Continuum II: The Undead

   Today it’s another module from the Continuum II rules – in this case, the rules for undead and vampires.

   “Undead” are material beings who have been linked with Demons (the energy-creatures of the space/subspace interface) and so draw energy from the potential gradient between subspace (also known as the “Shadow Realm) and the material realm. Unlike Demons, who are purely creatures of the interface, Undead are strongly linked to the material realms through their old bodies and associations. While this energy source is sufficient for most purposes, the link with the shadow realm slowly erodes the complex mentational and bioenergy patterns left over from life – leaving only those which are constantly reinforced. Unchecked, this process gives rise to the “Lesser Undead”, near-mindless beings motivated by monomania, irrational imperatives, and jealousy of the living. Greater Undead, on the other hand, are able to resist this gradual erosion through powerful magic, raw psychic power, or other means.

   As a rule, Lesser Undead make poor characters and Greater Undead need to have a great deal of personal power even before they bond with a demon (usually meaning that you can’t create one as a starting character). Fortunately for those who want to play undead, there is an intermediate group – most commonly known as Vampires.

   Intermediate Undead, while unable to block the gradual drain of subspace, can steal energy from still-living beings to make up for the loss. While this allows them to retain their intelligence, and even to build up power reserves, it exacts its own price; such energy fields must be stabilized and stored. This can be done in several ways externally, but relying on external systems is a recipe for disaster sooner or later. Characters built in this fashion function as vampires, but need pay two fewer talent points than usual for the privilege. Of course, they must also define the nature of their external system, and will soon drop to “Lesser Undead” status if something interferes with it.

   Vampires store power internally, stabilized with a more or less normal physical metabolism. While this is self-contained, and often allows the vampire to “pass” as a normal living being, vampires are thus still vulnerable to intoxicants, poisons (although virtually no dose is sufficient to “Kill”), exposure, starvation, and simple suffocation, if less so then ordinary material creatures. Their delicately balanced energy fields create further vulnerabilities, anything which disrupts, shorts out, or interrupts those fields can be a severe problem. Hence they’re vulnerable to radiation, certain other energy fields, highly conductive metals, and insulators (at least when they’re introduced into their bodies). They’re also vulnerable to “running water” – especially running salty water – since its close similarity to their internal fluids allows their stored energies to spread into the liquid. While this is harmless in still liquids, moving liquids quickly dissipate their energy reserves.

   While many vampires do bite, or even drain blood from their victims, when draining energy and vitality from them, it’s not really necessary. It simply serves to disrupt the victim’s bioenergy field, creating a vulnerable point, and to establish the necessary, intimate, connection. Other methods are available, as legends of incubi, succubi, and seductive vampires demonstrate.

   While many “classic” vampyric powers and vulnerabilities are mythical, they can use their power reserves to enhance their physical abilities, to heal themselves, and to exercise a hypnotic fascination on viewers without mental defenses (due to psychic feedback). While vampires do appear in mirrors they generally avoid them, as the image presented will not be masked by this hypnotic effect, and so can easily give them away. They cannot be effectively treated by normal healing spells, as their physical metabolism is not their primary source of energy.

   All vampires share some basic innate skills

   Innate Skills: Bioenergy Vamparism (L1; 1D6, L3; 1D8, L5; 1D10, L12; 1D12) and Demon-Sight. Energy reserve of (Wis+30+5*Level) points of psychic strength. This may be enhanced by +12 points per major skill invested. Up to (Con) points may be safely expended per round (See; Psychic Powers). Any vampire may choose to shift up to half the damage from any attacks to his or her psychic energy reserves, exerts a limited – and uncontrolled – “fascination” effect, and is entitled to expend points (+1/point, maximum +3, must spend in advance) in order to gain bonuses on strength and dexterity rolls. They also heal at twice the usual base rate. “New” vampires soon acquire four major and four minor skills from the following lists. Additional major skills are acquired at levels 5 and 12. Additional minor skills are acquired at levels 3 and 7. Vampires do not normally recover their psychic strength except by draining it from others.

Major Vampire Skills:

  • Auric Mastery: Animalism, Fascination, Feedback Control, Minor Psychomancy, Regeneration, Shapeshifting
  • Dark Arcana: Beastmaster, Ceremonial Magic, Demonology, Elemental Attunement (select one element), Minor Magic (vampires automatically use the extended minor magic chart for Blood, Darkness, Linking, Sending, and Winter magics), and Psy-Scavenging.
  • Energy Enhancement: Celerity, Field Focusing, Metabolic Support, Mindcloud, Minor C’hi, Stabilization.
  • Negative Energies: Mynddark, Projection, Psy-Disruption, Residue Shaping, Shadowmastery, and Spell Negation.

Minor Vampire Skills:

  • Avoiding Notice: Ambush, Disguise, Hibernation, Humanity, Lair(s), Taling.
  • Manipulations: Acting, Fast Talk, Intimidation, Psychology, Seduction, and Streetwise.
  • Socialization: Chattel, Connections, Contacts, Mentor, Money, Retainers.

   Sunlight, due to it’s disrupting radiation and ultraviolet content, drains 2D6 psychic strength points per hour and makes it very hard to properly employ the remainder (double cost). Wounds from wooden and silver weapons do 1 and one-half times the normal damage, and such wounds must heal at the “natural” rate. Simply avoiding degeneration costs 12 psychic strength points per day. Holy symbols, and buildings with blessings on them, are dangerous thanks to their imbuement with the energy of the spirit realm and should be avoided, unless countermeasures are taken. The energy drain of moving water is highly variable. Remember, “You are what you eat” (See; Shapeshifting) – which means that vampires who persistently feed from nonsapient animals will begin to lose their mental acuity, those who feed from madmen will tend to go mad, and so on.

   Vampires come in a wide variety of types. While the relatively benign, human-seeming, class described above is the most common, many others exist.

   Nucklavee are those vampires who’ve had the bad luck to bond with demons who’s might is too high for their physical bodies to handle, resulting in a swift “decay” – and sloughing away – of their tissues. They “feed” by touching someone and allowing their own, super-powerful, bioenergy patterns to override their victim’s – forcing said victim’s flesh and blood to “flow” onto, and so renew, their own raw and decaying form. This is disgusting to watch, horrifyingly painful and gruesomely damaging for said unlucky victim, and a severe social problem. They do have some advantages however; their higher might allows for better control over their bioenergy field, boosting their reserve limit (+3/Level) and reducing the effects of disrupting elements. They also “drain” people twice as effectively as a normal vampire, but at least one-half of the damage they inflict must be physical.

   Ghouls are vampires who have, unluckily, bonded with a relatively weak demon. So weak, in fact, that their own metabolism can make up for much of the energy loss. A Ghoul’s personal metabolism is “running on overdrive” – burning it’s fuel at a fantastic rate. Ghouls commonly seem cadaverous, terribly thin, feverish, and unnaturally strong. To survive, they absorb the residual energies, and the throughly digestible-and-compatible tissues, of more-or-less freshly deceased members of their species. Due to their diet, they commonly carry a wide selection of horrible diseases, as well as a load of necrotoxins. While their draining ability is relatively ineffective, at least as far as recharging their own energy reserves is concerned (A maximum of 1D6-3), it’s very disruptive – often incapacitating or severely weakening the victim unless they successfully resist it (The precise effects are optional, but paralysis or weakness, temporary disruption of arcane abilities, epileptic fits, and so on, are all possible). Unlike most vampires, ghouls recover their psychic strength naturally – and at twice the usual rate. They also enjoy bonuses of +3 Strength and Endurance, +6 move, and +2 attacks, all due to their accelerated metabolism. Unfortunately, they also require vast amounts of food and drink, tend to reek of carrion, continiously run a high fever (-1 Intellect, Wisdom, and Perception. The demonic side of their personalities tends to dominate) – and lack the greatly extended lifespans typical of other vampires.

   Dopplegangers are less a type then a speciality… A Doppleganger uses Feedback Control and Shapeshifting in conjunction with Bioenergy Vamparism to assume the form – and some part of the personality – of whoever they draw psychic strength from. Those with more advanced skills may duplicate some of their victim’s skills and abilities as well, or even assume them later – at least until the pattern degrades. The most drastic form of this ability is to drain the victim to death, permitting the imprint to remain effective for a considerable period.

   Gaki are simply vampires with a natural attunement to a specific psychic energy pattern, such as that of fear, amusement, affection, pain, pleasure, devotees of a particular religion, members of an ancient bloodline, or whatever else they happen to have an affinity for. While this limits them to “draining” victims who happen to be strongly manifesting or experiencing that pattern at the moment, such attunement bypasses a vampires usual need for an intimate – or even direct – contact. It can even be used to draw modest amounts of energy from many targets at once, or at significant ranges. As a kind of side benefit, Gaki also tend to enjoy some more-or-less minor special ability derived from that attunement – or simply from having more time to practice. (Being a Gaki costs one talent point less common vamparism. GM’s may reduce the cost by two points for particularly limiting specialities).

   Rakasha come into being when the fusion that creates a vampire occurs at the point of death – a stunt that’s only possible when the pairing involves strong wills, a good deal of affinity to start with, and a simultaneous near-death. Given those ingredients, the basic survival drive takes over – both providing and sealing the initial mental bond. Sadly, the tremendous psychic drain of the process usually causes serious mental damage, sends the new vampire into deep hibernation-shock for a time, and gradually warps and distorts both the physical and arcane sides of their body to some degree. They tend to awaken as feral, ravenous, and deadly, monsters, although they do recover to some extent eventually. Rakasha do have advantages; the physical body usually gains some degree of “natural” weaponry and armor (“Innate Weaponry”) and they gain the two level demonic edge in the use of magic (Q.V.). On the other hand, their alien, reborn, personalities tend to alienate, confuse, and repel, others (-3 on relevant rolls, including those for figuring out what’s going on with people), the mental damage reduces their number of general skills by 2/3’rds, and they are easily recognized. To get around these problems, Rakasha commonly practice illusory and telepathic skills. Rakasha are occasionally created intentionally, since they can be fairly readily bound into service while in their deathlike hibernation shock, and rarely remember who they were well enough to put up much resistance later. Especially nasty creators sometimes leave them trapped in an eternal death-agony, torturing his victim(s) and – at the same time – making them virtually immune to lesser pains, mental controls, and logic, in their berserker fury.

   Nonsentient Bondmates are possible. These leave the sentient partner far more mentally dominant then usual, but reduce the base allotment of vamphyric skills to 3/ 3, rather then 4/4. If neither bondmate was originally sentient the combination will be – but begins with only 2/2 vamphyric skills – and any innate abilities.

   Nosferatu are vampires who’ve bonded with a fragment (Q.V.; Shadow Casting) of a truly powerful demon – rather then with the entire entity. This has advantages; they get an odd sort of “family” and support network, access to some portion of the powers of a truly major demon, and access to some special skills of their own. Sadly, this also means that they’re utterly dependent on the powers and support of a demon, and that – not only are they subject to the usual demonic drives of a vampire – but that that portion of their minds is, at least potentially, backed by the full power of their “patron”. Since such demons are almost always unique individuals, they also tend to leave a personal imprint on their “families”. Nosferatu are often subject to peculiar limitations, usually have many of their vamphyric skills preselected according to the “family” to which they belong, and – at least if they’re sensitive – often realize that there is something separate from “them”, and utterly inhuman, raging inside their minds. Some accept it, others rebel – but all of them must deal with it. Worse, since alienation from humanity gives the demonic side an edge in the battle for dominance, Nosferatu are often driven to commit horrific acts – destroying their families, friends, and other innocents as well as seeking out, and reveling in, the worst aspects and excesses of human behavior while the demonic side is dominant.

   The fact that Nosferatu are only infected with small fragments of a demon gives them some unusual options. Quite a few of them possess the ability to tap into the patron demon’s Shadow Casting ability, allowing them to “split off” still smaller fragments to create lesser Nosferatu, or even (for very powerful Nosferatu) unique “subfamalies”. They can gradually gain power over time by building up the fragment they possess or by simply absorbing the demon-fragments embedded in other members of their Nosferatu “family” (the more powerful, and the more directly bound to their patron demon, the better). Unfortunately, these benefits come at a price; unlike a “normal” vampire, the demonic half of a Nosferatu isn’t co-dependent. The demon can withdraw the portion of it’s self without suffering any grievous harm. The same can not be said for the unlucky Nosferatu; if some irritant (sunlight, running water, hard radiation – and anything that’s magically disruptive, or to which their demon is unusually sensitive) causes said demon to break away, the results are unlikely to be pretty. The excess psychic energies of the reserve are usually released as heat as an explosion – and the shock is often fatal in any case, even if a vampire currently has no reserves or is tough enough to survive their release. Fortunately, the patron rarely has a detailed awareness of what it’s “clients” are up too since the fragments in them are usually just too numerous and too small, thus most withdrawals result from irritants. Luckily for them, most Nosferatu soon find out, or instinctively know, what to avoid.

   Unlike most vampires, Nosferatu can’t – ordinarily – “starve to death” while their “family” survives since they can draw a certain amount of psychic energy from them through their demonic patron. While this suffices to preserve them – and even to slowly rebuild their reserves (although the process may require many years), it’s not enough to keep them active. Nosferatu reduced to this state by starvation or critical injuries will be driven into hibernation until they recover, or are arcanely assisted.

   As noted earlier, many Nosferatu can “create” lesser vampires in their turn. In some cases, this process can continue indefinitely – although new vampires generally take some time to come into their power and/or can only do so after their creator perishes. In such cases, the only limitation may be the number of vampires which the original demon can “support”. In other cases, there may be a strict and simple hierarchy – greater, lesser, and least, vampires, often Nucklavee, Vampires, and Ghouls. Extremely powerful demons may support lengthy chains of vamphyric descent – “generations” of undead (while this can be handled in a variety of ways, the simplest – and the most versatile – is just to assign the Nosferatu of lower generations some bonus skill points, and a bonus on their effective “level of use” of vamphyric skills. In some campaigns an age-based bonus may be appropriate as well).

   Nosferatu have access to several additional skill lists, as noted below. This does not increase their allotment of skills, but it does give them additional options for spending them.

Minor Nosferatu Skills:

  • Demonic Relations: Dark Standing, Mind Of Night, Overlord, Patronage, Servitors, and Spirit Combat.
  • The Shadowed Ways: Compacts, Dark Bestowal, Hellwaking, Knowledge (Family Lore), Peerage, and Wardpact.

Major Nosferatu Skills:

  • Arcane Community: Blood Links, Cabalism, Dark Reserves, Inherent Lore, Survivalist, and Psychic Transference.
  • Link Mastery: Concealment, Demonic Channels, Infection, Link Maintenance, Reformation, and transcendence.

   Born Vampires are extremely rare. Their metabolic shifts leave most vampires almost sterile. In most cases, the embryo and/or mother will be incapable of surviving the power drain of hosting a demon even if conception occurs, and nothing goes seriously wrong with the symbiosis (which is very likely, especially if only one parent “contributes” the demonic side of things). The child will be subject to all the perils of a greatly-extended infancy and childhood, will require vast amounts of energy to support it’s growth, and will probably wind up dying of metabolic distortions anyway. On the other hand, the few vampire-children who survive such perils are generally substantially better at using their abilities then ther vampires. Born vampires, or those who became vampires as toddlers (this avoids many of the problems listed above – but few of those willing to, and capable of, doing such a thing to an infant, have the time, or patience, to wait for them to grow up) get two extra major, and two extra minor, vamphyric skills. Unfortunately for PC’s, this also normally requires two extra talent points to invest in a special background.

   Revenants are those few vampires who have managed to live through the destruction, separation, or withdrawal of their demonic halves after they’ve adjusted to their undead status. This is very rare. While each such case is unique, those who avoid traumatic amnesia ordinarily retain those “vamphyric” skills based on psychic powers or ordinary abilities – although they’re commonly short of psychic strength to run them with. Those with access to a “source” of negative energy may well be able to use any or all of their old powers, save for the innate skills. Sadly, this is usually a considerable strain. Outside of these abilities, and the possible retention of a somewhat enhanced lifespan, Revenants are essentially normal material beings.

   Dhampires are more-or-less normal material creatures who happen to have a strong enough link to a vampire or vampires to draw on some of it’s/their powers. Most are the non-vamphyric relatives or offspring of vampires, but a few arrange the situation artificially. In most such cases, Dhampires are effectively identical to Revenants – albeit a lot more common. Being a Dhampire “normally” costs two talent points (for access to an “Unrelated” skill list), but those who can draw negative energy, or extra psychic strength, from their vamphyric contact must pay an “extra” +1 (for negative energy OR psychic strength) or +2 (for both) talent points for the privilege. They are, perhaps unfortunately for them, excellent links to the vampire or vampires they draw upon.

   “Lesser Undead” are actually fairly straightforward; The mental bond with the original material being allows the demon to possess (Anchor into, Q.V.) whatever happens to be left of the body. If there isn’t much left, such manifestations are basically immaterial. A handful of floating dust is quite sufficient to provide the link – but is difficult to attack as it floats about. Solider bodies are easier to hit, but are highly resistant to most attacks (Q.V.; Puppetry). After all, they are pretty much dead (IE; they don’t freeze, starve, or poison, at all well). Since the demonic side of things is usually more or less dominant – while the “human” side tends to be utterly obsessed – most lesser undead are also quite resistant to mental manipulations. They can draw on the “Demonic” skill lists as well as the Vamphyric ones and get a powerful, disruptive, negative, touch in place of the ability to steal bioenergies. The exact effects of this vary considerably, but usually include terrible chills and damage, to go along with something like neural disruption, paralysis, entropic decay or aging), induced diseases (actually a disruption of their victims immune system and healing functions), or even death.

   It should be noted that many of the entities who are often referred to as “undead”, such as ghosts and haunts, grave guardians, avenging spirits, poltergeists, and so on, are actually purely empyrean entities and/or constructs with a psychic, rather than a demonic, origin. Of course, given the importance of belief in empyrean phenomena, the difference between “genuine” undead and nasty empyrean spirits is often hard to see. The line is further blurred by the fact that, lacking a reliable source of energy, many lesser undead “feed off of” the psychic energies resulting from popular beliefs and hopeful superstitions about them – allowing them to maintain themselves and increase their powers at the cost of taking on some the limitations, odd characteristics, and vulnerabilities, assigned to them in popular belief.

   “Greater Undead” are simply those undead who possess some way of maintaining their personal psychic patterns without “recharging” from other people. As this usually requires formidable magical or psychic powers – whether personal or applied by others – the greater undead tend to be either unique individuals or small groups created by some specific means. Those who still possess living bodies are usually simply powerful vampires (psychic adepts are the most common members of this category) – while those who’s physical bodies have died can normally be treated as “Lesser Undead”, albeit with their minds and any extra personal powers intact. Those in this category who have appropriate powers, or who were transformed by somebody else, may have drastically enhanced physical bodies (Q.V. Combat Armor; Full Military Conversion).

   “Pseudo-Vampires” don’t necessarily have anything to do with demons. They’re simply individuals who command vampire-like abilities. Such individuals include some of the odder Aurists and Adepts, the occasional erratic Demonologist or Mage, victims/users of enchantments and curses, and “Death Vampires” – rare individuals gifted or cursed with a variant of the “Soulcarrier” ability that allows them to absorb the souls and minds of the dying, gaining a large portion of their abilities and life force – at the expense of vast strains on their sanity. While this has it’s “benevolent” uses, especially if they can control it, and/or release the souls they’ve absorbed, those who lack control soon become incredibly powerful, all-devouring, lunatics. Those who choose to just “ride with it”, absorbing ever-more, and ever-stronger, souls to keep those they already contain too confused and fragmented to overload their minds, become some of the most dangerous entities in the multiverse. While an internal rebellion is inevitable in the end, when the souls they devour are too either strong to contain, or too weak to refragment the others within them, they have been known to depopulate entire worlds – one soul at a time.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: