Unknown Armies: Statosphere by oriongates
The Chronicler; The Confessor; The HealerOriginal SA post
So, I was skimming the Statosphere supplement and considering whether or not I should give it the same treatment as Postmodern Magick. I was a little doubtful since (on a cursory glance) a lot of the Avatars weren't amazingly interesting to talk about. But then I came to the Outsider and noticed their third Channel and I knew that there were things that must be shared.
So, here we go...
The first part of the book opens with info we've mostly already covered (the nature of archetypes, avatars, etc), so we'll skip right into the meat of things with the Avatar entries.
The Chronicler is caught somewhere in between the Scholar (detailed later) and the Messenger Archetype. The Chronicler Archetype is all about making history, not merely knowing it and the closest analogue in modern life is a journalist, reporter or blogger. However, unlike the Messenger the Chronicler is not overly concerned with literal truth and authors and poets are just as valid as Avatars of the Chronicler, so long as their work speaks to time and culture they live in. Whatever form their art takes the Chronicler seeks to capture a snapshot of "life" as they see it and the current cultural zeitgeist.
Taboo: The Chronicler must be observers. They can take part in the events they are observing but they should never be the ones taking charge or the ones that the story is "about". An undercover reporter writing about the conditions in a sweatshop would be fine, but if he starts to encourage the workers to strike or unionize he'd break taboo.
Second, the Chronicler must spread their observations. Any time they take part in an event that is important to themselves or their world then they must record or express it in some way and do everything they can to spread it to the public. Needless to say, this can be dangerous for those involved in the twisted business of the Occult Underground. Better use a pen-name.
Suspected Avatars Just about any historical artist or writer whose work was a commentary on their time could qualify: Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. Many well-known reporters or investigators might also be Chroniclers.
1-50% By making a successful Avatar roll you can flip-flop the next roll you make to gain information about a situation or person. This is pretty broad and could include investigating a crime scene, interrogations, hacking a computer, etc.
The Avatar check is penalized or improved based on how much you know about what you're looking for already...it's no good to just roll it up every day to have a hanging flip-flop available, you need to have some idea of what you're after.
51-70% You gain an intuitive sense for important events. So long as you have a relatively specific idea of what you're after ("Where is the next big crime story going to happen?" is too vague, but "Where will the next big break in the Tongue-Tier murder case occur?" is fine). Chroniclers would make terrific detectives or investigators...if it weren't for their non-interference taboo. Your intuition can only function a few days ahead of time and can only reveal the "when" and the "where", not what will occur.
71-90% : This channel is a little vague. Basically you have your finger on the "pulse" of the world and simply learn of happenings elsewhere with a successful Avatar roll. The success of the roll is influenced by how much of what you already know of the situation you want information on...and that seems to be the only guidelines. So as far as I can tell a good roll lets you find or spy on anyone you want...kind of makes a lot of the other channels a bit obsolete.
91+% With an Avatar roll and an hour of in-person observation (significantly less time if you can physically interact with the subject) you can "read" their past and present, giving you an idea of their stats, stimuli, madness meters, skills, work, hobbies, etc. Each piece of info requires a separate roll. This gives the subject a -20% penalty to all attempts to deceive you.
You can even "read" the future if your roll is under 30, but this is limited to vague information, letting you know if they'll be involved in an important event of interest to you.
You can even perform the "read" on a dead body, but it won't go any further back than the time of their death. Remember, this power reveals general facts about the target, not specific info (so you can learn a corpse was a former cartel drug trafficker, but won't tell you the time of his death or who killed him).
NOPE. Nope, nope, nope.
The Confessor is the mental and spiritual counterpart to the more physically-oriented Healer. The Confessor combines elements of psychoanalysis, priest and interrogator. They heal the mental wounds of others by revealing the source of these injuries and peeling away lies and self-delusion.
Taboo: The Confessor must hear a "patient's" whole story. They cannot interrupt or stop them (no "our time is up") and in fact the text even states that they cannot allow the confessee to pause...which has disturbing implications but may simply be poor wording. The confessor can offer honest advice, comfort or suggestions but they cannot force the victim along a particular path unless they honestly believe it would be the best for the confessee.
The second taboo is that the confessor must record the confessions they hear, writing everything down in a journal or a log so the secrets and stories they hear are not forgotten. Honestly, this feels a little out of place and it seems like the writers may not have been able to come up with a better taboo that has any meaning. It seems like a better taboo would be compelling the confessor to keep the secrets they hear and not act upon such information.
Suspected Avatars Sigmund Freud is the iconic modern Confessor but other suspected Avatars include inquisitors and lawyers.
1-50% : With a successful Avatar roll you can diagnose someone's mental state, reading their Madness Meters, Obsessions and Passions. You can do this a number of times per day equal to the 10's digit on your Avatar skill.
51-70% You can be a Sin-Eater by encouraging the subject to reveal secrets and in return they can remove Failed or Hardened notches. The importance of the secret determines the amount of notches removed. Minor secrets remove one, Significant secrets remove two, Major secrets remove three and Mortal secrets (a secret capable of utterly destroying the subject if revealed) removes all. This can be done twice per day and requires a successful Avatar roll.
An important note...this does not require the target to be willing and the Confessor gets to choose which notches are removed. This makes it an extremely powerful interrogation tool or tool for weakening an opponent with a powerful mind by convincing them to reveal secrets and removing Hardened notches to make them more vulnerable to a Stress of your choice. Imagine a torturer who can keep their victim from building up Hardened notches in Violence and Helplessness.
71-90% Once per day with a successful Avatar roll you can convince the victim to reveal a secret to you. This can be just about any secret and even better the target believes it was their choice and does not feel like the Confessor forced it from them. Even better, better it combines with the Sin-Eating channel.
If you want a powerful Adept/Avatar combo think of what a high level Confessor/Eastern Cryptomancer could do. Remember that Avatar channels don't violate the Law of Transaction.
91+% : You can ease the spiritual wounds of ghosts and demons. With a successful roll you can get a revenant or demon to speak with you and reveal what binds them to this side of the Veil. The result is a sense of relief and positive feelings towards the Confessor, allowing them to interact peacefully with the demon and leaves them receptive to your suggestions. If you get a matched success or if your roll beats the demon's Soul stat then the spirit is freed of its obsession and it passes to the afterlife.
A failure normally just results in the demon behaving as it was already, but a matched failure may inspire it to attack or attempt to possess you.
Not a very difficult to explain Archetype. The Healer is exactly what it says on the tin. The one note is that the Healer Archetype doesn't strictly follow the Hippocratic Oath...sometimes euthanasia is on the table and sometimes treating many patients might require a few to die (such as killing plague carriers to ensure an epidemic doesn't spread).
Taboo: The Taboo of the Healer is to refuse to give aid when they can. This doesn't mean they have to seek out patients or waste their time in hopeless cases but if they find someone they can help then they must.
Suspected Avatars: Florence Nightengale, Jonas Salk, Mother Theresa and of course Hippocrates. Generally, the Healer is best represented by those who were "hands-on" with their craft (sorry Alexander Fleming).
1-50% : If you fail a medical roll that ends up less than your Healer skill you can reroll. This covers first aid, surgery and any medically related fields such as pharmacology or toxicology (although it won't give you a default in the skill if you've got nothing to begin with).
51-70% Jeez, only the second channel and we're already at the mercy-killing? With an Avatar skill roll and a few minutes and comforting words you can painlessly kill a willing patient. Although it's not bad from a purely "fluff" perspective, this really seems like a bit of a waste of a channel. Admittedly, it makes you great at killing willing subjects and helps avoid problems like cleaning up blood or worrying about autopsy results...but how many times are you going to be in a situation where this ability is relevant, let alone important (remember, at 50% the merchant could just buy all the person's Wound Points in exchange for a nice dream...plus all the other shit they can do. The Flying Woman can fly and the Pilgrim can cross continents).
71-90% Now we get to actual magical healing. It's a little hard to say how it works since I don't believe the healing rules between 1st and 2nd edition are exactly the same, but I'd guess it counts as treatment within the "golden hour" and a successful Avatar roll recovers damage equal to the roll result. This cannot be repeated until the subject is injured again.
91+% : With an Avatar roll you can heal diseases and permanent injuries. Penalties are applied based on how severe the disease is (up to -50% for terminal conditions like AIDs or cancer). Crippling or permanent injuries are penalized based on how long the victim has suffered from it. However, it's notable that there are no restrictions mentioned on trying again...
One notable point that is not clearly addressed is whether or not a Healer's powers work on themselves...because if they do the Freak missed a trick by picking the Mystic Hermaphrodite Archetype rather than the Healer. An Epideromancer who can heal permanent injuries is a terrifying thought.
That's all for now. Next will be the Hunter, The Judge and the Martyr.
The Martyr; The Necessary Servant; The OutsiderOriginal SA post
Another fairly self-explanatory Archetype. To follow the path of the Martyr you have to choose a cause. There's no real limit on what your cause can be: spiritual, philosophical, political, etc. are all fair game. It's noted that Martyrs are more commonly ignorant Avatars than not. There are few people willing to literally Martyr themselves for a cause they don't actually believe in and "true believers" rarely require knowledge of the occult to walk the path.
Taboo: The Taboo of the Martyr is very simple: you can't put your own well-being (or that of anyone else) over the good of your cause.
Suspected Avatars : Too many to count.
1-50% : When working in support of your cause you may add your Avatar skill to Body skills related to enduring pain, resisting fatigue, etc.
51-70% : You can re-roll or flip-flop any failed skill roll in exchange for taking Wound points equal to the sum of the dice if the roll then succeeds. The action also has to be in the name of the Martyr's cause.
71-90% : With a Martyr check you make transfer an injury to yourself (remember, damage is tracked per wound), so long as the person injured was acting in support (or was important to) your cause. You can even use this to retroactively undo a killing blow (so long as you can see the victim and you activate the ability immediately)...this rewrites reality to cause you to leap in front of the blow or otherwise "take the hit".
91%+ : So long as you die in the name of your cause you can give your death meaning. You can either inflict the same damage you suffered (flip-flopping if desired) to all foes present at the time or you can choose for your death to become known to other believers in your cause. It doesn't matter how well hidden or lonely your death is...knowledge will spread via some kind of coincidental record becoming publicly available, or even simply an oddly accurate urban legend.
Eh....functional but the Martyr doesn't exactly make for a flashy write-up, most of the abilities are more or less exactly what you think of the moment you hear the Avatar's name.
The Necessary Servant
"Very good, sir."
The Necessary Servant is the vizier, the loyal butler or indispensable secretary. There are two primary elements to the Necessary Servant Archetype. First, they must be relatively anonymous and lowly subordinates (it's not merely enough to be lower on the totem-pole than the big boss). Second, they must be essential to their superior(s)...the servant's master must need them more than the servant needs the master. This means they must be useful and dedicated, going above and beyond the call of duty and performing with exceptional ability.
Taboo: The servant can never take charge directly, they're a bit like the Executioner in that they must always act in the "boss". However, they don't have to slavishly obey their master...a Necessary Servant can act without orders and can even lie about their orders but these actions must still be in the name of another. You can't half-ass things either...if you're given an order or a duty to perform then you must complete it to the best of your ability.
Suspected Avatars: Of course, the best Necessary Servants don't go down in history at all, but some suspected avatars have included Queen Elizabeth's spymaster Walsingham and Hitler's confidant Martin Bormann.
1-50% The first channel is interesting, but potentially more of a disadvantage than an advantage. All Avatars of the Necessary Servant (knowing avatars or otherwise) automatically recognize one another, usually with a vaguely favorable impression. For one Avatar to directly act against another requires an Avatar roll that succeeds higher than the other Avatar's skill. This means it's impossible for one servant to directly act against another with a higher Avatar rating so it's unclear how you would unseat the Godwalker...better wait for them to screw up and violate taboo.
51-70% With an Avatar roll you can perform Exalted Bureaucracy Charms. Basically you can use your Avatar skill to intuit the clockwork of a organization, company, government agency, etc. This means that not only is it easy for them to cut through red tape since they can go straight to the person they most need to talk to (whether or not that person is "officially" the one who handles things), but they also know the weak points of any such group. They can tell who will take bribes, who doesn't work hard at their job and the workers whose loss would hurt the organization the most. Considering that this can also include things like cults, security teams, law enforcement, etc this is a really useful channel.
71-90% You are a perfect social chameleon can (with an Avatar roll) fit into any place and seem like you belong. So long as you don't take any action that directly draws attention to his out-of-placedness. For instance, you could walk into a high-society party in boxers and a tank top and everyone would think you're dressed perfectly...until you grab someone's butt or otherwise act out of place. Your features and details become non-memorable and vague and everyone simply overlooks you.
91+ You can imbue others in your organization or team with supernatural ability by giving advice and tips. So long as the subject accepts the support then you can add any amount up to your Avatar skill (presumably at least...no limits are ever actually stated) to a single appropriate skill of your choice for up to 24 hours. So a manservant could suggest and outfit and topics of polite conversation for their employer to boost their Charm skill for a date or an important meeting. Likewise, if you're a CEO's secretary and you know an attempt on his life is imminent you could give his bodyguard suggestions or support to boost his Notice skill.
The downside is you can only do this for a single person at a time and doing so hinders your own Avatar abilities...the bonus you grant becomes the minimum necessary roll for any Avatar abilities while the bonus is active (so giving someone a +50% bonus means that your Avatar skill rolls fail if they come out under 50). However, you can always rescind the bonus at any time and remove the penalty.
Since there's no reason that a Necessary Servant can't be "support" for a magickal Cabal it's easy to see some pretty impressive moves being pulled off with this Channel. Suggesting good vantage points to an assassin or packing your dipsomancer master's flask of his favorite whisky can be powerful boosters.
This is the Archetype that convinced me to write-up the Statosphere book, mostly due to the goofy third Channel. The Outsider's theme is a catch-all for any and all of those who don't "fit in". This could be due to ethnicity, gender, economic factors, etc. Generally speaking, the Outsider should also be "needed" by the community they operate in but also feared or mistrusted (the latino nanny for a rich white family, the affirmative action hire, the "token" whatever). However, this isn't really reflected in the taboo and many examples are more cases of basic prejudice than the "need/distate" dynamic.
Taboo : The Outsider must live among those who do not fully trust them. Total acceptance or total isolation both break taboo. This is, unfortunately, pretty vague and difficult to pin down mechanically. Especially problematic is tying down exactly how much "rejection" is necessary...does being a gay man in a "Red State" count or do they actually have to live above a conservative baptist church or something? Needless to say it's not a conversation I'd feel very comfortable having with many people ("No, you aren't being persecuted enough to qualify" is certainly not something you want to say to anyone). Overall, I'd say the Outsider is definitely not an Archetype suitable for a lot of groups.
Suspected Avatars : You'd think Pocahontas would be a strong contender. Other obvious examples are integration history-makers like Jesse Owens.
1-50% : You are both seductive and terrifying. You can flip-flop rolls dealing with either frightening or seducing those who are not of your persecuted group. A matched success leads to either obsessive passion or total fear (Rank-5 Helplessness check). I've got to say, I'm not really sold on this channel. While there's certainly some precedent for the flip-side of prejudice coin being "exotic appeal" it's certainly not a universal thing and the Outsider is already trying to cover so many different different marginalized groups that it just feels reductive to try and make the case that this is going to fit every "outsider" in some way.
51-70% Prejudice hardens you. When the Outsider fails a Madness check caused by the hardship they face from their community the Outsider can roll their Avatar skill to turn the Failed notch into a Hardened Notch. Not a very impressive ability for a second channel, especially since it mainly helps you when resisting the consequences of following the Outsider path to begin with. The description of prejudice turning you into a monster is also somewhat uncomfortable as well.
71-90% While the first two channels sit pretty firmly in "should I be offended by this?" territory, the third channel takes a turn to goofball island and the Outsider becomes downright comedic. With this Channel (and a successful Avatar roll) your Outsider status becomes infectious . Your bodily fluids can infect a target, transforming them into an example of your "outsider"-ness. Meaning that you can have sex with someone and turn them black or gay....you can spit in someone's coffee and they'll turn into a woman. Since saliva is a vector for the transformation you can even infect people zombie-style: bite someone and their foreskin will disappear (yes, transmitting circumcision is given as an example). The effect lasts for 24 hours.
Obviously, this can be fairly devastating without any "social" consequences, since most targets are likely going to be making hefty Self and Unnatural checks. Of course, with willing targets you could always help someone re-enact that "Loise Lane Turns Black" superman comic.
91+% This channel reinforces the "need" the community apparently has for the Outsider by preventing them from physically attacking you. Anyone who wants to attack you must make a Self-10 check. Magickal, emotional or social "damage" is fine however. This is one of those channels that's going to be extremely powerful (if for instance it means that you can't be harmed by basically anyone in the city you live in) or extremely weak, depending on how the Outsider "community" requirements are determined.
I've got to admit, I kind of hope that the Outsider godwalker's custom channel is a modification to the 3rd channel to go full-zombie. Those infected by you can then infect others just for the sheer lunacy of it.
The Hunter; The Judge; The Peacemaker; The RebelOriginal SA post
Statosphere, part 3
Last time I apparently skipped a couple of Avatars so we'll be backtracking a little bit.
A guy who hunts.
Okay, it's a little more nuanced than that. Like the Warrior the Hunter has taken on a slightly less literal tone. Hunters are those who go out into the wild (whether literal or metaphorical) in search of something. Sort of a more aggressive version of the Pilgrim. In fact, those who hunt animals for food or sport would rarely qualify for the Hunter Avatar as modern life has rendered most hunting a matter of entertainment rather than a driving goal (of course, there are some parts of the world where this isn't the case). Most Hunter Avatars will pursue less meaty game: FBI agents hunting down criminals, bounty hunters, even collectors who search for a rare antiquity or painting. It even notes that very recently the previous Hunter was ousted by a bounty hunter who, in the process of chasing his quarry, found himself chasing (and catching) the Count De Saint Germain.
Taboo: Abandoning a hunt where there is still a chance of success. Having your prey completely escape or finding a dead end won't hurt, that's part of the hunt, but giving up when you could continue the hunt is a violation of taboo. Also, pursuing more than one "hunt" at a time.
Suspected Avatars: Mythological hunters like Nimrod or Orion are possibilities, as well as more modern hunters like Pat Garret who pursued Billy The Kid.
1-50% : Declare a quarry. The quarry must be an item, person or being, not merely an abstraction (no hunting for "love" or "happiness"). There's gray areas (for instance, information) but generally speaking the Pilgrim goes for abstract goals the Hunter goes for concrete ones. All rolls made to follow, find or pursue your prey are flip-flopped. You can't have more than one designated prey at a time and the effect ends once you catch it or lose the trail. For those hunting dangerous game, keep in mind that this means you get no bonus when it comes to actually killing or subduing your prey.
51-70% : All attempts to mislead, misdirect or lie to the Hunter regarding their designated prey fail automatically unless the deceiver's relevant skill is higher than the Hunter's Avatar skill. This doesn't reveal the truth, just the fact that lies or misdirection are being used.
71-90% The Hunter does not need to rest, sleep or eat while pursuing prey so long as they can make a successful Avatar roll each day. Even failure doesn't cause the missed food and rest to "catch up" (although a critical failure will).
91+% The hunter can get into the mind of their prey. When faced with a decision that their quarry would have made a successful Mind roll allows the Hunter to discover what choice was made. This doesn't grant 100% detailed information (it notes that it'll let you know that the quarry uses their birthday when choosing a password, but it won't tell you what their birthday is) and it doesn't allow you to account for events that occur later that might change things (for instance, you might know that your Quarry chose to stay at the Bergmont hotel, but it won't tell you that he was arrested for driving with a suspended license on the way to the hotel and is currently in jail). A very powerful ability, although the requirement to make a Mind roll is a bit of a bitch, considering pretty much no other Avatar channel works like that.
The Hunter is one of those characters that is only so-so for PCs due to its hyper-specialization but would be utterly horrifying to face as a well-built NPC gunning for one of the characters.
The Judge is all about making big, important choices and their abilities center around giving them the knowledge and understanding to make the right choice (right to them at least). Beyond that, no specific role is implied, beyond the obvious, but really anyone who has been given at least some authority could be considered for Judge-ship.
Taboo: Indecision. When faced with a decision the judge must pronounce judgement. If the situation allows they may wait for more information or investigation, but when push comes to shove they have to make a choice. It doesn't specify, but I like to think that this manifests in being very definitive about meal planning...the biggest danger to a Judge's status is being asked "what do you want for dinner?"
Suspected Avatars : King Solomon may be the archetype (in both meanings of the word) of the Judge Avatar and of course most famous Supreme Court justices have the potential as well. It's implied that the O.J. Simpson trial may have been a Godwalker bid for Lance Ito. Maybe Simon Cowell is playing that game as well.
1-50% When trying to find information you can re-roll all failures that are lower than your Avatar skill (no iterative re-rolls, just the once).
51-70% with a successful Avatar roll the Judge can determine if a piece of information is relative to an issue they are considering. You only know how it's related with a matched success. A critical success provides a bit of related but unrevealed information.
71-90% With an Avatar roll the Judge can predict the consequences of his decision. The context must be fairly narrowly defined and do not provide specifics. For instance, the Judge could predict whether or not offering a 20 dollar bill to a bouncer will get him punched in the face, but it won't tell him that offering a hundred dollar bill would have worked (unless the Judge tries that next). Like all fortune telling nothing is set in stone and the actions of the Judge can influence things even if he goes ahead with one decision or the other.
91+% If the Judge is in a position of authority, they can make decisions that are mystically enforced. The authority can be official (being a literal judge or elected official) or based on the situation (being the only one in the room with a gun). They may make a decree (which must be an order or a statement of fact) and make an Avatar roll. If they succeed then all who heard them must accept the statement as correct or obey the order. Those with a Soul Stat higher than the roll the Judge made to activate this power may attempt to resist with a successful Soul roll (which can be repeated each round).
This can be used to order someone to die, so long as your Avatar skill roll was successful and higher than their Soul stat.
This fails automatically if your statement is flat out impossible ("I am declaring you exempt from the law of gravity") or in blatant contradiction of obvious truth. For instance, if asked to decided which of two men where the father of a baby the Judge could make all present accept their decision, but they could not declare that the father was George Washington or a potted plant. At least not without a good story behind it.
Ooops, wrong one
The Peacemaker is probably one of the closest to out and out "good" Avatars you get in UA. They are like a walking Disney movie, exuding niceness and fluffy-bunny-good-times.
Taboo: Peacemakers, obviously, cannot use physical violence. Physical is the keyword, they can still shout and argue all they want. Even carrying a weapon violates taboo. You are not penalized if others use violence, but you will be if you hang around persistently violent characters too long or help enable their violent impulses. Needless to say Peacemakers have kind of the "Paladin in the Party" problem.
Suspected Avatars MLK is presented as a Peacemaker and Neville Chamberlain's Nazi appeasement policy is suggested as the "dark side" of the Peacemaker Avatar.
1-50% : With an Avatar roll you can calm conflicts between groups of under a dozen people. This won't work in "to-the death" battles, but you can quiet an argument, stop a brawl or break a Mexican Standoff. This only works on those who can hear your unamplified voice and anyone affected who wishes to engage in violence finds it horrid and must make a Violence check at a rating equal to the 10's place in the Avatar's skill. Your spell breaks if anyone does attack anyone else and attempting to use this channel a second time on the same conflict suffers a -20% shift.
Once violence stops you can help everyone involved talk it out. A second successful Avatar roll gets them talking amongst each other and so long as there is an agreeable solution they'll probably come to it. If everyone's goals are completely at odds the best you can hope for is a brief truce.
51-70% : It's almost impossible for living beings to harm you. So long as you are not actually harming someone yourself (which negates this channel for a full day) then anyone attempting to hurt you must make a Violence check with a rating equal to the 10's place in your Avatar skill, on top of any Violence checks they already need to make.
71-90% A more powerful version of your first Channel. This works on any living being involved in a fight, with a successful Avatar roll and a command to stop fighting you can instantly stop all fighting while you are present. This works on conflicts of up to 50 people and so long as you can suggest a reasonable solution to the fighter's conflicts they will accept it.
91+% : You can stop any violence, both human and natural. Within the range of your unamplified voice you can speak to and calm any sort of conflict or violence with a successful Avatar roll. This can completely end small-scale violence such as a lynching, a killer automaton or a tornado, and assuming that there are intelligent participants they will immediately begin to resolve their conflict non-violently on their own. In cases where your range is not large enough to encapsulate the entire effect such as a war zone or a hurricane then you can only create a bubble of peace around you that moves with you so long as you keep speaking.
Not quite the Martyr, not quite the Warrior, the Rebel is the rabble-rouser and shit-stirrer of the Invisible Clergy. Specifically the current Archetype of the Rebel is envisioned as someone who opposes oppression and abuse of authority. The Rebel also focuses on inspiring and leading others to battle oppression alongside them.
All Rebels must have a Cause, an agenda with a clear opponent. You can't fight "for women" you must fight "against patriarchy", so to speak. You cannot change your Cause without violating taboo, unless your opponent (or a representative of it) makes some kind of significant concession and you are recognized as the reason for this change. At this point you can declare victory (regardless of any other existing problems). For instance, if you are fighting the good fight against nuclear power and you manage to get a power plant shut down or a new regulation passed you can end that fight (regardless of how prevalent nuclear power is) and start the fight against seatbelt laws.
Taboo: As noted abandoning your cause breaks taboo, as does a public failure in the fight (don't pick fights you can't win). And of course selling out or taking bribes from the foes of your cause are all violations as well.
Suspected Archetypes: Gandhi is considered a Rebel, and Che Guivera is the current Archetype of the Rebel, replacing the historical Robin Hood.
1-50% You can issue a believable warning that temporarily converts others to your cause with a successful Avatar roll. This lasts for a week, during which the target will support your cause publicly (coming to protests, signing petitions or volunteering their spare time) at the end of which the compulsion ends but those who'd already be prone to support you may continue to do so. You can only do this once per day and you can target a particular individual only once per month.
51-70% With at least 30 minutes of ranting and a successful Avatar roll you can rouse others to immediate action, essentially stirring up a mob. Those listening cannot be compelled if they are strongly opposed to your cause or are being coerced or compelled into listening to you and you cannot affect more than your Avatar skill in targets. This causes all targets to share your Rage or Noble (your choice) Passions and you can "steer" the crowd so long as they can hear you and you have to make a successful roll every half hour or the mob dissolves. The crowd isn't a very good lynch mob, engaging in violence only if provoked by violence from opposition (of course, with some planning its easy enough to fake such provocation). The actions of the crowd are closely associated with you and everyone involved will know who started it and all credit and blame will fall to you (and remember, public failure breaks taboo, so be careful with this channel).
71-90% You can recruit fanatical followers to your cause. With a successful Avatar roll you can recruit zealots to serve your cause, pick one of the two dice to represent the number of followers recruited and the other to represent the number of days they'll serve. Followers recruited this way will follow any non-suicidal orders (although of course they may be subjected to Madness checks depending on what you're asking of them). Breaking the compulsion inflicts an Unnatural check equal to the 10's digit of your Rebel skill.
91+% You won't die quietly. Anyone attacking you due to your Cause cannot harm you if no one supporting your Cause witnesses the attack. This includes both literal damage and attempts to weaken or hinder the Rebel in pursuit of their cause. This won't work if the Rebel is the one who started the fight. On the whole, the thing is basically like the Martyr's final Channel but not as good since any allied witnesses ruin the power (and there's nothing stopping your enemies from killing them afterwards).
The Scholar; The Trickster; The Two-Faced ManOriginal SA post
The Statosphere part 4: The Scholar, Trickster and Two-Faced Man
We'll be finishing off with the Avatars here, next I should be able to put together something interesting with their expanded take on the Rooms of Renunciation.
The Statosphere has a fair amount of Avatars that follow the "Like the [Other Avatar] but...". The Confessor is like the Healer but for the mind instead of the body, the Rebel is like the Martyr but focused more on leadership than sacrifice. The Hunter is like the Executioner but doesn't need orders. That's probably why only 3 of the 15 Avatars show up in the 2nd edition of UA. It's not that there aren't valid distinctions between these Archetypes, it's just that a lot of them are standing fairly close together so some toes get trodden on thematically speaking.
Well, here we have the Scholar who is like the Chronicler but ...
Specifically, the Chronicler represents a journalist or researcher, someone who goes out and digs up information and is obligated to add to humanity's collective knowledge. The Scholar is just in it for themselves and they are not, generally speaking, interested in new knowledge. All of their abilities focus on allowing themselves to more easily get information from the work of others or recover information that has been lost. Academics, historians and bibliophiles are good examples of Scholars. It does mention that scholars make excellent analysts, being able to intuit connections between apparently unrelated information but this ability doesn't actually come into play until their final Channel.
Taboo: Turning down any kind of new knowledge is Taboo and even more so if you destroy any unique source of knowledge. One big problem: Knowledge is not defined or quantified at all. That means that anyone who knows that you are a Scholar (and knows enough to know what that means) has incredible leverage over you. Although the penalties for minor breaks of taboo are small, 1% in a skill is still 1% in a skill. It'd be even worse for the Godwalker, since that 1% completely negates their Godwalker status and even for lesser Avatars "Tell me what I want to know or I won't tell you my favorite color!"
Suspected Avatars: Jean Francios Champollion, who deciphered the Rossetta Stone and Marsilio Ficino who translated the Hermetic Corpus is another.
1-50% : The first channel is pretty lame. You can flip-flop a failed Academics-based skill roll if the result is under your Avatar skill. Normally this is about par for the course for a 1st Avatar Channel...it's not a dramatic power certainly but usually is useful. Except in this case it specifically excludes practical skills that would normally fall under the academic umbrella such as Medicine or Law (and not mentioned but presumably including potentially useful scientific skills such as Chemistry or Engineering). Skills mentioned as being available for this bonus are Research, Academic Learning, History and General Education.
It's not crippling for a first channel (Research and General Education at least will be useful) but it is on the weak side and as you'll see it's the start of a pattern.
51-70% The 2nd Channel is when most Avatars get their defining ability, which often becomes their "thing". Which makes sense, getting a skill above 50% is a heft investment in UA. The Chronicler can sift the future for useful information, the Confessor can heal damaged sanity, the Necessary Servant can find the cracks in any organization and the Merchant can make his Faustian bargains.
The Scholar can recall any information they've read with a successful Avatar skill roll. Even on the surface this is pretty lame but there's two big things:
First, it only applies to reading. You can recall only texts, charts or diagrams (by a literal reading this means you can't even absolutely recall the things that would be really useful like maps ).
Second, each successful Avatar check only recalls one or two pages worth of text or gives you a general gist of the whole book (which is pretty much what normal memory does already). As far as I can tell there's no reason you can't just keep rolling over and over again but I can't understand why they felt the need to include this limitation.
And frankly isn't this the sort of thing that should just be handled by a Mind roll? The only real use is allowing you to "store" information you've got only a brief amount of time to skim or speed-read such as memorizing what someone scrawled on a note that you were only able to catch a brief glimpse of before you were hauled away...but that's also just a thing people do , that's not magic. And as far as recalling entire tomes of information, that's really not useful unless you know every single book you've ever read, otherwise you're just better off making an appropriate normal skill roll.
71-90% : With a successful Avatar roll you can read in any language. Reading only. You couldn't speak it to someone else or understand it if it was spoken out loud. You can't even write it yourself. Only reading. And remember, UA is not like Call of Cthulhu where everything useful and powerful is written in some ancient heathen greek dialect or ancient arabic or whatever...in UA the really important magical stuff is being written and worked on right now , it's postmodern, not ancient. Also, it doesn't "stick". You've got to roll again for every document and you only retain the raw information, not the language itself.
The third channel does have one significant use: you can use it to read codes and ciphers (it won't work on computer codes, punch-cards or similar encoding, only things intended for communication between sentient beings). Depending on your reading of that the existence of things like the old Enigma Machines and their modern-day descendants may be a significant hitch.
91+% You can now read between the lines with a successful Avatar roll. This means that you not only understand what you're reading in literal terms but you can analyze it thoroughly enough to understand the intent behind it: you know exactly what's going on in House of Leaves and reading a newspaper headline will tell you if the author is really attempting to sow economic disorder (and fears for their life if they don't) and you know if that response to your OKCupid profile is actually a lure set by a hired killer. You can even tell when someone using sarcasm on the internet.
You can also correlate information with anything else you've ever read...just remember that this is purely a matter of sorting information, not leaps of magickal intuition. You may be able to tell at a glance that the assassin was hired exactly 7 days after you started that forum thread about the suspicious headline, which is also the number of books published by Mark Z. Danielewski. And that the stocks which rose after the panic caused by the article would funnel a lot of wealth towards the Bilderberg group. This does necessarily mean that MZD is an unwilling pawn and newspaper ghost-writer for the Bilderberg Group...maybe its all just a big coincidence.
And here's my problem with the Scholar...that last channel is really good . It's not only a great representation of the Scholar's focus but it also goes deeper with its ability to determine and make connections in the conspiracy-horror world of UA. A high level Scholar can know which bloggers are being threatened to force them to writ clickbait and that this number is growing daily, and they can decipher the hidden meaning behind a message intended to signal a meeting of high level conspirators. It's great...if only you didn't have to go through 3 extremely bland and weak Channels to get to it on top of being saddled with a crippling taboo.
Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd play out the secret hatreds of the Trickster and Hunter
The flip-side of the Fool, who bumbles blissfully through life while those around him are caught up in the chaos he creates, is the Trickster who actively seeks to tweak noses or scam others (whether maliciously or not). They're clever and cunning and usually care more about being funny or witty than being successful. This is one of those Archetypes that doesn't need much explanation. Basically, you're channeling Bugs Bunny.
Taboo: Tricksters must always take the deceitful or sneaky path and can never do things in the most straightforward and honest manner when there's an opportunity to do otherwise. It notes that you don't have to be successful, getting caught or getting egg on your face is fine, you just have to try.
This truly wins the reward for the most annoying and crippling taboo of any Avatar. Sure, the Peacemaker can't join in on the shootout and the Healer has to patch up the wounded guy begging for help...but the Trickster can't buy gum . So long as there's even the possibility of getting what you want through normal honest means you can't take it. You've got to try and steal it, or convince the cashier to give you a discount because your dying dad wanted this flavor of gum and you don't have the extra nickel. This is going to come up constantly and it's going to be an immense pain in the ass for you and the rest of your group.
Obviously it's completely appropriate behavior for a Trickster archetype...but that doesn't make it any less of a pain and it compares especially badly with the relatively lenient taboos other Avatars face. This is more like the shit Adepts have to deal with, but without their bigger bag of tricks to compensate. Adding to the problem is this sidebar:
Now, it's not clear if this is actually mandatory or not...but it's a pretty damn awful thing to do to an Avatar that's already got way more on his plate than any other.
Suspected Avatars : Mythical Tricksters such as Coyote, Hermes, etc all get a mention. Andy Kaufman is suspected to be the current Archetype for the Trickster.
1-50% : If a person's Soul score is lower than your Avatar skill then they will respond positively to you despite any past behavior or anything they know about your future plans. A cop may know that you're The Skinner serial killer who cuts up prostitutes and then posts Youtube videos with little sock puppets made from their faces and that you escaped from jail by butchering 12 people with the shinbones of your cellmate...but shucks you're a swell guy. He knows you did all those things (and that your latest video is a teaser for something you call Skinpocolypse 2016) and even that he's expected to arrest you, but there's no reason to be rough about it and sure if you need to nip off to the bathroom or you two could grab a cup of coffee before you go to the station. They get a Soul check to break free of the power if you ask them to do anything blatantly against their own interest (such as letting you go free or "see there gun for just a second"), but there's a lot of wiggle room. The power also only works in your presence...once you pop into the bathroom the cop will suddenly remember that you're a murderous psychopath and he'll pull his gun out and rush after you.
This Channel is a little weird, because for the first half or so of a Trickster's career it's practically worthless. Average Soul score is 50 and by way of comparison there isn't a single person in the UA sourcebook with a Soul score lower than 30. So for a good while your fancy trick is totally useless, but once you exceed 50% in Trickster it becomes possibly the best channel out there, other than the Merchant's second Channel. The Trickster Godwalker would wrap practically everyone except other Godwalkers around their finger without any effort at all.
51-70% You can, with an Avatar roll, tell a Perfect Lie which the subject will believe no matter how ridiculous or outlandish it is, until it is proven to be false. Some lies ("there's no gravity" or "your hands are made of spiders") are verifiable within an instant simply by the target's own senses.
Okay, now I may have to revise my previous statement. I don't know if the first channel or the second channel is "the best" channel, but I will say that in conjunction the two are amazing . Once your Trickster level is high enough to reliably make Avatar checks you are practically unstoppable . This is some fucking Exalted-level mental manipulation, except without any of the "outs" Exalted tends to give. Does the Count De Saint Germain just have to constantly personally assassinate every Trickster Godwalker to avoid them ruling the world atop a golden throne? Because that might explain why he's so busy.
I hereby revise my estimate of the Merchant as "most absurdly powerful" Avatar...a powerful Trickster could eat Merchant's for breakfast. They could con the Merchant into selling them every single buff they've ever bought, but can crash the Merchant's Avatar skill in the process by getting him to take one terrible deal after another.
71-90% : You are exceptionally good at understanding others and how to deceive others, flip-flopping any skill roll to fast-talk, trick or deceive. And yes, that's any skill, not just Lying or Charm. That includes your Avatar skill for the purposes of the Perfect Lie. There aren't even words.
91+%: Your Perfect Lie ability expands to allow you to turn even the flimsiest of disguises into a perfect impersonation. Talk in a growly voice and puff up your chest and you're Arnold Schwarzenegger, put on a plastic presidential party mask and people will see and hear you as Barack Obama. And yes, this is deceit so in the rare event that your 91+ skill roll fails you can flip flop it through the third channel. This even includes magickal detection and (while not mentioned specifically) presumably includes being seen on camera (although recordings after the fact might show the truth). So yes, you could (with ease) disguise yourself as the president of the United States, walk up to the secret service at the white house and tell them the man in the oval office is an imposter and then watch them mow him down.
I write these kind of "stream of consciousness" and while I skim a bit I tend not to read the whole entry ahead of time. I just provide my first impressions as I go on and occasionally go back and revise things as new information comes up. So, when I started this I was (as you can see around the Taboo section) convinced the Trickster was probably one of the worst Avatars because of its crippling Taboo. Little did I realize that the Taboo was just the writers desperately trying to reign in the monster they had created with the Trickster's channels. The Trickster's power increases exponentially with each new channel and by the time you hit the second Channel the Trickster's greatest enemy really is just themselves as their taboo compels them to "double down" constantly with more and more lies until, inevitably, they blow a Perfect Lie roll and/or run into someone whose Soul stat is just a tad too high...something that becomes increasingly less likely the more your Avatar skill grows.
I will say this about the Trickster it is extremely...unbalanced. I don't mean in the sense of game mechanics (because in that sense they're balanced like neutron star on a see-saw), but in terms of play style. Assuming you don't start right out of the gate at Cosmic level with a Trickster skill of 60+% but instead start with a more reasonable 20-40%. A low-level trickster can pull of almost nothing...practically no one is weak enough for your first channel at this point and you're actively discouraged from investing much in Lying or Charm because as you gain Power your Trickster skill dominates those into nothing, meaning that while your Taboo compels you to try and scam or flim-flam people constantly you can't pull it off without a bunch of luck. You're even discouraged from making your Avatar, Lying or Charm skills your obsession since the 3rd channel would make them redundant. Then you hit 51%.
At 51% your first channel works on more people than it doesn't and you can basically "win" any situation where you're allowed to talk (and most people think you're great so why not talk to you?) about 50% of the time with the Perfect Lie. Then once you hit 71% even a good deal of Avatars and Adepts are your friend the moment they meet you and your ability to Flip-Flop the perfect lie means that your success rate is now closer to 90%. Once you actually hit 91% you never fail any Avatar roll on anything but a 99 or 00 and you have the ability to shape not just the Underground but the world in ways that are limited only be your imagination, it'd be like the Invention of Lying but without the religious allegory.
I would hate being a part of a group with a Trickster. Like a black hole they warp all of the game around themselves: at low levels their constantly failed cons get them and you into "hilarious" screwups and at higher levels whatever they say almost literally goes and you are forced to pal around with someone who can wreck conspiracies and whole governments like matchsticks.
However, I would want to play the Trickster in that game.
The Two Faced Man
I'm not sure how anything is going to compare after the Trickster write-up. Even more so because first impressions of the Two-Faced Man are "like the Trickster but..." and after reading through the last Avatar I don't think anyone else will come off looking impressive. But we shall see.
So, basically the Two-Faced Man is the "Traitor" Archetype, the wicked Judas to the Trickster's omnipotent Bugs Bunny. They pretend to be the thing that hate and work against and win the trust of others in order to betray them.
Taboo: Working towards anything you believe in publicly. You can work towards your personal goals but you can't allow your true agenda to become public knowledge outside of your allies or allow your deception to be recorded in any way without breaking taboo. You can't work as a cop unless you secretly want to undermine law and order, you can't work for a bank unless you hate the financial system or are plotting to steal from them, etc. Well, it's not as bad as the Trickster's but this is a pretty tough Taboo, especially considering it's very broadly defined, words like "Openly" or "publicly" or "might have access to" are thrown around with very little definition.
It also does something that I find personally wrong and that is it makes the Avatar's personal belief's and feelings a part of the Taboo. One of the major things that separate Avatars and Adepts is that Avatars are playing a role and don't have to commit to it deep down. That's practically the point of the Ascension struggle going on...how would a Two-Faced Man Godwalker even try and oust the Archetype, what counts as "public" or "open" when dealing with a semi-omnipresent cosmic force?
Suspected Avatars : Somehow neither Judas nor Benedict Arnold get a mention but Loki and Boris Yeltsin do. Even Iago (from Othello) despite being fictional.
1-50% : You can appear to fit in to any group other than those that you would "naturally" fit in with. To use this ability pick a social stereotype that you don't match ("rich new yorker", "down to earth everyman" "put upon drone") and make an Avatar roll. A success means that you "emit" the right vibes to fulfill that stereotype and any inappropriate elements such as clothing, accent, odor, etc are ignored. This lasts until you pick a new stereotype. If you fail your roll you remain in your current stereotype and can't change it for a week.
Suspicious observers can attempt to roll something (no skill is given, presumably Notice) which must be higher than your Avatar skill to succeed. They get a +30% shift if you do something that blatantly clashes with your current stereotype.
One big thing...you can't "drop" the power. Once it's activated you can only change to a new stereotype and never to one that you are naturally fit for.
51-70% : You can "fake it" better. If something comes up where you don't have the knowledge or skill to fit the role you're playing you can make an Avatar roll and some vague assurances or claims and everyone will accept it as though you said something correct and relevant to the situation. This won't give you the keycode to a bank vault or actually let you use a skill, you can just give everyone else the vague impression you know what you're doing.
71-90% : With a successful Avatar roll you can make any suspicious activity seem reasonable with the slightest reason ("I wasn't about to throw a brick through your car window, it's a new form of aerobic stretching. Brickersize"). However, extremely weak or out-of-character explanations require a successful Lie roll as well (which seems odd, we wouldn't need the Avatar channel if the explanation weren't weak or out of character). Biggest problem is that this doesn't address how blame-shifting is handled ("I'm not trying to sleep with your wife, she drugged me and took my clothes off!") and that the Trickster is laughing so loud it's giving me a headache.
91+% You can feed anyone a lie so long as no immediate proof that you're lying is available and so long as it isn't blatantly self destructive. So the Two-Faced Man's final channel is the Trickster's second channel...just not quite as good.
So yeah, not a bad Avatar or anything, if you don't mind that literally every power you have is something the Trickster can do, but an order of magnitude weaker.
The House of Renunciation; The First and Last ManOriginal SA post
So, been a bit too busy and a little unmotivated to finish up the Statosphere book. Debated just dropping it and moving on but in the end I figured I should finish what I started, especially since there's basically only one long post's worth of content left. With that said, lets finish this!
The House of Renunciation
You may recall the House of Renunciation from the main Unknown Armies book, but Statosphere gives us a bit more detail. For those who don't remember: The House of Renunciation is a thing/place/force/entity/??? which consists of Otherspaces where humans are mentally broken down and transformed in ways unique to each of its potentially infinite Rooms. Each Room has a specific method and preferred "target" and they seem to recruit human agents who serve the Room (or vice versa, or neither) in unclear ways.
In the main UA book the Rooms of Renunciation where largely a mystery. You could see what they did but no one really knew the why of it. In the Statosphere book they're a bit more clearly defined. The House of Renunciation is there to drive the evolution of human beings. Not in the physical sense, but the philosophical, mental and cultural sense. It's there to screw with people's core beliefs and forcibly inject new ideas into you whether you like it or not.
The Rooms of Renunciation are sort of an inversion of the Archetypes. While Archetypes are formed by the conglomeration of human consciousness coming together and creating a unifying idea, the Rooms are created by the "friction" of human conflict and differing points of view. The way hundreds of people can follow the same God or philosophy but act in entirely different ways. The way one man's trash is another's treasure and one's war crime is another's Tuesday.
The Rooms are given power and purpose by the cognitive dissonance of the collective unconsciousness. The Rooms serve to enhance these differences, fracturing ideas and philosophies and forcing them compete with one another, the same way you'd break up a company that has become too large.
The Agents of the rooms are also given more explanation here. Each room naturally draws humans to serve it with each new Agent chosen by the previous Agent (or a fellow Agent, Rooms can be served by multiple Agents at once). The Room cannot choose new Agents on its own but it can guide its current Agents to seek out the right sort of people needed for an individual Room's purposes. All Agents are "processed" by the Room, much like its "victims", although in some cases the Agents may undergo an even more harrowing or strenuous trial. Often an Agent seeks out a replacement when the stress of working for one of the Rooms becomes too much and after successfully Renouncing the new Agent they simply leave, maybe taking the time to explain things to the new Agent before they go.
Agents can be drawn from any "level" of the Occult Underground: some were entirely ignorant of magick before they became an Agent and often remain ignorant of anything other than the Room itself. Others were Dukes or Lords of the Underground, including Adepts and Avatars and use the power of the Room to keep playing the secret games of the Occult Underground on an even higher level.
So what do the Rooms do? Well, the details vary from Room to Room but basically they force you into an existential crisis, forcing you to question your beliefs, values and the purpose of your life. This is called Renunciation. Mechanically, the Room changes your Obsession, many "reversing" or "inverting" it, but not always. But no matter what your new Obsession is it must conflict with the previous one in some way (for instance, someone obsessed with fighting might not become a pacifist but might realize that physical conflict is meaningless and become obsessed with philosophical or intellectual debate). This may end up changing your Obsession skill as well.
No matter what, Renunciation is a Rank-5 Stress check with the type of Stress varying depending on the type of pressure the Room puts on you (self is probably the most common obviously).
four example Rooms are presented:
The Room of Cold Reflection targets the ruthlessly ambitious, those who are willing to "do what it takes" to accomplish their goals. When the ends justify the means, this is where the means come back to haunt you. That doesn't mean the Room is noble: the righteous are often just as driven as the ruthless. A crusader for a good cause may be brought here to see just what suffering their dedication has brought to family and friends or see those who've fought and maybe even died for what they believed was right.
The room tends to manifest at the top of a flight of stairs, and its door leads to a broad courtyard garden covered in snow. Around the garden are four walls with covered walkways and a hedge maze occupies the center. Snow falls from a starless black sky and a sourceless white light provides dim illumination. The walkway's roof is supported by columns in the vague shape of people and they can be barely heard to whisper unintelligibly.
There are six entrances to the hedge maze and the maze itself seems to change as you walk through it, opening new paths and closing others and seeming far larger inside than it seems to be from the length of the walkway. Footprints in the snow fade almost instantly once they're out of sight, making backtracking difficult. As the visitor walks through the maze they'll catch glimpses of a figure ahead of them: someone just turning a corner or barely seen through a gap in the hedges. This becomes more frequent the longer a visitor is lost in the maze. Eventually the maze will allow you entry to the Frost Garden at the center: a wide clearing of barren fruit trees and frozen fountains. Statues carved of ice and snow are positioned around the garden.
The statues are tableaux showing the weakest and most callow moments in the visitors life (or the futures they are creating for others with their actions). The frozen pools show similar shameful memories, where they pushed others aside or "did what they had to do" to succeed. In the center is a single, unfrozen pool: The Pool of Renunciation. It is unfrozen and does not show any kind of distorted reflection or shameful scene. But anyone looking at it knows one thing with absolute surety...drinking from the pool is a surrender. To drink means that you admit you were wrong, that you give up your goals...that the sacrifices you've made weren't worth it. They also know that drinking will set them free from the room.
No one is compelled to drink. They can wait as long as they want in the maze, in the garden or in the path around it. Although cold no visitors will ever freeze to death and there's plenty of snow to melt and drink to stave off dehydration. Of course, there's no food but you can last a long time without food, desperately alone in the cold garden of regrets and shame. But some are dedicated enough: the room may kill them but it doesn't break them and they die cold and alone clinging to their ideals. But most will drink in the end and they will come out with their passion and obsession quenched.
The current Agent of the Room of Cold Reflection is Cesar Castillo, a former plutomancer who ruined his life in the pursuit of money and magic (in general the Room of Cold Reflect is a great "remedy" for Adepts in particular). After being sent through the room he found his ex-wife and apologized and paid back everything he borrowed or stole from her. He's returned to his old job and (on the side) has teamed up with the Sleepers (although they don't know hes an Agent). After a long stay in the Room Cesar is actually quite reluctant to throw anyone else in and is more likely to try and appeal to targets in more gentle ways...but if nothing else works they get the full Christmas Carol treatment.
The Room of Heart's Burden Lifted is a place for those who have been beaten down by life too many times for them to get back up again. It offers a chance to exchange your life for someone else's. It especially goes for those who have been victimized by others (or feel like they have been).
There are three choices to those who enter the room: Travel somewhere new and start entirely fresh, let the room remake them into a whole new person, or die. Each choice is, as far as the Room and its Agent is concerned, a valid and respectable option: change your circumstances, change yourself or leave both behind and see what's behind door number 3.
The Agent of the Room, Dawn Miller, is a psychologist (who poses as a social worker when seeking out canditates and offers them "free counseling", providing the address of the room's current location. Before offering them "the choice" she does give them very thorough counseling, trying to remove as many Failed and Hardened Notches as she feels that they won't be able to make a valid choice until relieved of their emotional trauma. Once she feels the subject is ready they are offered the choice and once they choose they're given a few days to prepare and then are instructed to return to the Room at a later date and are granted their choice. Those who pick the first choice step out of the office in a whole new city or even country with only what they brought with them to start a new life. It's as simple as that.
For those who pick the second option there is the Rebirth Ritual. Dawn performs hypnotic regression (the subject must be willing) and makes a roll (which she can flip-flop). The subjected is transformed, with a better roll indicating a greater change: appearance, gender, age, ethnicity, etc. A failure means more counseling is required. Those who are successfully transformed are given a briefing on their new "life" and backstory and left to find their way in the world.
Those who make the third and final choice are taken to the Misericord Chamber. This is a simple room with a bed, decorated in whatever way the patient would find relaxing or pleasing. Once the patient is completely relaxed they die. Painlessly and easily. The body is transported elsewhere to be disposed of in whatever way the patient would have desired (including payment to a funeral home if need be).
In a lot of ways the Room of Heart's Burdens Lifted seems like it's purely benevolent and kind. However, one of the greatest cruelties of the room is that it only offers itself to those who don't need it. The Room seeks those who already have a way out but don't take it: victims who choose to stay with their abusers and those who tie themselves to misery out of a sense of obligation or fear. And of course, while the Room offers them options, it does not promise these will lead to a better life. Your new life (or lack thereof) will be different but it may not be better, especially if you lack the will and ability to better it yourself. Nor can you pick and choose what to leave behind...fleeing from an abusive spouse through the power of the room may mean leaving your children behind, an accomplished author crippled by addiction might be freed but doesn't get to keep his fame or fortune.
The Room of Ignorance is the room of the luddite and exists to remove a person's connections with (and dependence on) technology and science. In inspires self-sufficiency but also contempt for humanity's accomplishments and a desire to return to the state of nature, with all that entails. In particular it targets the shut-ins, the MMO addicts, the NEETs and anyone eager to replace a "natural" experience with a virtual or artificial one.
The "Room" is actually a forest glade, full of animals and pleasant sunshine. It is filled with calm and has the temperature of a warm spring day. Anyone coming inside can't help but feel that this is how things should be and that their "civilized" lives suffer in comparison to this eden. On all sides are overgrown, crumbling ruins and wilderness stretches beyond. All of the plants defy normal scientific identification, often bearing multiple different fruits on the same branch and with leaves and bark that match none of them. Compasses and any other navigational aids don't work here and the stars never match any normal configuration when night falls. The entrance to the room is an iron gate set in a cave and around it the ground is dead and barren. Animals refuse to approach the gate and die if brought too close against their will.
The Room of Ignorance is a bit more straightforward than some of the others and has three servants who are functionally a part of the Room: The Man, The Woman and the Father. If you think the Genesis metaphor is unsubtle now, just wait.
The Man and Woman both serve as a means to get people into the Room. The Man operates subtly with brute strength: he finds whoever the Room wants, grabs them and drags them inside then tosses them into the forest beyond the ruins. He viciously hates technology and lacks the ability to speak and hates even the complexity of communicating via gestures. He's got great physical stats and high combat skills and he's perfectly fine with killing those who block his way to his target or even the target themselves if they are too difficult to get into the Room. He also has a magic rock that makes anyone he hits with it a bit stupider (-1% to a random Mind skill).
While the Man is all about brute strength the Woman focuses on sex appeal and trickery. Unlike the Man she'll tolerate things like soap and clothing to help her ensnare a target. She'll usually play the role of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, suddenly pushing herself into her target's life and leading them into a wilder and wilder night until she finally lures them into the wilderness of the Room and leaves them stranded there. One of her most powerful tools is the Fruit of Sustenance: when she takes a fruit from any of the room's trees outside the room anyone else who tastes it finds it incredibly addictive and will do about anything to get another piece of fruit. This lasts for a month or until they enter the Room.
The Father guides both of them in their missions. He's a middle aged man with no teeth and a knee-length white beard. His mission is the eradication of all technological development and indeed all abstract thought of all kinds. If it was successful his plans would likely eliminate the Invisible Clergy, the Rooms of Renunciation and possibly magick itself as humanity would cease to be anything other than just another animal. Fortunately, his schemes are unlikely to ever bear fruit (something he realizes on some level) and in the meantime he does his duty of stunting technological advancements wherever he can. He has an artifact (a giant eyeball) that allows him to see through the eyes of anyone who has taken a bite out of it (such pieces regenerate). He uses this to keep tabs on the Man and Woman when they're out of the Room, which he never leaves. He also has a skill called The Voice of Ignorance, it can be used to force the Man and Woman to obey him (which is rarely necessary might happen if an Adept or Avatar hits them with some kind of whammy) and disables any tools or machine brought into his sight. Finally, if the Man or Woman dies he can call out to anyone previously Renounced by the Room and convert them into a new Man or Woman (erasing any previous memories or skills and simply remaking them into perfect copies of the previous Man or or Woman).
Those brought to the room become lost in the wilderness beyond the ruins and the Room warps space and time to ensure that they will never get back on their own and will never meet the Man, Woman or Father during their stay in the Room. Any tools (even something as simple as a chipped rock) fall apart and decay when they're used and so those trapped in the Room must survive completely on their own: no tools, no help, no guidance. They may spend years or even decades until the room breaks them but no matter how long it takes within the Room they will not age and will emerge a week after they entered. They will retain any parasites, malnutrition or similar problems they developed during their stay in the room however. Once they've been Renounced, victims of the room will eschew technology and any dependence on civilization. They may not go full "savage" but they'll invariably insist on living a self-sufficient lifestyle as a recluse or with others of a similar mindset.
Notably the Room is also a bit of a super-charger for Avatars of the Savage. Needless to say such Avatars would likely never be sought out as victims by the Room, but if they come across it the fruit of the room feeds them for a full day per piece, just like the Room's three Agents, and the spring near the entrance enhances their Avatar skill by 1d10% for a week. The water also can be taken out and causes any technological items it touches to malfunction or break down (it retains this power for 48 hours outside the Room).
The Room of Rusted Things targets the indifferent. Those who don't care enough to do anything, good or bad, of importance with their life. They're cosmic parasites, keeping reality from working as it should by consuming resources but contributing nothing to the Cosmic progress of the Invisible Clergy or the march towards the world's rebirth.
The Room is a junkyard under a brown sky. Some of the items in the junkyard are bits and pieces of the target's past (especially those symbolic of times that they chose inaction over action) while others simply represent the general apathy of modern life. The most striking thing is the money. Money is everywhere in the room, from every country or time period but the faces on the bills or coins aren't leaders but the faces of those the victim has pushed aside out of apathy or disgust. Anyone who enters instinctively realizes that this room represents the waste of their lives and serves as a hollow reflection of themselves. The doorway out rusts shut the moment you enter, with the handle crumbling if touched.
The victim is drawn to items they've left behind, forced against their will, and upon contact they relive the moments these items represent but from the point of view of those who were hurt or neglected by their inaction. The items can show visions of the past where the subject has neglected others, but they see things through the eyes of their "victims". It can also show exaggerated, horrific visions of the future that will be brought on by a subject's inaction, especially if the subject is party (via indifference) to things that will change the world for the worse.
After the subject has wandered through and been granted a vision by each and every item they're simply left alone in the room. They feel no hunger or cold and there's simply nothing to do. Nothing but sleep when you're tired. However, every time the subject sleeps something of "theirs" in the room vanishes. Some symbolic item or figure just isn't there when they wake up. This happens over and over until none of their icons are left and they're just alone in the room. Then when they wake up again the room itself is gone and they're in an empty plain. Then the ground vanishes, and then the sky.
The next time the subject sleeps their eyes vanish, followed by their fingers. Bit by bit with each night's sleep they disappear. Once they have completely vanished (which may take a very long time) they wake up in their home with only about ten minutes of "real" time having passed. Most take the event as a horrific nightmare or forget it completely, but it changes them. They become terrified of disappearing, becoming a non-entity with no influence on the world around them. For good or ill they want to do something with their life.
Those whose lives are too empty for the room to fill with passion become Agents of the room, capable of "reading" the junk in the room to find their next victims.
The First and Last Man
Statosphere doesn't just give the Rooms a bigger role, it also delves into the Count De Saint Germain himself. The First and Last Man. Of course, he's too complex a character to be boiled down to a static role, so instead it provides three interpretations of the Count. These might all be true at different times or versions of reality (or even simultaneously) or only one might be the "true" nature of the Count.
The Universal Superintendent
This version of the Count is a cosmic repairman. This version's age is tied to the invisible Clergy, with each Ascension aging him about a season. At the start of a new universe the first sentient beings gives birth to the Count and Ascends as the Mother and Father. The Count will appear to be in his 20s by the time society has started to form and the Archetypes are approaching the triple digits. By the time the penultimate space is filled he'll appear to be in his eighties.
Other than his age his appearance will "fit in" anywhere, looking like whatever ethnicity and appearance draws the least attention. He can choose not to transform if he prefers and even if he allows it the process is gradual. Sometimes he is a woman, but his appearance is universally average.
This version of the Count looks for the problems in the universal machine and patches them up. He occasionally does things "for humanity" but largely his purpose is to keep the cosmos ticking along and anything short of total extinction isn't that big a deal to him.
There's one thing that he can't do and that's be two places at once. Hence he is often willing to use normal humans as tools and pawns (usually unwittingly) when situations come up that must be addressed but can't be handled directly right now.
Notably, he's got a few enemies among the invisible clergy, although of course they'd never go so far as to try and kill him there's still plenty they can do out of spite. The Count knows a lot, but not everything. He's just as ignorant of what lies beyond the veil as any living person and he has no clue who or what the Cruel Ones are either. He knows all the members of the current Invisible Clergy. Since he cannot be everywhere at once he's unlikely to have a front row seat at most major historical events. He was in China when Jesus showed up and for most of human history he still only knows what other people have told him or what he's personally seen (which is a lot, but still only a fraction of the whole).
He's got Body 50, Speed and Mind at 60 and Soul at 70, which isn't too impressive but he can use every mundane skill at a rank equal to his stat. He also has a few special tricks. First, he's invulnerable. Nothing ever hurts him at all. He's not superman: he can't kick through steel or anything and he can be chained up but when an earthquake or one of his agents frees him he'll be just fine. He also knows pretty much every single ritual (and by extension has built up effectively infinite charges to use them). There's only a few things his rituals can't do: no ritual Blasts (that's adepts only), he still can't be in more than one place at once, he can't get a Major charge, he can't affect the Invisible Clergy directly and he can't kill himself.
He also an extreme polyglot and understands language well enough that he can learn any new language in about a month. He can also make very high-risk rolls: the GM rolls a single d10 and treats it as both the ones and tens place, meaning the result is a matched success or a matched failure. He can also pull a Ford Prefect and with eye contact hit them with the sheer scale of his existence. Effectively he can hit someone with a stress test on any gauge at any level he wants.
The Stormy Petrel of Apocalypse
This version of St. Germain fits right in with the "Cosmic Bumfights" theme of Unknown Armies. He's worn out, worn down, worn inside and worn up. He's just plain tired and doesn't really expect that there's much of anything anyone can do to save humanity (and thus reality) from itself anymore. He certainly doesn't think he can do it, but one thing he hasn't let go of is his sense of duty and so he keeps his face pressed firmly to the grindstone as it turns on and on.
Of course, one of the worst things you can do is inspire a bit of hope or optimism in him again, because if you manage to convince him that maybe something can be done to keep things running just a bit longer then you've just enlisted yourself. An inspired St. Germain will go to great lengths to try and save humanity from itself and unfortunately his allies don't last as long.
It's like the new Doctor Who, but instead of long-term companions he just has those characters he promises to save about midway through and episode and die about 10 minutes before the end.
At this point in his life the Count is mostly an observer. He keeps track of things in the patterns of highway debris, bus schedules and similar apparently meaningless information. He will, on occasion, intervene. This is largely minor...saying the right word to the right person about what's going on and where. Maybe he'll slash someone's tires, delay a bus, or call in a bomb threat or otherwise take a minor action to throw things just far enough out of sync. Only for the highest stakes will he ever actually tell those he's working with (most of) what's going on.
This Count is a student of human nature. At its best and its worst he knows people the way no other individual could. He knows the Clergy because they are/were human too. He used to think that the Cruel Ones were angels...now he has no real idea. Maybe angels are very different from what he expected, maybe they're some kind of byproduct of the Clergy. But he'll feed anyone any supernatural BS he thinks will convince them to do what needs to be done.
He has three main skills: Music, Maps and watching people die.
Okay, that's all putting it very loosely. "Music" in this case means that he's a gifted musician but what it really means is that he can talk just about anyone into anything. With a successful Soul roll (90%) he can convince anyone do to anything remotely reasonable or convince anyone to tell him anything they know. He can also speak and read all human languages
He's great with maps, but doesn't use them much because his sense of direction is perfect. What it really means is he can read the patterns and signs in anything. The swirl in his cup of coffee will tell him that a young girl in a small town is going to be murdered, stuffed with seeds and crucified in the woods. He knows just which 4 people in Florida need to die in order for Trump to be the next president of the United States. On a more mundane scale, this allows him to make a Mind roll (80%) to perfectly know the "lay of the land" (socially, magically, physically, or otherwise) and so long as there is a way forward he can take it. He knows the back entrance or the loose chainlink fence or the exact moment when the guy in the surveillance van is taking a leak.
Watching people die is perhaps his most accurately described skill. First, of course, he's immortal. Not in the invulnerable man of iron sense of the first Count, but in the sense that nothing lethal will ever happen to him. The bullet that kills him will miss, the killing curse is mispronounced, the car crash leaves him miraculously unscathed. It also means he's hardened enough (9 Violence, 9 Self) to do whatever needs to be done to get the job done. Sometimes he'll try and soften a blow or take a slightly more moral path...but most of the time its all about expedience.
He also can ride horses, tame dogs and keep bees.
The final version of the Count is a politician. Appearing currently as "The Diplomat from Magonia" a country which won't appear on any maps but everyone is too embarrassed at not remembering it to check, or ask. He's everywhere at events of state and even those who never met him will claim to know him because it seems like it would be embarrassing not to recall this man. He's an older gentlemen and extremely dapper but no one would be able to agree on his exact ethnicity, of course no one would be so rude to speculate.
This version has the greatest resemblance to the historical/mythical Count De Saint Germain. He's the center of hundreds of rumors and wild speculation, he associates freely with the rich, noble and politically powerful and everyone listens closely to his advice.
Although the Count isn't purely a political animal (recognizing that the forces of magick and the Invisible Clergy are more important in the long run) he also recognizes just how delicate the forces of power are, especially between the Underground and the Sleeping Tiger. By keeping his fingers closely on the pulse of the leaders of the world he can not only keep tabs on major Cosmic or Global events (after all, if the Warrior Godwalker is bucking for ascension you can bet it'll cause ripples in international relations. The sort of ripples that leave smoking craters) but also to keep an out on whether or not the Trickster currently pretending to be the POTUS has been ousted by a Personamancer this month.
His personas change with the times (the Count De Saint Germain was a previous one, since discarded) and his current role as the Ambassador from Magonia is simply one in a long line of personas which he creates. Most of the rumors and stories about him are entirely fabricated.
He has a near-total grasp of current events, worlds leaders, military matters, demographics, etc and is well educated on world history and cultures and can fit into pretty much any society as a consummate gentleman of class.
He is capable of gaining access to more or less any social function without an invitation and is treated as a friend and confidante by all rulers and leaders of any nation in the world. He can spread rumors in much the same way as a Cliomancer, but with greater subtlety and control. He will not (although apparently he can) use magick on world leaders to compel obedience, apparently finding regular old social pressure or intelligence manipulation a more reliable tool.
And that's it, Statosphere is done and with that I have exhausted my supply of Unknown Armies books! In the interest of spreading more interesting and weird RPG stuff, what would people like to see next: The Whispering Vault or should I delve into weird 2nd edition Dark Sun stuff, I've had my eye on the Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs or the Psionic Artifacts of Athas for a while.