The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIII – Dun Shunkaha

Back in Aden, Charles was surveying things a bit… Sure, he could sense at things in there, but – at least until he was entirely used to it – he preferred to look at things with his own eyes. There were quite a few manses that he’d made while he was very sleepy, and experiments he hadn’t checked on lately, and other bits. Perhaps, before he left for the other end of the universe, he should check on what he was going to be carrying along!

Dun Shunkaha (the Wolf Manse, or perhaps “Manses with Wolves”?) had been one of Charles’s experiments in the line of research which had led to the Bazaar of the Bizarre and – ultimately – to making his Guardians. Like so many of his other experiments, it had been at least partially inspired by popular movies, comics, and role-playing games.

In this case, it was by things like “Werewolf The Apocalypse”, “Monsters Monsters!”, by various Wolf and Werewolf movies, and by various other myths and books.

Of course, unlike most “werewolf” sources, Dun Shunkaha started off with normal human children and turned them into fluffy, friendly, helpful werewolf / wolf-spirit creatures – “Kickaha” – that were MUCH nicer than the ones in Charles’s source material…

It had been much easier to overlay an existing pattern onto the test subjects than it would have been to empower them entirely from scratch – but the experiment did show him both the benefits and the limitations of that particular method; the base creature got a MASSIVE dose of the habits and instincts of the template creature. In this case his subjects had gotten awfully canine and rather territorial, as well as being jumped straight from physical childhood into semi-adult bodies and granted substantial magical powers.

His four test-subject volunteers had been small, orphaned, children with no one to care for them – and with either emotional traumas that they wanted to escape (he had, after all, pulled them out of war zones) and/or congenital damage that was difficult to cure. They mostly didn’t have the life experience to avoid letting those wolfish mental patterns impact their personalities – or a lot of common sense… Well, he’d fix that next time! As for these four… well, small children tended to form “packs” anyway and now they could play all they wanted to; Aden had lots of room!

Dun Shunkaha empowers normal kids as a “guardian force” – using wyld-revocation based bilocation to keep them effectively “in” the manse at all times (which also makes them very hard to kill), mutagenic effects to provide relevant mutations, upgrading the life-sustaining function that they’re all constantly exposed to to let them expend a few motes to trigger (or to NOT trigger) it’s effects, and provides some artifact-benefits for all of them (a Behemoth Cloak

Possible representation of the Werewolf Españo...

Now understand, these are just some preliminary sketches...

and some utility items). Not surprisingly, the youngsters all undertook the Adenic Thaumaturgic Initiation as soon as they found out about it. The Guardians saw no reason not to let them…

Unlike Guardians, Kickaha don’t have massive geomantic powers, a geomantic network, or forty dots worth of artifacts and the combined powers of multiple manse guardians to draw on. They’re a lot more physically-oriented than the Material Gods of the Bazaar of the Bizarre too; they lean much more heavily towards toughness and attributes and tend to rely fairly heavily on their modest selection of spirit charms.

Charles had made sure that his volunteers generally meant well, and had checked out the basic patterns of the results – but then basically patted them on the head, told them to behave themselves and to have fun, and wandered off without actually giving them anything to do except to play with each other and compete for fun, dominance, and attention. There was a general urge to help out and serve him, but that wasn’t something that Charles had intentionally added; it came with bonding to a manse that was an outgrowth of his soul.

He didn’t approve of exerting unnatural mental influence over people, but that was acceptable as long as it was volunteers linking themselves to a power source… It helped protect them against non-magical exploitation anyway!

When he dropped back by, Charles found that things had – once again – run off in an unexpected direction. He’d expected the Kickaha to play with each other and sometimes explore Aden a bit – even if they would naturally tend to hang around Dun Shunkaha a lot.

He hadn’t counted on the fact that Dun Shunkaha could easily support up to six hundred and fifty of them… “Go and recruit more kids to play with” had NOT been among his intentions! Of course, the Kickaha were as impulsive as he was…

Despite what many people thought, anticipating consequences, and long-term planning, were not among his better talents. Besides… if youngsters wanted to become magical werewolf things, why shouldn’t they?

With that many of them using Dun Shunkaha as a central clubhouse, territoriality, dominance, games, and access to various special resources were becoming important factors. After all, while Charles was stalling, the Kickaha got catapulted straight to quasi-adulthood.

When Charles got around to checking on Dun Shunkaha he found a LOT of childlike but physically adolescent-adult werewolves hanging around.

(Charles) “Hey! I thought there were only like, four of you guys!”

(Lounging werewolf) “We found more!”

(Charles) “Er… Well, OK, as long as they wanted to be like you guys!… And how are you all getting along? And how many of you are there now?”

(Another young Kickaha) “There are almost six hundred and fifty of us! We have lots of fun together!”

(Charles) “Well that’s… good. (Wait, this was mostly youngsters…) Do you need some games or something?”

(Assorted werewolves) “Yay, games!” “I like soccer!”

There were calls for a wide variety of games – mostly outdoor sports of course – which was just a bit weird when apparent adults started chiming in… Well, they WERE all inherently young adults, even if they could shapeshift (maybe the more dominant ones liked to look older?).

Charles made sure that there were plenty of games….

Did they do much of anything else? Hang around Hobbit inns and guard them or something? He did some scanning and made some inquiries.

It looked like they… guarded Hobbit inns, gently teased the Baalgrogs, roved the wilderness near Dun Shunkaha, watched Sidereals from hiding, played games with the kids from rescued communities, made territories, occasionally held pack-hierarchy dominance duels, and indulged in various other physical activities. They seemed to be taking advantage of the available, and bountiful, resources.

They were still recruiting on occasion too… wait, had they come up with a charm that let them expand their numbers more?

Charles watched a duel; there was plenty of everything, so it couldn’t be too serious!

Blood did get drawn – but only a few scrapes (if sometimes enough to make them spend a few motes regenerating). Basically it was until somebody yielded… Nothing even lethal enough to drive someone back to the manse, although one kid had apparently gotten his arm broken last week and had had to wait HOURS for it to heal.

Well, there was nothing at all wrong with that!

Charles set up a few more entertaining dueling areas – with unusual environments and such for them to play and practice in – and talked to one of the winners…

(Charles) “So you’re in charge now? In charge of what?”

(Alpha) “Well, this pack right here!”

That was… around twenty individuals.

(Charles) “What do you do with them? Pick the games?”

(Alpha) “That – and I get first pick of the girls!”

(Charles, who’s biological skills were high enough so he did know how that worked – even if he still considered it sort of icky) “Well, if that’s how you want to do things…” (Huh. They can certainly produce offspring, but what would they be like? Doubly god-blooded?). “And I guess the “beta” there gets the next choice? Or are you the only one in the pack who breeds?”

(Alpha) “Oh, we all breed. I just get first pick every day, and we stop when the girls get bored or tired.”

Charles was rather embarrassed now… Oh dear! He wasn’t anticipating a daily orgy when he made them. Was it just because they have no work to do to occupy them with anything ELSE? That seemed likely! After all, why would they work? They had everything they needed.

(Charles) “Are any of the girls pregnant yet?”

What was he going to say if the answer was “Sure! All of them!”?!?! That would be even MORE awkward!

It was about a third. Elzeard – with more foresight than Charles – had made sure that Maiden Tea was available, and Aden tended to keep things somewhat under control anyway.

(Charles) “Have any delivered yet? It’s been what… five? maybe six? – months…”

That would be fast for pure mortals, but with material gods it was kind of hard to tell!

Not yet, but some were quite far along, with a pretty even distribution among the trimesters.

Charles got Elzeard to take a look and see what they were going to be like… He was not ABOUT to poke at pregnant girls stomachs! They could be producing move Kickaha, god-bloods, or something entirely odd…

Elzeard reported that – except for the manse-artifact boosts, which gave a modest advantage to the “first generation” (at least until the others got their own artifacts) they seemed to be… self-reproducing.

Oh dear! Hopefully they’d at least have reasonably long childhoods. If it was “grow to adulthood overnight and start breeding” something would have to be done!

(Charles) “And would you like something to do in addition to the (he winced a bit)… regular orgies?”

(Alpha) “Sure! We’d be happy to help out more than we are.”

(Charles) “Well, I’ll try to think of something! Although, obviously enough, most of the girls will need to spend time on child care soon.”

(Alpha) “Yeah… we’ll need something else to do… How about patrolling? The Baalgrogs do it too, but they’re so pretentious!”

(Charles) “Well, I bet you guys can be inconspicuous – both visually and magically – really well too!”

(Alpha) “OK!”

(Charles) “And I’ll see if there’s anything else more exciting to do!”

They liked that idea – especially the males. The females were going to have quite enough to do all too soon… At least most of them were having only one child to rear! That was MUCH better than litters in this case!

And Elzeard predicted a normal length of childhood. That was good too!

Well, they didn’t really seem to need much of anything right now – although he could think of some jobs; perhaps a bit of planetary exploration here and there…

And now he knew that manse-guardians based on upgraded mortal species with mutagenic manses could effectively become magical species. That should be fun to experiment with!

Elzeard sighed. This little quasi-exaltation experiment of Charles’s had yielded some unexpected results – and some rather randy youngsters. Perhaps the Kickaha represented Charles’s delayed adolescence?

Bruce Damien “I Am Not the Prince of Darkness!” De La Vega

English: A 18th century engraving depicting a ...

How not to make friends and influence people.

   Here we have a curious character from Editorial-0, who was recently digging through some of his old books and ran across Werewolf the Apocalypse… Given his fondness for misfit characters, it is no surprise that this particular character probably won’t be able to fit in anywhere at all.

   Bruce Damien I.A.N.T.P.O.D. De La Vega

Built as 2nd Edition Werewolf: The Apocalypse character

  • Character Type: Werewolf (kinda sorta not-really)
  • Breed: Homid
  • Auspice: None
  • Tribe: None
  • Nature:
  • Demeanor:
  • Totem:
  • Age 37 (15 physically)
  • Sex: Male
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian
Physical   Mental   Social
Strength 1 Intelligence 4 Charisma 3
Dexterity 2 Wits 5 Manipulation 4
Stamina 3 Perception 1 Appearance 1
Talents   Skills   Knowledges
Alertness Animal Ken Computer
Athletics Drive 3 Enigmas 4
Brawl Etiquette 3 Investigation
Dodge Firearms Law
Empathy 3 Melee Linguistics
Expression Leadership Medicine 1
Intimidation Performance 3 Occult 5
Primal-Urge Repair Politics
Streetwise 2 Stealth Rituals 3
Subterfuge Survival Science

   Special Traits

  • Gnosis ** (Starting at 1 for a base)
  • Willpower **** (Starting at 1 for a base)
  • Gifts
    • Has access to Homid, Ragabash, and Black Fury lists
      • Persuasion (1) Cha+Subterfuge DC 6, reduces Social DC’s by 1, no cost
      • Sense of the Prey (2) Perception + Enigmas if target is actively hiding, no cost
      • Thieving Talons of the Magpie (5) Wits + Stealth DC Willpower, 1 Gnosis/turn to use

   Backgrounds

  • Ally *
  • Contacts **
  • Resources *
  • Totem ***:

   Ally: Local Camarilla Kindred generally. They are considered friendly to Bruce, although he has no claim on their services and cannot get in touch directly. They would well-disposed if he needed to make a trade or contact someone, but that’s the limits of his association. This is a 1-point background because the benefit is small and diffuse, offering limited help, and liable to vanish.

   Contacts

  • Richard Duggan, Children of Gaia Elder. As the most important Children of Gaia leader around (though he doesn’t control the Caern), Richard has been a handy person to know for Bruce. They don’t really owe each other anything, but Richard has asked Bruce to help on many an occasion, and Bruce does so eagerly. Oddly, it’s easier for Bruce to get in touch with him than many werewolves, and Richard lets everyone know Bruce can be trusted if the Garou need something done.
  • Erin Larimore, shop owner. Erin deals in the usual weird occult supplies: candles, tarot decks, and other conveniences for the New Age crowd or Wiccans. But she has the real thing in the back: animal blood for “people with iron deficiency”, quality ritual supplies for people who use them, custom orders an other special items for those who ask. She doesn’t own a great deal, but it’s real enough. The prices are high, but she closes long after midnight. Bruce is one of her infrequent customers, and if he needed something rare or even a place to hide, he might go see her.

   Freebies

  • +2 Gifts (14)
  • +2 Backgrounds (2)
  • +1 Gnosis (2)
  • +3 Willpower (3)

   Merits and Flaws

  • Flaw: No Transformation: Cannot shapeshift out of human form and cannot revert from another form if externally altered. The character has no regeneration and will die from normal damage. Of course, life’s not all bad: he doesn’t have to fear aggravated damage more than usual. Then again, anything likely to cause aggro damage would kill him faster than the plague. (-8)
    • >>> This is not only a bigger flaw than the Jedi-Garou’s version, it effectively makes him far weaker than any other werewolf or Vampire character. Granted, most enemies are not going to worry about Bruce when a werewolf shows up, but still.
  • Flaw: No Place in Society: The character has no natural place in his “normal” society and cannot really advance in status among them. He may be loved or hated, but is always an outsider. He isn’t automatically invited to gatherings, and cannot gain social status. (-5)
    • >>> This would be -3 for most characters, but as a “werewolf” (ha!) he normally needs ranks to advance. Even worse, this would cripple his magical abilities since he could never buy advanced Gifts. This Flaw doesn’t normaly apply to Sabbat or Anarch vampires, because they could still haul off and join the Camarilla if they chose, and most Camarilla rejects would be able to hang with Anarchs or prove themselves to the Sabbat, etc. It might apply to a Thin-Blood character, but they don’t get the additional bonus because they’re not dependent on social standing for power.
  • Flaw: Moonblind: The character has no lunar auspice, gifts, auspice gift list, and no inherent Rage. On the upside, he has no Rage and no associated problems. (-7)
    • >>> While the value of the Rage would vary by the specific chosen auspice, we can use the Philodox as an average. That’s 3 Rage (6), a gift list (1), and a Gift (7). Getting only 7 points from it is extremely conservative.
  • Flaw: Tribeless: The character has no tribe and no free Willpower, gifts, or tribal gift list. But life’s not all bad: he has no background limitations. (-5)
    • >>> Again, there’s no easy answers here. We’ll take an average of 3 Willpower (3), a gift list (1), Gift (7). As with Moonblind, getting only 5 points is the conservative option – but this isn’t a godlike master of magic, but a hardworking neophyte character.
  • Merit: Gifted Path: You have access to a whole gift list (breed, auspice, or tribe) or your choice. This may be taken multiple times. (+1) [Taken twice]
    • >>> This could cost much more, but it’s possible to learn gifts directly from spirits, or change tribe or auspice, and you still have to find someone to teach you the gift. If you absolutely must have a certain gift, you can always jsut grab that, and with no more difficulty than otherwise. This is really a favor owed by a spirit, Garou, and represents your investment of time and energy into that path.
  • Merit: Bargainer: You can access Gifts one rank higher than usual, but must stack up bribes for the spirits to do so. This may be taken multiple times. (+5 for the first rank, +3 thereafter) [Taken five times]
    • >>> This is a biggie, but you have to buy the more expensive first rank, which gets you nothing at character creation, and then find the points to invest elsewhere. If that still seems overpowered, rememebr that buying two ranks of this nets you access to second-rank Gifts but you still have to buy them out of freebie points or experience and it costs as much as losing access to all shapeshifting! Plus, high-rank disciplines are often much more expensive in terms of Gnosis and Willpower – which you can’t easily afford. The spirits will ask for anything they like to let you use your magic, and in a fight you don’t have time to argue, either. They allow you to pay later, if only because they recognize that a battle to the death isn’t the place for burning incense offerings. And you don’t have to bargain for any Gift your rank allows you access to normally.

   Because Bruce is built as a Werewolf (even without their normal abilities), he does not need to pay for Immunity to Delirium, or purchase a Kinfolk background. Presumably his spirit interactions no doubt greatly eased the normal Delirium, so he is not subject to it. He can also bind fetishes or talens and step into the Umbra, although his experience there is limited.

   He has a total of 25 extra backgrounds from flaws. He has taken merits worth 19 points, leaving 6 points free for freebies.

———————————————————————————————-

   Bruce is a student of the spirits, studying how to bargain and cajole them into doing what he desires. This is roughly the same as tribal shamanism, but unlike shaman, Bruce lacks any kind of ongoing credit or codified rituals to get the job done. He can’t get a dozen tribal warriors to routinely offer their kills to the gods or carry on elaborate dances to please the wind.

   Fortunately, his ambitions lie less in controlling the weather or altering the fertility of the earth and more in personal amusement and wealth. This isn’t to say he’s selfish: to him, bargaining with the spirits is a job, and he expects to get paid. He delivers things they want, and he in return obtains magic from them. He uses this to get wealth to live on.

   Bruce wants to learn, but he treasures the knowledge more than the actual power. While he loves to use his abilities, it’s a matter of enjoying the fruits of the skills he worked long and hard to learn, not reveling in his personal might. He’s like an engineer, who loves the creation more than the fact he created it, but always crafting with a purpose.

   Of course, the magic is fun as well as useful. Bruce is well-known around local circles of occultists and hedge wizards. With time, he can contact the Camarilla, make contact with a Mage, or find a skilled Sorcerer. He has rough but accurate ideas of what any given creature or spellcaster can do, although he can’t easily tell the differences between the various clans, traditions, and or similar organizations. He works with Garou whenever possible, since they are among the few who could teach him more Gifts.

   He certainly envies other supernatural manipulators. To some local occultists dabbling with Oijia boards and Tarot cards, Bruce might sound powerful, but to a professional Sorcerer, he’s a pitiful child. And a Mage or Tremere would laugh at him for even calling himself a magician. The Garou certainly do, and most of them aren’t half as good as he.

   However, Garou also recognize that he’s very useful and pay him off in various (non-financial) ways. They are deeply disturbed by the fact that he’s mastered Gifts far beyond almost any werewolf, but for this very reason don’t feel like they can afford to dismiss him. A Homid he might be, but he’s painfully eager to help and apparently commands the respect of powerful spirits. The Garou keep him from any deep lore or their Rituals, but they hand him a few tidbits now and then. This has led Bruce to writing down a great deal of Garou knowledge, including things they’d rather not let anyone else learn.

   He adds to his mystical talents a willingness to allow any peaceful traveler a brief stay in his home. He declared it Neutral Ground where any magical being or magic-user is welcome. Thus far the local Children of Gaia have chosen to pretend the place doesn’t exist and therefore can’t be harboring unholy Wyrm-tainted Vampires or filthy magic-stealing Mages. Bruce assumes they’ve just opted to ignore the issue, but they place a deeper game: it’s damn useful to observe such travelers. Watchful visitors might note an oddly observant and wild-looking ‘dog’ hanging around the woods facing the house. Bruce is oblivious, as usual.

   Bruce has also been very ill lately, a sickness he recently came down with. He’s pale and shivers all the time, and hasn’t been able to focus as easily. He feels weak all the time, particularly in the day, and tires more quickly than normal.

    The following is for bog-standard WoD games, where the world sucks and everyone is a dick, endlessly moaning about their miserable fate. It would be greatly muted in most games.

   Bruce isn’t very perceptive. But he’s not socially reclusive and knows he’s not respected. He’s surrendered a great deal of time and hard work to get his magical powers, and yet they are still very limited. Everyone seems to treat him as either a fool, a tool, or an object, not worthy of any recognition in his own right. So far, he’s not realized, and would be crushed to learn, that supernaturals consider him a nuisance even when well-disposed towards him. He tries to maintain his ongoing enthusiasm and helpfulness, as his deep-seated loneliness slowly emerges.

   What Bruce thinks of…

   Werewolves: He really admires them (they are very skilled in spiritualism), but fears them at the same time. Despite their Rage, they could live a reasonably normal life, but they actively encourage it to boil over. He recognizes that the Children of Gaia do so less often and tolerate him much more. He’s learning the differences between the breeds, auspices, tribes, and wants to collect their history and wisdom (such as it is) into a single volume. It never occurred to him that the Garou might not want such a thing, and may be surprised (fatally) when he finally finishes it and triumphantly gifts them back copies.

  • Children of Gaia: These are the closest thing to friends Bruce has among the Garou. They at least don’t automatically hold their noses at his presence, and even invite him to help at times. They’re the most willing to exchange lore, and have fewer problems with Rage. While Bruce isn’t sure if he can trust them, he’s always willing to hear them out on anything they need.
  • Red Talons: Bruce’s one meeting with a traveling Red Talon was not pleasant. He got the (correct) impression that the Talon wanted desperately to kill someone. This proved very much correct. He’d very much prefer not to meet another. Ever.
  • Get of Fenris: Bruce thinks they are much friendlier than they really are, mostly because his interactions with them have taken place mostly while both parties are drunk. They’ve had some wild hangovers together even if the Get considers him a freak who should be ignored.
  • Silent Striders: These uncommon guests cause no trouble and always thank him. He’s very pleased to have them, and they always leave swiftly in the morning.
  • Stargazers: The lone local Stargazer Bruce met was very friendly and shared a great deal of lore. Though withdrawn, he was gentle and seemed much more controlled than other Garou. That said, Bruce didn’t understand half of what he was saying and felt rather inadequate next to the werewolf’s considerable spiritual might.

 Vampires: Bruce realizes intellectually they are predatory no less than Garou, but that’s not what bothers him (they avoid killing as much as possible). Instead, his major problem is that nearly every vampire he’s met is a callous jackass for no reason. This partly the nature of the ones he’s met, but not entirely.

  • Brujah: The Brujah don’t come around as often as the Gangrel, but the have caused trouble and are the only Kindred he’s had to ask to leave. They were sufficiently rowdy as to attract police attention on a nuisance charge. They had all the manners of a rabid pit bull, but only about half the charm.
  • Gangrel: The Gangrel are Bruce’s most common visitor. He rolls out a welcome, with hot showers and a nice basement bedroom protected from the sun. They, in fact, are the ones responsible for bringing him to the attention of the Camarilla. They seem very unpleasant and hardly talk to him. Instead they simply show up unannounced (often at very late or very early hours) and expect a stay.
  • Toreador: The one Toreador Bruce met was very odd, and could not shut up about ballet the entire night. Bruce doesn’t entirely understand the clan divisions, but has a vague idea they are the “artist” clan or something. He’s rather leery of meeting any more, because the idea of blood-crazed art majors disturbs him greatly.
  • Ventrue: Bruce met a Ventrue investigating his home and person. This one at least didn’t remotely hide his reasons for coming and approached in a very businesslike manner, and gave the general impression it was a very bad idea to cross him. There was some honesty and surprising straightforwardness in that. Bruce didn’t trust the vampire, but he did feel safer around that one than any other supernatural. And it was only partly the result of Presence.

   Mages: Bruce greatly admires Mages, especially the way they effortlessly go far beyond the powers he has, without even having to try. To him, it’s downright incredible. He’d do almost anything for Mages or Sorcerers – they’re his heroes, able to play with reality itself like modeling clay. Of course, he doesn’t realize the true difficulty and cost of such things, nor the conflicts between the wielders of true magic. The divisions between them are fairly opaque.

 What they think of Bruce

   Kindred: The Kindred nearby consider Bruce a very handy resource, and one worth protecting as long as he doesn’t talk. They know that a traveling vampire is most vulnerable, and Bruce greatly eases that risk. As such, they’d prefer to keep him an ally at arm’s length. They haven’t shared any of their lore the way the lupines have. Note that only the Camarilla really knows who he is and how to use his services. The Sabbat, Giovanni, and Setites have only a vague idea he might exist, and the Anarchs stay away from the area.

  • Brujah: The Brujah enjoyed Bruce’s help much more than they let on, and might argue in his favor if it came down to that. They think it’s funny that he asked ancient undead predators of the night to not disturb the neighbors.
  • Gangrel: They think he’s not long for this world, although they appreciate his hospitality. They don’t realize their gruff demeanor is driving him away, because he always seems very friendly. They take advantage of his openness most often. They also don’t really comprehend how interested he is in their past and knowledge, simply because nobody else cares.
  • Tremere: They certainly watch the occult community for good prospects, but decided he’s vastly too limited to be of use. His talents lie in an area they rarely touch and which doesn’t greatly affect them, so as far as they are concerned he’s a waste. They don’t even want to associate with him, paranoid as they are about anyone learning their mystic secrets.
  • Ventrue: The nearby Camarilla prince decided Bruce has his uses and suggested the local Kindred leave him alone. Any Vampire who casually or pointlessly hurt Bruce would probably be punished for wasting a resource, but could easily persuade the Prince to drop the protection if needed. It’s only a matter of convenience for traveling Camarilla.
  • The Prince even considered Embracing Bruce himself to keep the Masquerade intact since the Tremere declined, but is not sure whether Bruce would adapt well. He also knows Bruce’s useful magic would likely be lost permanently. In any case, having a friendly (if not very discrete) and willing daytime assistant is very handy. The Prince wants him kept at arm’s length and has, through intermediaries, warned him about being too public.

 Garou: The local Garou generally consider Bruce a nuisance, tolerated for his usefulness and his willingness to help. Many assume he’s Kinfolk (which might even be true) and try to ignore his incredible spiritual talent. That doesn’t stop them from asking for favors or ‘borrowing’ money they don’t intend to repay in exchange for sharing stories and tidbits of lore, and they fail to realize just how knowledgeable he’s becoming. He can probably match even the best Garou loremasters already – a fact which would shock them if they learned of it.

  • Children of Gaia: The Children’s Elder is the most favorable to Bruce of the local Garou, and wants to keep the status quo for the moment. They are displeased by his contacts with the Vampires, but don’t wish to risk provoking a confrontation. The Children of Gaia know the Prince’s protection was recently bestowed and fear that killing a vampire in Bruce’s home, or allowing another Garou to hurt Bruce, would spark a horrible fight they might well lose.
  • Get of Fenris: It’s a good thing that Bruce doesn’t realize that the Get despise him, or worse. Some of their members actively think he is a threat, though not enough to anger the Children of Gaia. They dislike him because of his involvement with Vampires and Mages, which they fear may lead to attacks on the Caern.
  • Glass Walkers: They really don’t care. He’s not their concern, and he’s not remotely important. to them. If they are even aware of his existence, it is dim at best and probably consists of a few notes on noteworthy occultists in the city.
  • Shadow Lords: If the Get worry Bruce may cause trouble, the Shadow Lords enjoy the thought. Of course, they very much want to kill Bruce – the idea of a human competing with Garou for spiritual mastery disturbs them on levels they are unwilling to admit. It’s not what he’s done, but what he is, which undermines their view of the world. And being werewolves, their first instinct upon encountering contrary evidence is to destroy it. They want to make sure any such reprisal falls entirely upon the Children of Gaia and the Get, leaving them in a position to take over. Thankfully, they don’t know how connected Bruce is to the Mages and vampires, or things would get messy, fast.
  • Silent Striders: Since a hot meal and a warm bed are always welcomed by the Striders, they politely enjoy his hospitality and don’t stretch more than a day or two. They’re used to trading entertainment for a place to live, and are always free with him.
  • Stargazers: The Stargazer living around has plans for Bruce, although he hasn’t shared it. If a human can achieve such spiritual mastery (in his own unusual fashion), then perhaps there is hope for the Garou, too. Even more importantly, He realizes that Bruce’s Gift mastery may already be above that of the local Garou. If there is any way to use this to save his people, he very much wants to do so. And perhaps if the Garou are saved from themselves, then even his dwindling tribe has hope.
  • Uktena: Though the Uktena have few members nearby, they do keep tabs on Bruce, simply because they don’t entirely understand how a human can use this magic. He has never met them, but they know all about him, and watch for whatever spirits he might inadvertently pull down from the Umbra.

 Mages: The general lack of organization which prevails among the Mage traditions and sorcerers mostly prevents them from having any very specific opinions. While they recognize he has some unusual talents and great enthusiasm, they sneer privately at the narrow focus and pathetic range he displays. Sure, he can do some very potent things – but even a new-born mage or a half-trained sorcerer can do much, much more. To them, he’s another monotalent with little potential. Dozens of similar people harass them for advice and training, and none of them can possibly measure up. Bruce is no different than the rest.

  • Verbena: One Verbena in particular has an unusual interest in Bruce, although he (she? it?) remains extremely subtle about it. Having heard about Bruce’s talent and wanting to investigate the Garou anyway, this shape-shifting master of life even invited Bruce to borrow his talents. Bruce did so, and with a passing wish to be younger nearly de-aged himself back into childhood. The Mage had to act quickly to keep Bruce from going back to nursery school. As it is, Bruce is twenty years younger and could easily go back to high school. The ability to copy an Avatar’s enlightenment, however temporary, is nothing to sneeze at, and the Verbena wants to see just how far Bruce can go with his talents.
  • Order of Hermes (Sorcerers): These masters of traditional magic are the majority, and probably the biggest power bloc, in the Order of Hermes. The Mages have almost entirely withdrawn to the spirit realms, leaving the real power in the hands of paradox-immune Sorcerers. They are aware of Bruce, and think of him as a sad case of what happens with a talented individual has no training or assistance. To them, he’s wasted his ability on attempting to re-invent the wheel. He did well in his own way, but the effort he invested can never produce the same results of learning from others.

 hat should be enough hooks to run a campaign on. If that’s not enough, I don’t know what could possibly be short of his own novella. Note that these notes are not character advantages: Bruce doesn’t get to use these elements at his whim. They’re just giving dozens of hundreds of ways to involve him or build stories big and small about.

   The player could easily drive hooks forward, too, focusing on magical research. After all, the major differences vampires and humans are that vampires are undead – and must face off against their own internal Rage which animates them. And isn’t it very interesting that a vampire, even a deeply spiritual and enlightened one who constantly does good, always triggers Wyrm-sensing talents by Garou? This notion might not appeal to werewolves if they realized their Rage might be a poisoned gift, tainted at its true source (and some sourcebooks support this idea).

   Major projects mostly include continuing to rebuilding his business for detective work, finding people is very easy for him. Following his rejuvenation, he lost most of his assets. It was all he could do to get a new legal ID, claiming a computer error crossed him up with an older relative with the same name. He wants his damn house back – the bank is too busy with other foreclosures to get around to claiming it, but that won’t last long.

   He’s working on creating the aforementioned book of Garou lore, and would like to continue with a vampire lore book as well. God help the world if he decides to start looking for Caine or other Antediluvians – he’d probably find them!

   Bruce is planning to contact a pack totem and attempt to to persuade it to adopt him as the whole “pack”. He’s chosen a Bear sprit. While a totem of War, its gifts are oriented more towards healing the scars of battle. The Gift of Mother’s Touch is invaluable to Garou, and the medicine bonus would help as well. Sadly, he doesn’t have sufficient backgrounds devoted to it yet, but will work hard to improve this.

   His sickness could be a hook or just a tidbit explaining his very off-balance attributes. Who knows where it might lead – perhaps he’s somehow picked up a bit of harmful Rage or lunar association from spirits confusing him with a Garou. Or, perhaps someone has been dosing him with vampire blood intermittently (to Bloodbind him?), leading him to go in and out of ghoulhood. It might be some kind of Umbral sickness a werewolf can’t contract, or an attempt by the Wyrm or some other evil spirit to harm or control him. Could the rejuvenation somehow be killing him?]

Latest Material Index

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE, and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

   Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet

   RPG Design

   d20 Material

   Legend of the Five Rings Material

   Amber Diceless RPG Material

   Traveller Material

  • The Wanderer: A deceptive “survey vessel” for special agents. With autocad layout.

   It Came From The Late Late Late Show Material

Awakened and Mages (not necessarily) Monte’s Way

   There are still a couple of options left in Monte Cooks d20 version of the White Wolf – so as to finish up with that request, here are the last two conversions to Eclipse d20; the Awakened and the Magi. In this case, the Awakened are easy enough – but the original White Wolf-style magic had a lot more flavor, so I’m going to take things back that way a bit with the Magi.

   The Awakened:

  • Two Bonus d8 Hit Dice, Specialized for Double Effect/can be bypassed to do damage to constitution by critical hits and special attacks, Corrupted/are rolled rather than taken as the maximum since they’re available at level one (16 CP). That covers the basics of the wounds-and-vitality style systems, wherein a characters basic hits are considered to equal his or her constitution. You can buy that in Eclipse too, and fairly cheaply, but – in this case – it’s a world law that applies to everyone, and individual characters don’t have to.
  • Self-Development/+2 to any one attribute (12 CP)
  • +2 floating attribute bonus, purchased as per Enthusiast, Specialized for double effect/Self-Development only, can only be changed at a new level (18 CP).
  • +8 Skill Points (8 CP)
  • Action Hero/Stunts, Specialized/only gets one Action Point per level automatically, the rest are doled out when the character does especially heroic, noble, or humanitarian things (3 CP).
  • +1 Bonus Feat (6 CP).

   At a total of 63 CP, that’s a +1 ECL Race or a +2 ECL Template if applied to an existing race. Unlike the monstrous inhabitants of this system, Awakened characters are more or less normal. They have no special enemies, weaknesses, or other difficulties except for being a bit better than human.

   It’s worth nothing that d20 offers a lot more viable options for developing a character than the various White Wolf games do. In White Wolf you can develop your Werewolf’s attributes, skills, rites, and gifts – but skills and attributes only go so far and your special powers are going to be limited to rites and gifts. You won’t find any werewolves commanding legions of enhanced followers, mighty magics of other types, mountain-shattering martial arts, having mutant powers of invulnerability, flight, and heat vision, combat skills which could handily defeat a dozen other werewolves with a stick, vast political power, or weird technology and powered battle armor, for powers – yet all of those are perfectly viable options for a d20 character.

   The Magi:

  • Two Bonus d6 Hit Dice, Specialized for Double Effect/can be bypassed to do damage to constitution by critical hits and special attacks, Corrupted/are rolled rather than taken as the maximum since they’re available at level one (14 CP).
  • +2 to any one attribute (12 CP)

   That takes us to buying the “Magic” part.

   The original White Wolf mage-style magic system (as opposed to the mechanics) was fairly simple.

  1. Magic was divided into a number of schools or “spheres” – depending on your edition and inclination, either nine or ten. Between them, they were supposed to cover everything.
  2. A given effect might require elements from several different schools at varying levels. To produce it, you had to have all the relevant schools at the appropriate levels.
  3. Your maximum level in any given school was limited by your Arete (or “Level”)
  4. Spellcasting was originally limited only by backlash, rather than to a certain amount per day. Later editions greatly reduced the backlash but threw in a magic point cost on every spell – and they were a limited resource.
  5. You could use magic points to make effects easier to pull off.
  6. Well-practiced magical effects were easier to produce.
  7. Subtle magic caused less backlash.
  8. Ritual magic let you do bigger things.
  9. You could get minor bonuses for using props and mundane skills. Classical props – such as a lock of someone’s hair or some of their blood – were especially useful.
  10. Having too many active spells on you made it harder to use other magic.
  11. Mages could sense supernatural energies.
  12. Each tradition had some minor advantages within their schools.

   Now that’s not especially complicated. It’s also the same basic kind of magic system found in TORG, in Ars Magica (which was something of a precursor), and quite a few other games.

   Unfortunately, Monte kept the complicated tables for generating effects and pretty much dumped the interesting part – the sphere system. I’ll be dumping the tables and putting the Spheres back in.

   One of the big strengths of d20 is the enormous list of spells and magical effects – a ton in the SRD and – if you count the Spell Templates in The Practical Enchanter – literally tens of millions of spells in other sources. Most d20 gamers will already be familiar with hundreds of spells, so we can simply use the d20 list for benchmarks for improvised spells. Given that body of information, we won’t be needing any complicated tables; most spells are likely to be pretty similar to the existing ones.

   So; what will we need to buy?

  • We’ll want Rune Casting and Rune Magic for each school or sphere of magic a particular mage can use. Since those are skills, they’re automatically limited by the characters level. They’ll also provide the casting level and limit the levels of spells usable. They aren’t part of the racial template though; the character can buy them as needed.
    • We can, but do not have, to use the White Wolf “spheres” of Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Mind Matter, Prime, Spirit, Time, and – at least in theory – one that covered the stuff that most mages couldn’t handle – a “sphere” most often called Balance, Judgement, or Paradox.
    • There’s no reason why you couldn’t go with Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation – and perhaps Universal and Destiny.
    • How about Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Void, Life, Death, Mind, Time, and Magic? They’ll all work. Just pick a set, or make up your own, and go with it.
  • To provide the power, and allow it to be used to further boost spells in an emergency, we’ll want 4d6 Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option (16* CP). That makes the power available – but keeps it as a rather limited resource.
  • To get the power back, we’ll want Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only works when sleeping at a rate of 1d6/hour (6* CP).
  • To cover the use of components, rituals, and invocations, we’ll want Runic Ritual (4* CP).
  • To cover the use of minor spells without tiring the user, we’ll want Magician (4* CP).
  • To innately sense magical energies, we’ll want Occult Sense/Magical Energies (6 CP).
  • To establish a theme for each character, we’ll want Adept (select two sets of Rune Casting and Rune Mastery skills to fit the character’s primary theme. He or she can buy them at half cost, 6 CP).
  • The character can buy well-practiced bits of magic – “rotes” – as Specialities (1* CP each – in their case Corrupted for Increased Effect to provide a +5 bonus when a roll is required due to casting difficulties) – but the character can buy them later.

   Now, that leaves us with the “subtle is easier” and “backlash” parts. Since most d20 settings have no objection to blatant magic, that’s pretty obviously a Corruption. Ergo, we can count the items marked with an “*” as being Corrupted – and we can probably count the Skills as being corrupted as well, reducing their cost. The character must have appropriate secondary fields at appropriate levels to produce a given effect – instead of only being limited by the primary skill in use – and must roll 3d6 on the following chart whenever he or she casts a rune magic spell. Spells cast as “Rotes” gain a +1 bonus on the roll.

  • 3: The spell goes wildly wrong. A subtle spell backlashes in a related spell effect one level higher than the spell attempted. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect two levels higher than the spell attempted. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect three levels higher than the spell attempted
  • 4: A subtle spell backlashes as a related spell effect of the same level as the spell attempted. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect one level higher than the spell attempted. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect two levels higher than the spell attempted
  • 5: A subtle spell backlashes as a related spell effect of two levels below the level of the spell attempted. If this reduces the backlash below level zero, the spell simply fails. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect of one level lower than the spell attempted. If this reduces the backlash level below zero, the spell simply fails. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect equal to the level of the spell attempted
  • 6: The spell fails.
  • 7-16: No special effect.
  • 17: The spell costs one less mana than it normally would.
  • 18: the spell is cast without mana cost. Lucky you.

   What happens on a backlash? It’s up to the game master – but often it’s simply some minor curse or bizarre effect for low-level stuff. As the levels go up, you’re more likely to get some damage, then some long-term disability, than insanity, summoned creatures which stick around to cause trouble for you until you deal with them, and then being plane-shifted to some sort of puzzle-realm. Fortunately, subtle magic is much easier.

   Optionally, you can have an alternate version of the Corruption. In the case of “Marauders” substitute “the use of your magic drives you quite mad, leaving you inhabiting your own warped delusions”.

   All that comes out to 68 CP. That’s quite a bit. Magi do suffer from a few disadvantages though – although they’re nothing like the problems that afflict Demons, Vampires, and Werewolves.

  • Blocked: A mage can only master nine of the ten fields that would make up their complete view of the world. They must select one which will remain forever beyond their reach.
  • Dependent: Magi require special talismans to use their weaker magics. They must select at least three of their Spheres to require some sort of special prop. Without such an item, those fields cannot be used.

   That reduces the net cost to 62 CP – a +1 ECL “Race” or a +2 ECL Template.

   Now, if you want to create a weird-scientist technomage, or some other form of specialist, you’ll want to take a Restriction – (can only work magic through technological devices or whatever). If you want to make an evil demon-serving dark mage, you’ll want to take Duties (to your evil masters).

   Obviously enough, a mage will usually want to invest heavily in Skill Points – and most will want to buy more Mana as quickly as possible and perhaps find some quicker way than sleep to regain part of it.

   There’s a basic problem with using White Wolf material as a background for games using more general systems. The games are good fun, they have plenty of background material, and the game statistics generally aren’t difficult to translate, it’s just that White Wolf games tend to be very focused.

   It’s not just that they’re always focused on a particular type of character. OK, if you’re playing in a Mage game, the vast majority of the player characters are going to be mages. The major routes to real accomplishment and advancement are all going to involve magic.

   But wait! Couldn’t you also get the storytellers permission to play a vampire or a werewolf or another type of character? It’s not as limited as you’re making out!

   Oh yes it is – it’s just far more subtle than “everyone plays a mage”. More importantly, virtually all the characters are going to be humans, and the vast majority won’t deviate much from the norm except by virtue of a supernatural power package. Can you readily play a dolphin-mage? A golem? A blind mage who uses a different set of Spheres? Would that require a bunch of house rules?

   Most importantly, they’re all earth-centric. In a normal Mage chronicle, there’s a magical view of the universe tailored around human perceptions, human meddling has distorted the entire structure of the universe, and the rest of the cosmos exists simply as a backdrop.

   The six-billion-year-old galactic civilization of GC17-R would disagree; their people use a vastly different range of senses and attributes, and their mages explored the mystic arts before the solar system formed. They find the notion that the inhabitants of one tiny planet could upset the mystic order of the entire cosmos utterly laughable. If that was possible, it would have happened billions of years ago; humans are hardly the first race to meddle with magic. A hundred billion races and more have done incredibly bizarre things with magic for eons before humans came along – they’ve seen several million such civilizations themselves – and the universe is still working just fine.

   Right there – in focusing on the Earth – you’re throwing out 99.999999999999% of the observable universe. Then you focus on minor variations on a single species during a small percentage – less than a million years – of the available timeline of Earth. It makes for a vivid and familiar setting, lets the game cover chunks of the setting in fair detail, and conveniently fills in the blank bits with common knowledge, but general it’s not.

World of Darkness – Upper Umbral Gifts

   These gifts are from Egyptian God-Spirits of the upper umbra or high astral, rather than nature spirits of the middle umbra or astral plane that most garou deal with. As such, they’re tied to the intellect, rather then to emotion and instinct. They must be consciously channeled and controlled. High umbral gifts require a skill roll of (Dex+Occult) to use, are prone to strange side effects, and sometimes draw the attention of faerie or other mythic spirits. On the upside, they’re all level one: user’s don’t need much renown to acquire them. Instead they must find or design an appropriate invocation, make contact with the spirit invoked, persuade it to let them tap into it’s energies, learn to channel and direct it properly (they start off with a -4 penalty on their skill checks, reduced by one per week) – and spend the necessary experience.

   Upper astral gifts tend to be quite powerful for level one gifts. Of course, they all have backlash problems, tend to cost a lot of essence, and have a smaller dice pool than other spells (they use Dex + Occult, other spells use Attribute + Skill + Path).

   Backlash problems usually show up when a spell is fumbled, but minor (rolled with a d4) side effects may show up whenever the GM feels like it. Some of the common side effects include

  • A minor “Splash”. Any faerie, magi, or sorcerers in the immediate vicinity will sense the effect.
  • A notable “Splash”. Creatures quite some distance away can feel it.
  • A bothersome chimaera (only you can see it) or some other spirit will pester you for a scene.
  • The casting is attended by minor special effects (gusts of wind, swirls of mist, odd lights, strange smells, etc).
  • A shockwave strikes the area. Physical ones shatter glass, knock things down, and attract attention. Magical ones may attract attention, foul up other spells, or cause random magical effects. Mental ones can induce bizarre emotional effects in anyone in the area, and can be quite dangerous.
  • Faerie dust covers the area. Everyone there is temporarily enchanted, and can be harassed by spirits and chimaera freely. They may also be transformed somehow for a time.
  • The magic goes wild. The user may either spend a willpower point to keep it under control or deal with whatever the game master comes up with – usually a severely twisted version of the original spell.
  • You aborted the spell in time. Nothing happens and you don’t pay any Essence or Willpower. Lucky you.
  • The user takes a level of normal damage.
  • The power you’re drawing on sends an emissary or wants you to go on a mission of some sort.

   Sample upper astral gifts include:

   Auric Sight: This is basically a “hypersenses” gift, capable of being used for simple sensory enhancement or for “seeing” into the upper umbra (allowing the user to see auras, appropriate spirits, and magic). Either costs one essence per scene. It can also be used to read the psychic impressions left on an item or area (GMO depending on the strength of the impressions. Extremely powerful “impressions” may force the user to roll willpower, or even spend a willpower point, to break away).

   Gift of Bes: You or your target enjoy amazingly good luck. You may simply opt to count “7’s” (“6’s” on an exceptional success) as successes for a scene for 1 Essence. Alternatively, you may attempt to cause some more-or-less spectacular coincidence. This costs 2-5 essence depending on how spectacular, and how specific, you want to get. Asking for “a momentary distraction” is easy – and dangerous: who knows what will happen? Asking for “something to set off a car alarm across the street” is safer, but might cost two points – and will fail (at a cost of one essence) if none of the cars across the street HAVE functioning alarms.

   Osiris’s Great Awakening: Likely the most dangerous gift on this list, this “spell” awakens latent, or inactive powers, entities, and forces… This can be used to arouse many things – including things like inactive volcanos. Unfortunately, it’s not reversible – and the exact results are rather unpredictable. 1-5 Essence, depending on the scale of what you’re awakening.

   Set’s Ebon Cloak: A relatively simple, and very useful, gift, invoking the powers of “elemental darkness”. As a general aura this makes an area extremely difficult to probe or “detect”. As a personal aura, it tends to intimidate people and makes it easy to deceive them. Annoyingly, this also limits the users senses – especially when used to substitute for invisibility. The darkness can also be “forged” more-or-less solid objects of pure darkness. The base difficulty depends on the size of your creation and it’s toughness depends on the number of successes… Larger creations thus tend to be somewhat tenuous. Generally one essence – two for really large effects, 0 to make your clothes black and add a cape.

   The Portals Of Ptah: Opens a gateway across space, realms, and possibly even time (costing 2/3/5 essence and requiring an equal number of successes). Extra successes indicate more precise targeting, larger, and more stable gateways. Sadly, such portals are notorious for opening in inconvenient places, letting spirits wander in and out of reality – and for dropping you directly into adventures – even when the user gets it right. Blowing your roll can be VERY hazardous, especially when if don’t have enough power to try again immediately.

   The Winds Of Shu: Blowing from the depths of the user’s mind, the psychic winds can carry thoughts from one mind to another, or can exert considerable physical forces in the immediate vicinity. The telepathic effect is extremely long-ranged – and is usually communicative, the difficulties depend on how much “searching” is involved, and how alien the mind to be contacted is. Checking up on your friends is relatively easy, communicating with animals is harder (if only because they’re really very bright), while trying to reach a spirit out in the umbra is pretty hard. An emotional link or personal item associated with the target makes it easier. The Telekinetic effect is somewhat simpler; The winds base Str is equal to the caster’s willpower plus successes. Simply throwing stuff around is easy, but trying to use this to do fine work requires extra successes. Generally 1 essence for communication (1 will if within visual range), 2 for telekinesis.

   The Strength Of Geb: Infused and surrounded by the power of the earth itself, the user may add his Occult skill rating to his or her strength and 1/2 of that to his or her armor (round up) for one scene per success for one essence. During this time the user is protected from noxious chemicals and need not breathe – and may extend these benefits to others as long as they remain in contact with him or her. The user may spend an additional essence point at any time while the aura remains to enhance it for a turn. While so enhanced the aura also protects anyone the user desires within a 5 ft radius and allows the user to accomplish some feat of speed and agility (+[Occult] dice, move at 10x normal speed and find secure footing in midair if necessary). By spending a point of willpower the user may employ a “power block” – adding his strength score to the “armor” provided by the spell to resist a single attack.

   Horus’s Illumination: Invokes the Light of Truth – an effect which can reveal a great deal, and often quite a lot more then is strictly comfortable. Oddly, this can be used as an “attack” vrs magi and changelings, rolling (Willpower) dice against their arete/glamour scores to inflict them with one point of paradox/banality per success. Less oddly, this can also be used to exorcize “dark” spirits – although this generally requires more time and a battle of wills. It normally costs one essence to invoke the “light”, but may cost 1-2 extra points if the target is actively attempting to conceal something, or if you’re trying to use it to purge various forms of “darkness”.

   The Healing Hand Of Hathor: A general healing effect that will heal wounds (one box per success), as well as the effects of poisons, overstrain, normal exhaustion, diseases, various dysfunctions and many disorders. It works on anyone. In general, minor problems can be healed for free, serious stuff costs a point of essence, lethal damage costs two, and really nasty stuff (terminal leukemia, aggravated damage, supernatural addictions, and so on), costs three.

   Passage Of Anubis: Opens doors, safes, collapsed passages, and so on. It will work on solid stone and even water, but that kind of stunt requires lots of power. 1-3 essence. “Opening” will not work on arcanely-sealed paths without a contest of wills – and will not work on mystic gates and such at all.

   The Heralds of Re: This gift allows the to user imprint a tiny “fragment” of his vitality on some photons – creating a number of quasi-sentient beams of light. Sendings can scout around for their summoner, shine lights in enemies eyes, shift their apparent form – and are very, very, fast. They’re commonly used to seek things out or to carry messages. The caster can create one “sending” per success at a cost of one essence per hour you want them to remain (1 minimum).

World of Darkness – Sunheart

   Here we have an unusual locus for the New World of Darkness – along with the rites used to create it.

   In the World of Darkness, Maurice Bernard Sendak is – like so many figures – somewhat different. He’s still an imaginative writer and illustrator of children’s books, but he’s also a closet mage, primarily concerned with technomagical tinkering. His wife is a changeling.

   Their son, Maximilian Sendak, is a werewolf – and the subject of Where the Wild Things Are, a loosely-described and symbolized story of his first change and first venture into the spirit realms.

One night, Max wore his wolf suit, and made mischief of one kind – and another

That night in his room, a forest grew – and grew – and became the wide world

   Despite the fact that most humans don’t understand, Max has been trying to live the book down ever since.

   The Sendaks didn’t trust werewolf society much, so Maurice trained his son himself. Rather than nature spirits, he introduced him to spirits of the high astral – in particular, ancient Egyptian god-spirits, and young Max learned his gifts and rituals from them. He – recognizing himself as a being of both spirit and earthly flesh – sought recognition from the spirit of the earth, the sun, and the god-spirits he was dealing with already.

   When he finally did meet the local garou, they weren’t especially accepting – so Max and his friends made their own place.

   Sunheart

   The Wilson office building is located on the edge of Atlanta’s business district, on the corner of Ormond and Cherokee, next to Grant Park and the Atlanta Zoo. Its fifteen floors have been (and are) home to a variety of smaller, local, businesses. Max selected it because its various tenants have always been solid, respectable, and reasonably environmentally and family friendly. He wanted to make sure that the spirit he awakened would be a decent sort – and would have a fair understanding of conservation, investment, and long-term planning. The current residents of it’s fifteen floors include:

  • Sublevels. Building support, mechanical levels, janitorial services, parking garage, and access to city electrical power, water, and other services.
  • 1’st floor: Lobby & security desk, sandwich shop, building business offices, building security, community room.
  • 2’nd floor: Tot’s All Right day care, security monitoring room, building emergency services.
  • 3’rd floor: Doctor Edward Smith, GP, Doctor Meridan, Thaumaturgic Healer, and offices for Harelink, a local ISP.
  • 4’rd floor: Athelson’s Architecture (specialists in low-cost, energy-efficient, and environmentally-friendly designs).
  • 5’th floor: Oravan Studios and Art Gallery
  • 6’th floor: Business offices for Hong Kong Asian Imports, Mickelson’s Travel Agency, and Farwell’s Title Search.
  • 7’th floor: Brinks Security Services monitoring center and dispatch center (mostly installers and repairmen).
  • 8’th floor: Hendricks Engineering (hydrology, geological structural survey, and a bit of geomancy).
  • 9’th floor: Yarelli Recording Studio, Prudential Insurance (Mr Farell), Ghiradelli’s Air Tours, Vulcan Books (small print and e-publishing), Jadwin Marshalli (law offices).
  • 10’th floor: Carlson Laboratories (water, air, and ground chemical contamination testing, analytic services).
  • 11’th floor: Leonardo’s Rare Books and Research Services.
  • 12’th floor: Allclear Eyecare Center, Atlanta Arts Festival organizational offices.
  • 13’th floor: Listed as “Dreaming Glade Garden Design”. Actually Sunheart, Max’s sanctum. Generally private, and unobtrusively sealed off.
  • 14’th floor: Dreaming Glade business offices and expansion space.
  • 15’th floor: Hensen’s Telemarketing (currently under heavy pressure to move – and experiencing a lot of spontaneous equipment failures).
  • Roof: While the roof design includes a small helipad, Max has subcontracted most of the rest as a show-place garden and opened it to the residents to “show off their design skills” – and to subtly help them out by refreshing their willpower.

   Woodrow, the Building Spirit, has taken over as building Superintendent, and is probably working on building up its power and on absorbing the minor, short-lived, workplace spirits that come into existence within it.

   Sunheart Construction Sequence Notes:

  • Set up the mundane modifications (layout, cameras, alarms, and other security systems).
  • Enact the Seal of Anubis, sealing off the area from the spirit world save for those invited.
  • Enact the Forge of Shadow (110 Essence, about 5 hours) to create a L5-Locus. It will be Sun-Aspected (light, truth, and magic).
  • Enact the Rite of the Celestial Heart to further expand the essence supply and the radius of influence.
  • Use a lot of lunar stone in the decor, on the theory that the moon absorbs the energy of the sun and transforms it into a form closely attuned to shapechangers. Hopefully this will increase the efficiency of drawing essence from the locus (or perhaps just let them get a point a day for being near something relevant to their spirit halves).
  • Enact Garden of Serenity, simply because it’s nice to have.

   The Rituals:

   Seal of Anubis (Level Four): You may create an invisible pocket-realm in the spirit world. If it corresponds to a physical location that location can be entered or exited physically, and the area can be accessed from there, but otherwise only those who are ritually invited by the ritualist(s) may enter without the use of another powerful rite. If the area contains a Locus, it will still exert its area of influence, but the energies it emits bubble up randomly in the surrounding area, making the source impossible to trace. This rite costs 20 Essence to enact.

   Forge of Shadow (Level Five): You may create a Locus of any desired aspect. This costs (10 + 20 x Level) Essence and requires (20 + 5 x Level) successes, rolling once per hour. Unlike Drawing Down the Shadow this formal version cannot gain extra Essence from wild (and exhausting) activities – but there is no limit on how much essence the participants can spend on it.

   Garden of Serenity (Level One): You may create a beautiful garden, filled with serene beauty and joy. Anyone who takes half an hour to wander through it, or sits and meditates within it (the usual for smaller or indoor gardens) will regain a willpower point – although this will only work once per day and a maximum of three times per week for any given individual. Creating the garden requires a total of 30 successes, rolling once per hour.

   The garden does need regular maintenance, whether by a good gardener (an hour or so a day for small gardens, more for larger ones), or by working this ritual again (requires 5 successes/week).

   Rite of the Celestial Heart (Level Three): This exotic rite turns a mass of at least 10 pounds of unearthly material, such as a meteorite, into a secondary focus for an existing locus, augmenting it with unearthly energies. This effectively increases the locus rating by +2, up to a maximum level equal to the Occult skill of the ritualist.

   Sunheart Point Cost:

  •    Haven V: Drawback: pays rent. Drawback: building shared with other tenants. Effective level three, half cost due to actual in-game work, for a total of six points. If it matters, it’s ratings are Size 3, Location 1 (a nice area, but just an area in the city), Security 5, and Special Facility 1 (lunar stones in decor).
  •    Nexus III. A major, L5, nexus without any special functions – at least as of yet (unless the lunar stones idea works). Drawback: Shared with his friends and the building spirit. Half cost due to actual in-game work. 3 points.

   General Note: The windows are “one-way glass”, simply for a bit of privacy. They’re also (as per the security rating) bullet-proof composites. As is typical of older buildings, the 12 support pillars are multiply redundant, the entire place is heavy construction, and the doors are both very solid and fireproof (again, it comes with the security rating).

   Individual Room Notes:

  • Lounge: This area serves as a playroom, studio, music room, and has some (especially reinforced for werewolves) exercise equipment that folds out of a cabinet. It also has a medium-sized hot tub you can look out over the city from and a small sauna. Service: The Service Room includes a small laundry room, a decent kitchen and pantry, a breakfast nook, and a backup power supply, just in case.
  • The three Apartments – Lemon’s, Max’s larger one, and the one that’s currently unassigned – each contain a small private bath, a good-sized closet, and an assortment of personal items. The small ones are 300 square feet, Max’s is 600 (if only because he’ll often have a girlfriend visiting).
  • Rituals: This is equipped for meditation (+4) and rituals (+6 with the influence of the Locus) as well as a modest collection of occult books. This may eventually be expanded to a Library, but he hasn’t had the time yet.
  • Foyer: This is the main entrance, and contains a variety of scanners and special precautions. The other stairway and elevator doors only open outwards from this floor unless they’re specially keyed. It also includes some cabinets for coats and other gear. Even here you need to get by the security systems or have someone open the door for you.
  • Baths: These are for visitors and such. They’re fully equipped.
  • Garden: This is a Garden of Serenity, and is carefully set up to both serve as a setting for the Locus and various artworks and so as to give a fair impression of being outside.
  • Office: This rather straightforward room hosts the computers and communications gear, a modest library (and a much larger, but conventional one, in electronic formats), the entertainment center, and a large table and set of displays for conferences.
  • Locus: This is an openwork metal pyramid, about three feet tall and carefully oriented. It’s made of bronze with gold plating. A heavy lump of meteoric iron on a pedestal close by serves as the focus for the Rite of the Celestial Heart.
  • Egyptian Area: This area contains a couple of small stelae, a modest altar, some statues, and a more enclosed feeling than the rest of the garden. Against the wall there is a massive mirror, with heavy metal shutters covering it.
  • Workroom: This room contains some basic tools and materials for various projects, along with a trunkful of emergency medical supplies and another one full of basic weapons.
  • Vault: This is a reinforced storage area for dangerous artifacts, masses of pirate treasure, and oddities from Max’s astral raids. It’s normally kept locked.

World of Darkness – Rites

   Here we have an assortment of Rites for Werewolf the Forsaken – or at least for some version of the World of Darkness. In this case they’re from the collection of Maximilian Sendak, a Garou who’d been raised by non-garou – and used some very eccentric rites and gifts indeed, most of them with an Egyptian theme.

    Alchemy of Seshat (Level Three): You may infuse essence into metals to bring out their magical properties. You may infuse either a solid item, giving it the magical properties indicated below, or a modest number (successes) of “doses” of powder – magical catalysts worth a +4 bonus on relevant operations. In either case, the enchantment is temporary. It lasts only as long as the alchemist keeps one of his “maximum spells” slots devoted to it. It normally takes about an hour.

  • Copper: Transformation. Infused copper can take on any form its wielder desires and holds it with enormous strength. This equates to a precision toolkit or a fine weapon (generally +4).
  • Silver: Purification. An infused silver weapon will inflict aggravated damage on any creature that’s linked with a foreign spirit. That’s vampires, spirit-possessed, and spirit-linked creatures such as werewolves. Silver weapons always cause aggravated damage to weres because, when a were is wounded, mana automatically flows into the wound to begin the healing process – momentarily infusing the surface of a silver weapon.
  • Gold: Energy Storage. An item of infused gold can store up to three magical effects – whether generated by paths or influences- for later use as a simple action.
  • Iron: Energy Grounding. Infused iron can withstand or absorb massive amounts of magical energy, countering 1-3 such assaults depending on the amount of infused iron involved. Oddly, powdered iron – perhaps due to its links with blood – is associated with Healing magic. This may be the origin of the belief that the weapon that inflicted a wound can be used to heal it. This is why iron commonly causes aggravated damage to enchanted creatures: it short-circuits and drains their mystical energies.
  • Lead: Spirit Binding. Infused lead is a spiritual anchor that allows a spirit to remain in Twilight or the physical world without having to expend essence. Used offensively, it can anchor a spirit in place for (User’s Occult + 2) rounds.
  • Mercury: Linking Magic. Infused Mercury exists in both the Material and the Shadow worlds simultaneously. A sufficiently large pool – such as the back of an old-fashioned mercury mirror – can act as a gate between the realms. More simply, you can use a tube of it to smack unruly spirits from the material realm.
  • Antimony: Dispelling. Imbued antimony disrupts negatively resonant essence on contact. If used against an abyssal spirit, or an undead, it drains 1-5 essence points on contact, up to a maximum of 12 points before it loses its imbuement. Powdered antimony can also help purify any negative resonances in an area.
  • Nickel: Warding. Imbued nickel can absorb tremendous amounts of punishment without passing on such damage. Imbued nickel or nickel-plated shields and armor gain a +3 to their armor rating. Similar weapons provide a +3 defense bonus, since they make it so much easier to block and parry effectively.

   The Alchemy of Seshat is essentially simply a version of the Rite of Fetish Creation. Unlike the Rite, it’s creations are strictly temporary and are of limited variety. On the other hand, you don’t have to get a spirit to participate.

   Metals such as Zinc, Cadmium, Platinum, and even Aluminum presumably do something when imbued – but no one has yet determined what they do or the proper procedure to imbue them yet.

   Bast’s Blessing (Level One): This popular rite calls on the powers of Bast, goddess of sex and pleasure. The actual “rite” varies; going out on a date, seducing a partner, and foreplay will all suffice. The effects are fairly simple; 1) Everyone involved will enjoy the proceedings much more then usual, 2) Pregnancy will not result unless both of the potential parents are willing, and 3) The proceedings are far less fatiguing then usual. As a side effect, each time this ritual is enacted, there’s about a .1% chance that Bast herself will “bless” the participants, giving them the Striking Looks merit at L4. If and when this occurs, the participants will also suffer from a compulsion to play “matchmaker”, protect young lovers, intervene in family disputes, find new sexual partners, and otherwise promote pleasure, for 2-8 months thereafter.

Rite of Boundless Rage (Level One): This swift and simple rite sends a willing werewolf recipient straight into a massive fit of Death Rage. It will last for about half an hour, so it’s best to make sure that the subject is properly contained first before enacting the rite. The rite temporarily exhausts the recipients rage: he or she cannot take Wolf-Man form – or go into Death Rage – for the next 24 hours. While this can leave you vulnerable, it can also mean that your children survive your visit despite your insulting ex-wife or ex-husband.

   Rite of Cleansing (Level Two): This ritual purifies an individual or a modest area, restoring harmony. The essence in the area takes on positive resonances, negatively-oriented (or possessing) spirits in the area must make opposed willpower rolls against the ritualist or flee, and physical contaminants (such as drugs, toxins, and various pollutants) are cleansed away. The number of successes required is set by the game master in accordance with the area to be affected and the extent of the contamination. Note that – in extreme cases -cleansing something can destroy it: a playground built over a great pool of toxic waste may collapse when it’s removed, and a person who’s had most of their spirit devoured may collapse and die without his or her possessor present.

   Rite of the Diplomat (Level One): This minor rite involves sharing a good ethnic meal with someone familiar with the culture and languages of a particular area. Each success provides one”dot” in a relevant language or cultural lore skill. Unfortunately, the effects fade in a week or so, but any sensible user can find plenty of chances to re-enact it before it runs out.

   Nine Suns Kung Fu, The Focal Point (Level Three): An eastern technique, used for focusing personal energies. It seems to work a bit differently for weres then it does for humans – for whom it does work (in fact, they seem to have originated it). The rite has five stages; each takes about ten minutes to perform. It’s purchased as a level three rite, but the level of results you can actually achieve with it depends on your Ritual level.

  1. The Eye Of The Storm. Induces serenity. Weres get +2 dice for rage rolls for the next week (or are treated as humans if they don’t have rage problems). Humans gain a +1 to composure (and willpower) for a similar period. As a side effect, user’s tend to need a lot less sleep.
  2. The Focal Point. Allows the user to focus all of his or her energies on a specific non-combat task – gaining a +2 die bonus. This can be applied to an extended task if you don’t mind being pretty exhausted afterwards.
  3. Gnostic Awakening. The user may tap into the power of the umbra to recharge his or her essence pool once per day, regaining (successes + 2) points. Humans may use this to build up an essence pool of up to (Stamina) points.
  4. The Centered Will. Lets the user shrug off unwanted mental contacts, such as telepathic probing, psychic attack, possession, and so on, reducing the power user’s number of successes by (Int/2, rounded up). While this is effectively constant once developed, it takes months of regular practice of this rite to do so.
  5. The Inner Fire / Channel The Beast. The final level of nine suns kung fu allows humans to store up to (Sta x 3) essence. Weres learn to tap into the strength and stamina of their bestial forms without shapeshifting, although they must expend a point of essence to invoke this talent for a scene.

   Seal The Horizon (Level Four): This powerful rite does what it says; it permanently seals off an anchorhead or portal at the cost of (1d10+2) XP. Sadly, while the rite itself is straightforward, whoever or whatever is on the other side of such a gateway often objects to having their doorway slammed in their face and nailed shut.

   Rite Of Initiation (Level Five): This exotic rite bonds a willing spirit of the umbra to a human host, turning them into a living fetish – a creature of flesh and magic. The exact results vary.

  • Bonds with relatively peaceful animal spirits, plant spirits, and land spirits result in Shamans. Shamans get no shapeshifting or regeneration, but may acquire any gifts that they can talk anyone into teaching them. In practice, up to L3 is easy, beyond that gets tricky. They get three level one and one level two gifts to start, but are otherwise treated as per weres.
  • Predatory animal spirits generally transform their hosts into weres.
  • Upper umbral spirits create Avatars (unique beings), Wizards (as per weres but no shapeshifting or regeneration, astral projection instead of stepping sideways, and a choice of four upper umbral spells to start), and even”Chosen” (a.k.a. “Hunters”) or “Changelings”.
  • Spirits from the lower umbra – invariably specters – create beings equivalent to eastern Kuei-Jin.

   It should be noted that, while this ritual requires at least one day to perform, and calls for numerous odd ingredients, the real labor lies in the months of training, vision-quests, and study, which the prospective initiate must undergo to locate the spirit they’re going to bond with and attune themselves to it. Variant forms of this rite are more specific; there’s a badly corrupted version which involves bonding with the residual mystic energies of a bunch of dead werewolves (the so-called “Rite Of Sacred Rebirth”), a version which a bunch of living werewolves (Or changelings, or whatever) can use to adopt mortals by imbuing them with a portion of their energies- and a version for binding corrupted spirits into unwilling victims to create fomori.

   Rite of Renunciation (Level Four): The target may renounce an old power – any skill, attribute, or ability except their first level of Arcana or their first dot in any attribute – and reclaim the XP he or she spent on it. The target may spend most of those point again next session, but two of them are lost for good – the price of such a transformation. This is an extended rite: the ritualist must obtain at least one success per XP worth of abilities to be removed up to a maximum of fifty XP. Note that the GM must approve of the changes to be made.

   Song of the Sea (Level Three): This variant on the Rite of Summoning calls up an emanation of the local elemental lords – the spirits of nature which govern an area. While most such entities are reasonably friendly and obliging, and can be quite informative, it is best to ensure that there are no blighted, poisoned, or otherwise corrupted, areas in the immediate vicinity.

   Summon the Barque of Ra (Level Three): This rite calls forth Manjet-Mesektet, the ship of Ra. Unfortunately, while the ship of Ra can reach almost any destination – and those who complete such a voyage are restored to youth and health even if dead – boarding it means embarking on a voyage through the depths of myth. You may have to battle your way through the Egyptian underworld – the legendary Twelve Hours of the Night – and escape Apep, the devouring serpent. You may have to solve some complex historical intrigue, re-enact an ancient creation myth – or simply refuse paradise. Regardless, those who are left behind during such a voyage will be stranded deep within the spirit worlds, and may well never return even if they survive.

   Warding Hand of Isis (Level One): This ancient rite imbues the recipient with a “pool” of warding and healing power attuned to emotion and need. Sadly, it only works on those who are very adaptable – such as small children. It also works on pregnant, women as the unborn child absorbs the power instead. In general, the more successes you get, the greater the protections available in an emergency.

   In practice, this serves as an excellent excuse to make the NPC’s last longer, so that they can continue to harass the characters.

   Whalesark (Level Two): One performs this ritual, one dives into the sea, and one transforms into a dolphin or whale until one comes ashore again. Thankfully, the transformation includes the ability to “speak” with other denizens of the sea- as well as some extra strength, stamina, and health levels, as appropriate to the form.

   Wheel of Life (Level Three): This deceptively simple rite offers release – a swift and easy shift into their next incarnations – to the restless dead, to the bound or corrupted, and to anyone suffering beyond their endurance. Those touched by this ritual MAY opt to let go, but are in no way forced to do so. They’re merely offered “awareness” of where they are now, and that a new beginning awaits them if they choose to accept it. The area affected can be quite large.