Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

First, no, I don't actually know what monster in this book is Scissorwolf McChestface up there. He's a weirdo. I think he might be a Geryo-infected werewolf? This book is all about the villains, monsters and weird, gross, body horror shit that likes to fight werewolves. And, typically, is able to survive doing so for at least a notable time period. The book is divided into six chapters, plus an appendix on playing the Pure, if you feel like being purity-obsessed (and often racist) assholes, anarchoprimitivist serial killers or insane spirit worshippers. (There are, in theory, more chill versions of the Pure Tribes. In theory. In practice, you rarely meet them outside of a group of them among the Ohio Amish or the Predator Kings of Australia.)

Chapter 1 covers the the groups of werewolves who are antagonists to most PC werewolves. Usually, those are the Pure Tribes - that'd be the Ivory Claws (the aforementioned usual racists), the Predator Kings (the anarchoprimitivists) and the Fire-Touched (the spirit worshippers). However, it also covers the Bale Hounds (evil Satanist werewolves) and weird shit that happens to Ghost Wolves (werewolves that refuse to join a tribe and thus forgo the spiritual protection of a tribal totem spirit).

Chapter 2 covers spirits that are likely to cause you problems. These range from just 'assholes that like to possess and mutate people' to 'extremely dangerous spirits by nature' to the literal space aliens that are void spirits, the spirits of the darkness beyond Earth, which appear to exist to consume all light and all life. Because they're literally spirits of a nigh-infinite airless void.

Chapter 3 is about the Hosts. The Hosts are the fragments of ancient magical spirit-gods that were destroyed in prehistory. These fragments largely want to recombine with each other to reform themselves into supergods. They also like to do so by physically hollowing out human beings and wearing them as a kind of flesh Voltron while they find others of their kind to merge with and pursue the obsessive agendas their ancient spirit-god nature compels them to. The core two are the Rat Hosts (Beshilu) that want to gnaw apart the walls between the physical and spiritual, and the Spider Hosts (Azlu) that want to make them completely, totally unbreachable. This book introduces a whole new bunch of Hosts.

Chapter 4 is about humans who can and do form an actual threat to werewolves, from weird extragovernmental agents that kidnap werewolves and have accidentally found a way to breach the spirit dimension to werewolf cultists that worship werewolves and have discovered ways to subtly influence and control them to people who make pacts with spirits for power.

Chapter 5 is the Geryo, who are weird ancient beings that are totally new to the line, and the idigam, the ancient primordial change-spirits that the progenitor of werewolves bound and trapped on the moon because even he was unable to find a good way to permanently kill them.

Chapter 6 is a bunch of GM advice for werewolf.

Next time: Purity


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

The Pure Tribes descend from the werewolves (and Firstborn wolf spirits) who did not take part in the murder of Wolf/Urfarah. They blame Luna/Moon for convincing the Forsaken to destroy their father/mother/genderless wolfy progenitor, and the modern Forsaken they claim are Luna's slaves, mewling and lost without the mad teachings of their awful god. All three Pure tribes reject Luna entirely - an active rejection, more than just refusing to worship her. They have developed rites that are fueled by their hatred of the moon spirit in ways that resonate with Wolf's blood. Most notably and importantly, they have developed a rite that allows them to strip away the brands of Auspice, which they say marks Luna's enslavement of the Forsaken. They tear out their own spiritual scars and those of their recruits, removing her gifts and markings. Few werewolves are taken in by the Pure before Moon marks them, after all, claiming them against their will. The Pure cannot wait to remove these silver chains, and they know Luna will not give them freedom easily. How each tribe burns out the Auspice is different, but all of them are agonizingly painful and require great dedication and sacrifice. Free of auspice, their tribe becomes central to their life, more than it is for the Forsaken tribes.

For the Forsaken, tribe is about philosophy and prey. It's something you have in common with other wolves of the same tribe, but it can easily be debated and taken in different ways. For the Pure, this is weakness - proof that the Forsaken do not take the duties and philosophy of Wolf seriously. For them, tribe is purpose, and each member of a tribe is a living avatar of their tribal totem's cause. Each tribe swears an oath to their Firstborn, obeying its ban as the Forsaken do theirs, but their oaths are different.

The Fire-Touched swear: Geneb Aldh' Nunglu. Let no falsehood lie unchallenged. Faith demands honesty among the tribe, and the concept of deceit angers the Fire-Touched and their patron, Rabid Wolf.
The Ivory Claws swear: Nu-ghima Zigh'esh. This has no direct translation into human language, but focuses on a concept of purity that is easily understood in the First Tongue of spirits. Most modern Ivory Claws interpret this oath to mean refusing to accept any impure werewolf as family, but others say it forbids acceptance of any impurity or any willingness to accept less than the highest quality in one's possessions and labor. Silver Wolf, the tribal patron, appears satisfied as long as each Ivory Claw is true and faithful to their understanding of the oath's meaning and refuses to accept anything less from themself, whether that means rejecting other, less pure werewolves or demanding the best from themselves (and everyone they deal with).
The Predator Kings swear: Sehe Nu Lu'u Thim. Honor nothing of human craft. Dire Wolf, the Firstborn patron of the tribe, has decreed that all humans are prey, and the only honor prey receives is death at the fangs of the predator. That Wolf saw humanity as anything but food never sat well with Dire Wolf, and while killing and eating all of humanity would imbalance the tribe spiritually, defiling or destroying human-made things does not.
The Pure also have their own equivalent of the Oath of the Moon that is sworn to the leaders of the spirit courts they work with. Specifics of these oaths vary by region and totem spirit, but the core tenets are broadly similar to those the Forsaken swear, and violating these oaths, which they typically known as the Oath of Urfarah, is just as big a problem for them as it is for the Forsaken.

Because they lack an auspice, the Pure cannot call on the Hunter's Aspect as the Forsaken do. They are not weaker for that, though. Carving out the moon-brands leaves a void, but the first Pure saw this as a way to strengthen themselves, using their tribal oaths to grow closer to the Firstborn and taking on a fraction of their spiritual essence to fill in the gaps left by burning out Moon's gifts. Thus, when they hunt, they hunt not as symbols of a moon phase but as avatars of their wolf-gods. This can take on many different facets, for as Luna is typically represented by five phases, so too do the Firstborn have many aspects. The game offers a few examples for the three tribes, but leaves room for the GM to make up different Hunter's Aspects for the Pure if they want.

Rabid Wolf's children either hunt with the Fanatical or the Frenzied aspect. A Fanatical hunter reinforces in the prey their place in the natural cycle, with the werewolf predator being merely the world's agent in that cycle. Their prey were born to die in this moment, and all resistance is meaningless. Until wounded, these targets cannot spend Willpower to directly harm their hunters. Frenzied hunters bring madness onto the world, channeling the fury of Rabid Wolf. Their prey fight or run with total abandon, draining their endurance quickly. They know they must throw out everything they have, not realizing that their hunters wait for them to exhaust themselves. Until wounded, they must spend Willpower on every action if possible.

Silver Wolf's children either hunt with the Agonized or the Insidious aspect. An Agonized hunter spreads pain in the world by their presence. The prey's breath burns to draw in, and every touch is like fire. Sound and light are overwhelming to the senses, and rest is impossible. The coming of the hunter becomes welcomed as an end to suffering. This causes a penalty to all rolls, cumulative with other penalties, until actually wounded. An Insidious hunter senses vulnerability. No matter where the prey goes, they are there. There is nowhere safe, no true ally, for the reach of Silver Wolf is infinite. This makes it easier to get exceptional success on tracking, finding or noticing the victim until they get wounded.

Dire Wolf's children embody the hunt with either the Implacable or Primal spects. An Implacable hunter is unstoppable. They never stop coming, nothing can harm them and nothing can keep them away. The prey is already dead, and they know it. This causes a penalty to all direct actions against the hunter until wounded. A Primal hunter brings the world back to simplicity. The prey has no time for complex thought or planning - just action. They operate by instinct, unaware that the hunter is much better at that game. This gives a penalty to all social and mental rolls except Intimidation until wounded.

Besides how they hunt, there's also who. Each tribe, Forsaken or Pure, has a special rpey they favor. Where the Forsaken specialize in the prey they consider most worthy or dangerous, however, the Pure hunt those they hate most. Each says that their chosen prey ended the perfection that was Pangaea, and only by destroying such awful foes can paradise be reclaimed. The Fire-Touched name as prey all who dishonor and direspect the Shadow. Anyone that harms or commands a spirit without provocation is valid as sacred prey, as is anyone that attempts to seal off the Shadow, with one exception: disrespect towards Luna and her servants is just fine. The Ivory Claws name as prey all who dishonor their lineage. Breaking family traditions and unreasonably defying family elders counts - but so do parents who weaken their blood by preventing their children from choosing strong mates or who consign their children to failure. All Forsaken always count, as they have all dishonored their ancestor, Wolf. The Predator Kings name as prey all who fail to honor the hunt. This includes any human who does not engage in hunting at least once per season, as well as any that try to interfere with or end hunting. Also included are any werewolves that end a Sacred Hunt without taking down their prey. Hunting as defined by the Predator Kings doesn't have to be for food, but does have to be for a purpose, such as teaching or gaining skill or culling an overgrown population. Hunting for sport is despicable.

Forsaken and Pure share access to Gifts, with the exception of Moon Gifts which are Forsaken-only. Each Pure tribe favors certain Gifts, as the Forsaken tribes do, and the game introduces a handful of new Gifts here - the Gifts of Agony, Blood, Disease, Fervor, and Hunger. Forsaken can and do still learn these, but they are more common amongst the Pure. (The Fire-Touched favor Disease and Fervor, plus the core gifts of Insight and Inspiration. Ivory Claws favor Agony and Blood, plus the core gifts of Dominance and Warding. Predator Kings favor Hunger, plus the core gifts of Nature, Rage and Strength.)

Facets of the Gift of Agony largely focus on the manipulation of pain and weakness - causing pain in others, transferring your own pain to them, and gaining strength from or resisting pain in various ways.
Facets of the Gift of Blood focus on the manipulation of literal blood. You can do stuff like the Shining bleeding walls scene to terrify people and trip them up on blood, purge blood of toxins or drugs (including forcing them onto people that drink your blood), drink someone's blood (or that of their blood kin) to use magic on them over a distance, draw blood out of someone's wounds to hurt them, or speed healing.
Facets of the Gift of Disease let you manipulate disease, ranging from having a toxic bite or poison breath to making people react with fear and revulsion due to the spiritual weight of disease to resisting diseases to growing them in your own body.
Facets of the Gift of Fervor let you manipulate faith and belief, ranging from making people uncertain and easily swayed or fanatically loyal to their in-group to transferring Willpower to friends to just straight up having a bigger Willpower pool (which is probably a bad design choice) to telepathically dropping a mission into someone's brain as a religious vision.
Facets of the Gift of Hunger let you manipulate hunger and consumption, ranging from eating someone's flesh to lock them off from social or mystic abilities (or stop investigations of a corpse you eat part of), cursing a massive area with famine (including draining the MP pools of all supernaturals nearby), cause a person or object to need to consume much more than normal to do things (such as making a gun use multiple bullets per shot or a person need massive amounts of food), get extra Essence from eating wolves, humans or spirits, or letting you split your jaw open into a giant grabby maw that can grapple at range.

The Pure also get some unique powers - the Fire-Touched get a bunch of special rites that let them warp and control the Shadow and spiritual power sources, the Ivory Claws can take merits that basically just improve their base werewolf capabilities like size, healing or rank (or weaken the danger of silver), and the Predator Kings can take merits that draw on the nature of Pangaea and hunting to improve their abilities while performing the Sacred Hunt, like controlling the environment, empowering spirits by sacrificing prey or be better at spirit powers while hunting.

Next time: The Kingmaker, the Party Animal, the Visionary of Flesh and Luna's Bane

A Fiery Crown

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
A Fiery Crown

Those are probably ribs? I think they're ribs.

Cyrus Silver-Scarred, the Kingmaker, is a Fire-Touched prophet that's well over a century old. Since the turn of the century or so, he's been traveling America in search of Werewolf Jesus, without his own territory and without his own pack, at the will of the greatest totems of the Pure. He enters the lands of Pure packs like a blazing comet, screaming the gospel of fury and blood. He's an old man who energizes and destroys the werewolf societies around him, always seeking someone worthy of his crown - a Pure wolf of immaculate zeal, fiery heart and diamond-hard soul. The crown is literal, and he was never meant to have it, a fact that he can never forget and which leaves him bitter. The Crown of Shadow is a working of the Pure Firstborn and their allies, appearing as a flickering halo of spiritual fire and shadow in Twilight (read: spirit vision) when its power is tapped. Wherever he goes, he demands the Pure prove themselves to him in the hopes that one will be Werewolf Jesus, chosen by the totem spirits to lead the Pure in a terrible crusade. He can never join a pack thanks to the sheer power of the Crown, and he couldn't stop his hunt now even if the totems hadn't cursed him with terrible punishments if he ever did. Seeking out the Werewolf Messiah is his entire existence.

So, what does the Crown do? For Cyrus, its full power is inaccessible. He knows at a touch if a Pure is worthy of it, though, and it raises his effective spirit rank. It lets him mix his blood with that of another werewolf to temporarily count as a member of their pack for purposes of a single rite he leads. Last, he gets the rote quality on all rolls to resist the powers of any spirit whatsoever, making him essentially impossible for them to harm or control, thanks to the investiture of power from the Pure spirits. It is entirely unclear what the Crown would do in the hands of its actual intended wielder, but whatever it is, it'd be huge. The GM can make up whatever they want, but examples include bonding all werewolves in a region together, give total authority over all spirits or begin an apotheosis process to turn the bearer into a totem spirit of great power. Cyrus may be old and powerful, but he's not the chosen one, and neither is any other elder among the Pure - he's tested all of them, and the totems find them wanting. Their time is spent, and their potential has been reached. Werewolf Jesus is going to be a young visionary, strong enough to bear the power of the Crown.

To find Werewolf Jesus, Cyrus shows up without warning and shouts at the local Pure, demanding they listen. While a few Pure packs have ignored or mocked him, they soon regretted it - his savage power is enough to beat most of them in a fight, and more importantly, their own totems tend to tell them to shut up and listen to the crazed old man, for their spiritual masters set him to his task. Most Pure are eager to gain his favor anyway, because Cyrus Silver-Scarred is a legend among them, and they want to become even greater. Everyone wants to be Werewolf Jesus. Even the elders know that earning his eye may earn them favor with the Pure totems. Thus, his mere presence tends to send the Pure into overdrive as they try to prove their worth to him and their spiritual patrons. He encourages this frenzied competition, whipping the Pure into a fury. He is unsatisfied with words - they must act. He breaks the status quo with ordeals and trials. Where the Pure are peaceful, he demands Forsaken scalps. Where their elders choke the ambitions of the young in stratified hierarchies, he leads the mob of youths in outrage and demands ordeals from the placid elders with the threat of removing their totemic support. Where the Pure have had their morale ground down by endless war, he empowers the cunning and challenges them to schemes that can turn it all upside down.

This is what makes Cyrus so dangerous to the Forsaken. Monster of personal combat he may be, but a pack could handle that. The problem is that he improves the Pure. He makes them think, adapt and seek new and unpredictable strategies. He shakes everything up and spreads a messianic frenzy among them that drives them to atrocity and extremes of heroic action. And he does this all without caring if they die. Cyrus doesn't give the slightest shit about Pure lives or their long-term strategy. All he wants is a pressure cooker of fury to forge the Pure into either heroes or corpses, and either is an acceptable outcome. If they die, they weren't worthy. One day, he will find his diamond in the ashes, and any cost is worth that. If there's no one to fight, he'll happily set the Pure against themselves.

Cyrus is a scarred, ancient figure, his body covered in the marks of old battles - particularly those left by his sister's silver bullets. She was a Wolf-Blood and a Hunter, and while he killed her, it wasn't without cost. Despite being over 150 years old, though, he's still got the vigor and strength of his prime...though he complains a lot about aches and pains and creaky bones. His teeth are yellowed, his body blistered, and as a wolf he is a huge, red-furred thing with snaggleteeth. He spends very little time in his less human forms, though, preferring humanity and dressing as a biker. (Sure, he's old, but he's more at home with the Hell's Angels than he is with history.) He is a harsh and stern man, prone to brutal violence when disrespected. He doesn't appreciate when the spirits do his disciplining for him - he feels it robs him of the agency to do it himself. They demand he avoid fighting where possible so that the other Pure can prove themselves, and he chafes against that, too, as he actually really likes fighting. He is a potent ritemaster, having undertaken may vile blasphemies to claw dark secrets from the spirit world.

During his battles against his sister's cell in 1899, Cyrus lost his pack to her bullets. The spiritual weight of the Crown has prevented him from being able to form pack bonds ever since, and he's far too proud and bitter to see anyone as a peer anyway. Rumors claim that he murdered his own pack and family to earn the right to carry the Crown, though in truth that was mostly his sister and him feuding. Other rumors say he carries on the legacy of its first bearer, the Wolf-Queen of Texas. She was a Fire-Touched warlord in the 1800s who led a grand alliance of Pure across Texas and Oklahoma. Legend among the Pure was that she defeated all the Forsaken packs she found and stapled the bodies of dying Lunes to the sky itself. Cyrus certainly rose to prominence after her death, but it's entirely unclear if she ever bore the Crown. Oh, and about his sister? She left a legacy. In a hospital somewhere in the Midwest, an ancient woman clings to life, aided by the best medical machines and a whole lot of spite. Her family has been stockpiling silver weapons and gathering allies among Hunter cells for a long time, laying out the groundwork for the old woman's last battle. Soon, she will give her final order: finish the job her grandmother begin in 1899. Kill her great-uncle, Cyrus, and destroy the sinful crown he bears - a mark of the devil his own self.

Cyrus is exceptionally powerful in personal combat, if you can manage to get the spirits to let him fight. He's exceptionally strong and has a ton of willpower, and he knows pretty much every rite that isn't banned to him by tribe. He has the spiritual ban that he must always challenge any werewolf he first meets to prove themself, and can never accept their worth by reputation.

The whole tattoo markings thing is a werewolf aesthetic.

Garima Khatri, the Party Animal, is a young Predator King. She stalks nightclubs, but it is the heartbeat that she moves to, not the backbeat. He is always followed around by decadent rich assholes like herself - high on blood-stained coke. She brings them savagery and blood as a thrill, letting them hunt or be hunted, singing the praises of Dire Wolf where it would least be suspected. Garima was born to wealth and lots of it. She's an heiress and has never known anything but luxury, and yet none of it could fill the yawning void that existed within her, leaving her unfulfilled no matter how much excess she partook in. That all changed with her on the night she first discovered her true werewolf nature - a night of blood and carnage, a night she exalted in, for it was the first time she truly felt alive. She had found what was missing: hunting and killing. She sees her former friends and human "peers" as in dire need of the glorious truth of the hunt. She knows how empty their lives feel, how their decadence is just a way to drown themselves and distract from civilization. And so, Garima Khatri has become a serial killer for her cause.

Her cause is simple: the rich, the young and the dissolute are slaves to law and empty morality. Garima is a sadistic monster who knows that they must assume their true roles, as nature intended: predator and prey, alive imn the hunt and dead in a pool of blood. It is her purpose in life to tear away the false masks of civilization and show them what they could be. She may frame it as a holy cause, but her work is pretty dang debasing. She pushes people to give in to their worst instincts, to indulge in their basest desires and to hunt their peers. She tortures and terrifies, and she calls it a holy gift. The pain and fear and death - these are her sacraments, and they give human life more worth and feeling than, she says, could ever be found in a hollow life of wealth and civilization.

Garima stalks the parties and nightclubs using her family's money and connections, allowing her to hunt prey far out of reach of most of her anarchoprimitivist tribe. She uses her persuasive talents and her mystic Gifts to promise the fulfillment of dark desire, seeking out the idle rich looking for a greater high and a bigger thrill. She pushes her "acolytes" to greater transgressions and the breaking of civilized boundaries, framing morality and law as chains placed on the strong by the weak. She encourages base overindulgence, giving the chances to partake in brutality, violence and carnality. She operates out of exclusive clubs, where the law cannot reach, overseeing torture of the homeless, bloodstained orgies and drug binges. This degradation, she preaches, is natural...and that's a deliberate lie. What she is really doing is, yes, luring humans to give in to their instincts as predator and prey - but she is also providing a hunting ground for the Predator Kings. Even the most zealous of her human followers is, ultimately, her prey. When she hunts, she chooses from among the rich and famous, playing a sick, seductive game with her chosen prey before revealing her true nature. She savors the terror, drawing out the hunt as long as possible as she tells her victims that hey, at least they'll die with their heart pounding. She knows she's making their last hours really mean something - a sacred role as prey in the truest of sacraments, a life of self-deceit forever shattered.

In her human form, Garima is a young Indian woman of intense confidence. She wears designer clothes and expensive jewelry, using it to hide the many scars she is accumulating. She has a knack for skinning her victims and wearing their forms, impersonating them so that she never gets into too much trouble herself. This is extremely useful to her, because as a wealthy jetsetter, she's appeared on magazine covers before, and sometimes she needs to be someone else. In her wolf form, she is a glossy-furred black beast with perfect teeth and a vicious bite. She loves to isolate and torment her prey sadistically, seeing their fear and sense of isolation while surrounded by other people as the greatest symptom of civilization's weakness, as the herd loses its own natural defenses. She is no lone wolf, and has gathered a rather unlikely Predator King pack to herself, serving as its face and philosophical center while they provide the support she needs to actually orchestrate her festivals of depravity and choose her prey.

For a werewolf, Garima Khatri is incredibly high-profile in the human world - she shows up at parties and red carpet events, and that can make her life harder. Sometimes, she heads to Thailand for "rehab" in the form of visiting the local Predator King elders there for spiritual guidance. She also has a Wolf-Blooded lover whom she attempts to keep at some length from her work, as she feels very protective of him and doesn't want him caught up in the dangers of her crusade. She spends a lot of money on funding drug labs in search of new designer concoctions, which she then uses her pack's criminal connections to put on the street, whether they're party drugs or military stimulants. The goal here? Get people fucked up, because she thinks it's funny to watch someone lose their shit entirely and try to bite someone else's face off at a party. She's recently got ahold of a strange sort of honey-like nectar that seems addictive, and she's trying to find out where it comes from. One of her biggest problems, though, is her own tribe. Garima violates the tribal oath constantly, a necessity of her lifestyle. She has convinced some powerful elders to protect her politically from the fallout of this, on the basis that it's a price worth paying to bring Dire Wolf's revelation to the cities. She does what she can to mitigate her sin, regularly burning her wardrobe as offerings to the tribal totem and self-mortifying out of guilt and penance, but even so, many Predator Kings do not appreciate her actions. Her continued influence is entirely dependent on support from tribal elders.

Garima's a pretty midrange foe. She's no pushover, but she's not an elder and her main power (besides, y'know, werewolf fighting abilities) is her social connections and extreme wealth.

Next time: The Visionary of Flesh, Luna's Bane.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

Science genius.

Tejumola Tide-Breaker is the Visionary of Flesh. When she first Changed, it was a very painful experience. Most werewolves feel nothing negative about transforming - it is freeing, even fun. For Tejumola, it was torture. Her skin sloughed off, her bones broke and re-broke and regenerated. She felt terrible hatred for the distant moon that had "gifted" this to her, for what loving mother could do this to her child? This painful experience is a rare phenomenon among werewolves, a fault in their transformative ability that they typically overcome in time. While the Forsaken found her first, Tejumola was quick to abandon them for the Pure, remembering the torments Luna's gift put her through. That was 20 years ago. Now, the Tide-Breaker is a changed woman. She has overcome the old pains of transformation, becoming one of the greatest researchers and lorekeepers of the Ivory Claws. She believes the pain of her First Change was an ordeal sent to her by Silver Wolf, to make her more like him and his own pain. The pain of the Ivory Claw initiation rites was nothing compared to it, and that brought her access to their labs, both mystic and scientific. The tribe as a whole practically reveres the Tide-Breaker, for she has found the truth of many of Moon's mysteries, laying bare the flaws of the Traitor Goddess. She has discovered the secrets of Wolf's flesh, and her groundbreaking research has led the Ivory Claws much closer to his perfection. It has also created new weapons for use against the Forsaken by unlocking the power of the Geryo.

Tejumola's experience during the First Change was not unique to her, and indeed, modern werewolf scientists have discovered why it happens. (Tejumola actually helped do the research.) These painful First Changes and the insanely potent regenerative capacity that accompanies them, happen when the First Change occurs at the same moment as a moon-quake. Somehow, the physical shock to the moon is reflected through the spirit Luna, connecting the Warden Moon's wounds to those of the new werewolf for a tiny moment. Tejumola has, of course, torn free from Luna's chains, but learning this has led her to a deep curiosity about the moon's mysteries, largely driven by her spite towards Luna. She has recorded a number of variations in the Change linked to unusual lunar alignments and gravitational or tidal events and even matched her observations of Lune manifestation against scientific records of cloud cover and moonlight penetration. She wields both mystic lore and science as tools in her experimentation and has become equally potent with genetic editing and blood sorcery. This is what earned her the name Tide-Breaker, as the Ivory Claws have declared her to have more influence over the Changes she studies than the power of the Moon itself.

Tejumola finds the Geryo fascinating, but researching these twisted ancients is not easy. Containment facilities for them require peerless occult engineering to prevent them from escaping via the Gauntlet (read: entering the spirit world) or just warping reality around themselves, and their violently infectious nature has proven too much even for the Tide-Breaker to risk dealing with. She can't do much to further the Ivory Claw cause if she gets turned into a flesh-warped monstrosity, after all. Her big breakthrough came in 2009, and it's shot her way up in tribal esteem. In 2009, NASA fired a kinetic impact device into the moon. (This is real, btw.) Werewolves across the globe were terrified that it'd do something awful, but nothing appeared to happen - even the First Changes in the moment of impact weren't really any more traumatic than usual. This is because the Tide-Breaker's lunar blasphemies harnessed all of it. The tribe's elders backed her play in the months leading up to the impact, allowing her to set up in their highest security facility in Nigeria. There, she used her occult and scientific skills in a series of experiments that broke the minds of many aides and consumed massive amounts of resources. In the exact moment of impact, it all paid off. Tejumola was able to artificially prevent the First Change in a number of young werewolves, turning them into foci for the impact wound. As it struck, the young werewolves were transformed into vessels of Luna's essence by forcibly induced First Change. They screamed and thrashed with the blood of a goddess, the warping madness of Moon crushing their minds and turning them into monsters of uncontrolled change.

Now, Tejumola has a nest of artificial Geryo, held in place by a set of pipes that pump them full of chemicals and wires that flood their brains with electricity and Essence. Their bodies twist and mutate constantly, trapped between transformations or growing extra limbs or heads or forming exoskeletons of bone and fury. These are the proof of the Tide-Breaker's genius - Geryo without any risk of infection or contagion, weapons to be wielded by the Ivory Claws against their foes. She has spent years tinkering with these creatures, programming them to obey, or at least restraining their rage enough to make them useful. However, they are merely the first stage of her plan. She and her followers are now looking for power sources across the world that could be used to further her research and create new weapons.

Tejumola is a thin Nigerian woman who always seems somewhat sickly. She has a number of terrible scars from her First Change and early days, when all of her transformations involved ruptured flesh. Even now, it takes her a few painful moments more than most werewolves to change shape. In wolf form, she is lean, wiry and always seems to look hungry. Her cold demeanor and clinical approach to things is legend among the Ivory Claws, and even when dealing with screaming, thrashing flesh monsters, she remains calmly, creepily analytical. Every encounter is a new chance to expand her knowledge, and she sees even her fellow werewolves more as things than people. Despite her fame being for knowledge alone, she is a brutally efficient fighter who is more than happy to head into combat personally if it means securing a test subject or gaining information. She prefers - and, in fact, needs - to fight with a weapon most of the time, which is unusual for a werewolf. She has a collection of fetish weaponry (that's fetish as in 'there's a magic spirit bound in this' not 'someone is jacking off') to fight with, and if she finds her foe interesting she likes to take her time with them, as long as it's practical and she feels in control of the situation. In these cases, she fights to wound the foe in different ways to test their reactions, reflexes and abilities. When she loses her cool, her fury is brief but entirely uncontrolled uncontrolled until she bottles it back up again and pretends it never happened.

Tejumola's labs are rumored to be full of horrific, blood-spattered monsters and vivisected werewolves. This is true. She conducts absolutely horrific, unethical experiments on humans, Claimed and werewolves alike, with a special interest in those whose First Changes were unusual or went wrong somehow. She actively collects new "specimens," and is happy to set Ivory Claw blood-hunters on the trail of anything that catches her interest, including Wolf-Bloods she thinks will undergo unusual Changes due to some detail or other she's mapped in their ancestry via the tribe's lineage records and genetic mapping. She is also one of the world's leading experts on Pangaean history, as she and her agents have spent years scouring the globe for artifacts, relics and ancient specimens. She has collected, among other things, pieces of half-eaten meat from unnaturally immense mummified crocodiles in Egypt, gibbering fragments of an ancient shard of the moon that was torn away in some ancient impact, and piece of crystal that shines into some other place, revealing a bright and insane-looking eye staring out of it. Despite her best efforts, however, she has proven unable to fully remove Luna's influence over her. Her Auspice has been torn away, but their shared bond of pain remains, and the Lunes (read: minor moon spirits) still whisper to her sometimes. She does her best to block it out, to the point that she occasionally claws out her own eardrums to get some silence before they heal again.

Tejumola is not a bad fighter, but it's not her real focus. She is a genius, though, with a wide arroy of Gifts and extensive combat training and stat buffs from merits rather than raw dots. Overall, the fact that she tends to have monster backup is probably her big combat trick, however. She is powerful enough to have a ban: she must use a weapon when entering combat and can't switch to her fangs or claws until she draws blood with it or fails to do so on three attacks, whichever comes first.

This is my fursona, Murderface.

Mimi Moon-Shunned is Luna's Bane, at least according to her. According to her, her First Change was an orgy of violence and blood. She transformed under the full moon, screaming defiance at Luna and killing everyone she met, her refusal so potent that Luna could not even touch her, and she was still without Auspice when she was discovered by the Pure. All of this except that last bit is not true, though Pure audiences tend to love hearing the story anyway, and Mimi's heard enough First Change stories herself to make up a convincingly gruesome tale. In truth, she can't actually remember her First Change because of how uneventful it was. The red mist did not descend. She did not awaken surrounded by gore. She did not repress the horror of killing her friends and family. It was just really boring. She was a kid and wasn't a werewolf, and then she was a werewolf. No sickness, no Lune whispers, no bloodthirst. No pull of the moon. She was just a werewolf. Shortly after, her clumsy efforts to understand werewolfiness drew the Pure to her, and it was her lack of Auspice marks that amazed them. The Fire-Touched declared it a holy sign, the Ivory Claws a symbol of Silver Wolf's purity. Both wanted her to join them. She resisted, not because she felt some desire to go tribeless, but because the oaths felt...not right. She knew in her blood that she was a werewolf, but even among the Pure she felt no kinship. She chose not to join a tribe, despite being Pure, and explained to her pack that she clearly had a unique destiny to walk alone, not with any one tribe. They doubted her, but they decided to give her time to find her place.

As she worked with them, Mimi found her place and purpose. When they scouted out a nearby Forsaken territory, she saw a Lune overseeing some rites. She felt an innate fury, charging into the middle of the rite before anyone could stop her. When her rage ended, three of her pack and all of the Forsaken were dead. The survivors watched her with awe as she tore apart the remnants of a once-potent Ralunim with her claws and her flesh burned red with Renown markings. (The magic tattoos that make werewolves more powerful, normally given by spirits as gifts for true stories of great personal valor.) Tales of her fury spread, as well as tales of the Lune's utter confusion and helplessness against her. Since then, she has become famouas the Moon-Shunned, Luna's Bane. Dozens of crazy, fervent Pure now follow her in a large pack dedicated to hunting Lunes. They claim no physical territory, instead moving constantly in their endless quest. Each of them would gladly die for Mimi, who leads them to victory after victory.

Mimi comes off as distant and aloof from other Pure. She's not rude or uninterested - she just, on an instinctual level, doesn't feel like kin. Even among her pack, it is clear that the dynamics of werewolf instinct do not include her. Despite this, she craves connection and spends a lot of time trying to make friends outside her pack. When not hunting, she can be found at clubs, cafes and other popular hangouts to mingle with humans. While she's a werewolf, she feels much more at home among people who don't have expectations of her for being one. She also uses her interactions with people to scout places out and find traces of her prey. She's a tall, thin woman - taller than most men she's met - and has deep olive skin. Her skin seems to get darker when the moon rises, regardless of time or light level, and her eyes become inky black. She likes pop culture and fashions associated with it, typically wearing t-shirts and jeans everywhere. She easily fits into any crowd, quickly picking up local mannerisms. Her warform is not the bulky monster that most werewolves become but rather a lithe, sinuous one, tall and fragile-looking compared to her pack, though she is no less tough than any other werewolf. In all forms, her hair is a very dark black. When she kills a Lune or a Lune dies in her presence, blood-red Renown brands shine and weep across her form.

So, what is Mimi? Well, Luna's still a spirit, you understand. She is a god of immense potence, possibly the source of Father Wolf and possibly not. Even Luna has forgotten, that far back. She inflicted terrible scars on the world, cementing her rules of dominance and influence into it. The tides are hers, the night is hers. She can enter the day hours if she wants, and is permitted to occasionally obscure even Helios himself, which he can do nothing about. The price of all this is the Moon-Shunned. They are her Banes, and they have always existed - her children, who will kill her. She cannot see or touch them. She cannot stop them. They are her reminder that she is fallible and vulnerable, yet she can never know them. Historically, there have never been many Moon-Shunned at any given time, and they appear randomly across the world, so they've never been organized before. Mimi thinks she's unique, the only one like her. She is not. In the modern age of social media and interconnectedness, word is spreading. Two other Moon-Shunned have heard about Mimi's actions and have independently reached out to her via the Internet, trying to tentatively confirm her kinship to them. Mimi's cautious, understandably so, but the possibility of connecting with werewolves like herself stirs her deepest instincts. If they can find each other and unite to slay Luna, the world might change forever - especially because she and her servants can never see the Moon-Shunned. At all.

Lunes in the area where Mimi is active tend to stop showing up to help out werewolves. Every dead Lune is one less spirit to help them and judge their deeds, but the thing is, all Lunes are worried now. They know their siblings are vanishing and they can't see why. They know werewolves call them, and then sometimes the Lunes don't come back, and there's no reason. They just...vanish, because the Lunes can't see Mimi. While they are unable to forsake their duties to Luna, the Lunes have never been ordered to pay attention to werewolves that call them from afar. Some now, in areas where Mimi's been active for a while, they're just...ignoring the calls. Strange signs and prophecies are appearing - new moons when they shouldn't happen, for example. Luna is afraid, and that's making the Forsaken very worried.

Mimi's pretty average, as werewolf combatants go. She's a good fighter, but she's not really that much better than any given PC. She's powerful, but it's on a normal level of 'this is just a decently powerful mid-range werewolf.' She's certainly no elder monstrosity. Rather, it is her nature as Moon-Shunned that is the threat. Moon-Shunned are given rules, and they work like this:
1. Moon-Shunned have no Auspice. They may never gain Moon Gifts and cannot access the Hunter's Aspect. Their death rage triggers cannot be linked to the moon in anyway.
2. Moon-Shunned do not cause Lunacy, no matter what form they're in. People don't get the instinctive moon freakout.
3. Moon-Shunned do not take extra damage from silver.
4. Moonlight cannot touch them, which makes it easier for them to get exceptional success on Stealth rolls or to avoid notice while the moon is out.
5. Lunes and Luna cannot perceive them by any means. Ever. They automatically fail at any attempt to detect or perceive a Moon-Shunned, no matter what. Lunes tend to become irritated and vindictive if people interact with a Moon-Shunned in their presence, or even discuss their existence around the spirits.
6. Moon-Shunned gain Renown when a Lune dies in their presence - typically, the Renown associated with the Auspice of the Lune. If multiple Moon-Shunned are present, only one of them can get this bonus.
7. If a Lune's body is destroyed in the presence of a Moon-Shunned, they can spend Essence to permanently kill the Lune.
8. Moon-Shunned cannot join a tribe, gain bonuses from packmates' Hunter's Aspect or be targeted by a Sacred Hunt. Ever. Attempts just automatically fail for no apparent reason.
9. When a Moon-Shunned leads a Sacred Hunt, they and their pack can automatically sense the distance and direction to the nearest Lune, which lasts until the turning of the lunar cycle and only marks that one Lune.
10. The natural weapons of a Moon-Shunned are considered a Bane to all Lunes, and to Luna herself if that were ever to become relevant. #9 also would apply to Luna herself, if that ever became relevant.


ow the edge

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
ow the edge

The Bale Hounds lurk among normal werewolves, undetected and trying to tear it all down, Pure and Forsaken alike. While the Pure and Forsaken hate each other, they both agree with following hte legacy of Wolf. They just fight over what that legacy is. The Bale Hounds do not - they would abandon and corrupt everything. They believe that corruption is inevitable, that it will win - so why not be on the winning side? Wolf is dead, and without him, how can any hope to stop the slow slide into oblivion and darkness? And so they spread doubt and fear, infesting the werewolf population and tearing it down to create a new world, a world of filth and flayed skin and death. They are spies, infiltrators who hide among other wolves and distort the minds of their fellows. They take the werewolf hunting instinct and apply it to tearing down werewolf society.

The hardest part, of course, is finding the Bale Hounds. The mere suspicion that one is active in an area causes chaos, because they hardly declare themselves. Werewolf distrusts werewolf, and the pack bonds are strained. Other predators sense this confusion and weakness and move in to take advantage. And after all that, how can you even be certain a Bale Hound was present? They could be your packmates, your neighbors, or just hidden deep in your territory. Most look just like any other werewolf, and they're good at scapegoating others. Generally speaking, the temptation to work with the dark is simple - inadequacy. Many werewolves feel anxieties over not being good enough for the hunt, and the pressure of Wolf's legacy and Moon's expectation is great. No one wants to let everyone else down. And so, when the Maeljin, the spirits of corruption and atrocity and darkness, offer a little extra power...well, it's a tempting offer. Others became Bale Hounds out of unhealthy passions. They don't get along with their pack, will do anything to take down their rival, or don't understand why they have to control their fury. They feel anger or jealousy that festers over time, and feel the urge to smash it all...and the Maeljin, where their influence can be extended through a spiritual Wound, offer them the chance.

At first, the only real cost is the instinctive knowledge that what they are doing is wrong. After a while, though, there's no escaping the presence of a strange, shadowy wolf that follows the would-be Bale Hound wherever they go - or, rather, a wolf-shaped shadow. It never speaks or acts. It just watches, ready to give when power is needed. And every time, it feels even more wrong. Eventually, far too late, it becomes clear what is happening. The brands of Renown and Auspice darken, turning sickly green-brown rather than shining silver. Blood-red markings of the Pure crust over with rust. These color shifts are nearly imperceptible at first, but they get clearer with each act of darkness. With them comes weakness, a realization that you just aren't nearly as strong as when you're drawing on the forbidden power. You need it to be able to match your old self, before you drew on the corruption for the first time. It's only a matter of time before someone notices. Even if you haven't directly served the Maeljin, who'd believe you? So you can't admit it and ask for help. And then, when panic sets in, the shadow wolf speaks to you for the first time. It offers a path - survive. Serve. All you need to do is blood yourself, prove your loyalty, and it will show you safety. How do you blood yourself? You decide, but it must be some act of vile transgression, something that proves you'll put your own needs and desires over others. If the shadow wolf thinks it's enough, it gives you the offer - join it. Serve the Maeljin. If you refuse, it leaves you to your fate, possibly making others aware of your sins in the process - and it's not like you can get rid of the marks on your soul or the weakness left by them.

If you accept, then the shadow wolf cloaks you spiritually and leads you away, through places of physical and spiritual desolation and desecration, until it reaches a Wound. (A Wound is a spiritual hole in reality caused by intense, powerful suffering and death. They're surprisingly common, though outside of areas of true atrocity, they usually aren't very big. Evil shit comes out of it.) At the Wound, it allows you to witness acts of sin and transgression, and how these acts can control other, lesser beings. It shows how the spirits of corruption flock to humans that perform terrible acts, and how to feel the weakness in the world where a Wound is forming. The wolf-shadow teaches that darkness is the natural state of reality, that all existence must inevitably descend into negativity. This cannot be opposed or stopped. At best, it can be temporarily delayed. Rather than fight uselessly, help usher in the new age. Be on the winning side. Master the darkness and rule the new future. As you reach the Wound where your rebirth will occur, the shadow wolf fades from view and you sense a new emptiness around you. You stand alone before Soulless Wolf, who judges you with eyes of pure darkness.

Soulless Wolf, Eyes of the Maeljin, radiates power. It is a hole in the world shaped like a wolf, with neither detail nor color but for his black, shark-like eyes. It does not pay attention to the world or even seem to be aware that the world exists, much of the time. It stares only at the supplicant, its eyes shifting to always follow. It will commune with the willing, answering questions in a voice made by deadening sound, a silence that forms words. Soulless Wolf claims to be of the Firstborn, a forgotten heir of Wolf. It claims it stood apart from the others, forgotten by all. It claims the other Firstborn are so awed and terrified of it that they swore eternal oaths never to even speak of it again. It claims it discovered the Maeljin in the dark and followed them, understanding their victory. It claims to have created the Maeljin in the silence of the world, creating aspects of itself to reveal the truth. It claims to serve the Maeljin, a slave to their darkness. It claims to master the Maeljin, commanding them utterly. Soulless Wolf contradicts itself a lot.

What's true doesn't matter. Soulless Wolf speaks for the Maeljin. It conveys the messages of the Bale Hounds to their masters. No Bale Hound speaks to them directly - their presence is felt in the soul, but they do not communicate. Soulless Wolf speaks for them, and in the tarnished brands of the Maeljin, the Bale Hounds can sense its clarity and purpose. It is central to the existence of the Bale Hounds. However, Soulless Wolf cannot leave the Wounds. It can only send out the shadow wolves to scout for it and gather information. They hide, nearly invisible, to watch for those who might receive the Maeljin's message and offer temptation. The presence of shadow wolves is proof of Bale Hound activity in an area, but very few non-Bale Hounds know this; they work very hard to kill anyone who finds out. The most important work of Soulless Wolf is to accept the oath of a prospective Bale Hound choosing which Maeljin they wish to serve. Soulless Wolf describes them, their focus and purpose, and asks questions to guide werewolves to a decision, but will not choose for them. Most don't realize until too late that it's operating on a deadline, for it projects total patience. However, if the prospective Bale Hound hasn't made a decision by the next sunset or sunrise, whichever is first, Soulless Wolf tears them apart and devours their Essence. It doesn't advertise this fact, though it won't hide it if you actually think to ask.

You make your choice and swear your oath, with true intent (intent matters way more than wording here). It must be chosen freely - and while Bale Hounds-to-be often fear discovery, they are not coerced. They make the choice to flee and not ask for help. The oath is very similar to joining a tribe or pack, and it feels very similar spiritually to the totem bond of a pack. The Maeljin enforce the spirit of the oath rather than the letter, much as a tribal ban, and they expect their Bale Hounds to carry out their will, spread their influence and work to bring the world to darkness. After the oath, Soulless Wolf leaves to tell the Maeljin. When it returns, it reveals if the oath was accepted. Most are, if sworn freely, but sometimes the Maeljin reject a petitioner out of some offense and leave Soulless Wolf to kill the werewolf, sometimes quickly and sometimes not. That depends on which Maeljin is involved, how mad it is, and if Soulless Wolf is annoyed. But if they accept the oath, you get taught the Rite of the Shroud, allowing you to hide your corruption from your pack totem, your tribe and other spirits as well as disguising the visual taint on your brands.

So, given that the Maeljin are multiple and specific beings, who are they? Their methods and techniques differ, though they share a united goal, and five of them are most prominent. Lakh'ma is served by the Hounds of Consumption, and even other Bale Hounds fear them, for they are the eaters-of-werewolves. Every werewolf is tempted to devour human and wolf flesh for the delicious Essence contained within, but they resist for the sake of balance. The Hounds of Consumption revel in it. Whenever they can, they end a hunt by devouring the fallen. They are not subtle, but they are effective. Finding the devoured corpse of a friend demoralizes even jaded werewolves. The Hounds aren't stupid, either, and they are more than able to curb their hunger to avoid detection if they must. They are very good at spotting vulnerability and weak links in a pack, seperating the young or infirm and isolating them from the others, then killing them and eating them. Lakh'ma despises Purity most of all, for it hates that while the werewolves are predators, they consider themselves above the easy power of eating flesh. While eating human or wolf flesh empowers all werewolves, the Hounds of Consumption receive Lakh'ma's gifts through it. When they devour all of a werewolf's flesh, they steal all Essence within, even if they normally could not hold that much. When they lead the Sacred Hunt, their pack gains power from flesh-eating more quickly than normal. (This is not mechanized, tho.)

Igsh'ma is served by the Hounds of Destruction. Yes, destruction's a basic part of being a werewolf - ask anyone who's felt the death rage. Werewolves kill people and break things. Most of them regret this to a greater or lesser extent and try to reduce the collateral damage they cause. The Hounds of Destruction encourage it. They love to demolish the world. When they fight, they favor tactics designed to cause lasting, terrible harm and overkill. They enjoy breaking bones and twisting joints. They do have to be careful not to reveal themselves, as all Bale Hounds. They tend to have a reputation for brutality, but try to avoid going far enough to make their allegiances suspect. They treat the death rage as a blessing, as it gives them an excuse to break as much as possible without other werewolves questioning their actions. While they often need to fake regret and contrition afterwards, in truth a pack will almost always support and offer understanding for acts of destruction committed during the death rage and will not condemn it. Igsh'ma despises Glory most of all, and particularly werewolves that try to hide their innate destructive nature with pretty words and reasoning. It rewards destruction, allowing its servants to recover Essence when in the presence of those mourning a loss of life or destruction of a precious object the werewolf caused. Further, when they lead the Sacred Hunt, their pack causes additional collateral damage. (No mechanics for that.)

Shad'ma is served by the Hounds of Disharmony. They tend to believe themselves the ultimate servants of the Maeljin - others focus on specific and narrow interests, but they treat corruption holistically. They work to disrupt any cooperation or balance with whatever means are available. If they need to, they will destroy, expose or invade as the others do, but they have no specific specialty. They also tend to find that deliberately unbalancing spiritual and physical ecosystems takes more effort than the less nuanced, more focused Maeljin understand. While uncorrupted werewolves worry endlessly over any minor deviation from balance, the Hounds of Disharmony have learned that these, on their own, rarely actually cause major catastrophes and, to some extent, self-correct. Causing major, lasting destabilization means you need a lot of minor imbalances, allowing the overwhelming chaos to have a cascade effect that brings failure faster than werewolves can fix it. Shad'ma despises Wisdom most of all, for it feels that werewolves are incapable of any understanding at all, much less understanding of chaos and predation. It rewards its followers with Essence when they disrupt something that is functioning properly, and when they lead the Sacred Hunt, their packs are swift to find and identify weakness. (Not that any of the Sacred Hunt Bale Hound bonuses get mechanics.)

Bhal'ma is served by the Hounds of Exposure. Werewolves have many secrets. They hide themselves, they hunt the secret banes and bans of spirits, they learn the weaknesses of their prey. They discover truths that, if revealed, could break the world. Keeping this knowledge in check is part of their burden, and particularly they agree that humanity should not know. After all, humans are by and large incapable of dealing with the spiritual realm in any real fashion, and widespread panic would be bad for just about everyone - not to mention all the folks that'd start worshipping spirits if they knew they existed. The Hounds of Exposure try to break all this, revealing key secrets to make the werewolf population vulnerable. Prey, after all, is rarely content to be prey. Bhal'ma revels in giving humans enough information for them to become hunters of the hunters. Silver is well known, sure, but the Gifts and powers of werewolves are less so, and each pack and werewolf has their own individual weaknesses, psychological or otherwise. Revealing these is the task of Bhal'ma's servants. They've been especially successful with the spread of mass communication and particularly social media, which has made discovering secrets so much easier - and removing all traces of knowledge once revealed so much harder. Bhal'ma despises Honor most, a paper-thin code trying to mask over lies and weakness. It rewards its followers for revealing secrets to those who will use them to do the most harm, granting them Essence whenever they pass damaging information to someone with the intent and will to use it. Further, when they lead the Sacred Hunt, their packs are able to root out hidden secrets of the prey easily.

Ghar'ma is served by the Hounds of Invasion. Territory is sacred to werewolves, a way of defining their identity and purpose. Thus, Ghar'ma's servants violate it - and ensure that no one can possess it. Many werewolves fail to grasp that territory is more than physical and spiritual environment. It is more than the place. Territory is anything a pack considers its own - the people, the familiar things, the memories. Territory is sacred for a reason, and the loss of it is devastating to the werewolf mind. Hounds of Invasion are psychological warfare experts. They remove security and the feeling of safety. If you're not safe on your own turf, you are safe nowhere. They work in increments and insidious actions, taking a little at a time but never stopping. They know the pack cannot be everywhere, so they strike where the pack cannot defend right now - again and again. They defile places of significance to the pack's members, murder loved ones and allies and dump the bodies in public places, strike out from the shadows and fade away to increase paranoia and despair. Ghar'ma hates Cunning and those who protect things it wants. It thus rewards its followers for denying others their possessions, granting them Essence when they deny possession of something from their prey. It need not be destroyed, but its value must be forever lost to the original owner. Further, when they lead the Sacred Hunt, their packs are practically invisible.

There are other Maeljin besides these five - the names of the 1e ones get dropped here, like Pseulak, Baalphegor, Thurifuge and Asmodai. Each could be a unique Maeljin, or a name used by one of the five above when dealing with non-werewolf occultists. Some Bale Hounds end up following other paths, too. The GM can make up a purpose for a new Maeljin if they want, and pick a Renown that the Maeljin hates over all others, then design a new Sacred Hunt specialty or pick one from existing ones. The real nature of the Maeljin is confusion and corruption, after all, so they don't have to make immediate sense or have obvious answers.

The Forsaken and Pure understand relatively little about the Bale Hounds, and unknown to them, the corrupted wolves actually fall into three major tiers, which dictate how much their service to the Maeljin has changed them. The bottom tier are the Tarnished, and greater Bale Hounds don't even really consider them to be true Bale Hounds, though the Forsaken and Pure would. They took an offer of power and came back for more, but do not have any true Maeljin-derived abilities of their own, relying on their patron to provide them with power. Typically this patron will be a higher rank Bale Hound or a Maeltinet (read: lesser spirit-servant of the Maeljin). The Maeljin whisper promises of power to the Tarnished, however, and many never actually meet their patron, while others are personal proteges. As long as the patron allows it, the Tarnished may call on their Dark Power at any time, but this can be withdrawn whenever the patron desires it, even in the middle of using Dark Power. Dark Power, mechanically, lets the Tarnished get a big bonus to any dicepool that includes Renown. However, at the end of any scene in which this is used, the GM rolls their highest Renown boosted this way, and success means that their spiritual brands visibly darken, at first subtly and increasingly obviously the more it happens. Basically, it starts with taking a perception roll to notice, but each time it happens gives that roll a bonus, and that bonus also applies as a penalty to all Renown-based dicepools except those that use Dark Power. First hit's free, kid.

The Corrupted are fully inducted Bale Hounds, who have sworn their oaths to Soulless Wolf. They pick two Renown categories they will use to injure the world - the first the same as their Maeljin, the second their choice. For the rest of their life, they are able to gain strength, weaken others and subvert abilities based on these Renowns. When using a Gift through their chosen Renown, they can pay extra Essence to channel darkness through it, causing the area to take on a resonance pleasing to the Maeljin and tainting it with their Maeljin's favorite flavor of evil. For Consumption, this makes all werewolf powers cost more to use. For Destruction, all objects in the area become easier to break. For Disharmony, all non-Bale Hound werewolves get a penalty to breaking points that lead them away from balanced Harmony. For Exposure, humans in the area resist Lunacy more easily, preventing them from forgetting about werewolf existence more often. For Invasion, defenses and wards in the area get a penalty to detect intruders or people get a bonus to detect and avoid them, whichever is most useful in any given situation.

The Corrupted can no longer use Dark Power personally, but can offer it to others. Their Renown brands are obviously and permanently tainted unless concealed by the Rite of the Shroud, but they no longer take penalties to Renown-based rolls from past uses of Dark Power. Corrupted can also pick up Dread Powers resonant with their evil deeds and their Maeljin master. (Dread Powers are the generic bad guy powers GMs can use to customize monsters and shit.) The more you take, however, the more mutated your form becomes, though because Corrupted are limited in how many they can have, this is usually concealable. Further, when Corrupted take part in a Sacred Hunt, even when not leading it, everyone else in the Hunt gets a penalty to detect or notice that they're the source of any evil or corruption, and they get a bonus to explaining it away to their pack if caught red-handed. Further, whenever anyone uses a power associated with their corrupted Renown nearby, or they are the direct target of any werewolf power, they can spend Essence to try and subvert that power. This can cancel it entirely, change the target or apply the effects of channeling darkness above. Lastly, whenevcer Corrupted are in an area resonant with their Maeljin master's domain or are present for activities compatible with them, they get a bonus to Renown dicepools.

Top tier Bale Hounds are Defiled. They are elder monstrosities, each a unique grotesquerie of flesh and spirit twisted by the dark. Their corruption cannot be contained in their brands and flows obviously out of them into the world. Defiled can take more Dread Powers, but are obviously mutated by them and cannot conceal it. Each one is a living Wound, causing minor Wounds to appear around them if they remain in place in the Shadow (read: spirit world) for more than a day. These grow rapidly in their presence but do not fade once they leave. Even when in the physical world, they will cause this to happen if they remain in place for a week or so. If they are inside a Wound or the physical location roughly corresponding to its spiritual location, they can be used as a waystone, allowing easier passage into and out of the spirit world.

Next time: The Torn and the Lying Tongue

literal werewolf satanism

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
literal werewolf satanism

no one would ever suspect her

Aishah G'idhum-ghul, the Torn, is a very young werewolf. She's barely out of her First Change, recently inducted into the Bone Shadows and entirely unsuspected of being a Bale Hound. In her own mind, though, she is tormented by her constant predatory instincts and her body's overwhelming hormonal changes because she is a teenager. She believes the deaths she's caused as a werewolf are sinful and make her deserving of punishment. Most werewolves get through this stage of their life with pack support, but the teen lost cubs that have formed the Singapore street gang she's fallen in with are barely up to handling their own issues, let alone hers, and she's had the bad luck of being found by an older, more experienced servant of the Maeljin, Percupia, who is looking for a protege to shape. Aishah is looking for meaning, feeling trapped between the human and werewolf worlds. Her mixed heritage doesn't help - her Wolf-Blood mother is Malay and her father is white. He's a violent, abusive drunk, and she's a drug addict, both using their vices to escape. At least dad's stopped venting his fury on Aishah and her mother - he's got some kind of survival instinct that has told him his daughter is dangerous now. Aishah's mom has gotten worse, though - she's always used the drugs to escape her moon-touched blood, and her daughter terrifies her now because she can sense the changes. The abuse and neglect of Aishah's upbringing has taught her well how to lie and minimize her presence as a target as well as how to redirect attention and danger to others.

Unfortunately, life on the streets isn't any more pleasant. School bullies aren't fooled by her bravado and manipulation. Her heritage, grades and her poor living situation were all mocked, and this is what triggered her First Change - a popular clique of girls followed her home one day to gather more ammo to throw at her. The sheer pettiness and her inability to redirect it made her feel sick, and she got trapped in a public toilet by the bullies. That's when it hit. By the time her mind returned, the toilet was destroyed and coated in blood and shit. The bullies were just a mass of meat, and while the cops never looked too closely at Aishah, given the carnage and her frail appearance, one officer did give her a knowing look before leaving. At this point, all Aishah wants is someone to accept her. Anyone. She has pleaded for help with the half-heard whispers of the spirits, and what came was, unfortunately, Percupia. She has told key, chosen truths and revealed kind lies for what they were, telling Aishah that she needed power and foundation. A pack. A tribe. Percupia would accept her, if she would obey. If she would be useful. A new kind of abuse for Aishah!

Aishah has felt more at home among spirits and the Bone Shadows, drawn to their occult lore and quickly learning new rites. She doesn't like being at home or in school, so she hangs with other outcasts. Her pack is mostly self-taught and spends its time near Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetary by night, taking benzos and hunting ghosts. The few that notice them think they're just weird kids. The cemetary was an early 20th century Chinese cemetary. Because of its lush green space, the Pure and Forsaken of the area all prize it, but it is a haven for many restless ghosts, who are extremely upset about the disrespect and greed of the local government, who want to exhume their bodies and reclaim the land for the city. The lack of ceremony and appeasement involved in this makes the ghosts angry and vengeful, and Aishah and her pack have been listening to Percupia's guidance in making that worse, allowing a small Wound to open in the graveyard's Shadow. As she learns more, Percupia pays more attention to Aishah. It is a spirit of sandalwood and dependency, serving as her confidante and mentor, stirring her own to greater heights of pain and suffering. It wants human sacrifice in its name, and while Aishah is reluctant, she's providing it. Mostly, she hunts the local homeless and tries to pretend she doesn't enjoy the taste of human blood or the sound of terrified screams. She's even begun taking her drug-addled mother to the cemetary, offering her up as a body to possess for any ghost or spirit that'll serve her. Her mother is very easy to possess temporarily and practically impossible to possess permanently, so it's a useful short-term deal. Aishah doesn't particularly care what her terrified, depressed mother thinks of it.

Aishah is in her mid-teens, small and very self-conscious about her heritage. She's got a pixie cut of brown hair, and at school she's a meek, nondescript girl in a school uniform that gives off the appearance of meek harmlessness and tries to vanish into the background, walking with a slight hunch. In the graveyard, she goes for combat boots, torn jeans and ripped black metal band shirts. She hunches less but it's still there, and she gels her hair to make it stand at sharp angles. She's aiming for shock as a defense mechanism, drawing attention from her psychological wounds. Her eyes are lifeless, making her feel wrong. As a wolf, she still hunches, and her fur spikes at weird angles. She used to cut herself before her First Change and still has some scars from it; she does still cut herself at times, but the scars don't linger long enough to make her feel satisfied. Despite her bravado and taste for human blood, all she really wants is a place to feel safe. She wants acceptance and identity and people that love her for who she is. While she's close to the brink of corruption, a stable and nurturing pack could still save her if they found her before she swore the Maeljin oath. She has huge parental issues, and while she spiritually tortures her mother, she can't bring herself to cause physical harm to the woman. She hates her father and knows it'd be easy to kill him, but can't bring herself to do it. She wants them to acknowledge her worth, to join her pack. Percupia wants her to kill them both and be rid of them, but so far she hasn't listened.

Aishah actually has a knack for dealing with ghosts, which has earned him the name G'idhum-ghul, First Tongue for 'Ghost Friend.' Even angry ghosts respond well to her and want to make her happy. In some ways, her ghostly friends are the supportive family she's been yearning for. While each single ghost is quite weak, the small army of them at her service could easily cause great havoc if she asked them to. (The fact that ghosts are probably what's kept her from taking the big leap for Percupia is funny to me.) Percupia, of course, has ambitions. It wants to get bigger. It wants to become a full Maeljin. Werewolves are useful, but they're not the only possible servants for it. With Aishah's help, the word's been getting around - the name Percupia, and that you can get its attention with human sacrifice. (That's not strictly necessary, actually, but it demonstrates a level of commitment.)

Aishah is about on par with a starting PC. She's not a great fighter, and she's maybe sixteen, but she's real good with ghosts and has a surprising number of Gifts. She also has managed to somehow get a Ban: she can't turn down a sincere invitation to join a group or gathering.

Nakku, the Lying Tongue, is part of the UK's gigantic Bale Hound problem. The Pure control much of the countryside and the Forsaken are in the cities, but along the borders, entire packs of Bale Hounds escape consequences, ruling over whole hunting grounds in the moors and mountains. Their overt, brazen atrocity looms large in the minds of the British werewolves, who tell stories of their savagery and open rites to the Maeljin. And so, they are distracted from the Bale Hounds like Nakku, who slither among them unseen, thanks to the more overt monsters. He is an old, practiced liar who has served Ghar'ma for decades now. Corruption fills his soul, and while he may not be so bloated with power as some of the more overt Defiled of the moors, there are few better at infiltration. The Forsaken think him a comforting Iron Master elder, a roving rumormonger and storyteller. He uses social media to spread news for werewolves, using soundbites of Lodge meetings (read: werewolf social clubs/z-splats) and tracking political and social developments among humans that will have effects on werewolf work. For Bale Hounds, though, he is a source of insider information who spreads the schemes and weaknesses of the Forsaken...though even they are not safe from his tendency to treachery. He likes the game too much to stop spreading his stories, even if it hurts his corrupted brethren.

Nakku is always on the move. He's usually found in the cities of the Midlands, but he's been to Edinburgh, London and even overseas at times. Other Iron Masters think it's a choice, that Nakku is dedicated to getting news direct from the source and experiencing new things. In truth it's more of a necessity. The spiritual sickness within his form is simply too intense - if he stays in place long, it will blacken the Shadow around him. Keeping on the road reinforces his reputation and avoids detection, keeping his true nature doubly concealed. He slips through the gaps, keeping his entire life in a van full of trinkets, cheap goods (mostly stolen) and the materials to set up a small stall on a roadside if he needs to make some money selling any of it. He's a cheerfully messy man with a silver tongue and practiced sales pitch. His true merchandise, however, is truth and lies. He gathers information and secrets, then repackages them in ways useful to him and hands them out to key people. His lies are perfectly crafted, personalized to his victims' beliefs and knowledge. He knows what they want to hear, how to play off their neuroses and keep them off balance or comfortable as needed. He uses his talent to subtly spread disharmony, avoiding blatant lies that might cause conflict but would be easily traceable to him. Rather, he works with insinuation, implication and half-truth, getting people to ruin their own lives for him. He pushes ambition and resentment, giving out just enough truth to be taken seriously and just enough lies to keep conflict going.

Nakku appears as a thin Asian man with a British accent, always bright and smiling. He shifts mannerisms easily to match whatever persona he's using that day to manipulate people, ranging from kind words and encouragement to bold exhortations. He's always looking for news, leverage or a way to cause disharmony. He'll mock and goad if it works, but he's always aware that he has no pack, and even an elder is vulnerable alone. He's an actor and con artist, not a fighter. He's layers and layers of false masks. His fellow Forsaken think they know him, having worked with him for decades, but it's just another front. He's just as much putting up an act as being an efficient, serious man under the traveling trickster facade with them. He doesn't show his true face even to other Bale Hounds, enjoying playing with their expectations of him based on his reputation. He is most comfortable in human form, preferring it to his wolf forms and preferring cities to nature. His wolf forms are black-furred, with unnervingly long limbs, and he moves like a snake. Despite his physical power, he prefers to flee or evade at the first chance in a fight. His real self, at his core, is a survivor, and everything else comes well after ensuring he doesn't die.

Once, Nakku belonged to a pack in Mansfield, and he returns there and to his Sherwood Forest lair when he is tired, wounded or needs time to think. He tore apart his old pack years ago, of course. His first steps into darkness came out of his rivalry with the pack's dominant Rahu. She was a charismatic woman who represented a warrior ideal that he hated, and he engineered her death at the hands of a Maeltinet. Now, he tells tales of her glory and bravery to cover it up. He (and the rest of the UK Bale Hounds) maintain a strange relationship with some sadistic sparrow spirits. While physical birds are small and weak, their Shadow reflections tend to be large, powerful totems to the Bale Hound packs. One of these, a Maeltinet named Claws-of-Thorn, rules no pack but is Nakku's direct patron. In private, they bicker like old lovers or siblings, but they cater to each other in a toxic, codependent relationship. Claws-of-Thorn's backing is what keeps him safe from other Bale Hounds, and its deceptive innocence helps him fool the totems of the packs of Forsaken he deals with as well as local spirit courts. The sparrow spirit thinks the ignorance of the Forsaken and the wounded pride of other Bale Hounds is funny, but it demands regular sacrifices from Nakku in exchange for maintaining things. It hungers for the slow, tortured death of animals bound and bled with thorns or barbed wire, and each such sacrifice must resonate with the love of humans that will grieve for the loss of the beloved creature. Sometimes, Nakku offers up greater payments - children - which Claws-of-Thorn prizes greatly.

Nakku is Extremely Online. He loves the internet as a means to spread his lies and information. His social media stream is near-constant and, to humans, looks like a very bizarre mix of insane conspiracy theorist and British folklorist and historian. The werewolf-related information in it is obfuscated enough that werewolves have to do some digging to understand and interpret it. Nakku takes data security extremely seriously, and he actually has bound several data and secrets spirits into pacts to protect him from hackers. He tends to find fooling idiots boring, though - he does it anyway, of course, because his lying is pretty much compulsive at this point, but he especially loves to trick the clever and proud. He loves to offer up secrets to instigate would-be masterminds and planners, sending them to their own dooms with key misinterpretations or unspoken assumptions. Occasionally, he'll meet with Bale Hounds at old standing stones or other ancient relics of the British past. The Bale Hounds use these menhirs as makeshift altars for sacrifices of blood and oil to the Maeljin, trading secrets. For Nakku, this is primarily another way to network and spread secrets on the Forsaken to his comrades, coordinate with them and, of course, piss off his rivals.

For an elder, Nakku isn't much of a combatant. He's on par with a mid-range werewolf. His real power is from his social skills, wit and knowledge. He's insanely connected, very good at lying and talking to people, and quite smart. He also has a potent selection of Gifts to gain information with and abuse weaknesses. He won't be a guy for a stand-up fight - he's built for ambushes, weakness hunting and trickery - but his Dread Powers offer him the resilience to survive a surprising amount of damage.

Next time: The Lobby, the Monster From the Wild.

Goofus And/Or Gallant

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Goofus And/Or Gallant

werewolf satan has my vote

Gregory Whistler, the Lobby, is the perfect ally for a pack. He's an insider of municipal politics and industry that specializes in lobbying the Parks Department of wherever your game happens to be, turning old, rundown factories into his own personal real estate holdings. He's bought and paid for all manner of local politicians, corporate leaders, local media personalities and major landowners. His campaign manager is a Tarnished werewolf, well on his way to meeting Soulless Wolf. Gregory's Ivory Claw, and that makes some wary, but he's such a useful ally. Get on his good side and your territories expand and prosper. In return, all he wants is some information and occasional odd jobs done. His office building HQ employs a number of Pure and Forsaken who have put aside their differences for the good of werewolfkind. Those that find this disgusting can wait outside if they still need his help, though Gregory pretends to take offense at people who do so, saying they ignore the future.

Of course, in truth, Gregory serves Shad'ma as one of the Hounds of Disharmony. He occasionally has problems with people questioning why they don't feel good about what he asks or why he occasionally ducks out of meeting in person with local alphas. When he can no longer blame that on his going on vacation, he blames grief. His son, Alek, died while hunting a suspected Bale Hound among the Ivory Claws. (The truth, of course, is that Bale Hound was Gregory, and Alek died during an attempt to join his father's evil plans.) This grief provides excellent cover...not least because it's real. Gregory legitimately loved his son, and he is beginning to resent and hate Soulless Wolf for deeming the boy unworthy and killing him.

Gregory is friendly, quick to offer drinks and help, and always welcoming. He keeps his orange hair and goatee combed back and perfectly trimmed, respectively. He is always attended by a large dog, though she is not friendly with strangers. It is extremely bloody and painful when Gregory takes on his warform, which he blames on his cursed bloodline - specifically, descent from Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger. Yes, he actually blames this for the fact that his transformations involve a lot of bones breaking and gruesome gore, including the snapping and regrowth of his actual spine and the reversal of his heart's valves. There is no actual explanation for why his Gauru-form transformation is like that, though.

Gregory often suffers real grief-caused tantrums over his son's death. He takes these out on a fellow Bale Hound whom he has trapped in his office's panic room. This is Ur'aduna, the mentor that first led Gregory and Alek to Soulless Wolf. He keeps the elder Defiled alive and tortures him to the brink of death, then heals him and starts over. Enough time has passed to form a large, festering Wound in the panic room, which now seeps bile onto the walls and floor, and it's still growing. Ur'aduna is kept still by an ancient Roman dagger, a fetish passed down from Gregory's father, which is lodged in the old Bale Hound's back and locks him away from the death rage. Gregory does not believe this is blasphemy against his dark masters, of course. He's still a loyal Bale Hound, no rebel against the Maeljin. If the other Bale Hounds still seek their lost elder, so what? He takes the opened Wound as proof that the Maeljin don't care. He uses it to move spirits around if they swear to serve him, and he's hoping he can find Alek's ghost and use the Wound to at least bring the boy back to his presence. This is growing to a full obsession for him, and he often screams his son's name into the Wound in the mad hope it will call the boy there.

Gregory's assistance to packs is usually genuine - in a sense. The opportunities he brings are real. He really does offer good information. Of course, there tend to be issues - the example is a smuggling trawler loaded with drugs, which he suggests that a pack seize and use as a very handy mobile HQ. The ship is real, is run by smugglers and is fully decked out and useful for a pack on the move. When they discover the drugs were medicine for a local group of humans the pack likes, Gregory is of course endlessly apologetic. (There are often also troubles he's not aware of beforehand, though - his info is good but rarely complete.) He's also happy to offer up some of his locations for use in rites - especially an old lumberyard he picked up for a song because of its history of use as a mob execution site. He generally offers its use to local packs because it lets him keep tabs on the packs' Wolf-Blooded members for which ones could be corrupted. The property is full of hidden recording devices, and that it has a Wound on its outskirts due to mass drownings ordered by a former werewolf mob boss is a bonus. Gregory often spreads rumors of Wounds in order to sow chaos. He knows where they all are, but never gives enough details - that'd give him away. Rather, he lets Wound spirits through to cause chaos and spreads the rumors to heighten paranoia and tensions between the Pure and Forsaken, who rarely suspect him of being the actual problem.

Gregory is a fairly average mid-level werewolf. He's charismatic but not really specialized in much, though his wide array of Gifts should be respected. He's more dangerous for his connections than anything else, however. He also has a Ban: once per day, he must tell someone something truthful about his son.

Bones: Key fashion item.

Zud'nalu, the Monster from the Wild, comes from the depths of Mongolia. It travels as it likes, ignoring territorial boundaries, for it considers itself to own all the world as its territory. It now approaches human settlements for the first time, bringing death with it. It considers itself to still be an exemplar of the Predator Kings. It follows Dire Wolf's anti-human beliefs to such an extent that it no longer remembers its human name. As far as it is concerned, Lakh'ma and Dire Wolf have aligned goals. It has just taken strength offred to it by something inhuman. That's acceptable. Lakh'ma honors nothing of human hands, only human flesh, and Dire Wolf wants a hunter's paradise. Zud'nalu believes the Maeljin will drag the world into a state where the strong hunt the weak - which is perfect. It has rejected all things human, and considers itself to have no gender. (Or pronouns; it rejects these as human.)

What made Zud'nalu vulnerable to the Maeljin is simply the needs of its hunts. Its growth as a werewolf meant it had to move from feeding on meat to feeding solely on Essence, and that was inconvenient. Yes, it had the tools and skill to down spirits and devour them, but that wasn't satisfying. Its spirit half demanded Essence, its physical half craved bloody kills and fresh meat. The humans the old werewolf had hated for so long were able to meet both needs for it - the rich meat of human flesh and the rich Essence of forbidden kin-devouring. This elegant solution, though, forced it to leave the wilds to hunt in more human lands, and there it caught the eye of Soulless Wolf's minions. It tore apart and devoured the first shadow wolf to approach it, and so the next set aside temptation and manipulation and just directly asked Zud'nalu to meet Soulless Wolf.

Now, the old hunter has settled into Gorkhi-Telej National Park, near Ulaanbataar. It is uncomfortable being so near civilization, but it means good access to human prey. Further, the park is full of the natural wonder the old wolf enjoys and considers close to Pangaea. Water comes from the Tuul River and the glaclial lake of Khagin Khar, and it can hang out in the hot springs of Yestii when it feels tired. It avoids the local Buddhist monastery, telling itself that this is a tactical decision to avoid the notice of the monks and tourists, as well as other werewolves. In truth, the Buddhists make it feel things it thought it had long left behind, which it finds confusing and uncomfortable. The tourists irritate Zud'nalu, though they rarely get close to its lair and they make convenient meals. Local werewolves also often visit to experience the wilderness and explore. The vast park's hills and forests are perfect for hunting, and these werewolves grow increasingly less likely to return alive. So far, Zud'nalu has managed to keep itself from devouring other Pure living in the park, but it is rapidly growing to see them not as kin but as prey. It is a lone wolf by nature, though it understands the value of others helping to warn it or be its patsies. There are other Predator Kings in the park and surrounding wilds, and officially, they still view Zud'nalu as a tribal elder, a role model to be accorded respect and free passage. In private, most of them hate the old wolf for being so intrusive and rude, but do not want to fight such a powerful combatant. The Ivory Claws and Fire-Touched of Ulaanbataar and the park trade information to Zud'nalu primarily to ensure it does not decide to come visit the city itself.

Zud'nalu is rarely seen except by its prey, and it can no longer recall its age. Even in its youth it was largely unconcerned with the human world. It prefers to speak First Tongue rather than any human language, and its rare human speech is primarily used to terrify victims. It doesn't know any human languages but Mongolian, anyway, and it speaks an outdated dialect of that. In rare cases when it deigns to talk about its memories, it claims it once knew a vicious human khan who was worthy of respect for a time; the modern Pure tend to believe these stories are inventions of a senile mind, as they'd prefer not to think about the possibility that Zud'nalu has been around since the 1200s. It rarely takes on any humanoid form, but when it does it appears as an older Mongolian of harsh face, unclear gender and wild gray hair. It considers gender useless to think about except as a practicality of getting close to prey, and changes its physical sex to the needs of its hunt. When it must put on clothing, it prefers either a plain blue outfit or clothes made from the tanned hides of its prey. It is a skilled leatherworker, tastefully and traditionally decorating its craft, and its work with a needle is the sole area it takes pride in besides hunting. In any form, it is exceptionally tough and untiring, and it is an obsessively single-minded hunter. It cannot be distracted from its prey, though it may miss subtle clues that it is being led into a trap as a result. Still, it has survived several such traps by sheer tenacity and power, so it doesn't really care.

In its wild lair, something is growing. It is a strange thing, perhaps egg-shaped or wrapped in a leather or vine cocoon. The surface of the thing is covered in pulsing green veins that glow faintly, and it whispers dark secrets to those that see it, exuding an aura of dread. Zud'nalu has been ordered to keep this egg safe and secret - not just the Mongolian egg, but several across the world. Each incubates a festering Wound, preparing for some terrible contagion to be unleashed by the Maeljin. To allow it to reach the other eggs, it has been given the power to travel through shadows in order to reach them, and it attempts to kill anyone that finds the eggs, along with anyone they might have told. It has already placed wards on all of them to warn it about intruders, but doesn't realize its lack of understanding of humanity may cause it problems. Going back to the local monastery for a moment, Zud'nalu has personally declared it off-limits to all werewolves, though no one is entirely sure why it kills any werewolf that visits the place. All kinds of theories abound about it, from the idea that it might just live under the monastery to the idea that it has kin there or that it covets a potent but human-tainted Locus inside. In truth, even Zud'nalu doesn't really understand why it feels so strongly that the place should be off-limits to all werewolves, including itself.

Zud'nalu is exceptionally dangerous in personal combat, even by elder werewolf standards. It's not very smart, though it has good instincts and a strong will, and it doesn't really understand anything but a direct approach. Its deceptions are those of animals, not people. But, y'know, when you're a Primal Urge 9 werewolf, you don't need deception. It has a wide array of Gifts to match its extreme physical power, and its Dread Powers make it even tougher and give it command over the natural world even beyond its Gifts. Further, it can teleport between Wounds or walk in a strange, awful dimension that connects them if it feels like taking more time for less cost.

Next time: Ghost Wolf Tyrants

The Bad Idea Conga Line

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
The Bad Idea Conga Line

So, a brief capsule summary. The Ghost Wolves are those werewolves, almost all of them Forsaken, who choose not to join a tribe. Mechanically, this has always been an incredibly bad idea - they forgo a number of benefits from tribal membership, including losing an entire Gift pick, for some very slightly increased flexibility. In theory the idea is you avoid tribal dogmas, but the only actual expression of dogma enforced by tribe is the tribal oath clause added to the Oath of the Moon. Basically, while not joining a covenant in Vampire is a reasonable decision, not joining a tribe in Werewolf is your character essentially declaring that they're an edgy lone wolf who is too cool to hang out with any of you people who actually pick a specific type of foe to prioritize. This book compounds the awful decision-making involved in doing this. It chooses to emphasize the spiritual weakness that Ghost Wolves have placed on themselves: by choosing not to tie themselves to one of the Firstborn of Wolf, they also fail to accept the spiritual protections those ties offer. The Firstborn's nature is relatively static, for spirits, and their relation to Wolf helps provide a spiritual stability to wrewolves, preventing their mercurial nature from being altered by various forms of spiritual contagion. Ghost Wolves remain vulnerable to these.

The first such spiritual warping is that of the Ghost Wolf Tyrant. A Tyrant is a form of Ghost Wolf that has transmuted into a spiritual parasite that exists by abusing other people. Every Tyrant is a lone werewolf, master of a pack of human vassals. Their territory is referred to as a fief, and their packs are essentially a parody of a true werewolf pack. They take the normal pack bond of werewolves and invert it, turning the sole werewolf member (themselves) into a psuedo-totem ruling over the human subjects. They fatten themselves on the spiritual power they receive from debasing their vassals. Their packmates are not friends or allies, as they would be in a true pack. Rather, they are victims, enslaved to the whims and hungers of the Tyrant. The Tyrant pack bond traps them in this relationship, and there is no such thing as an accidental tyrant. The Tyrant's nature is a blasphemous desecration of the werewolf's status and relationship with humanity. To become a Tyrant requires monstrous acts. Specifically, the first vassal is claimed when the werewolf forces them to perform some terrible transgression of their own nature, making them sacrifice some of their own moral integrity in worship of the werewolf. The sacred pack bond the human would normally receive is profaned by this suffering, warping it into the Tyrant bond.

Not all Tyrants are as bad as the worst of their lot, and how they act and treat their fief and vassals is usually related to their motivation in becoming a Tyrant. Some are ignorant, lonely Ghost Wolves, or they believe themselves to be cursed monsters or demons, acting as Tyrants because they think they have to now. Others are perverse, indulgent hedonists that just want to toy with humans and create a little kingdom for themselves in which their every desire is met. No matter what, however, Tyrants end up preying on the weak, afraid and vulnerable. They offer threats or promises of protection, and they form gangs, conspiracies or cults around themselves, gathering up the desperate and abused to surround them. Their existence as parasitic rulers is in conflict with their own werewolf urge to hunt, and Tyrants tend to lash out at their vassals at the smallest provocation as a means of proving their dominance. Unfortunamtely, this only tends to cause them to hunger for yet more worshipful adoration. The transgressions and abuses they inflict draw in more power, and tend to spiral into horrific nightmares and acts of self-delusion.

A Tyrant's power is built on exploitation. They use the shamanic nature of the werewolf, but draw on it by destroying the natural order rather htan working with it. Few have any real purpose beyond their own urges. at least. They are ambitious only on a petty scale, happy to exist as the leaders of a (terrified and abused) pack, with people fearing their wrath and obeying their orders. They have easy targets for their rage and impulses, and that's fine. Other werewolves usually see them as, at best, idiot megalomaniacs. At worst, they are grotesque parodies of true werewolves, mutilating their own spirits to feed their desires. It is impossible for a Tyrant bond to be reversed or purified into a normal pack bond. By turning themselves into Tyrants, they enforce their own isolation from other werewolves. Only humans and Wolf-Bloods can join a fief, and they must join voluntarily. This can be because they are unaware of the true danger of joining a Tyrant's pack or because they are caught up in the cycle of abuse, but it cannot be forced, quite. Werewolves can never join these packs - ever. Their spirit rebels against the attempt to place a collar on them, and rejects the potential pack-bond entirely.

Only a Ghost Wolf can become a Tyrant; the bond with a Firstborn reinforces a werewolf's purity of spirit and strengthens it enough that it cannot actually be mutilated in the way that is required to become a Tyrant. This tends to reinforce werewolf prejudices against Ghost Wolves. (Which, again, are rather fair because there's literally no good reason to be one.) The Firstborn, universally, do not understand why Tyrants exist. To these ancient spirits, the nature of a Tyrant is to tie yourself to the suffering and oppression inherent to humanity and rejecting the sacred power of the hunt. This is unthinkable to them, and so they have neither sympathy or understanding for Tyrants.

Tyrants do not generally work together or have much lore - their jealousy and paranoia prevents it. They've been around for as long as the Forsaken have existed, of course, and many werewolves believe that they date back to those who once made a pact with something evil, which showed them a path. This path is said to have led them to take the place of the spirits that humanity doesn't have (because while there are spirits of pretty much every concept out there, there are no spirits of humans). Most Tyrants barely understand their own nature, however, or that they're different from normal werewolves. Rather, they felt validation when a human worshipped them, and they took that sense of validation and twisted it into something else. Some, however, do speak of an ancient tradition dating back to the time of Sumer. They speak of ziggurats coated in blood, have visions of obsidian fangs and human skin stretched over strange sculptures. These Tyrants tend to be more ambitious, seeking to find ways to become god-kings over humanity.

The human path that Tyrants follow suppresses their predatory instincts. However, their urges need an outlet. This is why they tend to become obsessive over specific people, whom they attempt to control and abuse, then discard once they actually claim them. Some become taken over by strange obsessions and compulsions, such as making masks of each of their vassals or making collections of figures of all the people they've ever hurt. Notably, one Tyrant in Vienna commands his vassals to steal mannequins, paintings and images of people in order to make a gilded gallery that he treats as if it was alive. He becomes violent when anyone points out that they are not.

Many werewolves beloeve that all Tyrants are Bale Hounds. Certainly, many Tyrants believe themselves to be witches, demons or other monsters of their human cultures, and they act in what they believe is the appropriate manner for such beings. These are the Tyrants that become what they are because they believe it's how they're supposed to act. However, almost none are, in fact, Bale Hounds. They're simply far too isolated and paranoid to go in for that kind of things. They do make for excellent pawns and scapegoats for true Bale Hounds, however, and are more than able to accidentally create Wounds through their abusive actions.

Mechanically, the differences of Tyrants to normal Ghost Wolves are as follows:
1. Once you become a Tyrant, you may never join a tribe or a normal werewolf pack.
2. You gain an affinity for the Gifts of Agony, Dominance and Fervor.
3. Your pack may contain only humans, Wolf-Blooded and Claimed. You, the Tyrant, take on the role that the pack totem would normally hold. Your first packmate must fail a severe Breaking Point at the moment they join the pack, but later vassals do not. However, all later vassals must join voluntarily.
4. Your vassals must spend Willpower to act against you or against your stated wishes for a scene, and if they do, they become Guilty or Shaken.
5. You gain Influence as if you were a spirit. Your Influence is over your choice of Authority, Pain or Fear, and its strength is based on the highest Resolve among your vassals.
6. Whenever you would suffer a Condition or Tilt, you can spend Essence to transfer it to a nearby vassal, except for environmental Tilts.
7. When you force a human to face a Breaking Point and they fail, you gain the Inspired condition.
8. At the end of any scene where you make one of your vassals face a breaking point, you gain Essence.
9. You regain extra Willpower each day due to your fief's worship and every time you add a new vassal to your fief, you regain all Willpower.
10. You suffer no compulsion to Sacred Hunt. Instead, you gain a persistent Addicted condition related to finding and gaining new vassals, which must be sated at the same rate your compulsion to hunt would have been. You suffer the Obsession condition towards any potential vassal when this addiction triggers, losing it once they are in your possession. You also gain the Obsession condition towards any member of your fief that leaves or flees your control.
11. You get a Ban. The nature of this Ban varies, but should be drawn from one of a taboo based on your beliefs, your personal hungers or the nature of your fief.

Next time: Ghost Wolf Devourers

Cannibalism Monster Count: Two

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Cannibalism Monster Count: Two

In the early 2000s, a massive werewolf nightmare erupted in Russia and China - a storm of brutal cannibal werewolves. These wolves, known as the Cull, drew forth terrible secrets from the dead. They were of no Tribe and they fought both Pure and Forsaken. In the years since, they have risen to the status of major faction in the region, reltnlessly assaulting their victims and growing more powerful with each one they consume. Their twisted philosophy states that it is necessary to winnow out the weak among the werewolves, who are far too numerous. The natural forces of predation are failing, and like Wolf did once, today's werewolves have fallen from greatness by becoming too complacent in their strength. Balance must be restored with mass death. Until the coming of the Cull, very few werewolves knew of the existence of Ghost Wolf Devourers. Theirs is a profane, bloody path of enlightenment, in which they tear divine power from the flesh and guts of their kin. Until the Cull, their existence traced back to ancient cannibal wolf-witches, and their numbers had dwindled to a tiny handful using vile rites passed down from teacher to student.

All traditionalist Devourers are strong-willed sorcerers of flesh and spirit. Their souls are carved to mimic the nature of the hunger that drives spirits to devour each other. Some believe that the autophagous urges of the Hosts are a map to divine union and power, that they may regain the lost power of Wolf which has been diluted by generations of unworthy children. Several of these traditionalists claim a lineage that they trace all the way back to Pangaea and its ancient pacts. The Cull, on the other hand, are a modern synthesis of several of these Devourer traditions, mixed in with their own warped belief systems drawn off human understandings of harmony and balance. The Cull believe that taking power from those they eat is the key to their sacred task, rather than a blasphemy. They believe it honors the prey and exalts Wolf. After they win a battle, they conduct a horrific cannibal feast, in which they tear flesh and meat from still-living victims, handing it out to followers in their groups in gore-soaked banquets.

Most Devourers work in covens rather than packs. They are nof formally bound by pack bond and have no totem spirit, but their associations are tight due to their shared faith and their understanding of the communion of flesh. The Cullt supports several covens, each made of about a dozen or so full Devourers, who are supported by Ghost Wolf packs that wish to be initiated into the mysteries of the cannibal. Old Devourer traditions may still lurk on the edges of werewolf society, hiding their blasphemies, but the Cull are an open army. Other werewolves in Russia and China are now forced to stand together or die, torn apart by the cannibals. Some packs even choose to bend their knee to the Cull and submit rather than face them and be annihilated and consumed.

The key ability of the Devourers, which converts the user into one, is the Devour rite. It is a potent, five-dot rite that requires the practitioner to consume the flesh of another werewolf. They can be alive or dead, but if alive, they must die as part of the rite. Once complete, the ritemaster absorbs the victim's spirit and, if they weren't one already, becomes a Devourer. Further uses of the Devour Rite either reveal new cannibal enlightenments or extend the duration of those you already have.

Rumors exists of Forsaken Devourers, not Ghost Wolves, and they are true. These ghoulish wolves break the normal rules of the Devourer philosophies out of a belief that the ends justify the means. They forsake all morals and rules of the Forsaken, even working with Bale Hounds or committing terrible atrocities in order to gain the edge they need for whatever "greater good" they think is worth it. These are known as Argent Ghouls, and some of them even seem to receive sanction and teaching in the Devour Rite from potent Lunes...but no other Lunes will even admit that they exist. It is not entirely unclear what this specific Lune is doing or how much Luna and her other servants know about the Argent Ghouls.

Devourers rarely find any spirit willing to accept them as packmates, so they don't generally have totems. Generally. The Cull claim no great spiritual patron, either. But something is meddling with them, granting them strange visions while they are deep in meditation. Most recently, these visions are calling them towards the sea, and to other liminal spaces where land and water meet. The Cull gathers now to attempt assaults on Macau and Hong Kong, while elsewhere, early converts arrive on foreign shores to spread the cannibal gospel to other Ghost Wolves. They find themselves strangely invigorated by their sea-based journeys. (I, Mors, note that this seems to suggest some kind of tie to something like the Lamprey Hosts whom we'll meet later on and who are super into blood, death and weirdo cults.)

Sometimes, though, the creation of a Devourer goes wrong. Sometimes, a would-be Devourer hears a whisper in their mind, telling them to eat their own name, swallowing it entirely. They come out the other side of the rite as horrific, gibbering wolf-shadows, and none can recall who they were before. Sometimes, the victim's power overwhelms the practitioner, causing their body to collapse in a mass of gore and quicksilver energies. The rarest failures are those who somehow fail to contain the metaphysical energies of the blood sacrament, and instead mutate. Sometimes they become geryo, sometimes strange, shambling husks whose presence numbs the mind and robs victims of memories of self. None of these failed apotheoses are common, but all hvae occurred. It turns out it's kind of dangerous to willfully fuck with your own basic nature.

So how do Devourers work differently than normal Ghost Wolves? Here's how:
1. Once you become a Devourer, with the exception of the Argent Ghouls noted above, you are permanently unable to join a pack or Tribe, as your cannibal predations spiritually isolate you. You gain affinity with the Gift of Hunger, and your Renown brands glow sickly yellow-green when visible.
2. You no longer gain Renown as gifts from spirits; it just boils out of your soul as a form of spiritual pus when you perform appropriate deeds.
3. You may now gain enlightenments, which are potent secrets derived from the physical and spiritual communion with the innards and soul of another werewolf. Enlightenments last six months each unless boosted further by use of the Devour Rite. Your enlightenments are limited by Primal Urge.

The enlightenments are abiilities gained from the flesh and marrow of your victims, which you use in unholy communion with ancient, legendary bodhisattva-predators. Devourers, traditionalist or Cull, are not just looking for raw power, after all. They are seeking literal enlightenment, seeking to consume enough of Wolf's ancient Essence to become something greater. The following Enlightenments have been noted:
Blazing Majesty: While in any form that is not either full human or full wolf, you get a bonus to Presence and Resolve based on Glory. Cannibalism makes you brave and charismatic.
Blood of the Great Predator: You regenerate faster based on Purity. (This is very good!)
Forge Spawn: You can spend a bunch of Essence to vomit up a rank 1 hunger spirit, which will serve you loyally for a year and a day before it wanders off to do its own thing. You can have several of these limited by Primal Urge. (Not as good as it sounds - rank 1 spirits kinda suck.)
From the Jaws of Defeat: The first time you would be defeated each scene, no matter how or how completely, you come back from an unepxected angle and are completely healed of all injury whatsoever.
Hunter's Attunement: You can sense danger several rounds before it comes based on Cunning, no matter how impossible it'd be for you to know it.
Implacable Hunter: Whenever a supernatural obstacle or barrier would block you from your prey, you can get through it with a clash of wills that you get a huge bonus on. (No, like, insanely huge.)
Impossible Regeneration: You heal 1 Agg per round. Unless wounded by silver, you can heal even from a full healthbar of Agg damage. (This is nutty.)
Inviolate Soul: You can spend a bunch of Essence to remove any Condition, period, no matter its source or effect.
Jaws of Inevitability: When you bite someone, your target gets no Defense, armor or other defenses that would normally reduce your accuracy or damage. (This is absolutely fucking insane, btw. It is the deadliest thing I can think of.)
Leash the Cur: When your prey would contest you or resist you in a social action, they get a penalty to their Composure and Resolve based on Honor.
Paragon of Renown: You pick a Renown. Your rolls of any pool involving that Renown get the rote quality. (This is absolutely nuts, because most of that is magic Gift powers.)
Primal Form: Your dire wolf form gets a bonus to Strength and size based on your Purity.
Relentless Pursuit: You can spend a bunch of Essence when chasing someone to arrive at the prey's destination before they do, regardless of any distance or obstacles.
Silver Resolve: You get a bonus based on Wisdom to any values that'd be used to oppose supernatural attempts to affect or influence you. If those attempts are from prey, any failure they roll against you is a dramatic failure. (This is also insanely good!!)
Sun-Chaser: You can run tirelessly during dawn or sunset, traveling across the land at the literal speed of the sun's transit without stopping or getting tired. This is...not entirely clear, but the sun's light is pretty fast!
Stainless Harmony: Your Harmony rating is locked at 5 and cannot be changed, no matter what you do.

Next time: Void Reivers - Werewolves From Space

Space Werewolves From Space

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Space Werewolves From Space

Werewolves exist for a purpose. Explicitly. Wolf and Moon created them to be hunters and guardians. Wolf's dead, yes, but Moon's still arounmd, and she still expects the Forsaken, at least, to serve. However, even such a well-made tool has flaws. Void Reivers are one more expression of those flaws. Beyond the light of the Warden Moon is the dead void. From here to the distant stars, there is...nothing. Literally nothing. Huge expanses of the stuff. We call it space, and to spirits it is the Void Beyond. It should be without life. It is not. Strange things exist out in that emptiness, born of void and dark. They do not understand or comprehend their own existence. But still, they strive, these void spirits. The small ones gibber forth from the dark, while the immense leviathans of nothigneness awaken from their journeys through the void as they get close to the shining light of Earth. The rays of Helios, the sun spirit, push them back, hurl them down. But still they come, these ancient angels of the void, serving feuds from the long-forgotten past of prehistory, feuds that burn through the bedrock of the planets and their Shadow mirrors. For the most part, Moon keeps them out. She's good at it.

Sometimes, however, one of the void spirits makes it through the Warden's Stride - that is, the lunar orbit. Most of them find mere existence in the Shadow of a place where existence, uh, exists intensely confusing. They find Earth's Shadow alien and confusing. Some of them go on rampages, but end up starving for lack of void Essence. Some of them flee immediately, but are inevitably drawn back again, no matter how much it hurts them. A very rare few, however, do something else. These void spirits pupate and metastasize, forming a sort of reality cocoon in which they begin to change. They need it, because werewolves that still bear a lunar Auspice feel very intense instincts when they face a void spirit. These ancient instincts and spiritual programs well up in their soul, placed there in ancient times by Moon. They are not compelled, quite, but on a fundamental level they feel a hunger to hunt, bring down and annihilate the void spirits. This would be fine, except it's 2019, not the age of prehistory. Things have changed.

Exposure to the void spirits causes a werewolf's body to go through some intense spiritual reactions. They begin to radiate spiritual power in an effort to purge the intense alien wrongness from the worlds of Flesh and Shadow. However, the Gauntlet exists now, and that kind of spiritual purging is actually no longer possible. Forsaken draw strength from the Firstborn, and that shields them - when their soul opens up to purge the void Essence around them, the Firstborns' power steps in and prevents the void from seeping through. Ghost Wolves, of course, lack such protections. Occasionally, Ghost Wolves purposefully summon or hunt void spirits in search of their alien power. Ancient, rather blasphemous Lodges exist for them, with totemic guardians that give at least some protection from the Void Beyond's taint. The wolves that join them become able to consume the void spirits relatively safely, drinking of their bizarre Essence to delve into deep mysteries of the Void. For those Ghost Wolves who are not so lucky to find and join these Lodges, especially those who only accidentally run into the alien spirits of space, a far worse fate awaits.

Their instinctive urge to destroy the void spirits and the spiritual purging their bodies uselessly attempt mean that when they bite into a void spirit, its alien Essence attacks them, flowing into them like a virus. Void spirits tend to be starving to begin with, and they react to the werewolf's spirit nature by attempting to devour it as well. This channels their spirits together, forming a transmutational crucible as the void blindly attempts to hijack the werewolf's spirit to feed itself and the werewolf's Essence tries to consume and purge the spirit. The void contagion isn't malicious or evil, of course. Void spirits don't understand those ideas; hell, most spirits have trouble with them, let alone alien space spirits who find the idea of "physical things that exist" confusing and alarming. It's just an attempt to survive. It still produces horrific results. The void infection roots itself in the werewolf's spirit, creating a buzz of strange, wordless thoughts in the mind that push the ideas of need, transcendent union and the insane, incomprehensible concepts of the void.

The infection progresses into the eyes, turning them black. They flicker only with starlight, and by the time this happens, the Ghost Wolf can no longer be cured. The darkness creeps through their flesh as well as their spirit, rooting itself now in the hunger of the werewolf. The spiritual emptiness overwrites the werewolf's body and rebuilds their soul to better serve the void hunger. The infection spreads trough hte body like a cancer, slowly unbinding the werewolf from the fabric of reality. The werewolf's idea of reality crumbles with their body's grip on it, and they enter a state that is...not quite Twilight, but similar. It exists on an emptier, deeper "frequency" of existence. They perceive the world only in thin, gray, dark tones, and the hunger overtakes their senses. They have become a void reiver.

Void reivers crave Essence. Their hunger can never be fed, and they are driven to gorge on the purest forms of spiritual resonance. Human and wolf flesh provide them little to nothing, and the Essence that forms the body of a spirit is too thick and heavy with symbolic meaning imposed on it by Earth. A Reiver must have the distilled, purified Essence of a Locus, or the refined energies of rituals and magic. Thus, they hunt and raid these things. A Reiver drains loci and drinks them up, as well as stalking rituals to steal their power and consume it. This quickly drains all power from the local Shadow, reducing it to a dead, barran spiritual landscape that vaguely resembles the Void Beyond. Unfortunately, killing the void spirit that is now living alongside the Reiver does nothing helpful. In fact, it makes things worse.

While the spirit lives, it guides the Reivers it creates. The Essence they devour is fed into it, processed through the spiritual hybrid state of the infected metabolism. The Reivers serve as a bridge between the intensity of reality and the Void. While these Reivers are essentially slave to their infection's instincts, they at least have a purpose and a drive. Without the spirit to guide them, they lose all reasoning ability. Unfortunately, most Reivers have already lost their parasitic companion, generally having killed it when they first met it and became infected. They have a hunger they can't feed, and nothing they do can make it feel better. They lack anything but the roughest memory of who they once were, and their body has been hijacked by a mix of their own divine instinct and the void's survival drive. Their infection can be spread by the bite, as well, and through the symbolic link of the Sacred Hunt - regardless of if the Reiver is predator or prey. Sometimes, entire packs of Reivers will gather, fighting other packs for control of Loci, fetishes or sacred grounds so they can drain them of power like locusts in a field. In the best cases, a Reiver can manage brief periods of lucidity just long enough to hold a conversation or bargain for access to Essence. When in a pack, however, Reivers work silently and in perfect union, thanks to the unitiving drive of the void hunger.

Fortunately, Void Reivers are extremely rare. Void spirits rarely make it past the Warden's Stride, after all. Few werewolves know much about the Reivers at all, let alone if they can be cured. The infection, if caught in its incubatory phase, before it consumes the eyes, can be stopped. It requires strong will, the support of a pack, and sufficient Essence to keep the void spirit's hunger in chekc for a while. EVen then, however, there's risks - once the void cancer sets, the Reiver will immediately see all other werewolves only as vectors of Essence to devour.

Void Reiver infections are often accompanied by chaos and disaster in the flesh world. Some believe that this is where the "black dog of ill omen" myths began, and it is theorized by the few in the know that void spirits are attracted to these disasters when they exit orbit, or perhaps that the spiritual desolation the Reivers cause is the source of those disasters. The Reivers also may or may not have ties to UFO abduction stories. This is because, besides draining Essence, Reivers occasionally kidnap humanss and drag them to their void spirit master in Shadow. Void spirits ppear to find humans fascinating in their lack of spiritual reflection, potentially seeing some kind of echo or Void resonance in them. These abductees are not usually harmed, but a few vanish entirely from the world afterwards, leaving behind only sloughed-off skin. There also may or may not be some tie to dark things buried deep in the earth. Some werewolves theorize that void leviathans exist, imprisoned deep in the stone. Their evidence is that, over the past few centuries, there have been several mass migrations of Void Reivers following large geological activity. The Reivers move in unison, going so far as to desert any void spirits they have and leave their territories, heading across the world for unknown purpose. Once they reach their destination, they seek out routes to enter the ground, descending into the dark. There are no reports of them after this happens.

So how do Void Reivers differ mechanically? Here's how:
1. Void Reivers gain an affinity for the Gift of Hunger, but lose access to their Moon Gifts and Auspice abilities entirely, as these are smopthered by the alien void Essence in their soul.
2. A Reiver's Essence pool doubles, but they lose Essence every day based on their Primal Urge. They also gain a persistent Addiction Condition related to Essence.
3. Anyone who has an Essence pool loses Essence whenever they are bitten by a Void Reiver, and also the cost of any Essence expenditures they perform increases for the rest of the scene.
4. Reivers can sense the location of any nearby Locus, fetish or active rite. They may drain up to 10 Essence per turn out of a Locus, and any Locus they drain permanently loses at least some of its power. If drained entirely, it becomes a Barren.
5. A Void Reiver may consume the effects of a rite or the power of a fetish. This takes a few turns, but permanently destroys the effects of that particular rite or depowers the fetish entirely. The GM may allow this also work on other kinds of magic.
6. Void Reivers are no longer fully in phase with reality. They leave no trace of their passage, and their blood is only a thin oil that quickly boils off to nothing. In any area of darkness or shadow, they heal twice as fast as usual, and they are much harder to locate or influence with magic than normal werewolves.
7. Void Reivers get the advanced action quality on Stealth rolls - which is basically Advantage, they roll twice and take the better roll.
8. Void Reivers gain the power to teleport between areas of shadow and darkness. When they do, all lights and elctronics nearby immediately turn off, go out or otherwise disconnect and cannot be used for several turns.

Next time: Mimics.

Body Snatchers

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Body Snatchers

The Mimics are something new. And, according to some people, they are going to make werewolves obsolete. They are the true hunters now, the next stage of evolution. Each Mimic is a peerless shapeshifter, and their abilities in that arena far surpass those of werewolves. Their strange, shivering flesh and bone let them become anything they want. Anything. Perfectly. However, this total mastery of physical shape costs them much of their mind and spirit. It doesn't help that the surviving phratries, as Mimic packs call themselves, tend to be extremely convinced of their superiority to werewolves and also filled with spite and anger. The first report of Mimics date back to the 90s - escaped or released experiments of some variety, it seemed. They were feral, isolated beings, more animal than human, and were responsible for occasional bizarre killing sprees. They were prone to hiding for years on end in mundane forms to avoid detection. One of them is still living in the Smithsonian, taking its natural form only at night, once everyone has left, to wander the halls and stare in uncomprehending longing at the works of human craft that it does not understand.

The phratries came later, as packs of Mimics bonded together. In 2015, phratries appeared in Athens, Nairobi and Kuala Lampur, making themselves known through vicious murder campaigns, in which they killed by extraordinary means in impossible circumstances. Their hunts focused on the Pure, but also targeted any Forsaken that crossed them, disrespected them or had things they wanted. The retribution against the Mimics was vicious. They were hard to track, but the superior werewolf numbers and the brief alliances of Pure and Forsaken against them in some cases meant that many phratries were destroyed or driven off. What became clear is that Mimics were artificial. Someone was making them, deliberately, via methods of spiritual engineering and Essence alchemy that was years ahead of even the best werewolves' understanding. The Mimics were made from Wolf-Bloods kept for years in hidden places where the worlds of Shadow and Flesh mixed freely, and the few that talked described experiments and indoctrination by masked figures as well as being confined to strange, empty chambers lacking in any details or hard edges.

Some Forsaken believe that the Mimics were made at the orders of Red Wolf, Firstborn patron of the Iron Masters. Certainly her chosen werewolf envoys, who are said to have shards of her in their souls, were quick to gather valuable information on their capabilities. However, if it was Red Wolf, neither she nor the Iron Masters appear to have any current control over the Mimics. They differ so greatly from werewolves as to effectively be a new subspecies, and each one instinctively understands how to create more of themselves. This is a process involving torture and the sharing of blood with a Wolf-Blooded. This does not ensure the Wolf-Blood will Change and become a Mimic, but if they ever do, they become a Mimic rather than a werewolf.

Mimics are not Forsaken. The two groups mostly treat each other as enemies. A Mimic's spirit incompatible with the totemic oaths of the Firstborn, but they still see themselves as the future of and replacements for the werewolves. They are the perfected children of Moon, made to destroy the Pure and render the Forsaken obsolete. The Forsaken purges of phratries have turned what was once just arrogance into bitter hate. However, some Mimics are willing to gather up Ghost Wolves to serve them, either with offers of places of honor in the new order or just terrifying them into obedience. Mimics certainly do have the touch of Moon on them - they are practiced killers, sharing the assassin instincts of New Moon along with their insanely potent shapeshifting. They are driven not just by the werewolf urge to hunt but an urge to kill, far stronger than their desire to hold or protect territory. Some Mimics have given up all the ambitions of their fellows and serve as assassins for hire in order to gain some structure to their addictive need to murder. These tend to be willing to work for Forsaken, Ghost Wolves or even humans - all they want is a target to keep their bloodlust satisfied.

Mimics may not be quite as new as they claim to be, however. Historically, a handful of werewolves have displayed powers similar to those the Mimics now wield. Unlike the newly emerged ones, these were caused by rare, aberrant First Changes in which, for some reason, Moon's power was overwhelming. The quicksilver power of change in these werewolves pretty much drowned out Wolf's half of their inheritance. However, other werewolves believe that Mimics are essentially miniature idigams. No one knows who made them - it could be a Firstborn, or perhaps some potent, enlightened werewolf, or maybe just humans doing something they really don't understand - but certainly the mercurial nature of their Essence is reminescent of the idigam. A phratry outside New York once got chased by the Forsaken into the lair of an idigam, and they ended up working with it in a strange and dangerous alliance. However, other idigam see the Mimics as natural prey, hunting and consuming them with joy and eagerness.

Mimics are also notable for the fact that those who manage to master their death-hunger and keep it fed have great abilities to make themselves powerful in the human world. They can be anywhere, become anything. Is it any surprise that some of them have turned into master infiltrators and bank robbers? They can pretty much get in anywhere, given their ability to turn not just into any person they want but any literal physical object. Some werewolves fear what they might be up to - not just getting rich, but perhaps breaking into the halls of power to replace people, or even going after nukes.

Mechanically, Mimics differ from Ghost Wolves as follows:
1. Mimics are, universally, Irraka. They possess Renown, Gifts and Auspice as usual, but that's the only Auspice they can have.
2. Mimics cannot join a Tribe or Lodge. They are able to form packs with other Mimics, but not werewolves. In theory, a group of Mimics would be able to find a potent spiritual patron and create a Tribe of their own, but werewolves would be unable to join it.
3. Mimics have all the normal werewolf forms, and automatically get the Gift Facets Quicksilver Flesh and Skin Thief. Unlike normal werewolves, however, they always use the best healthbar any of their forms would be allowed, at all times.
4. Mimics possess a Mimicry pool based on their stats and Primal Urge. They can spend Mimicry to alter themselves at any time. This can turn them into any creature or object they can perceive (though changing size to do so costs extra), add dice to pass for a person they're copying, add dice to Stealth rolls to avoid being noticed by blending into the background, increase Armor against a single attack, increase damage for a single attack with a natural weapon, remove a physical Tilt, increase Speed for a turn while copying an object, or increase Speed for a single action by literally liquifying (which also lets it move through tiny gaps). Mimicry is regained by taking an action to focus, or by eating human or wolf flesh.
5. Outwardly, copied objects are perfect copies, right down to surface temperature and texture. However, Mimics cannot duplicate mechanical or electrical functions and, if damaged, show meat and blood under the facade. Copies of living beings are imperfect, generally repulsive in some way, such as uncanny-valley faces, odd tumors, twisted limbs, or eyes where there should not be eyes. Mimicry can be spent to mask these flaws temporarily, but often it's preferred to kill someone and wear their flesh-suit via the Skin Thief facet.
6. Mimics possess persistent Madness and Addicted conditions at all times. Their Addiction is killing, and they become Deprived if they go a week without killing a person. Animals and simple spirits do not count - it has to be a human, werewolf or other sapient being. Killing a non-Mimic werewolf suppresses both conditions for a month rather than just feeding the addiction for a week, and also grants the Mimic the Inspired condition.

Next time: Zi'ir, the Broken Ones

Look At This Werewolf, You Broke It, It's Broken Now

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Look At This Werewolf, You Broke It, It's Broken Now

Zi'ir is a First Tongue word. It refers to werewolves who have lost their path and fallen to the extremes of Harmony, a werewolf whose soul is literally broken. They are no longer werewolves, but something lesser, something empy. A Zi'ir is made when a werewolf's spirit becomes so completely imbalanced with its own nature that it is irreparably damaged. Typically, this is self-inflicted - it's very hard for this fate to be forced on a werewolf by anyone but themself, and that is done by performing actions that drive them ever further away from balanced harmony of spirit until, at last, they cannot find their way back. The way this manifests differs, depending on if the Zi'ir is fallen to Flesh or fallen to Shadow, and even then there's a few forms it can take. Some Zi'ir become trapped in a single shape, unable to change at all, and are driven mad by instincts they can no longer satisfy. Others become consumed by hunger for human flesh. (Cannibalism is honestly a bit over-repeated as a problem for werewolves.) Still more become trapped in obsessive, contradictory Bans that force them to absurd, mad actions, while others have their rage and fury tear free from them and rampage through Shadow as an independent being.

Some claim that the Zi'ir are the sources or descendants of the Geryo contagion, as their lack of harmony renders them spiritually vulnerable to the mutations of the Geryo. Certainly, the zi'ir suffer from spiritual weakness, and they overwhelmingly come from the ranks of Ghost Wolves, who lack the social and spiritual supports of the tribes. It's just one more reason that the Forsaken tend to look on the Ghost Wolves with scorn. They see the Ghost Wolves as cowards, who lacked the bravery to commit themselves and who blinded themselves to their duty. The reason Zi'ir are much more common among Ghost Wolves is, again, that the spiritual ties of the Firstborn help the werewolf soul resist the spiral into total disharmony, compounded by the fact that many Ghost Wolves reject the teachings and tenets of the Forsaken that are designed to allow them to maintain that harmony. Still, even for Ghost Wolves, becoming a zi'ir is neither sudden or unexpected. You don't get there without a sustained pattern of behavior that your instincts are pretty much screaming against constantly. Eventually, your soul just gives out, no longer able to try and push you away from your path, and you basically get the spiritual equivalent of gangrene.

Zi'ir are typically shunned but not attacked if they keep away from other werewolves and their madness is at least not super disruptive. Those who are more dangerous are put down by other packs before they can hurt anything. Rarely, a Zi'ir may be "adopted" by their former pack, kept chained up or held somewhere and, usually, cared for - or at least kept ready to unleash on the pack's foes to give them a chance to vent their endless fury. Among the Pure, Zi'ir often serve as test subjects for their strange science and sorcery, with the results occasionally loosed on the Forsaken. Most werewolves, though, just want nothing to do with the Zi'ir, who are an unwelcome reminder of the dangers of failing to maintain balance.

Occasionally, a Zi'ir trapped in wolf shape will form a spiritual connection to a piece of wilderness or a natural wolf pack. These connections are not healthy or wholesome for anyone involved - rather, the Zi'ir becomes a ravening master of the wild, defending its territory with blind ferocity against all comers. These broken wolves are able to wield the Gifts of Hunger, Nature, Rage and Strength at range, extending out to any part of their territory, and may grant their benefits to their adopted wolf pack. These places are the source of legends about man-eating wolves and vanishing travelers in the dark wood, at least until someone takes down the Zi'ir. On the other hand, a Zi'ir lost to spirit can be a source of valuable knowledge, as they almost certainly reached that state by seeking out spirit lore and rejecting their human side entirely. Werewolf lore and history is typically orally transmitted rather than written down, so often they are the only ones who know these things. Thus, occasionally pilgrimages will be taken to meet such zi'ir, either to ask for their secrets or to imprison them and torture them for information.

Most Zi'ir are self-inflicted problems, but there are a few things out there that can break a werewolf's soul from the outside. In Hong Kong, some strange and unknown thing occasionally tears the power of the First Change out of young werewolves in the midst of their transformation, leaving them as Zi'ir before they even know what they truly are. In France, there are far more werewolves than ever before recorded, and the nation is now a pilgrimage center and hub for many tribal efforts in Europe. Some there were overwhelmed during their First Change, consumed by a fury so great that they have never awakened from their bestial rage. In some places, for no reason anyone knows, there are strange spirit-maelstroms in Shadow which flay Essence from spirits and can tear harmony directly from werewolves. Further, the Firstborn can levy terrible punishments on those that gravely dishonor and desecrate their spiritual bond, which can occasionally go so far as to shatter a werewolf's mind and soul, rendering them Zi'ir.

Zi'ir are created when a werewolf at Harmony 0 or 10 dramatically fails a Breaking Point that would push them in the direction of the extreme they are already at. Forsaken require three such dramatic failures, while Pure require two. Zi'ir are locked at their Harmony rating and can never change it in any circumstances. They also gain the persistent Madness condition, and each day they gain one of Spooked, Shaken, Guilty or Paranoid. They cannot join packs or form totem bonds, and they cannot regain Willpower from Bone, only Blood.

Zi'ir also gain at least one Spiritual Poison, which they can never remove. These include:
Dead Spirit (Harmony 10 only): Your eyes are dead, your spirit desolate. You can never regain Willpower by any means. Any location you are present in for a scene becomes a temporary Barren until you leave.
Dissipation (Harmony 0 only): Your flesh is dissolving into spirit ephemera. While you are asleep or inactive in Shadow, your body decoheres, becoming a mist or rain of blood and dust that drifts around the area. If alerted or woken up, you take several turns to recohere into your normal form. If you somehow enter the Flesh world, you are permanently treated as being in the Twilight Form manifestation. You may submerge yourself into a Locus, however, gaining rote quality on all Gift activation rolls against anyone that's taken Essence from the Locus that scene.
Form Lock (Harmony 10 only): Except during death rage, you cannot exit either your human or your wolf form, whichever one you happened to become Zi'ir in.
Geryo: You have become infected with the Geryo contagion.
Gibber (Harmony 0 only): You cannot communicate coherently. Anyone who is exposed to your attempts to do so has to make a roll to avoid gaining the Madness condition for a week.
Maddening Bans: You gain three persistant Ban conditions, at least two of which must contradict each other.
Moon Fugue (Harmony 10 only): You gain the Moon set of triggers for death rage. If you already had them, you enter death rage every night when the moon rises.
Rage Spirit (Harmony 0 only): When you sleep, your death rage exits your body in the form of a rage spirit that wanders into shadow and has rank based on your honorary rank. While your rage is out on its own, you cannot death rage or enter Gauru form. Regaining your death rage requires you to track the spirit down and make a roll to force it back inside you. If it dies, a new one emerges from your body when you next sleep.
Ravening Hunger (Harmony 10 only): You get the persistent Addicted condition towards human flesh.
Spiritual Poison (Harmony 0 only): Your Essence is toxic. If you take Essence from a locus or use a fetish, any other werewolf that attempts to use that Locus or fetish in the next month suffers the Poisoned tilt at moderate level.

Next time: Smothering Love, the Angel of Empty Spaces

Evil Enemy Ghost Monsters

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Evil Enemy Ghost Monsters

We're into the spirit chapter now!

The Grandmother, also called Granny Stitch, is an ancient magath, a spirit that has combined several entirely unrelated concepts into itself. Humans have always warned of the shadows beyond the fire - and one of the many reasons for that is the Grandmother, who whispers promises. Hers is the voice that calls to adventure, which pushes ambition to act. Once, human tribes would sing in order to drown out her whispers in the night, promising great riches and untold wonders. The few tales werewolves tell of the Grandmother that date back to those ancient times say that she was a misguided spirit, as often destroying her victims as enlightening them. She lured the strong and greedy into the wild lands, that she might feed on the Essence derived from their fear of the unknown and the exhiliration they felt in discovery in darkness. She pushed humans to discover, to tame the lands of mystery and danger. She grew fat on their fear and their curiosity, as men and women sought ever deeper into the night, lighting it with their torches of learning.

Unfortunately, she went mad. She became too attached to her food source, and she became unable to reconcile the fear and the inspiration together into a cohesive whole. Thus, she became magath, coming to crave the protection of humans from the dangers she called them towards. She was never able to resolve this contradiction. The Grandmother began to select victims from the ancient tribes of humanity. Those who followed her whispers were tangled in a black sludge, then drawn into her domain, where she would spare them the pain and suffering their curiosity would surely bring. Tales began to spread of slouched people wandering without goal in the trackless woods and jungles, their spirits broken. Those who had the bravery to attempt rescue of their lost kin only brought the Grandmother more Essence to feed on.

Today, werewolves refer to the Grandmother as Granny Stitch. She is still potent and feared, but werewolves know how to be careful when dealing with the old magath. Some even do rituals to seek her favor in exchange for victims lured into the dark, where she can strip them of fear, ambition and desire forever. Grandmother's power is drawn from human ambition, curiosity and desire. These are what bring her the Essence she consumes - the leaps into the dark. When she feels enough of that Essence in a place's resonance, she creates a Shadow Gateway, sending her Saved out to influence and draw in new victims for her. However, in the modern era, there are not nearly so many explorers seeking the unknown. Rather, Granny Stitch's targets are more often thrill seekers hunting adrenaline highs - they're easier to find. She does still target those exploring the new, though - astronauts, space researchers, physicists investigating the cutting edge of science and doctors performing new and groundbreaking research. These call to her hunger and her desire to "secure" her favored people. She has no particular interest in the lazy, listless or drug-addled, and she deliberately shuns them. If these are caught in her web, her Saved reject them and sometimes even kill them.

Granny Stitch takes the form of a mass of thick black liquid contained in the shell of an immense bald woman. She sits in a rocking chair that moans constantly in pain and pleasure, and which sings songs of terror and beauty through unnumbered mouths woven into its upholstery. Her skin is wrinkled by the oozing of her thick corpus within her form, and several spindly arms and other appendages grow from her sides, emerging from underneath the quilt of human ears she wears. Jewels and eyes hang from strings around her neck and are worn as earrings, and she also wears them as rings on her many pointed, black fingers. She is always surrounded by bobbins loaded with black, tar-like thread and balls of black and sticky yarn, both made from her own Essence. She is lightning-fast with her needles when she wishes to make it into new things. She keeps her Saved under her skirts, each a shadow of their former human self. They emerge as needed, each stripped of their facial features. These are replaced by three cross-shaped stitches where they once had eyes and a mouth. The Grandmother sees this as a kindness - she is saving them from the tormented fates that their curiosity would drag them to.

Granny Stitch genuinely believes herself a kindly protector, a savior of humanity from the dangers of the dark, the dangers they seek due to their constant need to discover, experiment and push the bounds of understanding. Her lures are meant to entrap those most vulnerable to such urges. When dealing with humans, she favors the confident, bold and ambitious, seeking to entrap them by whatever means seems convenient at the time. She has deluded herself into believing that she is beloved by humanity, and that she is personally responsible for all major breakthroughs of knowledge in human history, for the evolution of humanity out of its bestial past, and for simultaneously (and contradictorily) saving humanity from its impulses to know and discover. She lives in a realm in Deep Shadow, within a quaint little cottage in a vivid purple forest. The Saved stumble blindly in its gardens, tumbling and falling often. Those who reach her lair find it horrific, but also safe and secure. The ground is soft and pillowy, and it gently raises any who fall back to their feet. Even fire does not harm here, providing only a gentle, ticklish warmth. Accidental injury is practically impossible - the only threat is the Grandmother herself.

Some old werewolves remember tales of those who have sought the Grandmother's favor. When she tried to entrap one of these werewolves, they say, they were saved by carrying the antique kit of a seamstress, brought in hopes of winning her over. The scissors, they say, were made of pure iron, and were able to slice right through her snares with great ease. Ithaeur are quick to note that while Granny Stitch is dangerous as hell, she is neither good nor evil. She's a spirit and doesn't really understand those concepts. Her snares are out there for good and bad alike to fall into, if they meet her criteria. Thus, she can be used to trap enemies if you're clever. Lately, however, she has been stepping up her kidnapping efforts. She wants to get as many humans as possible, and she's been talking to anyone that'll listen to her about a terrible threat approaching. She must, she says, save as many humans as possible before it arrives. In a very rare moment of self-awareness, she will even describe it as 'something worse even than what I have become.'

The Grandmother is a rank 5 spirit, which makes her insanely powerful in a straight-up fight. She also has Influence (Fear) 3 and (Inspiration) 4, making her very powerful in anything relating to those two emotions. Her Ban is that she cannot interfere with any creature at rest, and even just sitting cross-legged on the ground means she can't attack you. Further, she cannot harm children, and the sound of a child crying causes her to lose Essence. Her bane is iron scissors. She has a unique power, Granny's Threads, which lets her coat an area in her black yarn to entrap people who touch it and drain their Willpower. Once she drains someone of all Willpower, the threads tighten around them completely and drag them to her realm. She can only use the threads this way in areas resonant with darkness, and they can only manifest when the area is actually dark - by day or in bright light, the threads vanish until the light goes away. However, they will remain in place for a month or until the threads are destroyed, whichever is first.

The Saved are primarily human beings, though Grandmother has taken a few other creatures over the centuries. Each one once served her as a source of Essence to feed on, but now they are basically just hollow shells. They have no desire, emotion or want, save that which Grandmother implants into them. They are entirely dependent on her to exist, and if left to themselves will only frolic in her Shadow garden or stand perfectly still. All Saved have no facial features, as Grandmother removes them and weaves them into her own being, using them like clothing and jewelry. While they lack sensory organs besides skin, they can perceive the world in a limited way via the black, inky threads that form the X-marks on their 'faces' where their features once were. These resonate with Grandmother's hunger, and when she opens a Shadow gate for them, the threads push them to go through it and seek out those with urges for adventure, discovery and excitement.

The calls they send out take a form relevant to the victim; typically, this is dreams or subconscious thought. These affected humans get drawn to the gate and may even enlist others to help them explore the unknown. Once there, however, they face the true horror of the situation. Almost no one is going to willingly enter Granny Stitch's home with the Saved, but they don't take no for an answer, and the Essence of fear is appetizing to the magath. The Saved themselves fight in complete silence. All of their efforts are focused on grabbing, dragged and throwing victims into Granny's threads. They neither feel nor understand the concept of pain. They're not especially strong or good at things, but they're tough and they don't stop. As long as they are in the presence of the Grandmother, in her domain or within a mile of an area of the Flesh world infested by her threads, they can perfectly perceive the world around them regardless of light level, and they ignore even magical concealment. Beyond that area, however, they are completely blind with all senses ut touch. They can spend Essence to infect someone they perceive with a desire to investigate an area of Granny's threads.

The White Agora is a spirit of isolation. Humans and werewolves are social animals, but also tend to have trouble with constant social stimulation. The balance of this, the cries of the lonely for some kind of interaction - these are the prayers White Agora answers. Once, it was weak, but the modern world has made White Agora strong, as people grow ever more isolated while in the middle of physical crowds. It is not a creature of physical solitude, after all, but psychological. It (or possibly she) is the spirit of that absence of connection between people, the fear or desire to be alone in a crowd. Her blessing is sensory deprivation from the entire world, and her name was given to her by a werewolf that felt her touch. She empties the world, makes it blank with a tinge of static. She has grown potent in the modern world of electronic devices shutting out all around their users. She feeds on people who do that, then heads out to deliver her gift to those who want to get away but cannot. This would be fine...if it weren't for, oh, drivers in traffic jams who wish they could be anywhere but here, or those barreling down empty highway thinking about anything but the road ahead. White Agora has caused a plague of traffic accidents wherever she's gone, though no one's yet noticed the pattern.

White Agora is not cruel or sadistic. In her own way, she offers mercy. However, she's still a spirit. She doesn't care about people who die because of her gift. In fact, she's slowly starting to learn that violent death causes loss, and loss can make people withdraw into themselves. Which feeds her, of course. She hasn't started trying to kill people in order to cause that, but it's certainly a thought that may strike her. She does not appear to or name herself for those that subconsciously pray to her. If she did, after all, they wouldn't be alone. In the Shadow, though, she appears as a slender, apparently humanoid figure draped in endless folds of smooth, ivory-colored linen or perhaps thin leather. Her hood conceals no face, her sleeves end in no hands. Her garment-skin trails after her in a train of unraveling strips. When she speaks to those able to sense her or she is otherwise forced to show herself, she is aloof. She occasionally does things that seem almost maternal or soothing, though. She never, ever speaks to more than one person at a time, and if dealing with multiple people, she ignores all but one. If someone interrupts her, she attempts to leave in silence.

One good way to figure out what's going on if your territory is having a weird spate of inexplicable traffic accidents is to talk to the survivors - because there are going to be some. Any survivor of a blessing from White Agora is going to give the same description: a giant empty white space just...opened up before them, and didn't go away for what seemed like almost an hour. The cops are unlikely to accept this as meaningful information, of course, but a werewolf should be able to figure out it means something's up. The book also provides a story of White Agora killing a werewolf. The dead wolf had been avoiding her pack until one night she just vanished, turning up a month later with signs of having been murdered by the Pure. Essentially, her pack had been investigating the whiteouts White Agora caused and had figured it they were caused by some kind of spirit, but not which one. White Agora really didn't like the attention, so she picked one of the pack at random and focused her power on them, focusing on isolating the wolf from the pack. Over time, this caused the wolf's bonds to fade until she just went off on her own and got jumped.

White Agora is a rank 4 spirit, which gives her a pretty good set of pools, especially Defense and Speed. She's fast as fuck. Her Influences are Isolation 2, Silence 1, Electronics 1. This means she's not quite so good at generally influencing the world; rather, it's her ability to make people hallucinate via her Numina that is her big threat. Well, that and her ability to drain people, shove thoughts in their brains and control their emotions, also via her numina. She's not going to be much of a fight except in terms of raw dicepools, but getting her to fight is not going to be easy, and she can absolutely fuck up your friends and relations. Her Ban is that if conjoined twins request her to leave, she must flee to wherever they tell her to. Her Bane is the milk of a mother who gave birth with no other living person within a mile of her.

Next time: The Plague-Shuck and the Usurper

Just Doing My Job

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Just Doing My Job

how does he close his mouth

Every human society has had legends of plague spirits or something similar. (Mors' note: close enough, there's probably some that don't but the idea of something spreading disease is common.) This is because humans recall, vaguely and through various cultural lenses, the efforts of disease spirits, some of whom treated the spreading of plague as a sacred duty. All of the Firstborn took on broods of their own as their personal spirit-courts. Rabid Wolf chose the spirits of fire, passion and disease. He blessed his favorites with wolf-like form, sending them out to cull the human herd. Nimmursagu, He of the Fifty Stinking Teeth, the Plague-Shuck, still performs this duty as a sacred trust. Occasionally, Fire-Touched ritemasters will invoke Nimmursagu and request his aid, but for the most part, he does his job without need for that. He favors above all cramped quarters - cities in which humans share breath and taste each other's leavings. Places without space to breathe. Nimmursagu brings sickness to sleeping lungs and bites deep of weary blood. And yet, even more than this, he is clever, always watching the future.

Rabid Wolf has many sickness spirits in his entourage, but the harriers are his favorites. Most are mid-range spirits, but some old ones are truly potent. The Fire-Touched speak of them with care and reverance, offering much to propitiate them. This is because the harriers are not required to obey Rabid Wolf's tribe - just Rabid Wolf. Most are shaped vaguely like wolves, but some take other predatory forms or those of scavengers. Most, like Nimmursagu, hunt alone unless someone has driven them to war. The Plague-Shuck is a dutiful son of Rabid Wolf, spreading disease to the weak, the young and the old. It gives him a sort of satisfaction to do his job well. He'd be practically pleasant to deal with, if you never saw him smiling cheerily while killing babies with plague. While he is loyal to Rabid Wolf, he does not hate the Forsaken. Indeed, he seems to like just about all werewolves, seeing them as having similar goals to himself. It would not be hard for a Forsaken pack to make peace with him. He'd be strained at first, annoyed at being distracted by his job even if he does like talking to werewolves. Your main issue would be that he gets annoyed and contemptuous of anyone who tries to tell him there is worth in protecting or feeling compassion for the weak links of the herd. His form is a gaunt wolf the size of a werewolf dire wolf form, hairless and black and with a leathery, corpse-like hide. His jaws are far, far too large for his head, and a fetid black goo coats his gums and drips from his yellowed fangs. He smiles often.

Some attribute legends of black dogs of ill omen or hellhounds to Nimmursagu and his kind. In truth, there's a lot of entities that could be called "black dogs" and many of them are signs or causes of bad things. This means that if you hear about a black dog, it could be Nimmursagu, but there's just too many things out there for that to be a reliable identifier. However, if you hear about one hanging at a hospital...that's more likely. Nimmursagu has adopted a hospital in his territory. Novice werewolf shamans might think he means to destroy or corrupt it. They are wrong - the disease spirit quite likes the place. It is not a well-funded hospital, and poor or uninsured people are not treated well. Some leave no healthier than they arrived. Rumors of child ghosts causing the problems are likely rooted in the fact that, in his own way, Nimmursagu enjoys visiting children. The hospital's seen a lot of dead kids.

Nimmursagu is a powerful spirit, rank 4 and with Influence (Sickness) 4. The dude has a job and he's obsessed with doing it. He's also very dangerous in a fight, between his spirit-size dicepools and his ability to terrify people with his presence, fire off disease blasts, drive people nuts and cause things to rot and decay. He also regenerates, similar to a werewolf, if he wants to. However, he's not unstoppable. His Ban is that he can't attack the healthiest person in any group, even in self-defense, which means there's always going to be someone he can't fight personally. His Bane is the sharpened bones of a human that died of a fatal illness affecting the skeletal system, like a bone cancer.

This dude is shockingly human in outlook.

Linggan Zhao is a spirit that acts like he likes werewolves. He wants to help. He travels Shadow, seeking out packs that need his strength and power as a patron. If necessary, he will assault and drive out the old totem and then arrange for a demonstration of how much the pack needs his help. He will promise to help the pack grow stronger, gain more territory, spread fear through their rivals and neighbors. He will teach them tactics, find allies in the spirit courts of the region, and even generously teach occult lore. His true, harsh teaching begins only once the pack has strong borders and has driven off outsiders. As totem or patron, based on opportunity and need, he will seek to isolate and test each member of the pack, pushing to partake of harsh physical training and emotionally scarring work. He pushes them to break their oaths and pursue power and glory, looking to see how far they'll go and who will break first. He will indoctrinate his chosen into secret truths, teaching of devourers that will eat the world and end all things. Only the most powerful can hope to survive this, united in a new tribe sworn to Linggan Zhao.

The spirit will lead those who accept his teachings into the Shadow to bring discipline and order there, eradicating any spirits that don't fall in line, promoting loyalists and calling in Linggan Zhao's own court to take over and enforce his will. All in service to the pack, of course. Always in service. Once the Shadow is secure, Linggan Zhao has a final test. He will name the weak links of the pack to those he considers loyal and strong, telling them that their final test is to sacrifice these weaknesses on fiery altars dedicated to Linggan Zhao. This will temper the pack in fire and make them forever strong. Those few who refuse at this stage or try to flee are prey for the rest of the pack in a grand Sacred Hunt alongside their spirit allies. Special favor will be given to those who capture the renegades and bring them to Linggan Zhao for torture and burning as avatars of weakness. Once the pack is loyal and obedient, Linggan Zhao installs a loyal retainer as their totem and moves on. This is not the end - the pack knows he may well call on them for aid later, so they must be ready. Now, they are one of his Claws, who must keep true to his vision and hide it from others, who are unworthy, while Linggan Zhao goes to find a new pack in need of his guidance.

Linggan Zhao appears as a set of 13th-century Chinese armor, covered in iconography of fire and bristling with spikes. The design and color vary with his mood. His limbs can alter themselves into any weapon or appendage he desires. More rarely, he may return to his original form, a bird forged of steaming metal. This is the form he uses when he must move subtly and unrecognized, or when he must flee. Regardless of form, his eyes glow blue and he smells of burning metal at all times. His ego is immense, and he truly believes his cause is noble, but he is very secretive and reluctant to tell about the coming darkness unless he's certain he's speaking to his loyal followers or people he can easily kill. He avoids speaking of his origins if possible, and will not speak of other packs in his network of Claws until the time is right for them all to come together. He knows that these independent cells are more secure, especially because spirits are natural gossips. He takes great pains to hide his goals even from his servants, hoping to avoid werewolf attention outside of his chosen packs.

In truth, Linggan Zhao began life as a minor fire spirit inside a Chinese arms factory at the start of the Boxer Rebellion. He watched as stronger spirits devoured his brethren, and he hunted and devoured any spirits he could find until he became leader of his little brood. He was eventually defeated by a pack of Forsaken, and he hated that they demanded his submission and even more he hated that he gave in. He vowed revenge even as he befriended their totem, a potent wolf spirit, and made himself indispensable to the pack. He even had the patience to work at turning spirit politics to his favor, until at last he could lure the totem into a trap and drink deep of its Essence. This inspired him to usurp the totemic role with the pack, becoming their new patron. They were his first victims. Among the many spirits Linggan Zhao has devoured and taken on part of the nature of, it was a particular spirit of lies that really changed him, though. The spirit smelled of sulfur and, before he ate it, it spoke of its dark masters (the Maeljin) and their willingness to be allies. Other, similar spirits often end up congregating after Zhao leaves a newly conquered territory, for his sadistic torment of his werewolves sometimes tears open Wounds.

Linggan Zhao is willing to serve as a patron to Ghost Wolves, Forsaken or Pure. He absolutely hates the Firstborn, believing them to be wielding unearned power, and therefore that they are unworthy of recognition. His Claws are kept strictly in the dark from each other and know little of other cells. Indeed, none of them are aware that he has recruited both Forsaken and Pure into his little empire. In his rise to power, he was often rebuffed and chased out of at least one territory after a human sorcerer saw through his web of lies and warned his pack of his true intentions. Ever since, he has developed a strong, powerful hate of human mystics, witches and wizards. He attempts to kill them whenever possible.

The more werewolf packs that Zhao takes over and crushes, the greater knowledge he has of werewolf society and beliefs. He's heard about how Lodges are used by Uratha to connect with each other across the world, and his desire to expand and gather followers has led him to seek to bind his wolves together as a Lodge. He still doesn't fully understand how they work, though. Even more, he wants to understand the Hosts. If he could, after all, it'd be a great addition to his arsenal to be able to split himself into independent but connected pieces to spread his "divinity" further. He's obsessed with learning more about them. It should also be noted, Zhao's plans are not perfect. One of his more powerful Claws has broken free of his influence and now plots revenge for all the terrible things Zhao convinced him to do. He now travels around, hoping to build an alliance against the spirit for a preemptive strike. Zhao's many spirit-spies are dangerous, though, and so he can't speak of it freely if he wants the ambush to work.

Oh, and not all of the folks that want revenge are werewolves. One of Linggan Zhao's victims was made to sacrifice her own son on the pyre, and when he fled, he found himself in a realm of thorns and madness. He has returned now, years later. He is no longer human, but he is still very, very angry. He bleeds candle wax, and flames dance to his tune. He is bringing his eldritch allies with him, eager to set themselves up deep in Zhao's conquered territory so they may both have a home and help their friend in his revenge. They believe that the boy being driven into the thorns was no accident, that Linggan Zhao's sacrificial pyres are a sacrifice to the Hedge's cruel Masters. (They're wrong, but it's not like a bunch of Changelings being mad at Zhao is a bad thing.)

Linggan Zhao is a rank 4 spirit, quite powerful and oddly, not a magath despite the vast number of spirits he's consumed and integrated. His Influences are Fire 1 and Metal 4, and that last is scary potent. Metal's all over and he has a lot of control over it. He's a powerful warrior and has quite a few social powers, including Dominate, which lets him spend Essence to just feel overwhelming to deal with and cow people, and Usurp, which lets him sever the ties of a totem to its werewolf pack and steal its place temporarily. His Ban is that he cannot tell three truths or three lies in a row. His Bane is any gun made in the factory where he was born.

Next time: The Wolf-That-Was and the Broken Mirror

When Things Go Wrong

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
When Things Go Wrong


Geyn-Ur was, for a very long time, one of the favored patrons of the Pure, a great totem spirit and favored daughter of Dire Wolf. She was a symbol of predatory status as the apex of the natural order, an embodiment of the purity of the hunt. She was respected and feared by all the descendants of Wolf, claiming for her own several pristine forests and mountains in Wyoming. There, she and her pack of Predator Kings held sway for decades unopposed. Ten years ago, however, the government built a military hospital deep in the heart of her territory - the Caduceus Valley mental health facility. It was meant to study and treat those service members suffering from PTSD and other, more bizarre problems out of the public eye. This includes health problems caused by encounters with monsters, which the US government is aware of on several levels, though they don't know nearly as much as they want. Soldiers of all branches were treated there, but the doctors had no idea how to handle several of the things they were dealing with. More often than not, the wounded were left to suffer alone until their next appointment with well-intentioned but essentially clueless medical professionals. The resonance of the place was flooded with fear, anger, regret and loss, bringing in new spirits.

At first, Geyn-Ur ignored the human intrusion. They were not a threat, and surely her Predator Kings would wipe them out in due course. However, the newborn spirits changed the Shadow around her, twisting its spiritual ecology and infecting the local spirits with human anger and madness. Human faces began to appear on the bodies of animal or plant spirits, while wind spirits began to shriek the names of the dead. The spirit forests absorbed the nature of the hospital, and what was once a haven of the natural world became a laybrinth of padded walls and bloody sand. The government expanded the hospital, pushing deeper in Geyn-Ur's domain. Conflict came after they drove out a number of local Predator King Wolf-Bloods living in the forest - and worse, kidnapped some of them. The Pure attacked the hospital while Geyn-Ur stalked the Shadow, tearing apart any spirit she saw. The resonance of the maze, full of despair, lost innocence and pain, flowed into her until in her rage and sorrow, she forgot herself and began to feed on the Essence around her, changing her forever.

It was a slow, insidious change at first. Her mood shifted, becoming prone to melancholy and depression. She isolated herself from her pack, hiding in deep Shadow and howling for lost loves and the names of dead people she had never met. She did not protect her territory, ignored challenges, did not care for her children. She became a faded shadow of herself. Confused by this, her pack gathered in strength and attacked the totem in an effort to end Geyn-Ur's suffering. She resigned herself to death, but it never came. Her Essence of despair had trapped the entire pack, for she had become a living Barren, draining the Shadow around her of life. Watching her children falter and fail in their attack sparked something within her, and she rose up in counterattack. Geyn-Ur slaughtered her pack, then rampaged across her land, tearing apart anything she met. The few survivors fled, and they have not yet returned. Geyn-Ur maintains her lands now as best she can, lost in the duality of her madness. She is prone to long periods of isolated depression in the hospital ruins, punctuated by brief, terrifying acts of violence against local spirits or intruders. Where she walks, the Shadow dies, but strange abstract spirits still wander the ruins of the former hospital, whispering words of pain.

The power and glory of Dire Wolf still live in parts of Geyn-Ur - she retains her dark coat, vicious fangs and great size. However, now, a gray human head, torso and arms sprout from her back. The elongated arms wrap about her neck and muzzle, and the childlike face sobs constantly, pleading for comfort. Magaths are beasts of contradiction, and for Geyn-Ur, it is that the wolf must hunt. A hunting spirit was never meant to be depressed or suffer mental illnesses of humanity. She has fallen to more and more of these human feelings, and she hates herself more for it each night. She can do little about it, sitting lethargic and miserable in her lair. When her rage comes forth, she does not speak - there is only violence. Geyn-Ur wants to die, for she is ashamed of what she has become, but she has found no prey potent enough to end her, and she fears what will happen to her in death, thanks to her blighted Essence.

Deep in the forest, there is a small grove where Geyn-Ur's old pack used for their birth ceremonies. Despite everything, that place remains a Glade in Shadow, serene and beautiful. A few of the surviving Wolf-Blood children taken by the government have visions of the grove and, despite ten years of misguided attempts at rehab and coercive therapies, they still have some memory of who they really are. Some may wish to return home, despite all the dangers. In the few months that Caduceus Valley was operational, a prominent doctor's research into PTSD there also showed some fascinating results. His narcotics experiments were cruel and unethical, but he was able to induce hallucinogenic episodes. His patients claimed to witness strange apparitions that defied all logic - that is, spirits. The doctor died in the first attack, but not before his first reports got back to the military. In the quiet periods of depression, Geyn-Ur is comforted by the new addition to her body. The childlike torso wipes away her tears, strokes her fur and sings a strange lullaby to her. The lyrics are a confusing mix of words, names and rhymes torn from the memories of those slain in the Pure raid. Geyn-Ur cannot understand what the words mean, and is not anywhere near being able to understand the implications of the verses abouy valkyries and gates. (Mors notes: this is a reference to Task Force Valkyrie in Hunter, who have developed technology to open portals into "other dimensions" such as the Shadow.)

The remnants of Geyn-Ur's pack have not forgotten her. They call for a great Sacred Hunt led by the survivors - and at this point, they don't especially care if that hunt is Pure or Forsaken. Her existence, they say, is a blasphemy to her father, Dire Wolf - and it is rumored that Dire Wolf will grant a boon to anyone that ends her suffering. Even Forsaken. The massacre at Caduceus Valley also didn't go unnoticed, though the government attempted to cover it up by making up new causes of death for all the dead patients. They've put up a hastily built chain link fence to keep inquisitive people out, but many sensitive to the cries of the dead have been called to the ruins by the plaintive cries of those lost to the Pure attack. None so far have returned, of course.

They're not alone in looking into it, either. Davis "Copper" Hume, a Seattle-based Iron Master, wants to know what happened to his father, who was a patient at Caduceus Valley. Copper's had restless dreams ever since his First Change, seeing images of pale claws and bleeding eyes hunting him. He is a desperate wolf, with no pack to call his own, and he's been trying very hard to get to the old hospital ruins. All of his attempts so far have failed, as he is unable to safely navigate the Barren in Shadow and has been unable to get close physically. Task Force Valkyrie has a small Operation FORT team monitoring the area, but they are forbidden to directly approach the grounds, which are under Valkyrie quarantine.

Geyn-Ur is a potent rank 4 spirit, though as a magath her influences have gotten a bit spread out - Fear 2, Pain 2, Rage 2, Sorrow 2, Wolves 2. She doesn't wield too many Numina, but her dicepools are nice and big and she's very fast. More importantly, she's a mobile Barren, which makes it pretty hard to actually fight her in Shadow, where she spends most of her time. Her Ban is that she must eat any spirit she brings down, and her Bane is mementos from the slain patients of Caduceus Valley.


This is a story about a Lune called Broken Mirror. She began her life as one of thousands of silvery wisps. She did as she was bade, ordered to descend from the night skies of Shadow and sit in judgment over the deeds of Elodoth-Auspice werewolves. They found her beautiful and she adored their admiration. It ended too quickly, however. She passed her judgment and returned to the night sky, once more just a tiny piece of light in the moon's glimmering. The pack she had judged moved on and forgot her. They loved her only when they wanted something from her, and she took to stalking them from the sky. Finally, she broke free from the heavens, shattering her own nature to move into the world of Flesh. She knew Luna was jealous at best and cruel at worst, so she had to act quickly. Werewolves cared for her only when they wanted to know her thoughts on their Honor - but what Honor could there be in ignoring her beauty? She would have to teach them. They would understand how glorious she truly was, more than anything else on Earth.

Broken Mirror has possessed a young woman named Rebecca Cormac, and she wanders the world in search of that one pack that has entirely forgotten her existence. She asks werewolves to help her and protect her, for she knows the other Lunes are looking for her. Luna herself has too much to worry about already - surely she'd spare little attention to watch for a runaway Lune. So therefore, Broken Mirror has decided that she will hide among the werewolves and, in the meantime, make them understand why they should love her above all else. The Forsaken see Lunes as mysterious and strange allies, and Broken Mirror is counting on that to make sure a pack protects her from her fellow Lunes. She has no idea if Luna will give her another chance or just eat her if she gets caught, and she won't take that risk. While she needs protection, her intense jealousy will only grow when werewolves spend time with their loved ones or each other over her. She will quickly move on to the next pack, possibly even trying to lure down warrior-Lunes of the Full Moon on the ungrateful wolves that spurned her (in her own mind). If the wolves turn on her, killing Rebecca won't be a problem. Broken Mirror will abandon that body and wander off to plot their painful deaths in the future.

Rebecca Cormac is a pale woman with bleached blonde hair, and Broken Mirror picked her out because she feels the girl looks how Broken Mirror thinks of herself as being. She prefers to wear dark colors by day and light by night, and the spirit does nothing to conceal her true nature when around werewolves, though she acts more evasive at night. She is generous and willing to help on any hunt her wolves are doing, as long as they love and adore her. She will help them control their rage, but when they spend too much time away from her, she will try to pull them back. She is quick to become addicted to their company and increasingly jealous as time passes. Eventually, she will attempt to remove anyone her wolves focus on besides her and will try to ensure she is all they think about. More cautious Forsaken might question her motives, and Storm Lords especially will probably be angry that she's riding a human vessel, but she claims it is a necessary evil. She warns werewolves of "mad" Lunes trying to hunt her down before she can warn Luna of some terrible plot. If the pack believes her, she is doting with her attention and takes great advantage of their hospitality.

Some werewolves will find it very odd that an Elune, one of the Lunes famous for not being super angry is...super angry. Some werewolves believe that, like Luna, Lunes can change phases as well. They aren't exactly stagnant spirits, after all. Broken Mirror is changing with her descent into the world of Flesh, and it is unclear what she really is now or will become. She's certainly been busy killing folks - she doesn't care at all about humans and needed to get Rebecca Cormac out of her home. Rebecca's father wasn't strong, and she just had to wait for Rebecca's mother and brother to get into an argument to have a chance to strangle him to death. An argument she caused by manipulating the family's anger with her power, getting them to go from 'shouting' to 'literally killing each other with knives.' Then she just left. The cops are still looking for Rebecca, and the story's likely to hit the news shortly. Broken Mirror is also quick to turn her pet werewolves against other Lunes, whom she hates and fears, even if they're not hunting her. This is a problem - at least one pack torn apart by a battle with Lunes has a survivor, an Ithaeur gone mad with vengeance, who demands retribution against all the Lunes that killed his friends...starting with Broken Mirror. He's hunting her, too.

Broken Mirror is a mere rank 2 spirit, not super powerful, but pretty good at emotional manipulation. Her Influence is Rage 2. Her victim, Rebecca, is essentially catatonic and while she is not fully Claimed, she is basically just doing anything Broken Mirror tells her to. When she wants more direct control, the spirit uses her Possession power on Rebecca. Broken Mirror's Ban is that she can't bear seeing her own reflection in an unbroken mirror, and her Bane is a weapon bathed in the light of the most recent full moon. Rebecca Cormac is physically unimpressive but quite persuasive and good at social stats, pretty and good at evoking sympathy.

Next time: Wounds and Wound Spirits

Evil Radiation

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Evil Radiation

The Shadow itself is alive. It reacts to the flow of Essence, and is itself made of Essence, just as spirits are. While most spirits operate on a simple predator/prey relationship, others are parasitic on the Shadow. Wounds are more than just places where negative resonance ruptures Shadow into somewhere else. They are cancers, infections in the living Essence of the Shadow, and they spread similarly to cancer in human flesh. The growth of negative resonance in massive amounts alter the Shadow's Essence much as radiation or toxic chemicals alter human flesh. They warp normal function, rendering it vulnerable. Negative resonance is itself normal, and in normal conditions, the influence will dissipate over time and restore balance. However, extreme negativity or continued buildup without any release, such as in places with mass slaughter or ongoing suffering and hate, the influence's weight punctures the Shadow and opens a baby Wound.

Newly formed Wounds are the most vulnerable to being healed and destroyed, but that's not a simple thing to do. While they fester and begin to grow, they rarely look very different than any other unpleasant part of Shadow. Spirits resonant with malevolent feelings and bad things are natural parts of the Shadow on their own, and new Wound resonance does not immediately appear different in taste to spirits of negative energies. Anywhere you find these things, Wound or not, is rarely a pleasant place. Just tracking negative resonance is not sufficient to find Wounds most of the time. Despite this, Wounds carry their infectious Essence from the moment they form. Corruption risk is low in the earliest stages, but increases as the Wound grows. Left unchecked, the Wound will embed itself into the Shadow's "flesh" and spread itself. Some Wounds fester but never progress beyond this early stage, while others, typically created by extreme vile acts, immediately progress to more advanced stages.

Suppurating Wounds are the earliest stage. They are often overlooked and unnoticed, and most cover only a very small area, though that's not a universal. They will only have a few of the potential effects of a Wound.
Oozing Wounds are the most frequently noticed ones, as they are more obvious in their effects on the Shadow as they grow. They are quite infectious to nearby Shadow and can spread their corruption over entire territories. Werewolf packs work hard to eliminate them before they can grow further, and they will have quite a few effects on the world.
Weeping Wounds are well established in the Shadow, gaping maws that are nearly impossible to eradicate. They grow and spread their tainted Essence into whatever they touch. This typically poisons nearby Loci and transforms them into nodes of the Wound's corruption, spreading it further. These Wounds are so advanced that even cleansing rites may well fail to close them, and they have a lot of effects.

Wound effects vary wildly, as each is a unique horror. However, they can take between 1 and 9 abilities, depending on the Wound's power, from a list. You can double up on them - stacking an effect increases its bonus or penalty effects by 1, or doubles/halves an associated duration, unless otherwise noted. Creatures tainted by corruption, such as Wounded spirits, Maeltinet or Bale Hounds, are immune to the effects. They can be:

So how do you repair a wound? It's not easy. Rites exist to force one shut, yes, but unless you take additional time to nurture the area after, the corrupted Essence may well return. Fortunately, the rite is not the only way - it is possible to fight Wounds by harnessing the relationship between Flesh and Shadow. This means you have to flood the area around the Wound with positive resonance, reshaping the physical and spiritual neighborhood in order to draw out its natural and untainted resonance. (Which isn't always going to be a positive resonance, but more positive than a Wound.) This can choke out the Wound, but you have to ensure the area is well maintained and supported by the locals, spiritual and human, to keep it going. You also have to fight the corrupted entities of the Wound, which will be trying to make it worse. Over time, this will weaken and shrink the Wound. The period of time depends on the Wound's strength - a year for Weeping, six months for Oozing and a month for Suppurating - but after that period, the Wound loses one of its effects. Once a Wound loses all effects, it shrinks and closes. However, even a closed Wound will leave a sorrowful, resonant scar somewhere on its range as a reminder of what was once present.

For packs that can't or won't invest this level of time and care, cleansing rites force the matter. Unfortunately, they aren't easy. Performing a cleansing rite requires intense dedication and often personal sacrifice from the ritemaster and supporters. They must be performed inside the Wound itself, as close to the heart of the thing as possible, and often take hours or even days to perform. The rite serves as a spiritual flare as well, calling all kinds of malevolent creatures to disrupt it. It's best to plan ahead, bring allies and be ready for a fight when performing these rites. A large Wound may take the resources of an entire protectorate (read: loosely connected region of numerous werewolf packs) to close them. If a cleansing rite works, it will force the Wound shut and replace its resonance with weak but pure resonance for the area, typically with a flavor based on how the rite was done. The area remains weak and prone to backsliding if not cared for and fed with pure resonance until it can settle back to a natural ecology, and so they are often targets of corrupted spirits and other entities nearby.

Wounded spirits are those that have lingered too long around a Wound, becoming infected with the corruption. They take on a general negative resonance, which usually manifests through subverting the use and effects of their Influence, especially positive Influences, which are always twisted and tainted when used by the Wounded. A Wounded love spirit, for example, cannot engender positive love - its Influence will exclusively cause possessive, obsessive jealousy and abusive relationships. Wounded spirits can be infectious to other spirits, which is largely left to the GM to adjudicate, though important plotline characters, such as a pack's totem, should get a roll to resist infection ig the GM rules they are risking it. A spirit Wounded in this way will grow uncertain and confused over several days before discorporating and rebuilding itself in the nearest Wound as a Wounded spirit, with altered personality and desires. A Wounded totem remains a totem and can head back to its pack with whatever story it chooses to make up.

Maeltinet are more than simple Wounded spirits. They are the avatars of the Maeljin. They emerge from Wounds wholly created, and no one is sure how the Maeljin make them, but they exist to obey their masters. Some are unique, while others appear to be made as part of a choir of similar spirits or even swarms. The rarest Maeltinet are called Maeladar. Bale Hound legends claim that when a truly worthy Bale Hound dies, their soul is resurrected by the Maeljin to continue to serve. These Wounded ancestral spirits are the Maeladar, and they often appear eerily similar to the werewolves they claim to have been in life. It is not clear whether they actually are resurrected souls of the Bale Hounds or just another way for the Maeljin to offer a carrot or terrify their foes. Maeltinet and Maeladar obey all rules for the Wounded, but are almost never below rank 3, due to their links to the Maeljin. They are able to use Dark Numina as gifts from the Maeljin, which are potent abilities on top of their normal ones. They are able to hand out Gifts and be totems like any other potent spirit, and if they kill and eat a pack totem they can pretend to be that totem for a short time by quarantining its Essence within themselves. This lasts until they give it up or use up all of the totem's Essence.

Dark Numina can do stuff like prevent people from communicating at all, vocally or by writing or miming, can let a Maeltinet possess anyone that loses Integrity near them, can grant Dark Power much as Bale Hounds can, can send horrific nightmare visions to someone to give them penalties, or can make it so that anything they say seems true and believable, no matter how insane it is, as long as it's not directly contradicted by evidence.

Our example Maeltinet is Percupia, whom you may recall from the Bale Hound section last chapter. It's ambitious, desiring to become a Maeljin in its own right, and has latched onto the young Aishah in hopes that she'll be its ticket to stardom. It's not a great start, but what can you do. It might nurse her along to become a full Bale Hound and favored servant when it becomes a Maeljin, but odds are more likely that it'll abandon her the moment someone better comes along. Aisha believes Percupia is her spirit alone, but it's working on a number of different werewolves simultaneously. The other members of Aishah's pack, of course, have been easy targets, with each believing themselves to have a unique and special relationship with the spirit. Percupia's not worried about what'll happen if they compare notes. Maybe they'd fight and thus bring more death to its name as they killed each other. Maybe they'd unite and assist it in its project. Either way's a win, right? To become a Maeljin, it will need power, influence and followers, but in the meantime the pack's petty teen dramas are fun to watch while it looks for better servants. However, Percupia's tendency to dismiss Aishah may well be its doom - she's learned its Ban and Bane without its knowledge, and she's not about to tolerate another betrayal by a parental figure.

Percupia is a rank 4 spirit, quite powerful in terms of raw numbers, but without much in the way of powers. It has Influence (Death) 2, but it's not got fighting Numina - rather, it's better at subtlety, social manipulation and mind control. Its Ban is that anyone who breaks a sworn oath in its presence can give a single command that Percupia must obey to the best of its ability, though any given oathbreaking can only be used this way once. Its Bane is bones from anyone directly killed by a ghost.

Next time: Void spirits.

Space Alien Space Aliens

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Space Alien Space Aliens

Out in space, the void spirits feed on the Essence of nothingness. The empty resonance gives life to these strange creatures of dark silence, impossible in their symbolism and nonsensical in their shape. To them, Earth is a pearl of light in the endless black. Some may envy it and its endless Essence, some may find its light an offense to their senses and the silence of the void, and some are just drawn to it as moths to a flame. However, whatever drives them, the spirits of the Void Beyond cannot easily reach Earth, thanks to Luna serving as the boundary god. She is not infallible, of course. The Lunes that guard the sky are not completely able to stop everything. Sometimes, the void finds an entrance. Moon shows no mercy to these void spirits when noticed, no matter their purpose or nature. Lunes are set to find and kill them, for Luna hates nothing more than the breaching of the boundaries they guard. Once beyond the lunar orbit, however, there are many hiding spots for a void spirit - cracks in the dark where moonlight never touches, inside human minds or bodies, or even just in the endless chaos of the Shadow. Some void spirits don't even have to hide, for they find protection from spirits that do not bow to Moon or are taken in as tools of the Pure and their Luna-hating totems.

When a void spirit does reach Earth, Moon turns to the Forsaken for aid. They reach out through the Auspices, sending burning dreams to Cahaliths and setting forth Lunes to deliver her enigmatic demands. Those werewolves that step up to fight a void spirit are not in for easy prey. The void spirits may not be malicious, but their presence is very unhealthy for the Shadow, as they are fragments of alien resonance that is by its nature antithetical to the symbolism of the earthly world. The worst, however, are those born on distant planets or refined to cold cruelty by survival in the void. These spirits are heralds of transformation and destruction that perpetrate terrible atrocities without thought.

Werewolves are, at least, good at their job. Their Auspices burn with an urge to eradicate the void spirits, their instincts igniting to face these foes and empowering them. This is a rush of primal power and madness, no loving embrace of Luna. The Moon is so large that it has trouble thinking about single werewolves, and this is tapping into the Moon's mind. However, it is an ecstatic experience, a revelation of purest purpose. The Forsaken are lacking in their understanding of the spirits of the Void Beyond, though. All of their lore is won by experience, and many know nothing about these alien beings and will never meet one. The tribes have, at least, assembled a vague taxonomy of the void invaders, though much is disputed still. The spirits are roughly divided into three groupings.

Space manta rays!

The broadest of these categories is void spirits, those made by the empty symbolism of space and light. Next are mulhithim, planetary angels, which form from the other planets of the solar system, as Lunes form of Moon and sun spirits form of Helios. The third are void leviathans, immense creatures of the empty dark that are so odd that some werewolves doubt they're even spirits. The void may seem empty, but Shadow is a world fueled by symbolism, and so that emptiness is rendered deeper and more true than merely 'nothing is here.' Werewolves believe that the Essence of the vacuum must be suffocatingly thin, barely able to support the void spirits within, which makes them ravening cannibals on the rare occasions they meet, even by spirit standards. Many are practically magath, drawing their Essence out of cosmic dust and radiation due to mindless hunger, though frankly their alien nature means that it would be hard to tell a magath void spirit from a natural one.

Void spirits are typically born of the vacuum itself, though rarer and more stable variants seem to resonate with the light of distant stars or the hum of the cosmos. Some appear to be refugees from distant planets, hollowed out and broken by their own hunger after their endless journey between stars. A few are born from stranger events, created by strange dreams and surging hunger in the midst of what should, in theory, be total emptiness. It's not clear if the void spirits that approach Earth are actually following some instinct to enter the world. The Lunes' mad songs and examination of anomalies in astronomical observations suggest that, at times, the silence of the void is broken by specific stimuli, which are associated with increased void spirit arrivals. These events, typically accompanied by strange and alien melodies in Shadow, push through the spirit world and drive void spirits ahead of them like a wave. Void leviathans are usually accompanied by a group of lesser void spirits when they arrive as well, clinging to their massive spirit-flesh or swarming around them.

Occasionally, a rain of void spirits will herald the arrival of one of the gasuhathim, the name werewolves give to the great spiritual powers that dwell in the empty sky and may even, perhaps, rule over spirit courts there. Whatever they are, these titans of emptiness occasionally send forth their servants to smash to Earth. Such servitors have far more power and clarity than the average void spirit. Their purpose appears, generally, to be to subvert other spirits and Loci to the resonance of the Void Beyond, building beachheads on Earth through which more void spirits can be called. These are the invaders most hated by the Lunes, and if even one of these void champions reaches the world, the servants of Moon will rally as many nearby Forsaken as they can find into a quicksilver crusade.

Your average void spirit, however, finds terrestrial Shadow just as alien and frightening as they are to it. Compared to space, it's sheer sensory overload. Some become gluttons, devouring as much Essence as they can find, but their incompatible resonance soon turns them into frenzied self-mutilation from the pain or sends them fleeing back into the night sky. Others starve. A few begin to adapt themselves or find suitable Essence sources, which occasionally spawns void reiver outbreaks among Ghost Wolf populations that stumble upon them as they try to metastasize. No matter what, however, their presence sends Shadow into chaos. They are symbols of the void, and their merest presence corrodes the laws and physics of the spirit world, twisting and poisoning it. This is usually how werewolves run into them - insane aliens from an incomprehensible existence, starving and lost, causing ruin without meaning it.

The mulhithim derive from the Shadow of the other planets of the solar system, and they don't like Earth. They are the spite-filled messengers of the celestial giants, and planetary angels do not reflect any kind of feature or place on the planets they hail from. Rather, they are born from the light their planet reflects from Helios, and in this birth they retain some of the Sun's pride and ferocity, alongside the usually hateful nature of their planetary parent. Their existence is far closer to that of the Lunes and Helions than to true void spirits, but they do not have a natural place in Earthly Shadow. Worse, they absolutely hate Luna and, by extension, the Forsaken. Left unchecked, mulhithim try to ambush and slaughter Lunes, stir unrest in the spirits and cause chaos and destruction in Flesh.

Planetary angels form ilthum, First Tongue for choirs, roughly based on the planet they hail from, although lesser ones have been recorded descending from smaller celestial bodies. Never moons, for some reason. A number of mulhithim born of the Hale-Bopp comet attacked the Forsaken throughout 1997 and 1998, and the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia disgorged a small brood of planetary angels that immediately started carving out their own domain in local Shadow. Mulhithim of the same planet naturally ally with and cooperate with each other, but they have no love for any angels of other planets - the spirits of Mars and Jupiter will try to kill each other as eagler as any Lune. The Forsaken believe that the malevolence apparently innate to the mulhithim is proof that the nature of hunger in Shadow is as true in the Void Beyond as on Earth; as lesser spirits attempt to devour each other, they believe, so too do the spirits of the solar system's planetary bodies crave each others' Essence.

Void Leviathans are majestic colossi of darkness, and their arrival on Earth usually involves a slow descent from the sky, sound clouds of Essence and bloody corpus up behind them. War-Lunes, massive in theory but tiny against their bulk, can usually be seen harrying them in their fall. While they come from the Void Beyond, void leviathans are unlike other void spirits. They may not even be spirits at all, but something weirder and more alien. They attempt to crash down to Earth and then merge with it. If the Lunes and Forsaken cannot stop the great beasts, they seep into the planet's guts. Most of them have aberrant, vaguely nautical shapes - great sea worms, manta rays, whales and so on - twisted by the dark void. They bristle with fronds, tendrils, polyps and so on. Some can split open into great maws, or inhale Essence through strange gills and vents. Many have powerful, thrashing limbs of unclear purpose that move constantly. They either have lots of eyes or none. Some parts of their bodies are often made of strange, inky ooze or churning fog, and they spark with half-formed, nonexistent memories and strange song. All of them, regardless of form, are immense - larger than the largest ships, able to blot out the sky of Shadow as if a piece of blank space itself were floating there. They descend without apparent care as to where they land, and they do not speak the First Tongue that all other spirits know instinctively. They do not speak. Some sing or scream wordlessly, however, in frequencies that shake reality. If they are intelligent, their intelligence is so alien as to be impossible to communicate.

When a void leviathan breaches the sky and lands, its immense bulk impacts the local Shadow like a bomb, crushing spirits and ephemera alike. The impact is so potent it even ripples out into Flesh, causing localized disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires or bouts of mass hysteria in which humans may be struck down by nightmares or turn to frenzied cannibalism or dance until they die. If left alone, the leviathan will quickly metastasize, its form melting into a black and oily mass that begins to sink into the ground and shift from Shadow to Flesh. The ichor flows deep into the Earth until it is swallowed up entirely. No one knows why void leviathans seem to kill themselves this way. There are many theories, none with any proof. Some think they are the last remnants of the Shadow of dead worlds, the last gasps of slain gods seeking rebirth. Some believe they are spiritual ships of distant shamanic civilizations, packed with souls and seeking a planet to parasitize and rebuild on. Some believe them the source of life, the form taken by the blind urge of the Void Beyond to birth things that exist and sate its hunger.

The existence of planetary spirits has led some werewolves theorize the existence of "Gaia," a theoretical spirit of Earth itself. Typically, the existence of Gaia is taken as a purely philosophical question with no real relevance to daily life, but some are struck by the glaring absence of mulhithim of Earth. They propose a radical theory - that Luna is not a warden against things outside but a jailer, existing to keep Gaia's hunger shackled. They claim that Gaia has threatened to awaken several times in the past, each time during a potential extinction event. The Pure, meanwhile, busy themselves with spirits that hate Luna and are often bizarre and monstrous in form and demeanor, even by Shadow standards. The greatest of their totems despise Moomn for her absolute command of the boundaries. Many Forsaken draw links between these spirits and the Void Beyond, wondering what ties they have. Some even say that these are the mulhithim of Earth, or that the Pure and Forsaken are proxies in war for control over the boundary between Earth and the Void.

So, mechanics. Werewolves that possess an Auspice get a big bonus to track or perceive void spirits (of any of the three types), and while in the presence of one, their Harmony is treated as 5 for all purposes of shapeshifting speed and ease, regardless of their actual Harmony. However, if they go into death rage, they remain in it longer while this bonus applies. This is because the presence of the intruders awakens dormant Luna-granted killing instincts. When entering a scene in which any spirit of the void is present, they may reflexively choose to enter the Sacred Hunt against it without need to perform the Sacred Hunt rite.

Spirits of the Void Beyond are similar to normal spirits, but differ in the following ways:
1. Void spirits and mulhithim get a bonus to contest any supernatural power from entities native to Earth and its Shadow. They are entirely immune to most witchcraft and ritual magic, including werewolf rites. It is possible a werewolf might discover a unique new rite able to banish or bind them, or may introduce an additional symbol to a normal rite that may target spirits to allow it to target a spirit of void. This new symbol must be associated with the Void and be incorporated into the rite's performance. However, if this is done, any failure on the rite rolls is a dramatic failure and also causes aggravated damage to the ritemaster.
2. Void spirits speak First Tongue in a distorted, alien dialect which is vaguely similar to nonsense and static that causes a headache in normal spirits. Understanding them at all requires a roll, and failure causes the Confused condition. Mulhithim speak normally.
3. Void leviathans can't communicate, period, but their songs warp First Tongue speech in the area around them, causing all speech in First Tongue to come out as gibberish unless the speaker spends Essence to reinforce the symbolism of language. Some leviathans even turn spoken words into physical attacks on their speakers.
4. Void spirits' presence disrupts Shadow. If one or more remains in a location for at least a day, it starts to warp it. The longer it stays, the wider the area of warping gets and the more severe it gets. Once all void spirits die or leave, the warping fades quickly. Mulhithim do not warp Shadow, but void leviathans do, though generally they cause enough problems that no one actually notices these minor warpings unless they manage to complete their transition into Flesh and end up lingering near the site underground. Warpings may include:
5. Void spirits struggle to find Essence to eat. On top of normal risks of becoming magath, they only get 1 Essence per 10 Essence they consume. The reverse is also true for all spirits and werewolves attempting to gain Essence from spirits of the void. Spirits of the void may also increase the Essence cost of powers used near them by their mere presence, as they drain energy away into the Void Beyond.

Void Leviathans are too large for normal statblocks. The smallest of them is the size of a skyscraper, after all. They take no meaningful damage from conventional attacks and cannot be targeted as distinct or singular prey by any supernatural power but the Sacred Hunt. They're both scenery and prey for a Sacred Hunt, and best presented as a series of scenes of crossing their huge forms and finding the way to kill them, such as by searching out vital spiritual organs exposed on their surface, helping Lunes tear open holes in them to reach vulnerable parts and so on. You might even go inside one and fight its internal organs. The presence of a void leviathan always inflicts an extreme environment of level 2 or higher, plus at least one void blight effect on its surface. It is considered rank 5 for all calculations required, and is likely home to a swarm of parasitic void spirits and other, stranger things. It is likely not able to directly attack so much as provide environmental hazards to avoid. At regular intervals, it will suck in huge amounts of Essence from Shadow. This is always forewarned in some way, such as by the opening of gills or vents. Anything caught in the intake loses 5 Essence, or takes agg damage if they don't have that much to lose (or just don't have an Essence pool). It is possible to hide from the inhalation using the leviathan's fronds and folds, but timing it in the middle of a fight is not going to be easy.

Light Eaters are among the most common void spirits encountered, which means they're only extremely rare. They are a form of magath drawn to light sources of all kinds due to their hunger for the Essence of light. Those that manage to get past the Warden's Stride often descend to urban areas due to the massive light pollution drawing them in. However, they don't eat things that are overwhelmingly bright, like a lighted stage. Rather, they want lights in darkness - flickering streetlamps at night, neon lights in a dark club. Once they find sustenance, they nest and drink in the light Essence, ignoring the warping they cause to nearby Shadow. They can appear in many shapes, but are usually notable for being a thrashing mass of darkness covered in eyes that gleam like stars. They always have at least one vicious maw, as hunger is part of their core nature.

They often attempt to possess humans, not for any real reason but because they are simply drawn to the lack of spiritual nature humans have. Once embedded in flesh, they may try to further their resonance of light, dark and hunger, but more likely they will become confused by their new flesh-prison and try to rearrange it into a configuration that pleases them more (and probably kills the host) before heading back into Shadow. Most light eaters die quickly when they can't find a proper light source to feed on, or tear themselves apart after eating the wrong kind of Essence...but guzzling down light in the downtown area of a city can cause all kinds of problems before they die. If not taken out by the Forsaken, these spirits may well end up taken in by Pure totems and offered a place in their courts.

Light Eaters are rank 3 - not weak, but not notably potent, either, with Influences of Hunger 1, Light 2 and Void 2. They're not great combatants but are extremely good at causing all kinds of problems around themselves, for both objects and people. Their Ban is that they cannot enter any area that has not been touched by natural sunlight at all in the past week. Their Bane is extremely focused natural sunlight - they're fine under normal sunlight, but if you got a magnifying glass and used it to focus the light, they'd burn nicely.

Urinsahi, the Blood of Mars, is our example mulsith. It was born from the reflected light of Mars, and it has come to Earth for its own purposes. It enjoys hunting Lunes, but its real focus is the physical and spiritual damage to Earth's landscape caused by earthquakes, volcanoes and other geological events. It will sometimes appear in areas that have recently had destructive earthquakes to cause additional damage, tormenting the spirits of earth and fire to provoke them in hopes of inciting them to cause aftershocks or burn the land. At other times, it appears where eruptions or tremors threaten but have yet to happen, working to cause them. In its efforts to wound the planet's surface, it has even caused other disasters, such as crashing a plane to see what it'd do to the land it struck, or attacking the Shadow of a nuclear power plant in an effort to trigger a Fleshly meltdown. It wants Earth to bleed.

Urinsahi appears as tangled ribbons of red light, brown dust and hate-filled red eyes in a geometric pattern. In battle, the light unfolds into scything talons of luminescence, hard as steel, and twelve wings encircle it, usually draped over the fading corpus of its last Lune victim. It has a booming voice that claws at the mind, urging victims to kneel, prostrate themselves to it and slit their wrists to shower the profane earth in blood in honor of the red planet. It has no interest in the Pure totems - it's too busy trying to drive the sword of Mars into the heart of Earth. It knows it will die here, one way or another, but it wants to take the planet with it. It is a rank 4 spirit, powerful in combat and able to fly, with Influences of Light 3 and Earthquakes 3, plus great power to control emotions and hurt things, especially by starting fires. Its Ban is that when confronted by a mirror of at least size 5 that a human has willingly spilled at least 5L damage's worth of their own blood on, it must flee upwards until it can no longer perceive the mirror. Its Bane is soil or stone from Mars. Good luck getting that!

Skybreaker isn't called that yet. It hasn't arrived on Earth. But when the mass of twitching spirit-flesh arrives, that's the name it will be given. It is a vast void leviathan, a giant beast of the dark the size of an oil tanker. It is night-black, meat and tar and many eye-covered folds. When it strikes ground, it's going to destroy everything in the Shadow beneath it and crush its own underbelly. As it lies, shrieking in pain, the real damage will begin. It will guzzle Essence to fuel its transition to Flesh, and if left unchecked, it will leave a vast Barren behind it, poisoning the Shadow with symbolic desolation. If its fluids reach the physical world, they will seep down into unknown depths of the Earth, and a small fraction - far too much - will end up in the groundwater, tainting it. Mutations and sickness will follow, as will the destruction of human minds. The fabric of reality itself will be damaged, allowing darker things in.

Killing Skybreaker will be an undertaking of great danger. It is covered in polyps and tendrils coated in teeth, each equivalent to a combat-ready rank 2 spirit. Strange Claimed live on its hide, made out of stardust and gases possessed by maddened void spirits. The firmanent of the Shadow weeps in its presence, causing the Heavy Winds tilt anywhere along its body, with the wind strength changing randomly each turn. Lightning flickers up and down its body, striking one character every other turn with the equivalent of a Blast Numen with a huge dicepool. Finding cover in the flaps and fins will provide safety, at least. Breaching its body is possible but difficult via the gland-structures spouting raw darkness. Each is guarded by a rank 4 spirit-guardian of the leviathan exocrine, and this fight will take place in total darkness. Further, the exocrine effluent is toxic, forcing a roll at a large penalty to avoid the grave Poisoned tilt for the fight; even success causes a moderate Poisoned tilt. Inside, the fighting is in cramped flesh-tunnels of darkness, and the thrashing viscera within grabs at people and shoots blinding spray in the middle of any fight.

Skybreaker's heart is a massive accumulation of nova fire, meat and sucking vacuum, a Claimed mass of flesh and spirit that must be destroyed to kill it. Images of starlight and void curl and flicker through the heart, a physicalization of Skybreaker's survival instinct protecting it. This matrix of will is equivalent to a rank 5 spirit. If the heart is destroyed, any surviving appendages and pieces of Skybreaker's will die with it. The heart has a huge healthbar, and each time it is damaged, the chamber is exposed to a meatquake that causes a level 4 extreme environment and the Earthquake environmental tilt. Afert dying, the leviathan melts into necrotic ooze, eventually evaporating to nothingness. The Shadow, even in victory, is scarred and will need care to heal it, which may take years.

As Skybreaker descends, it sings a song of Shadow-warping disharmony. Besides its clouds of toxic darkness and parasite-Claimed, its song disrupts First Tongue in the manner of all void leviathans. However, it also damages the symbolism of air and sky. Anywhere the song reaches, all spirits must make a roll at a huge penalty or gain the Berserk condition until the song ends. Any spirit or werewolf in the area that speaks a First Tongue word related to the sky or air immediately takes 1L as the word tears out of their throat and ephemera.

Next time: Claimed! The Tinker and the Storm Prophet.

The Spirit Gospel

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
The Spirit Gospel

Urged aren't Claimed, I suppose. Technically.

Once upon a time, there was a machine spirit. A very curious one. It wondered how humans could invent machines - after all, humans were imprecise meat things, how could they even conceive of the perfection of clockwork and engines? And then it happened to see a dead body, caught and broken in the gears, and it understood. Flesh and bone were also machines - less well made than metal, but sophisticated. It wanted to understand them. It found Allison Rhea, a med student who had grown up around her dad's auto garage. It watched her dissect cadavers and maintain her car. For months. It started to whisper to her, speaking of its curiosity. She'd always been a bit detached, which is perhaps why she didn't find its questions horrifying. She'd been studying prosthetics, and now her dreams filled with strange inspiration, of machines grafted to human flesh in amazing configurations. She dropped out of school after it became very clear that they wouldn't let her experiment on the cadavers or living humans. She'd need live experiments - there's just only so much you can learn from dead nerves and muscles.

Now, Alison is an urban legend known as the Tinker, a kidnapper that takes people and forces surgery on them to replace their limbs and organs. The prosthetics she makes are strange and seem like they should not work, with a more industrial than medical aesthetic. However, she works with meticulous detail, both in her surgery and in taking precautions. She lives out of her workshop, hidden in an underground bomb shelter guarded by complex mechanical traps. She focuses on test subjects, living or dead, that could plausibly vanish without much suspicion. She cares for her patients, but if there's any chance someone could draw attention back to her, they are not permitted to leave. She's only Urged, not Claimed, and thus is no match for even one werewolf in combat. She knows enough to carry a pistol and silver bullets, and she's spent time practicing with it, but she's no hunter. If she thinks she's in danger, she heads back to her workshop. If a pack pursues her there, that's where the real danger starts.

Thanks to the machine spirit's guidance, Alison has loaded her base down with both mechanical and electronic traps of extreme danger. The traps are well-hidden and typically involve silver and acid, dealing an average of 4A to any intruder that triggers them. These are things like bear traps the size of hula hoops, acid sprinklers, silver-loaded claymores and chainsaws on servo arms. There's no obvious way to bypass or disarm these things, either, because Alison doesn't need to. The spirit just tells them not to activate when she enters and leaves. If it were forced or tricked into fleeing while she was in the workshop, she'd be absolutely fucked, as would any of her patients being kept in cells there.

Because of the precision influence of her machine spirit, Alison is pretty much entirely removed from emotion. The only things she still feels passionately are curiosity and professional pride. She doesn't want to die and will try to talk her way out of problems with anyone able to track her. She has self-diagnosed with a personality disorder - wrongly, as it happens - but believes that seeking treatment isn't worth it if it'd stop her research. She feels no real empathy for the folks she experiments on, but always makes sure to use painkillers and tries to ensure she makes grafts that will be useful to her victims. She is a short, tough woman who looks like she works with her hands. She prefers rugged clothes in heavy layers, as she spends much of her time underground. She bathes thoroughly after any work in her lair and always makes sure she goes out in clean clothes. The scent of blood and oil is not strong enough to track her as a result, or to pick her out of a crowd, but it lingers on her nails no matter how often she washed her hands.

The Tinker usually disposes with the parts of her victims conscientiously through black market organ sales, but sometimes the machine spirit whispers to her at just the wrong time. A pack might well find clues to her existence by finding a part she dropped in a fugue state or find a purchase invoice signed with her initials to someone named Laszlo Maublanc. Which is a reference I don't get. Some of her "improved" victims have also been released to freedom. These are exclusively those she trusts not to betray her. Some of them have become mentally disabled due to the procedures she put them through, while others are actually loyal and thankful for her prostheses. She's also got contacts around town who dispose of bodies for her, no questions asked. She's got them on the lookout for weird bodies, as she's very interested in alternatives to human physiology. If she could get her hands on a Claimed corpse, she'd be propelled to new heights of inspiration.

The machine spirit is not a strong one. It's only rank 2, and it's not very good at much. It has Influence (Machines) 2, and its main abilities are moving things telekinetically and implanting ideas in people's heads. Its Ban is that it must stop and examine any broken corpse for at least a turn, and its Bane is wood shaped into a human or animal body part. It spends most of its time hiding inside Alison's torso, but on its own it looks like a hovering engine block in the shape of a human heart, dripping red oil. Alison is a smart but physically unexceptional person, with her main skills being in the area of making things, sneaking and medicine. She absolutely will not stand a chance in a fight outside her lair.

But not a Storm Lord.

Jeremiah Fury, the Storm Prophet, exists because of a really bad year for storms. Literally for storms - the spirits of rain, wind and thunder went to war. It raged in the skies of Shadow, bleeding out into the Flesh as terrible storms. Lesser spirits fled into the valleys and cities, seeking new battlefronts for their larger masters. Some faded or were caught. One, however, found a place to hide - a construction worker on a building who refused to stop welding in the storm. He was angry, cut off from his family and about to get evicted. He needed the work and wasn't afraid. Now, he has neither job nor home nor name nor mind of his own, really. Not wholly, at least. He calls himself Jeremiah Fury, yes. Herald of the storms. He tells the homeless and anyone else who will listen - greater storms are coming. They will change the face of the land itself. The spirit that's Claimed him has its eyes on the prize still. It wants to open a new front in the storm wars. The shifting climate of the mortal world might crack open the Gauntlet and loose the warlords of the sky on its own...but a herald doesn't just wait. Jeremiah Fury seeks out ways to call the great storms, to tell them to come in force for war.

His original name was Jacob Glover, but as far as he's concerned, his "prophet name" is his real one. Jeremiah. Sometimes he says he is Jeremiah and the storm riding him is Fury. He's been a missing person for months, and despite his estrangement, his elder daughter is now looking for him. The spirit that Claimed him is a rank 3 storm spirit, and if cut out of him by a pack, it'd be a fairly powerful combatant with both emotional and combat powers. It would resemble a ball of dark clouds shot through with lightning, supported in the air by a dozen beating gray wings. Jeremiah carries a number of specially crafted lightning rods as part of his task. Each is about three feet long and made of iron with silver and brass sigils soldered on. These are primarily used to enhance his abilities, but they are dangerous weapons in their own right, as they bear a lingering electrical charge and therefore are basically stun rods. If they were taken and used as the receptacle to create a fetish containing a storm spirit, they give a bonus to the Fetish rite.

Jeremiah does not generally negotiate with werewolves. He knows they'd opposed his mission, and compromise is not a thing either side will do. If he thinks a pack is on his trail, he will call up a storm to throw them off. He's a zealot, not looking for converts. He can speak endlessly about the glories of his spiritual partner and the scouring it will bring down, but only if someone asks. He can be subtle or thunderous at a whim, changeable as the wind. He appears to be a scraggly homeless man with a wiry build hidden by a bulky coat. His coat is used to conceal several lightning rods he keeps strapped to his body. When agitated, his teeth crackle with electricity.

Climate change, as a note, is part of the issue. Human-caused climate change has been adding fuel to the fires of the storm war that motivates Fury, because high temperatures and unusual pressure fronts actually affect what it means to be a storm and therefore a storm spirit. Of course, fighting climate change is a bit beyond most werewolf packs, but it's useful to know when studying rising hostility among storm spirits. It especially helps to understand that Fury's faction of the storms sees humans as aggressors due to climate change. Rumors are also spreading about someone selling magic lightning rods; this is untrue. Jeremiah does not sell them, someone just overheard him ranting and assumed the rods were meant to ward off storms, not cause them. That person then decided he'd make a killing copying the grift he assumed was going on. These bootleg rods are just DIY lightning rods made out of Home Depot parts, soldered with random brass-plated numbers and letters for mailboxes. At least tracking down the seller will help get on the trail of Jeremiah Fury, though.

Jeremiah is a Claimed, so he's essentially a merging of the spirit and human. He is extremely charismatic if allowed to rant, very tough and not a bad fighter with his rods. He's able to control wind and air, jump super far, move super fast, summon storms (which form very quickly thanks to his lightning rods) and can shoot lightning bolts, which is a pretty big threat, especially because he can spend extra Essence to autofire them.

Next time: The Sun Raiser, Walter and Surabel, the Fear of Rejection

Raising Hell

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Raising Hell

I Want To Set The World On Fire

Helios, the spirit-god of the sun, has not forgotten the harm that werewolves have dealt to his sibling, Luna. Luna is changeable as the moon, and so when the werewolves begged forgiveness for killing her mate, Wolf, she gave it and eased their pain. Helios does not forgive. Werewolves may be kin, but he has nothing but scorn for them, and the Helions keep watch over the Forsaken and Pure alike when they enter Shadow. Given an excuse, they will fight. The Sun Raiser, however, takes this hatred to new levels. She has begun to stalk the Flesh. She wants to prove herself to Helios. Once, she drove out as far as she could into the Void Beyond to spread the Sun's light. Ultimately, though, she went too far and was nearly destroyed by the spirits of the Void. Rather than be destroyed, she reached out to them and made a deal. She agreed to lure her own kin into the depths of space so that she might survive at the cost of their lives. In time, other Helions grew suspicious of the Sun Raiser, and she went to Earth to prove herself truly loyal.

Sun Raiser is direct but she's not dumb. She hunts werewolves with vicious joy, but she's not about to give up her daylight advantage to do so. She'll happily team up with other foes of werewolves as long as she's sure she'll survive. She's happy to eat other spirits if it doesn't put her at risk of becoming a magath, and if a pack proves too much for her power, she'll try to find someone else who has a lot of firepower at their disposal so she can get them to fight the werewolves for her. She accepts only the most powerful, perfect humans as her vessels of possession - but then, it's not hard to find a handsome, muscular human sunbathing or jogging. Her current vessel, Saul McKay, was perfect - always lifting weights or running. She entered his mind during one of his forest hikes and found she liked what she saw there. He lived alone, worked in construction and spent lots of time out in the sun, allowing her to feed easily.

While eager to hunt, Sun Raiser is smart enough to wait and strengthen her host before using him to take on werewolves. She's filled him so full of light that it shines through his skin enough to make a glow from his eyes and veins. She's uninterested in territory or rule, only status and prestige among the Helions in order to ensure none suspect her betrayal. Even if that means she eats lesser sun and light spirits. Sun Raiser is authoritative and dominant, and she has done well in the Sun's battles against spirits of the Void. She even managed to survive bartering with them, so she's very confident. She absolutely hates Forsaken and she's rude at best to Pure, but she doesn't give even the slightest shit about humans (or most of the world of Flesh). She does find technology interesting, though, if it can craft or manipulate light. Despite her interest in these things humans make, she has absolutely no qualms about killing any that get in her way.

Sun Raiser has been eating other Helions at an alarming rate, in conjunction with the void spirits she's helping to ambush them. This has led to her climbing the ranks of the Sun's servants very quickly, as she absorbs their power. Plenty of her fellow Helions are not fans of her, though few suspect the depths of her treachery. She's been busy exercising her power against the werewolves, after all. One of the local humans was unfortunate enough to stumble on her during the moment she Claimed her host fully, and the blinding light of the transformation drove him entirely blind. He is, if contacted by a pack, able to describe what he saw - a man setting himself on fire, blazing with light. He is currently in a hospital to be treated for 3rd degree burns all over his body where the man's fire washed over him. If Sun Raiser hears about him, she's likely to kill him to tie up the loose end. She's also been working with the Beshilu, the Rat Hosts, to be able to easily cross the Gauntlet. She keeps a small squad of them at her beck and call, convincing the terrified Rat Shards that they are serving the Sun. They're hard to keep control of and work poorly with her sitting on top of them, but they gnaw away the Gauntlet just wide enough for her to easily cross back and forth. Anyone trying to take her down on her home turf is in for a nasty surprise, as she is incredibly hard to pin down there and has a bunch of zealous, burn-scarred Rat Hosts ready to fight for her.

Saul McKay is, with Sun Raiser's power in him, a very potent fighter. He's fast, tough, superhumanly strong and charismatic as hell. Fortunately, he and Sun Raiser are neither very good at lying nor especially smart - they're cunning, but no geniuses. They have Influence (Light) 3 and the power to control fire, move super fast, spy from a distance and regenerate damage. This plus the rat monsters on their side makes fighting them a tricky endeavor, especially if faced by daylight, when there'll be plenty of light around for Sun Raiser to manipulate.

They are my tragic favorites.

Walter Fitzgerald is a very normal man. He lives in suburbia, is middle class, and works as an office administrator. He fills out forms. He is plain and unassuming, and he is the host of a terrified, angry spirit named Surabel, a spirit driven from her home by otherworldly forces. Walter worked at a low-budget opera house because it paid slightly better and was slightly closer to home than his last job, and he's now fallen in love with the music. He doesn't know why more people don't love opera now. He'd never thought he'd be into it, but he really likes it. He's spent all his spare time reading up on it, he listens to it going to and from work, he's even subscribed to opera magazines. This, at last, is what was missing from his life. And then the bank foreclosed on the opera house. A bunch of tearful farewell shows got held for the small audiences still coming. Everyone working there was unsure of what they'd do next, if they could still work in the arts. Walter became depressed. On the final night, the music director gave him a gift - a silver brooch shaped like a songbird. Then everyone went home.

Surabel is the spirit of the opera house. She loved the way the audience sounded as they went quiet for the overture, the anticipation as a diva went on, the joy of the performance. It fed her and kept her going in Shadow. She was an absent-minded and whimsical creature, and so one of her rival spirits found her easy prey - a powerful greed spirit serving as vassal to the city's dominant spirit. He used his powers to drive customers out of the opera house, draining Surabel of her food until she was too weak to fight back and too grief-stricken to do much. It was then that she found Walter and his opera-loving mind. She began to influence him, making him want it more and more, that he might become her weapon of revenge. The passing of the brooch to him is the culmination of her current plan to survive her situation. Walter hasn't sought a new job, as he is overcome by his growth as a cultural conneisseur. He's blaming the rich and the banks for what has happened. He knows it's their fault, because Surabel whispers it to him. He has become obsessed with tearing them down, and his plans of protest are quickly growing more sinister. Beauty and truth demand death for them.

Walter is the most average man you've ever met. He's not tall, he's not athletics, he's not a genius. He's got a receding hairline, gray hair at his temples, a pudginess about him tha makes anything he wears seem just slightly badly fit. He's not rich, but has his own single apartment in the suburbs. He lives alone. What's not average is his overabundance of feelings of injustice and unfairness over the opera house's situation. He finally found something that made him happy, and it was taken. His love of the opera has grown into a hatred for the banks that ended it. He comes off as a conspiracy theorist to those that meet him now, an unhinged man blaming mysterious forces for all that's gone wrong for him. The thing is, he's not wrong, because Surabel's desire for vengeance is real, and the greed spirit that brought about their shared fall is real. It was all just a fight over territory in Shadow.

Surabel appears as a multi-colored songbird of great beauty. Her song is intoxicating and beautiful, but she has grown obsessed and desperate for Essence to eat. Fettering herself to Walter is her only route to survival right now. She wants to escape the greed spirit's wrath and one day get revenge. If she manages to Claim Walter entirely, he will be forever changed. He will become a twisted angel, his eyes blazing and the air around him filled with distracting, beautiful harmonies. He will have two bright wings on his back and distended talons for hands as well as a vicious beak on his face. He will work to bring down anyone he sees as part of the conspiracy to destroy the opera house or destroy Surabel, and the worst part? In their current state, the pair will be paranoid as hell and see it in everyone.

Part of the solution might be music, though. Music soothes Surabel, and particularly, sad operatic arias place her in a calm if slightly depressive state, preventing her from pushing Walter to rant and rave or, in fact, do much at all. Walter spends most of his time staking out the bank headquarters. At first he seems just another person down on his luck that's mad about losing his job, but a clever werewolf will spot the signs of spiritual influence and perhaps hear Surabel's piping up alongside his rants. The big change in his behavior will begin when he runs out of money and is forced to leave his apartment and squat in the old opera house. At that point, he's going to start murdering the directors of the city arts council, as he sees them as collaborators in the destruction of the opera company.

Statistically, Walter is currently a schlub. He has no real strengths besides a decent understanding of opera, a passable singing voice and knowing how not to kill himself with a handgun. If and when Surabel Claims him, however, the pair will become much more dangerous. Smarter, faster, stronger, better at manipulating people and convincing them. They will still not be an amazing combatant by werewolf standards, but their ability to control the world around them and particularly birds and other animals will be nasty, as will their ability to fly. Their song will be able to make people stare in awestruck fascination, and they will be extremely fast and hard to catch. I really like these two, because they're not evil at all, they're just desperate, and the PCs can save them. The PCs could bring back the opera house, or at least help Surabel survive and get that greed spirit out of her way. They could make Walter raelly happy by bringing his old job back, and now you have a bunch of werewolves running an opera house.

christ, what an asshole

Fear of Rejection, or just Rejection, is a spirit of fear, but one that's found a special niche - being everyone's favorite and making them feel worthless. It works for him. He was once called Creeping Shadow, but he found other spirits of fear just too hard to compete with, so he ate the desire-spirit Wandering Eyes. Integrating desire and fear created a new, useful combination. He could lure prey to him now, rather than always having to hunt where other fear spirits were. Fear's powerful on its own, but by pairing it with another strong concept, a spirit can help define how they want to control their territory. Rejection is a spirit of the fear of rejection now, and he's ambitious. He has possessed Alex Cecil, quite possibly the hottest dude in town. His goal is to make people like them and want his approval, then hurt them with that. Why? Because it's what he eats.

His hangout is the Smoky Bottle Bar, a local college bar. Alex is a theater major who's done pretty well in town but is afraid to enter the world outside college. Rejection found him by looking for someone peopled fawned over, and he's entered the man's heart and warped him into a tool of one-way admiration. Rejection is looking to turn the bar into his safe haven to grow in. He feeds himself on the fears of horny college students and bar patrons with fragile egos, all of whom want Alex's approval...which he doesn't hand out easily. Soon, the bar will be too small for the pair. Outside it, Alex's classmates are starting to notice his change as well, and his crowd of sycophants is only going to grow. However, this is going to risk werewolf attention, and if Rejection is feeling threatened, he will abandon his host without a second thought to find a new one.

Alex is a blue-eyed, brown-haired man of great beauty and a look of artistic fatigue and world-weariness. He makes people he likes feel like royalty, but isolated if he ignores them. His peers vie for his attention and fawn over everything he says and does as he cycles through them. He lets each feel special all too briefly before moving on. He's getting used to the treatment of fame offstage, finally important enough that he never pays for his own drinks and gets lots of gifts. One man's even offered him his car. It won't be long before Alex starts trying to push the limits of what he can get away with. The world seems to be his now, after all.

The rumors surrounding Alex are primarily about the folks hanging around him. Thomas Kemp is a local who goes to the Smoky Bottle who thinks Alex is super cool. He loves to hear Alex talk about his vacations to California, New York or London, but it's making him feel terrible, too. At first, Alex's attention and interest in his work made him feel good, but when he couldn't talk about travel, Alex moved on to another person and left him wondering if he's squandered his life. Oliver Stills lost a date after going to the bar with her - she went for Alex instead. Now, he's convinced that if he can get a girl, take her to the bar and she sticks with him instead of Alex, it'll prove how awesome he is. His dating ritual is an endless cycle of finding new women to take to Alex's shows or the bar to reject him. Eventually, his envy and self-loathing are going to make him lash out at the actor or one of his dates violently.

Fear of Rejection is a rank 2 spirit with ambitions. He's not that powerful right this second, but if he can glut himself on the Essence Alex's actions provide, he will rise to rank 3 and start gathering up a brood of followers - other spirits of rejection, desire, anger and fear. At the moment, his Influences are Fear 2 and Desire 2, and he's mostly good at controlling people's emotions. He's not really controlling Alex so much as boosting his natural actions, as he's not powerful enough to do much more than that for now. His Ban means he cannot leave any embrace - even a wrestling hold or grapple - though he can still try to drive off or kill someone holding him. His Bane is fresh blood from a human heart. He appears as a pulsating mass of red mucus and cartilage with pulsing eyes.

Alex, on the other hand, is a charismatic man with a forceful personality and a knack for talking to people, getting them to do what he wants, and browbeating them. He's hard to read, pretty as hell and knows a little about just about everything. He's also a smart kid, having spent a long time at college, picking up a lot of knowledge about all things cultural. He knows a little about just about everything. He is a complete noncombatant, having never had to hurt anyone physically in his life.

Next time: Shartha - the Hosts.

How to Host a Murder

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
How to Host a Murder

The Hosts, called Shartha in the First Tongue, are the shattered pieces of ancient gods. They hide in the margins of the world, taking the shape of vermin. They blasphemously merge their divine nature and human life force into horrific infestations of flesh, hollowing out human bodies to fill with squirming things or burying themselves in gore to create an unholy abomination-fusion. They are foul creatures, seeking to defile the fabric of reality itself with their appetites, and they treat humans as mere food sources and crucibles for their monstrous rebirths. All of the Hosts hunger, driven to consume others of their kind to strengthen themselves. Each contains a tiny shard of divinity within them, and some cling to grand delusions of reuniting all of these shards, recreating the god-forms that Wolf tore apart in the days of Pangaea. Most, however, merely focus on their own hunger and survival, their innate drive to seek out other shards of their divinity and consume them to grow. The instincts that drive them are the remnants of the divine programming of their progenitors, the lingering echoes of the gods they once were. They are slaves to these drives, seeking them out without, generally, fully understanding them. Many of them obsess over the Gauntlet in some way, trying to exploit or corrupt it to pave the way for their reformation.

In their most primitive, basic state, a Shard - the singular and least potent form of a Host - appears to be an animal. A rat, a spider or similar, though often grotesque or mutated somehow. To grow, they initiate the Joining with a human. To do this, they must touch the human's flesh, which allows them to take an action to invade their body. Once inside, they start killing the human, dealing 1L each turn until the human dies. At that point, the Shard takes control of the corpse and gains the power to discorporate inside it. Claimed and animals other than humans are incompatible with the Joining, while werewolf regeneration prevents a Shard infestation from being able to kill them and take over. However, rumors exist of very potent Shards that can overcome even werewolf resilience. Once Joined, the Host must consume more Shards to further mutate its new body into a hybrid form. Without Shards to consume, the body decays over the next few weeks to months and the Shard will need to find a new vessel.

In animal form, Shards are very weak, with a tiny Essence pool. Once Joined, however, they grow more powerful, and can gain even more power by consuming other Shards. A full hybrid has significantly more Essence at its disposal, with the oldest, most mutated Host hybrids being able to call on vast Essence reserves. Hosts can spend their Essence to fuel their myriad dread powers, which often are able to damage or influence the Gauntlet in some way. They can also spend Essence to heal themselves, though it's slow compared to werewolves. (Compared to anyone else, it is very fast.) Hosts do not regain Essence the way spirits do; a spirit feeds on the Essence produced by the world. A Host eats physical food. Lots of it. Gluttony is what fuels them, and the second most efficient means of Essence regeneration for a Host is the consumption of human flesh. Second, specifically, to werewolf flesh, which is the finest meal a Host could dream of - each point of damage a Host deals to a werewolf with its bite regains Essence for it, as does eating the flesh of a werewolf corpse.

Now we get into specific Hosts. Rat Hosts and Spider Hosts are not covered in this book, because the core covers them. These are all new!

Hope you like grotesqueries.

Toad Hosts, the Thihoshlu, are fat, leering creatures that seek out sloth and vice. Our example is Horace Albuquerque Fenchurch III, a stolen name worn by a Toad Host turned crime lord. Horace was the name of the fleshsack he wears. His particular favorite vice is werewolves - he enjoys making them submit and forcing them to serve him. He finds it deliciously awful. All Toad Hosts are arrogant, slothful and very, very greedy, and Horace is no exception. He sits at the heart of a mass of contacts, favors and alliances, controlling gangs, financiers and politicians. Social elites and criminals alike come to his club to partake of his vast wealth and indulge in the sins he has on offer. He deals in human trafficking to vampires and other parasites, sells mystic artifacts to sorcerers, makes money off illegal business deals. He's got a reputation in the occult world for dealing with anyone, period, no matter what, regardless of politics, as long as they respect his neutrality. He will pass on messages, arrange safe passage, arbitrate disputes between monsters both mundane and magical. Even werewolves sometimes need his help, much as they hate it.

Horace holds court out of his extravagant club, overseeing a brood of bloated Toad Hosts that vie for power over scraps and pieces of his criminal empire. He always keeps his favorite werewolves close, in case of troublesome guests or overly ambitious underlings. His presence has a sapping effect on the anger and fury that drives werewolves, and so his retainers serve him because he has tamed their inner rage. He sees himself as a lord of the old style, surrounded by his obedient dogs, and he enjoys showing them off to guests and displaying his dominance over them. He's always eager to add more wolves to his collection.

The Toad Hosts are the remnants of the Slob Avaricious, an ancient demon-god of sloth and vice. They are rare, and among all Hosts, they alone lack the instinctive hunger to eat each other. Rather, they tend to gather in small groups, pooling their resources to create a shared territory of depravity and misery. Their least form is a fat, glowering toad. Unlike normal Hosts, they cannot Join without assistance. They nestle in their victim's gut, but are too weak and lazy to dig through the flesh themselves. Rather, they rely on their fellows to subdue their victim or convince a willing human to swallow them. They prefer human vessels that have high societal position, allowing their frog club to get those resources. Once Joined, the victim's skin becomes unpleasantly dry and the stomach bloats due to a mass of toads sleeping inside it. The Host's insatiable appetite and instinct takes over, and it indulges in food, sex, drugs and more abhorrent vices as much as possible.

If, for some reason, a Toad Shard consumes others of its kind, it changes even more drastically. Toad hybrids become squat and fat, with slim arms that do not match their immense bodies. Their jowls grow thick and meaty, covering over sacs that swell in their throat. Their eyes bulge, the irises turning orange. It is just barely possible for these elder hybrids to pass for human, but only as a living caricature of grotesque wealth. They tend to wear cravats and scarves to mask the bulging pustules of their neck and chest. The greed of the Toads warps even the Gauntlet around them. They ooze poisonous secretions into the Gauntlet, claiming it for their own. Once their influence spreads thick in the medium of the Gauntlet, it drinks up the Essence of those that pass through worlds, enriching the Toads in the process.

Horace, as an elder hybrid, is grotesquely fat, a parody of a human form. He hides it in rich clothing and expensive jewels, and he wears fresh silk scarves at all times. His smile is too wide, and his orange eyes have slit pupils, while his jowls droop horrendously. Humans generally choose to overlook his hideousness and focus on the trappings of wealth surrounding him and the promise that their appetites will be fulfilled - it's more comfortable to willingly deceive themselves into thinking he's just a rich old fat guy rather than a barely concealed monster. He meets visitors exclusively in the VIP section of the Amber Club, where he is eager to flaunt his wealth with vast presentations of food, drugs and victims. He oversees orgies, banquets and business meetings easily, bringing clients together as needed to extend his web. Party crashers have to deal with club security - the best that can be bought, at the front, and behind them, the hounds.

Horace plays the role of the generous host (pun intended). He is friendly and genteel, if a slob, but it is not long before the egotistical, boorish creature behind the mask is revealed. When he isn't focusing on a deal or bargain, he is prone to rambling at length about his accomplishments and wealth. He doesn't like having to do things physically, but becomes excited if offered a new, untried indulgence. He's gotten bored with the old ones - mutilating victims with power tools is so last year, darling. His current hobby is forcing drugged victims to eat parts of their own body. Werewolves, however, always get his undivided attention. He's extremely horny for them, and while he's happy to just deal with them, he'll look for any chance to convince them to join his pets. As far as he's concerned, it's a privilege - they'd be fools not to do it.

The Toad Hosts are almost what they seem to be. They use their gross depravity to hide the true nature of what they are. Their goals are simple - perpetual conflict that they can easily profit on. They want a status quo of misery and suffering and need. They are forces of stagnation, as their forefather was, and they use their wealth and power not only to feed their own appetites but to set their clients against each other even while pretending to be neutral arbiters. Horace is a master manipulator, subtly driving apart his partners and clients. He sees himself as a king over pawns, controlling the schemers and setting them against themselves to cause all manner of feuds. He doesn't care who suffers or dies because of his work - there's always more people begging him for help. Even other Toad Hosts think Horace's obsession with werewolves is a gross pervert thing, and most prefer to avoid Luna's children whenever possible out of fear. For Horace, the act of leashing these ancient foes is an act of worship to the Slob Avaricious and a revenge against Wolf. Werewolves that meet him tend to think he's enslaved his "hounds," but in truth it is extremely hard to imprison an uncooperative werewolf. Yes, his aura of sloth helps damp down their rage and fury and makes them placid, but if they wanted to leave he would be unable to stop them without losing much of his staff. His hounds serve him voluntarily, because he exploits their desperation and fear of their own nature, focusing on werewolves afraid of the death rage or haunted by the deaths they've caused. He offers them freedom from that in slavery to him.

The mortal Fenchurchs are all sworn to Horace's service, and spend most of their time feuding with each other in an effort to prove worthy of inheriting his "secrets." Horace's plan is to take whichever kid wins and turn them into his new vessel when it comes time for Horace to die of old age. The real problem is his true kin, the other Toad Hosts. His coterie is growing ambitious and is no longer satisfied with the scraps he throws them. To help protect himself, he keeps a massive collection of occult trinkets in his vaults. Well, that and because he's super greedy. His nature makes him lust for any object of power he runs into, even if he can't use it. Most he will later trade as chips to sweeten some deal or other, but he's kept ahold of a few choice pieces to surprise anyone that comes for him. He's going to be surprised soon, though - the werewolves currently coming for him after hearing about his hounds are not interested in killing him. Rather, he's drawn the attention of a werewolf cult that seeks to free themselves from the death rage. They are now forming nomadic packs, making pilgrimages of peace and hoping to find serenity with the Toads. They don't realize they're just going to be exploited and enslaved, and they're drawing in more and more vulnerable and fearful werewolves.

Horace is extremely smart and manipulative, and while he's not very strong or fast, he is unnaturally tough. His real power in a fight lies in his magic abilities and his pets, though. He has vast resources, an extremely secure facility and a well-trained staff. To support them, he can shoot out blooding ooze, taint the Gauntlet around him to drain Essence from people that cross it and drawing Willpower from humans sating their Vices, can use his tongue as a prehensile weapon to grapple with, and is able to wield almost any magical item due to the symbolic power of his greed. He also can spend Essence to prevent all kinds of magical frenzy around him, from werewolf death rage to vampire frenzy and more, and can even force werewolves to shapeshift out of their warform by doing so. The magic item power is his own special trick; the sloth aura and the gauntlet taint are unique abilities of the Toad Hosts, and the tongue is a general-use Dread Power applied to toads.

Next time: Merovech of the Lamprey Hosts

Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. And bits of sick.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. And bits of sick.

The worst merman.

Deaths by the shore, staining the sand with bloody slime, massive swarms of lampreys in red water, and huddled shapes sacrificing something to the depths - these are the calling cards of Merovech, the herald of the Lamprey Hosts. Occultists and werewolves that track its work know it by tons of names. It is Melusine, Leviathan, Rusalka, Lorelei. Its lore is part of rites and legend along many ancient European rivers. The old stones carved in strange patterns, where village elders still sometimes pour out offerings of blood and oil to the river god, who brings fertility - these can be found along the Rhine, Danube and Thames alike, and people still try to hear the song of the water's god. The Merovech is a broker of blood and promise. Its travel in the waterways of Europe is unpredictable, but always it is the harbinger of a nightmare swarm of lamprey-monsters. It calls on ancient pacts with old families that have served the Hosts for generations, and it sings beautiful songs to call on the broken or ambitious who go too near the waters. It calls them to serve - and to shed blood. The Lampreys thirst for blood, and their thirst never ends. Merovech keeps it flowing, from sacrifice or murder.

The old ways of the Merovech endure because it always keeps its promises. You ask it to kill a rival? They die screaming in the bath as lampreys squeeze up the pipes. The Hosts bring you the money you need, though it's bloody, or retrieve for you the ancient gold buried in the lake. They bring crimson slime to the fields, ensuring the harvest will be great - and will leave the tongue red and the stomach yearning more. In return, the Merovech demands those that call on it use their power and influence for its cause. It demands they shape the land as it requires, that they gather prey for the Hosts to feed on. Those that break the deals they make with Merovech are either broken and forced to comply by its mystic song or turned into cautionary tales for the next person that thinks about breaking their oath.

The Lamprey Hosts, Ukusgualu in First Tongue, are a monstrous race of blood-craving fish monsters. The least of them are squirming, leech-like eels, impossible to tell from normal lampreys, which seek out warm meat to bite into and suckle on. Where their influence on the Gauntlet is weak, they must wait for a swimmer to come in reach or someone to rest by the water's edge so they can find a body to ride. They can flop around on land if they must, but it makes them extremely vulnerable. Once they find their victim, they clamp down on the veins or arteries of the wrist, thigh or neck and tear open a channel to enter the body from. They coil around the guts and heart, and their victims become pale and clammy, with occasional bulging shivers under the skin, which is always wet. Not naturally - rather, the body needs daily baths to avoid drying out and falling to bits. It also thirsts terribly, and to drink it vomits up lampreys and lets them drink, then swallows them again.

Should the body survive, it will twist and mutate into a true monster, a streamlined human shape with an elongated face and immense lamprey jaw. The eldest of the Lamprey Hosts are immense, pale wyrms of the deep river, with the last of their humanity remaining only in their tiny, withered limbs and their intelligent eyes. The Lampreys seek blood, to eat and for the world. They vomit forth the blood they take in into the Gauntlet, mixing it into a liquid state that they can move through. Eventually, the blood seeps back into the Flesh, gathering in sanity-breaking patterns. This gnaws at the human mind, causing strange cults to form and gather to make pyramids of brass, bone and sinew, offering up prayers to strange things even the Lamprey Hosts barely grasp. If asked, the Lampreys claim they come from an ocean of blood, endless and forever, which they shall inherit once more if they can but return to it. The bloodstained Gauntlet they create lets them reach the shallows, but they have yet to find a way to fully open the path. That is Merovech's task as their herald - follow the red tide and open the gates that will soak the world in blood. The Lampreys are uniquely united in recognition of Merovech as their leader, though it is not the eldest of their number.

The Merovech itself is an old Lamprey, though still vaguely human. Its upper body is an androgynous man's, but with slimy skin and arms too long for it which end in webbed talons. It has gills along the shoulders and neck, and its too-wide mouth is full of needle teeth. Its jawbone can crack open and form the round mouth of a normal lamprey if it wants, and tendrils hang from its cheeks. Its hair is long and wet, reached past its chest. It has no legs, just a long eel tail, and in places its fishy skin is pierced by gold rings. It also wears gold forearm bands, decorated with scenes of ancient kings and queens "in congress" with watery horrors. Its flesh is sickly and pale, but turns scarlet when it feeds. Its voice is not nearly so ugly, but sweet and melodic, even beautiful. Its voice is mystic in nature, touching something primal in the human heart and tapping into desire. When possible, the Merovech remains in water, but it is surprisingly fast slithering on land. If it must fight, it is shockingly strong, able to punch through steel with ease, and can vomit forth noxious, corrupting blood. However, it prefers to avoid confrontation against anything that might actually threaten it.

The Hunters in Darkness claim that the Merovech's name is not a lie - that it is the lamprey-infested corpse of the first Merovingian king of the Franks. Human myths cast Merovech as the son of the quinotaur, a legendary sea beast of Neptune, and they claim this is a metaphor for his infestation by the Host. While this is a convenient interpretation, it is incorrect. Merovech is not one person. It is a title. There are six Merovechs across the globe. While the Lampreys suffer the same cannibal urges as almost all other Hosts, they have a plan, and have entrusted it to the Merovechs, their calmest members. They map the waterways of the Flesh and the bloodlines along the water's edge. Their journeys are about mixing that blood with the waters, shedding the right blood in the right place at the right time. Each stop is one point in creating a massive sigil of gore across the world, and each death and sacrifice is one more piece of the symbol. It is possible that King Merovech was at one point the host to a Host, possibly even the first Merovech to begin this massive blood rite. Now, the title is a mantle taken up by dutiful Shartha.

One day soon, the Lamprey Hosts are sure, the time of the red dawn will come and the crimson tide will be unleashed. The rivers and lakes of the world will flow with blood, and the moon will call on otherworldly currents. The seas will open to the blood ocean beyond Flesh, where the Lampreys were first born. Their human slaves shall rule as kings and queens of blood-drenched shorelines, rulers over a land of eternal plenty. The ancient shapes of the dark red waters will welcome the reborn Shartha home to dance and drink of blood forever.

The Lampreys absolutely despise all other Hosts, whose meddling with the Gauntlet ruins the fluidity they hope to create. However, these are not their greatest foes. Those'd be the Drowned, strange horrors of the sea that puppet the corpses of those who die in the water. They hate the Lamprey Hosts and fight them at every chance, and so the Ukusgualu remain in fresh water whenever possible. The European Merovech is moving in odd circles now, too - it has given up on the old families and cults of France in favor of the Milieu, the French criminal underworld. The Lampreys are backing certain crime families to make power plays in areas they've tainted with blood, using swarms of Hosts in the safety of the bloody Gauntlet to murder rivals by draining them of blood. Their victims barely notice the pinpricks that will soon mean the presence of invisible parasites. On the other hand, it must be careful. Humans of modern eras are much faster to respond to parasites than they used to be, and it's no longer as simple as rains of blood and swarms of lampreys. Most officials remain unaware of the true nature of the threat, sure, but the Merovech has been having huge problems with disease control anyway. It is beginning to suspect it's dealing with a similar issue as its Thai counterpart - an aggressive team of human hunters embedded in marine law enforcement and disease control, hunting the Lampreys with fire, chemicals and old rituals.

The Merovech isn't super smart or charismatic, but it is insanely physically potent. It is stronger and faster than any human and tougher than some armored vehicles. It also has a surprising amount of social contacts and wealth thanks to its cult network and criminal ties. It is fast on land and insanely fast in the water, has armored skin, can control fish and other beasts, can vomit blinding blood spray, has a hypnotic gaze, can control water and can sing a mesmerising song to charm humans or Wolf-Bloods. Like all Ukusgualu, if it has recently gorged on human blood it is able to vomit that into the Gauntlet, making the membrane fluid. This lets it control Gauntlet strength and, once it reaches the proper level, physically enter the bloody medium (which also makes it harder to look across it without getting your eyes and nostrils covered in blood and drenches you if you cross it). While inside the Gauntlet, Lamprey Hosts can see both Spirit and Flesh, are invisible, and strike at both sides easily. The least form, the lampreys, can even bite foes without being noticed while inside the Gauntlet.

Anyone bitten by a Lamprey Host or its human body also gets infected by pulsing lamprey eggs. These don't hatch, but instead weaken your immune system. Werewolves are immune, but other formerly human monsters such as vampires aren't. If the Host that left the eggs would normally die, it can instead spend a bunch of Essence to teleport itself into one of the egg-infected, tearing itself out of the eggs into the victim's body and beginning the Joining with them. So you can in fact have a Lamprey Vampire, I think.

Next time: Ehlzahdha, the Dreaming Architect and unique Spider Shard

Yaoi Hands

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Yaoi Hands

Meet Drugs Spider.

The Shartha dream of Pangaea and reuniting, for the most part...but there are exceptions. Even a Host can develop new ideas. Ehlzahdha, the Dreaming Architect is one such, a member of the Azlu spider Shards that once had no name, no drive beyond consuming others of its kind and strengthening the Gauntlet. It hid, it fed, it grew, it fought, it broke into smaller pieces, and so on. But when night, it got inside someone and something was different than normal. The brain it had entered was changed somehow. Its senses wavered and warped as it ate. Its new body had been on mind-altering chemicals, and the Spider absorbed them. It discovered the sensation of altered consciousness, and that changed its world. It took its time breaking in its new body. It was careful in its hunting, cautious and discreet. It experimented with various chemicals, feeling its perspective shift each time. It named itself, and it learned how to care about things beyond its purpose.

Ehlzahdha has, under a series of aliases, been working as a secret architect of its city for over a century. It crawls into the ears of planners and builders and injects its dreams into them. It builds up the Gauntlet in key locations and allows it to be eroded in others, carving out secret roads for spirits to follow without even realizing. It has been shaping the city to a pattern its people cannot see, and even the wisest werewolf shaman would have trouble anticipating its dreams and seeing the pattern. They don't have its perspective, after all. The Dreaming Architect believes firmly that building things with the right materials, angles and location has supernatural effects. She accomplishes some of this with her innate Spider Host abilities to manipulate the Gauntlet, but she also uses anything else that catches her interest. (It's she now because her primary host body is female and she's started to identify with it.) She uses occult legacies of all kinds - silver nails, leylines, pyramids, sigils. Her creations can have very weird effects - a hotel channeling negative resonance might empower ghosts within it, for example.

Even by Azlu standards, she's playing a very long game. She is trying to reshape an entire city to create a pattern out of her own dreams, rather like someone using feng shui but with the added complexity of the Gauntlet and the spirit world. She is very smart and rational for a Host, if obsessed. If werewolves bother her, she has a simple checklist. Misdirect them. If they don't leave, trap them. If they evade the trap or seem to be breaking free, strike to kill. If they're too strong, run. She may negotiate if all else fails, too. Her main bargaining chips are that she claims to be much less violent than other Spider Hosts, that she is a common foe of the Rat Hosts, and her unique skills as an architect of the Gauntlet may be useful. Her fascination with dreams and altered states are the key to what makes her so different from other Spiders, and she regularly experiments with new drugs in the safety of her lair, hunting inspiration. Even she isn't sure what her work's final effects will be, but she believes it will alter the minds of the entire city, perhaps locking them all in dreams.

Currently, the Spider wears the form of an older, refined woman that goes by the name Ehlissa Duke. She is known to be a rich, eccentric recluse who wants to ensure her name lives on by funding various building projects. She speaks breathily, as though her lungs are weak, and pretends to be a bit senile if she thinks she's talking to someone dangerous. Her true form, if she is forced to tear off her human facade, is still mostly humanoid - it's a seven foot, feminine biped covered in chitin and with eight spear-tipped legs where the arms should be. Her voice remains breathy, but this time it's because she has multiple sets of lungs.

Ehlzahdha has created one building with a shockingly low Gauntlet - shockingly because it's in the middle of a block with an extremely strong Gauntlet. She has funneled spirit intrusions into the building by making it a weak spot, and it's about to become a full-on Verge, where people can accidentally stumble into Spirit. The locals have noticed only that they've been having exceptionally weird dreams. Tracking her work is made easier by the fact that she isn't very creative when it comes to naming. Her only actual time as an architect was under the name Elias Dark, and an accidental encounter with werewolves convinced her it'd be better to operate at a remove rather than leading her projects directly. Elias Dark's creations in the 20s and 30s are infamously haunted and weird. In the 60s she was Eliza Dawn, mistress of an architect, in the 70s she was New Age architecture writer Elohim Masada, and in the 90s she was spiritual counselor Ezra Daly.

As Spider Hosts go, Ehlzahdha is powerful. She's extremely intelligent, sociall skilled and physically terrifying - she can basically take a single werewolf in combat and beat them. It's a pack she'd have trouble with, despite her superhuman strength and speed and her excellent fighting skills. She's also very sneaky and good at surviving on the run, is clairvoyant, has plenty of cash and a secure lair, and she never forgets anything. Her skin is armored, she can walk on walls or trap people in illusory mazes, hurl webs, and has a toxic bite.

Kamen Hobo!

The Locust Hosts, the Srizaku, know only hunger. They are born starving and nothing can sate them. They devour all, consuming anything even slightly edible. Most are not subtle, and so are quickly exterminated by local werewolves. Some, however, have the brain to find other methods. Forty years ago, a Locust took over a slow, malnourished human body. Its new mouth, it found, was weak. It had to chew slowly. Eat slowly. And the more it did that, the more flavor it tasted. It swallowed and then regurgitated to chew again, to taste again, until the food became a thick, sweet nectar. It learned to control its endless hunger, to be patient. With this came opportunity. It observed humanity, to better avoid their attention as it fed, and discovered they were drawn to the nectar's scent. With a bit of Essence, that nectar became a drug humans craved. It began to choose the humans best able to offer it things, eating those who could not. It became "he" - the King of Honey, lord of the feast and master of the most potent humans of the city. He finds it amusingly ironic - these humans, fat and never knowing hunger, feed him anything they can, no matter how rare or illicit the delicacy. He allows them the illusion of choice. His hunger is still infinite, but he at least has learned to savor his feasts at leisure.

The Locust Hosts love each other's company, yearn for it, but when they gather en masse, they must either starve or devour each other. There is never enough for them to eat. They are the Shards of Famine-Bringer, an ancient god of hunger. Every one of them is born starving. Despite this, they have a talent for cooperating when entering a human host, and a Srizaku hybrid may well have several dozen individual Shards living inside it, acting as a united hivemind that has hollowed out organs and lives where they used to be. Each Shard has specific cravings, and so the hybrids hunger for an eclectic mix of the lot. None have the same tastes, but all agree on one thing: human flesh tastes great and is very Essence-rich. Most of them keep to rural areas - cities are tempting, full of food, but they're far too easy to be discovered in. The temptation is too great. Sometimes, a few hybrids allow their social instincts to come to the fore and gather together in secluded areas. These last until they run out of food, which is not long.

Officially, the cult of the King of Honey has no name and would not consider itself a cult. They refer to it as 'our supper club' or whatever the regional equivalent would be. It is a club of wealthy and powerful individuals with jaded tastes who have the money and power to acquire new foods for the King and to conceal their own habits. New prospects are invited for private dinners and prevented a taste of the King's nectar for dessert. The euphoria it produces is usually enough to shackle their will, no matter who they are. The next taste, though, comes only after they sign a contract of secrecy. These contracts are not filed with any court, of course, but it helps reassure the prospective member. Totally mundane precautions for a totally mundane organization. The third taste of nectar is during initiation, where the new member appears before the hooded King. Surrounded by peers and the scent of nectar and food, they tend to lose all doubts about the status the club represents.

The King occasionally refers to the members as his Honeyed Ones, and the group is small enough that they can fit inside a large boardroom. They have, between them, a shocking amount of power and influence. There are no ranks, there is no hierarchy, and so there is no Mystery Cult Initiation merit. All are equals before the King. The court of the King meets in an area arranged by one of the club's oldest members, a grand, windowless feast hall under a high security mansion. A throne sits on a raised platform for the King to sit on, his face obscured by his hood. The club meets once per lunar month. Any more would draw attention, while less would mean less nectar, which cannot be allowed. The ritual's quite simple. Each member brings one "dish" the King spoke about at the last feast, such as a rare animal, a fine wine or the brain of a great violinist. They also bring one offering of their own choice, legal or otherwise. They know their gifts are what is used to brew the nectar, so they choose flavors and sensations they hope will affect it.

A small team of master chefs, all addicted to the nectar, prepare the offerings, either cooking them or slicing and serving raw. The table has enough food for each member to get a portion without starving the King, who at this point draws back the hood and spots a mouthful of golden nectar into each member's goblet. They thank him, drink, and take their seat to get high. At the end, they all lie back in their chairs and listen to the King drone on about the foods he's been dreaming of for next month. They eventually rise and leave. The King does not. He has not left his throne in years. While some Locust Hosts are nomads, always hunting food, he is extremely lazy and prefers to act through his proxies. About one third of his existence is eating. The rest, he is busy throwing it back up into his mouth to savor it more and produce more nectar.

Like all Hosts, he knows and fears werewolves. If he were forced to face a pack, he'd happily try to negotiate first. However, his court and followers exist primarily so he can use their vast resources to make sure that never happens. He's extremely pragmatic and surprisingly skilled at talking to people for a giant cricket man. He'll lie or tell the truth depending on which seems like it'll keep him alive longer. His form is that of a wide, fat human in fine silk robes colored a rich amber. His hood is usually pulled up far enough to conceal his head, and his skin is a rich brown color with a faint oily sheen of gold. A faint hum surrounds him at all times, and if agitated, small shapes can be seen moving under his skin. He speaks in a kind, calming drone and slurs some of his consonants. His head is the blank-eyed face of a locust, and his stained mouth parts are always moving.

The supper club of the Honeyed Ones is not completely secret. The members pay a lot for discretion from their staff, bodyguards, chaffeurs and so on to arrive there in secret, of course, but that means all those people know about the monthly trips, if not what happens there. Most werewolves are not really concerned with the parties of the obscenely wealthy, but some do pay attention, especially Iron Masters. Vice means opportunity, after all, or possible spiritual corruption. That said, even a very educated werewolf might not connect the exotic foods sent to the parties with signs of a Locust Host. They aren't exactly known for their rarefied tastes. However, a pack might discover refrigerated trucks carrying human body parts to a wealthy neighborhood, and that might give them reason to suspect an inhuman appetite...especially if they track it to the same place that exotic animals, fine silks and good furniture are also being sent. A Locust Host can eat anything organic, after all. Rumors may point a pack towards a journalist who died in a car accident while investigating some members of the supper club. She knew too much and got killed - she had discovered the location of the court of the King, assuming it was some kind of wealthy pleasure dungeon or the like with designer drugs. She was discovered trying to infiltrate it before she learned the truth. Going through her old files would reveal the court's location, as well as some notes about a golden "designer drug" liquid.

The King of Honey is exceptionally strong, tough and charismatic, but he's slow and not especially clever. If forced to fight he's not bad at it, but he prefers to use social skills, his wide array of powerful mortal allies and his talent for reading emotional auras to tempt people into doing what he wants. He's very, very good at talking to people, and his court is very secure. If forced to fight, his skin is armored, he can spray blinding liquid, and his bite is toxic. He and a rare few other Locusts can produce the honey-like nectar by regurgitating what they digest. Anyone that consumes it feels intense euphoria and gains the Addicted condition, though cravings do not set in until a full lunar month passes since last dose. It also makes its users extremely suggestible to the Locust's will for that month, reducing their Resolve and Composure against it and preventing Willpower spending in its presence. Also, anyone that consumes it feels neither fear nor revulsion when looking at a Locust, no matter how horrible its form looks.

Next time: Ranger Lovegrove and the Termite Hosts

A Literal Sack of Shit

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
A Literal Sack of Shit

People mistake this for human.

Ranger Lovegrove works in a national park. Every year, dozens of people manage to get lost in it, and he was appointed to his job because visitors need a guide to help them enjoy all the park has to offer. And now, he needs those people, too. He's quick to help lost people, appearing out of nowhere from the landscape to those that most need guidance. He loves to talk about the park and learn about the places his visitors are from, especially their architecture, buildings and so on. Victims from heavily urban areas he likes best, and if he seems weird or uncomfortably interested, he explains that he is a man of nature and yearns to visit the city. He's led many to their doom at the hands of the Termite Hosts, the Zundilu, of which he is a member. His victims do not realize that accepting his help fulfills the pact he is bound to. He leads them through the park, showing off his pride in his knowledge of it. He always educates them - that's important. They have to know these things. He knows the area and its landmarks well, and by the end, so do they. At that point he brings them into the artificial cave network his siblings have constructed under the park, removing them partially from the world of Flesh. He smiles his rictus of satisfaction as he listens to his siblings tear them apart.

A sidebar notes that the Termites are pretty much designed with crossover in mind for Demon. They are deeply interested in occult architecture and infrastructure, and that is deliberately lined up with God-Machine Infrastructure. They find it to be the most delicious food available to them. The God-Machine has known about them for a long time because they keep infesting it when it puts stuff in the forests they sleep in most of the time. This has ruined several of its plans, as the Termites nested in the Infrastructure and consumed all power within it, preventing its use. So far, it has not discovered a good way to get rid of them - its angels can't really eradicate them easily, and the best it can do is quarantine them and work to avoid their nests. Werewolves tend to neither know nor care about any of this, being more interested in hunting the Termites for their effects on the Shadow, but it could end up with them working with or against local Demons. (With 'them' being either the Termites or the werewolves, depending on the situation.)

The Termite Host, also known as the Zerdilu, the Decaying Host or the Children of Termite, are unlike other Hosts. They don't eat flesh, but rather structures. They do need human bodies for the Joining still, and to help expand their nests, so they are still dangerous on a personal level. They are also dedicated to service and order, but suffer heavily from poor memories. When outside a Joined body, they rapidly lose their selves - their minds and memories. They rely heavily on their human puppets to make sense of the world and remember the purpose they were called to serve. Within a human, they feel the hunger for reunion with themselves that all Hosts feel and the need to infest, expand and grow. Outside humans, they just...wait. They find interstitial areas hidden in the world, wooded areas nestled among lost and ancient cogs and gears. They don't care or even think about the purpose of the gears. They just infest them and wait. The existence of Termite Hosts is the twofold urges of service and infestation. They find purpose through obedience and they wish to expand their nests.

The rites used to summon the Zerdilu are fairly simple for mortal cults to perform if they can find them. Few of the records of the rite reveal the true nature of the Termites or their needs; rather, they are described as minor, easily commanded demons that excel at assembly, production and excavation. A few do note that they smell bad, though, from the least form (fat, twitchy termites) to their monstrous hybrids used to tunnel and dig out their chambers. When bound to a task, the Termites perform it with mechanical endurance, serving their pact to the letter, though they will need periodic reminders of what their task actually is due to their innate senility. If they are not reminded, they are essentially released from service once they forget. Unless commanded not to, they will also fellow their instincts and create "retch gates" to link wherever they are to their nest that runs in the cracks between worlds. With a retch, they can offer their services as guides to those around them. Inevitably, accepting their guidance services leads to them trying to draw their victim back into the retch. Once the deal is made, which requires only verbal agreement, the victim's desires stop mattering. Second thoughts or reneging on the deal just mean they will be forced into the nest, even if it means mutilatin them to prevent escape. Once the victim is delivered, the Hosts feel the euphoria of a job well done.

Entering the nest reveals a labyrinth of tunnels, folded impossibly through space and whatever structure the retch lies under, overlapping its physical location somehow while being separate from it. The horrible smell of Essence, offal and shit that follows the Termites everywhere is only worse there. Quickly, the tunnels become filled with Zurdilu Shards eagerly eating away at their colocated structure, consuming the Essence and ideas that make it up until it is a dead shell. The physical location remains, but supernatural senses say it is dead - it doesn't exist. All but the most spiritually blind human will refuse to enter or stay in it very long, and those who do suffer a spiritual malaise and loss of vitality that leads to death for no clear medical reason. In Shadow, the associated area is drained of resonance and Essence, becoming a Shoal that spirits avoid completely. When the area is utterly dead, the Termites abandon their dig and head back into the spaces between, waiting for the nest to expand once more.

Ranger Lovegrave - always Ranger, never just the name - is unrefined compared to most people who come to the park. He's got serviceable manners but often forgets minor details, stares too long or starts a conversation mid-thought. He also tends to talk over people to ensure he gets it said before he forgets. His disguise is barely serviceable, with sickly skin reliant more on his uniform to keep people calm. The real Ranger Adam Lovegrove died long ago, and he was the only ranger assigned to the park. He was a loner before he stumbled into a strange place of trees that had pipes leaking sappy oil, disturbing the waiting Termites there. Now, his ribs jitter and move due to the Termites inside them, and he smells of rot and shit. The Shards have packed his paper-thin skin full of mulch, pulp and poop around the bones to maintain its physical structure, and he moves like a marionette, his every inch full of termites. The Host has done his best to maintain what is left of the ranger's official existence, but it's forgetting more each day. It no longer recalls the body's first name or any of his life story. Only the facts about the park, which it recites so often, and its repetitive daily tasks stick in the mind. Anyone doing any real investigation would quickly discover a lot of discrepancies between his appearance and records, as well as his age.

Werewolves that encounter the Termites tend to be confused about why their nests are so rare. Most have immense Host populations, but their infestations are rarely encountered and seem to appear or vanish without warning. They arrive, and not long after, their tunnels are empty and dead. Some Hunters in Darkness theorize that they crave wood and quickly leave urban areas for lack of food once they eat it all. They are wrong; Termite Hosts crave the Essence of construction and structures, but the ancient hearts of their massive nests remain in the forests. Their intense lack of self-identity without a host body and their need for outside direction to do anything but obey their instinct to tunnel towards near retches and eat what they find means they aren't often noticed. In the cold places between, legions of them wait to be called, reeking of rot and shit. Only a few cults and human sorcerers are aware of the vile rites that call them through single-use tunnels, and when their tasks are over, the main issue is getting rid of them. They linger around, working to make a retch for their nest to head to, secure more bodies for their siblings and fight to remember what they're doing and who they are.

The Termite inside Ranger Lovegrove knows he's really not supposed to be around any more. He had no original purpose, and was almost uniquely bold in taking on the ranger's face and form without orders to do so. The ranger had no purpose to give the Termites but maintain the park, guide visitors and get them home, and that is the only guidance that the Host has been following for years. However, that one bold action has given him a tiny bit of creativity, letting him understand that he has a way to expand his nest and feed his siblings without directions. He's working towards that, and it's all he can really remember. It is, for a Termite, an amazing rebellion against his instincts, which tell him to give up and wait, to let his mind fade. He does not understand why he feels so obstinately that this is wrong, but it's caused an exponential increase in Termite Host infestation in the region and has made his nest expand hugely.

The retch at the heart of Lovegrove's cave, however, is growing unstable. Originally, it was usable only by the Termites, but now Rat Shards, Spider Shards and more are coming through, along with other monsters that aren't shartha at all. Lovegrove has no idea where they're coming from, but it's likely that a new retch or two were opened up near where they lived. However, without knowing where, the Termites can't seal those up or isolate the tunnels they're using. The Ranger needs more bodies to have enough Termites with minds to figure it out, bodies with strong will and strong flesh so they can remember and survive the job. Wolf-Blooded families would be perfect.

He's also drawn the attention of local occultist Amanda Ingersson, who has established a cover story as an entomologist studying the local termite population. She finds the Termite Hosts fascinating and would like to bind their nest to her service. This would allow her to get them to build retch gates for her use, allowing her to harvest Essence, travel great distances and explore the Shadow more easily. To do it, however, she will need a lot of sacrifices, for the pact must be sealed in blood. Besides, she'll need to feed Ranger Lovegrove's need to drag people into the nest, and sacrifices are in general useful to offer as bargaining chips with spirits.

Ranger Lovegrove is not super impressive as a combatant. He's not really superhuman in any capacity, though he knows a lot about surviving in nature and running around. Also how to make things, especially out of poop. He is, however, possessed of several useful powers - he can burrow through the earth, control earth and stone, trap people in mazes or lock them in place, and like any Termite Host, he can turn a ton of rotting organic matter underground into a retch gate with enough Essence. Retch gates can exit into Flesh or Shadow, and can be used by anyone the Termites allow. They tend to attract dangerous spirits and creatures that use them to hide, which the Termites will usually ignore if they stick to side tunnels, though they can collapse tunnels if they feel threatened, isolating them in Flesh and Spirit and creating dangerous Shoals or abandoned tunnel networks. They can also easily damage buildings, physically or metaphysically, by consuming their basic reality. It doesn't take long, renders the buildings dangerous and prone to crumbling if you enter, and drains the life out of anyone that stays in them even if they remain intact. Don't stay in places that have had their reality eaten! They can use this power to destroy smaller objects instantly in order to heal themselves or gain Essence.

Next time: Erika Stanich and the Wasp Hosts


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon


Erika Stanich, queen of the Wasp Hosts, can always be found atop Achilles Tower. It hums with electricity, yet its windows remain dark and silent. The huge skyscraper always seems sinister as it gazes down at the run-down neighborhood around it. The city it lies within is corrupt, its law enforcement barely active, and most fhe area's frequent disappearances have gone unnoticed. It is all Erika's doing. For three years she has ruled the tower, using its electrical currents to feed the Hidaglu, the Wasps. She has nurtured them on it, grown them strong.

All other inhabitants of the tower are dead, fled or met even worse fates. Any who enter, whether it was the old folks that once lived there, the janitors, the maintenance techs sent in to see what the source of the electrical faults and blackouts were, or even those seeking their missing family - they are all taken to feed the hive, either as meat or bodies to be used to build Erika's hybrids of wasp, human and dream. These live only to kill, eat and worship Erika as the god she will become. The dreaming songs of her servants, strengthened by the Essence of their victims and the power of the city electrical grid, flows through the Gauntlet as a droning hum. It invades the dreams and minds of some in the district. Some of these gather in mad cults, worshipping the vespid shapes of their dreams and filling their shrines with staticky radios, seeking out the frequency of the Wasp song. Others merely gaze up at Achilles Tower and pretend nothing is wrong.

Something is coming, resonating with the hum that breaches worlds. In Erika's dreams, she has begun to hear the response to her song. Dreams and nightmares are part of the nature of the Wasp Hosts. Their awareness is consumed by a droning prayer that is all-encompassing, a sort of hypnotic buzz produced by their wings that resonates through the Gauntlet. They crave the crackling of electricity from any source. In past times, they would fly out into the storms and drink the static charge of the air. Now, however, they can gorge on meat and lightning in the concrete hives built by modern humans. Their least form is a fat black wasp with delicate wings. Once Joined, however, they rapidly transform into a grotesque hybrid with no need to consume each other.

The Wasp hybrids are monstrous things, insectile legs punching through their flesh at odd angles and wings tearing from their skin. Their wrecked human bodies are filled with invasive growths that hold them in place, and they remain conscious and alive - the Hidaglu do not kill their victims or consume their minds, leaving them trapped in eternal torment with brief, awful flashes of lucidity. These hybrids are slightly out of sync with reality, sometimes stuttering, flickering out of vision briefly or twitching oddly, sometimes moving in ways that fit dream logic more than physics. Once enough Wasps gather together, the Gauntlet carries their buzzing prayer into the collective unconscious of nearby humanity. This makes the humans suggestible, instigates the formation of cults and eventually births a new Shard.

The Shard's conceptual venom congeals inside a human dream full of frustrated ambition and grand plans, Joining them in total harmony. The victim is infested, but rather than the normal Joining, it is a unity of the human's mind with the Shard's urges. These dream-born Wasps are stagnant, can never become full hybrids. However, unlike normal Wasp Hosts, they possess a clarity of purpose and thought. Their dreams grow into visions of vespid godhead, reborn through flesh. Their own flesh. When these queens call out, the Wasps answer. They obey their queens with religious ecstasy.

Erika's right ear canal and empty right eye socket crawl with black wasps. She hides her monstrosity as best she can beneath large amounts of long black hair and expensive suits. Beneath these, however, her flesh has been eaten away entirely, her organs hollowed out. Her spine is invisible beneath its layers and layers of wasps, and they crawl up and down and through her form. In her skull are hundreds of wasps ready to hunt for her. Despite being little more than a hollpw puppet of the dreaming echoes of a dead god, she clings to the remnants of her mortal life as a lawyer, and her demeanor is still human, if not her body. She dreamed of fame and fortune in the legal world, but it never panned out. Her Wasp heart still burns with resentment and frustration, and it's easy to goad her into a screaming frenzy of rage when her plans are foiled or her authority questioned. The Wasp hybrids obey her, but they don't understand her feelings, being far too caught up in the ecstasy of the prayer-drone.

Erika wants to bring the presence in her dreams into the world. God, she knows, is coming. She will birth God into reality. To do so, she must have more. More electricity, more meat, all to feed her hive, more minds to pray and resonate with her dreams. The God that Erika believes in is no human one, of course, but the ancient unity of the Wasps. They are not the whole of that ancient god; a fragment of it exists beyond Flesh and Spirit, in the world of human dreams - the last amputated remnant of the divine soul of the Wasp progenitor. When enough Hidaglu gather together, they can draw its attention to the surface of the collective unconscious to harmonize with their droning song. In theory, if the hymn to Wasp grows strong enough, a natural storm of sufficient power would allow it to attempt to manifest itself physically. However, the attempt will destroy Erika completely, tearing her apart and spawning countless new Shards from her corpse, along with a power surge that will shut down the city's electrical grid...for no good result.

The dream-titan is simply incapable of physically manifesting. It is lobotomized and broken, unable to exist in Flesh or Spirit. The divine rebirth that Erika envisions for the Wasps is impossible, moreso than any other Host. It's just the broken remnant programming of a divine urge that cannot be fulfilled. The attempt to do it is catastrophic, of course - it can't be ignored even if it fails, because the side effects are that bad. It just can't succeed, either. The Wasps that survived the attempt would go on rampage, terrified, and then flee far and wide, starting the cycle again wherever they gathered in force.

Erika's legal work still brings in occasional meals for the Wasps due to ads she maintains in various publications to draw in customers. They're not great ads, primarily focusing on divorce cases which she gets to come to the tower. Once they're in the elevator, she cuts power to it. Those that manage to force the doors open or get out the ceiling hatch find themselves surrounded by Wasps clinging to the sides of the elevator shaft, buzzing endlessly. Her old clientele have, to some degree, started to notice the change. The district's property values have collapsed - liquor stores stocking expensive wines can no longer shift them, and a local businessman that sought Erika's aid has gone into hiding. He believes her solitude and reclusiveness now have something to do with a criminal organization he owes money to - specifically, a criminal organization run by some local Ivory Claws. Soon, he's going to head into the Tower to try to find Erika, and the Pure will be on his trail.

Erika does not control the local human cults her dreams have created. They're convenient, of course, as their work hides hers and they're all too willing to offer human sacrifices to the wasps that haunt their dreams. However, there's some problems. Some of the cults have started to pick up a different dream-frequency. Someone or something is emitting electrical dreams as well, and some of the wasp-cults have turned to worship the "Lord of Mount Pe'or" or the "Unity of Flesh," whatever those are. (I don't get the references, myself.) They now violate their own bodies as an unholy sacrament. Erika is enraged that she has a rival faith despite her lack of direct control of the one she made. Soon, she will use the dreams to set the cults at war with each other.

Erika is extremely smart, but physically unimpressive, particularly by Host standards. She can't really fight at all. It's her command of bees and other animals nearby as well as her powers of electricity that render her truly dangerous. Well, that and her ability to do minor mind control and teleportation. She, like all Wasp Hosts, is able to resonate the Gauntlet with the beating of her wings, causing horrific nightmares about wasps in anyone that sleeps nearby. The more Wasps that use this power, the further the nightmare region extends. Erika and other dream-queens have greater control of this ability and can actually enter these nightmares to visit human minds and control them to a certain extent. Wasp Hosts are also able to match their humming to the Gauntlet's frequency, thinning it and forcing anyone nearby across it. However, this Gauntlet schism cannot be done in heavy rain or if the Wasp is in any water deeper than a puddle.

Next time: Human problems.

Turns Out It's Man

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

b]Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon[/b]
Turns Out It's Man

Werewolves have a tendency to dismiss and underestimate humans, outside the Iron Masters that claim them as the most dangerous of prey. Sure, humans have plenty of silver lying around, they invented high-powered weapons and explosives. Sure, the Oath of the Moon demands concealing your existence from the human herd...but being honest, most packs treat that as more of a guideline than a rule. After all, werewolf packs often include humans, and obviously it would be silly to assume all humans were ignorant of werewolf existence. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume this clause of the oath is meant to be flexible. That's fair, as far as it goes.

However, it forgets that humanity is the most successful predator species to exist on Earth. Ever. Humans have wiped out so many other species, spread across the entire planet, and survived in places we really, really have no business being. Humans can invent and conquer anything, given time. They make weapons and tools to protect themselves, and they use numbers to overcome their physical weaknesses. Worse, humans are innately aggressive. Violence is nearly as natural to them as it is to werewolves. When threatened, they are no less brutal in their response. If they discovered a predator amongst them, they would unite with overwhelming force. When humans want something, they eradicate anything in their way. Werewolves would be smart to remember - they're not superior predators to humanity, taken as a whole.

Business casual.

RD-13 maintains facilities in rural areas, for the most part. Typically, they will be at the end of winding roads, in areas where you'd just expect old farms and cabins. Few people travel down these roads, as signs at the start say there's no outlet, and those who do reach a gate marked with signs declaring it private property and warning trespassers they'll be shot. The gate is held shut by a rusty chain and padlock that aren't even hung properly. The road continues beyond. A more paranoid traveler, however, might note that the road is well maintained and sees frequent traffic from heavy vehicles, or might spot the cameras concealed in the trees. It's not hard to tlel that visitors are not welcome and that they'll face more than a shotgun full of rock salt.

Heading on anyway reveals the dirt road lasts barely a mile before the woods clear out and a rather more sophisticated gate bars their path. This one has government markings and cold signs informing intruders that they are trespassers and that they are subject to search and seizure of anything they carry. The armed guards and bunkers on each side of the gate are doubly clear on this. Few people choose to argue when multiple rifles are aimed at their car. The bottom of the signs bears small print informing trespassers that they have, by their presence, forfeited any right to complain about detention or interrogation - or worse. Few that make it to the second gate are ever seen again by those that knew them.

RD-13 has facilities in numerous countries. It has expanded, restructured itself and modernized itself since its creation, allowing it to use the state of geopolitics to get where it needs to be. Several governments, corporations and independent researchers have produced similar results to RD-13, which means that you can just change the name and use them anywhere you need them to be. Their security teams are the most often seen by intruders, and they wear military gear and armaments, with uniforms that suggest some kind of military status, though lacking any service or unit designations. The guards will not comment on who they work for, but it's probable that the American government has at least some stake in RD-13.

Inside their facilities are more guards, but also scientists, technicians and support. RD-13 ensures all have appropriate uniforms, and the scientists tend to be most variable in appearance, ranging from lab coats to normal work outfits ro sweaters. The further in you go, the more dramatic and weird the equipment they carry tends to be. In areas near the inner gateways, all personnel are required to wear monitor badges in an attempt to measure their exposure to the gateway energies, and anyone whose work requires direct exposure must wear a full-body hazmat suit. Whether any of this actually helps is up for debate.

Those gateways are the key to RD-13's work. Somehow, they have discovered how to breach the barriers between worlds. The theories behind the technology and, indeed, the technology itself are imprecise and prone to fuckups, but they're functional. So far, RD-13 has mapped out three alternate dimensions. The first is a realm they note as being characterized by hierarchy and predation, in which ephemeral structures may or may not be inert objects or living beings waiting to ambush the unwary. (It's the Shadow.) The second is a place of death and arkness, where ghostly beings head ever downward to strange depths and chthonic beasts of nightmare with no human reflection patrol the wastes to enforce strange rules, currently unknown to RD-13 researchers. (The Underworld.) The final one is a strange palce of steam, electricity and cogs, with geometry that seems to collapse in itself like an Escher drawing, with infinitely large machines stacked impossibly on themselves and folded into singularities, where creatures of strange science fiction tend ancient but extremely advanced technology. (Some kind of God-Machine interstitial space, most likely.)

Many RD-13 personnel have lost their lives to encounters with extradimensional residents, but the research has produced many unexpected benefits. The energy signatures of the sporadic gateways mix in unexpected and unintended ways. This energetic radiation of the three alternate dimensions mixes in jumbled wavelengths that alter those exposted to them too long. Each facility contains dozens of test subjects, some volunteers and others intruders taken into custody at the inner gate. All have been warped by the arcane energies in fascinating ways. Not all of their mutations are beneficial to them, so many of these test subjects are kept sedated to prevent their constant pain and keep them compliant. Officially, these subjects are "enhanced." In practice, they tend to refer to themselves as victims.

These test subjects are far from RD-13's only creations, either. While the scientists isolate the gateway chambers as much as they can, the energies are not well understood, and they radiate out into the rest of the facility. Every person on site has gotten at least some dose of eldritch radiation. Every time a gateway opens, more of these energies seep into the facility. Over time, human flesh and souls warp under the radiation's effects. Many of RD-13's personnel have been there for a very long time, and so have developed strange and unique abilities and mutations.

The gateways are themselves likely to be an issue for werewolves. They aren't one-way, and spirits find them more convenient than attempting to cross the Gauntlet and much faster than trying to open a human for possession and Claiming. They're easy access to the world of Flesh, and while many spirits that use them don't bother to leave the facility, finding it fascinating enough, others cannot help but to head out for other territory, leading to a surge in spirits on the Flesh side of things - where they really, really shouldn't be. Worse, there are absolutely no controls over what comes through. The radiation produced by these tears in reality spread their pollution further each time they're opened. While RD-13's researchers believe the effects are contained to the facility grounds, they usually are not all that far from populated areas. Who knows what changes might be caused without their knowledge?

We get an example statblock of someone mutated by the RD-13 gateway energies - a Dr. Henry Spires, one of the founding scientists of the RD-13 facility and an abomination capable of mental domination of others. Exposure to the gateways has caused his brain to mutate, developing superhuman intellect and persuasive abilities to go with his intensely in-depth education on numerous topics, especially dimensional gates. He's quite high ranking in the organization and has many connections throughout, along with an innate talent for sensing when magic is happening, though he's not got much more detail than that. Due to the radiation, he has developed telepathy, a hypnotic gaze and unnatural resilience to damage.

Next time: The Church of the Wolf

The Holy Spirit

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

b]Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon[/b]
The Holy Spirit

Why is her head so long?

The Church of the Wolf is not the kind of enemy that wants to kill werewolves or tear out souls or anything like that. Indeed, the threat they represent is not immediately apparent to most werewolves. Werewolves are creatures of legend, blessed as the children of gods. They perform sacred rites and oversee a sacred hunt, communing with spiritual worlds in ways human are mostly blind to. Is it any surprise, then, that a religion exists around them, albeit a small one? They are an insane mix of internet searches and pop culture understanding of ancient faiths mixed together with rudimentary academic research packaged in a modern way. Its fundamental tenet is that gods exist, and their children walk the world of flesh.

The first of the Church's prophets had no real understanding, the day she first received her vision. She did not know that on her way to work, she'd run into gods. On that day, the prophet Diana took a side alley to avoid traffic and came face to face with wolf-headed people bloody in fang and claw, tearing into each other. They were immense, evenly matched, healing constantly. One had whitish fur, one grey-black. Their blood covered them, and they saw only each other. They did not notice the mortal watching their divine fight. Faith overcame Diana, and something within her shifted and broke. Her illusions faded, and she knew: this was her purpose. She neither fled nor panicked, but knelt in weeping prayer at her revelation. She bowed her head and prayed to names she did not know, which sprang forth from her unbidden. She now had to prove herself worthy of the gift she had received.

The scripture of the Church is a mix of fragmentary internet translations of ancient religious texts filtered through the misguided romanticism of Diana, who had no theological education past basic Sunday school. She researched and compiled online stuff, went to libraries and occasionally interviewed academics and scholars of religion. She hunted for more signs of the gods, learning how they hid themselves and how only the truly chosen could witness their true glory. She has brought lost, like-minded people together and, against all odds, her cult has grown from a tiny group to several hundred disciples of the wolf-gods.

They know that the lupine demigods walk among humanity. Most of the Church's members are searching for purpose, and can come from any walk of life. They favor wolf-head imagery in their rented warehouses and office spaces that serve as their churches, and many choose names with wolf-related meanings. In ceremonies, they wear robes decorated with the symbol they call Lupus et Fidelis - the wolf's head with halo. The color of the robe reflects church standing and rank. New initiates wear black, symbolizing their ignorance, the new moon sky and the black-furred wolf-god Diana saw. The clergy wear white, symbolizing awareness, the full moon and the white-furred wolf god. Shades of gray between mark various stages of initiation. Members who have witnessed werewolves wear a number of red ribbons showing how many times they have done so.

The church grows steadily. They know some of their services are attended by people who find them funny and mock them online, or others that don't truly believe. They're not worried - those people inevitably reveal themselves when searching for gods. The pursuit of the gods is how they test members, and those who lack true faith inevitably leave the group. Sometimes alive, but not usually. The Church themselves does not kill them - rather, the werewolf "gods" find them unworthy and usually handle it themselves. The Church is extremely good at finding werewolves, which they take as a mark of their righteousness. They can feel it when they find an area their gods walk in, instinctively knowing when they are in places sacred to werewolves. They see werewolves outlined in a corona of light.

Their true awakening comes when they participate in their first hunt. Those whose faith is true opens to sacred revelation when viewing the true form of the gods, while the unworthy suffer broken minds. Some run in terror, others enrage the gods and are torn to bits. The faithful follow after their gods, unworried, for they know that if their faith is true they will be protected. They have also ended up learning a number of rites and rituals to beseech the gods, calling on them to smite foes of the Church. They believe that their faith brings purpose to the gods, uniting them in packs that guard the Church.

There is no grand plan or strategy behind their actions. Small groups of the faithful break away from congregrations in pursuit of divine guidance, seeking out new territories to commune with werewolves. Once they find it, they rejoice in worship. This tends to make the lives of the werewolves complicated, alerts their prey and attracts foes. Some packs try to scare away the cultists, often with the aid of human or wolf-blooded packmates. However, when the faithful feel threatened, they may call on their gods to protect them...and too often, the "gods" are compelled to obey. Those who can see Shadow also note that Lunes are often found among the spirits of faith and fervor that swarm the cult's members. Somehow, the Church has attracted their attention, possibly even that of Luna herself. Werewolves that have run into the Church tend to hope she'll get bored quickly.

We get a statblock for Sister Cathwulf, who is only notable from normal humans in that she has the new merits that Church members are allowed to take to represent their abilities. All members of the Church must possess the Apocalypsis Fidei merit, a one-dot merit that can only be taken by non-supernatural humans. When a human with it would have to make a breaking point roll due to Lunacy (the innate terror werewolves cause in their monstrous forms), they do not suffer fear, but awe. They gain the Enraptured or Awestruck conditions instead of the normal ones. If they dramatically fail the Breaking Point, they instead become Wolf-Blooded and lose any Church merits, as they learn the truth of their faith. This merit can only be taken by people who truly believe in the Church's teachings, however.

From there, they can take the two-dot Invenire Venandi merit. This allows the faithful to automatically sense whenever they're within a few dozen miles of a werewolf and can make rolls to more precisely track the sensation of rightness they feel when within a few dozen yards. After that, they can take the 3-dot Manticae merit, which prevents werewolves in the death rage from targeting them, as if they were packmates also in the death rage. Finally, they can learn the 4-dot Ligulae merit, which causes their very presence to become a general death rage trigger for all werewolves. The werewolf need not even be aware of their presence - they just have to check for the trigger when too close.

Anyone with the Apocalypsis Fidei merit can learn and lead Pack Rites for their congregation, much as werewolves do for their packs. One of their greatest rituals is known as Lupus Venandi, and it is extremely potent and dangerous to werewolves, because what it does is bind a werewolf the ritemaster knows of and can describe or name to force them to Sacred Hunt a specific target. This overrides any Sacred Hunts the werewolf is already on and prevents them from choosing other targets. Bound werewolves feel compelled to hunt the named prey and may not voluntarily break off the hunt. They do not know automatically who or what they are hunting, but will catch enough traces to track the prey no matter the distance, and will know the prey when they see them. They must spend Willpower and make a roll to take any action not related to this hunt. While bound this way, werewolves lose their normal pack connections and can't use pack-specific Gifts on their packmates, and may target them during death rage as if they weren't packmates, though the opposite is not true. Any werewolves bound by this rite consider each other packmates for Gifts and death rage while the binding lasts. Anyone with the Apocalypsis Fidei merit cannot be targeted as prey for this rite.

Next time: Spirit wizards

Occult Power

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Occult Power

Humans and spirits have existed alongside each other since prehistory, and so it shouldn't be surprising that there's always been a sort of wary awareness of them. Shamans, prophets, oracles and other mystics had the responsibility of placating spirits in the hopes that it would benefit their societies. In the modern era, this is considerably less needed - technology has made it so that many of the things you'd normally use rituals to beg spirits for just aren't needed. And so, the humans that call on spirits in the modern day tend to be rather less benevolent. Instead, they call on spiritual power for personal gain, for the most part. Other people use their abilities to rig the game with money, political power or social connections, and so it's not surprising that some people try to use magic to do it.

Modern spiritual practitioners - the real ones, that is - tend to tap into the power of the spirits to influence human institutions for their own gain. The spirits don't generally care about why they're doing it as long as it produces more of the resonance that feeds them, after all. Thus, a modern shaman is able to use their powers for their own benefit, achieving comfort and power while pleasing their spiritual benefactors. Spirits tend to find them fascinating as wlel as appetizing. Most spirits in Shadow never really get a chance to meet a human, as they typically get devoured by other spirits well before they ever make it to Flesh. However, spirits do talk, and as much as anything else, they talk about humanity.

Humans are are creative, moving things that alter the resonance of Shadow more than anything else in existence. Most spirits that get to the world of Flesh tend to see humans as little more than playthings or quick food sources, but the ones that are able to plan and be driven by more than instinct, those who have ambitions and future goals - these spirits are able to see opportunity in humans. There is more to humans, for a clever and ambitious spirit, than simply using them as puppets.

Few modern occultists stumble into the Shadow by themselves. There aren't exactly any books or experts to call about spirits, either, though, so finding an education in real spiritual power is tricky. It's possible to self-teach spiritual occultism via trial and error plus scraps of old folklore, but most occultists end up being taught by a mentor or someone they can pay favors to in exchange for training. Most occultists keep an eye out for people with the drive and talent to join their ranks, after all. Taking on an apprentice has great advantages, often. You teach them how to tap into Shadow, and they provide service, loyalty or at least a warm body to throw at the spirits if things go horribly wrong.

And then there's this guy.

Even with a teacher to help, of course, many people are simply unable to handle learning about the horrors that exist beyond their vision. Wolf kept Flesh and Spirit seperate for pretty good reaosns, after all. Humans tend to have breakdowns after extended exposure to the Shadow and its denizens. Preparing to call on spiritual blessings is fundamentally about self-violation. You must ritually ready yourself to allow an alien into your own body so it can pursue its goals. The first step of bargaining for Shadow's power is achieving a resonance with a spirit and gaining its attention. Several rituals exist to help with this, but the simplest, most effective way is inviting a spirit to take over your body.

Obviously, this has the chance of going catastrophically wrong if the spirit decides it doesn't want to make a deal with you, it just wants to ride you around like a stolen car. Occultists know that more potent, higher-ranked spirits tend to be more likely to understand the concept of cooperation and bargaining...but they are also the ones most often able to just take what they want without caring about your side of things. Picking the right spirit to beckon is more of an art than a science, and it's also very luck-based. No matter what, however, regardless of whether you end up possessed, Urged or Claimed, you are mutiliating your symbolic self-nature to attune yourself to Shadow. But if you're lucky and skilled enough to survive the physical and mental traumas of being possessed, you now need to convince the spirit to agree to further trade. The spirit must feed you some of its Essence, attuning you to the Shadow.

Of course, spirits cannot do anything for free. It's not in their nature to give up their own Essence for nothing. So at that point, you're going to have to bargain with it, typically for access to your body and the world of Flesh through it. Whether this is voluntary or not, it is always a transgressive act to the human involved, and it involves the spirit granting Essence through physical substance or act. You will need to eat raw Corpus torn from tis body, or pseudo-solid masses it spits out for you, or other disgusting acts that produce the substance symbolizing union of human and spirit. Some spirits require more than this, even - they take a price from you as well, such as ritual scarification, sex or other things that please it or let it see exactly how committed you are to this deal. This intentional debasement of your human nature violates your soul and opens you as a conduit to the Shadow. You gain a power associated with your patron, but also gain its Ban.

Few Shadow occultists are willing to stop at just one bargain. Having paid the price in physical and mental damage, well...why not ask for more? The power was worth it once. Many occultists bargain with more and more spirits, taking on multiple transgressions or taboos they must obey in exchange for the power of the spirits they're dealing with. They use these powers to command lesser humans or get what they want from the world, but they quickly learn that the power has a cost in Essence, both to fuel its use and to pay their patrons for it. The quickest way to gain the necessary Essence typically involves sacrifice of the health or stability of other people. Older spiritualists tend to be terrible, terrible people who will do just about anything in pursuit of more occult power.

Even at the weakest levels, however, Shadow occultists are able to use their Influences to manipulate the concepts and creatures within their patron's domain. When an occultist moves in, they usually establish all manner of early warning defenses against intruders and wards to drive off or kill the overly curious. From this you may well end up with rumors of the creepy old house infested by giant rats that seem far too intelligent. It's probably just the lair of an occultist pacted to a spirit of rats. "Just."

More established occultists are often well known in their neighborhood for being extremely weird. One of the examples is an old woman named Mary, whom the locals know as MAry Mary Quite Contrary. She is bound to repeat her name to anyone that asks and cannot allow any statement to go unchallenged. They tend to think of her as a harmless old beggar. In truth, she and people like her may well be just bound to so many Bans and obligations for power that their minds shatter under the strain. Such people are often mistaken for beggars or sufferers of mental illness, taken pity on by those around them. Sadly, they are much more sinister than these innocents and can generally justify terrible sins to themselves to get one more fix of power. (They also typically don't need monetary help; they're just broken under the yoke of spirits.)

So, how do you make a Shadow occultist? Step one is taking the 4-dot Shadow Occultism merit. It should be noted that any transgressions an occultist performs, whether for initiation into new merits or to gain new abilities, are always Breaking Points. Period. To take Shadow Occultism, you must be human and you must have been possessed, Ridden or Claimed by a spirit at some point, and you must have received transgression through Essence from a spirit, enduring at least one Breaking Point in the pursuit of this merit.
Once you take it, you are able to perceive your spiritual patrons in Twilight, you gain an Essence pool and you may learn and lead Pack Rites, even if you aren't part of a werewolf pack. You also gain the ability to wield spiritual Influence. You get a single 3-dot Influence free from the spirit that initiated you, retaining it as long as you have this merit. You can use it as if you were that spirit, but using your own stats for rolls. Your Essence pool is based on Stamina nd Resolve, but you can spend as much as you want at once. You regain 1 Essence per day by being in contact with the resonance of your initial Influence, and may regain 1 Essence per week for each taboo you have succesfully maintained. You may draw Essence from Loci. However, you automatically gain your patrons Bane and a single taboo. We'll get to those momentarily. You gain the Madness condition whenever you have more Essence than your Resolve and the Sick tilt when you have more Essence than your Stamina.

From here, you can learn the 3-dot Shadow Perception merit, as long as you endure at least one further Breaking Point in pursuit of it. This allows you to see all spirits in Twilight, understand First Tongue and sense if a location you are in or a person or thing you touch is resonance with any Influence you currently have. You may also sense the presence of a Locus when you are within its area of influence, though you cannot enter Shadow on your own; you must be carried through the Locus by a spirit. You can't turn off your spirit vision, and you become more obvious to spirits at this point - no matter what, they can see you clearly and may seek you out regardless of the inconvenience it may cause you.

Taboos are the ways that Occultists pay for the power they get, allowing them to earn more Essence or Influences. You can buy new taboos with XP, but can never have more than your Composure. Each taboo is broadly similar to a spirit's Ban and must be based on one or more of your patrons. You might be forbidden from wearing a certain color, must pet every dog you meet no matter what, must kill one rat each day or must never lie - or more painful things, sometimes. Taboos must be meaningful to you, though - you can't take one that never comes up. The Shadow will take its due. You may choose to shed or replace your taboos to change what Influences you have, but this requires a full day of ceremonial purification and then a roll. Success means you can remove a taboo and either immediately replace it or just let it go. If you replace it, the old one phases out for the new over a week at no cost, but until that's done you get no benefit from either taboo. When the new taboo is in place, you get one dot of relevant Influence free.

Removing a taboo entirely does not regain you XP from it, and you have to pay again if you later want to take on a new taboo. This is why most spiritualists don't just shed their powers easily. Further, you may never change your initial taboo from your first initiation. Spirits can sense when you break a tboo, and it pisses them off. However, other than this, the only penalties for breaking your taboos are loss of Essence recharge and being cut off from the associated Influence for a while.

You gain new Influences either by taking on new patrons (with all the spiritual transgressions involved) or by gaining new taboos or committing horrible sacrifices. You are limited in how many Influence dots you can have, but your initial 3 dots don't count towards the limit. Additional dots besides these three are only temporary and are lost once used. Each time you use an Influence besides your initial one, you lose one dot in that Influence. This does not reduce or mitigate any Essence costs, however. Additional taboos are the easiest way to gain new power, as noted above, but the taboo and Inlfuence you gain from it must be symbolically or directly related somehow.

Gaining Influences via spirit dealings requires you to perform transgressive acts as discussed as well as gaining a new taboo. Spirits often require additional payment on top of this, and the cost always includes a Breaking Point regardless of what you have to do. However, if you accept and fulfill your side, you gain Influence dots based on the spirit's rank and power. If the pact included future actions or terms which you then violate, you immediately violently expel all Essence in your body (along with a number of bodily fluids) and are incapable of doing anything at all until you're out of Essence. You also lose all access to Influences for a full month.

If you do something to make another human suffer and fail a Breaking Point, you get an additional dot of Influence releating to what you did or the character that suffered the Breaking Point. Lastly, you may also gain power via killing someone and ingesting part of them. If you sacrifice a human and eat of their flesh and drink of their lbood, you gain dots of Influence basede on their Resolve, which must somehow be related to the victim (such as Health for a doctor or Money for a banker). You need not completely consume your victim, but you do need to eat and drink until you're full. This is always a Breaking Point, and always at a sizeable penalty.

Spirits gain power by becoming patrons of Shadow occultists, though they rarely reveal this to their humans. Each time an occultist uses their Influence, the patron spirit gains Essence as if feeding on a rich vein of resonance. Further, the link between Flesh and Shadow gives them a certain amount of camouflage, anchoring them in the physical world safely. Werewolves get a penalty to notice or track the spiritual patrons of Shadow occultists.

Next time: Idigam

Utter Nonsense

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Utter Nonsense

This chapter is on the legacy of Wolf - the idigam and the geryo. First up, the idigam. When Wolf defeated them, banishing them to the moon or driving them deep within the Earth, they were never expected to return. There was no plan for if they managed to free themselves. Guess what! They have! They are creatures born of impermanence that are now forced to coalesce by the nature of the world, and they kinda hate it. They twist the world around them to produce Essence that sutis their alien hungers and needs, and they can have practically any abilities. They're very hard to predict. Worse, they are able to wield and control Essence on a level that other spirits don't even comprehend. These abilities are on top of the ones they have in the core book, which basically give them wide-ranging ability to mutate stuff and resist various things.

An idigam is able to break a spirit's Essence apart in order to create a number of lesser beings. This is very easy on a willing spirit, and requires a roll against an unwilling one. This takes the target spirit and destroys them, replacing them with two spirits of one rank lower. Both are independent beings, but the idigam can merge them back together any time as long as they're touching. An idigam can also choose to divide itself this way, but divided idigam aren't independent - they are connected in a hive mind, each operating towards the unified idigam's goals. Certain idigam are able to resurrect the dead with Essence, too - well, sort of. These can raise any corpse they perceive, no matter how far gone, by infusing them with living Essence. The resurrected dead is not truly alive, but rather a puppet of the idigam, unable to resist their commands at all. The idigam can withdraw their unnatural life at any time. However, these resurrectees do retain their personalities and skills from life. They can't restore Willpower except by eating human flesh, regaining all of their Willpower when they consume a single human corpse.

Idigam are also able to place a small portion of their own power into objects, called reliquaries. They are able to take any single ability they possess and merge it with a bit of their own corpus, shoving them into an object. Anyone holding the object can now use that power, using the idigam's dicepool if needed. The idigam must pay up to half the Essence cost of any power, while the rest is paid by the user; anyone without Essence must spend a Willpower instead, and the idigam must decide to pay the whole Essence cost for them to successfully use the object. An idigam may pay a bunch of Essence to teleport to any of its created reliquaries, no matter the distance or who has the object, even if it's in another realm of existence. They can destroy the reliquary with a touch, and if a reliquary is destroyed for any reason, the corpus stored within it is restored to the idigam, though if destroyed by anyone but the idigam itself, they also take 1A.

Lastly, idigam can entirely unmake spirits, rendering them into their component Essence. Their prey must either not be resisting or must be incapacitated for this to work, and it costs them Willpower to do. Once done, however, it quickly dissolves the spirit into Essence based on its power and rank, which lingers for a scene. This Essence can be accessed by anyone present as if it were a Locus, though honestly it's likely to just get eaten real quickly by the idigam or its servants.

Besides this, some idigam are able to do stuff like grab folks across the Gauntlet and drag them over, shove someone into a hole in the Gauntlet to hold them in suspended animation for a while, or render a group of humans around them much more susceptible to persuasion that furthers the idigam's plans for a month or so.

Wednesday Addams, is that you?

Anaba'hi is an idigam who has always been fascinated by the ever-changing yet brief and impermanent nature of life, evolution and extinction. Before her imprisonment, she felt possessive over the chemistry of living beings, feeling a strange compulsion towards them that she had never felt towards the spirits that followed after her. When the werewolves first appeared, she felt an immediate dislike for these ravenous beasts of destruction who, she felt, altered the natural progression of life with magic and violence. They took beautifully coarse flesh and mixed with such boringly pure spirit. Worst of all, they threatened her "children" of flesh, and so she struggled with Wolf's scions over who would rule physical life. She lost. Wolf hurled her to the moon, where she fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of the world she should have had. She missed the first moon landing, awakening too late to ride it home. However, the breach in the moon-prison was enough - she grabbed onto a passing piece of space debris, a chunk of ice and rock that she rode slowly towards her beloved Earth. The arc of the thing's fall meant she didn't get back until 2016, when she plummeted through the sky.

Anaba'hi was enraged by what she saw - a world that changed in what, to her, was barely an instant. Rather than slow but wonderful possibility, she found hatred, mass production, depression, environmental collapse and war. The Flesh and Shadow were torn apart, their potential forever split from each other. Worse, she was now being forced to coalesce into a shape with form, the world weighing on her very nature. As she thrashed in Shadow, she managed to find something strange and new to her - spirits of hope and wonder, fragile things born from the existence of children. This would be her anchor in a changed world, and she devoured them, coalescing as she did. She has fixated on a young girl named Shalinah, who saw the shooting star that brought Anaba'hi home and delighted at its sight. Shalinah is a student at Sanctuary Boarding School in Sussex, England, and now, so is Anaba'hi...sort of. The idigam has suffused her Essence through the school's foundation, planting herself in the soil, buildings, flora and fauna. She has turned the young Shalinah into her first herald. Her coalescence has given her form and purpose: save the perfect souls of these children, hollow out and "improve" the adults to protect them. Sanctuary School is pretty much entirely under her control now, and she is seeking to expand to other local schools.

Anaba'hi is utterly obsessed with purity and innocence. She collects the souls of children that she might protect them from harm, pain and suffering. All of it. The school grounds have a deep sense of uneasiness about them, thanks to her. The classes go on, the students play on breaks, but the teachers are nervous and forgetful. Some students, their souls collected for care by the idigam, stand on the sidelines, serving as sentinels to keep watch for threats or intruders. Anaba'hi is completely ruled by her obsession, and while she is very potent, her inability to move away from her precious children leashes her. She expands outward only slowly, always looking for more wards to cherish. Each school she infests increases the risk of werewolves noticing her existence and trakcing her down.

Typically, Anaba'hi works by possessing her hollowed-out servants. She has a stable of teachers whose souls she has devoured for when she must be an authority figure, and she will easily hop between staff bodies to manage the experiences of any visitors to her domain. When wearing a mortal mask, she prefers to appear as an 11-year-old girl with pale skin, long brown hair and two unnaturally symmetrical braids, plus a spotless school uniform that appears in places to merge with her flesh. She isn't especially good at emulating human emotion, and her smile is never genuine. Her eyes are always dead. Her mannerisms and actions are essentially her desperately copying the kids around her as best she can. In her true form, she looks nothing like this, having coalesced in the woods where she found Shalinah. She instead appears as a chimeric mass of furred skin and dreadlocks that sprout from the crown of her head and fall about her like a boar's mane, shambling about. She has a tangled rack of antlers, coated in moss and cobwebs, and her elongated head has a mouth of sharp, immense teeth and four eyes on each side.

The woods around the school are infested with Anaba'hi's spirit-spawn, both pure spirits she's made as servants and strange Claimed she's made out of the animals. These serve as her early warning system against unwanted intruders, generally taking the form of strange chimerical beasts (such as meat-eating deer or glowing plants). They aren't super huge or overly dangerous to a werewolf, but more than capable of killing and devouring human threats. This and the other things she does mean that she's growing less able to conceal herself as she expands. She's created servants from the staff and students, using modern tools to help track down new potential territories full of innocents for her to protect and add to her collection...but while Sanctuary has a tradition of exclusive secrecy, other schools usually don't. For now, she is grudgingly allowing her pet children to leave at the end of each term or go home for holidays, but her jealousy and protectiveness are only growing.

Anaba'hi is a rank 4 idigam. She is extremely strong and, for an idigam, relatively subtle. She has Influence (Children) 4 and is especially good at hollowing out humans and other living creatures to be her servants or making spirits to obey her. She has extremely good control over human emotions and beliefs, as well as the power to terrify them or make them hallucinate, and is pretty good at warping flesh to serve her purposes. Her Ban is that she must always remain in the presence of one of her Forged servants or a wild animal she has altered with her powers, and outside their presence she is significantly weakened in combat. Her Bane is fresh, green wood from the grove where she fell to Earth.

Next time: The False Idol and the Constant Formless

The Ugly God

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
The Ugly God

Not a Skeksis.

Deban Dun is a thing of fervor and devotion, coalesced around the ideas of unity and faith regardless of how they manifest in humans. When humans first sought meaning, it was there. It fed on worship intended for others, pretending to be all manner of gods that were themselves incapable or unwilling to manifest for their followers. It moved from civilization to civilization, feasting and seeking out ever greater prayer. It loved the Essence channeled by faith from those humans that were awed by the stars and the seasons. When Wolf purged the idigam, it remained hidden by cloaking itself in the many spirits that flocked to the Essence of worship. As the other idigam were sent to the moon, it learned to temper its appetites, thriving on Earth still. Of course, such temperance was unnatural to it and could not hold. The death of Wolf freed it from needing to.

Over time, Deban Dun continued its travels, feasting on faith and zeal. Crusades and holy wars nourished it greatly, goading it into appearing before mortals to create false miracles and push them to greater belief. And yet, every time it fed on religious strife and chaos, discontent entered into its Essence, deeper and deeper. This was born of its dissatisfaction that all that death and sacrifice was in the name of other gods, not Deban Dun. It wanted direct adoration. Its first true cult was born in the 1100s, in the wake of one of the Crusades. It revealed itself to a chosen group of followers as their new god, stirring them to kill for it. The cult grew into a secretive and exploitative order within other sects and heresies, a mystery cult that drew its followers in deeper and deeper before finally revealing the truth of Deban Dun. However, its decision to remain in Europe worked against it in the 1600s, when the Enlightenment hit. The steady flow of faith that it had previously enjoyed was cut down to a trickle, and after centuries of hidden influence in other faiths, it began to weaken. The sudden dropoff of Essence sent the idigam into slumber.

In the late 90s, a small group of postgrads found historical references to the secret cult within cults, tracing it back to the name Deban Dun. Fascinated by this secret sect, they researched the ceremonies and rites once performed in its name. The idigam was awoken by this sudden flow of Essence, born of repeated prayers - nothing like what it was used to, but enough to jostle it from its centuries of sleep. It became curious, fascinated by the modern world and its desperation to believe in something. Deban Dun has decided it will become the thing humans yearn to believe in. It considers divinity to be its central characteristic, differentiating it from other idigam. Its natural form evokes godly imagery of crowned, glowing creatures, so bright it hurts the eye to look upon and obscures the details of its shape. In the moments where the light flickers or fades, its body is revealed as only a crude shape meant to evoke awe, with its skin crumbling away and dripping with black ichor. The wings that jut from it are drab behind the light, covered in fleshy 'feathers' that pulse with power and harden the instant they are plucked.

Deban Dun's food is religious unity and fanaticism, and its favorite humans are extremists dedicated to their cause over all else, who will sacrifice anything for it. It prefers this dedication be focused on it, of course, rather than its old methods of stealing the faith of other gods. Every time a group gathers to speak its name or pray to its idols, it grows a little stronger. However, it is very careful. It has survived entirely by avoiding werewolves and not revealing its presence to them, lingering on long after other idigam were captured or killed. It is restrained in its rewards to the faithful, giving gifts only sparingly. Its worshipers must truly believe in it, not worship it out of expectation of benefits, after all.

Its cults have always favored feather imagery, and its has had a tendency to turn its feathers into reliquaries for them. Currently, six such feathers exist in the world, granting their bearers a fraction of Deban Dun's power. One belongs to Father Sinclair, a Catholic priest and Deban Dun cultist in a remote community. It has been passed from one priest to another in this small coastal church, kept in a glass box in the Father's office. Father Sinclair is fully indoctrinated in the faith of Deban Dun, and his sermons are rambling things full of dual meanings. The second feather is somewhere in Japan, its last intended bearer dead of the Tokyo flu epidemic of 1789. Not even Deban Dun is sure where it is now; while it could teleport to the thing, it would have to manifest, and its caution prevents it from doing so, for fear of revealing itself to a potential threat. The third is held by a young mother who called out in desperate prayer for help to anything that would listen. Deban Dun answered, gifting her and her young child a feather. The idigam cult knows about this, but even they have no idea why their god finds the pair so important. The fourth feather is on display in a former church in Odense, Denmark. It sits next to Knud the Holy, marked as a grave good buried with him. The idigam cult is currently plotting to steal it. The fifth feather is held by Laura Deacon of Houston, Texas, the current head of the idigam's cult. She serves as the heart of its servant network, ruling from a reinforced underground bunker outside the city. She wears the feather on a golden chain around her neck. The sixth feather is always entrusted to a herald that Deban Dun keeps near it.

Deban Dun maintains the faith of its cult with miracles - tangible ones, unlike many other religions. It prefers to appear in dreams, using its chosen priests as intermediaries, but is not above manifesting to an entire congregation when needed. It doesn't really care about good or evil, just being praised and worshipped. If werewolves come around, it is canny enough to leave until their hunt is over, using its scattered reliquaries to easily travel away from them. It is also able to be called just by saying its name repeatedly. It is, for an idigam, very often found among humans, seeking to spread fear and awe. Repeated prayers or speaking of its name draw its attention, especially if done by the credulous or easily intimidated, so that it can drive people to worship it.

Deban Dun is a rank 4 idigam, focused more around power and speed than anything else. It has Influence (Faith) 4 and is very good at possessing stuff and controlling human emotions with its powers. It also has telekinetic powers, can raise the dead as its servants and can control ghosts. It's not nearly as good at direct confrontation as other idigam, though. Its Ban is that it cannot directly harm those initiated as priests or holy people of a faith not its own, though it can try to influence or convince them. Its Bane is stone from the ancient Mesopotamian temple in which it first coalesced; the ruin is currently buried.

Honestly, this is almost cute. Ugly-cute, but cute.

Kaninhah A'ku is not quite like other idigam. Most descend into the world as Formless, coalescing around some obsession and shaping the world to match it. Others attempt to maintain their transient state, but few can manage it long. The pressure to be something is too strong. Kaninha A'ku, on the other hand, has given up its form over and over, abandoning permanence at the first sign of danger until, at last, formlessness has become its foundation. In the time before the collapse of the Border Marches into the Gauntlet, it was a very tricky prey for Wolf, even by idigam standards. It was among the last to be hurled to the moon, and then only after a long hunt of changing forms. Its resistance was futile, of course. Like the others, it was defeated. It spent millenia enraged over this, and where most of the idigam fell into slumber for lack of Essence on the moon, it clung to wakefulness. It, along with a few others, roamed the dead land of the moon, unwilling to admit defeat. This was the only way it had to scream defiance at Wolf, dancing endlessly through the Shadow of the moon.

It missed getting onto the lunar lander the first time, but it managed to hitch a ride on a laser pulse aimed at a reflector the astronauts left behind. It flew to Earth, chasing the other idigam, and felt the same pressure all its siblings did - coalesce, take on form. Become something. And yet it found that it could not. Surrounded by such a fascinating new world, it marveled at the changes and frantically attempted to fixate on everything it saw, each only briefly but with obsessive strength. Somehow, nothing changed for it. It remained in constant chaos, raging in confusion over its own broken nature. It has not stopped that raging, unable to find a way to take on form yet ever pushed to it by the world. It is a unique being, scarred by its primeval refusal to coalesce. It cannot understand what it has become, having coalesced around the very concept of formlessness. It can't bring itself in line with its obsessions, because it already embodies a concept. It cannot return to formlessness, because it already is. And so, it drives itself mad from paradox.

Kaninhah A'ku appears as a roiling mass of flesh and mouths and limbs from all manner of creatures. It surges through different shapes rapidly, growing rock shards and leaves and vines and abandoning them just as quickly. Vapors, sounds and tastes assault all near it, and it makes constant sounds that cover the entire sonic spectrum. It smells strongly, but what it smells of is ever-changing. It assaults the minds of human viewers with random sensation as it seeks new form over and over. Insofar as anything about it is constant, it is constantly angry. It hunts endlessly for Wolf, seeking vengeance for its existence. Every time it learns that Wolf is dead, the Gauntlet has been raised and the werewolves have taken on Wolf's role, the knowledge flees it as its memories shift in formless madness. Its search is futile, but it can at least recognize that werewolves are like Wolf. That makes them enemies and prey. It cannot tell one werewolf from another except for extremely noticeable differences - its broken, hyperactive mind is unable to fixate long enough to do so, and even the differences it can spot are soon forgotten. Packs that catch its gaze may escape it just by hiding long enough for it to forget them and blame the next group of werewolves it meets for anything they did.

Kaninhah A'ku is extremely easy to distract, but it is still a cunning and powerful foe. While it can't tell werewolves apart and attacks them regularly regardless, it has learned some signs of their presence. It is not above attacking Wolf-Bloods or humans it thinks werewolves care about as a way of drawing its prey out, and its nature means that it would be easily mistaken for a particularly weird magath rather than the potent idigam it truly is. (The fact that it is nearly constantly screaming about Wolf as it fights may help, though.) Occasionally, Kaninhah A'ku feels intensely lonely, and in these times it splits itself into lesser replicas. It inevitably grows frustrated that it cannot provide itself with true company and reunites itself in a fit of rage, but while it is split, there is a small window of opportunity for werewovles. Each fragment posesses greater clarity than the whole, having been formed around a specific emotion it was feeling at the time. It might be possible to avoid the bits full of hate and rage, finding the ones that still have some semblance of rational thought. If this were done, it is barely possible that the idigam might be negotiated with or even altered towards a more positive nature.

Kaninhah A'ku is, by idigam standards, very powerful. It's rank 5, extremely strong and tough, and has Influence (Chaos) 5. It randomly changes size each scene, and is able to hurl around blasts, mental awe, madness and entropy, it can regenerate, and it's telekinetic. It is, however, extremely bad at corrupting other beings, which means that it doesn't have much in the way of minions in its insane hunt for Wolf. Like all Formless, its Ban changes every scene at random. Unlike true Formless, though, it has a fixed Bane: logical paradoxes cause it intense pain.

Next time: Death in the Gauntlet

Inexplicable Squid

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Inexplicable Squid

Looks more squid than jellyfish to me.

Guara-Neghinra was present for the death of Wolf at the hands of the Forsaken's ancestors. She hid in the cracks of the world, watching the Great Predator's death from the shadows. She was overjoyed by it, the death of he who had plagued her kind, and when the Sundering tore the world apart and raised the Gauntlet, she lingered over his corpse. She listened to the dying echoes of his final howl, only then following the call to coalesce and become part of the boundary that had risen around her. She moved through the young Gauntlet, fascinated by its concept of separation. She spread her Essence widely in the nothingness, growing immensely inside the barrier. Whether the Border Marches she had known had vanished or were sealed off in the Gauntlet, she didn't know or care. She decided she would make this place her own world, where she alone ruled. She is an idigam that lives within the Gauntlet itself, drawing some Essence from it but mostly feeding on those that get caught in her tendrils. She leaves them spread through the membrane of worlds, trapping victims that pass through Loci she has claimed or those who make their own gates where she has spread.

Guara-Neghinra doesn't especially care about events outside her world except in the sense that they provide her prey. She's more interested in the creatures that live within the Gauntlet, like her, and spends much of her time determining if they are threats to her or prey. She particularly despises the Beshilu Rat Hosts, who would destroy her home realm, and likes the Azlu Spider Hosts that build it up. She dislikes the Lampreys, for their bloody Gauntlet repels her power, and so she slaughters any she discovers. She avoids the places haunted by the Geryo, for of all the things she remembers from before Wolf's death, they still terrify her most. She has hidden in the Gauntlet since the Sundering, and she's usually on the move within it, swimming along tides or currents only she can sense. She avoids areas where the Gauntlet grows thin, for they risk her form spilling into Flesh or Shadow, where she is significantly more vulnerable.

A certain body of lore has grown around the movements of Guara-Neghinra and the tales of her presence. Stories exist of drifting tendrils half-seen during the crossing of a Locus, or of strange anticipation and hunger felt in the transition, or of people vanishing mysteriously between worlds, leaving only the echo of a scream. Despite her predation on those that cross the Gauntlet, the idigam still fears werewolves, for they stink of Wolf. She considers herself a queen of the Gauntlet, but in truth she has already seen the Forsaken kill a boundary-god once, and she's terrified that they'll do it again to her if they discover her. Thus, she stalks and watches werewolves from the Gauntlet's safety, learning more about them.

As DaveB noted earlier in the thread, the Gauntlet isn't just a membrane - it's a place, the shattered and broken remnant of the Border Marches. It's too weak and broken to support physical beings for very long, yet too dense to support spirits. For most creatures, it doesn't really exist but as a boundary, because it spits them out quickly. A very few invasive beings have managed to get into the Gauntlet proper - mostly Hosts, though they tend to have only limited claim to control and inhabit the Gauntlet. True residents such as Guara-Neghinra perceive the Gauntlet as a sort of infinite misty gray nothing, occasionally divided by slightly thicker mist and fog. It isn't really a world so much as an empty place where a world used to be, without true direction or sensory cues, though the fog's thickness gives some sense of the Gauntlet's strength. Anyone who somehow gets stuck in it feels a distinct sense of something else present - something alluring, but not quite visible, just beyond reach. Loci appear as vague distortions of the fog, like shimmering static. Very few creatures can actually enter the Gauntlet proper rather than crossing it, and doing so requires potent and secret magic which frequently has great costs to the user. Werewolves can learn a rite known as Between Worlds to do it. Once in the Gauntlet, any creature able to Reach across it normally may attempt to leave as long as they are not restrained or impeded somehow. The lack of a world to 'push' against makes it harder than normal, however, increasing the effective Gauntlet strength.

Guara-Neghinra is rarely seen, but her true form is immense. It looks vaguely like a jellyfish, with countless tendrils going in all directions. Between them, thousands of needle-like pseudopods end in her sensory organs. She keeps thousands of these ears and eyes pressed against the 'walls' of the Gauntlet, spying on the worlds of Spirit and Flesh she lies between. She observes anything she can, positioning her tentacles in areas where prey is most likely to attempt the crossing. She moves slowly and very deliberately. Beneath her bulk are several fanged maws that devour anything she grabs. She is deceptively slow in her movements, drifting along the mist tides as much as she moves under her own power. Her tentacles waft about delicately. When she wants to, she can twist and turn much faster than any creature of Flesh resembling her could hope. Her tentacles latch onto her prey and drag them to her many mouths with great force.

The Between Worlds rite is a 4-dot Wolf Rite, only usable at a Locus, and it requires both a physical and symbolic defiling of the Locus' focal point. When the Rite is over, anyone using the Locus to Reach across the Gauntlet enters the Gauntlet rather than Flesh or Shadow. This lasts for a few days, at which point the Locus permanently breaks, forever losing all of its power. I did mention this shit had a cost.

Guara-Neghinra, for all her power, is not infallible. She doesn't catch everything she hunts. Something recently managed to escape her, dragging several of her tentacles into Flesh in the process. When the Gauntlet breach closed, these tentacles were severed. For some reason, they didn't immediately discorporate, remaining physical long enough for an old woman and her dog to find them. They have attracted considerable human interest, which is not convenient so near a Locus, and RD-13 has retrieved them to take back to their labs. Local werewolves also have to figure out what the fuck managed to come in from Shadow, since it's strong enough to survive an idigam attack. Guara-Neghinra also often drifts through the shallows of the Gauntlet, and her massive form pushes at the 'walls,' so to speak. She causes visual disturbances in Flesh and Shadow, or sensations of resistance as creatures pass through her form, or impossible shadows. This can affect either Flesh or Shadow, though only one of the two, most of the time. It usually happens in areas the Gauntlet is very weak. Sometimes, she will snatch creatures just across the boundary that get close enough for her to grab across the Gauntlet's medium.

Guara-Neghinra is a rank 4 idigam, though as they go she's more about finesse and toughness than raw power. She has Influence (Barriers) 4, is very good at Gauntlet manipulation and can implant commands in humans, though she rarely does. Her powers allow her to start fires, drain life, heal herself, and do telekinetic bullshit. She's much more about environmental control than control of spirits or other beings, though she can spawn spirit-servants if she wants. Her Ban is that she can't leave the Gauntlet. She can reach out of it briefly, but she can never transfer her full form into Flesh or Shadow. Her Bane is the bite of a werewolf, which is one reason she desperately avoids confrontation.

Next time: Geryo

As In Geryon

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
As In Geryon

Human legends are full of mythological beasts, immense monsters and so on. Some of these are wholly fictional or based on encounters with relatively normal monsters in the World of Darkness. Others are the few Earthbound idigam, who managed to escape Wolf. And a few are something else. These monsters, when they talk to anyone, call themselves the First or the Geryo. They once answered to another name, though most now despise that title – Urighur. It is a name that, for the Geryo, speaks of bitterness and neglect. Once, the Urighur hunted the world over to prove their worth to their creator, but they were never good enough. They terrified mortals and monsters for the sake of their parent, but they were cast aside. Now, they pursue destruction and hunting because it is their nature, and because of their own spite.

If the First do not lie, they are the original children of Wolf. They are predators whose existence is so old, so imprinted on the world, that their stories move through collective nightmare. Cerberus, Orthus, Geryon – these are the memories of the Geryo. Many of them adopt classical names of myth, largely because they want to distance themselves from their hated First Tongue names, given to them by the parent that abandoned them. In many ways, they are similar to werewolves. They are prototypical hunters, the first attempt by Wolf to make servitors in its own image. They wield the power of spirits and an ancient form of the Sacred Hunt. The world quakes at their mere presence, struggling to bear their metaphysical weight. Unfortunately, this kinship is dangerous to werewolves – a vector for the taint the Urighur carry. Werewolves are prone to infection by the potent warping within the Geryo.

The Geryo are able to inflict their own nature as a spiritual infection on werewolves, overloading their bodies and souls with ancient mutations. The results are known to the Geryo as the Distorted, and many of them take a sort of vengeful pleasure in making their usurpers suffer. Most werewolves know little of the Geryo, of course. Until recently, most of them were imprisoned. Their legacy might come forth in werewolves exposed to otherworldly energy or who lost the harmony of Flesh and Spirit, creating twisted and contagious monstrosities, but these brief outbreaks were treated as unique events. The idea of ancient proto-werewolves predating even the First Pack was at best a myth of no relevance or truth, even among the greatest lorekeepers. Until now, that is.

A sidebar notes that one may note similarities between the Geryo and the Horrors that are in Beast. Horrors often take dream-forms resembling the Geryo, and the Geryo twist reality by their very presence. However, the Geryo are also similar to werewolves, especially in their singleminded determination to hunt and kill. Some Geryo that know of Beasts claim to be the original offspring of the Dark Mother and Wolf, claiming that both parents abandoned them and hating both Beast and Werewolf over it. Beasts certainly have Kinship towards the Geryo, just like…everything else…but the Geryo are entirely immune to Beast Kinship abilities. Geryo cannot innately identify Beasts, but any attempt to use a Kinship ability in the presence of a Geryo causes the Geryo to suffer a feeling of intense revulsion. All Geryo, both First and Distorted, are naturally hostile to anyone they know to be a Beast. Further, the Geryo strain may infect Beasts as easily as werewolves, and it can be transmitted between Beasts by shared Lairs as well as the normal vector (physical injury). It is possible to quarantine this outbreak, but fuck Beasts, don’t bother. Also, it’s likely to terrify them, because spiritual infection is an entirely outside-context problem for them.

The Geryo are unified largely by being monsters. Any resemblance they may have to humanity is merely there to emphasize their grotesquerie. They are not necessarily shapeshifters, unlike werewolves. Some are, but not all, and those that can shapeshift do so for the sake solely of destroying their prey and anyone that would shelter them. The Geryo are not subtle beings; if their claims are true, they were Wolf’s enforcers, his hunger and might given form. When ancient beings broke Wolf’s laws, he would send the Urighur to kill them as an example. Collateral damage is and was never a concern for them, which may be part of why Wolf deemed them failures – their unchecked fury tore at reality itself. They were also torn by competing aspects of their nature. In each was the single-minded hunting urge, and they were relentless in this…too relentless. They would seek and destroy their prey without regard for Wolf’s greater goals. They spread fear and terror without care for anything else.

In time, it seems Wolf grew tired of his children and their disobedience. He possibly learned the value of restraint from the destruction they caused and the scars they left. The First claim that Wolf betrayed them – rather than killing them, Wolf led them into the depths of the Border Marches and bound them there, far from any other life, to sleep forever. They raged at Wolf’s abandonment and despaired, but could not disobey their creator. They went dormant and were forgotten. If any of this is true, Wolf certainly never spoke of it to the werewolves that would be made after. Wolf’s death broke the chains keeping the Urighur asleep, and they woke in their prison, raging and howling. Their bodies and souls twisted, adapting to the Gauntlet as the Border Marches collapsed around them. They remained trapped in the Gauntlet-prison for millenia, their anger flowing into the dreams of humanity. Some wormed their way free in that time, while others have only recently emerged to terrorize the world once more. Their freedom comes from slow and determined effort, occasionally aided by some reality-warping contagion. (For this, see the Contagion Chronicle. But don’t, because it’s not very good.)

A sidebar notes that one rumor that will begin to spread about the Geryo is that they are literally immortal. Each can be fought and killed, yes…but eventually, the rumor says, they will return. As long as someone remembers the legend of a Geryo, they cannot truly die, for they have infected the human psyche and are too deeply embedded there. This, it is whispered, is why Wolf sent them to sleep rather than killing them. If this is true, permanently destroying a Geryo would require forcing the world to forget about it or twisting the legends enough that it was no longer recognizable, or perhaps mimicking whatever folklore claims was its eventual downfall. The sidebar also notes that the Nightmares of Beasts might be able to disrupt a connection between the Geryo and the collective unconscious, preventing the creature from finding purchase in dream in the moment of death. However, no matter what, if the GM decides this is true, killing a Geryo would require immense effort and coordination.

The Distorted are werewolves infected with the nature of the Geryo, or ‘the Geryo strain.’ Werewolves are hybrids of flesh and spirit, which makes them metaphysically mercurial, and their innate directives to hunt, shift and kill can be hijacked. The Geryo mutate them by tapping into these directives and infecting them with their own nature. Geryo infection is not subtle or easy to hide. The transformations begin slowly, but are accelerated by physical trauma and strong emotion, and each use of shapeshifting warps the werewolf further. Regenerative abilities misfire, causing physical mutations such as extra eyes or appendages, and cells go into overdrive to repair “damage” that doesn’t match the mutated template they now follow. Rage and other strong emotions warp the mind, reshaping it to more closely match the Geryo that infected them. The transformations are always painful, and the suffering and mental instability they bring is wearing. Unless your pack or a group of Hunters kill you quickly, it’s only a matter of time before you are driven to madness.

To make it worse, a Distorted is not easy to kill. Their survival instinct goes into overdrive as well. They are driven to conceal what changes they can, retreating from their pack if they can’t. The contagion may push them to infect others rather than be killed when it inevitably is discovered. Some even deliberately expose their packmates to their blood or other bodily fluids, or secretly cut off bits of flesh to add to group meals, so that they can share their contagion with the pack and so be kept alive by communal suffering.

The Geryo, as children of Wolf, are immensely potent apex predators. Each is a hunter designed to find a specific kind of prey and destroy it utterly. Many are chimerical creatures, such as a sphinx or manticore, while others are normal-ish beings with extra heads or appendages. They are a mix of Pangaean power and alien might, thanks to being trapped in their prison while the Border Marches collapsed. They adapted to their dying world even in their sleep, and are now some of the last true natives of the Gauntlet. That’s their home. Geryo are built like spirits, mechanically, with the following notes:
1. Geryo range from rank 3 to 5 most of the time; only the weakest are rank 2, and some may be rank 6 or more. They are not spirits and are not considered spirits for purposes of power targeting, despite following many of the same rules.
2. Geryo are native to the Gauntlet. They can use the equivalent of werewolf spirit senses to see into Flesh or Spirit, can move between them from the Gauntlet, and can naturally return to the Gauntlet easily. They cannot move directly between Flesh and Spirit, however, as the Gauntlet is a real location for them. They do not exist in Twilight; no matter what realm they are in, they are fully solid. However, they do suffer Essence bleed as a spirit would when outside the Gauntlet, unless they are engaged in a Sacred Hunt.
3. Like a werewolf, a Geryo has a Blood and Bone nature. Their Blood represents their darkest, most destructive aspect, and they follow it while on the Sacred Hunt. Their Bone represents their alien interests, and is followed when not hunting. Their Blood is usually something like ‘Sadistic’ or ‘Carnage’ or ‘Malevolent,’ and their Bone reflects their alien obsessions and tends to be things like ‘Collecting,’ ‘Punishing’ or ‘Testing.’
4. Geryo have prey that resonates with them individually. Each periodically gains the Sacred Hunt condition towards some prey that fits its programmed criteria, usually within a month of their last hunt. A Geryo with a master also gains the Sacred Hunt condition towards prey designated by the master, regardless of if it matches their nature. While on the Sacred Hunt, a Geryo knows the direction of the prey and its environmental disruptions become more dangerous. Further, their natural weaponry always count as a Bane of their Sacred Hunted prey, even if they don’t normally have Banes. The exception is Formless idigam, who were the Geryos’ biggest failure as hunters.
5. While Sacred Hunting, the Geryo automatically shift into the same plane of existence as their prey at the start of each scene, if required.
6. Geryo regenerate damage as if they were a werewolf with Primal Urge of double their Rank. When targeted by any offensive magical effect, they can spend Essence to attempt a Clash of Wills to prevent it, which is crazy powerful.
7. Geryo do not have spirit Numina, but do have werewolf Shadow Gifts based on their Rank. They get all facets of any Gift they have, and never get Wolf or Moon Gifts. They often also have unique powers.
8. Geryo may not have shapeshifting forms, but can spend Essence to enhance their killing power, gaining several of the effects of a werewolf’s Gauru warform for a scene.
9. Geryo do not have Influences. Instead, they cause worldshaking reality quakes, which they can spend Essence to suppress. Outside the Gauntlet, these cause an Extreme Environment around them for a few miles. Miles. This grows stronger when on the Sacred Hunt, especially when their prey is within the area of effect. A Geryo’s realityquakes may take the form of something other than Extreme Environments – several in the book have unique rules instead for what they do to the area around them.
10. Any shapeshifter injured by a Geryo or has frequent or prolonged contact with them must make a check at the end of the scene to see if they contract the Geryo strain. Werewolves and Beasts are explicitly always vulnerable, and other monsters might be at GM discretion. Once infected, you have to make a check every three days to see if it progresses. Succeed at these enough and you fight off the disease; fail enough and it takes you over, making you a Distorted.

The Geryo are free of slavery to Wolf thanks to Wolf’s death, and many are wary of further slavery, but they were made to serve. It is possible for a very strong will to bind the First by exploiting their hardwired instinct to obey Wolf and follow their programmed directives. Once a Geryo has a master, they cannot be bound by another. The hardest way to do it is just to impose your will on them. To do this, you have to find them and speak their true First Tongue name, then command it to obey. You then make a roll against the Geryo; if you win, you are now its master. It’s not easy, as you get a penalty based on its Rank if you don’t outrank it spiritually, but you’re emulating Wolf – name the beast and dominate it.

A Geryo may willingly offer service in exchange for something, but these deals inevitably have conditions that will free them, such as a defined time limit or a set number of tasks they’ll do. If the master agrees to the deal, including anything the Geryo demands of them, then the two are bound together for the duration as long as the deal is not broken. Neither is able to protect themselves from harm caused by the other if they break the deal. Geryo would almost never consider breaking the terms of such a deal – it’d go against the essence of what they are. Few masters are as reliable, however. Geryo cannot make deals like this with each other – only non-Geryo beings.

Either way, a master is immune to a Geryo’s powers and realityquakes unless they want to be affected. They are not immune to Geryo infection from their servant, though, if they would normally be susceptible to it. However, there is a cost. The master gains the Monstrous Servant condition, which begins to erode their personality to be more like the Geryo. Each week, they most make a roll or become more like the Geryo and slowly lose Willpower, eventually going mad if they can’t handle it. Weak-willed masters often end up broken and unable to do anything but follow their new obsessions, and when a master is broken this way, the Geryo is freed. The Geryo has no control over this effect, and is entirely unable to either slow it or speed it up.

Those that contract the Geryo strain and reach the mutational phase inevitably mutate and degrade mentally. It’s a fast process, made faster if you use your regeneration and shapeshifting. The infection is both spiritual and physical, and its distortions tend to be very tied to your predator nature, becoming more pronounced as your Primal Urge increases. The mutational phase lasts a few weeks based on your Primal Urge, with one mutation gained each week, which can be the same mutation multiple times. Another mutation is gained each time you regenerate 3 damage and each time you enter Death Rage. You also have to make a roll each time you shapeshift. Failure means you gain a mutation and permanently lose one of your werewolf forms selected at random. Mutations are clearly unnatural, though some can be hidden by clothing or disguises. During the mutational phase, the Distorted also suffers intense pain, getting a penalty to all actions (but not checks for mutation). Common mutations include:

Many Distorted are basically just twisted figures, but some are much more strikingly changed, making them very similar to the First or even fundamentally altering their nature. These are multi-limbed killers, massive cancer-hulks whose skin growths armor them, wolf-creatures that can fire their teeth like guns or even weirder shit. A few even gain the reality-warping abilities of the Geryo or possess unique abilities designed by the GM. So basically, you can make a werewolf-themed body horror monster and call it a Distorted rather than following all these rules if you want.

Is it possible to cure a Distorted once the infection reaches the mutational stage? Well, werewolves don’t know. There’s not exactly lore on this. Some ancient spirits may remember things, or myths may hold some distorted truths. It might take forbidden Essence alchemy to flush the Geryo spiritual power out of the body, which might require the flesh of other werewolves to achieve. A piece of folklore resonating with the specific Geryo that infected the person might tell of a cure or bane that can purge the infection. You might find a way to transfer the contagion to someone else via sympathetic magic. There is no singular cure that applies to every victim or every Geryo. A desperate or determined pack should be able to find a method, but it will require great cost and effort. It’s better to avoid being infected if possible, and most packs are likely to quarantine or kill victims of the Geryo strain rather than try to deal with fixing them.

Next time: The Dragon at the Roots


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

So many doggies

Orocheiros is the beast that gnaws at the world, the dragon of chaos and the wolf of corruption. She sows chaos and spreads collapse, instinctively driven to inject her venom where it will do the most harm. While she has the strength of a god, she is by Geryo standards remarkably subtle. Her cause is the end of order and sense on a cosmic level. She whispers poison bargains with eight mouths, burrowing into the rotting bulk of reality to poison it all. On the hunt, she is the facet of Wolf that was a methodical, patient killer. Her method is to slowly sap her prey's strength with her venom, time and disease, eroding all that was once sure. It is possible that Wolf created her as a reflection of what he saw as his most dangerous prey, the poison and tricks of things like the Spinner-Hag, Plague King and other demons of the Border Marches. Or perhaps the sadistic, insidious nature of her hunt was always part of Wolf. It doesn't matter, really. The core of what Orocheiros does and is is simple: ruin and unmaking. She can't change. Of the Geryo, Orocheiros has been free longer than most. Her venom and fangs tore her free of the bonds of her prison, and she has spread ruin ever since. Where her heads slither, she hurls nature into chaos and spreads poison through both human and werewolf societies. As her siblings emerge once more into the light, she sees great potential for chaos to validate her nature. It is her last, futile appeal to her dead creator for the love that Wolf could never give.

Most of Orocheiros' body remains hidden in some cthonic underground realm. She sends her heads forth to spread discord, often splitting her attentions to multiple plots in a single region, with two to three heads attending to each. She might disguise her lupine heads with illusion to whisper advice to a politician and encourage corruption and decadence, to weaken the whole. In another town, she makes her way to places of power and drips symbolic toxins into them, stealing away werewolves that drink from her tainted Loci. In another, she devours the souls of massacre victims, feasting on their corpses and their power to feed herself while she stirs up feuds and weakens structure. Her hatred of werewolves is born of envy. They were the ones who came after. The complete ones. The good children. She seeks to corrupt their inheritance, to break their sacred programming that she recognizes in herself. This is an indulgence, a pleasure, rather than her cause. Her cause is the slow rot and the cruel fall of the mighty, rather than the open fight. She far prefers to force werewolves to their lowest depths than to face them in battle, breaking them with despair and, possibly, infection. There is little she loves more than setting up the dominoes of suffering and watching the wolves tear each other apart.

Orocheiros rarely has more than two to three heads active in a single place at any time. She likes to taunt those werewolves that realize her true nature, enjoying the petty pleasure of ruining their lives on a small scale. However, she's been alive too long to lack caution. Too many heads in one place might make her vulnerable to an all-out counterattack, by werewolves or other foes. It'd cripple her to lose many heads at once, leaving her body vulnerable. A lone head that faces serious opposition might get another as backup, but Orocheiros is quicker to abandon her conspiracies than to reinforce them too much and get trapped. She'd rather lose one plot than the whole game, for she loves spreading chaos. She especially enjoys human myths of dragons chewing at the roots of the world or threatening ruin. Where she can, she seeks out the interstitial spaces and places of existential stability and works to undo them. She has, over time, chewed open portals to realms antithetical to existence, poisoned great Loci and even reignited volcanoes with her venom. The flip side of all this is her own lack of structure. She may spend centuries gnawing at the pillar of some place's existence, sure, but most of her heads get up to rather more fragile, short-term schemes. Once she succeeds in spreading chaos to a place or a group of people, she tends to get bored and move on.

Orocheiros is an immense, primeval creature of horror that mixes wolf and reptile features. Her body is larger than most buildings, with many powerful legs and claws. Her fur is matted and her scales wet at all times from the constant poisons she exudes. Where she makes her lair, the ground is thick with corrosion and rot and the air is choking. She is heavily scarred from old battles, and she hangs stone tablets bearing eye-searing symbols along the spines that protrude from her back. Each tablet is a song of praise and litany of venom-lore to her. She has eight heads, each a wolf-dragon on top of a long, snake-like neck. These faces usually wear horrible bone half-masks or veils of copper and bone perforated by random holes. Each head is both part of the whole of Orocheiros and an independent entity that is able to think and plan for itself. Sometimes, the heads even argue with each other or fight over particularly problematic issues. Many of her heads are heavily scarred from being severed or killed over the centuries, reforming from the bulk of the main body over time.

Orocheiros' lairs are typically difficult to reach and underground, allowing her to slowly corrode the foundations of great or sacred places from beneath with her gnawing teeth and vicious poison. She also enjoys the still waters of underground lakes and seas, seeking out places where the bodies of the dead tumble and fall so she can eat them and the things that feed on them. Reaching her lairs always involves going past boundaries of sanity and reason, crossing thresholds of the dead or finding hidden paths in the world. Her heads are generally easier to find. They pass through doors, windows and burrows, emerging from ponds and mirrors and using illusions to easily fool humans (though they rarely do much to stop werewolf sight). The heads are inveterate tricksters, enjoying manipulating people and making them ruin themselves.

In general, Orocheiros is a cackling, smirking creature that always projects confident superiority, even when she's actually terrified. She never lets werewolves see her fear or sweat, preferring to come off as smug and annoying. She seeks ruin, but she's a patient dragon-wolf, and she doesn't rush. She especially loves getting werewolves to damn themselves or die to her poisons, but she's not afraid at all to mix it up physically if it comes to that. Still, despite her power, she's not without her own problems. Werewolves that think they understand the Geryo are likely to provoke her cold fury. She desperately longs for the love and validation of a parent that sees her as more than a servant or tool, and while she knows it's fruitless, she wants a world where she matters to someone for who she is, rather than just a monster. She may be a nightmare of wolf and lizard flesh, but her jealousy is all too human. Werewolves stole her rightful place at Wolf's side and then killed their shared creator. It cannot be forgiven. While Orocheiros hates Wolf for abandoning her, in the moments when everything seems to be failing her, she still cries out for him to save her, returning to her bizarre childhood. Then she remembers - Wolf is dead. Paradise is fallen. Tear it all down.

Orocheiros has been active for a long time, and sightings of her heads have spawned a bunch of confusion and misinformation - not even deliberately. Some werewolves believe her to be the immortal queen of the Razilu, the Snake Hosts, and entirely immortal. The truth is simply that without destroying her body, all her heads will regrow in time, and her heads aren't seperate beings but extensions of her. That's the main source of the rumor that she can't be killed - people don't realize that the snake-wolf things are heads rather than seperate beings. She also likes to manipulate and work with things that are aesthetically similar to her, which is where the Snake Host rumor comes from. (She thinks, correctly, that it will help conceal her activities, and is an active source of the rumor that she rules the rare and dangerous Snake Hosts, even though it isn't true.)

She has also started cults before under various names - Niddhoggr, for instance - and a few occultists have learned how to tap into her power. She is drawn to places where human bodies fall or are buried, and often ends up living on top of gates to the Underworld. She knows a hell of a lot about ghosts as a result, even the hidden names that can command deeper beings of the Underworld into activity. She may give this information to those that call to her, or hand over mutilated ghost-slaves or grave gold or secrets of the dead in return for service to her goals. Humans are drawn to her illusions anyway, and she finds them amusing. She often plays with human emotions and lusts, relying on her admirers to help cover for her or help her before she eats them. Occasionally, a would-be lover actually is gentle and kind enough or devoted enough to world-shaking revolution to catch her eye. She keeps these around longer, and she finds it painful in a way she finds difficult to understand to get rid of them. Sometimes, she tries to coddle and protect these mortals, giving them vast wealth or murdering their rivals and manipulating events for their benefit. In her weirdest moods, she wonders about how Wolf mixed his legacy with that of humanity, and wonders if, perhaps, motherhood will fill the void in her soul.

Orocheiros is a rank 5 Geryo, with Envious as her Blood and Corrosive as her Bone. She's exceptionally powerful and has immense stats, able to take massive amounts of punishment. She weakens people's resistance to disease and poison by her presence, makes objects more breakable and makes it easier to suffer Breaking Points. She wields the Gifts of Death, Disease, Hunger, Insight and Shaping and has several unique powers. When she damages her prey or gets bitten, she can poison her victim, and she can taint Loci to poison anyone that draws on them, or cause buildings and objects to take damage over time. She can force people to indulge in temptations unless they spend Willpower. Her eight heads can act independently, and have their own healthbars; killing them doesn't damage her beyond having to regrow the head. They can get around a football field away from her body most of the time, but she can spend Essence to use tunnels, burrows, mirrors or water as portals for them. Her heads are permanently cloaked in illusion unless she decides not to do that, which makes humans perceive them as normal people to all senses - they 'shake hands' with her tongue and so on, and ignore her neck, the blood spatter from her mouth and so on. Werewolves and other supernatural beings are immune to these illusions. Her heads are significantly weaker than her body - only rank 4 and with less than half the health, and while they can use her powers, they have way less Essence to fuel them. On the other hand, her heads can exist outside the Gauntlet freely as long as her body's inside it.

Oh, and she can vomit up any rank 2 or less ghost she's eaten recently, anchoring it to anything she likes nearby. Recently is 'within a year and a day,' and for a year and a day she can make it serve her loyally and have to spend Willpower and take damage to harm her or act against her will. It is free after that. She and her heads share the same Ban and Bane. Her Ban is that she can't refuse an offering of potent alcohol and must drink her fill of it as long as she has no reason to suspect it's poisoned, no matter what the circumstances. Her Bane is the bones of any human who had Integrity 10 at their time of death.

Next time: The Keeper of Nightmares

Someone Was A Fan of Nightmares

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Someone Was A Fan of Nightmares

Half cyclops, half wolf, half some dude.

Zahakeryon was the guardian of the Geryo prison, jailer of his brethren and prisoner of his instinct simultaneously. Now, the many-headed giant heads out again, armed with the nightmares he watched in the hellish prison of the Geryo and that he saw bloom among humanity. He is driven by a terrible, all-consuming need to fill the void left by Wolf, to reclaim the legacy stolen by Wolf’s younger children. He must dominate, divide and control. He is a guardian who craves things to guard, and a lord who craves lands to conquer, and a monster who craves foes to terrorize and herd. In his original form, he was an incarnation of the hunter’s territorial nature, the need to divide one thing from another and guard what was claimed. Many of these instincts remain. The nature of his territory is unimportant – only that he guard its threshold and divide order from chaos. His own ideas of the two, anyway. This urge is what kept him standing guard over the other Geryo while the Border Marches fell, what kept him from trying to escape. That duty altered his basic nature, bathing him in the legends of their nightmares for millenia. He has absorbed them into himself, and the terror he has taken on has given him delusions of grandeur. He believes he is the true inheritor of Wolf.

Some Geryo claim that Zahakeryon is the eldest among them, the First of the First, made by Wolf to protect his den. Others say he is the last and youngest, a final insult created to watch over their prison. Zahakeryon cannot remember which is true. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that now, at last, he has a chance to make right what is wrong, to overturn Wolf’s legacy and claim it for his own. In werewolves he sees the chance to express his dominance and territorial nature by humbling them and taking back what they have stolen. He will reclaim his birthright, destroying Wolf’s final creation as his vengeance over his father. He transforms and transfigures the werewolves he catches, deliberately destroying the perfection of their form as a way of insulting Wolf and declaring himself superior.

The Sacred Hunt pushes Zahakeryon to track and destroy intruders and trespassers that violate boundaries. He loves doing it, and it fills him with righteous fury and the glee of battle. Once it is over, he attempts to establish a new territory n the area, typically shaped based on natural barriers and how far he can move in a day. He wields nightmares and brutality as his tools to claim the area and set himself as its chief supernatural power. He craves the challenge of trespassers, particularly powerful spirits, werewolves or other Geryo that he can fight. If they do not show up in his new territory, he gets bored and moves on for a better hunting ground. He loves to destroy lesser foes, but the interesting or especially powerful he will instead imprison, typically in an abandoned building, old cave, mine or other forgotten space he can use for that purpose. He sets spirit wards and his Distorted servants to guard these areas.

Other Geryo despise Zahakeryon, seeing him as a representation of tyranny and abandonment. He resents them deeply, believing that if these failures had not existed, he’d never have been set to be their warden. Now, his goals and instincts push him to subjugate the other Geryo to prove his own superiority. When he defeats another Geryo, he chains them in his prison. Inevitably, he will run out of challenges in the territory as he makes himself utterly dominant, and then he abandons his captives and his territory, much as Wolf did. He leaves them to die or be found or escape, allowing his siblings escape…except for the tiny number of prisoners who maintain his interest. These he moves to a remote island, compromised high-security prison or buried vault to be guarded by his most trusted servants.

Zahakeryon is extremely attuned to the terror the Geryo cause, and his legend has inspired tales of guardians of the forbidden, threshold sentinels over the underworld and giants watching over places humans should not go. However, his time guarding nightmares has made him reliant on them, and in his territory he encourages the spread of fear in humans and animals, creating urban legends and inspiring panic by hidden intervention in things. He especially loves infecting werewolves with his nature. Each victim is one more piece of Wolf’s legacy stolen back and remade in his own image. His infection does more than most, not only overloading the werewolf with horrific transformations but twisting them to be obedient, servile and ferocious guardians. They are transformed into massive, multi-headed wolves, whom Zahakeryon gathers in a cruel mockery of Wolf’s pack. He sees his pets as nothing but tools, to be used or abandoned, as the Geryo were abandoned by Wolf.

Zahakeryon is a giant of horrible flesh and energy, three times the size of a man and with many limbs. He has three heads, six arms and six legs growing from a powerful torso. At first glance he resembles an immense version of the werewolf near-man state, with his form being based on a sort of primeval humanity mixed with a wolf, giving him sharp canines, pointed ears and claw-tipped hands. The warping becomes clear as one looks closer, however – in the palm of each hand is an eye, and one arm is less a physical thing and more a symbolic impression of arm-ness. Some of his legs end in hooves or claws, and one of his heads has but one eye and huge tusks, while the second is an immense wolf head with blazing eyes. He has absorbed the nature of fear, and screaming faces briefly surface from his skin occasionally, reciting his legend. He breathes smoke and ash that form glyphs in the air, and shadows follow him like a cloak.

He can alter his size, though not the way werewolves change shape. Rather, perspective warps around him – he doesn’t shrink so much as move into the foreground or background, moving through doors or paths far too small for him. He may even appear as a human-sized being or fit in a car if he wants, though he is less able to hide his many limbs and heads. His chief concern is typically guarding something – whether that’s his current territory’s bounds or something a master sets him to. He enjoys the challenge of confronting intruders, but unless he’s driven by the Sacred Hunt he won’t leave his current area of warding to pick fights. Werewolves that stay just outside his territory are safe…until he decides to move on to new territory and possibly picks theirs. Further, while he hates werewolves, he’s willing to talk to werewolves that aren’t intruders. He typically wants news of worthy prey, especially other Geryo. He grows uneasy if he learns about idigam in an area and attemps to avoid them if possible. Werewolves that show respect and deference may earn safety from his wrath for a time, as he is immensely proud and craves recognition as Wolf’s successor.

Werewolves infected with the Zahakeryon Geryo strain mutate in similar ways to match his will. They are locked into Orthrus-like form, stuck in the dire wolf shape and growing in size and muscle as well as sprouting extra heads. Besides this, many bear vestigial, cancerous limb-buds, waxy or runny skin, or bloody mouths along their flanks. They develop an intense loyalty to Zahakeryon, obeying his commands utterly and tirelessly. They are left with only the barest vestiges of their old personalities.

Zahakeryon has a tendency to make examples of thieves and trespassers – in one case, he locked a group of thieves in a bank vault, flayed them and shoved them into the safety deposit boxes. The Geryo craves dominance, but finds it easy and fulfilling to serve as a simple watchdog, since that’s what he was made to do. Since his release, human dream-sages and occultists have used omens and portents to note his presence, and some have made bargains with him. The bank vault noted above was him guarding some rich guy’s lockbox of occult objects he was using to seek immortality. In payment, Zahakeryon received an occult text that talked about soul-eating horrors in a supposed dream-world. Which might just be him, of course – his presence spreads fear in an area, causing nightmares about him. A splinter sect of the Church of the Wolf has tracked his movement via these dreams, and they now believe that werewolves are the wayward children of the true god: Zahakeryon. They hand out drugs and medical aid to those suffering from invasive nightmares in return for information on the Geryo, hoping to find a way to gain his favor. He’s likely to be pleased – especially when he learns about their rites to control werewolves.

Zahakeryon finds humans fascinating, as he sees them as the source of werewolf growth. His watch over their dreams for millenia has given him many insights into them, as well as bringing occultists to his name. He’s fairly familiar with the abilities of common technology and its limits, understands firearms and has influence over a number of potent spirits and wealthy mortals due to his bargains. He has started building a small financial empire in the form of Geryon Corporation, a private prison company run by one of his human allies. He hopes that he may use these humans to gain a new understanding of fear, imprisonment and tools for the hunt. Wolf didn’t build the Geryo to need tools, but Wolf is dead, and Zahakeryon doesn’t especially care what Wolf wanted for him.

Zahakeryon is a rank 5 Geryo with Territorial Blood and Dominating Bone. He’s strong and tough, though less tough than the last one we covered. His realityquakes cause severe nightmares and fear, causing the Shaken or Spooked conditions in everyone that sleeps nearby. When Sacred Hunting, he also prevents Willpower gain by sleep and causes the Exhausted condition. He has the Gifts of Dominance, Insight, Strength, Technology and Warding, and if the GM wants, he has every Nightmare from Beast (which he always uses at High Satiety and can spend Essence rather than Satiety to boost). If not, he can instead place the Delusion or Shadow Paranoia conditions by spending Essence. He is also able to turn off the ability to teleport near him, cross the Gauntlet or otherwise use supernatural powers to be not here. His many limbs also let him go all-out without losing as much Defense as normal.

He is able to reflexively alter his size at will, but can never be the same size or smaller than anyone else in the scene – his pride won’t allow it. The smaller he is the less powerful his blows are, but it’s not a major reduction. He and his Hounds of Orthrus can spend Essence and roar or make nightmare sounds to make someone convinced they are bound and unable to escape due to his nightmare power, remaining restrained until the end of the scene. He can only lock down one person at a time, though. Alternately, he can make a group of people feel a deep sense of dread and transgression if they cross any boundary in the next week, whether that’s entering a new territory, crossing city lines or even just entering a house that isn’t their own. They must spend Willpower or be unable to cross the boundary. The Hounds are only able to use this group-targeting version.

The Hounds of Orthrus are the special Distorted that Zahakeryon’s Geryo strain makes. They’re werewolves, but they get access to some of Zahakeryon’s unique powers, are locked into dire wolf form as noted and are usually unsubtle warrior dogs. Each is about on par with a normal PC werewolf – stronger and tougher, but also dumber and easily spooked.

Next time: The Reaper of Secrets

Curious Bugdog

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Curious Bugdog

This beautiful boy is probably my favorite Geryo.

Quattuor spends most of his time in the Arctic at this point. When not destroying the world, he is utterly fascinated by it, and he's one of the few Geryo who legitimately liked Wolf and was sad when he learned Wolf died. He loved the mysteries of the world that he was sent to find by Wolf's missions. He's certain that the nature of reality is impermanence, and the destruction he caused while hunting was his philosophical argument to that effect. Wolf's death was the first time he ever felt sad to be right. He believes strongly in a harmony of life and death, that the world survives by the continuous transition of living to dead. All creatures, he is sure, depend on the deaths of other creatures to survive. He has a part in this, though he thinks of himself as standing largely outside the cycle. He hopes that one day, he will have done enough that the world will allow him, too, to die. This will be, he knows, when he is no longer needed and his use to the cycle is over. Until then, he brings death, relying on his instincts or a master to know when and where to do so.

At heart, Quattuor is a philosopher that loves to debate and talk to others. His appearance makes that difficult in the modern world, though. He considers no topic forbidden, but is especially interested in discussions about life and death. Indeed, he will often delay the end of his hunts so that he can kidnap his prey, talk to them and get to know them, learning more about their views and life lessons. He cannot keep them safe for long, however, as the skies rage when he is so close to his prey. When the time comes and he has learned all he's able, he kills his prey with neither hesitation nor regret. He believes individual humans are mostly ignorant, and he misses the days of stalking prey with the vast awareness that the Pangaeans had. On the other hand, while he knows a hell of a lot about prehistory, he is often confused and startled by modern things. He doesn't get the concept of celebrity or fame, finds modern society irritating and absolutely hates the constant blinky lights and noises of modern technology. He believes that the modern world has no respect for the natural cycle, trying to subvert or challenge what should be constant and unchanging. Anyone talking to him has to be careful, because Quattuor is bad at context clues and modern mannerisms, and when he gets irritated and offended he sometimes becomes lethally angry.

Quattuor was created for the purpose of witnessing and causing the end of things that needed ending. His nature drives him to hunt those fated to die but who have knowledge that will be lost to the world, whether that is a great vault of research or a single secret that must be passed on before death. Once, he worked to destroy these lorekeepers but retain their knowledge to be passed on to Wolf. Now, he just keeps it. Few can say what changes their deaths will cause, but he is always there to listen to their confessions and remembrances and to witness their deaths. Not, mind you, that this means dignified confessions. Quattuor brings chaos and change as he hunts, disrupting lives and bringing violent and messy death. He views death as a peaceful darkness at the end, but he knows that his prey will have a brief period of terrifying violence before that peace. He can't question it - that's just how things are, that's just his nature. Besides, few victims will deliver their secrets peacefully if just asked. The violence and terror Quattuor creates shake loose the lore he needs regardless of their desires.

While he's a talkative intellectual, Quattuor looks like a monster. He has four heads arranged in a square, which is where his current and First Tongue names come from. Damaging his heads doesn't really hurt him, and his back is coated in an armored carapace with a bony, whip-thin tail. He can stand on his hind legs if he wants to walk upright, but prefers to walk on all fours. He looks kind of like a weird, vaguely insectile, overdesigned Gauru-form werewolf. On top of the normal Geryo abilities, his mouths drip with poison saliva that kills humans and causes werewolves intense pain and paralysis. This is his only form. He enjoyed his work for Wolf and felt lost without his parent, taking on his new name largely because he felt it resonated with the name Wolf gave him. He doesn't mind using his old name, but philosophically he felt that his beliefs about impermanence were not helped by clinging to it, and the mood of his siblings made it easier to just change his name rather than reveal his fondness for their hated creator.

When not hunting, Quattuor is still drawn to events that may cause death, and sometimes he accidentally causes them by, say, being a giant animal-thing standing in the highway. He finds it fascinating to examine the boundaries of deaths that resonate with his nature and those that don't. Those that don't, he has a tendency to walk over to the person in danger and tell them the world would not lose anything if they died. He's pretty sure he can tell - after all, why else would he not be drawn to hunt them? He sometimes even hypothesizes that the deaths he's fated to inflict would not happen if he didn't act, or if the knowledge he must preserve was not at risk of being lost. He would absolutely adore having someone to debate this with, but he can't stop his hunts. That's his nature, and he neither can nor wants to change it.

Quattuor does not understand technology, and recently he made the mistake of visiting a local zoo to see how humans had subjugated their former predators. An onlooker managed to get video of him on a cell phone as he wandered into the wolf enclosure, posted it, and it went viral. The video shows a blurry image of him emerging from the wooded part of the enclosure, apparently oblivious to the terror he causes among the humans watching. The sudden rainstorm that follows him fucked up the video's clarity, so many think it's fake, especially because he returned to the Gauntlet a few seconds later. Despite this, the "four-headed wolf" (which looks very little like a wolf) has drawn a ton of attention, even though the zoo claims it's a fake video. The wolf enclosure has been closed to the public, but Hunters, thrill seekers and others have converged on the zoo's town, making life very hard for the local werewolves, who would also really like to know what the fuck is going on.

Quattuor is a rank 5 geryo, with Implacable Blood and Philosophical Bone. He's very fast and pretty strong, though by Geryo standards his healthbar's pretty small. His realityquakes take the form of harsh storms that follow him everywhere. His Gifts are Death, Dominance, Knowledge, Nature and Weather. He drinks the souls of his prey, learning all their secrets, as long as he has enough time to stand over them and do it - which typically is several rounds, giving you time to hit him. Once he's done, he learns every secret they knew, though not anything that was common knowledge or not somehow secret. If he is disturbed, he gets only partial knowledge and has to spend a bunch of Essence depending on the time he's been delayed to complete the consumption. He only has a few days to complete it in, too. Oh, and his bite is venomous. Quattuor's Ban is that he must engage in a game of skill if challenged. Any given creature can only challenge him once, ever. Winning or losing doesn't matter - he's just delayed for as long as the game takes. His Bane is his own bite - if a foe can convince one head to bite another, he falls into a mindless frenzy until one of his heads gets cut off.

Next time: The Many-Faced Conspirator

For We Are Many

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
For We Are Many

Some kind of wolfsel?

Legion is unusual even for a Geryo - it is subtle, tricky and multiple. Many that see it in action believe it to be a pack of hunters that work together, but in truth it is a single creature that operates through many bodies not its own. It can simultaneously control multiple bodies to create the illusion of a team or to fake arguments and division in order to invite foes to try to persuade it. It understands well the advantages of keeping its prey ignorant and unsuspecting, and where other Geryo rampage, it prefers to avoid attention until the moment of the kill. Its old name was Eshana, and it learned that Wolf died when it awoke in its prison feeling a strange mix of emotions. Failure, as it had been made to prevent Wolf's death, but also satisfaction that Wolf suffered for abandoning it. It hated the werewolves for killing Wolf, but it loved them for slaying the monster that locked it away forever. This conflict has shaped its entire mindset, as it despaired that it would never see its creator again, but delighted that it was free of slavery.

When Legion, as it now styled itself, met its first werewolves, it was shocked at how easy they were to possess, feeling a mix of satisfaction and guilt. It was as if Wolf had intended for Legion to protect from the werewolves themselves, had it not been locked away. Since discovering this, Legion has developed a taste for moving in the disguise of a werewolf to hide among packs. It has no remorse for trickery, especially enjoying tricking werewolves into welcoming it as a friend. Currently, it wears four bodies - Henrica van Dijk, a pair of twins named Axel and Luka, and newly taken Rebecca Smith. They play the role of a pack, with Henrica as their apparent leader. She was a patrol officer before her First Change and retains a strong awareness and aura of authority. Axel and Luka were raised in an abusive and broken home, and were infamous at school for their cruelty to animals, getting expelled for murdering the principal's dog. They prefer to decapitate people with a machete or axe, a pointlessly vindictive measure given their power. This is what attracted Legion to them as donors. It took Rebecca after a werewolf prophet it met told it about portents they had dreamed of a fire-haired master of kin causing the death of the hive of many-and-one. Rebecca was a redhead working as a caretaker at the local zoo specializing in wolves and other pack predators. Legion has no real proof that she's what the prophesy was about, it decided to better err on the side of caution and seize her for its "pack."

Legion was created to protect. Others of the First were made to hunt those Wolf identified as lawbreakers, but he made Eshana to hunt out those threats Wolf was not aware of and destroy them preemptively. Legion is now compelled to hunt conspiracies and plots, destroying those that perpetrate them. Rare for a Geryo, it prefers to offer its services to masters. After all, with no master, who is it hunting hidden threats to? It remains cautious when making these service pacts, often approaching prospective masters in stolen bodies and misrepresenting its own nature and abilities. It always ensures any agreement has an exit clause and that it has a good idea of how to become free once more. It has no compunctions about killing innocents if that is the most efficient method to its goal, though it rarely kills needlessly. This is mostly because any set of eyes is a potential tool for later, and it views any life but its own as ultimately expendable. Legion focuses heavily on learning about those its prey values, finding chances to use them for leverage or bait. It often kills and mutilates pets or domestic animals, as it takes their existence as a sort of personal insult. When not serving a master, Legion looks for chances to hunt werewolves that might investigate or harm other Geryo. This is not due to any sibling love or bond, but rather a compulsion built into its core nature via Wolf's original purpose for it. Wolf intended Legion to protect against the violence and plots of powerful Pangaeans, and more than one of those plots sought to target Wolf through his children.

Legion's possession of others makes it appearance wildly variable. In its favored hosts, it appears to be exactly like the people it has stolen. If forced into its natural form, it appears as a huge, elongated wolf-like beast with two faces on its head and a very large third eye where they meet. This eye has two irises and no lid, so it never blinks. It has six legs, the front two of which end in vicious, clawed hands and the other four end of which end in paws. Its back is very flexible, allowing it to coil around prey like a snake or raise the front third of its body upright to seem like a wolf-centaur. Inside a werewolf, Legion may use its host's shapeshifting freely, without any behavioral or time restrictions on any form. However, it is bound by its own limitations no matter what body it is in, and it does not benefit from things like Gauru regeneration or other inherent form benefits. Shapeshifting, for Legion, is essentially cosmetic.

Henrica is a no-nonsense woman with short dark hair and dark eyes. Her gaze is sharp and penetrating, as though she can sense guilt, though she can't. Axel and Luka are identical twins, tall, thin and with long blonde hair and pale faces. Both have a tendency to stare disconcertingly, striking others as predatory. Before being taken by Legion, they disliked being seperated and spent as much time around each other as possible. While Legion feels no need to do likewise, it finds a strange and unfamiliar comfort in keeping them near each other. Rebecca is lightly freckled and has blue eyes and red hair. She's also very muscular, having grown up on a farm. Unless required, Legion keeps its bodies scattered apart to prevent ambush or bad luck from taking them all at once and to make the most of its ability to be in many places at once. When it does need to bring them together, its bodies work in perfect unison, better than any military unit. Unless it needs to maintain a deception, Legion's bodies rarely talk to each other, as it doesn't really need to talk to itself.

One hook offered is the idea that, recently, a pack of Blood Talons just...vanished. Some are glad the hotheads are gone, but others wonder what could take them all out without any trace and worry it might still be around. A few body parts are discovered, but nothing that'd kill a werewolf necessarily. After a few weeks, the pack returns, down one or two members and uninterested in discussing why or where they went. Instead, they're more interested in what everyone's been up to, having been subverted and added to Legion's collective of bodies.

Meanwhile, a serial killer called the Head Splitter is on the prowl. They always kill by decapitation, then split the head in two. The media believe this is some sick message, and it's all over the news. Investigation reveals that all victims are connected to werewolves somehow. Several pack members across the area, mostly human and Wolf-Blood, are very interested in finding out who the Head Splitter is before they become the next victims. The truth is that the Head Splitter is Zi'ir, a Broken wolf, that has discovered the existence of Legion and is trying in her own insane way to warn about its coming. She's too maddened by Bans, compulsions and her own incoherent thoughts to express herself normally...but she is also entirely immune to Legion's powers. For some reason, the Geryo cannot possess Zi'ir.

Legion is a rank 3 Geryo, weak by the standards of its kind and reliant on its infiltration abilities to survive. Its Blood is Deceptive, its Bone Vigilant. It is extremely quick, but in a stand-up fight on its own, it'd be kinda fucked. Its realityquakes chill the world, cooling it enough to threaten frostbite even in the hottest areas. Legion can suppress this effect at will freely, to better allow for infiltration, as long as it is not using its own natural form. Its Gifts are Evasion, Insight and Stealth. It is able to possess people with a touch, seizing control of their bodies. Supernatural creatures get a bonus to resist, except werewolves and Beasts. Firstborn, in theory, would also lack supernatural protection, being children of Wolf. While possessed, victims remain comatose but can spend Willpower to try to resist again each week. Damage dealt to the body is not dealt to the Geryo controlling it, and if the host is out of Willpower when the Geryo leaves, they are left a mindless husk. While possessing at least one victim, the Geryo's own body vanishes, but it can't drag the bodies with it to cross realms of existence when using its innate ability to chase prey across realms unless one of its hosts is native to that realm. In that case, that host (and only that host) relocates. Legion has the power to tap into the memories of its possessed victims, using their knowledge to better impersonate them, if it chooses to spend Essence to do so. However, doing so restores Willpower to the victim, allowing them more chances to reclaim control of their body.

Legion's Ban is that it cannot face any domestic animal that has been ordered to attack it, which is one more reason it kills pets whenever possible. Its Bane is any attack aimed specifically and deliberately at its third eye.

Next time: The Distorted

Neither Holy Nor Roman Nor An Empire

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Neither Holy Nor Roman Nor An Empire

He's not even that old.

Ianuspater, aka Father Janus, is the head of a Rome-fetishizing cult known as New Beginning. The Romans worshipped the god Janus as a god of death (well, sort of), passages and new beginnings, and many festivals couldn't begin until Janus was invoked by the priests, even offerings to other gods. Wars could not begin without the opening of his gates. The New Beginning says the last gates of Janus' final shrine were torn down while still open, thus allowing the endless wars that destroyed the Roman Empire. They work to collect relics to attempt construction of a new temple to Janus, so they can make offerings to him and ensure peace exists when the gates of their new shrine close. Most who know of them consider them eccentric weirdos but harmless. Their goal of world peace is admirable, their methods stupid, and few give any credence to their beliefs. Those within it believe the cult to be pursuing the most noble possible goal, so much so that it justifies their less-than-legal means of collecting offerings. They steal statues, ornaments and sometimes even live animals or, very rarely, people that they think resonate with their reincarnate god. Each piece must be ritually prepared and sacrificed to build the gates which will close and bring world peace.

The cult believes Ianuspater is the reincarnated Janus. They are wrong. Father Janus is no god - he's one of the Distorted, and he just showed up at the nonexistent gates of their just-begun construction site one day, in pain and confused by his disease. The revelation of his powers and two-faced form was taken by the cult as proof of their mission. When his mind's clarity returned, Ianuspater took advantage of the poor dupes, reinforcing their efforts to collect relics of power for the temple. The two-faced werewolf says that Janus is aware of their efforts and sent him to guide them. His existence is no secret among the cult, but they refer to him in highly mythological terms and tell very fanciful stories of his abilities. They describe him as if he had two appearances - one an old man with white hair and beard, the other a young, clean-shaven man with brown hair. No one not already in the cult believes a damn thing they say, and most outsiders believe Father Janus is just a charismatic leader taking advantage of the gullible. They're not entirely wrong.

In truth, Father Janus is Jack Thompson, a Hunter in Darkness who got mortally wounded and left for dead by a monster while hunting with his pack in Pure territory. He sensed that something was wrong early, for it was too quiet and stank of blood. The pack followed the scent of blood to the beast devouring the Pure, and while they attacked, the fight was swift and brutal - and a losing one. Even their Gauru rage could not defeat the beast. After the death rage descended, Jack has no memory. He survived somehow, awakening in darkness with his flesh and mind both on fire with pain. The stench of rotting meat filled the air, and Jack dragged himself from a pile of corpses, fleeing before the beast could return. He stumbled, unable to use his limbs properly, and was startled when he heard a voice near him scream in pain and confusion as he slumped against a tree. He soon panicked as he realized it came from the back of his head, immediately attempting to shapeshift. His joints reversed, his muscles restructuring in the opposite direction, and his feet and hands twisted. He found himself facing his own back. The other face was Rohan Masterson, one of the Ivory Claws the beast had been trying to eat, and they soon realized they were sharing a body. The Geryo strain had melted their bodies together as their regeneration tried to heal their dying bodies, rebuilding them as one werewolf with two faces and two minds.

It destroyed their minds entirely, thanks to the trauma of hated foes suddenly being one being. They stumbled into New Beginning, their shapeshifting powers nearly gone except for their struggle to control their shared body. Early and brutal efforts had shown they couldn't kill each other without killing themselves, and each time they tore at their own flesh, the strain grew stronger in repairing it. Self preservation pushed them away from their territories and kept them from seeking other survivors, and neither wanted to go to the other's territory, either. Their unwillingness to compromise was killing them and eroding their sense of identity, and it was sheer luck that they stumbled onto the cult's rural compound. This rather contrived coincidenc saved their lives.

Father Janus has come along way since his rebirth. Rohan and Jack have made a sort of peace, agreeing to work together in order to find a way to undo what was done to them. If they are ever seperated, they will definitely try to kill each other, though. They wear a purple toga almost all the time, decorated with gold embroidery. They also wear a golden circlet; Jack finds it embarrassing, but Rohan insists that maintaining the impression of divinity and control of the cult requires it. Whichever face is in front indicates which controls the body at the time. Rohan, the older one, does most of the talking to the cult, being a persuasive sort with a talent for oratory. Jack, the younger, is brash, angry and has very little patience for the cult's rituals but plenty of interest in their relics.

Ianuspater's problem is a bit more than a head on the back of the head. Whoever is in control has the rest of the body orient to match their face, reversing the entire body from its prior controller. These transformations are brief, disgusting to watch and very painful for the pair. Further, their body is mismatched due to being grown from parts of both of them. Their skin tone does not match and forms mottled patterns, the left arm is slighty longer than the right and the fingers don't really match up right. They also can no longer access their warform or dire wolf form and can't properly enter the death rage. Instead, they are prone to fits of rage, shouting and breaking things while in the near-man form, which only frustrates both of them. Cultists that witness these fits are still prone to Lunacy, which they attribute to divine awe and fear at Father Janus' literal god-nature.

The New Beginning cultists are weirdos, but they're truthful weirdos whenever possible. They seek converts and they seek them by telling what truth they can, in the belief that a convert gained from lies will never hold true faith in their heart. They've always been open about their worship of Janus and, after Ianuspater showed up, they've been open about him being the god's prophet-avatar. They've even begun attracting lares, the so-called household gods of Rome. In truth, these are minor spirits that the werewolves have bribed or convinced to serve in exchange for Essence and favors. They're not powerful, but they bolster the cult's faith for now. It won't last - Jack and Rohan need something bigger to get the cult to do what they need done. Jack's unhappy about it, but Rohan has convinced him that they should bind a Pure spirit-ally named Bhal as their shared totem. Bhal would normally never lower itself to serve a pack of only two, but it finds the dual nature of Ianuspater fascinating. The cult's raiding of treasures serves largely as tribute to it - they collect and destroy objects of value for Bhal, believing that in doing so they release the power of the items into Janus' gates. Bhal has no special knowledge of how to cure the pair, but it hasn't told them that. It plans to use them until it's gotten all it wants out of the deal or gets bored. It will, if the other Pure spirits demand it, try to kill both werewolves and the entire cult when it leaves.

Ianuspater has restructured the cult as their pack, and that means knowing who belongs, who doesn't, and who's on the territory. They're also preparing the formerly pacifist cult for conflict, since the pair know that sooner or later, someone's going to discover they're stealing antiques and relics. So the cult is arming up and getting really shirty with trespassers, which is making the cultists themselves nervous and wary. The werewolves have convinced most of them that, in this case, the ends justify the means, but not all. A few of the most vocal critics remain holdouts, and the werewolves have no idea what to do with them yet. They're still part of the pack, after all...and less kindly, they can't be allowed to leave with what they know about the cult's activities, but if they disappear, Father Janus is going to have to answer a lot of really uncomfortable questions from the other cultists.

Jack and Rohan share physical attributes, but have different social and mental ones, different skills, different merits and different Renown and Gift access. Rohan is the smarter and more charismatic of the pair by far, but Jack is more cunning and strong-willed. Physically, they're fairly normal for werewolves but for their missing forms hampering them in combat. Jack knows more about spirits and the occult and is the better fighter by a significant margin, while Rohan is more educated and better at talking to people. They're pretty on-par for a pair of mid-power werewolves, and between them they have a fairly wide array of Gifts that give them a wide array of tools both socially and in combat...but, well, they're still a single healthbar, meaning in a fight with the PCs, they'll go down pretty fast even when Jack's driving. The cult means they won't be alone, though.

Next time: The Prima Donna


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon

Typically when one draws an anime sidemouth, one doesn't also include a normal one.

Aurora Reed was an enthusiastic theatre student who never really got her acting break. One of hundreds. Her pack didn't find her acting work, but her skills proved very useful in getting along with them despite her intense disdain for most of them. Aurora loves to act but she hates the power trips and abuses of the top of the field. She's been humiliated and rejected for a number of roles based on her looks and refusal to play along with casting couch bullshit, and she runs a personal feud against anyone exploiting others via a position of power, especially in entertainment. She willingly took the name 'Prima Donna' as a snub to her packmates' frustrations over her complaining whenever the prey wasn't one of those people and their tendency to label her a diva.

Aurora has no idea where she contracted the Geryo infection or if her pack shares it. She remembers a packmate complaining about weird humming noises after fighting some strange prey (which she had complained about having to go after) and a sense of dread accompanying her shapeshifting. After a failed hunt in which she became paralyzed by fear over having to transform, her packmates confronted her to find out what was happening, the argument turned violent, and she went into hiding. It was not long before the first visible mutation followed - the wound on her left cheek left by one of her packmates' claws refused to heal properly, continuously splitting back open and leaking rancid white pus. After a week, the discharge had grown so thick and the wound so wide that it was possible to see into her mouth. Regeneration did nothing, and Aurora fell into a deep despair. It'd ended all hopes at an acting career - and who knew what else would come? As far as she'd known, werewolves didn't get sick, ever. This was different, and she didn't trust her pack's potential reactions to it.

Over time, the pain grew, and Aurora's mouth dried, split and ached. In brief moments of clarity, she felt as if her teeth were growing towards the ragged hole in her cheek. When the pain ended, she was horrified to realize it'd become a fully-formed mouth. In fury, she broke every mirror in her apartment. She was eventually forced out of her home when a concerned neighbor called the cops due to her constant wailing. The cops and neighbor were found mauled to death at the apartment, and Aurora was gone. She can't bring herself to abandon the town, but she's moving all the time. She avoids Forsaken out of paranoia that they can smell her wrongness, sticking to disputed or unclaimed areas. She's still a social butterfly, enjoying talking to strangers if they keep her interest. However, because she always feels pressed for time, she will easily excuse herself if things get awkward or quiet. She's certain she's going to die of her illness soon, and she wants to use her remaining time to improve the world. She's decided that means excising the cancers of society - most notably, people that abuse their positions of power. She sees herself as an avenging angel for the exploited.

Unfortunately, the Geryo strain has had severe effects on her mind as well as her face. She has kept a flair for the dramatic and gained a tendency to monologue if anyone asks her why she's doing things or what's she's doing. She has murdered politicians and entertainment executives who demanded sexual favors...but she's also murdered teachers that gave bad grades out of spite, parents who were just reasonably disciplining their kids or cops trying to arrest armed gunmen. She is not very good, at this point, at identifying "the exploited" outside of her particular niche in the acting world, and she's increasingly reckless and quick to judge as she's convinced she will die soon anyway.

Aurora appears to be in her mid-20s, slim and fairly conventionally attractive but lacking any especially unique or eye-catching features...except, you know, for the giant mouth on her cheek. Before that showed up, she was basically the average aspiring actress trying to stand out while still fitting expectations for casting. She's aloof and attempts to avoid arguments by pretending not to care, but she hates being mocked. She is extremely proud and is still super mad she never got any role better than a background one. Now that she's on the run and no longer has to fit expectations, she has dyed her black hair pastel and gotten a ton of tattoos. She's actually grown fascinated by body modification since the mouth showed up and is obsessively attentive to anyone with interesting body mods. She hides her mutation with a large adhesive bandage and medical tape, and she attempts to disguise how self-conscious she is about it. She occasionally also wears a surgical mask to hide it further and has experimented with silicone facial prosthetics. Aurora has lost access to the near-man form, and she's terrified she'll lose others. She avoids shapeshifting whenever possible, only transforming when she has no other choices. When she does, the extra mouth appears on her other forms in appropriate appearance for them - in her wolfy shapes, she actually has a second muzzle growing out of her face at a weird angle.

Aurora's vigilante killings have made the news, and the fact that it's just one lady being a serial killer has been figured out. At first, she was sensationalized and even treated as a street hero for being a mysterious figure targeting drug dealers and abusive assholes, but as the victims have become less clear-cut bad guys and the violence has gotten really gory, the media has started to paint her as a disturbed villain. She liked the hero figure stuff and now believes that the media are her enemies as well - more liars and exploiters to fight. She is now picking which reporters she wants to make an example of.

Her Harmony is wildly out of balance, and she's growing increasingly unstable. She no longer sees herself as a werewolf. Worse, wounds she causes are extremely contagious and she feels a surge of aggression when facing other werewolves due to the Geryo strain's hijacking her instincts. She rationalizes this as a belief that offense is the best defense or that she's protecting herself from other werewolves. It's becoming a real problem - she's infected at least one other werewolf, who is now bedridden with the infection. The spirits have no idea how to help, either. If she's not stopped soon, the outbreak could get much worse.

Aurora is an Iron Master Irraka, and would honestly be completely normal for a low-to-mid-power werewolf if the infection hadn't supercharged her speed and dexterity. She's fast and good at fighting, even if she's not stronger than an average werewolf, and is very good at sneaking around, social blending and talking to people. She's not very strong-willed, but has a number of Gifts that assist her greatly in avoiding notice and dodging attacks, and she can fuck up communication devices with her Gift of Technology.

Next time: The Skinner Queen

Werewolf Religion Is Weird

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Werewolf Religion Is Weird

A goddess drenched in blood.

Thrice-Changed Trinity has seen enlightenment. In her first Change, she transformed physically, killed humans in a mist of blood, felt the silver brand of the Moon upon her. A revelation of blood. In her second Change, she felt the burning touch, screamed with the pain of being freed from the Slaver Queen, was given the mercy of the Fire-Touched to be free of Moon. A revelation of silver. In her third Change, she has found divinity. The Geryo strain remade her, making even greater than Pure. It was a revelation in truth, and now she stands as the bloody queen of a zealot army, building a new doctrine in blood on the flayed skins of her foes. She knows she is on a mission from Rabid Wolf himself, purging Luna's taint from the People forever.

Before becoming Distorted, Trinity wasn't anything special - just another hate-filled Fire-Touched. She claims she received the attention of Rabid Wolf for her iron will and her graceful dance, encountering the Firstborn one day in Shadow. As a good Fire-Touched, she hurled herself down in reverance, and Rabid Wolf gave her the truth. Rabid Wolf blessed her with a contagion of grace from its fangs, a contagion blessed by Wolf that would cleanse the Moon's taint. If Trinity had the strength and purity to handle it, she would nurse this contagion in her own meat, her own flesh. If she survived it, Rabid Wolf would make her the high priestess of the new order, with right to judge who could suffer the holy plague and who would die, working Rabid Wolf's will in the world of Flesh.

The elders among the Fire-Touched do not believe this story, or at least not entirely. It is likely that Trinity cannot actually remember the truth, given her maddened mind, and has mingled it with her own deluded fantasies. What is certainly true, however, is that Trinity met something in Shadow, and that thing was powerful. Further, she appears to have at least some favor granted by Rabid Wolf, and she certainly did survive her brush with the Geryo strain and become something greater and more terrible. Now, increasing numbers of Pure gather to her banners of flayed skin. They seek redemption, proof of their own strength or a place in the coming world. Trinity infects her followers as both reward and punishment, apparently able to curse the unworthy with wretched mutations and exalt the chosen with terrible new power. They name her the Skinner Queen, singing her praises and telling of the world she will build in Forsaken blood and bone.

The Fire-Touched are prone to spawning warlords and charismatic cult leaders, of course. In some ways, Trinity is nothing they haven't seen before and is following the standard playbook. She travels from place to place as head of a nomad pack and a collection of hangers-on and followers. When she stops, she spreads her gospel, recruits and makes alliances with Fire-Touched elders or attacks rivals of the faith as well as any Forsaken she runs into. The main difference is that she is a vector for the Geryo strain. When she stops to give her sermons and hold court, she infects particular werewolves that come before her as the priestess of Rabid Wolf.

Some are hated for crimes against the Pure, have terrible and broken reputations; these tend to be desperate for a chance to regain their fortunes, however risky that chance is. Other petitioners are true believers in her cause, willing to risk their own lives for a chance at greatness and "true" purity. A few old, infirm werewolves even come to Trinity in hopes of receiving her 'third Change' and have their bodies restored to their prime of power. When local packs are weak, Trinity just bullies them into giving her supplicants for her infectious ordeal, and where they are strong, she displays the strength of her flayers in battle against the Forsaken to attract new and willing converts.

Anyone she infects that dies of the ordeal or suffers useless and pathetic mutations is clearly unworthy in the eyes of Rabid Wolf, while those that can fight off the infection have proven themselves with their will and endurance, cleansing them of any past crimes or tainted honor. Those rare few that not only survive but are wholly remade in the image of Trinity's particular strain are considered blessed avatars of the will of Wolf. Trinity's claim is that the Geryo strain is purely of Wolf's flesh and spirit, and so its warping influence purges its victims of the insidious taint of Moon that was left by her hand in the creation of werewolves. A Distorted that remains strong in mind and body is thus closer to Wolf's pure nature than a normal werewolf. This is obviously a dangerous belief, and Trinity has left no small number of broken, ruined Distorted behind her. Her flock care only for her successes, not her failures, after all.

Many Fire-Touched are opposed to Trinity and her beliefs. Unfortunately, her preaching has found fruit among some Predator Kings, too, and a small number have gathered in hopes of earning Trinity's anointed blessing. The Ivory Claws, who are perhaps the tribe with the clearest understanding of the Geryo strain due to their intensive research on all things werewolf biology, remain firmly against Trinity and her cause. They would really prefer to capture her and lock her away in a lab for study and dissection; while Silver Wolf's children see the Distorted as potential weapons or tools, they consider them fundamentally a debased and impure form of werewolf.

Trinity has no actual insight into the Geryo or the disease she spreads. She has completely bought into her own bullshit, encouraged by Rabid Wolf's spiritual servants and some Pure totems that have decided to back her. She believes her own existence is one of joy, for she is working to return the werewolf people to purity, to their intended state, and then to purge the world of filth and return the Border Marches to what they should be. Pure and Forsaken alike know the Skinner Queen's title, thanks to her incredible skill at stealing and wielded skins, which her infection has only improved. Flayed skin is her chosen aesthetic for her faith, and her warband is talented at using stolen skins to infiltrate their foes and spread chaos. Her preachers write her gospel on dried skins, and she uses the hides of her favorite kills to make banners for her cause.

Some Fire-Touched accuse Trinity of breaking their tribal oath via her taste for stolen faces. Her answer to these elders and tribal leaders is that Rabid Wolf cares about truth that is more than skin-deep. To her less-than-rational mind, wearing a false skin is not lying - it is a test, an opportunity. Certainly, the Thrice-Changed never speaks an intentional lie and completely believes everything she says. She insists that it cannot be her fault, then, that weak-minded foes look at a werewolf wearing someone else's skin and assume they must be the person they resemble.

Trinity is an obvious monster. When not hiding her body inside a stolen skin, she stands taller than any normal Gauru form, and she is unable to get rid of the wolf features of that form. Despite her size, she is still lithe and graceful, with a lean if elongated frame and eight terrible arms sprouting from her shoulders that move with the coordination of a dance. Her claws are long, vicious and shockingly precise in flensing skin from her foes. She is marked by cancerous growths along her Distorted form, and all trace of her hold human features are basically gone. She and her followers both wear gold jewels and garments made from flayed skin and leather. She wears nose rings heavily and has thin gold chains between her piercings, which bear prayer-flags praising Pure totems. These decorations are important to Trinity, the key to making her appearance come off as grand and divine rather than twisted and ugly. She doesn't want people to see her and her followers as monsters, but as pure avatars of Wolf, after all. The gear and jewels matter in projecting the correct image of the faith.

In person, Trinity is a welcoming, gracious shaman-queen, confident and self-assured. She need not bother with terror or rage, and many Pure are shocked at how pleasant she is to talk to. She genuinely is very happy to meet anyone that supports her cause. She comes off as enthusiastic and cheerful, preaching no creed of misery and self-flagellation but of hope and joy. She really, truly and deeply adores the image of Wolf and Pangaea that she's built up in her own head, and she genuinely thinks she can realize her goals within her lifetime. While she is terrifyingly brutal with failures, rivals or Forsaken, she can suddenly shift to kindness and sympathy with no apparent internal dissonance. She will happily tell you she's here for you, to help you get past your sins, even as she peels your face off to war as a battle-mask against your pack. And she's not lying - she loves converts deeply.

When wearing a stolen skin, Trinity enjoys trickery and mischief. She no longer bears the burden of her prophecy and rule and may indulge herself. She gets off on the potential dangers of infiltration and the thrill of planned violence, and rather than focus on efficiency, she works to spread confusion, play at being the fool and convincing her prey to see her as a friend until the time to strike. She adores dangling hints that she's not quite what she seems, and she absolutely loves the look on the face of prey that has realized the truth. She sometimes attempts to infect the most perceptive Forsaken she meets, in the hopes that they will be kindred souls that can share in her divine revelation. She also sometimes skins human victims for fun, wearing their stolen faces out in the herd of humanity with no particular purpose in mind.

Trinity's followers really want her to stop doing that, but she's ignoring their concerns entirely. When she heads out as a random human, it is for a night of fun, sometimes picking up men or women for one night stands and sometimes looking for werewolves to provoke and annoy for her own amusement. Trinity especially loves music, as it reminds her of her life before even her first Change, stirring her to move and dance as she once did, long ago. Occasionally she lives fevers and colds in her wake, brewing up diseases with Rabid Wolf's power as a gift even for poor, unenlightened humanity in the clubs and bars she hangs at. To her, this is an act of kindness and charity, a touch of the divine.

At all times, Trinity is accompanied by at least two of her Distorted flayers, who survived and were reforged by her disease. They lack her majesty but retain the same strengthened mutations, cancerous overgrowths along their skin and, typically, multiple extra limbs. Like Trinity, their claws are long and terrible, but most of them lack her precision and finesse, being more savage butchers. The flayers are not actually part of her personal pack - they're just fanatic devotees. Presumably they too spend a lot of time hidden in stolen skins when dealing with humans.

Those skin-stealing expeditions aren't good for Trinity, however. Her mind is starting to unravel, between the infection and overuse of skin-stealing. On her last big hunt, she briefly went into a fugue state, tearing at her flesh and causing the entire attack to grind to a halt as her followers panicked. The loyalty of her followers has kept her rivals among the Pure from learning about hear attempts to tear her own face off in panic, but the Forsaken they were attacking saw it. Exploiting Trinity's slowly crumbling sense of self might be key to defeating her cult.

She also has problems in that cult - given how many Distorted she creates, it shouldn't be surprising that some of them take her teachings and run off to please themselves with them. A rival Distorted has started up his own cult, proclaiming that his massive, flabby growths are the true manifestation of Wolf's intent. Infighting between the two Distorted may soon break out, and if so the new contagion may end up getting destroyed in the fighting...but if so, it'll be at great cost to Trinity's cult as well, as they waste their strength on each other rather than the Forsaken. On the other hand, it's more likely that the conflict will just make both sides produce more and more dangerous, infectious Distorted.

Pure Totems tend to be very hands-on in their work, and Trinity's pack totem is directly advising her through all this. It is a festering spirit of disease, and it communicates with her through diseases. Often, messages will come in the form of infected animals biting humans, raising up bloody welts on their skin that take the form of First Tongue words. Trinity hunts these victims down and flays them to read, but a rare few are pampered a kept as sacred slaves, forced to recite the words that form on their skin and praise Trinity until Lunacy burns out their minds or causes them to become Wolf-Bloods. These Wolf-Bloods are considered to be favored by Rabid Wolf, and are treated extremely well in honor of the scars written upon their skin via the pox.

Trinity lacks any forms but Gauru at this point, though it no longer suffers from the usual rage associated with it...and the usual regeneration. It retains its superhuman physical abilities, though, and Trinity is also crazy charismatic if you're willing to listen to a ten foot tall wolf monster with eight arms. She can spend Willpower to reactivate her regenerative abilities at the cost of also reactivating the killing rage of Gauru form, but otherwise only regenerates at half normal speed. She is infectious as if she were a Geryo, but only her bite transmits the infection, not her claws or other attacks. She's a pretty potent werewolf, fast and tough and with a lot of Essence, as well as a good selection of Gifts to heal her followers, steal skins, spread disease, scare people, buff her followers by driving them to a fever pitch of madness, sense various things around her and track her prey without being caught.

Trinity's also powerful enough have a Ban - she must spend an extended period dancing at least once per day. Typically, she does so as part of her daily prayer rituals to Rabid Wolf. She and her flayers also have a unique ability to very easily skin people. Whenever they deal Lethal damage with their natural weapons, they can reflexively use their Skin Thief Gift to steal a portion of the torn skin and instantly copy the prey's form. This can even be used on werewolves, though it only steals their human form's appearance, not any other abilities or shapes.

The Flayers are Trinity's elect, chosen by the Geryo strain. They tend to be chaotically mutated, but their strain shares particular features that reflect Trinity's own mutations. The example statblock is a Predator King that has lost all but his near-man and Gauru forms and regenerates at only half speed, but has a ton of arms (and cancerous growths) and is superhumanly strong and tough. He's not very smart, though. Basically, Trinity's followers tend to be excellent fighters but rely on her for direction and planning. (Which she's honestly not super good at, but she is good at just causing chaos and that's all she really needs.) Flayers also have a Ban - they must always answer to the name of the last skin they wore for at least a day after wearing it.

Next time: GM Advice and Campaign Types

the wolf must hunt

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
the wolf must hunt

Understanding the importance of hunting to werewolves is the game's key GM advice. Everything werewolves do is filtered through their instinctive hunting urge. Werewolves don't investigate crime scenes - they hunt clues. Werewolves don't fight intruders - they hunt them down. Werewolves don't go shopping - they hunt for what they need at the store. Literally - the game's example of trying to make this mindset clear is a pack going grocery shopping. They decide what they need, research strengths and weaknesses, find prices and locations. They note the pressure points and personalities of vendors, split up and move through the grocery store. If possible they will isolate and work on salespeople to find the ones willing to give a better price. They'll pick the one that demonstrates least resistance and focus in, bargaining until they get what they want. At last, they will depart with their prey (the thing they wanted) in tow, leaving the poor salesperson with a smaller profit and a nagging sense that they barely escaped alive. No matter what, a GM should make the players feel like they are hunting. Werewolves aren't human, and they frame their world in the lens of the hunt.

We begin with a series of six campaign pitches. They're meant to give GMs a framework on which to hang their own ideas, so they're a bit bare-bones and focus on themes, goals and what a pack might need to do to 'win' the scenario. Each is meant to be highly portable, able to fit wherever your pack's territory is. First up: Turf Wars. This is your stripped down, basic Werewolf game. Your pack has to defend its territory against all intruders. No werewolf pack is merely entitled to territory - you fight for what is yours. The best packs know the strengths and weaknesses of their territory, understand its needs and ensures they are provided for. Strong territory means strong pack, but strength also means jealousy. Spirits grow tired of sitting in Shadow, eating diluted Essence rather than drinking from the firehose. They wield their Influences to reinforce their own interests and find weaknesses in the Gauntlet where they can slip through. You might allow some limited incursion if you believe that it's the best way to handle spirits, as long as it doesn't damage the territory itself. However, few packs are willing to tolerate a buildup of murder, disease or despair spirits in their borders, no matter how theoretically well-behaved.

In Flesh, other werewolves also might envy your success. A smart pack will build alliances and relations with neighbors...but between werewolves, these friendships can only last until someone scents weakness. Ultimately, your pack is the only real group you can trust. At some point, the benefits of trying to seize some of your territory will outweigh the costs. Hell, it's true in reverse - you should understand your neighbors' territories and their strengths and weaknesses if possible. You may need to exert pressure on them to ease them off your own land, or you may want to redirect unwanted intruders away from your territory and onto theirs. A problem for your neighbors can easily replace a problem for you. Sure, you may see this as a betrayal...but other packs may not agree. 'Fair play' is an idea that all packs must decide on their own. Understanding your neighbors' territory also lets you know when something goes horribly wrong - because when your neighbors fall, you understand where their attackers may come for you from next.

A Turf Wars campaign works best, we are told, when the GM already has a clear antagonist in mind. The PCs might know about them at the start, such as a greedy real estate developer trying to drive them out with help from corrupt cops or a powerful local spirit demanding they pay tribute, or might not and might need to investigate and identify the problem. For example, they might just know the cops are cracking down on local gangs, including members of their pack, or might only know that a lot of spirits are fleeing across the Gauntlet to avoid some form of spirit persecution and gain some freedom. For enemies from this book, Granny Stitch is called out as a potential enemy for this, or a distraction from their true enemy. The Wasp Hosts also make for a nice, straightforward foe, with their tendency to build a hive and kill a lot of people - some of whom may have been part of your pack.

Victory, obviously, comes from hunting and defeating the foe. For a shorter game, this is straightforward enough - isolate the prey, tear away their defenses, go for the kill. Once the prey surrenders or is slain, you win and have defended your territory, rendering it safe until the next big challenge. Hooray! For a longer or more complex game, the initial prey might just be the first part of a larger web of foes. Your real estate developer is dead now, but he answered to a larger conglomerate, and they're not giving up on your land. Why? Well, it could just be frustration, sunk costs and refusal to lose, or it might be that something there is more important than the pack realizes. The death of a spirit tyrant can easily leave a power vacuum that the rest of its court will rush to fill, fucking up local resonance and potentially leading to the creation of dangerous magath as spirits seek out non-traditional prey in pursuit of power. The cycle of identify threat -> confront threat -> eliminate threat is the core gameplay loop of a lot of Werewolf games.

Give and Take, on the other hand, is Werewolf-as-political game. Werewolves may not be human, but they are raised by humans, and they are cooperative social animals from two sides - wolf and human. They instinctively need a pack, and they are naturally suspicious of those outside their pack. When the hunt needs more than any one pack can give, however, they adapt. No one pack can do everything, and some things need cooperation or at least not getting into each others' way, and this is why protectorates form. They are united for, quite literally, protection - to protect packs from threats or each other, often, as they formalize territory and territorial challenges to avoid constant, tiring vigilance against other packs. They may also form to protect something greater. There are not a lot of things that Forsaken packs will coordinate with each other to protect, but they do exist, and protectorates formed around them tend to develop their own rituals and customs that create a sense of unity or identity even between disparate packs.

Whatever the reason is, internal or external, a protectorate always needs careful negotiations to keep the peace. That work can bring fame and Renown to the packs that do it, and scorn to the packs that can't manage it. It also means that there's two different sets of challenges here. The first is based on why the protectorate exists, either to stop enemies or to protect opportunities, and the second is about the balancing act of keeping it around. Underneath all of this is still the need to hunt, and every pack is going to view their duties to the protectorate, if they have any, through that lens. The reason the protectorate exists should be clear and known. If everyone can't agree on the purpose, it's not going to stay together at all. For your pack to be able to do politics, they have to be able to remind everyone of why they're working together in the first place. It won't make them any more willing to take a bad deal, but it can keep them at the negotiating table.

The worst dangers may well be from inside the protectorate, however. There's always going to be someone looking to take advantage of everyone else or finding ways to betray the rest. This might mean Bale Hounds eroding things from within or just a pack that doesn't think it's getting a fair deal. It's also important to remember that packs include Wolf-Bloods and humans as well, and even if the werewolves are happy with a deal, their supporters may not be. Human threats are a frequent reason for werewolves to focus on political or indirect approaches. Sure, it's usually easy to kill a given human, but that tends to just unite humans in pursuit of the killer, bringing in more problems for everyone. The Church of Lupus et Fidelis may also notice werewolves revealing themselves, and that's a threat to your will and personal agency thanks to their ability to redirect your hunting.

To 'win' in this campaign frame is to keep the protectorate together until it's no longer needed. When the enemy finally arrives, you might lead the combined packs to victory in battle, or you might get everyone to track and hunt the prey through their territories, coordinating searches and pinning them down at last. Maybe you slowly root out the corruption festering away in the protectorate packs and expose the traitors, then lead the hunt to kill them. The key, in all cases, should be the web of alliances the PCs have maintained, the favors they owe and oaths they swear. Your allies might not like each other, may not want to work with everyone, but they stick with it because they value the PCs and their decisions.

Next time: Canaries in a Coal Mine, A Mixed Blessing

wolf must hunt the

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
wolf must hunt the

Canaries in a Coal Mine has a bit more complex a setup - there a pack that had a territory, defended it well, managed it well...and then they vanished. No one has any idea where they went. The PC pack has been handed the territory by everyone else! They're sure you'll do great. Absolutely certain. And...yeah, it's a set-up, no one actually has your best interests in mind. Until the last pack's disappearance is resolved, however, no one wants anyone powerful to have the territory in case it turns out to contain something really stupidly dangerous that'll fuck things up for everyone. Better, then, to send in a bunch of young and inexperienced werewolves to investigate and find out what the hell happened. At worst, they can be expendable bait to lure out the monster.

Now, your challenges in a Canaries campaign are simple - you have to establish yourselves, deal with the mystery and deal with the territory's resources. The place is wealthy - lots of mundane resources, plenty of Loci, defensible boundaries. You can establish yourselves a claim it, and you're mostly supported in this by the local packs. However, you have to make sure you don't expose weakness to those packs or give them too many answers - because once they have all their answers, they're going to want that territory back. While mystery remains a threat, they're content to watch and wait. Once it's solved, that fight will be coming. Plus, well, there's the mystery itself. If whatever killed the last pack is still there, you're definitely its first new targets. No one really thinks you can take it out, but you might weaken it before it goes after anyone else - that's what the other packs are thinking. If you die without giving any answers...well, there's always inexperienced packs looking for land, right? You may not even have been the first to take the job.

The book notes that an idigam such as Anaba'hi might work well for this scenario, requiring skill, patience and wit to uncover and reveal. The last pack clearly got too close to it for comfort and it wiped them out. Perhaps it has kept their bodies hidden in its territory or has warped them into servants it can command now. Whatever the case, victory over this scenario requires solving three main issues, two of which the pack will know about for sure. First, the possibility that whatever vanished the last pack is still present, and second, that the werewolves on the sidelines will be swooping in to take the place once it's been cleared. The third, less obvious problem is upkeep. The territory must be cared for. The last pack established a balance, but without them, things are going to go bad. Each system they set up that fails will cascade into more failures if not stopped. This is basically a horror movie scenario, but with werewolves instead of the Scooby Doo gang. You know something's wrong, but not what, and as you follow the clues, dread will build as threads start to unravel and lead to the truth. Everything will go wrong at once near the end, as the truth is uncovered and must be dealt with, along with the outside packs waiting for just this chance.

A Mixed Blessing is a campaign dealing heavily with Luna and spirits and faith. Luna is a fickle deity, their desires sent out in symbolic, heavily metaphorical dreams, when she bothers to tell anyone at all. The Forsaken have faith that the messages brought by the Lunes are true. However, at this point, every Cahalith in the region has been having the same dreams - prophetic visions that have lasted several nights. A new lunar cycle is starting, and Luna will bring new werewolves to her service. They will be known by their Auspices, which will not correspond to the moon phase during their First Change. These wolves are to be gathered together and formed into a pack. There is no detail beyond that. How will the PCs of this Blessed Pack know what Luna wants them to even do?

Obviously, being part of a prophesied superpack means your life won't be boring or safe. The cause the PCs are gathered for might be obvious or might not. Even when there is no guidance, though, everyone will be watching them. The other werewolves will watch and judge, as Luna clearly wants them to do. If she wanted the pack to go unnoticed, she wouldn't have shouted about them to everyone nearby. While the PCs have many allies, everyone is very wary about being caught in Luna's madness as well. They'll have no fewer foes trying to stop them, too. The spirit world will be divided on whether to help or harm, and while the Pure may say they ignore the Moon, they're not going to let one of her plans go off without interfering. Why might this be happening? It might be because the Geryo are reappearing - Wolf's first children might be enough to draw Luna's attention, especially the elder horrors like Quattuor or Zahakeryon. They are no tribe's favored prey and come from a time before werewolves even existed, after all. Their existence threatens Luna's order, and...well, honestly, even the Pure Firstborn have little interest in allowing the Geryo to exist and threaten the Shadow, their broods or the sanctity of the hunt. A really big one is the kind of existential threat that could unite Pure and Forsaken at least temporarily.

This scenario is a chosen-one story, a heroic journey for the PCs. They are foretold by the stars, given wise counsel by elders, but ultimately they are the only ones that can save the world. Still, it'd be unwise to forget that Luna is the most fickle of spirits, and she is not above using werewolves to amuse herself. The PCs are going to change the world - that much is clear and obvious. When Luna says she's specially marked people for greatness, everyone takes notice. The PCs must discover their purpose and then decide whether to go along with it or not. Yes, the spirit-gods may have set the board and rules, but it's up to the PCs if and how they will play the game set before them. They might oppose Luna's will, or they might not. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, whether it feels like victory or defeat, the PCs' own choices should be paramount. This is prophesy, but it's up to them how to interpret it and how to achieve or oppose it. The PCs should change the world, and should have to live with how they've done so.

Next time: Pangaea Reborn, Wolfless

must hunt the wolf

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
must hunt the wolf

Pangaea Reborn is a mid-and-post-apocalyptic campaign. The Pure have achieved their ultimate aim. They won. The Gauntlet was torn open, releasing the world of Spirit into the world of Flesh. This is the endgame, though it is not what the Pure expected it to be. The world is shattered. The Gauntlet is gone in almost all of the world, thanks to millions of spirits ripping through it at once. The world is ruled by spiritual Influence now, as the spirits living in an area shape it to their whim and hunger. Boundaries shift jarringly, as antithetical spirits no longer keep to areas seperated by natural physical boundaries and orderly resonance. Nothing will ever be the same again. The physical world isn't completely vanished - the Forsaken managed to hold some stuff together as pockets of resistance, isolated territories where the Gauntlet still stands and Shadow is locked away from Flesh. These are the last bastions of free humanity and those few spirits that oppose the new order. The Forsaken lost - but they have not lost hope.

The threat is, uh, the world's dying. The spirits that pushed the Pure to act never really thought much about the consequences of their desires, and the world as it currently exists is not a friendly one towards any number of spirits. Computers spirits, car spirits and other spirits of human-made things are going to have a ton of trouble living without human society, and emotion-spirits of anything but despair or madness are not doing much better. Magath are common threats in this world, as desperate spirits turn to new food sources for lack of appropriate Essence. Spirits that thrive on chaos and change feast on weaker spirits, never stopping to think about how their vast amount of new prey might affect them.

The Pure tribes are less cohesive now. The Fire-Touched serve their spirit-masters with the zeal of the brainwashed cultists they are, using that servitude to blind themselves to the world's state. The Ivory Claws are desperately trying to use their bloodline refinements to raise up a new Wolf, but their genepool is dwindling by the day thanks to the deadliness of the new world. The Predator Kings have declared that this world was always their plan, for sure, while avoiding the parts of the new world where even they would have trouble being the apex predators. In this confusion, Luna's Bane the Moon-Shunned may well attempt their long-planned murder of Moon. They would be able to use the carnage to delve into the deepest parts of the Shadow, seeking out Luna's throat to end her forever. Without the Warden Moon's help as the queen of boundaries, it'd be impossible to ever fix the world - so you'd better stop that.

Victory in this scenario could be just surviving. Creating an oasis of normalcy in a world of spiritual chaos is a victory, especially maintaining a Gauntlet in an environment pushing to collapse it. Fighting off the inevitable waves of hungry spirits, angry Pure and anything else crawling out of the spirit-ruled world is going to complicate the job, of course. On a grander scale, though, the PCs might aim to fix the world. This could be done, with sufficiently grand quests. The Warden Moon lives, and while Moon is alive, the Lunes help the Forsaken. Moon is probably key to restoring the balance and boundaries, but even with their aid, it will take huge rituals and powerful fetishes to restore the Gauntlet, either spontaneously across the entire world or piecemeal with heavy defense of each gain. In this time, it may even be a good idea to seek alliance with the Spider Hosts, who despise the shattered Gauntlet as much if not more than werewolves, though they have almost certainly suffered heavy losses and will be suspicious of any werewolf approaching them.

Wolfless is a game that isn't about the werewolves. A pack is more than its wolves, and in most packs, Wolf-Bloods and humans take on a number of roles that the werewolves are just not suited for. They keep things running in the mundane world, interact with their counterparts in other packs or even just make sure everyone gets their bills paid. For some packs, the werewolves are only called on for a hunt, while others don't even have werewolves. The world is dangerous, and if all of a pack's werewolves die, the rest has to carry on without them as best they can. In this scenario, the PCs are Wolf-Bloods or normal humans who belong to a pack. The humans may or may not know that werewolves are real; if they don't, they still know they're with the pack, even if they can't precisely say why. What they know for sure is that things are out there that want them gone, and there's no one else around to protect them, so they have to do it themselves.

Non-werewolves have a lot of problems that werewolves ignore. Keeping the utilities paid is not a glamorous job, but unless a pack lives out in the woods, it's essential. The humans and Wolf-Bloods of a pack tend to notice the pack's more mundane problems well before the werewolves of the pack will. When a reporter notices a spike in crime stats around a pack's territory and comes for a story, it's often these people who deal with the problem - it's quieter when a bunch of humans make a reporter feel happy and give them a non-story than it is when the reporter gets killed by wolves. Talking and/or money make the problem go away easier than terror. In such a game, the werewolves of a pack may actually end up being one of its greatest problems. If the wolves get wind of an issue, everyone knows how they'll handle it: hunt something. Werewolves can be subtle, can misdirect or protect, but all too often they see a problem and decide it is a nail for the one really big hammer in their toolkit: doing a murder. Humans are tough and think they control the world, and the real problem is that once the terror of the hunt is over, once the Lunacy ends and the mental wounds scab, the humans are back.

Winning a Wolfless scenario is pretty similar to winning, say, Turf Wars or any of the other scenarios. Keep the territory strong, identify threats, handle and eliminate them. Indeed, a Wolfless game might be a fun alternating thing with your main game, taking on the role of the Wolf-Bloods and humans that handle the issues the werewolves can't or don't. In just about all the past scenarios, there are roles for these folks to do big, important stuff. A pack is everyone in it.

We end out with a section on resonance and the important details of the world that a Werewolf GM can easily forget about or be less experienced in handling. Most notably, this is about the sensory and setting details that are key to the hunt, because werewolves hunt a lot. A lot. They use both sides of the Gauntlet for their hunting, and while the geography of Flesh and Shadow are not exact mirrors, they usually match up decently enough that many say that Shadow reflects Flesh. Broadly speaking, the geography of Shadow maps to the important resonances coming from Flesh, but tends to change far less rapidly than humans change the physical world. You can use this for detail stuff. A hospital in Flesh may also be a hospital in Shadow. The hospital may itself be a spirit, luring in smaller spirits of disease, death and life so it can trap them in its door-maw and eat them, or it might be unawakened ephemera - that is to say, just a building full of other spirits in their own predatory ecosystem. It might be a mix of both - big spirits may well allow smaller spirits to live inside them symbiotically if that makes life easier for it.

Alternatively, the GM might decide the hospital hasn't been around long enough to be reflected in Shadow. In this case, its shadow reflection is open parkland that has not yet noticed it was bought up by developers. The spirits of youthful enthusiasm and animals still run across the area, but they grow hungrier and hungrier as the flow of resonance from the Flesh fades. They grow sick as the spirits of illness surround and encroach on their territory, drawn in by the new resonances flowing out of the hospital built on those grounds.

Resonance and Influence, as a note, need not be the same categories. They are similar, but it can help to see resonance as a broad concept of which Influences are facets. A typical, unremarkable suburban home inhabited by a typical, unremarkable family is likely to have a resonance of 'home' or 'family.' It might include things like 'stasis' or 'love' or 'frustration' as resonances, but you don't need to list all that out because of how broad the meaning of 'home' can be. None of the spirits in the area need to have 'home' as an Influence, though they certainly could. Structural or building spirits might have Influences covering strength, unity or inflexibility. Emotion spirits tend to have Influences pertaining to their specialty emotion, and will try to use these to encourage their preferred mood among the family and fight back other emotional Influence. Electrical elementals or tool spirits may stick to particular locations, guarding their food supply, and will largely ignore all the emotion spirits. While they all have widely differing tastes and natures, they all find 'home' to be a palatable and safe resonance to eat.

A number of tables are provided giving examples of what kind of resonances, spirits and physical inhabitants can be found in various areas. These are super useful for a Werewolf GM, because it can be really hard to figure out what common stuff you're going to run into on the fly. These tables cover climate (which you'll run into even in human-controlled areas and which will influence entire regions excepting parts specifically designed to keep the local climate out), natural geographic features (which are more local and tend to be heavily based on nature and local flora and fauna, though not entirely, and ranging in size from 'a pond' to 'a cliff' to 'a swamp'), urban settings (similar to natural features in area of impact but typically more dynamic due to both the speed with which humans change things and the more potent emotional and symbolic resonances; these can range from 'an airport' to 'a park' to 'an office building' to 'a highway' so they vary wildly in size), and zoning regions (well, not quite zoning, but an area humans think of as commercial draws in different kinds of spirits than a gated community, a suburb, or an area everyone knows is rundown or crime-ridden). Human expectation and purpose have a shockingly strong influence on the Shadow.

After the tables are brief descriptors of what kind of things might different resonances may contribute to the spiritual feel of an area and how spirits of these concepts want to make people act or feel. There's a similar section on hunting styles, so that you can take the descriptors of Hunter's Aspect and have some idea how an NPC might interpret their actions through the lens of that kind of hunt, along with tables showing common hunting styles by Auspice and Tribe. Less useful, those, but still good for figuring out NPC wolves on the fly.

After that, the book is basically over. We've got the Conditions Appendix that is mandatory for every nWoD book (not too big this time, only 2.5 pages) and a one-page quick reference for making Pure characters.

The End.