a philosophy essentially identical to most basic cells: there's bad shit going down on your patch, and you need to keep it safe. They care about their neighborhoods, their friends and little else. They don't want to control or destroy all monsters - just the ones threatening them. Recruitment's pretty simple. Occasionally you might have to prove your dedication, but even that's uncommon. Ultimately, you're just a guy in trouble, a mother overwhelmed by something you don't understand. And someone you know - a friend, a local veteran maybe, a neighbor - tells you that someone can help. You get a user name and a password.
See, the thing is, people know . They know the world is a dark place, where strange things happen. They suspect monsters are real. But it's easier to pretend everything is normal. They're scared and alone. But that forced ignorance changes when the Union is around. It's not that everyone becomes Hunters - they don't. But maybe a Union hunter ends up on a doorstep, bloody and ragged. Sometimes, that door will open, and someone will toss a handgun out before ducking back inside. People know that weird things happen, and when the Union's around, they know who to call when they have a special problem. Mind you, that doesn't always mean monsters - the Union don't limit themselves. Pedophiles, drug dealers, mobsters, serial killers - they're all open to hunt. Not every cell, mind - hunting humans takes more than monsters. But it happens, and it happens a lot. Of course, that can get out of hand pretty quickly.
The forum address, by the way? Collective-bargaining.org. You get a logon and a password. Password changes weekly. It's not very secure, but there are a few safeguards. No real names, ever. All code name plus a number. Lower the number, earlier you joined, so it's an easy way to tell how new someone is. Second, you never discuss exact locations. Not on the board. Go to email for that. You might mention a geographic region ('the northeast') or even a really big city, like NYC, but never more than that. Third, all posts are moderated. They don't go live until the mods at least verify the post's probably not a monster or a spammer. The mods are always one of six cells, one of which is Holly Ramirez's. They rotate regularly. If, after all of that, the monsters end up on the site...well, so be it. They won't see anything incriminating, really. And if they do anything to stand out, it might draw hunters down on them. The site can sometimes be bait .
The Union also helps its members with more than hunting. They may talk to banks about mortgages. (Or 'talk' to banks about mortgages.) They take up collections, help avoid foreclosure. They send food to members that need it, find places to stay. They look out for each other. Cell phone replacement, doctors that don't ask questions. You pay it forward, though. Someone else needs help, you're the one that helps them. If you get helped, doubly so. You better be always ready to have guests at any time, to put some money in the tin, or maybe go break a guy's finger to let a hunter keep their house. It's usually just a local thing, but if the compact's doing really well, they may send money cross-country, or even come visiting to help out - even if it's just to repair a leaky roof. And, of course, they help hunt. Union resources are pooled, not dedicated to individual hunters. If you have ten bullets and someone else has none? Better give up five bullets. Some Union cells work to 'liberate' resources from monsters to help with that.
Not that they're all blue collar.
Home Firsters get Streetwise (Names and Faces). They're a solid majority of the Union, and all they care about is taking care of their patch. It's not about killing monsters - it's making sure they get out of town. Same with drug dealers, sex offenders and...well, anybody they don't really like. They've actually turned this into a working grassroots campaign outside the Vigil, with the basic idea that taking care of your neighborhood will take care of the world. Secretly? Well, it doesn't always work well. It's not that far for them to go into xenophobia and moral crusading. Sometimes, they just end up another group of thugs and gangsters.
The General Strike get Politics (Campaigning). They're more proactive. Yeah, they claim territory, but it's usually not physical - it's abstract. Abused women, healthcare, local politics. They go out and protect those domains from monstrous corruption. Sometimes that's infiltration or grassroots campaigns. Sometimes it's vigilantism and assassination and sabotage. They've got a secret plan - the New Year's Revolution. It's ready. See, they've put themselves near a bunch of monsters infiltrating the upper echelons of society, along with humans that are slaves to monsters. Next year, New Year's Eve? Those people are getting assassinated. Especially the monsters. No one'll be able to cover it all up. It'll send a clear message against monstrous corruption...as long as they don't find out about it before it goes off.
Know your rep.
The Politicals get Persuasion (Recruiment). They're not really that political, mind. They're the lunatic fringe. They believe the world is under siege by oppressors - and they see it everywhere . Everything is a conspiracy to keep people fat, dumb and ignorant. The Politicals want war. Tear it all down - every corrupt system, every company, every government. Rise up. Everyone in power is equivalent to Hitler or Stalin. Secretly? Well, they have small militia compounds across the country. When the time comes, they will be ready for war.
The Union endowment is Your Friends and Neighbors. Their weapons aren't guns or bats. They're people. Each session, you get one benefit from the following. You can get a temporary Safehouse worth (Your Friends and Neighbors dots) dots, divided as you like. Maybe it's a neighbors house or shut down business. You can get a bonus to social rolls with any one local resident, as long as you're willing to help them out somehow afterwards (or face an equivalent penalty with them). You can turn those dots into Allies dots from some aspect of local life. Or you can use them as a bonus to any Drive rolls made in the neighborhood, because you know it so well.
The extra content for them is basically 'make a neighborhood map, use the stuff from Block by Bloody Block.' Focus on the local area.
Next time: The Aegis Kai Doru in Three Parts
Post 7Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
The game presents three possible truths for the Aegis Kai Doru. Millenia ago, predating any mythical floods, humanity lived in paradise and was enlightened. This version, by the way, is what the Aegis believe is true. This ancient paradise - Atlantis, Mu, whatever - factionalized, as men do. The Guardians of the Labytinth, the forefathers of the Aegis Kai Doru, were great artificers, led by the mighty Daedalus. He and the Guardians watched over the Four Labyrinths, the Labyrinths of the Crocodiles, the Marsh, the Isle and the Tomb. The greatest of these was the Labyrinth of the Isle. It was both a vehicle for enlightenment and a prison for two ancient gods. One, the Mistress of Honey, was a seductress whose body was a hive of golden bees. The other, Asterion, was a man with the head of a bull, the size of a giant. Were they freed, they would breed, giving birth to a race of monsters that would plunge the world to darkness.
Of course, this prophecy came true. The factions of witches that ruled the paradise grew bitter and jealous, especially towards the keepers of enlightenment, the Guardians. War came, great and terrible in its magic, and the earth itself tore asunder. The Labyrinth of the Isle was shattered, freeing the ancient gods. Naturally, the Guardians were blamed and their magic was stolen. They were cast out. Paradise fell. From the unholy union of the gods, shapeshifters were born, and the original witch factions fled. Even today, they exist, lording themselves over men and each other. This is why the Aegis Kai Doru must always war with the witches and shapeshifters.
Option two: Maybe that's not quite a lie - maybe it's mostly true. But maybe the Aegis aren't who they claim to be. Sure, the real Guardians of the Labyrinth got cast out. And they didn't survive the dark. Maybe the shapeshifters, children of the Mistress of Honey and Asterion, killed them. Or maybe a tribe of lowly, nonmagical humans crept on them and killed them by ambush and secrecy. What if, in paradise, not all were equal? Those at the fringes, their homes lit by guttering flames, would be jealous of their magical masters. They might well fight the outcasts, or find their corpses. They might steal their secret artifacts. And whatever story they told their children would never include 'and we beat their real owners to death and stole their shit.' So maybe the Aegis Kai Doru are claiming a legacy that is a total lie, a fabrication made by ancient thieves.
And option three? There's a lot of mystical factions out there that would love to see werewolves and mages dead. The Pure. The Seers of the Throne. The Banishers. Other groups. Pick one. Or more than one. They've been manipulating the Aegis Kai Doru for centuries. It wouldn't be too hard - convince the children of dead hunters that they're from a legacy of ancient, special power. Fake some evidence. People want purpose, they want to believe. Just give them some purpose, set them on a task, and then sit back and watch. Oh, and give them some magic weapons, of course.
Stealth option four!
We then get a discussion of the hierarchy within the Aegis. They are led by the Inner Circle. Five women, four men, always. All of them must be part of an ancestral Aegis lineage - at least five generations in the conspiracy. They aren't all Greek, but do mostly reside in Athens, and they oversee a grand collection of dangerous and potent artifacts. They are active hunters still, extremely dangerous ones, and so Athens is relatively safe from werewolves and witches - certainly the unsubtle ones. They're also rather insane - y'see, their labyrinth-walking involves psychoactive drugs for a metaphorical labyrinth. They also may or may not control the actual Minotaur's Labyrinth below Crete. Below them are the Sagaris, the great heroes of the Aegis. A sagaris is also called a labrys, a sort of Greek double-headed axe representing Zeus' lightning. And...yeah, they kill things. They don't often live long, but they are very powerful. Imagine Achilles meets Indiana Jones. Below them are the Kopis - a Greek sword that was used in war and as a sacrificial knife. The Kopis are local leaders in the Aegis, commanding and guiding them within a single city or territory. They are also judges, deciding which monsters must die. They are more women than men - the Aegis tends to prize women over men for leadership. Below them are the Doru, the war spears. They are warriors and teachers, quite good but not yet mythic. Below them, the Xiphos, or short swords. They are useful, capable but not yet famous or tested. They are good, but not yet needed, and their job is to distinguish themselves. The lowest rank is the Aspis, the shield. They are students, logistics, cannon fodder and tools. They are not to go out on their own, but some do, and if they survive, that initiative is usually prized.
The Sword get Occult (Identifying Magic). Their job is simple: go. Hunt. Kill
The Temple get Crafts (Traps). They're often derided as passive, but their job is to be guards. Someone has to do it. And they're very good at it. It doesn't mean they're bad fighters, either. They monitor, defend, and sometimes they have to kick monster ass to save a cache. Plus, they have the best toys. Now, technically everything they do is above board. They just don't tell the rest of the Aegis about all of their artifact caches or labyrinths. They've hidden some of the most potent, disastrous tools - after all, the Sword are too militant, and it would be bad if they got their hands on some of the weapons the Temple knows about.
The Scroll get Academics (Research). They exist because someone has to hunt down information. They're not a large group, but they know a lot. They catalog relics, map monster territory and keep a roster of enemies and their weaknesses. And, of course, they test out new relics. Which is often a really risky endeavor, but hey, everything's got a cost. Secretly? They're going soft. They have learned that not all witches and werewolves are clear and present dangers. Some seem to be doing good, even. So they fudge the numbers a little. They've even made allies among the monsters, to get information better. If the Sword ever found out...well, there'd be a civil war.
So, new relics. There's Barnabas-in-Amber (3 dots). See, the Aegis like severed heads. They often are useful, if you can figure out how to make them talk. (They actually keep the severed heads of their best hunters, to see if they become relics. Some do.) This one is from a hunter just before the American Revolution, Barnabas Tuttle. He was a violent but not brutish man, very keen on understanding the natives he often had to slaughter to get at their relics. He was killed and scalped during a hunt, but his fellow hunters sewed the scalp back on, to preserve his wisdom, then cut off his head and preserved it in tar, honey and herbs. It takes nothing from its user, but any who holds it when it starts to moan will hear it in their sleep for eight solid nights, which will allow no restful slumber. See, Barnabas-in-Amber detects relics. Once within a mile of a relic, it starts to moan softly, getting louder as it gets closer. Once within a hundred yards of a truly potent relic, its teeth will chatter and its eyes will roll.
The Beauty Jar (5 dots) contains the severed head of buxom 50s starlet Jayne Mansfield. She died in a car crash, age 34, when a truck swerved to avoid another truck. Her decapitation is said to be a myth, but that is itself a myth to cover up that her head was stolen by a mad doctor hoping to reanimate an undead bride. The Aegis stepped in and took it back. The head itself is well-preserved in a brine-filled jar, but the hair is rotten and resembles seaweed. To use it takes a lot of willpower, plus it curses your driving skills. What you do is drink from the brine, which will mystically reproduce itself over a few days. This grants Fame 3, Striking Looks 4 and the ability to use any social skill as if you were trained at it. Your body becomes intensely attractive, lasting until you kiss someone. That's the only way to end the power. The kiss is profoundly foul, tasting of bug repellent, rot and brine. You're going to destroy your relationship with whoever you kiss, too, giving a mutual social penalty to each other for a month.
The extra material is an idea: what if the Aegis' oath to fight was a mystic oath? First, you get sent into a maze to perform some dangerous task and sacrifice a full dot of Willpower. You get it back if you succeed and solve the maze, but if you don't, you've lost it for good. Then you must speak the vow, probably over a relic like the Oath Stone (3 dots). This stone was once kept at a temple of Zeus. That stone was large, but this is just a tiny fragment of one of the primary so-called Iuppiter Lapis. It's small enough to hold in your hand, and has a double-headed axe engraved on it. You must spill your blood on it when you make your oath, but if you do, you get a bonus to anything involving seeking relics, and a greater one to harm any mage or werewolf. Period. It lasts forever. Done.
And if you break your oath? Maybe let a witch or shapeshifter live? The game suggests bad shit happens. Maybe relics stop working for you at all, at least in supernatural ways. Maybe you get a massive penalty to fight mages and werewolves. Maybe they get a bonus to kill you now.
Next time: Some people call it bud, some people call it skunk, some people call it, "Sir can you open up the trunk?"
Post 8Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
The Ascending Ones are three things at once. You've got your occult mystics, your militant religious folks and your drug dealers. Now, that can be run two ways. Either they come together...or they don't. If you assume they manage to make it work, the key is Hermes Tresmegistos. Hard to say who he really was - writings from the early days of the common era are attributed to him, and he was believed to be a prophet combining the wisdom of the gods Thoth and Hermes. Those texts were equal parts alchemy and philosophy. It's hard to say how he was Thrice-Great, too - some say it was his unity of alchemy, magic and astrology. Others say he was philosopher, priest and king. And others say it's from the earliest threefold epithet of Thoth - that is, Thoth the Great, Thoth the Great and Thoth the Great. The occult and pagan traditions honor him for his mystic wisdom, while the Gnostics say he was a wise pagan and early prophet, and Islamic tradition names him Idris, naming him a hero, mathematician and alchemist. All of this comes together in the Priscia Theologica, the idea of a single theology with many faces.
In the same way, the Ascending Ones come together in accepting that their many views are bound in the figure of Hermes Tresmegistus. The occult faction accepts him as a teacher of their magical tradition. The monotheists name him as a prophet who foresaw their religions. The dealers recognize his contribution to alchemy and, therefore, narcotics, as well as believing that Hermes Tresmegistus and his symbology makes from some fuckin' awesome tats. So, why be hunters, then? Simple: Thoth and Hermes were not just gods of wisdom, but psychopomps, guides to the afterlife. Thus, it is the duty of the Ascending Ones to move humanity towards a sacred state...or, failing that, to guide monsters to the afterlife.
Or maybe they don't work together so well. Maybe the three factions just don't talk to each other or like each other. Maybe only their shared alchemical power is keeping them from being plunged into violent civil war - but not enough to keep them from working at odds with each other. In all likelihood, though, the truth is somewhere between both extremes. The conspiracy is bound together by strong threads, but they're not all playing the same game. They get along, a bit grudgingly, and understand their jobs, but they don't have to like it.
Either way, the Ascending Ones are the loosest conspiracy. They have no real hierarchy, with each cell establishing leadership differently. The Southern Temple may have ranks, but they have no meaning to the other factions. They operate, instead, via what they name the Ringed Chain. Each cell knows two other cells and shares information with them. That information propagates up and down the line, sure, but any given cell has a very limited world. No one commands them or tells them what to do - they just talk to each other. Generally, cells that know each other are close geographically, but that isn't universal. They also don't frown on mixed cells, knowing that any who are not initiated will simply be unable to use their Elixirs at all. Their secrets aren't really that secret - they don't have to be. They guard themselves.
Generally speaking, the Ascending Ones accept that Hermes Tresmegistus was a prophet in the tradition of Ezekiel, Mani, Moses, Christ and Muhammed. It didn't end with him, and prophets must always be born, to be the mouth of sacred truths. The Ascending Ones, being rather self-centred, believe that most new prophets come from their ranks. They are born, not made, but are rarely recognized early on. And so, labeling a prophet always comes with arguments, even violence. Anyone the Ascending Ones label a prophet gain great status, but that's not the same as an easy life at all. They get followers, yes, but many foes, too, who doubt their words. Everything they say and do is interpreted for hidden truths or misconstrued utterly. These prophets are known as the Ascended Ones, and there's a good number of 'em at any time, generally expected to work together and communicate as a sort of inner ring guiding the Ascending Ones like shepherds. They are the ones who set the agenda and tone of the conspiracy, insofar as that is possible.
The Order of the Southern Temple get Occult (Alchemy). They are mystics, academics and occultists, such that they often ignore all other studies to practice more mystical traditions. This group is home to the most 'uncommitted' Ascending Ones - that is, those who do not use Elixirs at all. They serve in a supplemental role and never really learn most of the group's secrets. The Southern Temple is thought to refer to a number of hidden underground temples kept by the conspiracy, repositories of ancient wisdom. The walls themselves are carved with truths. So, the secret? Well, you know, the Reanimated, whom some call Promethean, are animated by the power of ancient alchemy, and the Order of the Southern Temple has texts that explain how to do it. They've only found the texts recently, and they're toying with the idea of creating Reanimated as hunters to assist them in their duties, believing that these alchemical golems will obey their will. Can't possibly be a bad idea.
The Knife of Paradise get Academics (Religion). The occultists of the Southern Temple do the alchemy, the Jagged Crescent test it...but the Knife of Paradise are the hunters. The real hunters. The ones that kill for God. But that's only on the surface. They're also the merciful ones, the ones who first try Sulha, the diplomacy of the Ascending Ones between monsters. They are the ones that seek to bring monsters to God, though admittedly often before killing them. For all their conservative natures and martial posturing, they are often quite flexible, intelligent and socially adept. Now, secretly, the rumors are true. They do have reformed terrorists in their ranks. Not just Islamic jihadists - radical Christian fundamentalists and Israeli hardliners, too. Many have CIA training. However, they aren't terrorists or fundamentalists any more - not quite. They keep a low profile, because even among the Knife of Paradise, their zeal can get them ostracized, or draw attention from other groups.
The Jagged Crescent get Streetwise (Territory). They have two faces. One group focus on the hunt, talking up all the mysticism because it is badass , in a way. It's tough to lay shit to talk up before you put down a monster or a gang thug competitor. The minority, however, recognize that they are a tool, harvesting money and recruits for the mission. It doesn't matter if the rest of the Jagged Crescent doesn't understand it - the scythe need not understand its purpose in harvesting corn, and the foot soldiers don't need to see the big picture. As long as they are led well, all is well. Secretly, though? Shit, they have a ton of dark secrets. They work with Afghani opium dealers, Myanmar meth guys. But the really fucked up shit? There's a new street drug out there - and it comes from the Underworld. The real one. Some of the Jagged Crescent got there by use of Elixirs to harvest strange materials that grow there. They distill the stuff down to powerful, addictive drugs - even a dusting of it on a joint or a line of coke can cause an addiction. And there's, uh, nasty side effects.
But you're here for the Elixirs! They call it Red Resin (one dot). Most monsters hide behind human skin, but by harvesting a thick, toxic sap of the dracaena tree or rattan palm, mixing it with the mercurial cinnabar ore to create a thick resin, the Ascending Ones can spot them. It's a greasy clump of reddish powder, usually put between gum and lip or smoked in a pipe or cigarette. The smoke is slightly toxic to anyone nearby, causing watery eyes and mild dizziness. In addition, it allows the user to identify monsters on sight, seeing them outlined in a red light that only they can see. Even things hidden in Twilight are exposed this way, but you usually don't know what kind of monster you're looking at. Also, when Morality existed, it couldn't spot any monster of Morality 9 or higher.
Agora Salve (2 dots) is useful for those who would be monster diplomats. You mix dried vampire's blood with gold flakes and your own blood to make an unguent that coats the tongue. When you speak, your words become slow, calming. You get a bonus to all social rolls and no one can attack you unless you attack them first. This only lasts a few minutes, though.
Thoth's Whisper (5 dotS) allows you to help move ghosts, inhaling them so that their power can be borrowed. The mixture involved is made of homemade gunpowder, crystallized snake venom and potassium chloride salts, which you ignite and inhale, generally while hearing a babbling whisper from beyond the veil of life. This primes you to inhale a ghost, drawing them into your body. It lives in your lungs for 24 hours, during which time you can use its spiritual powers, know everything there is to know about it (as far as the ghost remembers, anyway), you can enter the Underworld freely at any Avernian Gate, and you may exert willpower to use the skills the ghost had in life. After 24 hours, the ghost is freed and can never be trapped by you again. You can force it to stay longer but only at the cost of terrible damage to your body.
Bonus material: djinn. No one knows who they really are, or what. Even they don't seem to know. They are largely invisible, in Twilight and might be any kind of spiritual being. The Ascending Ones don't usually hunt them, but instead seek them for deals. They know many secrets, but it's never free. All djinn can manifest as animals for a time, gaining mortality and all of the traits of that animal. They can also make bodies out of ambient objects. Such bodies can only be harmed by fire. Every century, a djinn buds off a child, which is exactly the same as its parent in all ways, but will eventually develop its own unique personality. Djinn travel and work alone, and in fact avoid each other and seem to dislike other djinn, save for their own children. Demons seem to hate them. They can be found anywhere, and each of them is governed entirely by a single Virtue and a single Vice, to the exclusion of all others. They often want strange and apparently purposeless things - the death of a cab driver, the theft of a specific gold scarab, whatever. Each event they ask for seems to be the first in a chain of dominos, but it's hard to tell, and the results can be and have been both good and evil, often both at once. The other way to get them to give up their secrets is to nearly kill them and then spare their lives.
Next time: Welcome to the company.
Post 9Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
Cheiron's Field Projects Division has hunters - but it also has headhunters , the guys whose job it is to look for recruits among other hunters. Every company has headhunters, but Cheiron's tend to have thaumatech implants and know about monsters. They look for two types of employee. Around 20% of these new hires are what they call the talent, people who are really gifted at the Vigil. People who are amazingly good at killing monsters and not getting killed. Leaders. Thinkers. Killers. Headhunters are encouraged to approach them and do whatever it takes to get them signed on. That starts with an attractive offer - nice car, big salary, benefits, vacation. If they refuse, the offers get bigger. If they still refuse...that's when Cheiron gets mean. They start to drop passive and later active threats against family and friends. They work to undo whatever the hunter tries. They'll even kidnap you and operate on you to implant stuff without your consent. The talent, once it does sign the contract, almost always gets high quality and expensive thaumatech.
The other 80% are what they call the troops. See, being FPD is messy. It's easy to die. And so, the company needs a lot of cannon fodder, and they hire a huge number of expendable agents. They aren't exactly as choosy about the troops as the talent. If they can hold a gun and a needle, they can do the job. If they get any Thaumatech at all, it's going to be cheap and simple. Cheiron doesn't care a bit about the troops and will work them hard, trying to own them as much as possible. Practicaly indentured servitude, really. That's not to say you can't get promotd out of the troops. You can. If you prove yourself to be more than they thought, they will throw money at you.
According to Cheiron manuals, a hunter cell is organized like the cell of a human body. The leader is the nucleus, the brain, the nerve center. The handler is the membrane, holding everything together. Everyone else is an organelle of some kind. The golgi apparatus for harvesting and packaging, the mitochondria for generating energy - morale, guns, whatever. The endoplasmic reticulation is the translator, liaising with others. In reality? Leader and handler will be talent, and everyone else is the troops. They just do their jobs. Most Cheiron cells are five-man teams, and if they need more they stack on more cells. The handler, by the way, has an important job. See, most of Cheiron's hunters recognize that they're working for the lesser evil here. The handler is the link between cell and boss, the guy who talks to corporate. They're meant to favor Cheiron, but a good one knows they have to throw the team a bone every so often. Their job is to babysit the juiced-up, unnaturally 'roided hunters in their cell. Most are hands-on about it, working in the field and developing a rapport. Some prefer to stay at a distance, though, and may never even meet their cells. Hell, not every cell has a handler. Those proven in skill and loyal enough will often meet their handler less and less, until they're essentially autonomous - but the really savvy ones know that, and might slip the leash after that. And, of course, Cheiron does hire freelancers. They get paid by the job, or by the harvest. No benefits, no salaries. No Thaumatech. It's a way to get in, technically, and it's often how a cell might end up working for Cheiron. They might not even know who's buying the stuff they find.
Holla holla get dolla.
Cheiron's roots go back millenia. They've done their best to hide or destroy their history when possible, not only to stifle conspiracy theories but to keep their staff ignorant, too. They own two dozen companies on the books. If they knew the truth, they might jump ship. What is the truth? First - the logo has power. That's why they've never changed it, despite all the conspiracy theories. Cheiron isn't entirely sure what the power is, but they know that discussions began regarding a new logo, fifteen years ago. Stocks plummeted . The Board was not happy. Those who spearheaded the new design had a series of unfortunate accidents and mysterious illnesses. It is possible that the logo's power is somehow tied into the Board of Directors directly.
The Board of Directors are human, impermanent. New ones come, old ones go. What's the problem? Why are they so secretive? There's a few truths that have been uncovered. The Board members each have collections of strange and inhuman artifacts. Brass statues of spider-creatures, sculptures made of impossible materials, like spidersilk or unmelting ice, paintings of immense torment. Some hunters and some monsters have had dreams of a Board made of ten truly alien monsters - pillars with eyes, immense gray giants hidden by dark clouds. Evidence has leaked of something called the Primary Development Plan - when translated out of corporate lingo, it's some kind of colonization project.
Retrieval has Medicine (Amputation). Most troops and other scrub-type hunters end up here. They get a brief amount of paramedic training and learn to cut off monster bits. They have a high turnover rate, since they die so often. Of course, they also have the biggest, most potent and most blatantly obvious thaumatech - they're field-testing it, see. It should be noted that when they can't get a particular organ easily, they often have instructions to bring in an entire corpse, and many default to that, accepting that it's easier to just let the doctors do the chopping. Though that does often mean no bonus for retrieval. Sometimes, Retrieval takes down a big, big prize. No one really knows about it, but they brought in an ancient vampire, Zagreus. He came willingly, and Cheiron hasn't yet asked why. He is, after all, an ancient liar with near-limitless power. So why did he come in with a novice team and volunteer to be experimented on?
Recruitment get Subterfuge (Corporate Doublespeak). That's where you'll find most headhunters and handlers. Cheiron thinks they're quite valuable and give them a huge budget. They're often quite well-off as a result. Now, can you guess what secret FPD's working on for them? That's right - emotion-controlling thaumatech. You get a prize hunter hooked, but he won't commit? Make him feel good. Happy. Have him associate positive feelings with Cheiron, and bam! Another employee, loyal and ready.
Field Research get Science (Experimentation). They're Cheiron's spies, joining other hunter cells or even organizations. Sometimes, they'll even join up with monsters, as thralls or brood mares or witch's assistants. They go into deep cover, stealing information and technology. They steal blood from their vampiric masters, books from the Loyalists of Thule, DNA from the possessed. Secretly? Field Research hires monsters. Frequently vampires, sometimes witches, occasionally others. They go into real deep cover. On the books, these 'agents' get no thaumatech. Off the books?
They call it the Optic Thorn (2 dots), but it's no thorn. It pierces the optic nerve of the left eye - only ever the left eye - and it's a tiny bone spur sculpted to look like a thorn. It's best not to ask where it comes from. If you were to ask or check under an MRI or X-Ray, it'd be shown to be from the photosynthetic flesh of a floral or fungal creature, some kind of fae. This is false. Truth is, Optic Spurs come from hunters. Lucifuge, specifically. Cheiron's leadership does not differentiate them from other demons, you see. They're supernatural, and it's biological, so they're monsters to harvest. It's a chip from the eye socket. What it reveals? Supernaturally augmented hunters. It's always on, and never fails. You can spot the Lucifuge, the Malleus, anyone using an active Relic, anyone currently under the effects of an Elixir. It won't tell you what kind of hunter they are, though, and is no good for IDing VALKYRIE agents, or any Aegis or Ascending One not currently using their magic tools.
You get Plasmic Cauls (4 dots) from certain ghosts. Cheiron isn't sure why, but some ghosts are different. They're more powerful, lack human identity - whatever they have is more archetypal than anything, and they can bond with humans somehow. Cheiron knows that when these things are 'killed,' they often leave behind some artifact - an object manifestation of their ectoplasmic nature, maybe. A sliver of wood, an ivory horn, a bezoar. Many of these objects have faces, or parts of them, imprinted on them. Cheiron has figured out how to take these things apart and implant a 'seed' of the object into the thalamus of a hunter. In theory, this should be beneficial. The problem is, uh, the end result is unpredictable. Two things are certain. First, you get to see ghosts. Second, you get a bonus to dealing with them. Beyond that, you get a secondary power you can activate, which takes willpower and spreads an ectoplasmic caul over your face. Some of them cause anyone in ten feet to bleed stigmata, painfully or drainingly. Some leak with runny mud that smells of the grave, covering their bodies with earthy armor. Some project your emotions on anyone within 50 feet, providing a bonus to Empathy for everyone involved towards each other. Some grant you immunity from fire. Some let you emit a terrible howl that hurts and deafens people. Some let you project a zone of silence around yourself, improving stealth in the area. Some greatly improve visual perception. Some cause a static discharge, disabling all nearby electronics for 24 hours. Some let you breathe underwater. And some provide you with a protective wind shield that knocks away attacks.
Last, we get the Executive profession, and rules for dealing with bureaucratic red tape to see how well you can hide your actions from corporate bosses.
Next time: HAIL SATAN
Post 10Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
Most hunters choose their lives. The Lucifuge like to think they're different, but they're wrong. They choose to hunt. What they do not choose is their heritage. They call it Becoming, mostly. Every Becoming is different. They rarely harm the person undergoing them, and the effects rarely last very long. Generally it occurs before the 23rd birthday, though not always. Puberty is also common as a Becoming time, but it can happen long before or after. How's it feel? Well...
Imagine you get visited by demons. Lesser ones at first, little imps and sprites of Hell that come to you, not to torment you but to be tormented. They recognize you're their master, in some way, and they want to be abused. They appear whenever you are away from people. Later, the greater demons start coming. They generally appear human, so they don't mind coming when others are around. Maybe they offer you knowledge or answers, though never clearly. Maybe they offer themselves up - for sex, giving a feast of food, offering to kill for you. Good news? It never gets to elder demons. They have little interest in you except, perhaps, to possess you. Or to claim you as their child. That can change things.
Imagine you can suddenly manifest terrible powers, but you can't control them. Whenever you get angry, hellfire flows from your hands. Whenever you sleep, you have terrible, prophetic nightmares.
Imagine all those people you don't like suddenly start to suffer. The annoying cable guy who shows up at the wrong time breaks his leg. That asshole in Accounting chokes to death as he spreads rumors about you. You have no choice here, no control. Even those who only inconvenience you may be in peril. Guy bumps into you and calls you a motherfucker, he gets hit by a bus.
Imagine the world suddenly goes insane. Things happen you can't explain. Milk curdles, insects swarm around you, black dogs with green eyes follow you around. Technology breaks or acts impossibly - your DVD player suddenly flips to your favorite movie. You don't even own that movie. The moon is red. Mirrors explode at night.
Imagine that monsters suddenly come looking for you. They don't know why. You're just interesting. Maybe they sense some sympathy in you, maybe they want to talk to you about their drives and desires. Maybe they want to boast of their deeds. But they want to find you, to talk to you.
Now, if the Lucifuge find you, they're going to talk you to the Lady of Milan, which generally means going to Milan rather than her coming to you. There's rare exceptions. She's even, sometimes, showed up in dreams. For some, it's a short meeting. If she already knows everything about you, all she has to ask is if you'll join or die. And that is the choice the Lucifuge offers - accept your nature and fight against it, or reject them and die. Some sign on, thinking they can escape later. Some manage to escape, but most don't. Most can't. And often, the visit to the Lady is a long one, as she tries to learn more about you, to trace you back to their known bloodlines.
Also, some of them turn evil.
The Denial get Empathy (Discern Intent). This is the way of the Lady of Milan. They say that the Devil is the selfish source of evil, and those that invite this evil must be destroyed. Those who rebel against it can be left alone or offered redemption. The most important thing for them, then, is to determine why a monster acts and does what it does. If it is trying to do harm, it must die. If its intent is peaceful or uncertain, it must be watched. The secret? The Lady of Milan meets yearly with Padre Ambrogio of the Malleus Maleficarum. It's mostly a social occasion, to share secrets and stories and lie to each other as if it's a game. But you knew that already.
The Reconciliation get Weaponry (Knife). They believe it is their duty to redeem Lucifer...but that's not nice , like it sounds. To do that, you see, they must destroy all evil on Earth and beyond, destroy all of the wicked that love Lucifer. Thus, they break the chains that bind Lucifer to evil. They are violent, merciless killers in their goal to find mercy for Lucifer. Secretly? When you sign up for the job of being an assassin to save the devil, they give you a knife. A very sharp, rosewood-handled knife. Nothing special about it, save that it smells of roses and sulfur. But if you press your ear to the blade, you may hear howling or the rattle of chains.
The Truth get Academics (Research). They don't care much about monsters - they're seeking information about their own bloodlines and organization. And particularly the Lucifuge. They are consumed by this, seeking out the secrets of their 'allies' - secrets they might expose if those allies won't help them find the truth. Secretly? They share everything with each other. All information one finds is soon known by the entire Truth. They know they can trust each other, because they all have so much dirt on each other. They've recently learned that the Lady of Milan meets with Padre Ambrogio. They're obsessed now, and will not stop until they find out what goes on in these meetings and put a stop to them.
So, Castigations. The Coils of Iniquity, also known to some as the vice grip, gives advantage over those with a certain kind of sin - those who share a chosen Vice. The ritual must be done under sunrise, anointing yourself with three drops of sinner's blood - one drop on the tongue, one on each eye. The Vice caught in the blood infuses you with an attunement to that Vice, offering you a bonus to social rolls against those who share that Vice over the next 24 hours. The ritual must be done between 5 and 7 AM.
The Family Vestment calls on the biological nature of your bloodline. Most of the time, it's subtle - agelessness, command over demons, and so on. But sometimes, it becomes overt. Each time you take this Ritual, you can manifest a true, physical sign of infernal blood that you can call out. Perhaps you have wings of some kind - they look different for each hunter - that hurt you when they manifest but allow you temporary flight. Perhaps you get some natural weapon, like vicious claws, teeth or an axelike tail. Perhaps your eyes change, improving one of your social skills but making them unnatural - in color, in shape, in glow. Perhaps your flesh warps, hardening into armor or bloating to provide you with ablative flesh that gives extra health. (Incidentally, if you have Castigation 5, that would give 5/5 Armor, which is insane .) Perhaps your body warps to better perform some physical skill - your skin turns black for stealth, or your fingers grow into spidery limbs for lockpicking and theft. Or maybe you design your own Vestment. They don't manifest for very long - but you can extend it with sacrifice of your own health.
Bonus material is the Ageless Sanction - the more dots you have in Status (Lucifuge), the slower you age. At one dot, you age one year per two years that pass, and die at age 140. At two dots, halve your aging rate, double your lifespan. Again for three, four and five, until you age one year per 32 years that pass and will die at age 2240. Also it advises you to try to work out some kind of Satanic family tree.
Next time: The power of Christ compels you.
Post 11Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
The Malleus Maleficarum have a rather simple mission. God is good and has given us the world. Some have used the free will He grants to become monsters; they must be punished. The supernatural is heresy. It must be stopped. At least, that's the surface answer. Do some monsters deserve mercy? Officially, yes, but that comes only in the form of conversion before destruction. And yet, no everyone stomachs that, and some believe monsters are incapable of redemption. They gave up their humanity and distanced themselves from God. So some do not like to convert, then destroy, for belief that mercy is possible. And others prefer to just destory, for there is no conversion.
Vampires, then witches, then demons. That's your priority list. Party line? Vampires are the worst of two worlds, humans that have invited a demon into their bodies, the Beast, which they use to become undead monsters. Witches have used their free will to perform heretical and Satanic magic, but at least they can choose to turn away from that path. And demons aren't people. They were never people, and they have no power without people. They are dangerous, but if you choose not to sin, they would starve and be utterly ineffectual. That's why they're lower priority - it is within our power to stop them. Now, mind you, actual people don't agree with the party line all the time. That's just the official focus. Officially, shapeshifters are pagan begins that are lumped in with witches, 'choosing' dark magic to unfetter themselves from humanity and God. All else is some grade of evil that has lesser focus eithjer due to lack of prominence or lack of easy categorization.
Unofficially, Padre Ambrogio Baudolino is the head of the Malleus, living on vampiric blood as a ghoul. He sets the tenor and plans for the group, and feeds on the vampires they bring in. However, he lives in Italy and his reach is only so far. The greatest growth in the last century has been in the Americas. The official head of the Malleus is Archbishop Emeritus Timothy Conor Gallher, of New York City. He's an old man who walks the party line, and he knows that Baudolino is around because he was promoted to his role by the man. On the surface, he is obedient, but secretly, he is disgusted that Baudolino lives on undead blood, and feels that impurity taints the holy purpose of the Malleus. He won't abide it, and he is a secret member of the Order of Saint Athnasius, slowly working to take down Baudolino and become the true head of the Malleus.
While the Malleus' hierarchy is the Church hierarchy, over the last century the laity has risen to prominence. Once, they were rare, just deputized for specific tasks but not given the truth. Times have changed. Now, they make up fully half the conspiracy. Cops, construction workers, mobsters - any Cathlic that'll lay their life on the line for God might be able to join the Malleus. They might not be active all the time, might not have Benedictions. But they have a glimpse of the truth, and when the time comes, they fight. These people ar generally led by clergy - their cells are run by priests and nuns. For the most part, they obey. They seem doomed to low Status and get limited access to Benedictions, though, and sometimes they wonder why.
The Order of Saint Longinus get Weaponry (Stake). They are Baudolino's favorites, and the largest part of the conspiracy. They hunt vampires. Baudolino hates vampires for what they did to him, and he loves their delicious blood. The Order doesn't know he exists, of course, but count him as their ancestral patron. They also have a large army of lay members. Now, secretly? Baudolino knows the Athanasians are growing in power, and it doesn't help that all the vampire blood he drinks makes him paranoid, hearing the voices of the monsters he feeds on. He knows a schism is coming, and he has turned five of his most favored bishops into ghouls as well to prepare for it.
The Order of Saint Ambrose get Computer (Research). Unlike most of the conspiracy, they aren't especially technophobic, and understand computers quite wlel. They take the long view - everyone else in the Malleus just wants to get the job done, go in blazing. The Ambrosians prefer a slower pace. Every monster is a problem, and every problem is a puzzle to solve, that must be handled methodically and with care. And, secretly, with mercy. The Ambrosians are most merciful of any group in the order. Part of that is pragmatic - monsters know things, and sometimes you have to learn those things. Torture's not exactly a reliable or effective tool. And really, some monsters are owrse than others and can be played against each other. There's an open directive within the Order to spare sinners if more can be learned. The other Orders would be very unhappy to learn that.
The Brotherhood of Saint Athanasius get Crafts (Demolitions). All they care about is identifying and killing monsters as quickly as possible. They can grasp strategy and patience, but letting a monster live any longer than necessary is turning away from God's call. They're practically terrorists and don't always care if innocents are caught in the crossfire. After all, if they're truly innocent, they'll be saved after death, and if they choose sin, well, they might as well be monsters, anyway. Everyone thinks they're just a small group. Once, they were. But in secret, they've been recruiting. They don't care if you're a good Catholic, not if you're willing to die in the name of killing monsters. If ten men will die to kill one monster, after all, humanity will still number in the billions. The Athanasians are now a conspiracy within a conspiracy, seeking to take it over. They don't share their recruitment, happy to look like a ragtag band of militants. It's working.
Benedictions! The Preservation of the Chastity of Saint Agnes of Rome calls on the power of her defiance to become armored against supernatural harm. Your hair, clothing and nearby debris whirl about to protect you from all kind of damage. It's very potent, and you can give up some of your health and armor, burning awayu your very flesh in a lambent burst of light that grievously harms anyone nearby.
The Casting Out of Witches calls on Saint Patrick's defeat of the Pelagian heresy. It forces monsters near you to flee or take a growing penalty. Witches are most deeply affected, and must exert their will to even consider not fleeing. Depending on your Benedictions dots, this can affect an area up to ten miles wide. It only works, however, once you complete a long ritual prayer, and it lasts only one hour. The monsters experience their desire to flee as a greasy, impure feeling of nausea and headaches.
The bonus material is talking about prophecy and whether or not the Malleus has access to it. If they do, it may function rather like the Infernal Visions Castigation, or it might just be whatever you fuckin' want.
Next time: Ride of the Valkyries
Post 12Original SA post Compacts and Conspiracies
Task Forces are theoretically meant to be temporary. Task Force: END RUN was a WW2 unit meant to get into Burma, built from the survivors of Task Force: GALAHAD. Once the job was done, they were retasked or dismantled. Some however, go on a task with no end in sight, because completion's impossible. Joint Task force: BRAVO in '83 was meant to provide US military support to Central America, and it still exists today. VALKYRIE is similar - their task, 'protect America from monsters,' only ends in a perfect world. Job security's a thing htere. For VALKYRIE, this is a global war. Yes, most of the threats are on American soil, but they're hapy to go anywhere. Do other countries have similar groups? Sure. Britain has MI18, headed by Sir Vernon Chickering. Israel has a subgroup within Shin Bet. And agents of other nations can be brought into Task Force: VALKYRIE. It's technically a combined join task force, able to borrow manpower from NATO nations.
And sometimes, your job offer to join VALKYRIE isn't an offer. You're just some poor soldier who got involved in shit you never understood, seeing some fiery spirit burning Iraqi bodies. Or maybe you were a mailman who got horrendous dreams from some strange, humming package. You told someone. A superior, a coworker, maybea friend. Or even id you didn't, there's some traits you showed. Exposure to the supernatural is bad for the mind, often. It wears you down, and people can notice that. You got pulled from active duty, maybe, and sent in for counseling. And once you proved sane, you got a job offer: join VALKYRIE, or get an honorable discharge or severance package. No other options. So you signed on - and you got hurled in the thick of it.
There is, of course, a schism within VALKYRIE. They use military personnel, see, but also government agents from just about any agency - cops, spies, bureaucrats. The military-trained guys, often referred to internally as SWAT, don't always get on with the more informational types, or Suits. One group kicks in doors and goes in blazing, the other prefers to work to take down mosnters with paper trails, clues and information, like you might dismantle a drug cartel or terrorist group. They're practically two different agencies, which don't always play well together. A recent push in upper management has had SWATs and Suits put in the same cells as each other - typically, i nthe past you got cells that were all one or all the other, for different jobs. The new push hasn't been entirely effective - the cells sometimes self-destruct - but it has cut down on internal turf wars.
Who is Carlton Johns?
Your experience as a VALKYRIE agent is largely based on where you get stationed. If you're in a hot zone, everyone's watching you. These are major cities and war zones where the fight against the supernatural's in full swing. No one wants mistakes there, and bureaucracy is thick. You probably work with a bunch of other cells, and if people die, more will be called in. The higher-ups visit often. But a lot of agents are stationed in dead zones - relatively stable areas, at least in the minds of the higher-ups. These teams are practically forgotten. They get little equipment, little budget, but very little oversight. They can do what they like, work on their own terms, and can act outside protocol. The problem is when a dead zone goes hot. Your world changes utterly, the lights are all shining on you now, and that may not be a good thing.
So, how does the black budget work? It's kept secret from Congress, the public, sometimes the President. It has a line item, but under som emysterious code name with all details blacked out. Sometimes it's practical, sometimes to dissuade spies, and sometimes it's to conceal projects so improbable that any examination would end them, like VALKYRIE. It's been a line item for years, under different code names and locations in the budget. Sometimes it's intel, sometimes military. It'd be in big trouble if classification reform ever happened. How much money does it get? You'd think it'd cost a lot, but they only get 875,000 dollars each year. Not enough for anything, really. So how do they exist?
The answer is vampires. Vampires steer Task Force VALKYRIE by handing them money and dictating their mission. Not to say that vampires don't get hunted - just not the ones controlling the budget. Any vampire VALKYRIE gets sent to deal with is an enemy of those vampires, or someone they don't care about. The rest of the time, strange protocols are in place to ensure vampiric allies are allowed to escape or at least get captured alive. Mistakes do happen, but when they do, often funding dries up for a while as a warning. Only the very top members of the organization are aware of this, and even then, not all of them. Only a handful of people know the truth.
Project: TWILIGHT get Investigation (Surveillence). They're split down the middle, SWAT and Suits, and their job is to find monsters who mimic the social constructs of human beings - cults of witches, werewolf packs, vampire covens. They'd prefer an agreed-on approach, but they don't hjave one, and bureaucracy makes it hard to make one. Some of them want to just kill te monsters, others prefer investigation to lure out the big fish. The secret? The vampires that run VALKYRIE are mostly interested in TWILIGHT, for obvious reasons. Rumor has it that a few of the lower rank members have gotten a glimpse of the vampire control over their organization, and are seeking a 'revolution' to break their grip - though if it worked, they'd lose a lot of funding.
Project: ADAMSKI get either Persuasion or Subterfuge (Conspiracy Theories). They're spooks, and they have one job: misdirection. They are very good at it. They lie, spread disinformation and keep the world believing that monsters aren't real. They hand ammunition to crazy people and conspiracy nuts to make them look even crazier. Which does occasionally mean real information that is so absurd anyone would dismiss it out of hand. Secretly? They have enemies among other hunters. First, Network Zero. ADAMSKI hates these people and has assigned agents, even whole cells, to countermand the work of more prominent NetZo hunters Second? Other VALKYRIE agents who start to work out the vampires are running VALKYRIE. ADAMSKI's bigwigs will surreptitiously send their agents to work against those cells that seek to expose the truth.
Project: FORT get Occult (Extradimensional Entities), which they know as EEs. That's anything from another world - ghosts, demons, fairies, aliens, psychic mandala,s hyperintelligent places, whatever. This means the department is mostly full of fringe folks and weirdos - urban shamans, abductees, former cult leaders, conspiracy theorists. They aren't good at protocol and so VALKYRIE is often reluctant to use them outside of dead zones - which often become hot once they start messing around. Truth is? FORT are the brains behind the Gatekeeper Device, a tool to enter the Shadow and maybe the Underworld. So far, only they know it exists and how to use it. That'll eventually change, but for now, it's so. And it's not helping the sanity of those who use it.
ICE, or the Intersitces Calculation Expedient (1 dot) is a tool that tracks interstitial terrain. VALKYRIE has long suspected it existed, but could not prove it until now. The device is portable, but not easily concealed - it's about the size of an iphone - the screen that is. It's tethered to a 30-pound backpack housing the tracker. It can locate interstices within half a mile, but only those that have appeared in the last 24 hours - it identifies their traces and residue, using a built-in GPS to trakc them.
The Gatekeeper Device (3 dots) is actually a bodysuit, lined with white filaments and marked by a number of stitched-on occult and scientific symbols. It covers even the face, with vision through dark goggles sewn onto the mask. At present, only five exist, and FORT has no resources to make more. Wearing it allowes you to enter either the Shadow or Underworld via an act of will that charges the suit via biofeedback. If you're at an Avernian Gate, this drops you in the Underworld; otherwise, the Shadow. It can only be used once every 12 hours, and exiting requires a usage. Also, there's some side effects. The thing causes persistent, terrible itching that slightly penalizes all rolls unless you spend a Willpower to stop the penalty for a while. It causes vertigo when near a threatening edge, requiring a roll to avoid falling. And use of the device causes a terrible pallor tha makes the veins show through the flesh, which lasts for a full week after use of the suit.
So what is interstitial terrain? It's the bonus material - places that fall between the cracks of reality. The terrain itself is not temporary, but the gateways that lead to it are. The terrain is literally a place where an alternate reality overlays our own. It appears almost always when no people are present at the moment, and it's always temporary, lasting no more than 24 hours. Gates can sometimes last for as short as seconds. Anything can come out or go in while the gate is open, and once it ends, anything inside is trapped until a new overlap occurs. If it occurs.
Next up is, well, the latest and final Hunter book. Mortal Remains, which covers Changelings, Prometheans and the new Demon, and is also a (fairly bad) port to the new nWoD 2e system. A new Hunter 2e is really needed because it is the laziest port. (Many Hunter powers involve Morality, which no longer exists, and Integrity, the replacement, works differently.)