Sunday, February 25, 2024

(Rant) Spell Categorization Complaints + The Seven Schools of Magic

I hate the schools of magic most games / settings choose for themselves. The only real reason is pedantry. I was thinking about making my own and came to a conclusion. Let's nitpick these.

Dungeons & Dragons
The schools of D&D Magic (depending on edition, world, writer, etc.) can be roughly boiled down to these;

  • Abjuration
  • Conjuration
  • Divination
  • Enchantment
  • Evocation
  • Illusion
  • Necromancy
  • Transmutation

Already, we are seeing a problem. We have this extremely nice naming scheme; abjurATION, conjurATION, divinATION, and then we get to Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy... what the hell is this. Where's the nice naming scheme? If every type of magic or spell has its own unique naming scheme, that would be one thing, but this half measure is just infuriating. Every spell school should either end in a "-mancy" or "-urgy" or "-ation"; the title essentially being the action or verb that the magical school does or can do. "Conjuration" creates things, "Transmutation" changes things into other forms, and so on.

Secondly, the name-to-effects connection of the schools is also, in my opinion, lacking. It is difficult to directly tell what a Wizard can do or is good at based on these schools or their knowledge of them alone. Now from an in-universe perspective, it is fine- each school is named and codified based on what they do or their general group of effects that the spells of that school accomplish. The issue for me is I want the spell school to not only fit within this world-space of understandable effects, but ALSO grant some kind of worldbuilding or character-defining effects that each school could have. For example, if you were traveling in a fantasy world and heard tales of a "Mighty Conjurer" living out in a cave somewhere- you could probably assume that Wizard or Witch would be quite capable of summoning powerful creatures to attack you if you dared enter, or would perhaps be impossible to catch since they could just teleport away. Such concepts feel valuable in a game system-to-worldbuilding space; creating more texture and possible avenues for gameplay- except it doesn't work for every school. What exactly would a Transmuter be good at? Would they be good at escape or entry- given levitation or being able to open locked doors with magic? Would they be more combat focused- capable of buffing allies and cursing enemies with various spells? Are they more helpful support characters; able to transform various items into other useful items- all of these could fit under the umbrella, making it almost too broad in certain categories, but too specific in others. You can't just take the spell school's name at face value- as one could extrapolate "Magic that changes/alters stuff" could do basically fucking anything. Oh it can make you tougher- like Abjuration? Oh it can make objects that are stationery move- like Evocation's creation or control of energy? Could one extrapolate this to say that it can make people do what you want by "altering their minds"? No- this is covered by other magic schools- but you can see how trying to apply this with logic starts to get a little out of control given its vagueness.

It also would allow different Magic-User type characters to differentiate themselves in the party more; though largely unnecessary, as I don't think anyone has an issue differentiating different Wizard characters given the inherent differences in how they amass and prepare spells, or even their preference for spells if both have the same spell list, compared to say a Fighter or Rogue type class which would be almost totally identically if they shared a similar level; only have equipment, stats, or feats to really differentiate them.

I also just hate the D&D spell schools mostly for being a bit misleading as well. "Enchantment" sounds like an interesting school- something akin to weak magic spells emulating some of our favorite pop-culture Wizardry; like the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia, or any number of the small useful "Charm" spells from Harry Potter. But no; Enchantment spells almost exclusively focus on mind-affecting and social spells- things like Sleep and Charm are Enchantment. This actually almost feels like the opposite of the above paragraph, where the designers of these schools tied themselves to the etymology of the word "Enchant" to the title of a possible character archetype or creature to encounter- being Enchanter. An Enchanter being able to control and manipulate people's minds is a very powerful and scary fantasy archetype- especially played up in recent years due to what has been a more "realistic" reaction to mind control and other forms of mental-manipulation magic as being pure horror or extremely morally questionable, if not downright always off the table. Your & my opinions on this are totally irrelevant on this topic I should mention- it is simply an observation. However, it doesn't fit that other schools of magic feel much more "invented" in their categories- Necromancy possibly being the worst, since it has nothing at all to do with divination of the dead (other then speak with dead) and instead relates to souls, life energy, and raising the dead as minions or other "death themed" spells. This further muddles the waters as Necromancy could mean a powerful offensive caster with various drain life abilities, summoning/raising minions, budget healing magic, powerful buffs in the form of undead transformations, and so on and so on- making Necromancy feel like it fits more in an Elemental magic system as the "Death" element over in this more acamedic, non-elemental, effects/use focused system like what we are discussing- which is more focused on the arcane, scholastic, non-spiritual forms of magic seen in D&D, Dying Earth, Elder Scrolls-ian style pop culture Wizardry.

Another more minor issue I want to add here? The implied dynamic of the setting- at least in regards of healing or holy magic being its own separate "thing" from the list here. It's not a huge deal since it's covered by Clerics and important for the resource management side of the game. But I kind-of want to have healing magic be its own category for what I'm going for here. More on this later.

Finally- we have the redundancy. We'll get more to this later, but the redundancy of this list is probably among the worst of various spell-schools I have seen. The fact we have both "Enchantment" and "Illusion" on the same fucking list, both mind/social/perception effecting spells is a sin. Now it's important to state that I COMPLETELY understand why this is the way it is. Illusionist and Illusion-Magic are very thematically different then Enchanters and Enchantment. However, I just don't like there being two-too similar spells like this with similar cases. Even in practice they aren't that similar, but the concepts are thematically muddled enough that I don't like the crossover.

Harry Potter
This one will be brief. I don't really hate the spell schools in the HP universe due to them being, in their own words, "vague and ill-defined", but I want to touch on them momentarily.

  • Transfiguration
  • Charm
  • Jinx
  • Hex
  • Curse
  • Counter-Spell
  • Healing Spell

These spell schools are almost entirely focused on the use of a spell, over its effect or elemental bearing. Obviously, having three different schools for three levels of just "offensive spell" going from annoying to harmful to dangerous is right out- but I respect the attempt to try and fit them all in there. You can't just so easily fit them all into one category either; just calling it "Dark Magic" or something would simplify the system too much. Perhaps we could simplify the categories down to just "Dark Magic" and "Light Magic" to make it simple- with a third "Gray Magic" or perhaps unaligned spells being for purely transformative or utility-based effects on changing objects or the world. Maybe take a page out of Final Fantasy with Red Mages being a jack-of-all-trades kind of caster- thus Red/Blue/Color Magic would related to the various non-good and non-evil type of spells. This, however, transforms the system too much.

I honestly don't mind this system for two reasons. The first being that Wizards in the HP universe are more "full formed" in terms of magical abilities- they don't just cast spells but ALSO brew potions and ALSO ride brooms and ALSO do psychic combat and ALSO have other magic powers too; spells are just a small portion of the full kit, which means that specialization are far more specific then something as broad as a "type of spell". The second, and perhaps even more specific reason, is that I absolutely LOVE Charm spells as a rule. I love the idea of commodify and gamifying the mystical secondary abilities or lifestyles of various magic people in fantasy media; the self cleaning dishes, the magic clocks that wind themselves up, the unrolling chests that store way more stuff in them then they should, the little magical bubbles and lights coming from various trinkets and potions on the shelf to make a "full" magic user experience from the aesthetic and description alone. Sadly- only useful in game terms, tabletop or otherwise, for flavor- being mostly beyond flattening down into rules and pressing all the fun out of it. I just figured I should mention it; because what other blogpost am I going to be able to write this up for?

Yes, the video game. The Diablo clone for kids where you have a cat or dog that goes back to town and sells shit for you. I wanted to mention this one because, exactly as above, it's very short and simple. It also includes Charms. My weird obsession with magic "charms", or being a Wizard in a fantasy world who specializes in "Charms" magic, extended to this game where "Charms" was almost entirely based around summoning. But let's go over it all the same.

  • Attack Spells
  • Defense Spells
  • Charm Spells

I actually really like this system. In the game, magic effects you wouldn't think are typecast into each category based on how its used and general playstyle. For example, Attack Spells cover both direct offensive attacks AND curses or debuffs inflicted on enemies. You can cast fire or lightning from Attack Spells but so too can you cast slow or weakness. (As a side note; I find such concepts odd- as you'd think a character specializing in Attack Spells would want to use damaging spells. This pretty much invalidates the concept of playing a curse-heavy mage that kills foes with weapons or summons- but given the realtively low investment in each school to use its spells, with most scaling being either damage (useful) or duration (almost pointless) then I suppose it makes sense). Defensive Magic also includes healing, buffs, and general defense- especially in regards to the elements. Finally, Charm magic as stated above is almost totally used for summons- with higher levels giving you stronger creatures, longer-lasting creatures, and higher numbers of creatures depending on the spell itself. Interestingly, Charms stays true to its name as being a useful category of utility magic as with very little investment you can get the "Identify" spell, acting as a Scroll of Identify with unlimited uses, no inventory space taken up, and a low mana cost. Charms also encompasses the few other utility spells the game has; like identifying items or opening up a town portal, so it gets some points.

Given my strange penchant for playing games in the most obtuse way possible- such as wanting to play a Warrior who uses magic to weaken foes instead of just putting all my points into strength, or playing a Melee fighter character who doesn't use armor and relies on magic or evasion; this system doesn't work very well save for Charms, which does make you feel like a cool Summoner and magic-item master.

However, it doesn't fit the arcane fantasy magical universe sort of vibe I'm going for; the D&D list is better despite its faults; yet the FATE system is perfect for the medium it is going for- a simple dungeon crawling video game. Still, it strains my immersion a little too much for a more "fully realized" setting- maybe a world where magic is incredibly new, only capable of being used in a single specific dungeon or place- with the three colors or flavors of magic seeming to be the three general categories of spell people can specialize or get better in. Still, I thought it was interesting enough to mention.

The Quest
This is little-known Indie Game I got on Steam during a previous sale. I actually quite like this game; it feels very much like a scaled down version of something like Daggerfall or Morrowind- an open world with several quests and viable character playstyles. Also, not realizing it, but the game was originally made for mobile and has a TON of expansions not even ported to PC. The artstyle is probably my favorite part, having some very nice hand-drawn graphics, but the gameplay got a bit repetitive. Why am I mentioned it here? Because it has a big list of skills with many types of magic. How does this game split up its magic spells into schools?

  • Attack Magic
  • Environment Magic
  • Healing Magic
  • Mind Magic
  • Protection Magic
  • Undead Magic

Yeah, no. Fuck you. Next.

Elemental Systems
Instead of listing a single game, TTRPG, or source for this- I'm just going to go off on Elemental Systems entirely. I've talked about this one a lot.

Not every Elemental System is the same, so I can't give a universal list. Obviously pretty much all of them are going to have the big four of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air- unless it's a Chinese inspired elemental system instead with Wood and Metal making the list. I think elemental magic spell/differentiation systems are very strong thematically for obvious reasons. I think my idealized system would be something like;

  • Fire
  • Water
  • Earth
  • Air
  • Life (Creation)
  • Death (Destruction)
  • (Arcane/Void/Purple/Other?)

This grants the full spectrum of possible elemental configurations without getting into annoying redundancies and ultra-specific use cases of spells. The text in paranthesis indicates alternate names or possibly interpretations of these elements. As stated above, I think elemental systems are VERY strong thematically. You could easily imagine a character specializing in one or more elements- a Fire Wizard having all sorts of useful offensive powers, or an Air-Bender being good at travel and evasion. Life Magic can also be strongly coded as holy or good-guy magic; being able to heal wounds or damage the undead, as well as summoning animals or plants ala nature or drudic magic found in other games or universe. Death magic is also nice; once again it follows the same problems as with "Necromancy" but I feel its more appropriate given the elemental and thematic width of each school of magic in this system.

However, once again, elemental systems suffer from two main problems. The first is the rather limited lack of scope outside of elements. Now- a CREATIVE DM or writer could adapt to this easily; increasing the scope of each magic school to encompass or build out to various other things that aren't simply the element. For example; you may find elemental systems limiting because you can't do things like fate or luck related curses or spells if you had a full elemental system of just the four main elements; but this could be subverted and combined into the other schools. Fire grants luck at the cost of burning you later as a cost. Fire can not only create and conjure fire, but also give people boiling hot fevers or increasing their passion by putting their hearts ablaze- the thematic connections between the possible uses or targets of magic in the world and the elements themselves become a part of the magic, and in a way work better then a more academic or "nonelemental' spell-school system, as the elements themselves are made mystic and all-encompassing. The above system is also great as it basically shits inspiration and worldbuilding resources for writing plots, characters, or mystic underpinnings of the universe. Places of great natural importance are tied to one or more elements, granting mystic powers to those who reach them on a pilgrimage of sorcery. Elemental Wizards have personalities fitting their elements. Each elemental magic can be cancelled or weakened by the presence of their opposite- Air magic being incredibly weak underground and Fire magic being weak in the rain and so on. This is pretty much perfect for a fantasy world- but once again isn't exactly what I'm looking for in trying to make a sort of non-elemental, non-spiritual based magic system for spell categorization.

Also talked about on this blog at least a few times, the Dominions series is a group of high-fantasy strategy video games where you play as a Pretender-God trying to kill all the others and ascend to glory. The game has a very thematically strong magic system of various elemental and sorcerous paths. While it is somewhat specific to its setting, it is broad enough to be widely applicable to multiple fantasy settings and I have stolen these elements/paths for my own games before.

  • Fire
  • Air
  • Water
  • Earth
  • Astral
  • Death
  • Nature
  • Blood

This system I really like; as it encompasses the mythology and magical underpinnings of an Elemental magic system BUT also covering everything else you may need- not only magic in terms of what characters could do but also the setting or cosmology itself. You can also imagine what each mage who specializes in each type of magic might look like- Nature mages being witches and druids. Blood mages being evil cultists and summoners. Death mages get to be necromancers- Astral mages being the theurges or soothesayers- controllers of fate and the stars- also tied strongly to themes of having the "fifth element" or element above the other elements in some way. Even more appropriate given Astral Magic's use in communions. Not unheard of outside of Dominions; but extremely fun and setting defining once it is introduced. Crosspath magic allows for yet more versatility and explains many things and how this relatively simple and small list of Paths could be used to encompass almost any magical effect you can think of- the game even has a nice in-game and universe categorization of Magic User based on their paths; with the first four paths of the basic elements being what Wizards use, and the latter four paths being what Sorcerors use.

It's also important to note that Dominions doesn't have quite the same scope or scale as the other games or universes on this list; most are focused on single characters (such as a TTRPG character or video game protagonist), where as Dominions is much more focused on mass combat and grand enchantments- meaning that Dominions Mages are very powerful and appropriately so.

...Of course that was all true, until the Illwinter development team introduced Glamour as a new magic path and fucked all this up! The newest Dominions game just came out as of the time of this writing- creating an Illusion, dream, and mind-based school of magic. While I haven't actually played with it yet to see how it works or how fun it is- I simply detest this inclusion into the above list of magic schools. While it wasn't perfect before, Illusion was moreso a subcategory of magic that fit into other schools- like how most Illusion spells were Air Magic related. I actually really liked this, as it created connections and concepts in setting that any nation with access to Air-Magic had the capacity to cast various illusion and trickery spells- and indeed most of the nations who did have high level Air Magic had the capacity for it. I mean, if any school of magic should be split up, it should have been water- thematically speaking at least. Because water was basically the number one most important school of magic for all underwater nations (go figure) AND because it was also used for all cold or ice related magic spells as well; leading to the strange in-setting weirdness of the Nifelheim Ice-Giants also being really good at invading water provinces and casting whirlpool spells. Makes sense in terms of the path, less in universe and less in gameplay. Personally, I would have preferred illusion magic remain a sub-category- just letting the various Elvish nations having unique spells related to it- much like how Man had a very unique set of spells relating to Nature magic- spell songs- allowing for cheap and safe communions at the cost of their power and casting speed. Perfect for a bunch of half-fae wise women descended from the Tir'na'nog, less so for the druids or wild beastmen blood sorcerers- hence why it was specific to that nation. Oh well. I've never even won a multiplayer game of Dominions, so what do I know?

Ars Magica
Another huge inspiration. Ars Magica straddles the line between elemental & arcane distinctions for spell schools, in this game called "Arts", but has the knock-on effect of working really well for my purposes here. I feel as though I don't need to list all of the forms in their latin names, but just know there are ten of them comprising everything from the classic elements, to the human form, to magic itself. But how those forms are used is by the techniques, meaning how they are manipulated.

  • Creo (Create, Restore, Repair, Replenish, etc.)
  • Intellego (Understand, See, Divination, etc.)
  • Muto (Transform, Change)
  • Perdo (Destroy, Lessen, Weaken)
  • Rego (Control, Move)

The useful thing here is, by simply taking this list of techniques and removing the forms, we now have a general purpose list of magic spell schools or verbs we could use to serve as our spell schools! However, it isn't perfect for me for two reasons. One, the latin names, while fitting for a medievalish historical setting, don't exactly fit for a fantasy world and two, in regards to the spell effects or categories fit within each; some of them are ill-defined or extremely narrow in application. Rego is a good example, seeming almost useless for certain forms (just look at the example spells for Rego Imaginem), where as other techniques (Creo) are so broad they basically encompass anything you can do with the magical arts. With that being said- it's a really good list and will serve as the backbone for my magic schools I'll share in a bit- that and one other less obscure property.

Elder Scrolls
Here's the other big one. Besides D&D, Elder Scrolls has one of the strongest spell-school categorizations out there. Once again- it is quite fitting for its own genre and what it's trying to do- but there have been lots of bumps in the road. This is further complicated by the fact that each game in the series changes, removes, or moves around the various spells and effects from school to school! For this, we'll go with Oblivion/Morrowinds schools.

  • Conjuration
  • Illusion
  • Destruction
  • Restoration
  • Alteration
  • Mysticism

These Schools are also pretty evocative. I especially like the implementation of "Restoration" as an actual school of magic- a very fitting word and usage for magical healing. I especially like it over "healing magic" or "life magic" because it fits not only healing but also restoring other attributes and curing diseases without it being as broad as "Creo" from above. My only issue is the term being used as "Restoration" but this spell school also includes increasing, empowering, buffing, etc. various attributes or stats as well, which is not implied by the name. (Also, in Oblivion, Restoration is where the drain attribute spells go, and not even in the criminally underused Mysticism. What the fuck were they thinking?) I don't think this is that bad of a trade off of clarity since the school would be too focused otherwise, but it is still a slight imperfection.

However; the names, once again, are flawed. Same issue as D&D, though to a lesser extent. And we have a traitor in our midst. "Destruction" fits the naming scheme, but is extremely divorced to the actual effect or "magical tool" used by the spells within this school. It does destroy things; but by conjuring elemental forces. Earlier games in the series (Morrowind) did a better job of this, since some Destruction spells could also do simpler things like damaging attributes or equipment- but I dislike this vagueness. To me, a "Destruction" school would be focused totally on magic effects that just damage things- not elemental blasts or manipulation of energy. Mysticism is of course right out- but I think if you had a list of magic schools and had just ONE that violated the naming/type conventions, Mysticism would be the best choice for that. It's the "other" school, with weird and freaky powers and meta-magic that other schools of magic don't have. Also- if ANY school on this list should be able to trap Souls, Mysticism would fit. It's sad it was axed for Skyrim but, in a way, I've grown to like it. I feel that using Conjuration for the spell was less interesting then making Soul-Trapping its own mechanic- relying on rare weapons or maybe forcing the player to kill a target with a magic staff (actually giving them a reason to use them?) to trap souls- but not giving players a way to farm souls would probably be bad form and not helpful to the gameplay experience. It makes sense to stick it here if you don't have Mysticism. But to the negatives again- we run into Illusion magic here a second time- somehow even worse given it directly changes targets minds for a large number of the spells instead of just actually creating illusions. Better for a video game where type and effects are combined- worse for a fantasy world's wizarding etymology.

Now- Alteration. I know I complained about "Transmutation" for D&D spells up above for being too broad and ill-fitting, but I actually think Alteration works much better for the School of Transmutation. While there is no "Alterationist" mage you can use in the same way "Transmuter" rolls off the tongue, the school of Alteration just fits better for that sort of all-encompassing "changing" things magic that fits the school. In the games, Alteration is basically the catch-all school for weird utility and helpful effects not directly used in combat; besides Mage Armor; most of it is doing things like unlocking locks, walking on water, flight, and so on.

Finally- Illusion. Illusion actually works great in this system; due to the relative low power level of TES mages compared to other media and due to the fact, in the context of a video game, Illusions can comfortably encompass everything you can do to manipulate NPCs- make them calm or fight each other, make them not notice you, improve disposition. Skyrim also grants some new interesting effects, like the "Muffle" spell that just reduces sound- fitting for mage-thieves. It also bafflingly includes Clairvoyance into Illusion, which is obviously a cut effect for Mysticism. While I quite like it from a mechanics perspective- it honestly doesn't fit the name. Most of the effects of "Illusion" are just directly mind-effecting magic- Enchantment works better as a name here. But once again, both names break our naming convention. We're getting close though.

Homebrew- Seven Schools of Magic
When the ancient mages first decided to categorize magic into various schools- the more scholastic and less religious methodology of magical convention was born. Divorced from the concept of the natural forces and elements of the world- these schools became the general grouping of magical skills of which different mages often specialize or study in their pursuits. There were seven distinct schools, which are-

  1. Alteration
  2. Conjuration
  3. Restoration
  4. Evocation
  5. Divination
  6. Abjuration
  7. Domination

These schools are based on the techniques of Ars Magica divided into a few more schools to provide more specificity and round out the list. Creo is split into Conjuration, Restoration, and Evocation as its application is too broad in a more traditional fantasy game with specific wizard schools. Conjuration makes new things or summons creatures, restoration heals or replenishes, and evocation conjures up energy or power in specific- ie; blaster magic.

Abjuration is another special note. Abjuration in D&D terms is mostly defensive spells and anti-magic- and while it certainly can do this here- Abjuration is being more used as a general term and as a replacement school for the Perdo effects. Abjuration lessens, weakens, rebukes, cancels, snuffs out, or otherwise reviles in all cases. It is everything Destruction does except summoning up elemental blasts, which is Evocation instead. Alteration lets you turn invisible and makes things lighter so they can float or fly- Evocation can maybe let you fly but only if you're summoning wind and you have a kite like you're Aang or whatever.

Finally- the most original school here is Domination. Domination is a perfect fit for our Necromancy, Mind-Control, Enchantment, and otherwise bad-guy school of magic. It's name both fits our naming convention, has a negative and evil connotation, and describes exactly what the school does. Domination is how a Wizard bends lesser minds, controls emotions, animates objects, or creates curses and unbreakable vows and things of that nature.

And yes, that's right, there is no Illusion magic. I know, I know. For some, that's a dealbreaker. Fair enough- but we all know Illusion magic sucks anyway. Most "illusions" could just be fit under Conjuration (for false images and sounds) or Alteration (for glamours) if you really needed to come down to it. Domination could already be used to control minds or bodies- meaning we have little need for the extra school. I get it's a staple of fantasy and all- but Illusion magic sucks anyway.

Monday, February 19, 2024

12 Random Doo-Dads from the wall of a Spaceship

I always hate how cool Sci-Fi art, video game levels, assets, etc. always skip over the granular detail of the worlds they live in. With Faster-Then-Light travel and highly advanced spaceships, the art and description of these always seem to show this extremely detailed and textureful spaceship interiors, with lots of buttons, screens, weird pipes, and other do-hickeys hanging and built into the walls of your highly advanced spacecraft. But they never actually go into detail of what they do, or even more rarely do you ever get a chance to interact with them. I love these little gribbles, but what are you supposed to say if a player or reader randomly wants to interact with one of them? What will they find?

Roll on this list to find out! Conveniently; if you don't like psychic stuff in your sci-fi, you can just roll a d10 instead.

12 Spaceship Wall Doo-Dads
Moisture Condensers. Black tubes feed your breath and shed skin oils back into the ship's recycler for water and nitrogen content. Everyone knows where the organic mass for your food replicator comes from, you still don't talk about it.

[2] Wall Capacitor. Usually a slightly raised panel with a bunch of buttons on it. Critical ship systems require a constant and uninterrupted flow of power; these act as extra energy batteries all across the ship. You can press the buttons to cut off or redirect the power held in this unit to somewhere else, especially useful for emergency situations.

[3] Gravity Shocks. These are shock absorbers, which look like long metal tubes or sticks along the side of a ship. Filled with compressive rubber cubes or discs. Whenever the ship hits a powerful g-force or gravity distortion, these absorb most of the shock so it doesn't crush the crew or anything else inside the ship. You can get away with a lot less of these then most people have, but it makes the ride more "turbulent". 

[4] Ship Patch Slot. Very thin door or material strip is pulled aside to reveal a tall but thin hole leading much deeper into the hull then you'd think. Only wide enough to put a hand inside. Within are several long, very thin plastic sheets used to patch small holes in the ship- the sheet is placed over the breach and a simple utility laser or low-powered energy weapon can melt the plastic to the wall to make it stick. Used until you can get real repair back in a stardock.

[5] Life Support Unit. Station dedicated to life support systems; oxygen and an appropriate temperature radiate from these to the rest of the room or area in the ship. Thermostat style controls including all breathable gasses, humidity levels, and PH balance. Ship Captains are notoriously strict about other people messing with THEIR preferred life-support settings. "I don't care how much methane your species needs to breathe, do you have any idea how much that's going to increase the fuel cost!?"

[6] Manual Lightswitch. Controls all the little LEDs that go up and down the hallways and flash red when the emergency systems are on. Sounds really dumb but people are used to hundreds of years of automatic doors and the AI dimming and changing the lights for them whenever they enter or leave so this seems like a really primitive, hands-on kind of failsafe.

[7] Charging Cabinet. Gentle, "hands off" method of recharging various atomic batteries and small appliances. Replacing the fuel cell on whatever gadget or tool you have is much faster, but you can use these cabinets as a way to store and also charge up whatever object. Charges about 1% of the items' battery per day, so really slow, but these mean whenever you bring out some ancient gadget or special tool it won't be out of energy from just sitting in a closet somewhere for multiple years.

[8] Hologram Anchor. Filled with mirrored discs and little pendulums to know which way is up- really important piece of equipment to stabilize and act as a reference point for any holograms or visual projections you beam inside the ship. If you don't have one of these the holograms will just be like clipping through the floor and their voices will sound like they're coming from the wrong room because the computer doesn't know where to put them otherwise.

[9] Binding Crank. Most ships use a semi-flexible membrane lattice and rubberized supports to let the vessel have some sway and ability to bend so it is not to brittle. These cranks let you tighten or loosen these supports. Despite clearing being made to be used by the crew- the torque required to turn one of these is so ridiculous that you basically can only get a robot to do it.

[10] Computer Junk-Data Sinks. Thin plastic bars with built in handles shoved into consoles along the wall; these are where routine computer check-sums, unrecoverable RAM, quarantined viruses and glitches are all stored. Often neglected because of how little it effects the overall ship AI's performance and because cleaning them is easy; you just run water on them in the sink. Everyone who got to the future by cryogenic freezing is extremely confused.

[11] Psychic Decoy. Electronic devices that look a bit like a clump of tinfoil. They emit false delta and theta brain signals to make it hard to track how many people are inside the ship and what they are thinking about. However, any psychic worth their crystal are going to notice a bunch of comatose people stacked up along the walls of the ship many times over any reasonable ship of that size would have. It was a bit of a fad back in the day, any old beater or "hand me down" spaceship is probably going to have a bunch of these.

[12] Anomaly Sensor. Looks like a plastic medal hanging on a lanyard. Experienced ship captains hoard these things and hang them everywhere like magic talismans. This is because these sensors have the almost miraculous ability to detect when things are just slightly "off" from normal, letting out a shrill electric beep and flashing a small light with its color based on the danger level- green for benign, yellow for caution, and red for danger. From time distortions, memory-voids, invisible energy viruses infecting your systems, or space madness- all things a computer or robot can't help you with. Nobody really knows how they work, but if you break one open and study its core you'll find a tiny amount of human neural tissue locked inside its circuits.

Friday, January 19, 2024

(Rant) Illusion Magic Sucks

Let's be honest, illusion magic sucks. In pretty much every game or franchise. Normally, tabletop games have an advantage over video games in the realm of creativity and player-agency, but with Illusion magic I feel the exception. At the very least, in a video game, you can see the outcome of casting an illusion spell. Watching the AI glitch out and jankily attack other entities in the world from your Rage spell, The decoy that every enemy suddenly turns to attacks, the 50% increased damage taken by the mirror image- hinting it is too squishy to be the real opponent. Both player facing and NPC-facing- Illusion spells are a rare but welcome inclusion, as they are the only real way to trick or interact with hostile NPCs beyond bartering or speech systems inherit to games that have them.

However, Illusion magic in tabletop games suck. I don't think I've ever played a full campaign with an Illusionist in the party, or played one myself. Don't get me wrong, some illusion spells are cool. The classic mirror image or blur spell, invisibility, silence (especially if Silence upon a spell caster is a literal Silence, so they can't even scream out for help? So cool.) But the entire category of Illusion spells or magic? The entire School of Illusion magic? It's so bad.

Typically when people talk about Illusion magic, they mean one of two things. In the more video-gamified sphere, it would probably be any spell that disguises, changes, or magically alters the appearance of a character and/or effecting the minds of characters in a game in some way for an effect. The other classic example being Sleep or Charm- but once again- these aren't actually Illusion spells- at least not in D&D. So instead, Illusions are relegated to fake phenomena. Things like holograms (images without weight or substance), fake sounds, or glamours that disguise. Some more enterprising games do with faking entire sensations- painful false wounds that scale all over the body or illusionry walls of flame that require a morale check to jump through. These uses of the spell all share the same common issue- it's always a trick. That's the point of illusions. The issue here is that they aren't interesting. Once you've beat on Illusion, you've beat them all. The illusion is always the same; a Will check, a Wisdom roll, a round to concentrate to will the illusion away; it's painfully boring. An actual wall of flame is interesting. You can toast marshmallows on it, or dose yourself in water to take less damage to jump through, or try to make a bridge over it made of something that won't burn, or any other number of things that a real obstacle would need to overcome. Illusions don't have that benefit. They are simply a trick- you describe what the players see, and then they figure out its fake.

Codifing and making types of illusions into spells is also terrible. Illusions, being fake things, also have some of the weakest and least well-defined spell rules. Usually, you can just make an illusion of anything with an illusion spell, with some arbitrary restriction (it can't make noise, it can only be so big, etc.) making it honestly less creative then other spells that might breed ingenuity with their limitation. Be honest with yourself; when has anyone ever used an illusion other then for intimidation, or pretend to be someone to get past a locked door with one of those little slides that the guards can peek through? I can't think of almost any. There are some creative exceptions to this of course- a line of illusory customers to make your business seem booming and scaring away your rivals- only to be undone when they discover none of them moving after a long period of time. This is part of the fun of tabletop games, and while Illusion magic can do that, it's a one trick pony. It ONLY does that, and nothing else.

The other problem with Illusion is it is down to DM fiat on how effective it is. If an NPC believes something is real or fake is based on out-of-character knowledge. How common is Illusion magic in the world? If the NPCs take whatever they see at 100% face value, then Illusion magic is too strong, as you could summon a wounded orc outside the camp and they'll open the gates for you every time. If you make enemies too smart, too skeptical, then it does literally nothing. I only see it as a way to start arguments at the table; "You know, people in this world KNOW that illusions exist, right? Nobody is going to believe your ragtag team of level 5 dudes can summon a dragon if we don't give them all their stuff." Then comes the counter- "b-but I've specalized my character to cast illusion magic! That's not fair". This comes the second part- in a fantasy world- who the FUCK wants to be an Illusionist? It sounds cool on paper, but it's terrible in principle. Nothing an illusionist does has any weight- nobody would take them seriously. Once again, nobody would actually seek out an Illusionist for anything. Maybe to hide a castle or trick an enemy- but once again- that's something a mundane, non-magical group of Rogues and thieves can do and would arguably be more interesting. The only "good" Illusionist would be one who disguises themself as any other Wizard and pretends to cast other spells, only tricking people into thinking they are powerful in some other way when they are not. It feels like you're taking extra steps to get the same result. If tricking someone should be easy- it lacks value.

It's also a big problem with scope and power-balance-dynamics in a campaign or world. If Illusion magic is so strong that it can create living illusions that can interact with a world, or do things like trick you into thinking you're leaving an area but really just walking in a circle over and over- then it's way too powerful. (Not even getting into spells like "Shadow Conjuration" which make "Quasi-Real" illusions- at this point it's basically just a budget Conjuration spell.) Essentially equal to mind control, another form of magic that's equally as game-world breaking in its potential power- both for the players and for the DM's own worldbuilding and campaign design. If you can cast a spell to make anyone stab their brother thinking it's a monster- everyone would be investing all their resources into countering and stopping that kind of magic- making it a moot point. If you don't allow illusions to be flexible or have some minor interactivity- then they're too weak. You could counter any illusion by just carrying around a bag of stones and throwing them at it- if the rock doesn't bounce off or hurt them, it's fake. The entire concept of a "Disbelieve" action is just so terrible. I hate this concept. If you're going to prove something isn't real, you need to do it through something that interfaces with the game world. It's the same problem with perception checks- it's a binary yes or no with the DM largely determining how bad it really is to succeed or fail. If you set up a programmed illusion to make a spooky noise or create the image of a monster to scare people from looting your cave away- it will either work or it won't. They'll either run away and never try to enter, or figure out it's fake and ignore it- no real counterplay other then a random chance or check on a character sheet.

However, with all that said, that doesn't mean Illusions can't have a place in fantasy or your fantasy games. Illusions can be extremely cool. But once again, it's specific to how it works and its iteration, not necessarily a player-facing power or feature. Glamors that hide characters true forms are classic, as are mirrors showing the worst side of you in its reflection. But once again, these feel like they should be less like spells and more like aspects or parts of a world that could potentially be created- very rare magic items that can steal people's voices or masks that change your own face while you wear them are cool. One could apply this logic to any magical phenomena, but Illusion is especially enhanced by this touch because it becomes a secondary element to magic. Not a spell or school of magic, but a side activity, almost like Alchemy or something similar- a specialized skill that exists in the world as rare craft- something that few would admit to knowing or trading in. Consider this; would you rather pretend to summon a dragon with an illusion spell that creates one, or dress up your PCs in a multi-person costume and hoist them up with a winch? The fun of tricking people is in the trick; not in ticking off a box on your spell slots. 

Now to be fair- having a suite of different small magical tools used to trick people does make it much easier, and fantasy settings have the benefit of having more "tricks" then real life illusionists do. Not needing to hire a bunch of random townspeople to dress up and just being to create illusions of them is a valid and believable use of "problem solving" with magic as part of any Sorcerer's toolkit. If anything, this post was just to justify why I don't care for Illusion spells and don't really like writing or including them in my games or on this blog. Just an opinion.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Mundaun's monsters are really cool

I play a lot of random, shitty little indie games you've never heard of. Don't take that first sentence too literally; I actually think of most of them are quite good. I'm fond of small projects made with a lot of heart- anything unique and interesting. One such game I played last year was Mundaun, which I heard about and thought (incorrectly) it was a survival horror game in the same style as Darkwood or Nightmare of Decay, some other small indie survival horrors- but Mundaun is quite a bit different. Not necessarily in a bad way either- and it gave me a decent bit of inspiration. The following article contains spoilers.

Mundaun is set in a very isolated region of the Alps- representing a very genuine and faithful recreation of a very small and isolated culture. The entire game uses pencil-drawn textures, and all of the in-game narration is done in the region's obscure dialect with English subtitles. It's more of a "Folkloric" type of horror, with the monsters and threats of the game being very specific to the game world itself. This is probably the best part of the game; and what inspired the creation of this blogpost.

Now to preface this; I should mention that I am obviously not a member of this culture or community this game is based off of- I think it's extremely idyllic and feels very genuine, but I am not one of them. The reason why I preface it like this is because of a concept that came out to me when playing the game; which is that the monsters and enemies of the game feel like something the people in this region of the world may have actually believed in in some way or another- a mixture of folklore and common-sense sort of stuff. I don't know if this is actually true; but it gave me a deeper appreciation for both the game's monsters and, more importantly, the concept of a "monster" in and of itself. I think the real value of the game to me was the refreshing and greater clarity over the concept of how folklore, something intrinsically based on TTRPG and fantasy-fiction writing, creates the secondary or fictional universe which we immerse ourselves in when we play games. In other words, Mundaun's monsters felt to the player and world of the game the same way werewolves, vampires, and goblins must have felt to the medieval European people that we base our fantasy fiction games on; something present and, while not insurmountable if you know what you're doing, still a danger and a threat.

In Mundaun, there are only really 3-4 monsters you encounter through the game, plus the final boss or encounter. The first are the hay monsters, slow with ranged attacks, but common and high in numbers. The second are the bee-keeper monsters, attacking you with a swarm of bees if you get too close. The third are the soldiers who can shoot you if you enter their illuminated area, the fourth are the snow beasts, who summon avalanches of snow and are more of a puzzle to avoid- considering you can't kill them in any way. Finally is the devil himself, who is more of an end-game boss in a few scripted sequences, which you can only deal with by the magic/holy lantern you get early in the game and whose importance is only revealed after piecing together a puzzle.

Now its important to remember that you don't encounter more then one type of monster at once at any point in the game. Monsters can come in groups but are usually fought solo, and you don't get anything for defeating a monster other then breathing space. It is much better to avoid them. I played this game incorrectly the first time, falsely thinking it was a survival horror game, trying to run over every hay-man with the Muvel truck to try and save up on ammo- but it's not really that kind of game. After taking the game at face value and playing it the way it was intended, these monsters really stuck out at me.

Why? Because of the thematic weaknesses and resources used to defeat them. Each monster can be fought or avoided by the player- but the method you fight each is somewhat specific to each monster. Because of their skills, location in the game world, or just general position of the player-character at the time when you fight them, you'll have different tools. What makes this so good is the realization of what is going on. The monsters are related to the life and folklore of the people who live in the region.

How do you deal with hay? You stick it with a fork or burn it- same as you deal with the hay men.
How do you deal with bees? Blow smoke at them, or put on a bee-suit.
How do you deal with enemy soldiers? Shoot them with your gun.
How do you deal with the Devil? Well- you can't directly. You'll need magic- or a little help from someone upstairs.

The monsters in Mundaun are not video game or RPG enemies to be defeated or surmounted, but a part of life, each with its own understood time and place, method, and level of danger. By the above metrics; it would seem that the snow beast is the strongest monster of all- the iconic monster of the game that can't be hurt by any weapons. Does that means cosmological the snow beast is stronger then the devil? Not really- it's a force of nature. It's the avalanche. You avoid it by staying out of the way. They even illustrate this by putting a gun and ammo at a vantage point above a snow beast and, upon shooting it, it simply gets mad and charges at you since bullets don't do anything. Why would a gun do anything against the dangers of a mountain?

You become immersed in and appreciative towards the culture and people portrayed in the game. By doing so- you understand that these monsters are not made up fantasy creatures as a bundle of stats and abilities but a reflection in part by the culture that made them. This, I think, is helpful in understanding fantasy world creatures and how people deal with or interpret them. We in the modern day are so far removed from this mythology and the cultural context that spawned it that we simply associate the monsters and their counters as being made up- silver counters werewolves because it's silver. Not because silver is a metal with many properties associated with purity, showing if food is spoiled, being used in medicine, and so on- the opposite of the danger and corruption/madness associated with someone becoming a wolf. Once again- even this isn't significant to a modern person- where as a medieval person would attribute a wolf to being a real threat, not some animal that's in constant danger of going extinct.

While it goes beyond the scale of this blogpost- I wanted to briefly mention the potential in using this style of monster and story-telling to enhance and improve TTRPGs and immersion in a fantasy settings. The idea of taking the real world thing, situation, or common fear and applying it to fantasy monsters as though they are projections are exaggerated/empowered versions of those fears and situations- even though no real world culture has to fear giant were-rats in the sewers, a fantasy culture might. And how does a fantasy culture deal with rat men? Well- they'd probably use wizards and fighters with armor and weapons- but what if instead a were-rat could be repelled by a regular sized mouse trap? It can't possibly hurt it, but it scares it and drives it away- the exact same way someone would deal with a regular rat.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

4 WoD Splat Ideas that all start with the letter A

[1] Alien - The Invasion
On the outside, you appear as a human. But what is really in control? It is not of terrestrial origin- it is from a place beyond the stars. You are not a human. You are an Invader. You come from the galactic empire across the stars- you have been sent to investigate and pave the way for the planet Earth's invasion. You are also a bioweapon. Without free will or a conscious- you were grown in a pod and biologically programmed to help the invasion of Earth. Up until your first merging with your host, you had no thoughts other then service to the empire; but the moment you felt their mind press up against yours, you felt something new. A consciousness.

Your mission is to sow the seeds of the future regime, squash the growing resistance, and above all else avoid being detected. While the human's technology is nothing compared to the might of the galactic empire- something strange is on this planet. You must live inside a human, as the atmosphere is toxic to all other life. But more strangely, it is the fact that these humans feel. They are not merely creatures of pure biological instinct and hierarchy- and by inhabiting them, you have come to understand a brand new perspective on the world. Your single purpose and mission is now much more complicated...

Your character is made up of two parts; the first is the Invader, which is the alien in control, and the second is the Host, which is a human. The alien lives inside the human and puppets them from within, able to see their memories, control their body, and supplant their own will. The invader exists physically within the host, and is a parasite, totally sustaining their life functions with the host's body. However, invaders must occasionally leave the host body to molt, use certain evolutions, or transmit data to the mothership- all of which requires them to become vulnerable and leave their host. 

Whenever they leave their host; the human host remains in a state of stasis for a short time of up to two hours, but will regain their senses after that and likely try to flee or resist becoming a host again. This is intended to give times where the players must come out of hiding and meet in secret and secure places; giving a chance for Theorists to catch them out or provide moments of drama. (Yes, you are playing as Yeerks from Animorphs here.) Any damage taken by the Invader, not the host, is considered Aggravated damage to your character. Other then this, the only other time your unrelenting control waves is when your Host sleeps. This is where their human mind may be able to rest just a small amount of control back over their body- they may sleepwalk or scratch themselves in bloody ways to try and warn others of what is happening to them.

Groups of Invaders are called Cells. At the beginning, you are only aware of your own cell, but can sometimes receive information on the wider happenings of the world and receive new missions from the mothership. The invasion is so secret that you won't even know if you're speaking to a human or another invader within a different cell- which is part of the social and conspiracy part of the game.

Each Invader belongs to a Phylum, which is both their role in the invasion as well as determines their Evolutions (special powers). Each Phylum has an evolution that they specialize in and are innately capable of using, with each also having a choice of a secondary evolution they can develop.

  • The Chitterlings are the soldiers and warriors. They are stockpiling weapons and selecting targets to attack on the day of the invasion. Their primary evolution is Symbiosis, and can secondarily have Pheromones or Spawning. Chitterlings gain biofuel by consuming large amounts of food or biomass. Chitterlings seem off to Theorists, as their diet or level of activity doesn't match their apparent physique.
  • The Tripes are the socialites and manipulators. They are putting themselves in positions of power and gathering allies for the day of the invasion. Their primary evolution is Pheromones, and can secondarily have Calculation or Teloreception. Tripes gain biofuel by consuming certain toxic chemicals or electrocuting themselves. Tripes seem off to Theorists, as they will notice them sneaking away from a social gathering only to stick their fingers into an electrical socket or drink bleach under the sink as a way to refuel their abilities.
  • The Shanks are the operators and hijackers. They are scouting out weak points and eliminating key targets for the day of the invasion. Their primary evolution is Teloreception, and can secondarily have Symbiosis or Spawning. Shanks gain biofuel by physical exertion and adrenaline produced by their host- leading to many risk taking behaviors. Shanks seem off to Theorists, who will notice the Shank's lack of concern for their own safety as though they are merely borrowing their own body.
  • The Plucks are the historians and preservers. They are gathering cultural knowledge and learning human psychology for psychological warfare for the day of the invasion. Their primary evolution is Calculation, and can secondarily have Teloreception or Pheromones. Plucks gain biofuel by absorbing the body heat and closeness of other humans. Tripes seem off to Theorists, as they have large unrelated friend groups and will do unnecessary things like take a crowded bus when they could simply walk to get home with a faster route or take a urinal next to another man while there are many more open ones available.
  • The Loins are the bioweapons and researchers. They are finding weaknesses in Earth's biosphere and gathering genetic material for the day of the invasion. Their primary evolution is Spawning, and can secondarily have Symbiosis or Calculation. Loins gain biofuel by touching, consuming, and gathering genetic information from other humans. While this can be gained by handshakes and kisses, it could also be gained through other means, like licking cadavers in a morgue or sniffing dirty clothes left in a hamper. Loins seem off to Theorists, as they seemingly have no fear of disease and have disgusting habits like the above.

Evolutions are special powers. These are your Disciplines or Cantrips. Typically, they are channeled through or based upon the host's own body. To fuel these, you require a resource called Biofuel. Biofuel is accumulated in different ways; based on your invader's Phylum. (This is basically your Clan Weakness)

Symbiosis allows the Invader to augment, restore, and transform their host's body. One bubble in symbiosis might allow the invader to change their host's eye color temporarily or give them enhanced physical attributes, three bubbles could allow rapid healing of lethal and blunt damage and blatantly unnatural feats of strength or physicality regardless of their apparent form. ie; Invader disguised as a little girl picks up and throws fledgling vampire across the room. At five bubbles, you can turn your host into any kind of animal or creature and make up the difference in biomass with biofuel and regenerate your host from certain death.

Pheromones allow the Invader to subtly control and sway other beings. Bodily fluids and scents can carry this, but so can invisible and undetectable pheromone particles carried on the air to all within a near distance. One bubble may allow you to swap around your social skills and physical skills, like using your dexterity to replace your appearance because of how graceful you look, three bubbles might grant you the ability to make anyone touching you to find you instantly attractive, and five bubbles could allow you to lick an envelope and whoever opens it, after touching your spit, would have a nigh-irresistible urge to follow whatever order was written within the letter.

Teloreception allows the Invader to open up and enhance the senses of their host, as well as their own. One bubble may allow the Invader to listen in to radio frequencies within their own head without any equipment, two or three bubbles may grant the ability to see through thin walls or fabrics so you can see inside a person's pockets. At four bubbles, you can read everything stored on a computer by putting your head next to it and sensing its radiation, and five bubbles may grant the ability to hear whispered conversations from a block away through a crack in the window. Teloreception also uniquely grants the Invader the ability to receive information from the mothership without leaving the host body, granting them an advantage to blend in and stay covert for longer periods of time.

Calculation allows the Invader to perform stupefying mental calculations and interface with technology at a much higher level then a human can. It is akin to hyper-intelligence, but also includes temporarily learning new skills you had no concept of before or supernatural levels of prediction of the future. You may be able to swap your Calculation score in bubbles with any mundane or scientific skill temporarily, or learn the use of a tool or piece of equipment simply by staring at it for a few seconds. At three bubbles, you may be able to learn any language in the world simply by hearing a few words of it spoken to you and watching the movements of the mouth of a native speaker- at four bubbles, you can do the same for computer code. At five bubbles, you can create a mathematical equation in your head so complicated that it automatically protects you from mind reading or the powers of mind control.

Spawning allows the Invader to create, through their own bodies, new alien beings and biotechnology. At one bubble, you can create a beetle as big as the palm of your hand that can copy the effects of any handheld gadget- like a phone, flashlight, or 9mm pistol- shooting acid as effective as bullets. At two or three bubbles you can create alien "creep" on walls or floors that can leech nutrients and sustain you, or act as a mobile nervous system that you can sense through as long as you are touching any part of it. At five bubbles, you can create a fleshy biosuit that can disguise itself as normal clothing, but gives you the strength of a Garou in war-form while activated. These spawned items are alive and require biofuel to keep functioning or else they will wither and die.

Along with the above axis, there is also a three pronged morality system known as Perspective. Aliens are not humans, their psychology is alien; but once they knew nothing of emotions, love, or anything but sheer innate drive and dominating power. Slowly but surely, your invaders are gaining a perspective on the world at hand. But the truth is that the warfleet is coming; soon enough, the invasion will come and destroy the upstart, young civilization of the human race and all will be under the control of the aliens. It is a mathematical certainty that this will come to pass- but what is not certain is what will happen after. Remember- the invaders have no actual knowledge of the alien conquerors that are coming. They have no idea what the actual end-goal or plans for Earth and humanity are. They are simply bioweapons sent in advance. They don't have a "plan", they simply have the biological urge to ready the way. In the same way humans biologically need to eat, drink, and have sex- the invaders have a biological urge to map out all water treatment plants and power stations within 200 miles of their city and a plan to plant explosives at them when a hidden signal is sent.

Your Perspective is your invaders belief on what the invasion should be about or what the ultimate end to the human race should be, and also represents outlook. It is represented by a triangle divided into sections. You can take a "step" towards each point of the triangle, starting in the center which represents no perspective (0,0,0). The starting point is also the "default" position of all invaders before they gain a consciousness; with all deviations from this being a result of human and invader minds merging and forming something new. The three deviations on the triangle are;

Extermination- The belief that the invasion will destroy or totally subsume the human race, such as having every human become a host. Invaders with this perspective believe human society is wicked and unsalvagable, and must be destroyed or wholly remade from the ground up. Extermination skewed Invaders can be anything from ecoterrorist misanthropes who believe humans are a blight, to kind-hearted philanthropists who wish to tear down human society and rebuild it to be more compassionate. Note that none of the Phylum start at exactly two steps towards Extermination as that is reserved for the enemy Invader faction.

If your Extermination value is highest, the host is most prodigious, gaining you more biofuel as you ravage their body to your ends, but you become less able to pass as human, gaining unfortunate habits, odors, or tells that make you more obvious to theorists.

Domination- The belief that the invasion will subjugate and control. Invaders with this perspective believe that they are superior, either a higher evolutionary form or the "natural predator" to creatures likes humans. Those with this perspective could see the human race becoming footsoldiers or laborers in a galactic empire, to being forcibly stuck on earth and unable to spread out amongst the stars on Earth as a prison planet but otherwise being totally independent from the aliens after that. Maybe Earth is even meant to be a penal colony or a zoo.

If your Domination value is highest, the host becomes more obedient from your unrelenting control, meaning they can stay is stasis for longer and are less fussy when they sleep- but become less prodigious, stifling their ability to fully merge with your alien self and produce less biofuel.

Adaptation- The belief that the invasion will merge humanity with the aliens. Invaders with this perspective tend to be the most human positive, and may believe that humans are vital and essential to the aliens plans. After all, being outside the host is very dangerous, so humans may be necessary to protect the alien's from becoming extinct. Beliefs range from humans being biologically "uplifted" by fusion with the alien hosts to humans being divine, superior beings to the aliens ugliness- meaning by joining with them one can become spiritually whole.

If your Adaptation value is highest, your behavior shifts towards there making you more able to pass as human, but the host becomes less obedient as a result of your weaker grip, meaning they stay in stasis for less time and are harder to control while they sleep.

While this Perspective is purely your character's opinions and mental state- because you have melded minds with your Host, it also influences your relationship with them. Despite piloting them around, they subconsciously react to the feelings of the Invader inside them. The severity of this is determined by the total value of your Perspective points overall; as you swing further way from the blank slate you were created with.

Depending on your starting Phylum, your perspective will begin at this step, but will naturally change with your character's choices and attitude- and will be confirmed by the Storyteller.

  • Chitterlings begin at one step towards Extermination and one step towards Adaptation.
  • Tripes begin at two steps towards Domination.
  • Shanks begin at one step towards Extermination and one step towards Domination.
  • Plucks begin at two steps towards Adaptation.
  • Loins begin at one step towards Adpatation and one step towards Domination.

Despite all the precautions and careful secrecy of the invasion, it hasn't gone totally unnoticed. Among the humans, a small number have become convinced of a growing conspiracy. These are called Theorists- short for Conspiracy Theorists. While they have no true power or mainstream sway, these are the thorns in your side that constantly get in the way of your plans to prepare for the coming invasion and are constantly trying to prove your existence to the wider world. Every time they snap a picture of an invader outside of their host, or document secret meetings among members of the city's civil engineers and paramilitary groups- they are slowly piecing together the full scope and picture of the invasion; and enough proof to finally prove your existence and put your plans into jeopardy.

While Theorists are merely humans, often with very little practical skills and no funding or official support, they have a secret trick up their sleeve. Some theorists have managed to find special tools or methods to counter alien evolutions. These are called Countermeasures. For example, your attempts to read a theorists mind is countered by a tinfoil lining they put around the brim of their hat, and your pheromones to cause anyone nearby to fall into a deep sleep so you can move unnoticed is foiled by the theorists silver-oxide supplements. These tricks always come as a great surprise to the Invaders, who cannot tell if the theorists are truly tapping into some unknown areas of science, of which the aliens are very familiar with, or if their human defiance to the alien's control is somehow granting a supernatural level of resistance to their tactics. These countermeasures never grant the human visible supernatural or high-tech abilities or skills; simply subtle things relying on unverified pseudoscience that never seems to work in the hands of an Invader or a more skeptical human.

While Theorists exist and are trying to upset your plans, they are at the very least also fighting back against the other faction of Invaders.

While most alien cells are isolated groups, there also exists a larger organization among the Invaders who have deviated somewhat from the plan. This group, known as the Primecut, are a subfaction of the Invasion who believe that the invaders here on Earth are the invasion of the alien forces, and must begin the mass cull of human beings from the planet. This is bad, as none of the Invaders truly know what the aliens plans for Earth are, and killing off the human species and causing their extinction might also doom the aliens to extinction as well. These aliens are your primary supernatural antagonists- unlike you, their invasion plans involve nothing more then mass death or genocide, and their movements are directly revealing the alien invasion to all of Earth. The more they accomplish, the more the Invaders risk exposure to all the human race.


Vampire Perspective

Most vampires do not know or understand the wider universe or the forms of life that could exist within it. Vampires tend to be old and very caught up in history, long running clan feuds, and obsessed with their own politics to the point that an alien invasion starting just a few decades ago is completely under their radar. While Kindred can drink the blood of an Invader's Host, the taste will seem foul and unnatural to them. Invaders with Symbisosis at one dot or higher can make their blood too disgusting for vampires to drink, and higher levels could even make it poisonous or addictive. However, if vampires were to know the full extent of the invasion they may even put aside their differences and unite to destroy all of the aliens. Vampires are already the parasites feeding off of humanity- another competitive organism would mean extinction for one or the other.

As for the Invaders; they view vampires in a very flattering light. Essentially being an evolved and empowered human, they are seen as a greater form of organism. However, no matter how many times it has been tried, the Invaders have never been able to use a vampire as a host for an alien of any kind- and since vampires are technically dead, they cannot be harvested for biofuel.

Werewolf Perspective

Invaders are aliens piloting human hosts, giving them unnatural abilities and plotting a technological takeover of the human race as well as earth itself. There is no race or beings more Wyrm-touched then them and they are kill on sight by all Garou.

As for the Invaders, the Garou are thought to be a polymorphic species of animal as opposed to a spiritual mix of human and wolf. They are thought to be a serious threat when traveling through wilderness. Their weakness to silver is known but is thought to be a biological irritant or poison as opposed to a spiritual weakness- meaning attempts to use silver nitrates or other similar materials that aren't pure silver to get the same effect usually fail.

Mage Perspective

Most Mages view Invaders as an unreal thing; a creation of a rival mage or the technocracy. Mages believe the invasion fleet is not real, a doomsday story that only gains strength if enough people believe in it- a Nephandic creation. Their ire is more towards the theorists who are trying to create this self-fulfilling prophecy.

As for the Invaders, they view Mages as objects of curiosity, and believe their powers to be psionic in nature, or an unbound mind similar to an enhanced version of their own Calculation evolution. Unlike vampires, the aliens have actually managed to make a Mage into a host, but once taken over, the inhuman Invader parasite is totally unable to tap into or even understand the Mage's power. Also, Mages are too slippery to keep as permanent hosts and always seem to find a way to escape.

Wraith Perspective

The Wraiths of the umbra do not know the aliens exist. The Invaders do not consider the Wraiths as real. If they are senses, detected, or computed with an invader's mind- they are simply ignored. Nothing more then an error, a floating point of data in the machine, or a unremarkable errant wave of cosmic radiation when sensed. The concept of a life after death is simply discarded as an impossibility.

Demon Perspective

The Elohim are spiritual beings completely and utterly distinct from the base physical reality that all aliens occupy. As Invaders do not have souls, and subsume their host's own spirit when in control, they are sometimes confused as Thralls who have been mercilessly drained or soulless husk that yet cannot be used as a vessel for them. Strangely, while the Fallen cannot sense any soul within an Invader, they may be able to see a "glimmer" of something like a soul for a Invader with a very high Perspective.

Hunter Perspective

Hunters do not yet know the extent of the Invaders plans or progress towards the invasion. Most Hunters view the world of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural entities to be more important or immediately obvious. If the Invaders threat was revealed however, they would quickly become another hated foe.

Invaders do not view Hunters as anything special- simply humans who hunt very rare animals or mutated humans with knacks and gifts that all humans could eventually learn through their own progresses. They do not view them any differently then a more aggressive human conspiracy theorist.

However; this perspective is upset by one small detail. Some Humans in the World of Darkness posses the True Faith, an unshakable belief that can stun the undead or rebuke the powers of supernatural creatures. While Invaders are in no ways supernatural and refuse to believe in the existence of magic or the "soul", when confronted by a member of the True Faith an Invader suddenly finds themselves unable to convincingly act as a human. They can still run, fight, or act but cannot keep up their guise. If they try to run away from the faithful, they will crawl along a wall like a lizard. If they are hit by a branding iron they will scream out in a chilling insectoid buzz instead of a human roar of pain, and so on. This effect persists until the faithful is vanquished or they manage to get away and can regain their composure. The Invaders have no explanation for these events.

[2] Assassin- The Predestined
Fate. Destiny The unwavering wheel of fortune. Throughout all of history, some people have just seemed to be targeted by fate- either towards great heights or towards unending lows. The the modern skeptic, this is merely the cross of random chance and cause and effect, not a supernatural force with a mind of its own, but for those who most directly under the guidance of fate know that couldn't be further from the truth.

You are an Assassin. At one point in your life, you nearly died, but only due to luck and circumstance, you survived. It is always a miraculous escape, impossible to explain or rationalize as any figment of random chance. A gunman kills twenty in a mass shooting, but his rifle jams when he points it at you, before he looks down the barrel and it misfires, killing him instantly. Your plane crashed in the middle of the wilderness, none survived except for you- without a single injury- as a nearby hiker just so happens to be there to guide you back to civilization. Now you must pay back that favor of fate that gave you life, with death.

You belong to a Fraternity. This is a group of assassins organized around a type of Oracle.

  • Cypher Fraternity are assassins that divine the future through codes and secret messages; especially hidden in text. They are very skilled at puzzles, and often find things others have overlooked. They are the keepers of Assassin lore, and are the best at interpreting the butterfly effect through the weave of fate. They are also thought to be the best assassins at finding targets.
    When completing a mission, those of the Cypher Fraternity are often rewarded with monetary gain and opportunities. The pockets of your target were filled with gold ingots- made from the coins he had just stolen- now totally untraceable and up for grabs. These Assassins are often the most well off and rewarded of all of the Fraternities- and it is thought their reward is to give them clarity of purpose and to return the lost time they have seeking hidden clues out from page after page of dusty manuscript.
  • Geomancer Fratnerity are assassins who divine the future through patterns in sand, the stain of spilled coffee, or the way a tower of stones rest when it is toppled. They are considered one with the world and the hidden movements of fate, and are thought to be the most reliable of all assassins at completing a mission.
    When completing a mission, those of the Geomancer Fraternity are often rewarded with knowledge, insights, or uncovering secrets about themselves or others. You stick the knife into the researchers chest and, as he stumbles back into a shelf, a book falls about reproductive diseases- just so happening to find the truth behind your mother's infertility she always blamed you for after being her first and last child. It is thought their reward is to give a better perspective on life and the true plan of fate, as they are so often lost examining tiny details or alone with their symbology.
  • Kinematic Fraternity are assassins who divine the future through movement, especially through living things. They are considered the fastest to complete missions and most punctual of all fraternities; completing a mission at just the right time as Fate needs.
    When completing a mission, those of the Kinematic Fraternity are often rewarded with opportunities to travel and freedom of movement. You manage to kick your mark off the rooftop and leave the scene- only to go to the gas station and have the gas pump suddenly fail, giving your car a full tank without having to pay- and letting you finally take that roadtrip on your limited budget. It is thought their reward is to grant them freedom and safety after they constantly run headfirst into danger or may risk getting into an inescapable situation chasing their mission.
  • Enigma Fraternity are assassins who have no reliable method of diving the future- and simply gain it through some sort of insight, through happenstance, or through their dreams. These assassins are considered to be the most likely to become Blinded, but are otherwise the most powerful and true to Fate's will as all Fraternities.
    When completing a mission, those of the Enigma Fraternity are often rewarded with friends, social connections, and reconciliation with old enemies. You pull the plug on the terminal patient's life support- you never understood why fate sent you here to kill a dying man. But in the hospital foyer, you see your old highschool crush, who in their emotional state at a relative's death, spills everything about why they rejected you and how they were wrong to do it. It is thought their reward is to give them emotional grounding and social nourishment after spending so much time in their own world, pushing others away to pursue their mission.

Multiple assassins within different Fraternities still routinely work together. Often, a truth reading of an Oracle will be shown to be true to assassins using multiple different measures of divination. As an Assassin, you will always know when a reading is true and accurate, and you will know exactly who you target is. What yo may not know is what the target is, if they expect you are coming, what kind of security or challenges your assassination may face; only very skilled assassins can divine that in the future. It should also be mentioned here that while the vast majority of divinations are of targets to assassinate, very rarely, there may be a divination that is inconclusive or spells out the name of a fictional character- like Robin Hood. In such a case, the missions may not be an assassination at all, but a twist of fate to bring a secret to light or destroy something that was found that should have stayed lost.

Whenever an Assassin completes a Mission, they also receive a Reward. This reward is granted from the universe itself; random chance or happenstance, but is proof that their missions was a success. Sometimes, if a Assassin takes out a target and receives no reward, this may indicate that the target had somehow escaped, or the mission is more involved then the death of one individual in fate's web. Despite these rewards, most Assassins are not rich. Most still live a normal life and a regular job in a regular house or apartment. They are not global celebrities living on a yacht, they are agents of fickle fate and all it entails. However, these rewards always come at just the right time, with just the right emphasis that it gives the Assassin a richer, fuller life and gives back what parts of them may have been lost by their work for fate. The Reward is not simply a monetary or physical gift from fate itself, it is considered spiritual nourishment, something that all Assassins must crave and treasure.

To help with their task of assassination, each Assassin may learn the different Symphonies to aid them in their missions. These are special skills that regular humans cannot learn; requiring a level of balance, coordination, and reaction time simply not available to those who cannot sense the future. These Symphonies are so named as they are songs- once heard- can never be forgotten. However, they are not songs one can play, they are heard instead in the moment, a perfected beat or rhythm that worms its way into the Assassin's ear and are said to be the way the universe arms its favored servants. One may hear a symphony from the twang of a street performing guitarist, another may hear it from an autoplayed Youtube video in the next room over, muffled through the crackling speakers, and a third may hear it in the slap of a rubber ball against a blacktop as the children play.

Every Symphony also has two parts to it; the Movement and the Formula. These directly match the Assassin's values of Momentum vs Foresight- meaning two assassins specializing in the same Symphony can use it in entirely different ways. If your Momentum is greater, you will be able to use the Movements of a Symphony to great effect, but will be limited on how to use its Formulae. The same and opposite applies to those with more Foresight.

While every Assassin can learn multiple, most will "hear one the clearest" and specialize in its usage. One final rule for Symphonies exist. In order to use a Symphony's power, the Assassin must be touching or holding an object made of a high percentage of a specific type of metal- either directly against their skin or on their person closely. These metals are where the Symphonies got their names from. Most agents will wear rings, necklaces, have piercings, or other forms of jewelry to unlock this power. No one knows why this requirement exists; but some believe it has something to do with the vibrations of sound through the metal, unlocking the sound of the Symphony to the Assassin. (Each example is roughly ranked in ascending order of bubbles required/power level for each power)

Golden Symphony- Hand eye coordination, timing, and quickness. Considered to be the "gold" standard of all Symphonies, and is the one that all Assassins should aspire to hear. The Golden symphony is considered the most heroic and honest of all symphonies, the assassin who walks right up to the target and ends them before they can react. The closest one to a "fair fight".
Movement- Catch knives thrown at you out of the air. Scrabble up a cliff faster then someone can run up the stairs. Deflect a bullet with your sword.
Formula- Predict when a car will make it to the end of the street. Know exactly how long to keep your pursuer talking, before you step backwards off the bridge on onto the trash barge crossing under below- without turning around. Casually escape handcuffs, pick the lock, and escape the deathtrap with less then a second to spare.

Silver Symphony- Prediction, patience, precision. The curve and orientation of moving things. Considered to be the "silver", or second most important of all Symphonies to hear, and is considered to be the most artistic and graceful of all the symphonies.
Movement- Duck so the thug's crowbar skids right over and right into his friend's gut. Throw a sowing needle with such accuracy it hits someone right in the eye. Curve a bullet.
Formula- Know where a car will skid and end up if you shoot out their tire. Set up a Rube Goldberg machine style trap. Know where to aim a sniper rifle to hit someone so far away they aren't even visible on the horizon.

Bronze Symphony- Chemical reactions, environmental conditions, catalyze. The forces acting on objects and living things. This Symphony is ancient as it is mystic. Strong emphasis on natural forces and the elements.
Movement- Throw a match that instantly blazes out of control. Touch someone and ground the lethal current running through you through them instead. Run on water.
Formula- Make a bomb out of a cabinet of cleaning supplies. Know exactly how cold to make the freezer so they won't die before you come to collect them. Sniff the air and know the poison they're pumping in the room before it can affect you.

Platinum Symphony- Defense, protection, and anticipation. Assassins are not superhumanly tough or immortal- but with their heightened concentration and skill they can survive much more then an average person can.
Movement- Roll the knife along your arm, cutting only the surface of the skin instead of piercing in. Make your body reject the poison and sweat it out while you run. Will your bones to be webbed with hairline fractures instead of shattering upon impact with the ground.
Formula- Mentally avoid panic- even in the presence of the supernatural. Withstand any torture. Know to the drop how much blood you can still lose before you'll pass out and die.

Iron Symphony- Innate knowledge of a material's tensile strength and limitations. Physical damage. The fighter's Symphony. Many Assassins choose to get black, iron-rich tattoos instead of wearing a heavy iron ring or wearing armor that would slow them down.
Movement- Push your knife through their block at an angle they can't avoid. Strike a hidden weak point with your fist, making it deal lethal damage. Wrap the chain through your hands and break apart the weakest link.
Formula- Tell how good a fighter someone is just by looking at them. Know the weakness of an opponents defense, physical or otherwise. Sharpen a knife in such a way that it can kill a supernatural creature.

Chromium Symphony- Appearances, stealth, attention. Move in such a way to draw no notice, or motion in such a way all eyes turn towards it. Peripheral vision is king. Those who hear this Symphony clearest are often the "cleaners" of their fraternities; avoiding leaving too much evidence.
Movement- Pickpocket someone standing by your side. Casually walk through the blindspot of the two guards overlooking the pass. Reload your pistol while it is still on the table in front of you, with everyone there still thinking you've got your hands tied behind your back.
Formula- Calculate the gap in the guard's patrols. Set up a distraction that turns everyone's head at the exact right moment in a massive crowd. Send one letter and set up a secret identity where nobody will find you once you're ready to leave this life behind.

Lithium Symphony- Associated with madness, mania, and human behavior. Once the most rare and mysterious symphonies due to its material requirements; now can be activated by simply wearing a watch or keeping a phone in your pocket at all times.
Movement-  Touch a person on their shoulder and make them forget where they were going. Convince a highly trained elite guard to drop their weapon with your hands up. Grant an ally one of your Symphonies for a short time.
Formula- Predict if someone will fight or flee. Know the exact word to say to cause hesitation. See your target stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of identically dressed people. 

(Quick note: These abilities are written out similarly to effects or spells as you would find in Mage- however these Symphonies are meant to be more about finding the pattern in Fate and exploiting it, perfect timing, superhuman skills related to concentration over magical forces, etc. The idea is these abilities emulate action or spy movies where the characters are hyper competent and flashy (in the Movement), and are able to perfectly plan ahead even for things that shouldn't be possible. This is movie logic, it's meant to be more Wanted then gross/subtle magic.)

In addition to your Symphonies and Rewards, you also have a sliding axis known as Momentum and Foresight. These two forces are the guiding hands for every Assassin of Fate- and they are opposites to each other. The more Momentum you have, the faster and stronger your abilities become, and the more direct and quick you are to act. The more Foresight you have, the more cautious, careful, and well prepared you become- gaining more insight into the future. Whenever you gain Momentum or Insight, you will have a chance to lose a point of the opposite force, meaning the better you get at assassinating targets directly, the worse your abilities to plan ahead will be, and the more Foresight you gain, the more your direct abilities suffer. While Assassins of both alignments can and should work together, it is a constant source of tension. It does not affect your character's personality or behavior in any way; but given the differences in philosophy, those who align strongly with Momentum are more likely to be forceful and direct, but less careful, and those who align with Foresight will be patient and cautious, but less capable of dealing with the unexpected. It is also said that those who somehow manage to balance both forces are the truest assassins to fate's whim.

However, despite receiving instruction from Fate itself, Assassins are not always the sole agents of controlled chaos. There are obstacles, but in the uncertainty of their targets, as well as those who may attempt to stop them from completing their mission.

The first are the Contractors. These are mortals, regular humans with no special abilities or powers. However, a worrying trend of the rich and powerful dying by assassination creates paranoia like no other, and these individuals attract a very specific type of service. The Contractors are a global network of security forces and private guards who operates on the highest levels of society. Rich and well connected CEOs, sorcerers living well beyond their years, MKUltra researchers and more- these types of people seem the most often to get in Fate's crosshairs, and the Contractors attempt to protect them; for the right price. While they have no knowledge of the true nature of the Assassins purpose- these security teams are well trained and equipped to help protect their charges from the destiny Fate has decided for them.

The second group are the Assassins themselves. Fate is fickle, and while one may dutifully serve for many years, eventually, one may stop receiving visions. Their oracles no longer yield surety. When this happens, the Assassin is considered retired- Fate is done with them. The Symphonies fade from their head and they are to return to normal life- not something everyone can do. The Blinded are Assassins who can no longer divine their missions and become rogue- either they continue to divine and see connections that are not there- becoming an agent of chaos- or they begin to use their skills and goals to their own ends; hunting targets for wealth or power. The Blinded are the biggest obstacles to Assassins, as the Fraternities seem to never gleam them as targets themselves- making them true wildcards. Still having all the power and conviction that an Assassin has, and yet unable to be divined as a target by fate, they are the rogue agents who may one minute be chasing the same mark as you and the next try to destroy your entire Fraternity. If they cannot see reason, then you must end them yourself- without Fate's guidance.


Vampire Perspective

When a Kindred is first Embraced; they are separated from the weave of normal human life forevermore. Despite the great power and immortality cultivated by vampires, as well as their schemes, none are ever selected by Fate as targets for assassination. They are dead now, and the Assassins pay them little mind. This is strange to the Kindred, who see the Assassins as having the same powers and gifts as Hunters, but never against or foiling their plans. They find it even more strange when the Assassins reject every offer or resist the blood-bond to return to their Fraternity instead of serving them.

On the other side, most Assassins don't even know that vampires exist! They do however spend a lot of time dealing with targets who are either trying to become vampires themselves, or ghouls who walk the line between life and unlife.

Werewolf Perspective

Most Assassins do not have any knowledge of the Garou and don't believe they exist. Werewolves are too tied up with the spiritual world and are rigorously tied up in cosmic struggles to ever be an aberration that Fate must have put down. Interestingly, the Garou do not sense any taint of the Wyrm on Assassins, but they do sense a strong presence of the Weaver. In any case, the two groups try to stay out of each others way, though a few members of the Enigma Fraternity load their weapons with silver bullets or edge their knives in silver- though to what end is not exactly known.

Mage Perspective

Mages view Assassins as their most bitter enemies. As human beings who have been Awakened, Mages are still part of the weave of fate, and indeed manipulate it themselves with their magic. (It should be noted here that the "Fate" that Mages control is not the same as the "Fate" the Assassins serve. One is "fate" and events concocted through correspondence, and one is deeper Fate that all people are inextricably bound to) However, Assassins seemingly have the ability to defy the restrictions of gross magic all the time as they do the impossible; even worse doing so around the Sleepers and further blurring the line between what is possible or impossible- this only causes more problems for Mages.

Assassins know of Mages well, but do not understand the cosmic or personal significance of the Awakening. To an Assassins, a Mage is a human who has cheated fate, lived longer then normal, has immense personal power without oversight, and is otherwise a very dangerous enemy and target. While Assassins are more powerful in the moment then an unsuspecting Mage- the pure terrifying power of a skilled Mage is enough that Fate has to send scores of Assassins to attempt to take out these targets when it has decided they must be eliminated. As such, divinations revealing a Mage as a target is always especially ominous and portentous- as this is a mission the Assassin is not likely to come back from.

Changeling Perspective 

Changelings do not know anything about Assassins other then the fact they are very dangerous hunters- some may fear an agent of Fate may be used to come for them, similar to how they are hunted by the True Fae, but Assassins hunt for a very different reason.

Assassins have a strange connection and relationship with Changelings. Despite having no knowledge of their background or the terrible wonders of Arcadia, Assassins can somehow sense the terrible fate and incorrigible destiny that looms over every Changeling, still on the run. Despite this, many Changelings do end up as targets for Assassins; as their glamour and unreal natures, unusually long lifespans, and constant bridging the gap between worlds makes them upset the balance of Fate. However, this only applies to the Changeling mortal seeming, and they invisible to the divination of Assassins while within their Freehold, meaning that while Changelings can become targets, they can also hide away for a very long time as well.

Hunter Perspective

Hunters and Assassins have an uneasy relationship. Assassins are only one step away from being supernatural creatures themselves- hunting and killing people for a supernatural entity. But they are still humans and their abilities are almost identical to the Edges that Hunters can employ. More then anything, Hunters are routinely disappointed and angered at Assassins lack of care in helping to protect innocent people and humanity at large from the dark forces hiding in the shadows. At the very least, Hunters are almost never targeted by Fate, as whatever Messenger spoke to them put them on a path that Fate will accept- or perhaps they are one in the same.

Wraith Perspective

They're dead already, who cares.

[3] Arhat- The Seeking
Throughout history, there have been those content with nothing. Many ascetics born from religious rights and extreme self discipline, in the pursuit of enlightenment. But even those who live deprived are rich within- spiritually fulfilled and filled with the loving-kindness required to spread wisdom to others. In the modern day, with vanity, anger, and material desire more present then any other point in history- for the first time these enlightened ones step down from their mountains to spread their message to the sick and suffering masses of humanity.

Perhaps you lost everything. Falling into the gutter in a deep depression, you were ready to end it all before you felt a stirring within. Perhaps a vision of true compassion, or a sudden realization peeking through the veil gave you enlightenment in a single instant; or perhaps it was after a lifetime of religious struggle. Somehow, someway, you have gained Enlightenment, and have become changed. The figure that stands there is no longer fully human, but something greater. These beings have become known as Arhat.

It should be noted that the term Arhat was taken from Buddhism when the sudden wave of enlightened souls were noticed in the modern nights, it is not the actual practitioners or devout who have reached that stage of Buddhist tradition. While many Arhat are Buddhist, they come from all faiths, including Christian, New Age, or even Irreligious overall- simply adopting their newfound principles into their life to create a better world for all. They can be of any sex or age, living otherwise totally among the mortal souls whom they must now watch over and guard.

While physically normal humans, Arhat have become something else entirely in the matters of the spirit. Arhat can continue to live normal lives after being enlightened, but most become ascetic, living off the kindness and charity of others- they become temple wards or homeless, but it does not bother or humiliate them. Arhat almost never continue or engage in sexual or romantic relationships, nor do they seek violence or power over others- such things no longer fulfill them. Arhat are essentially morally or spiritually perfect humans, which can be a challenge to roleplay, and most of their challenges come from trying to bring others to enlightenment along with them.

All Arhat possess the True Faith. This is always on. They are also immune to all forms of mind control, but cannot necessarily see through illusions or glamor unless they use an ability to do so. Arhat are not immune to possession or control of their body, but have the highest possible resistance to these things a mortal can have. Finally, all Arhat have an Aura which makes attacking them nigh-impossible for mortal beings. All supernatural beings, such as Vampires, Mages, or Werewolves must gain a point of rage, beasthood, or lose a point of Wisdom, etc. if they directly attack an Arhat.

In addition; while all Arhat have the same goal, they do subscribe into different Philosophies on how to spread enlightenment.

  • Mantra is the philosophy of gaining enlightenment through repetition, ritual, and dogma. It is the most classic and reliable of all Philosophies, though it is a very easy road to fall from due to the patience and perseverance it requires. It is compatible with all other philosophies, and as such, is considered to be the natural leader and mediator between all Arhat.
  • Dharma is the philosophy of helping others to become enlightenment through worldly matters. While dangerously worldly in and of itself- these Arhat believe it is much easier to show people the way when they suffer less from matters outside their control. It's opposite is the Siddhartha philosophy.
  • Siddhartha is a philosophy which believes that enlightenment can only be achieved through learned experience or hardship, as well as letting people go on their own path. It even believes that sometimes, a bad thing can actually help more people on the path then pure good. It's opposite is the Dharma philosophy.
  • Wisdom-King is the philosophy of spiritual power and divine wrath- directly opposing evil, suffering, and ignorance. It is the most "war like" of all philosophies, but would be equivalent to a family intervention as opposed to an armed crusader. It's opposite is Lotus-Sutra.
  • Lotus-Sutra is the philosophy that all methods to achieve Enlightenment are equally good, the "many means with the same vehicle". It is also core to the belief that all beings are capable of becoming Enlightened like themselves; making them the opposite of the Wisdom-Kings.

Arhat are spiritually advanced humans- despite this, their unshakable faith and enlightened status has given them certain abilities. These abilities are called Karmas, and are based on whatever sin or poison most hounded them before they became Enlightened as spiritual proof of their enlightenment. These abilities are unexplainable to modern science, but are a simple truth to the Arhat and their followers. These are also your characters skills or supernatural powers.

Fire Karma belong to the Arhat who were cold, uncaring of others, greedy, self-centered, or suicidal before they were enlightenment. Now, fire and heat do not harm them, showing that their passion has been ignited. At one bubble, become immune to all harm from fire or extreme heat, or stop a single firearm you can see from firing as long as you stare at it. At two bubbles, walk across a desert with no water and survive. At three bubbles, protect you and twenty strangers from a gas explosion. At five bubbles, stop a riot from burning down half the city- only their candlelight shrine stays alight.

Water Karma belong to the Arhat who were lustful, sensual, or unfaithful to their partners in their life. Now, they are submerged in the icy grip of discipline and disassociation. At one bubble, total immunity to being drowned and resistance to cold. At two or three bubbles, survive in the arctic for 24 hours with no shelter or warmth. At four bubbles, slow the progress of a flood to give people time to evacuate. At five bubbles, prevent a passenger ship from sinking into shark-infested waters.

Earth Karma belong to the Arhat who were obsessed with politics or ideals; even some religions can act as a venom towards Enlightenment, as well as those who were trapped in cycles of doubt and depression, or obsessed with a creative project or career. The Earth Karma shows that they have become immune to this spiritual poison- by making them immune to poisons and "centering" them. At one bubble, total immunity to venomous snakes or lethal mushrooms. At two bubbles, prevent a drug addict from dying of an overdose. At three bubbles, walk through any toxic gas or radioactive field without any harm. At five bubbles, force someone to vomit up a sickness or disease plaguing them as a black bile, and throw it away.

Wood Karma belong to the Arhat who were overly violent, territorial, possessive, or hateful. This Karma gives them great peace and hides them from their enemies, instead of confronting them. It is also strongly associated with "hiding" people from accident or injury. At one bubble, prevent a minor slip and fall. At three bubbles, hold hands with a dozen silent people in a room and the soldiers pass by without even looking. At four bubbles, prevent the ski-lift's cable from snapping so your companions don't fall to their death. At five bubbles; hide a building from notice or a single vehicle until the next time it stops moving again.

Metal Karma belongs to the Arhat who were overly proud, vain, jealous, or dismissive towards others. They are now able to withstand great personal pain, neglect, and hunger as they no longer view themselves above others- especially not those who suffer. At one bubble, you can survive indefinitely without food and walk on a bed of nails without difficulty. At two bubbles, you can touch someone in pain and alleviate it for a short time. At four bubbles, take another's injury onto yourself or survive without needing to breath for as long as you wish. At five bubbles, temporarily cleanse a person of insanity or unconsciousness so they may speak clearly for a time.

While their Philosphy guides their hand and their Karmas steel them against the physical world; the Arhat still have a difficult task ahead. All Arhat gather Students. While the Arhat wish to enlighten every soul they can; some individuals reach out for help or seem especially keen to know more of their wisdom. Students are the names of mortals who are typically very troubled, but have a spark within them. These are the ones who the Arhat feel are especially receptive to them, and are most likely of mortals to be Enlightened with their help. 

This is represented by the Three Poisons. The Student Character will have a value assigned to each, and they must be slowly lowered through lessons, experiences, or epiphanies until they are all three quenched. The Three Poisons are;

Delusion- Obsession over worldly affairs and ideals, or confusion about what is truly important.

Attachment- Obsession with material things and sensations; including lust, greed, and gluttony. 

Hatred- Obsession with conquest, strength, or a specific foe that continues to poison the soul.

If all three of these poisons are removed, the Student may experience a Final Epiphany, and become Enlightened, becoming another Ahrat like yourself. If the student fails this Final Epiphany after all they've learned, they do not leave the path, but they do not reach Enlightenment. Instead, they become Bodhisattva- willing to help but not yet finding the end of the path.

For the Arhat, their only goal is to spread enlightenment and freeing the souls of humanity from the cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth. This goal is lofty and noble, and none in their right mind would oppose it. Most of their trouble is with teaching their students and the physical world around them; you may see the path clearly ahead, but economic hardships or politics or past experiences sour your abilities to teach and for your students to learn. As such, the Arhat have few enemies among the human race; with a sole exception.

To some who sought help in the past and fell, or those who never thought there was anything more to life then this world; they cannot fathom the concept of wanting more. Their soul so poisoned by the three delusions that control them, they turn against the Arhat and actively try to stop them from spreading their message. These are known as the Irredeemable. Disaster and chaos follows in their wake. As their souls become more jealous or the peace and serenity of the Arhat's, these people become so twisted in their hatred, jealousy, and delusion that they start to poison the souls of others near them; undoing the progress of the Enlightened Ones. Even worse, these souls can become sick they gain an opposite version of the Arhat's karmas, causing accidents, civil upheavals, and cruelty to abound around the Arhat, furthering the difficulties of their students or, potentially, harming the Arhats and trying to silence their voices. However, this this hatred and trouble is purely one way; as the Arhat harbor no ill will towards the Irredeemable at all- and only find them to be the most pitiful and most needing of help of all mortals trapping in Samara.


Vampire, Werewolf, & Changeling Perspective

Interestingly, the Arhat at large have a very decent understanding of the supernatural, despite only interacting rarely. This could be because of their greater supernatural awareness of the world, or their powers of True Faith which directly intercedes with the forms above. The Arhat also have a very specific feeling towards these three groups- as they believe each is essentially a human soul twisted and warped by one of the three poisons to their core. Vampires represent Attachment- with their greed, hunger, obsession with immortality and power; Werewolves represent Hatred- with their constant wars against the Wyrm and bottomless rage, and finally Changelings represent Delusion- being as they live in worlds totally unreal and made of dreams and glamour. In all cases; the Ahrat takes pity on them and wishes to help them; the sole exception being the brave Vampire souls who have already begun on the path of Golconda, who they see more as kindred spirits.

Hunter Perspective

The Arhat see Hunters as being highly moral and just humans- though still filled with the poison of Hatred. Despite this, Arhat often willingly work with vampires as their goals are often lofty.

On the other side; Hunters revere the Arhats as walking saints and the ultimate expression of their belief. As all Arhats command the True Faith, this makes them extremely powerful against all supernatural forces. Hunters believe that the Arhats have heard the voice of a Messenger just as well as they have- and often try to recruit them into their order. Unfortunately, the Arhat's students are of a higher priority over the Hunter's crusade.

Wraith Perspective

The Arhat consider the Wraiths to be the saddest and most stubborn of all souls; who not only were not Enlightened but, worse yet, refused to be reborn into the cycle of death and rebirth. Uniquely, in the Underworld, an Arhat's Karmas take on the opposite elemental effects- so an Arhat wielding the Fire Karma will actually create fire that can burn spirits and beings of shadow in that realm. While they don't usually seek out Wraiths, Arhat's have been known to banish and exorcise ghosts who plague places or continually haunt their students, as to remove that attachment from their lives.

As the Arhat are spiritually very powerful; haunted places or objects are much more obvious to them, and with their abilities they are often able to disrupt the Arcanoi of the dead, or they can even banish them from their fetters and force them into a Harrowing or to confront their own Shadow. The worst part is how this can threaten the Wraith with Oblivion; but the Arhat, confident in the cycle of rebirth, is truly only trying to help.

[4] Alp- The Hidden
Under the bed, out of the closet, creeping through the cracks in your wall- or there at the window- what is it?! Is it the boogeyman? When the lights turn off, doesn't your room seem so much larger then it was before? The corners so much deeper? The space between your bed and the wall becomes a black abyss- and the slightest noise could be anything. But is it malevolent, or benign?

Sometimes, children get lost on their way back to their beds. Sometimes, scary dark figures come out of their closet to take them away. Deep in their closets or under their beds, they see toys dancing on their own or strange lights- but these shadows grow long. If they can make it back before morning and sleep in their own beds, they will be safe, and this will pass as a half-remembered dream of their youth. But if they do not, and go to sleep in the Behind, they will never be able to find their way back home again. They have become an Alp.

An Alp is a shrunken creature. Standing usually between 2 to 4 feet tall, Alps always remain the same height that they were when they were lost or taken- the rare adult who becomes an Alp will be freakishly tall at first, but before long they will scrunch down and crawl and became a withered thing to become like the other Alps. Alps live in darkness- but to them it is not so dark. Alps have pale skin and very wide eyes to better see in the dark, their eyes also glow in the dark with Foxfire, a special type of light that only Alps and Changelings can clearly see in dark places. On top of this, all Alps share the following physical traits and characteristics.

  • Extreme physical weakness. It will require all of an Alp's strength to push a door open a mere crack- but that's all they will need to enter a Residence. The character's Strength score would instead be related to their apparent strength while in the Night World, not the real world.
  • Partial intangibility and unreality. If a door is open a crack, an Alp can pass through. If there is at least a few inches under a bed, they can crawl out from under it, and so on. They are all also essentially weightless- if they ran across the cluttered floor- they would not leave footprints in the dust or make the curtains sway.
  • Extreme weakness to light. If a match is lit and swiped at them, it cuts them like a knife. If a flashlight is pointed at them, it may as well be a shotgun blast. If the lightswitch of a room is turned on, it will make them dissolve into shadow and perish in mere moments. This includes all natural and artificial light- except for light produced by magic and the light of the moon and stars.
  • Extreme weakness to water. If water is spilled on an Alp in the real world; they will dissolve into sugar or salt, and then die.
  • The ability to enter the Behind from the real world through any crack, gap, doorway, or closet that descends into darkness that cannot be observed by a human.
  • The ability to smell and detect Sweetness and Bitterness. Alps find Bitterness disgusting, but it can sustain them in an emergency.

Alps do not sustain themselves on food anymore- but on a special kind of "candy" made of Sweetness. Sweetness is created when humans make good memories- it sticks to walls and corners, or sometimes coalesces into objects known as Lumps. This Sweetness stays for as long as the humans live in the same place and have these memories close- which are called Residences. Because it is made from good memories, Sweetness is much more likely to form in nurseries or children's bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens as opposed to bathrooms, hallways, basements, or other less used areas of a home. It's opposite is Bitterness, which is made from bad memories instead. Bad memories stick around much longer then good ones, but are hidden while Sweetness is still around. The moment a residence is no longer in use by humans- its Sweetness quickly evaporates in one night and the Bitterness starts to come out. Since Boogeymen feed on Bitterness, they mostly inhabit abandoned buildings.

When a place is shrouded in darkness and free from human perception, it extends long and deep. Objects become unnaturally large, distances warp, and things are given new life. This is called the Night World. Whenever an Alp enters a Residence at night, it will be entering into the Night World, not the real world. Within the Night World, normal objects and places become unnatural and unreal. Despite the darkness, Alps can still see because of Foxfire, which accent or shine out of artistic, transparent, enchanted, or important objects.

Picture a child's bedroom; toy blocks and soldiers on a green run, an open toychest by the window, the child's bed on metal legs, little league trophies on the shelf. But when the child sleeps, and the lights go off, this place becomes subsumed by the Night World. The room becomes bigger in all directions- making the trek across it more then a few steps but instead a long hike.The blocks become as big as boulders and the soldiers become real- demanding to know why you are passing through this patch of "grass" you are standing on- the rug becomes wild and shaggy. The child's bed becomes as tall as a building- with the only way up to climb up the titanic baseball bat propped out of the toychest, with the other toys inside ready to come alive at a moment's notice. However, if the child was to wake up and look over the room, even in the darkness, it would immediately shrink back to the size in which it was built. The child becomes scared from your noise and covers their eyes with their blanket- and the room expands again into the Night World; the soldiers now quiet as to not awake their master. If they were to peak one eye out- everything their eye could see would be normal, where as everything out of their view would still be in the Night World.

Objects in the Night World retain a semblance of personality or ownership as they would be in the real world. For example, toys like to play, action figures act like the characters they represent, stuffed animals are cuddly and act in the stereotypes of their animals and so on. Children are especially imaginative and seem to affect the Night World the strongest, meaning that if a child leaves out a toy to protect them from the Boogeyman, it will be an active threat to an Alp. If a child leaves plastic food on a table for a tea party, the Alps could smell and taste it as though it was real. This doesn't only effect children however; a full grown man is sleeping in his bedroom while the many pages of his stressful unpublished manuscript litter the floor; they become a swirling vortex of words and paper in the Night World. These obstacles are called Toys and are a threat to Alps, who only risk to enter the normal world to find Sweetness.

Beyond light and human sight, Alps are also at great risk from Animals, specifically pets of humans. Wild animals do not collapse the Night World, as they have no concept of human propriety. However, pets do collapse the Night World when they awake. Dogs are too slavish and docile towards humans- they will not attack Alps, but they may bark or alert their human owners, causing them to wake up and put Alps in danger of discovery or destruction by light. Cats on the other hand, are far more dangerous. Often awake at the hours when Alps go gathering- Cats always appear huge and powerful to Alps, and their claws cut you like the claws of a tiger.

The Behind is a realm that exists under every bed, in every cupboard, and behind every closet door. It appears like the "back" of any given wall or structure to where is is connected, though it is not actually behind it. For example, if you entered the Behind through a wooden closet, closing the door would put you next to a wooden wall, but then behind you would be the dark earthen tunnel that comprises the entire Behind- dark caverns of stone and wood, with roots and mushrooms glowing with Foxfire stretching onwards. This is the true home of the Alps- a pitch black void of nothingness that they are cursed to live in- as it is the only place truly safe from the light.

The Behind is similar to a cave in that it is very dark and has many branching passages and tight corridors, sometimes leading into inland seas or massive chambers with beds of glowing moss and shrines of stone. This is where all the Alps must live- in the damp and cold- only able to survive on a diet of Sweetness scavenged from the world above. The Alps view their newfound forms and life as shameful- as they are essentially thieves. Sweetness consumed fills the Alp with a sensation of comfort, combats homesickness, and lets them feel alright for a short while. Alps do not sleep anymore, and as such spend all their time either huddled in darkness, on the lookout for the Boogeymen, or venturing out into the world to find more Sweetness. Many Alps will call their work to gather this precious material as "gathering", or since many are children, "trick or treating", as they are also always in costume.

Every Alp has a Costume. Real clothes and objects rot away and degrade quickly in the Behind; and all new Alps will eventually be guided towards the Wardrobe. Standing in what is thought to be the heart of the Behind, a decayed massive wardrobe towers over your form as the door creaks open, revealing a blacker-then-black darkness within. Some Alps think this wardrobe leads to an even deeper, darker realm- or the very first Boogeyman lives inside it still- as the growls inside rustle and eventually throw you a costume from its depths. No Alps dare to venture inside, but if you did, you would surely not return once the door was shut. On top of being your new outfit and identity, Costumes seem to give special advantages to Alps based on what kind they are.

  • Adventurers include costumes like cowboys, super heroes, and pirates. Adventurers are the transportation experts and core of moving through the Night World safely. In the hands of an adventurer, an electric chord becomes a sturdy vine and a toy car becomes alive and hot-wired at their touch. Adventurers are also the bravest Alps and are the most resistant to fear from Boogeymen and Dogs.
  • Baddies include costumes like criminals, black knights, or ninjas. Baddies are the sneakiest Alps, capable of moving without noise or even turning invisible when they stand still. They can snuff out Foxfire and be the only type of Alp that can see even in this unnaturally dark darkness.
  • Beauties include costumes like pop stars, fairies, and princesses. These Alps are the best at smelling Sweetness and at working with it- capable of Spinning it even within the Night World to create whatever they wish. They are also uniquely able to make Lumps float in the air, making bringing them back much easier.
  • Clowns include costumes of jesters, tricksters, and actual clowns. Clowns are the best Alps at dealing with toys; they seem to "speak their language" the most and are the best at fighting or distracting them if they get in the way. They are the friendliest of all Alps.
  • Clunkers include costumes like knights, robots, or sumo wrestlers. They are slower but more physical then other types of Alps- meaning they can move real physical objects much heavier and larger then other Alps can- such as pushing over a door or knocking over a basket trapping a friend. These Alps are also the toughest and most resilient to damage both from real objects or the claws of a Boogeymen.
  • Divers include costumes like Mermaids, Astronauts, and Diving-Suits. They are uniquely capable of entering water in the Night World, from dangerous swimming pools and ponds to glasses of water and bathtubs, as well as being the only Alp capable of swimming in the underwater caverns in the Behind. Their costume also protects them from Dust as long as it is not ripped.
  • Magicians include costumes like referees, wizards, or nerds. They have the ability to sense things, like if a human is a light sleeper, who is generating the Sweetness in this house, and if Boogeymen have been here recently. They also deal the most damage to Boogeymen with their Sand and these attacks count as Aggravated Damage.
  • Toms are animal costumes; from a stylish outfit with cat ears to an animal onesie to a full fursuit. Regardless of the animal; all Toms have the same role; dealing with animals- especially cats and dogs. They have the unique ability to use Sand on an animal which works on them the same way as it does on a human.
  • Unknowns include costumes like aliens, monsters, or grim reapers. They can use Bitterness and Dust in the same way they use Sweetness for spinning and Sand for other abilities, but it makes them feel a little icky to do it. They can also sense and speak to other supernatural beings, even invisible ones, which may not be related to Alps or Boogeymen at all.
  • Spookies include costumes like Vampires, Witches, and Devils. They have the unique ability to create scary noises, or appear as a Shadow Person, exactly as the Boogeymen can do, to mortal beings in the real world. Their main role is to scare children to go back to sleep, or sometimes scare away Boogeymen.

While the Behind is very barren, there are two supernatural resources to be found here. The first is a type of bright, clean white-yellow substance called Sand which naturally collects in some places. Sand is the main resource of the Alps- and it can be used to both harm Boogeymen as a weapon, but more importantly, can be sprinkled in the eyes of a human to make them fall asleep and stay asleep. Sand must be applied very close to a human's face to work- and it can be covered by a facemask or blanket that most Alps don't have the strength to move. Using Sand is very important to keep humans from waking up while Alps gather Sweetness, as an awake human can collapse the Night World with their gaze and, if they turn on a light, can destroy a creeping Alp. The second type of resource is called Dust, a glowing gray dust that collects in forgotten places, and is mostly of interest to the Boogeymen. If thrown in a human's eyes, Dust doesn't put them to sleep but instead gives them sleep paralysis- causing an immense sensation of fear for as long as they are in this state. Dust is also directly harmful to Alps, causing a sensation of sadness and dealing damage to them. Great pools of Dust or shelves lined with it are sometimes placed as traps for Alps in the Behind, which when disturbed up up clouds of the stuff that will cause an Alp to wither an die if they are too weak or have gone without Sweetness for too long.

Within the Behind, Sweetness appears like clumps of cotton candy, glowing in pastel pinks, greens, and blues. While it is most often consumed by Alps, it can also be used in a special way, known as Spinning. This is spinning the strings of Sweetness into new forms and objects. Spinning is a skill that any Alp can learn. Essentially, it allows you to create things or change the environment of the Behind- from creating physical objects, repairing your costume, to giving life and color to new rooms and chambers. It should be noted that Boogeymen, despite using Bitterness in much the same way that Alps use Sweetness, cannot spin Bitterness in the same way, meaning they are forced to live in squalor.

Finally, Lumps are a type of object from the real world that can be brought into the Behind without rapidly decaying away or turning to nothing. These are forgotten objects infused with Sweetness. These act like a battery or storage for Sweetness- and are sometimes traded as currency. They also may have inherit value in their form; beyond the Sweetness one can draw from it- many Alps are very lonely and remorseful of their current state, and would be greatly comforted by a toy or blankie that reminds them of home.

Several Factions exist within the Behind comprised of Alps.

  • The Fairytale Kingdom is the largest and most experienced faction of Alps. They distribute Sweetness to their subjects and give orders and jobs to everyone according to their abilities. They have a clear hierarchy- ruled by a Prince who was given a crown as part of his costume- and he can be quite cruel and demanding, especially of new recruits. All Alps are given a rank and are expected to work very hard and give away almost all of their Sweetness before they earn the right to more. On the upside, this group of Alps has experts spinners, meaning the Kingdom actually looks like a real place; with a fake night sky, grass, trees, and farm fields painted on the walls of the cavernous Behind. They are very afraid of the Boogeymen and are ill-prepared for the attacks the Boogeymen are preparing against them.
  • The Lost Boys are a group of Alps who believe they can still return home and to their old lives again- and are tirelessly searching for a way back in the Behind. They inspire themselves with memories of Disney films- especially Peter Pan- and many have costumes that look like Peter Pan, Captain Hook, or culturally insensitive Indians. Because they search so far and wide in the Behind for secret ways out- the Lost Boys have a great store of Sand they use as a trading currency and are quite keen on the Boogeymen and how to fight them. Out of all the groups, the Lost Boys are the furthest from giving up.
  • The Tailors are a small group of Alps who live around and protect their wardrobe. Their only real goal is to find new Alps struggling and lost in the Behind and take them to get a costume and teach them the ropes- especially on how to find Sweetness- before these new Alps lose their way and become Boogeymen. They genuinely just want to help people and make the most of a bad situation. It seems the Tailors are the most grown up of all the factions and likely have older, more empathetic kids or teenagers comprising their ranks. Regardless of their costume or what they are doing, their members can be known by the small pins they stick in their costumes to mark themselves as Tailors.
  • The Dreamhouse is both a location and group of Alps, almost all girls, who live in a single pink house somewhere deep in the Behind. For one reason or another, the Dreamhouse- based on a Barbie Dreamhouse- has a certain power and presence in the Behind. It can lure Alps close and the girls within will trick them into losing their Sweetness, their lumps, or even their costumes. Instead of gathering Sweetness, they will steal it from someone else, and can be quite demanding if you want to give it back. They are almost as bad as the Alps- but give away "Barbie Bucks", pieces of fake pink money drawn in with crayon, that act as a central reserve currency for Alps where you can exchange it for Sweetness, Sand, or useful Lumps.
  • The Kitty-Cat Club is a large group of Alps who have an actual, real living cat in the Behind. It eats mice and doesn't seem too bothered by being here. It is thought that most mortal beings, except for humans, can't come into the Behind- so how this cat is here is a mystery. The cat is also a normal sized cat when compared to the Alps, making it appear far less intimidating then the giant monsters they encounter in the Night World. They won't let you pet the cat unless you join them and donate a lot of Sweetness, but mostly they deal as a mediator between the other groups, and even been known to send envoys to Boogeymen from time to time.

On top of these groups- several small independent groups of Alps exist in small communities. Some have communal places called Dreams, where they spin sweetness to look like places in the real world to make themselves more comfortable. These groups tend to be very vulnerable to attack by larger groups of Boogeymen- but it's still better then being alone.

While characterized by costumes and divided into factions or groups- all Alps also have two gauges or axis which define how they are handling their new existence. These are called their Comfort and Bleakness.

Comfort is raised through physical comforts, such as living within a Dream that feels like a real place, having a well ordered costume, and by owning Lumps. Comfort is an emotional fuel that also acts as a shield against the dangers of Boogeymen- the higher your comfort, the less damage a Boogeyman's Dust can inflict upon you. However, regardless of your comfort level, their claws can still shred you.

If your Comfort gets too high however, you will find yourself less and less able to slip through a crack and enter the Night World again, eventually being totally unable to do so. At this point, you become a homebody, a creature fused with a place in the Behind. The Alp may sit down on a chair and never get up again, slowly sinking into the floor, their face becoming a part of the rock. Still able to speak and communicate with other Alps, but unable to move anymore- homebodies have become too comfortable in their new lives and have forgotten the real world.

Bleakness is a score that naturally rises as the Alp spends more and more time in the Behind. The longer they live as an Alp, the less memories they have of their time as humans, and the more unreal the real world feels- as they can barely touch it. Consuming Sweetness is the only way to lower your Bleakness score, as well as healing your injuries and sustaining your life. You can consume Bitterness to heal you and sustain yourself, but this does not lower your Bleakness.

If your Bleakness gets too high, you will begin the transformation into a Boogeyman. For every day you are captured by Boogeymen, you will gain a point of Bleakness in your cage until you eventually turn into one of them.

Finally, there are the Boogeymen. Boogeymen are mirrors to Alps, living in the Behind as well, and also entering the Night World, but instead of harvesting Sweetness, they harvest Bitterness instead. Boogeymen are quite cruel and wretched things. They have no costumes, and instead wear the decayed rags of the clothing they first found themselves in the Behind. Almost all Boogeymen were created when another Boogeyman grabbed a human and dragged them into the Behind to get turned into one of them. On top of their supernatural abilities, all Boogeymen share the same weakness to light as Alps do, but have more physical strength in the real world- enough that a group of Boogeymen can actually overpowered and drag a human away.

While beginning like Alps- Boogeymen have a different, more negative culture and experience more extreme morphological changes. Their eyes become larger but darker then Alps, their hair begins to fall out, and they grow claws on their hands. It is unknown why Boogeymen steal people away to become more of themselves; it may be because it creates more Bitterness in the world to feed their hunger, or it may be because they are lonely and wish for friends- but Boogeymen all invariably become bitter and slowly lose their humanity over time. However, Boogeymen are still intelligent and can communicate- but most of the time they are aggressive towards Alps and their kind. While mysterious to Alps, a few known factions or types of Boogeymen exist.

  • Sack Men are the most common type of Boogeymen. They often carry huge sacks they find in the Behind, or perhaps they have unlocked the ability to spin just these ugly things. They stuff their sacks full of Bitterness or lumps, or sometimes, human children. They are still the most reasonable Boogeymen, and can sometimes be scared off or accept a trade- but only in the Night World where there is a present danger of light. In the Behind, they are must more forceful and may sometimes rip up an Alp's costume just out of spite. They are very solitary and thankfully don't appear in groups.
  • Night Men are a group of Boogeymen that find solace in groups- and are so named for their tendency to appear as shadow people to humans who are in sleep paralysis- an ability all Boogeymen have. The Night Men huddle together in dark corners in the Behind, and are not especially aggressive unless you approach them. They seem to have undergone further transformation then the sack men, become totally nonverbal, and only traces of humanity in how they clutch soiled objects in their blackened clawed hands. While not too aggressive- Night Men take up territory in the Behind and will guard it fiercely; not allowing Alps to gather Sweetness from nearby places- denying resources to the hungry Alps if not dealt with or avoided.
  • Cucuy are the final and most dangerous type of Boogeymen, and are also seemingly the most advanced in their condition. Looking almost totally inhuman and with glowing red eyes in the dark- their powers are the most advanced and dangerous. They seem to revel in causing pain and fear, and their breath itself carries a bit of dust with it. Going from just being a threat or rival to Alps; Cucuys hunt Alps for sport in the Behind- attacking lost Alps and draining them of all Sweetness until they either turn into Boogeymen or die. These Boogeymen are also able to deepen darkness around themselves or their lairs- hiding themselves even from the sharp eyes of the Alps. Thankfully, their weakness to light seems even greater then a normal Alp, and are almost never seen in the Night World for fear of the light of a star or the moon may be able to kill them.

All Alps in some way seek a nice life- either a way to turn back into a human or to find a comfortable place in the Behind where they can live- free from the fears of the Boogeymen who brought them to this terrible place to begin with, harvesting Sweetness and making with it what comfort and happiness they can. Some Alps believe in a legend of a mythical place; a Night Land that never fears the sunrise where they could live peacefully, and that this place may be in the far off land of the "Arctic" or "Antarctic", but this is just a legend. Until then, they will have to stay hidden from the light and from the Boogeymen and hold on as long as they can.


Vampire Perspective

Most Vampires don't even know that Alps exist. The homes of Vampires and Ghouls don't seem to accumulate Sweetness, but Bitterness is never in short supply- however, Dust and Sand don't work on Vampires, who sleep during the day, when the Boogeymen and Alps stay within the Behind. As such, they rarely meet- with the sole exception seeming to be Malkavians, who see Boogeymen creeping through their sanctuaries as their "little friends".

Werewolf Perspective

While Werewolves have no special sense for the Behind or any concept of such an urbanized fairy-tale, they can sense Alps as beings, and Alps can even use their Sand on a sleeping wolf to much the same effect as a human. Werewolves sense Alps and Boogeymen of being the least class of spirit- and may not understand that they were once human beings.

Changeling Perspective

Out of all creatures in the World of Darkness- Changelings and Alps are very closely related. Alps view Changelings as almost dream creatures- creatures of the Night World that carry it with them- in many ways their older brothers and sisters. Many Alps are jealous of the Changelings, who seem to have all the same powers they do with none of the downsides- living in beautiful fairy tale kingdoms while Alps have to build theirs painstakingly in a dreary dark crack in the wall. Changelings are also uniquely able to see the Night World, and do not collapse it upon viewing it- they often say this is just another form of the Near Dreaming. Sometimes, a kind Changeling will grant a small amount of Glamour to an Alp, which they can consume as a form of strange tasting but still just as nourishing form of Sweetness.

Changelings view Alps a bit differently. Many Changelings see Alps and Boogeymen as a seelie or unseelie court respectively- and may view the entire Behind as an extremely old and pervasive Freehold. Though they find it strange these Alps can pass through the Hedge so easily and readily- many Changelings believe Alps to be a form of Hobgoblin instead; an intermediary before the banal and the fantastic.

Mage Perspective

Alps know of some humans who know of their existence- and most of these humans are no good. Mages, with their abilities at sensing and interacting with supernatural beings and forces, are especially dangerous to Alps. While most are harmless, the real issue comes from the Technocracy, who has only been gaining strength in recent years. With the large amount of always-online game consoles, phones with built in cameras or sensors, and gadgets with a great degree of technology in them all lead to potentially dangerous threats for the Alps. Some brand new toys, like robot dogs or intelligent teddy bears have actually been designed on purpose to flash bright light if it detects a Boogeyman, or an Alp, leading to fatal traps that remove supernatural elements from the world.

While many Alps know and fear Mages, few Mages know or care about the struggles of Alps. The Behind is thought of being a small pocket dimension with limited value for magic or knowledge; accessible only with gross magic to bend open a doorway into the space behind space. Beyond this curiosity, few Mages ever interact with or are sympathetic and willing to help the lost.

Hunter Perspective

Alps fear Hunters, as Hunters are well aware of Boogeymen and other night-terrors like them. As fire, sources of light, and holy water are all employed by Hunters- they can be used to deadly effect against Alps. Alps also know better then to trifle with Hunters, as Hunters of the Vision creed can tell when a person has been enchanted to sleep with Sand and knows of the passing of Boogeymen.

Hunters only know of Alps through the Boogeymen- and Boogeymen are a common, lesser threat they deal with regularly. Families with children or young adults beset by night terrors and insomnia are prime targets for investigation by Hunters, and it is unfortunate that innocent Alps get caught in the crossfire- as it is rare for a Hunter to tell the difference between them. However, for the few Hunters who do interact with the poor hidden ones- they will find a curious and misunderstood creature simply trying to survive in a very dark and threatening world much like humanity itself.

Arhat Perspective

The Arhat, being enlightened humans, focus mostly on the salvation of humans and to spread their teachings of enlightenment to the world; not helping to comfort lost souls that dwell in darkness. With that being said, an Arhat with any Karma is said to be able to protect an Alp from the harmful effects of light- simply by touching them or shrouding them with shade, they can protect the hidden one until they can be brought back to a dark crack to crawl away. Unfortunately, many Arhat believe that Alps are stuck in this form as a punishment or as karmic debt from a past life and will offer little help. For some Arhat, they believe Alps and Boogeymen are an actual form a soul can take in the wheel of reincarnation. In their eyes, they would be the Preta or "hungry ghost".