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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Slasher

The Freak, like the Brute, is strong, but what defines them is deformity. Freaks are set apart by physical ugliness - a birth defect, maybe, or acid to the face. Maybe they're tainted by supernatural power. Either way, their evil shows on the skin. Not all of them are self-conscious about their looks. Some are, shunning humanity and hiding away under heavy clothes and darkness. They hate how others treat them, and that drives them to kill. Some, however, revel in what they are. Some even deliberately deform themselves. And some are as bestial in mind as they are in body - but those are well on their way to becoming Mutants. Of all the undertakings, Freaks are most likely to be cannibals, necrophiles or take other depraved actions. They often attack with teeth,claws or improvised wepaons, and they tend to become atavistic over time. They are more likely to form attachments to others, and so it is unfortunately not rare for Freaks to gather in small clans, sometimes families and sometimes not. They may end up working for supernatural beings, if the work is bloody enough. These partnerships often end poorly, however, when the Freak realizes they're being used and attacks.

ASCU Agent Sara Stippler recorded a transmission requesting help on the Flemming Case. Over the course of a week in Grendel, Colardo, she went looking for killers. On the first night, nothing. On the second, she overheard men telling her to send her to Flemming. Next day, she rented a room under the cover of being a photojournalist, and was told not to worry about Flemming - that was all done and over. On Thursday, she discovered tunnels from the old mine under most of the houses in town. Flemming comes up from them and steals people according to local legend. No clear reason for the name. On Friday, she saw him - near eight feet tall, dacially deformed. Sticks to the tunnels and the woods. He waved at her with two fingers. The old woman she was renting a room from wouldn't say what it meant but asked her to move out. On Saturday, she sent in a request for armed assistance after seeing Fleeming wave one finger. The only way out was through the woods.

Freaks born to their condition but an otherwise normal society often grow up full of self-loathing and hatred for everyone around them. Their murders are equal parts revenge and self-sabotage. They want to die, and want to hurt those around them as they do. Freaks born to a society of other Freaks don't feel that self-loathing, but are often taught to hate and fear normal humans for self-preservation. They often gang up on people in isolated areas. Not all Freaks are born, though. Some are changed later. Hunters become Freaks sometimes when grievously injured on a hunt. Afterwards, they can't reclaim their place in society without explaining what happened. They're difficult to deal with and come to be frustrated, to hate those around them, even to empathize with the monsters. Freaks are versatile, but generally strong or clever. They are not usually socially adept, beyond intimidation, and tend to be physical. Some, however, are trappers. This is The Clan from the Hills Have Eyes, Vincent Sinclair from House of Wax, Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Freaks, unqiuely, get to choose from two talents. First is Lay of the Land. When they find a home, they master it. They are excellent at traveling their territory, tracking in it and hiding in it. They also are excellent at foot chases, either chasing or fleeing, in their territory. The other is Revulsion. Those trying to touch them in combat are penalized because they look so disgustng, and grappling is likewise penalized. Their frailty is Deformity. All Freaks are hideous, no matter what. Many mock them, and they get a huge penalty on social rolls if their faces are visible, excepting intimidation. Well, not always the face - sometimes it's something else - manner of speech or other deformity. But it's there.

The Mutant is a full-on atavism, barely recognizable as human. Unlike Freaks, Mutants are almost always born. Inbreeding, genetic disorders, toxin exposure...no, mostly it's supernatural influence. Mutants needn't really be aggressive or even evil. After all, each one has negative experiences with "normal" humans. Sometimes, they're badly abused by family. Sometimes they're well-meaning and the world outside their home abuses them. Their first encounter with those who hate and fear them is formative, and often leads to their first kill, generally out of fear, anger or revenge. Sometimes it's even accidental - the Mutant develops a crush on a classmate and kills her with a hug by accident. He chases a terrified person into traffic to try and tell them not to be afraid. This first kill shapes their views on murder and life. They may flee, end up institutionalized or imprisoned, but they learn that normal people feel better without them around. Some choose to hide, to kill only when threatened. Others sneak about and kill at will. Some delight in terrifying people before the kill. Some even hunt naked and are mistaken for animals or werewolves or demons.

VASCU files contain a letter sent to former journalist Agent Emily O'Connell on the Alabama Stalker. Herber Pleasance, editor-in-chief, felt her photographs were worthless, and only sent a response because of mutual friends in publishing. He felt they were faked - the proportions were wrong, the mouth clearly that of a pig or horse, off-center in the face. The Alabama Stalker, he says, is a real killer and this is a sick joke, blaming it on a monster.

Mutants are almost always born, and sometimes they become hunters. They can be intelligent and well-spoken, even functional enough to join a cell or organization. Those with supernatural taint in their history may be targeted by hunters but join up when it becomes clear they don't have interest in killing. Ironically, it is often this way they become better at killing, and as the hunt takes it toll, they may become the monsters others always though them to be. All Mutants are deadly, though, especially on their home turf. They're often territorial and hate having their homes threatened. They are typically highly physical, but can be extremely intelligent and quick-witted. They can even be charming, if not seen. These are the Mountain Men of Wrong Turn, the Crawlers of Descent, the Clan from the more recent Hills Have Eyes remake.

The Mutant talent is Natural Wepaonry - their deformities are useful. Sharp fangs, fnarled claws, bony growths. Their skin can be tougher armor than kevlar, or they can have natural weapons better than any knife. Their frailty is Sensitivity. They revolt all who see them, automatically faily any social roll that isn't intimidation, if their face is visible or has been seen. They are also hypersensitive to some form of stimulus - bright lights, antiseptic scents, whatever. When confronted by this stimulus, they often cannot help but try to end it by any means possible or flee. If they cannot flee, they often lash out or try to hide.

They say knowledge increases sorrow - and maybe that's what makes the Genius so angry at everyone lesser. They are jealous, perhaps, wishing they, too, could ignore their own minds. Geniuses kill with the mind - not usually via psychic powers, but with cleverness. They think several steps ahead, predicting what people will do based on available options and personality. They profile their targets, tailor their methods to them, then sit back and watch it all play out. OFten, they prefer to use traps rather than killing personally, which they often find coarse and vulgar. Some are physically incapable of killing. Others feel that leaving the possibility of escape removes their moral responsibility for the deaths. Not all Geniuses are educated - some are street smart. Even they are technically skilled, however. Some of them do kill personally, but they'll still play games with the foes, talking to them, playing cat and mouse before they strike. For many Geniuses, it's their only way to true intimacy.

One big problem is that their ideas can be contagious. They can talk people, otherwise rational people, to their point of view. They often have apprentices that they train in murder. Most cells know the guy who comes up with new tactics, who designs traps and does all the research. Usually, they're appreciated. Sometimes, they get picked on. Sometimes, that ribbing can breed resentment. They retreat from social interaction, treat everything like a challenge or a riddle. They become cold, socially stunted, obsessive over solving problems. Those that were never hunters are usually difficult to understand. They aren't interested in people unless they're challenged, at which point they obsess, fixate, perhaps murederously - or perhaps they decide the challenger is the one person to spare, and go after anyone that threatens them. Some Geniuses interact with others, but always on their own terms - professors who lecture, doctors who impersonalize their patients entirely, radio hosts who never see the people they speak to before tracking them down. They are always intelligent, but can go anywhere from there. They can be charismatic or savage, and they often know quite a lot. This is Hannibal Lector of Silence of hte Lambs, Peter Foley of Copycat and Suzi Toller of Wild Things.

Their talent is Profiling. They can seem psychic, given their ability to predict what people will do based on appearance and body language. Anyone they predict, they have an advantage against in a fight or contest. Worse, if they can talk with a target at length, they can discover or create mental problems, learning damning secrets or causing insanity. Their frailty is an Intolerance for Chaos. Geniuses hate the idea of unpredictability, that they can't control everything. Itt frustrates them, and whenever they fail at Intelligence rolls or rolls they specialize in for their killings, they lose Willpower.

VASCU's Agent Nautica Williams writes about Michael Elliot, a Smithsonian entomologist who hunted vampires in DC. He kept meticulous records, and according to the one survivor of his cell, he had no contact with the supernatural before he started - he just reasoned tha vampires must exist based on population figures, anemia rates and sudden outbreaks of porphyria, which young vampires apparently overuse as a cover. He worked with his cell for years, during which 17 innocents died in the crossfire. That's when the cell found his journals detailing how he set up the circumstances killing those bystanders. The phrase 'flies on the heads of pins' appeared 43 times, sometimes in the margins or in the middle of unrelated sentences. One of the cell was cousin to a VASCU agent, and they all confronted Elliot. When VASCU arrived, Elliot was gone. The two cell members confronting him, both highly capable military veterans, were dead, killed by Amazon spiders whose poison would have been merely annoying had Elliot not been dosing them with a secondary poison for months, inducing anaphylactic shock. Elliot remains at large.

When a Genius's mind gets too alien, they bacome a Maniac. Thery are intuitive, predictive and impossible to outsmart or predict. Understanding them is dangerous, for their madness is infectious. They often trick their victims into dying, and often via intermediary. They usually have henchmen or acolytes to sreve them, and the subtlest and most dangerous use employees who never realize they're helping to kill via complex, Goldbergian schemes. Maniacs often like apparent accidents, and they oftne have some twisted ideology. Sometimes it's religious, but often it's just philosophical. Sometimes they claim to want to help people appreciate their lives. They don't get the fetishistic thrill of murder that Psychos do, and they aren't so tenacious as Masks. They are flexible, able to second-guess others. EVerything they do makes sense to them, if not outsiders. They often don't understand emotion, though some can predict extreme emotions. Just not the nuances and variations. They don't always shy away from human interaction, but they're not good at it. This is, perhaps, why they infect others with their own madness. Their perspective is fundamentally inhuman, and they are lonely. No one can understand them, so they keep people close, to train them to think "properly." Unfortunately, this produces similar but not identical pathologies, and for people as egocentric as a Maniac, that is unacceptable. The pupe is a heretic - a scrounging copy cat. Eventually, one of them must die. Getting between them is dangerous.

Former hunters turned Maniac are oftne like Geniuses, but can also come fro mdirect contact with the supernatural - philosophical debates with mages, studying occult math to banish demons, being mind controlled constantly by vampires. This twists their mindsets, causing the new philosophy to emerge. They spread it to their fellow hunters. They second-guess those around them, at first just to gain stability, since they can no longer intuit how others will act, just puzzle ito ut. Non-hunters who become Maniacs are often savants, intelligent beyond their years. They may be travelers, or they may shun the outside world entirely. They learn exceptionally quickly, but unlike a Genius, they tend to have an agenda that keeps them active, motivated and away from stagnation. They are always intelligent, and often manipulative or charismatic, but not often both. They are only average, physically. You don't need to be strong when you can plan. This is Jigsaw of Saw and John Doe of Se7en.

Their talent is Compelling Madness. They need only a few minutes of conversation to know someone better than their target knows themselves. They can profile with just that, though if they fail, they become frustrated and unable to try again very well. If they succeed, however, they become exceptionally good at acting against these victims and removing their advantages. In addition, they are able to alter the way victims view morality - essentially forcing the Code from Hunter on them via prolonged interaction. This needn't be face-to-face - letters work just as well. Their frailty is Obvious Lunatic. Anyone who talks to them can tell they're dangerous after only a few minutes. Unless they're dealing with someone insane or altered by their views, they can't deal well socially with anyone for long, and they stick out in the memory.

VASCU has a trancript of an interview with conspiracy theorist LArry Dern on the killer known as None. Dern has no diea who None is, but he's killed 53 people. All different methods, but in a pattern by method. He started talking to None on a message board anonymously, discovering the code he used to communicate. He'd respond toi the guy, trying to show he knew who he was. The first killing happened only a block away from Dern's address - Edie Stephens, apparent accident via rigged staircase. He knows this sounds crazy, but Dern wants help. He doesn't think they can catch None, mind you. He just wants help because None is starting to make sense to him, and that terrifies him.

Next time: Merits.

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Traveller
Jan 6, 2012

WHIM AND FOPPERY



An Echo Resounding

Let's take a look at how locations actually look from a mechanical point of view. Cities provide +4 Wealth and +4 Social points to the domain that controls them, while Towns give +2 Wealth and +2 Social. Each City or Town has an Origin and an Activity that further modifies these values: for instance, the Town of St. Alicia may have been founded by a Religious Community (+2 Social) and have a local Martial Tradition (+2 Military). Ruins provide +2 Wealth to their owners, with their Nature and Traits providing an extra bonus - an Abandoned Town gives +2 Wealth, a Crumbled Fortress gives +2 Military, and they may house Forgotten Sorceries (+2 Military) or Great Art (+2 Social). Resources give +2 Wealth by default and the Type of resource can be rolled, but by default they all add +2 Wealth (Good Fishing, Good Hunting, Good Mine, etc.) though the GM can say that, for instance, a colony of sorcerous artists provides a Social bonus instead. Lairs also have Natures, which in this case involves determining what group of gribblies has the Lair as home. Depending on the type of Lair, it is more or less dangerous to the surrounding settlements and easier or harder to attack - for instance, an Ancient Fort full of bandits sends an unit of Light Infantry to raid a location on a roll of 5+ on 1d6 each domain turn, and it is defended by 3 Light Infantry, 2 Archers, 2 Barriers, 1 Tower and 1 Veteran Sergeant.


She has streamers in her head, your argument is invalid.

Now, we also need to roll Obstacles for those beneficial locations, but while each type of location has Obstacles of its own I chose to put this at last because they all follow the same structure. Obstacles reduce the benefits of a location in half their level, and they must be removed either by PC action or by a domain ruler taking a Solve an Obstacle domain action, where they send an asset to deal with the issue (we'll go in detail over these actions later.) Obstacles are divided in Military, Wealth and Social types, and each type has two subdivisions:

  • Disorder (military) - requires a Guardsmen unit
  • Uprising (military) - requires any military unit
  • Poverty (wealth) - requires a Merchant unit
  • Ignorance (wealth) - requires a Sage unit
  • Despair (social) - requires a Prophet unit
  • Corruption (social) - requires a Magistrate unit


Obstacle: Delicious Cooking, populace is growing fat.

Rulers need to send the right type of unit to deal with an obstacle: one of the right type but wrong subdivision sees the Obstacle's level doubled for the appropriate saving throw, and one of the wrong type and subdivision sees it tripled. Sure, your company of hardened heavy infantry can quash an open rebellion just fine, but they'll have trouble putting down a criminal organization with fences and infiltrators among the populace, and they'll have a world of trouble dealing with a population so dismayed by poor crops they're basically sitting and waiting to die. Each Obstacle entry has a small description, the way in which an asset can deal with it and how PCs can get involved, so they're not only useful from a purely mechanic point of view: each of them is a plot seed for a game. For instance, Ancient Dead (Military/Uprising) is exactly what it sounds like, dead rising and being spooky and hating the living, and only brute force will purge them - but sometimes some more powerful varieties of undead are immune to ordinary weaponry, forcing the entrance of specially trained exorcists or veteran adventurers. Bad Feng Shui (Wealth/Ignorance) gives a location unexplicable streaks of bad luck, and expert sages and geomancers might be able to surmise how to best align new foundations, monuments and structures to redirect the local energy flow, or adventurers may be needed to dispatch some malevolent supernatural being or hunt down the cursed artifact causing the bad luck. Demagogue (Social/Despair) has the local populace in thrall of a zealous demagogue, one that preaches hatred to outsiders or has them spending all their spare effort in some aggrandizing cause. A new, better belief needs to take hold to root the demagogue out, one more amenable to peaceful cooperation, but when that fails adventurers need to be sent in not simply to kill the demagogue, but to find proof of their falseness and venality. It's up to the PCs to determine what can be solved using their Domain's assets, and what requires personal attention or is more interesting to tackle in a way that isn't just a couple of dice rolls.

Domain management! At last, here we have the rules. Domains have three stats, Military, Wealth and Social. Locations and assets add to these stats, and many assets also have an upkeep cost, limited by the domain's stats. From 1 to 5, a stat has no modifiers; At 6+, a stat has a modifier of +1, at 11-15 +2, at 16-20 +3, and +1 more for each full five points. A domain check requires the ruler to roll 1d20 and add the relevant stat modifier to the roll, while a domain saving throw requires to roll under 12, modified by the relevant stat's modifier. There are six saving throws, each for one of the different Obstacle types. Domains also possess assets, that can be anything from a military unit to an intangible Domain-wide custom. These rules work with domain turns, an undefined period of time that by default is around a month of game time. NPC-ruled Domains get one action per turn, PC-ruled ones get two per turn simply because PCs. A Domain needs at least one location to exist, and usually at the start of a campaign there will be many locations not held by any Domain in particular. To take a location, a Domain must solve its Obstacle (with possible interference and sabotage from other Domains), then negotiate with the location's leadership or outright take over if it's devoid of inhabitants. It's at the GM's decision which assets, if any, can be transferred to new rulers: just because a grand temple stands in the town it doesn't mean the church elders will automatically like the new management even if the secular leaders are okay with it, and so the domain won't get the benefits of owning it. Locations must also be accessible from lands already held by the Domain - if you want a far-off Resource, you better be willing to take over all the locations in the way.


Wizened dude is wizened.

It is assumed that PCs will be reasonably clement lords, but also that the border Domains that these rules focus on have some degree of roughness built into them. Death penalty and judicial slavery are not uncommon. However, when rulers go beyond the pale, they engage in Atrocity. After a check or saving throw is done and failed, a ruler may add Atrocity points as necessary to make it a success, but they must also describe just what horrible deed they're committing: the sample involves failing a roll to raise an unit of infantry, then the ruler having their enforcers round up and crucify some peasant children so that their families place less stock in the value of their children's lives. :gonk: A Domain that possesses any Atrocity points at all takes a 2 point upkeep penalty to all of its values because living under the yoke of tyranny isn't exactly conducive to well-being and productiveness. For each four points after that, another upkeep point is added. Some "evil" assets can help deal with the tax of Atrocity, but they have their own disadvantages. Atrocity breeds dissent and opposition, and so when such a tyrant ruler is deposed the Atrocity value of the Domain is used to purchase units representing rebels, bandits and survivors, to add to the chaos of the Domain's fall. Founding a Domain requires nothing more than a location, even a lovely little village, and the GM's permission. Destroying a Domain is also straightforward enough - capture all of its locations.

A Domain's leader has perks: they get lodging, servants, and a proper lifestyle.They also get a personal guard, usually of high Morale, but normally not cut out to go on adventures and dungeon delving. They can also call on a certain measure of goods and services, around 100G for each Wealth point possessed by the Domain. And of course, they get to use the Domain's assets in whatever way they deem fit: a temple can be counted on to provide healing, a school will train a promising pupil sent in by the ruler, and so on, as long as the ruler isn't being pushy and monopolizing their activities. It is assumed that PC rulers can go on adventures without their Domains falling into chaos: their viceroys and seneschals will handle things for them, and even if they can be a little corrupt on the side they won't actively harm the Domain or betray the PCs unless the PCs have been actively lovely to them. Players don't need to worry about sudden backstabs or anything because this isn't a grognard game like Houses of the Blooded. :v:

Some notes on scaling things up (a 100-man unit is now 1000-man; a City is now a whole conurbation; and so on) we get the list of domain actions!

  • Accumulate Treasure: Wealth check against 8 + current Treasure. On success, 1d4 Treasure points are accumulated, which can later be used to grant bonuses to later rolls (+1 for the first point, then two points, up to a maximum of four). If the Wealth check fails, PCs may spend 1000G per point of Wealth possessed by the Domain to reroll it, with no refunds if this also fails - it is assumed the money was lost in bureaucracy, ineptitude or fraud.
  • Attack a Location: we go to war! A military unit can reach as far as they can go from their current location within a domain turn, but units sent from different locations won't arrive at the same time, so usually a nearby staging ground needs to be set up first.
  • Disband an Asset: one or more assets cease to exist. Customs can normally not be disbanded unless their upkeep cannot be maintained, and forced suppression of them can generate rebels and Obstacles at the GM's discretion.
  • Establish an Asset: raising a unit or building an asset needs three checks, one for each stat. The difficulty for each check is 12 + the absolute value of the asset's benefit or upkeep. Once all three rolls are successful, the asset exists, but each failed roll also reduces the difficulty in 1 point. A Domain can have as many assets as they can maintain, but they cannot have multiple immobile assets of the same type in one location (no more than one School, for instance). Customs are special assets that affect an entire Domain and in addition to the checks they require GM consent, and some assets require other assets to exist (for instance, a Great Temple needs a Shrine before it can be built) It's up to the GM whether an asset can be built in any given location.
  • Establish/Erase a Location: pop, a new location exists. It does not have any value and usually isn't enough to sustain a Domain if all of its other locations are captured. Maybe it's the site of a new summer palace, or a military camp. Alternative, you can raze a location you control, if plausible within a domain turn. Undoing such destruction takes 1d6+6 domain turns if the GM judges it possible at all.
  • Move an Asset: units can be moved up to their maximum overland travel rate for the domain turn's time frame. Immobile assets can't be moved, heh.
  • Punish Atrocity: the ruler convinces the populace that some unlucky scapegoat is the culprit of all the Atrocity going on. First, Establish a scapegoat asset (the checks' difficulties are 5+current atrocity), then disband it fatally :v: to remove 1d4+2 Atrocity points from the Domain. This action can be taken once a year.
  • Rectify Disruption: Remove 1d4+2 Disruption points from an asset.
  • Repair an Asset: heal as many HP on damaged assets as Military points the Domain has. Scarce units need 2 points to heal 1 HP, Rare units need 4 points for 1 HP. Units cut off from supply can't be repaired.
  • Solve an Obstacle: send an unit to deal with an Obstacle. Make the relevant saving throw, on a success the Obstacle's level is reduced in 1d4. On failure, the unit gains a point of Disruption: every time a Disrupted unit is ordered to do something, roll 1d6, and if it's equal to or less than its Disruption value it does nothing. Obstacles recover one point up to their maximum level if left alone.
  • Withdraw Treasure: 1 point of Treasure can be converted to 500G, then two, then three and so on.

Then we have the list of immobile assets and customs, each with their own value bonuses/upkeep and special traits. For instance, a School gives +2 Wealth and the services of a 5th level magic user, while Dwarf Friend (+4 Wealth) lets the Domain recruit dwarf units (but, in Red Tide tradition, it can never have anything to do with chattel slavery lest they lose this friendship) A Mercantile (+4 Wealth) domain doubles the benefits of Markets, Trade Centers and Mercantile Guilds, while a Necromantic Cult (-2 Social) allows the recruiting of undead units with a 2 Atrocity cost per each unit. Slavery (+4 Wealth, -2 Social) removes the upkeep costs of a single asset in a location but makes dwarves hate the Domain. A Militia Muster (+1 Military) allows the creation of 2 Militia units if the location comes under attack, an Organized Militia (+2 Military, -1 Wealth) raises this number to four Militia, and a Veteran Guard (+4 Military, -2 Wealth) turns the Militia into Heavy Infantry. And so on. In the game example at the end of this chapter, we see that the GM has a lot of leeway in doing things: the PCs decide they want allies and impress a local Gadaal village enough that the GM rules that they give them one unit of scouts without upkeep, justifying it as there are enough unclaimed resources in the land and the Gadaal want to strike at the common foe they have with the PCs badly.


Yes yes, nice fantasy Civ, but where's the war?

Next: to battle!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Slasher

The book has some guidelines for designing new Undertakings, in case you have an idea for a slasher that doesn't fit the stuff we just went over. It also has some new merits - Atavism, the power to defend yourself better than humans by being an atavist throwback, for example, or Damnable Certainty, which lets you regain Willpower from murder as long as your kills are within the bonds of a Code-altered Morality framework. Murder Expert, which makes you terrifyingly good at sneak attacks, Telltale Murder that lets you leave behind messages via arranging crime scenes, at the cost of making it so if you don't deliberately do so, you probably still do it. A new fighting style for being a crazy guy who beats people to death with tire irons. (It's bad. Most Fighting Styles in 1e are bad. In this case because it is either actually bad in some parts or too good in others. Mostly the former, but it also entirely replaces the Brute talent.) There's ways to boost signature weapons or improvised ones, and a way to avoid scaring people with your crazy as long as you're one-on-one.

We get new Tactics, some designed to hunt slashers and others to be used by them. There's rules for slashers learning and using Tactics, even solo. Stuff like Behavioral Science to help build a profile, or Cannibalism to get boosted stats. By the way, cannibalism boosts your stats now. There are rules for body modification - filed down teeth to get a bite weapon, nails filed to claws, armoring up via extreme scarification. Putting a concealed pouch in your skin. A whole lot of improvised weapon examples, rules for homemade traps. And, more interestingly, new endowments.

Sometimes, VALKYRIE wants people to bring someone in alive. For that, they offer Tranq Rounds (1-5 dots), the cutting edge of ballistics tech. Ten years from now, you'll be able to buy 'em. For now, VALKYRIE has them all, since they can't be mass produced yet. They're frangible rounds made of the same stuff as Glaser rounds, but full of a gel-suspension of skin-soluble tranquilizers. They're utterly useless for hurting people or breaking things, but they'll knock a guy out if you shoot them enough times. They last ten minutes, or an hour if you knock someone out. You don't need a VALKYRIE RFID to use 'em, either.

The Shadow Congregation uses Saint Agathius' Call. Saint Agathius, see, is the patron saint of soldiers. He was scourged and beheaded after torture for refusing to renounce his faith, and the Benediction calls on that resolve. When used, it forces all the monsters nearby to want to attack you. Hope you can handle that.

The Lucifuge know that Hell's torment scourges all sin fro mthe souls of men. Hell can see all of your sins, and the Lucifuge can tap into Guilt's Bloody Trail. They must be present at the scene of a murder, with the body still there. By smearing the dead body's blood on their tongue and focusing, they will feel a pull towards the killer. The killer simultaneously develops stigmata on the palm or wrist that will not heal. There is no cause for the wounds, but the blood will soak through anything. It's the victim's blood, not the killer's, and that will show on any forensic testing. The Lucifuge's murderer radar is only accurate to about 500 yards and is always one of the 8 compass points. Both stigmata and direction sense last only temporarily.

The Ascending Ones have developed a modification of the Breath of Ma'at using cocaine, four drops of child's blood and the powdered bone of a hanged man, called Justice of Ma'at (2 dots). It is a fine red powder, either inhaled or rubbed into the gums. Once active, it fills the user with an otherworldly force that pushes them to find the truth, gaining a bonus on all investigation rolls and helping to avoid any madness that the search for truth might lead to.

The Aegis Kai Doru hold the Mask of Terror (3 dots) - or, rather many of them. They are made from the masks of dead slashers, if they had one, or from a whole, dried skin of a slasher's face, flayed off in one piece. Whatever the form, it must be worn against he skin. It usually attaches to the chest, and once active, it burrows in such that it can't be removed easily. It must be cut out, and it'll take flesh with it. The Mask gives the power to inspire fear, much as slashers do. Anyone who sees the second face's eyes glow red for just a second must fight off a terrible fear. The user may remove the mask freely, but no one else can without cutting, as mentioned.

Cheiron doesn't have a lot from slashers, but they do have the Cortical Adaptation (3 dots). Some slashers, see, have brain conditions. In at least three cases, tertiary syphilis destroyed the moral center of the brain and caused delusions driving the victim to kill. In other cases, tumors remove impulse control. Cheiron harvests the alien parts of those tumors, implanting the result on the surface of the brain. Everyone reacts differently to having murder-cancer attached to the brain, but what the implant does is allow the user to focus and switch their thinking into slasher-like patterns, allowing them insight into the thoughts of serial killers. The trick is in the inhibitor chip between lesion and brain, which allows the user to remain in control of the alien thought processes and murderous impulses. Reports of it dissolving after three years in cerebral fluid are unconfirmed, largely because few users last that long. The implant allows for a bonus to understanding and tracking slashers, as well as a bonus towards learning certain skills related to a specific Undertaking and access to slasher-specific merits...but those are only usable while the implant is on. Usage causes a strong sense of dissociation of the self, and it's not really good for your sanity while it's in there. There's also a high rate of malignant cancer, which Cheiron doesn't mention.

Now, let's talk about Teleinformatics. Most agents have no idea how they work, but those who look into it learn that they're an extension of the brain's ability to process information. The unit doesn't care if they're telekinetic or telepathic - rather, they care about what use you can put the powers to, and so they divide the abilities into Interview, which helps with interviewing subjects, Investigation, which is good for working a crime scene, and Research, to help gather background information. They all have dot levels, and each time you get a dot of Teleinformatics, you can take any one power of the dot level you have or lower. To take a 4 dot power, you need at least one other power from that sphere, and for a 5 dot you need two others. Most Teleinformatics powers require you to damage yourself to use them. Bashing damage is in the form of migraines and nosebleeds as the body forces itself to keep up. Lethal damage goes beyond the body's limits, causing hemorrhaging in the eyes and ears. Agg damage actually causes lesions on the brain that require delicate surgery. A focused effort of will can downgrade the damage...sometimes.

Interview powers focus on boosting the agent's interviewing skills, and they're mostly telepathic, reaching into the subject's mind or bridging the barrier of mind and matter. Affecting the minds of others is difficult and lacks finesse - VASCU telepathy is a blunt instrument when inflicting change, no matter how good it is at reading. Just One More Thing (one dot) allows the user to seek out the question the subject least wants to answer, listening into the target's thoughts for guilt and suspicion. You get two or three words, which must be worked into a question, but the subject will find themselves almost compelled to answer. Then there's Polygraph (2 dots). The agent tunes their mind to the target, reading their emotions for guilt and shame directly. Or anything else - any emotional spikes, and how they relate to the questions being asked, boosting the agent's interrogation abilities handily, especially when it comes to lie detection. With Synchronization (3 dots), they go even beyond that, enabling empathic reading of the mind so thoroughly that they share thoughts and memories, copying the subject's mind into their own. It's dangerous, but it's one of the easier ways to find out things like why a slasher kills or where the bodies are. It rarely lasts long, and it can result in the subject's mind taking over the body in rare cases, but it allows for perfectly truthful answers. The effects last a few hours, usually, and may cause the agent to experience physical maladies - a slasher subject with an atrophied arm may cause the agent's arm to grow rigid and unusable briefly. With greater focus, the Talon (4 dots) is usable - a focused burst of power to disrupt thought, seeking out guilt and shame and making them very heightened. It's a mental pressure attack, basically, lessening the target's ability to think properly and, occasionally, causing them pain. It's handy for punishing lies. The most potent level is Tactical Co-Ordination (5 dots) - essentially, developing a working duplicate of the team's minds and predicting what they'll do. This duplicated mind model lets the agents communicate with the team, something rather like telepathy. It doesn't make a lot of sense to anyone involved and it's quite rare, but it makes the agents very useful - rumor has it that one agent able to do it actually overloaded his brain by overusing the power and needed to be put on life support. While the network is active, all members of the team silently and instantly communicate with each other, as if using radios, and may share each other's skillsets. The link doesn't last over distance, and each use lasts only a few minutes, but it's very useful.

Investigation powers heighten the ability to read a location and understand what happened. They're based on information processing, not mental time travel, so if there's no actual evidence the powers aren't handy...but this is a very rare limitation. There's almost always some trace, however small. Psychometry (1 dot) allows an agent to hold and object and understand its form and function - even hidden functions, like a secret compartment. The agent will know when a tool was last used - and it's not limited to artificial objects. A pool of blood will reveal blood type, and will let the agent instinctively tell if they spot that specific person's blood again. They can match fingerprints on different objects without waiting. Of course, this requires skin contact, which can potentially pollute or destroy evidence, and it works poorly on larger objects. And it can't reveal names. Scene Read (2 dots) allows an agent to gather all the clues at a scene in seconds. They only have to glance at an area to get a basic idea of what's going on, though a more detailed search might reveal more. Speed of Thought (3 dots) pushes the agent into hyperawareness of their surroundings. They seem almost precognitive, dodging bullets by noticing the tensing of a tendon in the gunman's hand. Postcognition (4 dotS) allows an agent to create a working model of a crime scene, witnessing the crime as if they were present during it. They must be at the scene, and they can only reconstruct about five minutes of time, but they can play it back and forward in their mind, revealing truths that might not be otherwise evident. The strangest power is Hall of Mirrors (5 dots). By withdrawing into the world of the mind, they arrive in an alien chamber, studded by mirror-like portals. EAch one reveals a potential future, never more than a week away. VASCU claims the Hall isn't a real place - it's just a shared hallucination, an artifact of the mind as it extrapolates causal links to derive probable outcomes. But every agent describes it exactly the same way, right down the minute imperfections in mirrors and the geometric patterns in the floor. Some agents even claim to have spotted others there when they used the power at the same time, half a world away. Either way, these possible futures allow the agent to figure out the highlights of the next week or so, rather like a television preview. This can be used to reroll failed rolls, or to ask basic questions about the immediate situation, and all uses must be done in 24 hours, or they go away.

Research powers allow an agent to access information from all kinds of sources without needing any tools or even an internet connection. They can run background checks with their minds, mentally tail targets and more. It's one of the more common types of powers, perhaps because of Wintergreen's original research being abouyt ESP accessing information. Network (1 dot) allows an agent to locate inanimate objects - lost keys, maybe, or the exact book you need in a library, even if you've never been there before. It's accurate within a quarter-mile radius if you're outdoors, to a room within the same building indoors, or to a 10-yard radius in the same room. Deep Background (2 dots) allows the agent to project their senses into information networks. They take a single piece of info - a photo, a name, a license plate - and trace it through criminal records, bank details and more. They just need an internet connection. They can get just about anything recorded somewhere, though stuff that's concealed is harder, and the longer they take, the more taxing it is. Bookworm (3 dots) allows an agent to synchronize their mind to the information networks of the world. Rather than spend hours reading to do research, they just have to focus, instinctively understanding anything publically available - or anything restricted that their badge would them access. Tag (4 dots) allows an agent to spy on someone via networks. This isn't remote viewing - rather, it coopts cameras. CCTV, ATMs, police dashboard cams. Even animal eyes, as long as they're no smarter than a cat or rat. There's no control given, just tapping into their senses. Cell phones and CCTV tend to be more reliable. Finally, there's Omnicompetence (5 dots). An agent with this ability can tap into any and all information in the world - and not for reading, but to use. They can learn to shoot from tactical manuals, can tap into any occult lore ever written. They learn in seconds what would take years of practice, selectively increasing their skills by forcing their brain to access the world's supply of information. They become an instant expert - temporarily, anyway.

After this is a series of essays on slashers and slasher games.


Get the book if you want to read them.

Next time: A rogue's gallery of serial killers.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 00:57 on May 31, 2015

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Undertakings just feel like the silliest to me, like TV Tropes started delving into criminal psychology, defining killers by a single gimmick. And that makes some sense for supernatural creatures that may have profound reasons to have varying gimmicks, when your subjects are simply "murderers", it seems pretty goofy.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

"Let's implant murder-cancer from serial killers' brains into other peoples' brains so they can think like serial killers" kind of puts a lie to Cheiron's whole "no we just want to help people, honest" thing because how would that ever seem like a good idea? What possible process would that be the byproduct of that they would then turn around and go "well at least we can use this on our guys"?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


That's some Umbrella Inc. level thinkin' there, Cheiron.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

I mean the Personal Defense Swarm is similarly out there in terms of "how did this ever seem like a good idea, and how did it even get developed in the first place" but at least it's understandable given mankind's longstanding dream of shooting bees at people.

Nea
Feb 28, 2014

Funny Little Guy Aficionado.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Undertakings just feel like the silliest to me, like TV Tropes started delving into criminal psychology, defining killers by a single gimmick. And that makes some sense for supernatural creatures that may have profound reasons to have varying gimmicks, when your subjects are simply "murderers", it seems pretty goofy.

I think it's because it's meant to emulate, specifically, horror movie killers. Thus, Jason the Mask, the Hillbillies from Deliverance are probably Freaks, the Genius is meant to be Hannibal Lecter types... by design. They're /slasher/ movie archetypes. Well, not always slashers, but that sort of thing. They're meant to emulate that archetype.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Kai Tave posted:

"Let's implant murder-cancer from serial killers' brains into other peoples' brains so they can think like serial killers" kind of puts a lie to Cheiron's whole "no we just want to help people, honest" thing because how would that ever seem like a good idea? What possible process would that be the byproduct of that they would then turn around and go "well at least we can use this on our guys"?

Remember, Thaumatechnology implants are very explicitly things Cheiron considers failures or they're still working out the kinks for. Their field agents are expendable mooks. What Cheiron wants is stuff that can be mass-marketed to the public.

That being said, yeah Cheiron is morally dodgy from the word go and IIRC it gets worse in every book. All the core Conspiracies do (IIRC, the Ascending Ones are stated to be intending to create Prometheans in one of the splats). I think someone at White Wolf was concerned they'd accidentally handed too much power to the Hunters to pose a serious, even potentially overwhelming in some cases, danger to their darlings in other lines.

quote:

I think it's because it's meant to emulate, specifically, horror movie killers. Thus, Jason the Mask, the Hillbillies from Deliverance are probably Freaks, the Genius is meant to be Hannibal Lecter types... by design. They're /slasher/ movie archetypes. Well, not always slashers, but that sort of thing. They're meant to emulate that archetype.

Agreed. Realistic serial killers aren't a terribly good fit for the World of Darkness in my opinion, but slasher movie villains fit right in. Thus the name.

Cythereal fucked around with this message at 01:06 on May 31, 2015

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Neopie posted:

I think it's because it's meant to emulate, specifically, horror movie killers. Thus, Jason the Mask, the Hillbillies from Deliverance are probably Freaks, the Genius is meant to be Hannibal Lecter types... by design. They're /slasher/ movie archetypes. Well, not always slashers, but that sort of thing. They're meant to emulate that archetype.

Right, but it also limits them to that gimmick, too.

Nea
Feb 28, 2014

Funny Little Guy Aficionado.

Not really? I mean, you can take any number of other merits or fun things for other gimmicks, and you don't have to have an undertaking, and you can have other things on top of it, too. Plus, there's rules for building new undertakings. So really, it's more diverse than you'd think!

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



All an Undertaking really does is give a bonus and a drawback (two of each for scourges) to evoke a particular theme or sort of killer, there's nothing saying the slasher has to adhere to the regular script. An Avenger is always going to be very proficient at fighting large numbers of people at once and is always going to have a difficult time choosing not to pursue their target(s) when the opportunity presents itself. This suggests an obsessive killer, either indiscriminate in their attack or consciously going after a larger scale target than an individual. But beyond that, who's to say why the Avenger kills? The most common model for those criteria is someone who has been deeply wronged and is starting to lose their original focus, but hunting an Avenger believing they follow the standard psych profile for that MO may very well get you killed if the Avenger happens to not fit that model.

Xelkelvos
Dec 19, 2012


Neopie posted:

Not really? I mean, you can take any number of other merits or fun things for other gimmicks, and you don't have to have an undertaking, and you can have other things on top of it, too. Plus, there's rules for building new undertakings. So really, it's more diverse than you'd think!

One of the things that makes Hunter good is that there's not all that much that restricts what goes into a Hunter (or Slasher) compared to the other splats

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Rifts Dimension Book 2: Phase World Part 6: It’s just a Phase Power, man




Phase powers! They’re basically psionics and use ISP rather than PPE. They come with a big warning text about how teleportation can totally wreck your game, man, and forcefields block phase teleports completely, which makes them substantially shittier than all other types of teleportation in the game previously. Finally noticed that might be a problem eh Kevin?

It also states that magic barriers will block phase powers; fine, but it further states that magic spells and weapons do full damage against first-stage prometheans, which, okay, we knew that already, what? The conclusion of this dire warning about game balance in a Rifts book says that phase powers should be limited to high-powered or “cosmic” campaigns, we shall see if they actually merit this sudden caution. It advises GMs to slap down cocky PCs by giving countermeasures to enemies and actions have consequences and everybody hates phase power people because they cheat, yeesh.

The powers, in order:

Anti-Phase: cancels any phase power it touches, technological, temporal wizard spells that mimic phase powers, or anything else that uses the word phase I expect.

Close Rift: just like the spell in the core, but a save vs. psionics instead of magic.

D-Phase: Very much like the temporal magic spell, far less useful than the natural phase teleport ability of a promethean PC since it costs ISP to use and takes a full round and requires breathing--but prometheans don’t gotta breathe.

D-Shift Distance: Costs 20 ISP to use, twists distance around so strikes seem to warp space and occur at lightning speed, giving a +10 to hit or dodge but not parry. For phase adepts, the cost is fairly affordable, but non-promethean mystics would have to save this for when it counted.


if i were an SDC creature wearing no armor, i’d phase around corners too

D-Shift Ghost:Basically noclip mode, very slow moving but completely undetectable. Costly but superior to D-Phase, still stopped by listed means.

Dimensional Leap: Costs one melee action and 10 ISP, +6 to dodge. Basically a quick line-of-sight teleport.

Fast Draw: Summons an attuned object weighing less than 100lbs from absolutely anywhere (not in a forcefield obviously) so characters are never truly unarmed. Cost varies by distance, may attune one object per level.

Multi-Phase: Creates several duplicate images of the character, only one of which is real. Can switch between duplicates with a melee action, and this can be done as a dodge to avoid being hit. It gives no bonuses to dodging, however, assuming the foe can tell which is real. Phase weapons, ley line storms, magic circles all disperse duplicates, and several spells, psionic powers and sensing dimensional anomalies will see through it. Also, several gameplay examples peppered through this section use ‘kreeghor’ as their targets, I wonder if they’re going to be an evil enemy race.

Phase Blast: Does 3D6 MD or SDC damage depending on the target, ignores armor--but not magic armor! Suck it, glitter boy. +4 to strike, but for 10 extra ISP it can be +8. Honestly that makes it 25 per shot for fairly crap damage, so mostly only useful against SDC squishies inside big cans.

Phase Field: Blocks incoming energy attacks, including kinetic energy from guns. Specifically that, in fact, divide non-magical energy attacks divide by 10 before striking armor or character. Does not work against Phase Blast or phase weapons, magic, or punching and kicking. Weirdly arbitrary but unsmugging rail gun people is a good cause.

Phase Warp: Confuse: If the target fails a save vs. psionics, they get -6 to all combat rolls, -40% to most skills, -60% for skills that require ‘precise spatial measurements’ so I guess don’t do any surveying under this effect. Twisting space around a character to make them mess up. One of the best powers.

Phase Warp: Displacement: Allows teleportation of 100 pounds + 50 per level of any person or thing to any other location in 100ft per level range. Save vs. psionics for unwilling targets, can’t put people in walls but over the open lava pit nearby is fine.

Phase Warp: Split Persona :suicide: Sorry, I know it was only Persona 3 that did that. This power allows a character to separate their limbs and cause them to reappear some distance away. Uh, okay. This is -3 to strike by default but might be tactically useful, or good for push the extend bridge button or otherwise manipulating things in line of sight. If a character is hit by anti-phase they get a save at 12 with PE bonuses to not have the body part severed. Don’t use this power.

Spacial Distortion: Self: Creates a distortion field around the user that gives enemies -4 to hit and allows 10x speed, 4-D beings and a lot of temporal spells neutralize this power.

Spacial Distortion: Others: Works like Self, but on others. If the target is not a phase-person or temporal class, they get some penalties for the distortion to their senses.

This is not a wide selection of powers, and their ISP costs would make frequent use prohibitive for most non-promethean casters. Promethean phase adepts get several hundred ISP however, and they might be unbalanced with these as a result, especially coupled with their native abilities. As a whole though, they don’t really merit the dire warnings attached to the power section here, especially given everything else that’s already roaming around. Phase powers at least have several listed clear ways to counter them. I can’t tell if this is Carella giving a poo poo or Kevin freaking out that somebody else made something powerful.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Cythereal posted:

That being said, yeah Cheiron is morally dodgy from the word go and IIRC it gets worse in every book. All the core Conspiracies do (IIRC, the Ascending Ones are stated to be intending to create Prometheans in one of the splats).
This is why I'm willing to play devil's advocate for Ashwood Abbey. I figure most of the Hunter factions have degenerate sociopaths--Ashwood is handicapped by the writer being willing to put that front-and-center in their section of the corebook. Of course I'd never include werewolf gang-rape in a game, but I like most-dangerous-game type stuff.

(Ironically, the Loyalists seem like the most thoroughly decent guys. Most of their grey area comes from their habit of recruiting people who have a skeleton in the closet that they can rattle when it's time to pull rank.)

quote:

I think someone at White Wolf was concerned they'd accidentally handed too much power to the Hunters to pose a serious, even potentially overwhelming in some cases, danger to their darlings in other lines.
Where White Wolf is concerned, never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by not ignorance of how their own rules work.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



So Prometheans treat MDC damage as SDC... does that mean that if one becomes MDC somehow (Einherjar? There was some kind of template) they are practically invulnerable?

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Halloween Jack posted:

This is why I'm willing to play devil's advocate for Ashwood Abbey. I figure most of the Hunter factions have degenerate sociopaths--Ashwood is handicapped by the writer being willing to put that front-and-center in their section of the corebook. Of course I'd never include werewolf gang-rape in a game, but I like most-dangerous-game type stuff.

(Ironically, the Loyalists seem like the most thoroughly decent guys. Most of their grey area comes from their habit of recruiting people who have a skeleton in the closet that they can rattle when it's time to pull rank.)

Where White Wolf is concerned, never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by not ignorance of how their own rules work.

I think what White Wolf generally tries to do with Hunter organizations is to present reasons they could be antagonists, not just to monsters but to regular people and even to their own members. I don't play it that way, but Task Force Valkyrie as presented is dodgy as all get out and probably shouldn't be trusted, especially by its own operatives. There may be at least one slasher mole inside VASCU, which could complicate agents' lives dramatically. Every Compact and Conspiracy seems set up with hooks to come into violent conflict with other Hunters, normal people, and their own members. Which I feel isn't a bad thing at all with the explicit understanding that the DM will pick and choose what is and is not true to suit the needs of the game. White Wolf's writing is just clumsier with some groups than others. In my campaign the Aegis Kai Doru have become the overall arch-villains of the story, but it's just as easy to imagine a game where Valkyrie are the primary villains.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


I'd love to see Task Force Valkyrie as The Iniative from Buffy, but competent.

If WoD split off VASCU into its own line and gave it a push, it could get mainstream attention. There's a zillion of those 'detectives get into the mind of a killer' shows.
I wouldn't let Slashers be PCs unless they were ultra-cheesy.

quote:

Machine Elf
Quote: "When you lack the needed lore/And cannot manage applications/All you'll get is 404/To test the limits
of your patience."

Background:

Machine elves, sometimes called transforming elves or fractal elves, are the names given to creatures created
by failed calculations and equations. They are birthed, not solely by the broken dreams of the scientific
consensus, but also by the failed thoughts of their computers. The children of botched and unfinished
calculations, of paradoxical mathematical systems, machine elf populations have exploded since the
proliferation of the personal computer. Though the first reports of these shy, clever creatures go back to
Newton's time, they are now one of the most common kinds of manes, living rich and intricate lives behind
computer terminals and under the floors of server stations. Lemurians, who call these creatures kobaloi,
possess a unique affinity for the creatures, and the machine elves in a Lemurian's unmada field often come to
represent the Lemurian's dreams and beliefs.

I assum anyone, Inspired or not, who takes enough DMT can see these guys? But seriously this is a real downgrade for Machine Elves, who are considered more godlike by those who've met them.

Count Chocula fucked around with this message at 04:19 on May 31, 2015

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Cythereal posted:

Remember, Thaumatechnology implants are very explicitly things Cheiron considers failures or they're still working out the kinks for. Their field agents are expendable mooks. What Cheiron wants is stuff that can be mass-marketed to the public.

No, I get that. My point is what the hell were they trying to make where step one was "take cancer from serial killers' brains and implant it into other peoples' brains"? What possible mass-market biotech were they aiming for with that one? A lot of the Cheiron stuff seems a little too out-there to be stuff that was just incidental byproducts of trying to make the next aspirin.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Slasher

Sometimes, the city workers who go down into the sewers, storm drains and tunnels of Philadelphia tell stories of a skinny, pale boy with eyes like goggles. He lived beneath the stereets, fed on bugs and rats. They called him the Bookworm, and he was a Freak. A cell of Union and Long Night hunters looking for a zombie nest found that some of the meat they'd left as bait had been replaced by a crude tunnel map. After a few trades, they spotted the Bookworm himself, shimmying through the pipes like he was made of rubber. They found he would trade advice to them as long as they gave him food and books. Didn't keep him from trapping and killing one of them when they tried to follow him to his lair, though. The Bookworm's no albino, but he's pale as death. His hair is a matted, ragged mess that he trims occasionally. He might pass as a bony teenager but for his eyes - they're immense. He wears cast-offs he repairs himself, and he changes 'em as he goes. He is very, very flexible, and often stands or sits with a limb bent impossibly. He occasionally talks about "the mother" and "the father" and how they tried to raise him before they were taken Below. He waits for their return now. He doesn't like to kill - but sometimes, he can't help himself, if they come near his territory. He prefers to kill "the bad people" - the monsters that live in his tunnels - but they're hard. His information is usually incomplete and exposes his "friends" to danger - sometimes intentionally, to amuse himself. He can't read or write, but he finds books and writing fascinating, and he's developed his own semi-alphabetical code. His chambers are full of old books, magazines and newspapers that he's torn apart and put back together in ways that make sense only to him.

Once upon a time, there was a clinic, set off down the road. Most locals never noticed it, but a minister three states over decided the services it gave to women had to be stopped, so he led a proest there. It's unclear who decided to firebomb the place, or why they did it with such overwhelming force. The explosion killed three nurses, a doctor, four patients and seven protestors. One of the surviors was burned too badly to identify. The police thought she set the bomb, the news thought her a patient. The minister prayed for her to gain points with the public. He waited for her to wake up - and so he was the first to die to the Burning Woman when she strangled him with her IV. She wrapped herself in blankets and bandages, beat up a cop and made her way down to the bottom floor, where she set a fire, killed two paramedics and stole an ambulance. Police trailed her back to the clinic, but she trapped them within and set it ablaze, then entered it and killed each of them, usually by beating them senseless and hurling them into the fire. When the cops called the FBI, there were already agents in the area, looking for an escaped female terrorist. But now, she's just a Mask, wearing scavenged clothing and bandages that always cover her face. Her flesh is charred and bloody, and she smells of smoke and burnt flesh. She is drawn to infernos, and VASCU believes she often sets those fires. Certainly they calm her. If allowed to watch the fires undisturbed, she remains docile - but once the fire is out or if she's harassed in any way, she'll start to kill. Her MO includes setting her victims' faces and hands ablaze, not always after they die.

Captain Hook is not one of the Psychos who can summon intense charisma for just a moment. He's at the other end - a bland little man who likes to fish. His real name is Larry Meeks, and he runs a bait shop. No one knows how it stays in business in such a bad location. Everyone always wonders where he gets his cash...except the ones who end up in his shack, hanging from thousands of tiny fish hooks. They tend to wonder when they're going to die. Larry was 15 when he invented his Captain Hook persona to prove to himself he was more than just a weakling. After a few attempts, he learned how to bait his victims in with kindness and helpfulness, then take them down. He was a Charmer for years, but after an invitation to join a slasher team, he stepped up his game. Now, he hunts the strongest and most beautiful victims he can find, watching them until he spots their weakness, then gutting them like fish. He's a soft, flabby little man with a receding hairline, obviously nonthreatening. He's not attractive, but he always seems benign and trustworhy. He's always apparently off to go fishing, and he keeps his favorite gaff stored in a false bottom of his everpresent tackle box. He needs to prove himself superior to anyone more attractive or richer than him. The more confident and talented the victim, the better. When he feels he can't pretend to be normal any more, he quickly turns the conversation towards his favorite pastime, knowing that listeners will misunderstand him as talking about fish.

Cinderella, they call her. A Genius. Abused by her stepfamily, but beautiful. Endured it for years, waiting for her prince. Her real name is Ella Young, and when her father died, her stepmother kept her prisoner under the pretext of home-schooling, allowing her own children to terrorize her. Only her endless intellect saved her - the family had to get her books to pass state testing, and never noticed that at age 9 she was asking for college textbooks. Soon after, she decided to stop waiting for her prince and deal with it herself. She used her chemistry knowledge and some cleaners to poison each of her tormentors - kill one, hospitalize the next, weaken them all until she controlled the family's money. She refined her understanding of poison using her family as guinea pigs, prolonging it until she turned 21. At that point, she took the name Cinderella and got all of her inheritance. She drained the family accounts and burned down the house, ensuring the others were paralyzed inside, but fully conscious. She spent the next few years learning more about poisons. At some point, her obsession became a fascination with the psychological impact of poisoning. She earned two PhDs, one in psychology and the other in toxicology, offending everyone around her with her arrogance as she did. She conducted secret experiments, introducing toxins into various buildings and observing the fallout of the inexplicable pain and suffering she caused. She spent an entire year recording the behavior of one student, causing symptoms and easing them over and over to see how quickly it would push the girl to suicide. Ella is now a stern woman in her forties who dresses elegantly but simply. It always seems a bit too warm, though. She's a bit overweight and supremely confident. She believes the world is her lab, and everyone in it her lab rats. What she thinks she's learning is a mystery, but her results always involve slow and painful death. She avoids getting too close to her victims, preferring to expose them in subtle ways to her toxins, and then observe.

Bette Sleet, as a child, loved dolls. She'd spend hours on them, and throw fits if anyone touched them but her. When she grew older, she lost interest, it seemed - but in fact, she'd just decided real people were more fun to manipulate. Now, she amuses herself with those who seek fame and fortune. The Dollmaker, as she's called, is a Charmer, skilled at deception, who sets herself up as their helper. She advises, teaches, changes lives. Under her direction, these losers learn to dress, talk and act as Bette thinks they should. It never quite works, though - at some point, they resist. They decide she's not always right, in some small way. And that's when the tantrum comes, and she decides to find a new playmate. Eventually the FBI are called - they come and find the body, hair and makeup perfect, next to a doll dressed and styled exactly the same way. Bette is an attractive women in her thirties, but her skill with makeup and disguises means she can appear up to ten years older or younger. She's always neat and impeccably fashionable. She really believes she's helping her victims, at least at first. She rarely acts violently early on, but she will not hesitate to take out or disable anyone who she sees as a threat to her connection with the new protege. When a relationship begins to sour, she'll start to plan the kill. If her victim won't obey her, she enacts without mercy or regret.

His name is Harvey Ecks. Once, he romaed the highways alone, practicing his art on anyone who he'd meet on their lonesome. Early on, he was sometimes sloppy, leaving headless torsos. They called him the Rest Stop Killer in those days, or the Torso Maker. But eventually, he got it down pat, able to torture and kill without leaving any trace. He wasn't satisfied - it was too slow, too inefficient. So he decided to claim a small network of interstate highways and offshoots, taking some time to set up surveillence all over it, to brainwash and coopt the waitresses, troopers and gas station attendants. Time well spent for this Maniac - now, he can see everyone who comes through his little kingdom, to see if they are worthy. If they are, he takes them. His pawns call him the Driver, because it always begins with a long drive on a dark night. By the end, they are his - full of the fear and madness he plants in their heads. Harvey believes he's not a killer - he's an explroer, driven by a dream he claims he had in the womb. In that dream, he saw a network of paths, conduits embedded in reality. From an early age, he searched out that pattern. He found hints of it over and over - ancient Mayan pottery, the Book of Kells, the rantings of a New Delhi street preacher. Whoever could understand the Dream Pattern, the Road to Under and the Black Sun Map would unlock an understanding of reality that could do anything. Harvey belives that some people contain fragments of the Map in their minds. He finds that under extreme stress - torture, usually - they spontaneously reveal part of the answer. And so he tells his agents what to look for, what gestures, habits and speech match the dream he had. Harvey could look like anything he wants - he could be anyone, his agents know. But his natural appearance, with no disguise, is a rail-thin, tall man with a beaky nose and narrow, constantly moving eyes. When he spots a victim, he sometimes takes them immediately, sometimes tail them so they won't bring down the police on him. Sometimes he'll have his agents sabotage a car so he can show up to "help." His convictions never waver, but he has one great fear. He thinks others are trying to beat him to the map. He's heard there's at least two of them - the Water Doctor and the Man with the Moth, he calls them. Any indication that someone else is close to completing the Map always shakes him.

Once, there was a priest in the Malleus, one who disagreed with how they did things. He thought their ways corrupt and as sinful as the creatures they hunted. He resigned, going into hiding, but some within the Malleus decided that was not enough. They tracked him, killed him and buried him on unconsecrated ground. Rashly, as it turned out - he knew things they needed, so a bishop ordered him returned by the rite of Lazarus. It worked, but the man they call Father Ghost now came back an Avenger, hating the Hammer of the Witches with a passion. Within a week, he murdered the men who killed him and the bishop who brought him back to life. He'd also burned three churches to the ground. Next to each corpse, he left what would be his calling card - a hammer soaked in the victim's blood. FAther Ghost dresses in whatever will get him closer to his targets. He's average height, lean and tan. His hair is short, and he tends to have a few days of beard, but he'll change either one if it helps him. On the inside of his left arm is a branded phrase - memento mori, burned in during his ritual execution. Some claim he targets specific victims in a plot to bring down the Malleus. Others say he just tortures his victims to find the next ones to kill. In any case, he iwll kill not just the Malleus' members, but anyone he thinks supports them - hunters, clergy or laity that aren't Malleus are usually just warned...but if they get in his way, well. They die. He isn't an active hunter now, but he will act to save the victims of monsters if he runs across them. Should he run into a hunter cell, he may help them if innocent lives are at stake.

John Grube, AKA Fatso, is an obvious Mutant. Imagine what happens when a 120-pound woman gives birth an 18-pound infant. Imagine a C-section with the fetus snapping at your fingers. Imagine delivering a baby that has full teeth and is eating its own umbilical. Imagine what happens when the mother bleeds from bites in the womb. For the first few years, he was under the care of an endocrinologist who hoped to study him to learn more about human metabolism.. He was 11 years old and 180 pounds when the doctor disappeared. (The skeleton was found seven and a half years later, swaddled in blankets and bare of flesh, the bones cracked and sucked dry.) He was transferred between state instituions until he was 15 and he was sent into the mainstream due to a public policy change. He went through a year and a half of public school and group homes before he fled, taking his inevitable nickname with him. After a few years on the street, he began to volunteer at a hospital, doing the work no one else would. He's ugly, sure, but he'll do anything. He's polite, quiet and untiring. Secretly, he lives in the hospital subbasements. He eats there, too - amputated limbs, surgical waste, discarded organs. Sometimes that's not enough, and he goes for fresher meat. He's immense - fatter than anything you can imagine. His voice, rarely used, is high-pitched and whiny. He is hairless, pasty and has broken and crooked teeth. He is much more quiet and light on his feet than he should be, and he usually hides that in public. Despite his appearance, he is so known by the hospital staff that he often passes unnoticed. He cares mostly about food, and nothing tastes as good as human flesh. His preferred victims are isolated patients, staff and visitors whom he can overpower quickly so that he can take them home to cook. He prefers to strangle or smother with his bulk in small spaces. He's smart enough to use sedatives or scalpels - but only if he can clean up the blood quickly. He once spent months to find the proper victim, and now he's teamed up with fellow mutant Skeleton to vastly expand his opportunities. More on her later.

Jenny Nonemacher was a tomboy who loved tools. She worked for her father's contracting company and eventually took it over. One night, she came home from a job and found two men loading a woman's body into a boat. She ran for her car, but they caught up. She beat them bloody and fled, but not before realizing one of her attackers was Emil Deavereaux, favored son of a very rich family. When the police refused to investigate, she called the papers. When the threatening phone calls started, she warned them to stay out of her way. When the explosion killed her and her father, the papers called it a faulty gas line. Jump forward ay ear. The Deavereaux mansion undergoes renovations, and no one notices the worker who came in to do some modifications, uncontracted. Especially since they weren't visible changes, not until someone turned on the acid-filled shower or stepped on the weakened floorboards over the furnace or disturbed the tripwire holding the kitchen knives to the ceiling. The cops pieced it together - Emil came home from Costa Rica to find the staff missing, all told to stay home that day by mysterious calls and emails, and his family all dead. He was found nailed to the ceiling in the attic. And stapled to a railing. And stuffed in the dishwasher. And splattered across a TV screen. Jenny the Fixer, the Estate House Killer, had found him. She's thin and wiry, usually dressed as a handyman with a tool belt. She's gaunt and scarred by the explosion that seemed to kill her. She keeps her hair cut short, for better disguises. Her vengeance didn't satisfy her, at least not enough. The FBI file on her grows about once a year or so - another wealthy family targeted for perceived crimes. Sometimes she works as a subcontractor under a false identity and finds evidence of their crimes or cruelty. Sometimes, the victimized get word to 'The Fixer' and she decides to help. They don't know what they're asking for. She watches closely, often with hidden surveillence tools. When she decides someone has to die, she'll turn their home into a killing ground. It's not always elaborate as her first kills were, though. Often she'll also steal valuables, sell them and send the cash to her victim's own victims.

John Smith is a Charmer who can't remember who he used to be. Sure, he must have been someone once, but that's all gone. His past is past. He's an identity thief now, in the literal sense. He wants to be his target, take everything they have for himself. When he believes he understands the essence of a victim, he kills them and heads elsewhere, recreating himself as them. To others, that's who he's always been, but John is never satisfied. He always feels he just doesn't fit - and so he picks another victim. His true appearance is utterly average in every possible way. When he finds a target, he makes himself whatever seems nonthreatening. His MO is to infiltrate their lives, becoming a friend. He gathers all of the information there is about them, in every detail. He kills anyone who might stop him. At some point, he disguises himself as the victim and does something terrible, framing them for something illegal or deeply immoral. He then presents himself as the only one to believe the target innocent, convinces them to take a trip with him...and then he kills them and plants evidence that they've run off forever. Then he heads off to become them.

Elvira "Lefty" Farmer has always known she was a Freak, Her family once owned the biggest plot of land in Shinbone Hollow, hardworking people who never took anything they didn't earn. She knew because her parents would never shut up about it. The land they once owned was long sold, and she and her family sold cheap antiques and junk out of an old farmhouse - not easy for a woman born with a withered arm never any larger than an infant's. Still, a great-aunt once told her of a golden treasure buried somewhere on the old farm, something an odd relative had stolen long ago from some group no one remembered. Something so valuable his neighbors killed him when he wouldn't give it to them. She was shunned for her deformity and spent much of her childhood dreaming of the treasure. At 25, she found it - as she wandered a cow patch, her arm started to tingle, then ache, its fingers moving on its own. She realized her withered arm was like a dowsing rod, and so that night, she snuck out and dug up the spot, finding an old coffin. Within, she found an old dress, some bones - and an arm made of purest gold. She picked it up, and it oozed over her withered limb and attached itself to her shoulder. She could never sell it - she'd never be free of it. And the Hollow would never be free of her. She's had the arm for ten years now, but she looks well over 35. She dresses very old-fashioned, and when not wearing her arm, she never tries to hide her deformity at all. For a while, murders have been plaguing the Hollow, and she's never been a suspect - after all, she just has the one arm. She's long since killed those who made her miserable as a kid, but she's no happier now. The arm seems to like killing, so she's turned to hunting the gullible folk who find her antique shop. When a lone visitor seems wealthy, she'll take them to the back and retrieve her arm. She'll kill the victim and steal anything of value on them, then call some old acquaintances who're happy to buy stolen cars. As for the body...well, sometimes someone buys those, too. If not, there's the dogs and the shovel.

They call it the Legend of the Painted Bride. She was a young woman on her wedding day, awakened too early. She went down to the church, to see the graves of her parents, to let them see her gown. She was followed by her groom, enraged and believing she was going to see another man. He cornered her, and she said she'd prefer to marry any of the dead over him. He drew his knife and stabbed her dead, then buried her under an old headstone. The church is gone, the cemetary forgotten, the headstones long sunk or washed away. A young woman named Mary goes to the edge fo the river, her last morning before marriage. A marriage of convenience. She's crying, because the groom is cruel, cruel man. She is tempted to kill herself. She finds an old knife in the dirt, picks it up, takes it home. She gets in the dress, slashes her left palm and paints her right breast with blood. Then she goes to hunt her groom. The Painted Bride prefers to wear her dress when working, the front painted with dried blood. Her face is veiled. She'll wear anything to get close to a target, though. Whatever she wears turns pale after an hour, whit after two. After three, red streaks begin to appear over her heart. She targets newlywed couples or couples about to marry. She has only one goal: get the bride to kill the groom. Usually, she'll brutally slaughter the bride's family and frame the groom. At some point, she reveals herself to the groom, whose claims about the real killer make him look insane. He runs or is imprisoned. She stages attacks on the bride to make her afraid. At last, she brings the two together, and bride kills the groom. Then she offers a choice: die, or take up the knife and become the new Bride. Her appearance seems to be triggered by a serious argument between the couple - a real argument, a heated exchange. They may reconcile later - probably will - but it's too late. She's heard the call. Her first appearance is always presaged by some accident that makes someone look covered in blood - red wine spills, tomato sauce, bloody Maries.

Phelps is a Brute. No one knows her first name. What's known to those with clearance is that she was recruited into covert ops in college and into Task Force: VALKYRIE soon after. She did well and was assigned to deep cover. How things went bad is unclear, but it's believed she was tortured by divided loyalty. When her comrades raided the vampires she was assigned to, she killed everyone. Both sides. She was reassigned, but her tactics got increasingly brutal, and she was soon suspended. They tried to point her at assassination, but the amount of collateral damage she caused was hard to cover up. She was put on a desk, and it seemd to work for a while. Her last physical records on file are surveillence videos of her calmly hunting down and killing every person in her office, including the receptionist and the janitor. She stole an unknown amount of TFV equipment and weapons, and is still on the run. She's tall, muscled like a sprinter and has short hair and a plain face. Never any makeup. She prefers black covert ops gear when "working" and always has both a knife and a gun on her at all times. Before she went AWOL, she described a belief in a conspiracy of all human and supernatural agencies to dominate the world at the command of some unknown entity. She believes this conspiracy is out to kill her, and anyone who shows any sign of being the enemy must die. She splits her time between hunting monsters and hiding in the wilderness. Hunters who run into her may believe her useful in monster killing...but then she'll start going after them, once the supernatural targets are down.

Skeleton is a Mutant, a mortician's daughter named Savannah Woodbury. By the age of two, she was used to dead bodies. By the age of five, she found out her father was a necrophiliac. By ten, she was helping him run the business, and by eleven the cops were raiding her home to arrest him and some of his fellow sick fucks. She fled the noise and hid, locking herself in the hidden embalming room where her father kept his favorite corpses. She spent two weeks in there before the cops found her. The nurses called her the Skeleton among themselves, because she was emaciated. She rather liked that. For a whole, it seemd there were no ill effects - she went to school and grew into a slim, beautiful woman. She became a fashion model...but on each shoot, she seemed thinner. Soon it was unnatural, freakish. her hair fell out, and her manager demanded she seek medical attention. But then, she was gone - gone, her apartment empty but for the embalmed corpses of three other models no one had seen for a while. She met Fatso while sneaking into a hospital morgue. They might be in love or just kindred spirits - hard to say. Certainly they've found their obsessions synergize. Skeleton hides in the hospital, helping Fatso choose his victims and clean up the evidence. She's smart, fast and has mastered the hospital's computer and security systems. She is pale, balde and emaciated - no fat at all. She can hide it with padded clothing, hoods, wigs and glasses. She isn't frail, though - she's quite tough, in fact. She occasionally joins Fatso in cannibalism, but never eats much. In fact, she rarely eats at all. More often, she plays with or fucks corpses. She finds the human body fascinating, and will spend hours dissecting and rearranging body parts. Sometimes she'll sit back to let Fatso butcher a corpse, playing with whatever he doesn't want to eat. Other times, she'll take a victim herself and he has to wait until she gets bored. He's okay with that - her help means food's never far away.

There has always been a Sower. The Sower is a LEgend, from a shadowy reality not our own. There's an endless black field of soil under a dim, red sun. There, he toils, furrowing the earth and burying seeds for some master. Why? What seeds? What will they be? Even the Sower cannot say. The seeds, though, are the souls of monster hunters. Some have heard that he's called to earth by the Sator square. Five by five lettters: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. When he walks the Earth, hunters die, and so do monsters. Some say he aids the Vigil, culling the weak and the slow. Others say he chooses by means no man can tell, and is no ally at all. Through long centuries, hundreds have worn the Sower's mantle. You see, someone spills supernatural blood on a certain patch of earth. They are called to turn their killing talents towards another purpose. They accept, and they vanish from the world, reappearing only to claim others' souls. The current Sower is Geno Carcione, a Philadelphia Union man who got a but too into killing. He found his new calling in a bed of soil he found inexplicably in an old attic. The current Sower is a tall, broad man with dark skin. When he's out for blood, he wears only overalls. His hands and feat are dirty, and over his head a burlap sack with slits for eyes. If removed, his face and hair are shown to be smeared with mud, dirt and clay. He can choose to appear mundane for a while, but the illusion ends hte moment he touches bare soil. Every Sower must guard the patch of earth that links him to the other world, the Fields Beyond. On EArth, theym ust kill hunters on that soil and bury them there. For each hunter that dies, so must two monsters, in alternating order. If one hunter is dead, the Sower must kill two monsters next. Sometimes, he will shadow a cell, even help them, to get close to his targets.

In sotuh Philly, there's an old junkyard. The kids sneak in to see the statue of the angel made of car parts and sheet metal. EThey say anyone who looks at it will be visited by the angel of death that night. That's part of the story of the Mask they call the Tin Angel. The other part is that Cheiron Group, a few years ago, found some "living metal" in that same junkyard, which is right against an illegal chemical dump site. Project Tin Angel was an attempt to graft it onto a hunter as fluid subcutaneous armor. It worked at first in lab animals and in the human subject. On sudden impacts, the metal wnet rigid and protected the organs beneath. The first field test was disastrous - some pollutant interacte with the metal, and the subject began to slice off his own skin with a knife. When his colleagues restrained him, he went berserk and killed them all, then fled. Cheiron lost track of him. The bodies started to turn up around the junkyard. Each was embedded with metal shards, each bearing the crude carving of an angel. Five days and seven agents later, VASCU reported the suspect destroyed and case closed. Cheiron reallocated the project's recovery budget. Turned out both of 'em were premature. The Tin Angel is a tall, msucular man in ragged clothes, torn as if sliced by knives. His hair is silver-white and past his shoulders. He wears a crude mask of welded metal fragments, and when his amror is active, a dull patin can be seen through cuts in the skin. Something about the junkyard soothes him. He's learned to assemble the correct assortment of metal debris into a mound so that he can rest, torpid. Should any part of his mound be taken or removed from the area, he will rise within an hour and hunt it down. He can sense where it is, along with anyone it's had contact with. They must die, and so must anyone he meets on the way. Even if hte item is returned, he will not go home until everyone who touched it is dead.

VASCU knows that sometimes an agent goes rogue. The worst reminder of this is the Maniac called Y. Once, there was a man named Andrew Flemming. He went missing hunting some non-human serial killer. Soon, it came to VASCU's attention that he was responsible for the execution of a number of occultists connected to the original suspect. They'd seen this before, and profilers realized he was targeting those he thought were servants of monsters. Two field agents, Marianne Cortez and Lionel Solerno, were sent to take him down. They found him, but things went badly very fast - a Mexican standoff involving telepaths wrestling with each others minds...right next to a ticking time bomb Flemming had set. One of the three staggered away, the other two bodies lost forever in the wreckage. The survivor carried fragmented memories and distorted personality traits of all three of the agents. The trauma coalesceed the shattered personos into one fused personality: Y. One year later, Y released its manifesto to VASCU, "granting them permission" to keep up their work for as long as Y felt was useful. According to the manifesto, Y believes that slashers are a response to supernatural predation of humanity, a new kind of human better equipped to face hidden superpredators. By inflicting pain and fear on human sheep, Y says, sociopathic killers inspire the creation of more sociopathic killer.s One day, there will be enough to wipe out all of humanity's hidden enemies. Until then, Y will support this process by testing slashers. Those who are weak will die or be given to VASCU. Those who are strong will join Y. Two mutually contradictory descriptions of Y exist. The first says Y is slim, androgynous and has features that could match any of the three agents. It was delivered by two agents before Y eluded them. The second says that Y is man or woman of average height and build, their face and hands covered in scars and burns, preventing a positive ID. That one was from a bureaucrat Y held hostage for 8 hours while stealing files. Everyone agrees on the voice, however. A smooth contralto, almost musical, with careful enunciation. Y's goals are a nightmare for VASCU, and they've linked him or her to the escape of several slashers from their pursuit - and worse, found evidence that Y is trying to create slashers by torturing carefully profiled victims. One profiler believes Y is trying to develop a shadow-VASCU of slashers. And yet, Y sometimes passes information to VASCU to help them apprehend monsters or killers they deem unworthy. Officially, VASCU agents are to have no communication wtih Y, but it's likely some have if it seemed the only way to catch something. Hunter cells might believe Y an ally, but that usually means Y is directing them at a slasher Y wants to test, or believes a hunter is only a few violent incidents away from serial killing.

You remember the cabal that sent an invite to Captain Hook? They are the Subtle Collectors Association. They claim to have been around fo centuries. They're invite-only, and they keep no records. Their patron, the First Collector, answers no questions. So maybe they do date back that long, or maybe they were just started in the 50s by a wealthy man with a taste for kidnapping art students, as one member claims. Or, as some newer members think, it was an FBI sting operation from ten years ago, coopted by those it was meant to catch. Currently, there are six members. It's likely there's never been more - few serial killers have the right mix of depravity and social grace needed to be friends. The rules are simple. Once a year, they gather to display their "collections" and swap stories and techniques. At the end of the meet, they vote on who's got the most impressive collection. The winner gets to visit the First Collector, an old man somewhere in the midwest, who shows off some hideous artifacts and hands over a small, inexplicable supernatural boon that helps the winner maintain anonymity. Each gift is unique - some get fingerprints that are never the same twice, some the ability to mimic any voice. How the First Collector can do that is a matter of debate among members. What he may one day ask for is something they don't talk about. No one has ever gotten more than one gift, at least in the current crop, but some think that there's former members who got so many they became totally imperceptible. The annual meets are extraordinarly hard to arrange - no one wants the others on their patch, so it must be neutral ground. Collections might be anything from preserved faces to sugrically altered corpses to kidnapped victims, so security is paramount, as is privacy. More than one member is wanted by the cops, so secrecy must be absolute. As a result, there's been years with no meeting or meetings cut short to flee the cops. Membership is only offered to those with plain, unimpressive features, to avoid drawing attention. Exceptionally attractive killers are disdained out of a belief that they rely on their looks, not their minds. Trying to win the yearly contest can lead the members to hunt outside their comfort zones and get caught. IT's also not unknown for them to hunt each other, as the most challenging acquisitions of all. Traditionally, a member collected by another member is considered unworthy and is never spoken of again.

The End.

So, what's up next? Witchfinders (hunting mages), Spirit Slayers (hunting werewolves) or Night Stalkers (hunting vampires)?

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 04:27 on May 31, 2015

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Count Chocula posted:

I assum anyone, Inspired or not, who takes enough DMT can see these guys? But seriously this is a real downgrade for Machine Elves, who are considered more godlike by those who've met them.

Machine elves appeared elsewhere first? Doesn't surprise me.

But yeah, anyone can see and interact with a mane out in the world. And trigger Havoc if you touch them or vice versa. You can play as a mane.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Kai Tave posted:

No, I get that. My point is what the hell were they trying to make where step one was "take cancer from serial killers' brains and implant it into other peoples' brains"? What possible mass-market biotech were they aiming for with that one? A lot of the Cheiron stuff seems a little too out-there to be stuff that was just incidental byproducts of trying to make the next aspirin.

Implant that allows you to turn your conscience off... hmm, sell it to up-and-coming executives?

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Count Chocula posted:

I assum anyone, Inspired or not, who takes enough DMT can see these guys? But seriously this is a real downgrade for Machine Elves, who are considered more godlike by those who've met them.
How would you feel seeing sober what a high person thinks is a God?

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Actually, you can play as a Machine Elf if you want and the DM's okay with it. Manes regularly become Inspired. Just take the Mane merit at creation (probably the two dot version) and bam you're any kind of mane that looks almost, but still distinctly not, human.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





The Lone Badger posted:

Implant that allows you to turn your conscience off... hmm, sell it to up-and-coming executives?
It would be useless for the sort of people who you could call "up and coming executives." There probably wouldn't be a major effect. But these people are usually dumbasses supported by clever accountants, money, and social networking.

Imagine if you could take someone who wasn't a dumbass - one of those clever accountants, say - and give him a pill that would liberate him from all the actual psychological and mental obstacles between him merely being a clever accountant and being a real, genuine leader of men. A true visionary unhindered by the restraints of society. What could THAT guy do?

Well... probably he'd just be unusually good at his job. Perhaps groundbreakingly so.

Now let that same guy get some kind of charm-equipment - something that compensates for his lack of a good ol' boy network - and you probably have trouble.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Okay, now figure out what the Personal Defense Swarm is a byproduct of.

I vote for Night Stalkers since vampire hunting is maybe the most "iconic" sort of monster hunting.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Kai Tave posted:

Okay, now figure out what the Personal Defense Swarm is a byproduct of.

I vote for Night Stalkers since vampire hunting is maybe the most "iconic" sort of monster hunting.

Bioshock merchandising tie-in?

Lurks With Wolves
Jan 14, 2013

At least I don't dance with them, right?


Kai Tave posted:

Okay, now figure out what the Personal Defense Swarm is a byproduct of.

So, your agents come back with a bunch of weird statues that spring to life when you feed them a dead man's bile. That's really weird, but if R&D can figure out how they work they could do some really interesting things with metal that turns into flesh. They do a bunch of testing and attempt to make something useful out of it, but no matter what happens whatever they make the metal into keeps turning into weird Geiger monsters instead of anything useful. So fine, now you're stuck with a warehouse full of metal that can turn into Geiger monsters. You can't just melt it down, because metal that turns into a monster when exposed to bile is not something that you can feasibly dispose of in a way that won't break your budget for this fiscal year. So, it's time to figure out something vaguely useful to do with your weird Geiger metal.

Lurks With Wolves fucked around with this message at 05:08 on May 31, 2015

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


I wonder if for every personal defense swarm there's a really dejected scientist at Chiron who has to try out all the *other* monster organs.

Experiment #1577: Replaced tongue with tongue harvested from a willworker. Subject can now speak enochian. Subject cannot understand enochian. Cursory translations are not promising and quite profane.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


The Lone Badger posted:

So Prometheans treat MDC damage as SDC... does that mean that if one becomes MDC somehow (Einherjar? There was some kind of template) they are practically invulnerable?

occams can correct me if I missed something, but...

That's not really covered, but a strict reading of the rules is that they would be invulnerable to all standard and mega damage. I can't find any errata or anything the fan FAQ, so strikes me as legit, presuming you can get Odin or Splynncryth to take a Promethean under their wing, or just take one of the half-dozen bio-wizard drugs or symbiotes that makes you into The Thing (Grimm, not Carpenter).

Of another note, there's an offhand sentence in their writeup that says "magic does full damage" which I think is intended to say "magic does full damage, then is converted to S.D.C." but a literal reading means "spells can murder Prometheans utterly".

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Night Stalkers has some cool groups, so do that.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


Cythereal posted:

Machine elves appeared elsewhere first? Doesn't surprise me.

But yeah, anyone can see and interact with a mane out in the world. And trigger Havoc if you touch them or vice versa. You can play as a mane.

I've only heard the term from real trippy types. 'Machine Elves' are the term that psychonaut Terrance McKenna coined for the fractal aliens he met while taking DMT. Other people who've met them are guys like Grant Morrison (who's put them in his comics) and other DMT-users. To find out more you need to plumb the depths of TCC or Erowid, and I'm not in the right headspace.

But in RPG terms I'd expect them to be incredibly powerful - Ascended Archtypes in Unknown Armies, ancient Mages/Geniuses who've trancended reality, mystical gods. Brings you meet on vision quests, not computer gremlins.

On a more mundane note, you could drop Task Force VASCU into Unknown Armies without much trouble.

Night10194 posted:

Bioshock merchandising tie-in?

Half-Life did it first.
I hold to the philosophy that if you can change or improve any part of humanity, you should! Chieron probably does too.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Actually making gods nerds ran into while tripping into doofy computer gremlins owns.

EDIT: That does remind me, are the Phantom Yetis still unique in that they're completely generated off one dude's whackadoo theories that he believed so strongly that when he died there was sufficient mania space for them to exist? I remember that being an interesting idea, that some Darger style figure could have a belief system so out of touch it would be equal to something like The Hollow Earth or Vim in investment.

Mr. Maltose fucked around with this message at 06:22 on May 31, 2015

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Mr. Maltose posted:

Actually making gods nerds ran into while tripping into doofy computer gremlins owns.

EDIT: That does remind me, are the Phantom Yetis still unique in that they're completely generated off one dude's whackadoo theories that he believed so strongly that when he died there was sufficient mania space for them to exist? I remember that being an interesting idea, that some Darger style figure could have a belief system so out of touch it would be equal to something like The Hollow Earth or Vim in investment.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Szukalski

Basically he had enough of a cult following for the stuff he portrayed in his art that he actually believed in (in real life) that enough art aficionados and the artist himself might've ended up being responsible for the creation of the Phantom Slaver Yetis.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Alien Rope Burn posted:

occams can correct me if I missed something, but...

That's not really covered, but a strict reading of the rules is that they would be invulnerable to all standard and mega damage. I can't find any errata or anything the fan FAQ, so strikes me as legit, presuming you can get Odin or Splynncryth to take a Promethean under their wing, or just take one of the half-dozen bio-wizard drugs or symbiotes that makes you into The Thing (Grimm, not Carpenter).

Of another note, there's an offhand sentence in their writeup that says "magic does full damage" which I think is intended to say "magic does full damage, then is converted to S.D.C." but a literal reading means "spells can murder Prometheans utterly".

I think with a literal reading of the rules, ARB is correct--if you somehow got a 'become MDC' treatment for a promethean (a lot of bio-wizard and other such treatments are race-restricted IIRC? But then most of them were so detrimental I mostly ignored them) then they would be pretty much invulnerable. Except to magic, which would do whatever 'full damage' means as--yeah, if it still did MDC it'd just be a killswitch. All of these small issues that could have been avoided by not using MDC in the first place or in second place by some actual editing.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

Except to magic, which would do whatever 'full damage' means as--yeah, if it still did MDC it'd just be a killswitch. All of these small issues that could have been avoided by not using MDC in the first place or in second place by some actual editing.

If it is full damage that'd explain why they wear armor, certainly.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




pkfan2004 posted:

How would you feel seeing sober what a high person thinks is a God?
You've never seen Cheech Marin in a movie?

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Unknown Armies, part 4: Going Crazy



Okay, like most horror RPGs Unknown Armies has a sanity system to model losing your mind from all the crazy stuff you have to deal with. However, where it stands out is the fact that it doesn't model sanity as a form of mental "hit points" or anything similar. In fact, as far as I'm aware its probably the most realistic system for sanity (at least as far as modeling mental trauma from shock and horror, it obviously doesn't delve into more complex mental issues). Personally, it's my favorite sanity system for any horror game.

quote:

The Knights Templar did not die out, but are actually still alive via the Masonic fraternity.

So, rather than a single "pool" of sanity, your mental health is tracked by 5 Madness Meters which each measure how affected you are by different types of mental stress. Each has two gauges: Failed notches which represent failed attempts to resist the stress and you get one every time you lose control from that type of stress and Hardened notches which represent how well you've mentally adapted to the stress and how tough it is to be affected again. It's worth noting that both represent insanity. The more failed notches you rack up the less stable you become...but becoming hardened to Stress is just as likely to gently caress you up in the head, it's just slower. Someone who can casually execute a child with a meat tenderizer and not break down is not somehow saner than the person who breaks down crying when he sees a sharp object.

When exposed to a source of mental Stress you have to make a Mind roll, on a success you tick down a Hardened Notch, and on a failure you record a Failed Notch (and suffer a temporary freak out). There are 10 "degrees" of stress for each gauge and the GM decides how intense the Stress is based on that 1-10 scale. As you record Hardened notches it becomes easier to deal with that sort of stress and you can ignore any Stress checks rated at your Hardened level or lower (so a person with 5 Hardened notches doesn't need to roll when exposed to any Stress lower than a 6 on that meter). You just don't roll and so you don't accrue any more hardened or failed notches until exposed to a higher intensity form of stress. Failed notches run from 1-5, at five failed notches you're permanently hosed up.

Note that each meter is separate: being hardened to one form of stress does not help you deal with another. You can be completely used to witnessing magick but go weak at the knees when someone pulls a knife on you in an alley. Likewise, its possible to have both Failed and Hardened notches on the same meter, meaning that you've built up enough of a shell to ignore some of the stress but you're still pretty messed up by anything that manages to break through.

quote:

The Knights Templar are directly linked to the international banking conspiracy, via the bloodline of the Rothchilds.

There are five separate Madness Meters and each has their own scale of what constitutes a Stress check and the effect of Failed and Hardened Notches.

Violence is pretty self-explanatory. Any form of violence, regardless of the source. The lowest degree of Violence stress is simply being attacked by a dangerous weapon and increases to witnessing or being briefly tortured, killing someone in the heat of battle, performing torture, etc. The more brutal and emotionally present the violence is, the higher the rating. Failed violence notches cause you varying levels of unease around violence (even fictional violence), the sight of blood and means you can't help but react to anything that might indicate danger (flinching at loud noises, raised voices, etc). At the highest levels you basically can't help but imagine violence all around you: what would happen if strangers on the street assaulted you, a car plowed into you, etc. Hardened Violence notches make you much more callous and matter-of-fact about violence. At higher levels you have a difficult time avoiding thoughts of violence and most people can pick up on it in your attitude. Extremely hardened individuals are the kind of guys whose first thought when they enter a room is the possibility of killing everyone there.

Violence Stress is actually one of the things that makes combat very dangerous (and very powerful). Characters who aren't used to violence can easily go to pieces when confronted with even relatively mild situations and someone who is hardened can often end fights just because they're willing and able to deal with a higher degree of brutality than their opponent. It also makes a great equalizer with opponents who are might be very powerful but are unused to combat: even the most powerful adept might still be cowed by pointing a gun at them if they aren't used to the presence of deadly weapons.

quote:

The banking conspiracy had JFK eliminated because JFK was going to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam. That would have bankrupted several military-industrial endeavors, including Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky, and General Dynamics.

Unnatural is Stress caused by exposure to something that totally shakes your view of the world. Witnessing Magick in action is obviously one of the most common forms of Unnatural stress (and a powerful weapon in the hands of magick users). It can also be caused by things like understanding the mutable nature of reality or your place in the universe. The lowest degree of unnatural stress don't even require supernatural effects...just the belief that something beyond your understanding has occurred. Being attacked with obvious magick is rated as 5 on the meter, making it quite difficult to resist (not to mention it can also cause violence stress...not everything hits just one meter). Higher degrees of stress involve realizing that facts you took as completely, immutably true are not (such as realizing the man you're married to is not actually a human being). Failed Unnatural notches gradually convince you that supernatural forces essentially suffuse every aspect of reality. At low levels this translates to a bit of caution around superstition and eventually builds into full-blown paranoia as you no longer have any reliable touchstones as to what is true or false anymore. Hardened characters are similar but tend to react with more cynicism and grim acceptance of the unstable nature of reality: they know that the universe is governed by unseen and baffling forces and have trouble hiding their contempt of anyone who believes that they know "the truth" or are in control of their own lives.

quote:

The banking conspiracy is linked to the Illuminati.

Next is Helplessness, which is probably the form of Stress that's most common in the "real" world. You must make Helplessness checks whenever forces beyond your control (whether premeditated by someone else or simply bad luck) trap you in awful situations. Low-level Helplessness checks are actually fairly common such as suffering dramatic public humilation, getting fired from a dream job of failing at extremely important tasks. Losing your ability to help those you care about and even the ability to control your own actions are more intense. Generally, trying and failing to act is worse than simply being put in a situation where you cannot act. Helplessness checks can often be tied with Violence or Unnatural checks as well. Failed notches make it difficult for you to trust in your own ability to affect the world and make it difficult for you to deal with unexpected changes or surprises. Controlling your life becomes immensely important but also immensely difficult. Hardened notches lead to fatalism and pessimism: you assume failure is always likely so you aren't upset or disturbed when it occurs. At extreme levels you assume that nothing we do really matters and are basically just going through the motions.

Since it is so closely connected with real experiences I actually find the Helpless gauge the most disturbing in many ways. I imagine for many people it's probably the most uncomfortable to be subjected to.

quote:

The Illuminati manifested themselves in other mediums historically, most notably with the founding of The Order of the Golden Dawn, in 1776—the same year as the American Revolution against England on the basis of a revolution against taxes (economics), and the publication of Englishman Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

Isolation is probably going to be the least common sort of Stress, but it can also be very subtle so it's probably the Stress of choice when attempting to "gaslight" someone. Isolation checks almost always take a lot of time: being locked in a sensory deprivation check, solitary confinement, separated from other people or being trapped somewhere no one speaks your language, etc. However, having extremely important people betray you or (even worse) act like they don't know you can also inflict Isolation stress. Failed Isolation notches makes it difficult to be alone...you need other people around you to a worrying degree and require constant affirmation of your own existence and place in others lives. At the highest levels you probably get panic attacks if left alone for too long. Hardened notches are, unsurprisingly, more or less the opposite. Because you're so used to be alone/betrayed you have difficulty acting appropriately around others and probably stop seeing the point in most social norms such as proper grooming or bathing. You don't care what others think of you because you're fairly sure (on some level) they don't actually care about you at all.

quote:

George Washington was a Mason. His monument was dedicated with full Masonic rites, and this is actually detailed in those words in brass at the foot of the Egyptian-style obelisk.

Finally we have Self stress. It's kind of the flip-side of Unnatural stress. Unnatural stress is when your view of the external universe is deeply challenged and Self stress is when your view of your internal universe is challenged. It's when you do things that you not only believe are wrong but things you didn't even believe that you were capable of doing. Minor Self checks are caused by doing things like failing to live up to honest commitments or violating your personal belief's or upbringing (say a priest breaking a vow of celibacy). Failing to act on your Noble Passion is the cause for a pretty hefty Self check and utterly betraying it is even higher. More extreme self checks include betraying those that you care deeply about or even killing them. Effectively Self stress involves destroying your own life. Failed self notches wreck your sense of identity: you stop feeling like your beliefs have any meaning and began to feel disassociated with your own actions, as though you were just watching someone else. Hardened Self notches are probably the worse ones: you lose any connection to your thoughts and feelings, have difficulty telling whether or not you even believe the things you say or do and ultimately cease to care about anything and life is little more than mechanical rote actions and you have no real opinions to speak of anymore.


-Maxing a Gauge -
The results of hitting the maximum number of Hardened or Failed notches are fairly unpleasant. If you hit 10 hardened notches on any of your gauges (or if you reach a total of 35 hardened marks on all gauges) you've turned into a sociopath and lack the essential emotional abilities to connect with other people. You can no longer use your Passions. If you happen to be an Avatar your lack of connection with humanity means you can't use your Avatar skill anymore.

Whenever you fail a Stress check you suffer from either panic, paralysis or frenzy. The effects are fairly obvious: running away, locking up or going berserk on the source of your stress. You lose all control and can't act with any rationality or thought. The upside is that at least while you're freaking out you can't be affected by other forms of Stress and don't need to make any Stress rolls until you snap out of it. You can choose which way you freak out but you can't change your mind afterwards and have to keep running, fighting or freezing until the source of your stress goes away or you can no longer act.

If you get 5 full failed notches on any meter then you can no longer cope with that form of stress at all. Anytime it comes up causes you to freak out unless you've got enough Hardened notches to block it out. You also pick up some kind of permanent scar or mental trauma such as a phobia, flashbacks, addictions, etc. The details should be hammered out between you and the GM.

-Healing from Madness-
If you get help you can recover from the effects of stress. You can't help yourself, you need to seek counseling from someone that you can trust and who represents a reliable authority: it might be a psychiatrist or it might be a priest. What matters is that they are willing to help you and that you believe that they can. So long as you seek help before hitting 5 failed notches on a meter you and your counselor make rolls (you make a Mind roll, they roll whatever skill seems relevant to the GM). The effects vary:

*If either of you get a Matched success you can erase a hardened or failed notch.
*If you both succeed you can erase a hardened or failed notch.
*If you succeed but your councilor fails you can erase a failed notch.
*If you fail and your counselor succeeds then you can erase a hardened notch (note you can choose to resist and not remove a hardened notch).
*If you both get matched successes you can erase up to 3 failed or 3 hardened notches (no mix-and-matching).

There is also psychological first aid which is basically having a friend talk you down from your freak out. So long as you can talk to a friend or counselor within the hour they can make a roll and if they succeed they can cut off a Failed notch. Hardened notches can't be dealt with this way.

Dealing with permanent insanity is harder obviously. It takes at least a month of residential treatment or six months of normal treatment for you and your therapist to make rolls and you both have to succeed. This erases that fifth failed notch and lets you go back to regular treatment. (matches don't help and you can't remove hardened notches this way).

quote:

Seven colors in the rainbow. Seven chakras in the Sanskrit texts. Seven varieties of Barbasol shaving cream, if you count the discontinued Wintergreen gel. Do I have to draw you a picture?

By the way, if you're interested in starting a little crazy (or usually, in starting a bit hard) you can take up to 3 Failed notches divided up between any meters you like and in return take 1 hardened notch per failed notch (which do not have to be on the same meters).

next we'll step things up and get to the Global power level

Doodmons
Jan 17, 2009


oriongates posted:

Once you've lost between 25% to 30% of your Wound Points the GM tells you that you now have a -10% shift to your stats. Once you've lost 60-75% of your wound points the penalty increases to -20%. Oddly enough this only affects your Stat rolls...your skills are explicitly not affected which actually makes the penalty fairly toothless: almost all rolls in UA are skill rolls, not stats.

Not quite as toothless as it first seems. Skills aren't allowed to be higher than their linked stat. If you have 60 Speed and 55 Firearms, and you take enough damage to be on -20%, your Speed is now 40 and so is your Firearms.

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Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Kai Tave posted:

"Let's implant murder-cancer from serial killers' brains into other peoples' brains so they can think like serial killers" kind of puts a lie to Cheiron's whole "no we just want to help people, honest" thing because how would that ever seem like a good idea? What possible process would that be the byproduct of that they would then turn around and go "well at least we can use this on our guys"?

Night10194 posted:

That's some Umbrella Inc. level thinkin' there, Cheiron.

As well as Weyland–Yutani. Now that I think about it, it would be pretty interesting to have a WoD-style game about those weird evil corporations. There has to be at least one supernatural conspiracy going on to keep these guys in business.

Traveller posted:

An Echo Resounding

To think Pathfinder did the same thing by having you fill out a square city map like some kind of strategy game or something.

And though you haven't covered it, I really like how the game handles giving PCs domain-affecting abilities. Way better than "Here are some domain feats you'll probably never take because that'd be one feat slot less to put in stuff that actually improves your character".

Stars Without Number

What kind of anatomy is that, anyways?

Chapter Five: The History of Space

The backstory of SWN starts in the year 2108 in a laboratory in Greenland, where Dr. Tiberius Crohn invented the spike drive. To this day, nobody quite nows how he came up with the drive, as he employed formulas and theories that were a bit bonkers. But hey, just because the inventor may have been insane or possessed by a cosmic horror or something doesn't mean humanity should look a gift FTL drive in the mouth.
Being in full-on mad scientist mode, Dr. Crohn first uncovered his new invention to the public by blasting off into space with his laboratory. Earth's governments were a bit freaked out and tried to shoot it down with their Star Wars satellites, but Crohn just phased his labship into a safe frequency.

After drilling out of normal space at the edge of the solar system, he would return 13 days later, broadcasting detailled data about Alpha Centauri (which, seeing how he was alone on his labship and a recorded course being unavailable, required him to spent the entire 6 day jump awake) and the blueprints of his spike drive. After giving humanity this little present, he drilled back out of the solar system, never to be seen again - an action that would inspire around 13 sects to worship him as a messenger of God.

The First Wave

With now every nation on Earth knowing how to build a spike drive, a wild era of space colonization started. By 2200, humanity has expanded so far that it would take a spaceship 1 whole year to fly from Earth to the outer rim, which made the Earth governments a bit paranoid about the far away colonists becoming independent. They promptly formed the Terran Mandate, an organization whose main function was to prohibit any further human expansion.

Psychics and aliens

It was around this time the first cases of MES or Metadimensional Extroversion Syndrome occured, a condition that allowed a human to channel the metadimension energies required to screw with physics. It took a couple decades of questionable experiments to turn these unfortunate children into the first psychics, controlled by the Psychic Authority.

In its expansion, humanity finally stumbled upon alien life, be it ancient ruins, bronze age aliens or old civilizations in decay. Xenobiologists separated them into the Like (humanoid aliens) and the Other (weird stuff like sentient oceans or superintelligent shades of blue). Humanity had some turf wars and/or trade agreements with the former, but found the latter too strange to communicate with or even understand.

The Second Wave

Once the Psychic Authority had a full grasp on the potential of psychics (using a nother set of questionable experiments), they were able to come up with manufacturing procedures that could affect matter on an atomic scale in a way previously thought impossible. This was the birth of pretech and psitech technology, with the latter's masterpiece being the Jump Gates, massive rings floating at the edge of a solar system whose crew of master teleporters could send a ship to its sister gate in a matter of days where even the fastes spike drive would've taken months.

The Terran Mandate welcomed this new technology as a way to allow further expansion while still keeping control on the farthest colonies. By 2600, spike drive were rarely used anymore thanks to the cheap and convenient Jump Gates, and the distance from Earth to the farthest colony had increased tenfold - which was pretty far even with the Jump Gates. The Terran Mandate realized too late that the colonies had become far too numerous to actually control. It didn't take long for the farther colonies to create their own petty kingdoms, and shady cultists on more isolated worlds started delving into maltech (highly dangerous technology ranging from unbraked AIs to nanites and WMDs) and eugenics.

The Scream

Then the Scream happened in 2665. The Scream was a wave of metadimensional energy that affected the entirety of known space, obliterating spaceships in transit and affecting every psychic, killing them outright or making them batshit insane.
The golden age of humanity crashed and burned in the blink of an eye. Jump Gates became useless chunks of metal. Entire civlizations collapsed due to the psychics that kept everything running having their brains fried and/or having the sudden urge to re-enact Event Horizon. Billions of people were left to die on worlds that could not sustain themselves because they underwent a crippling overspecialization during the days of the Second Wave.

The Silence

During the next 600ish years, what was left of humanity survived on worlds isolated from each other. Some worlds regressed back to the Middle or even Stone Age as that was all it could support, while others were more fortunate and could sustain space travel (if much more primitive than what was possible with pretech). Even psychic training became a thing again, though it is unlikely that Psychics will ever be as relevant as they once were.

The Present

Now in 3200, interstellar trade has finally somewhat recovered, with the few advanced worlds eager to expand their sphere of influence. It is a time of daring merchants and explorers to uncover the secrets and artifacts of old and help the lost worlds that have been isolated for centuries back into the interstellar age. Who knows what they might find...

(There's also a timeline, but that's more something for the GM to feed the players with historical data.)

Next Time: Game Master Guide. Only one chapter to go before we can make our own sector of space.

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