Manuscript 2: V:tR Core Book

so, after giving it some thought, I’ve decided that simply calling a “sum up post” a sum up post is a bit boring, so I’ve decided to change the name into something a bit more shiny- a Manuscript, inspired by the famous Voynich Manuscript which was a candidate for a new Dark Era. Following the Manuscript’s structure, I’m going to divide that post into a number of sections, each detailing something we learned in our journey in the CofD’s setting- Biology (the types of monsters we met), Physics (the occultic/scientific principals we established), Psychology (anchors and integrity), Cosmology (the gods and realms we stumbled upon) and Recipes (my To Do list). The Recipes chapter will be divide into 3 tiers, which are divided by how developed is the concept I have for them. Once a week, I’ll try to write down once of those ideas as an homebrew- and while inspiration would play a role on which one I’ll write, I’m more than open to hear about your opinions and what you want to see me write. The only thing you need to do is to say, and I’ll write down what most of you would want to see!

Biology

Base Template

  • Mortals- the regular people you meet in your day to day life. They lack both a Supernatural Potential and a Supernatural Dimension and their process is Supernatural Merits and Abjurations, while their mind is measured by Integrity and defined by Virtue and Vice.

Micro Template

Lesser Template

  • Ghoul- people infected by the animation field of a vampire, which embody themselves in them. Their Supernatural Potential is Blood Potency, their Supernatural Dimension is Vitae and their processes are Disciplines, while their mind is measured by Integrity and defined by Virtue and Vice.

Major Template

  • Horror- the generic name from monsters you bump into in the night, which are created through myriad of different and unrelated phenomena. Their Supernatural Potential is Potency and their process is Dread Powers. They lack Supernatural Dimension, while their mind in measured by Integrity and defined by Virtue and Vice.
  • Vampire- undead monsters which were brought back from the grave by being animated by a stolen essence of life. They are divided into Clans by birth and Covenants by choice. Their Supernatural Potential is Blood Potency, their Supernatural Dimension is Vitae and their processes are Disciplines, Devotions and Covenant specific Benefits, while their mind is measured by Humanity and is defined through Mask and Dirge.

Evolved Template

Fallen Template

Spirit Template

  • Spirits- the ephemeral denizens of Hisil which manifest the animistic nature of the world. Their Supernatural Potential is Primal Rank, their Supernatural Dimension is Primal Essence and their processes are Manifestations, Numina and Influences, while they lack a defined mind.
  • Ghost- the empty shells formed from the death of a person, or a similar traumatic moment when their “old self dies”. Their Supernatural Potential is Macabre Rank, their Supernatural Dimension is Macabre Essence and their processes are Manifestation, Numina and Influences, while their mind is measured by Integrity and defined through Vice and Virtue.
  • Angels- servants of the God Machine which are summoned to fulfill its will and advance its plans. Their Supernatural Potential is Ethereal Rank, their Supernatural Dimension is Ethereal Essence and their processes are Manifestation, Numina and Influences, while their mind isn’t measured but defined by Virtue and Vice.
  • Strix- living shadows which celebrate the eventual doom of light and life. Their Supernatural Potential is Shadow Potency, their Supernatural Dimension is Vitae and their processes are Dread Powers and Embodiments, while their mind is measured by Shadow Potency and defined by Vice.

Physics

Supernatural Potential

  • Potency- definition of a raw, supernatural power. It does not govern any related dimension, and defines Horrors. It lacks a physical parallel
  • Rank- the general term for the Importance one has in the world. It governs Essence and is split into 3 types- Primal, Macabre and Ethereal. Its parallel is Chemical Potential
  • Primal Rank- the Importance a subject has in the physical world. It governs Primal Essence and defines Spirits.
  • Macabre Rank- the Importance a subject has in the memory of others. It governs Macabre Essence and defines Ghosts.
  • Ethereal Rank- the Importance a subject has in the divine system. It governs Ethereal Essence and defines Angels.
  • Blood Potency- the level of Animation which represents how well the subject is infused with life through their blood. It governs Vitae and defines Vampires and Ghouls. Its parallel is Temperature.
  • Shadow Potency- the level of Animation which represents how well the subject is infused with life through their shadows. It governs Vitae and defines Strix. Its parallel is Temperature.

Supernatural Dimension

  • Essence- a quantum of the recognized Existence of the subject. It is divided into 3 types- Primal, Macabre and Ethereal, and is governed by Rank. Its parallel is Amount.
  • Primal Essence- a quantum of Existence as expressed in the physical world. It defines Spirits, and is governed by Primal Rank.
  • Macabre Essence- a quantum of Existence as expressed in remembrance. It defines Ghosts, and is governed by Macabre Rank.
  • Ethereal Essence- a quantum of Existence as expressed in willingness to make sacrifices. It defines Angels, and is governed by Ethereal Rank.
  • Vitae- a quantum of Life, which maintain and transform the subject in the form of an Animation Field. It defines Vampires, Ghouls and Strix, and is governed by Blood and Shadow Potencies. Its parallel is Entropy.

Processes

  • Supernatural Merits- abilities to influence supernatural energies by indirect manipulation of the occult field. Used by Mortals.
  • Abjurations- the ability to manipulate the Existence of other beings using mental recognition and will. Used by Mortals.
  • Dread Powers- collection of different processes which channel the phenomena which gave birth to the monster. Used by Horrors.
  • Manifestation- controlling the level of interaction between the system and the environment through defining the system’s Existence. Used by Spirits, Ghosts and Angels.
  • Influence- enforcing the system’s Existence upon the environment. Used by Spirits, Ghosts and Angels.
  • Numina- a collection of powers which express the nature of the system’s Existence. Used by Spirits, Ghosts and Angels.
  • Disciplines- natural outcomes of the animation field’s geometry which allows embodying themselves in their body. Used by Vampires, Ghouls and Strix
  • Devotions- combination of different channels of the animation field’s geometry which allow preforming new and strange embodiments. Used by Vampires.
  • Curac- direct embodiment of the Beast’s life in the surrounding world. Used by the Circle of the Crone and the Strix.
  • Blood Oaths- programming process which is used to enforce interactions upon the animation field. Used by the Invictus.
  • Theban Sorcery- a matrix which connects between the animation field and the divine hierarchy which supports the world. Used by the Lancea et Sanctum
  • Mysteries of the Dragon- direct manipulation of the geometry of the animation field. Used by the Ordo Dracul.
  • Doom Powers- sensing and influencing the course of fate and coming doom through the world’s animation field. Used by the Strix.
  • Host Powers- processes which strength the embodiment of the subject in the vessel. Used by the Strix.
  • Shadow Powers- processes which strength the embodiment of the subject in the darkness. Used by the Strix.
  • Vitae Powers- direct manipulations of the animation field. Used by the strix.

Psychology

Measurement

  • Integrity- the completeness of the connection between the human mind, and how well it bridge the body to the soul. Defined through Virtue and Vice, and used by all non Major and Spirit Templates, as well as by Ghosts.
  • Humanity- how well the mind remembers the former human self and connects the Soul to the Body. Used by Vampires.
  • Monstrosity- the negative of Humanity, or how well the mind recognize the monster they became and connects the Beast to the body. Used by Vampires and Strix.

Anchors

  • Virtue- the way the Soul express itself in the human mind. Used by any non Major and Spirit Templates, as well as by Ghosts and Angels.
  • Vice- the way the Body express itself in the human mind. Used by any non Major and Spirit Templates, as well as by Ghosts, Strix and Angels.
  • Mask- the way the Beast express itself in the vampiric mind and defines the monster they become. Used by vampires.
  • Dirge- the way the Soul express itself in the vampiric mind and defines the person they were. Used by vampires.

Cosmology

Lone Gods of the Pantheon

  • Darkness- Patron of Horrors, ruler upon the Material
  • Elohim- Patron of Mortals, ruler upon Eden
  • God Machine- Patron of Angels, ruler upon the Infrastructure

Old Gods of the Shadow

  •  Gaea- Patron of Spirits, ruler upon Hisil
  • Sakuya Hime- Patron of the Ume House, resident of the Graveyard and Hisil (also a Blood God)

Dead Gods of the Bellow

  • Persephone- Patron of Ghosts, resident of the Underworld

Blood Gods of the Pyramid

  • Sponsor- Patron of Vampires, ruler upon the Graveyard
  • Geshtinanna- Patron of the Daeva Clan, resident of the Graveyard
  • Echidna- Patron of the Gangrel Clan and the Circle of the Crone Covenant, resident of the Graveyard
  • Sutekh- Patron of the Mekhet Clan, resident of the Graveyard (also a Nameless God)
  • Zmei- Patron of the Nosferatu Clan, resident of the Graveyard and the Material (also a Beast God)
  • Cronus- Patron of the Ventrue Clan, resident of the Graveyard
  • Xiwangmu- Patron of the Jiang Shi Clan, resident of the Graveyard
  • Carth- Patron of the Carthian Movement, resident of the Graveyard and the Astral (also an Ideal God)
  • Emperor- Patron of the Invictus, resident of the Graveyard
  • Longinus- Patron of the Lancea et Sanctum, resident of the Graveyard (also High God)
  • Dragon- Patron of the Ordo Dracul, prisoner of the Graveyard
  • Lilith- Patron of the Strix and the Lillian Heresy, ruler upon Dis
  • Dii- Patron of the Kataramenon, resident of the Graveyard
  • Moirai- Patron of the Ypochreosi, resident of the Graveyard
  • Hachiman- Patron of the Maeda Group, resident of the Graveyard
  • Shichifukujin- Patron of the Takahashi Family, resident of the Graveyard and the Astral (also an Ideal God)
  • Sakuya Hime- Patron of the Ume House, resident of the Graveyard and Hisil (also an Old God)
  • Qingu- Patron of Ghouls, resident of the Graveyard

Nameless Gods of the Empire

  • Sutekh- Patron of the Mekhet Clan, resident of the Graveyard (also a Blood God)

Beast Gods of Pangaea

  • Zmei- Patron of the Nosferatu Clan, resident of the Graveyard and the Material (also a Blood God)

Ideal Gods of the Mind

  • Carth- Patron of the Carthian Movement, resident of the Graveyard and the Astral (also a Blood God)
  • Shichifukujin- Patron of the Takahashi Family, resident of the Graveyard and the Astral (also a Blood God)

High Gods of Heaven

  • Longinus- Patron God of the Lancea et Sanctum, resident of the Graveyard (also Blood God)

Recipes

Tier 1

  • Daywalker- what that happens once that a vampire gains an immunity to their banes
  • Persephone’s Shadow- setting material about the First Regret
  • Mumvuri Update- working on a modern version of the Clan
  • Ahranite Brotherhood- a version of VII without VII
  • Shadows of Smoke- variant Strix breeds
  • Blood Dolls- rework as a micro template
  • Slashing Conspiracy- writing a new Slashing Conspiracy for my rpject
  • Vigilant Times- adding a new organization inspired by a Dark Era
  • Civil War- adding a new Civil War to my Hunter project
  • Ankh and Candle- writing Hunter Endowment for Sekhem Sorcerers
  • General Candle and Knife- writing any new organization from my Hunter To Do List
  • Fire Fighters- Enen no Shouboutai adaption

Tier 2

  • Occult Matrix Sorcery- tools for mortals to mess with the God Machine’s gears
  • Fall of the Black Nathaniel- fiction
  • the Gray- developing one of the lesser realms from the GMC together with a new Daemon lesser template
  • the Other Place- developing the realm of mirrors using my Eidolon template
  • Lost Visage- Mechanics for the vampiric effect
  • Fog of Ages- [resenting the old idea with a new light, including new antagonists
  • Coven of Nanja- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple Dark Era
  • Voice of Shullat- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple
  • Qedesha- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple
  • Naditu- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple
  • Annunaku- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple
  • Noctuku- update to 2E to be used in the First Temple
  • Mastema- mysterious power which devours the souls of the dead
  • Pazuzu Cults- worshipers of the Wind Demon and progenitor of the Edimmu
  • Alu- souls of a Lost Clan which clong to the dead and give them double edged gifts
  • Baal Hadad- 2E Update
  • Lodge of Foul Dogs- Ghost Wolves Lodge for the First Temple
  • Scorpion Host- shards of a primordial divinity of poison and purity
  • Kataramenon- full writeup to the Covenant
  • Ypochreosi- full writeup to the Covenant
  • Watchful Eyes- full writeup to the Covenant
  • Children of the Cacophony- Malakavia like condition which tunes to the changes in the Cacophony
  • Clavicularius- 2E Legacy Update
  • Bene Ashmedai- 2E Legacy Update
  • Prophets- variant Mage splat, using the Chronicler’s Guide
  • Void Spirit- the strange entities which dance among the stars
  • Starspawn- mummy like creatures birthed by strange stars and inhuman kingdoms
  • First Among the Fae- a Neolithic version of Changeling
  • Project Freelancer- RvB adaption
  • Kotharat Mystery Cult- spirit worshipers from ancient Canaan

Tier 3

  • Anti Infrastructure- a way for mortals and demons to make their own free Hell
  • Dark Realm of the Crossroads- developing a realm and a template based around a lesser known realm from the GMC
  • Shadow Doppelgangers- developing the doppelganger version of VII
  • Strix Hunter- developing the strix hunter version of VII
  • 2E Betrayed- updating the Seven Houses to the new edition
  • Variant Nosferatu – to be used in the First Temple Dark Era
  • Great Covenant- the old Covenant of Egypt
  • Unnamed Ancient Political Covenant- to be used in the First Temple Dark Era
  • Unnamed Akhud Bloodline- to be used in the First Temple
  • Unnamed Mumvuri Bloodline- to be used in the First Temple
  • Temple Priests- hunter organization of the First Temple
  • Baron’s Bloodline- developing the strix touched bloodline
  • Hantu’s Clan- developing a new Lost Clan
  • Mother’s Clan- making a new Clan for Mother
  • Pirwa- new Idigam
  • Bureau of Silence- full writeup to the Covenant
  • Bureau of Childer- new writeup to the Covenant
  • Revolutionary Council- full Covenant writeup
  • Lillian Heresy- full Covenant writeup
  • Metronome- full writeup as an Angel
  • Line of Solomon- new Proximi Dynasty
  • Line of Saul- new Proximi Dynasty
  • Baalim- new Great Cult for the First Temple
  • Cult of Phoenicia- new Great Cult for the First Temple
  • Cult of Israel- new Great Cult for the First Temple
  • Soul Salt- crystallized souls found in the Dead Sea
  • Nameless Banisher Order- to be used in the First Temple
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Chapter 12: On the Other Side of the Grave (the Living)

 

Somewhere during the beginning of this blog (Chapter 2, to be exact), we have established that the most central piece of the CofD setting is the mortals. That’s especially true for vampires. Sure, every other playable (and enough unplayable) supernatural creature in the CofD has a certain interest in mortals- but take a mage, a werewolf or even a promethean and put them in a white room with no interaction with mankind, and the chances are they’ll get out more or less the way they got in- a little bit rough around the edges, but all in all, they should be OK.

Not so much for vampires.

I’m not only talking about the fact the vampires need blood in order to stay alive, and that if you’ll take a bunch of vampires without any other available food source the chances are it would end up in a giant Diablerie orgy. I’m talking about the fact that even if you’ll give them enough blood through a theoretically appropriate medium (let’s say you send them blood contained in a magical dummy structure which maintain the Vitae inside of it- you know, a literal “blood doll”), the chances are that it would still end up as a Diablerie orgy. The reason is that vampires are, by principle, parasites- not only literally, but also mentally and spiritually. Vampires needs human society to remind them what being a human is like- and without that constant human contact, they start to lose it. The Beast always bares its fangs against the Man, and once the former starts to forget what he actually is, the later jumps upon his throat and devour him whole.

In the end, it is all because of the detachment all Kindred feel toward their former selves. The constant battle to maintain their Humanity in the face of the Beast requires nightly reminder of what being a human actually means, of people and things they care for, of human emotions like love and hope and everything else which is more than being hungry and afraid and angry all the time. A vampire is solitude would eventually be driven mad by their inner Beast, and that would start the path of self destruction- and in order to avoid that fatal fate, there is only one thing the Kindred can do- make sure they are never, ever alone, no matter what it takes.

While being used as Touchstones for the vampire is an important role for mortals, there are many other forms of interactions between the Kindred and the Kine- and as the book takes its tame as examining each of those possible interactions, I believe we should do the same- besides, it also includes some plot hooks which would be fun to explore!

First- Masquerade breaches. Mortals just love sticking their noses to where it doesn’t belong, and vampires are the ones left to deal with the damage control. After all, each such Masquerade breach gives a birth to a new hunter, and more hunters means more vampires being left to the sun- and as mortals don’t give a damn about the All Night Society and the Danse Macabre politics, killing the wrong vampire may end up with an hell for the local Domain. Also- love the TF:V reference! Really gives a nice connection to the wider setting of the Chronicles of Darkness.

Anyway, while killing the mortal is the easiest way to deal with the breach, the book presents a number of cases in which such quick and dirty action ends up with even bigger mess, requiring a more delicate strategy to deal with the problem. The first is the reporter which is just too important to be killed- she has too many connection, and her death may end up with drawing more attention that her own investigation does. Instead, they need to keep her interested and draw her attention from the All Night Society. The nice thing about this hook that it shows how self absorbed the vampires could be- they are so focused about dealing with the potential breach, that they don’t even think about the possibility of getting rid of the serial killer. They are not their problem- the reporter is. It also adds the killer as a wild card into such chronicles- after all, if killing her would cause vampires to the Domain, what if the serial killer would start targeting her? Worse, what if they would start to target the players and the people they care about for protecting her?

The second is a mystery- someone knows things they shouldn’t know, and made sure to put a barrier of some kind to hide their identity. Such an act makes me think about an high level Dominate devotion of some kind, or maybe Obfuscate (probably both). Maybe it was a strix, maybe someone else. At any case, that creates a potential for the situation to be a lot more dangerous than it seems on the surface- after all, not knowing who or how the information was given, means you also don’t really know what the person doesn’t know- that is, what else is hidden in the depths of their mind, making them into a wild card. After all, what if they were programmed not only to hide the identity of the breach, but also to do some things they aren’t even aware they are doing? Yeah, some great crossover potential with the Dreamers from Hurt Locker.

Finally, a God Machine reference. Yeay. Someone whose family are all “Prophets of the God Machine”. I would have added them to my “to do” list, but they are already there out of my Mage Dark Era entry (yeah, you could style them as Angels, but it still sounds fun to have them as their own template). Anyway, those guys are dangerous- and what they want is even more dangerous. Just let their human kin to observe you and your friends. Nothing much- however, we know that the God Machine does not waste resources for nothing. That woman is important to the Machine- and important as a human. Perhaps she is meant to become a prophet by herself, and you know what that a major template stacking is a big no-no. Let her be touched by a vampire or become a ghoul, and things would end up really bad when the Machine would decide to act. Or maybe she has an important fate in her life, and not fulfilling that fate would end up with some terrible danger. On the other hand, why does the God Machine needs to learn more about vampires? Maybe by turning her to a vampire, one could actually save the world from a much greater disaster? Of course, maybe Embracing her may lead to the Wake the Dead scenario from the God Machine Chronicles- the Machine would try to fix her death, but it can’t (she isn’t truly “dead”), and as such ends up with mass awakening from the grave. Perhaps that’s what the prophets saw, and that’s why they gave that warning. Yikes.

Next, blood dolls. That’s one of the more important interactions a vampire may have with a mortal, IMO. Sure, vampires are predators, and predators don’t grow attached to a certain prey- but humans do. Blood dolls are more than a steady source of Vitae- something which is important for vampires, which always compete over food- they also mean that they are mortals with which the vampire creates a certain relationship with. It may start from a pure common interests (the doll enjoying the Kiss, the vampire gaining Vitae)- but as time goes on, the vampire starts developing ownership over the blood doll, almost love even. The doll is important to the vampire, and when another person tries to take them from you- it is both a challenge against your superiority, and a threat to your Humanity.

I must say that I’ve always thought that Blood Dolls should be their own micro template- not all of them, of course, only those who develop certain effects and abilities thanks to the Kiss. After all, the Kiss creates some interaction between the vampire’s Animation field and the target’s. That is a mystical event, and some of those who fall under its effect have their own field transformed to become “better” at luring vampires. The two examples in the book- the man which is has “better scent” than a regular human and the woman with the Unseen Senses for vampires both support that concept.

The next category is Embrace candidates- while there are times when the Embrace is spontaneous or uncontrollable (the classic example is the Post Mortem Embrace, but not only), usually the sire tries to make sure they have choosing the right person to exist as undead, and that they either have the necessary skills to survive the Danse Macabre or that their Embrace would give new resources or connections to the sire, the Clan, the Covenant or the All Night Society as whole. The concept of a mother which is willing to sacrifice herself to Damnation to save her child is a really good example, because it serves as a mirror for the Embrace itself, when you damn another soul to make them your child. The two other examples show the complexity of preparing a future vampire to the All Night Society- for mortals don’t have the mental tools to deal with the situation, and they lack the patience and manipulative nature that the Kindred has.

Family and friends are another important group of mortals- the fact that you died doesn’t mean that your family needs to know about that, especially if you keep enough distance to maintain the act. While family ties may be strong enough as is to maintain relationship with your former life, the book encourage few other options- from a bribe to a strange curse which leaves only you and another mortal. Both allow a window to a much greater story which leads to an whole other game (power building vs mystery investigation), but they start with that basic interaction between  a vampire and someone from their past.

The finale kind of mortal interaction is presented by the lovely name of Shadow Crossed Lovers. Vampires and Romance are two things which seem to always gravitate toward each other in modern literature. It is embedded into the lexicon of the game- the Kiss, the Embrace, the Danse. All things which create a romantic atmosphere around the game. The only problem? You are an undead monster- and in the CofD, such relationship never end well.

I must say that I do like all the presented options in that section- the concept of a loveless marriage which maintain the act out of family honor, and that the death of the spouse doesn’t really change anything- you keep the pretendence, until, somehow, the lies turn to truth. Something very Requiem if you ask me. The other option shows a couple which truly loves each other, and it also adds the complications of the Post Mortem Embrace (if not rising as a Revenant). There is 50% chance that by the end of the story, the guy would end up dead or a Cainte Heresy hunter. The last ends the concept of non standard relationship, which is kinda nice, and shows yet another case of the love actually gets stronger by the Embrace. Two of the three cases also shows that while the vampire may wish to maintain normal love life, the All Night Society always gets in the way- they aren’t called Shadow Crossed Lovers for no reason, right?

Anyway, that’s it for mortals. Let’s start talking about ghouls.

Being a ghoul is more than just being addicted to vampire Vitae- it is about being a part of the vampire. The regnant’s Animation field lives through the vassal, as the vampire embody themselves in the ghoul just as the strix would embody themselves in a corpse. That connection is what that draws the ghoul to return to their master and drink for more- they need the rush, they need the connection, they need the sweet sense of life which feels their body and embodies itself inside of them. Being a ghoul is not just being a servant- but it means you become someone else. You are never truly alone, not anymore. You’ve found your family, your soulmate, your god, your true self all in one- and they are all covered with blood, waiting for you to come.

The concept of the regnant embodying themselves in their ghoul is supported by the story hooks presented in the book. For example, the one about ghouls becoming more and more like their regnants, or the concept of vampires manipulating blood ties using unknown technique to steal ghouls from others. In the end, ghouling and Embracing are not that different from what the strix do when they possess a corpse- they embody their animation field in another person, making them to be a part of them, an extension of themselves outside of a body which is just too small to contain them in it.

While it may look like the regnant-vassal relationships are totally one sided, the truth is that ghouls have a lot more power than it seems- for while they are bound to their masters, the vampires depend too much on them. They need them for company, for pleasure, for help dealing with certain aspects of the human world. Ghouls are important, and when ghouls discover that power and start making demands- especially when the way the local Kindred treat ghouls starts getting worse- it is only a matter of time that the dead would discover that they are on the wrong side of the grave, and all that’s left is throwing the dirt upon it.

The concept of ghoul families is an even more interesting one, because it strength the concept of embodiment of the animation field. To clarify, let’ look at it this way- when the vampire turns a human into a ghoul, they embody themselves in the ghoul. When the ghoul somehow starts a ghoul family, they in fact embody their own residual field in their descendants. Those descendants later embody themselves in their own children, and their grand children, and their grand grand children. Somewhere along the line, the animation field is no longer the original vampire’s residual field- it is an autonomous entity, embodying itself in the blood of the family. Generation after a generation all show the same features, developing the same skills, preform the same activities. The animation field becomes alive- a parasite which clings toward the vampire society just as they cling to the human society. Creating a new ghoul family may be the greatest achievement a vampire may gain in their life- for they create a true legacy of their blood, a true child of their own instead of “just” another product of the Clan’s Beast embodying itself in a corpse.

Now, let’s talk a bit about occult physics, shall we?

First, the basic traits. Like vampires, the ghouls have some sort of Clan, which represents the origin of the residual field which embody itself in them. That potential effects the capabilities of the ghoul, as they use the same field potential as the original field. They also have Blood Potency, even though that unlike vampires, it is stuck of 0. That may sound weird for a new player (after all, what’s the big difference between having no such trait and having a trait which has 0 value?), and even more weird for a scientist ( a force with the value of 0 Newtons is exactly as not activating any force at all), but the truth is that there is a scientific logic for that phenomena.

Allow me to explain.

As we have mentioned earlier in this blog, one may measure the energy of a system using two variables- an extensive one (a value which you could quantify and measure, like volume, information or amount of matter) and and intensive one (a value which dictate the way energy is spread over the previous variable, such as pressure, temperature and chemical potential). Those three variables- energy, the extensive and the intensive- define the system completely. In case you know two out of three of the variables, the last one is already decided. Now, when you have a variable that its value is 0, that usually means that the rest of the values are also 0- but not necessarily. Sometimes, things go up toward infinity.

Ever math teacher which respect themselves have probably told you somewhere in your school to never divide a number by 0- that simply doesn’t mean anything, a blank point which has no true reference in the world, a singularity which ruins all calculations. Science, however, usually go around that prohibition- especially when the exact mathematical score doesn’t really matter. It principal is based around the behavior of dividing numbers by each other. For example, if you divide a number by a number bigger than its value, the outcome would be smaller than 1- which makes sense when you think about it like giving candies to children. When you have more children than candies, each only gets a fraction of the candy. On the other hand, if you divide a number by a number smaller than 1, the outcome is bigger than the initial value- which makes sense, as it is the exact opposite action to what we have just established. When thinking about with candies and children, I’m not suggesting giving one candy to half a children or less (I’m not Solomon)- it simply means that, for example, if half a child gains one candy, the whole child has 2 candies. That’s all.

Now, let’s take that simple truth one step forward- let’s say you have a very, very big number of children which needs to share one candy. Even if you grind the candy to microscopic dust, it may not be enough for them all. Eventually, there is a limit, behind it it no longer matter how much if the candy the kids actually got- as far as they are concerned, they got no candy at all. The same goes for the other way around- if you have decide to give a candy for every little “piece” of the child, like one candy for every human cell in their body, when you’ll sum all the candies needed for the act you end up with needing more candies than the child has ever seen in their life. Eventually, even if you feel generous and you are willing to turn the whole world into a bunch of candies, there is a limit behind it it no longer matter to the child what is the exact number of candies they gain- only that they have a big pile of candies for all of their lifetime. As far as scientists are concerned, that first value, which is so small that it not really exist, is practically 0, and the other number, the one which is so big that its actual size does not truly matter, is called infinity.

Now, dividing and multiplying at 0 and infinity are a risky business- the thing is that infinity practically means that you took a finite number and made it meaningless when compared to the scale you measured it with. Sometimes, the number just looks bug, but when moving to the right scale it would become finite once more. Sometimes, it is truly infinite, and there is no system of reference which would allow you to measure it better than as a “big pile” of things. However, the interesting phenomena is that when you take a really small number (practically 0) and multiply it by a very big number (infinity), you may gain something which is finite- a number which actually means something and could be measured and used.

(note- everything I’ve just said is on a very shallow level, mathematically speaking. True mathematicians would take their time and lecture you about the difference between things which look like 0 and infinity and actual 0 and infinity, and about all kinds of philosophical debates about the actual meaning of those numbers, and that true infinity is not really a number, etc, etc. Scientists, however, don’t care much for that- if it is big enough, it’s infinite. If it’s small enough, it’s 0. I have a mathematician friend, and nothing can annoy her more than talking with her about that stuff. Good times, good times).

Anyway, let’s return to the subject- in our system, the ghoul, we have a potential (intensive) value of 0. That practically means that for each Vitae which is found in their body contains a 0 amount of energy. Everything would have be done if the amount of available Vitae in their system would also be 0- which would mean the amount of energy in the system is 0, and all is well. However, while that’s the case for mortals (they can’t use the Vitae ion their system, as it is not a part of their supernatural “free energy”), ghouls do have a finite amount of Vitae which they could use to preform work (like activating Disciplines). Now, a short and naive calculation (one which makes some assumptions about the distribution of energy in the system), would tell you that in order to have a finite amount of Vitae in a system which demands 0 energy in point of Vitae, the energy must go the same way as the potential value- that is, you need a system where you do not need to invest even 1 femtojoule in order to produce that Vitae. The Vitae, in that case, is “spontaneously generated”, not requiring energy at all in order to form in their body- something which makes sense, when you consider the fact they gain Vitae from an outside source. The reason that it happens is because in order to calculate the amount of Vitae in the system, you had to divide it by the Blood Potency- that is, dividing by 0, which is the same as multiplying by infinity, which force you to have a 0 amount of energy in each Vitae just so the body of the poor bastard won’t explode.

Now, after establishing the way that Vitae operates in the ghoul’s body, let’s talk about the other features of their existence. First, the most common benefit of being a ghoul is that they don’t age. They stay the same, frozen in time. The mechanism behind the process is similar to the ones the vampires use in order to animate themselves, only the other way around- the Animation field serves as some sort of shield, which takes upon itself the transformation which the ghoul should suffer from. Instead of mutating the ghoul’s body to express those features, however, the Animation field dissipates immediately- and as the energy needed to regain the field is 0, it is spontaneously reformed, allowing them with withstand the passage of time as long as it stays stable. Once it is removed, however, the ghoul discover that too much energy has been invested at stopping their progression through time, and they need to “catch up” with their real age in order to minimize that energy- something which may kill the ghoul in the process. The monthly toll for Vitae works to “cool” the system back to a steady state, just as it does  for vampires (you try to face the energy contained in an whole month without getting a little bit hot, ok?)

The way ghouls intensify their own body is the same as vampires use their own field to do so, and the same goes for healing (using the animation field in order to transform the body). It also makes their body more like that of their vampire master, allowing them to taste interactions in the animation field or gaining a more enduring body (the consequences of embodying yourself in another). Ghouls may even learn Disciplines as normal, utilizing new ways to use their Vitae to preform Work, even though they can’t learn Coils (which are specifically made to transform the core potential of the animation field, not dealing with residual fields or with fields which are defined through human potentials). Ghouls may not use Disciplines which spill blood because of the nature of the Blood Potency- the Vitae is found in their blood just like a vampire’s but the energy found in their blood is so small that it practically non existent. Powers which require using blood as a medium of interaction simply fail, because there is no energy inside of it.

The reason for why ghouls have troubles at acting against a Kindred comes from the fact that their own animation field is an embodiment of the vampire’s. The vampire is the core potential of the field, and the residual field can’t force itself upon the core field- the geometry of the field takes care for that. Once the vampire itself embody their will and spirit in the ghoul (in the form of blood bonds), the ghoul becomes an actual part of the vampire’s field, and as such unable to use the same field against its master.

The addiction formed by the lack of Vitae is more than the usual blood bonds- it is a psychological effect. As we said a couple of times in that section, when a vampire creates a ghoul, they embody themselves in them. That means that the ghoul’s body and soul now share the vampire’s, and are actually a part of it. Now, they take away that field- and the vampire is suddenly all alone in the world. The presence which always was in the back of their minds simply vanished, leaving them behind. They can;t deal with it- it is like suddenly losing your right hand. You need to get it back, for your mind and soul have already wired themselves to the vampire’s field, and it hurts to be alone once more. They must regain their field back- must gain their master back!- in order to regain that “wholeness” which they lack without the taste of their sweet, sweet Vitae.

Some of the merits given in that chapter truly represent the embodiment concept- especially the “Taste of X”. Each of those merits shows a special interaction formed between establishing a certain interaction between the vampire and their residual field, and how the original field potential effects the ghoul’s own animation.While four of the five effects are standard, the last Shadow one is interesting as it truly forms a connection between the Beast and the ghoul- perhaps even giving them a little Beast of their own. Maybe all of the animation fields could be as active as the Mekhet’s- but it simply that the shadow choose to speak, while the other growl, burn, rule or simply send chill in your spine. Some of the other merits represent all other kinds of interactions a mortal or a ghoul may develop in order to influence a vampire’s animation field, one way or another.

And now, as always, a little bit cosmology.

As we have already established, the “big bad” which stands in the head of the pyramid in the Sponsor, with the all kinds of different Blood Gods bellow it. Now, if we were to put a patron for the ghoul race as whole (and not specific families), the question is where in the pyramid we should put it- after all, the Blood Gods to the Sponsor are what vampires are to the Blood Gods, which is the same as ghouls are for vampires. By following the pyramid, the power which governs the ghouls especially have no place in the cosmology, as it shouldn’t exist anywhere in the pyramid.

And maybe it doesn’t.

It is not that far fetched- we already have both Lilith and the Dragon as beings from outside of the Blood Pyramid. The power which governs the ghouls, the power which in fact allowed mortals to be tainted by Vitae, may also be such a renegade power- one which exist outside of the pyramid, and which feed upon the blood spilled into the mouth of addicted ghouls. A power which sold out its own kind in order to survive. A power which is, practically, the embodiment of the Kindred in the Kine.

Let’s call that power, the blood of the gods in human veins, Qingu.

Qingu, the unskilled laborer, failed king of the gods which was butchered and slain to humanity would be made from its blood- that’s the name of that renegade, divine power. It is every Vitae which was spent by the end of the month in order to maintain the vampire state. It is the blood of the gods pilled from heaven. Qingu is the antithesis of the Sponsor- both are parasites which feeds upon blood, but where the Sponsor feeds upon the Vitae through a system of licences and commissions, Qingu is simply all the Vitae which dissipates in the world. Every drop of Vitae which falls outside of the Sponsor’s delicate system or which doesn’t feed the Shadows of Dis eventually falls to Qingu’s hungry mouth. Once, Qingu had much greater power- for Lilith was on its side and didn’t cared much for the blood she spilled. But with the rise of the Sponsor, Qingu has turned into a scavenger,  fighting for each drop of blood until it eventually needs to beg for mercy from the Sponsor in the form of allowing ghouling. The once proud god of humanity’s life force has fallen low- but maybe not low enough. It is bound to the Blood Pyramid of the Graveyard, but it is still free to claim any dissipated life- a some sort of entropy to the entropy which is Vitae.

Unlike the Sponsor, which limits itself to the Graveyard, Qingu is quite active in the material world- for it is its place of origin. In places where a lot of blood was spilled and no one claimed the lost life, it may speak in the scenes of dread and horror. It gains power when massacre rises, and when knives spill unclaimed blood. You can’t make sacrifices to Qingu- for once the blood is dedicated to him, he can no longer access that potential. Qingu is every life which was ever wasted, and it pulse in the heart of every mortal and spills with floods with every war mankind has ever started. The Sponsor has managed to contain him, turning him into a bound servant- but if they won’t keep watching that rouge god, it is only a matter of time before Qingu would find a way to rebel against his master, and the blood which would flow in the streets would make his image upon earth.

Well, that’s it for Vampire! I had a blast, and I hope you also enjoyed that show! Next post would be an Open Development about Promethean in the First Temple, and then I’ll start my first Werewolf post. I do not, however, believe I will be able to make a post next week- I’ll try, but if at Thursday there won’t be a new post, the chances are I won’t manage finish it. In that case, I’ll see you in two weeks from now. Stay tuned!

 

Open Development 4: Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live (M:tA)

You don’t really need me to tell you what the bible thinks about witches, do I?

No one today really sure for the reason behind the act- Deuteronomy even takes the time to explain each and every forbidden act of magic. No fortuneteller or cloud reader, no omen reader or spell caster, no speaker to the dead or necromancer, no diviner or a sorcerer- or, as it was summed really nicely in Exodus, you shall not suffer a witch to live.

Some researchers and theologians say that it is because magic doesn’t exist- it is only falsehoods used to manipulate the innocents for personal gain. Others say that magic acts outside of the natural world, and by working it you break the laws of nature- that is, the laws of God. Others blame the devil, as they usually do, or that it may turn people toward paganism, or even that it takes the free will of a person by telling him what to do. After all, while most people remember the prohibition against necromancy, the different forms of seeing the future are much more detailed in the verse. The dead are to be respected- but the living are much more vulnerable.

And yet, against all of that, God has chosen a mage as his king.

While the exact nature of God is going to remain a mystery in the setting, the fact is that Solomon, the same person who is known for being the wisest of them all, of speaking in the tongue of every living being, of binding demons to his will and calling upon all elements of nature to his help, is also known as one of the best kings Israel ever had- which means that unlike kings which were considered as sinners, he was supported by the priests, prophets, monks and all other “holy men”. He also reigns not much time after the purge that king Saul has preformed against all kinds of magic workers in an attempt to regain God’s favor- only to fail in the most crucial moment by asking the help of one of them. The one who fulfills God’s will is punished by him, while the one to defy it by his very existence gains his favor- and not only that, it looks like his very Awakening was supported by Him. It only shows that no one knows God’s true will.

Anyway, king Solomon’s reign is seen as some sort of peaceful age for the mages of the era- being hunted down by the name of a divine being only a generation before, Solomon’s attitude toward them is quit peaceful. Old practices gain popularity once more, pagan rituals return to the light of the day. Mages even come to Israel from all around the region, travelling to see the powerful king which rules upon the land of Canaan, investigate the local mysteries and trade with each other. The Monarchy is a kingdom controlled by a sorcerer king, and he use his magic for the prosperity of both himself and others.

But he isn’t the only mage ruler of the region.

The famous Queen of Seba comes all the way from Africa to visit the wise King and test him- and after a competition of riddles and philosophical questions, she approves of his wisdom. She may even carry his child by the end of their affair, and we can be sure they maintain healthy, if not close, relationship. As we all know, King Solomon is a Mastigos (no need to explain that, right?), and it seems that Queen Seba belongs to the same Path, with her being described as an “half demon” many times in later literature. In fact, it looks like you have two Warlocks who rule their lands, and which came to test and fight each other in a battle of wits, just as the Mastigos love to do.

The Warlocks, however, are not the only mages out there. The infamous Witch of Endor is still alive- and has some dark rumors around her. Probably a Moros (maybe an Acanthos? She at least have some dots in Fate), she is claimed to be the one to bring the Saul’s fall, something which gained the support of most of the mages in the kingdom. While she doesn’t confirm the rumors (or talk about the subject at all), she is seen as some sort of folk hero among the Awakened, one which stood against the “Purger” and survived. The involvement of God in the act is seen as some sort of “priestly propaganda”. After all, the Witch is a capable mage by her own right. She doesn’t need any help- divine or otherwise- in getting rid of an old enemy, right?

right?

At any case, while the Awakened of Israel do not love the priestly orders, their central place of gathering is found in the Temple itself, under King Solomon’s watchful eyes. He is the leader of the “Consilium”, and has built temples to other gods in the house of God where others could worship their own faith. The official claim it was because of the influence of his foreign wives. While that is true, it also makes the Temple into some sort of “neutral ground”, where both foreign and local mages could come and show their respect to the king. He reminds them that God is watching their steps- and that God has his own eyes and ears in the form of Solomon’s. While some mages find his rule harsh, most subject to his will- they have saw how well a Sleeper king could have made a purge against them. They don’t want to see what an Awakened one would do. The only mage strong enough to openly defy his rule is the Witch, and she makes sure that no one will find her unless she’ll want to.

Anyway, this Era would see the birth of two parallel Legacies- the Clavicularius and the Bene Ashmedai. Both were formed by Solomon- one intentionally, and one.. not so much. Asmodai’s nature is not really clear, and some believe him to be an aspect of Solomon’s conscious which the King tried to bind, only to lose control over it. At any case, both Legacies would be updated in this Era, the first being the product of Solomon’s hard work at binding his own sins and lusts to his will, and the other of him losing control and letting them running wild. That duality between self restrain and uncontrollable passions, between following the wisdom of the righteous while being a slave to lowly desires, is the image of Solomon himself. The king is wise, but he is still a king. Heck, I may add a Solomonic Proximi line just for the fun!

So, after establishing the basic setting and NPCs, what about the players?

First, Paths- as we mentioned before, Diviners were the most prominent target for Saul’s witch-purge, as the bible specify many fortune telling techniques as “sins”. The same goes for necromancers and their like, even if they get less focus during the prohibition. That would mean that during Solomon’s reign, both the Acanthus and the Moros would have the lowest numbers, and they would have the greatest resentment to God, his priests and, as a consequence, to Solomon. Thyrsus would have their own problems with the Maagal (see previous post), as the spirit world was (up until recently) pretty much “stabilized”. Perhaps they worked together with the conspiracy and the Baal Hadad in order to maintain that stability, having a role as gardeners and tamers- wilder Shamans would be in odds with the rest, not to mention the Bull men and the Idol Makers. After the coming of the Israelite, Hisil became much wilder, gaining the grudge of the Path’s members toward the priesthood just as the other two paths. The Mastigus and the Obrimos, however, would have suffered the least losses from the purge, with the Mastigus even having one their own as a King and ruler, binder of demons and whisperer to spirits. The Obrimos, on the other hand, are drawn to the recently established Priesthood, seeing symbols of the Divine in the foundation of the Temple. That creates a unique situation, in which “Path politics” become prominent- suddenly, it is important to which Path you belong, as it may mean life or death. I think I like that.

As we are centuries away from the coming of Alexander, the very concept of “Orders” is alien and strange- it is the time of the Grand Cults of the middle east, where magic is still seen as regional products. Mages of different cultures meet with each other, trading information and stories- but the concept of sharing secrets is absurd. The mages of the Era are still too tied to the region which birthed them, and they still see their fellows in other lands as competitors and enemies.

Of To the Strongest’s Great Cults, only one is featured in this Era- the Weret Hekau. The mages of that cult still remember the Israelites- and not fondly. They remember Moses, which somehow trumped all of their magics and preforms miracles they still can’t understand. While Solomon has established foreign relationships with Egypt and welcomes their priests, the Weret Hekau are suspicious of him and the priests of the god which defeated theirs. The east, however, contains much greater horrors- the Baalim rule Mesopotamia, and their foul magics invite the Void to the world. The Baalim despise Solomon’s rule, whispering evil spells upon unseen stars to bring him down- but Solomon seems to have certain protection they can’t penetrate. The Great Cult of Phoenicia, however, has much more tense relationships with the king- for they have lost many of their members to the purge. I’m going to use Glamourweaver’s concept to them, that is mages who seek to conquer the powers of Yam and Mot (a.k.a, the Abyss), and force them to their rule. By modern definition they may be considered “Scelesti”, but they share very little with the corrupted Baalim. Finally, a new Cult starts to rise- the cult of the Israelite, established by Solomon himself. That cult see itself as the servants and messengers of God- they recognize that some spells are forbidden, and some knowledge belongs to Him alone, trying to balance their own natural abilities with the ways of God. The priests and prophets may not like them, but they accept them- they have to. The chosen King is watching, after all.

Other than that, we are also going to work an whole new lexicon and symbolism for the mages of the Era. The Elemental symbolism seems to work for the other Eras, and I am probably going to use Hebrew for the lexicon itself- from names of the Paths and Arcana up to things like Consilium and Mana. The local faces of the Aeons would also be mentioned- for while those are the Aeons which choose their own forms, I assume they prefer to use faces which are familiar to the locals instead of ones they never saw in their life. Set and Sodpet would represent Fate and Time, while Lilith and Mastema are the rising images of Prime and Forces, replacing the gods Anat and Baal, which now have their place as the gods of Spirit and Life- taking the place of the fallen Hittite icons. Nergal of Matter and Ereshkigal of Death are the representatives of Sygia, even though with the power the Baalim have over their lands of origin some fear that the abyss has started to leak into those Aeons’ images, corrupting their hearts and minds. Still not sure about the Aeons of Pandemonium- I’ll look into the history of Iran and check if Dahak is still a valid option in this Era. If not, I’ll see what I can do.

So- that’s it for players. Let’s talk about Mysteries and Antagonists.

As all can guess, the greatest Mystery of the setting is God- but not only for the foreign mages or the Canaanite ones. The Israelite also don’t really get the divinity which saved them from Egypt, walked them in the desert until an whole generation has died and then brought them to the land that some forgotten patriarch of their tribes once lived in. He gave them a book which is said to contain the “truth” of the world, forbade them from worshiping other gods beside Him and then forbade them from worshiping Him like the other gods. Even his priests don’t necessarily understand Him and his complicated religion, which is just so drastically different from all other religions they knew. Even his Temple wasn’t built by his command, but because his chosen king has wished to do so in his honor.

The Temple itself is the peak of the Mystery- it is an house for God’s name, where the holiest of his relics is hidden from sight by all but the high priest. No iron was used in its building- for the king has used some esoteric powers combined with the help of terrible spirits in order  to achieve the feat. Mage who look at the Temple discover that the symbols of Divinity and Worship have been embedded into the very stones, as if it was a piece of Heaven which has fallen to the world. Those who dare to travel into the Temple without the help of Solomon or the priests discover that space itself twists and turns, and they can hear the whispers of the trapped demons which once served in the creation of the Temple- together with the watchful eyes of its guardian angels.

Heaven and Hell have been mixed together in the building, divinity mixed with humanity, virtue coloured by sin. Mortal men fall on their knees in honor before the Temple- while mages shiver with dread. Such a great, supernal building shouldn’t exist in the Fallen, but it does. They feel that there is magic in its foundation- but there is something more, something slippery which sends chill in their spine. They don’t recognize that power, and can’t understand it- and many of those who try end up dead, or worse.

While the Temple is indeed a great Mystery, it is not the only one- just outside of Jerusalem’s might and majesty, stands in Valley of Hinnom. There, the Cult of Moloch worship the principal of sacrifice, guided by the skinchanging Baal Haddad. While at the usual case that won’t be count as a Mystery- there is something more about it. Beneath the ground, something is buried- an ancient relic from times they can no longer remember, an item which was given to the wise people of the past by the powers they worshiped. A piece of a god’s heart.

That heart, corrupted and defiled as it may be, still beats with a spiritual power, as the demon to which it belongs to sleeps inside it. Those who enter the Valley discover the symbols of Love and Sacrifice, of Sin and Punishment. If the Temple is Hell pointing to Heaven, the Valley is the other side of the coin- a great being has fallen to the depths of Hell there, corrupted by greed and lust for power. There, one could find a gate to a realm which no mage recognize- a land were vices corrode the mind and the just fall from grace. An infernal realm which could only be known as “hell”.

(note- I am aware that in ancient Judaism there was no concept of Heaven and Hell. I’m not going to use the terminology for the Era- it is just for the atmosphere, that’s all).

There are, of course, also some lesser Mysteries- If we were to leave the region of Jerusalem and go south, one could find the place where five cities once stood. Now, nothing was left from them but a dead sea, filled with salt. A sign of the mysterious god’s divine punishment, mages can still smell the sulfur in the air, and see in the salt the images of those who have fallen so low that only be turning their very land into salt their sins could be purified. Nothing lives in that dead place, and those mages who search that salt may find crystallized pieces of lost souls between its white grains- all that remained from the people of Sodom.

While the Israelite have their fair share of Mysteries, the Canaanite have their own legends about the land- they know that one should stay away from the sea on certain, misty nights. Great sea serpents rise from the depths, the spawn of the dread god Yam- or Rahab, as the Israelite know it. The Sleeper population believes them to live deep bellow the waves, but the mages claim otherwise- they say that the serpents come from other realms of existence. Some speculate about the Astral- but others point to the vast, empty ocean which is the Abyss and think otherwise. The mythical Mount North is said to house the old gods of the Canaanite religion- and those who manage to penetrate the mysterious fog which hides it may ask for favors from those primal deities, if they dare. Also, the battles among the Canaanite divinities has left their mark upon the world- not only Yam’s descendants, but also in the strange gates which lead to Hmiry, the land of the dead, which are said to rise in the places Anat spread Mot’s torn flesh. Attar the Tyrant, which is also the twin deities of Shachar and Shalem, fell from heaven for not being worthy to rule as the king of the gods- and some whisper that following the light of the twin stars could lead one to where he hit the earth in his fall, and wishes made upon fallen stars in his name tend to come true. Mount Hermon contains hundreds of fallen angels inside of it, Watchers who believed they could live like men. Not all of those Mysteries exist inside of Mage’s framework- but the wise people of the land would have noticed them, and are drawn to investigate their own legends.

As for antagonists, we have plenty of those- other than the Baal Haddad, the Maagal and Solomon’s tight rule, the holy people of the Monarchy hold some strange powers and are driven to fight all the different terrors of the land in the name of their god- mages included. Still, Solomon restrains most of the priests- but some believe in God first and in their king second. Those people are better represented as Hunters than mage antagonists (and would be explored better in that post)- but there are exceptions. Some of God’s holy men exist outside of the priesthood, and hold powers which compete with those of the witches of the land. The Prophets walk the land, and when they speak all would listen.

Hermits and prophets represent a different breed of supernatural beings- they look like mages, speak like mages and act like mages, but they are not mages. They are.. something else. Their powers come not from the Supernal or from the occult powers of the Fallen, but from different place- higher place. Many mages confuse them with Banishers, but they are not. They say that God has chosen them, and that they are His mouth and hands upon Earth. The Judges walk beside them- once more influential in the days no king ruled the land, the Shoftim still seat at the gates of the cities and decree their rule. Their divine powers are much primal and brutal than those of the prophets- powers of warlords, not holy men. Some say that they are dying- but Deborah still walks the earth, and she didn’t aged a day since her war. While we already have a Judges template (I helped KingsRaven in order to write it), the Prophet would be an whole new threat- and a playable option, based around Mage’s Chronicler’s Guide.

But we must not forget that the greatest threat for mages are, eventually, other mages- the Baalim are a constant threat from the east, gazing upon the stars to read futures which would never be, invoking their magic against any sane mage. Their foul curses are both a great danger- and a great temptation. The witches of Canaan wish to conquer the Abyss- and who knows the Endless Sea better than star gazers?  Still, there are threats inside Israel too- ones which strikes fear in the heart of every willworker. Banishers.

Few generations ago, during Saul’s rule, a purge was committed- and on the side of the king stood his greatest weapon: mages devoted to the death and destruction of all magic. They say they did it in the name of God, but the truth is that they did it out of their own, mad mind. Some even say that Saul himself was a Banisher- the story of his momentary revelation when the “spirit or prophesy” fell upon him and his slow descent to madness, together with his purge against other mages, may hint about that nature of his personality. Perhaps with Solomon, God tries to replace Saul’s failed Awakening. Perhaps it’s just a story. Still, just as Solomon’s blood may carry Supernal spark, Saul’s could carry that cursed destiny. Sure, the bible says that all of Saul’s descendants (other than Michal) were killed by David- but maybe some (or even one!) have escaped, and in their blood burns hate they can’t understand. Maybe, nowadays, they are known as the Lucid.

Anyway- back to Banishers. No matter if Saul was one of their members or not, the Banishers which have organized themselves to his rule are still around- a Nameless Order unrecognized by Solomon’s court and which do not owe obligation to the sorcerer-king. They are a rare instance of Banishers working together on a large scale, still carrying their divine duty- not willing to suffer any witch to live. Since the fall of Saul their numbers are dwindling- David made sure of it, and Solomon keep his way in everything which concern those renegade wizards, but for now, they are still a power to be reckoned with.

And that without mentioning those mages who damn their souls in Hinnom in exchange for power. Of terrible artifacts said to be forged by Kothar Was Khasis himself as weapons against Yam. Of the demons under Asmodai which still try to break free from their chains beneath the Temple…

What a time to be a mage, ha?

And that’s the long waited Mage’s Open Development post! Hope you liked it! Feel free to share your thoughts about the subject. I’ve also thought about an idea for the spirit court which rules in the “tamed Hisil”- the swallow goddesses known as the Kotharat. They were one of the few animistic divinities in ancient Canaan, and as such should be noted as the strongest spirit court of the land.

Anyway, next post would be about the Living Appendix is Vampire, followed by a sum-up post, and then I’ll go to Promethean’s Dark Era. Interesting things are waiting for us- stay tuned!

Chapter 11: A Graveyard We Call Home (settings)

The supernatural does not exist in vacuum. That’s especially true for vampires- the Kindred are, quit simply, parasites, and parasites need an host to live upon. I’m not only talking about them drinking blood- even though it is the most immediate representation of their parasitism. I’m talking about their overall behavior- they integrate themselves into human society, feed upon human ideas, use human infrastructures for their own needs. They feed upon the government, upon the economic system, upon society itself. Vampires need to adapt their society to the world they (un)live in if they wish to survive. Unlike certain supernatural creatures, the All Night Society is quit fluid, ever changing in order to mirror the world it exist it. After all, the Blood itself requires change over time- that’s the only way the Beast could win in its endless struggle against the Man.

One of the things I like about Vampire’s new edition is that embrace the concept of “regional variants”, both for Clans and Covenants. It reminds you that the All Night Society is not a single, unified monolith with reach all over the globe, but many fractured society, each being contained to its own Domain. Sure, some Covenants are more powerful than the others, and some Clans are more evolutionary successful, but just as the Invictus in the middle east has few things in common with the ones in the United States, some new Covenants may rise in certain places in the globe, places where the conditions for their growth are much more favorable when compared to the “invading species”.

Even those settings which don’t give up new Covenants or Clans still offer some new and interesting material- weird phenomena, unique developments and even “just” interesting NPCs or pieces of history. That makes the setting much wider, and much more populated, showing difference in both culture and way of thought among the different settings. This is why the setting section of 2E is always my favorite- for it shows you haw wide the gameline really is, and Vampire’s 2E does a great job at exploring the themes of the game all around the world, or the vast graveyard the dead call “home”.

Now, let’s examine each of the example settings, shall we?

  • Polis Erebus- one of my favorite 2E settings, I must admit. The look on a city as old as Western Civilization and how things has changed through the passage of years has made Athens into a fascinating place to play in, IMO. The setting also gives us 4 new Covenants, even though they lack mechanics- the Kataramenon, the Ypochreosi, the Alecto and the 17M.  Personally, I would give the Kataramenon Veneficia as their Covenant benefit (under my variant of making it a “middle ground” between the Man and the Beast), while the Ypochreosi would get something called “Threads”, which represent their ability to get what they want from the city. I’m not sure about the Alecto and the 17M- maybe giving the first Oaths and the later Laws? Or perhaps we could give them something else. I’ll add it to my To Do List. At any case, this setting also decides once and for all about if the Crone/Ekhidna question- while the idea of a Pangean is cool, I think that we should trust the Mother of Bones’s vision and make the two the same being, which works better, actually. The Acropolis is also an interesting site to explore- perhaps it gives some sort of bonus for Blood Sorcery or something like that.

 

  • Broken Things Remembered- I must say that I would really love to see a Dark Era detailing the “Chinese Camarilla” which was detailed in this setting! Especially since it looks like we can add another vampire nation which was destroyed by the strix the list. The sparrow shaped strix seems to be a new type of “Owls”, as usually they take the form of either owls or ravens- something to add to my potential “to do” list. As sparrows (like owls and ravens) are considered to be psychopomps, I must say it does make sense. Anyway, the Mekhet politics is so messed up that it is awesome to read about. The Way and the Path iterations of the Ordo Dracul look interesting- but they feel more like factions than actual separate Covenants (even though I do like the role of the Academy in the setting). The Bureau’s of Childer and Silence are kinda cool- but I can’t think about an interesting Covenant Benefit for the former (the later would probably have something social which helps them to remove certain threats).

 

  • The Margraviate of Berlin Brandenburg-  Another awesome setting. Seriously, Berlin should get more attention, I believe. The mention of “clockwork demons” is a great shout out for Dark Eras, and Abaddon is a really interesting antagonist, especially when compared to the Nameless. The concept of a Domain where being a neonate is pretty much a death flag, as there is always someone who wants to kill you could make a great game. As an Hunter fan, I also find the concept of hunters working for vampires in order to root out Abaddon as interesting, especially as it allows a nice crossover game. I wonder if they work better as their own compact, or perhaps as a cell of the Cainte Heresy. The concept of a potential unification between the Mekhet and the Nosferatu is also interesting, and I wonder what kind of Clan it may make. Would have to add it to my list. The Watchful Eyes are also an interesting Covenant, and I try to think about a potential Benefit for them- maybe something about “sensing” through shadows or something like that? The Revolutionary Council absorbing the Carthians is also quit refreshing, and while they have a similar function at present time, maybe they have a Covenant Benefit of their own. Lady Niemand is also a great setting hook- in my game, she would be real, hidden as some sort of Deus Ex Machina.. even if not the way people think about. After all, we know practically nothing about Abaddon- the use of a demon’s name and the mention of the God Machine’s presence in Berlion may hint it may be a Silver or something, while the sentence about “bird cry” may hint for the strix- but what if it is neither? What if the greatest hope of the vampires in the setting is also their despair? What if the Lady is Abaddon?

 

  • Pit of the Nameless- I think that other than Tokyo, that setting has caught more attention than any other vampire setting- and as most of the interest in Tokyo came from it being a Crossover Setting, we can safely say that Montreal is the most popular setting in the game. The Nameless, after all, is one of the best mysteries in all of the CofD’s setting, IMO. I have heard many theories about it, from being a strix which preformed synthesis to an old Mohawk vampire which avange the coming of the foreigners. Its description as a “shadowy image” may hint that it is actually a member of VII, with Montreal being an example setting for a VII controlled Domain. At any case, my personal theory is that the Nameless doesn’t really get the All Night Society, but that it needs vampires in the city for some reason- hence why it made up the Rules. It also hates Theban Sorcery- its act of murdering a Prince upon a Cross (sounds familiar?) may hint about some hate toward the Lance (or maybe even Christianity in general), and that it also has power over the Theban Matrix. The Tsihstekeri, a bloodline which may be connected to the strix (which I would love to get as a full writeup), claim it to not be the true danger, only an harbinger- perhaps it is some sort of defense mechanism working to prevent a bigger danger, or the thing which would bring fourth that danger, or just a sign for its coming. Tiffany’s Art is also an interesting plot hook- maybe it is some sort of Curac ritual, and the Nameless has the ability to influence the Curac Matrix just as it influence the Theban one. The bad luck in Saint Paul’s street may also hint that whatever the Nameless may be and whatever danger it heralds, it is connected to Paul de Chomedey, connecting the Nameless either to the blood farm or the massacre of French Kindred.

 

  • The Triangle- I must say that I like that setting more than what I’ve expected to. The presentation of the Jain Shi is truly interesting, and the concept of the “younger generations” turning more and more “Kindred like” is something which really shows the adaptability of the Blood. I can’t say I have managed to understand the “bronze bull” reference (there is such a statue in North Carolina, but I can’t understand why should it cause Finale Death for vampires), but I would blame it on Moloch in my game. The Devil’s Tramping Ground is a really interesting plot hook- I guess that the mention that no animal but birds enter the circle is a reference for the strix? That means that there is something really evil under the ground- maybe some ancient vampire which restlessly sleeps under the ground. Perhaps something else- maybe it is a part of Ekhidna’s torn body? The Maco station sounds like a God Machine weirdness, perhaps something which involves either Missing Persons or A Glimpse of Measurement Complexity, or even that geist manipulated train station from Japan. I’ll have to explore that “outside realm” someday.

 

  • The Mission- I do like the concept of the Mission as a growing Vampire Nation, and perhaps an upcoming New Camarilla. The way the Cacophony in the Domain is really interesting, and I wonder if just as the Nosfeartu and the Mekhet start to unify in Berlin, maybe the Daeva and the Mekhet do the same in the Mission, being united through the Cacophony- and leading to the creation of CofD’s version of the Daughters of the Cacophony (I think I would go with something in the style of Malakavia instead of a Bloodline or Clan, but we’ll see). Tiberia, with her vision of a New Camarillia, bloodline traced back to ancient Rome and her growing Wolf Cult all point for her being a Julii in disguise, which is cool. The multitude of Heresies and cults really adds character to the Domain (using one heresy to hide the other), but I do wonder about the exact tents of faith of that “nameless creed”. The Lilian Heresy, however, is extremely interesting- a strix cult, perhaps? I wonder if I could integrate to there my own Cage of Shadows cult, which has similar faith.

 

  • Beddnerys- well, this really is an hidden gem. A great crossover setting- the tension between the vampire and werewolf populations would allow you to have the standard “Dracula vs the Wolf Man” scene, especially since it emphasis the old Gangrel/Werewolf conflict. Also, while the Nameless, Abaddon and some of the mysteries of the Triangle may be connected to the God Machine, we can safely assume that Metronome is 100% Divine Machinery, either an Infrastructure or a powerful Angel. The Lady of Gower is also an interesting setting piece- my initial gut feeling is to keep her dead, you know, just to spice things up with all of the “seemingly dead ancient- but not really” kind of thing- but the existence of the Catacombs does hint that she may truly was a powerful blood magician, and that she did used her magic to create a demiplane of her own just as the rumors claim. And that mean she may have survived- in the form of the Ash that Devours, and lately, she may have finally regain her form. The way the Invictus, Carthians and Unaligned change their allegiance may hint about the potential for an whole new Covenant, which is also cool to explore. Harry may even been a stigmatic or an occult matrix magician of some kind, even though it means putting two God Machine references in the same setting. It may be the “standard” haunted house, with his ghost still working on occult inventions, such as his death rays and their like.

 

  • The Three and Four Diamonds- and for desert- Tokyo! I must say that it would be a shame if we won’t get new Tokyo updates because David Hill has left Onyx Path, but I assume that the community may work something out of it. At any case, I do like this setting- it is fool of mysteries and strange things which simply don’t show up in the more “conventional” game- Tokyo is an experiment, and from my point of view, it was quit successful. Anyway, I do like the Zaibatsu, which are actually “covenants, but not covenants”. The Maeda Group have control on both wheat and soldiers, which should be the ingredients for a sure win- but they end up losing. The way they can use their status in the Zaibatsu as a mental shield of some kind does hints for an occult force behind them, of some kind. I assume that the mechanism behind it is similar to the one which is used for Carthian Laws- that is, there is some force which recognize the group’s status and enforce it upon reality. the Takahashi Family feels like the Invictus on steroids, with their control over money and political and financial power- but their emphasis on art gives them an interesting color. Really neat. And of course- the Ume House. Those vampires use Shinto like ritual, and while the book suggest using Curac, David has publish his own version of Kigan which relies on their connections with the spirit world, which works on a matrix quit different than both Theban and Curac. The concept of “singing to the spirits” is really cool, and such as their role as both priests and scholars. The Nosferatu organization is also a great concept- I think I would give them a modified Gallows Post benefit to represent their mobility in the tunnels. And of course, we can’t speak about Tokyo without mentioning the Hototogisu- those cuckoo bastards are awesome, putting the zaibatsu under their finger. I’ll muse more about them and their leader in future posts, but it is clear that they want to steal everything they can from the supernatural and use it for their own needs. The fun thing is to see that while they use technology, they also rely on charms and their like- something really Japanese, IMO.

So after detailing each of the different settings- what about a bit of metaphysics?

The Kataramenon, with their fluidity in religion (Apollo turning into God) and a potential link to Veneficia would connect them to the Dii- which are (in my cosmology) masked divinities which leech the power of other gods by wearing their identities as masks, while they by themselves are being nameless and faceless- In sort, they are a collective of vampiric divinities (more about them in Requiem for Rome). Ypochreosi have the Moirai, which weave the threads of life into form and possess the form of the three leaders of the Covenant (something I’ll clarify when I’ll start writing them). 17M and the Alecto are, for now, just alternative forms of the Carthian and the Invictus.

As for Beijing, the Dragon’s Path and the Way of the Dragon are simply regional variations of the Ordo, and so they still fall under the Dragon’s control. Still need to think about the Bureau of Childer and Silence, but they would probably have their own Blood Gods. The same goes for the Watchful Eyes and the Revolutionary Council (things will be clearer after working out their covenant benefits). The Lilian Heresy worship Lilith, and as such it has her as their patron. The Cacophony itself would also be added as a Blood Goddess, an Astral creation which carry the words and the will of the Mission- unless it is actually just another face of the Dii, of course, in their quest for a new Camarilla.

Finally, we have the three zaibatsu- Maeda would require a god of both agriculture and war, a combination which sounds a bit odd, but surprisingly it does exist in the form of Hachiman. I assume he is a patron spirit of some kind- maybe a Goetic entity, maybe spiritual- which sees in the Maeda group a potential to rise his power. The Takahashi Family seem to be more into the Seven Gods of Fortune, especially Benzaiten which is a goddess of arts. That would explain the connection between arts and financial power- I assume that the Seven Gods are definitely Astral Archetypes, with which the zaibatsu made contact in order to grow and prosper. The Ume House are a bit more complicated to establish- they are spiritual covenant, and their patron should be a spirit of some kind, but I haven’t found any Plum divinity among the Japanese Kami. There is, however, a Chinese goddess called Princess Shouyang, or the Princess of Plum Blossom. If we look for a parallel in Japan’s folklore, we find Konohanasakuya-hime, the Blossom Princess which guards Mount Fuji. While she is more connected to Cherry Blossom, the concept of two flowery princess in the same geographic region may hint that, as far as our cosmology is concerned, the Blossom Princess is the same powerful spirit (Rank 6+) which made a pact with the Ume House and gave them the elements of Kigan. As for the powers behind the Hototogisu- well, that’s for another post 😛

While I planned this to be the last Vampire post, after giving it some thought I’ve decided to make another one to examine the Living Appendix, and after that I’ll start my Werewolf examination. The next blog post would be about Mages during the First Temple, however.

See you next time!

Open Development 3: You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me (W:tF)

Imagine to yourself that you are a loving parent, who dearly cares for his family. You’ll do everything for them- you’ll teach them right from wrong, you’ll provide them food and drink in times of need, you’ll be there to support their spirit when everything falls down. You have been together in better and worse, through hell and high water. Eventually, your kids are old enough and want to move out of the house- and it’s ok. That’s how thing should be. Children should be able to stand by their own. You give them one last kiss and ask them to call- and then you wait, and wait, and wait. You try to call them, but they don’t pick up. You are a little hurt at first, but maybe they just need some space alone- that’s why they moved out of the house in the first place. So you keep waiting, time passing by, and they don’t return your calls. You start to worry- perhaps something happened to them? You leave everything, ride to their house and right before you knock on their door- you hear laughs. You look through the window, and you see your child together with their partner- and worse, their partner’s family. You have been replaced by someone which has never lift a finger for your children. Worry turns to pain. Pain turns to jealousy. Jealousy turns to anger.

For most families, that would end up with an argument- usually it is some sort of misunderstanding or some deep reason. Even if the child really tried to replace their parent, there is a limit to how much the parent can do- they are only humans, and excluding some very nasty and illegal methods, human have limited capacity to show their displeasure from other people.

Now imagine that you are a god.

As everyone knows, Judaism is a monotheistic religion- there is only one God, only one divinity to rule both Sky and Earth. From the smallest of insects to the greatest mountain, the Lord is the only deity to exist. Any other god is false, a fake image people made up and worship as if it was true. They have ears yet they are deaf, they have eyes yet they are blind. However, many historians and researchers believe that it was not originally the case- that the original form of Judaism recognized the existence of other gods, yet simply devoted themselves to worship a single one, and his believers either absorbed or suppressed other cults. When the Bible says “you shall have no other gods before me”, it is not because those gods are fake- they are real, and God is angry on you not for worshiping a false god, but to betraying him and worshiping another in his place.

Now, historians and believers can argue until the end of time about whether Judaism originally recognized the existence of other gods or not, but one thing is certain- in the Chronicles of Darkness, God may or may not exist, depending on what kind of game you are playing- however, other gods are, undoubtedly, real.

The CofD is a polytheistic world- all kinds of strange divinities exist, from the Exarchs and the Oracles which fight over Truth and Lies to the 42 Judges of Duat which decree terrible punishments against sinners. And among the myriad entities which make the Powers That Be, there is one category which is the closest to the traditional view of wild, pagan deities which are bound by hunger for faith and desire for power- the spirits of the Shadow.

If spirits are to be left alone, it is only a matter of time before the ecosystem would get out of control- stronger spirits would devour weaker ones or submit them to their rule. They would cross the boundaries between the worlds and claim bodies of flesh to carry them while commanding their cults to feed their everlasting hunger for Essence. They would use their Influences to transform the world, advancing their own agenda over the needs of the natural world and those who live in it. Spirits are dangerous creatures, and without someone to tame them everyone may end up as puppets in the hands of selfish gods, just like they show up so many times in myth. Thankfully, we have werewolves to balance them down- the Wolf Must Hunt, and the spirit worlds offer the best prey there is. The Uratha are those which maintain the natural balance, and by doing so, protecting the world.

Usually.

Here is the thing- it’s not like there weren’t any wolves in the ancient Levant and Middle East. It is not like we don’t have any established presence of werewolves in the setting around that time- the Dog Kings of Bau once ruled Mesopotamia, after all. Also, Khonsu was an important (even if sometimes mad) god in Egypt, while Sin/Nanna was a powerful deity in the old lands of Sumer. Besides, as we all know, First Tongue seems to be the origin of Sumerian in the setting. In sort, we don’t need to invest too much thought at adapting werewolves to almost everywhere in the ancient Middle East.

Almost.

Here is the thing- the truth is that wolves were not that important in the Bible. Sure, they were mentioned once in awhile, but all in all, they were seen “just as” a big predatory animal, sometimes even as a symbol for predators (as in the prophecy about wolves living with sheep), but nothing more. Dogs got more attention- but it rarely was a positive one- Dogs were seen as foul animals and scavengers, something which is touched by death and taint. Even the word for dogs in the bible is used for a certain form of male prostitution, which was not accepted in the eyes of ancient Hebrews.

Even Yraikh, the local Moon God, didn’t got the same attention his brothers in other faiths got. Sure, wolves being seen as evil is one of the reasons people believed in Werewolves as “spawn of Satan” in the first place- but still, the combination between the importance of the Sun over the Moon, the hate toward dogs and the commandment against worshiping other gods kinda adds up. Each of those features, by its own right, is not unique or special to Jewish culture- but when everything is taken in consideration, the full image starts to unravel. The last hint you need to take is that, while dogs were not treated positively by the ancient Israelite, another animal had a much more respectful place in the region.

I’m talking about bulls, of course.

While both Mesopotamia and Egypt are Uratha territories, the lands of Phoenicia are the ruled by the Baal Hadad. Very few, if any, wolf blooded manage to avoid their iron grasp, thanks to a powerful network of cults and Helions. The wild blood of the Wolf has been tamed using occult rituals and the blessing of a fallen god. While the ritual which have created the first Gudthabak is far older than the human realms of the Levant (excluding the ones which were transformed by Bull’s shattered horns), the reason for the power the Bull People have in the region comes thanks to the attempts of a powerful priesthood to calm potential Uratha and turn them into a beneficial creatures for the human community- one which is known as the Circle of Baal and Ashera.

While we shall talk more about the Maagal at the Hunter’s section of the project (as they are a conspiracy), the idea is that somewhere during the days of the city of Ebla (around the same time frame as the Old Kingdom of Egypt), the group has tried to deal with the “Wolf problem”. Thanks to their special ability to make gods of their own to worship out of clay and gold, the spirit ecology of the region was pretty much tamed, with most spirits being stuck and low Ranks- but those who carried the blood of the Wolf were not as easily controlled. In their efforts to find a solution for their problem, the Maagal has invoked one god after the other- yet none has answered their call. It was when they crafted a form of a bull that one of the divinities has answered- a being of golden light and horned majesty, a messenger of the Sun and carrier of her blessings. That entity has offered them a solution in the form of a special rite, one which could transform the blood of the wilderness into the blood of the hearth. That entity has told them that by doing so, they would create new champions for humanity, ones in its own form and image. That entity has called itself Moloch.

Thanks to the Maagal’s already established sphere of influence and the help of Shapash’s servants, the Uratha were mostly purged from the region, being replaced by the Gudthabak. They have taught the Baal Hadad the secret of crafting gods and give them life- but the powers behind those idols was different. Instead of making new divinities to be worshiped by the people, the Baal Hadad has used them to express their own divinity. They have started to gather cults around themselves, supervising the people and making sure they would make them the right offerings. Some, on the other hand, turned that worship outward- guiding those under their care to worship the great Mother Sun and the Bull of Fire and Gold. Yet, as time went on, the Sun has started to be forgotten, and the Bull became more and more dominant. They established themselves in the Valley of Hinnom, practicing great sacrifices in the name of their god in the place his Heart was buried.

But things went out of hand.

Just as the Maagal has lost control over the Gudthabak, the Bull People has lost control over the Cult of Hinnom. While they had little qualms about the worshipers offering sacrifices to their patron, some of them became a little worried when those sacrifices turned into human sacrifices. Then, those sacrifices turned into children. Then, Moloch has fallen, and everything went (literally) to hell.

All in all, the Baal Hadad were divided into 3 factions- one which still works, mostly, with the Maagal in order to shepherd the Shadow. That’s the smallest one, as most of them bull people believe (rightly so) that the Maagal has tried to manipulate them and treat them like the gods they crafted from stone. The biggest faction is the collection of many different cults which see the Gudthabak themselves as living divinities- but while they have numbers on their side, they aren’t truly organized and rarely work with more than a few Bulls in a single cult. The third, and most dangerous faction, is the one which worship their own maker in Hinnom. They believe that it is their duty to serve their patron, which has lost any resemblance to its original form and became a demon of love, blood and fire. However, even they are blinded by their own worship- for just as the Baal Hadad rose above their patrons, the Cult of Moloch starts taking life of its own, free from the gods who claim their worship.

That delicate balance between the three factions have been kept for many years, especially thanks for them knowing that on the boundaries of their territory the wolves stand watching, waiting to storm upon them once they’ll show weakness, and may have survived for many more years to come (or maybe not- who knows?)- but then, out from the desert, the Israelite came, guided by those who named themselves as Judges, and with them came a jealous god, which asked for them for one thing- that there won’t be any other god before Him.

The effects of the coming of the Israelite are still felt during this Dark Era- the Judges, priests and kings of Israel has shattered the idols of the Maagal, which gave the spirits of the Shadow the opportunity they have been waiting for- starting cults for themselves, taking forms in flesh and growing in power during the primal struggle they call life. Both the Maagal and the priests of Israel fight to remove the influence of the Shadow World, but all the while the Bull People also find themselves under attack, their idols broken and their cultists dead. While the Cult of Moloch didn’t escaped the damage, the ones who were hurt the most were the Gudthabak- but the cult itself, which already knew no god but their own dark heart, has survived, and the Wound found in the Valley of Hinnom grows in daily bases.

During Solomon’s rule, however, things finally start to calm down- even if only temporary.  With the new religious tolerance, the werebulls can finally reestablish their presence even if it goes against the warnings of the Hebrew priests. However, now for the first time in the Bull Gods’ rule, they have a competition from the spirit side- yet they lack the tools to deal with them. They are beings of Flesh, not Shadow- gods of civilization, not the wilderness. Without a strong Uratha presence, the spirit cults go out of control, and the Maagal loyalists start to cooperate with the independent faction in order to secure their common interests. The Cult of Moloch, however, celebrates in the chaos- for the harsher things are, the more willing they are to sacrifice their most important things in exchange for material wealth.

And all awhile, the wolves are waiting for the bull to show weakness, before they could jump upon its throat.

As you have surely understood, this Dark Era is going to feature the Baal Hadad as the main protagonists of the Shadow, which would include updating them into 2E. It is a complicate time for them, were they see the descent of once proud Bull into Inferno while the Maeljin celebrate their victory. They have to make uneasy alliances with their former allies (the Maagal), their old enemies (the Uratha) and their new enemies (The Israelite priests) if they wish to deal with the outbreak of spirit cults and the threats of the Molochites. Each faction has its own opinion about the subject, and while they all recognize the common threats, their different views may prove themselves to bridge upon, and the smoke would keep rising from the fires of Moloch.

While the Baal Hadad take the front stage in this Era, it is not to say there are no werewolves around- however, most of the werewolves which manage to change in the Levant and aren’t chased out are Ghost Wolves. They are few and scattered, but they have managed to make themselves their own Lodge- the Lodge of Foul Dogs, which follow the worst of spirits, most spirits of rot and death but sometimes also spirits of desire and violence. Some of them even cross the line, falling to the worship of the servants of the Maeljin- even though those werewolves eventually end up leaving the Lodge behind and joining the ranks of the Molochites, guided by a Firstborn no one else recognize. The greatest weakness of the Lodge is that many of them blindly follow the spirit world, becoming their servants and slaves in their hunt against the gods of civilization and believers of the one god.

However, that’s the situation only in Israel itself- on the west, Mesopotamia is the home for the five tribes of the Forsaken, a rising power which glared toward the Levant for many long years. On the south, Egypt is a Pure territory, and even though their power over the Black Land has started to crumble, they still bare their fangs against their old enemies. The only thing which has separated the two warring nations of the Uratha for this long was the Gudthabak hegemony, but as the bull people are weakened, both sides prepare to the war which would surely come once the werebulls’ presence will no longer be relevant.

Of course, Bull and Wolf are not the only forms shapeshifters take in the ancient Middle East- in Egypt, the werecats of the Colony serve the Pharaonic dynasties, rising for power after the battle of their goddess against an ancient evil from dark days. They see themselves as Egypt’s royal guard- but the whispers of their goddess are always found at the back of their mind, slowly driving them mad. The Distant Ones has also tied themselves to the royal lineage of Egypt, rising their own aviary kingdoms above the Land of the Nile. In Mesopotamia, the Brineborn had existed for years as sages of hidden knowledge, even though they were powerless to stand against the rising might of the Uratha. They are declining, but they may still prove themselves as the surprise of the coming struggle. And bellow the earth, the Unclean Ones prosper in the Land Between Rivers- seeing themselves as the messengers of Nergal, they spread his gifts of sickness and plague through the region, and where older spirits fall from grace, their patron only grows stronger. Cockroach fed well upon the chaos of the Bronze Age Collapse and the fall of Bull, and now it prepares to its ascension and take his place as one of Hisil’s greatest gods.

And if a Hisil which gets out of control, servants of the Maeljin, corrupted Lodge and all kinds of strange shapeshifters is not enough for you, look what we also have for you- the Snake Host which slithers all the way from Egypt to the heart of the Monarchy, offering their poison as medicine and their temptations to lure the innocents to taste the Forbidden Fruit. The Locust Host storms with ravening hunger upon all which stands at its way, shards of the great plague which has devoured Egypt and followed the Israelite from the desert. Also from Egypt, the Scorpion Host use their poison to test the righteous, guarding ancient sites of power. The Beshilu dance together with the Molochites, celebrating the growing corruption, while the Azlu make their nests around the Temple as a part of an ancient pact between them and King David. Above it all, the Raven Host watch the chaos, their caws fill the skies…

And in the north, in the shattered remains of what was once the proud Hittite Empire, something lurk- something so ancient and alien that it does not know the true meaning of name or face. Men has given it the name of Pirwa, and as everyone are too busy at the growing threat of Moloch’s fall and recovering from the destruction caused by the awakening of a primordial darkness in Egypt, the Earth Bound slowly grows in power- and as everyone knows, the true evil always comes from the north.

Well, that’s our post for this week! Hope you enjoyed it! Next week there will be Vampire’s setting post, which would be Requiem’s last post, after which we would start examining the supernatural nature of the Uratha. See you next time!

Chapter 10: Shadow of Death (strix)

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”- J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit

Humanity was always afraid of the darkness. It is in our DNA- we are creatures of sun and light, of fire and electricity. Even those who claim themselves to be “nocturnal” are actually still bound by that desire- for even in the wildest clubs, the neon light still glow upon the celebrations of decadence, and the street light has seen many crimes preformed under its pale radiance. To give yourself to the darkness means leaving everything which makes you human behind, and most of those who take their chances in moonless nights never come back. There is something lurking in the darkness, in the night, in storm clouds and in the shadows which hide in the middle of the day. In our fear, we watch those shadows, telling ourselves that nothing hides among them- unaware for the fact the darkness watches back, with golden, shining eyes.

When thinking about the “gameline specific antagonists” for each line, I like to picture them as the pre-human monster version of each line. The idigam as pre-human spirit, the Huntsman as pre-human fae, the insatiable as pre-human beasts, etc, etc. Following that logic, the strix are per-human vampires- and we all must admit that there is a certain amount of logic for that claim. There is nothing human about the Birds of Dis, after all, and by all records they were there, in the darkness, long before mankind learned to light fire to protect itself from it. The strix claim to always be here, and in many ways, they are right.

Through the change of editions, the Owls has went through a number of changes- first, they were owl shaped spirits which were motivated to teach vampires they are truly monsters- and to destroy those who fail them. At Wicked Dead, they were free from whatever power which caged them, making them free to do as they wish. In the new edition, the strix are way from being a united faction- they are usually solitary, rarely gathering in parliaments when bad things are coming. They did destroyed the Julii, and they do unite together from time to time in order to torment the Damned and tear down their sophisticated society.

At least three times a massive strix attack was detailed (Rome, Alexandria and Romania), and two of the times have also involved a massive natural disaster which caused many deaths (unless you claim that the fall of the Roman Empire is equal to a “massive natural disaster”). That makes me think that perhaps there is some sort of reason for why do such events follow each other- for example, we know that for some instincts, when the population of the organism grows out of proportion, something changes in the behavior of the organism. The most known example is locust, which even goes through a physical metamorphosis because of the fact there are just too many grasshoppers in the same place.

Now- what if the reason the strix go to “crusades” against the Kindred during times of crises is, more or less, the same reason? Sure, all strix have some interest in vampires, as vampires are well kept corpses and the strix love crawling their way into a corpse. Some of them even hate the vampires, or envy them, or are disappointed from them. They feel kinship to the dead, but they can’t love them as they are “doing it wrong”. I believe that immediate hate comes from the same feeling vampires has when they see the strix- something weird and relatable yet alien and twisted. The only difference is that the strix have much easier time to mess up with vampires than the other way around.

At any case, it is well established that each of the Owls has its own motivations in (un)life, and that they are solitary by nature. However, when great disasters are about to happen, the strix are drawn to them, gathering en masses. When the population of the strix rise above a certain threshold, which probably depends on the amount of resources (that is, available corpses to ride and living to drink from), something changes in them. All strix feel certain connection to (a) fate, after all- and perhaps when that connection is strong enough, all strix turn from collection of solitary creatures into a swarm, and they all leave their personal desires behind to unit under a single banner- to make the unlife of the Kindred an unliving hell.

Now, the strix acting out of passions they don’t truly understand is nothing new- many of the strix exhibit that behavior, acting out of instinct instead of a calculated decision. The strix also don’t doubt their instincts- they have full faith in them, and just do what they feel to be right. Something guides the strix behind the shadows of Dis, but even they aren’t aware of what it is, and neither do they care. They don’t even know from where they come from, or what they are- in fact, it was mentioned a number of times that the strix may not actually be a unified breed, but that there are a number of “strix clans” in the world. As there is no real mechanical difference between the strix, and the only aesthetic difference is in the mention of some raven-shaped strix or the Tengu, for this post I will treat all strix as a single type of creature (I would add the concept of variant strix to my “to do” list).

Anyway, a common claim among the Owls is that they are the Beast incarnated, and that even inside each vampire there is a small strix which screams for blood. While the Beast and the Owls do share many things in common, there is one thing which separates the two- emotions. The strix are cold and calculated, emotionless and heartless. They don’t anger, they don’t love. Sure, they can enjoy the world’s physical sensations- but deep down, they are empty. They are psychopaths, unable to relate to others or understand why would someone would harm himself in order to protect another being. They do understand pain and they do understand pleasure- but those are sensations, and they are addicted to sensations. That’s why they want a physical body so much- and this is why they hate the vampires for having it.

The Beast, on the other hand, is a very emotional being- it loves, it hates, it rage, it celebrates. It sings and dance, it plans complicate vengeance and howls against those who threat what that belongs to it. While the Beast of each Clan is different, they are all Beasts (with the potential exception of the Ka, but we’ll talk about it at Thousand Years of Night). Vampires are not emotional dead- on the contrary. They have never been more alive- emotions strike their dead heart more strongly than before, even if their emotional spectrum was narrowed a bit to the range of red-to-orange.

Another difference is the fact that unlike the strix, the Beast is bound to its body- it is a parasite, which slowly consumes its host and it takes over the dead corpse. It can’t escape its fleshy cage even at the price of its life. The strix, on the other hand, are unbound- only contained by sunlight and fire, slipping through small cracks like the shadows they are. The strix may be made from the same “substance” as the Beast, but the way they express themselves is quit different. In a more scientific words, both the Beast and the strix come from the same potential, but the function which describes it is quit different, and as such it details an whole other system.

Now, let’s start examining the “strix system”, shall we?

First, while both the strix and the Kindred use Vitae, the Owls has a different Potential Value which governs it- Shadow Potency. Like all other supernatural potentials, Shadow Potency has a critical point at 5, where the system changes its phase. The way they gain and store Vitae is also different- instead of drinking blood, the strix steal breath. One way to think about it is using the same paradigm we used for Ephemeral Being- that while all Ephemerals use Essence, there is a difference between the Essence of ghosts and that of spirits, and as such a difference in Rank. However, I’m not sure that interpretation works for this case- the Vitae the strix needs seems to be the same as the one vampires need, and is generated through another means. That means that Vitae is still Vitae- but it is the medium which is different.

And that seems to be the point.

For example, did you knew that you could use electrons in order to cool down a system? Yeah, you can actually pour electricity into a metal and it would cool down instead of heating up. That’s because electrons don’t only carry electric charges, but they also carry heat. Now, the way heat is carried in the system is quit different if it is done through electrons or by moving through the structure of object directly (which is sometimes known as phonons). They are both governed by temperature, but express it in an whole other way. Let’s take it one step forward- we all know about physical force, right? F = ma? Now, we can all agree that while the expression looks quit simple (the way that energy is spread upon displacement), but we can also agree that there is a difference between electric power and gravitational power (hence why all theoretical physicists spend their efforts in a way to reconcile those two powers). More than that, even though scientists have managed to make unified theories for the nuclear forces and the electromagnetic forces, in daily life those two forces express themselves quit differently. Heck, even electric force and magnetic force act differently, each with its own field, even though they are both aspects of the same phenomena and are carried by the same particles- photons.

That’s, more or less, what we have here- the fact that the medium matters. It is important whether the source of the force is gravitational or electric, even though they are both energy divided by length. It is important if the potency of the vampire comes from blood or shadows, even though Vitae is still Vitae, life is still life- it is simply that Blood Potency represent the animating quality of blood as “vitae carrier”, while Shadow Potency represent the same quality as carried by shadows. The strix drink breath, for breath carries the life of the subject in a semi solid way, which could be absorbed by their body. Blood is just too thick, and the Vitae in it simply can’t be adjusted to their system without a body to host them.

As for the specific effect of Shadow based Animation, let examine the effects of the value itself. First, we can see that like Blood Potency, Shadow Potency spontaneously increase with time- which supports the fact that both sizes acts as some sort of supernatural temperature. It could also be raised by devouring other strix, which makes sense (again, you combine two systems together, the intensive value rise as some sort of average of the two systems). They do not, however, need to “cool down” in the same way vampires do- they don’t spend Vitae to wake up, and don’t fall into torpor. That means that, unlike vampires, the strix don’t need to pay a toll to the Sponsor in order to exist- and as such, they work with their own “vampire licence”, and that their points of origin are, at their base, different.

They can, however, reduce their Shadow Potency by reproducing. Unlike vampires, the strix practically cut out parts of their own shadow stuff and make it into a new strix. The process reminds of the way vampires lose Humanity during the Embrace- but we will get to it later. At any case, unlike vampires, the Owls can strength any of their attributes using Vitae- which means that the way their mind and body are tied together is different from the way it is done with mortals (duh?). The fact that the strix are immune to Vinculum supports their unbound nature, and may come from the fact the strix control their own animation field a lot better than vampires do, or simply because of the lack of overlap between a shadow-based animation field and a blood based one.

It is worth to mention that soulless people produce no Vitae to the strix (and maybe to other vampires? I need to check that). That means that the life represented by Vitae do not come from the physical body, but are a product of the how our soul “charge” our body, some sort of fuel it use to bring it to life.

When we take a look at the strix’s mind, we discover that they lack Dirge, Mask or Touchstones. Touchstones are easy to explain (the strix are not human, and they simply don’t care enough abotu others), while the lack of Mask and Dirge comes from the fact the strix does not suffer from a dual nature- they don’t have a soul, they are a Beast. On the other hand, they do have a Vice- which is a trait based upon human mentality. The more interesting thing is that the strix’s Vice works mechanically like the human Vice, which is always something that encourage the Owl to take a physical form. Interesting. Very interesting.

The reason that it is interesting is that it supports the “dual mind” theory we have established for humans- with Vice being the part of the mind which leans toward the body. The strix’s Vice seems to be the initial “link” which allows it to take over the host. However, the strix lack any “higher mind”- which means that the strix are, by default, creatures of lower nature. Nothing draws them more than they own basic pleasures, nothing interests them beyond the moment. They have no long term goals- they can plan for long term, but their nature always distracts them. They just can’t focus enough, can’t care enough, about things longer than the next few moments. The fact that their mind is still half human may hint something about the origin of the strix- perhaps they are a manifestation of our deepest desires, thoughts we don’t dare to pronounce, emotions we hide in the darkness so no one would see- and in that darkness, they grow fat upon our own self loath, spread their black wings and fly to the night. At any case, it may mean that the strix may be ancient- but they are not, apparently, pre-human.

Unlike vampires, the strix have another way to gain Willpower other than their Anchor- seeing the sun sets over the horizon. While there is nothing scientific to say about it, I think it is cool to look at it at a psychological view- the strix feel just as satisfied from taking a body to the edge or tormenting the hell out of a Kindred just as they feel from seeing the sun dies out. Even vampires don’t hate the sun as much. Vampires fear the sun- but the strix despise it. They take it personally that the sun dares to take its head up every morning, and celebrate its death at every night. Perhaps they are truly inhuman, and they remember the time before the sun, before the light, before the warmth. Maybe they just take its effects upon them personally. Whatever the case, that is another difference between them and the Beast.

On the other hand, we do have another evidence which support the strix being of human origin- the fact they can commune with any person through some sort of “telepathy”. Sure, telepathy is not that uncommon in the setting, and we could claim it to be some sort of interaction between the strix’s animation field and their target’s, but I think it is cooler to treat it as the strix “communing” through the same dimension as they exist on- they are creatures of shadows and darkness, and they can instinctively speak with anyone, through the darkness in their heart.

Like the Kindred, the strix also have Banes, things which harm their shadowy body- or more exactly, their shadow based animation field. The sun and fire banish them, but don’t destroy them unless they have no other place to escape to. That may mean that a shadow-based animation field is much less vulnerable to the disturbances generated by fire and sunlight. Another explanation may relay on the Beast being responsible for the greater damage done by those banes. That is, sunlight and fire shouldn’t be that dangerous for vampires- but the Beast generates the damage in order to protect itself from a much greater threat. And what does the Beast have the strix lack? That’s right. A soul. Another thing top think about when designing a potential Daywalker splat.

As for other Banes, we can notice that the strix gain new Banes as they rise in Shadow Potency, while vampires gain them by losing Humanity. It may sound a bit unrelated at first- but then we have that note about Integrity: the Owls, while lack Integrity/Humanity, do use Shadow Potency instead. Now, if we remember that the negative of Humanity is Monstrosity, we discover that the strix do have their “karma state”- it is simply that their Monstrosity is equal to their Shadow Potency, and Monstrosity is the one responsible for the vampire’s Banes. That means that, unlike spirits, the strix do have a mind separate from their “body” (shadow animation field) and “soul” (whatever that is). The strix are not the “Beast Incarnated”- it is manifested in their own shadow body through their mind, just like any other “soul” does. The stronger their “Beast”, the stronger the connection between it and their animation field becomes, and higher their Monstrosity becomes, which is expressed by getting new Banes. Reproduction demands them to shatter a bits of their mind, soul and body in order to create a new strix, which is interesting- for the Kindred become more monstrous as they Embrace, while the strix grew less.

While the Owls do not frenzy like the Beast does, they do generate a Predatory Aura similar to that of a vampire. The fact that they can’t notice difference between each other means that the interaction between the auras relays solely upon the animation field interaction, without caring about the medium from which it is generated (it doesn’t matter if you are being pulled by a magnet or by Earth’s gravity- you are still falling from a 20 stories building). The more interesting thing is that their aura actually looks like the one of a vampire which has committed Diablerie- it seems that when a vampire preforms Amaranth, they change the state of their animation field (probably by transforming their Beast) into one which is more similar to that of a strix. In sort, the vampire’s Beast becomes more like the strix’s, which is kinda scary.

Now, let’s start talking less about what the strix are, and more about what the strix do.

There are 4 powers which all Owls share- the Gathering Cry, Owl Eye, Taint of Life and Doom Sense. The first is a form of communication, which is simply generated at high frequency that only beings with keen hearing can notice, and with only one goal- to call more of their kind tot he same place. Owl Eye comes from the fact that the strix are made from darkness, and that their sense of sight probably works quit different from that of a living being. Taint of Life is another sense the strix has, one which works by sensing the animation fields of others directly. Doom Sense, however, is quit interesting, as it gives a mechanical support for the strix’ affinity for fate. Whatever the powers behind the strix, it seems to be in tune with destiny, or maybe even be one of the many destinies which work behind the world. More exactly, the Owls are sensitive for calamity and disasters- which kinda supports the idea of Vitae being tied to entropy. They can feel the “arrow of time”, and the way the Darkness grows in the world.

Another innate power of the strix is their ability to embody themselves. On the surface, Embodiment shares certain aspects with Manifestations- but the occult physics behind each of those abilities is quit different. Manifestation works through the dimension of Essence, that is, through Existence. The Ephemeral is able to control its level of existence and manipulate it through Essence. Embodiments don’t work through the Essential Field, but through the Animation Field- they utilize Vitae, not Essence. That means that Embody themselves in the world, they don’t control the level of their existence- they animate the world around themselves, bringing it to life.  They can Embody themselves in the dead, in the undead, in the living. They can merge themselves with an host, or change their state of matter into material and Twilight. They can control darkness and open gates to Dis. All of those are performed by animating the world around them and make it a part of them. They don’t manifest themselves- but become the thing they embody themselves in.

In addition to those standard powers, the strix have their own, more general Dread Powers. Doom powers utilize the innate connection between the strix upcoming, well, doom. The interesting thing is that those powers also influence emotions- which hints that the fate the strix are tuned into comes from the people themselves- or more exactly, from their own darkest fears and desires. Dark hearts are the ones to bring doom, not the stars. Host powers are an extension of the Owl’s ability to embody itself, animating the host further in order to make it more a “part of them”.  Shadow powers come from the connection between the strix and darkness, and enhance the Owl’s ability to embody itself in the dark instead of in an host body. Finally, Vitae powers are direct manipulations of the animation field, similar to what the Kindred do using Disciplines. In fact, they can even learn Disciplines of the Kindred, meaning that vampires only have a very limited access to the wide variety of animation field interactions. The strix can’t use Theban, however (apparently, they lack access to the Theban Matrix as nothing blocks their “Beast”), but they can develop Curac naturally (as it is the way the Beast embody itself in the world)- but they can’t use it without blood. That shows the importance of medium, for it is like trying to use an electric field to move a neutral object- nothing happens. Curac seems to need its own “matrix”, which works through blood. While the strix do have the right potential for Curac and can understand the powers behind it, they do not have access to it by their own because of the differences in matrix.

It is worth to mention that other than Curac, the strix lack access to all other Covenant Benefist when possessing an host, and even Curac they need to develop by themselves. Four of those powers relay on an outside Matrix, which makes sense, and the Coils are transformations of the vampire’s Beast- and with the strix taking its place, the effect of the Coils simply stops working.

And now, some words from our sponsors-

  • Anna Red- a standard example of “teaching/tormenting the Kindred” kind of strix, one which use the Masquerad against them. Cool strategy, I must say- but she is also an example for ho easily the strix can become bored.

 

  • Baron- another interesting strategy, which plays its own Masquerade  against the Kindred. It also shows that some Owls grow attached to their possessed bodies. I do need to add its childer as a to-do Bloodline. Also- it has a freaking murder house!

 

  • Black Cat- this is an example for a strix which wish to to “teach” the Kindred, in its own twisted way. Kinda spooky, I must say.

 

  • Granny- another strix which made itself an essential part of the Kindred society, and this one has a strong affinity with the fate the Owls are tuned to. One of the scariest monsters in this section.

 

  • Hantu- well, well- Hantu is cool! It is a master of Curac, and is hinted to be the power behind at certain Clan. While there is a theory that it has created the Mekhet, we have already established they Shadows have a different origin. The backstory does sounds a bit like the Julii’s, but why does it hate the Mekhet then? As we mentioned before, maybe some Clans were “created” a number of times, and maybe one of their variations was created by the Sorcerer, and later absorbed by the wider Mekhet Clan, turning its rage upon all of the Clan. I think I’ll add this to my to-do list.

 

  • Lady of Shivs- not the strongest strix, but definitely a smart one. I approve.

 

  • Lord of Irons- it really seems like the strix play on humanity’s worse qualities and fears. A nomad monster in the woods? An undead pet? Justified rebellion turned into self destructive terror? Evil grannies? And now- an corrupted police officer. Again, this one is doing it just for laughs. Perhaps the Owls have a strong sense of irony?

 

  • Marty- oh, I love Marty! He is just the opposite of what you expect from a strix.

 

  • Mother- with all of those “Lost Clans”, seeing the birth of a new one does sounds interesting. Unlike other strix originated Clan, this one seems to have far more emphasis on owlish qualities. Maybe that’s a part of the strix not being a single breed. Maybe Mother just has a limited imagination. Anyway, to the to-do list!

 

  • Mr. Scratch- Grimma Wormtounge, the strix version

 

  • Ms. Gem- at first she seems to be the standard kind of strix- the hedonistic one which only seek after pain and pleasure- but then we look on her Shadow Potency. I expected 4 or 5- but instead, nine. Nine! She is the most powerful strix in the book! Apparently, hedonism can take you far. She also has some great knowledge about Mystery Cults, which gives her a nice twist.

 

  • Old Man- a standard monstrous strix, not even sophisticated one. Nothing to see here, move along.

 

  • Pastor Samuel- now, that’s cool! A strix which creates an hunter cell (heck, maybe even a compact!) by claiming vampires are demons from hell and sending his human underlings to deal with them. I’m adding this potential compact to the list.

 

  • Photographer- well, it looks like the strix have a knack for arts too! The classic “trade your soul for beauty” kind of thing. I wonder if it is tied to the Formosae somehow, as the effects of their “bite” are quit similar.

 

  • Ringmaster- another strix which was influenced by pop culture.. or was it? Maybe that monster comes from Rome, where it saw the gladiator arenas for the first time, and was.. inspired.

 

  • Strix Hunter- it takes one to kill one, right? I must wonder if it has some agenda or reason for its killings, or if it really is just to enjoy the act of devouring other Owls.

 

  • Teach- adding a monster teacher to the list of human inspired horrors. That blood magic ritual does sounds like an interesting plot hook. I wonder is it is a some sort of summoning, which perhaps is meant to unlock a gate to Dis and get something out.. or something in. At any case, it is an example for the fact that the strix are so tuned into fate and don’t care about why they do what they do, that they can work complicate missions out of instinct.

 

  • Thief of Masques- it looks like that for those strix which wish to attack the Kindred society, the Masquerade takes most of their attention. It makes sense- without it, the Kindred would probably have to become a lot more monstrous, unable to conceal their nature. An easy way to achieve their goal.

 

  • Varney- a strix which is not only attached to its body, but also growing senile. That’s… interesting.

Before we finish that post, let’s take a few moments and examine what kind of supernatural patron and realm the strix may have in the cosmology.

We know three things about the strix- that they feed upon life, that they are made from darkness and that they are sensitive to fate and doom. We also know that they may have some connection for vampires, even if not a direct one and even if not to all of the Clans. We know that they are creatures of Vice, bound by lesser desires and emotions, like infernals- but unlike them, they aren’t defined by their Vice, only satisfied by it. We know that the fate they serve is one which brings calamity, and that it is connected to the darkness found in other people’s hearts- that is, the reason they are connected to human Vice comes from the same power which manipulates destiny to bring doom. So what do we get from all of this?

Something we’ll call Lilith.

After some thoughts, I’ve decided to make some changes to the name conventions given to the otherworlds of vampires. As the Owls are called the Birds of Dis, it seems unfair to use that name to the realm of the Sponsor. Instead, the place which the Sponsor and the Blood Gods rule will be known as the Graveyard, while the shadow to which the strix, the original inhabitants of the Graveyard, were banished to will be known as Dis. While both Dis and the Graveyard are Lower Depths, the distance between the two is so metaphysically great that Dis to the Graveyard is the Graveyard to the Fallen. Still, Dis is well connected to the Graveyard- it is a two dimensional space, for darkness has no volume. It has no light, no mass, nothing, actually. It is a lifeless realm made out of hungry darkness, smoke and shadows. You could wander that empty space for all eternity without moving even one centimeter, for without light time and space lose their meaning. Still, Dis isn’t truly empty- for one people enter its boundaries, it is filled with everything they brought with them.

The things is, that because Dis is so empty, anything people bring with them fill the whole space. It is not only their physical form- it is their dark hearts and souls. Dis change its shape to take the form of their worst desires, of their evil selves, of things they never wish to see. Dis feeds upon that inner darkness, slowly consuming the life and soul of those who stumble into its depths until only an hungry husk is left behind. Dis is an hole in the fabric of the universe, a two dimensional sink in the animation field, and so only beings with such field (such as vampires) can usually enter it. Others are simply “too big”, and if they do manage to get into that darkness, most of them are never seen again.

And in the heart of the darkness, Lilith, the Queen of Owls, sits upon her shadowy throne.

There are many stories about her Some say she was the first woman, cursed by God to fear the sun and fire and to be a mother of demons. Others say she was a divine creature- a sorceress, or perhaps a dragon- which was betrayed by her siblings and thrown into the void. Some say she is a goddess, a she-demon, or even a manifestation of the first night which ever fell upon earth. Lilith doesn’t bother answering those questions. Very few people has seen her true form, but many have met her- she shows up in dark dreams and black nights, in the mind of a madman or in the shadows of the fearful. She is heard in the last breath of an hanged man and felt in the cold wind of the winter. Lilith is in your heart, that evil self you try to ignore, but may one day bloom into a beautiful monster, if treated right.

Lilith, by her core, is a creature of passion, and she feeds upon those passions. She drinks souls and devours hearts, celebrating in death while singing the requiem of her enemies. One, she ruled the Graveyard all by her own, birthing children from her shadows and sending them to torment the living, creating mockeries of life in the form of the undead. Then, the Sponsor came, and he threw her into Dis- the strix claim he tricked her, but who can believe a word the Owls say? While she is a creature of darkness and death, she is a goddess of omens, too. She is entropy- or, at least, one form of it. She is the end which has no beginning, the long night which would come as the sun would burn out in the sky, leaving behind a black star. She is a force of calamity, leading people to self destruction by drawing them into their finale end. There is no meaning for virtue, no place for light. Everything is doomed- and you should embrace your inner darkness instead of fighting it. Lilith is not a goddess of fate- she is a goddess of doom, and she tries to pull everything to its ultimate demise.

As a goddess of doom, she is one of the Darkness’s few allies- for both of them share their love for dark places, desires and the rising the chaos of the universe. However, there is a key difference- the Darkness doesn’t want to end all things. It enjoys tormenting the living too much. The Darkness doesn’t destroy- it twists, changes and transform to make everything worse. Lilith doesn’t want to make everything worse- she wants everything to end. The world is doomed to fail, and she wants to watch it going down. She wants to watch the sun sets one last time, creating a barren landscape where only the dead roam the earth, feeding upon each other in an eternal spiral of destruction. Only then, in a realm which knows no light, she could finally spread her wings and embody herself in the world.

Well, that’s it for this week! In the end I haven’t talked about ghouls and revenants- I think i’ll wait with it for Half Damned. At any case, next week there won’t be a post, for I will be in vacation. The week after, I will make my next Open Development post about werewolves on the First Temple… or am I? Stay tuned 😛

Open Development 2: No Person of You Shall Eat the Blood (V:tR)

So while I first thought about choosing the gameline for out Dark Era in advance, after some thought it came to me that it didn’t really made sense. Being locked on a gameline, while helpful to focus your efforts, could be block your creativity and blind you to the “right” choice for the Era. So, instead, I have decided to investigate how each of the gamelines (and perhaps some Blue Book templates, like Inferno or Second Sight), may exist in the times of the First Temple- and the first one is, of course, vampires.

When thinking about vampires in Judaism, two things immediately jump to your mind- Lilith and the prohibition to eat one’s blood. The connection between Lilith and Requiem is almost too easy to ignore- after all, in Hebrew the very translation of the word “strix” is “Lilith”. A great demon bird which devours the breath of sleeping children and has spawned a legion of demons to avenge herself allows us to integrate the Owls to the setting easily.

The prohibition itself, however, does not connect to the vampires of mythology- according the accepted interpretation, it was made because eating the blood of animals is claimed to be a form of idolatry, even though the alternative does claim that the spirit of the animal is found in its blood. At any case, most agree that the bible talks about the blood of beasts and birds alone, so one can still “eats their own blood”. However, those are the CofD, and in our setting the reason for the prohibition is much simpler. Its vampires.

As we can all agree, the most immediate interpretation of the verses about blood-eating is “you aren’t allowed to be a vampire”, which is funny, as usually no one asks you. The punishment for the act is called Kareth, usually interpenetrated as “death by heaven”, which actually makes some sort of sense- those who eat blood are vampires, and they are, usually, dead. However, there are other people who drink blood other than vampires- ghouls for example.

Looking at things that way brings the prohibition under an whole new light- it is not about forbidding you to be a vampire. It is about forbidding you from being in a Blood Cult- you must not eat the blood of vampires, you must not bind your will and life to theirs in exchange for longer lifespan. The punishment for that is “death by heavens”, which is sometimes known as shortening the sinner’s lifespan- which, again, makes sense. Other interpretations include “death without children”, or “banishment from the afterlife”, or a combination of those punishments. At any case, Kareth sounds like a fitting punishment for both vampires and ghouls- being cut off from the afterlife, from society, from life itself. You are no longer part of this world, and you are doomed to exist alone for all eternity.

Too bad vampires don’t follow the rules.

The Kingdom of Israel during Solomon’s rule is an important crossroad in the Ancient Near East. While the exact countries which were in regular contact with the Monarchy isn’t well defined, we know that Solomon had alliances Egypt, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, with some even suggest India. While I don’t think we need to go that far, if we consider that the amount of women Solomon had is proportional to the number of countries and nations he had an alliance with, we can be sure that it means quit a range of influence. As in order to satisfy his women he made them temples in honor of their gods, that makes Ancient Israel into some sort of melting pot, where all kinds of different faiths and traditions clash and mix together. Unlike other similar Eras (like To the Strongest), such mix of cultures is not considered a good thing- it may even be a sin, actually. Strictly forbidden. However, the dead are not the only ones to break the rules.

Considering the situation, we can more or less assume we are likely to meet in that Era- the first, and most widespread Clan is, undoubtedly, the Daeva. With their origin in ancient Mesopotamia, the Daeva have had centuries to strength their control over Near East. Their Elders even remember the collapse of the Bronze Age, and most of them have witnessed the escape of the Israelite from Egypt and their conquest of the Canaan. We can safely assume that most of them don’t fondly remember those times, as the Judges swept through the land and destroyed many of their precious Blood Cults.

The way I see it, the Daeva generally see themselves as living incarnations of their gods, undead divinities which exist to be worshiped by the living. Before the coming of the Israelite, they took the role of gods, each of them gathering a Blood Cult to serve them. However, the new situation has brought a dilemma to the Clan- some stay faithful to the old ways, challenging the priests of the Israelite with miracles of their own. Others choose to adapt, leaving behind the role of gods to take one which fits more to the new age- demons. After all, if they are being hunted at any case, at least do it with style. While their cults were repressed under the rule of kings Saul and David, something changed with Solomon’s rise. Acceptance to other gods has started to rise in the Kingdom, and the Blood Cults- both demonic and divine- start to flourish once more in the Old Lands, bringing hope to the dead.

The other obvious Clan is the Mekhet- Pharaoh’s Daughter is explicitly mentioned in the bible as Solomon’s favorite wife, which was meant to sign the alliance between Israel and Egypt. That alliance has also brought trade between the two countries- and where the merchants walk, vampires follow. The way I see it, the Mekhet of the Era are mostly (if not fully) Hollow, and they bring with them their own culture and their own Shadow Cults. That’s not the first time the Daeva and the Mekhet have interacted with each other, but they are still far from seeing each other as Kindred- especially since the weird way the Mekhet Embrace their own, and the competition between the the cults of the Daeva and the Mekhet’s.

I still don’t have an opinion about the Nosferatu and the Gangrel- especially the former. The Gangrel seem to be, after all, the most ancient of Clans, so they are probably could be found in the First Temple. The Nosferatu, however, seem to be strongly East European- even though their description seems to hint about an older origin. If we use the theory that the Clans weren’t created only once, but that different Clans with similar Disciplines were created a number of times with the present Clans being the ones which survived, absorbed or killed off the competition, there may be a local iteration for the Nosferatu, with more or less the same curse and the same Discipline spread. Perhaps we could take a look at one of their Bloodlines and choose the best one for them (the same could be used for the Gangrel, if needed).

However, one Clan which I really don’t think should be dominant is the Ventrue- apparently being created during the fall of Troy, they are a relatively young Clan compared to Daeva and the Mekhet, not to mention they are still recovering from the Greek Dark Ages. I imagine that most of their population is found around Greece, making them practically unknown to the vampires of the First Temple.

There is, however, another to take their place- originally developed for the Requiem for Azar expansion together with Deionscribe and Arcanist, as Clan by the name of the Mumvuri exist in south-east Africa. Each of them carries his own manifested Beast- a small bird which hungers for blood. While they were originally conceived as a Lost Clan, I have thought about revising them, and I think they would make an interesting addition for that Era. At any case, the Mumvuri population in the Monarchy is a bit low compared to the other Clans, with the most coming as part of the trade between Israel and Sheba, perhaps even following the Queen herself as she visited Solomon.

Talking about Lost Clans- there is one another we can expect to find land of Canaan, one which tracks its very origin to the Levant, years before the Temple was built and the Israelite came from Egypt, from a time were five cities stood proud, and five kings ruled with iron fist, spending their time with celebrations of sin, vice and decadence. Five cities which were punished for their sins, and collapsed under their own weight. Five cities which their legacy still haunts the night, motivated by unnatural hunger, the blood of gods and curse of demons. The Akhud.

During that Era, the Akhud are yet to become “lost”- even though they aren’t among the most populous Clans in the Monarchy. They are also still to become VII, if they ever did became them. Still, they are seen as outsiders, devoted zealots motivated by the ideals which even death couldn’t put down. For that Era, I’m going to use my own version of the Akhud, which is a bit different from the one presented in Thousand Years of Night- in fact, I’m going to treat the curse presented in that book as their Elder Bane, while keeping the one I’ve made for them. While they don’t necessary kill other vampires during that Era, they are still not very well trusted, whispered to be demon soldiers and product of pure horror. Other vampires speak about them as mass murderers and diablerists, unstable monsters which has made pacts with demons and similar terrible beings. Those stories may not be true now- but one day, they may be. They will be.

The next thing we need to consider is Covenants. We already know that Egypt’s vampires comes with their own sophisticated cultural structure, based upon the cults of great gods. Sure, some of the cults has crumbled or destroyed (I need to check the timeline), but enough of them stand strong. On the east of Canaan, the vampires of Mesopotamia have their own Covenants, including the mystical Coven of Nanja and the Voice of Shullat- and if I’m not mistaken, the En rules Babylon even during that Era (even though I’m not sure he already made the pact with the Alu). Each of those Covenants would have its foothold in the Monarchy, but Canaan’s vampires seem to have developed their own society.

As it was mentioned, before the Time of Judges and the coming of the Israelite, the Canaanite vampires has operated in a form of many separate Blood Cults which worship their vampiric patrons. With the attacks of the Judges and the reforms of Saul and David, things has started to change in the All Night Society- lone cults ha bonded together, sharing information and resources in order to survive. That process has catalyst a flexible unification of the cults, which took the name of Mizbehakh HaElilim (“altar of the idols”), which exist to maintain the divine blood ceremonies granted to them by the goddess- ones that in modern time would be known as Curac.

However, while pagan vampires have their own traditions, the Israelite have brought their own monsters from the desert- they may have escaped Egypt together with their herd during the Exodus. Maybe they came from another place entirely, stumbling upon the Israelite after escaping their own cursed place. Each of them carries a demon in their heart, sealed by a powerful blood magician in a nameless city. Each of them believes that each sin carries a punishment, and the wicked are to be hunted. They break the laws and challenge tradition in order to judge the dead and punish the fallen. The Akhud gather around them like flies, drawn to their zeal and willingness to make great sacrifices in the name of faith. They are the devil’s advocates. The Ahranite Brotherhood.

That gives us at least 5 Covenant which may be dominant during this Era- the Great Cults of Egypt which wield a variant of Theban Sorcery, The Coven of Nanja and their Merges Sorcery, the Voice of Shullat which fills the Carthian niche (even though their Covenant Benefit may be different- perhaps something about transmitting information), Mizbehakh HaElilim and their proto Curac and the Ahranite Brotherhood (or Blood of Ahran, still haven’t decided on the name) and their Ahranite Sorcery. While it fills the 5 splat system, the fact is that 4 out of the 5 hold some form of Blood Magic. I wonder if I could think about an Invictus like Covenant in order to balance it a bit.

Anyway, after finishing with the main splats, we need to ask ourselves which what kind of Bloodlines may show up in this Era. I think that one Bloodline per Clan is the top we need to get, or even that may be too much. The most asked Bloodline is the Qedesha, as those holy prostitutes track their origin to the First Temple and the practices of certain Canaanite priestesses (although among priests was a male version called as Keleb). At any case, that seems to be a great opportunity to update them. I think the Neglatu could also feature in that Era, although I can’t find in what language the word “Neglatu” actually is. The Naditu would fulfill the place of Daeva Bloodline, especially since their role as living gods- although I can only imagine how they would clash with the Qedesha, as both take the part of holy prostitutes (may be used to support the Mekhet/Daeva tension). The Annunaku may take the place of Gangrel Bloodline, and the Nosferatu’s may be the Noctuku (again, not sure about the language). I may even include an Akhud Bloodline in here!

And finally- antagonists. As we have already mentioned, the strix already has an established place in the setting in the form of Lilith’s spawn, or the lilim. The owls of the night fly in the dark sky of the First Temple, nesting in abandoned lands and devouring the breath of the young. They creep into the bodies of the dead and wake them into a mockery of life. Charms are made against those demons, while many track them to Mesopotamia, and blame the Daeva for their origin. The Daeva, however, keep their mouth shut about the subject. While the First Temple has a developed culture of warding against the Birds of the Night included in the many cults of the Mizbehakh, the clash between the Blood Cults and the Israelite priests and Judges should have weakened the defenses against them- but it doesn’t. Apparently, Solomon has used his magic to develop defensive spells, ones which banish the smoke of shadows to the hell from which they came. The Owls are afraid of Solomon- and that scares the shit out of the vampires.

However, the Lilim are not the only ones who wait to hurt the dead. Stories about a terrible being known simply as Mastema are whispered in the Cacophony- a being which claims to be the father of all evil, which seeks to devour the souls of the living dead, claiming them as its own. Even though the Edimmu are yet to come walk the earth, stories about wind demons from the east are already being whispered in the All Night Society, as Pazuzu sends its armies against the spawn of Lamashtu. The mysterious Alu already seek vampire souls to host them, and many whisper they are the spirits of a Clan lost centuries ago. And that without mentioning mortal threats- priests and prophets, Canaanite and Israelite, soldiers and prostitutes all dedicated to fight the dead, in their own way.

And of course, we can’t forget about dear old Deborah.

well, that’s it for this week! Hope you like my view of vampires in the First Temple, and please say what do you think! The next OD post would be about Werewolf, but it would only take place after finishing the strix examination post for vampire. See you next time!

Chapter 9: Cacophony of Lost Souls (Covenants)

Usually, in modern literature, vampires like to be around other vampires. They create social structures for themselves, they make laws and force punishment. They have their own government, their own rulers and leaders. They are social beings, which hide their sharp fangs under a smiling porcelain mask. That’s interesting, especially when we consider the fact that in myth and folklore, vampires are usually loners- they are cursed creatures, freaks of nature which return to a semblance of life. They are monsters, and monsters don’t gather together to have a (blood red) tea party. That product is an outcome of the romanticization of vampires- making them into something inspiring, instead of revolting. From fear, to temptation. From that, it looks like there is something we can learn about Requiem’s own vampires.

That covenants are a product of the Man, not the Beast.

Let’s look on the vampire psychology- a vampire with maximal Monstrosity is known as Draugr. Those things are usually the standard, mythological vampire- loners, monsters, undead nightmares which exist only to drink the blood of the living. High Humanity vampires, however, are what you would usually see in literature- sophisticate monsters which follow the rules they made for themselves and cling to what they were like dress which no longer fit, but when you squeeze yourself into it you can imagine you weight 5 pounds less. Most vampire are somewhere in the middle- the dress is already a bit thorn and stained with blood, but it is better than running naked and howling to the moon like a madman.

In many ways, Covenants, even those which dedicate themselves to celebrating the vampire existence, are all products of that psychology. They allow the vampire to make herself a place in the All Night Society, to add her own voice to the grand choir of the dead. By taking her part in the covenants, she can readjust the dress a bit- she can patch a few holes, or clean it up a bit. Around her, there are other others who feel like her, who understand her choices and way of life. She can talk with them, she can share with them. Each sings their own requiem, and together they create a great cacophony, which would drive humans mad but is sweet to the ears of the vampires.

The Beast can’t do something like that. The Beast despise things like that. Vampires are predators- they should act accordingly. They should prey upon each other, fight for territory and drink the blood heart of anyone who cross their path. They shouldn’t make themselves a place in the world, creating a different meaning to what being a vampire actually means. The Beast doesn’t allow them to be humans- but the Man, their own soul, longs for it more than anything else. The Covenants are a product of that struggle, an agreement between the two sides of the vampire’s mind and soul- from one side, they aren’t allowed to be humans. From the other, they can’t be mindless monsters. The Covenants allows them to be something else- something which has human traits and monster traits in the same time. The Covenants allow them to be vampires.

Now, while there are many Covenants in the core (most are only described only by a single paragraph), in this post we would focus only on the main ones (I have considered talking a bit about the Broken Covenants, but with the Gallows Post being described in Dark Eras, the Legion coming from RfR and the Tenth Choir showing up in the upcoming Dark Eras 2, that only leaves the Children’s Crusade, and I’ve never liked those kids). As those are social structures, we are not going to see a lot of “occult physics” in here- although there would be a bit about it when talking about the supernatural gifts each of the Covenants  grant to its followers.

First we have the Carthian Movement. While the group names itself after Carthage, they are quit a modern creation- even though even they can’t agree on a specific time of their formation. Most agree on the French Revolution, but the New York Movement claims to be first. I won’t be too surprised to hear that at least some Movements do claim that the Covenant’s origin does come from the ancient city-state, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. The truth doesn’t really matter- just like the fact that Carth is still around, publishing in blogs and pushing the Revolution. The Movement is, at its essence, an ideal- and ideals are the ones to define the truth, not the other way around.

The Carthian Movement exist in order to bring a revolution in the vampire society- it wants to test new ideas, attempts new methods, to do things which were never done. The Movement doesn’t give you a set values which you must adapt to- it wants you to make shit by yourself, to bring fourth your own ideas and make the world adapt to your way of thought. The Movement even turn upon itself, as any revolution which exist in static for too long ends with dictatorship. The Movement exist to bring fourth change- which defies the very idea of being a vampire. They challenge the static nature of death by celebrating change and changing their nature- but sometimes, it isn’t as much of a change as much as it is a snake which feeds upon itself. The Movement runs in place, making one revolution after the other without actually achieving any permanent accomplishment- and when the vampire runs out of strength and can’t run any more, the Beast roars and devours him whole.

The special leverage the Movement grants to its people is known as the Carthian Law. Unlike certain other Covenant specific benefits, Carthian Law does not actually require some kind of supernatural matrix to activate- both of its effect and requirement are, in fact, quit mundane. It work through the different laws the vampires make to themselves, and requires the user to be a part of the Movement. No Vitae, no Willpower, no Discipline dots which effect the vampire’s animation field- nothing. It just require you to be important enough in the Movement, and a matrix of laws to work through. That’s it.

That means that, unlike certain other benefits, Carthian Law is not an extension of the vampire nature- but of the Covenant’s. Following the “Movement as an ideal” theme, Carthian Law is how the vampire can call upon his own Covenant’s metaphysical existence in order to help him. Among all other Covenants, the Movement in unique by the fact that it is, in a way, alive- it actively acts and interferes for the benefits of its members. It is Carth, the faceless leader which exist everywhere an nowhere. That makes the Law into an astral ability in nature, an idea which interact through the astral space in order to influence the real world. As we are yet to investigate Goetia, the exact nature of interaction is not well defined- but we can assume that by following the Ephemeral beings rules, the Law is the way the Movement force itself existence upon reality- or, in other words, it is an outcome of its Influence.

The next Covenant is the Circle of the Crone- the bloodiest of all (maybe but Belial’s Brood, but they are yet to show up in 2E). Among all of the Covenants, it is the one which celebrates the vampire existence the most. They accept their own Monstrosity, they accept their Beast. They let go of their Humanity and ride to the wilderness. Even their Blood Magic demands them to let go of their former self and accept that now, they are monsters, and that they should celebrate that. Being a vampire is something natural, they say, it is a part of the natural order. You are not an abomination- you are the next step at the food chain, another level in the ladder toward evolution. In that case, what stops them from crossing the finale threshold and becoming all Draugr? What makes them different from the mad, demon worshiping Brood?

Their divinity.

You can’t be a part of the Circle without accepting the Goddess. The Crone is not some distant divinity worshiped from afar- she is inside of you, inside of every vampire, pulsing with Vitae and hungry for blood. Countless small cults worship her by countless different names, but they accept her. She is inside of them, beating in their undead heart, screaming in the darkness of the night. When they call upon her, they call upon themselves- upon the darkest, bloodiest parts of themselves, but it is still them. They become the Goddess incarnated, and carry her rage and hunger upon the living. They aren’t simple monsters- they are divine beings. That gives them a frame, setting them a few boundaries- sure, a very flexible frame and very loose boundaries, but it is still here. You aren’t just a monster- you are a divine monster, and while it ain’t a lot it is enough to stop you from falling into Draugrhood.

Curac, the Blood Magic of the Covenant, is the most terrible of all vampire powers, for it is a direct manifestation of the Beast. That’s why the Strix can use it. That’s why it requires Vitae. That’s why learning it is a Breaking Point and it caps your Humanity. Curac means that the vampire accepts her own Beast, and gives the Beast a greater hold over her body. In a way, it means that the vampire permanently sacrifice parts of her mind to the Beast, to allow it to manifest in the world. Curac permanently intensify the vampire’s animation field, and as such strength its interactions beyond the regular limits, on the expanse of the soul. The spent Vitae is used to extend the vampire’s field and cause changes not only on her own body, but on the world around her. In many ways, you could think about Curac as “Influence” used by the Beast to force its nature upon the world (hence the use for Manipulation). Still, there is one strange thing we must ask ourselves when investigating Curac.

Why the blood?

After all, we have already establish that Vitae is not blood- blood carries Vitae, but there are other mediums for it. Breath, for example, or the shadows of the strix. Yet, the Owls, while being masters of Curac, can’t use their own Vitae to perform the rituals. Instead, they require Kindred Vitae- or more exactly, blood. The supernatural energy of life by itself is simply not enough. Curac demands blood- but why? The sort answer is “magic”, but what we are doing is is not magic, but science, and to science we shall turn! Now, what we have here is a process which requires not a certain amount of energy (as we already established that Vitae is a quantized value), or a certain dimension through which the process is preformed (as both are Vitae)- but a difference in the potential value- Blood vs Shadow. That hints that Shadow Potency, while connected to Vitae like Blood Potency, has different physical qualities- and more on that in the Owls’ post. all we can say in here is that there is an importance not only to the source of the supernatural energy, but also to its medium, be it blood or shadows.

After the Circle, we have the Invictus- part feudal society, part crime organization, fully dedicated for material power and wealth. They see themselves as the direct descendants of the grand Camarilla, the power which maintains the vampire society against all other threats. They are the reason the vampire society has survived until now, they say to themselves. They are the true unconquered, the ones which survived where others died out, a conspiracy of silence which rules the world. They maintain the Traditions, they maintain the structure, they main the hierarchy. Without them, there is no vampire society- not in the true sense of the word. There are just scattered coteries which fight each other for nothing more than this night’s meal. The Invictus rules, and the others follow- at least, that’s how they see themselves.

The main motivation behind the Invictus is power- they exist to rule, to shape, to act. They crush their enemies and force their shattered remains to their rule. They may act as an aristocratic society, the most rational and in control of their Beast of all other Covenants (and in many ways, they are), but under the surface, they are the same monsters as the rest of their kind- hungry for power, territory and control just as every other predator. That denial of their true nature may be the reason for why the strix hate them so much- for they reject their Beast and cage it in fancy prison of gold, playing at being human instead of accepting their own Monstrosity.

In order to cement their hierarchy, the Invictus use their Oaths to bind both themselves and others. Unlike Carthian Law, Invictus Oaths do rely on the vampire condition, working through Vitae or Disciplines. That’s not surprising, as Blood Oaths are one of the oldest representation of “blood having power”, right next to blood sacrifice. The fact that only the Invictus has access to binding such Oaths hints, however, that it is not a natural ability for most vampires. It is a technique, an acquired skill which the Invictus use to bind others to their will. We can assume that the power of the Oaths work through interactions of the two animation fields- the vassal and the liege- and forcing them through certain conditions. In a way, Oaths are some sort of programming language, which allows the Notary to directly adjust and force certain interactions of the two fields under the decided conditions. In sort, Oaths are all about programming the vampires, using an interface more user friendly than developing and forcing the Beast to your will.

As everyone know, the “natural partners” of the First Estate are the Lancea et Sanctum. The Church of vampire kind, the faith of the damned. People constantly argue that the Lancea are not Christian- and they are right, but they are also not not-Christian. They are closer to Christianity than, say, Christianity is to Judaism, as their basic faith and trapping rely on Christian imagery. They are strongly influenced by Christianity for historical reasons, and it is a part of their nature. But still, bellow the surface, bellow their faith and prayers and saints and angels, the monster still roars- and for a good reason, for God decreed them as such. The Lancea gives vampires a reason to exist, something to help them sleep at day and hunt at night. They are monsters, they are damned- but God has wished them to be so.

The principle of the Sanctified is given their monstrosity a purpose. Yes, they are damned. Yes, they are bound to do terrible things. Yes, the night is dark and full of terrors- and you are one of them. However, if you do it by God’s name, sin turns into a virtue, evil turns to good, crime turns to justice. All you have to do, is follow God’s will- and who knows God’s will better than its Church? The Invictus rule the vampire’s mind. The Ordo Dracul rule its body. The Lancea rules its soul. Where the Circle prosper in thousand voices, each singing its own song, the Lancea has a single voice, and those who listen to it may find redemption through being God’s willing angels, meant to test the innocence of mankind. Those who don’t, are damned- and God’s angels punish the wicked.

Much of the Lancea’s power relies on its ability to preform miracles. You can call yourself God’s willing servant as much as you want, but in a world were everyone can run faster than a moving car or break walls with their bare hands, you need something more than simple faith to convince the masses that they need to be on God’s good side. True to its name, Theban Sorcery can be traced to Egypt, were it was granted by an angel called Amoniel, and is claimed to manipulate God’s curse. Trying to point the fact that the Egyptian Sun God was called Amun, which had its cult centered at Thebes, which his faith was dominant during the New Kingdom that it was practically monotheistic, and that certain Elders which survived since the days of ancient Egypt show an interesting capacity to use similar kind of sorcery would probably end with your Finale Death. Do not question God (and more importantly, its Church), is one of the core foundations of the Sanctified belief, after all.

Whatever the power behind Theban Sorcery may be, one thing is for certain- Theban Sorcery is powered by the Man, not the Beast. It requires expanding Willpower instead of Vitae, and draws power from Humanity instead of Monstrosity. It also requires a physical sacrament, a object which draws the divine power and bring fourth the magic. It is an intellectual process, requiring working by the ceremony instead of forcing the world to your will. Dots in Theban Sorcery don’t strength the Beast- they contain it. They don’t intensify the animation field- they direct it. The sacrament, the ritual, the cost of Will are all meant to tune the vampire to the forces of Heaven, and ask from them to preform the miracle.

In other words, we need to think about Theban Sorcery less as the vampire’s own ability, and more of the vampire’s ability to tune to a greater occult matrix. The Sanctified preforms the ritual and “wish it to happen”, forcing his field to create an interaction with the “Theban Matrix”. The ceremony itself creates the Supernatural Potential Value (similar to the vampire’s Beast), which creates the field that would create the miracle. The interaction between the vampire’s own supernatural field and the ritual’s allow him to preform the magic and create the desired effect, when the ritual is a part of the Theban Matrix which weaves the divine energy together. The vampire tunes her own field to the Matrix in order to create the miracle, which means she has to control her own field to do so- which requires the soul to be in control of the process, for it means reshaping and controlling the Beast. The Beast, of course, sin’t happy for that- but nobody asks her, and it is all done for God’s glory.

The last main Covenant is the Ordo Dracul. Where the Invictus and the Lancea build themselves around the Man, and the Circle and the Movement express the Beast, the Ordo Dracul cares about neither and try to transcend them both. The Order is not about being a vampire- it is about being more than a vampire, something which is not forced upon you but defined by you. You were cursed. You now cheat that curse. You choose your own fate, and all that mambo jambo about “accepting your curse” or “vampirisim as a natural state” can go to hell.

That makes the Order into both the least human and the least monstrous Covenant. While most vampires choose one of the sides, the Dragons wish to cheat the system and find their own way out. They experiment on themselves and others, leaving behind their old self in exchange for terrible changes of their body and soul. They experiment on their own Beast, forcing upon it changes which aren’t natural to it. They gather occult information and communicate with the other denizens of the darkness. They search for the strange, the unexpected, the things no one understand and use them to shape themselves, to evolve, to become better than who they are and spit in the eyes of their makers. They decide their own death on their own terms, and those which object would be burned in the Dargon’s fire.

The Mysteries of the Dragon are a direct representation of those transformations. Unlike other powers, the Mysteries don’t shape or direction the animation field or influence its interactions with others- they directly transform the Potential Value which generates the field, forcing it to change in ways which aren’t natural to it. In other words, they directly experiment with their Beast- with an half of their own soul!- in order to make themselves something.. different. They don’t simply modify the field’s geometry- they change the very mathematical function which describes it, making it that the Beast is no longer, truly a Beast. Doing so is the most terrible thing one could do to herself- and so no one should be surprised the Dragons do it.

While the Coils are direct self transformations of the vampire’s Beast, Scales allow the vampire to force similar changes on others. In a way, Scales are long range interactions of the vampire’s new animation field with other animation field, which creates outcomes considered impossible. Those interactions allow the vampire to manipulate the animation field of other creatures in the same ways she manipulates her own, forcing unnatural changes on her subject’s soul for their own benefits. Among all of the Covenants, the Order has the greatest control over the animation fields, and that’s represented in the radical transformations they preform on themselves and others.

The last Covenant we should mention in here is VII- even though we won’t get into details. There isn’t much known about VII other than the fact that they kill vampires, draw their symbol in the crime scene and may have some connection to the strix- either as allies or enemies. Three of them (the Ahranites, the Betrayed and the brainwashed vampires) would be discussed when we’ll get to VII’s book. The God Machine cult sounds a lot like the Holy Engineers, so we’ll talk about them in the Danse Macabre. The Blood Cult sounds interesting, and I have considered about connecting it to the Tenth Choir- but as we get that Covenant in Dark Eras 2, we’ll have to wait and see what ends up with them before making the connection. The shadowy doppelganger reminds me too much of the Nameless from Montreal, so I’ll put it on my to-do list. The strix hunters also sound like something interesting to explore- even if not as VII, for they sound a bit too “good guys” for my taste.

Now, after establishing the main Covenants, let’s talk about their patron Blood Gods, shall we?

The Carthian Movement were already established as having their very Covenant as a patron, an astral construct with life of its own which exist to bring fourth new revolutions. The manifestation of that construct would be Carth- the faceless leader of the Covenant, which inspires the Movement to continue and rebel, to continue and change, to continue and challenge and old order. As an astral construct, Carth should exist in the Temenos- even though the Temenos is, well, the place for human souls. However, as we said before, there is no requirement for being a vampire in order to use Carthian Law, so we can assume that it is enough for Carth to be in Temenos, although s/he may exist in a vampire equivalent of the Astral instead- but I do enjoy the thought of a vampiric astral construct which devours other ideas and make them a part of it. Anyway, treat it as high Ranked Goetia.

The Circle of the Crone should also be a simple one- it is guided by the Crone. The question is, of course, what the Crone actually is. We may try to connect her to some primordial power of vampirism- but we have already established the Sponsor for that, and I’m not comfortable with making the origin of vampirisim into the special patron of one Covenant. We can, instead, make her a powerful, ancient vampire which has became a divine deity by its own, and that she see herself as the mother of vampires and maker of monsters. That, however, sounds a lot like how we have established Echidna- and I must say I have no problem with that interpretation. Sure, it makes Echidna as the patron of both a Clan and a Covenant, but there is no reason why it won’t be the case. The Crone may also be her own thing instead- a great spirit of death and creation, perhaps even a Pangaean, which became worshiped by vampires. That could also work- so I’ll think about it for awhile and write my finale decision in the sum up post (even though my opinion is definitely not “canon” and everyone are free to make their own decisions about their cosmology). Please, feel free to say your opinion about this subject!

As for the Invictus, I am definitely going with something in the style of an ancient vampire as their patron- the one which has created the Blood Oath Programming Code, and is the dead heart around which the Covenant gather. Following Danse Macabre, I’m going to call that character the Emperor- nothing more than a rumor inside of the Invictus, an urban legend which which is whispered in the Cacophony. Rumored to be powerless and controlled by an council of elders, he sits in center of the Conspiracy of Silence, being the foundation stone upon which the whole structure is built. He doesn’t need to actually do anything- only to sit on the throne, but without him the whole Covenant would fall apart. What is even less known that while the Emperor is replaced from time to time, its spirit never leaves- for long time ago, the true Emperor has left its own physical body, and it takes the one offered to it by the Council. All Oaths are made in the Emperor’s name, and he is the one to enforce them and punish the oathbreakers.

The Lancea’s situation is a bit complicated- after all, they claim to follow God, but it looks like God may actually be Amun. That brings up the question of where exactly Theban Sorcery comes from- does it come from God? Or is it the power of an ancient Egyptian deity? Maybe God is actually the same being as Amun of Thebes? Perhaps he stole Amun’s Theban Matrix? Or his faithful simply hijacked it for their own uses? At any case, the point is that the true nature of Theban Sorcery isn’t that relevant- Elohim’s existence was already established in the setting as the patron of Mortals, and it makes sense for him to use vampires to test their innocence. He definitely chose Longinus as his champion among the dead, and it is Longinus, not God, not Amoniel and not Amun, which is the saint and patron of the Covenant. Perhaps the Theban Matrix is not an invention of God. Perhaps he stole it or loaned it or traded it or share it with Amun. Perhaps Amun still has some sort of influence about the Matrix- but it is relevant. All that is important is that Longinus stand for the Damned, and that his faithful can use Theban Sorcery in his name. That’s all.

Finally, the Ordo Dracul have their own being to follow- less of a patron and more of a role model. Dracula. The finale fate of Dracula is unknown, however, which means we can play around with it a little. In order to do that, I have decided to establish the existence of a being known simply as the “Dragon”. The Dragon is, in many ways, the goal of every vampire of the Order- an archvampire, a creature which transcended both life and death. Some say that it was the one to teach the secrets of the Mysteries to Dracula. Others say it is Dracula. Or maybe it ate Dracula. Or Dracula ate him. At any case, the Dragon is a terrible being, which may have been a vampire once but has nothing in common with them anymore. It is a great predator, protected from sun and fire, from the whispers of the Beast and dirge of the Man. If it was ever human, it forgot it millenia ago. It is locked in Dis by the Sponsor itself, out of fear from the creature’s great power. It is bound by 7 seals forged by both him and Lilith, blessed by the blood of every Blood God and other divinity. It is an awful entity- but the Order wish to free it. It wish to be it. Whether they know it or not is an whole other kind of story- but one day, another Dragon would rise, and it takes one to beat one.

And that’s all for Covenants! I’m sorry I post it only now, but I have found a job and it means I can only work on the blog on weekends. That changes the regular time of publishing posts from Monday to Saturday. The next post would be an Open Development one, as we’ll start thinking about the place of each gameline in that potential Dark Era. See you next week!

Open Development 1: The First Temple

So, while investigating the “supernatural physics” of the different monsters in the CofD is fun, I have felt like maybe I should have make a little better use for this blog. Yes, I’m still going to investigate the different splats and phenomena of the setting in order to better understand the game’s world and get new ideas for homebrew, but I’m also going to to start and develop one of the project I’ve always wanted to do- one which got the most votes in the appropriate thread.

The First Temple.

Before we start the project, I wish to to make it a little bit clearer about what exactly I mean by saying “Open Development”. After all, I have write my own share of homebrew, but have never actually called it in that name. In that case- what makes this different from directly writing the said project?

The main difference is that the point of this project is to hear what you have to say. Usually, when I write a new piece of homebrew, I start with the writing and see how things go from there. Here, instead, we are going to try something different. I’m going to present the basic ideas, concepts and what I plan for the said Dark Era before I start writing it, and you would have your place to say your opinion, suggest ideas or even write some parts of the setting if you feel like it. After getting something which we would be satisfied with, I will write it down and post it in the forums- and then return to here to work about the next part of the project, until (hopefully) we would finish it. In order to do so, I am going to need your input about the project, so please either comment in here or in the relevant thread in the forums.

Now, let’s start talking about the project itself, shall we?

The first thing we need to do, is narrowing the time scale. As there is not unified consensus about when (or if) the First Temple stood, the suggested timeline is between 970-587 BCE. While we could potentially stuff it all into a single Era, there are many events which has happened in the process- especially in the Kingdom of Israel, as kings were replaced in there like socks. Judea, on the other hand, was much more stable, even if smaller in size. Personally, the time I find as the most interesting is actually the time when it was just built- that is, the Reign of King Solomon.

Just like the Temple itself (and perhaps even more than it), Solomon’s existence is not something everyone agree about. Many claim he never truly existed, being only a mythical character. That reason was why I wasn’t sure about suggesting that Dark Era- however, after thinking about it, I’ve came to the conclusion that whether or not Solomon existed in real life, he undoubtedly exists in the CofD. After all, the Book of Judges was already suggested as a potential Dark Era, Deborah was presented in Thousand Years of Night and the kingdoms of Israel and Judea are presented in Sothis Ascends. Yes, we can safely assume that as far as the CofD is concerned, Solomon was around.

Now, after narrowing the time scale, we can better explore the exact situation which we are going to deal with- the reign of Solomon the Wise, the last king of the United Monarchy, the “golden age” of the kingdom before it fell from grace. Solomon- the greatest of kings, which knew the language of every beast, answered the riddles of the Queen of Sheba, maintained powerful diplomatic through the whole region, controlled the elements of the world, wrote poetry, fought with Asmodai, read the stars and bound 72 demons to his will, depends on who do you ask. It is clear that Solomon is going to be a mage- and an extremely powerful one, too. A king of great wisdom which used it to guide his rule over the land.

But he wasn’t that perfect.

King Solomon may have been wise, but he too was blinded by the lies of the world. He had many wives, and they turned his heart after other gods. He allowed the status of false idols to the temple, from Astrate to the dread Moloch. He had many horses and chariots, silver and gold. While his reign was a time of peace and prosperity to the Israelite, with his death the whole kingdom would collapse, and be divided into two warring countries. Near his death, he is said to write down the Ecclesiastes, which starts with the words “Everything is a Meaningless”, a verse which could also be translated as “All is Nonsense”, or, with some flexibility, “All is a Lie”.

The way I see it, the Dark Era is going to be focused around the height of Solomon’s rule, and there are many ways to play around it. A Wise King being blinded by his own glory that he can’t see the things which are about to come screams Mage even without Solomon actually being one (and he is going to be). As we are in the middle east, it won’t be that hard to try and add a little bit of Mummy into the Era. On the other hand, biblical Eras could also be connected to the God Machine and Demon. Hunter also has its place, with the United Monarchy becoming a rising power in the ancient East, and pagan groups (like the Maagal) fight hebrew groups, all while the Cult of Moloch celebrates with blood and fire. I could also easily see Vampire fits in with some ancient Covenants and Bloodlines, or Promethean featuring the demonic Lineage of the Baalim, or even something about Inferno (as Solomon enslaves demons and fight their king). Stories about Ziz, Behemoth and Leviathan may hint about Beast’s involvement, especially as either Ziz or Leviathan is claimed to protected the shamir which was used to build the Temple. With some thought, I could even see Werewolf or Changeling finding their way to this Era.

Of course, nothing is set in stone right now- this Era could be a single gameline Era, one which combines 2 or 3 different gamelines or even a full crossover Era which touch everything yet focus on nothing. This is, my friends, were I’m going to need your help. My natural tendency is to make it a Mage/Hunter Era, focusing around the tension between truth and lies, wisdom and vice. About the tension between the pagans which worship idols of god and clay and the followers of a jealous god which is angry for his temple being filled with false deities. About a glorious time, which is waiting to collapse without anyone to see it coming. About the sins of a king, and the punishment they carry. Still, I am open for suggestions, and you can be sure that no matter which gamelines we are going to choose, there would be enough plot hooks for to understand the situation of at least some of the other gamelines.

So- what do you want to see in Dark Eras: the First Temple?

Chapter 8: A Family to Die For (Clans)

Being dead could sometimes be lonely. You are all alone, doomed to see everyone you know die out and everything you love getting destroyed. You are forced to let go of your old life because you no longer belong, because those you once loved have now turned into something you need to feed upon, and that they would probably want to kill you for that. But you can’t stand too far away, or else you would starve, or the Beast would consume you whole. You are damned, but not by some higher power, but by forever being stuck in the middle- forced to live so close to the living, without actually being a part of them.

Thank god death gives you a new family.

As we have established in the former post, Vitae may be identical, but it is distinguishable. You recognize the blood of your sire and the blood of your child. You bloodline goes back to the shrouded days of history, to some certain progenitor which was “blessed” by a Blood God out of unknown reasons. Each true Kindred in the world is a part of a Clan, a family to which you were Embraced by death. You are not alone- whether you like it or not. That gives you benefits. That gives you responsibilities. You can try to escape, but blood always finds blood. You are who you are, bound by the blood of your sire, and their sire before them, and their sire before them, a descendant to an unbroken dead bloodline which comes from the very first vampire of your clan. You should be proud of who you are- a member of one of the greatest predator species this world has ever seen!

Anyway, let’s examine what exactly being a part of a clan actually means, other than having some sort of “common origin” with other vampires. The first, and most important, thing it gives you is a curse. Your Clan Bane defines you, as it says how exactly being a vampire sucks for you. Sure, all vampires has to feed upon blood, and all vampires are hurt by sun, fire and any other curses they got through their unlife, but the Clan Bane defines them- it is, in many ways, why the Clan exist. The things which caused the Clan’s birth, the circumstances which gave life to the dead.

Unlike the sun and fire banes, which were described as being distributions in the vampire’s animation field, Clan Banes are more like the Humanity banes- that is, the ones which are created from the rise of Monstrosity and the strengthening of the Beast over the soul. They are all strongly connected to the vampire’s Humanity score, after all. That means that your Clan Bane defines your Beast- it is the Beast’s type, or breed. It is what kind of monster you are. It is the basic connection between the Beast and the Body, and how it express itself. The fact that each Clan has its own Bane means that the very Beasts of the different clans are different from each other. They are the most successful of all monsters, and the only thing which stops them from tearing each other’s throat is the soul, which desperately fights against the curse.

The two other aspects of having a clan are a little bit more positive- first, the Favored Attributes. As we may notice, each clan has its own two possible attributes, which is probably a manifestation of the vampire’s animation field, as all are modifications to the vampire’s body. However, we may notice that it is a choice- a player’s choice, of course, not a character’s- but a choice nevertheless. It means that the animation field does not always strength the same trait, and that there is a certain mechanism which determines which aspect of the vampire it would increase. That could be a probabilistic mechanism, which means that there is no real reason- borrowing terms from Quantum Mechanics, the animation field is found in Superposition during the moment of the Embrace, which means that it favors both traits. Once the Embrace is complete, a measurement is performed for the vampire’s animation field and it collapses to either of its favored attributes.

That’s cool- but the truth is that everything sounds “cool” with Quantum Mechanics. Other explanations, more deterministic ones, could be used instead of this one. For example, you may say that the animation field enhance the aspect of the body which is more dominant of the two, turning it better at doing what it does. On the other hand, it may strength the weaker trait, in order to compensate for it. Or maybe it is linked to the vampire’s bloodline, with sire passing the favored attribute to the child. However, each of those explanations would require certain changes to either the setting or mechanics, like certain limitations about how to choose your favored attribute. The Quantum interpretation is the truest to the existing mechanics and setting, and as quantum phenomena only come to existence when the system is of the same dimensions as the wavelength of the particle, we can deduct that the Vitae’s wavelength must be very long (at least on the same scale as light).

The last thing  that the Clan gives you is your Disciplines- that is, the dark powers which turn you into a real monster. As we have said in the previous post, Disciplines are permanent modifications to the animation field- certain interactions which are enhanced though shaping of the field to the wanted geometry. However, it seems like each Clan has its own “built in” geometry for the animation field, which makes it that certain interactions are “easier” than others. Two of the Disciplines are considered as “common”, which means that the changes from the “neutral” (theoretical clan-less field) are not that drastic to develop. It only gives you a slight edge over the regular vampires, that’s all, and they aren’t too unique to your clan.

The third Discipline, however, is a bit more dramatic. The Clan specific Discipline is usually a weird power, one which uses certain strong interactions between the vampire’s field and the environment. That means that the changes in the field’s geometry which are required to create the said interactions are much more drastic compared to the neutral field, and the existence of two such changes do not occur naturally, as they require too much energy to happen. At any case, the geometry of the vampire’s field is usually constant, and can only be changed through interactions with other animation field (that is, drinking another vampire’s Vitae), which create a Superposition of the two fields. Sure, the field of the vampire is still mostly Daeva, but in order to learn Dominate she had to make herself a little bit Ventrue (unless she developed a Bloodline, of course).

So, from that we can understand that having a Clan gives you 2 things:

  1. a Beast
  2. an animation field

Now, on the surface those are two different things- the vampire’s animation field is part of their body, while the Beast is a part of their soul. However, we have noticed that the Beast acts through the animation field- in a way, you may say that just like Humanity is the soul’s mind and Monstrosity is the Beast’s, the physical body is the soul’s body while the animation field is the body of the Beast. If we think about the “soul” values as energy potentials, than the mind is the divergence (3D first derivative) of that potential (which means they are the force/field of the soul) and the body is the Laplacian (3D second derivative) of the soul (making is the “soul’s density”). That means that the geometry of the animation field is decided it potential value, or the Beast- and so by each Clan having a different Beast, each naturally gains a different geometry for their animation field, and as such different favored Disciplines and attributes which express the Beast’s nature.

So, after this initial overview of what a Clan actually means (which is, the type of Beast which gnaws at your soul), we can start examining each of the existing Clans. As the three Lost Clans presented in the book have been expanded in A Thousand Years of Night, we are going to ignore them for this post and talk about them when their time would come. Instead, we would only focus around the 5 main Clan, and the Jiang Shi optional Clan from the Triangle section. Here we go!

First, we have the Daeva- the serpents in the garden, incubi and succubi which whisper in your ear, tempters which test the sins of mankind. Their curse makes them bound to those they feed upon. They are graceful and manipulative, they know their way in the world. Their powers are mostly physical, taking the form of great speed and great power- together with enchanting smile and an alluring aura.

Now, if we describe the Clan as the collections of features created from the Beast which birthed it, we can get an interesting view of the Daeva Beast. First, we can see that the animation field of the Daeva puts some great emphasis upon enhancing the physical body- that hints about being direct hunters. They see their prey, they chase it down and smash it to the ground. On the other hand, they shouldn’t need to chase anything- they can lure the prey to them, by creating the attractive force interaction between them and their target’s field. That is also shown in their favored attributes- one meant to draw their prey, the other meant for quick blows. And if that’s not complicated enough, their curse makes them attached to their prey. You may say that this is how the Beast tries to break the bonds between the vampire and the mortal world- but the point is that the higher the vampire’s Monstrosity, the more likely she would grow attached. It is the soul which fights those bonds, not the Beast. In that case, what’s up with that?

In order to understand the Daeva Beast, we need to look on the fundamentals- it is a physical creature, which likes a powerful predator body. Both of its favored attributes are Finesse attribute, which means that it is not about direct confrontation but about delicate manipulation of events. It is also a social monster, which likes being surrounded by its prey. It loves it so much, that it gets addicted to it. The Beast likes to be surrounded by its prey, it loves having an whole herd dedicated to it, to be worshiped like a god. The Daeva seems to be built to create blood cults around themselves, both drawing believers and growing dependent on them, and that raw physical strength is not made for an hunt, but to impress their believers.. or to protect their herd from other vampires.

Think about it for a second- the Daeva are in love with their herd. They are obsessive toward them, they want them to themselves. Other predators may not respect their claims. They may try to feed upon their herd, about people who belong to them. Other vampires may see it as an insult for their territory- but for the Daeva, it is a personal harm. They don’t try to take a prey from them- they try to take a part of themselves. The Daeva live in their cult to a point they no longer understand if the love they feel is truly love, and if their followers truly love them back. They need to protect their cult from threats, and that requires a great emphasis about knives in people’s face. The Daeva are self styled demon gods, and just as people should worship them, they should protect their worshipers.

I must say that having the purpose of the Daeva’s creation to make cults around them sounds really cool to me. It makes them from the standard “social monster” into creatures which has some purpose for their creation. Let’s see if we can find such reasons for the rest of the clans.

The next clan is the Gangrel, the self styled savages of the wilderness. While the Daeva have more raw power, the Gangrel seem to be more focused around survival in places which lack humans. Both their attributes are Resistance traits, which meant to allow them maintain their body or self control when food is scarce. Their Disciplines are Resilience, which grants them to ability to withstand damage, Animalism, which allows them to control animals, and Protean, which grants them both protection, weapon and escape. Their curse, however, drives them toward feral madness, making them into savage animals controlled by instinct and rage.

From all of that we can gather that the Gangrel Beast is way more animalistic and primal than those of the other clans. It a mercurial thing, which constantly changes and adapt, while always motivated to survive. The Gangrel are meant to live outdoors, to hunt outside of the cities, to take the skin of another and infiltrate the safe communities of humanity only to wreck havoc and escape before they could be hunted down. The Gangrel Beast was made to survive alone, in the darkness, when only the moon serves them as company. The Gangrel may very well be the first Clan to rise from the primordial mix of wicked dead, and it survived where countless others has fallen.

Next we have the Mekhet- shadows among shadows. The Mekhet are more bound to their banes than any other clan, favor two mental attributes (Wits and Intelligence), and have Celerity, Obfuscate and Auspex as Clan Disciplines. The fact that Humanity based banes seems to have much greater influence over that clan than the usual- which means the hold the soul has over the body is weaker than expected compared to that of the Beast. That makes the Mekhet much “deader”, or closer to being a vampire than the other clans. Their animation field overshadows their body, and the Beast manifest itself much easier in it.

The fact that the field always favors attributes which are connected to the collect and analyze data reinforce the idea that the Mekhet Beast is a “smart predator”, one which is meant to gather information and use it to set traps. Obfuscate and Auspex are both tools meant to be such unseen predator which can plan the hunt in advance, walk invisible among its target, learn what it can and vanish without trace. Celerity also helps, as it allows them to move faster and never miss a thing, and also be much harder to catch. The Mekhet seems to be very well made to collect intelligence and hidden secrets, all while their Beast seems to make them much more “vampiric” than the usual.

Let’s think about it for a second. The Mekhet Beast is a smart predator, always planning ahead of time. They are made to be spies and, to some extant, assassins. The question is how their Bane serves that purpose- after it, it does serve the goal of the two other clans (cults and living in the wild). While it is hard to think about such a reason in advance, maybe in their case, we are looking on this wrong. After all, we know that the original Mekhet were all Hollow. Their Beast, their Ka, was much more independent, and as such they were much closer to death (being all Embraced postmortemly).

Now, when they learned to use the regular Embrace, the Beast which once roamed free was stuffed into the body- but it is not how things should be. The connection between the soul and the body is weaker, while the one between the Beast and the animation field is stronger. For the Mekhet, their Clan Bane is not the natural way of things- but an artifact of switching from one form of Embrace to another. The original form of the Embrace, which separates the Ka from the body, seems to meant to serve better the Clan’s reason for creation- but we’ll talk about it more in Thousand Years of Night.

After the Mekhet, we get the Clan of Nightmares- the Nosferatu. While all clans are being transformed through the animation field, it looks like the one which revives the Nosferatu has some dramatic effects when interacting with their dead body. It doesn’t preserves the body- it change and transform it, creating an image which simply do not belong. Unlike the former clans, the Nosferatu’s two favored attributes have nothing in common- one is a Social Resistance trait, while the other is a Physical Power trait. Their Disciplines are also quit random- one is made to hide them, another is made to give them supernatural strength and the third allows them to radiate fear and break minds. So- what’s up with them?

It looks like that what ever the unholy maker of the Nosferatu was, it had one goal in mind- creating monsters. Unlike the maker of the Daeva, which wanted them to have strong relationship with mortals, the Nosferatu are made to exist alone, without any company but themselves. They are meant to be unseen and invisible, or else everyone would see the monsters they are.

They are meant to be outcasts and lonely, yet they are given with great power in order to protect themselves (after all, there is nothing people love more than tormenting outcasts, right?). Surviving such unlife requires a certain amount of self control, as expressed in Composure as a favored attribute. The Nosferatu Beast is meant to be scary, it is meant to bring nightmares upon those who look at them, being fear itself- but in order to protect them, they were gifted with power, the ability to hide themselves from their enemies and  enough self control to not go mad in the first decade of their Embrace.

The last of the five main Clans is the Ventrue- the self styled Lords over the Damned. Their curse makes them more likely to detach, which makes them colder and more calculated, with nothing being too important to sacrifice. They favor social power and mental resistance, which means they are very focused on their goal and their charisma is overwhelming enough to makes others follow them- two important qualities for a leader.. or a general. Their Clan Disciplines are all about control- ruling others, ruling animals, ruling your own body.

That makes the Ventrue Beast very well defined- they are creatures of control, undead god kings which rule after death. They don’t hunt- they demand people to sacrifice their blood, and people listen. They were made to stand at the top, divinities worshiped from the distance or generals who lead the battle like playing chess. They don’t get involved with others, they don’t know how to play on their feeling or try to know them. They know how to command, and they expect others to listen.

And finally, the last Clan we shall discuss in here is the Jiang Shi. Those vampires are quit different from the regular Kindred- first, the way they Embrace, but having weird way to be born is something they have in common with some of the more exotic Clans, like the Hollow or the Pijavica. Second, is how they are bound to the place of their “death”- which makes more in common with ghosts than with vampires. That may mean that their animation field is a bit weaker than the normal, or at least less stable, which is why they have to spend more vitae when they are away from their grave or require the whole blood of a “pure one” (remember that Vitae is distinguishable?).

The reason for the field’s instability comes from the fact that it is not actually their own animation field- it is the victims. The Jiang Shi’s Embrace does not take a fraction of the sire’s and use it to generate a new one- it “steals” the animation field of the right geometry (a “pure blood”), and allow the Phantom to “ride” upon it (hence why giving the heart, which is the source of the animation field, gives higher Blood Potency). The field’s instability is also why a Phantom spends more Vitae away from their grave- as one of the Vitae actually dissipates instead of being used to “cool” the system (and pay the Sponsor for their unlife)- and is also why they can manifest in their grave with a little bit or Work (the field is not in their body, so the Beast can connect between the field and the vampire to teleport them to the goal).

The fact that the Jiang Shi Beast is separated from its “body” (the field) may also explain the Clan Bane- the Assault and the Kiss are outcomes of interaction between the vampire’s field and its prey. With the field being so detached from the vampire, such interaction are not easy to preform, and the Beast can’t force itself upon the target. The attributes they favor hints about their need to find a suitable sacrifice and ritual for their Embrace (Intelligence) and their ephemeral nature which makes them “not really here” (Dexterity). Both reinforce their existence as occult ghosts which ride upon the life on another.

Now, another interesting thing is that this Clan lack a unique Discipline. All of their Disciplines are considered “common”, so the differences between their field’s geometry and a “neutral” one are not that drastic. That means they share more with Revenants than with true Kindred, which probably comes from the fact that Revenants also has an unstable field (more about this in later posts). About the Disciplines themselves, Celerity and Obfuscate both reinforce the Jiang Shi’s nature as ghostly beings which don’t fully exist.

Animalism, on the other hand, is not that clear- why would ghosts need to control animals? That may be explained through the field’s instability- as we said before, the animation field of animals is quit different from that of a human, but as we have seen from the Clan Bane, the Jiang Shi’s field is too unstable to create strong interactions with humans. Perhaps that instability makes it that just as it less disturb the human field, so it less disturb the animal field, and as such gives them greater control over it. That only shows that the Jaing Shi are more distant from humans than the regular vampire, as their field works more naturally with animals than with the members of their former breed.

So, that gives us the 6 Clans if the core- the Tempter, the Savage, the Shadow, the Monster, the Lord and the Ghost. Now, before we finish, let’s talk a bit about the special Clan Merits and the origin of each of the Clans, shall we?

First, the merits- as those merits depends on the vampire’s Clan, we can assume that they are some sort of “adjustments” to the existing geometry of the vampire’s animation field. The Mekhet, for example, can increase their field’s range to make interactions with the collective mind of mankind (Temenos). The Daeva can reinforce the interactions between them and their prey’s animation field in order to intensify the sensations of the Kiss. The Gangrel creates an interaction with the animation field of other vampires, forming a “pack”- and packs work better in the wilderness than a lonely predator. The Nosferatu can use the repulsion interaction created between their field and the fields of others in order to break their very mind with fear. The Ventrue, while not having an official merit, have one that David has made- Heart of a Challenger- and it shakes the target’s place in the world while cementing the Lord’s, reinforcing the chain of command and eliminating competition.

As for the Clan Origins, we could see that each clan has a number of options. As you may have noticed, each of the templates in my cosmology have their own “patron deity”, but each of the splats also have one, which create some sort of “pantheon” of great monster gods. In the case of vampire, those “smaller gods” are the Blood Gods, those who buy the licence from the Sponsor in order to make vampires of their own, and as such they gain a seat of their own in Dis.

Following that logic, I assume we should use the more mythical Clan Origin presented in each of the Clan (although the “Once Upon a Midnight Darkly” section is one of the most beautiful things in CofD, IMO). First, we have the Daeva, and their legendary maker- Inanna, goddess of love and war, two aspects which show themselves thoroughly in her Clan. According to the story (which may share origin with the Tammuz Lineage), Inanna has returned from death only to discover her high priestess having sex with her husband in her own temple. Furious, she kills them both- but then she regrets. She gives Tammuz to the ravens of day, and her priestess to the owls of night. The stories of the Daeva have always called the priestess Lilith- but I don’t like giving her that name. I’ve always thought it was a propaganda created during the Roman Empire so the Julii would see the Daeva as equal to them 😛

At any case, we can assume that the Daeva do come from Mesopotamia, and that they have their origin as priests of Inanna. As her priests, it only makes sense that they are so well built to create Blood Cults around them, making each an incarnation of the goddess which Embraced them, all meant to adore her even if they aren’t aware of that. The stories about Inanna tricking the strix makes me think that unlike other Blood Gods, Inanna hasn’t bought her licence directly from the sponsor- instead, she made a pact with the strix for the right to make vampires, only for the sponsor to buy them, and by doing so “stealing” the Daeva from the Owls. A smart move for Inanna, but the strix won’t give up on their due.

While Inanna was the one to make the Daeva, as she is not a true vampire it makes me feel like it is better for the actual Blood God being the priestess, which I’ll call her Geshtinanna, which (from what I have gathered) is the one to replace Tammuz in Kigal and is a goddess of wine- and we all know that blood and wine go together. Perhaps selling her licence from the strix to her progeny was a part of the trick Inanna has played on the Owls, which has created the debt which the Daeva now must pay.

The Gangrel, on the other hand, are the children of Echidna- the Mother of Monsters. I like to see Echidna as some sort of dark counterpart of Eve- which is the Mother of all Life. Where I see Inanna as either a powerful Sin Eater which has ascended to some divine form, I think that Echidna always is, and always was, a vampire- perhaps even the first one, a primordial monster that has since learned how to manipulate her Vitae to create countless of other horrors. Unlike Inanna, Echidna didn’t wanted to achieve worship or some other planned goal with her Clan. All she wanted was kinship- other monsters to roam the wilderness next to her, things she could call as “children”, and in order to do so she made her pact with the Sponsor.

The Mekhet is another clan which was created for a certain goal- and a very specific one. Their origin comes from the Cult of Set, which has used some forbidden right to hide their Ka and kill the Witch King. That connects them, of course, to Set- or Sutekh, who is known for the Arisen as the Nameless Serpent. According to the Ascending Ones and the Khaibit, the Cult of Set was made to protect Egypt from horrors worse than vampires. The ability of the Bloodline to manipulate shadows hints for strix involvement, although the Witch King’s act seem to indicate about things much worse. As Sutekh is one of the Nameless Gods, we can assume that the act of the Mekhet’s creation was connected to some sort of Sekhem Sorcery, perhaps inspired by the Rite of Return. In that case, perhaps the Cult of Set originally fought against the spawn of the Devourer. At any case, they were made to collect occult secrets and use them against their enemies as part of the Vigil they had back in Egypt- but nowadays, Sutekh may have found other uses for them, one which is dedicated to make as much chaos as possible and fight the Law of his brothers.

The Nosferatu’s origin story talks about an ancient coterie called the Brothers Worm, which has found a chthonic god sleeping bellow the earth and devoured its flesh for terrible power. That talk about “worm god” automatically makes me think about the Zmei from Werewolf- a great worm which lurks bellow the earth and which creates vampire like beings, and as such may be the progenitor of at least one of the Clans. Speaking about terrible animal gods from beyond time makes me think about the Pangaeans, in turn. that makes me think that the progenitor of the Nosferatu is Worm, one of the Pangaeans which survived the Sundering and was trapped on the side of flesh. As its Host may hint, it has affinities for death and corruption, both traits which makes her as the most likely candidate for the Nosferatu’s maker.

While there are many fan theories about the Ventrue being either Gangrel which devoured the Julii to become Lords by themselves or Julii which were mixed with the Gangrel to survive the massacre of the strix, I like having each of the Clans as its own creation. Following the core’s creation myth, the Ventrue are being connected to Cronus, making the Ventrue to the Olympian Gods. Their Clan Book also mentions their connection to the Western Civilization, with the story of Troy and the connection to Venus. If we do follow the origin story in the Core, Cronus could be some sort of a primordial vampire, like Echidna- yet were Echidna created monsters, Cronus wished to make gods. The first Ventrue, however, devoured their maker- yet Cronus live still, its blood pulse in the dead heart of every Lord upon the face of earth.

Finally, we have the Jiang Shi. Unlike the other clans, the Phantoms lack a “Clan Origin” section in their writeup. Instead, we need to turn to Chinese mythology and search for an “appropriate divinity”. The initial instinct is turning to Yama, as he is the Chinese god of death. However, as you may have noticed, the rest of the Blood Gods are not necessary death gods- in fact, only Worm would qualify as such (and to lesser extant, Inanna). Also, Yama doesn’t feel “right”- his shtick is judging the dead, while the Jiang Shi are about stealing another’s purity.

That actually makes me think about Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West. Originally a terrible monster goddess with power of pestilence, she turned into goddess of life and immortality. I don’t know what about you, but that makes me think about a corrupted being which steals another’s purity to become immortal! If anything, it makes me think that the Queen Mother is more like Echidna and Chronus than the other Blood Gods- a primordial vampire which rose to greatness through a pact with the Sponsor.

It’s important to mention that those Clan origins are still before a deep examination of the Clan Books, and that personally I think that it is possible to make a number of similar versions of the same Clan a number of times through history, only for those Clans to mix together, creating a number of different “Clan Origins” for the same Clan.

And that’s all about Clans! The next post will be the first Open Development post! Notice that I still count votes, so please say what you would like to see!