They're following a mysterious note, and they end up running into a monster - a huge, scaly man-beast that kills at least one of 'em, if not all.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: the Vigil

Hunter opens up with, like all World of Darkness stuff, some intro fiction. It's about some cops hunting for illegal immigrants in Philly, being smuggled in by the Russians. They're following a mysterious note, and they end up running into a monster - a huge, scaly man-beast that kills at least one of 'em, if not all. This is what makes Hunters happen.

Hunters, the game tells us, are the people who recognize that monsters are real, the ones who are driven to study these creatures, to act against them, to stop them from hurting others or using them. Hunters never get to retire - it's not a job that ends. It is, as per the title, a vigil - and endless, crushing vigil. It drives them mad, in the end, the things they have to see and do. But they have no choice. The hunt drives them, the need to sacrifice themselves to protect everyone else. Hunters are a light in the darkness - the light of a torch burning a vampire, and the light of a candle illuminating an ancient manuscript on strange wizards or the burial chambers of a long-dead mummy. Hunters both seek action and seek knowledge - not a safe combination.

Some Hunters seek to document their quarry, seeking the mystery just as compulsively as those who fight seek violence. Hunters aren't unified in even the slightest way, as a whole. Some Hunters are just a small taem - a group of friends, a family, even just those stuck together by circumstance. They protect their patch, whatever that is. They don't know what's out there, really. They have only the barest light in a profound darkness. Other groups band together, pool resources. They share information, try to support each other. These are more than cells - they are compacts, a more unified front. And above them are those who have more power. Ancient organizations, modern agencies, but all with the resources and ability to supply their teams with powerful weapons and tools - strange ones, dangerous ones. Conspiracies, which have hunted monsters behind the scenes for decades - even centuries.

Even conspiracies are fighting a losing battle. They are a brilliant light in the dark - but there's always mroe dark. The light will die, eventually. The darkness does not. Humanity is powerful - it is not helpless against the monsters - but it is fragile, too. Hunters aren't weak, but they die with depressing frequency. Alone, a hunter is dead. It is together that they find strength, and together that they become able to take down even the most terrifying foes. Hunters cannot work alone. It never ends well.

And yet, Hunters are alone. They are isolated. They know that the monsters are real, but only the worst of what they see ever hits the real world - and even then, distorted. Newspapers don't report the werewolf devouring people - they blame the body on a cougar. They report the mother killing her child, but not that she was controlled by an evil wizard. Hunters realize that not all supernatural beings intend to cause harm. But they do - they are dangerous. EVen the most pacifistic monster has powers that can harm people - and enemies that will kill them. Enemies that a normal person could never be ready for. Hunters are the people who have seen the dangers, and who take it on themselves to deal with them. They're the ones who can't lie to themselves - who can't ignore that the deer they barely missed had a human face, say. The people who can't just shake their heads and desperately pretend it never happened.

There have been Hunters since the dawn of man - for as long as there have been monsters. Some say that the tablets of the Assyrian Lost Library of Ashurbanipal tell about the first hunter cell. The tablets say that Marduk was no god - he was a divine hero, championed by an army called the Nibiru. He was righteous and holy, tasked to reclaim the Tablet of Destinies, said to detail all events, past and future. and to grant great power to its bearer. Unfortunately, it fell into the hands of the monstrous goddess Tiamat, who gave it to the god-king Qingu to rule with. The Nibiru and Marduk hunted Qingu and Tiamat, stealing the tablet, which Qingu wore as a breastplate. Marduk tore into Tiamat, but when she was slain, an army of horrors was released - scorpion-men, dragons, demons. Thus, the Nibiru were said to have taken up the Vigil to atone, to bottle the demons back up from Marduk's legacy. Other Hunters who know of the story say it's total bullshit.

There were hunters in Rome, too. Many of them, for Rome was besieged by monsters within and monsters without - cannibal barbarians, undead monsters, skin-stealing owl-women. The Hunters of Rome tended to work as cults or gangs devoted to various gods, and the Aves Minerva of Aventine Hill were just one among many, a rough gang that worked under cover of darkness to protect the hill. One story says the Aves Minerva defeated Cacus, a cannibal beast with fire eyes, some say child of Vulcan. Cacus lurked in the tunnels beneath the Hill, eating his victims and leaving the heads nailed to doors and cave walls. It's said that the Aves Minerva dragged the beast's corpse down to the cattle market to show their success. Some say the Aves were nothing more than a brute squad, thugs and nothing more, not to be admired. Others say the Aves were heroes to be emulated. They were hardly the only ones, though. Rome had plenty - and vicious Hunters, at that. No one's found any evidence of some of the monsters they wrote about, the dog-headed Cyncocephali, the long-toothed Macrocephali or the shadow-foot Skiapodes.

Others name Beowulf as one of the first recorded Hunters. Grendel and his mother, in the original poem, are named as 'kin of Cain' - an occasional euphemism for vampires and other unholy beasts. But not all historic Hunters were fighters. The 15th century theologian Johannes Nider drafted the Formicarius , a book detailing the habits and practices of the witch hunters. Nider was a clergyman above all, part of the Council of Florence. He publically denounced magic and worked to ensure his fellows felt the same. He and his cell gained much of their information from an infamous German judge and Hunter named Peter of Greyerz, who himself served in a cell that exemplified the rigor of the Inquisition. Geyerz claimed to have tortured confessions out of more than 200 men, women and children, sentencing them all to death. Each one, he said, was a witch, soul sold to the devil.

More recently, the 19th century biologist Anthonid Cornelis Oudemans, director of the Royal Zoological Gardens in the Hague, encountered a sea serpent. He was struck with a desire to learn more about such impossible creatures, an obsession that drove him to hunt down many 'mythical' sea beasts or accounts of them from across the globe. Early on, he could hide it, but in time he was removed from his post after he and his cell published a dissertation on sea serpents. (The cell tried to stop him, but it didn't work.) It was ridiculed, laughed at, and Oudemans resigned in shame. His public career ended, but many Hunters believe he got the world's first photographic evidence of monsters.

No overall records of the Vigil exist - how could they? But the conspiracies and compacts keep their own records. The Lucifuge is rumored to have an archive containing the names and histories of every member it has ever had - some say even with clandestine samples of hair, blood and personal articles. Its existence has never been confirmed, but some say it is in the Syrian peaks of Mount Hermon, where Jesus was tempted by the Devil. Other groups are said to have similar archives. Some certainly exist, and these files claim great victories. The Aegis Kai Doru claim that in the late 1500s, they stopped Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who had a relic that drained the blood that kept her young. Some say a spear, others a mask. The Aegis say they tortured Bathory for years to find its location. The records claim success, but others are less certain. Some who know of these records claim the Aegis was less than innocent in their desire to stop her - one Thule researcher believes that a group named the Aegis tortured a Hunter to death to find Bathory's relic.

The Ascending Ones have journals from the 1700s, claiming that they hunted the Beast of Gevaudan, a wolf-monster that killed dozens. They hoped to harvest its body to create their mystic elixirs, spending two years tracking the beast while also keeping ahead of royal French hunters after it as well. They failed at first - in 1765, the king's chief wolf hunter, Francois Antoine, took down a massive wolf said to be the Beast. The Ascending Ones bribed him for the body's samples, but they proved useless - perhaps not even the right wolf. Two years later, that proved correct - the beast took two more children, and a devout farmer slew it with a rifle loaded with silver bullets carved with the image of Mary. The Ascending Ones never got the body, but the attacks stopped.

Everyone knows about Jack the Ripper, too. They say he was never caught, but Ashwood Abbey knows otherwise. The ironically named Hellfire club set out to catch him, interrogate him...and then, at last, they recruited him. Modern Abbey members insist they planned to turn Jack's homicidal impulses to good use against monsters. Certainly their official records claim it, though few ever get to see them. Within months, however, it became clear he wasn't going to stop, and while the Abbey had no sympathy for the prostitutes he killed, they didn't want to be implicated. The Ashwood Abbey tried to stop him, and when they failed, they hunted Jack, the first but not the last of their own subject to their hunts. Abbey records suggest that the cell that caught him voted on his fate, settling on evisceration but voted against the eating of his organs, as he did to his own victims.

Next time: Hunter society.

Hunters come in all shapes and sizes.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Speaking of Hunters...

Hunter: the Vigil

Hunters come in all shapes and sizes. Your most common thought when the word comes up are the warriors - the guys who take a shotgun and go shoot the creepy alligator-people who killed the old man. The guys who make holy water bombs to fight demons. The guys who take down, torture and execute monsters. Others are investigators, discovering the ways to counteract monstrous powers, detect them and find the truth. Scientists, mystics, rumormongers. Some of 'em even focus on rehabilitation, trying to heal the damage monsters cause. Deprogramming cultists, trying to run bloodaholics anonymous meetings, trying to find the cause of evil in a demon so that it can be made human once more. All of them are Hunters, and all of them bear a heavy burden.

A psychological one, sure, and also a financial one. Some compacts and conspiracies will pay your bills, but for most Hunters? Killing draculas doesn't pay your bills. Your kids need food, your cars need gas, your guns need ammo. You need a job - a job you can do without stopping the Vigil. The Vigil never ends. So where are you getting your money? Steal from the guys you kill? That's a risk. There's a social cost, too. How do you tell your husband that you're only home two hours a night because you're out hunting a werewolf? How do you explain to your wife about the bloodstains on your clothes all the time? Do you bring her in? What if that paints a target on her head? What about your kids? You'd die if your kids got hurt because of you - you'd go mad. And, of course, there's the legal issues. You steal a witch's magic books, she calls the cops on you for theft. You put down a werewolf with silver bullets, it turns human again on death, you've got a murder to hide. What do you do if cops or, worse, the FBI comes calling? Sure, some conspiracies and compacts can offer you protection...but even that's not perfect. You make a big enough mess, there's no one who can keep you out of jail.

And so, Hunters tend to be secretive. Even in big cities, not all Hunters know each other. They argue, they mix, cells coming together and evaporating as arguments happen and friendships are formed. Cells are the smallest, most common group of Hunters - a bunch of people dedicated to fighting monsters. No backup, few resources, local influence at best. Any given city is going to have dozens of cells, most of which know nothing about each other. They work out of living rooms, internet cafes and garages, facing foes they only barely understand. Some neighbors get together to exorcise a ghost. Some cops take the law into their own hands when a vampire goes after their beat. Some college students investigate a mysterious death. Hunter cells tend to be focused on the short term - find the threat, deal with it. Survive. There is no greater plan, and most cells break apart once the job's done - they have no support, no resources and a lot of 'em are gonna die. Only the most dedicated of them takes up the Vigil full time. Most cells are three to five people, but their size varies with time and resources. They tend to be organic - one guy taps his friend ofr help, they bring in the friend's cousin for support, and so on. No two cells are truly alike. Sometimes, larger organizations farm out jobs to them, but on the whole, if they get someone's interest, they're recruited instead. Mostly, they don't get someone's interest. The big strength of a cell is its size - with so few members, it's stealthy, reacts quickly and can take action without being noticed. With care, they are invisible until they strike. But that's the big weakness, too. A cell is limited to the resources of its members and its members alone. One dies, that's so much lost without replacement. They have no one to turn to in a crisis, and no safety net. This is why compacts get formed.

Compacts start out, usually, as a bunch of isolated cells coming together to pursue their goals on a larger scale. Sometimes, though, they're mundane groups that change their focus when they discover the supernatural. Unlike cells, compacts focus on more than just local threats - they can cover a city, a region or even have chapters across the world. They use internet forums and traveling delegations to organize themselves, or private publications to stay in contact. Any given city might have chapters of any number of compacts, and they often interact with each other - alliances, turf wars, rivalries. Compacts have the numbers, knowledge and resources to operate on a much broader level, organizing individual cells to specific tasks - weapons gathering, recon, strike teams. Many compacts are very secretive about their operations, for security reasons, but that also leaves them open to acusations of abuse of power and hidden agendas, not always wrongly. Compacts can be very old - Ashwood Abbey dates back to the 1850s - while others are very young - the Union's been around since the early 20th century, but in different iterations and often breaking down and being replaced. The Union itself got infiltrated by monsters in the mid-90s, killing many members after their Usenet forums were accessed. Since then, things have had to be fixed. Some compacts just don't exist any more - in the late 90s, a Philly compact known as the Order of the Broken Bell, was doing pretty well, but their founder, Caleb Malone, had a mental breakdown after killing a bunch of vampires. In one night, he hunted down and murdered half the organization before the police took him down. The survivors scattered to the four winds in the following days amid accusations that Malone was secretly communicating with vampires. Some of its cells still exist in Philly, but the Order's never been resurrected. The strength of a compact lies in numbers and resources - they have far more than any individual cell could hope for. They also provide knowledge - an archive of research or stories of old fights. Not all of what they know is right, but they know enough to provide advice. Their biggest weakness, though, is size. The more people get involved, the more noticeable they are - and the more points of failure exist. Federal investigations, monsters taking revenge, ATF seizure of arms purchases - there's a lot that can go wrong, especially when there's internal conflict.

Most compacts eventually peak - barring radical new leadership or a lot of new resources, they don't get bigger. Sometimes that's conscious, sometimes they just fall apart when they become too unwieldy. Some organizations survive that, though. They become conspiracies - powerful, well-funded and able to challenge monsters on a near-even footing. Many of these are very old indeed - the Malleus Maleficarum has been hunting monsters for the Vatican since the 1500s, and the Aegis Kai Doru claim to predate ancient Greece. The Lucifuge claims it can trace its origins back to Mesopotamia, though that's never been confirmed. Conspiracies have enough resources to be self-sufficient, and enough knowledge and operational tactics to be truly dangerous. They have specialized equipment or magic to help even the fight against monsters. They tend to have permanent presences in every major city - even the US black-ops Task Force VALKYRIE has agents assigned to European embassies and elsewhere in the world. Smaller cities or towns might have small chapters or crisis teams available. These conspiracies tend to be very well informed about other Hunters. They take on many, many operations in pursuit of the Vigil - surveillance, hunt and destroy, recruitment, infiltration of mundane power structures. Some say that the Cheiron Group was instrumental in causing unrest in Haiti as a cover to pursue their goals on the island's interior. Conspiracies are insulated by wealth and size - even if they were to lose all their field ops and most leaders, they could survive. The Malleus bounced back from the Easter Purge of the 1800s, where exactly that happened. The only way to cut them off completely is to get rid of the vast sums of money they need to function. Conspiracies form one of two ways - organically, from the ground up, or by being manufactured at the mandate of someone with enough power to keep them going. The Lucifuge and Aegis Kai Doru operate based on the strength of their ideologies, giving them focus over the centuries. Task Force VALKYRIE is funded by the US government, and the Cheiron Group is corporate. The big strength of a conspiracy lies in its assets - the equipment, funds and intelligence networks that its members can bring to bear, along with the more supernatural abilities they tend to have. This comes at a price, however - those abilities often come with terrible drawbacks for the health or sanity of their users. Further, the operatives using them have nowhere near the freedom of independent groups. They have bosses who expect plans to be followed, and the conspiracies will not hesitate to sacrifice an operative or even an entire cell if the reward is big enough. They are Byzantine organizations full of internal arguments and power struggles, and their size can make them moribund and slow to react thanks to bureaucracy.

So, what do Hunters hunt? A lot of things. No one really knows where the monsters come from - oh, sure, there's myths and legends that everyone can talk about. But there's so many kinds of monsters. It'd be nice if they all shared an origin - then they might have a common weakness. But that's really a pipe dream, on the practical level. You can't treat a zombie like you'd treat a werewolf.

The undead are one of the most common kinds of foe. Vampires drink the blood of the living - or eat htheir flesh or brains, there's rumors of all kinds of weird types. Some are alone, while others command legions of the dead. Some work in packs or cells. Wherever they come from, they're bad - monsters of vice and greed that kill the innocent with their dark passions and terrible powers. No one wants vampires around - it's hard to make peace with them...though particularly human vampires can sometimes get the benefit of the doubt, if it means putting down something worse. What's known is they're weak to sunlight and fire. Beheading works. Anything else is up for debate. Stakes seem to do something, but no one's entirely sure what - some say paralysis, others say kill. Crosses? Might work. Garlic's probably no go. Other, stranger weaknesses are spoken of - kill them at a crossroads, use a holy sword, trap them in an open grave, get a Malaysian sorcerer to put their soul in a bottle. Who knows? It could work.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are more troubling. They don't choose to be monsters - they're stuck. Stuck by sorrow and loss. Still, time can drive them mad. Older ghosts, powerful ghosts, often bear little resemblance to their lives, twisted by some deathly obsession. Bitterness and hatred might drive them violently insane. Others are less dangerous. Ghosts are everywhere, both problem and opportunity. They're hard to deal with - hard even to really prove exist, given they're invisible most of the time. Exorcism? Sometimes works, not always. Resolve their issues? Sure, if you can figure what they are . Good luck with that. Burn the haunted house down? Some say it's the best way, others say the ghost'll just move onto somewhere else, getting angrier all the while. But still - ghosts are proof that death is not the end. They're fascinating, and sometimes you can communicate with them. Ouija boards seem to work decently, even the cheap knockoffs. Don't use one alone, though.

Zombies, on the other hand...well, zombies are walking corpses. Not so graceful or erotic as vampires, not so tragic as ghosts. Some zombies can talk, resist what violent urges they have, slowly rot and decay away. Others infect with their bites via some kind of contagion, dooming others to violent undeath. Good luck figuring out which kind you have on your hands. Most Hunters don't bother - you spot the walking dead, you put them back in the ground. No one wants to risk a zombie apocalypse. Where do they come from? Good question! Some of 'em seem to just show up for no reason. Others have unfinished business. Some say that they're the servants of other monsters, and if you kill the creator, you kill the zombie. Killing a zombie's not easy any other way, after all. They don't feel pain. They never stop coming. But still, they all seem to have the same kind of weakness - a spot that'll take 'em down. Usually the brain. Others, the heart. The worst kind need to lose their entire bodies to fire or other consuming weapons. Good luck with those!

Then you've got your shapeshifters. Lycanthropes, mostly - people who become animals. Some say they date back to the Lycaon, a Greek king who fed human flesh to Zeus and was cursed to be a wolf forever. Others say that these monsters are tied to the moon, or were cursed by witches, or are men who coupled with beasts. There's a thousand origin stories - and just as many kinds of lycanthrope. Most of 'em look human, though often wild. They seem to prefer packs and defending territory - basically gangs of thugs who turn into wolves. But then, not all of them are like that. Some act alone. Some transform by wearing animal skin or stitching it to their body. Some werewolves seem to want to help kill other monsters. Others want to kill humans. Hell, not all of 'em are wolves . Alliance with ly canthropes is rare, but not impossible. It's never really friendly, rarely permanent, but a pack and a cell can work together. Sometimes. The rest? Take 'em down or cure them if you can. They eat people. Silver seems to work sometimes. Wolfsbane and foxglove are said to be potent poisons against them - certainly they work on humans. (We call 'em aconite and digitalis.) Some say making 'em drink holy water works, as does skinning them or destroying their holy places. The hard part is doing it. Werewolves are immensely strong, terrifyingly powerful, and they heal from anything. Worse, sometimes they can drive men mad with fear.

Of course, sometimes the shapeshifter lives inside someone else. Possessing entities, wearing a host like a skin. They change their hosts, make them more monstrous. Ghosts, demons, rogue souls, parasites, aliens - all kinds of things possess people. They usually take over slow - at first, just a voice in your head, pushing you to evil acts. As they gain dominance, they begin to change you physically. A sewer worker gets infested by a mystic worm. Now worms crawl out from his eyes and fingernails. A spirit of murderous hatred manifests itself as a cleaver in a man's hand or a hundred murdered names burned onto their flesh. The ghost of a pedophile possesses a child, urging them to act out long-dead, twisted fantasies. Some cells kill the possessed - they look terrifying, horrific. They're monsters. Put 'em down. Others do research, finding what the possessor is and how it got there, trying to rehabilitate and 'cure', to get rid of the parasite. Sometimes it works.

Demons, well, demons exist. They wear many faces and forms. They offer deals sometimes. Other times they do inexplicable things for no clear reason. Demons are selfish things, and often controlled by others. The Lucifuge says that all demons are ultimately under the thrall of Lucifer. Others believe they serve vampires and sorcerers. Some say they're free agents. No one knows for sure. Demons seem to serve their vices, urging others on to satisfy base desires, feeding on that. They sell power and knowledge in exchange for...something. Souls? Vices? Demons can be bargained with. Sometimes, they share enough to be useful. Not all demons even try to push people to sin. But that's what makes them so seductively threatening, isn't it?

And then there's fairies. Fairy tales are true, y'know? True - and dark. Nightmares made real, maybe. Ancient spirits. Who knows what? Some call themselves changelings - lying bastards who say they were stolen by the fairies and forced their way out. Most Hunters point to folklore to prove them wrong - not the abducted humans, but inhuman replacements. And even if they're not lying, they've damn sure been changed into something inhuman. Some of 'em look human, but turn into sticks and worms when they die. Others only look human sometimes, and monstrous if you spot 'em on a bad day. Good news: they die like any human dies. Bad news: they've got strange and unpredictable powers, so sometimes you only think they're dead.

And it's not like humans are all beds of roses, either. Witches are human. Magic's real, after all. People have always sought out ancient mysteries - and sometimes they're dark mysteries. Witches hunt for knowledge without caring who gets hurt. They seek power by any number of means. Magic can do anything, and that's what makes it terrifying. You never know what a witch might be able to do. Sure, most of 'em only have a few tricks. But which tricks? And worse, they all use different methods! Some can do magic any time. Others need rituals, meditation, ceremonies. Even if you stalk a witch, you can only learn so much - magic often seems to look like unlikely coincidence. How do you even know it's really magic? Sometimes, Hunters are wrong and an innocent is killed. Witches are people, and most ways to identify 'em physically just do not work. Still, good news - a witch dies to a bullet a lot easier than a vampire. A witch has a paper trail just like you do. But is it murder to kill them? Vampires, well, they're already dead. Witches, you just killed someone. Some Hunters try to 'deprogram' (read: brainwash) the magic out. Or blackmail. But all too often, it comes back to murder. Not all cells hunt witches, though - you can negotiate with 'em. They can be reasonable. Sometimes they want your secrets, though, or the artifacts you sealed away for the good of everyone. And sometimes, they won't negotiate. Sometimes they have something you need. And some Hunters reason - if you choose to do magic, you choose to become other than human. You've committed a crime and need to be punished. Removed. For the good of all. (And some Hunters wonder - what's the difference between a conspiracy's special abilities and a witch's magic?)

Cults and cultists are people, too. They want something, and they'll do anything to get it. Some of 'em are loud, crazy and release nerve gas in malls to power a sacrifice to some eldritch god. Those guys aren't the worst - they're scary, but you know who they are. They're not subtle. The scary ones are the ones who act just like everyone else...until no one's looking. Those are the worst. They worship something , and usually it makes 'em do bad things. They are dangerous. Of course, a lot of hunter groups look pretty cult-y. The Lucifuge has 666 members and claim to be descended from the Devil. The Long Night are Apocalyptic Protestants. Are they cults? Maybe. Cults are, often, a dark mirror for Hunters - a view of what they might become, if they decided power was worth the costs of serving something unknown and terrifying. If calling on a dark god lets you save a hundred people, is it worth it? What if the price is someone else's life? You wouldn't have to pick good people to sacrifice...and that's a slippery slope.

Then you have what Hunters call 'slashers'. Serial killers. They're more common than anyone would want to know. And sometimes, a Hunter becomes one. They see too much. They take the knife and go after not just the werewolf, but all of the werewolf's family. Children. Aunts. Aged grandmothers. Sister's cousin twice removed. Maybe they start to see signs and ciphers in the world that aren't there, telling them who the monsters are. The worst part? Slashers tend to get supernatural abilities. No one knows why. Maybe evil just grants you power. Maybe there's something in the human mind that, once released, lets them do things that shouldn't be possible. It's hard to generalize, but a lot of slashers can take all kinsd of punishment. Some are supernaturally clever, some strong or fast. Some have psychic powers. They all need to be wiped out. But could they be learned from?

And some shit, you just can't categorize. There's a lot out there, and many of the monsters are unique. Things no one's seen before - things that don't fit a label. Being a Hunter means always seeing something new - and something new that wants to kill you, usually. What they can do varies hugely - but what matters is why. Find out why a monster does something and...well, it might not help you kill it. It'll help understand, and sometimes that's helpful. Sometimes, though, it just makes you feel worse.

Next time: Mechanics! No, we still haven't gotten a list of Compacts or Conspiracies.

Ashwood Abbey

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

I got some free time, so...what, mechanically, separates a Hunter from J. Random Asshole? First up: Risking Willpower. Anyone can spend a point of Willpower to get +3 to a roll, but Hunters can risk. A roll you risk Willpower on has to directly relate to the Vigil somehow - researching a monster, breaking into its house, interrogating its minions, sneaking up on it, fighting it. Perception rolls never count, nor do rolls to rsist toxins or fatigue, or rolls for avoiding surprise. Rolls made to activate Endowments (read: magic powers) are not eligible, but rolls made to use Endowment-based equipment are . Rolls made as part of a Tactic are eligible.

When you risk Willpower, you choose a benefit - +3 dice, 9-again on the roll of exceptional success on 3 successes rather than 5. First one is normal, third one's good if you have a large pool already, the second one is dogshit and should never be done. The other benefit? If you risk Willpower and the roll succeeds, you regain the Willpower you spent on the risk and a second Willpower point on top. If you fail, though, it's a dramatic failure no matter how many dice you had.

There aren't a ton of Hunter-unique merits, though. Endowments are available to Conspiracy members. You can get a merit to give you a bonus to Resolve+Composure rolls when you're carrying your trusty grandpa's shotgun. You can get Professional Training, which lets you become better at your Profession - and that's the other thing Hunters get. A Profession. Basically, it's what you do as a living, and it gives you certain skills that you are most adept at turning towards the Vigil. With more dots in Professional Training, it gives you stuff like professional contacts in that field, lowered XP costs for specialties in your Asset Skills (the skills your job makes you naturally good at turning to the Vigil) and eventually being able to use rote actions for your Asset Skills. (Rote actions are exceptionally good. ) You can get a safehouse for you and your team to hide in and store stuff, and you can trap it to hell and back. You can have a torture suite in it, too, if you're creepy and weird. There's a long list of potential PRofessions but none of it is especially interesting. ('Hackers are good at computers and it's easy to become obsessed with the Vigil as a hacker. Hit Men are violent and often are the muscle of a team.')

Dad, can I go now? I hate listening to you talk about murdering vampires.

So. Let's talk compacts and conspiracies. The organizations that you might join. Compacts first - They have less power, less reach, but they're also less organized. Less in the way of orders, more in the way of friendly advice. Of course, not all of 'em are people you want to be friends with. Ashwood Abbey , for example. They're Hunters who hunt for fun. They've been around since 1855, and they like to kill things no one else can, to take drugs no one else does and...well, they're a mess. The original Ashwood Abbey was in Edinburgh, home to Reverend Doctor Marcus McDonald Ogilvy - a very, very bad man. He was the debauched leader of a Hellfire club - sex, drugs, bondage in public. By modern standards, not that bad, but by Victorian standards, these guys were smashing taboos openly. One night, he and his buddies at the Abbey get attacked by a pack of werewolves who objected to them having sex on a holy standing stone. A lot of the Abbey regulars died that night. The ones who didn't fled. The survivors averted scandal, at least - they'd left nothing behind. When Ogilvy led them back by day to get rid of the bodies, they found only gnawed bones and vast quantities of dogshit. Ogilvy decided to come back with his friends a few nights later. In full sight of everyone, he jacked off on the stone. Then they waited for the werewolves with elephant guns full of silver.

Unfortunately for Ogilvy, the werewolves returned to human form on death, so he didn't get to mount their heads. Still, he led hunts against just about anything supernatural over the next decade. He eventually died to a three-armed wooden goblin, but the Abbey continued, preserved in his will as a high-class clubhouse. Several members came to America at the turn of the century and set up shop there. Thanks to the nature of European royals and nobles - and, yes, they've had royal members - chapters have been set up across Europe, too. They've outlived the social structures that formed them, and these days, the chapters are all more or less independent, barring a nominal fee to the original Abbey for use of the name and a members list.

Joining is a little weird. Some people just get asked after being groomed as a potential member for a while. More commonly, membership is coerced - you get invited to dinner, they reveal they hunt monsters, they tell you about a victim they want to kill and make a show of drawing lots. Bag full of billiard balls, whoever draws the white one gets to lead the hunt. The new guy? Always gets the white ball. It's a fixed game. By the time the hunt ends, they're either a full member or dead. Ashwood Abbey tries to keep track of other hunters - mostly, they find them and follow them around a bit, preferring the ones that gather information over the all-guns-blazing types - that's no fun, you know. When the other hunters have finished the boring investigation work, the Abbey steps in, usually sends them on a wild goose chase, and goes to make the kill with flair. Sometimes they have sex with the monsters before killing them. Or after. Ashwood Abbey are the worst, y'see. Some of them have tried things like snorting the ash of a dead vampire, or drinking vampire blood, or making demonskin jackets. The Abbey is not all that well-informed about its prey, though. They know silver bullets kill most werewolves and that crosses don't usually work on vampires, but they tend not to care. They don't want to be assassins or even particularly sophisticated in their methods. They want sport - a challenge. A lot of them get scarred or crippled by their hunts, or worse. But hey, thems the risks.

Members are almost all wealthy social elites. Ivy League frat boys, fashion models, old money nobility, new money corporate superstars. Traditional English vicars, occasionally. They tend to divide themselves into three groups. The Competitors are sportsmen - and they compete with each other. They want to be the first to try anything new - kill, capture, fuck, whatever. The Pursuit, on the other hand, want secrets. They want to know the most awful things, to see and experience everything. They record their hunts, circulate documents among the Abbey, write the newsletters that go over the unspeakable acts that their cell's gotten up to lately. And the Libertines? They're in this to break taboos. They want to do things that no one's done to things that no one's done 'em to. They see themselves as creators of new moralities in the B yronic sense, and even the other members of the Abbey tend to find them rather disgusting.

"Stereotypes posted:

The Long Night : Jackson Hughes spent a week pursuing the most fascinating demon - it looked like a man, except for the snakehead on its...well. Anyway. Hughes went along the whole time with this dreadful little oik who just took the whole thing so seriously . Honestly, he was bored out of his mind .
Null Mysteriis : I had occasion some time ago to converse with a gentleman who was collecting certain objects pertaining to a witch I'd had back in Rhode Island. Odd chap. Just wanted the books; let me do what I wanted with the rest. Obviously, I made him pay for them. Not that I needed the money, of course. But he wanted them so much. It seemed the thing to do.
The Lucifuge : The Children of Satan! Oh! Yes! I've heard all about htem! I would love to meet one. I suspect it might be a little disappointing, though. These so-called semi-divine individuals never seem to have much of a sense of adventure.
The Ascending Ones : Rachel Grahame spent quite a lengthy hunt alongside a Middle Eastern gentleman who always seemed to be partaking of some of the most marvelous drugs. She could never get to try some, though. Must try harder next time, Rachel.

Ashwood Status at one dot gives you the Barfly merit free - every Ashwood member knows where all the parties are and how to get in. For 3 dots, they also get rooms at the local clubhouse as needed - equivalent to a two-dot Safehouse. For five? They know Ashwood members around the world, people who'll get them guns, whores and bait, who'll arrange a party, no questions asked. This is equivalent to four dots of Contacts.

If you couldn't guess, Ashwood Abbey are kind of terrible and PCs from Ashwood Abbey are weird. I don't like them much.

Next time: Guys who call themselves the Tribulation Militia are still better people than Ashwood Abbey.

The Long Night / Loyalists of Thule

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

The Long Night know one thing: the world is ending. Some say God is going to snatch up all the true Christians, and the unworthy will suffer under the Antichrist until Jesus retursn to end it all in blood and fire. They're wrong. Not about everything - but the Rapture? That's not true. Or worse - it's already happened, and everyone left was too wicked to enter the Kingdom. This, my friends, is the Tribulation! The war of the righteous, Armageddon! A man cannot rely on a Rapture to save him - only Bible, voice, fist and gun. The world is sinful, and Christ will not, cannot return until man is worthy! In the meantime, war, famine, plague and horrors. Not metaphors, mind you - real. Walking, talking, hunting horrors, feeding on the innocent. It's time for you, brothers and sisters, to do something about it! Spread the good word! Live a good life! Hunt monsters!

The Long Night began in the 1970s, but its members believe it's been around for ever. They also call themselves the Tribulation Militia. They know nothing of their founder, and have little structure. They've included Branch Davidian-style cults, Family Values types, survialists, Southern Baptists, middle-class evangelicals. They're mostly found in the southern US, Australi and southeast England. They've got many takes on what the right response is to the self-evident imminent end of the world. Individual members attend hundreds of churches - some more liberal than others, as they seek to be the True Believers in a crowd of godless liberals. They form cliques, watching their fellow believers for those who aren't at peace. They sound them out, and when they find a fellow travller with the right attitude, they take them on a hunt. That's usually enough to get the member to join up happily.

The hunters of the Long Night see the signs. They know that the apocalypse is coming - but they wonder, what if they must happen? What if the devil's agents work toe nsure those happen? What if God can't come until they are dealt with? They realize, in the abstract, that the Tribulation must occur. But it cannot be finished without their help. The world is in eternal night, but the Second Coming will bring morning, they say. Revelations, that is. And so, this must be the Long Night, and these are the warriors who will ensure the coming dawn. They know that monsters must be stopped. Of course, they believe in mercy - their entire belief system is about a loving God! So when they deal with human foes - witches, primarily, and sorcerers - they tend to kidnap them, gag them and bind them, then preach at them until the witch repents. If they don't, the Long Night burn the books. If that doesn't work, maybe they'll have to cut out a tongue. If that doens't work, well...a bullet in the brain is a judgment of another kind. But if the witch repents? Hallelujah, celebrate! Let them go...but watch. If the repentance is get only one chance. Then it' time to put you down. And if you were never human - well, there is no mercy there. Werewolves sell their souls to get their skins. Vampires are damned - if they weren't, they wouldn't be vampires. Demons are from Hell. All of 'em need to be destroyed, so that the Tribulation may end.

The Long Night divides itself into various groups. The Hopeless believe that they are damned. Everyone's a sinner - addicts, adulterers, even people with just little sins that normal people wouldn't think worthy of damnation. Some are tainted by the supernatural - used or abused by inhuman forces. The Hopeless know that they cannot be saved...but they can, at least, try to save others from their own fate. The Faithful, on the other hand, believe that because they're doing God's work, God is with them. They are the foot soldiers of the Apocalypse, part of the prophecies. The monsters are prolonging the horror they will cut short, and all of them are tools of God's will. The Merciful, meanwhuile, believe that God is love. They seek to bring mercy and redemption to their monstrous foes, because theirs is the forgiving Christ. They believe that they can bring a vampire back to humanity with a holy blood transfusion or some other means, they can save a werewolf with a diet of wolfsbane and killing the original werewolf that bit them. Rumor has it that some of the Merciful were once vampires, werewolves or witches, now cleansed of evil and ready to stand against the dark.

Status in the Long Night is hard to get - they're disorganized and mostly disconnected - but their websites do allow for a loose network and some word-of-mouth recognition. At one dot, you know phone numbers and preaching. You get a free Evangelism specialty. At 3 dots, you can rely on folks from far away to help you out, giving you two dots of Allies. at five dots, you've got your own website and a reputation as a holy warrior. You get the Inspiring merit free, whether you qualify or not, but only for members of the Long Night. This stacks with normal Inspiring if you have that.

Stereotypes posted:

Network Zero : In the End Times, you make strange friends. I never expected to fight so often alongside someone so irreverent (and with such poor hygiene), but even though he's not Christian, he values the truth. He makes so many things public. He just needs someone to believe him.
The Union : There's a woman in town helps me out with guns sometimes. She introduced me to a doctor who didn't ask any questions about the wounds in my leg. She can handle herself. She just won't. Unless the monsters end up on her turf. I feel bad that sometimes I've driven things onto her block, just so she'll help me kill them.
The Cheiron Group : See that logo on the medicine packet? It's the sign of the Beast of Judgment. It has men serving its needs. I saw them, one time, a half a dozen, wearing that terrible sign on their badges. They caught up with a creature I had been trying to kill and they caught it in a net and took it away in a van, as I watched, helplessly. One turned and looked at me, and he had no pupil in his eye, and I knew that he was in thrall to Hell.
Malleus Maleficarum : I used to think that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon, and that we were the True Bride of Christ. I don't lnow what to think anymore. There's this priest I keep meeting. And he knows exactly what I'm talking about. And he fights and kills like nothing else on Earth. No mercy, no second chances. I fear him like I fear God.

Yeah, turns out the evangelical Conservative Southerners are some of the more merciful Hunters.

The Loyalists of Thule now...they know secrets. They know occulted things. Some legends say that once upon a time, a lost land - some name it Atlantis, some Mu, some Thule or Pan - gave civilization to the world. A cataclysm destroyed it, but its survivors set sail in painted ships to Europe and Asia. They became the gods and lawgivers. They gave them art, architecture, the secrets of bronze. They gave terrible mystic secrets, now long forgotten save by those few who know where to look. The Loyalists of Thule spent the first half of the 20th century looking for that place, that Ultimate Source. This is their eternal shame, for when they did that, they were the Thile Gesellschaft, A german occult group that took the idea to its inevitable conclusion - that a master race descended from Lost Thule - the Aryans. The German people being the most Aryan. Two of their members founded the German Worker's Party, which became the Nazi Party. By the time the Nazis took power, they had little if anything to do with the Thule Society - the Nazis actually banned mystic societies and eschewed the occult, contrary to popular belief. The majority of the Thules dispersed, leaving an illegal minor group to face the horrors its theories had wrought. When the truth came out at the end of the war, some refused to believe. Some deniued it, or joined even less pleasant societies. And some admitted wronghood.

They were horrified by what they had helped to created - a horror compounded by the fact that they had found things . They had discovered the true existence of ancestral ghosts, found proof of the Rmoahals of lost Atlantis. Some had found evidence of Shamballa in Tibet, barely escaping alive. Some had faced wqitches, demons, vampires and wors.e There was a secret world of night out there, and the Volkisch were no kind of master race. To the dead, humans, Aryan or no, were food. To werewolves, prey. To demons and others, toys and insects to be played with and destroyed. These men renamed themselves the Loyalists of Thule. They ended their hunt for Atlantis in favor of more information on the world of night. They needed to know, felt a duty to the world - a debt to humanity. The Loyalists of Thule are also the Indebted, and they know that they will never be able to pay enough. Even today, they keep at it. They're secretive, and few know of them. Not all of their members and contacts know what they once were, not even their name - at least, not until they've broken the law or their morals for the Loyalists and are in too deep to escape.

They don't enjoy blackmailing their members. It's just that, if they didn't keept the secret, they wouldn't be able to atone. They have to work alongside other hunters - the Loyalists are mostly scholars and collectors. They give aid and information. They mostly aren't fighters, and they never, ever say who they are. They answer to secretive leaders, each of whom runs the compact on a national level. These leaders answer to the three founders, who still live in Germany. Three men, all in Munich, all over 90 years old. Once a week, they meet and compare notes collected by their secretaries, deciding what to send out to people and what to act on. They have only each other, and each of the three hates the other two passionately - they are reminders of guilt. Those few that have met them say that the old men are only holding on to see which will give up and die first - a hateful, decrepit, remose-filled starng match of a life. They and the Loyalists must know, must find the truth, and then pass it on. If they can save the human race from monsters, maybe they can atone for nearly destroying it. Not all are so ideologically dedicated, of course. Somre are blackmailed. Some find out about their past and are just a little too enthusiastic about it - but they don't last. Neo-Nazi ideology is the one thing forbidden to the Indebted - and anyone wh oexpresses them or even suggests that maybe shame is no longer needed...well, they don't get a hearing. They just meet old colleagues with long, long knives and get a very brief chance to explain themselves. Many of the Indebted believe their job is hopeless - it's impossible to equip humanity to fight monsters, especially when your organization is born out of guilt and secrecy. But then, an impossible task is the only way to atone for an unforgivable sin.

Above all, the Loyalists are scholars. Investigators, archaeologists, academics, detectives, antiquarians. They aren't all physically incompetent by any means - in fact, most of them have been forced to learn to handle themselves by the nature of what they investigate. But sitll, they are not warriors. They exist to equip warriors with the tools and knowledge they need. The Loyalists believe in understanding, and they recognize that different monsters are different kinds of threats. Vampires and other undead that consume blood, flesh or souls get a lot of attention. Werewolves, particularly the kind that breed true, don't always pose a threat to humans if left alone. Demons, ghosts and spirits, along with extradimensional entitties, should not exist. They must be studied, their weaknesses found, and then someone found to destory them. If a supernatural creature is no threat, it's still worth studying - knowledge is knowledge, and secrets are always worth knowing. The Indebted also keep an eye out for any creature or organization that supports Nazi ideals or took part in the Holocaust. Magicians proved to support Nazis, a vampire in the death camps, whatever. They must die. Even the most mild-mannered Loyalist will take active part in that hunt. And they make no exception for human hate groups - if a Loyalist finds a neo-fascist demagogue, sure, there's no mystical secrets there. But there is a target that deserves to die. The ultimate goal, still, is to collect knowledge for a purpose: to become indispensable, to earn the respect of their colleagues such that if their past ever came out, they might at least be understood as necessary.

The Loyalists are largely on the same page about what they do - it's the why that varies. Most are Scholars, collectors of information about the threats to humanity. They spread this infromation among those who would fight and destroy those threats. They are cautious, prudent and try to avoid the front lines. The Penitents, on the other hand, are basically Indiana Jones. They seek danger, and believe they must take active part, because of guilt. It's one thing just to help, but they beleive the Loyalists must do something about evil themselves. If they die in the process...well, perhaps that's the price of atonement. The Advance, on the other hand, tend to elad the charge. They accept the guilt of the Thules and reason that, yes, they need to atone - but if they're going to do that, they should be at the forefront. They should be leading humanity against the monsters. In gaining knowledge, they gain power over both monsters and their colleagues. They believe that it is the duty of the Loyalists to atone by humbly taking control of the Vigil. The Advance are the rarest of all Loyalist philosophies - some fear that they will bring areturn to the Volkisch views that damned the Thules in the first place.

Stereotypes posted:

Ashwood Abbey : I spent a month in Ashwood Abbey, actually. Their library was amazing, and I even participated in a hunt, which was most educational. It was just...I mean...I couldn't go back there. They'd found a demon. A vile-looking thing. I told them how to make it powerless, and they did, and then...I can't. Just - I actually felt sorry for the demon.
Null Mysteriis : One of my colleagues corresponds regularly with a mmeber of Null Mysteriis. She says he's really frustrating. He never seems to do naything with the information he collects. He says he keeps it for when it's useful. My colleague says can't he see how useful it is right now?
Aegis Kai Doru : I keep hearing rumors about a cabal of men who have the head of John the Baptist in a cave. I've seen too many things to be skeptical. But oh, what wouldn't I do to talk to the people who have it?
Ascending Ones : Our records have several references to other occult societies, and several accounts clearly refer to a group who use some fusion of Islamic and pre-Islamic mysticism. Apparently, they ingest poisons to give themsevles mystical abilities. Training, it seems, is essential; one of my predecessors once obtained one of their potions. He tried it. He survived, but as far as anyone can tell, he never slept again. He was mad within a few weeks, and his body shut down completely, killing him after about two months. The rest of the potion is in the archives now. No one else is trying it.

One dot of Loyalist status means you know the secret of the Loyalists and their guilty heritage. If you succesfully risk Willpower on an Occult or Academics roll, you get an additional Willpower back - one which can go above normal limits of your pool. For three dots, you know several other Loyalists, and get a two-dot Mentor. For five dots, you've been to Munich and met the bitter old men. You know the names and addresses of dozens of members, getting 3 dots of Contacts.

And the ex-Nazis are some of the most upstanding guys.

Next time: Vampires on Youtube

Network Zero / Null Mysteriis

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

Network Zero isn't really secret. You know, every so often a video shows up on sharing sites - YouTube, Vimeo, whatever. It's creepy - dark, badly pixellated, crappy sound, but really good effects. Dude turns into a monster and runs off. Guy must have a killer editing suite even if his camera sucks. Looked almost real. Sometimes, it even goes viral. Everyone wonders how they did it. And the answer's simple: they didn't. You just saw Network Zero in action. The Secret Frequency - not a frequency that's secret, one that broadcasts secrets. For the past decade, Network Zero has been publishing information on the supernatural online for anyone who'll watch. Before that, they were public access cable guys. It's all real.

Septemer 22, 1991. Dallas Texas. Jim Harrison gets on the air, really early in the morning. He was an indepnedent filmmaker who, until a few years prior, had done SFX for monster movies. He got three reels of film anonymously in the mail, apparently recorded in the mid-70s from the folks in it and their outfits. One reel shows a gigantic feral dog stalking some residential streets in Philly, at least based on local landmarks. Second reel? Man who's blurry and out of focus, but the rest of the room's crystal clear. He turns into a cloud of mist. Third film? Somethinbg translucent, rubbery, made of tentacles. It comes out of the ground and pulls itself into the sky. No faces in any of the movies, no identities that he could discover. Jim literally cut the film to pieces and spliced it back together to figure out the effects. He couldn't. That morning, September 22, Jim broadcast all three films on public access. At the end, hje asked if anyone knew and gave out a PO box. Jim never did find out the truth there, but he did get letters from folks with stories to tell, and some came with film of their own.

That was the start of Network Zero. Jim continued to broadcast regularly, making contacts across the US. He began to believe he was at the edge of some vast conspiracy. He became obsessed. His wife left, but he never really noticed. His contacts, meanwhile, kept up the search. By the time Jim started Network Zero online, in 1999, he had 74 films from various sources, all showring the truly weird. It went worldwide. Network Zero has members everywhere on the globe now. Jim's a true believer, though he's never perosnally encountered the supernatural. Network Zero runs guerrilla now -they post when and where they can, often without introduction or explanation. It gets them into other web communities. Sometimes it even shares what information it has with other monster-hunting organizations - the Network isn't stupid. They know these things are dangerous, and that others are out there. They invite people in regularly - with Web 2.0, millions of videos and podcasts exist, and it's not hard to figure out if someone's on the level. There's at least six members who spend all their time scouring sites and search engines for more evidence to rebroadcast, while others work harder to get more footage. All too often, it finds them.

What the Secret Frequency is about is getting as many people as much of the truth as possible. Some of its members want to arm humanity against the monsters out there. Some just want to film weird shit. Some want to be proven right. It doesn't matter - pass on the message. They can be militant, sure, and most do go armed on their film excursions, for self-defense. But few of them are physically fit enough to really challenge a werewolf or an angry vampire. Often, they tag along with others, letting the other hunters do the fighting while they hand out information, locations and footage. Jim Harrison and his friends don't actually know much about monsters - they know there's broad categories, but only in terms of behavior and abilities. The problem is, some critters just don't show up on film. It's really frustrating - vampires, for instance. They blur. It's well known enough that Network Zero has started using mobile phone snapshots as a quick acid test to detect vampires. Most of Network Zero are from a philosophy referred to as Record Keepers. They're journalists - they don't judge their material, they record it. Honestly, with no modificaitons. The Army of Truth, on the other hand, is focused on disseminating information at any cost. They'll rip open eyes with stunts, viral memes, hjacked broadcasts and more. They can be militant, and have more weapons-capable Hunters than any other part of the Network. And finally, you've got the Secret Keepers - conspiracy theorists who think the world is controlled by monsters, and who see every piece of bad news as the fault of some fiendish machination. They want to keep the public in the dark, thinking it'll only make the monsters work harder to cover tracks. Instead, they focus on building a case within the group, until they can blow the doors of this conspiracy wide open.

Entry into NetZo is by invitation, and you get status by sharing information and footage. At one dot, you have a Network Zero password and can upload to their sites, where they'll spread it across the net. You get a free specialty in either Crafts or Expression involving some form of media. At three dots, you're well known (by your internet handle) to anyone who cares about Forteana, and have free Fame at 2 dots in that area. At five dots, you're a hub of information, getting a library of videos and documents that lets you get the equivalent of Encyclopedic Knowledge related to film techniques and supernatural events that have been recorded. You won't know shit about supernatural society and factions, but you know how to spot a vampire or identify a werewolf.

Stereotypes posted:

Loyalists of Thule : Several of our people out in the field have hooked up with these guys in some way or another. The moment you start pokeing into the weird stuff, the good stuff, it's like they know . They show up and ask if they can help. The question I want to ask is how do they know? Where do they get their books? And if they're so keen on helping, answer me this: why don't they want to tell you who sent them?
The Union : It's our job to find out things. It's up to us to let people see the truth. Comes a time when letting people know isn't enough, and someone's going to have to lay the smack down on the monsters. Truth is, it isn't going to be me does that. Good thing I know a few folks in the Union. They're not so bothered about the Big Picture, but if you can get them to tag along, they'll deal with the violence part. Every time.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : The government is in on it. You think 9/11 was a cover-up? Fuck you, this is a cover-up. Every story you've ever heard about the Men in Black? All true. Suits and soldiers. Oh, and sociopaths. They're worse than the monsters. Hell, most of them wor for the monsters, that's what I heard.
The Cheiron Group : 'Course, the government's in cahoots with big business. At least one of the big pharmaceuticals companies is controlled by supernatural beings. Did a doc on it last year. I'm telling you, there's a war on, and one of the sides is using business as its front. They're not Feds. Nah, they act completely differently, like it's a paycheck, you know? But it doesn't matter. See, they own the Feds.

The monsters are out there. You just didn't believe it when they told you.

Null Mysteriis , if we're being honest, is kind of dumb. But hey, it's a good backbone, at least. Everything has a rational explanation - sciensits just haven't found it for everything yet. They date back to 1893, when Jean-Pierre Brattel walked out of a meeting of the Parisian Theosophical Society. They'd originally intended to apply rigorous scientific standards to religious claims, which Brattel found fascinating, but he found that in practice they were just another religious movement. After a few meetings, he'd had enough. However, he felt that rationalists discounted out of hand that there might still be things unexplained out there. He felt a need for a group to scientifically examine that which was beyond science of the time. By the beginning of World War One, his new organization, Null Mysteriis (abbreviated from Nullum Mysteriis Processit - out of the unexplained comes nothing, very loosely) had several hundred members in Europe and America. Of course, two world wars wiped out most of the organization. They started calling themselves the ORganization for the Rational Assessment for the Supernatural in the 70s, and it's only since then that they've even approached their old membership numbers. They're hobbyists, mostly. A few paid staff in the London headquarters (used sicne 1941), but there's almost no money. Anyone can join, but the membership dues - very minimal - pay the staff salaries, the publication of a monthly newsletter, a yearbook and clubhouse maintenance. Null Mysteriis members have day jobs - generally very educated ones.

They hunt for anomalies. UFOs, reincarnation, Stigmata, cryptozoology. They are scientists, and they investigate monsters. A werewolf goes through a shopping center and almost no one admits to seeing it. The lady collecting samples off the tiles? Null Mysteriis. Demonic possession ends in murder-suicide. Guy with the Kirlian camera? Null Mysteriis. Serial killer seizes a victim in a way that should be impossible. Guy with the EMF reader and tape measure who visits once the police leave? Null Mysteriis. Their big problem is that the scientists who make up the organization consider that because they are expert in one field, they are experts in all fields - their meetings are prone to argument as physicists start to hold court on evolution and biologists talk about psychology. It's not helped by the fact that their leadership is schisming. The current General Secretary is Scottish astrophysicist Alexander Watt, who is a solid rationalist that believes the supernatural merits cautious, scientific, sensible study. The Treasurer, Vincent Fielding, is a psychiatrist who is almost a guru to many members, advocating aggressive fieldwork and techniques that Watt dismisses as psuedoscience - hypnotic regression to past lives, spirit cameras, Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, Sheldrake's morphogenic field theory and more. Watt maintains he'll turn them all into cranks. Some would say they already are; though many of its members are highly respected in their fields, few would admit to being members.

Stereotypes posted:

Ashwood Abbey : Collective delusions are surprisingly common. Take the occasional groups of thrill-seekers who go out to hunt and kill monsters, solely for their own entertainment. They always seem to find their monsters. Does that strike you as a reasonable or likely outcome? Of course not.
Loyalists of Thule : Every so often, you meet someone who has a fount of information about the phenomena we study. Their help, willingly given, is always welcome, but they're an object lesson in how an obsession with the supernatural can make one all too gullible.
Lucifuge : Yes, I've heard myths about so-called Children of the Devil - who hasn't seen The Omen ? But I've never seen any evidence of their existence. No, that doesn't mean they don't exist. But that's not the way it works.
Aegis Kai Doru : Let me get this straight. There's a conspiracy that's at least 2000 years old, right? And it's got the head of John the Baptist and about a dozen other ancient holy relics, right, all hidden away and guarded by this hereditary sect? And sometimes they come out and use them to fight monsters? That's not a plausible scenario - that's The Da Vinci Code .

Null Mysteriis is about investigation. Not about stopping supernatural events or fighting evil - just about knowing. They hold that the paranormal ius neither good nor evil - it's the result of as yet non-understood orders of energy. And of course often it's wholly explainable by modern science. Sure, paranormal stuff tends to be detrimental to humanity, but you don't call radioactive material evil even though it can kill. If a paranormal energy makes a man invulnerable but turns him into a serial killer, how's that different from radiation sickness, morally? Vampirism, now, vampirism is a communicable disease. It suspends aging somehow and hides life signs as well as making its victim vulnerable to light and requiring a parasitic existence. Lycanthropy? Extreme genetic condition. Ghosts? Energy signatures. Demons and other entities? Made of energy. Could come from anywhere, given form by the viewer's perception. It's all got an explanation. If there's holes, okay, it's hypothesis. That's the best we've got. Now, that's not to say Null Mysteriis won't hunt. Members can and do - taking the rad sickness analogy, if an energy that gets out of hand is deadly, it can't be allowed to get out of hand. If vampirism makes you a psychopath, given it's incurable, it may be for the best to put the poor soul out of their misery. Cancer's not evil, but it can be cut out. Not, mind you, that most of Null Mysteriis is good at violence. Direct violence, anyway. They can be quite good at sneaking up with a syringe. They often find themselves working alongside other Hunters due to their careers and knowledge...and they often find themselves wanting to study the more potent, strange Hunters they meet.

Alexander Watt's faction, the Rationalists, are the majority. It's all provable and disprovable with science. Some of it isn't yet, but it will be, with diligent and empirical study. Vincent Fielding's Open Minds believe that the important thing is proving or disproving phenomena by any means necessary - even if it seems unscientific. You can figure out the whys later. They're growing in number. And a similarly growing group, the Cataclysmicists, believe the argument is pointless and instead are concerned with rising numbers of reported phenomena since the millenium, projecting that if it doesn't slow down, the world could be in for a cataclysm of some kind, and that maybe someone should do something about that.

Status in Null Mysteriis comes from gathering data and sharing it, maybe even publishing in the organization's journal. At one dot, you're free if not necessarily welcome at any Null Mysteriis meeting in the world. You get a free specialty in Parapsychology in either Academics, Occult or Science. For three dots, you have knowledge of fellow members, many prominently placed, and get a dot of Contacts and a dot of Allies. At five dots, you've been in the field long enough to have some solid theories. You get the equivalent of the Common Sense merit, applicable only to investigating the supernatural.

Problem is, these guys are often portrayed as insisting magic's not real when it provably is, and that it should obey physics when it provably doesn't.

Next time: Not in my back yard.

The Union / Aegis Kai Doru

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: the Vigil

The Union were born from the labor movement. You got trade unions out of that, but in the early 20th century, you also got the Chicago Union. A group of politicized workers noticed a disease plaguing their children - an unnatural one. Things other than factory owners were bleeding them of flesh, sweat and blood. Alone, they were weak, but together they could be strong, just as against the capitalist fat cats. For a few years, the Chicago Union hunted the monsters preying on their kids. When their job was over, they disbanded. So it went with other teams across the Western world over the next century.

The change came in 1999, when Holly Ramirez, an active member of one of these "unions", decided to look online for resources. She found others like her, who had banded together for mutual defense against monsters, via oblique allusions on blogs, blue-collar and parenting forums and the like. She understood the history of the labor movement, and she began to bring people together across the internet. The first Hunters' Union board went up in March of 2000. By June, it was gone - it was too visible, and no one bothered to vet members. More than a dozen folks, not too net savvy and too busy with day jobs and hunting monsters to learn, died because they didn't realize who was reading their posts.

Holly and her new friends persisted anyway. Since 2000, the Union has moved web addresses four times, getting more secure with each move. Now, it's invite-only. Administrators keep an eye on the news, and change their roster every six months. If they have a friend in the region, that friend is sent to investigate would-be members and offer them the chance for a little support. The boards are supported by internal donations, and members also help pay for each others' weapons, funerals and medical fees. They watch out for the families of those who fall in the line of duty, just like any good union. The boards have been the cause of several marriages and many friendships now. It's not really political these days, but it still serves the same job as the old Chicago Union did - ordinary people supporting each other against those who would oppress them. It's finally gone worldwide, thanks to Holly, and the Union remembers her fondly, with a banner atop every page linking to a memorial for her. Holly died in 2005, but she went out fighting. Many of the Union would follow her to that death if they had to. You pay your dues, after all.

The Union does not distinguish much between monsters. They're a highly heterogeneous group, united by a desire to protect themselves and their families. There's no ideology here, just common defense. They don't care about fine distinctions - any threat has to be dealt with. They don't always stick to monsters, either - muggers, dealers, serial killers and cultists all get the same treatment from some Union vigilantes. The Union is, however, happy to ignore any monster that doesn't pose a threat. They are fundamentally a reactive group, to the chagrin of some members. They stick to their turf - they have day jobs, and they're fine with having a narrow view. They have a lot of information on how to fight monsters...but tracking it down is a problem, given they communicate via a forum. They have subforum that tries to archive information on various types of critter, but it's split into hundreds of threads which are often cluttered by conversation tangents off topic. The forum search function is poor at best, especially since the Union speaks mostly in slang and uses imprecise terminology. What they do have tends to be accurate though, insofar as it describes what monsters can do and how often, what kills them and what can't hurt them. The trick is to figure out what monster a given thread is actually talking about. Sometimes, people die because they make the wrong guess.

Most of the Union are of the Home First philosophy - you take care of your turf and your community. Don't look outside that - that's not your job. Now, your community can grow and expand to cover new people you come to care about, new friends and so on, but it's all about keeping them safe and nothing else. The General Strike, on the other hand, believe the Union has a moral imperative to fight the forces of monstrous oppression across the world, to find monsters and, if they're dangerous, kill them. There's not a lot of these guys, not least because there's no more than a few hundred Union members to begin with, and besides, the General Strike die often. Politicals go even further, though - they want to return to the Union's origins and fight all oppression, not just monsters. They hate anyone that exploits people, and are often among the most dangerous Union Hunters. They're extreme in their views and unafraid to be extreme in their actions. Some of them are on terrorist watchlists, in fact.

Stereotypes posted:

Long Night : I've moonlighted for years now with a woman who belongs to the Long Night. She's mad as hell, runs on high-octane fear of some end-of-the-world scenario I couldn't hope to understand. You know what, though? I don't think I'd ever have anyone else on my side in a tight spot.
Network Zero : So one of the good people who moderate the message board has a friend who's involved with Network Zero. The internet video station. The one with all the YouTube videos that everyone thinks are special effects. So anyway, she was telling us about the time when her buddies hooked up with the Network Zero guy for a fight and she told him to come armed. He brought a baseball bat and a handicam. Nothing else.
Malleus Maleficarum : A couple of times now, I've run into this priest who seems to be doing the same kind of thing as me. Only with, you know, papal sanction. I was brought up a good Catholic and everything, but you know, this guy scares me. He knew things. You can see it in his eyes. I think it must have driven him a little nuts. If you'd only seen what he did to that demon-thing. It was...biblical.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : Yeah, the government knows about all this. But ask yourself, do they ever actually do anything for the people? You hear rumors of this top-secret monster-hunting squad, but what are they there for? Sure, they kill the monsters, or take them away in their black helicopters and do horrible things to them in some kind of monster-Gitmo, but do they care about protecting us? No. That's our job.

Union status is less about kills - anyone can claim kills on the internet - and more about giving advice, information and material aid to others. The more you contribute, the more respect you get. At one dot, you have forum access and know the streets a bit, getting a Local Area specialty in either Streetwise or Politics. At 3, you've supported people in the field and online, so you get two dots of Contacts. At 5, you've saved Union lives, bailed folks out of prison and helped pay for a funeral or two. You get what you put in. You get two extra dots of Resources, as long as you can show evidence it's doing some good when you use 'em.

Not that the Union is America-exclusive, but...

Now, conspiracies. Conspiracies get weirder. They're old, they're powerful and they're a lot more top-down commanded than the compacts, even the Loyalists. We begin with the Aegis Kai Doru . See, they say that there's a cave somewhere where, for a thousand years, a family has hidden the head of John the Baptist. Sometimes, they say, it prophesies disaster. But who guards the head? They talk about the priest Berenger le Sauniere, who became very rich all of a sudden, left cryptic clues in his church's fabric and, on his deathbed, could not be absolved by his confessor. What did he find? They talk of the lost treasure of Jacques de Molay, but where does it lie? What of Akhenatan's tomb, the treasures of Troy? The Guardians of the Labyrinth know - the Aegis Kai Doru, the Shield and Spear.

Did I mention that their picture is a trace of Dante from Devil May Cry? 'cause it is.

The Aegis Kai Doru claim to predate the great flood myths of the world. They say they came from the land before - Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, whatever. Once, they say, everyone could use magic freely. Even then, they were the guardians of a labyrinth containing great magical treasures. An argument became a war, and one faction ejected them from the isle. They planned to return, but then came the cataclysm, the Aegis say, because the shapeshifting people broke an ancient taboo and brought war between man and spirit. The isle sank forever. The exiles were joined by other, less forgiving exiles. They knew who was to blame - the magicians who cast them out and the shapeshifters who destroyed their homeland. And so, the Aegis took their sacred magical relics, to make war on those who had done the unforgivable and destroyed paradise.

More than a thousand years later, they had forgotten the magic of their ancestors, becoming the Shield and Spear, named for the treasure of fallen Troy - they stole it as the city fell. They keep and protect the relics, using them to protect those who suffer at the hands of witches and fiends. This they did through Greece and through Rome, through the Byzantines, the Enlightenment, and even today, always seeking more relics. Even now, the Inner Circle meets in Athens and keeps a list of all known relics, lost, found or destroyed, and a list of all the witches and monsters they have killed. Few have met the Inner Circle, but all who have speak of their inner fervor, and of their vast chamber of a hundred alcoves, where the greatest items of power are kept.

Hardly any make it to the Second Initiation into the Secrets of the Aegis Kai Doru. Few are aware it even exists. The Aegis is picky about recruits, spending years watching candidates and their families - generally families whose members have belonged to the Aegis Kai for centuries or longer. Recruitment is often subtle - sometimes, a new member doesn't even know they joined the group.

The Aegis Kai Doru hunt mages and shapeshifters, though their targets do not know why, or why they still care. But the Aegis remember - a vow was made, long ago, a vow so binding it holds even now. The First Initiation teaches the why. Each initiate is sent into a labyrinth of hallucinogenic vapors, where they must escape by dawn. Once they do, they are met by the Guardians, who make them vow the Vow of the Sword, to destroy "they who work magic and they who change skin." If you can't escape or are too maddened to make the vow, you fail. Still, in the field, reality can get in the way of the hunt. Sometimes, a wizard's not hurting anyone. Sometimes, the werewolves or mages are fighting among themselves, and maybe it'd be better for one side to win. Sometimes, you just don't have the muscle to take them on alone. While they may once have had lore on witches, the Aegis Kai Doru have forgotten most of it. They have a vague understanding of what magicians can do, though they're often surprised. They know that only some werewolves are man-eaters, but have forgotten quite a lot of what they once knew. As for other monsters? Cells are instructed to take them on a case-by-case basis. Some monsters aren't that bad. Some can be helpful, or at least used.

Within the Aegis are smaller groups, each with a purpose. The Sword uphold the Vow to the letter, seeking out shapeshifters and mages to murder. It doesn't matter why the grudge exists or how old it is. A vow was made. They must die. The Sword are proactive, militant and unafraid to charge in. They are also the most numerous among the Aegis. The Temple, meanwhile, guard the Aegis' relics and hunt down new ones and lost ones. Often, they prioritize relics above the Vow, and so the Sword looks down on them, but recognize that they're vital to the group. The Scroll maintains the conspiracy's records and test out how to use relics in the field. They are the Aegis' lorekeepers, and often have the best idea of what they're going up against.

Status in the Aegis Kai Doru is tied to finding relics, discovering what they do and using them against foes. At status 1, you own a relic or two and have passed the First Initiation. You can take Relic merits. at 3, you've been at this so long that research is second nature, giving you +1 on all relic and archaeology-based Academics rolls. At 5, you've passed the Second Initiation, giving you the power to sense your ancient foes. You get Unseen Sense applied to mages, or to werewolves if you already had mages.

Stereotypes posted:

Ashwood Abbey : From a decent vantage point, I observed a group of men and women arrive and then sit down to a meal with the witch. I suspected these were the whore's allies, and so I waited. The group laughed a lot. Shared plates of exotic meats and fruits, but never drinks. Nearly an hour in, the witch looked uncomfortable. Her discomfort grew, and plainly became pain. Agonized, she vomited, but her guests kept laughing even after she toppled from her chair, choking to death. The laughs never stopped. They packed their things and put them back in a picnic basket, and left. They never touched the witch's artifacts, which are now mine.
Loyalists of Thule : They came, apparently, out of nowhere somewhere after the Second World War. Tweedy, scholarly types, the lot of them. They seem suspiciously keen to offer their help. And they're terribly curious. We'll take the help, but there's no way we're going to trust them with our secrets until we know theirs .
The Cheiron Group : You hear about the lawsuit a few years ago? Cheiron sued the owner of some Internet site that had put out the old myth about the logo being Satanic. Of course, they won. But we know what that logo means, and we know how much longer the Cheiron Group existed before they began selling painkillers. Of course, I'm afraid of them. As should you be.
Ascending Ones : I heard a story about a group of hunters - one of our factions, in fact - who came from the Middle East. They had potions and elixirs that made them superhuman. They must have died centuries ago. It's certainly hard to credit the idea that they have anything to do with the group who appear to claim their heritage. These new "Ascending Ones" are no more than criminals and worse. Although they still have the potions. That secret should be ours.

In my games, I tend to replace the Aegis Kai Doru with a group of Theosophists claiming descent from ancient mystical beings who taught them to use magic items. Theosophy makes more sense to me than a lot of Aegis stuff. Theosophy.

Next time: ARAB MONEY

Ascending Ones / Cheiron Group

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: the Vigil

There's a story the Ascending Ones remember. Every night, the sun dies, and every morning it is reborn, and so until the end of the world. The beetle Khepri rolled the new sun across the sky each day in Egypt. And so too was the Phoenix, say the legends. In Egypt, two sects of soldiers were born - dual cults charged to fight the forces of darkness. By night, the Cult of Set protected the people, and by day the Cult of the Phoenix fought evil. In time, though, the Cult of Set fell to the darkness, becoming the monsters it had fought. It vanished, leaving the Cult of the Phoenix alone, and both day and night were too much for them. They sought a method to keep fighting when lesser men would collapse: potions.

One night, the Phoenix commander drank his first elixir and led his men to battle. In the morning, he led them again. And again that night. So it went for three years, three months, three weeks and three days. Then, and only then, did the potion wear off, and he died instantly of exhaustion. Another founder made a similar potion, but this one he tempered with poison, so he would not be tempted to overuse it as his predecessor did. He drank a little and died instantly. The third men brewed the same potion, but he tempered himself with prayer and self-discipline, made himself ready and, as he drank, his faith transformed the poison to sweet water, allowing the elixir's power to flow through him. And so did the Cult of the Phoenix Ascending from the Flames, the Ascending Ones, gain the secrets of the elixir, poison to all but those who knew the discipline needed to transform them within themselves.

The Cult continued, changing little over the centuries. They fought the monsters of the Middle East throughout the rise of Rome, and throughout the birth of both Christianity and Islam. Both Christ and Mohammad changed them, however. Their structure fit well within these new religions, and though their mystic tradition survived in Europe, most Ascending Ones in the Middle East became Christian or Muslim, seeing the phoenix as a parable for Allah's mercy or for Christ's rebirth. As time wore on, many cells turned to manufacturing and selling drugs to support themselves, and so the conspiracy found itself part of organized crime even while they defended the human race. It is a hard line to walk, but to guard the light, sometimes they must cloak themselves in shadow.

The Ascending Ones protect the human race in two ways. They kill monsters or talk them out of hurting others, and they also protect humans from knowledge of monsters, keeping secret all they do. While the Ascending Ones are structured as a military, they aren't focused entirely on murder. Sometimes, they try to save the monsters via conversion to the true faith, or even just by talking them out of disastrous courses of action, for they recognize that not all monsters need to be dangerous. Sometimes, they become aware of monsters going to war with monsters, and practice the art of Sulha, the ancient Arabic tradition of diplomacy via intermediary who travels between the sides to find a compromise. It's risky and often fails, but it at least buys time for preparation to wipe out both sides. You'd think, from that, that the Ascending Ones know a lot about monsters, but it's not necessarily true. They often understand an individual monster very well, but know nothing of their society or even necessarily their powers. The Ascending Ones are also rather bad at sharing information, due to the pyramidal power structure they use. Each area tends to operate separately from the others, with no good way to contact them.

Stereotypes posted:

Ashwood Abbey : I'll tell you about a regular customer I have. He tries everything. Sometimes even gets it in bulk, if I can supply it. Pays up front every time. And sometimes, he goes out hunting. For fun. I don't know a single other person, human or not, whom I hold in as much contempt. But I'd still take him on the hunt with me. He's a demon incarnate.
Null Mysteriis : I spent a week hunting a Djinn alongside a man who inquired endlessly into the truth behind things, but who did not want to believe in the very existence of the creature he was pursuing. He died still trying to deny the thing that was killing him. Futile.
Lucifuge : When this first began for me, I wasn't aware of what else was out there. But it's true: the end does justify the means, and if there are those who admit kinship with Shaitan himself - if only to destroy the works of evil - then so be it. We will even work alongside them. But when the work is done, if any survive, they must follow the other monsters to Hell. It is the only way.
Aegis Kai Doru : I have dealt on occasion with a woman who collects things of power, and uses them to destroy things of evil. She's righteous, but she understands neither true religion nor the realities of this world we live in. And so, she is weak.

The Ascending Ones have less groups or factions and more splinters - if they met, they'd barely recognize each other as belonging to the same organization. The Order of the Southern Temple grew out of Western mystical traditions. They use the writings of Hermes Tresmegistus as the trappings surrounding their elixirs, adopting the hierarchies of Western occult groups, complete with impenetrable ritual. The Knife of Paradise are more militaristic and far more religious. Mostly Christian or Muslim, but there's a strong group of Jews in there, too. For them, the war against monsters is a holy one, and they are servants of God. They don't reject the Egyptian mysticism, though, or waste time squabbling over religious conflicts with each other - indeed, they tend to be rather syncretic despite being so devout, and Gnostic beliefs aren't rare. The Jagged Crescent, meanwhile, handle most of the drug dealing and gang crime. They're primarily urban, both in style and attitude, and mostly focused on funding the rest of the Ascending Ones. Many are drug addicts, but they do keep good track of monsters who use the criminal underworld, as well.

Status in the Ascending Ones comes from endurance and discipline displayed on the hunt, as well as strength of will. (After all, the magic of the Ascending Ones comes from drugs.) At one dot, you belong to some part of the Ascending One cult and know the secret of controlling your body chemistry to process the magic drugs, allowing you to buy Elixir merits. At 3 dots, you get access to the considerable funds of the group, gaining 2 Resources dots, limited to use on the Vigil. At five dots, you are given the services of an initiate, a three-dot Retainer.

Yep. Alchemists, Gnostic imams and drug dealers all under the same banner.

The Cheiron Group , stock ticker TCG, engaged in a lot of lawsuits back in 1999 against a number of groups, mostly religious, who'd propagated the story that they were being controlled by Satanic forces. It all stemmed from their logo - the head of a horned, bearded man wearing a laurel wreath superimposed over a caduceus. It'd been misinterpreted as being somehow occult, and from there to Devil worship. It even got people to boycott Cheiron. Cheiron won handily, driving at least one televangelist to bankruptcy. Sure, that may have made them look the bad guys, but a spokesperson maintained it was necessary. Cheiron and its subsidiaries comprise one of the foremost medical corporations in the world, providing affordable and effective medication for everything from asthma to HIV since 1994, along with medical tools and technology via Weides GmbH, neurology equipment and prosthetics via Barthes Incorporated, and painkillers and soft drinks via Jones-Klein-Beauchamp. Cheiron's spokesperson showed with these and other examples their fundamentally benevolent nature and need to protect their reputation.

Truth is, the fundies weren't all wrong. Just half wrong. The central company, Cheiron Limited, has been around for a century. The logo, according to their literature, was designed by the company's founder, Edward Barrett, in 1905. But the logo shows up on a medallion over the door an 18th century Masonic hall in London. It appears in a suppressed book on forbidden religions from 1600s Geneva. It's on a 15th century helmet. It's perfectly reproduced as the main motif of a 3000-year-old sunken temple off the coast of Santorini, rediscovered only in 1987. Why? The Board of Directors might know, but no one else does. No one even knows who's on the Board. No list of names has existed since Barrett in 1921, and even then, he was the only one named. And yet, their stock price remains steadily amazing.

And, of course, there are the employees - the ones not paid to make drugs or machines. They're paid to investigate the supernatural and kidnap monsters, contain them and experiment on them. The science involved generally doesn't make any sense to normal biologists. This is the Field Projects Division. They are paid quite well to capture monsters and turn them into guinea pigs, ingredients and parts. They've got a job for life - whether they want it or not. It's in the contract. And it's in the surgery - y'see, in order to make these agents more effective, Cheiron's doctors operate on them, replacing or adding limbs and organs - parts from the very monsters they catch. And all of that is company property, even though it's inside their bodies. Cheiron owns their agents, quite literally, and the only way out is which point the body is property of Cheiron. It's in the contract.

Anyone asking a Cheiron operative what they do is going to hear the phrase 'Directive 53' - an old EEC Council Directive instructing companies to avoid exposure to the public of dangerous substances and to obtain special instructions before using them. The European Economic Community hasn't existed for years - it's the EU now - but Cheiron claims Directive 53 as their mandate. It's pretty much the first thing in the Field Projects Division Handbook, which is quite thin. It claims to be a comprehensive guide to procedure and an encyclopedia of Potential Assets (read: monsters). The procedural stuff is limited and the monster information is useless. Vampires drink blood and hate sunlight. Werewolves have a silver allergy; Cheiron refuses to issue silver bullets. The handbook has no ISBN, corporate logo or author. It has the FPD logo, sure - it's a stylized bow and arrow. At no point is Cheiron mentioned by name - just The Company. Occasionally, it gets leaked to the public. It never matters - it's completely deniable. Even so, agents are instructed to keep them out of the wrong hands - anyone else's - and to kill to retrive them. The handbook's still useless - following it gets you killed. Cheiron's as inefficient as any other corporation. Some agents believe Cheiron is deliberately giving them useless information for some reason.

Don't throw it away, though - company property, y'see. On the other hand, Cheiron does not give even half a shit what you do on the job, as long as you fill your Potential Asset quota. There are Dedicated Pickup Teams ready to receive whatever you can subdue - but make sure it's safely subdued before you call, or they won't come. (A DPT is basically 3 guys in a van or helicopter.) What counts for quota? Anything R&D thinks is worth studying. Vampires and werewolves are low priority - got plenty of 'em already. But something new? That'll show up in your yearly bonus. Field agents learn to make compromises and deals with other Hunters - you take and use what you can get, and you deny your buddies the kill. If they don't make quota, their ass isn't on the line. Yours is. Not just your job, either. Of course, that's in the contract. Did you read the fine print?

Stereotypes posted:

Network Zero : On a number of occasions now, information released on the Internet has compromised potential avenues of profit. We recommend that all field resources remain alert for members of the group responsible and take measures to secure and/or destroy any recorded media that might result from our field projects.
Loyalists of Thule : The Board of Directors requests that should any field resource identify an individual behaving in the manner described in the attached file, it is imperative that you retrieve any and all information they hold, by any means necessary.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : It has recently come to our attention that the Americans do, as long suspected, have an agency of their own dedicated to much the same purpose as our own field agents. The Board of Directors does not consider them a threat; if it should happen that you encounter this agency's operatives, however, we recommend you make every effort to secure any Potential Assets and withdraw before your counterparts have succeeded in their own mission. Avoid violent confrontation if possible.
Aegis Kai Doru : Our files on the Aegis Kai Doru are restricted; however, be assured that Field Research has been assigned to investigate the organization, and we are confident that our field resources will have some progress on which to report shortly.

The FPD has three main subdivisions. Retrieval is the largest - they're the guys who go out and hunt the monsters, tie 'em up and call the DPTs. Recruitment looks for other Hunters to hire, mostly by observing them while they hunt. Cheiron operatives die a lot , and they need replacing. Field Research...well, they're spies. Their job is to investigate other conspiracies, help them out on hunts and, if possible, poach absolutely everything of value when the time is right.

Cheiron status is gained by fulfilling quota and sucking up to your boss. At one dot, you get the handbook, you signed the contract and you've probably got something implanted in you. But hey, you can buy Thaumatechnology merits. For three dots, you've got some backup! Two dots of Allies, specifically. For five dots, you are paid amazingly, giving you three more dots of Resources. Not that you have time to spend it - go meet quota.

Next time: Hey there, nice to meet ya, can you guess my name?

Lucifuge / Malleus Maleficarum

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

God might or might not exist, but the Lucifuge know that there is a Satan. Most Christians, Jews and Muslims believe that Satan sowing his seed amongst men is a metaphor. (Actually, most Jews don't believe in a devil at all.) The Lucifuge know it is literal - because they are all the literal descendants of Lucifer or some other Duke of Hell. They say that about once a century, the Devil himself has a child, after all. They are all exceptional, prone to great evil...and guilt. They have their own children, the blood spreads ands wells. The mark vanishes over the generations - but practically without fail, every seventh generation, the taint resurfaces. Demons visit these people, they have strange powers. Some of them embrace their heritage. The Lucifuge, however, is for those who would fight it. It began in the 800s, in Milan. A woman of noble bearing employed genealogists and occultists to find and follow the bloodlines of Lucier in Europe, looking for these children, the Children of the Seventh Generation, following them until they came into their own. When that time came, the lady would send her agents with a simple offer: renounce Satan and all of his works, and fight against the forces of Hell.

Those that refused were killed, or kidnapped and made to agree. The genealogists are still there, and so are the messengers, but now, they are all Children of the Seventh Generation themselves. Their headquarters remains Milan, and their leader is the same woman, no older than she was in 853. The only name she is is the Lucifuge. She is the organization, she commands all of the others, and she personally meets each new Child, revealing their destiny - to stand against Hell, whether they want to or not. The Milan cadre monitors news worldwide, tracing bloodlines to find new children of Lucifer come into their own, as well as scouting out odd events and people. That's it. Milan tells each agent who their 13 closest colleagues are (geographically) - but that might be hundreds or thousands of miles away, particularly in Asia, where the Lucifuge has very little reach, knowledge or power. As a result, the Lucifuge's agents have a very wide approach to tracking down monsters. In the end, Lucifer's their foe, and while the creatures of darkness are the work of Satan according to the Lucifuge, a creature of Satan need not be evil. AFter all, they're creatures of Satan as well. Besides, most of them hate using their powers.

Instead, the Lucifuge's agents prefer to study their quarry before stepping in, giving the monsters a chance to prove themselves foes of the Devil, and thus not to be killed. Many, however, do not. Some vampires claim descent fro mthe demon Belial. Some werewolves serve spirits of vice. Many magicians trade souls with demons. The Lucifuge, unsurprisingly, has a vast collection of demon and angel lore. They're not sure how to feel about demons - they hate them, sure, but many of them have small pet demons whom they hate (and whom they are hated by) but who cannot help but obey their orders. Sometimes, devils follow them around, acceping any punishment inflicted on them with a strange sort of pleasure. Some of them can command devils, banish them or even summon them to serve. Angels, on the other hand...the Lucifuge fears angels. The Milan library has many tomes on angels - cherubim, seraphim, even the bizarre and contradictory qashmallim. Every so often, a Lucifuge agent meets one. Some are slain. Some are transformed into strange beings. Some are freed of their blood or told secrets.

There is one foe, however, whom the Lucifuge never leave alive: other Devil's Children, the ones who embrace what they are. Some of them escaped the Lucifuge's agents when they manifested. Some were never found - the genealogists are not perfect. The Lucifuge misses some - and those, oddly enough, always seem to be the ones that love the darkness within. The ones that lead cults. The ones who don't want to be what they are, those always seem to end up with the Lucifuge. Some whisper she intended it that way, but none would say it to her face.

Stereotypes posted:

Long Night : Unexpected help came from a man who fought like nothing I'd ever seen. After the vampire was dead, we talked. He had convictions that...concerned me. I'd work with him again, but I'd be concerned not to let him see what I can do.
Null Mysteriis : The scholars have been around for a long time in some form. This lot are some of the worst. They're like puppies. They want to know about you, they want to know about the monsters and the demons. They never do anything. They just take photos, and draw sketches and type notes into those little palm top things.
Ascending Ones : The ones with the drugs? They scare me. They're very old, and they've got the same ultimate source as us, I think, only they wouldn't dream of saying so. They seem to have embraced certainty. Which is an easy way to fall right into Hell without even knowing it.
Malleus Maleficarum : Oh, I know all about them. Don't go near them. They might seek out the demons and witches, and they might be on the side of...righteousness, but they'll do terrible things, and burn those who'd help them in the process.

The Lucifuge lacks enough organization to really have factions - it's just HQ and hte agents. Still, they do have philosophies. The Denial are most numerous - they're the ones who believe that the Devil is the source of all evil, and must be reniounced. They watch the monsters and witches to see if they struggle with what they are, and they leave the ones not committed to evil alone. The others they kill without worry. The Reconcilation, meanwhile, believe they're doing the Devil's work - and God's. They, by serving God's will, are giving Lucifer the chance to be redeemed and readmitted to Heaven. Should this happen, they say, Hell ceases to exist, and sin and pain end forever. The Fall is reversed - and that is the Lucifuge's destiny. The Truth, finally, are the least numerous. They believe that the story they heard about who and what they are isn't the whole story. They want to know more about their lady, the Lucifuge. Who is she, what is she? How is she immortal? Is she Satan's daughter, or his consort? Is she Satan? They fight evil because they must, but what they really seek is the truth of their own organization, believing its secrets must exist within its ranks.

Status in the Lucifuge is largely a social affair, and not officially ranked. It's just about fighting monsters and gaining trust from the other agents. At one dot, you've just joined. You know you have powers, but not how to access most of them. You get the philosophy, you've probably been to Milan once, but you mostly get instructions via email, if at all. You can buy Castigation merits. At three dots, you have defeated terrible foes, developed a reputation and are in regular contact with Milan. You can visit and use their library when you can afford the plane tickets - and they send you funds, two dots of Resources usable only for the Vigil. At five dots, you've met the Lucifuge herself multiple times and even received jobs from her personally. Yopu may even have some idea who she is, though you'd never tell. You have the Lucifuge as a four-dot Mentor.

BTW this particular view on demons and how they work? Doesn't really fit neatly with any other stuff - even Inferno, though that comes closest.

You've heard of the Inquisition. The Catholic witch-hunters. Those things aren't gone. The Malleus Maleficarum still exists - though they are not the Inqusition any more. They are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and they're relatively mainstream. The witch-hunters are the Malleus - the Hammer of the Witches, the Shadow Congregation. Back in th 15th century, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger wrote a book by that name. It proved influential in the painful deaths of many, many people, and the Pope soon condemned it as heresy. Never stopped anyone using it. Only 80 years later, Pope Paul III gave a group the same name as the book and ordered them to hunt the servants of Satan. Though not a secret, their founding wasn't really public, either, due to it being slipped into the end of the same orders that empowered the Society of Jesus. (The Jesuits.) Why did Paul do this? Conspiracy theories abound about this and every other Catholic historical event. Some say Paul had a private agenda, or was using them as a dummy to make a point directed at his enemies. It's obvious something bigger was at work.

Still, it's possible that only three people alive today know the Malleus' true founder was a man named Amborgio Baudolino, a clever provincial bishop with a line to the Pope. He convinced the Pope to set up the Malleus - and to think it was Paul's own idea. And, especially, Amborgio knew about vampires. He'd been slave to one for many years but had managed to break free and destroy it. His dearest wish was to ensure no other would have to suffer what he did, ever. He controled the Malleus from its outset, teaching the witch-hunters enough to find another vampire practically every time they went out. The vampires eventually learned how to hide from the, but they continued to fight, and still do. Originally, all members of the Shadow Congregation were monks and nuns, but in the 20th century the restrictions were relaxed - they were running a bit low on monks. Even lay members are now accepted, and they have contacts throughout world governments and police forces, so even though they lack jurisdiction, they often have the support of police officers and medical professionals. Their methods have not really changed much, though. They live ascetic lifestyles and devote themselves to prayer and meditation. They have nothing, really, but the hunt. They tend to stay in the company of other hunters, even non-Malleus ones - particularly Catholics. They are grim, vicious and ruthless. If an innocent must suffer or die...well, that's to be regretted. But the greater good is more important.

The Malleus Maleficarum has a deep understanding of the undead, though it has some key omissions. They know vampires have some kind of society of their own. They don't care about understanding it, since that doesn't help kill vampires except in the most general way. They know one faction is paternalistic and traditional, another radical, a third heretical Christians of some kind and a fourth worships Belial. That's about all they've got. They know crosses and holy water generally don't work, and they know vampires fear sunlight and fire. They know that vampire blood is addictive and can enslave you to a vampire. They don't know that vampire's blood can make you immortal in some circumstances. Baudolino knew that, which is why he kept it secret and excised any evidence of it fro mthe records. The truth is, Padre Ambrogio is still around, using his witch-hunters to get vampire blood for himself. He doesn't look a day over 60. Officially, he died in 1601. Unofficially, he still commands the Malleus, drinks vampire blood every few days - always a different vampire, always shortly before tha vampire dies. A handful of the Shadow Congregation know of him. Even fewer know of the Lucifuge. The handful who know of both will not speak of the meetings that Baudolino has with her once a decade. After vampires, the next target is Satanic magic. The Malleus has a large, detailed and occaisonally accurate bestiary of demons and devils. Warlocks earn their attention, at least a little. They don't strictly look for other kinds of monsters, but will destroy them as they find them. Their miraculous powers certainly seem to work opn anyone they point them at.

Stereotyes posted:

The Long Night : It's lamentable that so many who should be in the bosom of Mother Church have fallen into such grievous heresy. They don't trust us, but sometimes, the enemy of our enemy is the best ally we can have.
The Union : We're well aware of groups of perfectly ordinary people who band together for mutual defense. Some of them are good Catholics, who willingly help us if called upon, and even bring their friends. They're foot soldiers for the Lord. Sometimes, they're the best resource we have.
The Lucifuge : Documents describe a figure called the Lucifuge being active over the course of centuries. It's a hereditary title, evidently. She named herself after a Duke of Hell. But what puzzles me is why her agents should be so efficient at rooting out and destroying the very demons they should be worshiping. I am really rather curious. Problem is, the Cardinal has forbidden further investigation. It's most vexing.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : They don't think we know about them. But as long as some of them keep coming to confession, we'll know everything they do. Of course, violating the sanctity of the confessional is not something we do lightly. I hate doing it. Hate it. But...God demands it.

Within the Malleus are several unofficial orders. The Order of Saint Longinue was named after the original bearer of the Holy Lance. They know that some vampires venerate Saint Longinus, though not why or how, and it's no accident that they are the most dedicated and ruthless vampire hunters the Malleus has. The Order of Saint Amrbose, on the other hand, are scholars and detectives. They work slowly and methodically towards solutions, and often run into witches and sorcerers who have the information they need. It tends to cause conflict. The Brotherhood of Saint Athanasius are more militant - they prefer swift, violent solutions, and where the Ambrosians hit the books, the Athanasians break out the firebombs. They argue with each other constantly.

Status in the Malleus comes from defeating monsters, particularly vampires. At one dot, you're a member. You have access ot the Library of Benedictions and can buy Benediction merits. At three dots, you have respect among Catholics without needing to say anything about yourself. You get a dot of Status (The Church). At five dots, you have access to Church covvers, gaining three dots of Resources usable only for the Vigil.

You know they're tough because they have the SPIKIEST CROSS

Next time: This Machine Kills Vampire Terrorism

Task Force: VALKYRIE

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

In 1927, the US Army raided some coastal towns in Massachusetts. They no longer exist. The inhabitants are just gone. In 1947, an object crashed near an Air Force base in Roswell. Government agents came in to clean up. In November of 1963, JFK was assassinated, and the investigatin afterward was weirdly reluctant. In the 60s and 70s, the Zodiac Killer stalked California without ever being caught, but the killings stopped anyway. In August 1997, Princess Di died in a mysterious car crash. Conspiracy theorists want you to know that there is an agency behind it all. They don't know the truth. Task Force: VALKYRIE does. You thought the US government didn't know about monsters, didn't know secrets? Well, parts of it don't. But parts of it do.

It all started in 1865 under a man named Gordon West, the leader of a hastily made team of agents that failed to rescue Abraham Lincoln from a monster that no human could ever understand. For the good of the Union, they covered up the death, hired a liok-alike and then hired John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the look-alike before anyone could notice the difference. Ever since then, they have been protecting the US against supernatural beings and covering up the evidence. They operate outside the structure of the government because they must be kept secret. In 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reformed them into Task Force: VALKYRIE without the president's knowledge, having discovered that some prominent Nazis were allying with paranormal entities. Between June 1944 and April 1945, TFV joined Allied forces in Europe. Despite having little in the way of armaments, they captured and defeated a team of hermaphroditic Nazi magicians, two packs of werewolves, dozens of undead of various kinds and more vampires than anyone believed could possibly exist. Half of the time, these so-called extra-normal entities, or ENEs, weren't fighting for Hitler - or anyone but themselves. Didn't matter. They were a threat, and TFV's troops weren't about to let them go just because they didn't heil.

After Roswell, an early triumph of VALKYRIE's disinformation teams, TFV manated to disappear. They protect the USA from extranormal forces, but only a handful of top government men know they exist. The President isn't one of those men. They are the Men in Black, the Special Forces operatives who vanish people into black helicopters, the conspiracy theories made real. They are the conspiracy that keeps the US in blissful ignorance...or so they like to think. Truth is, they're a government agency. They suffer from nepotism and incompetence like any other agency. Sometiems that incompetence is at a level that endangers their own agents - their intel boys are sometimes just as bad as the laziest CIA operative who gets his intelligence from watching the news. They have a wide knowledgebase on ENEs, but there's far more red tape and clearances to get to it than anyone reasonably wants to deal with. And, of course, there's the budget. Obviously it's a black budget, but that means there are some problems. Their budget's a fraction of, say, the ATF's - nowhere even near the FBI's. It's not entirely clear how they afford the black helicopters or the enormous Arizona underground complex, or the R&D department. (New Mexico? Disinformation site. Like a movie set.)

Perhaps more strangely, given their mission statement of protecting citizens, why does so much fieldwork come down to observation and kidnap of ENEs rather than just putting them down? Why does it have so many ENEs stored in an underground prison? Why do field agents who get close to certain information get reassigned without warning? There could be something else going on. TFV's always had a mysterious history, and it could be all a fabrication. It could be a lie or a cover. Agents don't need to know everything, do they? But hey, maybe it's not a conspiracy. Maybe the agency's just compromised by the monsters it hunts. Or maybe it's all just paranoia.

Task Force: VALKYRIE has a solid procedure for most ENEs - you report, observe, assess, report, then neutralize or call for backup. Few agents stick to procedure in the field - a werewolf who realizes he's being observed isn't going to wait for you to report back in and call up the ladder. Sure, the strict cell-based structure of the agency may technically require you to get approval from the chain of command before you break out the advanced technological weapons, but often, agents just fire 'em off and exploit the mysteriously limitless budget. Of course, those who take things too lightly have been known to end up in offshore prisons with amnesia. TFV's got big guns, but it does have to balance their usage against keeping hte public in the dark about its existence - as well as everything else's.

Task Force: VALKYRIE is divided into several departments. No one actually knows how to join Containment or R&D - recruitment is closed, and no one knows how the people in those departments got there. But field agents can apply to join other parts of the agency. Project TWILIGHT focuses on the ENEs the agency classifies as P (for Para-human) and S (for social) - that is to say, monsters that are near or post-human and operate in covens, cults or other societies. TWILIGHT is mostly field agents and recognize that taking down one SP/ENE isn't enough to resolve the threat of their societies and conspiracies, so they often dedicate themselves to info gathering, deep cover and other such activities. Operation FORT, on the other hand, is more about extraterrestrial and extradimensional events. They study aliens, fairies, demons, ghosts and extradimensional beings. They are the least scientific of TFV's agents, and a lot of their playbook draws on folklore and religion. They're often nearly as weird as civilian conspiracy theorists. Operation ADAMSKI, its name taken from a hoaxer who believed he was in contact with Venusians, are the field agents who hide the existence of ENEs via disinformation spread among cranks. They're the ones who fake photographs and crappy alien autopsy footage, knowing that the people they deal with will make sure everyone believes they're crazy.

Stereotypes posted:

Network Zero : We've been monitoring Network Zero since late 2004. It doesn't pose a threat to our work - its efforts to publicize the existence of ENEs have been largely deniable. Several ADAMSKI operatives are on their case. We advise observation with a view to recruitment or instrumentalization of connected individuals.
The Union : Vigilantes have always been an inssue when dealing with ENEs, but in early 2002, we became aware of a vigilante organization with a recruitment base on the Internet. Politically, several prominent members are suspect. Files are available, should you wish to seem ore information. Some may be useful, however, inasmuch as they can save on valuable resurces in terms of finding ENEs, and can if necessary be given to the authorities for arrest, should collateral damage ensue.
The Cheiron Group : Project: TWILIGHT has been monitoring the activities of the Cheiron Group and its related consortia since 1986, when a number of VALKYRIE agents collided with a cadre of Cheiron Group employees on a routine clean-up operation. We were unable to capture them alive, but examinations of their bodies revealed unusual surgical modifications, apparently derived from ENE tissue. Efforts to infiltrate the Cheiron Group have been so far unsuccessful, but we persist in our efforts.
Malleus Maleficarum : We gained incontrovertible proof of the existence of a dedicated ENE-hunting wing within the Catholic Church in late 1944. It's efficient, well funded and supported by both the worldwide hierarchy of the Church and the communities in which its divisions temporarily base themselves. We would prefer that the Church does not know of our existence. Agents are advised to avoid likely operatives of this organization, since they pose a threat, and cannot easily be disposed of without gaining unwelcome attention.

Status in VALYKRIE is weird, much like in any government organization. Nepotism is just as important as merit. At one dot, you're a new recruit with an RFID chip in your body allowing you to operate VALYKRIE's advanced armor. You don't get the best guns or any backup, you don't get told what you're doing and you get the shit jobs. But hey, Advanced Armory merits! At three dots, you're up in the ranks for one reason or another, and you can call in backup - two dots wirth of Allies. Still, better show results when you do. At five dots, you're too valuable for most field missions, but when you go, you get the best guns, the best cars and the best backup. You can call on other agencies for help if needed, gaining three dots of Contacts. Also, you know who killed JFK and who was really in the car with Princess Di.

So, let's talk Endowments. Most Hunters are not supernaturali n any way. Even conspiracies lack access to all the superhuman abilities that monsters often have. However, they are armed with tools that are not unlike the supernatural powers that monsters get. Task Force: VALKYRIE has the Advanced Armory . They do not trust magical rituals or biomodification - they have the US Armed Forces supplying them with cutting edge tech and advanced weaponry to get an edge over the things they hunt. They take security seriously - you need a small RFID chip to operate most Advanced Armory devices. OTherwise, they lock. This keeps them out of the hands of rogue hunters and enemy forces...but it can lead to tragic losses, like the time a streak team in Canada was wiped out tcompletely after a witch cast a spell that disrupted electronic communications. Their weapons shut down due to no longer receiving RFID signals. Oops. VALKYRIE also expects detailed after-action reports and information on how you used your tools. You decide to start selling 'em off and requisitioning replacements, well, keep in mind that these are the guys who run Vampire Gitmo.

Etheric Rounds (1 to 5 dots) are top secret bullets bombarded with a cocktail of exotic particles, infusing them with strange psuedo-physical properties. They come in clear plastic magazines in every caliber and style on the market, and they glow faintly blue from the tips. When fired, the light becomes as bright as a tracer round, so good luck hiding it. In fact, the light consumes the bullet, converting them into what VALKYRIE scientists believe is an undiscovered fifth state of matter. What's it do? Your bullets can hit ghosts, spirits and other incorporeal beings as if they were physical. The guns don't count as blessed items, but they hit. Unfortunately, they are less accurate than normal against corporeal targets - psuedo-etheric harmonics just don't work well on living tissue. Unlike most VALKYRIE weapons, Etheric Rounds do not require a TFV chip.

Many of the critters TFV hunts are unusually sensitive to psychic phenomena, particularly witches. That's why the Witch Buster (1 dot) was developed. Witches are some of the hardest things to ID, you see, so they made a psychic booby trap. Official rules of engagement say that these tools are to flush out known quarry gone to ground, but field teams often engage in what is known either as wizard baiting or fishing for Potters - setting up a witch buster in public but discreet locations, then monitoring whoever shows up. Ever since a cell in Glasgow went off the reservation in 98 and started killing everyone that poked at the thing, this tactic is now explicitly forbidden by the brass. The tool's about the size and shape of a hockey puck with sticky adhesive on it. It runs on a normal cell phone battery, but leaks etheric energy - theoretically not enough to harm anything, though some agents swear up and down that it can, but it'll trigger anyone who has Unseen Senses related to ghosts, spirits or Twilight events. (All mages can sense pretty much any kind of supernatural event.) The batteries last eight hours or so before they need recharging, but with some technical knowhow you can tap them into the grid of the building they're mounted in, so they'll work as long as the power's stable.

Etheric Goggles (2 or 4 dots) were developed because ghosts, demons and some witches are able to turn invisible or astrally project. So can some vampires. They operate on the same principle as etheric trackers, using chemically treated lenses to detect entities in Twilight. They stopped being standard issue in the early 2000s after a rash of psychocis in agents who used them too much. They look a lot like bulky night vision goggles, and function quite well as night-vision goggles, too, until you push the purple lenses over the IR light source on the brow. This renders all local incorporeal beings as visible as physical ones, at the cost of making the actual physical world harder to see. There's also a more advanced model that can trace etheric disturbances left by these beings as they pass, seeing a faintly luminescent purple cloud trail that can track the entities for a short period after they leave. The goggles have a battery life of six hours as night vision tools or three hours when viewing Twilight things.

The Bleeder (2 dots) looks like a jackhammer with a satellite dish instead of a drill bit. They're new, 'crowd-safe' weapons designed to target supernatural threats - specifically, vampires - without harming bystandars. They're just now being field-tested. They fire microbursts of energy in tight beams, which react violently to vampiric blood, causing it to evacuate vampiric bodies, often violently. No one fully understands why. Lab tests have recorded results ranging from minor leakage of the tear ducts to blood vomit to blood spraying out the pores in a fine mist. The weapon presents minimal threat to humans and animals, due to their lack of vampire blood. (Mostly.) It can be field-modified to work on other supernatural energy sources, but not very reliably. When fired at critters or people without the appropriate energy source, the weapon causes intense headaches often small nosebleeds.

Equalizer Grenades (3 dots) are designed to deal with those monsters that hide in human skin. Studies on various monsters revealed that when they change shape, no matter how, a surge of erratic brain activity in the sensory cortex immediately precedes the change. VALKYRIE's scientists believe that this is the brain trying to process the sensory overload of transformation, but even their vivisections have not given conclusive answers. The grenades operate on the same principle that causes certain bright light patterns to induce seizures. It pulses in a way that causes focused microseizure of the parts of the brain that govern shapeshifting. Harmless to humans - and in fact anything not trying to transform. However, it fills those neural channels with a sort of white noise that blocks transformation of most shapeshifters near it when it goes off. Doesn't matter how they shapehsift - werewolves, magic spells, possession victims warped by demons. Undead targets, though, are resistant. Each grenade works only once - the lights involved require such intensity that the battery is melted to slag.

The Gungnir Multi-Function Targeting System (3 or 4 dots) is both loved and hated by VALKYRIE field teams. It is integrated directly into standard guns - SMGs and assault rifles, mainly - and is the top brass' new initiative for the future of the agency in improving target identification and avoiding collateral damage. Unfortunately, 'target' doesn't always mean 'guy trying to kill me,' and the thing doesn't stop the bad guys from shooting bystanders - just TFV agents. See, the Gungnir scope works as a combination night vision, thermal image and Kirlian camera - you can use it in pitch dark and it can easily tell most monsters from humans. Bampires are below human temperature, werewolves and other shapeshifters run hot, and most witches, psychics and possessed have unusual Kirlian auras. You can even get an etheric goggle built in to deal with ghosts and spirits. An LED overlay tags any ENEs with their official TFV designation. On top of that, it's an amazing targeting system at range and in the dark. The problem is that it's tied to a fire control computer that recognizes the signatures of all recorded supernatural critters. If it's pointed at anything that doesn't fit a target profile, the gun will not fire. In theory, this means you can't accidentally shoot bystanders. In practice, it won't fire on the mortal servants of monsters, cultists, serial killers and occasional inanimate objects. For example, a cell in the Gulf War was wiped out by Arabian undead due to the desert sun baking the walls of their lair to a temperature close to that of the human body - the guns locked up, assuming the hunters were surrounded by innocent bystanders. You can field modify them to strip out the saftey controls if you know computer hardware, but this risks court martial at the least.

Everyone knows that vampires are weak to the sun, along with stakes, crosses and garlic. (Never mind that the last two are bullshit.) The Victim-Detonated Sun Bomb, or VDSB (3 dots), was developed in an attempt to harness sunlight, though scientists are still unsure what exactly causes the problem for vampires. It's an explosive tied to an IR sensor and thermal imager - when an object with core temperature less than 94 degrees Fahrenheit breaks the IR beam, it triggers. The thing looks like a satchel charge, but it's full of phospherescent lights and focusing mirrors that makes a blinding flash that is electromagnetically identical to sunlight. It doesn't actually harm vampires, but does trigger panic reactions in their brains. Arming the thing's easy enough, but it needs to be hidden, too, and that's trickier. Disarming it again is also dificult, and you only have four minutes to do it before it detonates - and while sunlight might not hurt you, it can still stun you. One use only before a refit - the flash burns out the light sources, you see. Still, easy enough to refit if you can get lights from a local pet store.

Monsters are hard to track - they're very good at getting away. You can't find 'em, you can't tag and bag. That's what an etheric tracker (4 dots) is for. It's a small tag bombarded by those same exotic particles that make the etheric bullets work. You load the tag in the accompanying pellet gun, and it gets embedded in your target's skin. Pellet's about the size of a grain of sand, and very hard to notice even when it hits - feels like a bug bite. The second part of the tracker is a handheld scanner which reads the psuedo-etheric radiation the thing goves off and tracks it on an LCD screen. Early models only showed direction and distance, but current field models have a gPS locator and street map integration. It can even follow critters that go invisible and intangible, thanks to the etheric signature rather than radio tracking. Likewise, it can anchor itself even in ghosts and spirits. It can't track anything that fully leaves this plane of existence, but TFV researchers are working on that. Effective range is half a mile, but no physical obstruction can block it. The resonance fades on the tracker after 24 hours, though. (Trackers in the gun magazine look like blue sand, and the ammo's basically unlimited.)

Sometimes, TFV gets surviving witnesses. They ask questions. This is what Munin Serum (4 dots) is for - or, as agents call it, Brain-O or memery cleanser. It's a cocktail of various psychadelics, narcotics and memory inhibitors that suppresses the last six hours of memory when applied. It can be addictive, cause illness and, in sufficient quantity, kill. New recruits are often frightened with stories of agents injecting themselves with the stuff to forget what they've seen, only to end up cancer-ravaged addicts chasing a high they can never remember. It's applied by injection into the spinal column, just below the cervical vertebrae. It's very painful, so best to sedate your subject first. You can control the dosage to erase 1 to 6 hours of memor y, but use it too much in one week and it's deadly poison - and quite addictive if you don't OD.

But you want the big guns - and for TFV, that means the Mjolnir Cannon (4 or 5 dots). Everyone loves a ray gun. Sure, it doesn't actually shoot killing lasers, but it can take out rioters safely as well as monsters. It looks like a bulky assault rifle, and it fires off an intense, high-frequency ionizing laser, which creates a channel for conductive plasma. It then charges that channel with electricity. So...lightning gun. It can be set to various nonlethal settings or a lethally high energy one. You can get a vehicle-mounted version, though it's rarely issued to urban teams. It works even more dangerously than the smaller kind. Small gun's got 16 shots, though more damaging settings eat power faster. The big one? 50 shots, but it has even bigger settings to eat even more power. Don't use it in a thunderstorm, though - the plasma channel attracts lightning, and it leads right back to you.

Next time: Say two Our Fathers and one magic healing prayer to Saint Luke.

Malleus Maleficarum Part 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The demon thing has been embraced - it's deliberate now. Shit just gets named by people and if that's confusing for people who aren't demons to deal with, well, we never said being a hunter was gonna be easy. It's not as though we don't call five completely different monsters vampires - and that's just from the Vampire clans! (Requiem spoilers: each clan is a different monster that acts pretty similarly - vampires just have a convergent evolution deal going on.)

Hunter: The Vigil

The Malleus Maleficarum are armed with ancient rites predating the Council of Nicea, drawn from secret invocations encoded in the New Testament. These Benedictions grant the Malleus the tools and weapons they need to fight Satan. Unlike the Armory, there's no dot levels - your Benediction dots are how good you are, and you can buy each Benediction seperately. You get one free for each dot you have. They work best if you perform them with overt shows of faith, are ordained and are doing them on the appropriate saint's feast day.

The Apostle's Teachings is a ritual developed based on the order of Jesus to his apostles, that they should spread the word not by forced conversion or by sermon, but by example. By invoking it, the Malleus can inspire others through their own good works. They must perform some important virtuous action as they do it, but when they do, they can invoke the Benediction to restore the willpower of their allies, inspiring them.

The Armor of Saint Martin was developed because people frown on civilians wearing riot gear. If you do it right, you get protected by mystical armor, which will stop practically any weapon. Doesn't work against anything that normally deals aggravated damage, though. Holy blessings can only do so much.

This is the part of the book where the art starts to get really hilarious.

The Epipodian Safeguard protects against more subtle servants of the Devil. You see, a lot of monsters can control minds. However, by invoking Saint Epipodius, the Malleus can guard against supernatural mind control. Not mental illusions or anything like that - just stuff that controls actions.

The Blessed Protection of Saint Agrippina is more about protecting a space. Y'see, sometimes you have to ensure that Satan's spawn don't overhear your battle plans. Saint Agrippina can create a safe place for you, warding it such that monsters cannot enter. It's one of the most common Benedictions out there, because of that. You can even customize the ward so that it only works on specific monsters. Makes the ward stronger, but it also limits it. You do need to physically mark the area you're blessing, also, and only structures - you can bless a house or car, but not a person. It lasts for a full day against all monsters or a week against a specific one. Mortal humans can remove the physical markers, destroying the ward, but monsters can't even touch them.

The Boon of Lazarus is the most amazing and most taxing rite that the Malleus have access to. It mirrors the greatest miracle of Christ - the resurrection of Lazarus from his tomb. And, yes, it resurrects the dead. You can only revive someone who's been dead for mere minutes, and it won't work on any supernatural being. It can't restore the undead to life, either. But it will fully heal whoever you resurrect - it won't replace any missing body parts, though, so you're SOL if your friend gets decapitated or chopped in half. Also, the spiritual effort of the miracle is extremely taxing on you...and it's imperfect. Whoever you bring back comes back...well, a little crazy. A lot crazy, really. The Malleus attributes this to the shock of witnessing the Kingdom of God, but darker rumors speak of those who have been raised repeatedly going completely mad, seeing the fiery Pit. Some kill themselves for good - and others become serial killers or worse.

The Fortitude of Saint George calls upon that saint for his endurance of torment and suffering, which convinced Empress Alexandra of Rome to convert to Christianity. The Malleus claim George as the first of their order in spirit, though not name. Some who use this ritual report feeling a presence watching and judging them. Most hold this to be the gaze of Saint George, but some have described it as more alien. In any case, what this does is grant the user inner strength, allowing them to take more punishment as well as go for days without food or sleep, though water is still needed. At the end of that period, they will fell into a deep, 12-hour sleep from which they cannot be awakened. And no, you can't use it more than once per 24 hours.

The Hands of Saint Luke is called upon to deal with the terrible wounds that many hunters suffer. It is a long and arduous process of prayer and laying on hands, but it will slowly and stadily close the wounds of the person it's used in - save for aggravated damage, which only sometimes gets healed. Physical contact must be maintained for the entire ritual, and it can't be used on yourself.

The Sanctification of the Blessed Virgin is used because there are some foes whom sword, gun and pure fire cannot harm. Ghosts, demons and other incorporeal beings need faith to defeat. What this does is make sometime into a blessed item, to allow it to harm those foes. It's usually temporary, but with great and taxing effort it can be made permanent.

The Shepherd's Blessing, meanwhile, is used to hide from the wolves of Satan, to better protect the flock. What that means is that it causes normal people to ignore you. They'll unconsciously acknowledge your presence, but will not see you or notice anything you do, no matter what, unless you perform some overtly hostile act, like shouting a threat or firing a gun. At that point, the Benediction will end. You will have constantly mutter prayers to keep it up, however.

The True Sight of Saint Abel is a tool the Malleus uses to cut through the shadows that Satan uses to hide his servants. Vampires can hide themselves, while werewolves and witches often leave their victims mad and amnesiac. With this, the Malleus grants true sight. It takes a while, but someone blessed by the ritual can see monsters for what they are, automatically knowing them even in their human guises. Any supernatural masking fails utterly - vampiric reflections are crystal clear, werewolves inspire no innate terror or amnesia, even witches' magic is easily remembered. This works even on recorded media - sure, the tape looks blurred to others, but you see it clear. Oh, and you see any incorporeal beings in Twilight as gauzy shadows. However, this will do nothing against active powers of stealth - just passive abilities innate to these creatures.

The Vade REtro Satana is vaguely familiar to anyone who's seen the Exorcist. It is, after all, an exorcism ritual. However, it is an older tie, an archaic one dating back to Saint Benedict, or so they claim. It is believed to have greater power than the Roman Ritual, and certainly it's capable of abjuring and casting out possessing spirits.

And last, there is the Wrathful Sword of Saint Michael the Archangel. He's general of the Heavenly Host and personally fought Lucifer during the War in Heaven. By his hand was Lucifer broken and thrown to Hell. Thus can the Malleus imbue an earthly weapon with the divine power to smite evil. A weapon so blessed glows with pure white light and deals aggravated damage to supernatural beings. Also, it counts as a blessed item. It'll work on any melee weapon, even improvised ones, but it's strictly temporary. Once the thing deals enough damage, it will shatter, overcome by the power placed in it. If the scene ends before that, the power just goes away and the weapon remains.

Look at that fucking thing! His wrench has a halo!

Next time: But that is nothing compared to the power of Satan.

Lucifuge Part 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

The Lucifuge draw on the blood of their infernal forefathers, calling on the powers of darkness - the rites of Castigation. They are quite potent, but the Lucifuge fear to use them too often, due to the risk of being seduced by darkness. They are right to do so - the dark power can corrupt even the strongest souls, driving them mad. Like Benediction, there's no dot cost for each rite - you get one per dot of Castigation you have. Unlike Benedictions, you can never have more than five, but you can learn rituals to reassign your Castigation dots.

According to the lore of the Lucifuge, when Lucifer was cast into Hell, it was a formless void, and only by his will was it transformed into an unholy city, binding the city's existence to Lucifer. It is part of him, and he is part of it. His mortal descendants carry some of that connection, and so they may use Calling For the Pit, forcing it to disgorge a demon into the world, or to swallow one up and drag it back to Hell. The Lucifuge can use this power to summon a random demon or a specific one they can name. Knowing the name of a demon also makes it easier to banish, and you can summon a named demon even if someone else has already summoned it. To open the Pit, however, the Lucifuge must give a blood sacrifice, either from themself or another intelligent being.

Descendents of Lucifer often attract Familiars - tiny, lesser demons. This can be willing or unwilling. The imps are drawn to the infernal spark of their blood and are compelled by its divine right to serve and obey. Some are willing, slavishly devoted to their masters. Others are reluctant, disgusted to see the children of Lucifer work to serve good but bound nonetheless by blood. Others are insidious - they pretend to loyalty but seek to corrupt their masters to evil. Familiars can be embodied or not - you pick when you learn the ritual, and must unlearn it to choose again. A disembodied or Twilight familiar is a spiritual entity, without a body of its own. These are also known as fetches. A fetch can manifest much as ghosts do, but they are otherwise invisible and intangible, having to use their dread powers to affect anything in the physical world except their master, who can see and touch them freely. They often leave subtle signs of their passing, though, such as the scent of brimstone or flickering shadows. They can take any shape imaginable, up to human size. Embodied familiars, on the other hand, take physical form - animals. Often cats, rats or bats. They tend to have unusually colored eyes and markings that reflect their master's appearance, which sometimes leads to the false belief that the Lucifuge can turn into animals. They tend to have one or two unnatural traits. If slain, the spirit within discorporates and returns to Hell, most of the time. Sometimes, however, they latch onto their master and leech off their soul, becoming an ethereal, disembodied familiar. Master and familiar have an empathic connection, automatically sensing each other's emotions, and they always understand each other, no matter what language they speak.

While Hell is a place of torment, it is also, say many philosophiues, the place where evil is scourged from the souls of sinners, so that they might pass on. The torments are not punishment, but encouragement to repentance, tailored to remind the damned of how they sinned. While it's a matter of debate whether any soul truly gets to escape Hell, the Lucifuge who have mastered the Gaze of the Penitent can draw on this affinity for sin to force guilt upon those whose gaze they meet. The Lucifuge must also have a piece of the target's body - blood, hair or something similar - unless they have witnessed the targe commit one of the deadly sins in the last 24 hgours. Those who suffer this gaze are visited by the imagined torments of Hell for their sins, suffering guilt so intense it makes their actions more difficult to perform.

Where would demonic power be without Hellfire? Hell, in Western culture, has always been associated with fire, and the Lucifuge are its masters, able to conjure the hellish flames of the Abyss. These flames can be unnatural-seeming or normal-looking, and may manifest however the Lucifuge desires - fiery eye beams, fire breath, fire from your plams, whatever. It deals damage as normal fire...unless the Lucifuge is willing to burn hot, taking a bit of aggravated damage themselves in order to deal aggravated damage.

Lucifer's blood also offers the gift of prophecy, Infernal Visions. It's a dubious gift at best - often the insights come in the form of terrible nightmares. Still, ancient truths are revealed in these dreams, finding answers to questions that the Lucifuge could not have known. The visions vary for each user, but they allow the Lucifuge to gain supernatural insights, gaining clues to practically anything - though often they are hidden by symbol and allegory, and rarely are the answers direct.

All of the Lucifuge, no matter how diluted, carry the blood royal of Hell, and with it they can use the Mandate of Hell. In doing so, they may dominate lesser demons to their will with but a word. This can be used in two ways. First, it can give a simple, one or two word command instantly. Second, it can give more complex orders, but to do so the demon to be commanded must by stationary, either of its own will or bound. More complex the command, the harder it is. Still, the demon must obey.

The wicked know their own - and so the Lucifuge have the Sense of the Unrighteous, for wickedness is in their blood. Sin calls to sin, and by meditating on their own sinful nature, the Lucifuge can sense the sins of others. Each experiences this differently - some smell sin, others see it as chains around the unrighteous, and others still feel a bitter taste on their tongues. The sinful and the wicked stand out to the user, however they sense it, and so does the lingering presence of terrible sins committed in the area in the past - the worse the sin, the longer it lingers.

The Lucifuge can call on the Shackles of Pandemonium to bind a demon to a place, trapping it in a ritual circle. The details of the circle vary by the user, but it takes a while to make no matter how. As long as it's intact, it can wait indefinitely for a demon to enter it. This could be a trap or prepared for a summoning, and it works even if you put a carpet over it. Some Lucifuge keep permanent circles, which are harder to break, though they still need to be ritually reset after a demon is released. A bound demon can only be released in three ways - first, the user can release it with a word. Second, the circle can be broken, but not by the demon trapped in it. Third, the Lucifuge chooses a method that will free the demon and must tell at least two other entities within an hour of the binding. One of those two can be the demon, but it doesn't have to be. If the condition is a task the demon can perform, it must be possible within the circle.

Once, the stories say, all men spoke the same language - the Tongue of Babel. But then, they built a tower to the heavens, and God threw it down, cursing them to speak a multitude of tongues. The Lucifuge believe this tower was Lucifer's idea. True or no, they can speak that ancient tongue. As long as they know the power, they may speak and understand every language on Earth - or, rather, they speak the ancient tongue of the tower-builders, which racial memory and demonic blood cause listeners to hear in a language they understand - even if you talk to multiple people who share no common language. Each will understand you, and you'll understand them. This doesn't work with code or ciphers, and it doesn't provide literacy, just speech. You can't solve this by reading phonetically, either - you need to hear someone who understands what they're saying. Also, it grants no facility with mystic languages, such as the tongue of spirits or the magical language some witches use.

Next time: Have you ever killed a vampire...ON WEED?

Ascending Ones Part 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

The Ascending Ones do not use occult powers or science - they use alchemy. They imbibe potions and breath incense, they inject narcotics. In doing so, they gain the full power of the human body and mind to make war on monsters. These Elixirs are virulent poisons, most of the time, and usually in part made out of drugs. It is the will of the Ascending Ones that transform the Elixirs into power.

The Crocodile Tears potion (one dot) draws its name from the folkloric belief that crocodiles weep and feign helplessness to lure in prey, then strike. A show of weakness is more potent than a show of strength, sometimes. Crocodile Tears is a thick, jellylike liquid that tastes of lemon and almond. Once drunk, the Ascending One grows pale and shaky, seeming emaciated and ill. Marijuana is involved in its manufacture. Why would you use it? Because monsters like to target the weak - you're the bait. You're not actually weak, though the tightened skin can hamper movement a little bit.

The Eye of Ra (one dot) is named because the god Ra sees all. It is a sacred sandalwood oil infused with spices, herbs, heroin and kohl. When anointed with it, the Ascending Ones gain a measure of divine perception, sharpening their senses to what is hidden. Traditionally, one employs it by dabbing around the eye in the shape known as the eye of Horus, though Muslim Ascending Ones tend to refer to it as the Eye of Jibril and not bother drawing any shapes.

Hunters must undertake actions, in their war, that many would call evil. These acts weigh on the soul, but with the Breath of Ma'at (2 dots), the Ascending Ones have a refuge. Ma'at is the Egyptian goddess of truth and divine justice, who forgives sin. The Breath of Ma'at is a soothing incense made touched with alcohol, which helps give peace to the users, assisting them in mental recovery from the trauma of evil acts. Some Muslims refer to it as the Mercy of Allah and replace the meditation involved with Muslim prayers, attributing the forgiveness to Allah.

The Elixir of the Fiery Heart (2 dots) is a source of courage, for many monsters are capable of filling the soul with supernatural fear. Even the strongest can be terrified by this onslaught, but with this elixir, they need not be. It tastes of potent liqour, but instead of becoming tipsy, the drinker feels a clinical disconnect from self-preservation, rendering them fearless...if also rpone to acting rashly.

The Bennu-Bird Feather (3 dots) is supposedly plucked from the tail of an Egyptian phoenix. Certainly it's a feather. It might be from a Bennu-bird - perhaps the Ascending Ones know where to find them - or it might be from the Goliath Heron, a rare bird of the Red Sea. Still hard to get but maybe not impossible. Either way, you grind it up with herbs and opiates, creating a gooey paste that accelrates healing. When smeared over a wound, it will heal the injury. It smells of cardamom and willowbark, quite sharply.

A Glimpse of After (3 dots) is based on the drugs used by the ancient Hashshashin assassins, which made them feel as though they were dying. When given an antidote, they would awake in a beautiful garden, greeted by the master of their Order, then were "sent back to Earth" as loyal soldiers. They would have to complete their missions to return to "Paradise", and so they were fanatics. The elixir is a clear, slightly-cinnamon-flavored drink made with amounts of heroin involved. It fills the mind with visions of a heavenly afterlife, unique to each user, driving away pain and injury and allowing even the most wounded to fight as though they were fully healthy.

The Ascending Ones brew psychotropic hallucinogens to use in the Mind-Talking Drug (3 dots). It's better than relying on radios or hand-signals. You inject it into the base of the neck, deal with some hallucinations for afew minutes and then become able to read surface thoughts and project your thoughts into the minds of others. Yeah. Telepathy drugs. Handy!

The legends about dragons were not originally about fire breath - it was poisonous gas. The Breath of the Dragon (4 dots) derives from these legends, brewed from poison and cocaine. It is a fine, crystalline powder that must be inhaled - either smoked or via inhaler. The user then expels a cloud of deadly poison from their mouth, large enough to catch a victim in close combat range.

Sometimes, a hunter must walk unseen. Monsters only reveal their wickedness and weakness in secret. With Amun's Water (4 dots), this is possible. When drunk, it veils the user from sight, rendering them invisible. This is not a trick of the mind - even infrared tripwires and cameras will not see the user. The invisibility, however, is broken by any hostile action. The drug is a deep blue liquid, rather like ink, brewed from deadly nightshade, hallucinogens and adder venom. It is cloyingly sweet and bitterly cold when drunk.

"We want you to draw a guy breathing poison gas at someone. Not fire." "Fire, you say? Okay!"

The Incense of the Next World (4 dots) is part of the proof that the AScending Ones have that this world is not the only one. The mortal world is but an island in a vast sea of worlds, and with the right incense, you can visit the incorporeal world of spirits. It has a strong, primal musk, smelling of sweat, sex and animal skins. When burned, the smoke is deep blue and tends to form strange symbols briefly. When breathed in, it frees the mind of the body, allowing to travel to distant locations, as incorporeal and invisible as any ghost. You will feel any pain or tampering on your body while gone, but it takes a moment to return to it.

The serpent has been many things in symbolism, and for the AScending Ones, it means vampires. Those who slay them are Serpent Chasers. The Blood of the Cobra (5 dots) is a mix of cobra venom, hashish, cocaine and other ingredients, injected into the vein - usually the inner arm. It improves the user's strength and speed, and it turns their blood into a highly toxic poison to anyone that drinks it - vampire or human.

Society always warns of the danger of drugs - governments, religions and more. But most drugs cannot do what the Mesmeric Vapors (5 dots) can - render a victim into a puppet. Unsmoked, they resemble loose tobacco. The scent is a bit sweeter and often hints at strange aromas. It's also laced with opium. When smoked, the smoke is a pale gold that hangs unnaturally heavily in the air. The AScending Ones conver the smoke to a psychotropic drug, which another must inhale. (They learn special breathing exercises to avoid inhaling it themselves.) Anyone in close combat range could be the target, and if they breathe it, the become calm, sedate and relaxed...and most importantly, highly suggestible. This lasts ten minutes, in which they mayb e given complex instructions, which can be left as posthypnotic orders for later. The more steps an order takes, the harder it is to give. You choose what the trigger is, if there is one. When it triggers, the hypnotic state returns, and the victim will ignore or respond only as much as necessary to anything not related to the orders, often behaving as if stoned. Once the command is done, the effect ends.

Next time: What's in the magic box?

Aegis Kai Doru Part 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

The Aegis Kai Doru have collected many, many relics and trinkets over the centuries. Some are harmless, useless toys - in Naples, they have an intricate clockwork man that can play chess. A real one, I mean. Under Manhattan, they have a stolen statue that used to be on a college camus, which silently salutes whenever a virgin passes by it. Other relics are so dangerous that they can only be sealed away forever. Deep under Russia, in a cave that is geologically impossible, three men stand guard over a crude stone altar which beats like a heart. They must be men - no one will talk about what happened last time a woman even entered the cave. In Morocco, therei s a church that is on no map and in no guide. If you go without an invitation, the last thing you see before you are stabbed to death will be a mummified head on a cushion, sitting on the altar, which will turn to look at you as you die. Between these two categories are the Relics gifted to the field agents of the Aegis Kai Doru. They're both tool and status symbol, proof of the trust an agent holds, and so losing one is shameful indeed - as bad as a betrayal. Some commit suicide rather than face their peers after a relic is lost another hunter or, worse, a witch. The Aegis hunts thieves relentlessly, spending millions of dollars and years of lives to track them down. Recovery is the primary objective, but no one will lose any sleep over a dead thief. Unlike many Endowments, anyone can use a Relic, if they know how to activate it.

The One-Eyed Kings (one dot) are ancient, verdigris-coated copper coins, so worn as to be nearly indistinguishable from discs. Only the faint image of a king on one side can be made out - vaguely Greek, but also vaguely Babylonian. The king is missing one eye, but that could be wear and tear. They always come in apirs - one is missing the left eye, the other the right. There are hundreds of these coin pairs in the Aegis storehouses, all with the same properties. Attempts to date the metal has been wildly unsuccesful - some tests read as 9000 years old, some just under 200. When the coin missing the left eye is placed on the knuckles of the right hand and then pressed on the left eye, it grants the user the power to see anything happening in the area of the other coin, as seen roughly as though standing adjacent to the coin. If that's in a wizard's pocket, say, you see things as though standing next to the wizard. You can't change the view - it's always the same angle and position until the right eye coin is moved. You cannot hear, smell, touch or taste the vision - it's all visual, and it's only one-way. If you try to use the other coin this way, all you see is a brief, terrifying glimpse of a vast gulf of nothingness, in which things that are not things gibber for your soul. Don't do that. It'll drive you temporarily insane. Oh, and if you have only one of the pair and put it on your eyelid as you go to sleep, you will find the other on your other eyelid when you awaken.

It is said that no lock can bar Death - for all doors, Death has a key. The Skeleton Key (one dot) may not be Death's literal key, but it does open doors and pass obstacles. It is a small, silver key in an archaic style, long tarnished. The teeth are grooved in a way that suggests human teeth, and the bow is an intricately detailed model of a human skull, with tiny sapphire flecks in the eye sockets. No matter what, it is always cold to the touch. It fits any lock that uses an actual key, regardless of design or type. It won't beat cardkey locks, though, or coded ones, or any security defices. When you put it in and turn it, it will open the door automatically, and if you leave it in the door until it's closed again, the door will automatically relock itself and have no sign of having been opened - even resetting tamper-detection methods like a piece of tape between door and frame. This will not unbar doors or beat anything securing them shut, just locks. It can, however, defeat magical seals and wards tha thold a door shut. Occasionally, when used improperly, it will instead open a door to a somewhere... unintended .

Religious relics have always been important. The Catholics hold many of them, as do other religious organizations, but the Aegis has found several with magic powers. The Blood of Pope Joan (2 dots) is said to come from the only woman ever to be Pope - the legend is she disguised herself as a man and was Pope for two years in the late 11th century before being discovered, dragged through the street and stoned. The Aegis scholars claim the blood could be menstrual or perhaps from her execution. Others claim that the blood was found when she was discovered to be a woman due to a pregnancy and a birth - and that the blood is that of her infant son. Whatever the case, the blood is a blessed item that also makes it more difficult for werewolves to act against the bearer, due to mystic ties to the moon - it supernaturally repels the spiritual element of werewolves in the same way two magnets might repel each other.

The Eye of Hubris (2 dots) is a quartz crystal the size of a tennis ball, shaped like a human eye. Its depths hold strange colors, suggesting an iris and pupil. It has no active effect that anyone can figure out, save that its mere presence sends spells awry and angers witches. Activating this ability causes the user to go blind in one eye temporarily, but any obviously magical power used in its vicinity is penalized for the same duration.

The Icarine Servitor (2 dots) appears to be a crude, doll-sized mannequin of wax with rudimentary wings made out of sticks tied with string. If it is anointed with a dab of honey and has a feather stuck to its head, it will come to life. It will melt in heat, but it can be a useful spy or assassin. It is bright enough to follow moderately complex orders. It can't communicate, but can recognize anything its user recognizes on sight and can report anything it sees via a quasi-visual link. It can't really fight, but it can slip poison into drinks or cut brake lines if given the right tools. It takes aggravated damage from any fire, no matter how small, and if destroyed by fire it melts into useless goo and string, unable to be reanimated. Any other means can be reapired with relative ease. An Icarine Servitor remains active until the next dawn or sunset, whichever is first. Unless given explicit orders otherwise, it will attempt to return to its user before then. With an internal effort, the user may extand its animate period until the next dawn or sunset, but doing so continually causes erratic behavior. One hunter, thinking to use it as a constant bodyguard, kept one active for a week straight. On the seventh night he died. Police reports said gas leakage.

When a truly enlightened Buddhist master dies and the body is burned, sometimes a small, pearl-like stone is found the ashes - a Ringsel (3 dots). These are said to be the physical embodiment of the master's wisdom and enlightenment. Most are enshrined for pilgrims to venerate, but the Aegis Kai Doru has stolen a number of them. They are said to bring peace and wisdom to those who hold them...and more importantl to the Aegis, to heal wounds. By meditating with one, the user may close their own wounds or resist the madness that can come from traumatic experiences. However, the healing gift can be used only once each day, and any traumatic experience so resisted will taint the Ringsel blue-black and then destroy it.

According to the occult lore of Indonesia, the keris dagger is as much a living thing as a weapon. EAch blade has a soul, for good or evil, and stories abound of weapons leaping from their sheathes to slay hidden foes, or to turn on dishonorable masters. The Watchful Keris (3 dots) is not so potent as, say, the famous Taming Sari keris, which rendered the wielder indestructible, but it's still quite handy. It's wavy-bladed dagger, about a foot long and inlaid with gold and jade depictions of a watchful serpent along the blade. The curved pistol grip and sheath are both carved from mammoth tooth, cut to show the dentine patterns in the tooth. The grip is smooth from use but always comfortable in the hand, and the user will often find themself fresting a hand on it or stroking it. Occasionally, it seems to shudder. It is a good, deadly knife, and as long as it's worn, its owner is faster in combat and, when surprised, can still take an action - but that action must be to attack with the keris. It will appear inexplicably in their hand, as if it leapt there. It takes a concerted effort to not attack with the knife, if for some reason you don't want to.

The Heart of Stone (4 dots) is a lumpy, glassy rock about the size of a man's fist. Alone, it's harmless and inert. Its true nature is apparent only once hooked up to a sizable source of electricity - a car battery, say. Once you get the current running, it turns into a beating human heart. It takes a few days to get going, but once it does, it makes its victim's life hell. Whatever it's hooked up to becomes the target of envious desire. After a while, that turns into ugly greed. Tempers grow short, and some fly into rages. After a while, the thing begins to attract...well...things. The Aegis Kai Doru call them erinyes, and they seem to be drawn to those who have been in prolonged contact with the heart. As long as the heart is active and not in its user's posession, the user becomes fixated on it to the point of madness. Still, it's usually used as a booby trap on some foe, tucked away somewhere in, say, their car or boat. For the first 24 hours, nothing bad happens - the victim actually gets some social benefits from owning whatever the heart is hooked to. Vampires, werewolves and other monsters prone to fits of rage find it harder to resist if the Heart's victim is the instigator. On the second day, the social benefits reverse themselves, as people become jealous and irrationally suspect the victim. Both the rage and the social penalties get worse each day, to a maximum of five days. On the sixth day, people begin to act on their suspicions - even law-abiding citizens may commit crimes against the victim or try to get them arrested or worse. On the seventh day, the monsters begin to arrive from the shadows. No one knows where they come from, and they don't seem to know the Heart is what called them - but they unerringly sense anyone who's been spending a lot of time near it, usually the victim and their family. They vary widely in appearance, but usually resemble small gargoyles or chimeras, though there are reports of one Heart that drew in tiny humanoid figures made of mismatched animal corpses, each wearing period costume. The creatures vanish immediately the moment the Heart is cut off from its current, as do all penalties. Sometimes, the erinyes leave behind small stone or wooden bodies, which the Aegis has standing orders to collect, because they may be relics in their own right.

The Witch-Candle (4 dots) is not actually a candle - it's a pewter candlestick carved with gargoyles. By itself, it has no inherent magic. Placing a candle in it, however, and anointing it with the hunter's blood before lighting primes its magic. There is no immediate effect, however, save for some flickering shadows that make the carvings appear to move in a disturbingly lifelike way. Magic must be done in its presence, because the Witch-Candle feeds on magic, particularly witchcraft. When a sorcerer performs a spell in any area the candle's light touches, the gargoyles come to life and slither off the candlestick. They are drawn to the caster and will attack unceasingly until they or the wizard is dead. The more potent the spell, the more gargoyles come forth and the more potent they are. If the candle is put out, the gargoyles immediately return toe the candlestick. Any destroyed gargoyle melts into foul ooze that quickly evaporates, leaving only a black stain. They reappear as carvings 24 hours later. Other supernatural powers can awaken the gargoyles, but only half as efficiently as witchcraft. There are never more than four active garogyles at any time.

The Aegis in Greek myth was the shield of Zeus, an indestructible goatskin buckler on which was mounted the head of Medusa. The Aegis Talisman (5 dots) is a silver amulet the size of a spread hand with the likeness of a gorgon's face embossed on it and a ring of snakes around the rim. It is a protective talisman against both physical and magical attack, and if invoked, it can paralyze a foe with terror. These are quite rare, and given only to the best operatives. Anyone holding or wearing one next to the skin gains armor against both physical and magical attack. By bandishing it, the user can paralyze a foe with fear for several seconds.

The Dead Man's Face (5 dots) is a mask apparently made of expertly flayed and cured skin - the skin of a human face. The thing is so old that its gender and race are impossible to determine - it's just a dried-up, brownish-tan mess. When placed over the face of a recently slain corpse, it forces some amount of life into the body - not a resurrection of the dead, and not a summoning of the ghost, as far as the Aegis can tell, but it works. However, using the relic gives a temporary mad obsession with death and the dead. To activate it requires a prayer to Hades, but once it works, the corpse can speak andm ove its head, though the rest of it cannot move. Rumor suggests the Aegis possesses similar relics that can animate hands or entire bodies. The 'resurrection' lasts only a few minutes, and the corpse speaks slowly, though it can answer reasonably complex questions.

The Doru Talisman (5 dots) is the counterpart of the Aegis Talisman - a rare and potent relic that is a status symbol within the Aegis. Few are ever given it, and no more than ten in history have ever held both talismans. The talisman is an intricate representation in pure silver of a doru, a Greek hoplite's spear. It is four inches loing, with a small hole bored in it for a chain. In dim light, it sometimes shines red. When gripped in the hand, it may be used as a potent weapon, striking out at anyone within ten yards when the wielder mimes a thrust of the spear. It need not touch the victim if aimed properly - the wounds just appear as though the victim was stabbed with a real spear.

Next time: I really, really didn't ask for this.

Cheiron Group Part 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

The way the Cheiron Group empowers its agents is simple: take parts of monsters and put them in the agents' bodies. Few of these agents are entirely comfortable with the things that have been grafted to them. Getting them requires a lengthy and invasive surgery, as does taking them out. It tends to be exceptionally painful when not done under anaesthesia - something occasonaly required in the field when things go bad or when someone desperately needs to try an untested monster organ in a life-or-death siege. This is Thaumetechnology.

The Anger Patch (one dot) is a small patch of dead man's skin, grafted on at the base of the neck. Precisely one inch square and wired with twice the number of nerve endings that area usually has, plus hooked directly into your bloodstream, which it feeds on. What you get in return? It hates. See, it's vampire skin. Vampires have, in Cheiron studies, been shown to exhibit instinctive territorial aggression on an unnatural scale, and that can be harnessed. The Anger Patch detects vampires, because whenever they spot one, the patch writhes irritably, as though experiencing muscle spasm. Even just a faint glimpse across a crowded room is enough, and the patch makes you instinctively aware of who the vampires are, for just long enough to be very hard to miss. There's two catches, though. First, it only works once for a given user and a given vampire. For some reason the Cheiron scientists haven't been able to get the sensitivity of the neural connections good enough to detect secondary reactions. Second, vampires just don't like you - you get a social penalty with them for reasons they can't quite figure out. Rumor has it that similar devices exist for werewolves, zombies and other beings. If they do, it'd function the same way, but it really doesn't bear thinking about how they'd be made or what of.

Hunters know that some of the best advice is to never be unarmed. The Weapon of Last Resort (1 or 2 dots) is a great way to do that - lots of monsters have claws or fangs or similar things. Get them implanted in your fingertips or your mouth and you have a weapon built in - and a great way to mess up bodies in such a way as to avoid being suspected. You get either a claw or bite, though a bite requires grappling before you can use it. The claw is less damaging, though. For two dots, you get both. They're pretty easy to keep concealed, too.

You can do a lot to the human eye - corneal transplants work great, you can tie cameras into the optic nerve, you can shoot lasers at 'em to get perfect vision. And Cherion? They give you Devil's Eyes (2 dots). Literally. Transplanting an entire eyeball is a new field for Cheiron, and these are the early prototypes. Before implantation, they resemble golden, multifaceted orbs, rather like insect eyes. Once in the skull, they become indistinguishable from the patient's natural eyes, and they always have perfect vision. They aren't really biologically eyes, and they don't perceive the world the way humans do, so they require a tiny computer interface chip between the Eye and the optic nerve, which processes the visual information out of the Eyes' perception, filtering out extraneous data that humans can't see. The result gives the world a kind of flat, artificial look, as though it were a badly retouched photo. By squeezing the eyes shut and rolling them in the right way, the chip can be temporarily disnegaged, allowing the agent to receive the full, unfiltered spectrum. While active, the Eyes can pereceive emotional auras around others and reveal supernatural influences. This can be very disorienting, however.

The official designation of Lover's Lips (2 dots) is actually Eros' Caress - they're not lips. They're manufactured venom sacs, rather snakelike, made via synthetic skin technology and a little bit of something harvested from vampire circulatory systems. You fill it with a few cc's of blood, implant under the jaw next to the salivary glind and wait. When the user massages just behind the jaw and below the ears, the blood, partially transformed by vampiric tissue, squirts into the mouth. It tastes disgusting, but when someone else tastes, usually via a kiss, they suddenly become very, very fond of the user. It induces mild euphoria, similar to morphine, though rather shorter in duration, and also makes the victim inclined to listen to the user socially. If one individual tastes it more than once in a month, it is mildly addictive and the affection deepens so long as the blood has been tasted in the past month. An implant can only hold one 'dose' of blood at at ime, but can be refilled via injection. The blood can be human or animal without distinction, but it's a pretty small target to hit with a syringe.

Cheiron still isn't really sure how to explain the Personal Defense Swarm (3 dots). Rumor has it that a team somewhere in Eastern Europe found a weird little monster that turned into a little metal statue as soon as it was caught. They say they figured out how to revive it and why it became inert. Then they melted it into ball bearings, coated the pieces with hypoallergenic aluminum and stuck them in people's arms, in the subcateneous flesh of the forearm. A valve, similar to a dialysis valve, is implanted at the base of the palm, and the user is given a satchel of five syringes that contain a very diluted solution rumored to be wrung from the organs of unnaturally animate corpses. Whatevfer it is, the ball bearings eat it. They hatch, and when the valve opens, a swarm of tiny, angry attack hornets fly out - except, all of them have the exact same face. A human face. Each syringe has five doses before it goes dry, and Cheiron will replace them within two weeks. The swarm are directed by the host's neurology, which they have a rudimentary tie to. They can't be directly controlled or communicated with, but will attack targets that trigger anger and hostility in the host. (Best to be careful - one office rumor talks about a guy who found out his partner was having an affair with his wife, and the next fight they had, the bugs killed the partner while the monster they were fighting killed everyone else.) The swarm does not have this connection while active, so you want to wait to activate them until after the fight starts. They attack foes in the order of intensity of the host's aggression, and attack until the enemy is dead or fleeing. They will never be more than 10 yards from the host at any time. The bugs can fill a radius of up to four yards, and if they are unable to return via the valve, they fall to the ground as an inert ball bearing and can be plugged back into the shunt easily. If they are somehow destroyed to less than a quarter of their original numbers, the remaining few flee back to the host. The doctors insist that once they're inert, they are utterly lifeless, but that doesn't explain how they repopulate themselves - which they do after a few days without being used. (Incidentally, there are few things in nWoD that are more difficult to effectively fight than a swarm.)

The Quick-Step (3 dots) was developed because the Board of Directors does realize that, while it expects success and living or at least intact capture of monsters, sometimes hunters need to flee. It is half-grown and half-manufactured out of the ligaments of particularly fast monsters - werewolves, some vampires, certain demons. Once implanted in the leg, it allows anyone to break Olympic records, moving much faster than normal - fast enough to dodge bullets. However, using the thing to its full potential for even a few seconds is as tiring as going three hours without sleep.

The Twitcher (4 dots) looks rather like a stick bug made out of wires and protein sacs full of pink goo. It moves a little when disturbed, even before implantation. They stick it into the base of your spine, where it curls around the spinal column and pumps energy in. When your life is in danger, it twitches, massaging the spinal cord and ramping up your reflexes massively. It also gives terrible nightmares of being hunted and causes the development of paranoia. But hey, your reflexes are boosted amazingly!

Werewolves heal faster than just about anything - so fast that occasionally their bodies overcompensate and form harmless cysts which Cheiron has named Regenerative Nodules (4 dots). Cheiron's gotten ahold of some of them, and they've figured out how to stuff them into a body. They look like a lump of scar tissue about the size of a golf ball, which the scientists very quickly and carefully shove a plastic shunt into, then sew into the lining of your gut. You can always feel it, but it's practically invisible. Press the lump, the shunt opens and you get a system full of...well, whatever makes werewolves heal fast. You heal bruises practically instantly and worse wounds in mere minutes. The thing's only usable once a week, though, and since you don't have whatever metaphysical fuel werewolves use, every bit of damage it heals counts as a day without food and water, which the thing can't heal you from. It is advised that you gorge constantly during the healing process.

Cheiron knows that there are other dimensions that humans cannot perceive. They don't really understand how they work or why they exist, but sometimes, stuff comes through from those other worlds, and agents find and capture them. This has produced the Banality Worm (5 dots). It appears to have come from a world of pure nothingness, and it hates magic more than anything in the world. That seems, in fact, to be the core of its being. It's a pale ,greasy worm that someone decided to implant into human chest cavities after they realized that any magic directed at it tended to dissolve. It's put in just under the heart, which it nestles up against, suckles from and occasionally curls around and squeezes affectionately. Any supernatural effect of any kind - including the use of Relics, Benedictions or Castigations - that targets the bearer is weakened considerably. Unfortunately, for some reason bearers have slight tendencies towards insanity.

cheiron is the best in the world at limb transplants and has been for 20 years. It's five years ahead of the curve of anyone else, thanks to thaumatechnology and the Hand of Glory (5 dots). See, a raid on French cultists resulted in bringing back a pickled human hand, severed at the wrist, with each finger made into a candle. When the candles were lit, anyone viewing the light was made unable to move or speak. The hand is now affixed to the stump ofa human arm - a left arm is traditional, but Cheiron has had equal success with either hand. What's actually important is that the hand comes from a hanged man or woman and is at least partially pickled in alchemical reagents. It should be impossible to graft necrotized flesh onto a living being without infection, but they've made it work. It's always a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body and always wrinkled, as if just from the bath, but it's otherwise indistinguishable from a normal hand and perfectly usable for any amputee. You can light the fingertips on fire harmlessly, and the resulting flame is unnaturally steady and unable to be put out save by being doused in milk. Anyone wh oviews the flames risks being rendered immobile as long as they are visible. While the hand burns, manual dexterity with it is particularly difficult, and the flames are too small to be used as a weapon, though they can ignite flammable objects. Paralyzed victims cannot recall anything that occured while paralyzed, but will recall what they saw before blacking out, most of the time, unless the bearer expends internal effort to wipe their presence from the victims' minds. Photographs and video recordings do not convey this effect to viewers, but live video feeds do.

Next time: Homebrewing.

Cross-conspiracy powers

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

GimpInBlack posted:

There are a couple of limits as laid out in a sidebar on p. 73: Subsequent Compact/Conspiracy Merits after your "real" one are capped at two dots, and buying those dots cost (new dots x 4) XP. Endowment costs rise to (new dots x 6) for your second and on Conspiracy. Those rules seem more geared toward, like, "neighborhood priest who's in the Union but also knows secret Vatican prayer magic" than undercover agents, though.

Surprised you didn't mention one of the biggest editing gaffes in the book: the Bleeder, which causes Willpower loss, can't be made to cause Willpower loss. Oops.

Gonna be honest: I totally missed the gaffe, having focused more on the fluff. (Likewise, I didn't spot the sidebar in my quick scan back over that part of the book.)

Hunter: The Vigil

Now, it's obvious that players are going to want powers that don't always fit the limited selection their conspiracy offers - and unlike the other lines, they can get 'em. Hunter has an equation to let you determine the costs of a new Endowment merit. Features add positive cost, frailties add negative. You can get stuff like armor, damage, boosted stats or skills, meta-features like duration or lower cost, the ability to drive people mad or reroll dice, and so on. Frailties can be things like addictive feelings when used, pain, bad luck, limited potential targets or more. In-game, each faction has its own way of handling R&D, which requires rolls. I'm not so fond of this part - if you're gonna design new powers and spend XP on them, making you roll doesn't really seem to add much beyond annoyance. Some of the fluff is neat, though.

VALKYRIE has a few ways to get new gear. TAKOMA, aka the Takoma Park Asset Contracting Facility, aka T-PAC, is the organization that supervises VALYKRIE's weapons contractors. It started in '73 and those contractors are mostly ex-VALKYRIE operates handed startup funds and rigged contracts. TAKOMA itself actually has no weapons inside - nothing functional. It gets shipped directly from supplies to cell drop sites. That way, the worst anyone can steal is financial data and drop locations. On other hand, that means even if you know TAKOMA's location, you're still gonna wait for your damn package. Worse, they don't really have much in the way of the biggest guns. If you want to kitbash your own toys and have the knowhow, there's Forseti Manufacturing. It's a legit business, honestly, but VALKYRIE doesn't much like it, since it was founded by ex-TWILIGHT personnel who actively recruited from the Union. They've built a plant that makes totally legal stuff and is zoned properly, and they also redistribute electronic components. That's the problem - they service VALKYRIE personnel on DIY projects. It's good business, and a lot of agents do appreciate it, since they're faster than TAKOMA, as long as you can pay for the goods and know what you're doing to put it together. Your last option is the Black Book - a rumor. Some say it's a computer database. It has all the cases deemed too dangerous for normal VALKYRIE teams. That can mean a lot of things, but generally it means things that dismember, kill or drive mad anyone nearby. Haunted oil platforms with no returning agents, ghost trains on which all agents have gotten amnesia and a whole lot of new phobias, and more. The Black Book is saved for those who are the worst offenders in the agency - the criminals taken because no one will miss them, the insane, the guys facing court martial if they don't volunteer. But if you succeed and make it back alive, you can write your own check for R&D.

Benedictions work differently - the power is not from the Malleus' hands or their rituals. It is not the bell, book or candle. They are the trappings, not the power. The power is God's. Other organizations think they have miracles on demand - they're wrong. God gives His miracles because the Malleus do His work and because of the intercession of the saints. Still, the Malleus' rites incorporate stuff like Coptic traditions. They claim they don't rely on magic, tradition or even faith in the modern sense, but they document their history, and always make sure to train the proper forms. They have some skepticism about the modern Church and a lot of cynicism, so they don't really trust the idea of spontaneous miracles. Cell members who manifest new miracles frequently are to be investigated, perhaps even brought to ecclesiastical trial. Still, new miracles do get discovered. Sometimes, if you have a deep sympathy with a saint - not easily gathered, requiring pilgrimages and trials - you can get a little help figuring out a new ritual based on that saint. Mortification of the flesh is also helpful in discovering miracles, for some reason. However, the Malleus denounces these practices. They fight monsters that are physically superior to them and which can smell blood, after all. Still, it's not banned outright. Then, of course, there's the bitter argument over cryptotheology, raging since the 1700s. Apparent codes in the Bible, apocrypha and theological texts have yielded new rituals. The primary theory at the Offices of Cryptotheology in Boston and Philadelphia is that it's cryptorevelation - God's ongoing revelation of messages meant only for those who can decode them. The American northeast is the hart of the debate, and while the research involved is difficult, it can yield benefits. Doing good works doesn't improve your odds of getting a new miracle, but can reduce XP costs.

Castigation, now, Castigation is all about discovering the power in your own body. Everything about you traces back, eventually, to a demon. Learning new Castigation rites means tapping into dark powers, and often resemvles devil worship, though it really isn't. Sometimes, guided meditation can allow the Lucifuge to tap into their unnatural DNA, unlocking memories of dark and terrible visions - the War in Heaven, perhaps. Doing this often helps discover the lost secrets of the Devil. Of course, demonology is perhaps a safer method. The Lucifuge refer to their documents as the apocrypha, and they chase down every scrap they can, from all over the world. It allows them to understand both themselves and their foes. However, proper research means proper materials - the Devil's Library, generally rare, single-print books that cannot be reproduced by any means and which contain strange wisdom on God and the Devil. These books are very hard to find, but very valuable - they make new Castigation rites easier, but also cheaper. And, well, there's the other way. The Lucifuge has a big rule: no deals with demons. Compromises occasionally, but never make a bargain. Never serve them. It's not a good idea. But...well, it is effective. Demons can reveal much about you, and usually they don't ask too much - but what they ask is always loathsome.

Elixirs, of course, are produced via alchemy. Depending on who you ask, it's a mystical gift via Egyptian alchemy or the works of Hermes Tresmegistus, or it's divine wisdom passed to alchemists of early Islam by Allah. Developing a new Elixir means knowing a proper recipe, then testing it so that your body-crucible is able to convert it into something useful rather than poison. Recreating a discovered Exliri is rather easier. But a new one...well, that takes work. The Ascending Ones keep track of the Golden Tablets - a liast of every name of the world's alchemical masters, dead or alive. Anyone with sufficient status can read it, but lower than STatus 3 means you need to work at getting a peek. The AScending Ones aren't the alchemists, see - they're the end users. They need suppliers, whether that means finding journals of long-dead masters or making friends with a living one. Earning the favor of an alchemist, though, is always work, and often strange work. Ancient entities beyond the ken of man can help, too - djinn, demons, qashmallim. They can teach you, either willingly or by being taken apart and studied from the inside. (Some Ascending Ones even claim to have eaten these creatures for wisdom.) And, of course, there's the hard way: you can, in fact, become enlightened via hallucinogens and toxic reactions. Narcotic use to gain new elixirs is frowned on by some as untraditional and embraced by others. Sometimes, it works amazingly. But it does take its toll on your body.

Relics...well, you don't make new relics. Or, at least, the Aegis has no idea how to do it. What they do is find them, or awaken inert ones. You might do research to find out how in many ways - provoking or activating a relic takes time and experimentation. Artifact dealers sometimes do business with the Aegis - but you need good knowledge to spot the fakes. After all, even most genuine artifacts have no powers. But if someone can demonstrate a power, or point to historical demonstrations, that helps. The Antikythera Warhead's never been activated, and neither has the Hauser Clock, but historical natural disasters suggest their provenance is genuine. Dealers care, because provenance means they can charge much, much better - Relics aren't any good without a lot of information, and the Aegis will pay dearly to get that. And then, of course, there's going warehouse-diving. The Aegis has many warehouses, caches and caves, and no one is ever really sure if what's in them are true Relics. No one knows what they do. They're all suspected to have hidden power, sure, but no one's made 'em work yet. If you want a specific Relic, you might find it if you play your cards right and do your homework in researching it. This doesn't make getting a Relic easier, but if it succeeds, you're getting a lot of respect. And...well, there's adventuring. Go tomb-diving, fight monster Nazis, steal ancient tools from rich men. Spend time on it and hey, you might be able to seize a relic from the undeserving. Some say that these relics know you've done the work - and will only operate for those that'll put in the blood and sweat needed to obtain them.

Thaumatechnology implants given to Cheiron agents are either very experimental or are failures - the Group wants marketable medical tech for consumer healthcare. Sure, there's defense projects, but they're not nearly as lucrative as the open market. Farming werewolves to treat cancer is the big budget project, not giving operatives acid blood. The reason that Thaumatech happens is the synergy - acid-blooded dudes are better at catching werewolves. So, Hunters are testbeds for defense projects and also field agents. So far as anyone knows, Cheiron has never mass produced any of these implants, allowing operatives to get personal relationships with their surgeons to help find and make new implants. Official line is that Fcheiron does not use black market organs, limbs, blood or anything. IT's a lie, of course - they use clandestine funds and unofficial networks to purchase from hunters who buy and sell gross medical goods. These agents often have a bit of street thaumatech of their own - crappy stuff, but it keeps them loyal. Most agents don't know about the harvest markets, or if they do, don't trust it. But if you ask the right questions, grease the right palms, you can get into the market - and once you're in, you're in. No questions asked about why you want wraith-plasm or zombie bits. Just pay up front. And, of course, the Group will reward heavily any new creatures - something inspiring. The surgeons see themselves as artists, often. A tree made of human faces that weeps sap? That'd be great. A true fairy, a yeti? Bring 'em on in! You get a discount on your next implant! Or go the other way - use the scraps. Get creative. Use the bits no one's really good at working with. If you're willing, your bosses are happy to open R&D to someone who's willing to work on the cheap. The problem is, these things always come with a big cost to you - their flaws are why they aren't in real usage, after all. Your last hope is the Peleus Guild, taking its name from the hero once saved by Cheiron. The surgeons of the Peleus Guild are the best of the best - and they owe Cheiron their lives. Some were addicts, others crippled, but the company stepped in to save them, sometimes with top-grade thaumatech. All of them believe themselves to be permanently indebted to the corporation, and for a price, they'll help you develop whatever you want. They're unofficial and secret, and their number is small - no one knows quite how many, but even the most generous estimate is under two dozen. You need to know one personally as a mentor, is the real catch.

Beyond homebrewing Endowments, the book also provides adivce on homebrewing organizations, new compacts and conspiracies. How big is it, how old? Why do they work together? All orgs have a shared purpose - it's why they work. What's their origin? What do they focus on fighting and how? Where do they get their members from, and what sort of factions or philosophies do they hold? How do they feel about other groups, and how much of what they know is all wrong? What do you get out of belonging to them, and if they're a conspiracy, what powers do they grant?

Next time: Tactics.

Tactics and Storytelling

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hunter: The Vigil

We're into the Tactics section. The ST is instructed to hand out Practical Experience, a communal XP pool, whenever the party faces off in combat against a monster. There's a list of things the party might do that add to or remove Practical XP - for example, seeing new powers you didn't know about in use adds XP, getting people hurt or killed removes it. Practical Experience can be spent to regain Willpower, increase Skills or Merits (but not Attributes) or to purchase Tactics for a team. The party must agree on all expenditures. So, what are Tactics? Tactics are basically when the party develops a technique practiced until they can do it by muscle memory, allowing them to get more benefits than they would if they just tried to do it out of the blue. They take practice and discipline to use properly, and they're not magical - they're just strategies where everyone relies on each other to do their jobs properly. Each Tactic has stat and skill requirements for the entire team, and often larger requirements for one or two people who will be the main actors in the tactic. Tactics have no supernatural powers, again, and some monsters are going to be able to easily counter them - you can't exactly tie up a monster that can melt into a puddle and reform.

Tactics must be invented and practiced, and that means, again, spend XP and then make some dice rolls because spending XP isn't enough. I feel this is dumb, but it's here. Hopefully Hunter 2e will not have it, if it does Tactics at all. Tactics are also difficult to use the first time in the field, so you get penalties the first time you try 'em out against an actual monster instead of a practice dummy. You can only use a Tactice once per day without penalty - any further use of Tactics in the same 12-hour period gets penalized. What sort of things do Tactics do?

Well, Controlled Immolation is a Tactic where some of the Hunters surround a monster, forcing it into an area via long, pointy sticks. Then someone sets the thing on fire somehow. The point is it keeps the flames from spreading while also keeping the creature from escaping. Cripple Claws focuses on goading a monster into attacking with its claws, allowing someone else to chop or shoot off the hand involved. Deprogramming is a tactic for breaking mind control via breakdown of someone's self-esteem, then building it back up, while everyone else just hangs around and goes 'yeah, that's right.' Harvest is a Tactic for physically restraining a critter and then viisecting it so you can get something out of it before it crumbles to ash or turns back human or whatever. That's the kind of thing Tactics do, and the mechanics of them are essentially cooperative rolls from the World of Darkness core, except that the dicepools are usually different between the secondary actors and the main actor.

After that, we get a long list of equipment. This is one of Hunter 1e's big flaws and one I hope goes away in 2e - we really don't need long, D&D-esque equipment lists, especially when they include stuff like duct tape or glowsticks or EMF readers. We do, however, get reminded the Ouija boards work - any kind, even cheap cardboard. No one knows why. Lets you talk to ghosts!


On to the ST section! We get a brief discussion of how fragile Hunters are and what it means to be the lone light in the dark, horror, etc. It notes that horror's not the same as terror - fear and disgust doesn't mean you have to scare everyone into running away all the time, and it's easy to overdo. That kind of thing. It talks about the reasons people go Hunting - loss, revenge, hope, etc., and different ways to run the game. Pretty handy, but not super interesting. After that, we get a list of Dread Powers - basically, a build-a-monster power kit that covers just about anything most monsters might do. Hitting stuff, mind control, setting things on fire, sneaking around. From there, we move on to a recognition guide.

Demons are monsters made of iniquity, sin and vice. Most claim to be servants of Lucifer or foes of Heaven, but not all - others say that's a lie, and claim to be old gods or trapped spirits. But most demons say that long ago, there was a war between wonderful beings. No one really knows why - the ones that claim to are known for being liars and manipulators. Many things were destroyed, beautiful things, and their creators were put to the sword by their brethren. The leader of the losers was banished to the void, where he created form. His soldiers forever fall between Earth and this void - Hell. After that, it gets hazy. Most demons claim they were brought to Earth by humanity, and stay there because Hell is worse than here. Others, though, say that this is the world of punishment and they're just doing their jobs. The prevailing theory is that the demons on Earth are bought a fraction of those that exist outside Earth, wherever they come from. Some people can summon them, but most seem to just show up via mysterious means. Demons come in three tiers, Lesser, Greater and Elder. They all have a True Name, which grants power over them. They all have certain things they must or cannot do, which vary by demon. The more potent they are, the stricter those rules are. The more powerful kind have evil auras that taint the world around them - heat tt up, make things wilt, make electronics go haywire, smell like brimstone, whatever. The most potent demons need not be people - they can be places, too.

Cults come in two types - one type serves a monster of some kind, while the other is purely human. Monser-servants do something for their ruler - feed it, worship it, whatever. Rarely, the monster gives them magic powers. The purely human kind make up their own insane beliefs - this is Jonestown or Aum Shinrikyo. They don't tend to get magic powers...but, rarely, some will develop them by sheer madness. These powers are never too strong, however.

Slashers are humans who are compelled to kill. They come in many varieties, but what happens is they kill and kill and kill and never stop until they're dead. Sometimes they only have to kill one person brutally enough to leave a mark forever, other times it's a murder spree, but they kill. Some are driven mad by being crippled or disfigured or isolated, others seek revenge. Occasionally, their twisted forms give them strange powers. Others are driven to kill by circumstance - medical testing by Cheiron or the CIA, the death of a loved one, drugs and madness. Still, Slashers are human, except for their peculiar need to kill. Some of them used to be Hunters. They can be superhumanly strong or resistant to damage. Others have no powers at all. Some of the weirdest ones are the ones that can come back from death - no longer human, but revenants of some kind.

Other hunters can be your enemies too - turf wars between folks who don't want to share, allies who're worse than any monster could be when it comes to getting people killed, people who just won't listen. People who do things you can't morally agree with, even if they're willing to kill monsters. People who refuse all help but insist on getting in the way. People who've gne rogue. We also get, in here, a new relic: Kirkestede's Lenses (1 dot). They look more like a pair of monocles with a hinge between them, and they were made by Henry of Kirkestede in the 14th century out of bronze and quartz. They don't help vision - in fact, they obscure it a bit past reading distance - but they guide research, speeding it up and granting natural speed-reading and memorization abilities. Unfortunately, they also make perception rolls particularly difficult.

The worst kind of monsters, though, are the ones what pretend to be human. Changelings, for example - sometimes, people go missing. Sometimes they get found...and sometimes, they come back wrong. Hunters believe they've been replaced by things from the darkest stories. They look like humans, but they aren't. On a bad day, you might see the horns or the tail that their masters gave them. They are alien, mad creatures - and they have servants, fetches, who live their oredinary lives while the changelings do their insane work and festvals. No one really knows who they are or why they are - not even them. They're bound to emotions and can drain power from those emotions in others, as well as invade dreams and do just about anything they want in them. Now, the truth, of course, is that the masters of changelings aren't usually loved by those changelings. Many claim to have escaped from these fairies, but that seems unlikely. If they were as omnipotent as these changelings claim, this all seems like a lot of trouble for what amounts to alien abductions. They could be lying...or they could be telling the truth, and that just makes them unpredictable. Some of these changelings fight each other, and who's winning or losing is always hard to tell. They could be the first wave of an invasion force without knowing it. They look human, but they're not. They don't really work together, and tend to live on the bottom of society. They sometimes gather together to protect themselves - militant bands and dream-stealers. They submit to strange lords of the seasons and carve out their kingdoms like some weird global monarchy - so maybe they have a great king or queen ruling over them all. They die like humans do, but they're clever and good at hiding and making deals. They hate iron - it won't hurt them more than anything else, but they can't defend against it. The more powerful ones have bans, just like demons do, often tied to folklore.

Then you've got the reanimated. Sometimes, a corpse or corpses stitched together can be brought back to life - usually unhappy. It doesn't know who it is or where it came from, just that it's alive but has no soul. Hollow men and women, straight out of Frankenstein. They can eat anything. They never get tired. They are powered by a little reactor of hate and destruction, an inner fire that burns the world around them. They cause strange events nad live spiritual scars wherever they go. All you have to do is see them to feel it - the pity, the hate, the rage. They surely don't mean to make people hate them, but still...and worse, sometimes you see them for what they are - dead skin, sloppily stitched. Just for a moment. But it's there. Electricity heals them, and whenever they are healed or use their powers, their monstrous nature shows through. They are corpses, made by people or other corpses. Some are brutes, others broken succubi, and many of them seem to seek to gain a human soul. Maybe you pity them, maybe you're revolted, but they seem to be okay with letting the world rot around them. They wander, develop strange philosophies and messages, and some can raise terrible zombies, start riots just by staying around, cause terrible weather and decay. Hunting them is easier than you'd think, though - just about anyone's willing to help on the flimsiest of excuses. They're just so easy to hate, because they were never meant to be. They should be dead. Anything around them starts to decay. People get cancer, buildings go to rot. The hard part is putting them down. They're tough, strong and sneaky. Fire works well. Still, if you can hold back your hate, they can be decent informants. Just don't let them live nearby. Use 'em for information or distractions or patsies, but don't let them give your friends cancer.

Then, of course, you have witches. They think they're human. They don't suffer the hungers of hte undead. They're wrong. They seek power they don't have any right to. They claim to be serving human potential - as if there's anything human about twisting minds or turning people to toads. They use their powers to satisfy their base urges. Most speak of the pursuit of knowledge - and they steal secrets with the violence of any monster. Vampires hunt for food - witches hunt for power, and they're proud of it. Where doe smagic come from? One magician might say some lost civlization -Thule, Atlantis, Mu. Another claims to make deals with dragons or demons, and a third says he was given it by a watchtower made of bone. Some use strange and secret rituals. Sorcerers don't all use magic the same way, either. Their powers are incredibly diverse, too. You can generally divide them into five types - necromancers, who rule the dead and the matter of the earth, who live yet hate the living. Priests, who command physics and life itself, often claiming loyalty to a higher power yet being no better than any other witch. Psychics, who can see the past, speak to the dead and predict the future - or snap your bones with their mind. Ritualists, who steal magic with ritual, cults and tradition, forcing it out of the world in brutal ceremonies. And last, warlocks - nature wizards, commanders of beasts, red in tooth and claw, savage hunters. They can gether togetyher in occult groups and cabals, and they're good at infiltrating human organizations. They see ultimate power, and to take one down, you need surprise on your side. Witches need preparation to be at their best, and when they're prepared, they can do anything. Literally anything. Best to stick to crowds - for some reason, magic doesn't do so hot in public. Sometimes, it backfires. Not reliably, though. Negotiation can work - witches tend to be willing to make bragains if they get something out of it. But be careful when you do that sort of thing.

Vampires, now...well, they're the definitive monster, aren't they? They're human, or were, but they're killers, monsters that feed on human flesh and blood. They understand people, and the older they are, the more potent they get. Most drink blood, but some can consume other things - memory, dreams, flesh. They can heal themselves by consuming others, and bullets don't hurt them very much. They are often able to control minds. They hate each other and love each other. Once upon a time, there were seven dynasties of them, but nowadays it's harder to tell. You got the lovers, the tempters who'll take you out back and drain you dry. They're fast, faster than anything, good at getting physical. You've got your savages - thugs, wild men and beatdown artists. They run free and run wild, and if you see them, it's because they want you to. The bloodjackers - not dead men preserved, but corpses that walk past the point of decay, then spread to another when the body gives out. Even other vampires seem to fear them. The horrors, terrifying and disgusting, often deformed or grotesque, who reach right into the lizard brain and leave you a terrified mess of blood - not much blood, at that. And then ther'es the aristocrats - the bosses of 'em all, or so they claim. Imagine Gordon Gekko except he literally drinks blood. Some claim to serve some twisted Church, others a blood goddess, others still Dracula. You can fight them, but most weapons don't do so hot - it's not like they need organs. Stake 'em before they know you're there. While their hearts are pierced, they can't fight back. Dismemberment and fire work well. Fire even gets rid of evidence.

Werewolves, now, they've been around forever. They aren't truly man or wolf, but a monstrous killer in between. They are predators above all, hard to hurt and harder to put down. They regenerate from just about anything that's not silver. Many have strange abilities that help their hunting prowess. Not all of them are wolves - other animals happen, too. Most are born to their state but don't change until they get bitten. One group of them worships the moon and gains power from it. They're crazy, but more likely to compromise with you. The other kind are savage fanatics, balasphemous monsters who hunt and kill. They all travel in packs, both kinds. And they're no the only things out there that are werewolves. Still, most of 'em are like violent street gangswith bizarre belief systems.

Escher Girl vs Non-Euclidean Monster

Next time: Appendices


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The 2e rules updates in Mortal Remains are lazy and often poorly done, ignoring things like 'Morality no longer exists.' It needs a real 2e.

Hunter: The Vigil

Appendix One is on Morality. Morality is the worst stat. In 2e they did away with it entirely, replacing it with Integrity - basically, a sanity meter, not a morality one. The Morality appendix talks about how most Hunters are going to degenerate and go mad from Morality loss very quickly, because killing monsters counts all the same. Because, you know, we're tied to this Victorian morality thing. There's a few options they offer to help prevent this, though. First up, the Code. You can adapt your morality away from the human standard, turning it into a Vigil-specific Code over time. This has its own drawbacks, though, and works best for kill-heavy games.

Option two: Monsters don't count. Anything superhuman doesn't count as human, so killing 'em isn't a problem. This skews things a lot, and the game warns that it takes away one of the major consequences of hunting. (Integrity would solve all this nicely, of course, and I'm looking forward to how they work it out for Hunter 2e.) Somewhat less extreme is to declare that monsters aren't really people, so you get a bonus to resist degeneration. The book talks about how maybe self-defense killing shouldn't count, and using Virtue and Vice, and doing things for survival should be less of a sin. Stuff like that.

The Code is a system that lets you alter your morality sin ladder - so, for example, it's no longer a sin to shoplift...if you're sharing the goods with your cell. It's not a sin to long as you're not killing humans. The price of this is the Tell - a derangement specific to Hunting that you manifest under stress. Leaving a calling card, denying the existence of some types of monster, believing you've contracted a monster disease. Sexual deviancies. I don't actually like the Code because it fundamentally involves derangements, which are dumb and bad and view mental illness and insanity in a way that is very Victorian, very discredited and rather insulting.

Appendix 2 is all about Philadelphia, the core city for Hunter. If you want to learn more about it, go buy the book and read it - there's some cool stuff in there, but it's a campaign setting I feel little need to cover - you don't need me giving you example campaign settings of Hunter. It has all kinds of Hunters and all kinds of monsters. Also, a glossary of Philly slang which includes words like 'hoagie' for hoagies, 'sugger' for vampire, and 'the Abs' for Ashwood Abbey.

The End.

What do you want to see next? I'm saving Compacts and Conspiracies and some of the other books for later - four books came out first, and those four are pretty independent of each other. These are Slasher (about serial killers), Witchfinders (about mages), Spirit Slayers (about werewolves and also spirits) and Night Stalkers (about vampires). Which one do you guys want to see first?