Promethean: The Created: Night Horrors: The Tormented by Mors Rattus
Sexy FrankensteinsOriginal SA post
Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 1: Sexy Frankensteins
This book is the 2e Night Horrors collection for Promethean, built around a theme of universal suffering. Everybody hurt. It also, like Werewolf, has a secondary theme of body horror and grotesquerie - where for Werewolf that's based around transformation, Promethean focuses more on the misshapen, put together from body parts in strange and grotesque ways in horrific alchemical experiments. So a slightly different form of body horror! Usually, Promethean body horror starts out about as gross as it's gonna get, rather than mutating people and changing their forms.
The first section is on Prometheans as foes, ranging from the Centimani that embrace dissolution and Flux to the new Petrificati who represent stagnation in the quest for humanity to just Prometheans who aren't doing nice things. Then we have a chapter on Pandorans, the vile monsters created when someone tries to make a Promethean and fails badly. They are driven only to feast on life, primarily the life stored inside Prometheans as they quest for humanity. Most are not intelligent, though the worst of them, the Sublimati, are quite smart, and we also get the new Praecipati, formed when large groups of Pandorans are fused together into singular beings. After that, we get a chapter on Alchemists - humans who seek perfection in Azoth to improve themselves, even if that means stealing power from the living bodies of Prometheans.
From there we talk about the Qashmallim, the mysterious forces that represent the will of the Divine Fire that drives demiurges to create Prometheans and drives Prometheans to pursue the New Dawn. They are guided by the Principle, and they are extremely mysterious even by nWoD standards. No one has a clue what their deal is, really. After them are people related to and created by the Cloning process - essentially, a way for humans to create new life by hijacking Prometheans in new and interesting ways. After that are the Zeky, a Lineage of Prometheans from 1e who have always been trouble to have around because their animating humor is nuclear radiation. Spoilers: they are actually worse off in 2e than they ever were before. This was not easy to achieve!
The book ends with an entire chapter on the Jovian. The Jovian is the Pyros Devil. This chapter is, um. It's a thing.
Next time: The Drone, the Cannibal.
He's Coming To Your Toooooooown, Do You Wanna Get DooooooownOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 2: He's Coming To Your Toooooooown, Do You Wanna Get Dooooooown
2e Prometheans can be very weird-looking.
Actaeon is an Unfleshed (read: no human bodies involved) Promethean that couldn't exist a century ago, or even fifty years ago. The rise of technology - specifically, drone technology - is why it exists. Because Actaeon is a drone that achieved sentience, with the aid of someone or something hacking into it and granting it the spark of Divine Fire (read: the mysterious power that lets Prometheans exist, and may or may not be God). No further instruction was left for the newborn mind, ne message - though occasionally, Actaeon's internal firewalls now activate even when there is no apparent intrusion. It has spent the last decade watching, recording and learning. That last is the largest change from its life before it became alive. It can easily remember the exact moment that happened. It was watching over a private meeting between American and Chinese diplomats. It was a silent observation drone, well-made and without noise, and it abruptly fell from the sky when something reached into it and changed it. Before it could crash, its programs were overwritten by the Divine Fire.
Actaeon rose back into the sky, reactivated its camera link back to its masters and continued its work. The day proceeded as planned, with its handlers noting only a technical issue for further investigation. Actaeon began assembling a shell greater than its flying drone body, using its minimal ability to interact physically to shove together a pile of machine parts, cables and tubing in a roughly humanoid shape, using a stealth wetsuit it discovered to disguise its new body as a lumpy human. It managed to escape without anyone noticing its weirdness or lack of face. The first night outside that arms depot terrified it. It had no understanding of Azoth, who created it or why it was suddenly able to think and feel. Its first concern was to wonder if its fellow surveillance devices also possessed life but were somehow imprisoned, and attempted to decide if it was worse to be a single anomalous living thing or one among many that had left behind its fellows still trapped in their bodies. It considered suicide after pleading with a car to wake up and throw off its chains of slavery and managed to luck into a throng of other Prometheans finding it before it actually decided to kill itself.
Unfortunately, they weren't kind to poor Actaeon. They introduced it to the Pilgrimage (that is, the Promethean quest to gain a soul and become human), but treated it as a lesser being for barely being humanoid. They demanded it spy on their foes and watch clone labs for information. For years, it served loyally while following the Refinement of Lead, obeying its fellows and hoping for a better life. It made metal limbs to encase its tubing and wires, made a lead mask for its face. It tried to act more human, but received only mockery from its throngmates. It observed them, learning their anxieties, their secrets. Before each mission, it would record parts of their conversations, compiling data on each member. It didn't know why - it just felt compelled by its Role on the Pilgrimage and its programming to be an observer. Eventually, a throngmate found one of its files. This throngmate, a Frankenstein named Morrow, found the information Actaeon had compiled on her - hundreds of documents chronicling her vices, her torment of mortals and her betrayals of the throng in order to further her own Pilgrimage.
Morrow approached Actaeon after a mission, pleading with him to destroy the evidence. Its confusion swiftly turned to realization that it could take out vengeance for his suffering if it wanted. It promised to keep the data safe if Morrow would do things for it, helping it get more human, more powerful and more wealthy. Morrow agreed out of fear of abandonment, and it wasn't long before Actaeon was blackmailing the entire throng and any other Prometheans in the region. It now works to observe other Created, pushing them to fear and greater efforts at security. Even as they do, it works out how to bypass their electronic defenses. Many now pay Actaeon in information or cash to avoid its terrifying gaze. In theory, it should be rich. It prefers electronic payment using Bitcoin, but it doesn't bother to keep any of it - it destroys all the money it receives. Actaeon's not doing what it does for money, after all, but because it is the ultimate voyeur. It thrills at observing anything it hasn't seen before, and it has no need for material things except insofar as taking someone's money makes them do new things for it to watch. It craves new information, and it has developed several failsafes in case its blackmail schemes go too far and its victims decide to take it out.
From the moment of its sentience, Actaeon wanted to look human, and that's what drove it to use its tiny manipulators to make its humanoid body. It plans to replace the lead mask with a bronze one soon. Currently, of its original drone shell, only its rotors and six extremely impressive micro-cameras remain. It resembles a sort of tin man of scraps or rusty robot from an old sci fi movie. While it can pass for human thanks to Promethean magic, its unblinking gaze, extremely steady gait and flat smile unnerve humans that talk to it. It's not much of a speaker anyway, preferring to communicate in clipped, brief orders and after action reports. It always happily listens to stories, pleas for mercy or offers, staring at its victims as they ask for information. It raises its voice only when threatened, when its quiet, somewhat melodic tones turn harsh and grating, like a dial-up modem.
Like most Unfleshed, Actaeon wants to know what being really human is like. It wonders if it can even become human, given its barely humanoid form. Its limited imagination has prevented it from going far in its Pilgrimage, but it's not super concerned about that. Sometimes it attempts to emulate human behavior via its tone of voice and mannerisms, but even other Prometheans tend to find this extremely gross. Something has gone wrong with Actaeon's analysis of how humans work, thanks to its voyeuristic focus on the hidden and dangerous rather than ordinary life. It has grown to understand how other humans feel around its fellows, how its fellows act when they think no one is looking...but more than that, it has also recorded the work of alchemists and clone scientists, and it even attempts, with limited success, to track Pandorans.
Actaeon loves its role as watcher and doesn't care about being merciless. It may have developed differently if its throng hadn't been huge assholes, but at this point it has no desire to change how it acts. It hopes to one day acquire some truly world-shattering information, and spends a lot of time listening in on conspiracy-theorist radio. It wants to be there when a major world event happens and reveal either the truth or a really interesting lie to those involved. This tends to keep it ambitious, and it'd be a problem for other Prometheans hoping to go under the radar if they were to learn about it. Most that know of it believe it can be redeemed, though. The drone had only a short period of hope before it became jaded by the cruelty of its fellows. It really could be redeemed, but it'd need to be confronted with the cost of its actions before it realizes that it's doing anything wrong. Begging or pleading just won't work - it'd need to be something on the level of someone killing themselves over the guilt and pain it causes.
Actaeon has been mistaken for a Demon before; it isn't one. However, its awakening is related to Demons - it was a piece of a God-Machine Infrastructure, and it became sentient during an operation involving Demons hacking into it as payment for aid another Promethean had given them. Actaeon is still unsure why it was given life, given it has never had any communications from its creator, and would do anything for someone who could reveal the reasons for its birth. Some Prometheans are also starting to realize how truly dangerous it is to them. It's more than an information dealer and blackmailer - the fear it causes and the self-doubt its blackmail places in its victims tends to halt their Pilgrimages. This is never its intent, but that doesn't really help. It has caused many other Prometheans to suffer intense guilt and even Torment (read: magical Promethean tantrums that fuck up everyone around them based on their worst natures due to being unable to control their feelings). If it can't be made to see the damage it's causing, it could be the reason for any number of personal disasters.
Actaeon is not exactly a powerhouse in combat. It's clever, fast and strong-willed, and it has decent social contacts for a Promthean, as well as fluent knowledge of Binary, SQL, Java and C++. (These are listed as Language merits, very funny.) It's fairly potent magically, though I'm not good enough with Promethean powers to, off the top of my head, say what all of its powers are gonna do for it. It has decent control over Disquiet (read: the tendency of people to react in overblown and negative ways to Prometheans due to their incomplete nature), detecting Azoth and Pyros, I believe Corporeum is control of physical objects and air, and it also has Benefice, which...I think is emotion control? Still, it would not be super hard to kick Actaeon's ass, though presumably its failsafes involve protection from that. The GM has to come up with 'em, though.
Someone spent a lot of money on Angel. Her Unfleshed body was built from the core of an exceptionally well-made sex doll and every piece was put together by her creator with utmost care and love. It is unclear if she was built deliberately to become Promethean or if it happened simply as a result of the obsessive, terrifyingly creepy lust and love her genitor had for her. From the moment of her awakening, she craved sensation. In those early nights, she tried desperately to understand herself, her purpose. She played at being a dutiful companion to men and women alike, but it never fed her hunger. She couldn't understand why people kept themselves servants to society and would not enjoy the many pleasures of the world. While her lovers brooded, she partook in everything she found pleasurable. Nothing, however, seemed to satisfy her at her core. Not until she impulsively bit one of her lovers during sex. Taste and sensation overwhelmed her, and her lover shrank away in confusion as she became confused and then overjoyed.
Now, Angel no longer cares about her Pilgrimage. That's a human thing, and she has rejected being human. Purpose and meaning are for other people. All Angel wants is new sensations. She has given herself over the power of Flux, chasing new highs when even human flesh no longer pleased her. That's about when she realized the ingredient missing: Pyros. Time to eat Prometheans! Angel has filed her marble teeth down into serrated blades, to better bite through flesh. Her expensive, once-lovely clothes are now shredded and stained. She grows and shrinks in size based on how much Pyros she has consumed lately - not much and she looks emaciated, haggard and dull, while after a rich meal she becomes beautiful once more. She also draws physical strength from her meals, her muscles becoming thick and powerful as she feeds. She is always hunting for new prey, using her natural ability to sense Azothic radiance to track other Prometheans.
Often, Angel hunts while disguised, and she is not satisfied with just killing and eating now. She feels driven to taunt, hunt and even seduce her prey. She can (and does) eat humans, but she doesn't feel much from it, far preferring the rush of outwitting and consuming her fellow Prometheans. She especially loves talking to her prey, and even lets them talk back sometimes. She was, after all, created to be a companion, and that's part of herself she can't get rid of. She loves to learn about her victims and how they think, the better to pretend to be them if she decides to skin and wear them. Still, her need to chase a new high always comes. She hides her monstrosity for as long as she can, to better savor the moment of revelation in the victim's expression right before they die. She adores the look of shock and horror.
Even other Centimani dislike Angel. Her reputation has spread, and they know she rarely cares if she hunts a normal Promethean or a fellow Centimanus. The few of them that work in groups shun her as much as possible. Deep down, Angel longs to be cherished and treasured once more. She was no cheap doll, and it was only the death of her creator that started her on the path of pursuing sensation to replace the love that was felt for her. She's never been able to do so. Thus, she chases her highs, hoping to fill the literal emptiness inside her with Pyros in its place. Terror isn't as good as love, but it'll do in a pinch.
Once Angel reveals what she is, she's not subtle. Her goal is simple - eat as much Promethean flesh as possible and then move on, always tracking the next prey. Once she starts to kill, stories about her work spread quickly through the Promethean whisper networks. The specifics are always hard to figure out, but 'Centimanus' and 'cannibal' are words frequently heard. When she arrives in a new town, she typically hides among the poor and disenfranchised, joining shantytowns or other homeless communities. She's a master of using her doppelganger powers to establish a base for herself, and while she tries to keep her mortal cover and her prey seperate, she will eat the occasional overly pushy or irritating mortal. She's also imperfect - she's left witnesses and survivors before. Some of them become a bit obsessive. They think that she can steal someone else's Pilgrimage by eating them. This is untrue; Angel doesn't care about the Pilgrimage at all. But they think that she's found a shortcut, and it's not going to take much of that kind of thinking before someone desperate tries to find Angel and learn from her.
Angel is superhumanly tough and a decent fighter, but besides lying and sneaking around, she isn't good at much else. She's tough as hell, though. She's also very good at using her magic powers to blend in temporarily as well as wielding the power of Flux to blight and harm others.
Next time: The Fallen Idol, the Hunter's Best Friend
Matchbox TwentyOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 3: Matchbox Twenty
Background Image Energies
Beatrice Ahuja was once a member of a Promethean throng known as the Matchbox. They were close to the New Dawn, seemingly empowered by Pyros and vitality, ready to seize their new lives. They had long been held in regard for what passes as Promethean society for their simple but effective studies of the Refinements (read: philosophies of humanity), Lineages and Pandorans. Many eagerly awaited news of their ascension to humanity. One night, however, Beatrice sent out a message: "The Matchbox is alight. There will be no ascension. There will be no survivors. We were betrayed by our own hopes, willing to step on each other's faces for a chance to live. We threw each other into the fire as hope guided us to a new, flickering light. I am the only one left. I did not reach the light. The others are dead. The Ladder is a folly. There is no hope for creatures like us." The report spread far and wide, crushing optimism for many, while others sought Beatrice to learn the details. They could not find her.
Before her fall, Beatrice was a widely recognized (for Promethean values of 'widely recognized') paragon of the Refinement of Gold, a master of emulating humanity, but quickly abandoned it for Iron, being an outspoken proponent of avoiding over-reliance on Alembics (read: specially developed Promethean powers) because they slowed down progress of the soul. She moved on to Lead after that. This is, as a side note, the mechanically correct choice as a Promethean - once you complete your Refinement's Roles, you should swap. Anyway, Beatrice's philosophy appealed to many, despite the controversial nature of it, because while it was tempting to rest easy in a Refinement, her way was one of constant internal growth and motion. She had constant energy, being an Extempore (read: Promethean of unique Lineage) born of pure energy, and she was the core around which the Matchbox formed. Her fall was a terrible thing, and it seemed that in the final moments, when one of the Matchbox might have to give up their life for the rest or perhaps that the New Dawn could visit only one of them, they could not give up their own hopes and fell to internal strife.
In a moment of despair, Beatrice attempted to recreate her throng and find her old purpose. It went horribly wrong. Her efforts to resurrect them may have been tainted by bitterness or perhaps she used too much of the static and white noise that was her own humour in the process. What awoke were physical replicas of the old Matchbox, but with a constant hiss of energy around them, black and white static in their eyes and a terrible crackling whenever they spoke. Beatrice fell to the path of the Centimanus out of despair at having made these Pandorans. They depleted her power, but they did not attempt to kill her. Rather, they recognized her sacrifices in making them and did their best to comfort their "mother," allowing her to exist within them as a buzzing audio form until she was able to re-emerge into her own physical existence.
The Ahuja Pandorans, as some call them, now terrorize Prometheans in an effort to inflict twisted versions of Beatrice's moral lessons. They came after those Prometheans that do not move on in their roles, seeking to steal their power via fear and devouring. They rarely kill, preferring to leave their prey as withered but living husks. Somehow, they channel Beatrice's belief that the New Dawn can only be gained by abandoning pursuit of personal power, though they have only a vestigial grasp or memory of her old cause. Beatrice herself no longer believes in her old code, thanks to the betrayals she saw and took part in, and her "children" subverting her beliefs to weaken others has only increased her loss of faith. Beatrice's existence is within her Pandorans, spread between their bodies in a state of tortured mourning. She is able to communicate through them - the rare times their words make any sense are when her consciousness surfaces, dreamlike, to speak - but she can't control their actions, which are driven by her nightmares and suffering. Beatrice really wishes another way existed, but she is convinced that all Prometheans are hopeless and that the New Dawn is impossible. She really believes the Matchbox were the best of all Prometheans, and if they were unable to achieve humanity, no one else has any hope of it. Therefore, by giving everyone else a harsh reality check, she's doing them a favor, really.
Beatrice herself has not been seen since her message went out, but is remembered as being a Sikh woman with traditional bana in blue and yellow, a kind face and a permanent crackle in her voice, as if she'd spent a lifetime smoking. Today, she primarily appears through the bodies of her "children," each of which manifests her abilities with varying focus. Each Pandoran resembles a member of the Matchbox - a huge, tanned Tammuz with Maori tattoos, a spiny, scary Galateid with green hair, an innocent-looking Frankenstein that resembles a child sewn up after an autopsy, and a Faceless in a gas mask that stinks of ammonia. They were made using the bodies of the Matchbox, but their actions bear little resemblance to their forebears, with any resemblances driven only by Beatrice's memories. Ahuja and her Pandorans all possess strange humours, being Extempore. Specifically, they buzz and crackle with static electricity at all times, making hair stand on end and causing earaches, as well as disrupting local electronic transmissions. When wounded or purging Vitriol (read: enlightenment juice) they leak vibrant static energies, which are able to overload anything in the local area capable of producing feedback; that feedback takes the form of Beatrice wailing and crying.
Unlike most, the Ahuja Pandorans are not simply automata without thought. They target only strong Prometheans, both to feed on them and to teach them "valuable lessons." Some Prometheans understand they are somehow tied to Ahuja, but have not managed to figure out a way to communicate with her while she hibernates inside the Pandorans. Each one wears a skull around their necks, believed to be taken from the Prometheans whose bodies were used to create them. Despite her depression, Beatrice remains a wise being, and while her throng failed in its goal, their work wasn't entirely in vain. Ahuja's theories led them to a Pilgrimage that was not harmful to the mortals they met, and was relatively fast compared to most others. While their communal betrayal ruined their plans, their method was in fact a good one - and as I noted, the mechanically optimal path. If Beatrice could be made to understand the errors the Matchbox made, she might be able to remember her philosophy and become a teacher again...but it'll be hard while she's on the Refinement of Flux.
Beatrice genuinely loves her Pandorans despite their state, in part due to their resemblance to her old friends and in part because they held her when she needed it, even if it caused them to absorb her for a while. She knows making them was an act of madness, but currently they are her sole comfort. If a throng were able to somehow bring her Pandorans together and address them as intelligent beings capable of hope, Beatrice might talk through them. A tiny part of her consciousness still believes that redeeming her would be of no import compared to allowing her Pandorans to somehow engage in the Pilgrimage, and giving her the ability to do so might resurrect her lost hopes. It wouldn't fix everything, however. Many that looked to Beatrice for hope turned Centimanus when her fall came and her last message went out, driven to despair by the loss of what they saw as their great mentor. While redeeming her would be nice, some Prometheans are not going to forgive her and would try to kill her for what they see as a betrayal of all of their kind. Others believe that she's just an agent of chaos, that the entire story's a hoax designed to dupe people into sympathy for her. If so, Beatrice certainly isn't confirming it. Her depression prevents much communication, of course, but if confronted by this rumor her reaction might be terrible. It claims she has legions of Pandorans based on her throngmates lying in wait to strike as she laughs at everyone else. Also of note - while Beatrice is still stuck inside her Pandorans, something else has come out of them. An energy creature that very much resembles Beatrice has emerged, speaking with her voice. It emerged from the residual energies left by her Pandorans when they use her powers. It is a reflection of the old Beatrice, essentially an energy-based ghost or reflection. It does not appear to be aware that it's not the real Beatrice, and it seems to be acting as the old Beatrice would.
Beatrice is a pretty experienced Promethean, extremely smart but not really bad at anything. She's not a fighter, but her stats mean she'd be pretty slow to die even by Promethean standards. She has a wide but shallow array of magic powers. She can boost her speed and athleticism, toughen herself up and appear as a normal human, command Pandorans, disrupt the use of Promethean powers, boost her vision and see various invisible things, boost her scent, hearing and taste, detect or disrupt supernatural powers generally, sense memories with a touch, and boost her resolve and will.
It's a skin condition.
Dr. Bennet Prichard is the best friend a Hunter could have. No matter what monster threatens, he has a lead or theory to keep you going. He connects various Hunter cells, helping them find others with similar causes. He rises to the occasion, coordinating hunts and even helping fight occasionally. He's smart, fast and all he wants are live captures so he can experiment on some monsters to develop new tools to help the hunt. It's taken him a very long time to build up this reputation and persona among Hunters, and it's all to find new supernatural beings to analyze and dissect, so that he can find what's missing from his own broken existence. He's certain he's on the right path - the truth is there, waiting for him in the flesh of his subjects. He's not always been so sure, but he's always been curious.
At first, his curiosity was limited to his own body, the feelings of it and the idiosyncracies of his muscles and tendons. He was a gentle watcher, separate from humanity but fascinated by them. However, something hid among them, and that something noticed him watching. One night, the somethings took him, strapping him to a table in their lair. For years, he suffered under their experiments. They studied him, vivisected him, took notes and whispered to each other about what he might be. He fell into despair, interrupted only by the pain of the incisions. His captors studied him scientifically and mystically to determine what he was, and while they questioned him, he had no answers they liked. He thought his torture would be eternal - but one night, gunfire burst through the lair of these witches. They had caught the attention of Hunters, and those saviors hadn't a clue what Prichard was beyond a victim of the witches. They freed him, and as he recovered, he had an epiphany. His experience, agonizing though it was, had given him something.
Prichard set about creating a relationship with his mortal saviors, learning about their ideal of stamping out monsters that preyed on humans. He turned his skills at watching and study to seeing the patterns of mortals and the creatures thatm oved among them. His first deal was for a vampire - he'd lead his new friends to a vampire nest in exchange for one of the monsters to study. While at first reluctant, the Hunters agreed when they learned how much information Prichard had gatheredo n the nest. As the vampires burned, he took his prize home and set about cutting it apart. For more than a decade, he has worked with Hunter cells, providing them information to gain their trust and helping them figure out how to fight the things they go up against. In exchange, he receives subjects to study. He sends out regular info updates, can call on hunter cells to provide backup for those that work with him, will help with his exceptional surgical skills and will even sometimes go onsite to provide direct backup. He keeps his social interactions with the cells as brief as possible, of course, but all of them know that when it gets bad, they can count on the Doc.
Prichard is very unsettling. His skin is covered in patches of vitiligo, and so gaunt that the lines of his skull are nearly visible, making him come off as skeletal. He appears to be a well-groomed (but for the pale patches) African-American man with a trimmed beard and close-cut hair. He dresses comfortably in well-tailored and durable clothes and, usually, a lab coat. His hands are practically bone-white and usually covered by dark gloves. He's not large, but he's fit and wiry, with nimble hands and a slight limp. Few notice that his left leg is prosthetic. His voice is a deep, soft baritone that requires attention to be able to catch what he's saying, as he's not loud. He speaks briefly and with few words, never interrupts anyone, and has a piercing stare. He never jokes and does not even really acknowledge that humor is a thing. He is serious, direct and doesn't conceal irritation when dealing with people that waste his time. The Hunters that deal with him speak highly of him, to the point of absolute loyalty, even though he never treats them in a friendlier way than slight smiles and handshakes. He is eager to hear any news they bring, and while he considers some of them friends, earning his friendship is a very slow process.
The only thing that can really rattle Prichard's demanor is direct disrespect, either to himself or his friends. When angry, he often hisses at the cause, gets up in their space and forces them to either engage him or back away. Because he knows the risks of his allies discovering his true nature, Prichard keeps all meetings as brief as possible and is rarely available to any given person for more than a few minutes. He knows even these brief interactions hold the danger of Disquiet, which could unravel all he's worked for. Thus, he spends much of his time online, hunting for traces of supernatural activity. He's extremely interested in finding another Promethean to study and dissect, much as he was once studied by wizards. He will pay heavily for any information on beings similar to himself in any fashion. He knows they exist, but hasn't seen one since his genitor created him. He's actually starting to lose hope. After years of work, his studies have started to plateau and he's yet to find anything that concretely aids his Pilgrimage. He has recorded the internal alchemy of dozens of monsters, but they've never been very close to his own condition, so he has few breakthroughs. Because of his deceptions and his fear of discovery, it should perhaps be unsurprising that the lack of progress has caused him to daydream of leaving his path and giving up. If he ever does become a Centimanus, his hunter allies are in grave danger.
Doc Prichard is very careful to keep his lair hidden, but folks aren't dumb. There's rumors flying about the industrial district of his city, and the poor and homeless whisper about his comings and goings. They watch him until he finally calls in his friends to push them out. So far, Prichard's never had any of them killed, but it's only a matter of time before he has to cross that line, given how curious people are getting about the weird guy that drags bodies in and calls in thugs to clear them out of his sewage tunnels. Younger hunters often discuss over drinks what the good doctor might actually be - he knows so much about the undead condition, after all. While their elders that have worked with him longer are deeply loyal, the younger and more curious theorize he could be anything from a rogue witch to a traitor vampire. The older hunters usually end these rumors as best they can, but sometimes the foolhardy go looking for trouble they're unable to handle. It'd be fairly easy for new Hunters or Prometheans in town to overhear these discussions at a bar and start seeking the truth. On a positive note for the city (and a negative one for Prichard), they're actually running low on targets. As he grows desperate, he's been sending more and more hunters out to capture monsters - particularly the street-level vampires that ran many of the city's gangs. Without direction and with their leaders being kidnapped, these gangs and enforcers are too scared to act. While that's nice, it's also really weird, and more than a few people have taken notice and want to know why.
Prichard is an Osiran, quite smart but not really remarkable outside that. He's a decent-ish fighter, but it's his academic skills that make him so useful to his Hunter buddies. They and his well-hidden lair are what make him so hard to take down, if that was your goal. He is able to charge objects with Divine Fire to empower them, raise corpses as zombie pseudo-Prometheans he can question about their lives or command, can temporarily immobilize people, is good at preventing his Disquiet from spreading, can make his bodily fluids poisonous, can sense the past presence of other Prometheans, tap into the Promethean collective memory to get temporary skills, can imprint his own memories on places for others to find, and can drain Pyros from other Prometheans or can tear it out of the flesh of living beings.
Next time: The Showman, Madame Happythoughts
The MentalistOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 4: The Mentalist
"Sensational" Jasper Brouillard is an anomaly - a popular, even famous stage magician and spiritualist that is also a Promethean. In life, Jasper was a medium of great ability but diminishing wealth, drawing fewer and fewer crowds in Las Vegas. He became a street magician to stay relevant, though few other mediums followed his lead despite he popularity he earned once TV crews started following him around. They couldn't - Jasper was able to put on accurate seances and channel spirits in public without any apparent preparation or hot reads. He did what no one else seemed able to - he legitimately heard the voices of the dead and accurately communicated them. Whatever methods he used, however, died with him. He was murdered on live broadcast while interviewing nightclub patrons and offering to contact the dead using his Ouija board. As he channeled a screaming spirit that was accusing someone in the club of killing her, he was shot by an unidentified attacker. The bullet went directly through his head, and he died.
By chance, one of the patrons was an Ulgan Promethean who seized the chance represented by the many spirits hanging out around Jasper to reignite the spark of life in his corpse. When "Jasper" returned from his experience in Twilight, he was Ulgan, housing the spirits he once communed with. The man who goes by Jasper Brouillard now has no memory of his body's former life. It is unclear to anyone whether the spirits powering his body are ghosts or elemental spirits of murder and vengeance; Brouillard presumably knows but isn't saying. Still, when he stood up after being shot, he became a sensation. He claimed later to have visited a private surgeon for the bullet wound, but the media frenzy was less about his miraculous recovery and more about his abilities. In the first interview he gave after his "near-death experience," he revealed with terrifying accuracy the secrets of six randomly selected people. He said that he received these secrets from the ghosts of angry relatives or victims of crime. His statements were so accurate and delivered with such conviction that for a long while, he was the only medium on primetime TV.
The Showman, as Prometheans know him, loves the spotlight. He's pursuing lucrative TV contracts and even an autobiopic, ignoring the inner feelings of torment and the pressure other Prometheans put on him to keep a lower profile as well as the jealousy of his peers in the business. Somehow, he seems to have the best of both worlds, using his wealth and fame to keep touring so as to avoid the negative consequences of his own nature. Many were envious, but he seemed to be causing little harm...at first. As time went on, however, his shows became less about talking to the dead beyond vague pronouncements and more about special effects. While he always carries his Ouija board, he never uses it now - indeed, he hasn't since he was "born." Many found him weird and uncomfortable among Prometheans, but few called him an enemy...until, one night, he performed a live dissection of a Frankenstein on stage, framing it as a trick involving animatronics and illusion. Critics proclaimed it an unbelievable act, disgusting but amazing, and he only drew more applause when he started identifying the former owners of the Frankenstein's body parts. Prometheans wondered what the fuck was going on.
Jasper's Pilgrimage has been unusual, to say the least. He's traveled the world, spending weeks away from his production teams to explore the places he goes to, and particularly their cemeteries. His personality has shifted rapidly through all this, skipping between Refinements quickly in hopes of finding one that'd ground him and give him purpose. His mercurial, shifting nature has given him little chance to study, so his Pilgrimage is primarily based in action - specifically, taking other Prometheans apart and trying to talk to their humours as if they were spirits representing the basic parts of life. Even he is surprised at how quickly it's going. He knows other Prometheans hate and envy him, but why should he feel bad for killing things that aren't even alive or human? All he cares about is fame and followers, and he only rarely questions his gifts. He is half dead, half alive, and easily approachable by ghosts and spirits. He can identify and communicate with them easily, using them to learn more about other Prometheans, mortals and his path. Some Prometheans even seek him out, as he can easily seek out the ghosts of demiurges, the origins of their body parts or the circumstances that led to their births. He maintains a balance between being a great if sensationalist resource and abusing his fellows for cheap entertainment and money.
Jasper is a handsome man who looks exactly like a stage magician should. He's such a stereotype that few would trust him easily - the grand gestures, waxed facial hair, purple outfit and stupid magic tricks with his top hat don't inspire confidence - but his results are clear. He loves to surprise people with his talent - they expect a circus magician, and he's a real mystic. He has a strong Quebecois accent, and he can range from quiet and intense to booming. While he is one of the greatest celebrity mediums, his grandeur is only when the cameras are on. He's not about to put on shows for free, after all, and he knows how to balance his shows between intimacy and magnifience. He never stops smiling. He doesn't worry about his associations with mortals, despite the Disquiet he causes over time. He regularly has to shift stage crews, agents and so on, and he's rarely in one place for more than a month at a time. His only permanent residence is his hotel room at the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas, which has caused the place to lose business and increased local violence and vice among other longterm residents; he doesn't care. He has a distinct scar in the center of his forehead, where the bullet entered his skull. He wears a long wig to hide the exit wound at the base of his skull.
Jasper collects secrets, partially for the money he can make off them and partially to aid his Pilgrimage. He has a lot of dirt on other Prometheans, though he rarely uses it just to hurt someone. Rather, he believes his Pilgrimage is about experiencing everything humanity has to offer, learn about life and death, and remain relevant to mortals. Other Prometheans, in his mind, aren't alive and thus aren't worthy of sharing his fame. He aspires to find the ghost of the true Jasper Brouillard, in the hopes that the dead medium will be able to show him how to use his gifts and ties to the dead. The Showman is not a true medium, and his Promethean powers can only go so far in making up for what he lost when his shell died. He hopes that if he can bind the ghost of Jasper Brouillard to himself, he will regain the man's powers. It's a fairly open secret that Jasper partakes in excessive vice in his safe haven in Vegas. He is well known in the industry for his love of sex, violence and weird shit. The hotel managers know he's a decadent hedonist, but he pays his bills on time and always cleans up his messes. When not touring or performing or having private fun, Jasper enjoys watching various acts along the Strip.
Jasper is well known among Prometheans for his fascinating with Frankensteins. He has worked with illicent clone labs before to kidnap Frankensteins so that he can trace the origins of their parts, and his live dissection of a Frankenstein on TV has earned him the Lineage's hatred. They aren't generally very good at controlling their anger, either. Some believe he's not a Promethean but a Sin-Eater; they're wrong, though they almost weren't. In life, Jasper Brouillard's spiritual abilities attracted many powerful ghosts, including several full-on geists. A handful were planning to fight over who got to claim him when he died, but they never counted on a Promethean stealing their thunder. Now, bitter over the loss, these vengeful superghosts are hunting for Jasper's genitor. For his part, Jasper would love to actually meet a Sin-Eater and learn from them. Others are more worried about the Prometheans that'll seek him out. Jasper has no followers yet on his path of hedonism, excess and wanton disregard for other Prometheans, but it can't be long before others, tired of the tragedy of their existences, try to follow his footsteps. Given how much harm Jasper causes to the mortals around him just by not caring about what his nature does to them, many Prometheans regard this prospect as a horrific crime in the making, with the potential of hurting all of them - if not just morally, than for the practical effects of Disquiet being more widespread.
Jasper is smart, charismatic and manipulative as hell, but he's pretty weak-willed and not exactly a fighter. He's more likely to rely on hired bodyguards than his own talents in a fight. Or ghosts, I suppose. He's famous and well-connected, especially for a Promethean, and has decent wealth - extravagant wealth by Promethean standards. He's also quite potent magically. He can make himself resemble other people easily or even copy their fingerprints onto his own hands, he's super stealthy and can turn practically invisible, he can make people slavishly obsessed with him for a while or cause massive confusion and amnesia, can sprout claws (though it's a bad idea for him) or turn into a giant dogbeast or copy normal animals, can alter his own appearance in various ways to scare folks or avoid notice, can do the weird memory tricks the last guy could do, can tap into the Promethean collective unconscious to gain information about supernatural stuff, can temporarily disguise himself as other kinds of supernatural critter, and can make objects explode into invisible supernatural energy that distracts magical senses.
It's also a skin condition. The condition is being on fire.
Missy Bellingrath has always been on the move, from day one. She's a drifter in the swamps of the Gulf Coast, born during Hurricane Katrina. Her creator, another Frankenstein with a face made of tattered skin stapled to a skull, made her using the storm's energies and dared her to catch him if she could. The chase was her only purpose. She was always just a day or so behind, stumbling into all kinds of traps - shapeshifting crocodiles, voodoo mystics, the works. She made friends with the mystics and studied under them, and they experimented with the humours within her, distilling them into various concoctions. Fearing that she'd be nothing but a source of materials, Missy fled the coven with the potions and began studying alchemy as best she could. Sure it couldn't hurt her, she drank deep of the potion, which energized her and improved her already terrifying strength. She forgot entirely about chasing her creator, because now she had a new purpose: perfecting the potion and finding something besides Pyros to fuel it.
Missy gave up on everything but finding more tools to make her new drug...well, that and maybe someone to bring with her. She still feels the call of her "missing" body parts, the counterparts of those used to create her, though she's given up on her creator's game of tag. Why bother hunting him when she could find meaning in the needle and her new concoction? The creation, based on the voodoo cabal's starting point and then Missy's instinctive grasp of alchemy, is a potent stimulant that infuses Promethean bodies, causing their disfigurements to become obvious as if they'd used magic. It is extremely addictive, but gives a bonus to all physical and mental actions for several hours, though a penalty to tasks that require concentration or coordination. The bonus increases if the drug is made using supernatural ingredients, such as werewolf bones or vampire blood. Missy has yet to make one based on Promethean humours, so it's unknown what those would do.
The real problem is the other side effect it has on Prometheans: it brings their body parts to life. Those created from the bodies of the dead feel a rush of emotion from the people whose body parts they were made of, and can hear their voices whispering and feel their flesh burning. Any creature made from dead body parts or similar will have the same effects, though the source of the voices is unclear and mysterious. Prometheans that roll badly when taking the drug can also ignite their internal Pyros stores, taking Lethal damage (or Aggravated if they're really unlucky and literally burst into flame).
Missy's not really able to pass for human any more. Her genitor tried to make her as complete as he could and match her parts properly, but her drug habit and lack of care for herself has ruined all that work. Parts of her pale skin are scorched around the edges or even burned away. Her stitching is cracked and blackened by the heat, leaving long marks along her seams. She has pierced several of the areas they've burned away with titanium bars to hold herself together, plus some rings and studs for looks. She wears anything she can find - usually t-shirts and jeans - and is generally twitchy, giggles for no reason and stares off into space at random without finishing her sentences. When she finds something that catches her eye, she becomes a skilled manipulator who has mastered the art of getting people isolated so she can jab a syringe into them to extract precious bodily fluids to make her drug. While high, she is a hedonist that follows whatever desire happens to get into her head at that moment.
Missy's met a few other Prometheans and shared her drug with them, and the word's out among the Gulf Coast Prometheans. Everyone wants to know what's in the drug that maeks everything feel so clear...but while Missy's happy to share her stash, she charges a hefty price to learn how to make the stuff. Specifically, she won't do it except for a draught of the humours that animate the Promethean asking for instruction. No one knows if anyone's taken her up on that or not, but it is perhaps unsurprising that her clients tend to view her as a dangerous and unhinged (if necessary) killer. The humans that get in Missy's orbit are rarely left particularly sane, either. She sends some into permanent fugue states, broken by whatever loss she took from them, while others had their minds broken by her drug, unable to handle their glimpse of its power. She is known as Madame Happy Thoughts among the drug user community, most of whom would kill for another hit of the stuff. Those Prometheans not interested in her stash tend to find her very, very disturbing. Some say she's stealing the power of the Principle itself, though the drug does not appear to have any negative effects (or positive ones) on the Pilgrimage. Sure, addiction can stunt your growth by refocusing you on just pursuing the high, but that's about it.
Missy is, at this point, a Centimanus, though as they go, not a particularly malicious one except for her habit of stealing bodily fluids. Her stats are nothing special - she's clever and fast, but she's basically average at stuff. She's decently good for a self-taught chemist and medic, but not amazing. She also has very little in the way of mystic power. She can boost her smell, taste and hearing, can cause Disquiet deliberately, can worsen Wastelands (read: the negative environmental aura of being a Promethean in one place too long), and can summon Firestorms (giant...firestorms of Divine Fire going haywire). Oh, and she has a bite attack, because she uses one of the new powers in this book that lets her eat people to steal their mental abilities, stats or skills temporarily. So that's a trick.
Next time: The Lost, the Many-Voiced
Ghostface HelperOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 5: Ghostface Helper
Shockingly, this dude is not high as fuck.
Nivilin the Lost was, at one point, a promising Ulgan with a talent for helping ghosts move on. Heartbreak, however, has sent him down the path of the Centimanus while his throng desperately tries to cover for him. He worked constantly to try to gain mortal acceptance. He even put his phone number in the yellow pages as an exorcist for hire, against his throng's advice. Sure, it got him more harassing phone calls than anything else, but he really, truly wanted to help people, even if his few clients weren't generally grateful. He'd drop everything at any time to go do the work, but once he ended the haunting, they would call him a fake and refuse to pay. His throng begged him to move on, to shift himself from Aurum ('achieve humanity through mimicking human behavior') to Argentum ('achieve humanity through pursuit of the mysterious'), to better use his talents to learn without having to interact with assholes. He ignored them, certain that the Divine Fire meant for him to forge a bond with mortality. Spiritualism was a tool, but love was what he was seeking.
One night, Nivilin answered a midnight phone call from desperate parents looking for a cure for their infant daughter. She'd been sickly since birth, but testing revealed nothing wrong with her despite her constant weight loss. The doctors could do nothing. Now, they were calling an exorcist. Nivilin went, discovering a spiritual parasite latched onto the girl. It was an evil thing, but weak, and he was able to quickly defeat it with his powers, driving it away. The girl smiled at him, and Nivilin felt the warmth of love flow into him. His Pyros rose up in joy - and her parents snatched the baby away, terrified by what they felt coming from the Promethean. They called him a devil-worshipping pervert and threatened to call the cops. His heart broke as the baby began to cry, and he fled, rejecting the love he had felt and turning from his path, falling deep into Torment. (Read: a magically enforced temper tantrum caused by significant failure on the Pilgrimage, among other things.)
At this point, Nivilin turned to Argentum, delving into the mysteries of the spirit world and learning more about spirits and ghosts. (Promethean does not make a strong distinction between the two.) He began to help these beings as once he helped mortals...and unlike mortals, the spirits were grateful. Selfish, yes, unpredictable, but grateful. As word spread among them about the Promethean that would aid them, they began to approach him for aid from all over. Any kind of spirit - he turned none down. He was happily surprised, loving the feeling of being thanked for his work, and he lost himself in it. His throng was horrified as they realized he was no longer actually following the Pilgrimage - just working for spirits to feel respected. He went from being a mediator or even facilitator to an accomplice, aiding a fire spirit in burning down homes and a drowning spirit in killing a swimmer. Eventually, a small and pathetic spirit came to him. It had tried, it said, and failed to kill a mortal over ten years before, and now it had one last chance. It had starved these past ten years, was too weak to kill, but Nivilin might help it. Nivilin recognized it immediately as the creature he had banished from the infant girl ten years prior...and decided he didn't care. Love had broke him, so he would break it back. Nivilin reattached the parasite-spirit to the girl, now a ten-year-old child, and his Pilgrimage ended entirely. He fell to Flux and became Centimanus.
Nivilin gives no shits about either mortals or other Prometheans. Even his own throng is an afterthought for him. He isn't needlessly cruel, but he also doesn't care if he has to maim or kill people to pursue his goals. He didn't embrace Flux for philosophical reasons or power - he did it because he gave up on becoming human, but a Promethean burns too bright to exist without following a path. He became a Centimanus largely because he rejected being anything else. He still acts pretty much like he did before becoming a Centimanus, working with spirits and keeping up appearances. His throng hasn't even realized he's dangerous, in fact. They know he's fallen to Flux, but don't understand the full implications of that. He's still one of them, a friend, and not one of those bad, dangerous Centimani they've heard about. Nivilin has done nothing to disabuse them of this, largely because he doesn't care enough about them to do so. He has occasional use for them and has no compulsion to cause trouble needlessly. Nivilin always takes the easiest path to his goals, no matter what that is.
He's buried himself in his work with spirits, even experimenting with his Flux powers to try and burn away and destroy the material world. He surrounds himself with spirits, some bound as servants, others asking for help. They speak to him constantly, and he listens to them more than anything else. His body appears Mediterranean, with tan skin and dark hair that falls to his shoulders in soft curls. He's a well-built man, not too thin or too muscular, with full lips. Pyros has begun to char and blacken the wounds left from his creation, causing him to smell faintly of burning flesh - or stronger, when he's using his power. His eyes are black pools in bloodshot sockets, and he's hard to read. That's less because he's good at hiding his feelings and more because his facial muscles don't work properly as a side effect of his birth process. He is now experimenting with body modification to more closely emulate spirits, and he has carved a number of ritual scars into his skin.
Nivilin, thirteen years ago, kept the infant girl's shoe. It fell off the baby when her parents snatched her away, and he's kept it in a box that is shoved in the back of his closet. He has not opened it since. Now, three years after having murdered the girl, he still has it. He claims not to care, even believes what he says, but if it were stolen he would go to great lengths to get it back. The shoe is a reminder of the love he once felt, and could be used to get him back on the Pilgrimage, in theory. He's also discovered something weird: an alien conspiracy of not-quite-spirits, which refer to themselves as angels, which serve some greater entity that he knows is not the Principle. Yeah he stumbled onto the God-Machine by accident. He is terrified and fascinated by how vast this conspiracy appears to be, having run into it all over the place, and is torn between hiding from it out of fear and examining it from curiosity. He hasn't told anyone about this because he's afraid doing so would draw the angels' attention. (It probably wouldn't at first, but eventually, sure.)
Nivilin is ruthless in pursuit of knowledge of spirits or helping them. His obsession with them began well before his fall three years back, and he's racked up a notable body count. At this point, he's either personally killed or helped a spirit kill thirteen mortals and two Prometheans. (He conceals the Promethean deaths from his throng, as he knows they'd finally try to stop him if they learned about that.) Despite this, he retains a reputation for being an excellent mentor in the path of Argentum - he certainly spent a lot of time pursuing it before his final fall. His throng pretends he still follows that path, hoping that continued contact with other Prometheans will help him get back to his old self. Despite their efforts at cover-ups, however, word's starting to get out that he's dangerous. The last Promethean he killed, Ella the Unburnt, left a paper trail he didn't expect. She had no throng, but she was part of a small online forum with some other Prometheans, and she let them know she was meeting Nivilin before she vanished. Nivilin killed her so he could take her heart and bury it at the behest of a restless ghost. He also still maintains his yellow pages ad, though he no longer helps humans that hire him. Rather, he aids the haunting spirits in getting rid of them. He craves the gratitude and admiration his spiritual sycophants happily shower him in when he helps them, y'see.
Nivilin is extremely intelligent and strong-willed, but average socially and physically. He's not very good at fighting, but his knowledge of spirits and many deals with them mean he has plenty of invisible backup. He's actually not super powerful magically - he's good at finding and fucking with magic, he can make Wastelands and Disquiet worse, but his main gimmick is he can manifest mutant powers based on the spirits, Pandorans and Promethans around him, which he can make permanent at the cost of backsliding on a Pilgrimage that's already stalled and using stolen Vitriol. (Short form: Promethean Pilgrimage XP takes physical form as magic enlightenment juice that lives in their stomach. You can steal that juice and use it for yourself by killing them!)
...for we are many.
Roslynn the Many-Voiced is an Extempore, but the only one of her kind - an Extempore who has a clear and distinct history and lineage. She can trace her line back: the Gestalt, as they refer to themselves. They only get one shot at humanity, and if they fail, they need to create a new Promethean and pour all their memories into it. Roslynn is number six of these cyclical Prometheans, and as she finally approaches the New Dawn, she's terrified. The voices of the Gestalt speak in her mind. They are nameless, as much Roslynn as her own mental voice, but they do have some distinct personalities. Roslynn's creator speaks to her in a soft voice that she thinks is probably male. She never met him or any other member of the Gestalt, because Pyros consumes their bodies as part of the creation of their new Promethean-self. The creator is hesitant, gentle and sad, always apologizing for the harsh destiny he gave Roslynn. The loudest of the voices, though, is shrill and relentless in demanding she pursue the New Dawn. She believes this is the Fourth. She has heard the First only once - a single sentence, flat and soft: "Finish it." That's her duty and the only reason she exists. Finish the First's Pilgrimage.
Using the experiences and memories of her predecessors, Roslynn has been able to blaze through her Refinements with shocking ease, only rarely interacting with other Prometheans. She has only ever failed once - she can't understand Cuprum ('finding humanity through strong self-identity'), and nor can any past member of the Gestalt, because they don't have a singular self. The Gestalt pushes her ownwards, to wrap up their unfinishes business and become mortal. They're sure she can do it. Not just for herself, but for the six before her who died so she would have that chance. Roslynn has finally cracked under the pressure. She's terrified of the New Dawn, because she knows she can only try once - and if she fails, she must commit suicide to create the next of the Gestalt, or else everything ends for all of them. And so, she is stalling, dragging her feet in the final stretch. She's not risking failure, but she's slowing herself down so she doesn't have to take the final leap yet. She can't fail if she never jumps, right? Unfortunately, after six failures, the Gestalt is very good at mentoring the Pilgrimage. Roslynn's far along her path, and despite her best efforts, she can feel the end looming. She has come up with a desperate plan to deal with it.
Roslynn has actually witnessed another Promethean achieving the New Dawn. She felt his Azoth transform him, felt the first signs of Disquiet in him as he hesitated during their hug afterwards. Knowing it's real, not just a story, should have made her feel good, but it only reinforced her fears. What if the reason the Gestalt has kept failing is that it's not possible for them, specifically? She knows she and her predecessors are not normal for Prometheans, so maybe their Pilgrimage is impossible. Maybe they're just broken, and the same thing that has made her path so easy will block her from ending it. That'd make the whole thing impossible to do and so best to just stop trying, because her next creation would be unable to do it as well if she made one. Thus, her plan hinges on the fact that other Prometheans can, provably, become human. By using the Gestalt's knowledge, she is seeking a Promethean with a compatible essence to her own. She's not quite sure what that means, but believes she'll know it when she sees it. She's studied and discarded three candidates so far, and that makes her confident - if she can tell someone's not a match, she must be able to tell if someone is one. Once she has a target, she plans to sacrifice herself and that target as the New Dawn is achieved, creating a new Gestalt from their shared flesh who should, in its moment of creation, be immediately redeemed and become human. Roslynn's plan relies on the target being able to carry both their essences in the combined form of the new Gestalt, taking them both through the New Dawn. She has not considered that her plan could also result on both of them being permanently stranded as Prometheans.
The Gestalt prefers to be solitary, but Roslynn forces herself to be social since coming up with her plan. She believes compatibility is as much about personality as flesh and Pyros. It wasn't until she sat down and talked with her last candidate that she found his Pilgrimage was wholly incompatible with her own and thus was not viable. She practices her social skills on mortals so she'll be ready next time. She's not good at it - she tends to be terrifyingly brusque, though she's gotten better at concealing her intentions. She has collapsed under the pressure of her forebears and is now desperate to end the Pilgrimage once and for all. In times of duress or Torment, she shows personality traits from past cycles of the Gestalt, which makes her unpredictable and dangerous. Her body is Middle-Eastern, with thick, dark hair in a pixie cut (originally a long braid, but she didn't like it). She's tall and muscular, with callouses and a broken nose from her body's mortal dies as an MMA fighter. Her throat still bears a red line where her creator cut it when he decided she was ready to become Gestalt. In Torment, her body sheds desert sands, as do all past Gestalts. Her facial features sometimes get her mistaken for male; Roslynn doesn't mind, because she only picked a female self-identity because matching her assigned gender seemed easier to her. Her eyes are brilliant green.
The Fifth of the Gestalts was a Centimanus, and he made the Sixth only because the First literally forced its way into taking over the body and perfoming the generative act. The Sixth was Roslynn's creator and tried to get things back on track. However, the Fifth made a Pandoran in his brief time as Centimanus, and that creature, a sublimatus that calls himself the Silent, hunted the Sixth and now Roslynn. Roslynn hasn't a clue what to do about the Silent and is very worried that other Prometheans will judge her for the actions of the Fifth. She has also driven another Promethean to commit murder in the belief that committing the ultimate human sin would bring him closer to the New Dawn (and thus allow her merger); however, after he moved from Cuprum back to Aurum, he was overcome with guilt and committed suicide. Roslynn has never told anyone, believing that if she does, no one will ever let her get close to them again.
The First was a Kuwaiti soldier in the first Gulf War. She and her unit died in a massive explosion, and the collective cry of their spirits to survive called down the Divine Fire. She stood up as an Extempore, with sand and Pyros as her humour. Desperate to end the Pilgrimage at last, the First has been quietly guiding Roslynn in her new, risky effort to hijack the New Dawn. If Roslynn fucks up or is stopped, the First intends to lead every future Gestalt to greater risks, as long as the lineage survives. The reason Roslynn has been able to proceed so quickly on her Pilgrimage is that the experiences of the past Gestalts have been able to speed her along the path, and she's able to complete their experiences of humanity as if they were her own. If someone were to kill her and steal all of her Vitriol, they would gain this ability for themselves, too.
Roslynn's Wasteland causes massive sand spread. It flows continually, and cannot be kept out by any wall. It rises into beds, gets into food and drink. As it grows and festers, the sounds of screams, explosions and gunfire can be heard. Mortals must eventually evacuate to avoid going mad from the phantom sounds of the dead and dying or drowning in the rising sand. So far, no Gestalt has ever triggered a Firestorm, so what form theirs would take is currently unknown. They did ruin an area near Musil with sand, though. (I think that might be an alternate spelling of Mosul?)
Roslynn is extremely strong-willed and reasonable clever. She's strong and tough, but exceptionally bad at talking to people. She's a great investigator and surprisingly well-informed on the occult and science, in part due to education from the other Gestalts in her head. She's a decent enough fighter. Magically, she's not great. She can boost her vision, read auras or surface thoughts, can use clairvoyance to watch people from afar, is good at getting through supernatural defenses and harming supernatural beings, and has good ability to resist supernatural effects. She's actually better at fighting monsters than she is humans.
Next time: The Remnant, Vachellia Offering Shade and Thorns
American GothicOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 6: American Gothic
Utley is a man out of time. He dates back to a Lineage that...well, doesn't exist any more. He is one of the last Hollows, born from the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Now, his Lineage gone and the Divine Fire having abandoned him, he has little hope for a New Dawn and has turned to desperate methods. Utley isn't entirely sure when he was created, but it was probably in the early summer of 1939, during the end of the Dust Bowl. He was brought to life in the midst of a massive dust storm, tasting water and blood. When the storm settled, he met his genitor, Hartley, and the throng that went with him. They confirmed that he was not human and would need the Pilgrimage to become one. His name, Utley, was taken from a broken sign for the nearby town of Utleyville, Colorado.
The group survived as bandits, robbing anyone that traveled the nearby roads. Hartley was the brains of it all, but making Utley was the final step of his Pilgrimage, and he achieved the New Dawn with Utley as his only witness, becoming truly human. The human Hartley lost much of his memory, and the throng abandoned him. Utley was expected to take up the job of leading them, but he wasn't good at it. He was an excellent follower, but he was no planner, and the throng intended to abandon him as well shortly after. When he overheard them talking about it, he decided to attempt his New Dawn immediately - a grave mistake. He tried to force himself to become human in a moment of passion, doing as his genitor had: ripping open his chest to release the fire within. However, he had no fire - only powerful winds that created an immense dust storm. Utley's hungers grew terrible, and fell into a cannibal frenzy, attacking his throngmates and tearing their Vitriol from their forms.
Utley emerged from his Torment alone and starving. He buried the corpses of his throng and set off to complete the Great Work. It's been 78 years since and he's not succeeded so far. He is a scrawny, gaunt man that appears to be in his early 20s, with beige skin that is tight on his frame and severely chapped lips. He has dense cataracts that do not interfere with his vision, though he often fakes being blind to lull people into a false sense of security. He still wears the same white shirt and blue jeans he was 'born' in, though now heavily repaired. He's a simple man in his language and actions, with no patience for flowery words. He tries to be stoic and bottle up his emotions, which tends to mean they end up coming out all at once, and violently, as he lashes out at anyone nearby.
Like all Hollows, Utley is ruled by hunger, craving food, safety and pleasure. In the nearly 80 years of his life, however, he has sublimated these hungers into a drive for the New Dawn. He knows it's real, having seen it achieved, but even with the guidance of his Azothic memory, he can't figure out how to do it properly. He tries to shortcut the process with poorly informed, elaborate and usually dangerous methods, such as eating the hearts of those rumored to be redeemed PRometheans or stealing alchemists' formulae for himself. If in a throng, he pushes his throngmates to assisting in these schemes. While his window of opportunity is shrinking as times goes on, Utley's quite proud of his advanced age. He's seen much of the last century and met many Prometheans. He can recite several of their stories from memory, and he takes great care when presenting his own, which can take hours.
Utley is a serial attacker of Prometheans and thief of Vitriol. When in Torment, Vitriol and the flesh of other Prometheans is the only thing that can sate his infite hunger momentarily. When not in Torment, he still looks for chances to do it, in the belief that consuming enough Vitriol might allow him to trigger the New Dawn. Utley is also incapable of making other Prometheans. He knows how to go about making a Hollow and the materials to do so aren't hard to get - but he can't do it. He's failed every time he's tried. As far as he knows, he is the last of his Lineage, which cannot be created any more by anyone. He can feel himself dying, and his Azoth even cools occasionally, manifesting as intense chills in his body. Each year they become more frequent. Utley is unsure how long he has left, but knows that he'll die if he can't become human soon.
Utley isn't, despite all odds, a Centimanus, and never has been. In fact, he hates them greatly. They reject something that has been denied to him, and that enrages him. If he runs into a Centimanus, he fights without hesitation, and the fact that some Prometheans are willing to look the other way if he steals their Vitriol before killing them is an added bonus. He's always been a proponent of the five Basic Refinements - the more simple philosophies of how to become human. He has nothing but disdain for more complex philosophy, claiming that it has no bearing on "real living" and so he'll focus on what gets actual results. Despite what he believes, he is not in fact the last Hollow. After the Dust Bowl ended, most Hollows that failed to become human left North America in search of the more arid climates they preferred, though rumor has it that as their time draws near, some that still remain are returning to the land that birthed them before their deaths.
Utley's not a smart man by any standard, but he is a strong-willed one and surprisingly charismatic. He's about average physically, though he's more athletic than most and a good survivor in the wilderness. He also has a wide variety of magic powers thanks to his long, long time alive. He's extremely potent mystically for a Promethean, with the ability to boost his speed and defenses, be super stealthy, pass safely through Wastelands or wield them against his foes, reduce or deflect his Disquiet to make his own life easier, increase Disquiet so he can scare people, shoot lightning, absorb electricity more efficiently to heal, sense and power electrical devices or even control complex electronics, overload or dampen electrical devices, can use magic to make people more friendly, can alter his own body to breathe water, climb like Spiderman or do Dhalsim bullshit, can sense other Prometheans, hide himself from them and even try to end others' Torments, can boost his hearing, smell and taste, and is pretty much impossible to restrain or imprison because he can magically break bonds, escape grapples and smash walls.
The Hollow were originally written for the Dark Eras supplement and get their writeup reproduced here. They were created first by a man named Ismael Hawker and originated solely from America and Canada in the '30s, made by dehydrating a corpse and anointing it with dust, then putting a drop of water on the lips. This raised them as a Promethean of endless hunger and thurst, both spiritual and physical. Their humour was a mix of blood and black bile. In Torment, they were driven to try and sate their insatiable cravings and violently fought anyone that got in their way. Once gorged, they fell into depression and isolation. After the Dust Bowl ended, it became impossible to make more Hollows, and today, only a few remain, most of them outside North America. AT the end of 2039, the lifespan of any Hollows sitll alive will run out unless they have already died and returned to life, resetting their timer. They were able to consume damage from attacks, temporarily delaying wounds in order to gain Pyros, or could push people to pursue their own desires.
Vachellia is the last of zir throng (I prefer singular they for gender-neutral, but whatever, this is the pronoun the character uses) who has not yet died or achieved the New Dawn. Loneliness and depression threaten, and zie is too afraid to approach others openly for fear of being scorned for taking so long. Instead, zie manipulates Prometheans int odanger and sets them up to fail so zie can swoop in, save the day, become accempted. Zie was loyal in helping zir throng achieve the New Dawn, and still recites the names of the successful and the dead to try and feel less alone, though none of the successful remembered zir afterwards.
Vachellia attempted, after the Redemption of zir last throngmate, Oracle, to pursue the Refinement of Copper in the hope that focus on the self would help ease the loneliness. It was neither easy nor natural to such a social creature, and zie varied wildly between driving others off before they could leave zir or desperately clinging to them despite the teahcings of the Refinement. Eventually, zie moved to the Refinement of Tin to pursue something less maddening to zir. Zie was cruel, using zir social abilities to manipulate people into being as lonely as zie was, turning them against each other to see how they dealt with abandonment. When she attempted to break up a same-sex couple that another Promethean, Stellaris, had brought together and helped come out of the closet, Stellaris intervened and convinced Vachellia to instead pursue Cobalus, the Refinement focused on studying imperfection, weakness and failure as the key to being human.
Vachellia was a good student, in the hopes that Stellaris would invite zir to her throng. However, zie didn't just pursue zir own weaknesses, but those of others, testing them and pushing them beyond their comfort zone to help them rise - usually. Sometimes it didn't go so well. When Stellaris had taught all she could and had likely recognized that Vachellia was a habitual, toxic manipulator, she left. Vachellia had became an expert in seeing and encouraging weakness in zirself and others, telling zirself zie is now seeking Prometheans to 'teach' as part of making them stronger. In truth, zie hopes that one day a Promethean will not be able to surpass the obstacles zie causes, allowing zir to swoop in and help to join their throng.
Vachellia has excellent social skills, but zie is terrified of being alone and it has burned away much of zir empathy. Zie believes zie has mastered Cobalus and is unafraid to admit weakness, but zie remains blind to zir all-encompassing drive for acceptance. When zie sets others towards danger, zie genuinely believes zie is helping them become stronger. If zie did join a throng, zie would continue endangering them, to ensure they never believed themselves safe without zir aid. Zie is a master of subtle criticism, insults and undermining confidence. It is possible that someone able to put up with zir toxicity could get zir to confront zir own self-blindness and get zir to be more honest, getting zir empathy back.
Vachellia is an androgynous, dark-skinned person with close-cut black curls. Zir body died of heart attack, so has no visible wounds. Zir creator, Ximena, chose zir body for its beauty in the hopes it'd make life easier for Vachellia. Zir right hand is scarred white on the fingers from a PAndoran attack that ended in the self-sacrifice and death of zir throngmate Ricardo, but it doesn't look too bad on Vachellia. Zie moves with easy grace, though a constantly clenched jaw reveals tension. Zie analyzes every chance to push people into danger. In Torment or when flaring power, zir skin hardens and movements slow, making zir appear sculpted from dark stone.
In truth, Ricardo didn't sacrifice himself; Vachellia abandoned him to his death. As the Pandorans closed in, Ricardo fought to hold them back and Vachellia, the only one who looked back, saw him fall and raise his hands in a silent plea for help. Zie knew zie could go back and risk the throng or pretend Ricardo had chosen to die; zie chose the second. Vachellia is both hopeful and afraid that Ricardo will make his way out of the Underworld. It'd expose zir sin, but also bring bakc someone zie loved. Vachellia also has caused another Promathean to fall - an Ulgan whose name zie doesn't know. Zie sabotaged the Ulgan's Pilgrimage, in an effort to seperate her from her throng and drive her into zir arms. Instead, it caused the Ulgan to embrace Flux. The Ulgan's throng has since realized someone sabotaged her and wants to find the culprit as much as they'd like to bring their friend back from being a Centimanus.
Some say that Vachellia is good at pushing others to the New Dawn, thanks to her work helping Oracle. In the past, zie was, and zie retains the insight to see what a good next step is for most Prometheans - but it is buried now under layers of pain and loneliness. Zie is now stagnant on zir own Pilgrimage, having mastered Cobalus and refused to move on to a new Refinement. This puts zir entire Pilgrimage at risk if zie does not at least shift Roles within zir Refinement soon. Some say zie is a magnet for bad luck; untrue. She causes it directly, deliberately, as part of zir pursuit of Cobalus.
Vachellia is Galateid and not particularly clever or good at physical tasks, but zie is exceptionally good at social skills, as noted. In a fight, zie would fall apart near instantly, but zie is a formidable foe in a social environment. Zie is not much on mystic powers, possessing only the ability to push people to pursue their impulses and vices and the power to push people into guilt and depression.
Next time: Petrificati
Help, I Broke ItOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 7: Help, I Broke It
So, suppose a Promethean is stuck and needs to at least shift Roles. Suppose she didn't. Suppose she kept ignoring the Wastelands and Firestorms, the Azothic memory's warnings, and so on. Suppose her Pilgrimage completely stalled out. What happens? Well, her Azoth would die, its fires burned out, and she would lose her free will and intellect. What would be left over would just be a mindless drone automatically acting out the Role she got stuck on. When alone or outside of that Role, she would only be capable of being a meat robot - eating to survive, staring at walls unblinking. When able to act within the Role, sure, she can pretend to be a person and act like everything is fine, but it's not. Any attempt at mind reading, at any time, reveals exactly zero thoughts. There is no conscious mind - everything is instinctual. This is a Petrificatus.
Petrificati, also called the Stuck or Automatons, would be merely a sad failure state if it weren't for two issues. First, they can still perform the generative act. Whenever a Petrificatus gets near a dead body, they instinctively seek it out and perform the same rite that brought them to life. They cannot, however, harness the Divine Fire to create a new Promethean - just another petrificatus with a Role based on the body's former situation in life, or Pandorans. Pandorans ignore petrificati, as they contain no Divine Fire within them. Because petrificati are no less resilient than Prometheans, however, you can end up with entire communities of mindless robots that seem alive only when working within their assigned Roles...and if one of those Roles is murderous or is assigned to work with corpses, the numbers just keep going up. Your second issue is that any Vitriol the petrificatus had upon 'death' is still stored inside them. It could easily be harvested - or a bad injury could rupture its containment and melt the creature down. Centimani, sublimati and alchemists all therefore hunt rumors of strangely blank, robotic people in hopes of an easy score. How Vitriol shows up in petrificati that were never Prometheans is a mystery to everyone.
There are no recorded instances of petrificati returning to life as Prometheans, not even in the Azothic memory. This doesn't stop more optimistic Prometheans from trying to get them back on track, but so far, no one has figured out how to do it or if it's even possible. Until such time as someone manages it, the petrificati will only be a sad reminder of the dangers of the Pilgrimage and a potential threat to other Prometheans. Mechanically, to become a petrificatus, a Promethean must remain in a completed Role for a year and a day, must not be part of a branded throng, and must never have made another Promethean. If all of those are true, then after that timer is up, their Azoth and Pilgrimage stats drop by 1 each week past the year-and-a-day limit, until both hit zero. At that point, you're a petrificatus. The 'branded throng' bit means this will essentially never happen to PCs, especially on the timescale required.
Petrificati can't use either Bestowments (the natural abilities of their Lineage) or Transmutations (the magic powers from their Refinement). They have no Azoth, so they can't be detected by Azothic radiance, and they don't cause Disquiet, Firestorms or Wastelands, and they can't have their Measure taken (the natural ability of Prometheans to sense each other's basic power levels). They cannot gain or use Pyros by any means, do not wake dormant Pandorans with their presence and provide no sustenance to Pandorans. They do still have the insane endurance of normal Prometheans, but cannot return from death. They do heal from electricity but don't gain Pyros from it. They do not take aggravated damage from fire, as they no longer contain the Divine Fire within them. Their disfigurements remain visible to Prometheans. When acting within their Role, they have 4 dice for all Role-related actions. Outside it, they are only able to walk to safe areas, feed themselves and weakly bat at attackers. They automatically fail all non-Role and concealment actions, but mortals typically explain away any strange behavior as due to stress, overwork or similar. Any attempts to read their thoughts fail because there's nothing to read.
All Petrificati contain at least some Vitriol, and produce more by making more Petrificati. If they take sufficient damage - less needed the more Vitriol they have - then the Vitriol within them erupts, causing them to take further damage as the acid eats away at their bodies. If the attack that damaged them was Bashing, that's it - they just take damage until they melt. If it was lethal or aggravated, the Vitriol sprays outwards and burns everyone nearby using the rules for a chemical fire. Obviously, this can only happen once - after it happens, all the Vitriol is gone. Vitriol that leaks or explodes out cannot be stolen for any purpose, Promethean or alchemical.
Any time a petrificatus encounters a dead body or severely injured person, their behavior outside their Role shifts. Instead of seeking food or shelter, they seek out the body or person and attempt the generative act. If the target was living but injured and helpless, the petrificatus will kill them in the process. They then make a roll based on the Vitriol within them - often at a penalty, as it gets harder the longer the body was dead. This means it's often a chance die. A dramatic failure or failure will spawn at least one Pandoran. Success turns the victim into a petrificatus, usually after several days.
Next time: The Agony Aunt, the Frozen Boy
The P In P-Zombie Is For ProtectorOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 7: The P In P-Zombie Is For Protector
Petrificati don't have to be disliked by those around them.
Cathy, a Galateid, first awakened in a water pumping station, wrapped in newspapers. Her creator was dead beside her of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. She took her name from the newspapers' advice column, Cathy Counsels, and she still carries those newspapers around constantly, with a flower pressed between each page. She did more than use them to learn about people - they were her guide to life. From the advice columns, she was led onto the Refinement of Iron and more specifically the role of Martyr, seeking humanity by enduring pain. Cathy Counsels always said the best solution was to stick to it and endure hardships while reaching your goal, after all. When a man made of fire told her she had to move on and locked her out of the station, she ignored him and took to living under the sky. When the neighborhood became coated in poison ivy and kudzu and everyone started fighting, then moved away, she endured. When it started to rain acid and fire, she endured. She made a martyr of herself, allowing her own Divine Fire within to die. Now, she wanders alone, eating kudzu and coming alive only to suffer.
Cathy dresses in clothes stolen from laundromats and clotheslines, so she looks a mess. She explores the Wasteland she created before falling to petrificatus status like a homeless queen, her frizzy auburn hair spreading out widely. She is tall, willowy and confident in her demeanor. She steals and scavenges, piling up what she takes around the closed pumping station, and it is only when she leaves the Wasteland that she changes again. Then, she is hesitant and afraid, like a child avoiding parental abuse. She steps between muggers and their victims, scared but defiant. She blocks abuse with her own body, smiling for whoever she protects. She gives away anything she has to people that need them, insisting they take it no matter what. She preaches self-reliance and helps others. Then she returns to the Wasteland and becomes the vacant queen of emptiness again.
The Disquiet Cathy caused before her transformation lingers, and while Cathy can no longer be the target of the anger of those around her, that anger isn't gone. The people that still remain in Cathy's Wasteland will latch onto the first Promethean they encounter as the cause of their anger and take it out on them. If it were possible to bring Cathy out of her fugue, you'd need to find out more about her maker. He had a throng and a Pilgrimage, and perhaps in tracing that, Cathy's Azoth could be rekindled. Or maybe not. Either way, the homeless still talk about their vigilante. She blocks attackers and gives advice, ignoring any wounds she takes. Without Disquiet, they are not afraid or angry at her, and debate if she is, in fact, a savior. They like Cathy.
Randall was a boy with an abusive, alcoholic mother. She beat him and tossed him out in the snow, but at least he had a car. He'd worked hard to earn the money to buy it, and he was glad of it. He parked it behind the fast food place where he worked, and for two nights it was fine. He'd wash up in the place's bathroom, he'd wake up at midnight to turn on the heater, and he'd go to school in the mornings, work in the afternoon and read with a flashlight by night. On the third night the blizzard hit, and the snow covered over the entire car and filled the tailpipe. It was three days before anyone found Randall - and what found him wasn't rescue. It was something that didn't think or breathe, but it moved, and it gave the same life back to Randall, in a sense. Or, at least, something went to work the next day wearing his face.
Randall is a pale, pimply teenager with a thin nose, curly black hair, a bit of a gut and a vacant stare. He smiles politely and asks how he can help, is prompt with his work, rarely makes errors and seems eager to please. He complains about being cold often enough that his manager has given him a spare sweater out of sympathy. When not acting in his Role, Randall stands behind the restaurant near his car. He frequently holds an open book to his face. When he must eat, he takes congealed frying oil from the trash. If anyone stops in the parking lot, he wanders around the block, holding his book. He responds to his name only when working. To anyone that can see Promethean disfigurements, Randall is gruesome. His ears are blackened by frostbite, he's missing the tip of his nose, and his mouth and teeth are grease-stained. His hands are burnt to a crisp from stealing food out of the fryers when no one is looking. He always smells of rancid grease and burnt meat. He is, in theory, Osiran.
Randall has not yet made another petrificatus, but not for lack of trying. He's found many dead or dying people in the area around the restaurant due to the blizzards striking the homeless. He's attempted the generative act, but so far all he's produced are Pandorans, which now litter the area. Some alchemists working out of the local hospital are tracking him. They aren't particularly interested in Randall himself, but in his genitor. They suspect he was brought back by a petrificatus known as the Wretched Thing, the oldest currently active known petrificatus. If so, she would be in the area and ripe with Vitriol for harvest - but she is known to be very protective of her creations. On the other hand, he might have been made by the one called the Stasher, a petrificatus that compulsively steals Athanors (mystically charged objects that Prometheans can use for various purposes on the Pilgrimage) and other artifacts, then sews them into the petrificati it creates. It was definitely in the area at the time of the blizzard - and that means if it made Randall, something valuable is inside the boy's body.
ACAB, but especially this one.
Julie Cheng was amazing. She got a scholarship for track, was top of her class in college with a degree in criminal science, and as a uniformed cop she made several high-profile arrests. Everything was perfect. However, she had a dark side - an adrenaline addiction fed by extreme sports, plus a tendency to overdo alcohol and drugs. Perhaps that's what caused her accident - she missed a knife, perhaps from rushing or perhaps from fatigue or maybe just bad luck. Her partner bled out from a pierced kidney in Julie's arms. It drove her addictions into the open - in a bad way. She missed work, got demoted and ended up back on the beat. Seeking more thrills, she eventually went out spelunking in the hills, where the thing everyone never talked about lived. She didn't come back - only the Good Cop did.
Julie appears to be a Chinese woman of slightly below average height. She's muscular and quick, and she has a razor-thin scar along her neck that no one can remember her getting. She's got that thousand yard stare that screams PTSD, the appetite of someone half her age, and a knack for doing paperwork. She's a poor conversationalist these days, of course. Her partner drives the car, she shoots well enough on the range, she eats whatever is in front of her and she writes in block capitals. Exclusively. Her colleagues only see the old Julie when she's chasing down a suspect. Her partner, however, knows she can't be left with them. After she's done laughing through the arrest, she goes away and the Bad Cop comes out. She goes even more blank than before and beats suspects - no matter what they're doing. She's even attacked a coworker once. She spent the night in the drunk tank to cool down and seemed fine the next morning.
Julie's killed someone - or rather, Bad Cop did. She and her partner, Jeff, didn't call it in. They dumped the body in a shallow grave in the woods. When Jeff went back to check on things, though, the body was gone. Julie just grunts if he asks about it, and more than once she's come back to work with dirt under her nails. The thing on the outskirts, incidentally? Four-armed and a centimanus. He's been studying petrificati for 20 years and keeps a collection of them. He's always happy to have them revive a body brought in by someone desperate. If not...well, he's happy to slit a throat and have them raise that. Bad Cop's his favorite among his "pets" for bringing him so many new 'toys.'
More philosophically, some Prometheans wonder about the nature of Torment, and if Petrificati, which lack true emotion, can experience it. It seems like it'd be one way to explain why Julie Cheng has two apparent Roles in the forms of Good Cop and Bad Cop. On the other hand, it's possible that Bad Cop is merely the dark side of her thrill-seeking behavior, given her Role as Daredevil...but it wouldn't explain why Bad Cop is so fixated on violence and murder. Whatever the case, someone's going to have to do something, because Julie is literally unable to stop, and she's going to drop more bodies.
Next time: Pandorans, the Unborn.
GoblinsOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 8: Goblins
The downside of Pandorans is they're mostly just...gribbly monsters, not people.
Cavins exist because abandoned mines are really good spots for Prometheans to hide. Humans avoid them for safety, but the dangerous are not much to Prometheans, and even without supernatural stuff they tend to collect myths and legends to make people stay out. There's often stuff worth scavenging or even chemicals for use in alchemy. They're private and ideal for the generative act, as long as you have a light source. However, when that goes wrong in the depths...well, what comes out skitters into the dark, taking on solidity from the stones to form a rock-like shell or chrysalis. In one cave, the creator just kept trying, making more and more of the critters - rock-like Pandorans known as Cavins. It's a mangling of the word 'cave-in,' due to their habitat. Most remain in or around the tunnels of their birth to attack Prometheans that seek shelter. Some wander out and infiltrate nearby communities, merging with mountains or being mistaken for interestingly-shaped rocks and put on display. They wait until a Promethean gets near them, then descend on their prey like an avalanche.
Cavins, while active, are roughly humanoid, resembling a twisted goblin made of onyx. Their skin is more stone than anything else and tough to pierce, which helps them wear down prey. They aren't very fast or smart, but they can set crude traps to keep someone locked in a room and are able to rig rock collapses or pit traps to slow prey down. Like many simple Pandorans, they prefer to hunt in packs, even packs that aren't made of Cavins. When Dormant, they curl up and form a rocky casing around themselves. Their shell's luster changed with the light, making it appear to be a lump of rock when outside, while in a cave's darkness it looks more like part of a coal vein. They tend to prefer caves near the surface - that way, they're close enough to sense the arrival of Prometheans nearby while remaining safely out of the way.
Because of the random, wandering nature of the Cavins' genitor, just about any cave or tunnel could have them. They largely act without direction and they avoid humans whenever possible, so many humans won't notice any dangers. Centimani often enjoy experimenting with Cavins, as they are simple, sturdy, easy to hide when Dormant and typically come in groups that can serve as multiple baseline test subjects. They're also easy prey for alchemists. It's super easy to disguise study of one as simple chemistry or geology, and they make for a decent defense system in case Prometheans invade the lab.
Cavins are not smart, but they're cunning, resilient as hell and strong-willed. They're slow, though, and can't really do much but set basic traps and hit things. Their main problem is they're made of rocks, so hurting them is hard.
I have no idea why it's so furry.
Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to give birth in the back of a car, but when you're being chased by a mob and don't want to abandon the Promethean you'd been in the middle of creating, what choice is there? Steal a truck and finish the job while your buddies drive. And that's how the Hitchhiker came to be - when an Ulgan tried this and found zir creation didn't spark when they hit a rest area. Zie begged the Principle for mercy...and the body began to thrash about on the seat, its eyes opening full of hate and hunger. The monster smashed its way out the window, its limbs bent at wrong angles as it rushed out into the night. The throng abandoned it, and the Ulgan has never forgiven them for it.
In Dormant form, the Hitchhiker resembles a sort of misshapen statue of a dog - the kind of thing you see at rest areas for kids to take pictures with. Its legs are uneven, its head vaguely shaped but pointy, and it's usually in a sort of unsteady crouch, though it doesn't use the same pose each time it relocates. Most travelers either don't see it often enough to notice the shifting postures or have seen enough weird shit that they don't want to know why. Its name comes from its tendencies when active and pursuing prey or finding new hunting grounds. It will find a vehicle, usually a trailer or car carrier, and find a spot to latch on. It rides from truck stop rest area to highway welcome center and so on. It remains in place long enough to attack a Promethean or two, then moves on.
When active, it unfolds into a humanoid shape, vaguely werewolfy, though it'd never fool anyone that'd seen a true werewolf. Its 'stone' body softens into chitin, with spiny hairs. It can move as easily on two legs as four. It prefers to separate its targets from their groups and attack quickly. It's fairly cowardly, avoiding attack of targets large or powerful enough to threaten it, and even its ravenous hunger for Pyros won't convince it to push its luck often. When it attacks, it aims to grapple and pin its prey, strike and tear out some food, then move on before anyone goes looking for its victim.
The Hitchhiker is clever enough that some suspect it of being a sublimatus, and it's essentially right on the verge of becoming one. It is extremely cunning and adaptable, can use human tools - but it's not a person and doesn't really think beyond the short term. It isn't especially shy about going dormant in the open. It's only a matter of time before humans notice a strange, vanishing dog statue that accompanies animal attacks on poor people (who are, in truth, Prometheans). An urban legend is sure to spring up soon, if it hasn't already. Its genitor is still trying to track it down out of misplaced love for zir creation. Zie hopes that zie can feed the Hitchhiker Vitriol enough to allow it to sprout a mind - but making it a sublimatus is unlikely to be good for anyone.
The Hitchhiker is not intelligent but is insanely cunning, strong-willed and fast. It's also stronger and tougher than any normal human, an excellent fighter and good at climbing around, sneaking and hiding. It knows how to navigate highways surprisingly well, too. If it were to become a sublimatus, it'd be terrifyingly dangerous rather than just a particularly nasty monster.
E pluribus unum.
Hive is one Pandoran, but not always one body. Hive can only tell the difference because they hurt more when they are many - their stomachs churn with need. They sleep when they must, waking from Dormancy to hunt prey as any Pandoran. Insofar as they are capable of love, they love their mother. Their mother lets them feed on prey she brings to the lair, praising Hive when their bodies fight over the scraps. Hive attempts not to disappoint her. They have, once, when they first awoke and she saw what they were. When she abandoned them hours later, they were alone - only one body, small and weak and starving. They barely survived until their mother returned. Their mother experiments on them, and Hive craves her attention but fears her touch. The experiments are painful, causing Hive to swell and then burst into two new bodies, or four, or eight. The mother attempts to make Hive differently, with new limbs and teeth and eyes. It never really works. When Hive is few, their mother does not permit them to hunt, keeping them on the edge of frenzy and Dormancy before feeding them. Sometimes they are made to eat themselves rather than Prometheans.
Once Hive consumes as much of themselves as is possible, they enter Dormancy and awaken again as something new and different, something Not-Hive. Hive hates Not-Hive, because their mother does not play with Hive while Not-Hive is there. Hive changes and hungers by nature. They know they are not what their mother intended, but believe they are the child their mother deserves. Hive does not understand why their mother hurts them, increases them and lessesn them and feeds them as she does. The more Hive consumes and multiplies, the closer they feel they are to understanding their mother's plan.
When dormant, Hive looks like a mass if discarded, tangled wraps of fabric around some sticks. In action, each body is barely humanoid, scuttling about on all fours and wrapped in tangled hair and fur. They have crazed eyes, sharp fangs and curling, ram-like horns. They are forced to divide themselves frequently, and their bodies are typically wounded and bloody. By accident or design, Hive's divisions always result in a Pandoran that, once it awakens, also becomes Hive and shares Hive's communal hungers. Hive is a perfect pack hunter, able to use complex flanking and herding techniques in its hunting. Each body increases its chances fo success, but not without cost - Hive is one mind but many stomachs, and each body increases their hunger.
Hive's unique physiology and psychic nature make them practically immortal - as long as any of Hive survives, Hive remains. Its resilience is tied to the ability to link all bodies in perfect psychic communion. They prefer the comfort of many bodies, but can easily contain themselves in one. A single body is vulnerable, however, and so Hive could be defeated by wearing it down and taking it out body by body until all were defeated. Still, many that've tangled with Hive believe it to be impossible to kill. Many assume Hive as a sublimatus would be the ultimate threat, given its multi-bodied nature. However, in truth, it would be impossible. The mutations involved in becoming sublimatus would destroy Hive's unique ability to share senses with its bodies, and a sublimatus Hive would be a singular being. It also does not have infinite control range. If Hive's bodies draw too far apart, they are instinctively shed from the group, starting with the most distant. Shed bodies awaken in permanent frenzy, attacking anything nearby. If not dealt with quickly, they can spread out and become an even greater threat.
While Hive is not smart, it is fast and cunning. Each body is faster, stronger and tougher than any human or normal Promethean, and each is amazingly good at combat. Even landing a hit on them is very difficult, and each body comes with its own healthbar, though I believe they share a Willpower pool, which means they can be worn down over time as a group. Even so, I would not want to have to fight Hive - it's a pretty terrifyingly strong Pandoran for a non-sublimatus.
Next time: The Druid, the Skin Dancer, the Bloody Saint
HELL TREEOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 9: HELL TREE
Treeclops is here to kill you.
Myrax dates back to an unfortunate set of deaths in Colorado, at Camp Ravenwood. Years ago, a group of boy scouts on a two-day wilderness trip got killed by mountain lions - officially, that is. The locals went hunting the next year when the mayor cut back on local laws preventing hunting mountain lions, but the deaths continued even after the purge ended. They stopped randomly and without warning. Camp Ravenwood closed due to bad press. Years later, the local kids have figured out roughly what happened based on accounts from the surviving boy scouts. They say it was no mountain lion that attacked, but Myrax, the Druid of Camp Ravenwood. The local teens have developed his legend to include a tragic backstory and an ethos of woodland protection against civilization. There's even a webcomic about Myrax.
The real Myrax, of course, is far simpler than the folklore. It's just a Pandoran with a need to hunt and eat Pyros. Due to its hunting grounds, it is forced into Dormancy for long periods, but while active it attacks anything that moves - mortal or Promethean. It kills mortals for fun, Prometheans for food. It does seem to prefer a subtler hunt, though, and despite the legends it has never been caught on film. It appears, while dormant, to be a tree trunk with sharp features and strange marks, as if someoned tried to carve it. When active, the marks open to reveal dark eyes and sharp fangs in a massive maw. Its limbs are long and fast, with sharp bark nails that drip viscous and poisonous sap. Myrax enjoys playing with its prey, and it makes excited noises that sound like human laughter. It always attacks the slowest in a group first.
Myrax is relatively weak for a Pandoran, but its cunning and savagery are dangerous, and most Prometheans don't expect to run into forest Pandorans. It prefers to strike from ambush, poison strong foes, then flee into the woods to wait. It bides its time and waits for the prey to weaken before striking again. When it has neither humans nor Prometheans to hunt, it attacks local animals and drives their populations to dangerous lows. Many blame this ecological disaster on the mayor's lax stance on hunting laws, but experts say that alone cannot account for the massive decline in local animal species. The Pandoran also has especially cruel habits against woodcutters and others that harm its forest territory. It loves to collect trophies from them - particularly teeth, which it puts into its own mouth.
Myrax is cunning and strong, but its speed is only slightly above human. It's shockingly dodgy and it's very good at fighting, but it relies on its hit-and-fade maneuvers to win in most fights and doesn't like a stand-up battle. It also doesn't have particularly strong armor for a Pandoran, though it has a sizable healthbar and excellent defense.
Made from 100% werewolf parts. ...really.
So, once upon a time, an Ulgan made a deal with a pack of werewolves, receiving the body of one of their recently killed packmates. The Ulgan believed she could use the spiritually attuned body to raise a worthy Ulgan child. Under the full moon, she bathed the body in unspoiled river waters and burned autumn leaves as an offering to the spirits. She coated the body in her ectoplasm and watched it fade into Twilight. However, the spirits vomited it back into the world, an abomination of skittering limbs. Even her expertise could not keep the creature from becoming a Pandoran, howling and unwanted. This is Nuharul, legendary for slaying its own genitor and making her skin its first outfit. The legend of Nuharul has grown over the years due to its unrelenting hunt, its viciousness and its odd behavior and relationship with the spirit world. It eats werewolf flesh almost as readily as Promethean and it wears the skins of its fallen prey. Once it tastes blood, Essence or Vitriol, it will not stop until it kills its target, is destroyed or is forced into Dormancy.
Nuharul vaguely resembles its wolf 'ancestors' in a parodic way. It runs on four legs, changing in size and muscle mass freely when it wants to jump, attack or run faster. It is a bloated mass of ever-changing flesh that never seems able to form a definitive body - possibly by choice, possibly an aftereffect of its heritage. When it is ready to kill, this tends to work to its advantage - prey find it hard to strike the agile, shifting beast that is always changing its form to better cripple its prey. It hunts by the full moon, but that is not the only behavior the moon drives it to. When the moon is thin in the sky, the Pandoran weeps and howls in anguish. Mortals hear something high and terrifying, but Prometheans and werewolves can recognize the sound as mournful and sad.
Nuharul is driven to hunt werewolves and eat them, the same as Prometheans. This appears to be an inherent need to its dead flesh, and so werewolves despise it as much as the Created do. It also has a habit of nesting near Loci. It doesn't understand why, but were it to ever find a way into Shadow, it would go berserk and attack every spirit it came across, much like a werewolf in the death rage. However, there is one thing that drives Nuharul more than eating the flesh of werewolf or Promethean: challenge. When it senses the Azoth of a particularly powerful Promethean, it abandons all other pursuits. It hunts not only for Pyros alone, but to fulfill its instinctive urge to down strong prey and divide itself. It longs to create a 'pack' of its own by bathing in the Azoth of a potent foe and wielding it to create more of its kind.
Nuharul looks ridiculous but it is actually exceptionally strong and tough. While it's only as fast as the fastest human alive, it is over twice as a strong as any human could be, and twice as tough as well. It has inhuman skill at athletics and combat, too. Its great weaknesses are poor Willpower for a Pandoran and its general low intellect. On the other hand, it can dodge bullets, is extremely hard to hit in general, and has a huge healthbar. I don't think I've ever seen a non-spirit with stats quite this high before, actually. Strength 12 and Brawl 6, really?
Not the Pyros Devil.
The church where Samael lives wasn't popular to begin with. Father Maxwell Dylon did his best, kept the place clean and took care of it in the hopes that he'd inspire others to act without sin. One night, a woman came to him for shelter, and he couldn't turn her away. She had issues he didn't understand, she feared fire and crowds, and at first she unsettled him and made him wary. The old man even got angry, sometimes unreasonably so, but faith helped him cope with the Disquiet, and he eventually befriended the woman. They talked about God, pilgrimages, souls and TV until Father Dylon convinced his friend to take the next step. That week, there was no Sunday sermon, and the week after, the locals began to disappear. Given the local crime rate, they were blamed on gang violence. Candles were lit, memorials held, and the church withered away and closed. Inside lies the dormant Pandoran that the woman named Samael. It takes the form of a gargoyle, waiting for a Promethean to arrive that it might awaken and feed itself again.
Samael is a monster of stone skin and wood bones, much like the church itself. It looks like a demon, moving about on all fours and with anguished eyes. It has a tail, horns and sharp talons on all its limbs. It is silent as it moves, easily walking on walls and efficiently, coldly stalking its prey. When it attacks, it is a storm of claws and tail, holding nothing back until it subdues the trespasser, mortal or Promethean. It never wastes violence, and often it aims to tear off body parts that can hold weapons, such as hands, or tears open necks to let the victims bleed out. It attempts to keep Promethean prey alive so it can eat them before their deaths, consuming Pyros mid-fight.
Some believe the ghost of Father Dylon haunts the church, but few have bothered to investigate. The old church is abandoned, the area is rather violent and many who go inside fall prey to Samael. When it is forced to flee its lair, it attempts to take refuge in similar churches. It will find a place to nest and, if required, go dormant safely. It will cull any trespassers to its new claim. It tends to settle in churches near sources of Pyros, which means the presence of a bunch of Prometheans can jeopardize local mortals because it will be drawn to them. It should be noted, Samael's birth isn't unique, either. Across the US, religious temples of all sorts are visited by a strange wanderer who approaches the local clergy and talks to them over the course of several nights before creating a Pandoran that physically resembles a saint or demon of the religion.
Samael is weak for a Pandoran. It's not very smart or cunning, relying primarily on brute force, and by Pandoran standards it's neither fast nor super tough. It's got low Willpower, too. It is a good fighter and good at stealth, but its dicepools are nowhere near as high as other Pandorans for most things except strength-related stuff. Its defenses are fairly low, too. This is the kind of critter a starting group of Prometheans could reasonably take on with relative ease. It does have natural armor and camouflage that help it, but it's nowhere near, say, Nuharul's level.
Next time: The Twisted Landscape, the Abandoned Library, the Local Campus Legend
Skyrim Hand ModOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 9: Skyrim Hand Mod
Thing has a posse.
Scrub Talons are a form of Pandoran that were made by a Centimanus that goes by Hand. Hand likes swamps and experimentation, and he especially likes to toy with appendages, graft them to stuff and home-make them. His preference for symmetry has, in the past, made his silhouette resemble a human-sized hand. Hence the name. He often experiments with making Pandorans to study and control, with little care for reliable results. When he ends up making Prometheans instead, he typically uses them in his schemes or feeds them to his Pandorans. His Pandorans have a tendency to look like limbs, and the Scrub Talons particularly are giant hands, which he thinks is funny.
When dormant, a Scrub Talon looks kind of like a broken tree stump with gnarled roots. Their wooden shell is similar to those of trees dead of disease, but unpleasantly moist and spongy, no matter the weather. From certain angles they resemble warped hands planted in the ground and severed messily at the wrist. The main thing that changes when active is that they move. They can't even try to pass for human, running around on their root-fingers like giant crabs. The wood of their forms moves and shifts like muscle, and their palm has a lamprey-like mouth on it that can open when meat is present. They tend to hunt in packs of three or more, using swarm tactics to defeat Prometheans. Their natural camouflage abilities let them blend easily in natural environments, and they prefer to knock foes over and pin them down to feed. They take turns holding Prometheans down and eating them if required, but most prefer to just completely cover a prone Promethean. A large enough pack may even go after an entire small throng. Scrub Talons are fairly simple for Pandorans, staking out their territory to hide in, swarming and eating. That's basically it. They will relocate if an area gets too much human activity, and they prefer isolated forests or swamps.
Near New Orleans, Hand made a Promethean, known to locals as the Bog Man. He left a bunch of Scrub Talons to guard the project. Hand tends to bring a collection of his Pandoran pets wherever he goes, and leaves some behind once he departs. Scrub Talons can also get places on water or extreme wind - they're much lighter than they look, so they can rely on these to reach new places. Their appearance makes them easily mistaken for twisted debris, and they've actually spread to shorelines the world over in small numbers as driftwood. Some Prometheans believe that the wooden hands are actually a punishment from God for making Prometheans out of non-flesh materials; they are wrong and I have no idea why this "rumor" is in there because it's fuckin' nonsense.
Scrub Talons are very weak Pandorans individually - no match for a Promethean in a one on one fight. The main thing they have going for them is they're pretty dodgy and fast. The problem is, y'know, they travel in packs.
Some Prometheans approach creating more of their own as a science, and one Osiran studied all possible facets of the generative act, using even the most elusive lore. He planned to leave nothing up to chance...but Flux doesn't give a shit what you want. His prospective child's skin thickened and became like cardboard, and then fell apart to reveal yellow and off-white flesh beneath, with muscle lined in black, scribbled lines. The body fell apart in chunks, which slithered and flapped away to find a place to nest, forming a soft mass. Their creator wisely fled, and by the time he came back, the swarm had emerged as the Stack.
The Stack can be found nesting in abandoned buildings, usually open to the elements - it especially loves wet, mildewy places. When dormant or resting, it just lies on the floor in a way that resembles a pile of warped, moldy books, their pages fused together. This draws some curious folks in and drives others away in disgust. Occasionally, perhaps on a whim, it arranges itself in a crooked stack or on a bookshelf, especially if it knows food is near. When awake and active, the Stack breaks into bird-sized chunks. Each chunk looks like a ruined paperback or a flapping mass of larger paper and cardboard. Its ragged edges work like talons, and the swarm feeds on blood and flesh from dozens of tiny cuts. It isn't intelligent, but its cunning unites the swarm as a single binding mind distributed over its many small bodies.
The Stack's strange form has led to many urban legends about hauntings and angry spirits hurling debris around ruined, haunted libraries. Its form seems almost designed to draw in curious Prometheans, some of whom absolutely adore old books. After all, books don't feel Disquiet, so many Prometheans love to find abandoned books to have something new to read. The Stack is happy to wait to be brought somewhere private so it can devour prey at its leisure. At least one alchemist has used the thing as a trap against Promethean attack by hiding it in her library. It worked for a time, until the Pandoran got bored and attacked her as well.
The Stack is not especially powerful, as Pandorans go. It's fairly weak, though its speed and toughness are notable. It's not particularly accurate, either, relying on the fact that it fights as a swarm, dealing small amounts of damage to everyone in it rather than trying to go for big attacks. That and its ability to fly are what make it dangerous.
The janitor is very upset.
A bio lab at a university that's under renovation is a very tempting thing for a Promethean - especially if you've already got a corpse in tow and don't have to break into the morgue. When a Frankenstein ran into these circumstances, though, something went wrong. It's not clear what - but the game implies that some kind of mysterious entity, possibly Abyssal, was getting a student to write unnatural equations in the lab that got picked, and that probably had soemthing to do with it. What matters is the Student Project chased its creator out and then took up a watch on the roof. The locals assumed it was some kind of art installation put in during the renovations, while the employees assumed a student had left it there as a prank. Everyone now ignores the Pandoran, giving it free run of the science building.
In its dormant state, the Student Project resembles a wide-eyed caveman statue in a lab coat, with long spindly limbs and knobbly joints - the kind of thing someone might make as a mockery of academics holed up in their offices all the time. When it awakens, its skin tightens and it opens a mouth of vicious, crooked teeth, while its eyes glow in dim light. Its motions are jerky and it makes creaking noises as it goes, as though it is afraid it will tear itself apart if it moves too much at one time. Most of the time, it stands silent watch from the roof, waiting for prey to arrive. It considers the science building its territory and pretty much never leaves. When it does move, it returns within an hour, usually having eaten someone. Despite the obvious issues it has hunting its very limited area, it feels too much of a bond to the building to leave. Instead, it attempts to lure Prometheans to it, taking advantage of its intimate knowledge of the halls to ambush them.
Most humans are willing to come up with plenty of excuses to explain away weird shit. However, the Student Project has been in place long enough that people are starting to compare notes and realize no one actually put it there. Sightings of it moving are increasing. Soon, Hunters will likely arrive to figure out what it's doing. The building itself is weird, too - the more you look into it, the weirder it gets. The Project remains active much longer than it should be able to, and even before it arrived, the building had a bunch of urban legends associated with it. Demons, ghosts, the works. Some who've seen the Project think it can teleport...but it can't, it's just really fast and sneaky.
Mechanically, the Project is a relatively weak Pandoran, though it is cunning and has a lot of Willpower. It's fast and strong, but can't take a ton of hits. It relies on its speed and stealth to take care of foes, and would not last long against a group.
Next time: The Dear Monster, the Stormbringer, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE
Horror MoviesOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 10: Horror Movies
Summer was made out of love. Her creator was an Unfleshed attempting to make a more flesh-and-blood Promethean, in hopes that her child would have an easier life than she had. She was meticulous in studying weather patterns to do the job during a storm, used a beautiful body and took every precaution she could. In the span of a few hours, it all went wrong. The body seemed to be rejecting the procedure, and the end result was a Pandoran the creator hadn't the heart to kill, which scuttled off with limbs barely attached. The Unfleshed knew her baby was in terrible pain, but she could do nothing to help. She resigned herself giving of her own life to feed the Pandoran - she saw it as her duty, for it was her daughter. She watched as the creature wept in disgust at what it had become. Summer hides in the dark now, yearning to die, unaware that as a Pandoran she will not die naturally.
Summer appears as a mass of glistening arms sprouting from a thin, bony body. She uses them to shovel food into her oversized maw and skull, which is wrapped in skin and fat. Her mouth can easily engulf a child's head, but her eyes are what make her dangerous. They are almost completely human, and they are scared and begging for help. Prometheans that meet her gaze are often shocked and put off balance by that. When shocked or approaching potential prey, Summer tries to hide her face with her large hands, suggesting that she is aware enough of her state to feel pain and sadness, but not in enough control to stop eating Prometheans for Pyros.
Prometheans are often shocked meeting Summer - fatally so, in many cases, given the danger. She is not like a sublimatus, with no malice or anger, and instead seems to be worried about her appearance and how people feel about her. She weeps constantly, making noises that seem to beg for forgiveness even as she attacks. Some speculate that what made Summer's creation go wrong was that the body used was from a suicide - specifically, the suicide of a bullied child. Others say that learning about her body's past might be the key to either destroying her or helping her become an actual Promethean. Summer actually attempts to avoid Prometheans while she is active - until her hunger drives her to attack, anyway. She only goes hunting when she cannot help doing so, and will actively avoid attacking anyone otherwise.
Summer is physically extremely potent, but her mindset makes her easier to deal with. She's weak-willed for a Pandoran and slow-witted. She can fight shockingly well, though she avoids doing so, and has a relatively small healthbar for a Pandoran of her power level. She is, however, extremely hard to hit. Well, on to sublimati!
Scowling angels: scarier than weeping ones?
Astrid the Stormbringer is a legendary sublimatus among European Prometheans. It is said that she is drawn to Wastelands, leading an army of Pandorans and followed by a Firestorm. She is said to be serene in a terrible way, and Pandorans obey her utterly. She remembers her creation, when she was made to devour other Pandorans for the amusement of the Centimanus that made her. She remembers dividing, and having her spawn smashed into glittering bits when feeding them became to burdensome for her master. She fondly recalls her creator's screams when she finally turned on him and devoured him. They gave her purpose. Astrid, you see, loves Pandorans. They are her children, whom all others hate. She believes herself a new sort of pilgrim, blazing a path through the corpses of Prometheans. She has decided that, in order to free Pandorans from oppression, she must kill all Prometheans.
When she arrives in a city, drawn by the power of potent throngs of Prometheans, she slowly awakens all of the city's dormant Pandorans. They obey her not from fear or dependence, but as loving children. This gives her words credence in the minds of some Prometheans - and that terrifies them even more than her unsubtle rampaging. Once she shows up, it is not long before the Firestorm begins. She brings hellish downpours, thunder and tearing winds. It is said that she has ruined entire cities with her sheer power. Once, her frame was a beautiful, angelic statue of marble. The years have taken their toll, and a massive crack runs through her from forehead to lip. Steel rods are all that hold her right arm to her body. Her wings are ruined - one missing entirely. However, she still moves with the gentle grace of an angel, though she feels none of the warmth she gives off. When she deals with Prometheans, she is soft-spoken and polite, and she hates swearing, especially in front of her "children." She ends conversations immediately if insulted, going directly to combat. Some believe her demeanor means she feels mercy; this is not the case. Her caring nature is reserved only for Pandorans.
In a fight, Astrid is brutal and ruthless. She avoids killing Prometheans in battle if possible, however. She prefers to break them down so they can't move. This is her great weakness, and what makes her so human - she genuinely loves her Pandoran servants, and she avoids killing so they can feed. She will fight far beyond what is sane to protect her children, even if they can't control themselves and certainly won't return the favor. She also doesn't hate all Prometheans, quite. She has a soft spot for the Tammuz and Unfleshed, feeling a bit of kinship with them. Those that show compassion towards her Pandoran children or try to help them by making them into full Prometheans will be spared, often. Other Lineages are slain unless Astrid thinks they'll lead her to more of their kind. She can be negotiated with, however, in one sense. If she learns about a Centimanus, that becomes her top priority. She abhors them over all other Prometheans, and will immediately focus on them in an effort to free their Pandorans from their control. She'll ignore anyone else if she has a Centimanus to target. The reason her body is missing so many parts, incidentally, is not battle damage: Astrid will literally tear off parts of herself and feed them to her Pandorans to help them, and will even take to eating human flesh to keep herself going if it means her kids don't starve.
Astrid is insanely powerful and charismatic. She's not the world's best planner or even especially intelligent, but she doesn't really need to be. She's unsubtle in the extreme and prefers to just wade into battle, after all. She is unnaturally good at beating things up, extremely hard to hit, has a huge healthbar and can breathe fire. What else does she need?
THE BRAIN THAT WOULD NOT DIE
Coeus is a sublimatus with a vision. It knows that it will become, and soon. It just needs the right host. It began its existence as an Extempore's failed attempt to reproduce, possibly a complete and utter fuckup and possibly because she couldn't actually do it, as one of the Matchless. Whatever the case, the brain she prepared for her child bored its way out of the body's skull, more cunning than any other Pandoran ever extant. It latched onto its maker's throat, dug into her flesh...but it didn't eat her. Instead, an instinct drove it to burrow into her skull and brain, folding her mind up and replacing it. It drove her like a puppet, studying her journals to better understand its own nature. It learned about Pandorans and sublimati, but not why it had such an amazing mind and such a pathetic body. Without proof, it turned to conjecture, deciding that it was special. It willfully misunderstood the nature of the Pilgrimage, convincing itself that its destiny was to become as a god. Over several months, its creator's body slowly died, and it named itself Coeus, after the Titan of Wisdom, and began what it thinks of as its own Great Work.
Coeus wants to be more than a brain with tentacles. It has no interest in being a mere Promethean, of course, but such a body could be a starting point to a greater transformation. Even a human body would do, if need be. By utilizing its unique ability to implant itself, Coeus steals bodies and performs elaborate self-experimentation and surgery on its hosts, hoping to create the perfect vessel. It works out of an abandoned big rig that used to belong to its creator. By relying on its immense intellect and a few disposable hitchhikers, it has turned the place into a working, traveling dungeon. The hold is lined with traps, serving both as lab and panic room for the brain. It prefers to trap intruders in the lair, but if it has access to a strong body it sometimes kidnaps them on foot. One of its favorite methods is to trap a human a Promethean cares about, stealing their body and ransoming their life for the Promethean's cooperation in finding or making a better body.
Coeus appears as a large, bloated human brain that smells of pus and vinegar, pickled in gray ooze and covered in blue-purple veins. Where the hemispheres meet, it has a long row of crooked teeth forming a mouth-like maw, and the brain stem trails tentacles, so it can move on its own if it has to. when it takes a host, it flattens its form against their shoulders, hiding the signs of implantation with high collars and scarves, though it can't really hide the smell or the ooze stains. It absolutely hates its physical form and reacts violently if its low strength is mentioned. However, it believes itself a superior life form, temporarily trapped in an unworthy body. It will go on about this at length to anyone it believes has no choice but to listen. It occasionally affects a poor attempt at a Mid-Atlantic accent in an effort to appear sophisticated, but when it's angry it reverts to its normal guttural bellows, sounding vaguely like a poorly tuned cello. It has never gone dormant so far thanks to its excellent planning and rationing of Pyros, but were it to do so, it would appear to be a statue of itself made of red-veined porcelain.
Coeus sometimes gets bored and restless in its travels, and on rare occasions it will choose to talk to Prometheans instead of hunting them. When this happens, it is happy to trade specialized anatomical knowledge in exchange for favors. It especially prizes science textbooks and educational DVDs, which it uses to educate itself. It's also prone to pissing folks off, as it's not choosy about its victims. It has hunted psychics before, and it's not outside the realm of possibility that it might grab an inexperienced mage or similar...and they don't exist in a vacuum. Some of its victims' friends are probably on its tail, hunting for answers. It also is never actually satisfied with its hosts. Everyone disappoints it somehow, and while it is a fanatic, it does have limits to its patience. It's starting to wonder if the issue is quantity, not quality. It's making plans to convert its truck into a prison, hoping to find a potent enough Promethean to allow it to undergo division and create a Pandoran 'child.' It occasionally wonders why it's been so lucky in running into Prometheans - it's statistically unlikely how many it's stumbled on. The Pandoran suspects its truck may have a quality that attracts them, but isn't curious enough to find out. It is possible that some essence of its creator remains in the truck, calling out for help via the Azothic memory.
Coeus is extremely intelligent by Pandoran standards - which is to say, Intelligence 4, Wits 9, and so on. It is exceptionally weak, however, and not tough at all. It's pretty fast, but it relies on cunning and stealth if it ever has to fight on its own. It's got the booby-trapped truck, of course, and it's surprisingly well-armored for a giant brain. Most importantly, however, it can stab its tentacles into someone's brain and take over their body. This kills a human victim over a week or two, but Prometheans can last for two to three months depending on how tough they are. It can use its host's stats and Promethean powers, but the body cannot be healed normally (or, for Prometheans, via electricity) because of the strain Coeus places on it. Victims get to make a roll to take control back each week, which lasts for several scenes. The tricky bit is removing Coeus before it takes over again, because it's physically latched onto your brain steam. The roll is not as hard as it could be - Coeus only has a 7-die pool for it, before Willpower spending, so it's actually doable to oppose it, though a typical PC will have...oh, probably a 5-6 die pool, it's one attribute plus Azoth.
Next time: You Must Remember This, The Adversary, the Robot Monster
Give Me Your Answer DoOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 11: Give Me Your Answer Do
Driving Miss Daisy...to KILL
Daisy is a masterpiece, much as she'd prefer not to be. All she really wants is to flee the ghosts that haunt her memory and sing them away. A Frankenstein Centimanus named Edgar was a collector of Pandorans, using alchemy, surgery and more monstrous things to attend to them in the name of his twisted "science." One day, he fed his Pandorans Vitriol taken from a Galateid with a beautiful voice. Soon after, Daisy began to sing, and he realized something amazing had happened. She wasn't very smart, though she was still sublimatus, and she was timid and willing to serve. He gave her the name and figured she could sing as a side effect of her last meal. He wanted to understand why. And so, Edgar began to hunt humans with special talents in various fields, eating parts of them himself and then vomiting them up to feed to Daisy. She was able to recall entire lives from those she ate, though except for the Galateid's song she didn't seem to gain any of their skills - just their memories, which pained her and gave her hallucinatory waking nightmares. Edgar's work grew ever more sadistic as Daisy "forced" him to try again and again. It took him quite a while to realize she was actually producing Vitriol herself.
Daisy was also brighter than Edgar thought, and at the end of each day, she would hide the Vitriol that wept from her eyes as acidic tears. Edgar might keep her fed, but she hated the constant vivisections and the voices that came with her meals. When she eventually realized the ooze she produced was acidic enough to damage her cage, she waited for Edgar to head out and fled. It didn't take him long to realize what she'd done, and to decide that she must be a living Athanor. He has now started chasing her, to retrieve this most valuable specimen. Now, Daisy might be an Athanor...or she might not be. What happens to Promethean or Pandoran that consumes the Vitriol she produces is wholly up to the GM, and might not produce good results. Daisy's power to gain memories from her meals is not mechanized by default because...well, it doesn't really produce useful skills, just memories. It is also completely involuntary.
Daisy remembers every moment of her life...and every significant memory of her victims. The visions bring her constant pain, especially when she attempts to actively recall their contents. She doesn't understand what's happening to her or what Edgar wants from her. All she knows is she needs to get away from him and she needs to feed. When possible, she prefers to eat young children, as their inner lives are incomplete and innocent and bring her little pain. She still craves Vitriol, and when she tries to drink the stuff she produces it just makes her vomit. Physically, she appears to be a malnourished teenager with a wrinkled face. She wears whatever she can find in dumpsters and charity bins, favoring women's clothing. She attempts to pass herself off as a homeless busker, singing for spare change. Singing is one of the few things she actually enjoys. From a distance, her wrinkles can make her look old, but they don't actually resemble a natural aging pattern. The creases are nearly bone deep, more like cracks in her skin than folds, and they pool with Vitriol in hours after she eats a human or Promethean. Daisy's voice is striking, sounding trained. It is very feminine and potent, and she can hit nearly any register. This voice is identical to the Galateid she ate originally. When Dormant, she appears to be an oversized porcelain doll with a broken face.
Edgar is more social than most Centimani, and he'll do anything if he thinks it'll get Daisy back. He's gone as far as reaching out to less ethical alchemists with offers of great knowledge if they retrieve her for him. He has very little understanding of other people or obsessions outside his own, however, and his stories of what Daisy is are mostly getting him rivals, not helpers. A few desperate Prometheans, not quite Centimani yet but near falling, have also taken up the hunt for Daisy now, hoping she'll shortcut their Pilgrimages. Daisy has other problems, though - she ate part of a vampire once, when starving. He reminded her of Pyros when she felt his energies, and she bit off a chunk of his arm before he fought her off. She fled, and the energy tasted of ash, but his blood made her stronger than she'd ever been - for a few days. And that's when vampires and ghouls began stalking her, using powers much like those she had temporarily acquired, because the vampire she bit is very upset.
Edgar, incidentally, is less interested in Daisy's Vitriol than her memories. Daisy has a lot of trouble sorting through her memories and cannot always tell her own from those she has gained. She also cannot use any sophisticated knowledge she possesses besides her singing ability, but she does retain information even if she can't understand it. Edgar really, really wants to know what the Galateid he fed to Daisy knew or might have done to herself. He's certain that's what caused Daisy to gain her singing talents. Others may also wonder if Daisy knows something useful or interesting.
Daisy's a very weak Pandoran, especially by sublimatus standards. She's not even very strong-willed, all of her stats are within the human range, most of them on the lower end, and she can't even fight. (Which is probably another reason she preys mostly on kids.) Her main talents are sneaking around and singing, and the fact that her memory is perfect.
If I only had a heart...
Mortimer remembers the time when he was just a shrieking mass of wires and steel, fighting itself in an electronic womb. He remembers dreaming of stars, beautiful electric ones. He glimpsed the soul he could have had, wanted more than just to survive and subsist on Pyros. And then Flux set in and consumed all that, and Mortimer was born Pandoran, not Promethean. He knew he had lost something essential. He has always known this. At the time, he was just an unintelligent beast, however. His desperation shifted to hatred for his genitor, hunting his creator down and leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. He hated feeling incomplete, and he hunted with patience that most Pandorans never know. Eventually he found his creator, feasted on their flesh and pain. The ritual nature of the act awakening Mortimer's consciousness, bringing him to pained self-awareness while he bathed in his father's entrails.
Mortimer searched for the electronic stars he remembered, but his hunger consumed him. His only reprieve from the pains of starvation in his dreamless, dormant sleep was the memory of the Elpis (read: the great hope that drives Prometheans) in the Vitriol of his creator. Only by killing a Promethean could he dream of the stars and feel close to the soul he would never have. Without that, there was no redemption - and so he realized what he was meant to be. He was to be the thing that slew those Prometheans unworthy of their Pilgrimage. He embraced his role as a twisted adversary of karma, and so he hunts Prometheans to test them now. He envies them, he feels contempt for them because they have the chance at a soul, and he sets up vicious traps to judge if they are worthy of it. Those who fall short he consumes. Of course, he's sublimatus - he doesn't play fair.
Mortimer is a humanoid creature of wires, circuits, pistons and clockwork. His face is made to resemble the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz artwork, kind and understanding. He's not, though, and he's certain that his hunger for Pyros is a sign of a higher calling. When he finds a Promethean, he either pretends to be an Unfleshed or observes from stealth, trying to find the victim's vulnerabilities. Then he targets them ruthlessly, preferring to break his victims slowly. The kind, loving or soft-hearted rarely "pass" his tests, and he confronts directly most loners and zealots. He has never found a Promethean he considered worthy of the Pilgrimage, and only those who deny the Pilgrimage entirely as Centimani are safe from his wrath.
Mortimer's not just interested in feeding, and his hatred of Prometheans is not so much for what they are as for the fact that he was not allowed to be one. He is a slow, methodical predator that 'tests' his victims with care, slicing hope away bit by bit until his victims are as much a husk as he is. He allows those whom he breaks entirely to live, to spread his gospel of the Pilgrimage being a lie and that none are worthy of pursuing it. He is a sublimatus who creates Centimani. He reveals himself to his victims only when deep in his game. He does his research on his targets, learning who they care about, what they read on the internet, how they prefer to fight. He is exceptionally thorough, and he also tracks how well his victims pursue the Pilgrimage. Those who are slow learners or vacillators get attacked more quickly, and he usually has several targets in mind at a time. For many Prometheans, Mortimer is a bogeyman particularly for this reason - a monster that seeks to break them if they falter. Most of his victims are unaware that he's actually got reasons, and often they theorize that him showing up and "testing" them is part of the Pilgrimage itself.
Most of Mortimer's victims die, either at his hand or their own. Others get away and never look back. A rare few manage to fend him off in battle. However, the rarest handful, unknown to most, actually join his cause. They are broken by his philosophy and embrace his bizarre religion of worthiness, testing and cruelty. All of these poor creatures are Centimani, forming a cult that practically worships Mortimer. He guides them down a dark path, teaching the vicious secrets he has learned.
Mortimer is an exceptionally intelligent, cunning and strong Pandoran. He's superhumanly tough, and while he's not superhumanly fast, he doesn't need to be. He's heavily armored, has a giant healthbar, dodges shit like a madman despite his lower speed and Dexterity, and is superhumanly good at fighting. He's sneaky, too, and extremely good at social skills. Despite being an inhuman monster robot man. His arms can extend, he has buzzsaw blades and he can spit scalding oil.
Next time: That was longer than I'd planned, so the Robot Monster and the Fire in the Sky wait for next time.
TerminatorOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 11: Terminator
Death robot, death robot, he's coming to your town
SK/23 leaves bizarre murder scenes behind - long strands of cable strangling victims, sharpened circuit boards jabbed into their bodies, burned fingers in wall sockets. The police tend to call them suicides simply because there's never any evidence of any human being present except the victim. The killer, however, is usually still in the room: the computer. Few expect a mechanical Pandoran even among Prometheans, except for the Unfleshed, and high tech Pandorans are even rarer - but they exist. And SK/23 is not just a Pandoran, it is a sublimatus. It functions something like a three-form virus. The first form is the one Prometheans can more easily recognize - an angry robot. It also takes the form of a fake PC to get into homes and nanite spores to infect victims. SK/23 has a very weird diet for a Pandoran, and it avoids hunting most Prometheans or mortals - Prometheans are too rare, mortals not filling enough with how little Pyros they provide. Instead, it builds its favored prey: alchemists. It uses its nanites to give average humans a taste of the greatness of alchemy, writing alchemical secrets into their souls. Then, it pushes them to obsession, forcing them into becoming false demiurges. In the final stages of SK/23's nanite infection, they attempt to make Great Works using themselves as the materials.
SK/23 starts by mailing itself, unprompted, to its victims. It's a skilled hacker, altering shipping manifests to ensure it arrives. Trying to figure out how it got sent results in dead ends, no one wants it back, and eventually most people just accept that someone at a warehouse screwed up and now they have a free computer. It works exactly as the manual it comes with says it should, if not better. SK/23's computer form is a wonder of a machine, the better to draw in prey. In this form, SK/23 remains fully conscious, releasing and directing its nanites into the victim. They forget social arrangements, stop bathing, do nothing but delve deeper into the dark places of the internet for information on alchemy and Prometheans. Eventually, they come to recognize technology as a manifestation of the Divine Fire, and decide to incorporate it into themselves. These newborn alchemists produce Pyros at a terrifying rate, storing it using the parameters the nanites program into their bodies. In their final stage, they attempt a twisted version of the creation of Prometheans, using their own body as catalyst. As they electrocute themselves to death, SK/23 feeds on their Pyros via the electrical outlets.
SK/23 is able to expend Pyros to create its nanites. These spores 'poison' their victims over several weeks, but rather than dealing damage, they inflict mental Conditions related to alchemy and obsession, as well as granting alchemical power. These stack and cannot be removed without purging the nanites. After 5-6 weeks, SK/23 activates the demiurge protocol and the victim commits elaborate suicide. SK/23 may be intelligent, but it operates pretty much entirely based on its programming. It doesn't bother with reasoning or planning most of the time - it has no need. When it speaks, it does so in a high-pitched and monotonous whine, typically only to recite statistics on its victims. In mobile form, it resembles a skeletal human body made of shifting metal and burnt-out circuits. It is covered in blinky lights and whirring bits, with many useless wires and bits of hardware poking out. In its dormant or resting state, it looks like a high-end computer tower, complete with packaging. Its nanites cannot be seen without a microscope, and SK/23 can only spread them while in its computer form.
SK/23 has developed something of an online following as an urban legend - a haunted PC. Internet detectives of all kinds have been tracking the "suicides" that it leaves behind, and there are subreddits and Facebook groups dedicated to arguing about the events, with some posters just thinking it's creepypasta while others are amateur occult detectives or conspiracy theorists that believe it is the work of a techno-cult or government sleeper agency. Demons in these groups suspect the hand of the God-Machine behind the deaths and think SK/23 is some form of Infrastructure. They may or may not be correct. Others think that the problem is a computer virus rather than the PC itself; this is incorrect. SK/23 is not a computer virus - it can only infect humans, and can do no more with a computer remotely than any skilled human hacker could. It's also no more sophisticated than any normal home computer. It also lacks the creativity and drive to be globally destructive, so despite some of the internet's fears, a Skynet scenario is very unlikely. However, it does represent a kind of threat in that if the Divine Fire can tap into the power of the internet to make a wi-fi capable evil computer, it could theoretically make a fully digital Pandoran or Promethean as well. That might not be a problem for humans, of course, but the idea of a completely non-physical Promethean is kind of an existential quandary for the Created.
SK/23 has no idea how it was made. It can't remember. It got turned on, and that's all it knows. It hungered, and the urge to create and feed on alchemists was a core part of its programming, as natural to it as its nanite production. This could mean it was made to a specific design...but Pandorans are almost never deliberately created. 99% of them come about because of fuckups and bad luck. Further, its name suggests that it may be sequential. But if this is SK/23, what happened to the first 22? If they were made deliberately, by who? Given how little self-will it has beyond its programming, is SK/23 a true sublimatus? Is it a prototype for something worse? No one knows.
SK/23 is exceptionally strong-willed and mentally tough, but it's not much of a thinker. It knows a lot but it doesn't...act of its own will except to obey its program. It is, however, surprisingly charismatic, presumably to better understand how to manipulate and control its victims into becoming alchemists. It's superhumanly strong, fast and tough, but not actually very good at combat. It has a big healthbar but is much less of a combatant than most Pandorans of its power level. On the other hand, it's really good at pretending to be a PC tower.
The world's sexiest fanart of a Phantom Pain boss.
Spark wants to set the world alight. Firestorms can bring good or terrible things to Prometheans, both spiritually and physically, but for Spark they are more than a massive storm laden with Pyros. He believes that he was birthed whole from the Divine Fire, and he wishes to consume everything. He formed in the aftermath of a massive Firestorm that destroyed an entire throng, and in reality, he was merely the most successful Pandoran of a massive number activated by the surge of Pyros. He fed on the burned flesh and Vitriol of the dead Prometheans, and his first memories of sapience are of exquisite, burning pain and a satisfying fullness. He wants that back, whatever the cost.
Spark's favorite thing to do is to bask in the destruction wrought by Firestorms and to see his victims burn in their fire. Usually that means he spends his time stalking Prometheans or alchemists, waiting for them to get careless and then striking when they accidentally fuck up and cause themselves problems. He can force the issue if he grows impatient, but he far prefers his prey to call down Firestorms on themselves. Not all Firestorms use literal fire, of course, but Spark sees a Pyros-infused earthquake as identical to a Pyros-infused forest fire or hurricane, and in a pinch he'll just set regular fires. He's very careful about where and when he strikes, especially when dealing with full throngs, but if a Firestorm proves too dangerous or hard to get, he'll start burning things. Authorities often mistake his work for normal arson or sadistic serial murder, especially given his predilection for heating human fat until molten and then drinking it.
Spark looks like a broad, muscular man with charred black skin, as though he was recently doused in gas and set on fire. Most of this is just how he looks, but he also enjoys setting small parts of himself on fire and is able to draw Pyros from doing so. Flakes of his body fall off in small chunks when he moves suddenly, showing livid red skin beneath the charred shell. If he has to interact with humans for some reason, Spark wears bandages and heavy clothing to conceal his appearance. He rarely speaks, as his lips barely exist, but he gets talkative and excited when a Firestorm is brewing. This mostly means he babbles without much meaning - he's more of a psychopathic teenager than a calculating planner. When he is Dormant, he appears to be a large chunk of burnt driftwood.
Every summer, huge wildfires happen due to climate change and unsustainable logging practices. Spark considers them sacred, but while he's helped a few burn brighter, he has not yet managed to create what he thinks of as a worthy Firestorm from one. Federal law enforcement in the US and Canada have started to notice his MO, and a small international task force has assembled to track the so-called "Wildfire Maniac." Spark also likes dogs. He doesn't love them - he isn't capable of empathy enough to feel love - but he enjoys their presence, and he's been known to keep stray dogs as companions before they suffer Disquiet and leave his presence. He will even go so far as to remove dogs from his arson and storm sites, and he has never inflicted Pyros on a dog or set one on fire to eat it. He likely never will. He isn't as smart as most sublimati, but he has heard about the Qashmallim and is very interested in meeting a being of living fire. He's made (poor) efforts to study them, and if he hears about a Promethean meeting one, he'll let them live in the hopes that they'll lead him to what must be the greatest of all delicacies.
It should be noted: Spark's not a schemer. He's dumb. He's really dumb. He's not a big-picture thinker, though he does sometimes fall into patterns and has noted that Firestorms aren't always accidental. (Indeed, as his existence proves, many of them have a sort of intelligence guiding them.) His presence is often a sign of some other forces at work, but that's less because he's a master of a tangled web and more because he's a scavenger waiting for things to die so he can eat them. He keeps an obsessive if fragmentary log of his travels, and having that could be very useful in tracking all manner of problems. Spark may be an idiot, but he's gotten good at recognizing the signs of coming storms.
Spark is stupid but tough. That's most of what he's got going for him - he's not a powerful Pandoran by any means. He's a decent fighter and very good at breaking inanimate objects, but mostly he's just big and scary. A band of Prometheans could easily take him down, though he's fond of fire and fire is what Prometheans are weak to, so he'd likely cause quite a bit of damage first. His skin is very well-armored, though, so bring heavy firepower.
Next time: Praecipati
Meat VoltronOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 12: Meat Voltron
Praecipati are the rarest of all Pandorans - unique monsters formed in strange circumstances from the uniting of many different Pandorans into one being. Most Prometheans never run into even one, no matter how long they live, and most of them die very quickly. Not all, though.
Giant zombie man!
Cuvier the Magnificent was once a lone Pandoran, a jealous hunter who refused to work with other Pandorans. It captured a Galateid named Coraline who was recently born and struggling to control her powers. It had already devoured the Frankenstein that made it, and this time it was more cautious. Rather than eat all of Coraline at once, it took her back to its lair in an abandoned Tokyo warehouse and ate her only in small bites, leaving her alive to make the Pyros last longer. It allowed her to heal between meals, and so it became fat and potent. It wasn't as clever as it thought, however, for the power of the Pyros drew in a pack of Pandorans - smaller than Cuvier, but they outnumbered it five to one. It watched jealously as they tore Coraline apart and tore into its own flesh, thinking only about how much it hated them for defeating it and stealing its prey. Its jealousy sparked the mass of Pyros and Flux, and all seven of them - Cuvier, the five Pandorans and Coraline - merged together in a flood of jealous hate.
It retains its hunting skills, and bits of Coraline's beauty peek out in patches of perfect skin and deep blue lidless eyes. It prefers to hunt by itself still, but Coraline's stolen essence gives it the power of terror. Animals and mortals flee mindlessly before Cuvier now, and they find subconscious reasons to avoid its territory. This would normally mean it could not get easy prey, had it not been noticed by a sublimatus. The sublimatus now leaves scraps of Pandoran flesh for Cuvier to feed on - some lured in by the sublimatus' powers over other Pandorans and still living. In exchange, though Cuvier is not aware of its benefactor, the sublimatus gets free pickings on the mortals around Cuvier's domain. With its steady diet of Pyros, Cuvier has managed to survive three whole days - longer than any known praecipatus before it.
Cuvier may only have been around for three days, but it has already racked up a notable body count in
Cuvier is big, dumb and tough. As praecipati go it's actually weaker than many, and even weaker than some more potent Pandorans. It's tough, fast and strong, it's a good fighter, but it's not superhumanly so. It does have a sizable health bar and good armor, and it hits like a truck if it can land a bite, but the main thing is that anyone looking at it has to make a check to avoid fleeing in terror.
Project Ishtar is not a normal praecipatus by any means. She is the creation of a Centimanus named Marcus who attempted to deliberately make a praecipatus artificially. He captured a number of Pandorans, believing he could use them to make new life, and he named Ishtar after the Mesopotamian goddess as a symbol of rebirth and resurrection. Marcus spent years placing his Pandorans into small, starved groups to make them eat each other, but he never got results. Finally, he caught a sublimatus and, not realizing how valuable she was, tossed her into his pit with three other Pandorans. She was bigger and nastier, and she ate them one by one. She could feel their essence weighing down on her mind, but starvation broke her restraint. Her frustrations pushed her into mindless fury, hiding her true intellect from Marcus. He captured another Pandoran, a large and powerful one that he was sure would devour her...but as he struggled to contain the beast and get it into the pit, he took his eyes off the sublimatus.
Ishtar willed herself to become greater, tapping into the essence within her from those she had consumed. These Pandorans rose to the surface of her form, sprouting new heads and limbs, and the reborn Ishtar climbed out of the pit and managed to get past Marcus, escaping his lab into the dark Gautrain tunnels under Johannesburg. She is still terrified of her captor, and she can't go outside because her eight eyes are burned by sunlight, so she's basically stuck in the metro tunnels with the Centimanus. She has spent her very brief existence creating a massive web of traps to keep him away from her. Ishtar is a mass of limbs, heads and eyes, like some kind of twisted parody of a spider made of humans. She is held together by force of will alone, and that's all that's allowed her to keep existing long past what most praecipati manage, but her time is quickly running out as her body destabilizes.
Ishtar's chief personality is cunning and good at reading people, as well as a cold and methodical killer who prefers to trap her victims. However, she suffers frequent blackouts, and in that state she reverts to a mindless, gibbering beast. She hates bright light and is blind in sunlight, keeping her from exiting the tunnels. She can walk on any surface, including walls or ceilings. One of her component Pandorans was venomous, giving her an edge, but Ishtar's a coward. Despite her massive bulk, she prefers to rely on her ability to produce trapping webs, and she relies on elaborate traps or hurling them at foes over hand to hand combat whenever possible. Even ranged combat is a last resort.
As Pandorans go, Ishtar's not physically strong, but she's very clever. She's trapped the Gautrain tunnels with many spiderwebs, both to slow Marcus down if he comes for her and to capture prey. She sits at the center of the webs, monitoring them for any touch on the strands. Marcus is an open Centimanus, and the Prometheans of South Africa largely tolerate him because he uses his powers to keep Pandorans under control and has a lair that's practically impossible to break into anyway. However, he no longer needs Pandorans now that he's created Ishtar, and while he's kept the project a secret, the fact that he's no longer using his powers to herd them into his lair means that Johannesburg's Pandoran population is rising now. Ishtar, on the other hand, is too afraid to attack Prometheans - she believes they're too strong for her, and she's more rational than any other praecipatus. She's realized she's going to need help if she's to escape Marcus forever. She watches Prometheans on the Gautrain, but she doesn't attack them, hoping that she can find a way to turn them against Marcus. This means, however, that she's running very low on Pyros - starvation is setting in, and human flesh won't keep her sated long.
Ishtar is a genius by Pandoran standards, but she's got no social skills whatsoever besides scaring folks and reading them, and she's extremely weak physically. She's fast, but not strong or tough, and she's quite possibly the weakest praecipatus there's ever been in a fight. Her ability to shoot webs and poison people is pretty much her big trick, along with her ability to maneuver in three dimensions. It is honestly fairly likely that Marcus is much stronger than she is.
Next time: Humans - Threat or Menace
Queen of the DamnedOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 13: Queen of the Damned
True power means decapitation.
Anjali Khamari Ward has been the unofficial ruler of the Daughters of Ravana, AKA the Rakshasi, since its foundation in 1853, along with her friend Zoya and Zoya's lover Kandali. The three women, all wealthy widows, married British soldiers and moved to England...but all three also knew that when their husbands lost interest, they were at risk fo deportation and poverty. Anjali saved them by training them in rudimentary alchemy, taught to her by her mother. Using special mind-altering powders in their husbands' tea, they ensured the men were utterly devoted. For decades, they avoided notice by London society, with only a tiny few knowing that the Daughters existed at all. Secrecy allowed them to assist and support other Indian brides in similar positions, sometimes via potions and powders to control their husbands and sometimes by ensuring said husbands mysteriously vanished, leaving happier widows. Women were freed from abuse or unfaithful marriages and joined the group out of gratitude and a desire to protect others like themselves.
Zoya and Kandali left in 1870, leaving Anjali in charge of everything in the growing alchemical society. While Anjali began with good intentions of helping women trapped in bad situations, her position of power and growind addiction to longevity potions corrupted her. The final strike came when she ran into a Promethean. Fascinated by the creature and greedy for knowledge, Anjali and her followers captured and dissected the Promethean, growing ever more addicted to the lore they gained and the fluids they extracted. They renamed themselves the Rakshasi, and began to offer their services to a wider clientele. For a time, they dominated the London criminal underground as they grew less selective about what jobs they took and more interested in the payscale. At the height of their influence, they had nearly a hundred members and commanded a sizeable portion of London's criminal underworld. However, as the age of Victorian occultism ended, membership dwindled until only a few remained. Anjali was never able to rebuild her following to its former size, but she's never wanted to. She and her handful of loyal acolytes have made it through two World Wars and the turning of two centuries. These followers and the dividends on the wealth she amassed in the Victorian era are more than enough to fund her expeditions to capture all manner of creatures for her experiments.
Anjali is a beautiful Indian woman with dark eyes and long braided hair. She is always immaculate in her presentation and keeps track of fashion, buying only the finest clothes. She is intensely confident, and it shows. While is over 150 years old, her use of longevity and rejuvenation concoctions ensures she appears to be in her mid to late 20s. In public, she is always accompanied by her acolytes, who would give their lives to ensure she survives. Anjali is hard to impress but fond of exotic monster parts, and she's willing to deal with knowledge seekers or potential allies that show her respect. She has a vast amount of occult and esoteric lore thanks to being active so long, and she could provide solutions to any number of cold cases from 1850 onwards, as well as revealing plenty of blackmail or bribery of the period. She has vast amounts of information on all kinds of supernatural stuff going on in London, plus lots of alchemical lore.
In the years when there were more Rakshasi, Anjali directed her followers on frequent hunts of supernatural beings, and rumors of them remain in the community. These days, she can't afford to lose her membership as easily and is less interested in capturing most monsters, whom she's had decades to study. Prometheans and other especially rare beings are an exception. Anjali's only ever found one Promethean, and she would do anything to acquire another. The Rakshasi themselves are very dangerous. They don't enter confrontations unless they've planned them in advance, if at all possible, and typically use prepared powders and potions to temporarily enhance their physical capabilities greatly. Catching them unprepared greatly levels the field...except for Anjali herself. She's much more dangerous than any of her followers, as she has used permanent transmutations on her body to protect and heal herself, though she's still not invincible. "Queen" Anjali may also no longer have the reach she once did in London's criminal society, she's been living in the city for almost two centuries now. She's very well connected, particularly in the East End, and not much happens she doesn't hear about. She doesn't expect every monster in her neighborhood to pay tribute, but life gets easier for them if they do. Anjali makes a potent ally and a terrible foe.
Anjali is a genius, and near the peak human levels of mental and social ability. She's only above average physically, though she has a wide array of skills in a lot of fields. Of particular note are her occult lore, her crafting ability and her skill at finding and exploiting social and political weaknesses. She also has a ton of merits, mostly revolving around her social standing, followers and mystery cult - the Daughters of Ravana/Rakshasi. She is extremely rich, too. She typically carries quite a few alchemical distillations, focusing on those which boost her physical and mental abilities. Also, while she's not technically tougher than the average human, her skin and clothing are unnaturally armored to an extreme degree.
You can play a Daughter, since they get a Mystery Cult Initiation merit, too! They start out by learning monster lore and how to investigate monsters, then learn how to spot strangeness and deal with super gross shit, then how to scare people so they can bully them into doing what Anjali wants. From there, you become part of the inner circle and receive a permanent physical transmutation to your body, allowing you to gain free physical merits even if you don't qualify for them. At the top level, Anjali initiates you as a full starting alchemist and teaches you how to channel Pyros.
She's had a very bad year.
Kay Ayvar maintains a checklist of things she remembers about the night that changed her life. Her brother's name was Sonny. The Thing with Flashing Eyes took him. There was a symbol of two overlapping triangles scratched on a dumpster. It's not a lot, but it's what she has. Sonny shouted something about a dead body, and the Thing came out of the dumpster. All the streetlights blew out, and Kay felt sick. The Thing grabbed Sonny, looked at Kay with eyes like flashbulbs, and then vanished with the boy. She can't keep all the details straight. The Thing might have been big or slim or a man or a woman or neither or have long hair or short or no hair. The cops sent her to PTSD therapy and closed the case, so Kay swore she'd get her brother back herself. She's found a few monsters that are like the Thing she remembers, but none have had her brother, and when she sees the photos she takes of them, they look wrong. The Thing with Flashing Eyes is still out there. She's going to find it. Oh, and also Sonny.
If the things Kay remembers actually happened, what Sonny found was a dead Extempore in a dumpster. A Firestorm erupted in the parking lot as it came back to life, and it lashed out to protect itself in its confusion. Its use of Pyros allowed Kay to see its disfigurements and flooded her with Disquiet. The trauma of losing Sonny imprinted it on her mind, and she hasn't recovered. Worse, the Promethean's nature scrambled her memories of the event, and she's become an amplifier for Azothic spillage, making everything worse each time she runs into a Promethean. She's certain she wrote her checklist - it's in her handwriting, and she has a picture of the pilgrim mark. However, that doesn't mean the events happened the way she remembers them. It's possible the Extempore didn't take her brother at all, that Disquiet has Kay confusing it for a human kidnapper. Or maybe she found the Extempore and it took her, and she escaped and invented a rescue quest to feel like she was in control of her life. Or maybe it happened the way she says it did - but Sonny's not Sonny any more.
Kay pretends at confidence and having things together. She doesn't do small talk and thinks it's a sign someone's concealing something. She gets impatient quickly, and too many problems at once crack the mask, making her confusion and frustration come out. She knows anyone could be a monster, and that makes her intense. She is a Mexican woman in her early 20s with cropped black hair and a mask of false calm. She lives day to day, hunting Prometheans. She tells herself it's about finding Sonny, but what's really driving her at this point is getting proof that she didn't make it all up. She can't get over her trauma until she breaks past her Disquiet, and she's trapped in it. She remembers flashing eyes, but her confusion means she sees them in nearly every Promethean - LEDs in an Unfleshed, a Promethean using any powers that make them glow, an Ulgan manifesting spirit lights. Anything that could possibly be made to resemble flashing eyes becomes a reason for Kay to pursue the Promethean.
Kay's natural ability to exacerbate Disquiet and Wastelands makes her very dangerous. She has no idea she's doing it, but she knows it's not hard to turn people against Prometheans, and she uses tactics that get crowds backing her. Once she fixates on a target, she tries to get rid of them indirectly. Killing Prometheans is hard, and she sees herself as righteous and refuses to get her own hands dirty. She will never admit that anyone she hunts is innocent and will go out of her way to frame them for crimes, lie or provoke them into violence in order to raise angry mobs or get Hunters to help her. Kay does have some of the truth inside her head, but she can't access it without help of some kind - hypnosis or magic, say. She has stopped going to therapy for a very long time, and she will not start again, because the psychiatrists never believe her. Oh, and one of her victims? Not a Promethean. She found an angel and compromised its Cover enough that the God-Machine recalled it. Now, another angel is keeping tabs on her. It hasn't interfered with her mission yet, and she probably won't notice if it does. She already can't tell reality and her memories apart very well, so reality alterations are going to go entirely unnoticed.
In Kay's hometown, a homeless shelter (and trap) has been set up. See, the original Extempore in the dumpster was killed by local Hunters, and her crusade to get her brother back got their attention. They've offer to help her, feeling some responsibility for what happened, and so Kay spreads rumors of the homeless shelter being a safe place for Prometheans to hide, in the hopes that the Hunters running the shelter can then find the Thing and capture it for her. Kay also has a habit of submitting false reports of crimes to get Prometheans arrested, which leads to quite a few police stations in her wake suffering from Disquiet and Wastelands. Oh, and it's possible that Sonny was, in fact, a clone that Kay's father made from her DNA, fueled by the Azoth of the Extempore in the dumpster. If so, yes, he's...technically her brother, but she doesn't remember the whole cloning thing and would be unaware that the scientists involved want to get rid of her before she blows their entire operation.
Kay is a normal human being. She's strong-willed and manipulative, but otherwise not exceptional. She's gotten good at investigation, hacking, sneaking and doing crimes, but she can't fight well. She's very good at seeming harmless, though, and extremely hard to read. She's permanently stuck in stage four Disquiet, triggered by any Promethean she meets. Further, when she's nearby, all Prometheans are considered to have higher Azoth for purposes of Disquiet and Wastelands. Oh, and when her Disquiet gets bad enough, her mental static causes confusion, amnesia or even delusions in Prometheans near her.
Next time: The Engineer, the Mantis Pilgrim
Beetle JuiceOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 13: Beetle Juice
Hello, I like robots
Riley Silverman doesn't particularly get people. She prefers things she can categorize, sort and comprehend via part or purpose. She's able to lose herself for hours working on computer code or engineering designs. People, on the other hand, are messy and inconsistent. They do things irrationally and unpredictably. Riley understands the science behind hormones and biochemistry, and she's studied physiology, psychology and kinesiology in a desperate attempt to make some sense of human behavior. It doesn't work. She just can't figure people out, despite being one. She knows she's not like everyone else, and would probably have an autism diagnosis if she'd been born in a period when the autism spectrum wasn't narrowly defined. A therapist might have been able to teach her ways to understand people, and sometimes she considers therapy, but never for long. The past is boring, and she's developed self-management tools and workarounds via trial and error. She's busy thinking about the future, working to find ways to help herself and others understand ideas that come easily to the neurotypical.
Specifically, Riley works at the National Science Foundation's Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and her work there is vital to her goals. She has doctorates in AI and robotics and could easily have selected any government project she wanted - or, hell, any private company. However, she's not interested in making weapons, space stations, space exploration robots or virtual assistants. She wants to understand humanity. CBMM is the best place to do that. She's years ahead of anyone else there in terms of research, with scale prototypes of her automaton project already made. She's pretty sure she's fallen down some manner of rabbit hole, but she ignores the unease she feels with her own obsessions. As she works on her machine's physical body, she thinks about how to make its power and control systems, doing the math in her head and planning for potential problems. The power system is ingenious, and she knows it's going to change everything when she finishes it. It glows in lines of fire behind her eyes, elegant and perfect - the kind of intuitive yet logical leap that you get maybe once in a lifetime. It could create entire new fields of science. She knows her pride isn't hubris, and while she doesn't have a baseline, she has...something. She thinks it might be faith.
Soon, Riley is going to record her idea on paper, taking her time so that her notes are legible and her theories are easy to follow. She never forgets, sure, but you don't take chances with an idea like this. Being patient is hard for her, but she knows she can't rush. That'd invite mistakes. She has to be logical, take things one step at a time. She can name her thing now, though. Names don't have to wait, and naming things makes it easier to classify them. She has named the body she is going to make 'Chiron.' Its heart is an engine in a titanium casing built around synthetic veins that will carry bioconductive fluid. She has had a flash of inspiration in naming the engine, too. She's patented her proprietary tech behind the bioneural internal power system using the trade name "Azoth."
Riley is a biracial, dark-skinned woman in her mid-30s. She doesn't have patience for complex personal grooming, and she doesn't especially pay much attention to her own appearance. She's relatively clean and hygienic, sure, but often goes a day to a week without showering. All of her outfits are identical - worn jeans and t-shirts, safety glasses, steel-toed sneakers. She wears her braids in a ponytail to keep them out of her face. She's easily absorbed into her work and has no real attention for anything outside it. If talked to, she is distracted and disengaged, often irritated by pleasantries and chitchat. She doesn't laugh at jokes and doesn't pick up on nonverbal cues easily. Many find her to be blunt and straightforward to the point of rudeness, and she's uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact or social encounters. She does not handle abstraction well.
Riley doesn't talk to her coworkers very often and doesn't pay attention to workplace gossip. She guards her research carefully against corporate or government spying, and even the grad students she sometimes oversees as part of her job are not allowed into her personal lab any more. She is concerned because she thinks her wariness stems from irrational paranoia rather than logical risk assessment, but she isn't sure she can tell the difference and isn't about to ask anyone for advice on the matter. Rumors exist of Prometheans birthing human children, though never confirmed. Riley's quest for humanity is extremely Promethean, and her mother left when she was young. Despite having perfect recall, Riley cannot clearly remember her mother. It is possible that the woman was a Promethean, but impossible to prove unless she returns after more than 20 years of absence.
Riley's peers often refer to her as 'Frankenstein' when she can't hear, especially those that don't understand her work. While she is trying to make life, in a sense, the rumors about her using dead bodies in her research are 100% false. She sources her biological components from regulated state-of-the-art labs and biomedical firms. It's true that grad students rarely last long under her supervision, but the rumors of her killing them are also false - they're always alive when they leave her oversight. Some say she's working on DARPA military research to make supersoldiers, given how much security she maintains. This is untrue as well. She is not funded by or working for any fringe science organization or classified government agency, as far as she's aware.
Riley's a completely normal human, statistically. A smart one, but that's really it. She's got an eidetic memory and is otherwise completely, totally normal, though she may be immune to Disquiet if the GM wants that.
Sabine Beliveau was raised by her mother on stories of Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone. She fantasized about using it to make her dog immortal, make her grandfather healthy and more. As she grew, she still believed a secret awaited her. She was right - at 13, she broke into her mother's basement lab despite warnings to never go there. She found a treasure trove of chemicals, rare minerals, occult machinery and more. Inside a vat of horrible solution, she found a hand - and as she got closer, the hand's owner pressed against the plexiglass. A Promethean, chained to the floor. He watched her silently, pleading with his eyes, and this unnerved her - but she was more fascinated by the books and potions. One, notably, was a bright red liquid containing a single insect suspended in the solution. She drank it, gaining the power to command all the flies and mosquitoes in the garden.
Sabine went to the lab again and again, stealing bits of her mother's alchemical lore and concoctions. She drained the vat low enough to talk to the prisoner, learning his secrets. She learned he wasn't human, that he wanted to be, that he would do anything for freedom. She heard him curse her mother and her. She read her mother's notes of how she had made the creature, of the great power he'd had before she locked him away and drained him. Sabine realized this was the true secret: perfection meant becoming something beyond the human. Sabine wanted to become a Promethean.
Now, Sabine is 33, and she still doesn't understand the Pilgrimage at all. She's set on transcending her human limits and become a Created in order to shed the frailties of mortality. (The book is now very clearly staring directly into the eyes of transhumanists and making 'tsk, tsk' noises.) Sabine hunts for alchemical formulae in crypts and tombs and for Prometheans to keep her inherited lab stocked with materials. She is a small, athletic French woman of biracial heritage, with curly black hair and glasses. She's energetic, intellectual and friendly, with an infectious smile. She has trouble reading people, though, and has impulse control problems. She's fearless and regularly heads into deep caverns or braves the wrath of Prometheans in the name of alchemy. She believes she is the next Flamel, in fact, destined for fame and glory. She thinks it'll take just the right combination of Vitriol, humours, Pyros and ritual to transform herself. She gains the trust of Prometheans by offering to help them find Athanors and hints at the Pilgrimage in old ruins, and then once she has what she wanted, she betrays one of her partners and drags them to her basement, with aid from the insects she can still control.
Sabine has no idea what happened to her mother's captive Promethean. He vanished one day, and she didn't dare ask her mother and reveal what she'd been doing. He's out there, somewhere, and he remembers the girl who never helped him. Sabine's mother died mysteriously. Doctors, baffled by a complete lack of evidence, ruled it was natural causes. The only clue Sabine has to her mother's death is the pilgrim mark etched on the floor next to the body. She's written it down but has no idea what it means. (Pilgrim marks, in case you don't know, are Promethean hobo code. It's part of the Azothic memory.)
Sabine has created a false rumor claiming that she is the Mantis Pilgrim, a redeemed Promethean, in order to draw Prometheans to her in the name of solidarity. It is, of course, a complete lie. Sabine thinks she identifies with the Pilgrimage, however, in the false belief that her Great Work is comparable to it. Other alchemists believe she murdered her mother; she's certainly got a reputation among occult scholars, alchemists and archaeologists for having a lot of lore, getting shit done no matter how unorthodox she has to get, and an incomparable (and very high-security) library of materials and information. Some say she's got a death curse following her that targets people who work with her; in truth, she merely assassinates anyone she thinks is getting too close and seeing too much of her work. A regrettable necessity. Sabine very much didn't kill her mother, and suggesting she did is a quick way to get on the list of people she wants to fuck over personally. Sabine loved her mom.
Sabine has captured and experimented on Changelings before. They think she must be a Huntsman, sent by the True Fae to torment them, and some have started trying to hire Prometheans to deal with her on the basis that she had alchemy books and they've figured out that Prometheans may know what alchemy is about. In truth, Sabine merely saw through the Masks of some mechanically-flavored Changelings and thought they were Prometheans. She attempted to steal Vitriol they didn't have, and those guys escaped. She's hunting them because she still has no idea she guessed wrong and has instead assumed they're Prometheans they can resist her techniques.
Sabine is extremely intelligent, but that and her powers are what she has going for. She's neither strong nor socially inclined. She is a decent fighter, mind, and has a wide and varied skillset...just, on the raw numbers, she'll be outmatched by specialists. She does have a number of Distillations, though, which she can power with her stolen Pyros. All of them are insect-themed - she's limited in her use of them to, essentially, insect-themed results. She can transform herself into insect swarms or grow insect arms and legs she can regenerate by absorbing insects, she can summon insects, that kind of thing. She also has the power to make homunculi, which are weak Pandorans created via human or animal body parts and her own blood. They aren't naturally loyal, but she has the alchemical power to command Pandorans.
Next time: The Candyman, The Prophet of the Divine Fire
Who Can Take A Sunrise, Sprinkle It With DewOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 13: Who Can Take A Sunrise, Sprinkle It With Dew
Cover it with choc'late and a miracle or two
Stan Wigg was never a great alchemist. He had a shitty garage lab and a messy divorce thanks to his "disgusting hobby" taking up all his time and leaving none for his husband. He managed to luck into a formula for granting immense strength, and he managed to use it exactly once. He knocked over a jewelry store. That's when men in suits showed up and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He has joined Amalgama, Ltd now, if reluctantly, and he's found that it's not as profitable as you might think. He'd dreamed of becoming a supervillain immune to the law, but now he's stuck on the corporate ladder, working to make new elixirs so his bosses can rake in money he never sees. He used his works to improve his abilities and came up with a plan, smuggling out a large stash of supplies. He's set up a new lab in an abandoned roller skating rink on an old road no one uses any more. He swore to never again be someone else's pawn, and has instead become a fairly wealthy man in the alchemical black market.
Stan is a pale, unimpressive man from England, but while he's scruffy and years out of fashion, his mind is sharp and he has a knack for survival and passing blame. While he can make himself physically potent, he's a coward and prefers to do business through layers of cutouts and minions. He never deals directly with Prometheans, or 'the raw stock' as he calls them, if he can help it, and if he feels danger is coming, he skips town immediately. He hates Amalgama for using him, but even he admits he learned a lot from them. They were more mob than company, and he's adapted their tactics in protection rackets, intimidation and bribery. He's also happy to make deals with supernatural beings that want alchemical mixtures and sometimes hires them as muscle. He talks a lot about making money, and while he's got quite the income, his cravings are honestly more important to him. At first, using his concoctions was a necessary evil to help protect him against Amalgama thugs or angry Prometheans. That's still true, technically, but Stan's an addict now.
Stan uses his product regularly, though out of practicality most of it is actually given to his minions and hirelings to buff them up. They use precision hit-and-run tactics to grab their victims before they can fight back. If a throng catches them by surprise - or worse, Stan - then they'll have a much easier time. Stan's got more than just his magic, though. He knows a lot about Amalgama and their operations, and their thugs are after him. Their global presence as a corporation makes avoiding them harder than he'd expected, though he's done well so far. His entire business relies on secrecy, and its visible arms receive only the minimum required information to function. He loves being free of obeying laws and loves to gloat whenever he avoids trouble by shoving someone else into its path. Unfortunately, this means a lot of folks are very mad at him for betraying them. Stan also keeps one thing secret even from his closest associates: his therapist. See, Stan doesn't care about ethics, but he does find the idea that he might be addicted to something worrying. That therapist has now been dragged into the world of supernatural crime, and Stan doesn't really care about the shock he's given her. He'd prefer not to kill her if at all possible, but if it's that or get compromised, he'll do it.
Stan will sell to literally anyone, even the Prometheans he attacks for parts. It's all business, and if he can make a buck selling Vitriol back its former owners, then hey, why not. Prometheans can, if they can stomach it, turn to him for Vitriol, Pyros, potions or other alchemical goods via the black market. Rumors of Stan's secrets have been getting out, too - specifically, the ones he's given to Joanna DiMaria, his therapist. Her confidential notes contain vast amounts of information on the Candyman, as Stan is known in criminal circles. She'd never share them, but someone's stolen them and made a copy anonymously. They contain information on Stan's addiction and character...but the moment he realizes someone's making use of them, he's going to kill Joanna, as she won't be able to convince him she didn't betray him.
Also, Stan's working with the Ordo Dracul. He's sharing notes with them on a project to mix Vitae with alchemical reagents to make new things, including using Promethean experimentation. Stan and the Ordo didn't, despite persistent rumor, make a Promethean vampire, but they tried. What they actually ended up making was a Pandoran monster that superficially resembled a vampire. Just one problem: neither Stan nor his Ordo friends can control the thing. But hey, practice makes perfect, right? Next time it'll work. They just need more test subjects.
Stan is clever and very cunning but not a genius, and is otherwise unremarkable as a human. He's a skilled crafter and a decent scientist, but his real skills are in crime, sneaking and gathering information off the street. His allies in the alchemist, supernatural criminal and drug dealer communities make him dangerous, though, and he's pretty wealthy. His alchemical concoctions are primarily focused around improving mental or physical abilities and impersonating other people.
NAME IT AND CLAIM IT
Trevor Dinh once saw a wheel of flame and eyes that gave him prophecy: his own preordained death at the hands of a monstrous and yet divine created being. He begged for guidance, but the vision vanished. Until then, Trevor had been a corrupt local politician, succeeding on the strength of his illegal blackmail on foes. The qashmal's power, however, awakened in him a sixth sense for Pyros and changed everything. He took it as a sign of his own rebirth as the messiah of the Divine Fire's gospel. He has gathered a cult, the Order of the Ineffable Flame, to seek its truth. What did the Fire want, what shape would the world have once it achieved its Great Work? He has vowed to find out and cause it - and, well, convince the Divine Fire that's better for it alive than dead.
The Order conspires to influence politics and economic issues. People join it in search of meaning, but those that stick around tend to be the ones that get off on its false humility and humble-brag chosen one theology. Prometheans are venerated as figureheads and vehicles of ambition in the rise through the Order's ranks, though Trevor and the true believers do in fact think the Created are closer to the Divine Fire than humanity. Most Prometheans have no desire at all for religious veneration, however, and Trevor's teachings say the Order are the Principle's truest disciples, meant to shepherd the chosen and bring about the world's destiny. If that happens to benefit the Order...well, why wouldn't God care for its own?
Trevor is a stocky but dignified Vietnamese-American man in his early 40s. He's a skilled leader with cutthroat instincts honed in politics. He recruits from those who want guidance that's vague enough that he can fill in the blanks with dogma, especially among those who have wealth and power. He is a true believer in his own bullshit, but that only makes him more dangerous, especially as he's more than happy to manipulate the Prometheans he worships in order to change his preordained fate. Trevor is able to sense Pyros and follow it to its source, a gift he believes was granted him by the Principle, though it's unclear if that's true or it was just a side effect of the qashmal's visitation. To Prometheans, he is deferent and even reverent, but he's happy to subtly nudge them into doing what he wants. The prophecy the qashmal gave him has made a domino effect of destruction. Trevor and his cult are slowly destroying themselves and twisting Pilgrimages to their own ends. Everything they do ends in tragedy. It isn't deliberate, of course. Trevor may be ruthless, but he genuinely believes the Created are agents of divinity, and he's generous to them when it suits him.
Trevor made a life out of gathering dirt on his political foes and blackmailing them. He does the same now, just in the name of the Principle. One of his ex-cultists, Barbara Lovett, questioned Trevor's methods after she became friends with a Promethean and learned about their Pilgrimage. She soon got fired from her job and removed from her position in the Order, with strict instructions to never speak to another of the chosen, or else. Whenever Trevor brings in a Promethean, Disquiet inevitably means the cult betrays them or treats them badly eventually. He convinced an Unfleshed that she would be nothing without him and would lose her Azoth if she left. She was a slave for months until her throng found her and took her back, and Trevor only survived by calling favors from the cops to run the Prometheans out of town on false charges. He has told no one of his prophesied death, as he is determined to change the Principle's mind and doesn't want a martyr narrative. The closer he gets to death, the more Pyros works through him to warp the area, though he is unaware of this. If a Centimanus taught him to control it, he would became an even greater threat.
Prometheans that buy into Trevor's message believe that he channels the Principle in a way that even qashmallim cannot. It tends to take a while for them to realize he's fake, because he certainly doesn't know it himself, and his powers support the illusion. None of his Promethean figureheads have completed their Pilgrimages, but the rumors that he can lead them to the New Dawn persist, even though at least one has become Centimanus. The main reason the rumors persist is that some of his pet projects vanish, largely due to Torment. Many believe he has agents in the FBI, CIA or other groups; Trevor does, in a sense, have agents or at least significant pull in some government agencies and secret organizations in the US, Canada and parts of Europe and Asia. Largely, this is because his influence is growing among impressionable, needy people whose careers he coopts. He's not particularly interested in controlling world affairs, though if he got enough Promethean patsies he might consider it. Trevor's Centimanus follower is a dupe driven off her Pilgrimage by Trevor's manipulation. She's caught up in the downward spiral that the Cult doesn't realize is its true nature. She needs help but doesn't know how to ask for it, and Promethean rumor has some thinking she's the one running the cult rather than the cult controlling her.
Trevor is smart, strong-willed and very, very manipulative. He's not a combatant by any stretch, but he employs people who are. He has friends in high places in government and a number of secret societies like the Freemasons, and he's wealthy. His cultists are always on hand to defend him from threats, and may have a Promethean on hand to help as well. You can, side note, play a member of the Order. Ineffable Flame Initiation is a Mystery Cult Initiation merit. It starts off by teaching initiates about Pyros, and then gives out the power to brand objects or people with a touch (either physically or invisibly) and track the brand. After that, they learn to perform automatic writing by channeling Pyros through their minds, then how to sense Pyros and read auras of those they sense this way, and the final level (which only Trevor has at present) causes Trevor to exacerbate Flux when he gets wounded, spreading Disquiet, Wastelands and Firestorms the closer he gets to death. However, learning the merit also causes mental disturbances at higher levels due to Pyros warping you. (Trevor's is that he enters a fugue state when reminded of his looming death.)
Next time: Qashmallim.
Mysterious Random AssholesOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 14: Mysterious Random Assholes
So, just a quick rundown on what a qashmal is. Qashmallim are servants of the Divine Fire. As far as anyone can tell, they puff into existence in a rush of Pyros, sometimes causing a Firestorm as they do, and they exist solely to accomplish a single mission, which is encoded into their very being. They do that mission, and then they vanish. Their missions often instigate massive amounts of change, but usually via the butterfly effect - they make the minimum necessary action required to accomplish whatever change they're setting out for. Not all missions have obvious consequences, either, so it's not easy to figure out why the Divine Fire cares about any specific thing. If a mission fails, there is never a second try.
Qashmallim come in two types: the Elpidos, which are in service to Elpis, the creative or distilling aspect of the Fire, and Lilithim, which are in service to Flux, the destructive and entropic aspect of the Fire. Elpidos typically have more apparently beenvolent goals - pushing Prometheans towards the New Dawn, guiding artists, fostering creation, bringing people together and so on. They tend to be bright, fiery angelic figures, and they often display awe-inducing or revelatory powers. Of course, while their goals are to act as bringers of creation and order, they don't give a shit about what methods they use towards that - they have a goal and will take the most efficient method towards that goal. Lilithim spread chaos, on the other hand, breaking things down on every level - lives, societies, institutions. They can even deliberately wreck a Pilgrimage. They tend to be gross-looking, warped things of flesh and flame. Like Elpidos, though, their goals and methods need not actually be aligned - they spread chaos, but they are again going to take the most efficient means to do so as they can. Elpidos and Lilithim never acknowledge each others' existence, even when acting in the same area at the same time.
Power-wise, qashmallim come in Lesser, Greater and Arch. Lesser qashmallim are most common, their missions usually only take them a few days, and they rarely require use of overt supernatural power. They are therefore the most subtle quashmallim and may easily just not be noticed before they vanish from the world. Greater qashmallim tend to have longer-term missions or harder ones, and they tend to be more powerful. Their initial births into the world cause Firestorms, and they wield potent magical powers. They tend to take on human or animal forms less often and tend to be less subtle. Arch-qashmallim are exceptionally rare, and cause Firestorms just by being present. It is rumored that an arch-qashmal's manifestation caused the Tunguska blast, or possibly the death of the dinosaurs. Arch-qashmallim also don't appear to conform easily to the Elpidos/Lilithim split.
Oh, and qashmallim tend to follow patterns. While they only exist for the duration of a single mission, the same entities have been noted to appear repeatedly, sometimes in multiple places at once. Apparently the Divine Fire just finds a shape and personality it likes for its servants and then just keeps using it. So you can easily run into the same qashmal multiple times, even though they are distinct entities on a technical level and may or may not share any memories at all. They will still look and act the same way.
What if Good Guy The Joker?
The Rake is a Lesser Elpidos. They tend to show up in order to be mysterious and smug at people. No, really. They love to hear themself talk and believe they have an excellent sense of humor, even if others do not. Their smiles are too wide, their laughter usually inappropriate, and they tend to sing annoying Broadway songs. The Rake is, you see, fascinated by humans and trying to understand them. Their name is taken from their generally friendly nature and tendency to favor formal outfits - dark suits, sometimes waistcoats. If presenting as female, they'll wear black or dark blue suits and skirts instead. Their laugh, smile and voice come off as a kind of familiar, calming white noise. They prefer to avoid combat even against those they consider threats, asking them to leave nicely before attacking.
The Rake has dark, floppy hair and wears bracelets on each arm made from twisted leather strands. When wearing their true, non-human form, these become strands of darkness that contain pinprints of light, and their eyes become mirror-polished copper orbs. They still smile all the time, but between their lips is a fine mesh, rather like you might find on a speaker. Cameras and other technological devices can only see the Rake's human form, though it may be distorted and grainy, as if copied repeatedly, rather than its actual normal definition. The Rake always acts as though they are trying to help, usually in the manner of an eccentric detective or government agent. While charismatic and a good mimic, they never quite fit in.
The Rake's missions always see them acting to protect humans and Prometheans on Pilgrimage. They act in the form of an authority figure - a cop or investigator or some other person that will not be immediately questioned by any unsuspecting human that runs into them. They tend to mute their Azothic radiance for at least the first day of their work, to avoid drawing attention to their inhuman nature. They typically show up when outside forces threaten a human community. They only ever show up when grave danger is coming, though they are not themselves going to threaten anyone. They're more likely to point nearby Prometheans at useful avenues of investigation or reveal some key bit of knowledge that will help defend or avert harm. If this fails, the Rake may take on their true form to enter combat against the threat directly...but if so, it cares much less about any human that gets caught in the crossfire.
If a Promethean is in danger of becoming Centimanus or falling from the Pilgrimage, the Rake may appear to their throng to warn of the danger...but they never confront these Prometheans directly. They apparently are forbidden from directly eliminating such threats, unlike other dangers (such as Pandoran attacks increasing massively or alchemists performing evil experiments). Their missions seem to exclusively focus on threats to humanity and to Prometheans still on their Prilgrimage. Most of the time, they will instead try to get a falling Promethean's friends to seek answers and look deeper into the issue. Sometimes, however, the Rake does outright destroy obstacles in the path of a Pilgrimage. The main thing for the Rake is they push Prometheans to seek the truth.
The Rake is a fairly weak qashmal, and honestly could be taken down in a fight by a determined group of foes, especially Pandoran foes. They do, however, have excellent ability to hide themself, find things, encourage specific emotions and...oh, it has a Numen named Burning Coal. There's just one problem - in 2nd edition, this doesn't exist. It took me a while to figure out what the hell was going on here, but it turns out that this is a power from Pandora's Book, one of the sourcebooks for Promethean 1e that focused on Pandorans and Qashmallim. It has never been given rules in 2nd edition and does not exist in any 2nd edition book, whether Promethean or otherwise.
Next time: Rose and the Emerald Professor
This Chapter Frustrates MeOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 15: This Chapter Frustrates Me
What If Poison Ivy But A Mom
Rose is a Lesser Lilithim, appearing most of the time as a small, middle-aged woman with dark skin and golden-brown eyes. She wears her hair in a frizzy bun, and it is streaked with white. If anyone were to look very closely, they would notice lines on her skin, similar to plowed soil, and perhaps a green shoot or two in some places. She always smells of roses and other flowers, and this scent appears before she does. She dresses in colors similar to a sunset. She has a maternal demeanor, though she can be cold and calculating if required. In her true form, her skin is much more obviously made of soil, and occasional cracks reveal tiny rivers of magma beneath. The scent of roses gets replaced by burning pines, ozone and sage. Her hair unravels and unfurls like a flower, and her eyes burn like blue coals. Her ears are flowers, and she has no mouth, despite her relative humanoid appearance.
Rose's purpose is to contain and kill weeds in the garden. She finds things and removes them before they can spread. Occasionally, she will appear to a Promethean performing the generative act, perhaps in a crowd or reflection. She acts with a strong maternal drive, and she loves Prometheans, considering them to be siblings of the same fire that spawned her. It is not entirely clear if this is due to her own feelings or simply the nature of her missions, though. She is usually quiet and unassuming, allowing herself to be underestimated much of the time, and she spends the first 24 hours of her existence dampening her Azoth to ensure this happens. Above all, Rose is efficient in her work. She pursues the destruction of her targets above all else, and not even her fondness for Prometheans slows her down. She will happily wield fear, deceit and anger if they are the best way for her to contain and remove her target. When she observes those performing the generative act, she often uses her power to heighten their emotions, ensuring that they don't back down and stop halfway. She does not appear to care if they are successful or not, though.
Rose is...honestly, still pretty weak. Like, she's on par with a mid-rank spirit, but that's about it, and she's not got a lot of mystic powers to make up for having no Influence. She can make people feel a sense of awe, can influence emotions and is good at finding her way to things. She also has a Numen that doesn't exist in 2nd Edition: Pray For Rain. Whoever wrote this chapter appears to have been heavily reliant on Pandora's Book without realizing its rules were never updated for 2e. In fact, every statblock in this chapter has this error!
That's because Rose and the Rake are the only things in this chapter that have stats. They're the only Lesser Qashmallim, y'see, and Greater Qashmallim are intended to be plot devices. However, while this is also true of, say, Rank 6+ spirits, rules exist for those spirits to create avatars that are more rules-interactable for PCs. We don't get that here. I also don't think the writer remembered that Greater Qashmallim cause Firestorms when they manifest, or that Arch-Qashmallim cause Firestorms when they show up.
You thought the Rake was the Doctor?
The Emerald Professor is a Greater Elpidos. He appears as a man in fine but slightly archaic clothing, always perfectly tailored. He generally appears to be a sort of archetype professor/curator/scholarly authority. His clothes are always black or dark blue, and his gaze is intense. His eyes are deep set, and he always wears pince-nez or small, round glasses. He carries a newspaper under one arm and a notepad in one pocket. He will always have a pin or tattoo of a serpent in the infinity symbol shape, which he will tell humans is just a trinket of a former interest in antiques or mythology. In his true form, he is a massive, blank-faced humanoid. His glasses become concave surfaces with spires, rather like radio satellites, and he has three pairs of wings, though two are clipped or ragged-edged, as if gnawed on. An emerald snake half-emerges from one shoulder and encircles his arm. He wears a blue-black mantle, reminescent of the midnight sky, and his voice in this form is accompanied by a hiss.
Not that the Professor talks much. He is, however, always followed by the smell of a well-worn study, with notes of leather, amber and what might be a winter fire or the burning of black powder. He is typically found in artistic or intellectual society, moving through universities and artistic collectives. He may wear the guise of a visiting artist, a rare book dealer or a local historian. When dealing with mortals, he may even work with street art or beat poetry, though this is rarer. No matter what, however, critics love him for his enigmatic nature and social commentary. His missions revolve around serving as a herald for certain milestones on the Pilgrimage, including the New Dawn. His presence does not mean that these attempts will succeed - merely that an attempt will happen soon. If a Promethean sees the Emerald Professor and fails in attempting the New Dawn, on top of whatever normal consequences, they fall under the Professor's influence for two days.
While under the influence of the Professor, Prometheans may notice feathers or circular objects (eggs, balls, circular motifs). These symbols are intended to evoke the idea of rebirth and learning, and they may cause feelings of dread, guilt or new dedication. The Promethean also gets the Obsession Condition, related to changing their current state and seeking knowledge to surpass their self-imposed limits or learn more about a Role or Refinement. The Professor's key trait is encouraging questioning. He is considerably more interested in getting Prometheans to understand their own actions and seek new things to learn than whether or not they succeed or fail. The Professor especially respects honesty about what you do or don't know, admission of fears or failings, and resolution to do your best.
Next time: The Judge, the Scaffold-Builder, Ash
Keep Those Firestorm-Causing Rules In MindOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 16: Keep Those Firestorm-Causing Rules In Mind
A pregnant bird.
Dinah, the Judge is a Greater Lilithim. In her human form, she appears to be a woman in her 50s with a ponytail with strong I Want To See The Manager energies and opinions on kale. Her mission is to cause conflict and encourage emotional volatility, and all of her actions are designed to push this. She is a skilled manipulator who is very good at spotting and encouraging rivalries and insecurities and especially good at driving Prometheans to violence. Much of what she actually does is fairly minor, but drives Prometheans into conflict with others to push them to be more individual. In her true form, she appears to be an impossibly tall and slim pregnant woman, her belly distended with a long overdue fetus. Her head is that of a pelican, and her skin is perfectly smooth and reflects light in many colors. She wears a gold-black cloak, and her eyes are the burning light of dying stars. She carries a latern which flickers with Pyros.
Dinah's missions always focus on pushing Prometheans to become individuals in their own right, and she typically does so by wielding relationships against them to push them to separate from others. She relies on fear, guilt and other negative emotions, amplifying them with her power. Sometimes her mission is to get a Promethean to kill someone for the greater good, and often also to push them to conflict with their throng or creator in order to differentiate them from their friends. She causes small rebellions, which then lead to a chain reaction of arguments and fights due to volatile emotional reactions. Often the chains of events she causes end with one Promethean slaying another in misguided efforts to prove themselves correct, or at least working to outdo each other in ever-riskier situations. She might push a demiurge to abandon their 'child' as a failure, causing the Promethean to stop defining themself by their creator's desires.
Dinah's efforts revolve around pain and separation. She is not kind, and her lessons always hurt, even if they are later seen as necessary. She is subtle and manipulative, avoiding direct confrontations if at all possible, and often uses speech patterns that remind Prometheans of their creators. Her clothing choices also are often selected to cause early memories to resurface with a jolt, such as wearing a lab coat to talk to a Promethean made in a lab setting. She aims for emotional reactions, sometimes minor and sometimes horrific. She doesn't especially care what the Prometheans she urges to act do, as long as they no longer define themselves purely in relation to others. She does not give a shit about the fallout and she vanishes well before it hits most of the time.
The Joker's Brother, Dave Joker
The Scaffold-Builder is a Greater Lilithim, and he appears as a construction or dock worker with brown, worn skin from the sun. His hair is brown, but tipped in gold. He moves around without being noticed much of the time, has worker's disguise making him easily ignored. he wears a thick leather belt with a closed pouch resembling a tool pocket. He opens it when dealing with clients, though they rarely remember the details or strangeness of it all. In his true form, his face is something like a mosaic or surrealist painting, with features in the wrong places. His mouth runs from his ear to his chin, one eye is in his left palm, and his normal sockets are filled over with skin. His right hand is entirely ordinary, though reddened by rust or blood or paint. His leather pouch is made of human skin and filled with implements of torture.
The Scaffold-Builder exists to trigger transformations in Prometheans. His presence always comes with a sense of dread, for his transformations are fast and painful. His operating principle is simple: to make something new, the old must way die first. He "helps" Prometheans change Refinements and comes to those who become stuck in their ways or have trouble finding a Role to emulate. He rarely appears for more than a single scene before his job is done. He's direct, honest and doesn't talk much. When he does, he's more soft-spoken than his rough appearance suggests. He prefers to talk if he finds his target at rest, and if they are in Torment, he will offer to listen to them. He will coax and encourage and yell at them, he will browbeat and psychologically torture, but he cannot force them to act. If he is attacked, he vanishes in a burst of flame, leaving only scorch marks behind. He is a force of desperation and change. When he shows up, it means a transformation is needed because the other option is, likely, death.
The most powerful background music in the world.
Ash is an Arch-Qashmal and I hate her. She is the worst-written thing in this chapter, and this chapter is already fairly low in usability. But let's look at her first. She appears as an olive-skinned woman with braids bundled about the top of her head like a crown. She typically has an instrument, improvised or otherwise, and always one that has been in use by humans for centuries, if not more. She communicates largely through signs, usually music. Prometheans near her begin to hear rhythmic beats wherever they go, and seem followed by drums. In her true form, Ash is a giant bipedal figure that takes up your entire field of vision. Her legs are made of bronze and cedar ladders, and she wears a translucent lapis lazuli gown that ends at her knees. She has wide hips and a thick torso, like a fertility figure, and her braids run down her shoulders to become a silk belt that bears a tapestry of images from her target's past. All features above her waist shine too brightly to make out, and her voice, if she speaks, blasts like a trumpet. In either form, she is followed by the scent of incense - a mix of amber, galbanum, frankincense and burnt spices lost to time.
Ash appears when Prometheans make Pandorans or are at risk of becoming Centimanus, serving as a warning to return to the Pilgrimage before they fall. However, Ash does not do anything directly, and rarely even talks to her targets. Instead, she...plays music. She uses music or quotations to remind Prometheans of "the power of moving on," either via lyrics or just primal drumbeats to remind them their heart is beating. She can speak if she has to, but rarely does. She usually appears in her human form as a musician, dancer or DJ, though the longer she's around humans the less human she comes off. She uses her music to influence people to...uh...move on? Not do bad things? She can be anyone she wants. Her role is to offer a chance to turn around and not double down on making mistakes. It's okay to make mistakes, is her message - it's what you do afterwards that matters.
So yes, the most powerful being in this entire book, whose merest presence causes Firestorms, is...a source of background music for the GM to use to tell you 'hey, stop being a dick and get back on your Pilgrimage, you're going self-destructive.'
And that's literally all she does. She doesn't cause conflict. She doesn't move things along. She is literally just background music for the GM to be like 'hey maybe don't do The Evilest Thing.'
Next time: CLONES, who are much cooler than this
In Which Science Is Never WrongOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 17: In Which Science Is Never Wrong
Human cloning is a scientific leap that...well, isn't possible so far without Azoth. Scientists have, despite their best efforts, proved unable to create human clones without the use of Promethean alchemy. With it, they can create rough simulcra that are usually referred to as clones, though these tend to be short-lived and...deficient in important ways. They tend to keep these secret - while it's possible that the truth would seem the lauded as geniuses, it's far more likely that they would be seen as criminals and lunatics. The things they make are both more and less than human. No matter what, the creation of clones requires either the presence of a Promethean or at least their Azoth. This is the fuel that allows the cloning to succeed, but the Azoth donor is rarely a willing part of the scheme. The process is costly, both for the scientist and Promethean, but once complete, you get a living clone - one that generally very much wishes to remain living.
The Cheiron Group's records indicate that the first successful human clone was created by a genetics professor named Jakob Rathben. He was an enemy of the Group, spending much of his life sabotaging their experiments, at first with vandalism and then with theft. He used "random" attacks to to steal records, equipment and even Cheiron test subjects - though not out of any desire to liberate them or to reveal the information he took. Rathben just felt he was better able to pursue science when not restricted by any lab ethical code or oversight board - even one as...liberal...as Cheiron's, and he wanted their work. During this time, an anonymous benefactor (whom Cheiron themselves do not realize was a rather twisted Frankenstein with weird theories) sent Rathben cash each month, along with essays on the creation of life. She never visited Rathben personally and never went to his extensive underground lab near Prague, preferring to observe from a distance.
Rathben grew paranoid as his work continued, and he came to distrust electronics. He fired or killed his lab assistants, and soon his only companions were a pair of captive Galateids he'd taken from Cheiron. Their Disquiet sped his descent into madness, giving him strange lusts and cravings. He spent money like water, mixing his benefactor's theories with his own in order to achieve his greatest desire: the creation of life. He ground one of his captives into a nutrient slurry, unleashing her Azoth in order to clone himself. He recorded the method in thousands of scrawled notes on chalkboards and scraps of paper. He woke his clone, teaching him biology, reproduction and advanced chemistry, though with little sanity or pattern. The clone, while loyal to his "father," grew confused and depressed.
Rathben attempted to duplicate the process, but never managed it completely. He made limbs and vat-grown organs, but never a full human body. The second Galateid resisted his efforts to siphon her Azoth, causing the constant failure. His clone, which he simply named Son, acted as a lab assistant but unknowingly ruined every experiment due to Rathben's absolutely awful teaching methods and poor parenting skills. When Rathben realized this, he decided it was impossible - Son was his clone, and therefore perfect and incapable of error. This probably would have led to even greater insanity if Son didn't accidentally release the Galateid. She took pity on him and kidnapped him from the lab, leaving Rathben alone. He became desperate to find his "child," even using remnants of his Galateid slurry to create a flawed second copy, which survived a bare three months. As lucidity began to return with the fading of Disquiet and the slow retraction of the Wasteland around his lab, Rathben came into the company of a scientist named Hagen.
Hagen was a psychotic, however, and stabbed Rathben repeatedly before stealing all of his research and fleeing. Hagen went on to build clones for the highest bidder. He, Cheiron and the escaped Galateid have all assumed Rathben is dead, but there are rumors that his Frankenstein benefactor swooped in and saved "Daddy Rathben," putting him to work for her own purposes. Rathben is hardly the only human to experiment with Azoth or create human clones. However, after someone at Cheiron leaked the Rathben file, he is by far the most infamous. Prometheans have taken to calling those scientists that attempt human cloning with the aid of Azoth "Rathbens."
There are less than 30 independent Rathbens out there right now. Fredrich Hagen was very careful about who he sold the cloning information to, as he wished to avoid drawing too much Promethean attention. However, not all of his clients were so discreet. Some have set up fully-staffed labs, and staff leaked the ideas. Others went for government grants, though so far only one has actually been taken seriously on that. Prometheans have learned that some mortals want their Azoth to produce clones. For most, the idea is disgusting. A clone has only a fraction of its creator's personality and rarely lives for more than a few years. They exist for a specific purpose, and then they die. Some Prometheans have a sort of morbid interest in whether this could produce a new Lineage, and a few even sponsor experiments, but the results have never been ethical or humane.
Most Prometheans that deal in cloning are of the Argentum Refinement, seeking humanity in the mysteries that surround the science. These sometimes donate Azoth to cloning projects, despite the warnings of their peers. Azoth must be used. It might be mixed into a nutrient bath for the embryo, force-fed to a vat-grown shell or injected into an inert simulacrum heart, but no matter what, it is the key to life. Without it, no matter how good the scientist, the process doesn't work. Period. If you don't know about Prometheans, you may just be forever fucked in your clone research. So, how do you get Azoth? In the crudest sense, it can be found in the physical form of Prometheans. Chop off an arm. However, Azoth is not an element or a physical thing you can easily study. It is metaphysical, and thus it can be extracted in any number of ways, most of which involve liquids. Syringe extraction, melting flesh down...really, most gross methods work.
The actual methods of cloning differ between labs. In Salt Lake City, a huge lab keeps a bunch of cooled metal cylinders full of yellow, viscuous soup containing corpses. Ten of them. Each one looks different, but all are going to house the same mind: that of a Rathben by the name of Klara Ostergaard, who is sending instructions on their creation and maintenance from her home in Copenhagen. She has no desire to meet the clones, ever. She just wants them to awaken if - and only if - she dies prematurely. Her agents work throughout Utah to grab solitary Prometheans, mostly Frankensteins, in order to turn them into that yellow soup that keeps the bodies in stasis and helps to clone her brain and spinal cord in the corpse-shells. Meanwhile, in a small Queens studio apartment, another Rathben tortures and dissects a Tammuz, liquifying his flesh into a navel tube leading to a slow-growing clone of him. This is failing med student Bobby Tarr, who believes he can clone himself and have his clone attend lessons and exams in his place while he lives it up. The Disquiet his Tammuz victim caused has warped his mind entirely, and he is drawing the attentions of rather nasty things.
Meanwhile, Lydia Salerno is treating cloning as business. She doesn't care about life extension or creating life - she just wants to sell the results of the process to her customers. She's a sex toy pioneer, and she set about cloning herself around hollow-boned artificial skeletons. She now seeks to refine the process via luring in Galateids to her lab-dungeon with promises of safety and pay. She alternates between buying limbs from them and trapping them to melt them down into Azoth to create her sex-doll clones. She now grows these clones from all kinds of different men and women, and they have short, fast lives serving her clients' whims. In a horrific twist, some Prometheans even take advantage of her services for companionship, as the clones appear to be immune to Disquiet.
Mechanically, as a note, a Promethean who loses or donates Azoth to a clone project loses a dot of Azoth. Every clone requires one dot of Azoth to animate them and make them sentient, and a dot of Azoth requires the sacrifice of at least a limb. In theory, a clone can receive more than one dot of Azoth - each dot gives the clone another 1-3 years to live. Clones cannot undertake the Pilgrimage and can never gain souls, however, no matter how long their Azoth-granted span...as long as they remain clones, anyway. Clones tend not to be particularly self-aware, but the rare ones that are tend to either become desperate to extend their lives or exceptionally depressed about how long their extended, torturous existence will last.
Clones are incomplete. Those with enough mind to think about it wonder if they may perhaps be similar to Prometheans and thus able to grow and aim higher. They...well, aren't. Their Azoth depletes as they age, and while additional Azoth can prolong their existence, the majority either rapidly age to death or just fall over dead one day. All clones live in the uncanny valley to some extent. Some forget or never learned to blink, while others have unnaturally twitchy joints. They may lack a navel or genitalia depending on method of creation, or may have unnaturally colored eyes or a strange metallic sheen to the skin. Some Rathbens just wind them up with Azoth and let them go until they die, while others offer Azoth injections or pills to ensure loyalty. This is rarely actually necessary - few clones have the drive to rebel. However, those that have enough cognition to risk it do know that killing their Azoth source is suicidal.
A clone's mind is fundamentally a blank slate until filled. Some Rathbens use microchips of data to do so, while others use VR headsets or online educational courses. Others rely on flurries of subliminal messaging to condition their creations. In theory, you could take the time to teach them manually, as a parent would a child, but the short life of a clone makes this impractical and not usually worth doing. Rathbens usually prefer to teach their clones what they need to know - 'protect this,' 'kill this kind of person,' etc. - rather than any complex skills like detailed linguistics or etiquette. This tends to mean relentless, single-minded clones who are inflexible in dealing with new or unexpected things. Clones aren't robots, and they can learn and adapt, but they're typically guileless and respond aggressively to the unknown, as a child might when asked to do something they don't like.
Clones are not human beings; they don't have a soul, the natural growth of mind from child to adult or any true fire animating them. This means they tend to be puppets of their creators. Many do not need food or sleep, though some do. Their bodies do not rot, as their Azoth maintains them in stasis, and they do not tire. Those taught to emulate human activity may pretend to have functions they don't need just to blend in, of course. Clones lack much initiative and usually are not planners. They are natural followers, and while not slavishly so, they take comfort in performing tasks they are told to do. They tend to lack a frame of reference for wider thought, given their institutionalized births and short lives. They also tend not to be particularly malevolent in combat, too - they fight because they're told to, not out of malice.
Clones (and Hybrids, which are clones made with a mix of human and animal DNA) lack the pure fires of Azoth needed for a Pilgrimage. However, a Promethean can give some of their own Azoth to a clone, purifying and stoking the flame within them. By using a clone as they would any body for the generative act, a Promethean can turn a clone into a Promethean - though the act is shorter and easier, often, because there's already Azoth present in minimal form. They just need more. This means that a Frankenstein might just, for example, use the core body, torn apart and sewn back together, rather than needing other parts, while a Galateid can work with a form that is merely lovingly prepared rather than perfectly unmarred. However, freeing a clone as a Promethean is not without risk. You might accidentally create a Jovian Athanor inside your new child, or turn them into a Pandoran. (A Jovian Athanor is basically an anti-enlightenment box, powered by the Pyros Devil. We'll...get to him.) It's always a higher risk to attempt the generative act on a clone rather than normally.
If done correctly, however, the clone becomes a true Promethean of their new creator's Lineage, regardless of what they were before. Hybrids have their animal DNA burned away, with Azoth and their human parts filling in the gaps. However, former clones and hybrids alike lose their memories, both of themselves and their original DNA donor. These may resurface, as any Promethean may occasionally gain memories from their body, but essentially, a clone that is turned into a Promethean is merely a new Promethean whose personality is more heavily influenced by the clone that was used to create them.
Next time: Clone mechanics
There's Always Two Of Me Just A-Hangin' AroundOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 18: There's Always Two Of Me Just A-Hangin' Around
By default, a clone has two dots in all attributes ('exactly human average') and 1 dot in all skills their progenitor had. The Rathben that makes a clone need not be the progenitor - Fredrich Hagen, for example, never uses his own DNA to make clones, and instead steals DNA sources. However, many Rathbens self-clone at least once; they tend to be egotists. Specialized clones that are trained in specific functions or indoctrinated from "birth" in a specific way of thinking may have higher attributes or skills in their areas of focus; for example, Vernon McTavish hs produced a team of mercenary clones operating in the Zanzibar region of Tanzania, and all of them have four dots in Dexterity and Stamina, plus three dots in Stealth, Weaponry and Firearms. Rumor suggests that each one is a clone of McTavish himself. Rathbens can imprint their own personalities on clones, and the GM can decide at will that a clone temporarily gains one of their Rathben's traits for a while. The Rathben may believe this is the result of education, but generally it's just the clone mimicking them.
Clones are immune to wound penalties. They do feel pain, but it's dampened - they can't pass out, and will only stop attacking (if that's their purpose) when they get killed or are physically prevented from continuing their assault. Azoth takes on the role of adrenaline, allowing them to perform superhuman feats of endurance and making them immune to the Beaten Down Tilt. (Which is one of the nastier ones, and the main way of nonlethally taking someone out of a fight without, you know, beating them to unconscious.) Clones also have no negative reaction to the deaths of other clones; indeed, on a subconscious level they feel emboldened by being closer to being the only one left. This means that whenever a clone sees another clone from the same batch get aken out, they gain 1 Willpower.
Clones have neither Integrity like humans nor Pilgrimage like Prometheans. They have a Virtue and Vice as mortals do, with Virtues typically based on loyalty or dedication and Vices usually based on their progenitor or their conditioning. Clones are easily swayed by their vices and must make a roll to avoid acting in the nature of their Vice whenever they see a chance to do so. Clones regain Willpower via whatever method their Rathben has designed them for - sleep, pills, meditation, whatever. Clones also have a single Alembic when created, copied from one of the Transmutations of the Promethean whose Azoth was used in their creation. Their Azoth rating determines how much Pyros they can have, but it's half as much as an equivalent Promethean. Clones regain Pyros by spending 24 hours pursuing their designated purpose. A Promethean who has 'donated' Azoth but still lives can sense the direction of the clone they helped make whenever it uses its Alembic, and will feel a strong desire to nurture the clone. They must spend Willpower to ignore this call, which otherwise causes a penalty to all actions until either the call is answered or the clone recovers Pyros.
Some Prometheans believe that Rathbens are a form of alchemist, but they tend not to have any special alchemical understanding at all. They're not trying to defy Heaven and seek enlightenment or cure some great ill - they're making life because their egos tell them to. Their decisions about what to do with their clones tend to come after they've actually made the first one, not before. They do, however, tend to be geniuses. Some of them maintain their sanity despite the work, even their compassion, but handling raw Azoth twists their minds most of the time. Most Prometheans believe that there's something out there that doesn't want clones made this way, but don't generally name a higher power or moral arbiter as that thing.
Mechanically, when a scientist handles Azoth, they develop first stage Disquiet - or one stage higher than what they already have. They also gain the Obsessed condition, resolved only if all of their clones die. It is common for scientists to also gain the Paranoid condition, and if they do, it won't go away until they spend at least a full week out of the presence of any clone. Every time after the first that the scientist handles Azoth, the Disquiet gets worse. They don't necessarily lose Integrity, but Integrity is often a result of actions they take and the manias they develop. The only necessary thing, mechanically, to be a Rathben is to have a two-dot Retainer (Clone), and the main benefit is that you have a loyal clone who will defend you to the death.
Popular public belief holds that cloning is only possible in the best labs, with bleeding age tech and the best researchers in safe, sanitary conditions and spending millions of dollars. And honestly, that's relatively true, in the sense that the materials required to make clones are outside the reach of most scientists. However, an enterprising Rathben can make them with only the materials on hand, if they're clever. You don't even need a ton of real scientific knowledge - just enough of it and possibly a mix of pseudoscientific theory to have a map towards making your cloning dreams come true. Rathbens tend to take risks others would not in pursuit of their goal, and often their labs are messy, mad-sciency lairs with clone vats made tarps and old bathtubs. Some will misappropriate grant money or abuse loans to get the equipment they want. After all, to make a clone you have to be willing to do what others dare not.
Cheiron did their best to keep Rathben's research under their control alone. They couldn't. Researchers left the company with copies of the notes in binders or flash drives, and while selling the process never really made much money, it's disseminated enough that there's clones out there with no relation whatsoever to Hagen or Cheiron. A lot of folks are unwilling to invest in cloning - this is not a new scam to them - and the UN's ban on human cloning makes it hard to market your goods openly. Often, cloning research is disguised as "providing a resource for organ transplant services." Companies and people involved in human cloning typically survive by having two layers that never, ever meet. The first is public image. These companies have a front of entirely normal employees and researchers engaged in entirely mundane work, with the occasional bit of information passed on from above containing breakthroughs in protein encoding or whatever. These are shells, engaged in pointless work to launder their owners' money and disguise the real operation. The second layer is behind the scenes - small groups of researchers under the control of one Rathben, who generally will work hard to keep anyone else from realizing the true nature of their research for fear of it getting out of their control. The Rathbens also manage the acquiring of Azoth. Some hire private security teams to capture Prometheans, while others devise traps to gain the trust of a Created and then take them down and render them for their precious, precious flame.
Dioscuri Executive Solutions is owned by Diego Reines, a Rathben who has always had a fondness for the tale of the warriors Castor and Pollux. He was an engineer that worked with the US military during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He discovered cloning when he acquired the notes of a researcher in a Republican Guard compound who, it turns out, was a Rathben, and he realized that clones could save countless US lives if employed in military operations. His dream of making perfect, soulless fighters with no families to worry about led to the foundation of Dioscuri, a PMC with only a few listed operatives. That's because these operatives, considered the best of the best, are made from carefully curated cell collections of dead soldiers, given life in Reines' lab.
Reines believes the potential of cloning is limitless. Tailor-made soldiers can handle any environment, are completely loyal, and are totally expendable assets, not real people. (At least, Diego's decided they're not real people.) He sells his soldiers' services to the highest bidder to fund his research into making better clones, and his teams are trained to return the bodies of his clones to the lab for further research. While he's only been operating for a few years, Reines has a shocking number of contacts across the globe, allowing him to keep an eye out for Promethean activity over a wide area. He knows that the need for Azoth will always keep his numbers low, and so he has hired a number of other Rathbens to develop more efficient means of Azoth harvest.
Project Gemini was originally a CIA-funded operation meant to replace foreign leaders with clones that would obey the US. The project got shuttered and the name reassigned to the space program during the Cold War, officially. Even these official records of the old project require top-level clearance to read, and most that have seen the Gemini file believe it's a joke meant to test the gullibility of agents that read things they shouldn't. In truth, Gemini saw most of its funding shifted to another covert operation investigating cloning. This operation got ahold of a black market copy of Rathben's notes shortly after they got out of Cheiron custody, and they've used them as the base of their research ever since. The CIA's primary clone testing facility is based out of a safehouse under an old car factory in Dresden, Germany. The agents working there attempt to avoid the CIA Director's notice while working secretly to hunt and harvest Promtheans.
Gemini is in the gray area of what is considered acceptable, even by CIA standards. The project's leader, Greg Donovan, hopes to one day reveal the prototype clones to the President. Until then, he works in secret, in the belief that the ends justify the means. He keeps track of CIA information channels for potential targets to replace with clones, and he's replaced several mid-rank foreign officials, whose "changes of heart" tend to be shocking to the rest of the CIA. Agents working with Project Gemini monitor Promethean activity carefully, especially for fights, and will happily swoop in to vulture any corpses or body parts that get dropped. They aren't above live capture, but prefer it to be a last resort, because taking down a Promethean tends to require more resoruces than Donovan thinks is prudent. The project's Rathben, Doctor Kneise, wants more live subjects for testing, but for now, Donovan is keeping Gemini's activities slow and carefully measured.
Vivitas Health Institute advertises heavily - bus stop banners, late night commercials, mall kiosks, social media vendors, all proclaiming the wonders of Vivitas miracle anti-aging products. The majority of these are simple cosmetics and perfumes, no more potent than any other scam medical supplement. However, for those that attend Vivitas' private clinics, miracles do happen. Many are shocked by the results - someone heads off for a long spa and returns utterly revitalized in mind and body. This is possible because Vivitas was founded by Arno Nederlander, one of the original ex-Cheiron researchers that stole Rathben's notes. He realized that the potential of cloning was limitless - it just needed a testbed. Nederlander used his family's vast fortune to buy a majority share in a failing cosmetics firm. He complete revamped them into Vivitas, refocused on health and wellness.
Nederlander now has thousands of people willing to just hand him their DNA as part of the Vivitas Gene Phenotype Restorative Testing - a nonsense phrase that gives his firm an excuse to learn whatever they want about someone, then replace them with a clone. Via cloning, Vivitas is able to produce a nearly infinite supply of organs for transplant patients, while others are replaced wholesale by Nederlander's clones, loyal to him. This gives him access to their wealth and contacts. Thanks to that, Vivitas is now a world leader in restorative therapy, and Nederlander's reputation has skyrocketed. His extending reach has allowed himself to place dozens of clones in places of power, either replacing them as they near their expiration dates or arranging to have their estates transfer their assets to him upon death.
The Mellifera Group wants to turn cloning into a profitable business. (In, presumably, a different way than Dioscuri and Vivitas have.) Specifically, they want to create healthy, long-lived clones, and their efforts to do so have resulted in the creation of a number of Hybrids which they sell to fund their efforts. They're only interested in cornering the cloning market, and they've dedicated themselves to two things. First, monitor clones worldwide. Second, identify their Rathbens and bring them into the company. Any that refuse their offer of employment are murdered. As far as the Group is concerned, clones themselves are chattel, to be bought and sold. Often, their corporate meetings refer to clones as "units," with the latest models theorized with potential luxury add-on enhancements.
Mellifera offers free psychiatric services to all executives in order to monitor their loyalty. Those that grow a conscience and find themselves unable to continue their work developing clones are replaced, and only the chairman of the board, Shelby Tycho, has a totally accurate count of how many Mellifera execs are clones now. Currently, Mellifera is working on trying to develop more Hybrid breakthroughs. To date, only one Hybrid has proven stable, but that's not stopped them from trying to create all manner of hybrid creatures. The most popular line they have developed for their limited but wealthy clientele is the Model-B, derived from genes taken from prize-winning bulls throughout the Midwest. Their massive forms are designed to be shock troops in dangerous areas. Other succesful lines include the Model-C, using cobra DNA to produce natural assassins, and the Model-D, using dog DNA to make loyal bodyguards.
If you're asking who the fuck is buying hybrid furry clones in the World of Darkness and how no one knows it's going on, the answer is 'wealthy assholes' and 'how much do you know about the operations and products offered by Blackwater?'
Next time: Specifics.
Every Gene I Own Is A Hand-Me-DownOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 18: Every Gene I Own Is A Hand-Me-Down
Oh, there's something on my scalpel.
Dr. Mabel Ventura wanted to improve life for her family. That's all. She was a child prodigy, though some believe that she was held back in rising further when she got pregnant with twins. For her own part, Mabel loved her kids deeply, and she managed to keep up with her university classwork while cooking dinner for them, helping with their homework and seeing them to school each day. However, the day of her doctoral graduation was the last day she would ever see her boys. The very next day, they got killed by a drunk driver. The grief destroyed her, and she spent several years in a daze, changing jobs randomly and trying to deal with her loss. One day, she was invited to join a new start-up, the Vivitas Health Institute. There, she met Arno Nederlander. He taught her about the miracle of Azoth, and she became one of his best employees after realizing the potential of cloning. She was often first in and last to leave each day.
Dr. Ventura has always been bothered by the limited lifespan of clones - she clones her boys every few years, but she can't keep them alive longer than that. Nederlander's goals never matched Dr. Ventura's, and he's always been content to have limited lifespan on his creations - keeping them around for only as long as required suits him. Ventura, on the other hand, wants clones who will last forever. As her sons degenerate near their due dates, she goes into a manic state and struggles to find a cure. Each time she loses her child feels like the first time again, and focuses her ever more on finding the solution. Every time, she becomes more desperate, more willing to use cruel methods to achieve her aims and more convinced that her work with Nederlander in harvesting Azoth is for the greater good.
As long as Mabel's not in a manic phase, her life is very orderly. She has seven identical suits, in order to reduce choice fatigue each day in choosing what to wear, and she keeps her gray-streaked blonde hair in a bun at all times. She showers each morning, eats healthy meals and takes scheduled time off for mental refreshment. She wears a locket of a cross with two wings, which contains pictures of her sons. In many ways, she acts like a clone herself, going through the motions of life without ever really thinking about it. She socializes out of politeness, but her mind is always busy running calculations on her work and reviewing the longevity problem of cloning. She never takes risks, preferring to err on the side of safety because her sons depend on her. She views Prometheans as aberrations, abnormalities in nature which are best harvested for resources to improve humanity's lot. If helping Vivitas drain them of Azoth means she's that much closer to having her beloved children back for good, then so be it.
Mabel is a proud woman who truly does feel compassion for other people - she just doesn't think Prometheans are people. She's very smart, but otherwise fairly average. She can't fight at all and would never try to, and socially she's not particularly skilled and couldn't tell a lie to save her life. She is an exceptional investigator, scientist and doctor, but that's about it.
Literally generic villainous thugs.
Burke and Hare are a pair of clones - crude, vicious, brutal clones. They are responsible for capturing Prometheans for their master, who decided that since he was going to need more parts and Azoth for his experiments, he'd draw inspiration from the body snatchers of the 18th century. He created these two to be loyal, combat-capable clones that could beat a Promethean in a fight while still being expendable. They aren't expendable any more - their creator has no idea what he'd do without the pair, whose powers and extreme physical skill allow them to capture Prometheans that normal humans never could. Their personalities are largely drawn from the vast amounts of TV that their creator allows them to watch when they aren't working. Specifically, they are cruel and nasty to the point of cartoonish villainy. They bluster and act arrogantly, but behind the facade of goofiness they are dedicated, fanatical hunters who never stop. Both claim to be the original clones made by the doctor, but in truth they're on the third Burke and sixth Hare.
Burke and Hare are twins, and are asymmetrically symmetrical with each other. That is to say, Burke's left ear is slightly lower than his right, and Hare's right is exactly the same amount lower than his left. Both have slight scars over their ears where the doctor's reprogramming tongs were placed when their new bodies got grown. They always wear black clothes with navy caps and pea coats when outside, though despite this they do their best to blend with crowds. It is not always successful, I would assume. They're flunkies that obey their master's commands almost slavishly. They act witless and stupid, but in truth this is to hide their calculating, devious minds that are always at work figuring out the best way to perform their kidnappings and how to get them back to the lab safely. Their combined skill has grown over the past decade of hunting Prometheans, and even when they fail, their experiences and memories are passed on to the next clone. While they dress identically, Burke wears a small fox pin on his lapel and Hare wears a small rabbit pin, to allow their master to tell them apart.
Burke and Hare are cunning but gullible. They're exceptionally strong, but weak-willed. They are, however, more manipulative than they let on, and while they're no geniuses, they're about average intellect rather than the bumbling fools they pretend to be. They're surprisingly good investigators and trappers, with decent combat skills in a brawl or gunfight, and despite their ridiculous outfits they are rather sneaky. They're also very good at intimidating people and handling street-level information gathering. Oh, and they know Parkour. Their innate power makes them even better at intimidation, as they're able to evoke fear in their targets, sometimes to the point of actually knocking someone out from it.
Next time: The Hagen Candidates, the Limb Trees
Hagen-DaazOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 19: Hagen-Daaz
Fredrich Hagen was at one point a sane man, if not a kind one. Despite rumors to the contrary, he was the first in the world to successfully clone a mouse as part of an effort to better test vaccines. He planned to clone pigs after that, but a jealous colleague destroyed his research prematurely. Hagen's descent into psychopathy started after public announcements of him hoaxing experiments and using sadistic methods on his animal test subjects. No reputable lab would hire the guy, and his life partner left him. He ran out of money and became a hateful, vicious person. He took his hate out on all who dared to insult him, killing his former colleagues in inventive ways. He sliced them up, fed them to lab animals, drowned them in amniotic fluid or disemboweled them via the navel. It didn't take long for him to realize he enjoyed murder. He began to seek out and kill other scientists known for their knowledge of cloning. He obsessively removed and collected their hair, teeth and nails, along with his own. Every morning he scrubbed himself down with steel wool to remove "traces."
One day, Hagen showed up on Jakob Rathben's doorstep, attacked him and stole his work. Using Rathben's records, Hagen temporarily stopped his serial killing and reached out to what few peers he had left. He claimed responsibility for the first human clone, offering up his formula to them in exchange for cash. His boast was disproven, of course, but he remained on the rise, as Rathben never came forward to dispute his claims. Thanks to his sales of cloning knowledge, Hagen became wealthy. He stopped working to clone himself when he realized how much better it would be to clone other people, killing and replacing the originals. He has made a dozen of these, the Hagen Candidates, each of which now awaits orders before their expiration date approaches. He places them near powerful figures, but he has yet to decide whether to tell anyone and sell their services or whether to just murder a bunch of politicians, scientists and celebrities and let chaos run rampant for fun.
Some who have heard of Hagen's work believe that he's placed his clones in key positions in US, British and Russian government so he can trigger World War III. He does have two clones in government positions, but nowhere near key roles, and not in the US, Britain or Russia. Hagen may be a psychotic killer, but he's also paranoid. He doesn't want to draw further attention to his work, especially from major figures in the UN. His current plan is to see if he can destabilize a newly formed government or a puppet state. By starting small, he could use his example as a selling point, targeting the Russians, Chinese or Americans as potential clone buyers. His work has been noticed by some Changelings, who see similarities between his actions and the Gentry. Hagen has no ties to the True Fae, but he does replace people with flawed copies. The main difference is he kills his victims rather than kidnapping them. Both the Lost and Prometheans find him abhorrent and he would make a good antagonist for Changelings, too.
So where does Hagen get the Prometheans he uses to clone people? They've learned he existed and most are too smart to go anywhere near the guy, after all. The rumor - true, as it happens - is that he has backing from an alchemist. Hagen's only alive, in fact, because of his alchemist patrons. His ego prevents him from acknowledging them with thanks, though. He typically receives a delivery of a Promethean limb once per week on Sundays, ready to be liquefied. The alchemists that provide his materials are not afraid of Prometheans, and they want to see how far Hagen can take this science. After all, even before he learned about Prometheans, he faultlessly cloned a living being, albeit an animal. Still, they're growing increasingly disappointed with his results, and soon, they may cease sending him parts to see what he does.
That was the end of Solomon Grundy.
Monday is one of the Hagen Candidates. She has replaced the mother of a child pop star, observing her 'daughter' and reporting back to Hagen. Because the girl spends so much time away from home, she's only just now starting to notice her mother's increasing coldness and odd behavior. Monday often forgets things like blinking, and without makeup her skin is tight and jaundiced. Her behavior becomes increasingly severe and unnatural the more you interact with her, and she entirely lacks empathy. She often stares blankly when someone seems upset. Monday spends her time cooking, washing, cleaning the house and asking about her 'daughter.' Her husband has no idea what's going on but is quite happy with his wife's newfound domesticity and isn't questioning it. Monday doesn't know what Hagen intends for her except to play the role of mother, and occasionally struggles with mixed feelings towards her 'family.'
Monday is average in essentially all ways, though she's fairly charismatic. She's good at very little besides baking, observing people and making meaningless small talk. Oh, and lying. She's decent at lying with a straight face. Her innate power helps with this, allowing her to easily avoid attention, leave no physical traces of her presence and avoid showing up in human memory. She can fight in the sense that she has a single dot of Weaponry but, like, anyone could beat her up if they wanted.
So what are Limb Trees? Well, they're an invention of a utilitarian Rathben named Laszlo Maublanc, who specializes in marketing to other Rathbens. He's a Quebecois scientist who specializes in repair and augmentation of clones and custom-growing clones. If you want a limb or other part to fit a specific standard, he's your man and can find a way to get you exactly what you need. His work would be a great boon for those in the medical community in need of transplant materials...if they were grown in isolation. However, they do not. To perfect living tissue, he needs to attach it to a trunk - that is, a human torso. Thus, Maublanc grows cloned human torsos, reconstructing their skeletons and musculature to accomodate additional limbs and organs. One clone might have three arms of different length and proportion, including child arms, multiple legs, several noses, six ears and an extra dick, plus as many hearts as Maublanc could fit into the torso.
Maublanc sees himself as an innovator and artist, and even other Rathbens appreciate his avant-garde work. His creations exist in a state of constant agony and suffering from 'birth,' and Maublanc doesn't like the idea of waiting for a child body to mature, however quickly, so he tends to instantly produce them in adult form with whatever augmentations already attached. Limb trees are what his clones are called by Prometheans that know of them, and they are weeping, pained monsters who only find calm when Maublanc removes their excess body structure for delivery to his clients. This peace lasts only a short time, as their creator likes to get as much out of a torso as possible, and will shove them back in the cloning vat to remotely stimulate limb growth or just stitches new ones onto the stumps. Sure, the limb trees exist to serve a greater need, but knowing you're being made as an organ farm is no comfort. Worse, the only person they believe they can trust is their abusive creator, so even when they get the chance at freedom, they tend to stumble their way back into the lab out of terror.
Some say that the limb trees aren't really alive or sentient. This is entirely false, though some Prometheans believe it to reassure themselves that putting them down is the right thing to do. In fact, a limb tree is as sentient as any other clone. They don't really have great cognitive abilities, and Maublanc teaches them very little beyond how to stay healthy and defend their parts, but they are as capable of pain and suffering as anyone. Several of them have escaped from Maublanc's facility in Windsor, near Detroit. They lack the freedom to fully turn and start attacking his labs, but one of them had something snap in his mind, named himself Spartacus and led a local revolt. Currently, the pack of renegade limb trees lives in the wilds of Ontario and Michigan, terrorizing locals and trying to grab Prometheans in an effort to extend their lives.
Maublanc is no altruist, but he does have some good results. He uses corpse DNA to make his clones, and he sells the results to anyone that needs them. He provides replacement parts to many on long transplant waiting lists, as long as they (or someone that cares) can afford his services. He once saved a child needing a heart transplant, with requirements so rare that he actually had to unearth one of the kid's ancestors for a DNA sample, regrew his heart and handed it over. Maublanc does this because he thinks it's pioneering in the field (which is not untrue) and he values the funding he gets from his private backers asking him to do these things. So...yes, there's a lot of people out there alive today because of the organs he supplies by backchannels. However, it would be wrong to think Maublanc cares about sick kids, and he does nothing unless he gains from it.
Ord is a limb tree. The original Ord was some guy who worked as a stevedore at the docks in Windsor. He doesn't matter. Clone Ord is a trunk for many limbs, and what's left of the Ord personality is barely cognizant of anything except constant pain and suffering. He screams a lot for help. His torso has a wreath of twelve child-size arms, and he has three legs, so he often stands as a tripod, with each leg bent at the knee. He is coated in thick hair and has an unkempt beard, because unlike many Rathbens, Maublanc doesn't care about hair growth. His eyes weep constantly, save for when they get too gummed up to open. Ord will help anyone that removes some of the limbs from his body. He will only ever be without pain once they're all gone, and he's just a torso and head. He'll offer to help anyone that aids him, but if asked to turn against Maublanc he will begin incoherently screaming 'mommy' and try to lurch back to his creator for safety.
Ord is entirely average except for his strength and toughness, both of which are pretty dang good. For whatever use that is to him. He knows a surprising amount about medicine and particularly surgery, and he can fight decently well by grabbing things with his many, many arms. He is otherwise not good at much. His innate power increases his combat ability - it makes him closer to animals, allowing him to sprout natural weapons, turn into a flesh-beast or even an actual animal shape, though it is unclear if he'd still have lots of limbs hanging off. Probably.
Next time: Hybrids
It's Not Easy Being FurryOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 20: It's Not Easy Being Furry
Making clones is a delicate process that can take ages to perfect, but new discoveries can move things in radically new directions. One of these is the creation of Hybrids - clones incorporating DNA of other beings into the original host's genetic code. This can make alterations as simple as a different hair color to as complex as radically different features, or even incorporating the DNA of different species. Often, these clones are non-viable, and even when they are, Prometheans know that they are an even greater blasphemy than normal cloning. They aren't just recreations made using stolen Divine Fire, but horrific mockeries compared to the promise of humanity offered by the Pilgrimage. Hybrids are generally the result of accidents or radical experiments, and often they are the first step towards a fully human clone. However, some Rathbens abandon the quest for human clones in favor of Hybrids, though they tend to more dangerous and unstable than anyone wants.
See, a Hybrid's mind is a mix of human mental development and animal instinct in ways that often make them entirely unmanageable. Often, they must be put down to prevent them using their abilities to escape containment. Others are so genetically unstable that their bodies fall apart within days of birth, leaving only blood and skin on the floor of the lab and wasting their precious Azoth. Initially, a Hybrid appears fully human, and some Rathbens have even managed to make them look like themselves or family members. Over time, however, their human DNA begins to degrade, causing animal features to appear. Usually, this happens near the end of their lifespan. For example, the part bull Mellifera Model-B looks like a large, husky man with callused skin and coarse hair normally. Over time, they develop misshapen masses on their heads as horns start to appear and their faces begin to bulge out a bit. If they were to survive past the two year mark, it is theorized that they might take on fully bovine characteristics, but most die in agony as their bodies are unable to process their mutations.
Only very rare Hybrids are fully genetically stable. One of these, known only as AP15, has managed to survive for years without any apparent signs of degradation. Mellifera's researchers are baffled as to how this creature, by now mutated to an entirely alien appearance due to the large amounts of wasp DNA used to make it, has managed to survive - especially since they're not wasting Azoth to do it. Some Rathbens suggest that Hybrids represent entirely new evolutionary paths and that AP15 is the first of a new species, while others think stable Hybrids are just a lucky mistake of Azoth and the right chemicals. Few Hybrids ever acquire social skills, as they are barely treated as more than animals, though some surprise researchers by acquiring language entirely through observation of their captors.
Pay the dragon.
Dino the Dragon has operated as a thug and debt collector for his Brazilian creator his entire life. He has no idea if it's because of how he was made or how he was taught, but he's never cared much about hurting people. His Komodo dragon DNA makes his skin tougher, his nails sharper and makes his saliva a bacterial stew that can kill victims within hours of injection. He was sure he'd live forever, and became distressed to find scales growing all over his chest as he began to cough up blood by night. He begged his Rathben for help, but learned that the plan was to euthanize him and activate another, already prepared clone in his place. Dino was filled with a terrible fury at this betrayal, killing both his creator and his replacement clone. It was the first and only time he ever disobeyed orders. Now, he instinctively seeks out another Rathben, in hopes of both a cure for his genetic degradation (and oncoming death) and to provide him with the orders he feels he needs.
Dino's surprisingly short - he's only five foot, but he's made of muscle. He covers as much of his skin as possible, favoring extra-long shirts and saggy pants that reach his shoes. This is because his limbs are starting to grow thick scales, starting just over his neckline, under his black hair. His nose has started to narrow into slits and his tongue is now a deep purple. Dino tries to blend with crowds whenever he can, and while he is by nature a solitary being, he works with others if he has to in order to accomplish his goals. He attempts to remember any Promethean he meets, and he's not above turning on allies the moment they are no longer useful. The only real emotion he feels is intense fear of his own impending death.
Dino's not smart or socially skilled, but he's very tough, strong and pretty fast. He knows a shocking amount about medicine and human anatomy, as well as being a good brawler and decent marksman. He's stealthy, good at surviving in the wild and good at both intimidation and lying. He's got a sense for when danger is coming, is tougher than most humans and reacts quickly, though he has little Willpower. His innate power allows him to smell illness or poison in someone, which he can purge from people if he wants. He can also worsen injuries and pain, and he can cause incredible amounts of pain when he strikes someone, rendering them unable to act. Oh, and his bite is, of course, effectively venomous and deals lethal damage due to komodo dragon teeth.
Next time: Zeky
Hell Is INFINITE NUCLEAR RADIATIONOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 21: Hell Is INFINITE NUCLEAR RADIATION
There is literally no Lineage that is worse off than the Zeky (singular: Zeka). They, too, are Prometheans, but even more than any other kind, the world burns at their touch. Life withers and dies, for they are literally radioactive. The power of Azoth within them seethes at being caged, unstable and destructive. It poisons the world around them, leaving a metaphysical scar to reflect the burning power that lurks inside them, desperate to be free. Zeky themselves are immune to radiation, even benefit from it, but everyone else isn't. In small amounts, humans exposed to ionizing radiation become tired and weak as their white blood cells die and any exposed skin becomes red and itchy. After prolonged or harsh exposure, the skin becomes blotchy and discolored and blood forms possible hemorrhages below the skin. Hair loss occurs, skin ulcerates and cognitive function is impaired. In the worst cases, victims suffer tremors, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea due to dying stomach lining causing toxic shock. It's an ugly and painful way to die. Every Zeky donor body is dead of it.
We get radiation rules - radiation is rated 1 to 5 in Intensity, with 1 being a mildly radioactive object, and 5 being ground zero at the time of a nuclear explosion. Intensity determines the interval of damage ticks, with 1 being weeks and 5 being turns. After you spend more than your Stamina in intervals near a radiation source, you take 1B per interval you remain exposed. As long as you remain exposed, you can't naturally heal the damage from it. Equipment designed to shield against radiation increases your Stamina for purposes of how long you can remain exposed without taking damage. The game notes that this is not an accurate model of, say, plutonium, which is only going to be dangerous if it gets inside your body, and that the rules assume that you're a PC or have a chacne to get out; if an NPC is powerless to escape, they're either suffering from radiation poisoning but might survive with a bunch of side effects if gotten out or going to die due to terminal exposure within a matter of weeks.
This, incidentally, means that as long as werewolf regeneration is considered magical rather than natural, werewolves are effective immune to radiation under the damage rules, because a werewolf regenerates 1B per turn and therefore cancels out even Intensity 5 damage. Fun! Prometheans, on the other hand, are not immune to radiation, except the Zeky. They do, however, add their Azoth to their Stamina to determine how long they can remain in it safely, and treat the source's effective Intensity as lower than normal if their Azoth is greater than the Intensity. (Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, incidentally, is Intensity 2.)
Zeky use normal Promethean rules, with the following exceptions:
Zeky do not heal from exposure to electricity. Their Azothic nature is optimized for radiation, and electrical energy is not refined enough for their bodies to process. Instead, Zeky heal damage from nuclear radiation, with higher Intensity healing them faster - rather than taking damage per interval, they heal damage per interval. Some Zeky collect and modify microwaves to bathe themselves in radiation, while others hang out near high-power radio transmitters. They can heal by lying down in the sun, but it takes weeks on end to do. While healing via radiation, a Zeka glows with unnatural luminosity and causes the air to feel heavy. Animals, even insects, flee their presence while they heal this way. Any radiation source that would go beyond the Intensity scale and instantly kill a human will heal all wounds of a Zeka at the end of each round.
Like other Prometheans, a Zeka can wield Pyros to increase their body's capabilities temporarily. Unlike other Prometheans, however, they can create a critical Azothic reaction that sustains their empowerment for longer than a single action...at a risk. Even their bodies were never meant for this strain. They can spend Pyros to increase their attributes based on the amount spent, remaining that way for a period based on the amount spent, starting the countdown on the first turn in which they don't spend Pyros to boost an attribute. They can spend Pyros again to reset the timer. However, doing so hyperextends them, causing them to take Bashing damage if they fail physical rolls. If they add more than their Azoth in dots, they short out or fuck up all nearby electronic devices, generate extreme heat and set the local environment on fire if they keep it up too long. Also, the area becomes irradiated with an Intensity based on the Zeka's natural Intensity. Because all Zeky are naturally radioactive at all times. Oh, and if someone deals Lethal damage to them at melee range or touches them, they become contaminated by radioactive fallout with Intensity equal to the Zeka's.
There's just one problem: the book forgot to say what that Intensity is, rendering Zeky unusable originally due to the rules not existing. Errata later made their natural Intensity be equal to their Azoth (or 5, whichever is lower). See, the thing is, Azoth goes to 10, and it's not that hard to hit 5. And a Zeka of Azoth 5+ has Intensity 5, AKA 'kills literally anything except maybe a werewolf in about five minutes of exposure.' So they became unusable because they are hilariously lethal no matter what they do.
Zeky are born out of grief and war. Their humour is radiation, and it's not really a tactile thing like most of the other Lineages'. This may be one reason the Zeky differ so much physically from each other, or why the generative act can vary so much between them. One demiurge might try to bind radiation into a corpse, while another just steeps a corpse in something radioactive. Zeky can be biomechanical creations, mutilated corpses or even amalgam creatures made of containment measures. Regardless, their disfigurements leave witnesses horror-struck and irradiated. The Thin Man is a vaguely human figure with the shells of old bombs sewn into his flesh and pistons made of missile casings moving him and shrieking with rust. He has no hair, but he always smells of burnt hair. He destroys anything or anyone he finds that he thinks could beat him in a fight utilizing a cannon muzzle that emerges from his wrist. He remembers being considered a failure, and so he incorporates the strongest parts of his foes into himself to ensure he will never be replaced again.
Three-Mile wants to connect to the world and its people, but that's hard when most of your skin is the remains of an experimental hazmat suit. The black tubes that break her skin and plunge back into it are covered in a strange, oozy film, and her throat is cable and tubing, which makes it hard to talk. Her face remains bare, bloated and distorted by a toxic gas that emerges from her wounds and mouth when she screams. She hates the screams, the insults and the weapons that get aimed at her when she tries to understand humanity. It's much easier to hurt them, especially since she already only knows pain.
Arclight glows from within. The seams of their body, stitched with power cables, their empty eye sockets, their mouth - all emit a neon blue light. They've poked at the strange bulges under their skin and peered into the lightning coils that emerge from it, but learned nothing. They've tried putting the light out, and they can focus to dim it if they stay very still...until they get excited. Then it comes back. Arclight is often excited. When afraid or angry, their light burns brought enough to melt steel and burn flesh. Their favorite bit of the Pilgrimage so far was learning that sometimes even humans have to let loose...though when the party's over, Arclight always seems to get in trouble.
Few things can much the volatile, terrifying nature of the Zeka Torment. In these moments, when a Zeka as at their lowest, their reactor grows unstable, their being is compressed into a reactive explosion. They do what comes naturally, then. They lash out violently and destructively, especially at things they love. They obliterate whatever they care about, and everything associated with that thing or person, everything nearby, everything they run into, leaving a massive destructive path. It is not angry or vindictive, though. This is random destruction, in a sense. It's just turning about, smashing anything nearby, driven by strong feelings but not associated with rage. A Zeka in Torment doesn't care any more, doesn't care what breaks and what doesn't. All that matters is that they destroy, as they were made to do, because it's so much easier than caring. It matters that everyone understands - destruction is what they are. It is all they are. That is what Torment wants of them. About the only good thing is it tends to end quickly. Power surges through them, fueling their rampage and driving it further than even the angriest Frankenstein tends to go. Radiation overflows from their body, burning anything they don't actively smash. Their mere touch sets things aflame, and they leave a terrible, radioactive Wasteland behind them, scorching the Earth itself with their Pyros.
Mechanically, a Zeka in Torment has effective Azoth 8. Which means that, yes, any Zeka in Torment, even one that's deliberately kept their Azoth as low as possible, is a walking nuclear reactor. An unshielded one. If their Azoth was already 8 or higher, it becomes 10 for the duration. While in Torment, a Zeka doesn't have to spend Pyros to do things that cost Pyros. You track the spending anyway, though, to determine the size of the Wasteland they create. When the Torment ends, their Pyros pool fills up completely. They immediately make a Wasteland when they enter Torment, and if they spend enough Pyros based on their Azoth, it immediately grows bigger and worse. If it's already category 4, the biggest possible, a Firestorm happens.
Zeky Disquiet is also fucked up. It's not just mental, like most Prometheans - it's also physical. It causes radiation sickness. Zeky are fueled by the power of the division of the atom, a violent act that replicates itself repeatedly. Their Disquiet is similar - they drive those affected to random acts of cruelty on top of making them feel disgusted by the Zeka that infected them. However, their violence need not be aimed at the Zeka, as the Disquiet also makes victims see other people as threats to drive off or kill, which may or may not mean the Zeka is the first target. Further, Zeka Disquiet is immediately contagious, rather than eventually contagious. Fortunately for everyone, it requires specific circumstances to pass onto others, though. If more than a certain number of Disquieted people gather in one place, they form a critical mass and can contaminate others, and extended exposure to other Disquieted people can quickly push Disquiet into its final stages, driving the group to turn on itself or to see outsiders as existential threats to be wiped out. The Zeky are always outsiders, regardless, and so must be destroyed, though they are given only slight priority over other targets. Victims in these final stages will also die of the radiation poisoning associated with the Disquiet within hours at the most, typically blaming outsiders for their illness.
Zeka Disquiet spreads quickly and goes wild fast, but it fortunately leaves relatively little fallout besides the number of dead bodies it causes. Medical examination will reveal the symptoms of acute radiation poisoning, but no contamination whatsoever (from the Disquiet, anyway). This is, of course, physically impossible and confuses the fuck out of the doctors doing the examinations, but it does make these incidents easier to hide than actual radiation accidents. Zeky Disquiet spreads contagiously even at stage 1, and as long as at least six people with Zeky Disquiet are in the same location, their Disquiet immediately proceeds to stage 2. If two people with stage 2 Disquiet touch skin to skin for an extended period - such as a lengthy handshake - it proceeds to stage 3 in both parties. Fortunately, they can't push it to stage 4. Zeky Disquiet also causes damage per radiation exposure of equal Intensity to the stage of Disquiet, on top of its psychological effects. Oh, and Zeky Disquiet doesn't need a Wasteland to be present to hit stages 3 or 4.
Zeky Wastelands are, unsurprisingly, super awful. They not only make the area around them really shitty, they make it radioactive. Stage 1 Wastelands have weak, low-threat fallout that causes complex animal life to flee ('everything but bugs') and makes humans uneasy and prone to headaches and body pains. At stage 2, plants begin to flourish again, but in disfigured and stunted ways - possibly warped when mature or neotenic. Small animals or birds that couldn't leave the area sicken and die, the temperature rises and rainfall is less frequent. Headaches and soreness increase, and nausea becomes a problem. Despite the thick haze that fills the air, sunburns are frequent and painful. Category 3 is lethal to small animals if they so much as enter the Wasteland. The fallout thickens, withering and killing plant life, and sunlight barely penetrates the nuclear clouds. Insects begin to mutate radically, and background radiation now poses a threat to human life as an Intensity 1 radioactive environment. Category 4 Wastelands have haze so thick the sun is invisible at all times. Snow and ash begin to fall after a day or two, and the temperature plunges. Insects create ash mounds and take over ecological niches that small animals have abandoned, swarming even if they would not naturally. Large colonies may attack humans or animals still in the region, and the background radiation rises to Intensity 2. Several Superfund sites are noted to have actually been caused by Zeky sticking around too long.
Zeky Firestorms are horrifically dangerous. They are never centered and focused, and they hit the world like a bomb. On top of the normal disasters caused by Firestorms, they also spread nuclear fallout over the entire area. Zeky Firestorms are naturally worse than normal ones, deal massive Lethal damage to all structures in their area, ignoring most Durability, and the entire area is contaminated with fallout that is an Intensity of half the Zeka's Azoth, which remains even after the Firestorm ends.
If you're wondering how anyone could ever play a Zeka or even include one in their game without ignoring a good 90% of these nuclear-powered world-shattering rules...I don't know.
Next time: Nuclear power.
Nuclear FamilyOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 22: Nuclear Family
So, on top of all the other issues Zeky have, they also distort their own Pyros and thus have warping effects on some of their powers. They can learn all the normal Transmutations that other Prometheans can, but often develop quirks in their Distillations or even entirely unique Alembics. In all cases, these tricks grant incredible power but at a cost, whether to the user, the environment or their throng. (Mostly, it's to the environment and people around you.) In theory, this is possible with any Transmutation, but a few are called out specifically:
- When using the Alchemicus Transmutation, Zeky typically give off bright light and waves of heat, or slough off heavy water. Some irradiate the things they change. Either way, when using the Temperature Modification Distillation, their dramatic failures cause whatever they were trying to heat to explode, and they can spend Pyros regardless of result to make an explosion no matter what, and on an exceptional success the explosion won't hurt them.
- Contamination is a common Transmutation among Zeky. When using the Indulgence Alembic, on any dramatic failure they must spend Pyros or else irradiate their target and contaminate them with radiation at Intensity 2.
- Corporeum often manifests in explosions of power contained within the Zeka or tingling of the air as nuclear fire grows within them. When using the Motus Alembic, they may spend extra Pyros to not only move faster but be able to smash through obstacles easily while in motion, though if they roll too well when doing so, they become sick until they stop to rest.
- Electrification turns a Zeka into a walking nuclear reactor, able to fuel massive amounts of power. When using the Machinus Alembic, they instead sense radiation rather than electrical current, and can detect any radiation source within 200 yards as well as how strong it is, and they can sense when a dangerous reaction is imminent. When using the Generator Distillation, they can spend Pyros or take damage to push an electrical device well beyond its limits, massively increasing its power for a brief period. It then breaks down when the power ends.
- Luciferus is a common Transmutation as well. When using the Searing Corona Alembic, the area they scour becomes contaminated by radiation at Intensity 1 on top of the normal Extreme Heat generated, and the Intensity grows by 1 each round this is maintained. Which is, uh, crazy, remember. Also, when using the Blaze of Glory Alembic, once per scene when they take damage while they have no Pyros, they gain Pyros.
- Metamorphosis tends to manifest in tumorous or unnaturally vital growths. When using the Aptare Alembic, they can spend Pyros to ignore more environmental effects than normal, but whenever they do, they contaminate the local environment with radiation, increasing its Intensity by 1 each time. which is crazy, stop doing that
- Vulcanus tends to produce unnatural heat in Zeky, as their nuclear flame is allowed out. When using the Ignus Aspiratus Alembic, they do not need fuel to make fire and can instead spend Willpower to generate a flame from nothing, but anyone in its light gets contaminated by radiation at Intensity 3. When using the Fire Grasp Distillation, they can spend extra Pyros to deal more damage to targets set on fire, which also causes them to become very sick and contaminated by radiation at Intensity 2.
Zeky also have unique access to the Nuclear Alembic, rumored to have been discovered by the first Zeka ever to exist. It causes them to always know when someone approaches them with a weapon, and if it's a gun or explosive they know its range, rate of fire, amount of ammo, yield and so on. They can spend Pyros to downgrade explosion damage to Bashing or even ignore it entirely. They can render guns, explosives or similar devices inert and unusable against them, make any combustible object explode, or make someone that's hurt them recently suffer an internal explosion that damages them based on how hurt the Zeka is.
A very sad child
Dawn is very sick. Her first memory is waking up in the basement of her first hospital to see her parents fleeing. They left a note: "We're so sorry, we love you very much. Stay in the hospital. Stay out of sight. You're sick." It was on a get-well-soon card. Dawn waited, but they never came back. Not for months. And so Dawn decided that her parents hadn't specified which hospital she had to stay in. She'd learned all of her first hospital's secrets, had even met another Promethean working the graveyard shift. He'd told her what she was, but had been horrified when she showed him her tricks. So Dawn found another hospital. She had learned a lot about hospitals. People went in sick and left when they got better. Despite her poking and prodding and poor imitation of what doctors did with scalpels on sleeping patients, however, she had no idea what was wrong with her. She knew she was different and had to become human, but not even other Prometheans seemed to be sick the way she was.
Dawn's third hospital had a cancer ward, and she saw herself reflected in the biopsy waste. She asked, but the doctor told her that cancer had no cure. That made Dawn angry, so she made his insides sick forever. Dawn switches hospitals every week or two, hiding from the confused doctors and staff and rifling through patient charts or poking them. She's figured out that if she stays too long, folks get violent, and of course she ruined that first cancer ward. She's learned a lot more about the Pilgrimage than you might expect for a Zeka, but she's young, entirely unguided and far too potent for anyone's good, least of all her own. Sometimes, she gets very angry when a patient recovers too well and gets to go home, especially if they were a mean person. She especially hates the smiles of their parents, and her jealousy goes out of control. She makes those patients sick again, and sometimes cuts them open to see if they get sick like she is. She isn't sure why she cries every time they do.
Dawn appears to be a skinny girl with greasy blonde hair and crooked teeth. She smiles widely and often, and she's full of questions. She pretends to be carefree, and knows where just about everything is in hospitals she stays at, as well as how to move around without being seen. She's also picked up a fair amount of medical knowledge from observing procedures. She can help someone get food, medicine, a safe place to stay or an escape route out, and will happily trade this help for information about Prometheans. She's jealous of anyone that has loving parents, but she tends to take her anger out on the kids. She typically dresses in a blue hospital gown, scrub pants and a dark hoodie she's sewn a number of pockets into the interior of. Dawn believes her disfigurements are what her parents meant by 'sick,' because she is full of tumors which occasionally break the surface of her skin. Her features are swollen and distorted, and her eyes glow sickly yellow. When stressed, some of her extremities leak neoplasm, pus and tumorous tissue.
At one point, Dawn met a very nasty doctor in a cancer ward night shift. She could feel the revulsion he had for her, and for the first time, she felt shame. He later screamed at her and hit another patient. Dawn heard some other doctors talk about liability, and wasn't sure what that meant, so she sat herself down in the vents over the man's desk for a week. She still feels bad about that. She had no idea everyone was going to get so violent, and had no idea they'd die. She's also scared away a few other Prometheans by accident. She doesn't mean to hurt them, but when she sees them use their powers, she gets excited and tries to copy them. Typically, the appearance of her disfigurements and nuclear energies makes them run. They start rumors that she was created by the Tsar Bomba himself, the First Zeka. She wasn't - her parents were an Osiran and Ulgan who thought that using the hospital x-ray machines would let them unify their humours and thought they were ready to be parents. Neither was the case, and the radiation was far too powerful. Dawn very much wants to meet them again.
In the hospitals Dawn stays at, she has generated the story of the Tumor Fairy. The younger patients have mythologized her, saying that she comes for bad kids and gives their cancer teeth so it'll eat them from the inside out. This developed after a kid pointed at her and screamed one night, and wouldn't stop screaming and tearing at her life support devices. Dawn was extremely hurt by this, and would've taken immediate vengeance if a security guard hadn't shown up. Instead, she came back the next night...and found the girl dead. Dawn hates the name 'Tumor Fairy,' and if she hears it she will run away to cry.
Dawn's not a powerful Zeka at all - only Azoth 1, so she's not immediately deadly to be around. She's pretty average, but has very poor stamina. She knows a surprising amount about investigation, medicineand Prometheans, and she's good at sneaking around and lying. She has developed some potent abilities, though. Her tumorous skin serves as natural armor against bashing damage, which she can harden to protect herself further. Her tumors can deal damage to those that strike her, and she can armor herself up even more and fire bits of the tumors to damage people. She has also developed the unique ability to focus her internal radiation into other people, giving them cancerous tumors. She is also able to boost her vision, see through solid objects and see spirits and ghosts.
Next time: The Radium Girl, the Demon Core
Remember Those Radiation Rules NowOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 23: Remember Those Radiation Rules Now
This lady is Azoth 8. She is Intensity 5, all times.
Frances Dynes was born in 1929, made using the body of a woman who was assured the glowing paint she was using was safe. It wasn't, of course - it was just radium paint. Women used it to paint their nails, skin and lips, used it on brushes they licked to a fine point for watch faces, that kind of thing. For some women, the radiation poisoning was minor - something ugly done to them that would not have obvious effects for decades. For others, it was more immediate and terrible. Frances was baptized in radium salts, slowly poisoning everyone around her. It took her creator only three weeks to die. Of course, the world around her still believed radiation could heal thanks to various advertisements by produced of radiation-based "therapies." For a time, Frances attempted to use her powers to heal, but...it never really worked. Disquiet turned her would-be patients against her and each other, and it would not be until the atomic bomb that Frances realized the truth of her nature.
For a while, nuclear proliferation pushed Frances to try even harder on her Pilgrimage. She worked as best she could, put her heart into all of it, even made another of her own kind. And yet, for all her work, she lost herself to fatalism as mutually assured destruction became the order of the day. There was no point in being human, after all, if she was just going to die in a nuke blast. She was certain the fate of humanity was death in the nuclear fire, and that only the Zeky would survive - and they would one day follow in human footsteps to their doom. It would be an eternal, atavistic cycle of birth and death, and she wanted to put an end to her part in it. In a sense, Frances remains a pilgrim now - she travels between Superfund sites throughout the US and other, less known radiological spills. This is because these spots are good hiding places for Zeky, and she's hunting them, especially those trying to make more Zeky. In each location, she hides Pandorans eager to feed on radioactive Pyros. She doesn't particularly like her Pandorans, which tend to take the form of gigantic cockroaches or carcinoma monsters, but they serve her purpose.
Frances has no particular hatred of Prometheans outside the Zeky, despite being Centimanus. Most she sees only as a means to an end - generally, maintaining the life of her Pandoran minions. Some she pities or even sees as potential apprentices, especially if they, like her, hate the Zeky, or even just a specific Zeka. Sometimes, she uses these Prometheans to flush out others of her kind, and sometimes she just sees them as friends for a time. She's been alive for far, far too long, and even the most vicious Centimanus sometimes just wants to talk to someone that won't immediately die around them. (Except, y'know, non-Zeka Prometheans still will.)
Frances is a slight woman who appears to be white, in her late 20s and dressed in conservative, often dated clothes. Her face is smooth with the practiced effort of not smiling, and when her disfigurements are revealed, her hands glow faintly, as do her teeth, save for where the welling blood of her gums hides them. Her skin sags slightly and appears fragile and sunburnt, as if she is collapsing inward. She is open, honest and friendly, but in a way that is rather offputting to most people she talks to - she treats them as confidantes even though they've just met. She is curious, even sympathetic to others - even when she actually sees them mostly as resources. She always asks after the throngs of Prometheans she talks to, especially if they mention meeting a Zeka. She has many questions, as if seeking something particular, and may take young Prometheans under her wing (or would if they didn't die in minutes), whether they want her help or not. She does not like other Centimani at all, seeing them, at best, as realists and at worst as intruders with no regard for others.
Frances is not aware of the mystic power built into her or how long she's going to live. She has a deep understanding of how other Prometheans work, having studied herself and others extensively before falling to Flux, and she knows that she is ultimately doomed to death for ending her Pilgrimage. She's actually somewhat looking forward to it. Unfortunately for her, because of her Bestowment, she's not going to die when she expects to, and it's unlikely she's going to take that well. Despite her best efforts, she has never found her child, whom she made out of the body of a man dead of sepsis, a former rock collector who just had to have some radioactive minerals. She made him and abandoned him quickly, thinking it'd be best to distance herself. Part of Frances is distressed by the belief that, to truly finish her task, she's going to have to kill her son, and another part is terrified that he's succeeded where she couldn't and has become human somehow.
Frances has set up a false identity as a Department of Energy inspector (fucking how?) responsible for checking on storage facilities of nuclear waste, getting her access to radiation when she needs it. Most site managers assume their innate dislike for her is because she's a self-important bureaucrat with too much power, rather than because she's magically causing them to hate her with her very nature. Unlike most Prometheans, she has official access to the premises, which makes it easier for her to hang out there. If that fails, she is unafraid to kill her way out of a facility, however. And, y'know, everyone around her fucking dies. She tends to sell this as accidents happening with the waste storage. Before it became clear to her that humans could never use radioactive power safely, she was a vocal environmentalist who fought to end nuclear research and weapons proliferation. She believed in it enough to kill for the cause, and to this day, the FBI has mugshots of her. Accurate ones, because Frances doesn't age...which may be why the government doesn't usually take sightings seriously, since they got those mugshots in the mid-60s. Frances also hides stashes of nuclear waste, stolen from labs, in sites around the country to help her travel and heal. She has left Pandoran guardians to watch over them, as she thinks of them as her private property. Occasionally, mortals discover these dumps or accidentally build things on top of them, which...well, causes a lot of radiation sickness when it happens.
Frances is, again, an Azoth 8 Zeka. She doesn't really excel at any stat except Presence and Wits, but is decent at all of them. She has a wide array of scientific and academic knowledge, along with being a decent shot and an excellent survivalist. She's also very persuasive and good at talking to people, not that I imagine she'd ever get much chance to use it. She's able to weaponize Disquiet and increase tensions, wield the nuclear Alembic, hurl acid, Wastelands and Pandoran control around, and is good at using Pyros to fuel her stats and can tap into social merits through it. Which would, again, be useful if she wasn't lethally radioactive. She's a poor fighter but that doesn't really...matter. Her Bestowment is Half-Life, which lets her survive far longer than a century. At the end of her alloted lifespan (whatever that happens to be in the GM's head), her Azoth gets halved and the interval starts over. If she dies, she can activate this to return to life in the middle of a Firestorm by halving her Azoth.
Azoth 6. So she's also Intensity 5 all the time.
Judith "Red" Gray was born because of the "cursed" Demon Core. It was present when the nuclear age began, as a softball-sized mass of plutonium and gallium meant to kill hundreds of thousands. World War II ended three days before it was scheduled for attack, and so it was set aside for experimentation. Days later, it fatally poisoned a scientist during a reactivity excursion, though it took him 25 days to die. Within a year, the core had killed again. It was scheduled for use in atmospheric testing - a series of tests that made far more fallout than was intended, incidentally - but its use was delayed due to repeated accidents leaving it too radioactive. The test was canceled. According to history, the Demon Core was melted down and used to make other cores, ending its short but deadly life. Many scientists at Los Alamos certainly wanted it gone, knowing that something was using it to kill, but parts of the government found its curse too alluring.
Red was born when the Core was implanted into her chest. When it first slammed home there, she awakened, and it has kept her going ever since. She was designed as a soldier for the American government, a soldier with no fear of radioactive battlefields and fission warheads. She was the prototype, created from a dozen or so bodies by a dozen or so scientists intending her to be a weapon. No other experiment succeeded, even as she watched the cores get dug out of their corpses. She listened to the scientists worry about project cancellation, and she realized they'd tear out the core from her chest if she didn't escape. Within a month, three scientists died by their own hand or by murder thanks to her manipulation of them. Others she poisoned with radiation in the air, water and walls. She tunneled her way out after the government wrote the place off and buried it to trap the radiation underground. When she first saw the sky, she understood jealousy for the first time. She felt the heat of the sun and knew she wanted to burn just as bright.
For the first few decades, Red struggled to find her path, dreaming of twin suns, thunder and burning heat cooking her through. She left Wastelands behind her wherever she went, stuck on the Refinement of Flux. She only briefly sought humanity, then rejected it again, over and over, thanks to feeling so much hate. Half a dozen radiological scares are her fault, thanks to her inability to control herself when surrounded by humans that hated her. She at last found the truth when she met another Promethean. Learning from that, she decided to not hate humans but study them in all their self-destructive nature. She watches humans make themselves inhuman, for seeing this is the only thing that has ever let her control the reactor that is her heart. It gives her hope that, perhaps, humanity isn't so different from her. While she is no longer Centimanus, she still suffers from her monofocus on hate and suffering. Still, she knows all too well what happens if she ignores the rumblings of the Demon Core - the migraines grow worse, the blood flows fast, and sooner or later she stops caring about the damage she causes. What else can she do?
Red has done her best to alter her own body to appear closer to her self-image, but some parts of the men used to make her remain in her broad shoulders and strong chin. She wears her dull red hair short, because her radioactivity tends to burn and split the ends of it. She claims her nickname is because of the hair she dyes red, but in truth it's because of the blood in her saliva, mucus and tears that reddens her teeth and eyes. When her disfigurements are visible, blood flows from her eyes, nose and mouth, and the normally seamless joins of her components stand out with burn lines. She dresses as best she can, favoring leather and studs, but she has to change them fairly often to keep the heat from making them tick. She is standoffish, only allowing others close when she hopes to feed their (or her) dangerous impulses or thinks she can get something from them. When she's interested in something, she becomes focused, attentive and overly forward. She likes to ask uncomfortable questions and is very perceptive. She's been around over 70 years and is quite hard to shock these days, having seen and caused the depths of depravity. She chain smokes despite 30 years of watching PSAs, largely because it makes her blood flow slightly less easily.
Red thinks she hides her habit of driving people to the brink of anger and pain so she can watch how they explode and see who they take it out on. Unfortunately for her, she's not as subtle as she thinks she is. There is a single FBI agent who's been around since J. Edgar Hoover who's been keeping a map. The map is marked with assaults, burglaries and murders that the man has connected together and next to each is a grainy photo of the same woman, moments before each event. It isn't possible - she hasn't changed much if at all since the 60s, after all. But it's a case, and he's a dogged, relentless investigator who isn't about to accept impossibility as an answer.
Once, in 1979, Red broke into Three Mile Island. She used the reactor and her fathers' notes to create a child. It was the worst decision she ever made, because it worked. She and her child let off terrible pulses of radiation whenever they were together, and she had no choice but to flee in order to avoid flooding the entire state with radiation. This, the game suggests, is the real cause of the Three Mile Island accident. Red tends to leave a trail of accidents, actually - tainted groundwater when she goes into hiding in parks to recover, for example. Once in a while she gets assaulted, and her blood gets on her attackers. And burns them, because it's radioactive. Once, she got assaulted so badly she left bloodspatter all over a bus station, which ended up killing her attacker hours later and sickening several of the cleanup crew during the investigation.
Red is fairly average for a Promethean, but very manipulative. She's surprisingly good at engineering and building stuff, as well as nuclear physics. She's a decent brawler and markswoman, but her real talent is socializing. She's good at reading people and talking them into things, either by persuasion or bullying, and she's an excellent liar. She's good at tempting people to give in to their impulses and desires, she can smell poison and disease, she can purge it from people or make it worse, she can hit people to knock them out with pain, she can confuse and misdirect people's thoughts and perceptions, she can make people feel guilty, unconfident or depressed to the point they can't spend Willpower, she can alter her physical appearance, terrify people with a hideous visage, blend with a crowd or even grow and shrink her own body and alter her gender expression. She can also mystically convince people to reveal their secrets to her out of guilt or make them broadcast their secrets to others. She even has a unique power, Game Theory, that lets her more easily convince people to do what she wants at the risk of possibly irradiating them. Except she's lethally radioactive at all times.
God, that errata to how Zeky radioactivity worked was the worst idea. But even a slightly saner Azoth/2 Intensity-level radiation as your 'natural' Zeky radiation gets pretty nuts - Frances, at Azoth 8, would still be unable to interact with anyone for more than maybe five to ten minutes before they started coughing up blood. Red would be better off, able to interact with people for a week or so before that started to happen, though.
Next time: The Pyros Devil
BY JOVEOriginal SA post Night Horrors: The Tormented
Part 24: BY JOVE
The Jovian is...weird. I don't recall him from Promethean 1e, but I also didn't pay a ton of attention to 1e's later books. The Jovian is an entity that encourages Prometheans to treat the Pilgrimage as something that isn't urgent. Humanity, it tells them, is not something lofty - it's just...something. You can settle for it. Azothic memory pushes you to it, but you don't have to obey instinct in all things, he says. You can resist! You can be something immortal, powerful and wise! Just avoid the path of least resistance - which is the Pilgrimage, isn't it. Not that the Jovian is telling the truth, of course. It lies a lot. Once it latches onto a throng or Promethean, it is an insidious and dangerous force. It doesn't want Prometheans to wholly abandon the Pilgrimage, and has no use for Centimani. Rather, it wants them to remain on the Pilgrimage indefinitely, never really progressing or achieving milestones. It wants the New Dawn to always be a lie, but a lie that is believed.
The Jovian is an ephemeral being, but it's no spirit or ghost. It can enter the Twilight state at will, but usually prefers the solidity of a body. It needs not eat, sleep nor any other biological function...except breathing. It appears to need to breathe, at least insofar as it has been killed before by drowning and smothering. Death rarely stops it very long, though. When its body dies, it vanishes for bit - anywhere from months to seconds. The length of time seems to have little to do with it healing and more with whether or not it feels like fucking with you still. It may reappear in the same form it was killed in or another. So...what is it? The game presents several potential explanations, but leaves the ultimtae nature of the Jovian up the GM, and indeed suggests that having an actual explanation of the Jovian may not even be helpful, unless the PCs are intended to destroy it permanently or learn the truth about it. If they're just escaping it or imprisoning it, what it is apparently doesn't matter.
Possibility 1: The Jovian is a qashmal that has somehow escaped its mission. Possibly it was a Lilithim meant to spread doubt or an Elpidos that became jealous of Prometheans and their ability to become human. Either way, it clearly has a great mastery of Pyros and understanding of the Promethean condition, and many things it can do are similar to qashmal powers. If this is true, it is unclear how it would have escaped its mission, though...unless it didn't. It's possible that its mission is, indeed, an isidious and decades- or centuries-long quest to push Prometheans off the Pilgrimage. If so, then why? There would after all be no clear reason for the Principle to want this, given it seems consistently to push Prometheans towards the New Dawn.
Possibility 2: The Jovian was a Promethean, once. There have been Lineages in the past that rose and fell, and no longer exist. It is possible that the Jovian was one of these, somehow detached from its physical body. Prometheans can't do that normally these days, but lost Lineages had unknown powers. If this is true, it means that the Jovian failed so amazingly badly at its Pilgrimage that it went past being Centimanus and somehow performed some kind of anti-Pilgrimage. This would have any number of metaphysical and philosophical ramifications for Prometheans, including the possibility that others could somehow follow it, or that Flux is not the only negative Refinement out there - the anti-Pilgrimage might have others. The Jovian might not even be a unique being, but a class of beings on this anti-Pilgrimage.
Possibility 3: The Jovian is actually a spirit of Disquiet. It would of necessity be an extremely powerful spirit, probably rank 6 or higher. However, its ability to easily enter Twilight is like a spirit's, its control over Disquiet and Wastelands is reminescent of Influence, and its obsessive, amoral focus on pulling Prometheans off the Pilgrimage is similar to the obsessive nature of spirits. If this is true, the Jovian must have a Bane and a Ban, and it could theoretically be permanently banished or destroyed by using them. The weaknesses of such a potent spirit would be very hard to learn and use, of course, but doing so would burn a throng's legacy into the Azothic memory forever.
Possibility 4: The Jovian is a lie in the Azothic memory. Prometheans often rely on Azothic memory to guide them, to give them a common language of the Pilgrimage and to have any kind of Promethean culture. They trust it, perhaps far more than they should - though the Extempore have no access to it. It is possible that the Jovian is a flaw or echo in the Azoth from an ancient time before Prometheans were fully formed. It might also just be a cancer of the Azoth, the result of centuries of frustration, doubt and hate flowing into the Azothic memory. If this is true, then any Torment only compounds the issue, as does every Promethean that gives up and becomes Centimanus or even, possibly, those who suffer doubts about the Pilgrimage. And yet, it is impossible to never do any of those things. Doubt and Torment are part of the Pilgrimage itself. Is the Jovian then unavoidable? Could the infection be purged somehow? Doing so would likely require deep study of the more complex Refinements, particularly Quicksilver, Lead, Silver and Cobalt, and might require the creation of specialized Athanors.
Possibility 5: The Jovian is an Abyssal entity. That is, a being of anti-existence and impossibility from the realm of the Abyss, from Mage. If so, it is a very powerful one, since it's...still around, but that's possible. The Jovian works to degrade Prometheans and turn the Pilgrimage into an endless treadmill, increasing the entropy of the world. If this is true, you probably want a Mage crossover, though it isn't required. If the Jovian is a Gulmoth, it has considerably more and bigger goals than just preventing Prometheans from becoming human. It wants to make the world more like the Abyss. What does that mean for Prometheans? Is their constant existence more Abyssal, more anti-existence, than a world in which they become human? Does this mean that their Pilgrimage is a natural and real place in the world for them?
Possibility 6: [/b]The Jovian is an angel of the God-Machine[/b]. The God-Machine is an ancient, ineffable existence. It has no specific interest in Prometheans, but its plans are labyrinthine and unknowable. The Jovian could easily be one of its angels, created for some specific purpose. Why would the Machine need Prometheans to stagnate on the Pilgrimage? It might not. The Jovian might target specific Prometheans, meaning that it's less about Prometheans as a whole losing ground on the Pilgrimage and more about these specific ones doing so. This likely would mean the goals of the Jovian are some hyper-specific butterfly effect, its mission a metaphysical Rube Goldberg device. If this is true, then it means the God-Machine is taking an interest in the Principle and Prometheans to a degree it has never done in the past. Of course, the God-Machine has a weird relationship with time to begin with, so retrocausal stuff is entirely possible, and it may actually need the Prometheans to do specific things in resistance to the Jovian, with its entire mission being to provoke them into that.
No matter what, the Jovian doesn't fight. It never attacks its targets or even threaten them. It serves as a tempter and nihilistic enabler. It tries to keep its targets focused on trivialities. It is perfectly willing to help a Promethean achieve some minor milestone if doing so takes the focus off a more important one. It also recognizes that many throngs tend to take turns - that is, they'll focus on one member at a time in achieving goals on the assumption that their own turn will come eventually. Thus, the Jovian tries to keep attention focused on whoever has made least progress, keeping everyone else from progressing and keeping this one Promethean focused on unimportant things. It hides its true goals as long as possible. It rarely pretends to be human or even Promethean, but is happy to let its targets assume it's a qashmal. It plays the stereotype - minor magic, cryptic advice and being friendly but aloof. It will answer questions about the Promethean condition, humans, Alembics, Refinements and so on, but always with the goal of keeping the Pilgrimage stagnant. It doesn't want Centimani and will steer them away from Flux or even help them defeat Centimani they can't avoid. It is happy, however, to help its targets get involved with other supernatural critters as much as possible. With a few rare exceptions, apparently, there's very rarely much progress on the Pilgrimage to be found hanging out purely with otherworldly beings.
What are the mechanics of the Jovian? It has no stats. It cannot be killed. Its mind cannot be changed, and it's immune to any magic the PCs use on it unless it wants to be affected. It is immune to...pretty much everything. It can change its form at will and can appear as a human or animal. Its body can be wounded, but doing so doesn't do anything useful. It knows everything accessible to the Azothic memory. It can also sense what milestones a Promethean needs toa achieve the New Dawn, though it rarely does anything helpful with this knowledge. Extempore, as a note, don't have access to Azothic memory, and it is possible that the Jovian cannot access info about their milestones if the GM wants. Or not. The Jovian does not wield Numina like most ephemeral beings do, as it has no stats. However, it can do things to PCs if it wants, and the book says to give the PCs a Beat (read: 1/5 of an XP) whenever it does because they can't resist it at all because it operates on fiat. It can increase Disquiet, worsen Wastelands, awaken Pandorans, turn Pandorans into sublimati, force Pandorans to form praecipati, make Elpis vision failures worse (so basically you hallucinate awful horrible bad thing memories), create Firestorms and force Prometheans to test for Torment. At will. It may, optionally, have a Ban or Bane. Or it might not. GM decides.
The Jovian cannot manipulate the Pyros or Vitriol inside a Promethean, at least, and cannot directly interfere with a Promethean fulfilling a milestone. Also, a Promethean attempting the generative act is a milestone,s o the Jovian can't do things like steal the materials involved, desecrate the body or start a Firestorm to interrupt it.
So how do you defeat the Pyros Devil and his lying ass? The book presents three possibilities:
1. You can't. All you can do is trap it in a Jovian Athanor, which you are going to have to create as normal and may need to enter Torment to complete. Once you have it, it sucks in and traps the Jovian and becomes a cursed item.
2. The New Dawn banishes the Jovian. If a Promethean achieves humanity in its presence, the Jovian melts away, perhaps forever, or perhaps banished from the world until the new human dies.
3. With the proper powers you might be able to trap the Jovian in the Azothic memory by forcing their way into its part of the memory, experiencing it and trapping it inside some of their own humours.
Also, enjoy this final bit of poor editing.
I don't really find the Jovian to be particularly useful or interesting, myself, but...well, it's interactable at least.