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Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Nessus posted:

So how did the mana thing work in Technomancer, I missed that. I know the "official" GURPS rule is that normal Earth is a low-mana zone (-5 to zaubs) but in places like Stonehenge or something it might be "normal." This sounds more like "no mana before nukes".
Oriongates covered most of it, but the general gist is that Earth may or may not have been a low mana zone before the Hellstorm event. Here's the brief note early on in the book about the subject:

GURPS Technomancer posted:

Thaumatologists believe that Earth had low mana before the Hellstorm, perhaps with a few normal-mana areas. They are bitterly divided over whether Earth had a higher mana level in antiquity, but “pop culture” generally believes that it did.

It's now normal mana almost everywhere except for the Manabelt and Antarctica, which are high mana, which I think I mentioned but I might not have knowing me.


Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?

Last part of the vampire chapter! The conspiracy is the greater enemy organization - it's something for the heroes to shoot at and unpack until the final battle. Uncovering the shape of the vampire conspiracy is the primary engagement of NBA's campaigns, and no two are alike.

Conspiratorial Considerations
Vampire conspiracies can be as big or as small as the game requires - one vampire and a clan of pariahs, or a secret world government that rules nations across the globe from the shadows. When kicking things off, consider:
  • Longevity: How long have the vampires been around? Were they ancient Babylonian kings, or did they come from a UFO crash in 1988? The older the conspiracy is, the more powerful it's likely to be - an old but weak conspiracy requires a lot of internal strife.
  • Amplitude: How deep does the conspiracy go? Do they dominate the trade of Etruscan antiquities, or do they control entire governments? Bigger is scarier, but also can run into problems with suspending disbelief.
  • Magic: What kind of power do the vampires have access to? Do they have technology salvaged from Lemurian ruins, or the power to command other undead? The more larger-than-life the powers the conspiracy can bring to bear, the more exciting, but it can also kill the real-world tone of the spy bits of the game.
  • Intentions: What is the conspiracy after? Opening the gates to hell? Reducing humans to cattle? The book boils this down to three categories: Parallel State (use a public-facing organization such as a syndicate or military-industrial complex as a shell for their own goals), Replacement State (take a group of power and replace them with their own people), Anti-State (openly destroy the group in power without replacing it).
  • Allegiances: Who are their allies? The Soviets? The Nazis? This can deeply affect what kind of objectives the conspiracy is chasing, but be aware of the level of political intrigue your party is willing to put up with.
  • Exclusivity: Is this all the vampires? Are there other cells outside the conspiracy? Who else knows about them?

The Conspyramid
You've got your ideas, time to build the enemy conspiracy! This is done via building a chart called a Conspyramid.

The Conspyramid is a chart of who's at what levels of power in the conspiracy, and how they connect together. There are six tiers:
  • Street-level power: Gangs, warehouses, police precincts, professors or scholars.
  • City-level power: Factory, labor union, military captains, hospitals, university departments, millionaires, legislators.
  • Provincial power: Merchant banks, industry-wide unions, TV stations, colonels, museums, airports, presidential aides.
  • National power: Corporations, TV networks, generals, cabinet department heads.
  • Supranational power: Cardinals, international crime lords, multinational corporations, government leaders.
  • Vampires: The top.

Of course, it doesn't need to look exactly like that, depending on the scale of your conspiracy. The main thing the Conspyramid provides is narrative structure - once you know the shape of the enemy forces, you have a sense of the overall arc of the game. Lines of control connecting nodes on the pyramid are leads that the agents can follow to uncover more about the conspiracy. The higher in the pyramid the agents are targeting their attacks, the more you need to start thinking of bringing the game towards a big finish.

It can be worth leaving some arms of the Conspyramid blank - then, you can retroactively fill them in to tailor the conspiracy towards the story as it unfolds.

Campaign Modes and Conspiracies
In Burn games, the conspiracy should include people the agent cares about. Uncovering the conspiracy should cause damage to your own loyalties. Make each node something that will cause one of the agents to recoil.

In Dust games, the default conspiracy is recently-established (in the last 70 years), moderate size, and has no extra magic powers beyond its vampires. If the conspiracy is larger, it's probably fractured into rival cells.

In Mirror games, the conspiracy necessarily includes upwards of half of the agents' former patrons. Conspiracies should be huge, and tangled in everything. The agents should wonder at every moment whether or not anyone could be one of Them.

In Stakes games, the conspiracy should primarily include the enemies of the forces that the agents fight for. Keep the enemy relatively pure evil, rather than murky and full of internal strife and moral decay.

The Conspyramid is a handy resource for balancing foes as the game moves on. For a given obstacle, the test Difficulty should be about equal to Conspyramid Level + 3. For a given foe, their abilities should be about equal to (Conspyramid Level + 1) x 2. This is a rough ad-hoc guideline more than anything, but the general idea is that the closer you get to the peak, the fiercer the opposition becomes.

Conspiratorial Components

Any conspiracy needs, at a minimum, three things: Money, blood, and protection. The Conspryamid should include nodes that provide all of these.

Banks (level 2-5) are an obvious node for funding, either from direct control or just by stealing from them. If not, maybe casinos (level 2-3) or drug cartels (level 1-4).

Human trafficking rings run between 200,000 and 700,000 people through Europe every two years. Slaves and sex workers are an easy blood source for vampires, due to being comparitively off the grid. If your vampires aren't into human trafficking, there are blood banks and medical charities, but they're under a lot more government scrutiny.

An obvious gimme is the police - at least one high police official in any city where the conspiracy operates is probably part of the conspyramid. They may even own a full police department (level 2-4). If not police, then security forces or intelligence agencies are good high-level picks.

Further nodes will probably be more directly tied to the conspiracy's greater goals. Cults, masonic lodges, academic departments, auction houses, research facilities, political parties, shipping lines. Mix and match as sounds fin.

Alternate Conspiracy Structures
Maybe the vanilla Conspyramid is too straightforward for you! Here's some other ideas:
  • Distributed: Many non-communicating arms, one head. Plant info every 2-3 cells, the tiny clues eventually building towards the location of central leadership. Based on al-Quaeda.
  • Multicellular: There's no hierarchy. Cells operate independently towards a single ideological goal, only occasionally forming alliances. Could work for a setting where each vampire has their own local power base, this is a very hard conspiracy to totally take down. Inspired by the Russian mafiya.
  • Shell: Nodes on the conspiracy are hollow shells, which conspirators move freely between. Efficiency is dropped in favor of security and invisibility. Works best for vampires who can easily assume new identities or who work chiefly through human puppets. The agents must anticipate vampire movements and destroy the nodes they escape to. Inspired by BCCI.
  • Truncated: There are only a small handful of actual conspirators. Just a couple people, staying in constant motion, who the agents have to hunt down while dodging their hirelings and assassins. Inspired by the Treadstone conspiracy in the Bourne movies.

More on how to use this once we reach the GMing chapter. For now, we're finally done talking about the bad guys.

Next: Cities.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Hope and Prophecy

Superiors 3 covers those Heavenly Words that seem most insubstantial. While their methods differ, Hope, Fire, Faith and Destiny are all very important. Also, to note for Blandine: celestials can sleep while on Earth, as a reminder, in their vessels. This sends them to the Marches without them having to take on celestial form on Earth. Very handy.

Blandine is the Archangel of Dreams, the protector of human dreamers and guardian of the Marches.

Menunum of Dreams can cause anyone they can see to have a momentary uplifting daydream at will. Menunum are a minor Choir created by Blandine, more on which later.
Bright Lilim of Dreams automatically successfully use their resonance to detect Needs on anyone in the Marches that they see, with CD of (Ethereal Forces). They may roll to improve the CD. If Blandine has redeemed any Lilim on top of the one she Redeems in the Revelations Cycle, she treats them as individuals who have denies all they knew to chase an impossible hope. If they want to work on Earth, however dangerous to their Redemption it is, they'll get it. They may not last long, but they receive fulfilling duties and while Blandine will grieve any losses, she never regrets the hopes they may have realized in her service or the hopes they passed on to others.
Bounded in a Nutshell is a Servitor attunement that allows you to spend 2 Essence to temporarily strength the barriers between corporeal and ethereal for one person they can see, for (Forces) hours. During this time, your target's attempts to make a Will roll to enter or leave the Marches has a penalty of (Ethereal Forces), though you may lift this at any time before the duration ends with a Precision roll. This does not apply in any situation in which a Will roll would not be made, except in the case of mortal dreamers, who must make a Will roll to wake up.
Dreambook is a Servitor attunement letting you create a recording of a dreamer's experiences. You must have a blank book and be physically touching them as they sleep. a record of the dream will appear on the pages of the book in the dreamer's handwriting, written in a style depending on the nature of dreamer and dream. It can also be used to record dreams onto video or other recording media, but audio or visual dreambooks can only be seen for what they are by the Symphonically aware. Normal humans will see only a video of the sleeping dreamer or a tape of soft snoring.
Dream Sight is a Servitor attunement that lets you touch a dreamer in the physical world to get a mental image of the dreamscape they're in. The GM may also allow brief glimpses at a waking dreamer's daydreams. If you are in a Tether that leads to the Marches from any realm, such as Blandine's tower or an Ethereal Tether, you can glimpse the locus of the Tether in the Marches. ?Using this attunement in any way requires all your attention, preventing any action but concentration on the vision.
Lucidity is a Servitor attunement that lets you touch a sleeping dreamer (or be in their dreamscape) and, for 3 Essence, give them lucidity for the length of a single dream. A lucid dreamer controls their own dream, needing no roll to do anything in it. Rather, success and failure is determined by their self-image. A Lucid dreamer may eject anyone in their dream at will.
Blandine's higher Distinctions grant no powers, but often come with Words.
Sentinels are responsible for intensive work. All are Wordbound angels of power, dedicated to protecting certain kinds of dreams. The most favored of these currently is the Sentinel of Dreams of Peace, who holds that Word.
Wardens of the Marches are any angels who are at least Masters and who have been given responsibility to guard a certain stretch of the Marches, keeping the peace there, finding other celestials and driving out rogue ethereals, as well as defending against demons. The Wardens of the Four Quarters are most senior, though the four cardinal directions have little relative meaning in the Marches.
Blandine can also teach the Songs of Dreams, Harmony, Sleep and Daydreams.

Expanded Rites:
1. Tell a story to a group of 10 children.
2. For 3 Essence, defeat a demon in ethereal combat and eject it from the Marches.
3. Spend 4 hours daydreaming.
4. Talk down a potential suicide.
5. For 3 Essence, enable someone to overcome their greatest fear.
6. Destroy an ethereal's vessel.

Common Dream Malakite Oaths:
1. I will serve Blandine with perfect obedience to her commands.
2. I will spend at least 6 hours a night patrolling the Marches.
3. I will honor the Sabbath Day as a day of rest, and keep it holy.
4. I will rescue those lost in nightmares.
5. I will destroy ethereals on Earth wherever I find them.
6. I will not lose my temper when there are ladies present.
7. I will not allow an enemy to escape me by fleeing into the Marches.
8. Under no provocation will I forget my manners.
9. I will spend at least 1 hour a week teaching mortals to overcome their fears.

Blandine is the most regal and aristocratic Archangel. Her voice is always sweet, grave and calm. Her sadness never leaves her, and she prefers to appear to her angels by projection, as a pale image against a dark background or a reflection in a mirror or puddle. She may also appear in dreams or in the Marches. For less urgent communication, she sends one of the Menunim. She is polite but reserved with other angels, treating them respectfully but expecting them to humbly accept their orders. Her favored vessel is a young woman, but she can appear as a woman of any race or age. She is always radiant, even in a vessel, with a sense of hope that has never gone away. She often appears to be only paying partial attention. Her angels often call her the White Lady, the Guardian of the Marches, the Queen of the Night and the Keeper of the Flame.

Dreams has two facets, as a Word. The first is literal - the trips sleepers take in the dreamscapes. The second is usually a bit more metaphorical. Hopes, aspirations and goals are all Dreams as wlel. Blandine is not judgmental - the selfish dreams of humanity must be protected as much as their selfless and noble dreams, so long as those dreams are their own and not caused by demons. The power ot manipulate human dreams is great, and Blandine refuses to see it used casually. If the War is to be won, it must be won by letting humans exercise their free will. This tends to receive mixed response from the Seraphim Council. While most Archangels agree that humans must make their own path and all agree that demonic manipulation must be stopped, some disagree strongly about selfish dreams, seeing the Host as a means to punish humans as well as shepherd them. Still, most Archangels are happy to leave Blandine to her work.

Blandine is patron to all dreamers, and she interprets Dreams to include all manner of art and creativity, as dreams given physical shape. Few humans have their own personal dream guardians, but those hwo make their deams open to others are given special priority, and most artists have an angel of Dreams watching over them. Blandine also favors the ambitious madmen of Earth. Any human that dreams of building an empire, making a nation or toppling a nation probably has an angelic dream guardian. This isn't about personal taste - these people are capable of making vital changes on Earth by inspiring others, and demons often stalk them, so her angels must keep watch.

When the universe was newly made, Blandine and Beleth were among the first angels made, and the first to love each other so deeply. God loved His creations, but they were the first to love one another, and the Host followed their example. It wwas a good time, until Lucifer led his rebellion. He believed that angels were too glorious to be mere servile tools while humans were allowed to find their own paths. His charisma and logic seperated the lovers, who had in many ways come to symbolize selfless devotion. Beleth, then Angel of Fear, worked alongside Blandine to mold humans of great potential and help them advance. Their work, Fear and Dreams, seemed a single thing in two aspects. At first, Blandine didn't even suspect Lucifer. She watched from a distance, but nothing seemed wrong. Beleth listened to him, and had always been the less aggressive and more pessimistic of the pair, more fragile and insecure in her understanding of Fear. Blandine lacked the sense of failure Beleth provided her, and Beleth needed her reminder of the possibility of success. Lucifer used this against her.

Lucifer told Beleth that her fear came from wielding her Word incorrectly, that she was too soft and influenced by Blandine. Blandine envied her, Lucifer said, which is why humans they worked with overcame their fears. Lucifer inspired Beleth to hate humans and resent her lover. Blandine tried to convince Beleth she was being manipulated, but Beleth took it all as jealousy, and in many ways it was. By the time Blandine approached other angels for help, the Rebellion had begun and Beleth was out of reach. The Fall was a millenia ago, but Blandine feels the pain and frustration of the loss as if it happened the morning before. Beleth's tower, visible across the Marches, is a constant reminder of her loss.

It is said that on the first Sabbath, all of Creation rested, and the first dreamscapes appeared in the Marches. To those angels preferring Biblical literalism, this is when Blandine was given her Word.

After the fall, it is said that Blandine walked from her tower to Gabriel's Cathedral - the first time she'd left it since Beleth's final assault and challenge, when she had refused to exit and fight. In the Citadel of Fire, she rubbed her face and arms with ashes, mourning and begging Gabriel to loan her a spark from the heart of Fire. When asked what use she'd have with it, she said simply that Beleth and a third of the Host had turned to darkness. When they wanted to return, they would need a light to guide them home across the Marches. Gabriel gave her the flame, and Blandine carried back to her Tower, setting it in the great lamp that shines from its peak even now. Others say that Gabriel even gave her his own Heart to use as the source of the Tower's light.

Blandine was responsible, it is known, for the first Redemption, though she claims God showed what must be done. All of the ancient Archangels remember the time she brought this new Cherub to the Council, demanding silence that he might recount his own tale. Even Michael admits that this was the moment when the Archangels realized that the Fallen were not lost forever. This is when any Peace Faction of Heaven was formed, and while Blandine played no part in politics that followed, she admitted to her closest allies that she had asked God to tell her if all her hopes were in vain. In that same day, Oresto, the first demon to be Redeemed, collapsed at the base of her tower.

It has long been suspected that, despite her assurances, the Archangel of Dreams accepts the service of a few ethereals, those friendly to humans willing to aid Heaven, and even allows them on Earth. Some say these allies included unicorns, minor gods converted to Christianity or Islam and even a dragon, who is said to be the greatest living dragonslayer of all time.

Those that work with Blandine rarely deal with her directly. She is solitary, keeping herself engrossed in hopes and dreams. Most see her as well-versed in her power, which is true, and humble, which is also true, but also busy in order to keep herself from thinking about her own feelings. She is too genteel to show her pain publically, and has instead closed herself up and become aloof. Despite her lingering pain, Blandine remains optimistic about humanity and takes her part in the War seriously. Her moods can be contradictory, running from Pollyanna to grim self-absorption. She is determined to help every human she can experience their dreams to the fullest, finding their potential and true happiness, but she herself smiles only rarely and never deeply. Blandine believes that human dreams are the key to everything, that their hearts carry the solution to all problems. How she will behave toward anyone is determined by her closeness to them. To her angels, she is kind but brief, giving more commands than compliments, though when she does give rewards, they are great ones. To her few friends, she is warmer, allowing both her optimism and weariness to show.

Next time: Dreams of Dreams

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Every second of the night, I live another life

Despite having seen the Fall and the war in Heaven, Blandine still believes. She knows th the War will not last forever, the Evil will be defeated, that the Fallen will return, that light will win over darkness. Even if these ideals seem delusional or futile, she cannot let go of hope. If no one hoped, the War would be over before it began. If even one person dares to dream of better things, then anything is possible. Even Beleth's return.

Blandine's top priority is to protect the six billion human souls that come to her by night. She is among the most ancient Archangels, and she's out to end the War and return humanity to pursuing its dreams without interference. She heads one of the largest networks of angels out there, and one of the least visible, plus her human servants and soldiers. She guards the border with the Marches, as well, to keep the ethereals still angry over the Purity Crusade from attacking either Heaven or invading Earth. Every night, he angels work to exhaustion to war with the demons of Nightmares in the dreams of humanity. Usually this has been a subtle and strategic conflict with little direct battle...until recently, when Beleth has been attacking directly. Blandine believes that Beleth is trying to force her to a more militaristic bent, but she won't take the bait, despite her heavy losses from it. Instead, she is working twice as hard to influence dreams., It's a tricky battle, and if either side could gain significant advantage, it might tip the balance of the whole War. Currently, though, Dreams and Nightmares hold each other in check.

Blandine is one of the oldest angels, and despite the Fall and all since, she cannot bring herself to hate God. She loves God and would do anything to help His plans for the world, even if it put her soul on the line. Night after night after night, she does exactly that. No other Archangel, either, hates Lucifer so coldly, stubbornly or personally as Blandine. Lucifer stole Beleth from her and turned the two against each other solely for politics. He betrayed his own dreams and those of mortals yet unborn. Blandine is beyond jealousy now, but her hatred endures.

Humans are closer to Blandine than anyone could grasp. She knows the millions who dream of food in their starvation. She knows the hopes and fears of the children who die in the gutter. She knows the ideals of those in high places and the selfishness of lovers. She knows the hopes that allow humans to rise above themselves, and each of them is a tiny prayer with the potential to bring them closer to God. In dreams, she knows, is the hope for everything. She doesn't see all mortals as equals, however. Some are more important, particularly the artists, writers and idealists who can communicate their dreams to others. Humanity is a vast tapestry, and the brightest and most talented dreamers shine within it, illuminating the rest. She focuses her efforts on these mortals. However, Blandine also opposes any intervention in mortal affairs. Celestials should not interfere on Earth, she believes, save to fight infernal forces. Yes, there are many places and times where you want to prevent pain and suffering but that isn't your job. Mortals have to live their own lives, and only by night, in dreams, can the angels of Dreams act, warning their charges, helping them, healing those sick in the spirit, but even then, their mortal charges must live for themselves.

Blandine hates fighting, but she believes the War is a moral imperative. The moral part of the War is at least as important as the results of most minor battles, because it is human hearts and souls that are the battleground of the true War. She is determined not to fail and to protect humanity from the evils promoted by Hell. More and more, the Earthly War is just an abstraction for her. Her fight with Beleth is her world, and she hates the conflicts that directly interfere with humanity, disapproving of the unsubtle tactics of most of the more warlike Archangels.

Before the Purity Crusade, some ethereals were almost friendly with Blandine. Now, only a very, very few are. More hide in the Far Marches or in Beleth's side of the Vale of Dreams, resenting humans and the angels that guard them. Blandine despises those ethereals who stalk the mortal world for malice or mischief, and she acts as needed to protect her Merches from them, as she would any intruder. Humans were not meant to interact with dreams made flesh, even if the ethereals have no intention of stealing Essence, perverting true believers or treating humans as toys. Blandine understands more than any other the harm they can accidentally cause.

Blandine is one of the least political of all angels on the Council, keeping her methods and plans to herself. She will very rarely take action or speak out against the more violent factions of Heaven, particularly Michael, but she she normally stays silent and vigilant in the Marches.

Superior Opinions posted:

David: I fear that the pain of Beleth's loss sometimes clouds her perceptions. Her hostility toward me has not yet exhausted my patienced. After all, some trials take years to work through, and some take eons.
He is brave and strong, but there is so much more to life than strength and bravery. His dreams are as dull and barren as any stone.
Dominic: Innocence and guilt bubble up in the surface of the dreamscapes; I make regular visits to the Marches. Blandine serves her station with skill and dedicated concern. Her judgment is sharp, and her methods effective.
Dominic amuses me. He has spun his political webs for so long that he has become like a fat little spider waiting for flies, instead of a shining angel of Heaven.
Eli: Hey, she's great. No, really. She stays out of the bickering. She dedicates herself to helping humanity bridge the gap between what they want to be and who they are. And who they want to be with. That's an important dream, the best. Her Word embodies a point that a lot of angels miss... It's okay to be motivated by what feels good. It's a damned shame about Beleth.
I have learned a lot from Eli, and he is a good friend. He sees something wonderful in every part of Creation; and he understands that it's necessary to rest and take stock, and take pleasure in the glorious things that God has made.
Gabriel: I liked her, I think. I think she has visited me recently, in another guise. She sparks fires, and fans embers to flame. Yes, I'm sure I liked her...
She has a great Dream, but I fear that it has consumed her...I've tried reaching out to her, but don't know if I ever penetrated her madness to the hope I know lies within. She can be destructive, dangerous, insane. Still - every child fears the dark, and she does bring Light...
Janus: Her Word is so unreal...I love it, the power it has. In the Marches, the humans are free to fly from truth to truth and splip through walls and over mountains in the blink of an eye. She does a good job.
His nature can be very close to mine. He "inspires" quite literally, acting as the breath of God, scouring away the old and heralding the new. He understands that we must indulge wild flights of fancy, for who knows where they might lead?
Jean: She gives a little too much, a little too quickly, to those who send her their entreaties... And she encourages a kind of false optimism, I think. She is valuable to us, but in a way that is so far afield of my own work that it's probably best that she keeps her distance from us the way she does.
Jean sees life as a linear progression from A to B, and will trample over anything which stands in his projected path. While he persists in trying to direct the human heart instead of understanding it, he iwll always be fighting a losing battle to hold back the tide. He meddles too much.
Jordi: Animals dream too... And Blandine doesn't ignore them; she tends to them as vigilantly as to the humans. I've seen her bring peace to beasts in pain, even if it had nothing to do with the War in a way that the Council recognizes.
The dreams of animals are pure and honest. Jordi is always true to his own nature, and the trust that has been placed in him. His animals remind us all that the humblest insect is as much a triumph of God's creation as we.
Laurence: She is the general on the broadest beach-head of the human soul. I let her do what she does best; she always. always comes through for us. Sometimes we fail her, and I regret those times deeply.
His influences on men shapes more dreamscapes than he knows. Some of them aren't on my side of the Marches, but Yves trusts him, and I trust Yves. I prefer him to Uriel.
Marc: Well, people are going to dream about money whether Blandine is overseeing the Marches or not. She keeps Beleth in check, and that's about all.
He has taken his Word and turned it into greedy bean-counting; and because the mortals seem to enjoy this, it is apparently a great success. But the War is not a balance sheet, and we are fighting for greater things than the bottom line.
Michael: Is it really a good idea to quell the fears of mankind in a world of false imagery? How does that prepare them? I often wonder if Nightmares aren't better for our cause; I'd like to see Blandine take the initiative to control the entire realm of Dreams. Contentment isn't an attribute of a good soldier.
So many humans dream about a warrior or champion to protect them. This is Michael's role, and I must admit he serves it well, though he often acts in a more brutal manner than I find appropriate.
Novalis: She's a friend, a good one. She's one of the few that really gets it - that violence isn't the way to win hearts, and that it's hearts we're trying to win. We don't see each other as often as we used to, but whenever I get a chance to visit her, she always makes me feel welcome.
A dear heart, and a gentle soul. I used to speak with her ofteni n the past. We agree about so many things, but I fear that humans would become complacent if all their needs were attended to by angels.
Yves: When the trouble with Beleth came, Blandine, dear friend that she is, was angry with me for not warning her. But I had, in so many ways. In every way that I could. That was a brief flash, though; she was sitll quite young, and she has since accepted the complexities of her destiny with elegance. She is one of our brightest, and I miss the days when we could talk more often.
Kind, sweet old Yves... When I was younger and understood less, I was foolish enough to be angry with him. Never since. He is a mentor and a friend, and does as much to bring the bright dreams of mankind to reality as I do.
Andrealphus: Blandine, the first proof of the folly and pain of love. I like to think that I do my little bit to make her life easier, and make some people's dreams sweeter. There are no dreams like the dreams of desire.
Because he failed Love doesn't mean that the rest of us need to. His dreams can be disturbing to mortals, either because they're nightmares or because they cause them to grow obsessive for more and more sensation.
Asmodeus: Dreams are nothing but foolish, distracting delusions. If I catch any demons wasting time in dreaming there will be Hell to pay!
He is nothing to me; there are no rules that can restrict the human spirit.
Baal: I wouldn't take her on her own home ground, but she's almost defenseless anywhere else. At least she keeps Beleth occupied, and once Nightmares gets their act together, the Marches will be the most direct line of assault for us into Heaven.
He still dreams of glory and conquest, and refuses to see that his allies are anything but glorious. But how many more mortals must suffer to satisfy his pride?
Beleth: Bitch. She's always wanted everything that I've ever had, or ever been - but those dreamers are mine. She's a weakling, who could never face any facts she didn't like. I'll see her crushed and mewling in terror at my feet, begging me for a moment's respite. And then I'll walk away, and lock her alone in the dark forever.
Oh my love, once we were like two wings on one bird, two horns on one deer, two eyes in one head. And now I am half of what I was. Everywhere I see footsteps in the sand, imprints from times which are so long ago that only you and I remmeber, and one day those shared memories will bring you back...for I will not come to you, my love.
Belial: I often dream of flames. Crackling, hissing, burning down the world. What I'd like to do is set fire to the Marches. All of it, Beleth and Blandine alike...then everyone would dream of burning. Forever.
I know the misery that he causes, echoed through the dreamscapes of those who suffer and burn. But simply being destructive in the corporeal realm does not win souls from Heaven.
Haagenti: Fluffy. Useful. People dream of stuff they want, they dream of eating more. My kind of Archangel.
Dreaming of what one hopes for is one thing, but dreams of nothing but hunger is wrong. He limits all the humans he touches. While not the most openly corruptive, he must be prevented from expanding further.
Kobal: How noble, how grand. Blandine offers more potential for cruel irony than she realizes. I hope she never does.
Scorn, mockery, ridicule. These are not the things of dreams; they belong more to Beleth than me. Kobal does not understand what his Word does to humanity and for that I cannot forgive him.
Kronos: As much as Yves, she is the true enemy. Foolish dreams have stood between more than one mortal and his fate. But her futile hopes, and the strength she gives Heaven, are draining away like water in the desert.
I hear his voice sometimes, whispering like dry dust. His dreams involve the quiet destruction of all other dreams, and the death of all hopes. He is a reminder of why we must not fail.
Lilith: I know what she Needs, but I can't give it to her. Her Needs scream at me. Maybe that's why she isolates herself in the Marches.
She is a Princess; what more need be said? It is a pity that such a noble Word is twisted to infernal use. But oh, she can be tempting.
Malphas: In their dreams, humans are most utterly alone, and separated from others. Blandine is also very distant from her allies, and becoming more so.
He is neither gross nor violent in the way of some of the other Princes. But he is intelligent, and utterly dedicated. I find him dull.
Nybbas: She's a living chick movie. I can sell that syrupy hope crap to dull-witted housewives, but you wouldn't catch me watching it. My dreams are much more entertaining than what plays in her theaters.
He corrutps people's dreams, making them cheap and tawdry, and ultimately empty. His influence rots away at people's souls a little bit at a time, until they have nothing left, and they don't even notice whath e took from them.
Saminga: Dreams aren't alive. Who cares if humans dream about death? Better if they just die.
That which is dead does not dream, and death is all he has. He is disgusting, and accomplishes nothing of any importance.
Valefor: Blandine, ice queen - I should take up poetry if I ever get bored of this Demon Prince business. Joking aside, stealing dreams takes a very light touch and no small degree of skill. Did you know that htere's a backdoor entrance into Heaven through her Tower?
Behind his bluster, there is nothing but a hunger for attention, and a desire to ruin anything that isn't his. But given the attention, he can be very charming and very polite.
Vapula: All beings should dream of the technological glories to come! How dar she oppose me?
Technology has turned so many dreams into nightmares. Pity the mortals who fall under Vapula's influence.
Ethereals: Fragments of dreaming given a semblance of life. If they have a place, it is in the Marches. Still, I miss those I once knew - and perhaps I should have intervened sooner when they were hunted. Those who steal Essence or harm the mortals must be stopped.
Soldiers of God: We should be gentle with those who dedicate themselves to help our cause. Our Soldiers also have lives of their own, and as far as we can, we should not interfere with that.
Sorcerers and Hellsworn: Poor defrauded fools who have sold their souls to Hell for a few minor powers. But if they endanger the dreams of others, they may meet their infernal masters sooner than they had expected.
Humans: The dreamers. I have never seen a dreamscape that did not contain something of beauty, and something of hope. If our pain, our battles, and our dedication are not to be pointless, then we must not fail them. For if this War is ever to be won, it will be ultimately won by them.
Undead: Their existence is in opposition to God's laws of life and death. Only the living have dreams, and belong on Earth. The dead should move on to the celestial realms.

Variations! Blandine the Insufferable is...Pollyanna, pure and simple. She doesn't understand Earth, but she knows all you need is to think happy thoughts and everything will be fine. Her servants are encouraged to think happy thoughts and be disgustingly upbeat little bundles of joy in the lives of all they touch. Dreams influencedb y her angels are easily spotted by the fluffy animals, butterflies and uplifting songs. If bad things happen to them, they are to look on the bright side, or else Blandine might pout. Blandine the Distant is an angel broken by her grief and retreated into herself. She is rarely seen, even by her own angels, and no one is sure if she's in her Tower or out wandering the Marches alone. She takes little interest in her work, and even when present, she is lost and confused, with no grasp of current events or time in general. Her smile is sweet but deluded, and her angels perform her duties as she is no longer competent. If she still has a reputation for calm and competence, it is a reflection on her lieutenants, who cover for her. Blandine Who Must Be Obeyed is a Blandine that has become bitter and mistrustful. She never descends from her Tower and believes Heaven cares nothing for her pain, so she doesn't care for them. She is the absolute monarch of her half of the Vale, disdaining Earth unless work there directly increases her power. Her angels arrest any angels they find in the Marches, treating them little better than they would demons. To her own angels, she is adored and feared. Insubordination is forbidden, and loyalty to anyone, even God, over her is treasonous. It is said that she is falling into the same heresies as the ethereals of old, encouraging mortals to worship her directly. She already controls more ethereal power than any other Archangel and might be building her own hidden army of angels and ethereals.

Blandine's Tower is on the edge of Heaven, more than just a landmark. It is a symbol of Hope and aspiration. It casts no shadow, but instead glows with gentle light. It is a physical promise of protection to all beneath it, and while it may appear to be fragile, it is anything but. It is guarded heavily, and its mistress never sleeps. A dazzlingly bright light hangs from the top parapet, colored like the dawn, and it is this light that shines across the Marches as a beacon towards Heaven. Angels suspect that human dreams help raise the Tower higher, as each lends strength to it. Unfortunately, Beleth's Tower always keeps pace.

Originally, Blandine and Beleth built their towers together, one in the Marches and one Cathedral in Heaven. They lvoed when the two towers twined together and a Tether between them flourished. It was as if the universe itself wanted to reflect their love. Before the Fall, it was breathtaking in its beauty, terror and fragility. It had no need for defenses, for there was nothing to defend against. During the Rebellion, however, Beleth kileld the first Seneschal of the Tower and ordered her own angels into the Marches, terrorizing those that would not obey her freely. Many angels of Dreams who worked alongside angels of Fear were included in this. From the Marches, they laid siege to the tower, learning to hate. When the fighting was over, the Tower in the Marches was ruined. Blandine wept in the ruins, comforted by the angels that had fled, fought for her or hidden. She had lost almost half her angels. Many dreamscapes drifted toward the broken tower, their dreamers having felt the aching loss, and tried to heal it. With their help, the Tower was remade stronger than it had been, and some say it is even more beautiful now, touched with sorrow.

Next time: Spare a little candle, save some light for me

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Welcome to the last post of GURPS Technomancer. It's time to tie up the last loose ends before we close the book on this tale and look forward.

Looking to the Past: Funny New Guys
GURPS Funny New Guys: Technomancers in Vietnam was a fifty page PDF adventure and pseudo-sourcebook that was produced in 2004, near the very end of GURPS Third Edition's lifespan. On top of talking about troop deployment strategies and going into more depth about topics covered in GURPS Technomancer proper such as the Black Berets and Kennedy's "Spell Gap" speech that spurred on the magical revolution, providing some mini-templates (what GURPS Fourth Edition would come to call lenses) to add specific military training to any character template, stats for various vehicles, weapons, and hazards of war, and a triad of native wildlife to endanger soldiers (the reticulated python, leopard, and green viper, to be specifc), the biggest thing Funny New Guys presents to us that isn't the adventure is a rather shocking revelation about Vietnam: it actually received some of the manafall of the Antarctica Hellstorm during the 1949 spring monsoons. We will sadly never know what kind of chimeras came about in Vietnam, as they were systematically exterminated, both by peasants who were terrified at these strange monsters and the Vietmin because...just because. Mages were spared, however, and eventually became a tool for the Vietminh to use to overthrow the French yolk. We also learn that there were ten yellow dragons (yet another ally-coded designation for the same green-scaled dragons that everyone else uses) gifted by Nixon to Saigon after the war ended, but they aren't really important at all as eight of them were killed when they took part in a military coup in 1983 and the other two fled into the jungle and have never been seen again since.

The adventure itself puts the players in the role of grunts in the Fox Company, a unit of the 101st Spellborne Division during 1967. Their superiors are the Jazz-loving and overconfident hardass Captain Dale Muncie, fiery-tempered 1st Seargeant Larry Otis, drunkard, tobacco addict, and master of all types of firearm Staff Sergeant Tim Kapecki, and West Point glory hound 2nd Lieutenant David Henderson. There are also stats for Earnest "Fluffy" Faran, a fox chimera corporal who is a crack shot sniper but ultimately insecure after the anti-chimera prejudice he's experienced and eager to get back home to Texas. The course of the adventure takes place over several patrols of the unforgiving Vietnamese rainforest, the last of which ends in a firefight against heavily armed Viet Cong and a Howitzer they plan to use to destroy the base the players have been stationed, all during a heavy thunderstorm. Wounded characters receive a Purple Heart, and all of them receive the respect of the Fox Company's leadership as they are go from FNGs (which the book claims to stand for Funny New Guys, hence the title, but I'm fairly sure that first letter is a less pleasant word) to honoray "Fighting Foxes" in the eyes of their superiors.

Funny New Guys is written by Ed Wisniowski, writer of GURPS Monsters, GURPS Villains, and the In Nomine book Liber Reliquarium. While he doesn't do anything drastic with the setting, for good or for ill, the supplement doesn't really feel all that out of place either, and the parts that expand on existing Technomancer concepts honestly feel like they could have been written by Pulver himself. Wisniowski also doesn't stumble into the pitfalls of glorifying the Vietnam War as a just one in spite of the explicit American victory in the Technomancer universe, very much emphasizing the "war is hell" aspect of the entire mess.

Looking to the Future: Technomancer in GURPS Fourth Edition
Unlike some other 90s properties, it's very improbable that we'll ever see a GURPS Technomancer 20th Anniversary in 2019 or anything. The reasons for this are twofold. First off, the actual production climate of GURPS has changed a lot since the 80s and 90s. Gone are the days where you'd have a few hundred pages dedicated to a specific topic like ancient Egypt, the Napoleonic Era, or prehistoric life, and even longform settings have been abandoned for the most part. Steve Jackson Games still produces large print books once in a blue moon, like the upcoming GURPS Mars Attacks and Fourth Edition version of GURPS Discworld, but for the most part they have shifted their focus to smaller PDF releases around thirty to fifty pages, which I assume is financially viable given that they keep doing it.

Second, and probably more notably, the setting was technically updated. While GURPS Reign of Steel and GURPS Transhuman Space are settings that received small but proper conversion books, Technomancer was apparently less of a priority, as its 4E update was a few paragraphs in GURPS Infinite Worlds. One of two major setting books that were put out for Gurps Fourth Edition, GURPS Infinite Worlds has the premise of your characters being part of an interdimensional patrol agency. The world of Technomancer is designated as Merlin-1, and a few details are given concerning what happened from 2000 to 2004. Long story short, 9/11 was averted because the zombies of the Dead Brotherhood that were going to fly the planes were salted by covert CIA operatives, Stalin's armies have been mostly contained to the Caucasus, and Evita Peron and her Nazi pals have allied with the communist penguins and agents of Reich-2 (one of multiple "Nazis Won the War" dimensions) to become the only real threat to American dominance. There are also brief mentions of alternate Hellstorm events that created alternate Technomancer worlds: Merlin-2 has the Middle East as the Mana Belt after Hamas struck Jerusalem in 2012, while Merlin-3 had Nuremberg destroyed by a Hellstorm in 1919 to lead into a Weird War II scenario. There is no explanation of how these events had the necromantic ritual tied into them or why Oppenheimer's words in Merlin-2 didn't cause the first Hellstorm.

In spite of its brief stumbles and sometimes problematic or even downright creepily flawed moments, I could never say that GURPS Technomancer as a whole didn't have creativity and heart. The fleetingly brief blurb it gets in Infinite Worlds doesn't have any of that feeling of weird joy at its creation. This is strange, given that Steve Jackson, Kenneth Hite, and the late John M. Ford were the writers of GURPS Infinite Worlds, and I know Kenneth Hite has done some really creative poo poo in the roleplaying game industry and John Ford was an actual award-winning science fiction writer. Unless something unexpected happens I guess we may never know what Pulver would have decided to do if he did get to create a post-1999 Technomancer. It just seems a little annoying that while GURPS Reign of Steel and GURPS Transhuman Space – Pulver's other noteworthy GURPS settings – both got small but nonetheless present conversion books, Technomancer received no such luxury.

There's no time to dwell on that right now, though, as I still want to get through a bit more on GURPS Technomancer's footprint showing up in the 4E sand. I'm not talking about minor mentions, because then I'd be pointing out sentence-long callouts in things like GURPS Dragons and GURPS Horror or the fact that the plastic, radiation, and energy spells that were born from Technomancer appeared in the Fourth Edition version of GURPS Magic. Instead, I'm specifically going to be referring to a few things that had Technomancer as a stronger influence.

GURPS Seals in Vietnam
This GURPS Fourth Edition title about both the Vietnam War and the Navy SEALs has a one and a half page section entitled "Puff the Magic Dragon", which focuses entirely on SEALs in Technomancer. SEAL mages didn't have access to golems, zombies, or necronium weaponry like the Army, but they did have the aid of two blue dragon squadrons and a healthy knowledge of spells from the Air, Knowledge, Light and Darkness, Movement, and Water colleges. A 50 point lens called the Special Operations Technician is provided specifically to give you a fast and easy set of spells to slap on any SEAL character template, with spells including Breathe Water, Create Water, Destroy Water, Flying Carpet, Hide Thoughts, Lend Vitality, Missile Shield, Purify Air, Purify Water, Seek Water, and Sense Emotion.

Also provided are magic items that were (and are) frequently utilized by SEALs in the Technomancer world. The Poseidon vest is a green vest enchanted with Swim that allows a person to stay afloat even when overburdened with gear (also issued in red versions as civilian or rescue team life preservers), the recon amulet is a compass amulet that is enchanted with Find Direction, See Secrets, and Sense Danger spells as a personal lookout, war paint is a cream elixir that creates green and black camouflage paint that raises Stealth by 1d6 for two hours and reproduces the Panic spell if the sneaking doesn't work out and the Seal is seen, and the Colt-Fawkes MK 27 MOD 0 is a Colt M66 assault rifle modified to use the Fawkes Elemental Propellant Slugthrower system. The EPS system was a form of technomagic created by one Guy Gavriel Fawkes of Colt Firearms, and binds fire and water elementals into a combustion chamber that creates a steam explosion when fired. This extra propulsion allows for reduced overall ammunition size and weight and thus a greater amount of ammunition packed in the clip, but carries the burden of extra cost and unleashing two very angry elementals if the gun ever breaks or explodes.

GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics
The GURPS Thaumatology series was created to tweak various aspects of the GURPS spell system, from having a freeform word-based spell creation system rather than specific spells in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic to entirely foregoing spell-based magic in favor of magic designed around the advantages system in GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery. GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics was written by William H. Stoddard and covered concepts such as character templates for urban fantasy archetypes, magic through ley lines, and architecture as sacred geometry. What makes Technomancer relevant is the section "The Mechanical Equivalent of Magic", which brings back the concept of NEMA reactors and Ectite power lines (though neither are specifically named as such) and goes into greater detail about the Conduct Power and Draw Power spells that first appeared in GURPS Technomancer and reappeared in GURPS Magic 4E. And I mean detail on the level of how many megawatt hours convert into how much magical energy, as well as a paragraph on why pre-industrial methods of power such as windmills and water mills simply can't provide enough magic to make the Power spells useful enough to be invented yet. There are also two new spells called Minor Conduct Power and Minor Draw Power, which are like Conduct and Draw Power but measured in kilowatts of energy converted to mana rather than megawatts.

Pyramid Magazine
Finally, we have "Thoroughly Modern Magic", an article by Paul Stefko in issue 66 of Pyramid, the monthly GURPS magazine. Remember industrial enchantment? Stefko definitely did, as this article was him converting and more thoroughly fleshing out the system for GURPS Fourth Edition. Industrial enchantment is represented by a specific magical style (another Thaumatology ruleset involving specific lists of spells in tiered levels for that specific style, effectively putting limits on what a mage can learn in the same way as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder class spell lists and spell levels) known as Line Magic, and a new character template called the line mage replaces the industrial enchanter template from GURPS Technomancer, with industrial enchanter instead being a specific job that most line mages are in. There is also a new character named Melissa Straithairn presented as a culmination of all the rules. Straithairn is living proof that Technomancer isn't necessarily all that different from the real world even with magic, as her years in the University of New Mexico taught her a lot of spells but also dumped buckets of debt on her, leading to a stressful period of various temp jobs before landing a permanent industrial enchanter job at a magic item manufacturer in Pittsburgh called House Elf Domestics.

Looking Inward: GURPS Technomancer and Me
Forgive me for being self-indulgent at the end here. My history of active engagement with roleplaying games isn't nearly as long as some others here: sure, I knew about things like AD&D or d6 Star Wars, but that didn't mean I ever played or GM'd them. In fact, I grew up in a household that actually did buy into the whole Satanic Panic business for a while, and still does to some lesser extent last I learned. That doesn't really matter on the topic of how I got into actually started becoming a participant in the hobby rather than a bystander, though, so let's skip further into the future.

The first roleplaying game I actually ever played was the Revised Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Wizards of the Coast in 2002. It was a shoddily run local thing that wasn't actually all that interesting, but it nonetheless was my first introduction to both looking at roleplaying games as an 'insider' (for what measure that term could imply here) rather than an outsider and my first run in with buying and sharing materials from hobby shops rather than standard bookstores. It also introduced me to the d20 system as a whole, and eventually lead me to d20 Modern and internet forums when that came out. But most importantly of all, it introduced me to the idea of participation through creation. No stats for woodoos and woolamanders to use? Needing a neek? Just stat them up with the baseline rules of creatures found in the SWRPG Revised Core Rulebook!

Through various forms of participation with various forms of d20, I can look back and say that I learned several things about myself and my connection with roleplaying games. One was that I was not actually all that much of a player or a GM. The parts I loved were the reading and the creating, learning things and then picking them apart. The other was that I was really desperate to want to belong and have attention. I skipped from d20 system to d20 system, and until very recently had never thought of branching out. Even then, I ended up actually buying loads of poo poo for FATE and the core rules for GURPS (I already had a fair amount of its 3E sourcebooks simply because they were so fluff-heavy I had been using them for other systems beforehand) because they were the flavors of the day on the SA forums soon after I first signed up here. And then a weird thing happened: I actually started enjoying GURPS unironically, not just as an adult with an idiotic scene kid mentality. Is it a perfect system? Hell no, but it's something I ended up finding myself comfortable with concerning the way I personally process roleplaying games, by picking lots of intricate things apart and finding out neat ways to put them back together to do what I want.

This all actually ties back into GURPS Technomancer, I swear. What I see in David Pulver is partly a more successful and superior version of me: a creator and a tinkerer who likes to see just what all those little parts can do when combined with a personal idea. What he did with Technomancer was take the toy boxes of two very disparate elements of GURPS – its magic and high fantasy shenanigans combined with its copious minutae on modern technology and living – and combined the contents of the two into a cohesive whole. The whole setting works as this grand exercise of "okay, so what happens if I put this block here, and that one there, attached to these blocks already on the table?" As much as I like conspiracy/masquerade urban fantasy, GURPS Technomancer is actually still my favorite implementation of that genre in roleplaying games simply because it's just so fascinating to see what Pulver did with one divergence in the timeline of modern history. It definitely has its problematic moments, and there are deficiencies that might matter to me but not to the next person (the lack of a proper bestiary being my own biggest personal bugbear), but I can't help but love the big picture. And honestly, that's also why I ended up posting in these threads several years ago: to try to share all these big pictures through my reviews, and read the interpretations of other big pictures by all the other great posters here.

For now, though, it's time to say goodbye to GURPS Technomancer and move on to new things. The remainder of Hoodoo Blues still has to be covered, and after that it's on to GURPS Banestorm and a monster(s) from FATAL and Friends's past.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Every moment I'm awake, the further I'm away

The Seneschal of the Tower, known as the Castellan, is responsible for managing day to day life iwthin it, with help from his staff of angels and relievers. He directs visitors, handles Blandine's schedule and takes reports. The staff is spread out between the ethereal and celestial sides of the Tower's Tether. On the ethereal side are most of the planning and debriefing rooms for the battles with Nightmares. On the celestial side, angels report incidents to their fellows and then ehad for the quiet rooms, where any may come to rest and lose themselves in dream.

The Encyclopedia Somniorum was given to Blandine as a gift by Uriel, to aid in hunting Ethereals.

Blandine hates fighting, but she believes the War is a moral imperative. The moral part of the War is at least as important as the results of most minor battles, because it is human hearts and souls that are the battleground of the true War. She is determined not to fail and to protect humanity from the evils promoted by Hell. More and more, the Earthly War is just an abstraction for her. Her fight with Beleth is her world, and she hates the conflicts that directly interfere with humanity, disapproving of the unsubtle tactics of most of the more warlike Archangels.

Before the Purity Crusade, some ethereals were almost friendly with Blandine. Now, only a very, very few are. More hide in the Far Marches or in Beleth's side of the Vale of Dreams, resenting humans and the angels that guard them. Blandine despises those ethereals who stalk the mortal world for malice or mischief, and she acts as needed to protect her Merches from them, as she would any intruder. Humans were not meant to interact with dreams made flesh, even if the ethereals have no intention of stealing Essence, perverting true believers or treating humans as toys. Blandine understands more than any other the harm they can accidentally cause.

Blandine is one of the least political of all angels on the Council, keeping her methods and plans to herself. She will very rarely take action or speak out against the more violent factions of Heaven, particularly Michael, but she she normally stays silent and vigilant in the Marches. It was a bit of bad taste, but she took it and put it on a carved ice podium in a simple room overlooking the Marches. The book contains descriptions of all ethereals known to the angels. It is a large, silverbound volume, and it isn't made of paper. Each page is made from a portion of the ethereal it describes. Over the years, some angels have left candles, flowers and other tokens to commemorate the daead. The Cherub that guards the book is good at tactfully looking away for those who want to leave tributes indicating sympathy with the victims of the Crusade.

The Ephemera, meanwhile, is both library and gallery, containing all works of art ever dreamed or imagined by humans but never made. It takes up several floors, and it never ends. Sculptures and paintings cram into eavery inch of space, showing vague dream-images of what might have been and might be. It does link to Yves' Library, and when a writer finishes a book they had dreamed of, the book is dutifully sent over from the Tower to be reclassified. The angels of Dreams are terrible librarians, so Yves has sent some shared angels to put the shelves into order...though they still spend much more time sharing the dreams then they do cataloging or helping patrons. At the highest point of hte Tower is an open balcony with a parapet. It is known that Blandine spends much of her time there, and it is high over the mists of the Vale. From its edge, it is possible to see Beleth's Tower on the horizon. All angels are brought to the balcony when they fledge, to be shown the enemy.

The Near Marches, known as the Vale, are the part of the ethereal realm closest to human dreams. They stretch between the two Towers, and it's easy to spend an entire night just patrolling the Vale and never see another celestial. This also means it's easy for ethereals to sneak into dreams without being spotted. Dreamscapes can be seen as bubbles drifting between the Towers. They can't be herded or captured - the only way to control one is to enter and influence it. Over the millenia, Blandine's influence has made her half of the Vale bright and peaceful. The dream fields, planted with ethereal poppies, have areas set aside for angels to rest after a night's work. There are always tired angels found in these fields. Any angel that has seen a rough day or too many atrocities is welcome to rest among the poppies and regain hope, though anyone that breaks the tranquility will be asked to leave, politely.

The peaceful sleep Blandine offers gives solace to the mentally ill. A small hill, some ways from the tower, is set aside for the Asylum. It lies inside the hill, a place of healing for those angels driven mad by the sress. All angels can be sent htere, where carefully selected Dreamers try to help them. Some of these treatments can be a bit exotic. Some say that the Asylum, also called Eternity, is used by Blandine as a private prison and interrogation facility, but none have ver proved it. Those released from Eternity only ever say good things about it. If a fleeing inmate is considered a danger to themselves or others, emergency powers are given to the Cherub in charge to fetch them before they can do any damage.

The ruins of the first Tower of Dreams remain in some parts of the Vale. Despite rumors that they may still hold powerful relics, they are usually avoided. Is is known that some are close to burial grounds, where surviving angels of Dreams buried the shattered Hearts of their former comrades. The best known of the ruins is a broken statue named And Thou Shalt Walk in the Terror of the Lord, which once stop atop the first Tower. Malakim of Dreams still take the long trip out to that ruin alone to swear their vows when newly fledged.

Dreamscapes are the real battlefield between Dreams and Nightmares. Every living creature can contain entire worlds in their imagination, which come to life as dreamscapes. These, to many angels of Dreams, are the most miraculous part of the world. Using Dream Walking or the Corporeal Song of Dreams, a celestial can enter a dreamscape and become part of it brieflyy. While in a dreamscape, angels can encourage a dreamer away from nightmares by altering parts of the dream with a Will roll or use of the Celestial Song of Dreams. They may also work to heal the effects of trauma or anguish, or use the dream to speak to a dreamer directly. In dreams, humans accept many things they'd not accpet while awake. If a demon or ethereal is already in there, however, you're in a combat situation on roughly equal terms. Reality itself becomes the weapon and the defense. The object of dream combat for Dreamers is to nudge the dreamscape towards Blandine's Tower and aware from belethers, as well as to eject the enemy. Soldiers of Dreams are told to imagine themselves as sheepdogs, herding and protecting the flock.

Dreamscapes can be quite dangerous to the unsuspecting. Humans can dream of disasters of all kinds, and these can cause ethereal damage. Destroying any part of a dream is dangerous to the mortal, as all elements are tied to the dreamer. Cherubim have even been known to take dissonance if significant parts of their charge's dreams are destroyed by anyone but the dreamer. If a dreamscape turns nasty, angels are expected not to fight back, but to help the dreamer fight back themselves, or to use their own dream shaping skills to modify or negate the threat. Likewise, it is possible for an angel to use willpower to alter their own appearance to blend in, but fitting in too well can be dangerous. An angel in that state can, rumor has it, forget their own existence, becoming part of the dreamer's mind, which is not normally possible. If an angel is lost in this state and goes unrescued, they will not live until the dreamer dies and they are thrown into Trauma.

Next time: Is it cloak and dagger, could it be spring or fall

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.

Clapping Larry

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's like GURPS Vehicles but not even having the excuse of being a physics simulation, it's... a... well, like a lot of TORG seems to be just shouting "but you have to earn your fun!"

TORG could be drastically improved by simply removing the chance that Storm Knights can become disconnected. The gizmos thing is awful, the magic is awful, but allowing the PCs to use multiple realm abilities would let them be instantly amazing.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011



The Ephemera, meanwhile, is both library and gallery, containing all works of art ever dreamed or imagined by humans but never made. It takes up several floors, and it never ends. Sculptures and paintings cram into eavery inch of space, showing vague dream-images of what might have been and might be. It does link to Yves' Library, and when a writer finishes a book they had dreamed of, the book is dutifully sent over from the Tower to be reclassified. The angels of Dreams are terrible librarians, so Yves has sent some shared angels to put the shelves into order...though they still spend much more time sharing the dreams then they do cataloging or helping patrons. At the highest point of hte Tower is an open balcony with a parapet. It is known that Blandine spends much of her time there, and it is high over the mists of the Vale. From its edge, it is possible to see Beleth's Tower on the horizon. All angels are brought to the balcony when they fledge, to be shown the enemy.

Straight from Sandman, but otherwise Blandine is not Morpeheus enough for my tastes. I'd have the Marches try to be independent and make a third faction, unfettered possiblity away from Heaven's solid war and Hell's gross lusts.

Is this written by Borgstrom? Is there Dream Combat rules?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: I walk without a cut through a stained glass wall

Blandine doesn't foster Tethers much, as her work is in the Marches. However, some places just feel of Dreams so strongly that they are precious. These include concert halls, teathers and art galleries, as well as the coffee shops and restaurants where students and revolutionaries meet to discuss their ideals, and the parks and playgrounds made sacred by generations of children. In modern times, some younger angels have taken it as a challenge to prove that dreams can be fostered anywhere, overseeing unlikely places like old housing projects or ad agencies. While most will never become Tethers and Blandine ignores most of them, these angels continue the grand Dreamer tradition of fighting to nurture all that is best in humanity.

The Dreamers are almost as misunderstood as the angels of Judgment. They have a reputation for being out of touch idealists, been accused of overtolerance for pagans and ethereals, and are often seen as lightweights distracted by their own affairs. In fact, many are intelligent and passionate, able to plant bright dreams in the hearts of humans with but a few words. Many prefer to keep company with mortals or no one rather than other angels. There is, of course, a split between those who have adapted to Earth life and those who haven't. The former are more pragmatic, patient and realistic with mortals, though they politely try not to disilusion their colleagues. They will often try to help those new to Earth and sometimes even advise Blandine on Earthly affairs. The other kind rarely feel comfortable on Earth and in mortal flesh, living only for life in dreams. Some, though, marvel at Earth and find wonder in even the most mundane things, as they are used to abstraction and symbolism, and may interpret dreamlike symbols in reality itself. This can alienate them and leave them uncomfortable and out of place everywhere. While some accuse them of being arrogant or solitary, but in dreamscapes, they have to fight alone and must be self-reliant at all times. They feel personally responsible for guarding humanity, and if they weren't there, it's likely no one would be.

Blandine's organization has few restrictions and encourages initiative. While it is polite to defer to Wordbound, that's pretty much the whole of the hierarchy, and even then, the senior angels accept the junors as equals, acting as mentors more than bosses. An angel may request permission to work with a senior angel they admire, and each angel also has a personal if distant relationship with Blandine herself, answering to her directly. While the Dreamers are used to working without supervision, only a few are actually antisocial, preferring to spend their time alone. Many of these become semi-mythical to other angels, known better by nicknames based on their favored appearances in dreams than their actual names, and they are collectively referred to as the soloists.

Most Dreamers, however, are happy to interact with others. They like new ideas and while they respect age and experience, good poetry or good ideas can earn a young angel a reputation quickly. Lateral thinkers and quick wits are useful in dreamscapes as well as in debate, and social Dreamers gather together each night after their work, to discuss poetry, dreams and philosophy. Quieter and wearier angels can watch and keep score, rather than take part. Among themselves, the Dreamers are formal and polite, favoring stylized etiquette and aristocratic demeanors. They calue privacy and often seem reserved to others. They are encouraged to cherish their private hopes and dreams, and they rarely discuss personal feelings or motives with others. Certainly they never pry, but wait until the other brings it up.

Angels are expected to do their work humbly, well and without hope of reward, but Blandine is aware of her best workers. She occasionally invites them to artistic events or gives them vacations, and those who have sacrificed their own goals to achieve her missions may even be given a Word. High honors also include permission to wear one of Blandine's scarves in the Marches, which may or may not be a relic, and to guard her sigil. Blandine hates punishing her angels, but does expect the spirit, if not the letter, of her orders to be obeyed. Those that repeatedly dishnor her dissonance conditions will generally just be handed to Dominic, but otherwise, punishments are for an angel's own good. They may lose their vessels or be required to report to a more experienced angel. These punishments are rarely made public.

Unless they ask for help, a Dreamer's fellows and even Blandine will assume they are content. Once a problem is raised, however, Blandine will give her full attention. If an angel truly desires to leave her service, she will allow it even to those Archangels she dislikes. If an angel seems poorly suited to her methods, she may also suggest a transfer or arrange it without discussion. Because it's never clear if a change was request or assigned as punishment, other Dreamers consider it too delciate to discuss in any circumstances.

Redemption, to the angels of Dreams, is held to be the holiest sacrament. It is vital that a demon prove sincerity - just expressing idle interest isn't enough. While angels are free to plant the seeds of hope in promising demons, Blandine prefers that they not reach out this way. Dreams are personal and the path of dreams must be walked alone. All those who have searched their hearts and felt the call are welcomed at Blandine's Tower. While the Dreamers may try to test their resolve by reminding them of the risks, no demon that is resolute will ever be turned away. Blandine accepts them graciously and does not test them further or make them beg. Because her only requirement is that a demon should seek her out of their own accord, many demons who attempt her Redemptions die in the attempt. Blandine regrets their loss, but each one chose death willingly over remaining as they were, and she sees this as cause for hope. Others say that if she were more stringent, the casualties could be reduced. Blandine takes special pleasure in Redeeming demons of Nightmares, whom she treats as coming home at last, alongside those angels that Fell and Redeemed. They fuel her dearest hopes.

Blandine's position on non-intervention in human lives can make it difficult for her angels to recruit servants or Soldiers. Few doubt their use, but they find it hard to justify interrupting human lives. Many choose instead to instruct their mortal allies by dreams and may not even meet them physically while they are alive. They prefer those with some talent for lucid dreams or who have marvelous dreamscapes. Thus, they may have skills that don't match the angel's needs at all. Fortunately, most Dreamers don't mind this, and most of the Soldiers are fairly competent. They are often taught Ethereal Songs or given the Dream Walking attunement and left to help watch over dreams on their own initiative. Often, it is Soldiers who take the lead in recruiting other mortals, which has resulted in a recent rash of recruits from publishers and media production companies. Those who believe Blandine's agents are inactive on Earth simply because most of her angels are in the Marches underestimate her mortal network. Humans easily sympathize with her goals, and her Soldiers are very determined. Many mortals working with Dreams learn to get by without much rest, as they rarely get the chance to sleep peacefully through a whole night. Still, the angels try to make room for their need to spend time on their own lives. They are, in fact, often very proud if their servants choose to settle down with a lover. They take it as proof that they didn't disrupt a life, even if they did work a bit at matchmaking via dreams.

Fun fact: More Cherubim serve Blandine than any other Choir, including her Menunim. In fact, they make up nearly a third of her angels, on all levels.

Seraphim of Dreams are often good at underestanding the truth behimd metaphors, better than any others of their Choir. They adore similes and obscure but True connections between ideas, which they like to share. They are intensely idealistic and often see it as their duty to show others when their fears are based on lies or misunderstandings. Though Dreamers tend to work solo, Seraphim assigned to Earth typically are sent with a 'translator' in the form of another angel or a mortal poet. Many of them are not good at adapting to Earth and may even find corporeal things like vessels or human bodies disgusting. Others shun Earth because they prefer the deeper truths of human nature found in dreams.

Next time: The sweetest song is silence that I've ever heard

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Count Chocula posted:

Straight from Sandman, but otherwise Blandine is not Morpeheus enough for my tastes. I'd have the Marches try to be independent and make a third faction, unfettered possiblity away from Heaven's solid war and Hell's gross lusts.

Is this written by Borgstrom? Is there Dream Combat rules?

This bit is not. Dream combat does exist - it's Ethereal Combat, from the core, for the most part, in the form of manipulating dreams to harm each other.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

TORG could be drastically improved by simply removing the chance that Storm Knights can become disconnected. The gizmos thing is awful, the magic is awful, but allowing the PCs to use multiple realm abilities would let them be instantly amazing.

The thing about the gizmos system is it would be an interesting idea if that was like the core of the game, like if you were all playing robots where you had to work out your whole sheet as a diagram, but as a mechanic just to figure out if you can make a lightning gun it's tedious busywork.

Jul 8, 2003

Alien Rope Burn posted:

The thing about the gizmos system is it would be an interesting idea if that was like the core of the game, like if you were all playing robots where you had to work out your whole sheet as a diagram, but as a mechanic just to figure out if you can make a lightning gun it's tedious busywork.
Especially when the end result is "A moderately powerful pistol, except its ammo is literally your XP and it's likely to destroy itself if you use it too much"

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Statosphere, part 3

Last time I apparently skipped a couple of Avatars so we'll be backtracking a little bit.

The Hunter[

A guy who hunts.

Okay, it's a little more nuanced than that. Like the Warrior the Hunter has taken on a slightly less literal tone. Hunters are those who go out into the wild (whether literal or metaphorical) in search of something. Sort of a more aggressive version of the Pilgrim. In fact, those who hunt animals for food or sport would rarely qualify for the Hunter Avatar as modern life has rendered most hunting a matter of entertainment rather than a driving goal (of course, there are some parts of the world where this isn't the case). Most Hunter Avatars will pursue less meaty game: FBI agents hunting down criminals, bounty hunters, even collectors who search for a rare antiquity or painting. It even notes that very recently the previous Hunter was ousted by a bounty hunter who, in the process of chasing his quarry, found himself chasing (and catching) the Count De Saint Germain.

Taboo: Abandoning a hunt where there is still a chance of success. Having your prey completely escape or finding a dead end won't hurt, that's part of the hunt, but giving up when you could continue the hunt is a violation of taboo. Also, pursuing more than one "hunt" at a time.

Suspected Avatars: Mythological hunters like Nimrod or Orion are possibilities, as well as more modern hunters like Pat Garret who pursued Billy The Kid.


1-50%: Declare a quarry. The quarry must be an item, person or being, not merely an abstraction (no hunting for "love" or "happiness"). There's gray areas (for instance, information) but generally speaking the Pilgrim goes for abstract goals the Hunter goes for concrete ones. All rolls made to follow, find or pursue your prey are flip-flopped. You can't have more than one designated prey at a time and the effect ends once you catch it or lose the trail. For those hunting dangerous game, keep in mind that this means you get no bonus when it comes to actually killing or subduing your prey.

51-70%: All attempts to mislead, misdirect or lie to the Hunter regarding their designated prey fail automatically unless the deceiver's relevant skill is higher than the Hunter's Avatar skill. This doesn't reveal the truth, just the fact that lies or misdirection are being used.

71-90% The Hunter does not need to rest, sleep or eat while pursuing prey so long as they can make a successful Avatar roll each day. Even failure doesn't cause the missed food and rest to "catch up" (although a critical failure will).

91+% The hunter can get into the mind of their prey. When faced with a decision that their quarry would have made a successful Mind roll allows the Hunter to discover what choice was made. This doesn't grant 100% detailed information (it notes that it'll let you know that the quarry uses their birthday when choosing a password, but it won't tell you what their birthday is) and it doesn't allow you to account for events that occur later that might change things (for instance, you might know that your Quarry chose to stay at the Bergmont hotel, but it won't tell you that he was arrested for driving with a suspended license on the way to the hotel and is currently in jail). A very powerful ability, although the requirement to make a Mind roll is a bit of a bitch, considering pretty much no other Avatar channel works like that.

The Hunter is one of those characters that is only so-so for PCs due to its hyper-specialization but would be utterly horrifying to face as a well-built NPC gunning for one of the characters.

The Judge

The Judge is all about making big, important choices and their abilities center around giving them the knowledge and understanding to make the right choice (right to them at least). Beyond that, no specific role is implied, beyond the obvious, but really anyone who has been given at least some authority could be considered for Judge-ship.

Taboo: Indecision. When faced with a decision the judge must pronounce judgement. If the situation allows they may wait for more information or investigation, but when push comes to shove they have to make a choice. It doesn't specify, but I like to think that this manifests in being very definitive about meal planning...the biggest danger to a Judge's status is being asked "what do you want for dinner?"

Suspected Avatars: King Solomon may be the archetype (in both meanings of the word) of the Judge Avatar and of course most famous Supreme Court justices have the potential as well. It's implied that the O.J. Simpson trial may have been a Godwalker bid for Lance Ito. Maybe Simon Cowell is playing that game as well.

1-50% When trying to find information you can re-roll all failures that are lower than your Avatar skill (no iterative re-rolls, just the once).

51-70% with a successful Avatar roll the Judge can determine if a piece of information is relative to an issue they are considering. You only know how it's related with a matched success. A critical success provides a bit of related but unrevealed information.

71-90% With an Avatar roll the Judge can predict the consequences of his decision. The context must be fairly narrowly defined and do not provide specifics. For instance, the Judge could predict whether or not offering a 20 dollar bill to a bouncer will get him punched in the face, but it won't tell him that offering a hundred dollar bill would have worked (unless the Judge tries that next). Like all fortune telling nothing is set in stone and the actions of the Judge can influence things even if he goes ahead with one decision or the other.

91+% If the Judge is in a position of authority, they can make decisions that are mystically enforced. The authority can be official (being a literal judge or elected official) or based on the situation (being the only one in the room with a gun). They may make a decree (which must be an order or a statement of fact) and make an Avatar roll. If they succeed then all who heard them must accept the statement as correct or obey the order. Those with a Soul Stat higher than the roll the Judge made to activate this power may attempt to resist with a successful Soul roll (which can be repeated each round).

This can be used to order someone to die, so long as your Avatar skill roll was successful and higher than their Soul stat.

This fails automatically if your statement is flat out impossible ("I am declaring you exempt from the law of gravity") or in blatant contradiction of obvious truth. For instance, if asked to decided which of two men where the father of a baby the Judge could make all present accept their decision, but they could not declare that the father was George Washington or a potted plant. At least not without a good story behind it.

The Peacemaker

Ooops, wrong one

The Peacemaker is probably one of the closest to out and out "good" Avatars you get in UA. They are like a walking Disney movie, exuding niceness and fluffy-bunny-good-times.

Taboo: Peacemakers, obviously, cannot use physical violence. Physical is the keyword, they can still shout and argue all they want. Even carrying a weapon violates taboo. You are not penalized if others use violence, but you will be if you hang around persistently violent characters too long or help enable their violent impulses. Needless to say Peacemakers have kind of the "Paladin in the Party" problem.

Suspected Avatars MLK is presented as a Peacemaker and Neville Chamberlain's Nazi appeasement policy is suggested as the "dark side" of the Peacemaker Avatar.

1-50%: With an Avatar roll you can calm conflicts between groups of under a dozen people. This won't work in "to-the death" battles, but you can quiet an argument, stop a brawl or break a Mexican Standoff. This only works on those who can hear your unamplified voice and anyone affected who wishes to engage in violence finds it horrid and must make a Violence check at a rating equal to the 10's place in the Avatar's skill. Your spell breaks if anyone does attack anyone else and attempting to use this channel a second time on the same conflict suffers a -20% shift.

Once violence stops you can help everyone involved talk it out. A second successful Avatar roll gets them talking amongst each other and so long as there is an agreeable solution they'll probably come to it. If everyone's goals are completely at odds the best you can hope for is a brief truce.

51-70%: It's almost impossible for living beings to harm you. So long as you are not actually harming someone yourself (which negates this channel for a full day) then anyone attempting to hurt you must make a Violence check with a rating equal to the 10's place in your Avatar skill, on top of any Violence checks they already need to make.

71-90% A more powerful version of your first Channel. This works on any living being involved in a fight, with a successful Avatar roll and a command to stop fighting you can instantly stop all fighting while you are present. This works on conflicts of up to 50 people and so long as you can suggest a reasonable solution to the fighter's conflicts they will accept it.

91+%: You can stop any violence, both human and natural. Within the range of your unamplified voice you can speak to and calm any sort of conflict or violence with a successful Avatar roll. This can completely end small-scale violence such as a lynching, a killer automaton or a tornado, and assuming that there are intelligent participants they will immediately begin to resolve their conflict non-violently on their own. In cases where your range is not large enough to encapsulate the entire effect such as a war zone or a hurricane then you can only create a bubble of peace around you that moves with you so long as you keep speaking.

The Rebel

Not quite the Martyr, not quite the Warrior, the Rebel is the rabble-rouser and poo poo-stirrer of the Invisible Clergy. Specifically the current Archetype of the Rebel is envisioned as someone who opposes oppression and abuse of authority. The Rebel also focuses on inspiring and leading others to battle oppression alongside them.

All Rebels must have a Cause, an agenda with a clear opponent. You can't fight "for women" you must fight "against patriarchy", so to speak. You cannot change your Cause without violating taboo, unless your opponent (or a representative of it) makes some kind of significant concession and you are recognized as the reason for this change. At this point you can declare victory (regardless of any other existing problems). For instance, if you are fighting the good fight against nuclear power and you manage to get a power plant shut down or a new regulation passed you can end that fight (regardless of how prevalent nuclear power is) and start the fight against seatbelt laws.

Taboo: As noted abandoning your cause breaks taboo, as does a public failure in the fight (don't pick fights you can't win). And of course selling out or taking bribes from the foes of your cause are all violations as well.

Suspected Archetypes: Gandhi is considered a Rebel, and Che Guivera is the current Archetype of the Rebel, replacing the historical Robin Hood.

1-50% You can issue a believable warning that temporarily converts others to your cause with a successful Avatar roll. This lasts for a week, during which the target will support your cause publicly (coming to protests, signing petitions or volunteering their spare time) at the end of which the compulsion ends but those who'd already be prone to support you may continue to do so. You can only do this once per day and you can target a particular individual only once per month.

51-70% With at least 30 minutes of ranting and a successful Avatar roll you can rouse others to immediate action, essentially stirring up a mob. Those listening cannot be compelled if they are strongly opposed to your cause or are being coerced or compelled into listening to you and you cannot affect more than your Avatar skill in targets. This causes all targets to share your Rage or Noble (your choice) Passions and you can "steer" the crowd so long as they can hear you and you have to make a successful roll every half hour or the mob dissolves. The crowd isn't a very good lynch mob, engaging in violence only if provoked by violence from opposition (of course, with some planning its easy enough to fake such provocation). The actions of the crowd are closely associated with you and everyone involved will know who started it and all credit and blame will fall to you (and remember, public failure breaks taboo, so be careful with this channel).

71-90% You can recruit fanatical followers to your cause. With a successful Avatar roll you can recruit zealots to serve your cause, pick one of the two dice to represent the number of followers recruited and the other to represent the number of days they'll serve. Followers recruited this way will follow any non-suicidal orders (although of course they may be subjected to Madness checks depending on what you're asking of them). Breaking the compulsion inflicts an Unnatural check equal to the 10's digit of your Rebel skill.

91+% You won't die quietly. Anyone attacking you due to your Cause cannot harm you if no one supporting your Cause witnesses the attack. This includes both literal damage and attempts to weaken or hinder the Rebel in pursuit of their cause. This won't work if the Rebel is the one who started the fight. On the whole, the thing is basically like the Martyr's final Channel but not as good since any allied witnesses ruin the power (and there's nothing stopping your enemies from killing them afterwards).

oriongates fucked around with this message at 10:35 on Jan 28, 2016

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011


The Peacemaker could be terrifying as the ultimate enforcer of the status quo, the negotiator convincing everyone to stop fighting a corrupt company or oppressive regime, the moderates on your side convincing you to work with your oppressor. They could let their boss 'peacefully' resolve conflict through money or government.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Indeed, in many ways they are the ultimate enemy of the Rebel. In UA there's nothing so incorruptible that there isn't a dark side.

That said, thankfully they can't force settlements, they can make you start talking but they can't force you to accept unacceptable terms (but if all they need to do is stall for reinforcements you're in trouble).

Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?

Enough vampires, more setting! Spy thrillers can wind up just about anywhere, but a whole lot of it will be in cities. You want your cities to feel cinematic and dynamic, full of crowded marketplaces and famous landmarks and awesome gunfight setpieces. This chapter is about making interesting cities.

One of the main things that will shift as you travel between countries is which organizations are locally active. You can be as realistic as you want here - either use real intelligence agencies, add fictional ones like IMG or SD-6, or revive extinct ones like SMERSH, depending on the tone you're going for. Do the same with criminal rings and terrorist groups, or even entire countries.

Like most of the setting fluff in this book, everything in this chapter is jumping-off points for your own worldbuilding, rather than hard and fast rules. The important thing is that the more acronyms you hear, the more it feels like a spy thriller.

I can't speak to the accuracy of any of the below, international intelligence isn't my strong point.

Backstage Europe
Not all the countries listed in this section are European - some of them are other countries with agencies potentially engaging in espionage in Europe.

The First Directorate of the Committee for State Security (KDS) was in cahoots with the KGB during the cold war, famously attempting the assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. In the modern day, they're replaced by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), aiding the CIA in anti-terrorist organizations.

The Ministry for State Security, also known as the Guóanbù, is the main intelligence/security force for the Communist regime. They may be monitoring Chinese residents abroad in Europe, flooding the target area with hundreds of low-level temporary assets, then analyzing their data back in Beijing. China's famed cyberintelligence force works for the Military Intelligence Department (MID).

One of the most tangled intelligence apparati this side of America. The Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) handles foreign intelligence, the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) handles domestic security, both do industrial espionage, the Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM) handles military intelligence, the Police Nationale does organized crime investigations, and Direction Nationale du Renseignement et des Enquêtes Douanières (DNRED) handles smuggling and cybercrime operations.

Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) mainly handles external intelligence operations, but also takes on organized crime and WMD proliferation. The Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI) covers government information security and also keeps an eye on the banking industry. The Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) performs counter-espionage and monitors extremist groups, and the Bundeskriminalmt (BKA) handles anti-mafia and international crime operations. Germany rigorously delimits its own intelligence agencies, due to the nation's past run-ins with totalitarianism.

Great Britain
MI5 is Britain's domestic intelligence and counter-espionage organization, supported by the secret intelligence service MI6, home of James Bond. Less well-known is the security intelligence group Defence Intelligence, and the cryptoanalysis group GCHQ. Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) fights terrorism in London, and was founded in the 19th century to combat Irish terrorists.

Mossad, Israel's external intelligence agency, has orchestrated assassinations, kidnappings, and sabotage of WMD components intended for Israel's enemies. It's on good terms with BND, MI6 and the CIA. Domestic intelligence is covered by Shin Bet (ISA), cyberwarfare is handled by Unit 8200.

The intelligence agencies in Italy reshuffled twice in recent history. Neo-fascists attempted a coup of the military intelligence service (SID) in 1970, and it was replaced with SISIMI. In 2007, massive internal corruption was revealed, and now external intelligence is covered by AISE, domestic security by AISI, and information security by DIS, each under parliamentary control. Mafia investigations fall to ROS, narcotics and financial crime are handled by Guardia di Finanza.

The SB security agency was eliminated after the cold war. The UOP was reshuffled in 2002 following corruption allegations. Now external intelligence is handled by the Intelligence Agency (AW), external intelligence by the Internal Security Agency (ABW), counter-intelligence by the SDK, and military intelligence by the SWW. Polish agencies have worked closely with the CIA and NSA since 1990.

Romania is a former COmmunist state, linked to US intelligence through the Foreign Intelligence Service (SID). Domestic intelligence is handled by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), the successor to the Cold War era's feared Securitate.

The KGB split into two agencies after the fall of Communism - the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Both are dwarved by the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), with six times the spy count of the SVR and control of a global SIGINT network. The GRU is the largest intelligence organization on the planet, carrying out assassinations and illegal operations both domestically and abroad.

The Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST) handles both domestic and foreign intelligence. Within MUST, the Office for Special Acquisition (KSI) handles espionage, working with foreign agencies. Journalests uncovered a secret agency called IB within the Swedish armed force, which was never dissolved.

The once-military now-civilian Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) handles intelligence and security here, competing with the KDSM on terrorism operations. MIT used to recruit exclusively from the families of current MIT officers, but this is changing over time.

The Foreign Intelligence Service (SZRU is an awesome acronym) split off from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in 2005. SBU has been criticized for a dozen reasons since Ukranian independence, and notably may have attempted to thrwart the Orange Revolution and return the country to Russia.

United States
Hoo boy. 16 major intelligence elements, almost 2000 independent contractors, $80 billion a year in spending, over 100,000 employees. The big players are the CIA and the NSA, but the CIA has been seen as increasingly obstructionist and incompetent and is getting worked around by the DIA. Other players: OTFI, the FBI, and the DSS, all active in the European theater.

The Vatican
The National Military Union (NZW) ran Vatigan intelligence until at least 1956, but the its successor, if any, remains a mystery. Some have speculated that it's an arm of the Sovreign Military Order of the Knights of Malta (SMOM), or Sodalitium Pianum, or Opens Dei, or the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith, or the Pontifical Russian College. Nobody actually knows.

Underground Europe
That covers the government forces, but what about the underside? Organized crime has thrived since the fall of the Societ Union, and terrorist groups interested in funding their attacks have plenty of oppotunities waiting for them in Europe. Sometimes the offician intelligence agencies are at odds with these underworld superpowers, sometimes they're working together behind the scenes.

Terrorist Groups
The big name right now is, of course, Al-Quaeda, but there's a lot of older groups still at large. ETA in Spain, PKK in Germany and Hezbollah are all active, and Russia has seen attacks from Riyadus-Salikhin as recently as 2011. GIA is still active in France, although with a much lower profile than back in the 90s.

The Russian Mafiya
Not an actual organization, but rather a few thousand independent groups that roughly share a past in the Societ prison system. The Communist Party made deals with the black market to keep the economy afloat, and a lot of bureaucrats kept their connections after the USSR fell. Now, 80% of Russian banks are mafiya-owned, and they use their huge piles of money to buy their way across Europe.

The various cells of the Russian mafiya only come together on an ad-hoc basis, otherwise operating independently. The biggest players are the Solntsevskaya Bratva, the Tamborskaya Bratva, the Podolskaya Bratva, the Izmailovskaya Bratva, and the Tverskaya Bratva, operating everywhere from Moscow to Mexico.

The Italian Mafia
A thirty-year anti-mafia campaign in Italy completely failed to stop the Sicilian Mafia from having hooks in Italian politics up through the nineties. In the modern world, they've largely been replaced by the 'Ndrangheta, controlling most of the cocain traffic in Europe, and recently also smuggling nuclear waste into third world countries.

Other Mafia
There are hundreds of other mafia groups in Europe. The Albanian Mafia moves heroin through the Balkans, the Nigerian Mafia controls African human traficking, the Bulgarian Mafia does the same for Eastern Europe. The Naša Stvar from Serbia does human traficking and arms dealing, the Israeli Mafia has a hold on diamond smuggling and Ecstasy. The network of competing criminal organizations is always evolving and impossible to pin down for long.

Other Criminal Organizations
The Clerkenwell Firm currently tops the East End gangs in London that started to emerge in the 1960s. Motorcycle gangs in Scandanavia serve as muscle for local drug lords. The Triads have been smuggling things in and out of Western Europe since the 19th century, most recently the 14K and Wo Shin Wo in Britain and France. The Yakuza launder money through Japan's heavy foreign investment in Europe, working out of London and Düsseldorf.

This started being about writing cities but turned into an entire update about European crime? Oh well. Next up is the actual citybuilding.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Spare a little candle, save some light for me

Cherubim of Dreams not only guard the waking but also protect the dreams of their attuned. Some choose to remain distant on Earth, watching from afar but being close in dreams. Others obsess over an attuned, spending every moment of the day and night with them. When assigned to great dreamers, as they often are, these Cherubim seek to increase their dreamer's audience on Earth, spreading tales of their dreamer among mortals. All of these Cherubim face the dilemma of protecting charges without interfering in human lives too much. Blandine understands, and she doesn't expect you to gain dissonance for her. If your options are let them get hurt or interfere, go interfere. However, if you can find a way to protect an attuned and avoid interfering directly, you will be rewarded. Cherubim of Dreams, unlike most other Dreamers, hunt in packs. If one Cherub's attuned is threatened in dream, they can easily recruit a posse at the Tower to help them out. Likewise, Cherubim of other Words can expect Cherubim of Dreams to help out in the Marches if asked.

Ofanim of Dreams love the Marches, for they are in constant flux. Instead of speeding across Earth, they can allow the Marches to flow around them. They delight in wearing their foes down and running rings around them as they move from one image or idea to the next. Though adventurous, they are more likely than other Ofanim to be prudent on Earth, as they can release their wilder urges safely in the Marches by night.

Menunim are often, somewhat incorrect, seen as delicate creatures by the other Dreamers, and protected from the harsh realities of Earth. In fact, many are very curious angels who like to sample the hopes of all the world, including dmeons. They inhabit Earth without interacting with people, and it makes them expert observers. They also serve as Blandine's emissaries. Any Menunite might be asked to deliver a message for their Archangel, and that is the only time they may ever directly interact with a mortal without dissonance. They also have the task of giving hope to those that once held great aspirations, but lost them - priests losing their faith, politicians turned cynic, and so on.

Elohim of Dreams are calm, tasked with teaching mankind to balance dreams and real life, as well as the importance of dreaming. They often visit places that seem hopeless and depressing while on Earth. They will go to massive lengths to foster dreams, and some have been accused of deliberately creating myths around mundane events in order to inspire later generations. It is whispered that some even worked to assassinate figures who became legends after or due to their untimely deaths.

Malakim of Dreams are spies and hunters, traveling into the most dangerous parts of the Marches. Some are overconfident due to their ability to become invisible in the Marches. They take their honor seriously, and frequently challenge each other to non-fatal duels over minor points of etiquette, which puzzles even other Malakim. Many of them believe it is wrong to punish a mortal in dreams for acts committed in the waking world, and will not harm those in dreamscapes or allow allies to do so. However, if a Malakim is granted permission by Blandine or her Incorruptibles to chase some mortal wickedness to Earth, all bets are off.

Kyriotates of Dreams are among the most fearsome of the warriors of the Marches and are reputed to be the ultimate dream shapers. Some of them like to 'sign' their works with some personal touch in the form of a signature symbol, color or scent. While they can shape multiple dreamscapes ato nce, each must be entered seperately. On Earth, they are likely to be assigned to an area rather than a specific person, and some suspect the only reason they ever get sent to Earth is that they seem to enjoy it so much. Still, they work even more than anyone else in the Marches, so no one really holds it against them.

Mercurians of Dreams enjoy spending time on Earth. They work often as musicians, teachers or junior nurses, allowing them to mix with a close-knit group. They encourage creative thinking and often serve as dream interpreters. They tend to fantasize about all the things humans could be rather than the reality of what they are, which can be annoying. While they are pragmatic by Dreamer standards, they still often see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Fortunately, mortal friends and allies can give them a more practical perspective. In the Marches, Mercurians try to check as many dreamscapes of their friends as they can each night, and they aren't above secretly encouraging mortals who are connected by shy fondness to dream of each other.

Most work done by the Dreamers is either in the Marches or, somewhat more rarely, on Earth. They spend little time at all in Heaven, and an angel could go centuries in Heaven without meeting a Dreamer outside the Tower. Most administrative tasks in the Tower are left to the blessed souls, though the tired and hurt often choose to rest by their Hearts in the HGeavenly Tower, and that's where Tethers let out. Some angels may choose to work alongside those of other Words, but they are often homesick for the freedom of the Marches. If an angel wants to work in eaven, a job will be found, at least, perhaps teaching others about dreams.

The Near Marches are Blandine's real domain, and many of her angels feel more at home there than in Heaven. They work at anything from guarding dreamscapes and chasing intruders to making sure that the paths between quadrants are well-marked and any messes are cleaned up. Handling the Vale is an immense task, and the Wardens of each quadrant have a great responsibility. Angels without vessels are usually assigned to a quadrant under command of the Warden, and relievers often work as messengers or guides. Others are specialist lookouts for signs of demonic or ethereal incursion. Dreamers are occasionally roped into Marches espionage parties or sent to explore the border of the Far Marches, and many consider it important to keep an eye on any other angels in the area. They may also volunteer to teach angels of other Words how to handle ethereal combat, dream shaping ethics or other aspects of ethereal work.

Dreamers on Earth typically work to protect and foster a specific mortal dreamer or to help another angel asking for backup. Blandine or the other angels on Earth typically pick the dreamers that need protecting, but sometimes an angel is just so enthralled by a dreamscape that they ask if a Cherub can be sent. Blandine is tolerant of these requests, and those that fall in love with a mortal via their dreams are quietly reminded of the importance of not meddling before being sent to Earth. Angels on Earth also work to train Soldiers or work against demons of Nightmares. It's not rare for those angels who just want to see Earth to begiven a vessel and Role and left to build up some expertise by supporting Dreams on Earth as best they can. Often, Kyriotates and Mercurians are allowed to settle in and become corporeal specialists, able to advise less experienced angels. Often they work as psychologists, librarians or other positions that let them watch over humans without becoming authority figures.

Blandine also assigns some more specific jobs at times. Every Archangel has thought of spying on dreams, and while Blandine disapproves, she prefers her angels do the work rather than theirs, because hers are less likely to accidentally cause harm. Her listeners are often skilled at assuming the form of someone trusted in order to speak to mortals in their dreams, and many are Mercurians, able to best know how to win a dreamer's trust. Sometimes Malakim are also sent, if a dreamer is judged to be dangerous to interact with. Dreams also handles much of Heaven's work in Earthly media, particularly their Soldiers, who have been historically quicker than angels at figuring out how to use them. Contact with Media demons is not rare, and Dominic would be unhappy to learn the full extent of it, but full conflict is rare, because the two sides often fail to understand each others' goals. Still, Dreamers do try to expand into areas that demons don't completely control, and each side tries to recruit the other. It's said that while Nybbas controls Hollywood, Blandine has much more influence in Bollywood's Mumbai studios.

Dreamers deal with outsiders case-by-case. When they encounter angels in the Marches, they often expect some deference, at least out of respect for Blandine, and they have been known to be overprotective of their turf. They often dislike intruders in 'their' dreamscapes, but others extend the same politness to visitors that they expect from them, though they respond poorly to rudeness. Most of them prefer working with mortals to working with other angels.

Blandine expects her angels to cooperate with Judgment. She has no internal police, as she trusts her angels to act properly and Dominic's to keep them on the straight and narrow. Angels that are targeted by the Inquisition will usually not be protected if the charges against them are demonstrably correct. Blandine dislikes interfering in other Archangels' business, after all, and she trusts the angels of Judgment to know their duties as long as they don't cross the line. Many Dreamers take her instructions to mean 'provide exactly what is asked for, no more and no less,' and don't go out of their way to make life easier for Judges. They ragard their privacy highly and dislike being interrogated, and they also dislike the tendency of Judgment to use dreams to spy on those they wish to punish, or as a means to punish people for Earthly sins. Triads that flaunt their powers are often secretly shadowed by Malakim of Dreams, who wait for a chance to give them a taste of their own medicine. If the Malakim get in trouble for this, it's one of the few times Blandine might step in to protect them.

Next time: Funny how your feet in dreams never touch the earth

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: These dreams go on when I close my eyes

Menunim, AKA the Messengers of Hope, are Blandine's minor Choir. They are the most subtle and silent angels, but full of faith, optimism and acceptance. They avoid dealing with humans directly when possible and also avoid causing Disturbance. They trust humans to do right, with just the slightest push. While Blandine will lend the services of the Menunim to other Archangels, none of them has ever permanently left her service. They resonate with hope, and it is their duty to bring hope to those who need it. They do not speak to their targets, however,. They drift silently between people, preferring crowded places, and instinctively seek out those in despair to give them the hope they need via the daydreams that Blandine teaches them to cause. They tend to believe that humans have free will and must chart their own course. They also believe that the universe is basically good and that humans will, on the whole, choose good over evil. IThey believe they are the expression of that universal inclination, and thus that it's their duty to give humans the hope to continue on. They are rather distant angels, and tend to see things in the concrete, approaching their jobs mechanistically. They can feel the hopes and fears around them and understand people deeply. They tend to keep notebooks to record the lives of those they've touched and the hopes and fears they perceive, which they compare when they meet other Menunim, almost as though keeping score.

The hopes that Menunim instill via their Choir Attunement are rarely earth-shattering, and they typically seek to cure the ills caused by daily stress more than anything else. Very rarely, they will find a human on the threshold of their destiny and do all they can to help the human along, but they are by and large focused on minor issues of daily life, encouraging others to mend their own problems and become happier. It is dissonant, however, for any Menunite to directly manipulate a human toward a given conclusion by any corporeal action. They do not speak to others in conversation to push them ot things, nor do anything of that form in the real world. In dreams, of ocurse, they can act or speak to mortals at length, but by day they must be strangers. While a mortal can ask a Menunite for advice, they must never offer it themselves. They see themselves as channels for the Symphony's goodness, and to do more than that is dissonant, as it places more value on their consciousness than the universal will. Menunim can, however, communicate with Soldiers and other humans aware of the War and celestials. Even so, Soldiers that ask Menunim for advice on their personal lives will likely be told to figure it out themselves. A Fallen Menunite becomes one of the Pachadim, Beleth's demons of fear.

Menunim tend to be grave and silent save around other angels, where they can relax. In celestial form, they appear as vaporous clouds. They can create a face in the cloud if they feel like it, but rarely do. Among humans, they prefer gray and conservative clothing to avoid making any impression on those around them. When they have a Role, it is invariably a low-level one, and they seek to avoid notice. Musically, they see themselves as bassoons or double basses - rarely soloists, but completing any orchestral piece.

Mechanically, A Menunite can spend two minutes around a person and make a Perception roll to detect their hopes and fears. CD 1 tells them the hope or fear that has most occupied the target over the last day, GM's choice which. CD 2 is both hope and fear. CD 3 gives two hopes or fears that have most occupied the target over the past month. CD 4 is two hopes or fears over the past year. CD 5 gives the target's greatest hope and greatest fear. CD 6 gives that, and also lets you hear the target's current thoughts as they related to a current hope or fear.

Next time: The awakened flame.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011


In Nomine turned one of my favorite art movies, Wings of Desire- which is basically about Angels silently floating around in Berlin, falling in love, going to a Nick Cave concert and hanging around with Columbo - into an RPG character class. That's unexpected, but I'm not sure how you'd play them.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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Superiors 3: The Cleansing Flame

Gabriel is the Archangel of Fire, who punishes the cruel and speaks prophecy that even Yves does not receive, but she's also kind of insane.

Bright Lilim of Fire know exactly what punishment is required for an offender to repent truly of their cruelty. They are assigned specific cases, like Malakim. Any Bright Lilim of Fire would be utter fanatics, redeemed by or choosing to serve Gabriel with absolute passion. Most would focus on punishing the cruel, though a rare few might prefer to gift humans with inspiration and insight. Soldekai would certainly take great care to have them watched over by other angels to ensure they didn't get carried away.
Eyes of Fire is a Servitor attunement that allows you to view the closest target of your Choir attunement (so Malakim and Bright Lilim see the object their current mission, everyone else gets the nearest example of the cruelty they punish). You don't get sound, but do get a general direction, though not distance. This takes only concentration and a flame - no Essence or roll.
The Last Spark lets you make a Will roll to grant a gift of inspiration to a hopeless human who no longer believes in mercy, or who has lopst faith, or who has turned from God. This gives them Essence equal to their highest Force and a swell of personal energy and feeling of new perspective that lasts for one hour.
The True Shape of Flame allows you to make a Will roll and concentrate on a source of flame, shaping it to appear howevery you desire. It lasts as long as you concentrate, and the flame returns to its original source when you stop.
Where There's Smoke... allows you to tell if anyone you see is a pyromaniac, automatically and at no cost. Elohim who get this attunement may also instantly recognize demons of Belial.
Whispers of Inspiration allows you to telepathically communicate with anyone who is listening and contemplative. You do not have any special power of suggestion, but anything you express will likely be remembered later, if possibly misinterpreted by an ignorant target. You have a range of (Celestial Forces) yards, but there is no Essence cost or Disturbance.
Gabriel can teach the Songs of Fire, Numinous Corpus: Flame, Purity and War. She also knows the Songs of Creation but will not teach them or use them.
Only one angel has ever received a higher Distinction from Gabriel: the Malakite Soldekai, Chamberlain of the Legions of Flame. However, when an angel does please her, she will trace her sigil on their forehead, possibly even branding it on their vessel. Whenever they take celestial form afterwards, the sigil will burn as an undying flame upon their celestial form.

Expanded Rites:
1. Inspire a human being to a selfless action.
2. Protect someone who is the recipient of genuine divine or creative inspiration.
3. Prufy a source of flame that has been corrupted by the diabolical.

Common Fire Malakim Oaths:
1. I will encourage passion wherever I find it.
2. I will protect any bearer of inspiration.
3. I will never let any sanctified flame by quenched.
4. I will protect prophecies and sacred scriptures.
5. I will purify or quench any flame that is used for evil purposes.
6. I will bring inspiration to those whi despair.
7. I will heal those who have suffered from cruelty.
8. I will protect any love born of passion.
9. I will bear witness to any cruelty committed by others.

Gabriel is like a primordial dancer, moving to the beat of the Symphony. She is the illumination of the Holy Flame, and in her early days, she was messenger and inspirer. More recently, she has turned instead towards her aspect of punishing the cruel as the wrath of the Holy Flame. Fire in her terms is the divine spark, the holy light and the fiery bolt of Heaven. It is the wrath of God and the Holy Flame. At one time, she embodied all of Fire, both destructive and creative, but Lucifer has made sure that Belial promotes destruction and the more negative aspects of Fire, which leaves Gabriel limited only to the righteous Fire of God's wrath. Eli and Jean both frequently aid her without her knowledge, as the inspiration of the Flame is closely tied to the lightning of insight and the fire of Creation. Nearly all angels, particularly Wordbound, see themselves as agents of their Word, but Gabriel's sense of identity has slipped. She has a hard time telling where her personality ends and her Word begins, and she doesn't even really try and more. She is primal, even mindlessly destructive at times, like an erupting volcano full of inner wisdom. Above al, she is the ineffable spark of light and life, which will not be quenched.

Gabriel is one of the eldest angels, though she appears eternally young. She was present when the universe was made, burning in the fire of the sun and bathing in the Earth's core. In those times, she viewed herself primarily as masculine. Gabriel was approached by Lucifer during the Rebellion, but despite his best efforts, he was rejected. As Gabriel looked over the Rebels, he was seized by the flame of God's wrath, and for the first time ever, he cried out in anger and felt the urge to punish the cruel. His newly-forged Malakim took wing to follow him, and they drove out the rebel angels, fighting with furious passion. When Lucifer gave Belial the Word of Fire, it caused Gabriel terrible pain - not true damage, really, but something like dissonance, a constant feeling of wrongness and pain along the Symphonic wavelength which Gabriel occupied. He knew what had been done in an instant and knew Belial as one of his former angels, who had joined the Morning Star.

As Belial went forth to promote his Word, the discordant noise continued. No other celestial ever faces exactly what Gabriel does, for the Archangel of Fire must always hear this anti-harmonious feeling directly above and through Gabriel's own Word. Even in the early days, it aggravated him and caused the occasional outburst of fury. It's only gotten worse since. Many have assumed that Gabriel was the original Prometheus, though the angels of Fire deny any connection with the myth, as do the Greek ethereals. Some angelic histories claim it was Lucifer and Jean who worked together to teach humans to use fire, before the Fall. As divine messenger and bearer of inspiration, Gabriel has a sort of mandate to interact with humanity and give them the truth of divinity. Other Archangels have claimed that sometimes this position was abused, notably in the creation of Islam, but this has never stopped Gabriel, whose path has become less regular and reliable as time went on but who has never ceased to inspire.

On the instructions of either Yves or God, Gabriel announced the conception of Jesus to Mary and later led angels above Bethlehem in praise to God. Enquiry from some Archangels produced only a referral to Yves, and Gabriel refused to confirm or deny whether Jesus was in fact divine or how God wanted them to proceed. (Some of the Archangels, of course, came to believe Jesus was in fact God's son and that Gabriel was genuinely inspired.) The extent to which Christianity was deliberately pushed by the Archangels is unknown, but Yves, Raphael and Gabriel were all early proponents of it. Gabriel still refuses to confirm or deny the prophecies some holy texts claim he gave, but he was believed to be active in the inspiration of several Christian prophets, but canonical and apocryphal.

Then came Islam. On Yves' instructions, Gabriel appeared to the merchant Muhammad of the Quraysh tribe, dictating the Quran to him over the course of 23 years. This caused much dissent among the Archangels, particularly the ones who supported Christianity thoroughly, like Uriel and Dominic. When Dominic compared Yves' copy of the Quran to what was transcribed, he found discrepancies and accused Gabriel of taking liberties with the revelation. He was prepared, if reluctantly, to tolerate an ew religion made on Yves' orders, but not to find alterations to it. He arraigned Gabriel for heresy, and Gabriel, furious, stormed from Heaven as the trial began, retreating to the Volcano which stood between Heaven and the Marches, taking the Citadel fo Fire with him. Gabriel then began assuming the female identity she maintains to this day.

Shortly afterwards, the Purity Crusade began. The angels of Fire did not take any direct part in it, but there are rumors of ethereal enclaves tht called on them for protection, and many claim these groups were Muslims who begged for help in the name of their religion. If the assistance was given, it was very well-hidden, but that would not have been difficult for many of the angels. Gabriel herself attended Uriel's trial but spoke neither for nor against him. She appeared in female form more and more, causing much debate over whether it was a direct reaction to Belial's work as the destructive aspects of Fire or if it was a rejection of her prior person and attributes. Gabriel refuses to comment, and her angels, while confused, remained loyal.

Now, Gabriel uses her fire to illuminate the cruel. She dwells in the desolate places of Earth, taking solace from the solar light in the absence of that of Heaven, and the fire in the hearts of humanity bring her reminder of the fire of God. She has watched Jean turn the night into a brightly-lit one. She has made sure humans never forget the power of fire. Despite industrialism and materialism, she remains the carrier and warder of the holy inspiration of spirituality. She may be unpredictable and visionary and may not understand herself why she does what she does, but she is the Fire of God, which transforms the soul.

It is known that when the Crusaders stormed Jerusalem in 1099, slaying all within, Belial's demons slew the angel of Fire that had been Seneschal to the Temple Mount Tether. The hatred of the Crusaders created a Tether to Malphas in its place, and when her Tether fell, it is said that Gabriel appeared in the midst of the Seraphim Council in the shape of a flame whiter than the sun, screaming from grief and rage. Her wrath cast dark shadows over the walls, and Laurence turned his face away in shame. It is said that at certain times, when an angel stands before the Council, they can still hear the echoes of Gabriel's cry.

Next time: Holy flames

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

To me, Gabriel's most potent vessel will always be Christopher Walken.

Talking monkeys indeed, Gabe.

Bieeanshee fucked around with this message at 00:08 on Jan 29, 2016

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011


Something bothers me about the beautiful but insane prophet woman trope, but I'm not sure what or why. It seems a bit too common/trivializing? Otherwise she could be Liz from Hellboy.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: The Fire Within

Some say that Gabriel's Volcano is more than it seems. They say that after the Purity Crusade, Uriel was not, in fact, taken to the Higher Heavens by God. Instead, he was restrained by the combined will of the Seraphim Council and chained beneath the volcano. Those who believe this say even Laurence consented, seeing Uriel's madness, and the entire accepted story was made to avoid shaking the faith of lesser angels. If this is true, the Archangel of Purity would still be chained there, hidden by Gabriel's power. Some say he is trapped in an endless dream made by Blandine, but others believe he is awake and conscious of what was done, and that he waits for revenge. These people say that Gabriel finds it more and more difficult to tolerate her own Volcano, thanks to his presence, and that if she were mad enough, she might free him herself.

In Hell, they speak of a fiery woman who walks Shal-Mari and Abaddon, prophesying hope and destiny for the repentant. Some heretics say that it is Gabriel herself, driven by the urge to inspire, even in Hell. None will admit to personally seeing or speaking with her, of course, and the Game suppresses these rumors brutally, but they never quite die out.

It is said that on the day before the Fall of Magog, Gabriel entered the Catacombs. He would not speak to the angels there, even to David, but instead wandered the caves, singing to himself. Some large obsidian fragments and frozen flows of lava supposedly date back to this visit. At the moment of Magog's Fall and the shattering of his Heart, Gabriel is said to have paused, fallen silent, and then vanished. Gabriel would not speak of this matter afterwards, even to David.

Some demons and Outcasts claim that Gabriel has seen the end of days - and that she foresaw the victory of Hell. This is what drove her insane, they say, and since that day she has been unable to see anything else. When she roams Earth, it is an attempt to escape the future she knows is coming, but she cannot escape her Word or prophecy.

Gabriel is an unknown variable. Laurence cannot plan around her, no one can control her. She is a raw and untamable force, and even her angels, though they love her, do not understand her thoughts. They share in the Holy Flame, but cannot understand how her past and Belial have twisted her. In the midst of her madness, she has moments of perfect clarity. During this time, she is brilliant, inspiring, an embodiment of Fire. She speaks quietly and lovingly, knowing all that her angels face. Her whispers often show uncanny insight, and they are given at the strangest times. In these moments of clarity, she forgives dissonance, but in her madness, she shows no interest in doing so. These times of reason rarely last longer than a day, and then she seeks solitude in her more violent moods. Two Cherubim of Yves are always attuned to her, watching from a safe distance and tracking her. They have the duty of ensuring her episodes of fury do not endanger others or disrupt the Symphony...and, when they do, cleaning up the mess. Their names are Aluriel and Mordekial, and they are known at times as Gabriel's Firemen.

Gabriel's Word is served far more by her angels than herself, these days. Her madness keeps her from actively punishing the cruel. What dominates her mind, instead, is a need to destroy that which hurts her. However, giving into that strengthens the destructive aspects of the Word of Fire, which strengthens Belial. She is thus constantly fleeing from herself, as only she can truly threaten herself. Well, her and perhaps Michael. The only being she will stop for is Yves. Some relationship lies between them, and she seems to see him almost as a father. He can stop her with a single word, and is the only one that can call her back to clarity, even briefly. If he says something is important, that can get through to her.

What Gabriel has never lost is her utter certainty in God. She goes where God directs and acts as she thinks He desires. She does not ask to understand Him, she just knows His truth, and she is all the more tortured by the contradictions of Belial's Fire. While it may tear her apart, it also affirms the righteous nature of God, which she hears and knows deeply. She is passionate in serving God and hates all those that would limit or judge Him. In Archangelic politics, Gabriel is a dangeorusly unstable variable. Only Yves knows her well enough to predict her at all, and he says little. Her sigil may show up, carried by Soldekai, at any time to represent her vote, which could go anywhere.

Superior Opinions posted:

Blandine: she has a great dream, but I fear it has consumed her...I've tried reaching out to her, but I don't know if I ever penetrated her madness to the hope I know lies within. She can be destructive, dangerous, insane. Still - every child fears the dark, and she does bring Light...
I liked her, I think. I think she has visited me recently, in another guise. She sparks fires, and fans embers to flame. Yes, I'm sure I liked her...
David: She is whom we will all someday become. Pure, primal, unfettered, just as fire should be. She is the unstoppable force to my immovable object, yet we are more alike than different. I hear her roar echo deep in the Earth; how long can her rage be denied?
Some things are eternal, and David is one of them. I envy him his devotion to duty and am grateful for his friendship, but at times he is too hard and cold. Stone is very strong, but ultimately it must be broken down and put through the fire to be of any use.
Dominic: Apostate, whispering secrets and heresy, utterly insane. Her spark spirals into the cold of Hell - and when it does, Judgment shall renew the Holy Flame of wrath and punishment.
He calls me mad. He would bind all with chains of laws until Heaven is frozen crystal. If any fire burns within him, it is an icy flame which gives no light. Better ot be mad than cold and sane, a blind worm crawling in the dark.
Eli: She's intense, you got to hand it to her - she puts up with a lot of crap. And she really needs to lighten up - she's way too quick to torch those who could be put right with a little effort. But I'll tell you something - I would be nowhere without her. How many stories were born around a campfire?
His flames have broken free, and now he runs across the world like wildfire, destroying the old and bringing new growth. I understand that. But there is something dangerous, a lack of balance in him and his angels - they love so much and know so little...they are so beautiful.
Janus: Pure, golden, untamable. We have a lot in common, except she's let her Infernal counterpart get under her skin and drive her over the edge, and I'll never let that happen to me. The way she is now, I just don't understand her. That's okay. I've learned not to fan the flame.
No solidity, no stability, each movement of his is a mirrored dance - he moves around me, and his changes bring me nourishment, fuel my fires. He is what he is, and contradicts himself because he must.
Jean: She has no idea what she does, and cares not for the results. She has long since left the burden of ethics and sanity behind - now she consumes without thinking. Her fire burns out of control. It has ever fallen to me to clean up the messes she makes - I have had to learn to temper that which she cannot properly rule. If only she could be channeled, controlled, made biddable - what a force she would be to harness. The situation requires my consideration.
He is so purposeful, so certain, and he leaves such fires of inspiration where he touches. But he chooses where to touch, upon whom to bring his clarity, while I move where God directs, where the living fire runs, where the humans call me. Man's flames may be controlled by him, but God's will never be.
Jordi: We fear her, with good reason. She is the flashfire that kills all, whether she means it or not. Still, that firelight draws us all. How can we deny that which both repels and calls us?
He is passion, as are his animals, pure in his nature, devoted in his service. Others believe they are wiser. They are all the more foolish for it.
Laurence: Gabriel's Servitors are dedicated and noble, but Gabriel herself cannot be relied upon. She is a primal force whom I've given up trying to direct. In her rare moments of lucidity, she delivers amazing intelligence, and I know she possess insights even Yves does not.
He glows with the same fire that consumed Uriel, but his is a more tempered flame. He burns brightly, but he flickers with uncertainty. He has not yet been through the crucible...we shall see what emerges.
Marc: A curious problem - she is ultimately in equilibrium, swinging between extremes. Her Word represents a process, by which things are transformed - there is fuel, and a spark, and a balance of energy released versus fuel consumed. She understands cycles.
Yes, yes, he plays the human and occupies himself with small things, petty things, money, goods, manners - but beneath it all he knows the grace of fire shared, communication which gives virtue to both, the transformation which we bring to each other.
Michael: I am concerned by her unpredictability, but I would not take action against her. She carries the original spark of the Divine. If the situation deteriorartes, I would not hesitate to do what must be done...though it would be a tragic day for us all.
He is one of the few who knows the battle which we fight in. His passion is a fire that will hold him steady through his battles. His Servitors can be cruel, and feel my wrath for it, yet they have an ardor that few can match. Courage is their flame, a constant one.
Novalis: "Ah my foes, and oh my friends - it makes a lovely light." Seriously, if Dominic could put aside his unthinking hatred, if Laurence would welcome her back with open arms, we'd see how transcendent Love heals everything. Hers is a Discordant soul banished, misunderstood. And yet her madness swathes her in the kind of barrier that not even my most gifted Servitors can hope to penetrate. Still - have you ever seen a forest after a fire? A few years pass, and it is renewed. There is wisdom in that.
Acceptance - everyone must accept the fire. I would see wisdom in her, but her drive is so much slower, the pulse of vegetable life that drives towards the sun and then falls again. In time she shatters rock and changes the face of the world, but there is not time. There is not enough time. The fire is faster.
Yves: I have long since put the past behind me - I have seen how others have taken words and twisted them. It is not my destiny that I am concerned about, but all of creation's. In the end, Gabriel will remain - this I have seen, as I have seen her aurora burn over the horizon of potentiality. She is the fire that speaks to patriarchs and saints, she is the holy inspiration that moves humanity to wisdom. Wherever she goes, there is God.
When a long time passes and we do not speak, I remember his madness...his quiet, deep, essential madness. He is such a good friend and the kindest of them all.
Andrealphus: Poor lost Gabriel, torn between her prophecies and the rest of the universe. She and her Servitors are so deliciously passionate - dangerous, perhaps, but who could resist such burning eyes and bodies?
He burns for all the wrong reasons - the passions of the flesh, the obsessions of the body, never the true inspiration or the desire for righteousness. He willfully blinds himself to the pure passion within him, that which he once was - for is not divine Love one of the greatest flames of all?
Asmodeus: A dangerous wild card who upsets the settled order of Heaven, and an unpredictable gamepiece. It is a pity that Dominic cannot control her better. Her servants have an annoying habit of detecting those who my service.
Burn the boards, shatter the pieces, tear away the self-written rules which blind you, Asmodeus, and see the truth. God does not play games with his children. You are ashes and cold iron, charred and bitter.
Baal: Her insanity is a major strategic advantage for the forces of Hell. Imagine if she were coherent and focused her attention on the War, and cooperated with Laurence and Michael! Anything which keeps her at odds with the rest of Heaven, or widens the divide further, is to our advantage. Her fits of inane ranting prophecy are unimportant.
There are mirrors all around him, but the cruelest are behind his eyes, where he still sees the Archangel of Valor in all his pride. Baal's arrogance is his weakness. Every human soul is a living insult to him.
Beleth: She is a nightmare to many, which pleases me - but the inspiration which she brings is not welcome. She fears the loss of God. I wish that I could make that fear a reaiity.
She knows fear, she is fear, she understands fear, but most of all she denies her own fear. Her hands are ice and her eyes are knives, and her footsteps burn the Marches where she walks. Cruelty is in her mouth and heart.
Belial: That bitch will die. Her Word will be stripped away from her, and she will writhe in agony as she sees me enthroned in her place, taking the whole of Fire for myself. Her death will take years. Decades. Centuries. She will learn to curse the name of God.
Foul corruption - he soils my Word by his very existence. I scream each time I feel his destruction and entropy within my soul, I cry to Heaven for mercy, but I am not yet answered. The fires will cleanse him. Fire must cleanse him. It must. It must.
Haagenti: she hates Belial, which makes her okay with me. If only her idiots would stop frying my people - mmm, frying - we could get something going! She's the fire that cooks my food, or something like that. I leave the philosophy to Kobal.
He is cruel without knowing it, without realizing it. He takes bread from the mouths of the starving and gives it to those who have no need of it. Either he must learn better, or he must burn - there is no middle way.
Kobal: How amusing that Fire doesn't catch my spark. No matter, I've a special spot burning just for her... Pathetically simple to manipulate - all the better to mock you with, my dear.
I will not abide his cruelty. His constant torture of others stokes the fires of my anger. He thinks his comedy grand, but it is really empty of life and vigor. Tired. He should be extinguished.
Kronos: I will not be complacent yet. She is swift to strike, and many fail to meet their fate because of her angels - or worse, find inspiration and meet their destiny. When she hears the voice of God that brings only fate behind it, then I will have won.
He is entropy which my fire shall burn away, darkness that my light shall banish. He is Yves' antithesis, and his understanding is twisted, warped, wrong. The past may belong to many, but the future belongs to God.
Lilith: It's dangerous to try to fulfill a lunatic's Needs - her urge to punish cruelty makes dealing with her worse than walking through a minefield. As likely to flame someone as not, too. God drove her insane, another cruelty to his name, and her so-called prophecies are visions of madness. Yet her ravings can be...unsettlingly relevant.
She is a Princess of Hell. She is alone. Not cruel, not kind; her sins are omissions, her mercies a lack of malice. Freedom enslaved to darkness, enslaving light - how does she reconcile the division in her nature?
Malphas: It's beautiful. Look at the factions in Heaven, formed by her, forming around her. She has become a living instrument of discord, whether or not she wants it. If only she were just a little bit more insane...
He foments cruelty. The factions he creates torment each other, and then torment themselves yet more. Malphas twists the words of prophets to break their religions asunder, and shatters a man's faith in God, in humanity, in his closest friends. He is a spoiler and destroyer, kin to Belial in his urge for destruction.
Nybbas: Insane chicks do win Oscars, but her peformance got old centuries a go. If I need pyrotechnics, I've got Belial. Now, if she would agree to some full frontal, her act could make a comeback...
Pathetic worm. He has no inspiration. One touch of my fire would burn him to ashes.
Saminga: Burning kills people. But flames keep people alive too. Worse than Belial.
A maggot who crawls in the mud and has never dared to lift his eyes to Heaven. Pitiful creature, inhabiter of a rotting corpse. Lift up your eyes, Prince of Death, and learn of life.
Valefor: Stealing inspiration and passion is an art all of its own. As for stealing fire from Heaven - well, hey, it's been done before, and besides where's the challenge when she gives it away so freely?
As long as he stands in Hell, what he does is sin. I saw him and his Servitors in the shadows, creeping, hiding, taking the holy Fire from those who need it most. It shall blacken their hands and burn their souls.
Vapula: She has tried to comprehend the magnitude of my ambitions, but was too weak-minded to share the glory.
There is a dark scream which corrupts all it touches, and he welcomes it like a house cat. I have seen it! I have seen how it sits on his shoulder and purrs, and claws pretty patterns in his skin. Oh, those claws must dig deep, Vapula. Do they burn?
Soldiers of God: Who is there that would deny their fire? They bear God's touch in them for His hand has wroughtm ighty wonders in their souls and flesh. They have given up their will in His name, and sacrificed their lives in His holy temple. Behold, ye hosts of Heaven, how great a thing the least of humans can do!
Soldiers of Hell: What a thing a spirit is, to be sold so cheaply! They are paid with corrupt coin, which eats them away body and soul, till there is nothing left but sin and darkness. Look at them, agents of Lucifer, writing his testament in cruelty upon the flesh of their brothers. Let them burn! Let the flames take them into the darkness, to the payment that they have earned.
Sorcerers: What does it profit a man to command demons, if by doing so he becomes worse than any demon? I have walked through the blood upon the floors, I have heard their cries, I can count their voices in the night. One in a thousand calls with clean hands and a pure heart, but the others are stained to Hell by the darkness that runs in their veins.
Ethereals: They crawl and scuttle through the wilderness which men create from their own minds, and they are so far below God, for all that they claim His majesty, for all that they would steal His mantle. How shall the Almighty fear the creations of his created? Let the cruel know His wrath, and the gentle His mercy.

Next time: The undying fire

Sep 9, 2007
I am very witty: nit-witty, dim-witty, and half-witty.

oriongates posted:

but they can't force you to accept unacceptable terms

Their friend The Judge, on the other hand...

Nov 6, 2011

When they passed out body parts in the comics today, I got Cathy's nose and Dick Tracy's private parts.

Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks always struck me as a good model for a Hunter Avatar.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Simian_Prime posted:

Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks always struck me as a good model for a Hunter Avatar.

Indeed. Hunter is one of those archetypes that's really cool but kind of only works (for a PC) if you've got a whole campaign structured around a particular Hunt. Twin Peaks is a good example of that sort of thing where the overarching goal of Dale and his allies is finding the killer of Laura Palmer and the truth is threaded so deeply through the town that it'll be coming up constantly here and there to make the Hunter feel useful, no matter which subplot you're pursuing at the moment.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: A Burning Fire

Variants! The Insane Gabriel is...well, nuts. She may claim she hears God's voice, but no one can prove it. Maybe she does hear God, but it's driven her so mad that shecan't interact on anything like an angelic or even a human level. Things burn around her constantly, and she's obsessed with smiting the cruel wherever she finds them - including other angels. Most sane angels avoid her, and evne Yves, Michael and David stand back after pointing her in a particular direction. Soldekai might be loyal...or he might be planning to take her Word and her place, undermining her and reaching out to other Archangels. The Comedic Gabriel is a ditz, 'accidentally' setting fire to things, commenting on hairstyles and listening to CDs while prophesizing in rap. She's incapable of being in the right place at the right time and is perpetually five minutes late. When she punishes the cruel, she might show up, giggling, in bondage gear. Her angels are even worse. Or, perhaps, she and they are stereotypically stern, but blind to anything that goes on behind them. They'll spank children for cruelty to gerbils and fail to notice the archvillain nearby. They might be wildly impulsive, doing things for no good reason, and of course they all smoke. Gabriel the Manipulator, meanwhile, claims to dictate God's word, but can't be verified. It's all some deep scheme she's set in motion. She may not be sane, but she is perfectly lucid, even if she doesn't appear so. She has her own agenda, perhaps virtuous and guided by a higher power or perhaps setting up Michael and Dominic to wipe each other out so she can seize power.

The male Gabriel shared many traits with Gabriel's current persona. He was intense, unpredictable and rarely stayed in one place long. He was guided by the divine, so his behavior was erratic. However, he had a core of stability and self-assurance that is not present in Gabriel's current state. He brought the power of Fire into focus, harnessing its energy to God's will. There was no way to distract him, and being the focus of his attention was like standing on the sun. It was always clear who or what he was thinking of. In ancient times, he spent a lot of time around David, Janus and Oane,s the Archangel of the Waters. They balanced each other. But after the Fall and the rise of Belial, Gabriel's sanity began to erode. When Belial slew Oannes, Gabriel was further destabilized, and Dominic's accusations were too much for his already stressed mind. He lost his certainity and center, fleeing to a female form to find his former clarity. If the male Gabriel were to be seen again, his single-mindedness would be overwhelming. He cannot be distracted from his goal, but once the goal is met, he is gone.

The Volcano, Gabriel's Cathedral, marks one side of Heaven. It doesn't really matter which, as Heaven need not obey Earthly geography. It is a huge mass of rock containing a giant crater of lava. At the center is a high-towered fortress of bronze, the Citadel of Fire. This was once Gabriel's original Cathedral in the Eternal City, but she took it away as she left Heaven. No trace of it remains in the City, though it is believed to have hung in the sky over the Halls of Worship. Ofanim patrol the crater rim, while Malakim and Cherubim man the Citadel's battlements. The Volcano was once a mountain, site of the duel between Michael and Lucifer. When Lucifer was cast down, the top of the mountain went with him, becoming the foundations of Hell. Any angel approaching from Heaven must head away from the Eternal City and the center of Heaven. The Ofanim will steop them, but let anyone with a reason past, even Judges. Then, one flies to the Citadel, where the Malakim and Cherubim will meet them and ask their business. A sensible answer will get you inside with an offered guide (or a mandatory escort, for Judges considered legitimate). Judges not considered legitimate will be taken to a senior Shield. The guide is to keep you from getting lost in the Citadel's confusing structure, and honest desire to admire the Cathedral's beauty is not long considered a sensible answer but an admirable one.

The interior of the Citadel is of bronze, gold, silver and other metals, with the walls covered in gemstone mosaics and hammered reliefs. The rooms are wide and specious, heading down into the obsidian and marble badrock of the volcano. It has been described as Coptic or Islamic architecture, and few surfaces are undecorated. The place smells of incense, lava and candles, and all rooms are endlessly lit by candles and hanging flames, echoing with the chants of the angels of Fire, who often prefer to spend their spare time singing God's praises. Most angels of Fire livei n the bedrock areas, in rooms formed by bubbles of stone or carefully sculpted black glass. Their Hearts rest in stone niches lining the tunnels near central lava flows. From tiem to time, a room will vanish, but they usually come back later. Angels of Fire do not discuss this with anyone.

The Cathedral is hot, an endless dry heat ranging from pleasant to incandescent. No fire there will burn any human soul nor any angel of Fire, but other angels must be careful. Some flames are simple decoration or symbolic, but others are real and painful. Gabriel herself can grant immunity to the fires, and will do so to any angel that receives one of our attunements, Distinctions or Rites. The lava is harmless to her angels, who often swim in it, but it will burn others. Fortunately, it's easy to fly over, if one is allowed to do so by the Ofanim guards. In the highest tower is the Dictorium, which holds records of all prophecies Gabriel has ever spoken or inspired. Her angels pass word of any prophecies they hear of back here, and they are copied down by Seraph scribes. They are stored high in the tower, on scrolls of metal and books of glass, guarded by Cherubim. It can be reached from Yves' library, but that's not always pleasant, given the sudden heat. The prophecies are kept in the order of their delivery, with the eldest first and highest, but there is an indexing system referencing events, people and themes. It is wise not to ask about Armageddon - there are years of references. Any angel may enter the tower at will, but other Words will need permission, though the Cherubim usually grant it. Gabriel herself never enters this tower.

The Volcano stands on the border of Heaven and the Marches, but it's not easy to enter the Marches. You must walk or fly around the rim of the crater, away from the border with Heaven, until the sky grows dark and the wind is strange. Then, you must land on a particular cleft, which leads to a rough path down the Volcano and out into the Marches. The senior angels of Fire show this to their juniors only once they have some experience, never before. Too many young angels have gone out into the Marches alone to fight cruelty and found themselves out of their depth. This path can also be traveled in reverse, and has been used by angels of Fire, angels of Dreams, and even demonic and ethereal spies, though so far none have made it to Heaven proper. Some demons have made it in, seeking redemption, but it is no easy path for them. If they manage to make to the Volcano to ask for help, however, they will not be turned away.

Angels of Fire are always conscious of Hell, far below them. They know their history and that their Archangel was persecuted by Dominic just for obeying God's will. They live constantly with her urges to prophesy and punish. They are intense, even to other angels. They don't understand how others can be otherwise. They exist to bring the flames of punishment and inspiration. They have no peace - they are driven, ardent and unresting. The best they can manage is the slow pulse of lava, their heat hidden within, or the brief calm of a campfire burning within limits until it gets a chance to spread. Most of all, they know that Gabriel is God's messenger, that she brings His Word to mankind. Many believe that this puts them closer to God than other angels. This arrogance can be either mollified or made worse by time on Earth. Some of them can be 'corrupted' by 'lesser priorities' or fall too much into the passion of Fire, rejecting taboos and laws in favor of divine justice. However, they never stop supporting each other. They'd never admit to loneliness, but they sometimes long for the company of others who can understand their passion, and that means each other.

All angels of Fire burn with a terrible urgency. They know many believe their Archangel to be mad, and some even revel in being near-outcasts. They are not mild, and in all they do, they take it to extremes. They love, not like. They hate, not dislike. They do not do half-measures. Many are driven to fury by casual cruelties, the kind that humans tolerate as normal - criticism, bullying, and so on. They punish cruelty always and will not let themselves be stopped.

Gabriel is in charge, when she's around and has orders. Otherwise, Soldekai commands her angels. His authority is not quesitoned, and some angels, Wordbound or with Distinctions, work directly under his orders and pass them on to junior angels. Others, mostly older and more potent Wordbound, work solo or in small groups on projects that interest them. Even they keep Soldekai informed of their status, though, and give assistance as needed. He will often assign junior angels to work with them and gain experience. Most Earthbound angels of Fire report to Soldekai, and while they may have a lot ot freedom, there will always be another angel that knows where they are and what they're doing. Even if they don't obey that angel, they'll be in contact. Soldekai is a deep believer in the buddy system, and likes to assign angels in pairs. One angel of Fire, after all, is prey to passion and doubt, but two tend to keep each other stable, or at least safe. Malakim are the most likely to fly solo, though, given that their targets are chosen for them. Any order assigned by Soldekai personally will be obeyed, if perhaps grudgingly at times. However, two angels of Fire that meet at random may seriously clash. Authority generally runs on closeness to Gabriel and the Word of Fire, so angels with Distinctions obey Wordbound, usually, and other angels obey both. In the case of two angels of equal rank disagreed utterly, a third, generally an Elohite, will be called in to arbitrate.

Soldekai has only limited power of reward and punishment - he can't deal with Discord or dissonance or give Attunements. However, he can teach Songs and provide Roles and so on, as well as provde vessels from a stock kept up by Laurence, Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel can give Rites and attunements, and she tends to be capricious, guided by the Divine hand, in her rewards and punishments. Sometimes, a small act will get massive praise, while self-sacrifice will only get a backpat. If an angel fails, any punishment will depend on why the failure happened, and will be given in addition to the dissonance from failing to punish the cruel. Laxness and carelessness may get scourging or loss of attunements and forced penance, while deliberate cruelty may merit Force-stripping or even death. Failure despite best efforts will generally not be punished by any superior, just the angel involved. Success in punishing cruelty is rarely rewarded, but missions will result in more significant rewards. Only Gabriel can grant Distinctions, and she rarely does so. When she does, it is generally unexpected by anyone.

The cruel must burn. That knowledge is deeply felt by every angel of Fire. Every angel must punish the sinner they are focused on, and in doing so, they lighten the world's cruelty that torments Gabriel. Sometimes, though, you can't manage it on a schedule. You might not have a chance to get to your target or might have to delay for some reason, to give them another chance, perhaps. This failure will earn dissonance. It happens at some point to every angel of Fire. It's not usual, but carrying a point or two of dissonance is understood by angels of Fire. (Judgment tends to disagree.) Naturally, you should be doing your best to fix things as soon as possible, though, and the dissonance will vanish when your target is punished, so long as you don't give up entirely. Gabriel feels the dissonance of her angels as though it were her own, so she is at once stern and merciful. She feels your pain, but cannot help but channel some of her wrath on the dissonant. fruther, she is forever aware of Belial's perversion of Fire, so her tolerance for dissonance is thin. She is more likely to remove it, but she is also merciless to the very dissonant, especially those dissonant by inaction. She hates laziness.

Many angels of Fire view those that want to serve other Archangels as weak, flawed or disloyal. Love for Gabriel is rooted deep in their being, intense and passionate. To want to leave her is a betrayal, especially those who wish to leave for themselves rather than to better serve others. Very few angels of frie ever ask for permission to switch Superiors. It does happen, sometimes, though. Some are impassioned by desire to serve another Word, while others can no longer abide the wrath of Fire. Soldekai can send them to serve another Archangel, but cannot release them from Fire. Only Gabriel can do that, and that can take time. Soldekai disapproves, unless you're clearly moved by a desperate urge to serve other Words, and even then, it annyos him. In those cases, he will try to arrange the transfer, but he'll usually try to talk you out of it. Gabriel has never refused a transfer, but will usually remove her attunements, though not always the Choir attunement. She also weeps to see angels go, and for many, that is the most painful part.

Next time: Burning passion

Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?


There's a lot of ways you can work cities into a game, either as window dressing, stops in the story, gunfight locations, or full-on living worlds knitted into the fabric of the adventure. NBA bakes it down to two general options: Quick and Dirty, or Low and Slow.

Quick and Dirty
There are two ways to do this. First is starting with the city - figure out what the city is like, then extrapolate from there what the vampires want there. Second is starting with the conspiracy - figure out what the vampires want, and design the city to accomodate it.

Vampires in the City
If you already know why the players are here, this is a no-brainer. If you're not sure, roll two dice and take the lower one - that's the level of the Conspyramid that's generally active here. In the last scene for the city's operation, plant a hook pointing to somewhere higher up in the pecking order. Find a node that fits the city, look where that node points, start writing clues.

What are the vampires here up to? If you don't already know, then pick one or roll a die:
  • Money: The vampires own something lucrative here. A drug ring, a casino, a bank, an art gallery.
  • Blood: The vampires run people through this city. Look into docks, red light districts, industrial slums.
  • Weirdness: Something magical or otherwise weird is special about this city. Ley line nexus, crashed UFO, viral research lab, cult.

Sketch out three layers of opposition forces: City boss, henchman, mooks. A quick six-scene skeleton can be extracted from this:
  • Hook scene to discover mooks.
  • Fight.
  • Surveilance or chase to track the henchman.
  • Fight.
  • Clue scene to find the city boss.
  • Fight.
Obviously don't do exactly this every time, but it's a crutch you can lean on when you need to.

The City Boss is the person who runs the conspiracy here. Who does she report to? What evil thing does she do? What are her plans? Don't detail it out too much, keep it vague so you can adjust on the fly.

The Henchman is the level boss, pick someone who'd be fun to fight. The City Boss's right hand, vampire Oddjob. Someone dangerous, whether or not he's supernatural. At Conspyramid levels 4 and up, there might be more than one of these.

The Mooks are the thugs, the muscle, the cultists. Either the party will discover them, or they'll discover the players, and then you have a pile of meat to work with.

The city around the vampires
For a one-off operation in a single city, Wikipedia and Google Maps can probably get you all the info you need (the book suggests picking up a copy of Lonely Planet Western/Central Europe, though). You don't need to be an expert, but if you want a bit more, Google the city along with words like UFO, cult, gang, terrorism, mafia, spy, or vampire. You might find something fun.

Get it off Wikipedia. This will give you a good idea of how big and crowded the city will feel.

What conflict epitomizes the city? Is it in the middle of an election? Are the police corrupt? Is there an active terrorist campaign? Google News might have something for you to build on.

Look up neat landmarks in the city. Look up photos and see what catches your eye. Use these landmarks. Possibly blow them up.

Three Hooks
Look back at what you've written up so far, then look at what vampires are up to, and mix them up to create three story hooks. Some possibilities:
  • Conflict at backdrop
  • Vampire activity moving into backdrop
  • Vampire activity stoking conflict for gain of money or power
  • Vampire city boss killing or suborning lead agitator in conflict
  • Defector from one side of the conflict threatens the vampires somehow
  • Someone important (to the players, to the city) vanished from backdrop
  • There is a powerful thing in the museum, or a flash drive with the plans, or a memoir that can break this whole thing wide open
  • Foreign visitor or local journalist (involved in conflict?) accidentally stumbles over vampire activity
  • Something from the city’s history turns up unexpectedly and both sides of the conflict (and the vampires) scramble to control or claim it
Put some flesh on those bones, and you've got yourself a city!

Low and Slow
Cities really integral to the campaign may require a more methodical touch. Better for cities that you know really well, or are extra interested in, or that are especially significant to your story. A Low and Slow city can support multiple scenarios without even going out into the country.

Lay of the Land
How is the city laid out? Are there clearly-delineated neighborhoods? Make sure you really understand the geography of the city before you get started.

Where do people enter and exit? What kinds of locations draw new people? When someone enters the city, remember these locations.

Where do the agents go to get what they need? Where do undercover deals go down? Where to vampires go to get things they need? This goes for sex, drugs, guns, information, anything the party needs, figure out where they'll want to go to get it.

Home Turf
Some part of the city will have to function has home base for the agents. What's the neighborhood bar/bath-house/moque like? What kinds of people are around? Where do the agents' Solaces live? Give it some flavor.

For a Quick and Dirty city, Agents VS Vampires is probably enough. For a Low and Slow cities, you'll be spending a lot of time there, so make it more complicated. Start with the vampire conspiracy - which Conspyramid Nodes are local? Restrict it to four levels of the pyramid at a maximum. Then, complicate matters - which henchmen have big aspirations? Which boss has plans they haven't told the leadership aboit? When too many conspirators gather in one place, at least one of them should be conspiring aginst the others.

Other Conspiracies
Add three more players in the city. Rule of Four, the book says: Players can't keep track of more than four details at a time. Any 'independent' faction needs to have at least one relationship with another faction, even if that means 'kill on sight'. They may or may not know about the vampires. Possibilities include:
  • Rival vampire group
  • Another occult group: Werewolf serial killers, covens, UFO church
  • A single powerful entity with local assets
  • Anti-vampire conspiracy
  • Multinational crime group
  • Major intelligence network
  • Terrorist cell

Make sure the collection of factions gives you an interesting set-up - if you have four factions, have two as enemies of the party, one as a clear villains, and one potential ally, and you've opened a nice variety of possible approaches for the party. Figure out the goals of each faction, and how their actions are going to collide.

Story seeds drawn out of the city's history that can produce at least one full session worth of scenes. They come from two main sources!

First, physical locations: Evocative locations as hooks to build scenes around. Car chase down the Spanish Steps, lightning storms playing around the Sagrada Familia. The relevant questions are "What did the vampires do here?" and "What happens to the agents here?"

Second, unusual events: Things that happened in the city's past, either historically or in rumor. A seige by Napoleon's troops, an outbreak of the Black Death, a rash of UFO sightings. The relevant questions for this type: "What if it was vampires?" "What did the vampires gain or lose by it?" "What does it make the vampires do today?"

Next: Sample cities!

Jan 7, 2015

Double Cross - Infinity Code

The World

The titular Infinity Code is the goal of Professor Caudwell's grand master plan that lead him to take over the False Hearts Cells of Japan. Nobody aside from Caudwell and probably also Central Dogam knows what this Infinity Code is exactly, but it is safe to assume that it is tied to the Renegade's past and future: Caudwell seemingly wants to uncover the Renegade's origin and true nature, and try to figure out where its further evolution will lead it and how to accelerate this process.
It is for this reason that he helped the Ouroboros Syndorme to make a comeback, as it is both a long-forgotten part of the Renegade's history, and a very adaptable strain that will in no doubt evolve at a rapid rate.

In his quest for the Infinity Code, Caudwell makes heavy use of his Master Wraiths. Though they aren't necessarily as strong as past Master Wraiths (back in the day when only one agent was allowed to have that title), but they all have the right kind of desire to be useful to Caudwell's cause, and they are absolutely loyal to him. In fact most of these Master Wraiths see Caudwell as their father, whether they actually share his surname or not.

The rest of his most loyal followers (bordering on creepy cultist behavior) are organized into Apostles, Caudwell's elite Cells that have been briefly mention in the Public Enemy book. Here we find out that there are 13 different Apostles, each with a different task:
  • Apostles One to Three: Combat Units, in descending order of experience.
  • Apostle Four: Spies and kidnappers.
  • Apostles Five: Defense and security.
  • Apostle Six: There be assassins and ninja.
  • Apostle Seven: R&D.
  • Apostle Eight: Medics.
  • Apostle Nine: Saboteurs.
  • Apostle Ten: Relic hunters.
  • Apostle Eleven: Like a Combat Unit, but with more dakka.
  • Apostle Twelve: The guys with the money and counter-intelligence.
  • Apostle Thirteen: Mysterious~!
The Legacy

The Legacy is a general term for all those artefacts and relics that have been made with or by the Renegade. They're your Renegade Crystals or EX Renegades.
Ever since Caudwell's return, he has started to collect the Legacy and the knowledge and lore surrounding it, which has previously been hogged by FH Clans and old Overeds.
How exactly he gets this knowledge is sometimes a mystery, and the book mentions an example of Caudwell trolling a Clan by sending them the recipe of the secret Renegade-enhancing poison nobody outside the Clan should actually know about. The promptly send him some assassins in return, which got wiped out (because Caudwell's stats are ridiculous).

Since the UGN is a lot younger than False Hearts and currently in a bit of a chaotic state, its members know very little about the Legacy and have yet to start attempts to centralize their know-how.

The Planner and Xenos are collecting the Legacy just like Caudwell, but their goal seems to be to protect any threats from the Renegade. Legacy relics they aquire tend to be sealed away or destroyed.

As for the various kinds of Legacy categories, there are four: EX Renegade items, knowledge (aka magic), ruins and strains (like the Original Renegade T-Lois or the Ouroboros Syndrome).

The Ouroboros Syndrome

Having a new Syndrome pop up as a category isn't too uncommon in the world of Double Cross, for Syndromes are - broadly speaking - a set of Powers with a similar nature and theme. Balor, Morpheus and Orcus are all Syndromes whose Powers used to be associated with other Syndromes before their official recognition.

The Ouroboros Syndrome however is cleary a distinct Strain that only appeared (or rather reappeared) about half a year ago. Surely The Planner welcomes such a Syndrome, as it will surely help her in her quest to evolve her Renegade Beings further, right? Oh, quite the contrary. She's the reason why Ouroboros went extinct in the first place.

You see, the Ouroboros Syndrome is heavily tied to the Anima Regium, those Renegade Beings who possess and occasionly turn you into Slendergjaum.
The Anima Regium have two unique quirks: They are effectively immortal in that they just clone themselves into another body upon death, and they are the only source of the Ouroboros strain. If you have the Syndrome, its either because of your Anima Regium T-Lois (making you a carrier of sorts) or because you had a more or less indirect encounter with a Slendergjaum. If you're Renegade Being, you've probably been infected/assimilated, or you are a sentient byproduct of an Anima Regium presence.

The "unnatural" origin compared to the other strains, as well as its ability to assimilate them for its own gain, have made the Ouroboros a threat in the eyes of The Planner and other Renegade Beings. In ancient times, she and others destroyed anyone and anything with the Ouroboros Syndrome and managed to somehow seal the Anima Regium away.

Now that the Syndrome is back and Caudwell is actively trying to spread out around through his Project Ouroboros. Naturally, The Planner is not amused, and Xenos does anything in its power to extinquish Ouroboros again, fighting whoever stands in their way. This mainly boils down to an all-out war between her and Caudwell, with the UGN also joining in because they have Ouroboros Overeds of their own and are still trying to figure out what's going on.

Important Characters

Master Wraith Delta (04), Simon D. Caudwell (Balor/Neumann/Morpheus): Another supposed son of Caudwell and master tactician thanks to his precognitive abilities. He has a flawless track record and doesn't shy away from a direct fight.

Master Wraith Hexa (06), Chiaki Nanasato (Orcus/Salamandra): The newest Master Wraith (so I guess the number 6 was free at that time?) and former support agent, she deals heavily in ice powers.

Morbius the Demonic Disease (Ouroboros): A strange man in rags and covered in bandages like a mummy. He is one of the first carriers of the Ouroboros strain, and he's rumored to be an ancient Overed that has been sealed away for who knows how long.

Yayue "Night Legion" Lee (Bram Stoker/Exile/Orcus): A very fanatical follower of Caudwell who usually serves in Apostle One, but does all kinds of jobs for his master. He apparently has a tendency to come back from the dead with an altered set of Powers and even Syndromes, suggesting he has a suped-up version of the Reincarnation T-Lois.

Kaie the Collector (Exile/Ouroboros): The FH lady from the opening comic. A failed FH Child who has been artificially imbued with the Ouroboros, she goes around assimilated strong and rare Powers, which tends to kill the victim. Not that she cares, she's already fanatically loyal and even sees Caudwell as her... whatever the male version of "waifu" is (hasubando?).

Komae "Moon Strike" Tatsumi (Balor/Chimaera): Former FH Agent and founder of Renegade Karate (whatever that is). She now wanders the world like some kind of FemRyu, challenging strong opponents to prove that her Renegade Karate is the best there is - or that's what she likes to tell people. She actually more of a hobo who constantly gets herself in trouble.
Nevertheless, she does tend to pop out at locations connected to the Infinity Code, so who knows what her real deal is.

Kuro "Anima Regium" Ichinose (Ouroboros?): The rather androgynous guy on the left of the cover. His codename comves from the fact that he's the only person the UGN is aware of who is a host for an Anima Regium, but didn't go Gjaum-crazy in the process (unless one of the PCs also has the Anima Regium T-Lois, that is). He's overall pretty negative about the whole situation and feels that the UGN is treating him too harshly, because of course do we need some kind of Shinji or Amuro.

Haruna "Deus Ex Machine Shiomi (Hanuman/Morpheus): The girl and UGN Child on the right of the cover. Her codename comes from the spear of the same name she's wielding, a rare Legacy artefact with the power to actually kill an Anima Regium for good. Despite this awesome weapon, she has yet to actually win a fight against one, but that has yet to break her cheerful mood.
Naturally, she has been assigned to monitor Kuro and his Anima Regium, which probably means she might be ordered to stabbinate him of his Anima Regium goes crazy.

Next Time: Game Master Section - of skill challenges and dickish Enemy Powers.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: The Eternal Flame

Angels of Fire love Redemption, as both the ultimate punishment for cruelty (as the demon must admit and repent their sins) and a true ending to cruelty with a new life as an angel. However, they aren't especially trusting, and often suggest a Redemption candidate Redeem on the spot, even summoning Gabriel to help. They understand the idea of sitting back and letting more patient angels work on a candidate, but it doesn't suit the natures. Gabriel never refuses a demon seeking Redemption. Some day, but a surprising amount survive. Those who sincerely attempt it but fail and perish are honored by angels of Fire, who respect the attempt. A successful Redemption is welcomed as a brother, as no angel will deny one that Gabriel has accepted, and they will even take pains to defend them. The new angel often takes on a new name, to signify rebaptism in Fire, and they often get assigned to work on Earth immediately, though always with an experienced angel to guard and guide them. Soldekai also likes to get as much information on demonic outposts as possible from the new recruit, which he passes on to more militant Archangels if he can't use it himself.

Young angels of Fire and relievers are trained in the Volcano and are taught to serve as guards, maintain the Citadel, watch over Tether endpoints and study the prophecies of Gabriel. They tend to only meet more warlike angels while growing up, and are often surprised when meeting pacifistic angels for the first time, thought not always disappointed. They may be sent to train in the Groves or any where else Soldekai feels they need specific background, but they know the Volcano is their home and even feel like strangers sometimes in other parts of Heaven. Occasionally, they will visit the Marches, generally under supervision by Dreams. It doesn't usually take long to get assigned to Earth, however. They usually start off as assistants at Tethers, where older angels can guide them. Only two real reasons can lead to a Fire angel never seeing Earth. First, they might be too devoted to some work in the Citadel, like caring for the Dictorium, or they are too unstable for Earth even by Fire's standards.

Any human that knowingly works with Fire tends to be as devoted to Heaven's cause as the angels themselves. They come in two types. The first are humble, self-denigrating and sacrifice everything they have for their work. The second kind are proud, even arrogant, and expect to be appreciated for their help. The angels tend to either display intense interest in the welfare of their human assistants or ignore it completely. This is not so much about lack of charity as the fact that most angels of Fire get obsessed with things like destroying cruelty. Humans either get used to it or get transferred to more understanding Words. Angels of Fire don't always like humans, either. Protect them, yes. Love the in the abstract, absolutely. But humans are so vague, with petty priorities, weak desires, doubts,'s hard for some angels of Fire to appreciate that, however much they're devoted to humanity's good in the general sense. Thus, humans appreciated by Fire tend to be utterly intense and, to many angels, about as crazy as the angels of Fire themselves. Humans in Fire tend to work directly with angels, either one on one or as a group of humans serving a Tether. It's rare for them to operate without an angel guiding them, unless they are lead by a genuine, inspired prophet. In that case, the angels may be there to guard the prophet but will not interfere in the prophet determining the group's actions, as divine inspiration is clearly the best guide.

Seraphim of Fire particularly hate those who lie to themselves or others about their cruelty. It strikes at their entire nature. Many believe that any cruel person can be salvaged if made to realize their errors by seeing the truth of what they have done. Other angels have been known to call them unfeasibly idealistic. They will ruthlessly shove the facts in front of a sinner's eyes, to the point of kidnapping them if necessary, though they prefer to avoid that. Other Seraphim prefer to just remove or punish the sinner and keep them from hurting others again. Any of them that deals with those who knowingly profit off the suffering of others has a simple course, though: punish them. Seraphim of Fire are typically in constant aagony from the world's hypocrsiy. There are few people who have never committed cruelty, and even angels often delude themselves about their actions or consequences. Seraphim of Fire know this, can feel it, and they work hard at their jobs to get some measure of peace. They refuse to deceive themselves or abide by lesser stnadards, and they expose cruelty among their own mercilessly.

Cherubim of Fire ensure that those harmed by betrayal of trust are not harmed that way again. They attune to the victims of cruelty - abused children and relatives, thatk ind of thing. They often find themselves working with family circles. They are deeply concerned with their attuned and often take the time to get them to safety after punishing the cruel. Unfortunately, they also tend to become bitter, as they so often see love betrayed and innocence ruined. They become cynical, suspicious of all loving bonds, and have a regrettable tendency to try to isolate their attuned from any possible threat - which is anyone that's not an angel of Fire. Still, they work thoroughly to ensure that the cruel cannot repeat their offenses. (They especially enjoy castration of sexual abusers.)

Ofanim of Fire enjoy their work deeply. They move quickly, hunting those that flee justice. They tend to be very casual towards physical dangers, and their targets fear them as unstoppable. When they catch up, they might hand their victims over to agents of justice...or carry out their own sentences. However, their attunement isn't perfect. They will often not notice a person who isn't currently fleeing justice, or notice minor acts of fear and guilt, like shoplifting. Thus, many get pointed at targets by other Choirs first. There is also a wide urge among them to imitate their Archangel, which can manifest as wildly impuslive behavior in the hopes of being inspired by divine prompting. This results in often insanely reckless decisions and following fragile hunches. Most other angels do not appreciate this.

Elohim of Fire are calm yet passionate in punishing those that enjoy inflicting psychological pain. They often find the most efficient way to both punish and prevent repetition of the sin. The second is the harder job. They often spend quite a bit of time studying their targets before acting - it's no good to punish a teacher, for example, if they're just going to take out their anger on their class again. Thus, many prefer to work in the Marches, where they can try to shape their target into a better person...or just traumatize them into better behavior, though Dreamers frown on this. Others engage in psychological campaigns, seeking stress in their victims in order to reach their souls. If all else fails...well, fire and death remain, when you're out of options.

Malakim of Fire do not all show up as trenchcoat-wearing avengers. The ones that do are just the ones that get remembered. Those that aren't noticed are often quiet assassins, quietly pursuing their targets and removing them neatly. They are punishers, executioners, but efficient and without cruelty. They do what must be done. The Malakim can be very creative in their punishments and in spreading the word of not being cruel. While they operate on assigned missions, they often also enjoy 'freelancing' if they find someone deserving of punishment. They tend to be frighteningly focused, and on the job nearly all the time, though they're also known for intensely passionate affairs between missions.

Kyriotates of Fire punish those that harm others physically. They spare nothing - not your body, not your place in society. They change bodies easily and refuse to accept society, custom or circumstance as excuses. Anyone that sins must be punished. One of their facorite tactics is to 'help' a victim resist bullies by possessing them and then beating up the bullies. They don't see this as cruelty, and they're careful not to be cruel - they just inflict justice, and sometimes they even count blows precisely, so as to never hit more than the victim was hit. However, they are often slow to recognize psychological cruelty and will often ask for help from other Choirs in assessing motivations. In the field, they tend to be focused, choosing hosts based on targets and plans, and they often end up courting dissonance by taking cruel hosts and leaving them in nasty situations caused by their own cruelty. They might be a bit dissonant, they figure, but it's so beautifully just.

Mercurians of Fire try to stop those that hurt themselves, and they're passionate about it. Some of them are archetypal confessors and consolers, helping people forgive themselves and persuading them not to punish themselves for real or imagined sins. They are gentle, quiet listeners. Not all Mercurians take that route, however. some take guilty pleasures in torturting themselves, and these other Mercurians take it on themselves to force those humans to stop, one way or another. They won't harm the humans, but have no objection to tough love or pushing them to a breaking point, just to make them snap out of their guilt and act. They don't mind being disliked, because time being annoyed is time not hurting themselves. These Mercurians are devious manipulators, and other angels can see the courses they set their targets on to be dangerous, if not cruel.

In Heaven, most angels of Fire work in the Volcano, though many are too driven to want to spend much time away from Earth. Thus, the ones in Heaven tend to be young, new or very patient. Some of them are the border guards of Heaven or the keepers of hte Dictorium. Younger angels also volunteer to guard Tether end-points or provide counseling to the weary or Traumatized. Ofanim often serve as messengers, and Kyriotate help as needed, because Soldekai lacks the powers of an Archangel and must rely on them to exist in mutliple places at once.

In the Marches, the angels of Fire uses dreams to learn more about their targets, or even punish them, though the angels of Dreams object strongly to this, as it results in horrible nightmares. That's dangerous for everyone involved. Mercurians in particular find dreams a useful way to learn why someone is being cruel to themselves and to find ways to stop them. Some angels of Fire are also interested in seeing the dreams of the inspired, in the hopes of better understanding both them and the Word of Fire. From time to time, Fire angels also aid the angels of Dreams in their tasks or lead patrols in the Marches to study Ethereals and dreamscapes, which can be peaceful or violent depending on the senior angel's sympathies.

On Earth, there are three jobs for angels of Fire. Punish the cruel, protect and encourage inspiration and guard Tethers. All Choirs are expected to do the first job, even if they have some other function. None of them, after all, can abide the cruel. Cherubim are most often tasked to protect the subjects of inspiration, with aid from other Choirs as needed. Any angel can encourage inspiration, but Elohim, Seraphim and Mercurians tend to do it best, as they can see the best ways to stimulate people. Malakim tend to try and inspire by example more than anything else, but they're often too busy punishing to do much of it. Guarding Tethers is a job for anyone, even Relievers, who serve as good resources for patrols in small vessels. Soldekai has many Tethers to coordinate and few resources, so assigning relievers lets him train young angels and guard Tethers at once. Full angels are needed to fight, sure, but relievers can help in many ways.

Next time: Final Fire

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Hail Big Fire, Allegiance Or Death

Victims of cruelty need healing, and some angels of Fire devote themselves to that, and also to preventing abuse victims from becoming abusers. These angels, often Elohim, Cherubim or Mercurians, often work closely with Flowers. They tend to be skilled healers, mentally and physically. Angels of Fire also have to serve as messengers often, as Soldekai lacks the ability of the Archangels to easily communicate across long distances himself. The fastest Ofanim of Fire tend to serve as a messenger corps, with the help of Kyriotates and some guardian Malakim. Many Fire angels also work as spies, as their hunting of the cruel often helps them identify a demon in an organization. Soldekai uses this for planning, often in concert with the Sword or War, or to organize assassinations. He often orders angels to hold off on punishing a target for the duration, but he works to make these assignments as short as possible, and works to get these angels assigned to a Tether if they become dissonant. This jobs are seen as painful and dirty ones, even if they're necessary, and no one likes them.

The Oriflamme are a group of Fire angels that hold there's an obvious cure for Gabriel: remove Belial entirely. They devote themselves to fighting Belial and his demons throughout the world. Soldekai sympathizes, though their work is often indiscreet and somewhat suicidal. He will officially rebuke them if they hamper other work, especially of angels of Fire, but he's happy to pass them information and material for their crusade. The group is mainly Malakim and Ofanim, but any sufficiently intense angel of Fire is welcome.

The Shield, a group mainly composed of Elohim and Seraphim, are angels who are good at dealing with Judgment. Their job is to regulate Judgment's work with Fire, to retrieve angels called for trial if necessary and, occasionally, to turn angels of Judgment in for excessive cruelty. Soldekai knows he needs some interface with the Judges, so he made the Shield in the 1200s rather than have Dominic, as Soldekai feared was possible, launch constant inquisitions. The Shield operates as a de factor internal police, keeping an eye out for excessive Discord or dissonance. They aren't well loved, but are preferred to Judgment. They are led by Ja'aina, an Elohite Master of the Flame of Heaven.

The Testers of Faith are not approved of by Soldekai and not known of by Gabriel. They are mainly Cherubim who believe it is their job to test other angels of Fire for their faith in Gabriel. Sometimes this is by quesitoning to see if someone really believes Gabriel is chosen by God, other times it's pushing angels into situations that might cause dissonance, to see how they act. Known membership in the group is a reason for the Shield to take a deep interest in you.

The Mystery Cults are a number of groups among the angels and Soldiers of Fire. They all view Gabriel as an intermediary for God and worship her as such, addressing their payers to her and even shedding their own blood at times when asking for her to intercede with God on their behalf. These cults have names like 'Those Who Serve Through Blood And Fire' or 'The Silent Followers Of She Who Speaks,' and Judgment hates them with a passion. Archangels are not to be worshipped. Soldekai sympathizes with their adoration, but he roots them out ruthlessly, as he must concede that Gabriel is to be loved, not worshipped, and he'd rather not have Judgment given good reason to seriously investigate Fire.

Angels of Fire are often stiff if courteous to outsiders, or come off as abrupt. They appreciate that other angels don't share their sense of urgency, but don't like pander to what they see as mildness or rigidity. There's duty to be done, and failing that, spend your time praising God or doing something passionate. Angels of Fire are impatient at best. They tend to deal well with those that share their urgency or passion, such as War, Stone and the Wind. Lightning and Creation can be accepted, if they're enthusiasts, or the Sword, though they are too disciplined. Dream and Destiny are respected deeply, but there will be frequent arguments about ends and means. Flowers, Trade and Animals get tolerated, but aren't especially liked. Judges tend to be distrusted on sight, save for the few that can prove themselves worthy via dedication, incorruptibility and total lack of prejudice and cruelty...though even then, many angels of Fire won't give them a chance.

Relations with Judgment in general vary from slightly to very strained. It's impossible for most Fire angels to forget how Dominic's persecution drove Gabriel out, at least from their view. They are not friendly with Judges at the best of times. Judges, for their part, find it hard not to react to this prejudice, or to forget the logical view that Gabriel's obvious madness is likely to be reflected in her angels. The fact that angels of Fire are relatively frequently dissonant hardly helps. Plus, there's some overlap in the judging of cruelty, which Judges often see as meddling and doing more harm than good. There are a few exceptions, particularly when dealing with the Shield, but it's not very common. Dominicans often accuse the angels of Fire of indulgence, unnecessary interference in mortal affairs and heresy, which most angels of Fire disdain, denying any right of the Judges to accuse them. At which point it's time for a report or trial. Soldekai dislikes the amount of time he has to spend on all this, so the Shield are there to try and soften things and, hopefully, get Fire's angels judged by Gabriel rather than Dominic.

Next time: Have faith.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors 3: Faith Unbroken

Faith is inexplicable. It must be preserved at all costs, and Khalid, Archangel of Faith, makes that preservation his sole concern. He is specifically interested in the True Faith of pure submission to Allah, which is to say, Islam. Khalid is at once serene, holy, angry and violent. He was once the Angel of Faith under Uriel, and as Archangel, he has earned a reputation of being notoriously unsympathetic. He served Uriel wel lfor many centuries until Uriel was recalled to the Higher Heavens. Laurence was made the new Commander, to Khalid's disgust. Khalid had helped defeat the Demon Prince of Cruelty, Magog, and believed he should have been chosen. He agreed that Laurence was intelligent, had integrity and tactical skill and was not a terrible choice, but he believed that the removal of Uriel was proof that Christianity's time was over. He saw Dominic behind Laurence's elevation, much as he saw Dominic behind the exile of Gabriel.

From that moment, Khalid followed Gabriel into the wilderness, vowing to defend Islam and the Quran against all foes. Jihad, inside and out, against infidels, heretics, enemies and corrupters. He has never seen anything to dissuade him, believing that hte Christian West's triumphs on Earth have been at the cost of their faith, morals and souls. Western 'freedom' is a lie - the righteously free surrender to God's will rather than demanding to foul and pollute themselves, their women and their cities. Khalid sees America as a bloated, drug-addled nation of consumers, Europe as decimated by war and murder, and Russia bankrupted and poisoned by atheist socialism. He does not understand how anyone can doubt Islam, which offers true equality under God, true freedom to seek the divine and true brotherhood of all mankind. Khalid believes it must be defended with all his might. He fought against Laurence's knights in the Crusades, and now he defends it against moral corruption and propaganda. He no longer supports terrorism, but he also doesn't really feel the need to curb it - his primary focus is perserving Muslim faith against the West. If that means sometimes the West suffers, so be it. For angels that supported the Crusaders or the Spanish conquest of the New World to complain about Muslim terrorism strikes him as utterly hypocritical.

Khalid considers Christians and Jews who hold faith to be noble foes or even trustworthy allies. Shari'a has allowed these People of the Book to live and worship in their own way for centuries. The true foes of the faith are not the lesser faiths, but the armies of materialism, agnosticism, atheism and humanism. Khalid sees Christianity fallign to these, and he will not allow them to corrupt Islam. Not all of his servants work in Muslim countries, however. As many as ten percent work in other parts of the world to protect the Muslim lifesteyle and support Faith more generally. His angels are not always as zealous as Khalid, but it is unwise to question his orders. Khalid is a harsh master, punishing failure with dissonance and rudeness with Discord, but he is also gentle to his favored angels and generous to those he loves. Most of his angels are even more madly loyal to him than David's are, for they have faith in Khalid.

It is dissonant for any of Khalid's servants to allow their true natures to be discovered by humanity. They must prevent humans from acquiring proof of the existence of the celestial, and if they allow undeniable physical proof of Heaven to fall into mortal hands, they gain dissonance until it is retrieved. It is also dissonant for any angel of Faith to kill a human with true, unquestioning and unselfish faith in something beyond themselves. Fortunately, few Hellsworn have that - fewer even than most humans.

Khalid's servitors all have the ability to look in a human's eyes and know what they believe in. Further, each has one stat boosted by 1, to a max of 13, which is lost if they ever lose their Attunement.
Seraphim of Faith get +1 Precision. Further, they are able to remain silent or tolerate deception in others with less distress than most Seraphim, if it's in a good cause. This is GM discretion, but the GM is asked to be more lenient with Seraphim of Faith that skirt dissonance in the name of preserving faith.
Cherubim of Faith get +1 Perception and know what someone they're attuned believes in most strongly, as well as how strongly they believe.
Ofanim of Faith get +1 Agility. They are told to help lovers stay together, and as well as faith, they can look into a human's eyes and see any true and faithful love. Further, they heal (Celestial Forces) Corporeal HP per day.
Elohim of Faith get +1 to any one stat of their choice. They can use their resonance to see what someone believes in. However, whenever they break their given word for any reason, they gain dissonance.
Malakim of Faith get +1 Strength. Further, their resonance can detect those who have caused pain with their faithlessness, including pain to themselves.
Bright Lilim of Faith do not currently exist, as far as anyone knows. If they did, they would not get a stat bonus. However, they would be able to use their resonance to tell what it would take for someone who has lost faith in God or themself to regain it, what it would take for someone who never had either of those to gain faith, or what it would take for the Lilim to earn the target's faith.
Kyriotates of Faith get +1 Will. Further, they may forcibly enter a human briefly, requiring a resonance roll as normal but with the target unable to resist. If they do, they can give that person true faith in anything they like for (Celestial Forces) minutes.
Mercurians of Faith get +1 Intelligence. They are charged to make the mundane seem miraculous. Any time that a human accepts as miraculous something done by them which caused no Disturbance, they get 1 Essence.
Fast is an attunement granted only to humans of great piety, almost always Muslims. At any time, starting at sunrise, the human may fast. So long as they do not eat, drink, use any drugs (even tobacco) or have sex, their body will be as a vessel - they will need no food or water, will need no sleep, will be immune to temperature extremes and will not suffer fatigue. Women with this attunement active also do not menstruate. You may break the fast at any time, but can't start a new one until the start of the next lunar cycle. (Going without sleep too long is bad for your mental health still, but you may sleep without breaking the fast.)
Jihad is a Servitor attunement allowing you to declare holy war against a specific foe, which can be a person, movement or even a nation, so long as the subject is human in origin - you can't declare jihad against Hell, a Band or a Prince. Demons working for the target of the jihad are fair game, however. You get +1 to all actions taken against the subject of your jihad and +1 t the Power of any attacks on them, interpreted as liberally as the GM likes. If you ever eliminate your foe completely or voluntarily abandon your jihad, the attunement vanishes. You need to get a new attunement to declare a new jihad.
Rituals of Faith is a Servitor attunement available only to those that are devout followers of an established divine religion. Personal belief systems, cults and pagan religions do not qualify. Every time you perform one of the religion's prescribed rituals, you gain 1 Essence, as per a Rite. Each ritual can give only 1 Essence per day - so Catholics can get it for attending Mass, going to confession or praying. Muslims get it for the five daily prayers, donating money to the poor and 1 per day of fasting during Ramadan. Rituals must be performed sincerely and in accordance with the religion's tenets, and you can't be doing the ritual just for the Essence.
That Which Moves Mountains is a Servitor attunement allowing you to do miracles in the presence of the faithful. If at least one mortal in your presence believes God is aiding them, you get a bonus equal to that mortal's Celestial Forces to all rolls that do not cause Disturbance. (Use the highest if there are multiple such believers.) Naturally, you must not gain dissonance from Khalid's condition while using this. At the GM's option, you may be able to do other feats if the mortal thinks you can and so do you. These feats should be miraculous somehow, but cause no Disturbance or supernatural effects - you might be able to walk through fire unharmed, or hit the ground from an airplane unharmed, or stand still and be invisible to pursuers. Treat these miracles as minor Divine Interventions, but do not take them for granted - they aren't automatic.
Wrath of God (formerly, Wrath of Allah) is a Servitor attunement that lets you spend 3 Essence to double the damage your next attack deals, after all other modifiers. However, this can only affect faithless humans, ethereals or demons, and does not harm objects either. (Previously, this attunement only affected non-Muslim humans and demons, rather than faithless ones.)
Vassals of Faith know if anyone they see would be able to be harmed by the Wrath of God attunement, though not which type of being that could be affected those people are.
Friends of the Faithful (formerly, Friends of Islam) get +1 to all interactions, including resonance and reaction rolls, with humans that have true faith in God. (Previously, this bonus applied to practicing Muslims only.)
Masters of the Word of God instead get +2 to all interactions and successful CDs with humans that have true faith in God. (Previously, this instead caused Wrath of Allah to triple its damage instead of doubling.)
Khalid can teach the Songs of Correspondence, Pestilence, Purity and War, among others.
Khalid has no higher Distinctions.

Most of the host, during Khalid's self-imposed exile, saw him as an obsessed ideologue, perhaps affected by Gabriel's madness, and dealt with him only warily if ta all. Since his return, realtions have improved somewhat, though only the militant camp really likes him. Khalid is allied to Laurence and Gabriel (previously, he was hostile to Laurence). He is associated with David, Michael and Yves, who also consider themselves associated with him, as do Janus and Laurence. He is hostile to Dominic. Novalis was, previously, hostile to Khalid, but has since warily decided to be neutral.

Basic Rites:
1. Slay a faithless human. (Formerly: slay an atheist.)
2. Guard a place of faith from danger for one night and day.
3. Inspire faith in something holy. (Formerly: Inspire faith in the symbol of something holy, which included talismans or the Easter Bunny. Khalid was willing, at the time, to reward literally any show of faith.)

Expanded Rites:
1. Convert someone to Islam.
2. For 3 Essence, instill true faith in a faithless person. This is cumulative with the above.
3. For 4 Essence and the loss of 1 dissonance, undertake a spiritual pilgrimage and do not use any celestial powers for the entire journey. This can be done only once per year.

Khalid has a base invocation TN of 2, +1 for a sincere spoken or written prayer (formerly, +1 for a Santa hat), +2 for a copy of the Quran in Arabic, +3 for a religious symbol made by someone with faith in its significance, +4 for a sermon or call to prayer from a devout holy man, +5 for the head of someone who served Hell (previously, the head of a dead atheist), +6 for a sincere prayer from someone without any faith.

Common Malakim Oaths of Faith:
1. I will not refuse hospitality to anyone but a sworn enemy. (Demons, obviously, are sworn enemies.)
2. I will always be polite to my guests and my hosts.
3. I will not harm, nor fail to protect, anyone who has surrendered to me.
4. I will not use trickery or treachery to defeat my foes, if it is my choice. (Khalid requires that clause in case he feels like giving orders to ambush or deceive a foe.)
5. I will never act in a manner that would shame me to see others emulate.
6. I will not allow any insult to God, Heaven, my Archangel, or my own honor to go unanswered.
7. I will not indulge in anything that is haram.
8. I will read at least one sura from the Quran every day.
9. I will pray in the direction of Mecca five times daily.
10. I will maintain a beard in all human male vessels.

Khalid is an ARabic (and proto-Arabic) word meaning 'eternal' or 'immortal'. It is the name Uriel gave to Khalid, and since he became Angel of Faith, he has sometimes added 'al-Din' ('the faithful') or 'Abdullah' ('servant of God') as a suffix. Corporeally, he appears always as a stocky and muscular male Arab in traditional Muslim garb, often with a large sword. He usually wears a neatly trimmed beard, as Muhammad condemned shaving, but he has been known to go clean-shaven to set himself apart from mortals. Celestially, he usually chooses to manifest as a sword-bearing humanoid glowing so intensely that his androgynous features cannot be seen. He exudes holiness, is always coposed, and has an intense and controlled voice. He is clear and careful in his words, and his eyes are solid black, hard and strong. He has a sense of humor, but he rarely laughs.

Khalid is warm and hispitable to all but his foes, and he will never harm anyone who receives an audience with him, even a demon, unless they are foolish enough to attack him and so violate hospitality. He will, however, banish anyone from his presence that is rude or insolent, and if they are his angel, he will strike them with dissonance or Discord. In conversation, he frequently quotes the Quran and, sometimes, other holy texts. He strives to be just and does not make decisions lightly. He continually probes the sincerity of others, and anyone who speaks from the heart will be received better than those that carefully measure their words and say what he wants to hear.

Faith, as Khalid interprets it, is belief unsupported by evidence. Anyone that believes in something they cannot prove has faith. Humans, unlike celestials, can generate Essence by their faith, not as a Rite, but as raw energy to fuel the Symphony. Their faith creates Tethers and strengthens Words. The Seraphim Council were surprised when an Elohite was nominated by Uriel as Angel of Faith, especially as it was a subjective trait, but Khalid proved he understood faith better than any other, and was able to separate true faith from delusion, deception or paganism. As Uriel's angel, he upheld Faith as an objective good for humans, and he was impartial to religion, serving as a censor and detector of selfishness and corruption. He even advised Raphael and Eli on how to promote God-concepts in other cultures.

Even now, Khalid promotes faith in divine religions. Belief in God, Heaven, angels, salvation, human positiveness, friends or family are all good. Faith in anything supports the Word, but Khalid discourages faith in those things that do not support Heaven. They are not supposed to encourage belief in Santa, ghosts, aliens or fairies, and while worship of pagan gods strengthens Khalid, he has no tolerance for it. As Archangel, he embraced Islam as the true faith, and he regards other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, as legitiamte and worthy but, in comparison, flawed. Faith, to him, increasingly became defined as 'Islamic Faith', and as Islamic thought became narrower and more exclusive, he found his own faith increasingly causing friction with his Word and his Elohite nature. Since the events of The Final Trumpet, he has reaffirmed the broader aspects of his Word and struggles to accept all faiths as legitimate, so long as they are inspired by sleflessness. However, he still considers Islam to be the best and most perfect expression of faith.

Next time: Khalid's History

Nov 8, 2009

Oh boy. This is going to be special, isn't it? Ironically he's probably happier with Dominic/Dominique's personal dress code than any other of the [potentially] female-identifying archangels.

I've been idly drawing up a homebrew archangel in part to claim patronage over the Protestant movements for the campaign I'm thinking of pitching to my players, as that seems a distinct oversight though one excusable given this game's origins in France.

Sep 25, 2014

Hello, Creature! Do You Despise Goat Hating Fascists? So Do We! Join Us at Paradise Lost!

Hm. That's... not a very flattering picture of what sounds like islam's main man in the setting? i'm honestly fine with both 'angel of faith primarily supports islam' and 'doesn't think highly of the west' but quoting, basicly verbetim, relatively extreme vies of america and the west as the enemy... yikes.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Remember: this is Khalid toned down from his original appearance.

Nov 8, 2009

I do like the idea of an archangel who Redeemed to get the job, but also making that character a Muslim who almost became the Demon Prince of Fanaticism is... unfortunate.

My personal stab on a Protestant archangel is an Archangel of the Sea, a keeper of heavenly mysteries who cherishes the human spirit of exploration and is intensely distrustful of large-scale organized religion in general. She points to the decline of Christianity in Europe and says that's because religion became official, politics and religion became too intertwined.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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I'd go with The Waters, rather than the Sea, since that's a Word with a solid history. (Formerly held by the Ofanite Oannes, sister to Gabriel and Janus, but slain by Belial in the middle ages.)

E: Also, Khalid was never a demon - he just almost Fell during the Revelations Cycle books.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Superiors 3: Faith in Yourself

Khalid is old compared to most angels, though young compared to most Archangels. He was created around 2000 BC by Uriel, at the start of the great experiment of religion started by Yves anc arried out by Eli, Gabriel and Raphael. Uriel approved and had faith in Yves, but did not trust Gabriel's erratic inspiration, Eli's indulgent creativity or Raphael's unrestricted hunt for knowledge. He feared that faith would be too easily tainted by selfisheness or worse, if not held to a pure and rigorous standard. So he made Elohim to monitor the faithful, the first of which was Khalid, assigned to watch the tribe of Abraham. Khalid was devoted to his job, learning the psycholog of faith, its spiritual ramifications and the details of every religion he heard about. He rarely left the Levant, but collected reports from other Elohim of Purity and other angels throughout the world. It was he who first theorized a distinction ebtween divine religions, which send Essence to Heaven, and pagan religions, which send Essence to ethereals. He became good telling faith from rote worship or worship for benefit. He was ruthless in purging demonic and pagan influence, and incorruptible in maintaining divine integrity. Many of his peers saw that if he had been around during the Fall, he would surely have become a Malakite.

For centuries, Khalid watched over the Hebrews. When they turned from God to worship pagan gods, as they did frequently, he helped push them back to right, though often by harsh and unforgiving means. He learned much of prophets, and he was the angel to discover that Lucifer was making false prophets to confuse mortals and angels. His analysis of religion added greatly to Heaven's understanding of faith, and for this and his work with the Hebrews he was made the Angel of Faith during the Exodus. Still young by celestial standards, he didn't truly earn his reputation until 859 BC, when he helped David trap Magog in a desert tomb in Egypt after Magog Fell to become the Prince of Cruelty. David asked for Khalid's help as no other angel know the area so well, and Khalid was respected as a warrior. David praised his skill and virtue, and Lucifer appeared to him that same night, praising him as a worthy foe. Khalid rose rapidly through the ranks, earning fame in Heaven, and many thought he might one day become an Archangel.

At this time, Khalid was neutral on which religion was true - he could see true faith in anyone and didn't care what religion they followed. When Gabriel announced the birth of Christ, Khalid assumed it was part of God's plan under Yves' supervision, as the pact with Abraham had been. He noted the flaws and merits of theological Christianity impassively. In the 4th century, however, Uriel and Dominic both declared support of Christianity. This bothered Khalid - he agreed that it was divine, but he saw no evidence to declare it superior to Zoroastrianism, Judaism or even Buddhism and Hindiuism, all of which had produced Saints and Soldiers. He saw no reason to elevate it. Uriel became a Catholic zealot, as did many of his angels. Those, like Khalid, who did not convert fell from favor. Khalid continued to serve, but he found it hard to suppress his resentment for Laurence, a rising star even more meteoric than he had been, and Khalid suspected Laurence's conversion was more about faith in Uriel than Christ.

In the 7th century, Yves announced another attempt to introduce a divine religion. As the matter was being debated in council, Gabriel began his dictation of the Quran to Muahammad. Dominic accused Gabriel of heresy and that whole shebang began. Uriel was suspicious of the new faith, and he ordered Khalid to study it and find if it was, in fact, divine. The more Khalid studied the muslims, the more he was impressed. They produced rival factions and cynics, to be sure, but Khalid believed they were, for the most part, keeping their faith better than the Jews or Christians had. It was clearly divine, and as Khalid studied the Quran, he became convinced it was the inspired word of God, delivered to a true prophet by Gabriel. Islam was, to him, a clear improvement on earlier revealed religions, with a simplicity, clarity and beauty its predecessors had lost. This wasn't what Uriel wanted to hear, so Khalid delivered accurate but unembellished reports as he studied. Then came the Purity Crusade, to purge the world of ethereals and pagans, but many feared it was the warmup for a fight between Christians and Muslims. Khalid shared those fears deeply. When Uriel was recalled to the higher Heavens, Khalid was relieved, certain it was a sign from God that Christianity's day had ended. He was confident he'd be appointed Archangel and Uriel's replacement.

Instead, it was Laurence. Khalid was stunned, and the seed of pride Lucifer had planted over a thousand years before bloomed. Khalid refused to accept God's wisdom, becoming convinced this was Dominic's fault. He withdrew from Heaven and spent his time on Earth. He could have been considered an Outcast, though his Heart was unbroken. Islam expanded rapidly, and with it, Khalid's Word. In 750 AD, the Council noticed his vast power and requested his presence. Khalid appeared and was made ARrchangel of Faith. He thanked them politely and returned to Earth. For the next 12 centuries, he rarely left the Middle East, continuing to promote Islam and finding himself increasingly isolated from the rest of the Host. Laurence promoted Christianity, and even those Archangels that didn't agree with him and dominic were not inclined to champion Islam, instead. The Crusades reinforced this - while not everyone backed Laurence and his knights, no one sided with Khalid. Because he was so zealous in defending the Muslim lands and opposed any angels that did anything he thought unsupportive of Islam, the other Archangels sent fewer angels there, leaving Khalid even more embittered at what he saw as abandonment of the only truly faithful people on Earth.

By the 20th century, the Muslim world had become isolated, like Khalid. Once a haven of intellectuals and culture, they were now technologically backwards and culturally frozen. Western powers treated them as gullible heathens and took their oil, and once the Muslim countries gained independence, they reacted by trying to keep the West out. The formation of Israel was nearly the final straw. Khalid felt that, once again, the Muslims were treated as commodities by the West. The fact that David and Michael, some of the few Khalid respected, supported Israel was a bitter blow. He blamed Dominic and Laurence, becoming paranoid. His people and the True Faith were under assault from all sides. Tehy had to prevail in this cultural jihad or they would die. Khalid's ruthlessness turned to a war he saw as the war for survival - not his own, but Islam's. The ends justified any means. He supproted any movement that even tangentially advanced the Muslim cause and hurt its enemies, even terrorists. To the rest of Heaven, it was clear that Khalid had become unbalanced, but not what might be done aobut it. Even Dominic had little power over him. By the events of The Final Trumpet, Khalid was on the edge, even listening to Malphas and being taked into helping release Magog. He was unsure in his faith.

Canonically, Khalid repented and regained his faith and objectivity. He is slowly repairing his relations with Heaven and seeking a more balanced way to promtoie Islam without fighting the rest of the world. That's the official line, but it could have easily been very different, and many Archangels still don't entirely trust Khalid.

It is known that Khalid earned his Word during the Exodus. He had been watching the Hebrews for centuries, and was the angel that frequently punished them for lack of faith. Moses influenced Khalid's view deeply...but Khalid also influenced Moses. It is said that Khalid never revealed his presence, either remaining invisible or taking on human form. Khalid would never admit to performing the miracles Moses credited to God...but there were a hell of a lot of miracles then, and they always seemed to come at the most opportune time. Khalid claims it was self-evidently God's will, of course. Cynics have said it was engineered by Khalid, and that Khalid, not God, spoke to Moses from the burning bush. The most blasphemous rumor holds that Moses was Khalid the whole time. No angel would ever take this idea seriously, but it's a popular taunt from demons.

In 732 AD, a Muslim army led by Abd al-Rahman fought Charles Martel at Poitiers. That battle, lost by the Muslims, was a historical turning point ending Islam's westward advance. Had the Franks lost, all of Europe might have become Muslim. Khalid was present at Poitiers (and, before that, Tours). He was an observer, hoping for Muslim victory. Laurence was also present on the Frankish side, hoping for Christian victory. To this day, Khalid claims Laurence actively fought for the Christians. There is a persistent rumor that neither will confirm nor deny that they actually duelled at Poitiers, and it is known that Khalid's hostility to Laurence began then.

From 745 to 750, Khalid was entirely absent from politics. He was Angel of Faith still and still an angel of Purity, but as Uriel had been recalled, he was tehcnically Outcast. He has never spoken of what happened in that period.

MAny angels of Purity refused to serve another after Uriel's recall. These Outcasts exist to this day as the Tsayadim. Khalid has no formal ties to them, but during the 'missing years' he was in the same situation. Many of them are his old comrades and share his old disdain for Laurence, and Khalid has covertly aided them at times. It's actually whispered by some that Khalid founded the Tsayadim, convincing them to remain as Outcasts. Since becoming an Archangel, it would serve him far better for them to serve him, so there are many explanations why they don't. Some say they're truly loyal to Uriel, others that they had a falling-out with Khalid, and others that Khalid has some strange long-term plan.

Khalid was made an ARchangel despite living as an Outcast who refused to acknowledge Laurence's authoirty. It was unexpected, to say the least. It's commonly said that only the Council or God can make someone an Archangel, and only the other Archangels know the exact process. Some say that Khalid ahd already achieved Superior status, either by his own or God's will, and that the Council was merely formally recognizing this fact.

Khalid has always been intelligent, devoted and very cold-blooded and pragmatic. He is ruthless and manipulative, suffering no doubts at the death of innocents for the greater good. Once he decides something is a good, it must be done, period, no matter the cost or someone's personal feelings. As an angel of Purity, he obeyed Uriel even when he doubted his master. He followed orders and felt no guilt for it. However, he has never had problems expressing his feelings or his passionate hatred for demons, pagans and the faithless. He's always been an Elohite comfortable aorund Malakim and vice versa. The fact that he served Uriel, who was even stricter than Dominic and would have noticed any dissonance put Khalid above reproach, however. After becoming an Archangel, though, Khalid became dissonant, probably starting with the Mongolian sack of Baghdad in 1258. The death of the Abbasid Caliphate ended the golden age of Islam, though it was no longer a purely Arab religion at the time. It became harder to see Islam as a single faith. Multiculturalism brought new perspectives, worldliness, sectarianism, corruption and stagnation. Rather than adapt and change, Khalid clung to what he thought Islam should be, not what it was.

That began the long slide to the fanaticism shown in The Fianl Trumpet. On the verge of a Fall, Khalid rationalized the worst actions, supporting even corrupt Muslim countries over non-Muslims and using terrorists to achieve his goals. Since he has redeemed himself, Khalid has stopped dividing the world into Faithful Muslims and Everyone Else. However, he still sees Islam as the most perfect religion for both angels and humans, and while he'll take non-Muslim faithful as friends and allies, his inner circle is always going to be Muslim. He will also still kill innocents to achieve his aims - he just no longer identifies those aims as exclusively Muslim.

Khalid's primary goal is that every human should have faith. Faith in God via Islam is best, so he continues to promote Islam and seek converts. Faith in other revealed religions is second best, followed by faith in any divine religion or unselfish cause. For the faithless, a tiny seed may grow into a willingness to submit to God. Besides expanding his Word and Islam, Khalid is now trying to reform religion, particularly Islam. Most of his angels work still in the Muslim world, where they are tasked with reducing conflict between Muslims and others and carefully encouraging modernization without surrendering to secular materialism or other Western values. Angels of Faith in non-Muslim areas spend much of their time supporting Muslims, bu t some also work with other faiths, bolstering the faith of the worthy and trying to improve things when they can. Tehy are especially zealous in rooting out demons and charlatans.

Khalid knows that God is the final, absolute authority. God's will cannot be questioned. Whole everything happens as God wills, this does not absolve the faithful of the obligation to serve and obey Him, and to have faith in Him. Khalid knows with conviction even beyond faith that God will set all the universe right in the end.

Next time: War and Faith

Nov 6, 2011

When they passed out body parts in the comics today, I got Cathy's nose and Dick Tracy's private parts.

Mors Rattus posted:

I'd go with The Waters, rather than the Sea, since that's a Word with a solid history. (Formerly held by the Ofanite Oannes, sister to Gabriel and Janus, but slain by Belial in the middle ages.)

Call him Ishmael.


Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.

Fallen Rib

I feel kind of bad for Chamberlain. He was actually a hawk, and he''d been pleading with Parliament to fund the military for years. However, they insisted that Germany would never be a big enough threat to be worth starting another war over. By the time Germany started mobilizing, Britain's military was in such a sorry state that they really couldn't prosecute a war at the time. Ony their Navy was really up to snuff.

When he got back from negotiating with Hitler and making the "Peace in our time" speech, his first act was to ram military funding down Parliament's throat. He knew it wouldn't last. He just wanted to buy enough time for Britain to fight back.

Of course, Germany's military wasn't nearly as powerful at the time as they'd led people to think, but no one outside of Germany really knew that.

Anyway, Chamberlain's a pretty poor example of a peacemaker. He knew war was coming, and he did his best to make sure Britain would be ready.

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