Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed

This time around, the book opens by telling us its main themes are cautionary tales (of the 'there but for the grace of God go I' sort), temptation and the lure of power, grief or anger to lead you to downfall, and denial that you've done anything wrong at all. In other words, this is about what happens when a mage goes bad. It also seems to want to examine ways wizards can fight that are interesting and fun, given the potential for wizards to end things very fast if they've had time to figure out how they want to approach a problem.

One of the bigger suggestions it makes is to make everyone declare intent when a fight starts and using that alongside the Beaten Down rules from the core, with expansions for stranger and less physical forms of conflict, to emphasize the power of magical violence. A mage might become Beaten Down and lose when they run out of Willpwoer or Mana, suffer a Tilt that effectively incapacitates them somehow, suffer a dramatic failure involuntarily, or succeed at and/or resolve an Act of Hubris of some sort, becoming overcome by realization of the consequences of their actions. Social consequences are also given to consider - Consilia, for example, usually forbid killing other mages unless they're legitimately dangerous to everyone, and the presence of Sleepers around a wizard fight can mean dealing with a lot of very nasty mental collateral damage. If you don't go out of your way to avoid witnesses, it's really easy to accidentally run into a Sleeper and fuck them up - or have their presence fuck up magic.

Chapter 1 focuses on rival mages - normal Seers, Pentacle wizards and Apostate or Nameless mages whose focuses are likely to throw them into conflict with PCs. We get three Pentacle mages, three Seers, two Apostates and one Nameless Order.

Chapter 2 looks at Banishers, mages that hunt and destroy other magic. Some do so out of hatred from past trauma or delusion, some out of a quest for power via destruction, and some because their soul got fucked the hell up by an Awakening gone wrong. We get one of each.

Chapter 3 is about the Rapt, mages who have lost all Wisdom and become obsessively focused on a single thing to the exclusion of all else, because if they don't, their magic will erupt from them uncontrollably. We get four of these.

Chapter 4 is for Scelesti, mages that deliberately and willingly wield the power of the Abyss. Most are nihilistic in some sense, and their corruption can run into their very nature. We have six of these.

Chapter 5 is Tremere, mages who have consumed their own souls and now consume the souls of others. They are simultaneously a Nameless Order and a subtype of mage that has Hollow in place of Wisdom, and there are several Tremere Houses that function in different ways in regards to souls. Six of these!

Next time: The Spanner in the Works, the Arrow's Poisoned Tip

I'm The Guy That Sucks

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
I'm The Guy That Sucks

Gwydion, birth name Sam Drayton, is an Acanthus and member of the Guardians of the Veil. Before his Awakening, he was married to a nice lady, had two kids, and was really, really boring and really, really bored. One night he decided not to go home and just to go driving, flipping coins to decide which roads to take. He spent all night driving, watching probability and fate play out in front of his windshield. He decided that this was it - this was what he was going to do. He was going to walk every road, see every path and possibility. Fuck his nice and boring home, this new life wouldn't be boring. He spent a year or so wandering American highways, interfering in the lives, fates and histories of people he ran into and then moving on. He saw himself as a kind of helpful trickster, getting people out of the patterns they'd worn into themselves, spreading chaos for fun and avoiding all consequences...for that first year, at least.

Everything changed when a cabal of Guardians helped him fix a mess he'd made out of a neighborhood's collective fates. During this, Gwydion saw his own future, though the Paradox he'd gathered made it impossible to tell how far into the future the event was. He saw his own death and a city-wide disaster...and then all the threads he'd traced leading to that future broke, and while he spent weeks resting with the Guardians, he was never able to find them again. While he's never really been a great fit for them, he ended up joining the Guardians of the Veil, not because he believed in their weirder views but because he'd witnessed firsthand the risks of irresponsible magic use. He's learned that he's really, really good at pushing people away from or closer to weirdness and at helping his colleagues find candidates for Awakening. While he still spreads chaos, he doesn't do so freely. Rather, he gets flashes of future disasters connected to...well, someone nearby, at least, though he's not always sure who. Once that happens, it's time to fuck up past and future in ways he hopes will change what he's seen, leaving it up to everyone else to clean up any fallout he causes.

Gwydion is a black guy in his mid-30s, though he looks somewhat younger than that and has a face that's easy to trust. (Bad idea, that.) He's friendly and cheerful with his victims, tearing up their personal timelines with a smile. He likes casual jeans and button-downs, as they fit in just about anywhere, and he really enjoys confusing people still, even if it's not the whole of why he does things any more. He likes watching other people fix the problems he causes, and especially loves when he can tell that it's fixed the future he foresaw. He particularly enjoys using other mages' obsessions and pursuit of Mysteries to get them to do his dirty work. His Nimbus causes perception of time to slow down, so that you can tell everything that's happening every instant. His Signature Nimbus, the sign that he's done magic, is a slow-motion mental loop of embarrassing memories in those that witness his magic. His Long-Term Nimbus (the series of events that play out around him repeatedly due to his magical nature) causes people to miss appointments, buses and other events by making people just slightly too late.

Gwydion has, however, not totally abandoned the life of Sam Drayton, though he tries to let others believe he has. He shows up at his old home on birthdays, anniversaries and other big events, and he's still really interested in his kids and their lives. He will even use his magic to help them succeed at hobbies, sports and academics. His future vision seems to have taken place some point in the 2020s, and he's not sure how much of what he saw was real and how much was metaphor and symbol. He believes a major Scelestus is going to try to destroy as much of the world as possible, but has been entirely unable to figure out the specific details, except that he will be present at it and the sky may or may not tear open. Several of his fellow Guardians hate the guy and many are surprised he hasn't been kicked out, because when given the choice between his own goals and the Order's, he's always going to favor his own. He's screwed up their operations enough and gotten enough other Guardians into deep shit that many Guardian cabals try to ensure he leaves town as quickly as possible unless they need his help. Gwydion resents them for this, but he doesn't have any kind of blackmail or other ways to make them be more accepting of him.

Once, Gwydion got interested in a cabal called the Hereafter; they think they pissed him off, but he just thought they were interesting. The reason they think they pissed him off? He decided to mess with their history and ended up causing the events that brought them together to never have happened, because he wanted to see if they were destined to come together in a different way if he did. They did...but one of the original members of the cabal died before they all got back together, and they are not happy. They still have some indistinct memories of the friend that died whom they now never met, and they really, really want revenge on Gwydion.

Mechanically, Gwydion's a clever and fast guy but not a physically powerful one. He's very well educated and good at gathering information, hard to track, and extremely good at Fate and Time magic. His main Obsessions are understanding the vision he had of his own death and understanding the methods by which Destiny as a concept selects people for specific fates. He also wants to make a friend that isn't influenced by his own fate. His Virtue is Persistent and his Vice Impulsive, but he can put on a Masque that alters his persona, shifting them to Humble and Greedy respectively. He is also a member of a Legacy called the House of Ariadne, populated mostly by Acanthus, Seers and Guardians.

The House of Ariadne, AKA the Metropolians, believe that the myths of Ariadne, Thesus and the Minotaur are a metaphor for enlightenment and Supernal truth in the heart of a city. They follow the tangled threads of Time and Fate that gather in such places, which they believe turn a city into an entity made of far more than the sum of its parts. They study the streets and secrets of their cities in search of the past and future, solving the Mysteries built into their homes to discover Truth. They focus on crowds, alliances, rumors, walking the city and city landmarks as tools for magic, and can regain Mana by discovering new things in their home cities, watching the sun rise or set from high places in the city, visiting tourist spots and attending elite or private events.

Their first Attainment is Attune, which combines Time, Fate and the Streetwise skill to let them randomly walk a city's streets for several hours in order to receive visions of the city's history or that of the people within it - including the mage themself. They can choose particular subjects or moments to envision (within limits) but can't control the precise moment they see, thanks to the Fate of the city choosing for them. This can also happen without their deliberate action after they attune themselves to a city once. With Space, they can also learn about the sympathetic connections of those they see in their visions. They also get a bonus socially when in a city they've attuned to, but get a penalty socially in rural or wild places. Suburbs are no bonus or penalty. Other Attainments are not listed, but are noted to require urban environments to function (as does Attune), and that most only work once a city has been attuned at least once. "Urban" is based on how the inhabitants view the place, rather than legal definitions.

Overall, Gwydion is an easy enemy to slot into a game - he gets interested in a local destiny and starts doing time fuckery. Good time travel foe who isn't, y'know, literally the God-Machine or otherwise way more than you might be able to deal with as a time traveler. However, he's going to go down hard in a confrontation he can't control, and your players may be annoyed by how easy he finds it to run away.

Next time: The Arrow's Poisoned Tip, because mages are complicated and can be an entire post.

Murder Is My Business

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Murder Is My Business

Keres, AKA Sergeant Jillian Molina, is an Adamantine Arrow Thyrsus got out of poverty by joining the military at a young age. She became a skilled shooter and special forces op, especially good with ambush and secret raids. An assassin, in other words. During a mission gone wrong, she ended up Awakening while under fire from enemies that intel hadn't been aware of. While half her force got taken out, she got the other half out alive by following a spirit no one else could see. She chanted secret words to herself to stay focused, speaking truths of the Supernal, and the whole thing got covered up. Jill didn't usually care about that, but she felt that it was erasing her own existence, making her like the spirit that had helped her. She ended up mustering out and joining the Adamantine Arrow, where she...did pretty much the same job, but focused on assassinating Rapt, spirits and Reapers rather than political targets. She joined a cabal named the Rushing Tide, all ex-military and focused on defending Sleepers in the way they'd once defended nations. Their high success rate made them in demand, and they became Keres' family that she hadn't realized she needed.

Keres' mentor in the Arrow was a shaman named Adder, and he sometimes had her kill other Pentacle mages. She never worked with the Tide on these jobs - plausible deniability, after all. No one worried about her secrets as long as she was okay. However, while out on a solo job once, she came back to find the Tide gone, leaving only a brief note saying they'd headed into Shadow to fight something. They never came back. Keres blames herself for their loss, sure that she'd have been able to keep them alive. She'll do anything to get revenge, but she isn't sure who to go after. No one will admit to hiring the Tide for the job, and she was only able to track them to an area that was empty of all clues except the signs of their deaths. She's certain someone knows something - but she has to find that person first. She plans to, once she does, torture them until they reveal all, then murder them. She still does assassinations for the Arrow, and also does freelance wetwork on the side now, in order to gain resources for her hunt.

Keres is a solid white lady, late 30s, a little under average height but very imposing. She has short, dark blonde hair, cut shorter any time she notices it reaching her collar. She wears tough, durable clothes that can survive her work and have pockets. She's extremely businesslike on the job and relentlessly focused once she takes one. She is a careful planner who will spend days or even weeks observing her target before she makes her move. She has no patience for people who mess around on the job. Off-duty, though, she's a cheerfy, affable sort who likes bad puns and stupid dad jokes. Her Immediate Nimbus provokes the fear of a nearby predator stalking you, and her Signature Nimbus is the scent of blood and a sense of relief that you weren't killed. Her Long-Term Nimbus causes increased activity by vicious spirits, particularly spirits of violence.

In truth, Keres was missing on the day her cabal got killed because Adder arranged for her to be. He knows who got them killed and why, and he's afraid that one day, Keres will figure out the answers. Some of his rivals think he's actually the guilty party, and that the cabal had information on him that would've got him into trouble with the local Consilium. Keres also has people after her from her old, mundane life - she killed a lot of folks for the government, and while they did their best to erase the evidence and she never did get caught, some foreign governments and agencies have put the pieces together and have put a large price on her for capture. The Tide, meanwhile, died fighting an ancient spirit named Niradel - an old god. Some say they were reckless and didn't do the proper research before their attack, but that's unlikely. They were skilled and good at their jobs. They were cocky, maybe, but they were professional. They absolutely could've taken Niradel...if it had been alone. It wasn't. Whoever hired them sent reinforcements for the spirit. Niradel's still mad about the attack, but while some mages fear it'll lash out randomly, it won't. It wants victims who will ensure it is remembered.

Keres is a fast, strong and strong-willed woman, though she's very much not a charismatic one. She usually operates under the radar, and given her choice, she prefers kills that look accidental. She's more than willing to get creatively nasty if asked to send a message, however. Her Virtue is Loyal, her Vice is Stubborn, and she is a member of the Perfected Adepts Legacy. She's a decent investigator and a terrifying shooter and sneak, plus she's scary and still has contacts in special forces, plus a terrifying amount of combat training. Seriously, Professional Training (Soldier) 5 is insane. She specializes in Life and Spirit magic, primarily to make herself sneakier, weaken foes, and scare spirits. She's decently tough and a great fighter, especially by Mage standards, but not especially focused on doing magic.

The Perfected Adepts are primarily Obrimos or Adamantine Arrow, focused on Life magic. They believe in transcendence through perfecting the body and disciplining the mind. They're ascetics who prefer to harmonize their actions with their soul, perfecting every aspect of themselves to become their most complete self. They tend to be good at magic in gyms and other places where physical training happens, while performing acts of service, while fasting or while giving up items of value. They can regain Mana from combat drills and training, by performing feats of endurance or by meditation.

Their first Attainment is Vital Force, which combines Life, Prime and Athletics skill. This gives them an innate awareness of the energies that flow through living beings, allowing them to analyze these beings both in terms of health and magic. They become even better at using their Life-based Mage Sight as well if they get a chance to meditate first.

Keres is handy as a dangerous minion whom Mage PCs may not want to kill due to her status as a loyal and valued Arrow. She could be working for anyone, and she’s vicious as fuck if she thinks you’re related to her friends dying.

Next time: The Master Thief

What's Yours Is Mine

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
What's Yours Is Mine

Viridian, formerly Diya Shah, spent her first three decades as an art thief and gallery owner, but she hasn't been Diya Shah since her Awakening, fifty years ago. She's fairly certain that all her old arrest warrants are expired and most governments assume Diya Shah is dead. She's turned her talents to magical artifacts rather than art, anyway. She is a member of the Mysterium, an adventurer and auctioneer who adores exploring ancient ruins and facing down dangers for treasure, performing elaborate heists on Seer collections and making rivals. She's also an expert on the preservation and repair of artifacts, which has gotten her into a lot of places where someone with her thieving talents would usually not be allowed...though if you're smart, you keep her under constant watch and check your inventory when she leaves.

Viridian agrees with the Mysterium that all knowledge has value...but she disagrees on their positions vis a vis pricing, whether mundane money can be valued in regards to magic, and who can set that price. She's loyal enough to the Order that if an artifact is particularly dangerous, she won't sell it outside the Pentacle, but she's more than happy to do casual work for Seers, Scelesti or Reapers. The Guardians of the Veil really want her operations to be shut down, and her local Mysterium leaders typically give her stern lectures and then head right back to bidding on whatever she happens to have today or hiring her to acquire items from rivals. She used to work all by herself, but as she became more infamous in the magical community and others tried to steal her scores, she handpicked a small cabal - around six mages and two Sleepwalkers - to help her, protect her, manage the business end of her work and guard her home. They are very loyal, and the cabal are all founding members of Viridian's Legacy, the Nighthawks.

Viridian is an 80-year-old Indian lady, but at a glance she appears closer to 60. She is extremely charming, friendly and good at getting people to tell her things they really, really shouldn't. She never starts negotiations without a thorough understanding of her client, their assets and what they might want, though she actually enjoys when someone proves her investigation inadequate and surprises her with something she didn't think they'd have to offer, especially if it'll get her a new adventure. If she finds a target to be too dangerous or that her client might harm the Pentacle, she opens up the chance for counteroffers or arguments to keep it off the market or to put a fix in her auctions. Her Immediate Nimbus is flaring color and the memory of one's dreams and goals. Her Signature Nimbus is a confetti spray of color and the disappointment of missed opportuntiy. Her Long-Term Nimbus makes it hard to resist temptation or ignore things you crave.

Some years back, Viridian sold a very powerful artifact to a mage that she hadn't realized at the time was a Scelestus. She found out later and buried the sale beneath layers of false traces, but she was never able to steal the artifact back. In the past few months, the buyer has entirely vanished, and Viridian is terrified that he's going to use what she gave him - which could be devastating to anyone caught up in it. She mostly holds her auctions through the Viridian Foundation, holding a major gala once a year where she sells her biggest items; she does smaller auctions as well, but never for her best catches. Getting an invite is competitive, and she is very strict about keeping the peace no matter who shows up - any truce-breaker is ejected from the event and blacklisted from all future auctions. Sometimes, invitees will send proxies or sell their invite to others, which Viridian is fine with as long as they're willing to vouch for the new attendees and her team vets them first.

Viridian doesn't just rely on her magic to get her goods - mundane thievery and information gathering, bribery and so on work just fine a lot of the time. It's part of why she's so successful at stealing from other wizards - many mages dismiss mundane methods and assume only magic is a threat. Viridian loves exploiting that kind of thing - it doesn't raelly matter how many wards you have when your delivery boy is paid off to hand your goods to the wrong person. She also really, really doesn't like the Guardians of the Veil. One of her friends, a young man named Danver, died on a job after they refused to lend out a dangerous artifact to her. She blamed them for over ten years, and while she has since realized that no magic would've been able to save Danver, she'd never actually admit that she thinks they made the right decision in not lending to her. She'll still work for them, and her anger has faded somewhat, but Danver was close to a son to her - especially since she's got no kids of her own.

Viridian's a Moros, extremely smart and charismatic, and very good at anything related to talking to people, sneaking around or breaking into things. She's not the most physically impressive, what with being an eighty-year-old woman, but that's why she has her team. She's wealthy, extremely connected, well trained and has access to many, many magic items if she thinks she might need them. Her Virtue is Restrained, her Vice is Proud. Her Obsessions are ruins of the Time Before and restoration of damaged magic items, and her main goal in life is to get more magic items and sell them for incredibly high prices. Magically, she's quite potent and especially good with Matter, but no slouch with Death, Life or Prime.

The Nighthawks are mostly Moros or Mysterium, focused on Prime. They were founded by Viridian and her team, and they're a mix of tomb robbers, thieves and magical archaeologists. They believe that magical items left untouched and uncared for too long lose their power and connection to the Supernal. They argue that, however potent Time Before artifacts are now, they were once much more, and so they work to find, study and spread knowledge of lost Grimoires and Artifacts, in order to keep their magic alive. They do magic through lockpicks and thieving tools, through theft, through stealth, and through sale or gifting of magic items that will be actively used. They can regain Mana through the study of ancient sites and objects, through heists or other efforts where they must avoid discovery, through using a magical item for a long period, or through giving or attending lectures or lessons on ancient or hidden things newly discovered.

The First Attainment of the Nighthawks, Unburied Treasure, combined Matter, Prime, Mysterium membership and skill at theft and academics or occult knowledge to sense the presence of magical items, Mana and other items of Supernal power, as well as making it easier to pierce magic concealing such things. Their Second Attainment, Under Cover of Night, requires further skill at crime. It helps hide the user and her magic from magical detection. With use of Death magic, it can also suppress the user's aura.

Overall, I think Viridian is dangerous mostly for being mercenary; she honestly strikes me as a really good patron for a PC group. Playing her team would be fun.

Next time: The Friendly Face of Panopticon

Private Eyes Are Watching You, They See Your Every Move

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Private Eyes Are Watching You, They See Your Every Move

D'Eon's past is not especially important - or accessible. E is genderfluid and nonbinary, assuming male or female roles as necessary for eir work. Psychologists have diagonosed D'Eon as a compulsive liar; e is not. E's just very good at lying. There's no compulsion about it. E has always been good at lying, to the point that e managed to trick a school into shutting down over a fake disease scare and talk the CIA into letting em in. D'Eon has always sensed the the truth was hidden, and Awakening just revealed how; D'Eon considers the Lie to be an expected part of reality. After spending a year using eir new powers to fuck with eir fellow CIA agents, e came to the attention of the local Seers of the Throne. It was not a hard recruitment - D'Eon's a pragmatist who figures the Exarchs have already won, so why back the wrong horse? E joined the Panopticon within the Seers, specializing in infiltration and information gathering in service of the of eir Pylon, a group known as the Unseeing Eye that Reveals All. The group is based out of a cloud storage company, gaining information by skimming stored files. D'Eon uses this information to become anyone e needs to be, sometimes as a replacement doppelganger and sometimes creating a false identity to be. Eir current mission is dangerous and ambitious - D'Eon is going to infiltrate a Pentacle cabal.

D'Eon takes on whatever appearance is needed for eir job. Identity, gender and face are not important to em. Off the job, e is generally happy in the appearance of an androgynous figure with a brown buzzcut, comfortable clothes and a grin. Eir Immediate Nimbus is momentary facial blindness, causing everyone to look identical for the barest instant. Eir Signature Nimbus is a sense of confusion, isolation and disconnection. Eir Long-Term Nimbus causes mistaken identity to become common and wrong number dialing to be more frequent.

D'Eon not only serves the Unseeing Eye that Reveals All, but also the tradition of the Panopticon known as the Tree of Eyes. E reports on eir fellow Seers with as much enthusiasm as all the rest of eir work. E has ended up an expert not only on eir own mission but on many other Panopticon agents in the region. E is also the unwitting host of a mental copy of eir own mentor, a Mind master named Summanus. Summanus created a mental clone of himself, pruning it down to a bare minimum of personality and implanting it in D'Eon. It can access D'Eon's senses and serves as a sympathetic link to Summanus, so that he can piggyback on D'Eon's senses and get updates on any secret projects the young Seer works on. This mental fork is extremely well hidden, and would take some heavy searching to identify.

D'Eon's favorite tool for accomplishing eir goals is rumor. Magic's great and all, and mages tend to be very perceptive people, but that doesn't actually help when they're being set against each other by rumor, innuendo and lies. It's barely relevant if a rumor is true or not - every mage has personal projects or hobbies they'd prefer people to avoid poking at, either for privacy or safety reasons or because they're actually doing something wrong. D'Eon just has to make sure that everyone is wary of each other and then find a spark that'll get the Pentacle to fight itself. E also like to seperate victims from their friends so e can replace them. The mage e is currently pretending to be is one such - D'Eon took her out and replaced her during one of her expeditions to the Underworld. However, eir impersonation is imperfect, and people are starting to notice. E can tell people are getting suspicious and may need drastic action soon. D'Eon also does have some principles - e is not especially fond of mass mind control, and is willing to do things like make truces and share information in order to screw over a rival Pylon that's figured out a method to latch into a city's collective unconscious in one of the example story hooks.

D'Eon is a Mastigos and has no Legacy. Eir Virtue is Confident, eir Vice Curious, and eir main magical Obsession is achieving perfect magical fluidity of identity. E is also interested in replacing someone and convincing them they're the actual fake while D'Eon is the original, and in finding a way to get leverage on Summanus. E is a quick thinker and strong-willed, but eir main strength is being manipulative as fuck and excellent at lying and causing trouble. E is also a decent fighting with knives and small weapons. Eir primary magical skills are Life and Mind, with some Prime and Space.

Also, D'Eon possesses an artifact named the Pearl of Unbeing. This allows em to transform their Nimbus in order to disguise eir magic, either creating a new one or duplicating the Nimbus traits of another person perfectly, as long as e has had the chance to study them. To use it, D'Eon must swallow the pearl, lodging it in eir throat for the scene; once it wears off, the pearl must be vomited up before it can be used again.

D'Eon is about on par with a normal PC - a bit stronger than a starter PC, but in general the real threat is that due to D'Eon's massive ability to disguise, the PCs are going to have trouble noticing that they have an enemy in their midst.

Next time: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

The Literal Worst Person

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
The Literal Worst Person

Pangloss wields the name Dr. Jeremiah C. Latimer as a club. He's a pop philosopher and self-help guru with a huge internet following that repackages evopsych, , sexism and racism as-okay yeah he's Jordan Peterson. Or, rather, Dr. Latimer is. Pangloss is not Dr. Latimer, because Dr. Latimer is not a real person. Pangloss is the Seer that invented the persona, and he is very much playing a role. Pangloss was a scientist after Awakening, and he joined the Ministry of the Paternoster on the basis that having discovered God is real and cheats, he'd probably be better off on God's side. He was fairly old for a new mage, but he rose quickly through the ranks at first, earning enough trust to begin his new project. Being the Jorp has not made him popular in the Ministry, however, and at this point he's on the outs until he can prove that he's actually doing something useful.

The entire philosophy that Dr. Latimer espouses is a front for an Exarch cult of the Father, differing from normal Paternoster cults primarily in that it is surface atheistic, focusing on the invisible hand of as the mightiest force in the world. Pangloss has theorized that the struggle the Paternoster has in reaching high power in the West is because it has not developed to follow new trends in religion. Rather than selling an unbreaking faith in God, he sells an unbreakable theory that reveals all truth from authority. Tradition not for tradition's sake, which is the normal Paternoster method, but in dressings that will be easier for his targets to adopt. The message, he claims, is more important than the set dressing, and the message is simple: obey tradition, accept authority, serve without understanding. It isn't normal methods, but it is normal Paternoster ethos for the flocks of mortality. While much of the Ministry does not like it at all for its lack of faith, Pangloss' Pylon has kept him safe from accusations of heresy because his project is showing results. He's only given three non-digital talks so far, but each time, they've packed the coffee shops he's set them up in. (Which, to be fair, have been deliberately smaller than normal venues to give the illusion of even more massive popularity than his cult following.)

Pangloss is a white dude in his 50s. Very white - he doesn't get outside often. His hair is white, and he's in surprisingly good health, which his followers say is because of his philosophy. There is no evidence for this claim, which Pangloss considers proof that his plan is working. When out in public, he maintains an air of dignity and stern authority, wearing good but not overly flashy suits, and he's pretty friendly but cannot be budged on his beliefs. When not being Latimer, he still prefers to dress like an academic outside of Paternoster rituals (where he does obey the rules about priestly garb), but he no longer uses magic to force his eyes into shape rather than wearing glasses and he comes off as rather less...well, authoritative. He's less likely to argue, though he remains a firm ideologue - he just doesn't like to waste time arguing with Pentacle mages unless they seem likely to actually listen. His Immediate Nimbus is a vision of the mathematical underpinning of the universe. His Signature Nimbus is a distinct sense that reality has a hostile and malevolent will for you. His Long-Term Nimbus tends to make things near him arrange themselves in perfect grids or symbols, even occasionally shaping the movement of crowds.

The reason that Pangloss is willing to so openly ignore the trappings of religion while belonging to the Paternoster is his secret support from one of his superiors, Pontifex Apollinaris. Apollinaris insists on his support remaining secret to avoid any appearance of heresy, but if the experiment actually works, he plans to take all the credit and give Pangloss a minor promotion. The cult's actual purpose is not to help its members, but rather to ensure that Sleepers stay that way. Indeed, it is theoretically able to prevent Awakenings...though the process remains highly experimental. Pangloss uses specific speech cadence, the power of Mana and his magic to focus Sleepwalker minds inward, pushing them away from what awareness of the Supernal they have achieved. It's showing some good results, but has yet to achieve any permanent or total shutdown of Supernal awareness.

Pangloss' words are also having an effect on some local mages - a cabal of Free Councillors named Last Assembly. They're not victims of magic or anything - they've just bought into his racist rhetoric and are arguing that some people are statistically less likely to Awaken than others. It's burning a lot of their alliances and relationships, and were Pangloss aware of it he would be extremely pleased - it was one of his theoretical goals to begin with. He also spends time making his followers angry and tribalist, using the power of the Seers to push them to ever greater heights of devotion. It has, in at least one case, caused a gang of angry men to form into a violent mob that leaves behind arcane symbols of the Seers at the scenes of their beatings.

Pangloss is an Obrimos and a member of the Tyrian Archons, a Legacy focused on the concept of divine right of kings. His Virtue is Skeptical, his Vice Craven, and his Obsessions focus on finding ways to push Sleepwalkers back to Sleepers and finding proof that the Father approves of him. His other main goal is spreading his cult. He's quite smart and charismatic, for all that he's using it for expressly awful shit, and surprisingly strong. He's extremely well educated - he actually understands that most of what he says is total bullshit, scientifically, in fact. His main magical skills are in Forces and Prime, with a sideline in Life.

The Tyrian Archons are primarily Obrimos and Seers, focused on Prime magic. They believe firmly in the divine right of kings, and specifically in the symbolism of kings granting control over the world as an extension of the will of the Exarchs. They dress themselves as royalty and use its symbolism for power, doing magic through scepters, lionskin, purple cloaks and similar, having their commands obeyed, and wielding their status and influence over others. They can regain Mana by asserting their authority and control over people, obeying the commands of the Exarchal Mysteries, wielding more power than they need to to get things done, and punishing treachery and insubordination.

The First Attainment is Archon's Ear, which combines Prime, skill at Expression or Politics, and the Exarchal symbolism of scepters, plus status and influence, to grant the ability to see through lies and reveal truth, particularly when dealing with anyone that they have authority over. The Second Attainment is My Word iIs Law, which requires both Expression and Politics and allows them to command through truth, gaining additionak power when used against those whom they have authority over. The Third Attainment is Look Upon My Works, which combines Prime, Expression and Politics to allow their power and authority to be easily and instinctively acknowledged by others.

Pangloss is a horrible person whose magical power and large cult make him exceptionally dangerous. Also, he chose the Shadow Name Pangloss and actually put points into being able to wield it, which makes him an even worse person than he was before in this, the best of all possible worlds.

We also get a Mystery Cult Initiation merit for Latimer's followers. They start out by getting good at using rhetoric and having contacts online, then get bonuses to Politics as long as they continue to attend group meetings, and then get bonuses to spending Willpower due to their confidence the cult will back them up. By the end, they are able to spend Willpower to make themselves harder to convince to do anything, as long as they can align their defense or argument with the philosophies of Latimer. So basically, they're pig-headed and stubborn assholes who are really good at yelling at people and pushing agendas.

Next time: The Arbiter of Techno-Destiny

Paradox Pal

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Paradox Pal

Phemonoe, AKA Lucia Reyes, has always been obsessed with paradox, time travel and predestination. Literally from childhood. She self-taught math and learned computer code in order to study the equations of paradox and time travel, had an immense college disaster, and then used her trust fund to start up a Silicon Valley company that eventually went public. Somewhere in that series of events - no one outside of Phemonoe is capable of saying exactly when - she literally broke the principles of Time and created a closed loop with her own childhood. Even she has no idea how many times she traveled that loop - there's no objective way to tell and to her it felt like endless iteration. The final loop, however, ended in college.

On that particular journey through time, something noticed Lucia's time loop. It reached in to try and fix it, and in doing so, it altered the nature of her Awakening through its intervention. That something was the Prophet, the Exarch of Time, and its ochema did not reveal its feelings on the loop to Phemonoe. However, after the event, she took her Shadow Name and dedicated herself to the Prophet with the zeal of a convert. She has created something great and powerful, using Sleepwalker engineers and her algorithimic scheduling app, DeSchedule. DeSchedule automatically creates a future calendar for its users by relying on scraping their data without their input, along with a tiny bit of knowledge granted from Phemonoe's magical understanding. The ad copy claims that predictive calendar software will make your life perfect. The actual goal? Predestination. Phemonoe and her Paylon of similar believers, the Oracular Order of the Prophet's Grace, are trying to render free will meaningless. They serve as the secret leaders of her company and have even developed their own Lgacy, the Choronologues. They believe that Phemonoe is chosen by the Prophet, and it's put the Pylon on a rocket ship of ambition.

Phemonoe is tall, extremely thing and often forgets to eat. When she does eat, it's using her own personally redeveloped replacement for Soylent most of the time. She rarely sleeps and the bags under her eyes are essentially permanent, though often hidden by her expert makeup techs. Despite this, she's never tired and barely blinks. She keeps her hair short to ensure her daily hair schedule is exactly two minutes long, and the only bit of vanity she really has are the immaculate suits she wears at all times. She does know that it's important to look good, of course, and she will modify herself to fit her audience. With investors, she's an ambitious smooth talker, and with her employers, an inspirational leader. With other Mages, she is a divine agent, all-knowing but approachable. Her Immediate Nimbus creates minor temporal hiccups, in which bits of speech or activity briefly go backwards, then replay the right direction. Her Signature Nimbus is a deep sense of deja vu. Her Long-Term Nimbus causes events to iterate around her, repeating their patterns with eerie similarity.

If viewed under the gaze of Active Time Sight, it's easy to tell that Phemonoe's personal time loop changed her. She always appears to be out of sync, as if she were a time traveler, even though she's technically in the correct timeline for her. If traced all the way back to its origin point, however, it leads not to her birth but to her Awakening, which according to Time is now the earliest event in her personal history. It surprises many who understand its nature to learn that most of DeSchedule isn't magical. Almost all of the code is algorithmic data scraping and collation, allowing for extremely accurate user profiles that are indeed extremely predictive. The final bit, though, is magic. Phemonoe hides just barely enough High Speech into the code to allow it to serve as a sympathetic connection for anyone who has both sufficient skill and either the admin permissions or enough computer knowledge to fake them to predict events magically anywhere in the proximity of any phone hosting the app.

An aerial view of DeSchedule's newest campus is more revealing - the building is laid out really weirdly because it's tracing out a sigil in High Speech. Phemonoe's cabal used her vast financial resources from duped venture capitalists to design it as a giant monument to the Prophet. While it is often rumored to be haunted or cursed by locals or employees, it isn't...yet. Phemonoe just spends enough time there that her Nimbus is acting to cause significant deja vu and actual repetition of minor events. They'll be right soon enough, however, once the executive spa is finished, complete with summoning circle. Not all of the employees are witting agents of the Seers. Plenty are just Sleepers trying to get paid, though even they can usually tell the company is weird and off. The crunch is one thing,m but all the executives are freaky and Phemonoe herself tends to leave comments on code hours after it gets uploaded. Sometimes, someone will run into the High Speech code and need to take a few days of enforced vacation and memory wiping. Memory scrubbing of employees is relatively common, in fact - not for security reasons, but to ensure her employees don't get burned out.

Phemonoe is an Acanthus, a member of the (new for this book) Lesser Ministry of the Horologion, and a Chronologue. Her Virtue is Diligent, her Vice Distant. She has Obsessions focusing on the use of computer code for magic and the violation of causality. She also hopes to achieve total market saturation with DeSchedule and to take control of the Horologion entirely - her view of herself as the prophet of the Prophet is very real. She's extremely intelligent and strong-willed, a master of manipulation, and physically a pretty average person. Her industry fame and wealth mean that she's pretty hard to get to without having to deal with being in her place of power, and she's extremely good with occult knowledge, science, hacking and other academic topics, plus pretty good at reading people. She also knows how to shoot a gun, though not super well, and is magically quite potent. Her specialty is Time, followed by Fate, with Space a distant third.

The Horologion seeks to control the world via routine. Repetitive tasks and unbreakable routines numb the mind, impose a rigid structure on the future as a form of worship of the Prophet, the Exarch of control through inevitability. The Horologion have grown massively in the past two centuries, first aided by the Industrial Revolution, then by the Internet, allowing them to draw power off the 9-to-5 daily grind. They believe that if they can track and dictate the lives of every person, they can destroy the capacity for independent thought and creativity. Their Prelacy's greatest power is the Crownd of Agency, which allows its user to have powerful tempral sympathy with any point in their own personal past, and gives them additional time to react and stop anything - even Time magic - that would supernaturally alter history.

The Chronologues take this obsession with time and prediction even further. They're mostly Acanthus and Seers and focus on, naturally, Time. They reject the idea of free will, believing that ultimate enlightenment requires perfect predestination, and that once this is achieved, all of the world will be a flawless machine, interlocked and unstoppable. They rely heavily on the principles of predictive algorithims and digital simulations, using magic to guide these mundane processes into something divine. They can draw power for their magic through timepieces and schedules, by arranging their castings to calculated and predetermined periods down to the second, or by fulfilling prophecies and dooms. They can draw Mana by ensuring events follow their predictions, by being productive for at least 12 hours without rest, by repeating the same action for an entire hour, or by precisely following their own self-created schedule precisely.

The first Attainment of the Chronologues is If-Then-Else, which combines Time, Fate and skill with computers to subtly alter causality, allowing them to bless with good timing or curse with bad timing, as long as they don't use this power on themselves. Further, they can define a single specific action which will swap the target from good luck to bad luck or vice versa, if the target does it. Their second Attainment is Possibility Matrix, drawing on further Computer skill. It lets them spend time coding a spell digitally, allowing them to read the future of a target with detailed answers and track how they shift based on changes in action every five minutes over the course of a scene, even if their target is no longer in range, by tracking the ripple effects through Time. The big limit is, once again, it cannot self-target.

E: Phemonoe is very clearly designed to be a story arc boss, and it works quite well. I like her!

Next time: The Scapegoat

The Worst Month

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
The Worst Month

Matatag, born Manuel Dalisay, dreamed of librarianship as a youth. His Awakening led him to the Mysterium - close enough. He was a member of a close cabal named the Tree-Root Union, and he was always more loyal to them than to the Mysterium or his local Consilium. They were the ones who found him during his Awakening and helped him get sorted. The eldest of them, Baobab, even initiated him into the Eleventh Question Legacy. However, unknown to Matatag, not all of the cabal were good people. Two members, Baldachin and Ironwood, were fascinated by Reapers and the soul, and it wasn't long before they became soul thieves themselves. When Baobab and Matatag discovered this, they brought the crimes to the local Mysterium caucus leadership to try and avoid a scandal. However, they were simply told to ignore it - the Union's importance as record keepers and artifact guardians made them too important, and besides, it was only Sleepers being harmed, so it could be overlooked. Baobab was horrified and decided to take things into her own hands, sure that the caucus leadership must also have become corrupted.

When she confronted them, Baldachin and Ironwood murdered Baobab, then stole the cabal's large collection of artifacts and grimoires which it had been guarding for the Mysterium. They faked their own deaths and framed Matatag for the entire thing. The Mysterium leadership wasted no time accepting the frame job, declaring Matatag apostate. He fled his city, and while the Consilium was very suspicious of how fast this all went and dispatched a team to investigate and bring him back for trial, Matatag refuses to believe they might be on his side and he will not go back. He is a man on the run now, a fugitive from his Consilium who seeks to track down the traitors Baldachin and Ironwood and...well, he's not totally sure what he'll do after that.

Matatag is a Filipino man, mid-30s, a bit small and short. He wears big ol' coke bottle glasses and cheap outfits. He doesn't shave often, and his beard is patchy and gross, while his hair runs to his shoulders. He believes that he should reject the Pentacle as they rejected him, and he no longer obeys the rules or etiquette of mainstream Mage society - he was never a fan in the first place, really. When he reaches a new town, he finds some magical mystery to investigate and does so with no regard for if anyone else is already doing so. He's happy to steal grimoires or breach protected territories, and he almost never works with a Pentacle mage on anything, even when it'd help everyone (including him) to do so. While this keeps him busy, his biggest focus is tracking the traitors down. He's horrified by what they did...but he also blames himself. He helped them in their studies of the soul, which he feels a lot of guilt over, and he often thinks about how he should have said something rather than looking the other way for the sake of friendship. Some days, he wants to kill the two Reapers in revenge, while others he only wants to ask them why they did what they did. His Immediate Nimbus is a glowing purple fog that makes people who breathe it want to engage in their vices. His Signature Nimbus is a chalky taste and a feeling of shame. His Long-Term Nimbus encourages fear over one's own flaws and actions.

Baldachin and Ironwood are both still out there, but they've changed massively. Both became Tremere, though Baldachin failed his initiations and became a preta, a failed Tremere candidate. We'll cover those later. Ironwood succeeded, and now goes by Ashra of House Thrax; more on what that means later, too. They haven't been working together or even seen each other in a long while, but both are actively hunting Matatag - consuming his soul will be, each feels, an act of final closure on their old lives. Oh, and the Mysterium leaders that condemned Matatag? A number of them are fully aware he didn't do the crimes. The coverup was a sloppy one, and any real investigation would've shown it. He was made apostate for political reasons - he was a patsy by the Left-Handed (read: corrupt wizards practicing evil magic) mages that hide in the local Mysterium caucus. While they are nominally helping to hunt for Matatag, they would very much like if he just went away and wasn't caught. Matatag, meanwhile, is trying to find a way to contact Baobab's ghost, which he assumes must exist. She had skill in Death magic, but he doesn't, and so he's looking for artifacts or other tools to do the work for him. Hopefully, he thinks, she'll be able to tell him more about her killers' motives and where they might be now, as well as help him with further study of the Eleventh Question.

Matatag is rumored in his old Consilium to have gone Reaper himself, as the crimes he has been blamed for have gotten exaggerated both by normal rumor and the active misinformation fed by the corrupt leaders within the Mysterium caucus. There's a bit of truth there, however - he has become interested in the nature of the soul due to his work alongside Baldachin and Ironwood, and he has continued his studies in secret, assuring himself that it's just to protect him from them. He also doesn't realize that some of his old Mysterium colleagues don't buy what their leaders are selling. A group of Mysterium mages from his Consilium have grown suspicious, though they do not yet believe their leaders have gone Left-Handed. Still, they want to talk to Matatag and get the truth, but he's trying to avoid them, believing they are his enemies as well. Most of the local Consilium thinks he has the stolen artifacts and grimoires his old cabal used to take care of, after all. He doesn't...but, as one of the old caretakers, he'd be invaluable in tracking them. The collection certainly held a number of very potent items, including a very powerful grimoire containing spells used for stealing, manipulating and eating souls. That one's currently in the hands of Ashra (nee Ironwood).

Matatag is a decently powerful Mastigos, belonging to the Eleventh Question Legacy. His Virtue is Studious, his Vice is Hesitant. His chief Obsession is to understand the nature of the soul, and he also wants to set up a new sanctum and find the traitors from his old cabal. He's a clever, strong-willed sort, but he's physically average and socially completely incompetent. He's extremely educated, particularly on magical artifacts, and he's a decent sneak and survivalist, plus he does know how to shoot things. He's no good at talking to anyone that isn't a dog, however. He has a smattering of magical skill spread across Matter, Mind, Space and Time, but he is expert at none of it.

Overall, Matatag is less a challenge to fight and more a challenge to deal with. He's going to show up and fuck with whatever your PCs are looking into, maybe steal from them, but ultimately he is an innocent man who has been horribly wronged. He has Tremere Reapers after him, so that's trouble one way, and a Consilium that wants to at least talk to him and maybe arrest him, so that's another. Worse - if he's allowed to spiral out on his own without anyone to talk to or help him, he's likely to go Reaper himself. He's not going to be much of a fight, but the chaos that follows him and his ability to hide make him hard to nail down for a confrontation.

Next time: The Fool

What If A Petty Asshole Got Godlike Power

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
What If A Petty Asshole Got Godlike Power

Ricardo, real name Gagan Bhatia, is the third son of an Indian family. His siblings were highly successful - one a successful lawyer, the other an indie rock star. He, on the other hand, was never more than average at anything he tried, and he was quick to drop whatever he was trying once that became clear. He's always seen himself as destined for greatness despite this. He eventually became a hedge fund manager in the hopes that he could make enough to retire early and pursue passion. For ten years, nothing happened to him at all...until he noticed something odd about the reports he was reading. He reviewed them and found that for several years, the funds' investments didn't follow the market - they led it, occurring before the events they'd normally be reacting to. Despite being warned off this idiocy by his colleagues, he decided to test the theory by convincing his manager to sell it all. That night, he Awakened in a dream of Arcadia, finding himself able to see the early warnings all around him. He's still not sure what happened, but he decided he was going to use it.

Ricardo's an Indian man in his early 40s, pretty average-looking and fond of expensive business suits. (He spends very little otherwise.) He's losing his hair but thinks it makes him look distinguished. He believes that now is the time he has been waiting for, and that his life has truly only just begun. He has no real understanding of his nature as a mage, but has picked up a few things - use of the Shadow Name (Ricardo), how to use a magical tool, that kind of thing. He learns magic mostly by trying it out at his apartment, which he uses as a training ground, seeing what kind of soap opera insanity he can manipulate his neighbors into for his amusement. He freely uses magic whenever he sees a chance to improve his own life or standing, and he's free with blessings for his friends and curses for his enemies. Everyone that knew him has noticed his personality's sudden and drastic shift - he's gone from a humble, quiet sort to an arrogant asshole. He believes himself the only mage in all the world, after all, and for the first time he feels powerful and important. He'd be shocked and disappointed to learn he's one of many. His Immediate Nimbus provokes a sense of helplessness and loss of control, his Signature Nimbus causes a gray fog of disappointment and lost opportunity, and his Long-Term Nimbus makes circumstances arrange themselves to encourage poorly advised and regrettable choices.

Ricardo's apartment building, Stone Island, has gained several Sleepwalkers since he started his reign of drama. They know something's up, and they've figured out that Ricardo is at the center of everything, but the last time someone confronted him directly, that person got into a ten-car pileup immediately after. They've decided to form a tenant's union as an excuse to keep tabs on Ricardo and figure out how to handle him. It gets worse, though - Ricardo is a Paradox disaster waiting to happen. Ever since a bad experience with a Paradox anomaly, he's entirely solved his Paradox issues by containing the Abyssal incursions within his Pattern, and it's been warping his mind and encouraging him to reach far beyond what he can safely achieve. No one's explained anything to him, and he's likely to end up causing a Paradox well beyond what he can contain. The one person who might explain has no desire to: Aurochs. Aurochs is a Seer, a potent member of the Ministry of Mammon, and he has been actively concealing Ricardo's existence. He infiltrated the hedge fund months before Ricardo Awakened, receiving messages from the Exarch known as the Chancellor in the form of market shifts. He was very disturbed when Ricardo's analysis of those shifts caused him to Awaken, and he's been hiding the young mage because he has no desire to change his plans to induct a new Seer or bring a potential rival into his Pylon. It's not a particularly strong cloaking spell he's used, however.

Locals in the area have decided Stone Island must be haunted thanks to the weird extremes of luck that follow its tenants. Some win lotteries, others die in freak accidents. The truth is, of course, it's just Ricardo. Whenever a new neighbor arrives, Ricardo glances at their direct future. If he doesn't think it fits his impression of them, he changes it by casting a spell on something they own to alter their luck. If that fails, he'll give them his 'lucky coin,' using it as a sympathetic link to do magic on them directly. He's at the center of basically everything in that apartment. The local Seers, meanwhile, have figured out Aurochs is hiding someone. They think it's a new apprentice he wants to hide, though they don't know who. Aurochs would deny this, of course. While he admires Ricardo's willingness to use magic selfishly, he thinks of the guy as a dupe, not an apprentice, and Ricardo hasn't realized he even exists.

Ricardo's also gotten what he always wanted - a Destiny. He receives visions of it occasionally, seeing people bowing to him and watching himself do magic that alters the world forever. He hasn't realized that his Destiny can go two ways, however, and that the dark side of it is his Doom: if he doesn't change how he's acting, yes, he'll do world-altering magic that makes others bow...because he's going to be possessed by an Abyssal entity that is going to try to warp the local city into its own personal anti-real kingdom or something similar.

Ricardo is a very weak, newly Awakened mage. He's an Acanthus, no Order or Legacy, and his Virtue is Tenacious while his Vice is Impatient. His chief Obsession is using his power to warp his neighbors' fates for entertainment, and he also wants to show off his power and get promoted. He's kind of an asshole. He's fairly average at everything, though his in fact good at finance and well educated, and decently good at social skills. He's got a mix of Fate, Forces and Time, none especially powerful.

Next time: The Queen of the Rose


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed

U.O.P.S. is known to most of the world as Summer Coleman, daughter of one of the long-time state senators of recent decades. She sought meaning in youth and discovered it in the Holy Temple of the Obelisk, an occultist organization of some history. She took her motto as her alias - Ut Omnes Perfecta Sint, That All May Be Complete. Her family didn't approve, but she didn't really care. Besides, it was the 60s. This was her thing. In the late 70s, however, the organization suddenly went bust, its leaders vanishing and its disciples left without direction and with a lot of anger. Summer recovered what she could of the sacred library, obsessing over the way the texts described other worlds and the magical energies within them. One night, she Awakened while studying these texts, watching Mana flow around her. She was certain she had passed the final test set before her by the secret masters, and she used her family's political connections to get in touch with the ex-members of the Temple.

Most of them were Sleepers, and UOPS destroyed their minds trying to force them to understand her power. Those that came through her spells intact became Sleepwalkers, forming the core of her new organization - the Order of the Rose. While most of her followers still couldn't use magic, they were able to find other mages and recruit them. It's been 40 years since, and the Order of the Rose has become a fully fledged Nameless Order and the most numerous group of mages in Ripton County, their center of power. They don't really exist outside it, though.

UOPS is a white lady in her 60s. In public she wears very fancy outfits, but when doing magic she exclusively wears plain black robes and white full masks without emotional expression. She has a large perm of gray hair. She's very friendly, even to Seers and Pentacle mages, but she takes her work seriously and will not tolerate mockery of the Order of the Rose or their beliefs. She is very well connected in local politics, and her nephew recently took over her father's state Senate seat. The Order's dominance in the county is assured by her focus on strong infrastructure and control of local politics. There is a small Consilium in the area, and the Seers technically consider it part of a larger Tetrarchy, but the Pentacle and Seer cabals and pylons within the county have yet to successfully challenge UOPS for local dominance. UOPS' Immediate Nimbus is a blindingly bright thunderstorm, her Signature Nimbus is electrical sparks and the sense of a mild static shock, and her Long-Term Nimbus encourages profound religious and spiritual experiences, which has made the area prone to surprise conversions.

The Holy Temple of the Obelisk was actually run by the Guardians of the Veil as part of their Labyrinth; its secret master was a mage named Voitto, and he would absolutely still be in charge of it had he not gotten caught up in the Silent War of 1979, a local conflict that wiped out most of the Pentacle and Seer presence in the county. The vacuum this left behind is what allowed UOPS and her order to take over. Voitto is still alive and in the region, and he's still really mad about UOPS; he'd very much like to bring her down and get things back to what he thinks of as normal. (Obviously, UOPS is a true believer and likely wouldn't accept that her Order was born from deliberate Guardian lies that she took seriously.) The return of the Seers and Pentacle brought with it negotiations, and UOPS had to promise that the Order of the Rose would not attempt to expand outside the county. She has broken that promise several times, but never actually managed to get a foothold anywhere else; she's under the impression that no one noticed. She is wrong - both the Pentacle and the Seers know about her broken promises and plan to use them against her.

The main current goal of the Order of the Rose is to produce the Crown of the Rose, a perfected, magically Awakened human. Their experiments are recorded in the Crown Notebook, a grimoire that the mages of the Order's inner circle have created together. All of the inner circle have a copy, while UOPS wields the original, and has hidden within it the notes on the Legacy she is also developing: the Shapers of the Invisible. The Order has so far found many potential candidates to become the Crown, and some of them even volunteered. All of them are dead, buried with honors in nameless graves in the Order's private cemetary. These graves are marked only with the number of that candidate - Attempt 36, say.

Many believe UOPS is actually a Seer in deep cover; she isn't, but the Order of the Rose's top-down structure and infiltration of Sleeper life make it an easy mistake. Some Seers plot to convert her Order to worship of the Exarchs as a way to undermine her control, and one Pylon has gone undercover within the Rose to attempt to enact this plan. The Order is also an active recruiter of Sleepwalkers - they need these people to make their work easier, and UOPS believes the Crown must start as a Sleepwalker. While they know how to temporarily force someone to Sleepwalk, it's not a permanent solution, so the Order actively tries to poach Pentacle and Seer-aligned Sleepwalkers.

UOPS is an Obrimos and a Shaper of the Invisible, as noted above. Her Virtue is Patient, her Vice is Imposing. Her Obsessions involve creating the Crown of the Rose, mapping the Temenos, and contacting a Celestine, one of the "natives" of the Supernal Aether. She'd also like to convert others to her faith and use her influence in the county to her whim. She's actually pretty average, stat-wise, except for being insanely manipulative. She does have a decent understanding of chemistry and occultism, and she can knife fight to some extent, but she's significantly more focused on magic than anything else. She is an extremely good user of Prime and Forces, with a sideline in Spirit.

The Shapers of the Invisible are an Obrimos Legacy focused on Spirit. Currently, UOPS is the only one, having developed the Legacy by studying her failures in creating the Crown. The goal of the Legacy is to harmonize the intangible and the physical in order to create an enlightened spirit. This enlightenment, UOPS believes, is key to successfully creating the Crown. The Shapers can do magic through appeasing spirits by ritual, using scientific methods to study the occult and occult methods to study science, or by using the symbols of secret societies. They can gain Mana by teaching people about the spirit world, recruiting people into a cult or mystical society, or by inspiring others to better themselves or otherwise seek out enlightenment.

The First Attainment of the Shapers, Seeing the Invisible, combines Spirit and Science to allow the mage to perceive spirits in Twilight, and with added Forces also grants the ability to sense light, heat and vibration, which is real useful. The Second Attainment, Graspign the Invisible, uses additional Science to allow the mage to touch spirits in Twilight. With more Forces, it can also force a single mundane force in a small area (such as a room) into Twilight - so, for example, in this room gravity affects spirits in Twilight but not material things or people. The Third Attainment, Harmonizing the Invisible, uses Occult skill to allow the user to cross the Gauntlet via a long ritual. With additional Forces, it can drag a mundane force across the Gauntlet in a small area - so now gravity isn't affecting spirits in Twilight, but rather has been dragged into the spirit realm (within, y'know, the single room).

There's also rules for being a member of the Order of the Rose. Sleepers can reach up to 3 dots, Sleepwalkers 4 and Mages 5. The Order focuses on metaphysical perfection of body and soul and the exploration of mystic realms. It teaches about Occult and Science, grants access to research libraries it controls, and in Sleepers and Sleepwalkers can teach the ability to sense nearby Supernal magic. Mages instead learn to use their skills in Occult, Science and Empathy to do magic. Beyond the third rank, it grants skill in exploring the Astral realm, and at the highest rank, you get a copy of the Crown Notebook as a grimoire.

UOPS is great as either a sinister patron or major foe for a local campaign. Her goals are laudable in theory, but she's more than willing to literally kidnap and kill people in pursuit of them. She considers making the Crown more important than anything else, and she enjoys being a petty tyrant of the local magical community. Plus, she's an old hippy lady with massive local political connections. I think she'd be a lot of fun to run, and she's a great example of how on a local scale, the greater Orders don't have to be in charge.

Next time: Banishers

Banishing Evil

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Banishing Evil

A Banisher is a mage that hunts mages. It's a term used mostly by mage society rather than Banishers themselves, and it's a catch-all that reduces all of the different types down to a single thing. Most Banishers don't call themselves anything - they rarely operate as collectives, except for the few belonging to Left-Handed Legacies that seek destruction of magic as a path to enlightenment. Most work alone. There are actually several types of Banisher, who differ in why they're pursuing their hunt.

Ideological Banishers kill mages for a cause. Usually, that cause is that magic is dangerous. The Pentacle tends to ignore the dangers - yes, the Guardians of the Veil warn mages not to pursue magic that causes Paradox and the Arrow warn of getting yourself in over your head, but they don't generally stop people from fucking up. The Orders tend not to talk about that, for fear of scaring people off. Sometimes, those that survive these fuck-ups are broken by the trauma to their mind or soul, and a mage who finds magic traumatic is in for a really bad time. Mages can't turn off their ability to sense magic and Mysteries. Often, these sorts of Banisher are self-loathing, drawn to Mysteries while hating them and using magic while seeking its eradication. They tend to hate mages or mage society, often due to being warped or traumatized by darker Mysteries. They also tend to be good at convincing others on the edges of mage society to agree with them - not due to any quirk of their nature, but because their stories are usually pretty compelling.

The Orders are generally unable to tell them from the kind of Banisher that is compelled to do what they do, so there's usually a policy of summary execution even for ideological Banishers, since it's hard to study and check the differences while they're trying to kill you. Many of this kind of Banisher Awakened without anyone around to help them or train them, though a few are ex-Order mages driven to turn on their own by their experience. The apostate Banishers rarely last long, however - they have too many people that know them and thus can more easily track them. It's much easier to survive as an unknown, Nameless Banisher who never joined an Order.

Hungry Banishers crave power over all things, and turn to Left-Handed paths that grant them power by the destruction of magic or the murder of mages. They consume and destroy in order to possess magic and deny it to others. Typically, a hungry Banisher belongs to a Left-Handed Legacy that alters their soul to be able to gain direct power from doing this. Some consume raw magic to live, others steal secrets, soul stones, timelines or other aspects of Mysteries, or leech power from magic items. Others even drain Supernal power from the world itself, creating dead zones and destroying Hallows. The Orders would not knowingly accept these mages, but sometimes such a Legacy will infiltrate them, often by means of recruiting an Order mage to the Legacy. They hide in the Orders as long as they can, until their murderous tendencies are revealed.

Even then, some Order mages would prefer not to kill this kind of Banisher, hoping that some useful information can be gleaned from them. The Seers are also not above making deals with hungry Banishers, using them as assassins or attack dogs in exchange for protection, but they're just as fine eliminating them as potential dangers. Hungry Banishers are more likely than other kinds to band together, usually in the form of taking Legacy apprentices or recruiting others, but they can get as much power from killing each other as anyone else, so it rarely lasts a long time. That said, they are the most likely to try and actively recruit more of themselves, as companions, in order to make their ideal magical society in miniature or to help them do their work.

Harrowed Banishers are what happens when something goes very, very wrong in an Awakening. Someone's soul is unready for the experience, but goes through it anyway. These are known as Harrowing Awakenings, and the Harrowed are the poor souls that come out of it. For them, magic is an experience of pain and fear, and they hunt and destroy it to be free of that pain. They avoid using magic as much as they can, because using it causes them physical and mental pain. However, they cannot fully avoid it - like any other mage, their Obsessions and need to understand draw them in, and their Mage Sight works fine...which means that they can always tell when magic is happening. Dread and terror are their constant companions. They break like Sleepers do - but unlike Sleepers, they can't forget, they can't scab over the wound the Lie leaves in their mind. Even those who control themselves enough to ask other mages for help rather than just attacking them blindly have nothing to look forward to - the Orders know of no method to cure the Harrowed. It should be unsurprising that they tend to conclude they have no choice but to lash out and hope it makes the pain stop even temporarily.

Harrowing Awakenings sometimes just happen, for whatever reason. Some people can make it all the way to the Watchtower and then hesitate and refuse to fully reject the Lie. Some push too hard and too fast, or are altered by forces outside their control or understanding during Awakening. However, the most common cause of Harrowing is other mages, generally mages trying to manipulate Awakening onto those unready or unsuited for it, or forcing their souls open with raw power. It's one of the big reasons the Orders warn apprentices not to just try and force Sleepers to Awaken. Yes, you may want to bring your family into your new life. That's understandable. Don't destroy them by trying to do it before they can handle it. The Harrowed, whyever they exist, are fully mages in every way but one: they do not have Wisdom. They can use Mage Sight and cast spells, they aren't Sleepers, they can join Legacies...but they still have mortal Integrity rather than gnostic Wisdom, and that causes them to suffer terribly when they confront Awakened magic. The pain affects them all differently - for some, headaches of crippling strength. For others, nausea or fever. For others, panic attacks or generalized body ache. It is a constant torment, and the most instinctive way they have of ending it is to destroy whatever is triggering the pain.

Banishers generally operate alone, thanks to their attacks on their own kind. Even a Harrowed who only wants to be left alone will lash out violently if other mages get too close. They can't fit into mage society, and the Orders discourage attempts to befriend or integrate them because of the fear that Banisher status will be contagious and they'll have to put down their own. They're not wrong, either - no one understands why or how, but the Harrowed can "infect" other mages with their soul damage, spreading their condition. Ideological Banishers can convince others to join them, and hungry Banishers look for potential recruits. A lot of Harrowed commit suicide before it becomes a risk, though, due to the pain and grief they suffer constantly. Others are killed by their prey, unable to handle a united cabal or Consilium responding to their attacks. The ones that survive, however, become the most cunning and dangerous. The solitary nature of Banishers does mean most don't fully understand their own powers. No one teaches them rotes or how to use the High Speech or yantras. Few develop Legacies, save for the hungry. They can only learn so much without teachers.

Despite this, Banishers all use magic. Even if it is painful or traumatic, it is a tool they can't let go of. It's part of their very nature as mages. They will often develop elaborate self-justifications for why they do. They fight fire with fire, say, or refuse to let this evil power go to waste. They might see it as the rightful punishment for their own sins, forced to wield this painful power until, at last, their task is over and they may rest. Others believe that all mages are damned, including themselves, so they may as well use the power of their own damnation to fight evil.

Mechanically, Ideological and hungry Banishers work identically to normal mages - they have no special rules, except that they pretty much never belong to an Order, rarely know rotes, and almost never belong to cabals or Legacies except Banisher Legacies. Harrowed have more complex changes. They have Integrity as mortals do, rather than Wisdom. They use Integrity for any roll that would call for Wisdom, but it otherwise functions as mortal Integrity. It can't go below 1, and they always suffer a breaking point the first time each story that they perform or experience a particular kind of magic by any Supernal means - spellcasting, Mage Sight, Attainments, whatever - no matter what the source. Also, if they fail a breaking point, they go berserk or even become obsessed with destroying any magic nearby. Further, they suffer penalties to all rolls when their Mage Sight is used or when Peripheral Mage Sight triggers, thanks to the pain. Casting spells, using Attainments or actively studying magic with Mage Sight causes them Bashing damage.

Any mage who develops a Strong sympathetic link to a Harrowed Banisher is at risk of becoming one. If such a mage has their Long-Term Nimbus affect a Banisher and that Banisher's Long-Term Nimbus affects them, they are contaminated by the Harrowing. They begin to suffer pain as above, and suffering Wisdom loss causes a roll to see if they become Harrowed entirely. This can be cured by regaining Wisdom before becoming Harrowed, or by getting an exceptional success on an Act of Hubris check if the Harrowed causing the taint isn't present.

Next time: The Gatekeeper of Truth

Something Something Bull Market

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Something Something Bull Market

The Minotaur was once a man named Zachary. He grew up in a city where he learned very fast that cops and criminals were both corrupt assholes caught in an unceasing cycle of violence. He was lucky enough that his parents taught him it was all rigged against him, but that he could succeed if he tried hard enough. He studied hard and tried to make them proud, he got to college, and while he was seen as a weirdo who didnt' talk much, he didn't care. He was dedicated to study so he could make something of himself. He began to realize that the Lie would keep him down anyway when he lost an honors society position to an academically inferior but more connected student, but he refused to just accept that hypocrisy. He pushed through, researching the case and why he was rejected. He discovered that a secret society existed on campus and controlled who gained access to what positions there. He knew that getting involved in weird occult-y stuff would be dangerous...but he had to keep fighting.

That's how he entered the Guardians' Labyrinth. He was a promising candidate, quickly moving through conspiracies and into cults. However, the amount of lies and deceptions he had to deal with wore him down. He became paranoid and lost hope. When his Awakening came, he rejected it as just one more part of the Lie. Even now, he refuses to accept the Supernal as Truth. There is no longer a Zachary - only the Minotaur, lurking within the Labyrinth. He has decided to make himself the guardian of the only thing he has ever been able to rely on: the strong prey on and control the weak. That is the only Truth he has, now.

The Minotaur is an athletic young man who dresses to fit into wherever he is. His eyes are intense, and he only ever focuses on one thing at a time. He never wears bright colors or flashy patterns, for fear of drawing attention, but he tends to dress as a preppy college student. It's where he usually is, after all. His Immediate Nimbus is an aggressive red glow that urges others to act based on despair and powerlessness. His Signature Nimbus is a bloody smear that stains whatever his magic touches on. His Long-Term Nimbus spreads paranoia, mistrust and fear of power structures of any kind.

That distrust for power is the core of what makes the Minotaur so dangerous. He infiltrates and corrupts societal networks, though he tends to avoid direct confrontation with the Orders or the Seers. He instead prefers to target the institutional means by which they control human society rather than trying to infiltrate them directly. He often targets Guardian Labyrinths or Ladder Cryptopolies, or seeks to destroy Exarchal symbols and corrupt sympathetic connections. He leaves very little evidence of his actions...but he's just one Banisher. He really shouldn't be able to keep avoiding the enemies he makes. Yes, he's smart and good at magic, but even more than that, he has an Abyssal entity watching over him. He was a Banisher before it noticed his existence, and he'd still be one if it left, but it encourages him and hides him. It is drawn to his inexorable destruction of Patterns and infrastructures, and it uses its power and influence to wear down sympathetic connections to the Minotaur, protecting him from magical detection. It has also found his families and is responsible for the various accidents that have claimed their lives in the past few years. When his mother Berenice became his last surviving relative, the entity dragged her into the Abyss directly, wielding her grief to do so. It keeps her in stasis in that non-place, granting it a permanent connection to the Minotaur which it uses to feed and draw power from.

Some mages believe that the Minotaur won't kill anyone that can meet his gaze without fear. They are correct - the Minotaur respects the strong, and he defines this by those who can meet his maddened gaze without flinching. That makes you go from a simple victim to a worthy foe, and he doesn't execute worthy foes the way he does those he determines to be weak. On the other hand, some believe he eats the bodies of his victims, and that's not correct. It is true that he never leaves a body if he can help it - he takes them, not always dead, to a pocket dimension he's created as his personal labyrinth. He's not really sure why, but he also doesn't care; it's due to the influence of the Abyssal entity that watches over him, which feeds on these victims to maintain itself. He has not noticed, and probably wouldn't care if he did. He just shoves them in there and is done. The biggest secret he has, though, is one he's not even slightly aware of: someone let him exist. The Guardians would hate to think it, but there's just no way that a Banisher could be Awakened while inside a Labyrinth and not be noticed by the Guardian Cultor in charge of the whole thing. He would have had to be allowed to live, at least until he was strong enough to escape detection on his own. Some of his original Consilium are convinced that there's no way he could've outsmarted and evaded the Guardians for long on his own, and they're probably right.

The Minotaur is a Mastigos, with no Legacy or Order. He's shockingly powerful for a Banisher thanks to his various helpers keeping him alive. His Virtue is Dedicated, his Vice is Hateful. His Obsessions are finding and destroying places and things of Supernal power and tearing down symbols of Mage society. He also wants to prove his philosophy is objective Truth, and shove mages into his personal Labyrinth. He's smart, strong-willed and charismatic, plus above average at most physical things. He's well-educated, great at investigating mages and very good at lying and intimidating people, plus decent with other social skills. He's a good fighter, especially with a handgun, and very sneaky. He also has camped out in a large abandoned library that he's got set up to warn against intrusion, and has picked up a flak jacket from somewhere. He's exceptional with Space and Fate, and can use Mind but isn't specialized in it.

The Minotaur is, as a note, an ideological Banisher. He's perfectly normal magically - he's just convinced that mages are assholes he needs to kill. He's pretty good at it, too, though I'd have appreciated more on how his Acamoth secret admirer manages to help him besides eroding sympathetic connections. I feel like that's going to be a problem PCs will need to deal with, too.

Next time: The Dark Passenger

Murder Most Foul

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Murder Most Foul

Officer Maxwell Peter Kelly was a highly decorated and beloved cop, but he became obsessed with one case that he wasn't able to solve. This was a serial murder case, a rash of ritualistic killings that he was unable to let go of. They haunted his dreams, consuming his life. He rejected the aid of the FBI or even other cops in the precinct as he focused on solving the killings all by himself. His investigations took him into many secrets of his town, revealing terrifying and wonderful places of power, bizarre creatures and beings living there, and more. He was half-maddened by the experience, but also felt liberated, as though things were finally making sense. Each day brought him closer to the mind of the killer, making him feel less like himself and more like the brutal, unknowable monster he was chasing. He often felt like his was walking a path not meant for him.

That's because he was. Kelly wasn't supposed to Awaken, and his soul was utterly unready for the Mystery Play that he wandered into. His obsession with catching the killer, with thinking like the killer, allowed him to force his way into the killer's own Awakening. It made no sense to him, as his mind and soul rebelled against and rejected a Truth that was never his own. He could not understand the Awakening, and he tore himself apart trying desperately to make some sense of the dark, terrifying nightmare he had accidentally entered. It broke him - he was Harrowed. It has been ten years since that horrible night, and as far as everyone else is concered, Max Kelly had a breakdown and got over it. He recovered well and operates well as a cop. He's a simple, friendly person.

Until, that is, something plays at the edges of his Mage Sight. Then, invisible knives begin flensing him, tearing the skin off his bones. When he can no longer stand the pain, he turns off. He enters a fugue state, becoming someone else. His colleagues describe him as intense and focused when this happens, distant and always apparently busy with some other problem. Kelly is terrified and ashamed of these blackouts, but he's even more terrified of looking into what he might be doing during them, afraid that he will discover a connection between them and the horrific murders happening in his precinct. Officer Kelly is certain that something else is riding shotgun in his brain, something he has named the Dark Passenger.

Kelly is tall, well-built and precise, with slicked-back hair and blue eyes. He can be cheery, but more often he comes off as grim due to his intense focus. He's nearly 50 but still healthy and strong, able to outdo cops half his age. His Immediate Nimbus is a mix of red and blue light that compels orderly behavior. His Signature Nimbus is total silence and a sense of dread. His Long-Term Nimbus causes obsession with fixing minor imperfections of all kinds. Oh, and he's wrong. The Dark Passenger isn't something else living in his brain. It's Kelly. Kelly's blackouts did start when he Awakened, and while he's in his fugue he feels an irrational hatred for the pain magic causes him, but his vicious, callous methods as he murders wizards are all him - a repressed darkness that has always been within his mind. He is not controlled, and the dark whispers and urges he feels are merely his own self manifesting through his Mage Sight. The Dark Passenger is half an excuse he has come up with to justify the behavior he can't admit to and part his True self, the warped self-perception of himself as a mage.

Kelly has found other Banishers over the past decade. Even at his worst in his fugues, he has never attacked them. Rather, in his fugue as the Dark Passenger, he taught them what he knew about magic and, in doing so, spread his Harrowed nature to them. Non-Harrowed Banishers he's run into become Harrowed and start to succumb to similar blackouts as their darker urges are released. Occasionally, a cabal will take one of these 'infected' Banishers down and believe they have defeated the true Dark Passenger, which is part of how Kelly has lasted ten years like this. The murderer Kelly was tracking during his Awakening is also out there still, and Kelly's no closer to finding him than he was ten years ago. The only real new knowledge he's got is that his quarry is a mage now, and that is the thought driving him when he is the Dark Passenger. When the pain becomes too much and he goes on the hunt, Kelly sees the killer in the face of his every mage he hunts. It's what draws out his rage and brutality - every hunt is personal.

The other cops think Kelly's a weirdo. He shows up to the parties, but he never stays long. He plays football with them, but he doesn't go out drinking after. He doesn't stay out late, and he doesn't care that his wife is cheating on him. It's all small stuff, but it's added up over a decade, and his coworkers have no idea what to think of him. If approached properly, the other cops might be willing to talk about the weirdness surrounding Kelly, and a few have even occasionally wondered if, perhaps, he's the serial killer he claims to be chasing. None, however, have any inkling of his true darkness. Some do know that he spends most his time patrolling off his own beat, outside their jurisdiction, in the isolated areas that he associates with the wrongness and pain of magic. Not a lot - most of the other cops have no idea. Those who do do not tend to care, though - it's not really the kind of weirdness they care about. A cop car out of place in Kelly's area, though, is something a mage should learn to watch out for.

When Kelly is desperate and feels he has to do something really crazy to keep the Dark Passenger from being discovered, he will seek out weird and obscure experts - mediums, parapsychologists, exorcists. He runs on the assumption that these people are overlooked by mainstream society, which should keep his inquiries confidential. A mage who discovers this could find some very useful info by questioning these people...but may also end up in the false belief that Kelly's actually possessed. Anyone trying to exorcise the Dark Passenger is in for a very rude surprise.

Kelly is a Moros, a Harrowed Banisher with no Legacy. His Virtue is Just, his Vice is Violent, and he is Obsessed with new Awakenings and the Dark Passenger. (Which is, incidentally, his own Shadow Name.) He also wants to destroy magic and catch his mystery killer. Kelly's not very smart, but he is insanely strong-willed, cunning and manipulative. He's decently charismatic and above average in most physical arenas. He's a very good detective, gunman and sneak, plus a decent melee fighter. He also has excellent social skills, especially intimidating people, reading people and gathering information. He's quite good at Death, Forces and Matter magic, too, and decently powerful magically.

Kelly's not really a mastermind, though his spawning of mini-Dark Passengers in other Banishers might fool the PCs into thinking he is. The real danger is just, Kelly is terrifying to fight. He's got Professional Training (Cop) 5, which includes Firearms as one of its skills - so, like Keres before, if he has a chance to just operate on instinct and not need to worry about things like being attacked, he can use rote quality to murder with. He's also extremely difficult to hide from, because he's a master investigator, and between that, his magic specializing in hiding what he does and being a cop, he's got a lot of institutional power to hide behind.

Next time: The Scheming Antiques Dealer

Word Eater

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Word Eater

Sophia, birth name Angela Jackson, is an ambitious woman who is dedicated to pursuing her goals. She was raised in east Texas, where being a black woman got her mocked constantly, but her family and community supported and loved her, and she has forged a strong sense of self from all of her troubles. She wanted to give back to her community and help them. Her Awakening was a great one, a moment of self-actualization in which she forged a path to her Watchtower in the Aether and found what she was truly meant to be. Which is why many mages would be shocked to learn she's part of a Banisher Legacy, the Logophages. Her mentor, Izukanne, found her shortly after her Awakening and was the one to initiate her into deeper lore, and that's...well, probably the entire reason Sophia has become Sophia as she is today. Izukanne taught her that power comes from knowledge - and therefore that ultimate power comes from being the only onw with key knowledge. She taught Sophia that magic was dangerous and certain knowledge had to be permanently forgotten, that understanding must be kept from the unready and unworthy to keep them from being destroyed or destroying others. Mages too often harmed Sleepers by revealing dangerous knowledge to them, and so few cared about the damage they dealt.

Sophia had seen firsthand the problems of unchecked power in the hands of people who abused it. She was easily convinced that Izukanne was right in rejecting other mages. It was only much later that she realized the cost of siding with a Banisher - and by then, she loved Izukanne deeply and truly, and Izukanne loved her. Besides, the feeling of power drawn from her kills is too much to give up. Sophia is a smart young lady with an MBA and a history degree, gained to help Izukanne seek out lost artifacts in Sleeper museums and galleries. Sophia often attends gallery showings and museum openings and has become an expert thief. However, she has also learned that the greatest power is not displayed, but kept hidden in private collections. She's gotten into black market art dealing and the trade of magical items, hunting at private auctions for goods to take. She has a reputation in the mundane world as an expert in antiquities and forgery and a good source of information on rare goods. She uses her antiquities dealing as a front to look for magic items and the mages that want them, then hunts down and destroys both.

Sophia's a short lady with brown eyes and braided hair. She's a fashionista, and she particularly loves Ankaran and Nigerian fashion styles. Her cheery Texan accent and small size tend to make people underestimate her, and she avoids other mages when possible except when killing them. Her Immediate Nimbus is a purifying flame that dances across her skin and the targets of her magic. Her Signature Nimbus is a sense of heavy gravity and a consuming void. Her Long-Term Nimbus makes people lose track of small items, events and so on. She uses Sophia as her Shadow Name because she is completely convinced of her own wisdom in saving mages from themselves and Sleepers from the dangers of magic. She kills mages and takes their stuff in the firm belief that she is somehow protecting them. Her love of Izukanne helps her justify this and keeps her from feeling too guilty about being a murderer. Well, that and her active decision to scrub her guilty memories from her own mind with magic when it gets too much. She's still not able to kill in cold blood, and by Logophage standards, she and Izukanne are very careful and choosy about their targets. They research potential victims and select only those who, per the Legacy's traditions, have gone too far in pursuit of knowledge. They tend to ignore newly Awakened mages or offer them a chance to become Logophages, depending on if they seem promising and sympathetic or just overeager.

E: It should be noted: Sophia prefers destruction of secrets to keeping them for herself, for fear of accidentally revealing them. She actively edits her own memories and prunes them to keep her worldview pleasant. This includes her actively removing her own memories of Izukanne's plans. Specifically, Izukanne is raising the bunch of apprentices the pair have collected to be food for their Logophagic hungers. Sophia was utterly horrified to learn this, and debated telling the apprentices, but instead decided to seal the memories deep in her own mind to keep her life livable. She has not destroyed that memory, though, just sealed it off, and if someone could make her recall it, it might be able to turn her against her lover.

A lot of mages think that Sophia and Izukanne are actively forming a Banisher cabal that's stockpiling magic; it's an easy mistake, given how many apprentices they've picked up. In truth, though, none of the apprentices have actually met each other and don't work together at all. They aren't aware that other apprentices exist - only Sophia knows all of 'em, really. Also, they're not stockpiling - they consume and destroy magic. Most mages just don't know all that much about Logophage practice and assume they're just gathering weapons. Sophia and Izukanne themselves are known to local mages - they're killers and their actions aren't secret. The hard part is tracking them down and fighting them, because they kill anyone they notice snooping on them and are careful to leave little evidence. The local Mysterium caucus blames them for any missing artifact, mostly in the hopes that it'll get someone to take their complaints seriously enough to hunt the Logophages down for good rather than because they think they're actually behind every loss.

Among Sleepers, Sophia has a much better reputation. She pays top dollar information on antiquities and never fails to pay - even if the information turns out to be useless. This encourages people to come to her, and that increases her odds of getting useful intel. Sure, Sleepers can't actively recall seeing Awakened magic, but Sophia is very good at fishing out the repressed, scabbed-over memories within their minds and spotting the telltale evidence of a Nimbus' mark on them.

Sophia is an Obrimos and a Logophage. Her Virtue is Loyal, her Vice Overconfident, and her Obsessions are destroying artifacts owned by other mages and learning secrets of Order mages. Her other goals involve recruiting new Logophages and infiltrating the Mysterium to find their local vaults. She's very smart and strong-willed, plus manipulative and charismatic. Physically, she's average. She's exceptionally well educated about history, a good sneak thief and an amazing liar, but not a fighter herself. She does have strong magic, though, focused on Prime, Mind and Space, with a smattering of Death and Forces.

The Logophages, also called the Secret Keepers, are a Mastigos, Guardian of the Veil and Mysterium Legacy focused on Prime. Their philosophy is simple: a secret should be consumed. You should learn all you can, then destroy the secret so that it can no longer be misused and thus harm people. Mages that know better (read: Logophages) can keep the knowledge hidden and safe within their own minds, rather than risking it to Paradox or Dissonance. They will even give up their own minds in order to force others to give up their knowledge. They are able to perform magic via the sacrifice of books, informants or other sources of knowledge, encrypting messages, or learning things they shouldn't via secretive means. They gain Mana by spreading misinformation to hide a truth, by conditioning themselves to forget things without magic, or by convincing others to share important and dangerous secrets with them.

Their first Attainment is Grasp the Arcane, which mixes Prime, Mind and skill at Subterfuge, Empathy and Investigation to increase the user's ability to gain surface information via Focused Mage Sight and expands what information they can gain this way. The second Attainment is Security of the Lost, which requires further Mind and Subterfuge. It lets the user force themselves to forget something temporarily, and then lets them permanently destroy the memory to gain Willpower if they want to.

I like Sophia as a character but I think that without stats for Izukanne she's less useful than she could be. She's an impressive researcher and spy, but on her own she's not going to put up a fight, which I assume her girlfriend is probably better at. Her apprentices are probably on par with starting PCs, based on the descriptions, but they also go unstatted.

Next time: Rapture

Is A Man Not Entitled To The Sweat Of His Own Brow

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Is A Man Not Entitled To The Sweat Of His Own Brow

The Rapt are what happens when a mage loses all Wisdom. Most mages are certain it could never happen to them - they'd never fall completely to hubris and obsession. However, while rare, it can happen to anyone. An Enraptured mage is a bleeding wound in the world, a hole through which Supernal power directly enters reality. This makes them dangerous, potent and practically invisible to most Sleepers, who mentally edit their worlds to remove the Rapt the moment they are able to do so. Strange events follow in their wake thanks to their power, and their entire being is focused on their Fault, the compulsive obsession that dictates their thoughts, behavior and power.

Becoming Rapt is a gradual process. Wisdom loss is rarely all at once, after all - it generally requires repeated abuse of magical power, reckless disregard for the harm you cause in pursuit of your Obsessions and an acceptance that even atrocity or negligent behavior is acceptable if it reveals Truth. Rapture pulls a mage's soul away from the collective unconscious of humanity as their Fault cracks the world and drags their soul through it. They focus only on their own magic, with little connection to the Temenos that unites all of humanity in the Astral Realm. Generally speaking, Rapture is the fault of the mage it consumes - it is extremely rare that a Rapt mage is not directly at fault for their own suffering, having prioritized their own understanding of magic over the health, lives and souls of other people. However, it is possible for a mage to become Rapt through no fault of their own. This typically happens only due to strange, dangerous mysteries, rare magical disasters or horrific injuries of the spirit and soul. These are rare among the Rapt and a great tragedy. The rarest of all, however, are the Rapt known as Walkers. They were Enraptured during the process of Awakening, their souls unable to withstand the strains. Their bodies are generally catatonic or comatose, but their souls travel the world through possession of their own Greater Tulpa. What's a Tulpa? We'll get there.

No matter what, the Rapt are not safe to have around. They pursue their Fault with monomaniacal focus and even less regard for others than they had before. Even those whose Faults are not inherently dangerous to pursue or which simply trap them in harmless obsessive loops leak raw magic into the world, warping everything around them by their very nature. They need not put any effort into spreading their magical power - it happens without them even noticing. Those that actively choose to wield that power are worse, going to any length to fuel their research or compulsively performing horrific acts. They typically are unable to understand that what they're doing is wrong, and tend to be confused and upset when people try to get them to stop.

Despite all this, some mages actually want the Rapt around. They are almost always experts on whatever magical subject their Fault focuses on, after all, and their Tulpas are worthy topics of research in their own right. They are often capable of great feats of magical understanding, their intuition and research unfettered by ethics or concerns for personal safety. However, working with an Enraptured mage is dangerous. They don't see other mages as people, but as tools or obstacles to their research. They aren't idiots, either, just obsessed. Some of them deliberately prey on other mages to further their research, and anyone who thinks their obvious focus makes them easy to deal with may well be manipulated by a far more cunning mind than they expected, then cast aside or turned into an experiment when no longer useful. The most notable group researching Rapture is the Bellerophon Group, a network of primarily Arrow mages who were founded in 1945. They watch out for signs of Rapt mages, share information on Rapture, and keep watch for disasters caused by the Rapt. Typically, they're only able to find Rapt mages once the disaster already happens, so they're most often playing cleanup and containment, plus studying the aftermath, rather than making deals with the Rapt directly. They hope to find ways to predict and contain future disasters or find evidence usable to capture the Rapt that cause them.

Many mages never know they've met one of the Rapt. An Enraptured mage isn't something obvious, and they rarely seem to have changed much from the person they were before Rapture. That's what led them down the path, after all - they were already acting that way. If they're careful and hide what they do, they can often go a long time before even their friends notice the change, though these friends will almost always by the first to discover it by noticing the subtle behavioral shifts and changes to their magic. Dealing with an Enraptured friend or ally isn't easy. The Orders and Consilia in general are not averse to ordering death sentences due to the dangers of Rapt mages, after all, and many mages may fear they were related to causing the Rapture of a friend or apprentice and will want to avoid suspicion. This allows the Rapt to hide within magical society for extended periods, often helped by those close to them trying to cover up their deeds. Eventually, however, that will fail - the Rapt, generally, will end up doing something that they can't or don't want to hide, and that risks revealing the entire game. Some Rapt do recognize that being discovered will deny them freedom to research their Faults, though. They are often the most dangerous, because they will suppress their Fault for a time to avoid suspicion. This causes a buildup of pressure, referred to as Stress, which leads to explosive and uncontrolled manifestation of magic from their soul. This is a Tulpa, an uncontrolled piece of raw magic that acts where the Rapt cannot, furthering their Fault.

The Rapt are powerful, but it's not a power you should want. Their Fault directly connects them to the Supernal, giving them extreme amounts of magical power in relation to it and deep insight into whatever their focus is, but the only reason it works is because of their broken, bleeding souls. They can't really control most of their power, with the vast majority of it just spilling out of their Nimbus as Tulpas. Their magic is not controlled by their will - just their Fault. The longer they try to hold it back, the more Stress builds up and the worse the eventual explosion gets. A Tulpa always reflects the Nimbus and Fault of the mage that spawns it, with the strongest Tulpas being literal Supernal entities that enter the world as living avatars of the Fault. These beings have immense power and no restraint whatsoever. Even when a Rapt indulges their Fault enough to avoid these greater Tulpas, however, they constantly emanate magic. This naturally hides them from Sleepers, who erase their existence from the world mentally in the same way they edit their memories of Awakened magic. The Lie hides the Rapt from notice, especially as their Stress builds up and widens the wound of their Fault.

There are broadly, four types of Rapt. Savants are the most common, and also the hardest to spot. They are Rapt whose Faults emerged from one of their Obsessions as a normal mage. They pursue that over all else, yes, but a lot of mages do that. The difference is that the Rapt are completely and utterly controlled by their Fault. Typically, they become Enraptured by pursuing Acts of Hubris in pursuit of an Obsession. They are the Rapt most often approached by other mages for insight and knowledge. Most often, their fall is related to some horrific soul-related crime, often on an Awakened victim, in pursuit of their Obsession. It may not be someone else - self-experimentation on the soul can be just as big an Act of Hubris, especially if you push yourself too far and too fast. Others obliterate or taint Supernal Truths as part of their experiments or fall as part of studying the Abyss...though perhaps fortunately for everyone, powerful Scelesti can't become Rapt.

Malefactors are the second kind of Rapt, with Faults developed not necessarily by their Obsessions but their actions. The reason is because the Act of Hubris that drove them to Rapture was, generally, a non-magical crime committed in pursuit of Obsession that they used magic for. While a Savant likely fell due to directly performing a soul-based experiment, a Malefactor is, say, someone who murders someone as a tool to get where they wanted. The murder isn't directly related to their experiments. Most commonly, they are formed by a murder in a sudden and impulsive fury, but torture or other dark acts can also produce them. Their Faults focus around loss of control and repetition of their act over and over. While the common stereotype among mages is that a Malefactor is a sadist and serial killer, most do not enjoy their acts at all. They are convinced that they have to do this. They must obey their compulsions or the world will end - their magic will burst forth from them and do it instead. It is even possible that they feel intense guilt and remorse even as they perform the act, knowing it is wrong but unable to stop. The original act that doomed them may have seemed necessary, but their Fault doesn't give them any ability to rationalize why they must keep doing it. It just makes them do it, without regard to context. Malefactors are rarer than Savants, but their actions are typically more mundane and less focused on the rarefied, arcane mysteries. They also are easier to spot - Savants aren't that weird by mage standards, most of the time, but a Malefactor stands out.

Walkers are the rarest and least understood of the three common categories of Rapt. Their soul and mind inhabit their Tulpa, leaving their body behind. That body is usually in a coma, the mind trapped in their Oneiros dream-world until they accumulate enough Stress to release a Tulpa. In that Tulpa, they are able to indulge their Fault and act through the magic they release. In the past, Walkers rarely survived long after their Rapture due to the inability to keep someone in a coma alive very long. Today, medical science can keep their body alive, though, and the doctors are rarely aware of the fact that their patient is the source of the dangerous and bizarre events that will begin to surround them. Walkers are typically Rapt through no fault of their own, with most being formed by the events of their Awakening. A few suffer Rapture through self-inflicted soul wounds or through magic that removes them from their body for an extended period, but that's rare even by Walker standards. Most form when their Awakening shatters their mind but gets interrupted before they can achieve transcendental epiphany. Walkers have been studied for centuries, but the Pentacle still has no idea why they happen every so often. They've noted it often happens due to possession mid-Awakening, Abyssal intrusion or having the soul tampered with during the act of Awakening...but more often these events form Harrowed Banishers or just prevent Awakening. It's not clear what determines that. Some say that there are specific entities that have to be involved, but they are as yet totally unpredictable and unstoppable, should they exist at all. Sleepers typically interpret the acts of a Walker Tulpa as a haunting, as their infrequent episodes of activity usually involve poltergeist activity, hallucinations and strange figures appearing as the Walker revels in finally being able to do things.

The fourth type of Rapt is 'Other.' A Rapt may not fit any of the three above categories and instead manifest their Tulpas in weirder ways. These are usually made by unique circumstances - maybe an Abyssal entity eats your entire Wisdom bar at once, or you use a magic item that slowly erodes it, or you get caught up in some weird Supernal time war that retroactively fucks up your Wisdom or whatever. Weird-ass shit can make weird-ass Rapt. Their Faults tend to be extremely weird, singular and unpredictable.

Next time: How Am Rapture Work

No, Says The Mysterium, It Belongs In A Museum

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
No, Says The Mysterium, It Belongs In A Museum

So, what does becoming Rapt entail? When you hit Wisdom 0, you lose your Virtue. In its place, you gain a Fault. If you hit Wisdom 0 due to direct pursuit of an Obsession, your Fault is either that Obsession itself or a magical act related to it. This is most Savants, and examples might include destroying mage souls, casting a specific spell related to your Rapture over and over, or attempting to develop and iterate on the techniques used in your moment of Rapture without limit. If you hit Wisdom due to a mundane action, your Fault must involve using magic to repeat that action indefinitely, usually with certain requirements based on the context of the original action. This is most Malefactors, and examples might include killing trespassers (of anywhere), setting people on fire, or murdering people in a specific location - all drawn from the same act, killing a trespasser to your Sanctum by setting them on fire. Walkers and other more unique Rapt tend to gain Faults that are strange or unpredictable, possibly connected to important aspects of their lives or to key symbols from their Awakening or to whatever event destroyed their Wisdom. Regardless of what they are, all Faults also get linked to one of the Arcana that is most related to its nature in the moment of Rapture. This Arcanum is the focus for how the Rapt mage attempts to pursue their Fault and what the key aspect of the Fault is for them.

Mechanically, this means:
1. You can't regain Willpower from Virtue any more; you keep your Vice still.
2. Your Fault is an Obsession that cannot be changed, no matter how often you fulfill it and which doesn't take up any of your limit on how many Obsessions you can have.
3. Your Fault also functions as a second Vice. Fulfilling your Fault gives you Willpower, in other words. If you fulfill both Vice and Fault at once, you regain all Willpower.
4. If your Fault's linked Arcanum wasn't a Ruling Arcanum for you, it is now.

Your Nimbus becomes a wound in the world that spills out Supernal power constantly. You can't contain it, and your Long-Term Nimbus is more of a magic disease than anything else; it spreads at random rather than through meaningful connections. Mechanically:
1. Your Long-Term Nimbus does not spread along sympathetic ties. Instead, it spreads at the ST's whim to reflect your influence tainting the world around you as a narrative way to draw wizards in to investigate it.
2. You get a huge bonus when flaring your Nimbus to contest supernatural auras, but doing so generates a Lesser Tulpa.

Every Rapt also gains a single magical savant ability. Examples are listed, but the ST is given express permission to make ones besides these:

Rapt mages are also resistant to Paradox in several ways that normal mages aren't...and vulnerable in a few ways that others aren't.
1. Paradox anomalies caused by a Rapt releasing Paradox last either a year or a full chronicle, whichever comes first.
2. Paradox conditions a Rapt suffers go away after only a single turn.
3. When trying to contain Paradox, Rapt roll a chance die because they have no Wisdom at all, but they can spend WP to add dice to the roll or spend Mana to use their current Stress as the pool - but not both at once.
4. Rapt can magically heal themselves of damage taken absorbing Paradox or scouring Paradox conditions rather than that damage being resistant.

Rapt are cut off from the Temenos, the part of the Astral that taps into humanity's collective soul. They just can't get there. Ever. They go straight from their personal Oneiros to the Anima Mundi, the greater world-soul. Further, the mystical protections of their soul are stronger in the Anima Mundi if they are pursuing their Fault. It is difficult for other people to get into the Oneiros of a Rapt mage, but it's possible by use of Mind magic or similar...though doing so is extremely dangerous, as the Oneiros is awash in Supernal energy. It encourages unwise use of magic while there, and the Goetia within the dreams of the Rapt can be tied to the Tulpa that rules their Fault. The lack of Temenos connection makes it hard for Rapt mages to relate to other humans, and they have severely deficient empathy except when it involves fulfilling their Fault. Even those that understand they may harm others alter their actions only because they have convinced themselves in the abstract, rather than any true empathic connection. It makes social interaction really difficult, but also means it's very hard to convince a Rapt mage to change their actions, and makes it very easy for them to commit acts of shocking viciousness if they feel the need.

Mechanically, the Rapt cannot have their Doors forced open in social maneuvering - which has a lot of implications. Forcing doors is how you do things like intimidating someone into letting you by or bribing them into looking the other way when you don't have time for a full-on charm offensive. You just can't do that with the Rapt, and supernatural powers cannot alter how easy it is to convince them of stuff. They also calculate Defense as if they were animals, using the higher of Wits or Dexterity, as they lack any instinctive compunctions about violence. They also need not spend Willpower to attack a surrendered foe and they cannot gain the Beaten Down Tilt, which means that when they fight, they're not going to back down easily. Also, they gain greater protection in the Anima Mundi. Anyone inside the Oneiros of a Rapt who works against any scene, Goetia or person that is aligned with the Rapt's Fault inflicts Stress on the Rapt, and if this causes a Tulpa manifestation, their Greater Tulpa also shows up in the Oneiros to get rid of the problem. Also, it's easier to suffer Wisdom loss when in the Oneiros of a Rapt.

Stress is a new healthbar that Rapt gain, with length based on Gnosis. Whenever a Rapt goes a full chapter without fulfilling their Fault, they gain 1 Stress automatically. On top of this, whenever the Rapt has a chance to pursue their Fault and doesn't, or whenever anyone else actively prevents them from doing so, they roll half their Gnosis and take the successes in Stress. At the start of any scene the Rapt is in, they roll their Stress. Any success means they generate a Lesser Tulpa and heal 1 Stress, while exceptional success releases their Greater Tulpa and heals 3 Stress. If their entire Stress bar is full, the Stress roll has rote quality and gets exceptional success easier than normal, so it is almost certain to happen. The Rapt can spend 1 WP to not roll for a scene, as long as the Stress track is not full. However, any time they would take Stress while their Stress is full, they must immediately roll.

A Tulpa's range is based on how full the Stress track is. At half or less, a Tulpa manifests within the Immediate Nimbus of its Rapt creator. More than half makes it manifest in both the Immediate and Signature Nimbus. Full means all three. Also, the ST may choose, if the Stress track is over half full, the ST may choose to roll for Tulpas whenever anyone uses Mage Sight to study the Rapt's magic or Signature Nimbus, even if the Rapt themself is not actually present. More on Tulpa next post.

The Stress of a Rapt increases the amount of magic leaking out of them. The more Stress they have, the greater their sorcerous occultation, which makes it harder to use sympathetic magic on them or track them with magic. A Rapt also loses their sympathetic name - it no longer has any power over them whatsoever, so knowing it doesn't help you do magic on them. This is because they are more a magical being than a person at this point. They may still answer to the name, but it has no magical potency and cannot be used for any kind of name-based supernatural stuff. Their Nimbus also triggers Quiescence in Sleepers that meet them, even if they don't actually do any magic. Sleepers just forget their existence entirely after the end of any scene in which the Rapt was present, as if they were an obvious spell, and cannot recall much about the encounter. If the Rapt has more than half their Stress track full, the Sleeper forgets a few minutes after any interaction rather than the scene after, and a full track means they forget the turn after any interaction. At least there is one mercy - a Rapt's presence doesn't trigger breaking points in Sleepers, though their magic continues to do so as any magic would.

Next time: A Tulpa is neither a deliberately made estoric Buddhist thoughtform being nor a magical dream pony that wants to fuck you

No, Says The Guardian, And You're Being An Idiot

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
No, Says The Guardian, And You're Being An Idiot

Lesser Tulpas, as mentioned before, are essentially wild spells that explode out of a Rapt mage's Nimbus when their Fault is ignored too long. Greater Tulpas are intelligent beings, Supernal entities that are drawn though to reality by the Fault. Every time a Rapt manifests their Greater Tulpa, it's the same entity, with the same goals and mind. Walkers, notably, have a special relationship with their Greater Tulpa. For most of their existence, a Walker is trapped in their own Oneiros and unable to do anything. Manifestations of their Greater Tulpa free them, as their soul fuses with the being and controls them. The Tulpa remains no less potent, but has a human mind in charge ratehr than a native of a Supernal Realm. Somehow, this doesn't actually help much.

Lesser Tulpa vary in power based on how much Stress the Rapt has when they are made. Those that can only access their Immediate Nimbus center on the Rapt and last for only a few turns, affecting out several yards based on how good the Rapt is with their Fault's Arcanum.
A Lesser Tulpa that manifests in a Rapt's Signature Nimbus does the same, but also does it centered on everything that has the Rapt's Signature Nimbus left on it, and it lasts for several scenes. The good news is, studying these manifestations with Mage Sight is pretty dang easy and lacks the normal (and uncontrollable) ability of the Rapt to hide their presence. However, because a Tulpa's manifestation is pretty much raw Supernal magic, it's really easy to be overwhelmed by the power of it.
A Lesser Tulpa that manifests in the Long-Term Nimbus will erupt anywhere that the Rapt's Nimbus is actively influencing anyone or anything at the time, for as long as the influence lasts (or until the ST wants them to stop). This also covers a wider area around each center, using the advanced scale chart based on the Rapt's power with the Fault's Arcanum.

A Lesser Tulpa's manifestation has Strength based on a roll of the Rapt's Gnosis. The better it rolls, the higher its Strength. Each Tulpa also matches one or more of the Practices of spellcasting, with more Strength using more powerful Practices or more Practices or both. What the Tulpa actually does is based on the Mage's Fault and Fault-linked Arcanum, and generally use spellcasting rules, but can ignore a lot of the restrictions because they're not controlled spells. They affect anything within the Tulpa's range, and can work in really weird ways, like using Knowing magic to cause everyone to hallucinate information related to the Arcanum. Tulpa eruptions like this are pretty powerful, can combine quite a few effects per Practice involved, and do not cause Paradox or weaken from Dissonance. However, they are always obvious supernatural effects, and they do trigger Quiescence in Sleepers, including the breaking point part, as the Lie forces their minds to reject what is happening. They also leave the Rapt's Signature Nimbus on the entire area. Every effect they cause must be resisted seperately for each effect and each scene, meaning it's possible for a character to suffer some of a Tulpa's effects but not all.

If the Tulpa rolls really badly when generated and gets a dramatic failure, it instead creates a local annullity - an area wherein the linked Arcanum of the Fault is temporarily suppressed. Annulities are normally created with soul stones and can only affect the creator's Inferior Arcanum, and even then they're not common. A Tulpa-made annullity is more potent than soul stone-made ones, too. Normally, an annullity just weakens magic. These still do, but they also have extra effects.
A Death annullity forces any undead creature - ghost, vampire, mummy, whatever - to spend Willpower to do any action that'd take a roll while in it.
A Fate annullity reduces all rolls in its area to chance dice, with no way to boost them at all.
A Forces annullity prevents any Environmental Tilt from happening within it (except Abyssal ones). Any created by magic or normal means just dissipates instantly and harmlessly.
A Life annullity causes small Bashing damage to every living being within it every turn, which absolutely is able to knock out or kill things that stay in it long enough, and causes penalties to all magical or mundane healing, even non-Supernal magic.
A Matter annullity reduces the durability of all inanimate objects within it; magical items can't be reduced to nothing, but mundane ones reduced to 0 Durability crumble the moment anything interacts with them.
A Mind annullity prevents all Willpower spending in its area; it is also impossible to have dreams within one.
A Prime annullity weakens all Supernal magic within its area and also causes Mana costs to rise within it.
A Space annullity reduces the strength of all sympathetic connections within it temporarily, and causes all keys to cease function while in it - both mundane door keys, supernaturally enchanted keys and mystical Keys to magical portals. Also, it is impossible to navigate within one by mundane means.
A Spirit annullity ends all potent spiritual resonance conditions within it and makes them harder to create by any means. Further, it is impossible to cross the Gauntlet within one, either personally or by casting magic through it (or at it).
A Time annullity weakens temporal sympathetic connections within its area, and within one, time ceases passing. You can take actions, but nothing within one ages or decays, and time passes faster outside it - when you leave, you effectively appear in the future, however far the ST feels like. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years...anything is possible.

Greater Tulpas are worldshakingly potent entities, Supernal beings of the type associated with the Rapt's Fault-linked Arcanum. Their power is based on the Rapt's strength with that Arcanum, which is usually quite high. Its great and all-consuming purpose is to pursue the Fault, and its abilities and form are dictated by this. Once it manifests, it attempts to fulfill the Fault by any means necessary. This may mean it helps the Rapt by getting rid of obstacles or problems or arranging situations, or it may just enact the Fault itself, ignoring the Rapt entirely, if that's possible. Walkers merge with their Greater Tulpas during manifestations, directing them until the manifestation ends. Walker Greater Tulpas are more wide-ranging, as they always count as being in the presence of their Rapt's Nimbus.

A Greater Tulpa that loses all Corpus outside the presence of its Rapt's Nimbus is consumed and destroyed by the Abyss, as other Supernal entities would be. Despite this, the next time the Rapt generates a Greater Tulpa manifestation, an identical entity is summoned; it is unclear to anyone who has looked into it if these are the same entities as before, somehow escaping Abyssal degradation, or new ones. Killing the Rapt severs the Tulpa's connection to the Supernal, but this doesn't automatically get rid of one. It is, however, no longer able to draw power from the Rapt's Nimbus as it would a summoning circle, and so it will be consumed by the Abyss when it runs out of Corpus unless a mage 'summons' it properly first. Killing a Walker's body while their Greater Tulpa is active causes their soul to be consumed with the Tulpa when they eventually fall to the Abyss. It is a grievous Act of Hubris to destroy a Tulpa this way, and particularly a Walker Tulpa, as this actively destroys Supernal power and an Awakened soul.

Rapt souls, as a note, have no special protections, and if you stole their soul and implanted it in someone, Rapture would not be transferred. Giving the Rapt a new soul won't fix them, either. The Fault is an alteration of their soul-vessel, so to speak, in the same way Legacies are, except a Legacy is a careful alteration of your nature and the Fault is a big bloody crack. That said, a soul stone made from a Rapt is dangerous to Wisdom for those who try to make use of it, as it is tapped into their power and their Fault.

So, if a new soul won't fix Rapture...what will? It is curable, which I assume is why these rules are so complex - they can be player-facing, meaning that tracking all this information may be a constant thing rather than a thing only when the NPC is present. The Bellerophon Group is aware that Rapture is curable but have almost never had a chance to try to implement it, and it's difficult. Worse, it's all too easy to fall back into Rapture. A Rapt mage who has zero Stress can sacrifice a full dot of Willpower to be able to spend XP on raising their Wisdom to 1. This ends their Rapture...temporarily. An ex-Rapt is a normal mage in most ways, but does not regain their Virtue or lose their Fault. Their Fault continues to function as a second Vice and free Obsession. A Rapt also retains their savant power. However, any time they use their savant power or regain Willpower via their Fault by any means, they immediately lose all Wisdom again and fall back into Rapture, even if their Wisdom grew higher than 1. They can also still drop back into Rapture through normal Acts of Hubris, though presumably they stick to their old Fault rather than gaining a new one.

Next time: Who Reaches For The Depths

There's A Hole In The Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
There's A Hole In The Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

Cleodora, formerly Jamie Adams, hated doors. Her home was full of slamming doors, angry people, and huge fights. When she was young, her aunt Jane had a big fight with her mother, left the house, slammed the door and never returned. Lanie associated these slamming doors and the opportunities denied her by being black or a woman or a black woman or so on. However, she learned how to keep them from shutting entirely - or how to tear them down. Jamie studied architecture, excelling in her field as queen of the open floor plan. Her designs were award-winning, and her Awakening only expanded her ability to study and open doors. She took the Shadow Name Cleodora and joined the Free Council, specializing in the study of Verges (places where realities overlap) and Irises (portals). She befriended other mages and helped form the Riverside Cabal, several of whose members lived in the home she designed as their shared Sanctum and Demesne.

Cleodora's research made her an expert on ley lines, Hallows, Verges and Irises. Other mages would seek out her expertise, as while she might lack the comprehensive records of, say, the Mysterium, she was also far happier to just hand information out. Eventually, she began to research Scars, Irises in which reality weakens and the Lower Depths rise up. Others told her to leave them, as they were dangerous, and that it wouldn't be possible to make one deliberately anyway. Cleodora took that as a challenge, and she simply stopped telling people what she was doing. The first clue that it all went wrong was the day all the doors appeared in the cabal house. It had never had many - Cleodora hated closed doors - but now every room contained at least one. For hours, they led throughout the house, unreliably and apparently at random, with no regard for physical space. Cleodora eventually came out of her bedroom and the doors faded away. The cabal figured some weird magical surge occurred along the ley line or in the soul stone of the house, temporarily transforming it into a Verge.

They were wrong. Cleodora had been trying to open a portal to the Lower Depths in the bedroom. She very, very briefly opened a portal to a realm that devoured the concept of Space itself. After that, she stopped doing experiments in her own house and went outside. Now, she opens Irises in locations where Sleepers will inevitably wander through by accident, watching their reactions and attempts to escape. She catalogs them, using them to study the nature of portals. Sometimes she even traps them and tries to open up a Scar by using them as bait for the things that inhabit the Lower Depths. Cleodora's cabal has realized she's been Enraptured, but aren't sure what to do about it. They're loyal to her still and protective of her, and so they're just trying to ensure her work doesn't create a larger problem. They've covered it up so far, usually by rescuing the folks she traps if they can or hiding the bodies if they can't. Still, those bodies are growing in number - they can't keep this up forever.

Cleodora dresses well, as if she were still a practicing architect. She's not; she left her firm after Awakening, she just still likes dressing for work. She's practical in her outfits, favoring tailored slacks or fitted blouses, and often wears her father's old tweed jacket on top. She wears her hair in Senagelese-style twists, often in a ponytail. She maintains a good working relationship with other mages, despite her Rapture. She attends meetings, gives her thoughts, accepts their requests for help in investigating Verges...though it's always hard for her to resist experimenting when that happens. She's fully aware her work is dangerous to those around her and that she has harmed innocents. She does not care. It'll all be worth it, she's certain, when she manages to solve the mysteries of the Scars. Anyone she loses...well, they're martyrs in the fight against the Lie. She can, at least, usually keep herself together when her cabal is there - especially if her friend Swan is present, as Swan reminds her of Aunt Jane. Cleo's Immediate Nimbus is a strong awareness of one's location and what's in it. Her Signature Nimbus is the disorienting feeling that you have entered somewhere entirely unfamiliar. Her Long-Term Nimbus causes people to make wrong turns or get lost without realizing how they did it.

Aunt Jane's disappearance was never solved. By the time Cleo Awakened the trail had gone cold, of course, but using magic she was able to find evidence of an unstable Verge near the last place Jane had been spotted. However, Cleodora has never figured out the Key required to open the Iris into the Verge. She tries new theories on it every few weeks. Her targets for Scar experimentation are mostly random passers-by, but not exclusively. She has used her experiments to quietly eliminate several foes of the Riverside Cabal or the Free Council. Neither she nor the cabal have realized that the local Hierarch has realized to some degree that this is happening; fortunately, thus far, no one has been sent to investigate Cleodora. Instead, several of the Hierarch's enemies have been quietly misdirected so that they enter Cleodora's hunting zones.

Cleodora owns several acres outside town under her old name. She's been building a house on it the past few years, though the complex design has confused everyone she's shown it to. As a result, she only hires contractors to hire one room at a time, doing most of the work on the house solo. She has altered the local ley lines, and dreams of one day opening a Scar within the house. Several contractors have quit shortly after being hired, claiming they had all kinds of weird experiences. Two have vanished entirely. The cops believe they just walked off the job - incorrectly, as it happens. They're still in the house, trapped inside the mazes within the walls.

Cleodora's Lesser Tulpas, when they manifest, tend to trap people in maze-like areas of altered space. It's one of the bigger signs she's broken - there's several reports of folks being trapped in weird maze-zones and then spotting her. The Consilium's Strategos has also vanished. He came to visit Cleodora on the suggestion of the Hierarch, to get advice on ley lines. She trapped him in a Scar she'd found earlier, though whatever she expected to learn failed. This is what the Hierarch intended, as the Strategos had been asking questions about awkward things. The Consilium has grown paranoid and fearful over the vanishing. Some rumors suggest Cleodora's managed to create a Scar, too. She hasn't - yet. She's sure she can, though, and she's found several Irises that lead into Scars, some of which she's forced to stay open so she can see what happens.

Cleodora is a Mastigos Free Councillor and member of the Reality Stalker Legacy. Her Vice is Stubborn and her Fault is Space-linked: Open a Scar. Her savant power is that she can reflexively cast any spell that opens Irises or interacts with the borders and liminal spaces of other realms without Reaching. She is also Obsessed with survival in the Lower Depths and architecture from the Time Before. She's a strong-willed woman of otherwise average stats, though she's very good at making stuff, investigating, science and occult lore, and decently good at persuading people to listen to her. Her magic is focused on Space and Death, with some sidelines in Spirit, Prime and Mind. She's not especially dangerous in a fight, but facing her in any area with portals she can dump you into is going to be very tricky.

Cleodora's Greater Tulpa is the Maze, an Imp of Pandemonium. The Maze is ever-changing, folding in on itself impossibly. It is translucent and easy miss, appearing to be a blurry distortion in the air. It is attracted to confusion, especially that derived from unfamiliarity with a location. Tourists, especially, tend to draw it in. It selects victims and traps them in spatial loops, trapping them. Once the effect ends, the Quiesence sets in and they forget the experience, confused about what just happened. The Maze is as fascinated as Cleodora is by Scars, sharing her Fault, but it is not nearly as meticulous or careful. It hunts down anyone that is in Cleodora's way and traps them until she gets her work done or they die, both of which it considers acceptable. The Maze's Vice is Greedy, it's a Rank 4 Supernal Entity, and its focuses magically are Space, secondarily Mind, and following that, Death, Prime and Spirit. Its Ban is that it must release any victims it has if it sees someone trace the pattern of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth from memory. Its Bane is a map of any of its previous configurations drawn on blueprint paper.

The Reality Stalkers are a Mastigos and Mysterium Legacy focusing on Space. They're mostly Mysterium but are quite welcoming of anyone who wants to study the fractures, interstitial places and similar locations throughout the Fallen world. They use their magic to cut passages through space, crack open portals and otherwise investigate holes in reality to find new and bizarre things. Their more practical members often make a decent living as spies or thieves, which has given the Legacy a dubious reputation. They can do magic through codebreaking or hacking, learning secrets, revealing secrets to others, or by being near doorways, secret passages or other liminal spaces. They can gain Mana by breaking and entering, exploring hidden paths or secret passages, getting lost and then finding their way back, or by brokering a trade in secrets between other people.

The first Attainment of the Reality Stalkers is Gazing Through the Cracks, which combines Space and Larceny or Stealth to scry through spatial warps, portals or similar to see what's on the other side. This can also work to scry down a corridor, but it's not subtle, no matter what. Anyone on the other side becomes aware they're being watched, and there's a small chance that the magic will actively open the warp or corridor it's being used to spy on. With Death or Spirit, this power can be used to gaze through Avernian Gates or Loci, respectively.

Next Time: The Reborn


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed

Manzazuu is obsessed with his own past lives. He is a Malefactor fixated on murder, and his Obsession is drawn from his belief in reincarnation, whose secrets of enlightenment he seeks to tap. To achieve this, he attempts over and over to recreate the single clear vision he has ever had of his past lives: a murder. He manipulates his victims with social skills and magic, forcing them to act out specific roles in the hope that eventually, he will perfectly recreate his vision and thus recall his past lives. (Not that there's a clear connection between these two things - he's just Rapt.) His needs are highly specific, however.

The victim must be a young man with sand-colored hair. He must stab the victim to death while thunder rolls. Two people must witness the act, one eager to see it and the other horrified. The eager one is a woman with a vicious scar, the horrified one is an older man with a hunched back from a long life of work. Their clothes date back to the early 20th century or so, and the room must be dirty and cluttered. Manzazuu has many small details that he recalls, and each kill, he gets closer to his perfect recreation. Because of all these details that Manzazuu feels must be correct, he kills fairly infrequently. Finding the right victims and observers, the right location, and so on means he travels a lot. He still clings to the pretense of being a Silver Ladder thearch, and he occasionally uses his contacts in the Pentacle to explain why he's wandering, often claiming to be investigating some local Mystery or advising someone. The Sleepers he uses as tools forget him quickly, and he's good at covering up his trail, so as yet his local Consilium has no idea what he's up to.

Manzazuu's vision actually predates his Awakening. As a Sleeper, he took part in a past life regression exercise. Unlike most, he didn't dream up a false life as a king or noble, but rather saw himself murdering a man in vivid detail. After Awakening, he focused on study of the soul in an attempt to discover where it came from and where it went after death. He studied his own Oneiros for clues to his past lives, and he came ever closer to becoming a Reaper in his frustration with the lack of answers. His first attempt at recreating the scene in his memory was not intended to end with a murder. His efforts with volunteers and Sleepwalking assistants were useless, so he sought out people that resembled his memories more and more, and eventually, his frustration overcame him and in a moment of hubris and passion, he slew the boy he'd hired. For the first time, as he fell into Rapture, it felt like he was getting closer to answers.

Manzazuu comes off as a relatively normal person for a mage. He's a thin, wiry sort with sharp features and slicked back hair who always keeps his gaze low and his posture meek. He gets even less assertive around other mages, except when speaking on the topics of souls, past lives or memory. Many others in the Consilium wonder why he joined the Ladder in the first place, though they respect his willingness to do his duties. He has an intense case of imposter syndrome, fearing that even his Awakening was a mistake and that he's too dumb to solve his Mysteries. He felt the Ladder might give him some confidence, way back when he joined. Now, it's just cover. When focusing on his Fault, Manzazuu becomes alert and jittery, fearful of messing up. He can be very charming for short periods, but not much longer, and is always a nervous wreck after. Only in murder does he find any peace. After each kill he suffers a brief fit of rage at the lack of progress, then becomes cold and confident as he cleans up the evidence. His Immediate Nimbus is a cold breeze and the whispers of half-remembered things. His Signature Nimbus is the howling of wind and echoes of unspoken feelings. His Long-Term Nimbus causes strange coincidences related to one's past and the feelings of nostalgia.

Manzazuu's birth name was Jack Trevelyan, and while that name now holds no mystic power over him, he hides it anyway. He hasn't heard it spoken to him in years. Despite this, he still doesn't truly identify with the name Manzazuu - he was just told he needed a Shadow Name and picked one that his research told him was related to his hunt for his past. He really wants to learn his past life's name, sure it will be the perfect Shadow Name for him, and has been painstakingly hunting through early 20th century records in the hopes of stumbling across a name that feels right. His antics also aren't entirely hidden. He's avoided must detection by the Pentacle, but his cabalmate, a member of the Mysterium named Phyrgia, is aware of his murders. She has decided she doesn't care, since he's only going after Sleepers and she hopes he'll find the truth he needs before he kills too many. If not...well, she can betray him and reveal his deeds at some convenient point and be hailed a hero. She is no more aware than Manzazuu is that a Pylon of Seers is aware of his deeds, too. They've taken to mapping Manzazuu's movements, and have noted that he often seems to head for areas that are predicted to have thunderstorms.

You may also be wondering Manzazuu's past life stuff was supernatural, given it predated his Awakening. Answer: yes. Past Life Therapies is a weird little pop-up clinic that advertises past life regression as a way to unlock your inner potential. They lack the ability to actually do so - they just put you into a hypnotic trance, and most people who go through it just make up their own past life visions like any past life regression. However, a rare few are like Jack Trevelyan was, and undergo a deeper experience - all see a vision of darkness and violence. After a few of these, the clinic shuts down and moves on to the next town. A conspiracy backing them then swoops in to collect those who suffered these Mystery visions, to use them for their own ends. Jack escaped their notice due to a mugging gone wrong triggering his Awakening.

Manzazuu tries to get potential victims in his recreations to come to him by putting out casting calls and want ads. Even if he can't talk an ideal candidate into 'working' for him, he can identify them for later kidnapping and magical means of obedience. Still, finding the perfect candidates, setting the stage and ensuring it all happens during a storm isn't easy. The setup can take weeks or months, and during that time, Stress builds up. Manzazuu's lesser Tulpas are typically strange Time distortions that give people highly realistic visions of their own potential future deaths. This doesn't actually kill anyone, but Sleepers can't tell the difference between a vision death and a real memory after Quiescence is through with them, so it tends to fuck people up hard.

Manzazuu is a Moros of the Silver Ladder and a member of the Stone Scribe Legacy. His Vice is Timid and his Fault is Time-linked: Kill a victim resembling the man from the vision, in a scene as closely resembling the vision as possible. His savant power is that he can channel magic through the destruction of souls for Time magic, and if he does, he learns a lot about that soul and its magical nature. His other Obsessions are discovering what happens to souls after death and reincarnation. He's smart and manipulative but otherwise average, and he's well educated, especially about history and the occult. He's also decent at short-term persuasion and knife fighting. His primary magical skills are Death, Mind and Time, with a bit of Life and Matter.

Manzazuu's Greater Tulpa is the Eternity, a Specter. She appears as a vaguely humanoid mass of ghostly energies in a Victorian widow's funereal gown. The Eternity is extremely direct in pursuit of the Fault, with none of Manzazuu's fear or hesitation, to the degree that when she appears, he becomes her terrified servant. On manifestation, she directly attacks anyone that is preventing Manzazuu from pursuing his Fault as brutally as possible, with none of the usual subtlety of a Specter. She drags victims into the scene and locks them into place with Time magic until the vision-scene is ready as best as she can manage. If Manzazuu does not then begin the murder, she tries to force him to. As yet, she has only manifested once, when Manzazuu managed to go months without pursuing his Fault to maintain his Ladder position. He believes she is a manifestation of his past lives' need to reunite with his soul, and while he is afraid of her, he also idolizes her. Her Vice is Impatient, she's Rank 4, and her primary magical skills are Death, Time, Mind and to a lesser degree Matter. Her Bane is that if she sees a funeral procession or ceremony, she must stop everything and quietly observe it for a scene. Her Bane is the ashes of a unique historical record totally destroyed by fire.

The Stone Scribes are a primarily Moros and Mysterium Legacy focused on Time. They see themselves as psychopomps, collectors of the experiences and names of the dying on the moment of their deaths. They do this out of a set of occult theories about Supernal reincarnation, believing that souls in death pass on to the Supernal, returning to the Fallen World only once purified of the taint of the Lie. Capturing the essential nature of a soul in that exact moment of release to the Supernal, they think, can give enlightenment. They are also known as the Name Takers, and they create ritual mantles out of the memories and sympathetic names they collect from the dying. They refer to these as 'final names,' using them with sympathetic magic to become those who have died. They can channel magic through the performance of deathbed rituals such as last rites, performing gematria calculations, learning sympathetic names, paying respects to the dead or being in a crypt, graveyard or other place of remembrance of death. They can gain mana via meditation while speaking sacred names, carving tombstones or taking grave rubbings, creating or updating extended genealogies or family trees, or documenting oral history or memoirs.

Their First Attainment is In Memoriam, which combines Time, Death and Academics or Occult. It requires them to ceromonially listen to the final words of the dying and record them somehow, though the target need not actually speak if the mage has other means to gain the essence of their life history as they die, such as going through their photo albums or researching their genealogy. They can then use any information-revealing magic they know to learn about the dying or dead person's past self via temporal sympathy, even if that would not normally be possible. Their Second Attainment, Borrow History, uses further Academics and Occult knowledge to let the mage steal someone's temporal sympathetic connections as their own, though the mage can't give their own temporal connections to others - it's all taking, no giving.

Next Time: The Primal Avatar

Mutant Bullshit

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Mutant Bullshit

Spiral is a monstrous creature, a mage who has turned herself into a horrible Claimed hybrid of herself and twelve spirits in pursuit of transcendence. She seeks to become more than human, and to "help" all others to become like her. She knows that humans have been denied their true occult power, but it is not the Lie nor the Abyss that concerns her. It is the Gauntlet. She believes the Gauntlet's wall of spirit is wrong, and her solution is simple: tear it the fuck down. She focuses on areas with a thick Gauntlet and on placing spirits into human beings to "bless" them with a portion of her own power. Of course, this only really began with her Rapture.

Before becoming Rapt by wounding her own soul while fusing with the spirits inside her, she studied spirits and the strange lack of any spiritual representation of humans. She developed a theory that humans were intended to serve as a channel for the power of the Shadow, but the Gauntlet unnaturally severed Flesh from Shadow and was used a deliberate prison to keep humans weak. Yes, they could Awaken, but that was rare and nearly impossible to deliberately induce. Shadow's so much closer - and so much easier. While once a Pentacle mage, Spiral has abandoned her Order and cabal. Indeed, her cabalmates were the first victims of her experiments in creating human-spirit hybrids, and her personal transformation is grotesque and obvious enough that her Consilium could do nothing but consider her a monster. In theory, they hunt for her, but she's powerful enough that her local Sentinels can do little more than try to clean up the messes she leaves behind. They're going to need time, resources and a lot of help to be able to take on Spiral herself.

Spiral keeps some of the monsters she makes around if they seem especially useful, interesting or rational after Claiming. The rest she leaves where they're made, to do as they will. Her trail is easy to follow - just look for the Claimed in her wake. While Spiral talks about a new age of man, she doesn't actually care about the Claimed she creates or what happens to them once she's done. Her Fault keeps her entirely focused on making more of them and little else - all her grand plans have been mostly forgotten in her Rapture.

Spiral cannot pass for a normal human. She's a giant, covered in strange tumors and knotted muscle. The spirits within her form faces in her flesh occasionally, grow bony spurs along her body, and more. Despite her grotesque nature, she has a kind of aura of majesty thanks to her intense confidence, and she's more than able to crush steel in her hands. When she speaks, it is through both her normal mouth and the lesser maws along her body. Her old ambitions may no longer be pursued in truth, but she loves to talk about them and the coming ascension of humanity. She genuinely believes that her actions empower her victims as she forces spirits into them and tears open the Gauntlet. This, she claims, will make humans potent enough to fight the Exarchs even without Awakening. While she is more than happy to talk about her plans, she's not dumb, and she has many eyes along her body that watch for trouble even when she's busy giving speeches. Her Immediate Nimbus is the taste of blood and flesh and the feeling of nausea. Her Signature Nimbus is lingering nausea and dread. Her Long-Term Nimbus causes greatly increased spiritual activity, which often causes possessions and "natural" Claiming in her wake even when she's not causing it herself.

Spiral can't remember her sympathetic name at all any more, having traded it to a horror of the Shadow long before her Rapture to gain insight into the nature of spirits and how to fuse herself with them without losing her will. So far, no one's been able to figure out what her spirit-patron is, and efforts to do so have caused at least one mage to lose his own name and identity entirely, losing even his sympathetic links to others. Spiral is now able to artificially induce Claiming, even if the spirits she's using for it are not normally able to Claim humans. She has a large number of "allies" in Shadow, spirits that follow her around and encourage her behavior. They don't serve her directly, but sabotage efforts to find her or stop her as well as helping her find victims because they want to get out into the world. Spiral also has a small entourage of spirits that serve her directly. Some are her own summonings or creations, others were unable to get out of her way before she overawed them and claimed them as her own, and others follow her willingly because they think she's their best chance to increase their own power.

Spiral rarely ends up making Tulpas, because she's pretty much always pursuing her Fault. When they do happen, however, the results are horrific. Her Tulpas tend to erode or collapse the Gauntlet temporarily, allowing strange spirits to escape, which the minds of Sleepers involved tend to interpret in intense and vivid sensations of meat, muscle and bone oozing through the bounds of reality. While Quiescence keeps them from remembering the details, these sensations remain afterwards, leaving victims of her Tulpa events unsettled, broken and disturbed.

Spiral also has the support of certain criminal organizations. They use human trafficking to get victims to her in exchange for being handed the Claimed that result. Spiral doesn't care what they do, and it allows these rare few gangs to wield Claimed as their own living weapons. The news hasn't picked up on the monsters yet, but the local media and cops believe that there's a Satanic cult involved, which is based entirely on the interpretation of the rank-and-file gangsters of these Claimed. After all, while Spiral herself causes Quiescence (and so is contacted entirely by a small number of criminal Sleepwalkers), her creations don't, being normal Claimed. Rumors among spirits speak of an "endless spiral" that consumes all, and not all spirits are into this. They've been seeking out anyone they can to try to get them to destroy the endless spiral - which is, of course, Spiral herself. Some of the most vocal spirits against her work are those that manage to slip free of the alterations she forced on them - several spirits she's run into have been broken and twisted, remade into whatever she felt was useful regardless of their original nature. These broken, maddened spirits are usually unable to communicate coherently for very long, but they're very upset, as are the spirits they have met them.

Spiral is a Thyrsus, no Legacy or Order. Her Vice is Prideful and her Fault, Spirit-Linked, is to merge humanity with spirits. Her other Obsessions are becoming immortal via the spirit world, tearing down the Gauntlet, and forcing an Incarna to submit to her. Her savant skill is getting rote quality on all Clashes of Wills related to her Fault, so she's hard to magically resist. She's got insanely high stats - her lowest is Manipulation 4, and all her physicals are 8. She's great medicine, occult lore, punching, dodging and scaring people. She also has a lot of magical power, between Gnosis 8 and a lot of skill with Life, Space and Spirit, plus decent amounts of Prime. On top of her magical skills, being a hive-Claimed gives her a bunch of powers, like innate armor, skill at smashing stuff and the power to ignore most physical problems short of actual damage. She also has Influences of Faith 4, Fear 3, Fire 2, Healing 3 and Stone 3. She has Essence as well as Mana, though running out of Essence physically harms her once a day - not that it's likely to happen, since she has a spell to refuel it. Also, she's immune to wound penalties.

Spiral's Greater Tulpa is Gristleflay, a Totem. It looks like a horrible, twitching merging of six totem beasts, each glorious singly but now a horrible mass. On one side, it has huge, expressive maw with weirdly human teeth. While it is a powerful creature, it lacks the charisma of Spiral and tends to be a wheedling sort of whiny magical superpower that traps people and intimidates them into accepting its 'gifts' rather than boldly proclaiming them and just giving them. It prefers to convince its victims, though it recognizes that pain is a useful tool in making them do so. It prefers to use whatever is the easiest method for it, disliking conflict...except against mages. When facing a mage, Gristleflay is merciless, hunting and killing them as potential threats to Spiral's plans. Its Vice is Indolent, and it's rank 5, with powerful skill over Spirit, Life, Space and Fate. Its Ban is that it unable to use magic to transform anyone who is not a willing target - though it can coerce them into willingness violently. Its Bane is any object that is spiritually Resonant with the void of space.

Next time: The Storm of the Century

How Did She Even Get A Shadow Name

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
How Did She Even Get A Shadow Name

Thalia can only remember parts of her life before Awakening. She is trapped in her own Oneiros much of the time, surrounded by her own dreams, and reality isn't the easiest idea for her any more. She remembers being called Eliza Martinez. She remembers a beat up old truck, sometimes, and sometimes she just remembers chemicals, information about weather patterns and so on. At one point, she was a climate scientist hunting for ways to reverse climate change and, part-time, a stormchaser. She distinctly recalls the sounds and smells and feeling of hunting down the storms. She loved doing it. Her body, however, is currently in a hospital room, comatose, ever since the last storm she hunted. She and her partner were in Alabama, heading after the forming tornado. As it touched down, she became able to see the path of every raindrop, predicted the lightning and drew the tornado in close to her. It was beautiful. When the tornado reached the truck, it had become a tower, its door locked by a golden key.

Thalia tried to turn that key...but her attempt was interrupted by the tornado grabbing and hurling the truck she was in. It interrupted her Awakening, and in the ensuing accident, she was horribly injured - not that she noticed. She felt none of it, for the storm entered her body and took command of her soul. She has been in Mercy Hospital, a private medical center outside Mobile Alabama, for months now. Her mother visits often to try and keep her comfortable, but is no longer there all the time. Thalia, as Eliza now thinks of herself for...some reason...barely notices the smell of her mother's perfume or the beeping of the machines. In her Oneiros, she hunts for her past and waits for the storm inside her to break and move, so that she can, once more, see the sky.

Thalia is a small Latina woman whose hair was once dyed deep red but has now faded to a paler one. When her Tulpas appear, a similar-looking woman appears in the area around her, usually in the midst of extreme weather events. The Seraph that exists within her soul is a whirling mass of flame, spinning eternally, though it more often manifests in the world as a storm, typically with extremely heavy winds. It favors tornados, hurricanes and blizzards. Thalia's ImmediatE Nimbus is a column of flame and the feeling of a hot, dry wind. Her Signature Nimbus is the scent of wildfire smoke. Her Long-Term Nimbus encourages intense local weather, particularly storms.

Thalia's old partner, Eddie Mathis, survived the accident, too. He was mostly fine, though he only visited her in the hospital once, shortly after being cleared to leave himself. He isn't entirely sure what went down that day, and his therapist says he's probably suffering traumatic memory loss. However, he clearly recalls that they had time to escape the tornado that day, no matter how fast it changed direction. He knows he screamed at Eliza to go, to get out of there. He remembers her handling herself well in dangerous situations before that, so she probably wasn't too afraid to move. His clearest memory of the event is that he begged her to drive them out and she refused to, smiling widely.

When her Greater Tulpa erupts, Thalia does her best to communicate with others. However, she's limited in how she can do that - she piggybacks on radio signals as a voice or shows up on TV screens or monitors as an afterimage. She's used her magic to talk in private chatrooms or dump huge amounts of data on websites, begging for anyone to listen to her and to help her, though she's not the clearest communicator these days, and the name she gives isn't the one on her hospital chart. Mostly, she begs for help without specifying what kind of help she needs. She and her Tulpa also both just love to watch the storms they cause. It's an adrenaline rush for them, a huge joy that overrides any empathy for the destruction the storms cause. Thalia tries to send out warnings and information as best she can, but she knows that storms are the results of climate change, so they're ultimately humanity's own fault. (The Seraph just doesn't care.) Thalia herself might be open to communication during her manifestations, if approached correctly. Trying to drag her away from a storm will only make her mad, but watching with her and talking during it might work, though it's very dangerous. Her Awakening went wrong, and she has absolutely no magical training. That said, she is sure that some of the people that respond to the chaos she causes have answers for her, and she has picked up a few bits of High Speech from her Seraph and memories of her failed waking dream.

Thalia is an Obrimos. Her Vice is Arrogant, and her Fault is Forces-linked: Command storms. Her savant power is that she can't be tracked by Forces magic at all. Her other Obsessions are seizing the golden key that almost led her into the Aether and using Forces magic to communicate. Her stats, when relevant, are those of her Greater Tulpa, which is relatively weak due to her distinct lack of personal magical power. They excel at Forces, have a sideline in Spirit and can do a bit of Prime and Time. They're mostly good at weather control magic. Their Ban is that if anyone else takes control of a storm in an area they're in, they can't try to take control back or even influence the storm. Their Bane is fulgurite, which is the glass formed by lightning strikes on sand or dirt.

Next time: Damned souls

The Bad Decision Gang

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
The Bad Decision Gang

Scelesti are mages who intentionally wield the power of the Abyss, whether that means tapping into anti-meaning to empower spells or full-on summoning Abyssal entities. Even the Seers hate them and hunt them, and the Orders can't stand them, but they hide throughout mage society, sometimes as saboteurs and sometimes just because they fell into extremely bad habits. Your average Scelestus does not, after all, begin as a nihilist seeking to remake alien gods to destroy worlds or anything like that. Most start out by dabbling in Abyssal power in pursuit of some other Obsession, slowly becoming addicted to it and the comfort of the Lie. Their magic is often referred to by other mages as "befouled" or "antinomian" magic. The Scelesti are not an organized group, though there are groups of Scelesti. It's just a general term for any mage that taps into the Abyss for any reason.

Broadly, the Orders divide Scelesti into five levels of increasing corruption. The lowest form are the Rabashkim, who deliberately taint their spells with Abyssal power but have not given up their souls. Antinomian magic is forbidden even to this extent, of course, because even when wielded with the best intentions, it corrupts the world and leads it away from Supernal truth. However, it is impossible to completely forbid the study of antinomian magic rather than its use - that would lead to dangerous ignorance. Thus, there is a line to be walked that can keep a budding Rabashkim alive. It is impossible to accidentally befoul a spell, however. Doing so is more than just accidentally causing some Paradox via overreach. Those who set out to learn how to tap the Abyss rarely succeed early on, and the first successful befouled spell a mage casts usually requires quite a bit of experimentation and failure beforehand; each such failure is itself an Act of Hubris, a chance to turn back from the path of the Abyss. Thus, anyone that casts even one befouled spell is not doing so from ignorance.

The Free Council and Mysterium agree: any user of antinomian magic is an enemy and must die. The Guardians, Ladder and Arrow are not quite so absolute in dealing with Rabashkim, however, if the mage seems capable of reform. They won't promote a known Rabashkim, will deny them access to resources, will forbid them apprentices - but they won't execute them. Instead, they will bury the evidence of their past dalliances with darkness and hope no one finds out. The Seers, for their part, do nothing to Rabashkim if they can reasonably show that their use of befouled magic is for the purpose of controlling and regulating the Abyss, as this is a task commanded by the Exarchs. Any further delving into Abyssal magic, however, is taken as a betrayal and dealt with as such.

Given such dire consequences, you'd think no one would bother with befouled magic. Some do so because they think the warnings are intended solely to keep apprentices from gaining too much power and believe the threat to be overblown. Others think the forbiddance of antinomian magic is an old, obsolete tradition held over from before the world became Fallen. (Which happened in a timeline that no longer exists, but hey, that's Mage.) Others seek it out as a tool to understand Paradox better or to fight Abyssal corruption with its own tools, convinced they can resist its dark lures. Others understand the danger but become obsessed with some mystery they cannot solve any other way - or seek to understand the forbidden nature of the Abyss itself. Despite the best efforts of the Pentacle to contain and purge Rabashkim, a surprising number manage to go unnoticed within the Orders. Most mages refuse to confront the idea that anyone could learn to befoul magic if they really wanted to and had the knowledge necessary, and too many mages believe that the Abyss is a quick but forbidden route to power, rather than that its nature is inherently corruptive of the mind, body and soul.

It's true that antinomian magic can be powerful, but that power is very risky. However, Rabashkim use the least risk of any Scelesti. They can still turn back from their path and return to being normal mages. It isn't common for them to do so, and the Orders suppress stories of ex-Rabashkim out of fear that more will turn to antinomian magic if they think its addictive nature is temporary. The knowledge of how to befoul a spell is closely guarded, though teachers can be found for the right price. It is a counterintuitive process, hard to learn without a mentor or grimoire instructing on how to do so, though. It's not just about causing Paradox, but controlling Paradox, which means distorting the casting process. The most potent Scelesti are able to create befouled Rotes, encoding the Abyss into spells that they can then teach others, which offer all the normal benefits of Rotes but also the benefits of antinomian spells. Corrupting a non-Rote spell is harder. It's easiest to befoul your Praxis spells, but it takes a Resolve+Composure roll and costs Mana. Normal spells can also be befouled this way, but the roll is done at a penalty and costs more Mana.

Casting any befouled spell is an Act of Hubris, no matter what, and a pretty bad one. It also always risks Paradox, which must be released rather than contained within your Pattern. Spells that would normally risk Paradox get more risky, on top of that. However, once the Paradox is determined, you make a Gnosis roll, entirely unmodified by anything, to control the Paradox. For each success, you get a point of antinomian Reach, which can be used on antinomian anomaly effects. Further, you also reduce the penalty that the Paradox would normally have caused your spell. Antinomian anomalies can impose Conditions on the target of the spell or Sleeper witnesses, can alter the spell the way normal Reach would, can create Abyssal environments, can alter a spell's target even when this should not be possible, or can even deliberately summon Abyssal entities. However, if the control roll is really, really bad, the Paradox gets significantly worse and can cripple nearby Sleepers or even the caster with Abyssal power. (The reason Sleepers are so vulnerable, incidentally, is that the Abyss can resonate with the Abyssal shards that exist in Sleeper souls and enforce the Lie.)

I will note: the high Mana costs and difficulty of pulling this off for non-Praxis spells makes it relatively unattractive to PCs. This is still probably the most attractive level of Scelestus for PCs to be, because after this we start getting into Scelesti who get things like Abyssal Mage Sight, which is quite possibly one of the most hellish and awful experiences you can have as a WoD character.

Next time: People with even worse ideas.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed

Rabashkim sometimes choose to perform a spiritual journey and exploration of Abyssal Mysteries that introduces them to a Dur-Abzu, which is an Abyssal reflection of their Path's Supernal realm. The Dur-Abzu offers paradoxical anti-secrets to grant profane wisdom. It is possible to seek out the Dur-Abzu unintentionally, via being debilitated and tainted by the Abyss. However, it is also possible to deliberately seek out as an Obsession, requiring the exploration of anti-symbols and rejection of traditional Path symbolism in favor of more twisted, destructive beliefs. The Supernal is less abandoned and more warped into a nihilistic view. Embracing this Lie transforms the Rabashkim into a Nasnas. This requires replacing one's Wisdom with Joining, an Abyssal attunement that Nasnasi follow. You must also take on a new Shadow Name and abandon your past, turning away from your old life to be reborn at the Abyssal Ziggurat of your Dur-Abzu. The Ziggurats are profane anti-Watchtowers which warp Nasnasi magic with Abyssal nature, corrupting their Mage Sight, Nimbus, Path Yantras and Oblations.

While some of the Pentacle might accept the idea of a reformed Rabashkim, the Nasnasi are given no such benefit. Once you become a Nasnas, you have committed yourself to the cause of anti-reality, and neither the Pentacle nor the Seers would ever knowingly allow a Nasnas into their ranks. In theory, a Nasnas might be able to redeem their soul of its taint and reject the Joining, but in practice, no one's going to give a former Nasnas a chance - and for pretty good reason. Accepting the Abyss into your soul may not sever the tie to the Supernal a mage has, but it taints all aspects of their magic. Nasnas soul stones create warped Demesnes, their Mage Sight shows tainted symbols, and their soul is awash with Abyssal energy.

Ao Si, the Mound of Thorns, is the Dur-Abzu of the Acanthus and twisted mockery of the Supernal Arcadia. It wields the symbolism of malevolent tricksters and warped heroes. The Joined Acanthus knows that the Lie is true - human choice doesn't matter and destiny is illusory. Embracing this Lie frees them, for if there is no choice, then there is no responsibility. They embrace chaos, treachery and free use of magic, breaking oaths easily and betraying trust. The ideas of obligation or consequences are false ideas, futile grasps at meaning in a world where nothing can mean anything. They are traps, self-inflicted chains of the weak. Everything is entropy and the inevitable. For some, this takes the image of overgrown, tangled brambles, randomly growing without pattern as the Fallen World lurches ever closer to its inevitable end. This end is no great apocalypse nor mighty revelation - it is a cold fading, a meaningless and slow death to a meaningless and random existence. Others see the tangled webs of fate as a Mobius strip of self-driven narrative, creating the same scenes over and over with neither meaning nor moral. And this never turns off - a Nasnas Acanthus sees this inevitable entropy everywhere.

The Nimbus of an Acanthus Nasnas breaks causality and blunts intention. Endless identical paths or the sense of futility are common, as are focus on meaningless detail and bizarre hiccups of coincidence and probability. Their soul stones create zones of strange, improbable and random physical properties, such as backwards temporal flow or making it impossible both to fail spectacularly or to succeed beyond expectation. Their magic flows through the power of broken oaths, kinslaying and curses that cannot be broken. Their magical tools usually have noticeable defects or subverted parts, like double-headed coins or flawed crystals. Dishonor and betrayal are their chief tools in shaping magic through behavior, with broken contracts and knives used to backstab allies making up their chief sacrifices.

Drugaskan, the Impenetrable Darkness, is the Dur-Abzu of the Mastigos, a dark mirror of the Supernal Pandemonium. It rejects perfection of self by saying that human nature is ultimately corrupt, and all people are truly doomed to be alone. All are damned, so why try? Isolation is inevitably, darkness a constant. Its symbols are those of cynicism, and Nasnasi Mastigos seek to prove that all people are so flawed and broken that they are unfixable no matter what trials they undergo. They cannot be purified in the flames of Hell, only consumed. Where normal Mastigos see the Chains of Pandemonium as emotional connections that conquer distance to place people in context with each other, for the Nasnasi they are suffocating bindings, prisons that isolate people and control them with their worst impulses. Their vision of auras is ugly and painful, sensations of irritation, piercing noise and ugly veins of darkness. This is their constant vision of the world.

The Nimbus of a Nasnas Mastigos spreads dissociation, juidgment and feelings of deception and unworthiness in both the self and others. The sensations they spread are unpleasant detachment, sensory deprivation or doubt. Loneliness and fear haunt them, and their Long-Term Nimbuses typically exacerbate misunderstandings, break down communications and spread paranoia and fear. Their soul stones drain identity and melt memories, suppressing the better instincts of those around them, or exude all-consuming darkness. Silence, darkness, doubt, lies, isolation and damnation are the tools of their magic. They channel it through darkness, broken mirrors, tarnish and rust, and their sacrifices destroy symbols of hope and redemption in a denunciation of these very ideas.

Arallu, the Cave of Rot and Tarnish, is the Dur-Abzu of the Moros, a broken reflection of Supernal Stygia. It is a crumbling ruin, a water-filled cave of rotting corpses, decomposition and erosion. It denies the creation of anything new, rejecting transformation and rebirth. Rather, Arallu's symbolism is of rot, ruin and decay. There is no true ending for Arallu, only constant deterioration, a continual worsening without cease. Suffering is endless, the dead do not move on, and age rots us all without granting trhe release of death. Accepting death is meaningless, for peace is impossible. The Mage Sight of the Moros Nasnasi is one of tarnish and suffering. Every failure, every flaw is a weight that cannot be shed, and they see it all around them. Treasures are hoarded chains, burdens that cannot be discarded, and all drown forever in the endless river of time and pain that wears them down.

Imperfections are made obvious in the Nimbus of a Joined Moros - both physical and spiritual. They exacerbate mistakes, pains and signs of wear, yet also slow down the processes near them, spreading tedium and suffering but never allowing it to end. Nostalgia, exhaustion and decay are frequent, and their Long-Term Nimbus often causes objects to rust or break down, but also prolong the inevitable. The sick will die less often around them - but they will be trapped in suffering. Rotting cars will continue to be used rather than scrapped, endless meaningless sequels churned out, unwelcome guests never leave. The soul stones of these Nasnasi halt cycles at their worst - wounds do not heal or bleed out, and acceptance becomes impossible. Their magic flowers through worn and old objects, or preserved yet obsolescent ones. Their sacrifices destroy beauty and turn it into meaningless waste, broken and unusable, ugly and rotten.

Tartarus, the Deluge, is the Dur-Abzu of the Obrimos, a shattered echo of the Supernal Aether. This Dur-Abzu declares that even high truths are fundamentally fleeting things, brief yet catastrophically destructive when they manifest yet gone so quickly. This Dur-Abzu is a drowned sea floor of broken temples that declares all things doomed to fall and collapse before the Abyss. The sublime exists - but it is meaningless. The world is vast, and people are insignificant. The Abyss and its messengers are the only higher powers of this broken, Fallen reality. Power is the only thing to be respected, and the Nasnasi are the gods who will end the world. The only higher truth is this: apocalypse is coming, and revelation is meaningless destruction. The Mage Sight of the tainted Obrimos rejects truth and revelation, yet also tells its user they are the god that will rule over the end of all. It is a vision of impossible paradoxes, confronting these Nasnasi with near-constant visions of impossible laws of physics and blasphemous ways to blot out truth. They see the innate authority of destruction and the exaltation of the unworthy over the worthy in all around them.

An Obrimos Nasnas is by necessity a narcissist and a hypocrite, demanding sacrifices from others for the sole purpose of destruction. Their Nimbus brings fear, worship and the terror of nature, or shame and cold and false humility. Their Long-Term Nimbus often encourages collateral damage, the formation eschatological doomsday cults and the loss of faith. Their soul stones negate laws of physics or encourage others to obey the creator and punish the defiant. They wield magic through subversions of divine judgments and the symbols of dead civilizations and places destroyed by disaster. Their sacrifices must be massive, for the power they grant is through unnecessary destruction.

Amma Su, the Burning Iron Spiral, is the Dur-Abzu of the Thyrsus, the antithetical shadow of the Supernal Primal Wild. It is not a wild land of life, but a choking, endless city of factories churning out nothing but smog, fetid cages of beasts, slums and prisons. It chains that which is natural to the soulless creations of man, breaking the wildness of life to the whims of the Nasnasi and eradicating entire species. Amma Su teaches that the worlds of nature and spirit are inherently inferior to humanity, and they must be made not only to bend knee in submission, but to be entirely consumed and absorbed by mankind. It is not enough to command spirits - they must be forced to fuse with empower the mage, their power and health torn from them to be put to other, better use. The Mage Sight of a damned Thyrsus grants the same power to hear the music of life and spiritual existence - but to them, it is discordant, broken and hollow, while the works of humanity sing like an iron chorus. Yet even this is a cacophony, ending only in broken and scoured wastes. The Thyrsus Nasnas is an occult stripminer, leaving only grime, polluted waste and broken bodies behind them. They are ever aware of the crowds, the sounds of busy people, the compulsions and hungers of lives bent and broken by human existence.

The Thyrsus Nasnas is arrogant, self-superior and entitled, knowing that they are the innate master of all life, that it is theirs to break. Their Nimbus tends to spread feelings of insignificance, or the sense of choking, sickening smells and polluted colors. They spread fear of extinction, nausea and sickness. Their Long-Term Nimbus weakens spiritual resonance, encourages spirits to permanently fuse with and Claim their victims, and disrupts ecosystems to encouragfe the destruction of "weak" species. Their soul stones create entire zones that harm spirits or force them into obeying extra bans, make possession easier or poison non-human life. Their magic is wielded through expressions of human dominion over the world or through coopted, false claiming of traditions that hold no connection to the mage. They wield magic through plastic flowers, mechanical bulls and other manmade false reflections of the natural world, and their sacrifices are murders of animals to no purpose, salted fields and burned plants.

Fortunately for everyone, Nasnasi cannot become Rapt. This is because at this stage of existence as a Scelestus, the mage entirely loses Wisdom. The entire Wisdom track is just gone, replaced by a trait called Joining. This begins at 1. It can be increased by committing Acts of Defilement, deliberate atrocities intended to bring you closer to the Abyss. The higher your Joining, the harder it is to raise and the more difficult and dangerous the Acts of Defilement must be. The mage must be working towards an Obsession when performing an Act of Defilement, which might be as broad as 'increase my harmony with the Abyss' or as specific as 'conjure an Abyssal plague into the world.' The Act of Defilement must also expose them to the Abyss. There are no rolls involved except those to actually accomplish the thing, however.

At Joining 1-3, Acts of Defilement could be things like direct opposition to a Supernal entity, banishing or destroying a low-rank Supernal entity, teaching a mage how to use antinomian sorcery or encouraging them to release Paradox, summoning a low-rank Abyssal entity, unleashing a minor Paradox anomaly, learning a befouled Rote, corrupting an existing and active spell with Abyssal power or deliberately causing Dissonance in Sleepers. At Joining 4-6, they might include getting a mage to cast antinomian sorcery enough to get them to reach a Dur-Abzu, destroying a mid-Rank Supernal entity, summoning a mid to high-Rank Abyssal entity, corrupting a major Supernal phenomenon such as a Hallow or artifact, unleashing a large Paradox anomaly, creating a Grimoire of befouled Rotes, teaching someone a befouled Rote or deliberately causing Dissonance in Sleepers that causes total destruction of a Supernal phenomenon. At Joining 7-9, they might require destroying a high-Rank Supernal entity, summoning a very high-Rank Abyssal entity, permanently destroying a major and long-term Supernal Mystery, unleashing a huge Paradox anomaly, or inventing a befouled Rote that has never existed before.

Hitting Joining 10 converts you into a Qliphoth, a mage entirely consumed by the Abyss and trapped forever. You really, really do not want to do that. To avoid this, you can deliberately lose Joining by performing Refutations, deeds that reject the Lie which maintains your connection to the Abyss. At Joining 1-3, a Refutation can even push you entirely out of alignment with the Abyss. Joining 4-6 can no longer perform Lesser Refutations, however, and Joining 7-0 can no longer perform Medial Refutations. When you perform a REfutation, you roll your Joining, with a bonus if your Refutation is aligned to an Obsession or Vice, and a penalty if it's aligned to your Virtue. Lesser Refutations give a bonus, and Medial Refutations a small bonus. Success on the roll means you don't lose Joining, while failure causes you to lose 1 Joining, and a dramatic failure also restores Willpower. If you lose your final dot of Joining, you regain a Wisdom track (at 1 dot) and are no longer a Nasnas (or higher-status Scelestus), losing all benefits that being one gave you, including any Abyssal Legacy Attainments. Even if you regain Joining later, you're going to have to learn those all over again. However, even after you stop being a Nasnas, you retain the Abyssal versions of your Nimbus, soul stone rules and Yantras, and you retain any befouled Rotes and Praxes you knew, and you don't have to make a roll to befoul spells.

Lesser Refutations are things like going a full day without using a befouled spell, convincing a mage with Wisdom to contain or avoid causing a Paradox, ending an Abyssal environmental Tilt you didn't cause or banishing and/or destroying a low-Rank Abyssal entity. Medial REfutations are things like going afull month without releasing Paradox, getting another Scelestus to perform a Refutation, ending a major Abyssal environmental Tilt you didn't cause, or destroying and/or banishing a mid-Rank Abyssal entity. Greater Refutations are things like getting another Scelestus to lose all Joining and regain Wisdom, permanently sealing an Abyssal Verge or Iris, destroying an Abyssal artifact or destroying and/or banishing a high-Rank Abyssal entity.

Next time: But why would I ever do this? It sucks!

I Can't Think Of A Second Nasnas Pun

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
I Can't Think Of A Second Nasnas Pun

So, what actually mechanically changes for a Nasnas? Well, yes, what Path Yantras they use and how their Mage Sight manifests, as discussed before, but there's other changes. First, because Joining replaces Wisdom, a Nasnas cannot attempt to contain Paradox at all, even with non-befouled magic. They cannot inure themselves to spells, either, though they retain any prior inured spells (and always risk Paradox when using them). Joining is lost the same way Wisdom is if the Nasnas loses their soul, but it does not return by itself. Which makes temporary soul removal probably the easiest way to lower your Joining deliberately. I'm not sure that's intended.

At Joining 5+, a Nasnas' Nimbus is permanently Abyssally tainted - well, permanent until their Joining drops under 6, anyway - and any normal lapse of this taint instead causes them to gain a Beat (or Willpower, for NPCs). This also causes their Nimbus to make all other mages' spells cast within it less safe than usual, and the higher their Joining, the easier it is for their Nimbus to reach along their sympathetic connections.

When using the symbols of their Dur-Abzu, a Nasnas gets a higher Yantra bonus the higher their Joining is. They also no longer need to make a roll to befoul spells, spend no Mana to befoul Praxes and spend only 1 Mana to befoul normal spells. Further, they can't be debilitated by their befoulings. This is probably the biggest power jump. However, any Paradox anomalies they cause last longer based on how high their Joining is. Abyssal Mage Sight, on top of all its prior noted effects, allows Nasnasi to identify each other on sight, what Abyssal conditions anyone is suffering form, and roughly how high their Joining is if they have it. They can also perceive the Elder Diadem as a crown or jewel that pulses with strange static and impossible shapes. We'll get to the Elder Diadem later.

A Nasnas can also keep Paradox they have successfully controlled inside their Pattern, storing it for later use. This Paradox can be spent to worsen the Paradoxes of other mages nearby, and vanishes at the end of each chapter if not used. Vanished Paradox deals damage to the Scelestus, though - resistant damage, so it can't be healed magically. Stored or controlled Paradox can also be spent (with a point of Mana) to upgrade damage dealt by spells to aggravated. Lastly, Nasnasi are able to convert their Rotes into befouled versions in any Arcanum they have at 3+, and can, when they master an Arcanum, created new befouled Rotes for it.

Nasnasi are no longer able to summon Supernal entities, but in the place of this they are able to summon Acamoths and Gulmoths from the Abyss. While such entities can be called forth with normal Paradoxes, that kind of summoning has absolutely no control over what manifests. Deliberate summoning gives you some control over that It works the way normal Supernal summomning would, but uses Joining in place of Arcanum rating, as the Abyssal entities lack innate Arcana. Abyssal entities also have an easier time remaining in the world than Supernal entities do, as Acamoths are able to sustain their Essence in the manner of Goetia, while Gulmoths can sustain it as spirits do. Unlike Supernal summoning, getting other mages involved won't help or hurt much - but sacrificing the life or soul of a normal mage can be used to make the summoning easier. Also, causing Paradox won't make it harder - in fact, it's harder if you haven't caused Paradox recently.

Above Nasnasi are Autarchs and Shedim. Mechanically, these aren't especially different from normal Nasnasi, however. Autarchs are those Scelesti that found Abyssal Legacies, while Shedim are those who found Abyssal Nameless Orders. They are functionally identical in how the Pentacle Orders treat them: kill as soon as possible. It is entirely possible to be both an Autarch and a Shedu, and both tend to actively recruit Sleepers and Sleepwalkers into their cults and try to recruit other mages to become Scelesti. Joining an Abyssal Legacy requires Joining 2+, and starting one requires Joining 4+. Abyssal Legacy Attainments are usually based on befouled Rotes, and unlike normal Attainments, they do risk Paradox as if they were Befouled spells. Any Scelestus that loses Joining and regains Wisdom loses all ability to use their Abyssal Legacy if they joined one, but they are still unable to join any other Legacy, as their nature has been twisted and broken irreparably.

Next time: Baalim and the Elder Diadem

Dark Lords of Nothing

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Dark Lords of Nothing

Baalim are Scelesti who have gone to the Astral being known as the Old Man, Aeon of Paradox, or to one of the potent Abyssal anti-gods knwon as the Annunaki in order to gain further control over Paradox and the Abyss. They have bargained for the Elder Diadem; while Abyssal Mage Sight shows this as a true crown, it is not actually a physical object but an abstract thing, a power that alters the soul. The Pentacle and Seers agree: there is no higher crime than acquiring the Diadem, and any report of an active Baal is cause to focus on taking them out to the exclusion of all else. The Elder Diadem is rarely sought or found by Rabashkim and especially not by non-Scelesti, but if any were to attain it, they would immediately become Nasnasi with Joining 1 and then become Baal.

All Baalim, on top of the normal traits of Nasnasi, gain additional powers. They can retain Paradox within themselves indefinitely and are never harmed by doing so, unlike normal Nasnasi. They can create Paradox anomalies just by spending Willpower and using Paradox they've controlled or stored inside themselves, and can generate as many anomalies as they have the Paradox for at once, as long as they don't warp spells with it. (That has to be done to spells being cast and takes actual effort.) They can spend Willpower and Paradox to erode Supernal phenomena as if a Sleeper were witnessing it or to heal an Abyssal entity, even outside the presence of Sleepers at all. They can also use this to dispel magic or counter spells being cast, even if they lack the Arcana necessary to do so. They can also attempt to control or store other mages' Paradox inside themselves, as long as the Paradox is being caused nearby.

The price of all this is that all Baalim suffer an Abyssal curse. The Diadem may bring power, but it fundamentally corrupts their very nature. The curse grows stronger as Joining increases, but even if a baal were to lose all Joining and regain Wisdom, they would still suffer the curse as if they had Joining 1. The curse can't be gotten rid of. No magic will weaken it in any way, except perhaps Imperial magic, wielded by the archmasters who are beyond the scope of actual play. If your curse renders a leg unusable, you can't use magic to use that leg by any means. The effects of the curse vary by Scelestus, but usually reflect the Dur-Abzu and Ruling Arcana of the mage involved. Mechanically, a curse is a Persisent Condition which cannot be removed, plus one per 3 full dots of Joining - so 2 at Joining, 3 at 6 and 4 at 9. "Common" curses, insofar as they can be called that, might be things like addiction to various strange and awful things, blindness, inability to speak, constantly being easy for a specific kind of Abyssal entity to possess, or similar.

While the Elder Diadem is certainly an increase in power, it's extremely not worth it; it primarily turns Paradox into Mana for purposes of destroying other magic and reduces how many rolls you have to make to do so, which is...I mean, it's useful and potent but I would not call it a very wow, cool power type thing.

Qliphoth, also called Dwellers at the Threshold, are what happens to a Scelestus that gets too in touch with the Abyss. Their beings have been hollowed out and made sock puppets for the Abyss, and these empty shells are typically taken by the rest of humanity to be mentally ill vagrants, muttering to themselves or staring at people but generally not doing much to reality itself. Mage Sight puts the lie to that - every Qliphoth (Qlippah is what the singular should be but it's not, apparently) is a hole in reality, a wound leading to the Abyss. They are trapped in eternal torment, and their existence is a lure for others to join them.

Any Nasnas that hits Joining 10 immediately becomes a Qliphoth. They are eternally trapped in a permanent Mystery Play inside an Abyssal Verge that forms around their soul, a hell of anti-existence that only they experience. Well, them and anyone else that gets trapped in their Verge. This Verge is formed from the broken remains of their Oneiros, torn apart and abosrbed by the Anunnaki that consumed their soul. Abyssal entities harass and attack anyone in the Verge, particularly a potent Acamoth formed from the daimon of the Scelestus. (A daimon is basically the protective entity/superego/idealized self that watches over your unconscious mind and keeps other people from fucking with it too hard most of the time.) Other entities from from Goetia and soul-symbols based on the Scelestus' Path and Legacy, now turned into Acamoth and reflective of their Dur-Abzu. Because their Oneiros is essentially one with the Abyss, a Qliphoth cannot enter the Astral by any means, either. They do, at least, retain all of their powers and count as having high Joining. ('At least,' he says. This is not a good thing.)

Why is it not a good thing? Well, because Qliphoth are bad for everything around them. Their human shell appears to be a worn down and barely lucid version of their old self. This shell has no stats, cannot use magic or powers of any kind, and can't even roll dice. Any actions the shell takes are just shadows and mirrors of the things the Scelestus is doing within their Verge, and have no real effect on reality. To any outsider, it just looks like wandering around, muttering incoherently and reacting to things that aren't there. Mages may recognize the shell appearing to perform spellcasting yantras, but the magic takes affect only within the Verge, not normal reality. However, this is not really a blessing. Sure, the shell is itself relatively harmless in terms of what it does. You can't kill it, though. A Qliphoth's shell never takes wound penalties, can't fall unconscious and can't die. Even if you somehow found a way to destroy the body, it would regenerate within days, apparently unharmed, as it reformed from the soul within the Verge. The only way to get rid of it is to enter the Verge and kill the Scelestus themselves or somehow remove their soul.

Within the Verge, the Qliphoth very much does have stats. They retain their Path and Legacy, though their Virtue and Vice are usually strange and corrupted. They retain Obsessions, usually with the Abyss, and always seek to escape the Abyss, though they are incapable of doing so. Their stats are, uniformly, superhuman. Their lowest stat is a single 3 in Composure, and by default their Wits, Dexterity, Stamina and Presence are all 7+. They also have superhumanly high skills, particularly Ocullt (1), Stealth (9), Intimidation (8) and Persuasion (7), plus a bunch of 6s and 5s. They always have Willpower 10 even though they shouldn't, and can spend as much as they want per turn, though only 1 on any given effect. Their Defense is an insane 13, and on top of their Legacy attainments and 15 dots worth of Arcana, they also can innately sense other mages nearby and get a number of other monstrous powers, as well as an Influence like a spirit, though it defaults to 1.

On top of all this, Qliphoth get the rote quality on all Clash of Wills rolls, making their magic very hard to resist, and retain all Nasnasi powers except for the ability to lose or gain Joining and the ability to control PAradox. All spells they cast are automatically befouled for free. Also, while they don't have Gnosis, they have an effective Gnosis of 10 for any mechanics that require it - including resistance to most supernatural effects. So Qliphoth are insanely hard to alter with supernatural powers, even before the grab bag of Dread Powers the GM feels like giving them, which are basically random horror monster abilities meant for putting together monsters with greater ease. Any kind of stuff could be here, from teleportation to electronic control to a hypnotic gaze to the ability to drive people mad with a touch.

But wait! There's more! See, that shell? That shell is easy to mistake for someone going through an Awakening - they're acting out a Mystery Play only they can see. One that is full of torment, sure, but not all Awakenings are pleasant. Plus, Mage Sight on the location of the Verge makes it look like some weird inverse of a Lustrum - that is, an archmaster's personal gateway to the Supernal. Mages tend to be very curious about both things. For the Qliphoth, reality is simulanteously the Abyss and the Fallen World, as their Mage Sight is on permanently, and they lack any real control over what's going on, driven by Abyssal urges. Before you ask: no, they're not savable.0

Now, the problem is that mages are going to be drawn to investigate by their own curiosity. However, anyone that does magic within sensory range of the shell cannot contain Paradox. They must release it, and it doesn't have the normal effects. Instead, the caster is automatically drawn into the Mystery Play of the Qliphoth, trapping them in the Verge as well. This also affects any Sleeper that suffers a Quiescence-based breaking point in the area, so basically any Sleeper that witnesses magic. They all get dragged into this horrible waking dream of the Anunnaki's Abyssal world, full of tormenting Abyssal goetia.

Anyone "infected" can be interacted with by these Abyssal entities and is subject to the nature of the Abyssal Verge. Within it, no Paradox may be contained, and any dramatic failure on spellcasting by a non-Nasnas causes a Paradox Condition instead of the normal effects. Further, any skill rolls reliant on knowledge of natural or physical laws are a t a penalty, and attempts by Scelesti to control Paradox or summon Abyssal entities get a bonus. Also, you can be affected by the Qliphoth's magic, and you can use magic on them. Also fun: anyone who goes and uses Focused Mage Sight to study a Qliphoth shell without being a Nasnas is exposed to Abyssal taint, and becomes horribly sick. Further, successfully studying the Mystery of their nature causes you to become visible to the Abyssal entities within, who will try to use you as a conduit to escape into the normal world. Oh, and if you dramatically fail, you get pulled into the Verge as above. Qliphoth play the natural and innate curiosity of mages, which normally serves them well, against them.

Once someone has been drawn into alignment with the Verge, they can't get out easily (except for Scelesti, who have an easier time of it). It is not a physical place, and the Abyssal beings do not care about distance or physics or Space or Time. Anywhere you go, you're still within the Verge. The only way to escape is to either kill the Qliphoth or destroy their soul. Because only their shell is outside the Verge, to do this requires you to go inside. Anyone that manages to actually destroy the Qliphoth or the remnants of its soul takes resistant agg damage as the Verge collapses on itself, ejecting everyone back into reality but leaving a horrible Abyssal taint on the surrounding area for a while.

You'd think the soul would be the easier target. However, Qliphoth are immune to normal Death-based soul theft due to their Abyssal taint. And doing this isn't the merciful option, either - the soulless remains of the Scelestus remain completely and utterly broken. Their Joining is still 10, but without a soul they can't do any magic. Putting a new soul in will just start up the Verge again, because the container is broken. It is, as far as anyone knows, impossible to restore a Qliphoth back to any semblance of normality...though some believe that an archmaster might be able to do it.

Nasnas, of course, can just use their Abyssal Mage Sight to enter the Verge in the presence of the shell. Once there, they still have some trouble getting out, however. They must fully study and understand the Verge via Mage Sight, with all its usual effects, then find the anti-symbol within it that corresponds to their Dur-Abzu. From there, they have to undergo a trial similar to the one that allowed them to gain ?Joining in the first place. If they survive this, they can leave the Verge, but there will be a cost. They either have to sacrifice a full dot of Willpower, then take potentially a lot of resistant aggrvated damage...or they can sacrifice the life or soul of another mage as an offering. Doing that (and surviving the trials) will get them out without a problem. So why would they go there? Well, frankly, many Autarchs and Shedim undergo these trials willingly, sometimes as an act of worship of the Abyss or the Annunaki that has consumed the Qliphoth, and others as a rite of passage to gain status among Scelesti. Sometimes, a group of Scelesti seeking the Elder Diadem will enter a Qliphoth Verge and compete to see who can fulfill the trials and bargain the for the Elder Diadem with the Annunaki first, to earn its favor. Others use them to hunt for esoteric Abyssal secrets.

It's still a horrible idea, but when is this not? There are also two forms of them mages or entities...that stand over the Baalim. Aswadim, as they are known, surpass all mortal Scelesti. They are archmasters of the Abyss, embodiments of its power. They believe that to become free of the Lie, one must also be free of the Supernal, existing beyond form, beyond symbol and beyond even the laws of magic. They wield Abyssal powers that go deeper and darker than PAradox, but are unable to act directly without drawing attention from other great Supernal beings. Thus, they often employ Scelesti and Sleeper cults to do their bidding in the Fallen World. Fortunately for everyone, very few Scelesti ever become Aswadim - they tend to get killed by other mages or their own experimentation first. Most Aswadim are, instead, archmasters who embraced the Abyss after their own ascension in order to surpass their innate limits.

The other are Annunaki, mentioned above. These are the entities that are greater and more potent than the Acamoth and Gulmoth of the Abyss. They are sleeping anti-deities, the creators of other Abyssal spirits. Each is a universe that could have existed but didn't, dying in the cradle. Each embodies a set of physical and mystical laws that are entirely incompatible with the Supernal and FAllen Worlds. Every Abyssal Verge is a fragment of one of these massive universe-corpses brushing against the world, and they are the ones who claim the souls of those that become Qliphoth. The Annunaki are impossible things, literally impossible. They can't exist, definitionally. However, their nonexistence can leak into the world anyway, because the Abyss is nothing if not paradoxical.

Annunaki known to exist include the Isophage, a principle of anti-sympathy that creates parasitc bonds that prevent one side of a pair from existing while the other does. Its touch makes sympathetic bonds drain self and definition, absorbing the identity of one into another and creating faceless, meaningless shells. The Ashen Periphery may touch the world when someone should die at sea but inexplicably survives, causing a brief hiccup of reality. Within it, the ocean is a void of broken perspective, infinite dimensionality that consumes the horizon and allows beings on the edge of sight to feast on the souls of those trapped in its dark calm. Others seek, insofar as they are able, to remake the world in a way that would destroy some of the Arcana, which would, necessarily, destroy all existence as we know it. Their efforts cause waves in the world, spreading the influence of the Abyss. Where their shadows pass under reality, Scelesti and cults spread, madness leaks into reality and bizarre thoughts and actions that make no sense are common. The worst, most insane stuff you'd hear on Alex Jones or Art Bell? Yeah that's the stuff that you'll start hearing all over the media when an Annunaki grows dangerously close to the world.

Next time: The Nasnas Eschatologist