Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick by oriongates
Adept Rundown, part 1Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 1
Okay, so here is the Postmodern Magick sourcebook. It's important to keep in mind that this actually predates the 2nd edition corebook (the one I've been reviewing so far) so there's a fair amount of redundant information that I'll be skipping over...we're mainly here for more weird adept schools. I'll brush over a few of the other interesting items here and there, but for the most part I'll be skipping stuff that's redundant or contradictory.
The rituals in Postmodern Magick are a very different breed from the ones in the 2nd edition rulebook. The second edition rituals tend to be lengthy and impractical but rarely involve tasks or ingredients that are too onerous to option and the results tend to range from "mostly useless" to "useful but low-key". Rituals in postmodern magick are significantly more dramatic, both in the way that they're performed and the effects they can have.
These are actually kind of strange because the minor rituals range from moderately useful (like the purifying bath) to the extremely helpful (medicine bag and portal glyph) but the significant rituals are basically too complicated for too little benefit to actually be worth using at all (with the exception of Recorded for Posterity).
Crystal Courage : This spell "stores" fear in a halite crystal. It'll drain one Failed Notch from you the meter linked to your Fear passion (it doesn't work on other meters) and stores it...you can even unleash it later by touching someone with the crystal and saying the proper nonsense words (inflicting a Rank-5 Stress test). Although theoretically this is an easy way to remove otherwise difficult to deal with Failed notches the procedures involved may take some preparation...involving drawing a pentagram in linden and silver oak ash mixed with cat's blood on a maple hardwood floor during the night of a new moon. But hey, if you've got all that stuff ready anyway it's still easier than trying to get help from a therapist while you avoid letting him know about your "hobbies" in the Occult Underground. Other downside...the emotion stored in the crystal tends to attract astral beings such as parasites or demons.
Medicine Bag : This ritual is an epideromancer's best friend. It's relatively easy to put together...you need a mutilated action figure head, a week-old bit of roadkill and a ball purchased from someone who has played a game with it (amusingly, this means that somewhere in the occult underground someone makes a bit of cash on the side playing ping-pong and selling the balls). The one ingredient that'll be a challenge is a pill stolen from a pharmacy (completely unseen). Tough, but by no means impossible. Most of the bag's benefits are minor: lower blood pressure, cholesterol, immunity to the common cold. Other diseases run their course 25% faster and there's even a 10% chance of indefinite remission for terminal illnesses. Obviously for many people those previous benefits could potentially be priceless...but from a PC perspective the big benefit is +2 wound points healed every day. Like I said, a big deal for the epideromancer. Downside, you've got to wear the bag 23 hours every day to have it work and it looses its power if it is ever opened (so no going through airport security with it).
Portal Glyph One of the rare "immediate" rituals that takes practically no time. Mark a door in some way (easiest would be to do something like draw or scratch an X or something similar on the surface) and then whisper "Qui Sum?" (who am I?) before closing it. This makes anyone pursuing you automatically ignore the door and search elsewhere even in situations where the door would be the only possible hiding place or route you might have taken. This fades within ten minutes. Probably one of the most powerful rituals for the effort it takes in the book.
Purifying Bath : This bath requires water from seven seas. It doesn't have to be the seven seas, it can be any seven bodies called seas (such as the dead sea). This might actually disqualify the Oceans...but it depends on the interpretation and how pedantic your GM wants to be. Next you've got to mix in aloe oil, lambs blood, rowan ashes, strawberry wine, iron filings, tarnished silver, powdered garnets and basil. After washing and sitting in the water for at least an hour you have to towel off with a towel woven from a mix of black sheep and black goat wool that is exactly as long as you are tall. Wrap your head in the towel completely and fall asleep for 33 minutes. The list seems intimidating but the only thing that would actually be all that difficult to obtain would be the towel itself and that is reusable (so long as its never used by anyone else). The benefits are a "cleansing" of the aura which can do things like dislodge astral parasites, conceal magickal abilities (so long as you don't use them) or remove curses such as the pornomancer blast.
Taste of Ashes : Get a handful of the victim's feces, burn them and add some of the ashes to food that will be fed to the victim. This makes whatever the victim eats and drinks have the taste and consistency of coal ashes. It's a pretty horrifying curse and the only cure is to burn a three course meal, mix it with your own feces and then eat it...but if you've got access to your victim's food and shit to begin with you could probably torture them in easier ways.
Cartesian Curse : This is the first Significant ritual and it really shows how blatant these are compared to the rituals you find in the UA core book. Of course, its almost impossible to perform, requiring three of the following: non-entities eye (tough since their bodies vanish when unobserved), a quart of blood from a lycanthrope, the brain of an adept, the heart of an Avatar, the breath of a ghost, the spittle of an unspeakable servant, or the pinky of a golem. These ingredients (and several others) must be used as part of an elaborate ritual (including animal sacrifice and a mile long hike with a burning torch). The result is an egg which is only effective if broken on bare skin...anyone touched by the goop inside is affected by the curse. Those affected only exist so long as they are thinking of themselves...essentially they've got to constantly remind themselves that they are real (often by inserting references to themselves into their dialogue or staring at mirrors). If they stop thinking about themselves then they will disappear for (100- Soul) minutes, although you can double this with additional minor charges (if you've got a healthy number of minor charges this can quickly get very dramatic: 10 minor charges will cause an ordinary (soul 50) person to phase out for a bit over a month at a time). The victims perceive the time they spend phased out as being trapped in a void of nothingness and will likely quickly go insane from Self, Isolation, Helplessness and Unnatural stress checks. Each day that passes reduces the phase period by 1/2 and once it goes below a second the curse is broken.
It's certainly nasty...but I would just shoot the bastard at that point.
Hex : Another significant ritual that just isn't worth the time...it requires your target's blood, the bile of a prisoner, bones of a dog and crows feathers and a sheet that has covered a dead woman. Then a 10 day ritual dancing barefoot on broken glass and jagged rocks. The result is a -5% shift to all off the target's skills linked to one stat (except their obsession skill). The effect lasts for one month, plus an extra month for each additional significant charge invested in the ritual. Not very impressive to say the least, hopefully the minor inconvenience your target suffers is worth it to you while you walk around on crutches after dancing on spikes 10 days in a row.
Just sitting here grinding my tongues...if you know what I mean.
The Pentecost Ritual This ritual requires mass murder (or at least mutilation). You need 12 whole tongues from people who speak at least 20 separate languages between them (and each must be at least fluent in two languages) and the languages have to include Hindi, Arabic, English and Mandarin. The tongues must all be fresh when the ritual is used but don't have to come from a living subject. you could technically get away with just a bit of corpse mutilation but given that the tongues can't be frozen and can't be more than a week old with refrigeration it's unlikely you'll find 12 polyglots dying of unrelated causes within a week of one another. Put the tongues in a bowl and mash them together with a wooden mortar in the shape of an owl's head. The tongues must be stirred for 24 hours without pause and every two hours you have to add a minor charge and a pint of your own blood...that works out to 12 pints which is more than most people have in their bodies. During this time you've got to read aloud from a dictionary in alphabetical order (fortunately this does not have to be done by the person stirring the tongues). Both the reader and the stirrer can "trade off" with other participants, provided the activity continues, but the blood has to be provided all from the same person. At the end of the period you need to burn any unread pages on a silver platter blessed by any priest of any religion. Oh, and none of the tongues can come from someone born on a sunday.
The final product is, at least, impressive. It's a potion that, when drunk allows you to be understood by any human being regardless of language, dialect or phrasing. Everyone will not only understand what you're trying to say (not just what you actually say, preventing any possibility of misunderstanding) but they also understand it in the most sympathetic fashion. This grants a +25% shift to any Soul skills used (I think the implication is any social-based Soul skills, but as written it would also improve things like Aura Sight, Adept skills and Avatar skills as well). You can amplify your voice with speakers or megaphones but recordings or transmissions ruin the effect. The effect ends once you stop talking for more than 5 seconds...and that's not the downside. The catch is that at the end of the effect you lose any and all communication skills for the same amount of time you spent speaking. This includes all forms of communication: reading, sign language and even body language or the meaning of pictures or pictograms. Same goes for attempts you make to communicate. Obviously this'll involve Self and Isolation checks.
...okay, look. I know elaborate and complex rituals are evocative and interesting and part of the setting but at some point they just become a waste of word count. This ritual is just so complex, difficult and dangerous for such minimal benefit and even if you manage to pull it off the downsides ensure that there's almost no circumstances where the effect would actually be all that useful.
To be clear, in order for this ritual to be at all worthwhile you've got to figure out some circumstance where it's extremely important that someone have a clear and persuasive but totally one-sided speech in person after which they can immediately leave without speaking to anyone. You then need to make sure that you've got the time and resources to find 12 polyglots who were not born on a Sunday with the appropriate arrangement of languages. Then you have to kill them and harvest their tongues without being caught and within a week arrange for helpers (because lets face it, without helpers you're not doing any of this crap for 24 hours) to perform an elaborate 24 hour ceremony without mistakes (which will ruin everything). Hopefully you've been draining and storing pints of your own blood for at least a few months ahead of time because the ritual calls for more blood than a human body typically holds. The net result...+25% to a skill. Impressive..ish but hardly worth the time, effort and murder involved.
If this was just a rumor or a mention in some sort of fiction it might be one thing...but did we really need a whole page devoted to this ritual? I'd much rather have a couple of shorter but more interesting or practical rituals (even a ritual that isn't conventionally useful but just shorter would be nice).
Anyway, rant over.
Recorded For Posterity : This spell is more interesting and practical. It requires a pair of VHS tapes, sealed in a metal box and then ignited and then submerged in salt water overnight (make sure the tapes can survive this inside the box). The next day you record an image of yourself on the tapes. The scene must be candlelit but have enough light to see you and it must have a soundtrack (provided during filming or in post). In order for them to have an effect they must be played on a loop on a TV of at least 19". While the tapes are being played and so long as you look more or less like "yourself" on the tape (same clothing, same haircut, etc) then you are protected from any magick that would change or damage your body directly. This would stop most magick blasts except for those that involve indirect damage (like the dipsomancer) or immaterial damage (like the Pornomancer). This only lasts while you're in the presence of the tapes and only as long as they're playing (you can rewind one tape while the other plays). Each tape is good for 10 plays.
This ritual is much more user-friendly, having several obvious applications (want to feel a bit safer when meeting with the Freak for negotiations? set this up and he won't be able to hit you with any epideromancer mojo) and giving ideas for interesting characters or events (a paranoid Duke who lives his entire life in the same room as a set of tapes of himself constantly playing).
Ritual of Union : This ritual is another big one...mark a specific region (very specific measurements are provided) with chalk and symbols. This "arena" is then entered by two participants who must be nude and eschewing all foreign material: glasses, piercings, etc. Even things like pacemakers or fillings will ruin it (killing both participants). They speak a ritual set of phrases and run headfirst into one another. The inscriptions explode in blue flames and both participants combine into a single mass. things get goopy while the two engage in a battle of wills. The loser is consumed. The winner can choose which body will "reappear" (keeping his own or taking the losers). This is an opposed Soul roll (matched beats any non-matched success). The winner can steal skills from the loser but must make Self checks per skill with increasing difficulty depending on the stat the skill is attached to. This means taking more than one or two skills is a good recipe for insanity or getting really Hardened. The victor can also take a skill called "Memories of [Loser]" with a 10% rating per rank of a Self check you need to make for it (so a 70% skill would be a rank 7 check).
Double matched failures lead to the creation of a creature called The Fused, which is basically the worst of the two character's body and speed but the sum of their wound points. What's worse it has the best of the Soul and Mind scores and all the skills (including adept skills...allowing it potentially to have access to two schools of magick). Although I find it questionable whether or not there'd be many characters willing to risk the ritual, it does serve as a handy plot device for creating an extremely dangerous boss-monster.
If you think we're bad, wait until you see the Carnals
Next update we'll get into adept magick with the Amoramancer and Annihilomancer.
Adept Rundown, part 2Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 2
Over two weeks since my last F&F entry, I'll try and get back on track after this. Now, we're into the Adepts. Since these are the adepts that didn't quite make the cut for the 2nd edition you can expect them to be a little weirder than the Adepts you've seen so far. Some were probably just cut to save page count but it's also easy to see that some just were a little bit off to begin with.
It's the Power of Love!
Amoramancy is the Byronic seducer to Pornomancy's sweaty orgy. The two schools share a fair amount in common..both are relatively subtle and strongly focused on emotional manipulation and both are ultimately about denying yourself the thing that the school seems to superficially represent. Pornomancy is all about sex with the pleasure, spontaneity and passion taken out of the equation and Amoramancy is all about making other people fall in love with you without every allowing yourself to fall in love.
Amoramancy is all about romance, especially cliched storybook (or soap opera) style romance. You could think of it as the Unknown Armies equivalent of the Mortal skin from Monsterhearts: being an Amoramancer means you're motivated to get as many people as possible "hooked" on you and to string them along to draw more and more charges. Of course, although the word "love" is used, the school is really more focused on shallow crushes, infatuation and obsession. There's nothing pure and healthy here.
To get a minor charge you must successfully flirt with someone. Successful, in this case, means that you get a positive response from the "target"...it doesn't have to go anywhere, it just has to be positively received. If that were all there was to it then an attractive Amoramancer would probably have the "best" charging option out of all adepts when it comes to the intersection of "safe" and "easy"...unfortunately there's some conditions that (depending on your GM) can really throw a kink in the process. You see, it's not enough to get a positive response it must be based on emotional or intellectual attraction...it's not enough for a hot adept to go up to a target and get them to buy him/her a drink...you've got to actually engage them on a deeper level than purely physical attraction. Depending on the GM this may still be extremely easy (if say you've got a Soul based skill like "Intriguingly Mysterious" or something) or it could be very annoying. Also, no getting more than one minor charge per month from the same person.
A Significant charge requires you to get someone infatuated with you. Basically, get them to agree to go on a date with you (or get them attracted enough that they would, even if you never actually go out). Downside...you can't get more than one significant charge per 3 months from the same person and, again, it can't be a purely "lust" based attraction.
A Major charge requires you to get someone to actually fall in love with you. Basically, get them willing to marry you. Needless to say, you can't get more than one major charge off the same person. This is relatively easy (in comparison to other major charging rules) but the downside comes with the adept's taboo...if you're going to work someone for that Major charge then you've got to cultivate your relationship with them while, at the same time, at least flirting with others on a regular basis.
Although the knee-jerk reaction might be to assume that female Amoramancers have an easier time of things the opposite is actually true. It's probably quite a pain being a female Amoramancer because you've got to make sure that you're only "fishing" for emotional connections while filtering out all the guys who just want to get in your pants (and are thus useless for charging). A PUA is probably the "best" Amoramancer, assuming any of their BS holds any water at all, rather than someone who is more conventionally "sexy".
Amoramancers have a bit of an annoying time with Minor charges...it's safe but charging still requires a lot of effort and GM "permission". They really shine with the Significant charges though...a skilled Amoramancer can probably harvest a generous bounty of significant charges per month and they rarely have a problem keeping them long-term. The only real risk is if they decide they want to go for a Major charge...and even that is orders of magnitude easier than most other Adepts (excepting the Epideromancer).
The Amoramancer's taboo is love and monogamy. Actually falling in love is, of course, a no-no and will violate your taboo. Of course, falling in love is a bit hard to represent mechanically so there's a simpler side to it...you can't be exclusive with one person (either romantically or purely for charging purposes) for more than one month. You have to at least harvest minor charges from others.
Obviously, the amoramancy taboo is pretty darn easy to follow so long as you aren't gunning for that Major charge and you can basically harvest Minor and Significant charges with impunity without worrying about breaking taboo so long as you make sure not to "hook" anyone too dangerous or powerful. Speed dating and singles nights are your greatest weapons.
Amoramancy focuses on emotion-based magick: obsession, love, hate, etc and as a result also includes communication and passion in more abstract ways (stirring speeches, getting ignored in the right circumstances, etc).
Check Me Out (minor)
Everyone stares at you for 30 seconds. Violence or similar intensely important events can break the spell but otherwise all eyes are on you.
I'm The One (minor)
If someone is looking for someone they've never met before then this spell will cause them to believe that you are that person. The deception lasts until the true person arrives or until you reveal that you aren't the person they want. If you know that a place is expecting a delivery, repairman, etc then this spell gives you a great "in".
Instant Wallflower (minor)
The polar opposite of the Check Me Out spell, causing everyone to overlook you. This isn't invisibility (or even a true SEP field-effect)...for instance a guard will still stop you from going into a restricted area without proper ID...but they won't notice if you're hanging around at the door filming the place or taking notes on anyone walking in. Even if you draw attention (say be initiating violence) this spell ensures that no one will be able to remember details about your appearance later on.
Can I Borrow That (minor)
Probably my favorite Minor spell (and frankly it should probably be Significant), this spell lets you convince just about anyone to let you borrow just about anything. You need an excuse for why you're borrowing it (but it doesn't need to be a good one) and it'll let you convince a stranger to lend you their car, or even their driver's license or credit cards. However, there is an assumption that the item will be returned so naturally they'll want some of your information as well (name, phone number, address) but that is all easily faked. The only real limit is that it won't work for extremely important or secure items (police won't let you borrow the key to a jail cell for instance) or anything that the target is currently using (you can't just flag someone down in the middle of the road and talk them out of their car).
Love Hurts (Significant)
The Amoramancy blast. There's no Minor version, instead the significant blast only inflicts Minor damage (sum of the two dice). The Blast inflicts a minor "heart attack" and triggers deep emotions in the target forcing them to either flee from your presence or take a -20% to physical actions for 5 rounds. If you have already used the victim to get a charge then the blast inflicts full significant damage (equal to the skill roll). Amoramancers make good "black widows", obviously.
Who's That (significant)
Everyone who interacts with you for the next hour sees you as fascinating and charismatic. Everyone is willing to talk to you and, with a good story or excuse, will probably go out of their way to help you with any reasonable favors.
You're My Obsession (significant)
The target of the spell becomes totally obsessed with you, turning them into an instant stalker. They are desperate to meet with you face to face (the obsession isn't specifically sexual or even romantic...they need to see and speak with you but the actual context is irrelevant). If you inflict the obession and prevent them from having any chance of meeting you then the spell inflicts a Rank-5 Self check. The spell lasts a month or until the subject manages to meet with you.
Please Protect Me (significant)
The "white knight" spell. The subject will protect you from any threat. They aren't under your control...you can't command them to do anything in particular or turn on their allies but they will defend you...reacting aggressively to threats or insults and with deadly force to actual assault. The spell lasts 30 minutes but requires skin contact to initiate.
Amoramancy Major Effects
Change how everyone feels about a single person (including public figures). You can turn anyone into an instant celebrity or totally destroy someone's reputation or standing Make one request of anyone. Create true love (or break it). Turn anyone into a willing slave.
Honestly, given how easy it is to get Major charges for Amoramancers, they've got some damn powerful Major effects.
Hi, I forgot your name/Whatever/My point is/Hi, your head's on fire
Annihilomancy is all about breaking things down and destroying them. It's a bit more philosophical than it sounds...the goal is the destruction of "baggage" whether it be physical, emotional or personal. Think of it as a kind of...aggressive quasi-Buddhism. Or reverse Buddhism. Rather than seeking the destruction of the "self" they seek to understand the "self" by destroying anything in their life (or your life for that matter) that is "other".
The net result is an adept who's probably on the fastest route to self destruction of any school out there...even the Entropomancer isn't likely to burn their life to shreds at the same rate as an Annihilomancer. It's also one of the toughest to justify as a PC...when your entire character is built on the concept of destroying all connections, possessions and relationships you tend to not play well with others.
The paradox of annihilomancy is that their entire philosophy is focused on the worthlessness of connections and emotional attachment to objects but those same emotional connections are the source of their power. An annihilomancer who has successfully turned their life to ash has nothing left to power their magick.
To get a minor charge you have to destroy an object of minor emotional significance: cutting up a shirt you like or burning a photo of someone you care about. You can also sever a minor emotional connection such as ending a casual friendship. It doesn't matter how harsh the ending is, but it has to be complete and the friend must clearly understand that they aren't a part of your life anymore. Like the entropomancer these acts must be done for the sake of charging up: if you leave behind your favorite pair of shoes when running from a burning building or a relationship ends because you're a shitty friend then it doesn't count.
For a significant charge you have to wreck something of great emotional value: your favorite book, every copy of the screenplay you've been writing, your wedding ring. This can also include items which, although they might not have a direct emotional connection, are likely to cause an intense feeling of loss or dramatically affect your life, such as destroying your car (assuming you aren't rich enough to casually replace it). Wrecking major relationships also counts: breaking up with a girlfriend, spouse or life-long friend or becoming completely alienated from a family member. Wrecking a career or future works as well. Even better, you aren't limited to your own things either! Needless to say, an Annihilomancer who doesn't care about being caught can rack up a truly ungodly amount of charges with even a small amount of arson. A wise GM would probably rule that you have to knowingly destroy a specific object to gain a charge: you can burn down someone's house for a significant charge but you won't get the several dozen significant charges from destroying the victim's possessions unless you know exactly what is in his home and what is valued.
The Major charge is for the utter destruction of every part of your life: no possessions, no friendships, new town, new name. The works. This can also be inflicted on others: cut them off from everyone and everything they ever knew and get a major charge. Killing someone doesn't count. Interestingly enough an Annihilomancer who smuggles immigrants or assists people in changing identities might actually get paid to harvest a Major charge from someone, so long as the process is complete enough.
The Annihilomancer cannot work to stop entropy. If your house catches fire you can't put it out. If your computer gets infected with a virus you can't clean it. No oil changes or repairs for your car. no cleaning your gun. etc. The upside is that this only applies to objects: you can help patch up a friend or get your appendix removed without busting taboo.
Obviously Annhilomancy is about tearing stuff down...but specifically its about destruction for the sake of purification or revelation.
Clutter Buster (minor)
Anything "worthless" (ie with no emotional value at all) bursts into bright flame and is then extinguished. This affects everything within 20 feet of the adept, including their own possessions. The text is unclear on whether or not the fire actually inflicts damage or is capable of spreading beyond the objects to be affected.
The Facts Laid Bare (minor)
By performing a simple divining ritual (the example given is writing a question on a piece of paper and then burning it to allow the ashes to form the answer) you can get a one-word answer to a single question. This is one of those spells that seems minor at first glance but a little thought reveals this spell is waaay overpowered. Any player with good sense can cut through tons of mysteries and problems with just a few castings of this spell.
Lesser Cleansing (minor)
The Annihilomancer minor Blast. This spell can't be targeted, instead it causes all objects of emotional significance within 10 feet (+5 feet per additional minor charge) to catch fire and burn. The actual description is unfortunately vague on how much damage this actually inflicts (simply stating it varies depending on what catches fire) but in many circumstances this is a pretty solid death sentence. Unfortunately the adept's possessions are also affected, so make sure you don't have anything on you that you care about.
Feed The Fire (significant)
This spell is intentionally vague, but is described as "escalating" any acts of destruction or chaos. A minor argument becomes a fist fight, a broken glass sprays shards into someone's eye, a flat tire turns into a pile-up. Although its understandable why this would be vague it really seems like it should have at least some guidelines for the effect it might have on combat...it's hard not to see it being dramatic but no guidelines are given.
This significant Blast spell is actually...almost identical to the minor blast. The range is doubled (20 ft +10 ft/sig charge) but the damage is still "varies depending on what inanimate objects flame up next to them or on them". Guidelines would be nice.
Weight of the World (significant)
This spell is a bit goofy. Anything of zero emotional value becomes magnetically attracted to the target. No duration or exact effect is given, but it's noted that it could be quite dangerous in a junkyard or near a large amount of trash or generic consumer goods.
Pants on Fire (significant)
For one day the target is unable to conceal anything from the person that trusts them the most. The target can tell lies, and everyone other than the trusted individual will hear what they're saying but the one that trusts them will hear whatever the truth is.
Annihilomancy Major Effects
Level an area the size of a city block. The only other example would be starting a cult related to the tenents of annihilomancy which seems...counter to the school's theme. Creating something, even something dedicated to destruction, doesn't seem to fit well. Those are the only examples given.
All in all, it doesn't seem like enough work went into Annihilomancy's spells if you ask me.
Anyway, next time we'll cover Cryptomancy and Iconomancy. Both are pretty lengthy so I'll try and fit them into one update but no guarantees.
Adept Rundown, part 3Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 3
Next up on the docket we have Cryptomancy...hoo boy, Cryptomancy. Get ready for an infodump.
Cryptomancy: Truth, Lies and Hot Guys
So, Cryptomancy has an unprecedented amount of backstory compared to other schools. In defiance of the "postmodern" style of most magickal schools Cryptomancy has its roots in the ancient Greek equivalent of Grindr. It all began with the Mystery Cults of ancient Greece which, according to UA, were a way to initiate those interested in the path of the Avatar (as seen through the lens of Greek religion and society) and to meet hot young guys.
Once the Romans came along who forced the mystery cults even further underground, but they continued to attract new followers and patrons. Partially this was because they still offered a good method to become an Avatar and attain supernatural power but also largely because it was an opportunity have sex with other guys secretly. This kept the cults going strong throughout the Roman era but things got shakier with the rise of Christianity, a religion with a reputation for frowning on both worshipping pagan gods, magickal powers and guy-on-guy action. The Inquisition was the final nail in the coffin for most of the mystery cults.
In the end, only two cults remained: one in Germany and one in England. Both had spent centuries evolving from religious changes and new blood. They continued to emphasize homosexual relationships among their members but the focus on the Archetypes (as seen through the "masks" of the Greek Gods) became fuzzier and they began to focus on the concept of secrecy itself as a form of magick. Despite the separation this was true of both Eastern and Western branches, but their approaches differed:
The Eastern (German) branch of what would become Cryptomancy felt that the Truth (capital T intended) was sacred and should only "belong" to the elite and enlightened. The "masses" could not be trusted with the beauty and power of Truth and thus it must be hidden behind lies. Within the cult they dedicated themselves to speaking only the truth to fellow members but to outsiders they hid themselves behind lie after lie.
The Western (English) branch believed that lies themselves were special, and focused on the power of a lie and thus the importance of a lie. While an Eastern Cryptomancer might lie almost compulsively to anyone not initiated the Western Cryptomancer treats lies as an almost sacred act, a ritualistic and religious tradition of falsehood sprang up in their group. They strictly kept to the truth in all non-ritual contexts, giving their lies (when they used them) greater power.
At this point (when this happened is vague, but sometime post inquisition) the "core" membership of the cults were no longer Avatars but a new breed of Adept: the Cryptomancers. Despite their similar theme, they are still (for practical purposes) two separate Magickal schools with a shared name. However, beyond the "true" members who embraced the cults philosophy strongly enough to gain adepthood most of the members were simply looking for a cool club where they could get busy with each other. Both sects remained in contact with one another but their differences in philosophy were driving them farther and farther apart.
In particular, the Western branch shriveled (having to maintain constant truthfulness being more difficult than lying all the time) up in until WW2. The rise of the Nazis was obviously not good news for a secret magickal society composed primarily of homosexuals. The Adepts themselves had the magick to hide from persecution but the bulk of the non-magickal members were targeted. Those who escaped fled to Africa, France or England. This led to closer contact with the Eastern Cryptomancers and eventual betrayal. It's not clear who attacked who first. The two sects fought it out in England and both inflicted terrible damage to their already shaky membership but the remains of the Eastern Cryptos fled.
Now both branches are limited to a single larger Cabal of Western Cryptomancers in England and a few tiny scattered groups of Eastern Cryptos in France, North Africa and the US. The increase in acceptance of homosexuality has actually hurt them badly as there's less need for gay men to join hokey secret clubs in order to find partners and their practices seem hopelessly out of date to "modern" magickal societies. Even worse, the spread of knowledge in the Information age is blurring the line between truth and falsehood (and making things like the Eastern Cryptos compulsive lying harder to pull off). The mere concept of postmodernism is also fucking with their chi as the ideas of how and why we communicate (and how it relates to truth and falsehood and intention) is being called into question.
So, what we've got left is (effectively) two different Adept schools which may or may not be around for much longer.
Both schools charge up in different ways.
To get a Minor charge an Eastern Cryptomancer must tell a pointless, but elaborate, lie. You can't simply tell someone something that's not true like giving a stranger a false name or telling someone your favorite color is green when you really like blue more. It has to have an emotional or storytelling element...for instance walking up to a stranger in the park and telling him your name is John nets you nothing, but walking up to a stranger in the park and telling him that you're here to remember your dead wife and the time you walked together in the park would get you a minor charge. Lies do not have to be told directly to count, for example if you hire an escort, take her out to dinner with you and work to give everyone the impression that she is your wife, daughter, sister, etc then that would be worth a charge as well. Eastern Cryptos often work together to create these scenes, developing soap-opera style situations that they play out for witnesses around them. You get charges per lie, not per "victim"
Western cryptomancers get charges for seeing through lies, that is by learning secrets and hidden truths. A minor charge is gained when you get a secret that isn't particularly well hidden or unimportant. Noticing someone's PIN code, sneaking a look at their phone's message log or contact list while they're in the bathroom or checking their browser history would all get you a minor charge. You need to find out the secret under false pretenses (for instance, getting a person to share their medical history by pretending to be a doctor) or by overcoming attempts to stop you (such as getting access to the victim's computer or phone). Having someone freely tell you a secret or share a document or message is worthless...the entire point is that you must get information that they wouldn't normally share with you.
In order for an Eastern Crypto to get a Significant charge they've got to craft a longer, and more elaborate lie. This has to fool several people (at least a dozen) and hold up for at least a week. It also has to produce an emotional response or prevent one. One example is related to the schools ties to homosexuality: a homosexual cryptomancer "in the closet" could earn a significant charge every week for playing straight...but only if the people they're convincing would actually care if they learned the crypto was gay. Some other examples: pretending to be a family member or convincing someone that someone is (or isn't) dead. Posing as an important community member such as a priest might also have this effect.
Western Cryptos get a significant charge for learning dangerous secrets, the sort of stuff that breaks up marriages, puts people behind bars or get you fired. You don't have to do anything with the secret but you can "double up" and get a second significant charge by revealing the secret in an important way (telling a hobo that the mayor likes it rough while wearing a dog collar isn't worth anything but telling a tabloid journalist or their family would).
Eastern Cryptomancy gets a Major charge for committing vaguely defined "massive fraud". It's not really clear what would qualify, but probably something like a very successful pyramid scheme, developing some kind of hot-selling homeopathic snake oil or lying your way our of a criminal conviction would probably qualify.
Western Cryptomancy gets a Major for discovering and widely publicizing a secret that multiple people would kill to protect. This requires uncovering conspiracies, taking down criminal organizations or major political scandals. Not only that, but you've got to do so in a way that's widely believed and accepted: printing that the president has people killed and their tongues ground up to make a potion for the State of the Union address is not going to get you a charge if you plaster it all over tabloid or a Geocities website. Getting a story in the New Yorker or otherwise turning it into "actual" news would be worth it though (even if you aren't strictly able to prove it). Think Edward Snowden kind of stuff.
For Eastern Cryptomancy the taboo is revealing truths. They can make true statements to people who know the truth already, so if someone sees you panting and sweating in a tanktop and sweats you can tell them (truthfully) that you've just had a hard workout. Likewise if a police officer shows you DNA evidence that they found at a crime scene then you can admit you were there without busting taboo (ironically, if you weren't there then you can't truthfully tell them that the evidence was planted by someone else). The one exception is revealing truths to other cryptomancers.
For western cryptomancers the taboo is knowingly telling a direct lie. Half-truths and weaseling are totally fine, there's nothing wrong with deceit itself...you just have to trick people while sticking firmly to factual or suitably subjective statements. This only applies to spoken communication...you can print any lies you want and send all the scam emails you please.
And while its not strictly related to taboo, both schools have to deal with an extra problem: their paradigm is falling apart, leading to a -10% reduction in their effective skill when it comes to actually casting their spells.
The Eastern school focuses on revealing and/or concealing truth and lies, as well as making lies into truth (at least for the liar).
Western Cryptomancy focuses mainly on obfuscation and concealment, defending ideas, people and even places from discovery.
Hand of the Gods (minor)
This is a spell that both schools share in common due to their shared history in the greek mystery cults, it allows you to attune yourself to a particular Archetype, letting you make us of the corresponding Avatar's lowest (1-50) channel. This is automatically a success (assuming you cast the spell successfully) but only works once per casting. You can only channel Archetypes you know about and (to a degree) understand, it's not enough to merely guess at something that sounds right. A brief list of "known" archetypes is provided for each of the two sects...oddly neither includes the really "obvious" Archetypes like the Mother or the Warrior.
Gods Forgotten (minor)
Another "common" spell for both sects. This spell temporarily erases someone from reality. While that person is gone no one remembers them except for the Cryptomancer himself. The vanishing is really short (2 rounds, plus one round per additional minor charge). the victim doesn't notice the missing time, just seeing everything "jump" around them.
Hermes Tongue (minor)
The third shared spell is an excellent lying tool, giving you perfect memory of all lies you've told before, preventing any contradictions and logic errors (at least unintentional ones). Casting this spell also allows a Western Cryptomancer to lie without breaking taboo.
Truth's Hammer (minor)
The final shared minor spell. If you cast this spell while making a true statement all listeners know it to be true (presumably this refers merely to objectively true statements). Attempts to deny the truth require a Self check (level depending on the power of the statement to the listener). This also allows Eastern cryptos to speak the truth without breaking taboo.
Foolish Eyes (Minor, Eastern)
Make one inanimate object look like another of roughly the same size. You can make a banana look like a gun or a clipboard look like an ipad. This only lasts as long as you are holding or touching the object. For another minor charge the duration will extend 3 minutes after you stop touching the object or lose consciousness. The illusion is purely visual.
Sacred Voice (Minor, Eastern)
So long as you maintain eye contact with the target they cannot tell an intentional lie, although they can refuse to speak.
Eye of Hecate (minor, Western)
You gain the equivalent of the Aura Sight skill.
Bond of Secrets (Significant)
This is another shared spell. This one lets you form a "brotherhood" by sharing some kind of secret (which can be as minor as a secret handshake). All participants must be willing and the spell only lasts as long as the secret is kept. Intentionally giving up the secret by a member requires a Self check and if the bond is broken everyone involved must make an Isolation check. The benefit is pretty significant: when making a Stress check you can act as though you have a "virtual" hardened notch so long as there's a member of the brotherhood that has a higher Hardened rating than you in the meter.
Heart of the Gods (significant)
Another shared spell, this lets you use either of the first two Avatar channels (1-50 and 51-75). That makes it one of the most powerful Cryptomancy spells (if not one of the most powerful adept spells in general). One drawback is that it draws the Archetypes attention, causing trouble if you live your life in a way that subverts or opposes the Archetype.
Sacred Invitation (significant)
Another shared one. This one lets you actually become an Avatar for 24 hours, replacing your Cryptomancy skill with the appropriate Avatar skill. You can't use Cryptomancy while this is going on but you're also exempt from the Crypto taboo...but the Avatar taboo applies and skill loss is permanently applied to your Cryptomancy skill if you use it while in the Avatar state. You can do this while already being an Avatar, but it involves a Self check.
Liars Seed (significant, Eastern)
This allows lying without speaking. You have to look at or touch the target and you can place a false idea in their head. There's minimal guidelines beyond that, other than that a target is likely to dismiss illogical or unpleasant lies.
Transformation (significant, Eastern)
An improved version of Foolish Eye and has all the same limitations, except that the change is actual rather than illusionary. Turn a plank of wood into an ipad and you can connect to the internet or turn a toothbrush into a razor to give yourself a shave. Keep in mind you can make guns but unless you spend the extra charge to make the effect lasting then the bullets transform upon leaving the gun anyway (which may or may not matter depending on the original substance).
Hermes Blessing (significant, Western)
You can understand any spoken or written language, but it doesn't grant the ability to speak it. This lasts 24 hours + one day per additional significant charge.
Taste The Darkness (significant, Western)
This gives an indistinct impression of the target's most important secret. It doesn't actually tell you the secret, just giving associations and emotions linked to the secret. You have a rough idea of the "type" of secret (a secret about sex feels different than one about addiction for instance) and the general motivation behind why it is kept secret.
Iconomancy: The Avatars of Avatars
Iconomancy is kind of a low-rent, Adept version of being an Avatar. Rather than walking the path of an Archetype and gaining power from the Statosphere, Iconomancers emulate famous people (called Icons). Iconomancers supposedly sprang from cults of ancestor worship (or not so cultish in cultures where such post-death deification was standard practice such as Ancient Rome or China.) or the veneration of Saints. Modern iconomancers focus on celebrities and working to mimic them and obsessing over the details of their lives. The Icon in question does not have to be a member of the Invisible Clergy (odds are good they're probably an Avatar though, but that's also not required). It's heavily implied, but not outright stated, that an Icon must be dead.
Although it states that supposedly the practice is much more common in Asia, only two Asian icons are provided: Ghandi and Moa Se Tung
To get a minor charge, the Iconomancer needs to perform a two-hour ritual worshipping the Icon in front of an image or representation of the Icon. If used as part of a powerful rite of passage (marriage, birth, baptism, funeral) the process is only 15 minutes...although it seems like the time savings doesn't mean much when you consider how much effort is involved in setting up those sorts of situations.
Significant charges are gained by learning some important, new fact that contradicts common knowledge of the Icon or serves as a reminder of their flaws or humanity (acquiring an object that symbolizes this works as well). For instance, getting a dress from maralyn monroe with armpit stains or tape of JFK completely flubbing an important speech. Alternatively you can modify your body to "match" your Icon in some way, this requires significant plastic surgery or similar body mods.
The only requirement for a Major charge is to bee present at the death of someone famous enough to become an Icon.
An Iconomancer can gain charges from multiple Icons without difficulty, but all charges can only be spent on spells specific to the Icon that provided the charge.
Iconomancers can never be famous themselves, having their image spread through any national medium (or the internet) voids their charges. Even worse, you can't get any new charges until the picture is somehow expunged from the public domain. In the modern world, this means that getting your taboo broken is basically a death sentence.
Iconomancers have no "full" spell list, instead they have spells associated with different Icons which represent the Icon's popular traits magnified to supernatural levels. Often Icons have "negative" and "positive" sides. Some invocations are limited to certain types of Adepts, for instance Marilyn Monroe can only be invoked positively by a woman or a male transvestite but can be invoked negatively by anyone. Some examples:
Marilyn Monroe : These effects are noted as often resembling pornomancer spells, dealing with attraction and sex appeal. The "Short Skirt" spell drives a man wild with desire unless they make a Self check. She can be invoked negatively with the spell "Her Way of Saying Thank You" for 2 Significant charges to incite in a woman the desire for attention.
JFK : JFK can be invoked for skills of inspiration, courage and liberal values. You can draw women into seductive conversation, appear to be a member of the Kennedy family or inflict political scandal on a victim.
Elvis : Mainly focusing on music and performance. You can make yourself sexually irresistible (yes a lot of these Icons do allow you to get into someone's pants magickally) to one target for a few minor charges or, for a significant charge, you can do the same but affect all targets of a chosen gender. Elvis also has the spell with the best name ever: Dionysian Pelvic Frenzy which sends any crowd you're performing for into a frenzy of drinking, sex and violence.
John Wayne : Positively, Wayne resembles (for obvious reasons) the Masterless Man. You can use him to add to your Wound Points temporarily or inflict fear in others. Negatively it can invoke his irradiation during the Conqueror film, causing the target to be be betrayed by whatever organization they most love or value (yes, Iconomancy effects can get very specific).
Nixon : Nixon can be used for diplomacy, acting and (of course) lying. He is mostly invoked negatively. One positive use is to understand a foreign culture (called Breaking Down the Great Wall). He can also be invoked to "blank" up to 18 minutes worth of video or audio recording of yourself. Most iconomancers should probably court Nixon just for that, it's invaluable as a tool for insuring your face doesn't get out in the world.
That's all for Iconomancy and Cryptomancy, next is Infomancy (nerds) and Irascimancy (assholes).
Adept Rundown, part 4Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 4
Want to hack the world and play a 1337 Techno Wizard!? Want to smite your foes with dank memes and doxx them into oblivion? Well the infomancer is for you, nerd!
Well, sort of. Despite the extremely obvious focus infomancers have on "hacking" themes, there's a bit more to them than just being early 90's hacker stereotypes. The Infomancer's focus is the medium of information transmission itself...you can be an Infomancer who deals exclusively in dead-tree media and wouldn't touch a computer with a 10-foot pole (of course, it'll be a lot harder). While the Videomancer taps into the power of mass media to connect and unify humanity's awareness, the Infomancer looks at how media changes the message in the process of conveying it, and in turn how manipulating that media manipulates perception and understanding. An Infomancer presented with an article or essay would care less about the actual content of the message and more about how things like font choice, text breaks, image placement and even the color of the paper it's printed on might influence the reader.
Of course, despite that...its hard to separate the infomancer from hacker cliches and the Adept write-up doesn't do much to try and counter that image, although the taboo throws an interesting (and difficult) twist onto it: infomancers "refine" their magick by warping the media experience, but exposure to unaltered "raw" media is toxic to their power, a bit like a nastier version of the Narco-Alchemists taboo (well, sort of...the Narco-Alchemist does have to hand-make their own addictives).
To generate a minor charge the infomancer has to "disrupt" his own consumption of media. He has to experience media in a incoherent, non-standard fashion: channel surfing by flipping stations every time you see someone's teeth, browse wikipedia by following every 3rd link until you land on Kevin Bacon's page, open 10 different youtube windows and let them all play simultaneously. Alternatively you can perform minor "hacks" of mass media: vandalize an outdoor ad in some meaningful way, post a doctored photo of someone important online, etc.
To create a significant charge you need a bigger "hack". Defacing a major webpage or altering the destination of its links would work. Releasing a computer virus that changes the default language settings on someone's computer, screw around with a radio or TV broadcast, etc. So long as it'll get at least several hundred people's attention and interferes with the intended "message" behind the media it'll probably qualify as a significant charge. If your disruption remains in the public eye for a long period you may earn multiple charges from it over time.
To get a major charge you need to disrupt media on a national scale. For instance, jamming or altering the president's state of the union address (from the source...screwing with a local TV station so your town sees a different version than everyone else is worth a sigificant charge, but you need to get your version to the entire country for a major charge). In the modern age taking down or defacing extremely high-traffic websites such as youtube or wikipedia would likely qualify as well. If your disruption extends beyond a single country then you can earn multiple major charges at once.
The Infomancy taboo is a bitch.
You lose all charges when you consume media in "normal" coherent manner. There's no problem getting your "data" straight from the source: listening to a musician perform live, talking to someone face-to-face, etc is perfectly valid...it's only when there's a "middle-man" involved that you bust. Fortunately disruptive consumption (such as what you do for a minor charge) won't screw your charges and neither will "peripheral" media so you can walk past a billboard or a rack of magazines or even be in the same room as someone watching TV, so long as you don't allow yourself to focus on and absorb any information through the media. The guidelines are a bit vague but if you've absorbed any coherent (and especially useful or important) information via media will break taboo. So if you're in a bathroom, you can look up and see someone scrawled "fuck you, urination is for the weak!" on the wall you're fine...it's just "noise"...but if you read "look out, there's a camera hidden under the toilet seat." and you check the place for bugs then you're definitely going to bust.
The kicker comes with just how restrictive the taboo is... any kind of media will cause you to lose charges. Paying attention to a radio announcement, examining a photograph, getting an email or a phone call. Even reading a post-it note with anything more than the most meaningless drivel on it can screw you over.
Ironically, this is where the "hacker" image gets a bit shattered...Infomancers can effectively only experience life "live" and face-to-face. They can't chat online, watch movies, play video games or watch videos recreationally, they can't even read a book.
Infomancy is all about manipulating information (duh) and perception. Equally important for the infomancer it allows you to "hijack" communications in various ways in order to bypass some of the restrictions Infomancy places on you.
Changing Channels (minor)
This spell allows you to "swap" two skill's ratings (including the flip-flopping effect of an obsession) for your next non-magickal action. For an extra charge you can do this to a willing target, for two extra charges you can do it to an unwilling target (if they fail a mind check). The three charge version makes a decent defense, but it's much better at more subtle forms of sabotage such as screwing over someone's Driving skill during a car chase or their persuasion or negotiation skills in a social situation.
basic Professor X-ing, allowing you to transmit your thoughts to someone for 10 seconds, which can include both words and images. At 1 minor charge this is one of the easiest and subtlest ways to "gaslight" a target...there's no range (the only requirement is that it target only one specific individual) and it's incredibly cheap. You can use the brute force method of simply transmitting horrible images and thoughts into the target's brain which inflicts up to a Rank-2 Stress check of your choice, but the downside is that you experience the same thing so you have to make the same check (no problem if you're already Hardened of course). Of course, simply being able to speak as a disembodied voice in your target's mind whenever you like is likely to be an extremely effective long-term strategy for forcing stress on a target as well.
The Infomancy blast. It works by "jamming" all the target's sensory equipment, namely their body's perception of itself and the background messages passed between body and the brain...basically inflicting a mini-seizure.
This Just In (minor)
This spell uses more-or-less the same procedure as the process for getting a minor charge, but uses it for divination instead. The exact effects are a bit vague...it can give information as specific as a location or telephone number so it's hard not to see it as massively disruptive to any kind of investigation or mystery-focused game.
Not an apple product. This lets you turn any audio media near you and your target into a two-way "radio". You can talk to your car speaker and your target hears your voice coming from their TV and vice and versa. Both transmitters must be on and playing (so you can only transmit through someone's phone if they're currently having a conversation with it or using it to play music or video). This spell only works on a willing recipient
Doctored Records (significant)
This lets you alter the contents of a single piece of media by touch. For one significant charge this lets you alter a portion: one song on an album, a scene in a movie, chapter of a book, subject in a photo, etc. Completely rewriting the material takes 2 significant charges. Given the massive potential for framing and blackmail this is probably one of the strongest and cheapest significant spells out there. You can't alter transmissions or similar media "in the air", you have to have access to the source: so you can't alter a webpage without access to the server that hosts it or change a TV broadcast without access to the camera filming or the antenna transmitting the broadcast.
Infomancy is just full of good "fuck you" spells (while still having one of the more effective Blasts as well). This creates an information disruption field around the target preventing them from accessing or receiving information. Screens fuzz or blank, speakers play static and phones will cut out. Even printed media will blur or distort. This also affects anyone trying to look up info for the target.
Although the infomancy minor blast is just as effective as any other (and more than some) the Significant blast is a bit worse. It inflicts damage over time equal to the sum of the roll until it reaches the amount rolled (so a roll of 57 would inflict 12 (5+7) damage a round until the victim has taken a total of 57). While they are taking damage the opponent also suffers a -5% shift to their skills...unfortunately they can also attempt a Mind roll to purge the virus and stop the ongoing effect.
Big Brother Is Watching (significant)
You can track a target by their media consumption...you immediately know any location where they engage the media. In addition to knowing the location you can gain visual or auditory information (or both) about the location around the target based on the type of media they are consuming: so a target who listens to a song on their ipod will transmit the audio around them to you so long as they are still listening. If the GM really wants to screw with the adept have the target try out a scratch-n-sniff or read some braille.
Infomancy Major effects
Permanently gain or give someone a skill. Alter the public's perception of someone. Access all information on a subject. Temporarily gain complete control of a national medium.
Irascimancy is the power of anger management (in more ways than one). The Irascimancer can take anger directed against him, keep it locked up inside and unleash it as magickal power. They are also one of the wonkiest adepts as far as taboo and charging structure goes, despite a relatively simple concept.
Irascimancers gain minor charges by ticking people off in pointless, unproductive ways. Attacking someone you wanted to fight anyway won't get you a charge...but leaning on your horn behind someone (or sitting, unmoving at a greenlight) would. The exact requirements are a bit vague but the charging target must have some way of identifying you (anonymous pranks are worthless) and there has to be at least the potential for a confrontation or consequences. Flipping off a busload of passengers as they drive past isn't worth a charge (even if they were angered enough they couldn't stop to confront you after all), but standing in front of a car and keeping it from pulling away would (even if the driver doesn't choose to get out and confront you or call the cops there's the risk that they might).
Irascimancers have a pretty easy time getting significant charges: all it takes is hijacking an argument or fight between two people. Find any fight or confrontation and get both participants pissed off at you. PTA meetings, town halls, debates and support groups are all good sources of significant charges.
They've got an even easier time with Major charges...in fact I'll say that they have the easiest time of any Adepts. Although an Epideromancer can crank out more of them faster they suffer dire and permanent consequences in the process. To get a Major charge all an Irascimancer has to do is get a crowd of at least 100 people pissed off at you. Obviously in certain circumstances this is very dangerous...but there's numerous situations where you can get your opposition good and riled and they can't do anything to you (unless you piss them off enough to tip off a full-scale riot). If there's an Irascimancer in the westboro baptist church they are raking in the major charges.
The Irascimancy taboo is one of those taboos that would be extremely difficult for a "real" person to avoid but extraordinarily easy for a PC controlled by a player: they cannot express their own anger without losing their charges. There's a few other taboos kind of like this, but the writers usually come up with some mechanical way to give it "teeth", for instance the Amoramancer cannot fall in love (something difficult to impossible to reinforce mechanically) but they also cannot charge exclusively off of one person for an extended period.
The writers seem to be aware that this is a bit difficult to pin down as well (outside of triggering your Rage passion) because they go as far as to suggest that you might want to enforce this taboo on the player's actions during the game regarding OOC subjects...because nothing goes over better than this conversation:
GM: Hey, you're acting pissed off. Now all your charges are gone.
Player: What! I'm not angry! WTF!?
GM: Well, if you weren't angry before, you are now. Taboo broken.
Won't lead to any broken relationships at all!
As what seems to be an attempted "band aid" solution, the Irascimancer is hit with a fairly restrictive limitation: they can only affect someone by meeting their eyes. The rules seem to indicate that this is fairly easy (even a quick glance works)...but depending on the GM's attitude on the matter it could be crippling.
Irascimancy is...obviously...focused on unleashing and directing people's anger. It can also work in subtler ways by breaking down the bonds of civility and culture, forcibly getting people in touch with their feelings and urges.
The target has the emotional sophistication of a 2 year old for about a minute (or one combat round), giving them the attitude (and wit) of an angry child.
Enemy Roulette (minor)
This spell redirects someone's anger onto a new target for two combat rounds (or two minutes out of combat), usually turning it on the nearest other person...but if no one else is around they'll take it out on animals or objects.
Anger's Vice (minor)
The Minor Blast spell, this "force chokes" your target's organs a bit. It can be "gambled" identically to the Entropomancy blast.
rusty daggers (minor)
The target believes that someone nearby who they trusted has betrayed them. If violence is currently afoot the subject will wrongly believe their friend/comrade is trying to hurt them.
Dividing Line (significant)
This spell lets you "flip" someone's affection, turning it into immediate anger. although it can be used to turn spouses or family against one another it can also inspire anger against a beloved place or object.
Poison Pen (significant)
This is a bit of an odd spell. like all Irascimancy effects you need eye contact, at which point you can cast both this spell and a second spell. Then, within 24 hours, you must write a letter, fax or email and send it to the target. once the target reads it they will be subject to the effects of the second spell.
Fires of Fury (significant)
The significant blast is just like the minor except it can affect anything with a torso (the minor could only affect beings with functioning organs). It still won't work against demons and ghosts.
Mob Mentality (significant)
By making a passionate statement to an assembled group the Irascimancer can instill the message into anyone he can make direct eye contact with (video won't work) during the speech. The victim will strongly believe in what the Irasicmancer is saying for about 24 hours aftewars.
Irascimancy Major effects
Start a revolution. Inflict vengeance on anyone that the public at large wants to see punished.
Adept Rundown, part 5Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 5
Key + (Apple X Bird) = magick thieves
Hey, remember Kender? Weren't they fun. Now you can play a kender-wizard!
Please, stop screaming.
Well, for better or worse, this is the Kleptomancer, an adept powered by theft. This is one of those adept schools that's a little bit too straightforward with its theme. They steal and that gives them magickal power. There's no postmodern twist or flair to the idea...they're just thieves who also happen to get a magickal charge from thieving. The supposed paradox of the school is that it is never possible to steal enough...which isn't really much of a statement. It also claims that the act of stealing is more important than what is being stolen (not true, since the value of the object being stolen is what determines the value of the charge you get). Unlike plutomancers or bibliomancers (schools with a similar style) there's no real "twist" or complexity...a Plutomancer can get rich building charges but is forbidden from actually using that money for anything but the Kleptomancer just has to keep stealing (i.e. the thing they'd be doing anyway) and they can do whatever they want with the things they steal (they could even give them back).
To get a minor charge you have to steal something, duh. Any object worth 100$ or less is worth a minor charge. The object must have some value (stealing trash gets you nothing) and it's loss must be noticeable (even if it isn't actually noticed). So for instance, stealing a dime from a cash register is worth a charge as it's loss could cause the register's count to come up short, but stealing a handful of M&M from a loose bowl wouldn't (because the owner likely wouldn't realize that there's any missing)...however, stealing the same amount of M&Ms from the owner's gingerbread house would (as the missing candy would be noticable). The theft must be performed personally, hiring someone to steal something is a no-no (this would also presumably prevent you from profiting from less direct theft in the form of dodgy accounting, tax fraud, etc), but that's more a decision for the GM. Given how vaguely defined "object" is, your standard Kleptomancer can really get massive quantities of minor charges at once...run into a convenience store, grab a handful of junk food and run out and you've gotten dozens of minor charges so long as you can avoid being actually chased down or caught. An actual armed robbery could net literally hundreds of minor charges, as much as you can carry.
For a Significant charge you have to steal something worth between 100 to 1 million dollars (each object is one charge, regardless of individual worth). That's really all there is to it. Nabbing cars, laptops and smartphones is probably the easiest source of minor charges.
For a Major charge you have to steal something famously unique (mona lisa, hope diamond, etc) or any object worth over 1 million dollars.
Kleptomancers also have an additional twist...they can steal charges from other adepts. If a klepto steals something from an adept who has an appropriate charge then they get twice as many charges and the victim loses a charge (so a Klepto who steals a bibliomancer's lawn ornament gets two minor charges and the bibliomancer loses a minor charge). Adepts should be careful not to tick off a kleptomancer (or make sure that they're not alive to attempt revenge), because they can power themselves up while powering you down.
The klepto taboo has two parts. The first is simple enough: you have to steal something, anything, every week. Which...doesn't seem like a big deal. I would imagine that most adepts are looking to charge up a lot more often than once a week so it's hardly going to be causing them any trouble.
The second part is a bit looser: if you get caught, you lose any charges gained from the theft. If you're already tapped out of charges then you go into "debt" and lose the appropriate number of future charges. Being "caught" is not really satisfactorily defined...the implication seems to be that you are actually forced to suffer some kind of punishment for the crime (being forced to return or pay for your theft, sent to jail, fined, etc). This can be a big deal if you're planning on keeping your stolen goods...an adept who gets caught by the police with a buttload of stolen valuables can find themselves not only drained of charges but in the hole for many other charges in the future...but in most cases you're just stealing to charge up and once an object is stolen there's nothing that says you can't simply dispose of any evidence: throw your stolen smartphone in a nearby garbage truck, burn the pile of scratch-off tickets you yanked off a convenience store counter or even just leave all the stolen items on the doorstep of the original owner if you feel like it.
Kleptomancy is all about being a magick thief: movement, misdirection, deception, etc.
Instant Locksmith (minor)
open any lock by randomly fiddling with it.
Out To Lunch (minor)
The "Look A Distraction!" spell. It lasts for about 15 seconds and during that time the subject just stands around confused. They won't react to anything not immediately dangerous or direct attempts to gain their attention. They might vaguely remember what happened while confused but won't act on it (they'll simply recall it later if asked, and can't provide any important details), making it ideal for simply walking past guards or taking important objects.
This makes the subject temporarily lose track of some object that they aren't currently using or making skin contact with (no making people believe that they're naked). The object doesn't vanish, the subject just has an utter inability to locate it. No one else can find it either, except the klepto, who can take it without anyone noticing or reveal its location (breaking the spell).
Steal Breath (minor)
The Klepto minor Blast. It steals the air from the subject's lungs and a little bit of their life force. In addition to damage it causes the target to lose their next action, making it pretty damn powerful as far as minor blasts go.
Detect Traces (minor)
A form of psychometry which is limited to using stolen items. The more valued and precious the item, the more information you can learn from it. Stealing a bit of gum from someone's wallet might get you their name and maybe a vague autobiographical summary ("overworked mother", "IBM Programmer" etc). Stealing their wedding ring gets you intimate details about their life and personal history, but never specifics (you can learn how happy their marriage is, how many kids they have and where they were born but not their PIN number).
Electronic security will not notice you for the next half hour. You don't appear on camera, set off motion detectors. In fact, more literally you become a complete "blind spot" to all electionics, not just security: your voice won't carry over a phone line and the phone won't even register that you've dialed a number. Even cars won't start. For an extra significant charge you can extend this effect for up to 12 people so long as they stay within a few yards.
The Big Switcharoo. (significant)
An upgraded version of a minor spell, this lets you swap any two objects or living creatures up to motorcycle sized (including yourself if you wish). They have to "fit" in their new positions and have to be of roughly similar size and shape (but not mass). You have to see both subjects clearly. One downside is that the switch only occurs when no one other than you is looking at the objects (although even a blink is enough to allow it).
Steal Life (significant)
The Significant Blast. In addition to inflicting firearm damage it actually lets you steal some of their life force to heal yourself (up to your max, no increasing your total). You can also use this spell (somehow) against mechanical and electronic devices, although it wont' give you any healing.
Steal Memories (significant)
Exactly what it sounds like. You take one of the target's memories, learning the facts while wiping the information from the victim's mind. You must specify the memory in an unambiguous way, and it must be the memory of an 'event' rather than a 'fact'. For instance, you can't steal the target's memory of the date of their birthday...but you could steal the memory of the last time they told someone their birth date or their memory of their last birthday party. The memory can't be too long (probably no longer than a few hours at most) and you have to steal something from the target to cast the spell, something of personal value. Finally, stealing memories is a rank-5 Self check on your part (and maybe on the part of the target if they realize they're missing something important or essential from their memory). You can "heal" stress by stealing the target's memories of the stressful event but then you have to resist the same stress yourself.
Kleptomancy Major Effects
Permanently "vanish" anything smaller than a moving van or make it appear in your possession. Teleport anywhere you want in the world. Gain the ability to be unseen at will. Steal a quality from someone else.
This is your brain on Magick
Another one of those out-of-place schools with an oddly ancient backstory. Like Cryptomancy, Oneiromancy harkens back to the classical period...fortunately its history is not nearly so complex. The "old-school" Oneiromancers were what the name literally implied: diviners and prophets who foretold the future with dreams. For the most part they all died out long ago, leaving only vague traces in the modern form.
Modern Oneiromancy is just a couple of years old and is based on delirium and self-induced exhaustion. By denying themselves sleep they bring the dreamworld and the real-world closer together until the line between the two begins to blur and merge. This grants the ability to reach into the dream world and meddle there or pull the dream into the waking world and inflict it upon the conscious. Just make sure you've got plenty of coffee. The modern Oneiromancer comes from only one source, a performance art group called 101001101 (led by the Rahyab, who I will detail later...but suffice it to say that the Rahab is an uber NPC that makes the Freak look pretty tame in comparison).
Oneiromantic charging resembles dipsomancy, without the convenience or speed. To charge up you must deny yourself sleep until you start to suffer penalties. The "good" news is that Oneiromancers start to get penalties much sooner than a normal person: they kick in after 12 hours awake. Every hour after 12 you take a -5% shift to Mind and Speed skills (plus any Soul skills requiring focus or Body skills involving coordination) and you get a Minor charge. You can consume two cups of coffee (or equivalent stimulant) to keep the penalty from increasing but this prevents you from gaining a charge that hour. You can erase penalties by taking more stimulants.
After 20 hours you get a -10% penalty per hour and at 36 hours it goes up to -15% and increases by an additional -5% per hour for every 8 hours afterwards. If your penalty ever exceeds -50% then you have to make a Body roll to avoid nodding off briefly (breaking taboo).
Oneiromancers get a Significant charge once they spend 36 hours awake and another significant charge every 24 hours after. Clearly, this is not easy, doubly so considering their taboo.
Oneiromancers effectively cannot get a Major charge...or more strictly speaking they can but there's no way to actually do it beyond GM fiat. They must do it "old school" style: speak a prophecy and witness it fulfilled. And no, you can't make up a prophecy then make it happen. The prophecy must be spontaneous, important and without justification. Prophesying Barak Obama will be elected president after he's been nominated as the Democratic candidate isn't worth anything...but making that claim when he's a young man in high school certainly would...but you can't do anything to make it come about yourself.
Much like the dipsomancer, but worse. The Oneiromancer busts taboo when they sleep, even for an instant, or when their exhaustion impairment hits zero (say by consuming enough caffeine to completely cancel it).
All told, the Oneiromancer is probably the worst adept type when it comes to balancing their charging vs taboo. The Dipsomancer has the same harsh taboo but they balance it out by having the fastest and easiest charging structure out of any adept out there. Even their significant charges flow like water once they've got a suitable vessel. The Oneiromancer has one of the most difficult times gaining minor charges with a 12-hour "head start" needed and a delay of 1 hour between each charge (assuming they don't take stimulants). Their significant charging structure wouldn't be, comparatively, too bad..except they'll lose their charges unless they use them immediately. Even building enough charges for some of their spells is almost impossible (staying up the 60 hours needed means that the penalty-per-hour you're dealing with is -30%, requiring 12 cups of coffee per hour to counteract. If you aren't the Rahyab, Oneiromancy is kind of a shitty deal.
Visions, delirium, sleep and hallucinations. Like half the adepts we're covering, Oneiromancy powers are about manipulating perception in some way. Despite its origins as a form of divination modern Oneiromancy cannot reveal or clarify: only distort, conceal and warp. Along with having a brutal charging structure the Oneiromancers are also devoid of any really interesting spells.
Black Coffee (minor)
Perform an action with no sleep penalty or counter the effects of a failed Body check to stay awake. This would seem like a surefire way to help staying up late for long periods to build up minor charges...but the law of transaction is going to kick you since you can't earn a charge on the period if you use this spell to keep yourself up (although you can use it to avoid busting taboo).
Don't Close Your Eyes (minor)
The Oneiromancy minor Blast. It implants a nightmare that hangs around in your victim's subconscious until they sleep causing them to suffer a nightmare (inflicting an appropriate stress check at rank-5) and causing the subject to wake up with injuries related to the nightmare. Obviously not much use in the heat of the moment but a good silent-killer since you can build up multiple blasts on someone without them knowing it. Two big downsides however: first, your target must be awake at the time (so no targeting sleepers) and second, if you fall asleep before your target does the blast has no effect. Oneiromancy is a bitch.
Twiddle The Knobs (minor)
Basically lets you mess with the settings of your victim's perception: increase or decrease volume, brightness, saturation, hue, etc, by up to 50% one way or the other (multiple castings stack). It's kind of useless outside of annoying someone or convincing them they've been poisoned/drugged. But you can use it on yourself to sharpen your senses or reduce them to prevent overload. The changes last until you (not the victim) next sleep.
Forty Winks (minor)
Makes someone do that little nod-off and jerk awake thing you do when you're really tired (although if the victim is in a position where they would be comfortable sleeping this spell would probably do the trick). The main effect is a -30% penalty to any check made in the next 30 seconds...or forcing another Oneiromancer to immediately lose all their charges.
No Sleep Til Brooklyn (significant)
The Significant Blast. Same as the minor except in addition to damage (and the normal unnatural stress from being hit by a Blast) this spell also inflicts two Rank-7 checks against appropriate meters. A surefire way to wreck someone's mind...so long as they fall asleep before you do.
Shadows and Fog (significant)
You become extraordinarily difficult to notice: -50% if you're walking, -70% if you're standing still. This has no effect in combat, but otherwise lasts until you next sleep.
Dreams Made Flesh (significant)
This spell must be cast on someone sleeping, exhausted (-50% or more impairment) or in a trance state. It makes whatever dreams or hallucinations they have appear in the real world. The effect is intangible but often dramatic (likely involving stress checks).
In The Hole (signficant)
Denies the victim their senses completely for a number of rounds equal to the ones place on your roll. in addition to rendering them helpless, the spell inflicts Unnatural and Isolation checks. The victim can try and resist by rolling under your Soul stat every round (if not in combat the roll must be higher than 30 to succeed).
Up All Night (significant)
This spell lets you substitute your Onieromancy skill for any skill that you have no rating or default in (so you can use it to learn computer programming or rocket science but not to drive a car). The effect lasts an hour but increases your impairment by -10% in the process.
Oneiromancy Major Effects
Make a dream object or entity completely real. Altering the environment as though you were lucid dreaming. Receive a prophetic vision.
Adept Rundown, part 6Original SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Adept Rundown, part 6
Postmodernism is for pansies
Thanatomancy is one of those "So terrible it's only for NPC villains" adept schools...and when you consider the sort of shit normal adepts get up to, that's saying something (of course, in practice Thanatomancy isn't that much harder than some adept schools like Narco Alchemy or Entropomancy).
As the name implies Thanatomancy is all about death magick. Thanatomancy isn't even modern, let alone postmodern...Thanatomancy is straight up prehistoric. It's based on a very simple formula: sacrifice = power. Theoretically, you could perform Thanatomancy without resorting to human sacrifice, but it just won't have the same oomph. So odds are pretty good that any given Thanatomancer is going to be doing a lot of murder (relative to the amount of murder ordinary UA PCs dabble in anyway). All that said, despite the drama surrounding it Thanatomancy isn't exceptionally powerful compared to other adept schools, although it does do some tricks rather well.
Getting a minor charge requires the ritual killing of an animal (it must be a mammal or bird) in an hour long ritual. After the ritual is complete the charge is "stored" in a piece of the target's body that the thanatomancer must have with him in order to use the charge. Although messy, it's pretty trivial to gain boatloads of minor charges so long as the adept is willing to put in the work. Feeder mice cost practically nothing and unlike buying 10 puppies a week no one will be asking any questions (also, really easy to store charges if you don't mind carrying around a bag full of mouse tails). You can probably expect a "fresh" Thanatomancer to easily have dozens or even hundreds of minor charges.
Significant charges are when things really become tricky, because this is where human sacrifice is required. Any human sacrifice will do, but it must be a ritual killing performed without the use of magic and the ritual must last at least two hours. If you can manage it a willing sacrifice is worth two charges. To count as willing the sacrifice must knowingly consent to the ritual, remain conscious throughout and never change their mind as death approaches (although you get the single significant charge regardless). As before, you've got to keep a fetish of the victim in order to "store" the charge (be careful not to leave your fanny pack full of ears on the subway).
Major charges require the sacrifice of an important individual in an elaborate 12 hour ritual. Important means either someone famous (A-list celebrity), another adept with a Major charge (good luck) or a Godwalker. Or someone you deeply care about such as a spouse or child. As before a willing sacrifice is worth double and you need to keep a part of their body on hand to use that charge.
Thanatomancers cannot kill outside of a magickal context. So you can kill someone as part of a charging ritual, or murder them with a Blast spell but you can't blow their head off with a shotgun. Injuring people is fine, but actually taking life without magick will bust your taboo.
Thanatomancy is fairly limited. You can certainly kill things, or you can unkill them (to a degree). It's also the school with the greatest command of the spirit world (demons, revenants, etc). However, outside of life, death and the in-between there's not many tricks available to the Thanatomancer. The Thanatomancer's biggest problem isn't all the murdering they have to do...its that they're kind of dull. It's like being at a party with a really boring goth.
Die Like a Dog (minor)
Or, as the case may be, die like a small mouse. This is the Thanatomancer minor blast which inflicts the "death" of the sacrifice on the victim, causing them to suffer standard minor blast damage (for humans). Animals are affected more severely due to their similarity ot the sacrifice, taking firearm damage.
The Healing Spirit (minor)
This spell heals damage equal to the sum of the dice on your roll. Although effective, it leaves heavy scarring.
The Calling (minor)
Summons (but doesn't control) a demon. You cannot summon the spirit of anyone you have personally killed.
The Tethering (minor)
This lets you bind a spirit to a specific location, creating an artificial haunting. Although it doesn't provide any control beyond that, it's very useful leverage...after spending a week trapped in a dollhouse most demon will probably agree to anything for release. There's another minor spell called the Sundering which can be used to reverse this (which breaks the bonds a spirit has to any current "anchor", usually putting them to rest (or in the case of demons freeing them to roam or kicking them out of a possessed victim).
Borrowed Death (significant)
This is the significant Blast, inflicting firearms damage to human enemies (it can also inflict damage directly to the Soul stat of spirits). Against animals it does only the sum of the dice (in practice this is meaningless since you can always split a significant charge into 10 minor ones to use Die Like a Dog).
This spell lets you boss demons around directly, lasting until the next midnight. The demon must follow any orders or answer any questions but it still ultimately has free will so it can twist or misinterpret orders to fuck with the adept.
Stolen Life (significant)
Stop aging for 6 months or become a year younger...I'm not certain why anyone would go for the first option. Keep up the murdering and you can be immortal.
The Trade (significant)
Mystical CPR. This spell can be attempted only once at the moment of a target's death and if it is successful it will restore them to life with 10+1d10 wound points.
The Binding (significant)
This spell binds a demon to a corpse, allowing the demon to animate it (although once inside the demon can't leave on its own). The corpse won't decay (any further at least) but it also cannot heal or perform any involuntary biological functions. It's not actually clear if it's possible to kill a reanimated corpse through normal damage, but destruction of the body will kill the demon or set it free depending on its soul stat relative to the spellcasting roll.
The Face of Death (significant)
You can appear as the embodiment of death to one person (1 significant charge) or everyone who sees you (3 charges). This induces a rank-10 Helplessness check and anyone who fails must flee or freeze (they cannot attack you). A matched failure causes them to faint, a critical failure causes a heart attack.
Kill several people, stop aging. Become young again, banish all the ghosts in a city. raise an army of undead. Eliminate a disease, perform a resurrection.
And with that we are at the end of the adepts for Postmodern Magick. I'll keep going to cover some of the weirder artifacts, creatures and groups in the book.
Penis-Beasts and Robo-MenOriginal SA post Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick Penis-Beasts and Robo-Men
After the Adepts comes a chapter on Unnatural Beings which did not show up in the 2nd edition of Unknown Armies. They're pretty weird so it's worth a look-see.
If you recall, way back when I did the review on the Mechanomancer it was noted that you can do a whole lot with a Major charge...well, Automata are Major clockworks taken one step further. Like Tina Lovac from the main book, they are self-aware, sentient and (sometimes) free-willed clockwork that is, mostly, indistinguishable from a living human. They don't need food or water (although they could potentially do so for appearances sake) and they don't excrete (including sweat). They may or may not be anatomically correct.
They can include any and all of the features of a Major clockwork (such as retractable blades or claws) and like Major clockwork they can be built with true emotions and feelings, or even with the trapped soul of a once-living human inside. Of course, if an automaton is fully and emotionally "real" they can suffer from Stress just like a normal human.
They also have an additional restriction: finicky power sources. Automatons can be built to hold up to 40 days worth of potential energy in their internal clockwork (they can be designed to hold less, usually so they're less independent). They can also spend a day's worth of energy for a burst of strength and/or speed (+10% to Speed or Body for a single roll, up to +50%, or a single +10% to a strength/speed based Skill). If they're hit by a matched success in combat it also permanently lowers their storage by 1 day due to damage to their power train.
Normal Automatons need to be "wound up" in order to restore their energy supply. Sometimes this takes the form of an actual winding keyhole somewhere on their body, sometimes its a limb that needs to be rotated or manipulated. The only restriction is that the automaton can't perform the action themselves, they can't add energy directly into their own system although they could potentially use other devices (such as simply clamping their key into the end of a power drill or similar) and many mechanomancers also create minor clockworks whose sole function is rewinding their automatons.
Of course, a mechanomancer can always build their Automaton with a perpetual motion engine but that has its own risks: They automatically gain two days of energy every day, a net positive...and if they go over their limit then they suffer 1d10 damage per point over (and every 1 rolled on this damage reduces their capacity permanently by a point). Of course, so long as the Automaton can keep active (even if its just some "exercise" to burn off the energy) there's no real danger from overcharging. The biggest problem is that whenever they roll a matched result on a Speed or Body based skill the dice are added together and added to the Automaton's Speed score and once their speed doubles then they explode.
Automatons can become Mechanomancers as well and (if they're good enough) even scavenge their own body parts to produce Automaton "children".
Finally, (although the book chides you as a powergamer for considering it) you do have the potential option of creating an automaton PC character.
Meet the rape monster.
Literally, the Carnal is the product of rape and similar sex-crimes, the glistening, jiggling hate-baby left behind by the psychic residue of some of the worst stuff imaginable. The description is...unpleasant...with words with "veiny", "musky" and "moist" thrown around quite liberally.
Yes, these are basically tentacle rape ghosts which haunt the area where the crime took place, manifesting when a similar victim appears and then re-enacting the crime with the added fun of violent murder. It's possible to "kill" them while they're corporeal, but this just destroys their physical form and they eventually re-appear within a few weeks. They can be summoned like demons and potentially killed permanently in a similar way.
I don't think anyone is sad that these things didn't show up in later books, I can't imagine them actually making anyone's game more enjoyable. UA can be pretty god-damn fucked up sometimes...but I think we can all agree tentacle-monsters belong in shit-holes like Black Tokyo.
Here's something I'm glad didn't show in up 2nd edition as well, but for very different reasons. Faeries are technically a species of Revenant, i.e. ghosts. Specifically, the ghost of a stillborn child who is tied to the physical world by the grief of its parents. While that's not entirely unoriginal, the actual Faeries themselves are almost completely stereotypical.
They pretty much hit all the main points: they're whimsical, mischievous, concerned mainly with their own entertainment and play. Despite being the spirits of unborn babies they typically are just as intelligent as normal adults, but lacking in morals or empathy. They have a crude "culture" mainly concerned with passing fads and codes of conduct and they've even got their own vague "dreamworld" separate from the rest of UA's cosmology and in places where the border between the "real" world and faerie-land grows thin faeries can manifest (or those dreaming, drugged or insane may visit it mentally). They use simple, weak telekinesis to create false bodies and illusions from dust, cobweb and similar materials.
One upside: they're magically delicious. If you eat a faerie the pure purity of their souls instantly makes you ten years younger.
No, not that one
Ghost Writers are another Revenant...or actually they're demons. The distinction between the two can get a little vague. Basically they're Demons whose obsession is a bit more refined than your average sex-fiend or glutton. They want to create art (usually, but not necessarily, writing). And while they're just as obsessed as any other demon, the nature of their obsession means that their methods are a bit different. They don't just want to jot down a few pages while fighting their host's will only to have their works thrown in the trash...their obsession is to complete their art and that's just not going to happen while they're fighting some meat-sack for supremacy.
To that end they focus on finding sleeping victims, possessing them, working on their projects and then getting their host back to bed before their conscious minds wake up. Sometimes the ghost writer will try and send its works out to publishers or otherwise get "recognition' which can lead to odd situations for the clueless host. Otherwise they're basically identical to demons except for one skill: Ghost Author, which they can use to automatically seize control of a victim's writing, allowing the ghost writer to control what actually gets written or typed out. Typically they only use this once they've practically finished their project or if they realize that their host is onto them and is trying to force them out.
The Wronged are Revenants that hide themselves in the shadows of someone who has been falsely accused of a terrible crime, but found innocent. The Wronged were, in life, themselves the victim of a similar situation. In death they find a similar host and they "re-enact" the crime that they were accused of, wearing the hosts face while they do it (but not possessing them...the host's shadow vanishes while the Wronged is out committing the crime and it uses it to create a false body). The Wronged's goal is to keep suspicion alive, by wearing the host's face and committing "copy-cat" crimes it keeps suspicion alive in the community and focused on its host...even while its usually clearly impossible for the host to be guilty. If a host dies the Wronged will simply move on.
The only way to lay one to rest (beyond magickally killing or binding it) is to completely and absolutely prove the host innocent of any wrong-doing in the eyes of their community (usually by finding a new target for the public's suspicion).
The Sleepers have a ritual that they can use to transform an ordinary Astral Parasite into a Thaumophage...a magick-eater.
Thaumophages aren't hunters though, they're traps. They must be bound to a potential source of magick, something an adept might use to get a charge (a book, a bottle of alchohol, a historic site, a person, etc). Any time an adept tries to get a charge off of the infected source the Thaumophage will awaken and devour all of their charges. This can be used as a trap (sneak an "infected" drink to a dipsomancy and they'll lose all their current charges) or to "poison the well" for long-term charging, such as tainting a cliomantic charging site or a dipsomancy significant vessel.
However, they can also only act when someone tries to charge up from an infected source, they aren't otherwise resistant to magick or able to feed off of it without being "tapped" by an adept. So a Dipsomancy or Thanatomancer could easily kill a Thaumophage once they're aware of it and it's even possible to bind a Thaumophage to an adept as a defense...a Bibliomancer with a thaumophage "bound" to them won't have any problem getting their charges from their books but the thaumophage would devour all the charges of any adept who tried to use the Biblomancer as a source of charges themselves (such as an Amoramancer flirting with them or a Personamancer imitating them).
If killed a Thaumophage goes off with a bang: releasing all eaten charges as unnatural phenomena.
Some of these artifacts were reprinted in the 2nd edition core book, and some (The Transcription book) are just boring. Here are the highlights.
Mal Gusano (minor)
Want to piss of a Dipsomancer? Slip him one of these. The Mal Gusano (Bad Worm) is a microscopic tapeworm egg that survives in alcohol. When drunk by a dipsomancer it grows into a full-sized tapeworm and devours every third charge. You still get drunker, you just lose a bit of magick. And you've got a tapeworm.
Even worse, they're a bitch to get rid of (assuming you can even figure out what's going on). Each charge they "eat" will keep the tapeworm alive and happy for a week, but once they're used up the thing'll die in a week without any charges. That may not sound like too long but remember how many charges the dipsomancer tends to generate at once and the fact that "starving" the tapeworm requires them to go sober...probably for months at a time. Those who figure out what happened usually get it removed surgically (if they can afford it) and then make a point of hunting down the bastard who slipped them the worm.
The Alter Tongue
The Alter Tongue is one of those nearly world-ending incidents that fly under the radar.
It started with a pair of fraternal twins, Robert and Virginia Alter, born in 1918. Their mother died when they were 4 and they were left with an abusive uncle who kept them locked away in an old barn. Kept in almost constant darkness and totally alone they were only "freed" 8 years later. Their uncle was locked up and they were taken to an orphanage.
Like all creepy twins, they had their own language. But sealed in their barn their "secret language" went far deeper than normal. It had its own complex grammar and a vocabulary with no relation to any other language. It was a primitive, primal language and it resonated with the Statosphere in a way normal words didn't. Even worse...it was infectious. Before long other orphans and orphanage staff picked up a few words here and there and it began to slip into their everyday speech. The more you were exposed to the language the more it changed you, bringing you closer to others who spoke the language and closer to the Statosphere. Before long the orphanage was cut off...no one left and they no longer spoke anything other than the Alter Tongue. The building itself starting warping...the interior was unlit and the walls turned to bales of straw. In the darkness the shapes of the Archetypes could sometimes be seen out of the corner of your eye.
It all ended with a strange visitor who went directly to see the Alter twins and spoke to them fluently in their own language for almost an hour...then killed every man woman and child in the orphanage, leaving their bodies to rot and burning every written document of the language. The police discovered this two weeks later, with the only clue being a note: "Not Yet, I Think".
Despite the Count De Saint Germain's extermination of the orphanage, the language still survives in the form of a few wax-cylinder recordings made by linguistics students back when the twins were first discovered, kept in the Ohio State University Archives.
If exposed to the language for more than a few minutes you must make a Soul roll or become "infected". If you fail then the words begin to slip into your vocabulary and knowledge of the language starts to spread. Every week after that you have to make another Soul check. If you succeed you can shake off the infection but each failure inflicts a -10% penalty to further checks to resist it. once the penalty exceeds your Soul stat the infection has totally taken hold. Those infected suffer repeated unnatural phenomena as the language distorts reality around them. The unnatural effects worsen over time and will usually lead to Stress checks.
Obviously, wide-scale exposure could be catastrophic to say the least and one of the few unnatural events powerful and insidious enough to slay even the Sleeping Tiger.
The Crying Doll (Significant)
Your standard barby-style doll, except it looks like it's been dipped in blood and then painted with mystic glyphs and bound with red yarn around the neck and ankles (allowing it to be worn as a necklace).
The doll is essentially a magick-detector. It cries within 13 yards of an adept or avatar, or moaning within 13 yards of an unnatural creature and shaking when within 13 yards of an artifact. All of these reactions intensity the closer the doll gets to the source of magick.
Demon Stration Tape (significant)
Really stretching for a pun there.
This is magickal police tape, the modern version of a pentagram or circle of salt. By writing a charm of protection on the reverse side of the tape and wrapping it across a doorway or around an area you can block demons, whether material, immaterial or bound to an object or person. They can't touch or affect the tape either. The power lasts until the adept leaves the tape's protective area or anyone else breaks the "barrier".
The Gremlin Factory (Significant)
The gremlin factory is a remnant of old-school mechanomancy, the result of a pissed off old mechanomancy raging against "kids these days" with their fancy filament light bulbs and internal combustion engines. The Gremlin factory does exactly what it says on the tin...it makes gremlins.
What exactly gremlins are is never described. They're apparently microscopic, something a bit like a mechanical "virus". They are made by filling the Factory (which looks like a wooden cabinet studded with levers and dials) with fine clockwork parts and then turning it on (requiring a Mechanomancy skill check), whereupon a bottle full of gremlins is produced. If you just throw in some parts and pull some levers you get "generic" gremlins which can "infect" a machine they come into contact with, inflicting a penalty to all skills using it equal to the sum of the Mechanomancy roll for 12 hours and reducing the machines overall efficiency by an equal percentage.
The machine can also be "fine-tuned" to target the gremlins to specific devices, causing that device to suffer a penalty equal to the roll for 24 hours. A matched success gives 4 times the normal result (rendering most machines inoperable).
The Knocking Box (Significant)
I would call this artifact the Holy Grail for the Order of St Cecil...but they're also looking for the actual holy grail. Essentially this is the mystic equivalent of the Ecto-Containment System from Ghostbusters. It's a simple wooden box with the words "Knock Thrice" and "Do Not Open" inscribed in archaic german in the wood.
It was used by an order of monks, who long predate the Cecilites, as a means of imprisoning Demons and similar rogue spirits. By knocking three times on the box any "loose" spirits are irresistibly (-20% soul check to resist) drawn inside and trapped. The monks would then perform a ritual to release the demon's souls, sending them to their final rest (or at least sticking them back beyond the Veil where they belong). Unfortunately, that ritual is long forgotten and while the Vatican kept ahold of the box for a few more centuries its missing now too.
Of course, as a powerful tool for containing demons is going to be insanely valuable to begin with...but there's one big problem. Although the ritual to release demons from the box has been lost for centuries the box has seen extremely enthusiastic use nevertheless...and those demons are still trapped inside. Thousands of them. While they're in the box they're completely cut off...they can't be summoned or banished (beyond the specific ritual for the box) and they can't even be attacked with magick. And all it takes to release them is for the box to be opened.
If that happens everyone within 10 KM would likely end up possessed, by multiple demons, including the animals (leading to widespread lycanthropy) and everyone with 1000 KM with above-average Spirit scores would be a magnet for demonic forces.
The Cardboard Palace (Major)
Dear god, the cardboard palace is a cool artifact...but does it really need almost 4 pages devoted to it? Here's a summary.
The wizard-hobo equivalent of a floating tower. The artifact itself is a dirty shoebox held together with duct tape and covered in weird symbols. This is the King Box, which grants its holder access to the Cardboard Palace, an extradimensional realm of hobo delights.
The Cardboard Palace is an Otherspace consisting of sprawling cardboard tunnels and rooms which "claims" unused space from all cardboard boxes within 5 blocks. Essentially, so long as the boxes are intact and are open on no more than one side they "share" their space with the Palace...but as boxes get filled in, busted up, or moved the size of the Palace shrinks.
In addition the holder of the King Box can (with a Soul Check) sense how many suitable boxes are within the King Box's sphere of influence and open (and close) up to 10 simultaneous gateways to the Palace through suitable boxes. Alternatively the boxes can also serve as windows instead of doors and the arrangement of the Palace (within the limits of the available space) can be changed at will and the holder of the King Box can sense any living things in his domain.
But...there are always "buts". The King Box itself cannot be taken into the Palace and must be left in one of the gateway boxes. Nor can the King Box be disguised with magic. Finally, it's got a bit of "One Ring Syndrome" a tendency to get inconveniently lost, stolen, misplaced, etc...a tendency that increases the more security is used to try and keep it safe.
What's more, it can be pretty unsafe in the box-world. Sudden changes in size (caused by a large volume of boxes being lost) can slice you up as the walls rapidly expand or contract and if the King Box is flattened everything inside gets smushed.
However, there's one remaining feature that makes the box-world pretty worthwhile: magick can't travel from the normal world to the Box-World and so long as you're inside the cardboard palace spells cast from outside won't effect you (downside: they remain "on hold" to get you once you emerge) and inside the palace adepts can only use magick if you wish. Still, the Cardboard Palace is probably a better prison or trap than it is a home.
Magick OrganizationsOriginal SA post
So, it's been a while (brief hiatus from extended internet usage) but I'm going to give a shot at finishing the last bits and pieces of Postmodern Magick and then move on to something else. Last time we completed magickal critters and artifacts and now we're onto magickal groups.
Unknown Armies: Postmodern Magick part 7: Magick Organizations
This cabal, whose binary name translates to "333", is a mystic performance art group dedicated to the practice of Onieromancy. In fact, they're pretty much the only modern practitioners barring a few ex-members and anyone they may have taught. They co-opted the remnants of the London rave culture from the mid-nineties and they're kind of the glowsticks-and-ecstasy version of Mak Attax. They travel world-wide, throwing parties featuring both mind-altering drugs and magickal "special effects" to expand public consciousness.
There's only about 100 members and only about 10 real Adepts among them, all Onieromancers...but that number can be deceiving since many of the drug-addled misfits who are a part of the remaining 90 are "riders" whose perceptions of reality are blurred enough that they can be "ridden" by Onieromancers to help this relatively small number of adepts project their powers safely on a much wider scale (presumably while they're in some basement hooked up to a caffeine drip. Those who cross them (or just can't handle combination of hallucinogenics and reality warping) often end up in comas with their wiped out brains being re-purposed as "spare parts" for the cabal.
The entire group structures itself in a way loosely reminiscent of a computer system (the name isn't just for pretension's sake) with the non-adept flunkies and (former) enemies serving as "peripherals" or extra memory while the Onieromancers themselves serving as processors. At the center of the metaphorical computer (the "CPU" if you will) is probably the most annoying, "super-special-magick" GM-NPCs in Unknown Armies: The Rahyab. Yes, even more than the Freak.
The Rahyab is actually a set of fraternal (brother and sister) Iranian twins who frankly come off as a little bit redundant to the more interesting set of weird magick twins from the Alter Tongue entry. Like the Alter twins the two grew up sharing their own special language (which has spread to become the "true" language of 101001101) and grew up together in isolation (although their isolation was due to uncaring parents and cultural barriers). The two basically look like they stepped out of Wraeththu, being beautiful androgens who started banging each other once they hit puberty. At some point along the way they literally invented (or rediscovered) modern Onieromancy by themselves and a few years ago (in setting) their souls merged into a singular entity.
The two act as though they are separate entities: arguing, engaging in petty power struggles with one another and even suppressing their shared knowledge intentionally to create "surprises" that they can spring on one another. This ruse helps to support and strengthen the symbolic tension that they use to keep 101001101 together (and keeps the two from becoming a collective avatar of the Mystic Hermaphrodite...something the Freak has made very clear would be a bad idea).
Now, what makes the Rayhab? Two things: first, sharing one soul means that they can (if they wish) know anything the other does and share their stats. Combined they've got a body of 105 , Speed of 135, Mind of 110 and Soul of 160. These stats are normally evenly divided between the two but if they wish they can tip the balance (so if one of them is threatened they can "drain" stats from the other to improve themselves), with the only limit being that exceeding 100 in a stat can only be done for about half a minute. They can also draw skills from anyone in 101001101's "network", giving them a broad selection of abilities.
The big thing though is that they don't need to sleep. Remember, these guys are onieromancers...the adepts whose powers depend on how long they go without sleeping. They are never impaired by lack of sleep and are therefore constantly building charges, to a degree that puts even the Freak to shame. They get a minor charge every hour (so 24 minor charges a day) and a Significant charge every day and basically get to ignore all of the downsides of Onieromancy as a result. Although the Rayhab may not have the Freak's level of raw physical threat their ability to be in multiple places at once, the power to draw on just about any skill they want and their shitload of charges means that they're a pair of creepy twins you don't want to get involved with (especially since they can basically load you down with Minor or Significant Blasts without you realizing it until you go to sleep).
Are We Cool Yet?
The Dealership is an organization run by the Bad Man (i.e. totally not Leland Gaunt) a powerful Merchant Avatar. He's a good example of my previous stance on Merchants (i.e. don't fuck with them). His "office" is secured against just about anything short of a full-on military assault with several blast-proof doors, secret exits and a staff who have signed their loyalty to the Bad Man in exchange for various favors.
The Bad Man himself is buff , as you would expect from a high level Merchant, although his Stats are relatively measly (90 across the board), he has 220 Wound Points, a ton of skills at 80-90%, over two centuries of extra "life" and immunity to disease and poisons. He's supernaturally durable with bullets, blades and blunt force inflicting damage only equal to the highest die rolled (so a maximum of 10 points). He has a perfect memory and a briefcase from which he can pull any inanimate object small enough to fit inside it. He has quite a few "thralls" who have signed away their life to him and several people in very high places owe him favors (a clause in all his contracts means that if he wants to call in a favor the person he is thinking of is compelled to call him).
The Grail Knights
The original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Ever hear of anyone going on an epic quest? Odds are good they ended up as one of these old guys. The Grail Knights are actually a collection of demons, several of whom mastered the neat trick of "possessing" their original bodies, keeping them "alive" indefinitely (although some never learned that particular trick or simply lost their original body somewhere along the centuries. Their shared obsession is the search for the Grail...they just can't agree what the Grail is (in fact, they have a standing agreement not to discuss the topic after the last argument cost half of them their current bodies). The exact definition of the Grail varies for all of them but they recognize that they are in a shared search for enlightenment or divinity.
Lancelot believes in the "traditional" grail, the cup of christ while Joseph of Arimathea believes it to be the bloodline of Christ and searches for Jesus' living descendants. Simeon Bar Yohai was a Talmudic scholar who became obsessed with learning the secret name of God and Paracelsus is looking for the Philosopher's stone.
The Grail Knights share a loose confederacy to share information, meeting every year to discuss their progress, plan for next year and find out who didn't make it through the past year.
Names included for maximum ridiculousness
You know "Real Life Superheroes", the collection of extremely nerdy misfits who run around "do-gooding" in ridiculous home-made costumes and who run the gamut from goofy charity workers to idiotic wannabe-vigilantes? Well, this is the UA equivalent.
It all started with Martin Davis, a comic book and RPG nerd who just couldn't let go of his escapist fantasies and tried to emulate his "heroes" by doing things like training in martial arts...but also studying magick. He eventually managed to stumble on some real mojo, hooking up with an Entropomancer looking for a student. Thrilled to learn that his fantasies were "real" he dedicated himself to learning magick (and like most adepts, ruining the rest of his life in the process).
After his teacher disappeared with some cryptic final words Martin managed to put a bit of his life back together...and he got back in contact with his old gaming and comic buddies. After managing to prove to them that he wasn't just crazy he offered to introduce them to a world of real magick and wonder...but with great power...
The gang formed a group of occult superheroes (although only two others aside from Martin had any actual mojo: a guy with an artifact and an Avatar of the Flying woman). Fortunately they retain enough sense not to jump through windows in tights shouting "surrender evil-doers" and most of their "crime-fighting" has simply consisted of them finding shady occult activity and drawing unwanted attention to it. Fearing the tiger, most adepts and other unsavory types skip town rather than throw down.
So far, the worst blowback the group has experienced is pissing off a mechanomancer who burned their original "HQ" to the ground. Now they operate out of an office building (the public location unknowingly keeping them safer than secrecy ever would have).
The gang shows just how much can be accomplished in the Underground by a group of clued-in mostly normals. Of course, if they aren't careful they'll also show just how bad things can get for a group of "clued-in" idiots who are in over their heads.
UFO (Unidentified Foreign Ontology)
These are those guys you really don't want to get stuck having a conversation with at a party. They take "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" to a whole new level.
Essentially UFO is a group that believes mankind is on the verge of awakening to a new level of being or consciousness. Unusual events like UFO sightings and psychic phenomena are seen as the first signs of this "awakening".
Of course, like the Grail Knights, none of them really agree on the where, how or why of this rebirth. Some literally believe in aliens coming to elevate humanity, others throw around ideas like merging alternate realities, the thinning of the barrier between the material and the spiritual, changes to the collective unconsciousness, etc. The word "Quantum" probably gets thrown around a lot.
Fortunately, a total lack of understanding doesn't stand in their way. Together they search out unusual events and general weirdness, hoping to find some clue as to the coming...whatever.
This is a collection of "Duke" level NPCs. Some notable facts:
Carthage And Rome : These two are a pair of Demons who have been screwing with one another for the past ??? years/decades/centuries. They engage in nonsensical and seemingly arbitrary contests. The two share an obsession with beating the other and thus are constantly coming up with new "games" with no rhyme or reason (often involving mortals as pawns). Essentially they are a pair of "random adventure hook generators" given names and set upon each other.
Eustace Crane : Crane is a frustrated Mulder living in a Scully world. He's basically the UA version of James Randi, a skilled stage magician who is also extremely well educated in physics and psychology. He also has an intense hatred of those who use "magic" to defraud or trick others and actively seeks out and debunks them. But he also desperately wants to believe in magic and the supernatural, he's just too intelligent to delude himself into believing without proof (he's even got Randi's 1,000,000$ prize for provable magic). Unfortunately, he's also a walking anti-magick zone: magick in his vicinity will never work and reality even warps itself to ensure that no evidence of real magick is ever available to him. Even if some amazing, dramatic magick event happened outside of his zone of influence he'd just happen to be looking the other way at the time.
Fu Hsing Hwang : This little old dude is, first and foremost, a near-Godwalker level Fool avatar. He is also, apparently, the only person capable of teaching Enlightened Tai Chi, a special Struggle skill which of course is a super-martial art. Although impressive for unarmed combat it doesn't take the place of a gun however (but in combo with his Fool abilities I wouldn't try to fight Fu Hsing Hwang if I were you).
The Nomad Raphael Raph is an Urbanomancer with a difference. Specifically he's an "Urban Shaman" which we are told is not really an urbanomancer, but probably seems like it should have been (they even have the same taboo). Basically Raphael comes off as a weird hybrid of Thanatomancer and Urbanomancer. To gain charges he must perform "sacrifices" to specific totems (Car, Gun, Pollution, Home, and Rat) by ritually destroying items symbolic to them (burning down a house, catching and killing a rat bare-handed, pushing a car into the river, etc). Raphael must keep a fetish of the totem spirit which he can draw on for Minor charges or drain completely for a significant charge. For a major charge he's got to sacrifice an Artifact representation of the totem. All in all he's got a much easier time building charges...the downside is he can only perform Random Magick, no formula spells and each sacrifice only grants power with the totem in question.
And so that's it (finally!) with Postmodern Magick.