submitted by Gavin Bennett, former White Wolf writer
This is an old WoD article which was published in a sadly defunct Irish RPG magazine a VERY long time ago.
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and Eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.â€
– William Shakespeare, Sonnets
His corpse, still and waxen in the alleyway. There is no blood, no entry wound. Natural causes, they will say. David killed him all the same.
He feels sick at heart, lost, broken. Bill is dead and David killed him. Over that damn book, over that goddamn book.
He’s walking now, in the night, past the vacant light of the late-opening shop windows, on the crumbling sidewalks, amongst the promiscuous rabble of the nightlife crowd, lost in his guilt and fear.
Pistol in one pocket, the weight of the book in the other. It’s as if the two weights will drag him down to hell, drag him down to all those friends and relations of his, who still talk to him at night.
Bill had called him, he remembers. Bill, the obnoxious, smarmy salesman; a Saturday night, desperate, excited. He’d heard that the book had crossed the border, and some guy down in New Mexico had bought it and was bringing it to Chicago to sell. Oh, how Bill wanted it. An almost sexual longing, a greed for that book, for its killing poetry and dead scents, forgotten secrets,
It’s a kick, David supposes, the reason they all do it, all those hollow eyed mad men and fringe-dwellers; the Satanists and the drop-outs, the ones who can see both the living and the dead. It’s not about power or knowledge. It’s about using them to get by. And get by in style.
Maybe we all aspire to being Mages, David muses, to join the Order of Hermes or whatever, to be considered worthy of some title, but really, we live in the gutter, even though we get a glimpse of the stars. We are magicians, that’s all. Thieves and dabblers, trying to catch a glimpse of a world which doesn’t make sense.
Bound in human skin, heavy with age, black and stinking: the book. The Grimoirium Avernum. A map of Hell and its hierarchies, visions of the Underworld, and of course the ritual that everyone had heard of, but all wanted: The rite of the Bitter Them. Yellow pages, covered in scrawled Latin, written by a dark magus in the Middle Ages. Christ, how Bill wanted that book.
Thing was, though, Charley down at the Guild didn’t want it around, Some New-Agers from the park could feel the damn thing, and that meant trouble. David still owed Charley for that sword. The book had to go. Anywhere. It had to go.
Bill was a cretinous asshole anyway; he hung around with vampires and lots worse. No one really liked him, no one would care, and no one wanted that book around.
It was a simple spell to cast; all day in the circle, bleeding, chanting, collecting the blood-soaked dust and drying it. Slip it into that little leather bag.
Just one word, and a flick of the stuff.
A command in the alleyway and the ghosts came, all the spectres and the pardoners, stealing it all, all of his warmth, leaving him cold and dead and lost. No one cared.
David knows he’s been followed, he’s been in the business long enough to grasp things like that.
It should be no problem. He does it quite a lot, casting simple magics to ward off the unseen eyes of wizards, the senses of the lycanthropes and the lust of the vampires. Now, he’s not so sure.
Heart beating faster now. Getting close. Getting closer. Gone. He breathes again, the book warm and heavy in his pocket, a lethargic heat, a sick heat.
Wordless, he calls out. Soundless, he screams. In shock, in despair, in frustration. The black man stands there, one armed, well dressed; bespectacled, middle aged, cold and pale, in the bitter light of the fast food joint in front.
“DuSable,” David says at last.
“The Book, David. Bill owed it to us.”
“David, give me the book and I will let you see Brooklyn again. You should not have come here, Chicago is a dangerous place, right now.”
Inside David is crying. Gingerly, he holds the book, its dead weight, sharpening pain up his arm.
“Thank you, David. Now go. Don’t come back here, or we’ll know. It’ll be best for both of us.”
David turns away. The night is cold. He won’t look back. Never look back.
Almost crying, he waits for dawn.
What is it about the unknown that attracts mortals so? Mages are not the only magicians in the Gothic Punk World; and although they dismiss the others as Hedge Magicians and Orphans, the occultists of the World of Darkness are there, some aspiring to Magedom, others pursuing the dark arts for power, still others to ease that aching in their soul.
The way of magic is a fraught one, even the mighty, disciplined, trained Mages know that. But without that training, the risks are even higher. Even so, there are far more occultists than there are Mages, sometimes members of the various guilds and secret societies that exist in all the world, other times psychic investigators, working on the cases others refuse to believe in. Hunters and dreamers, mediums and mystics, searchers on the hidden path all.
This article is an edit (a radical overhaul, actually,) of an older one which appeared in Vigilante magazine in Ireland in 1995 â€“ long before WoD Sorcerer was released.
The rules on Hedge Magic in the Hunter’s Hunted were a little ambiguous, so this article offers an alternate view on their workings, as well as expanding on them, with notes on how to create individualised occultists such as Witches, Sciomancers, Hermetic Thaumaturgists, Houngans and Alchemists.
One thing to note, however, is these rules are not for creating Sorcerers â€“ i.e. â€œstaticâ€ magicians associated with the Traditions, or members of the Fenians, Zolondordere, Seven Thunders, Mogen Ha Chav, Pythians, Uzoma, Nephites, Balamob, AOAR, or whomever else. This is for creating characters of the occult underground of the World of Darkness.
The night-time World of Darkness is dominated by powerful, mysterious forces; the conflicts of the mages, the wars amongst the ghosts, the intrigues of the Vampires, and the strange and terrible crusades of the werewolves. These forces little care for the lives of mortals.
But they are just part of a whole; small figments of a horrible imagination which humans dismissively refer to as the occult. These are things that haunt the night, the monsters that eat flesh and souls and blood, and wait for you after death. They haunt humanity, feed off humanity, and use humanity.
Some people seek to destroy these things.
Others seek to use them.
There are a great many mortal occultists â€“ those who wish to delve into the secrets of the hidden world, of the night. Some are scholars, some are hunters, and many are magicians, after a fashion. They are thieves, murderers, seekers, and adrenaline junkies scratching away at the surface of a terrible truth.
Theirs is not the cosmic power of the Awakened Mages, or the immortality of the Damned, or the ephemeral enchantment of the Faerie folk. Theirs are stolen secrets; sorceries, spells, rituals; things chipped loose from that deep, oceanic truth of the world that comes to life when the sun sets.
Forget everything you know. It doesnâ€™t mean anything anyway, and itâ€™s mostly lies.
Though they may be many, and spread across the entire world, and each different, their stories are remarkably similar.
Intelligent, hungry, and disbelieving, the occultists all realised that something was missing, something was hidden. The explanations were too pat. They reassurances rang hollow. So they went and looked where they should not. And in seeing the truth, the horror, pain and despair awaiting them, they knew they could never, ever look away again.
The occultists are young; few survive very long. The old ones are clever, merciless and almost inhuman. The magic has eaten away at their bones, at their souls. They have the thousand-yard stare of murderers and soldiers. Even when they are young, they have the unhealthy pallor of the addict. Their addiction is to knowledge and secrets. Many are drug addicts, or mad, or over indulgent â€“ be it drink, food or sex. Despite this, few are homeless, or destitute. Those who dwell in the depths of the underworld of the great cities do so by choice. When you live for secrets, you always learn enough to survive, and live well. But comfort and money pale, as they get a little older. When their bodies start betraying them, they all turn to the search for the greatest secret of all â€“ immortality.
But nothing is free.
To be an occultist means you are not a priest tending to a flock, or a transcendentalist seeking ultimate enlightenment. Like a criminal, you are seeking power, fortune and survival, in a forbidden world. Your currency is not drugs or money. Your currency is information, secrets, little magic tricks, rituals, and copies of the ancient magical writings. People kill and die every day for such things. It is a cut-throat, dangerous world, where few trust anyone, but themselves. There is no structure, no grand organisations, and no secret societies, down here, in the real world. The secret societies, be they the scholarly Arcanum, or the priestly Uzoma, or the Order of Hermes have the money, the power, to accumulate huge libraries. Their tomes are safe, hidden in high security libraries, with access to the best translators, the best preservation techniques, and laboratories to test their theories. They have admirers, benefactors, even worshippers, to protect them, and many other tricks of the trade to insulate them from reality. You have only yourself, your wits, and your intellect. Every drop of knowledge you own you stole, or fought for, or earned with terrible stress. You hate them.
Not only do you hate their luxuries, you also know that they donâ€™t get it. They are playing with pebbles on the beach while a vast ocean of knowledge lies behind them, to paraphrase Newton. The ocean is vast, and seething, and terrible, but you at least steal your pebbles from beyond the shore.
Magicians, Scholars, Investigators, Dilettantes.
Occultists tend to fall into four broad categories. They are either magicians, obsessed individuals, seeking personal power to some end â€“ they claim many ends, but those ends are lies; or Scholars, who seek the possession of, and the transmission of knowledge; or Investigators, who are hired brains sent to find, record and solve issues of a strange natures; or dilettantes, who search in the darkness for some new high, some new turn on, or anything to ease the boredom and numbness of your life. These categories are vague and blurred. One can become the other, but they are useful tools for understanding the nature of the people who make up the occult underworld.
These are the most common. At least, those who claim to be magicians are the most common. The magicians delve into the occult for personal power. But they are also experimentalists. They do these things to see if they can. While they may work spells to save themselves, or to seduce a lover, or kill an enemy, they know that there is a huge acreage of writings on magic, with lists of spells, hidden ingredients and various forbidden practices. Someone has to find out if they work.
The scholars tend to be academics who stumbled onto the secrets of the hidden world through some accident, and now consider themselves to be academics in a new field â€“ just one that no one approves of. And they are academics. They are bookish, learned, and somewhat obsessive, as a group. They intrigue and fight one another as much as the professors and teachers of other disciplines. Some have ties â€“ vague, weak and never trusted ties, but ties nonetheless â€“ to such institutions as the Arcanum or the Society of Leopold. But these organisations they see as rivals. Theirs is not the pursuit of personal power â€“ at least they will not claim so openly â€“ but rather the accumulation of knowledge, the intellectual dissection and absorption of a vast body of writing, study and theory.
In every copâ€™s life there is that one case, that one story, that one thing that happened, which you cannot truly explain. The pale hooker who ran away so fast; or that drunken tramp who did something weird, which neither you nor your buddies can quite remember; or the strange, haunting sensation of anger and sadness around some murder sites. Trying to make sense of these things becomes an obsession. But unlike policework, these investigations do not reveal answers â€“ they reveal further questions. Rather than solve cases, you just find more and more that is strange. As your work goes on, you find yourself undertaking private cases; perhaps for your buddies, perhaps for the gangsters, or perhaps for rich patrons or academic institutions. Itâ€™s not just cops you are out there, in the night, searching. The end of the cold war saw lots of former spies and â€œsecurity typesâ€ with far more time on their hands, and access to huge databases which contain odd, odd, references to things which should not be.
You are rich, and you are bored. OR you are a club kiddie who saw something when you took that dodgy E, or you are a member of some subculture which hold no more intrigue or secrets. Suddenly, you find that new high, that new perversion, that new intoxication â€“ the hidden world. Suddenly there is no limit, no ultimate â€œin-crowdâ€ who are just like everyone else, no ultimate high, no utter perversion that will finally shock you into life. No, here there is no end, just more and more, frightening and shocking and arousing secrets, experiences, and people. Though the obsession will destroy you one day â€“ isnâ€™t it better to burn out than to fade away?
No one is counting, but some estimates say that there are upwards of 250,000 participants in what is loosely and somewhat falsely described as the Occult Underground. Itâ€™s called the Underground because it makes those involved sound more connected, cooler, and more interesting, and because this shit is incredibly illegal. While witchcraft does not exist on statute books anymore, murder is still forbidden. Graverobbing is forbidden. Theft is forbidden.
While there is no form of organisation or order â€“ only a mere few belong to the secret societies and those are regarded unflatteringly â€“ the occultists choose to associate with each other. Though they may be rivals and enemies, they also understand each other. Besides, though you may wish to see an enemy dead, you can always do business with him in the meantime. This gives all their meetings a weird, fatalistic and somewhat artificial air. Everyone wants something, and everything must be paid for. But everyone remains cordial.
That being said, the underground is a young personâ€™s game, and the nature of the sub-culture changes with fashion, society and time. In the 1890s, the occultists drank absinthe and smoked opium and discussed the works of Yeats, Crowley and McGregor Mathers; now they take designer drugs, pierce their bodies and use the internet to trade information. But there is no substitute for meeting others, either for companionship or to know if someone is lying to you or not. There is too much chance of something going wrong, for getting out of your league, and ending up dead or mad or worse.
Though the underground may be anarchic and ill organised, they know a lot. And they know who to be afraid of. These are generally referred to as â€œthe others.â€ The others are some of the â€œseriousâ€ forces of the night, whom the occultist cross paths with far more than is healthy. The others are the most dangerous features in the lives of the occultists. Three distinct groups are noted: the Tremere, the Vampires and the Order of Hermes. Almost everyone has heard of the Tremere, and they all know they are vampires, but they know enough to know that there is something very different about the Tremere. The Tremere are obsessed with the same bodies of hidden lore as the occultists are, which brings them into frequent contact and conflict. Though the Tremere may be few, they tend to win. Worse, the Tremere have a habit of using the occultists as a feeding stock and breeding ground for themselves. Many, many occultists have disappeared in the dead of night, only to turn up the next night, dead, walking and hungry. That being said, being on good terms with the Tremere is a must. Their memories are long, and they only get stronger as they get older. The vampires, as in the vampires other than the Tremere, are also known and feared for a different reason. The occultists are young, depraved and hungry, and this leads to the waiting arms of the vampires. Many occultists are addicted to the rush that comes from a vampireâ€™s â€œkiss,â€ others are addicted to the blood itself, and not a few have been killed outright by some gorgeous undead thing. The magicians also whisper about a group known as the Sabbat, who are vampires, only far more dangerous. Traditionally, the Sabbat would just kill any annoying mortal magician who interfered with them, or even just looked at them funny, but now, the Sabbat are all too interested in finding out what the magicians know. The Order of Hermes tend to be regarded as a vague group, and no one knows quite how powerful they are, but it is too powerful for manyâ€™s liking. The Order can do things that no magician can, and that is worrisome.
The occultists are quite knowledgeable in the ways and obsessions of the supernaturals. Just as many rabbinical scholars can list off the names of the ten orders of angels, the average mortal supernaturalist knows that there are a number of traditions amongst the â€œbigâ€ mages, and a number of â€œbloodlinesâ€ amongst the Vampires. Itâ€™s just that they really donâ€™t, in general, give a damn about such divisions. The information is only useful when trying to bluff something powerful into doing something, and even then its not necessary. One blood drinking dead thing is pretty much the same as another. Avoid them if possible, and watch your back if not. But in general, an occultistâ€™s speech patterns will be peppered with phrases familiar to the players of other World of Darkness games. Itâ€™s just these phrases do not have the same (if any) true significance to the magician.
One group whom the occultists are having increasing, and uncomfortable contact with, are these new, strange, saintly hunters. Neither likes the other. The hunters see the occultists as dabblers and traitors. The occultists see the hunters as blundering nuisances destroying incredibly important wisdom and lore. â€œGreat, you went and killed that vampire elder. Well guess what, had I been allowed do my job, I would have tortured the knowledge of those ancient German ritual practices out of him, and then killed him.â€
The occultists barely exist, on paper. They pay no taxes, receive no social welfare, barely keep bank accounts and tend to duck away from the mores of normal life. They withdraw from family and friends who â€œdo no get it.â€ They sleep odd hours, and have a casualness to keeping appointments that is infuriating. They live every day â€“ even the bookish scholastic types â€“ as if it were their last. And it sometimes is. Drug taking is frequent. Each has a string of broken relationships to their name.
But, the occultists are still human. Thatâ€™s the important fact. Though they shun societal convention, they are part of their societies. For an interesting view of the â€œrealâ€ lives of mortals in the world of Darkness, check out Mortal: The Living on ELN. This is the life that these occultists are, one way or another, reacting against, and rebelling from.
But despite this, they are definitely products of their environment.
Money flows like water around them. They provide services none other can. Their â€œoccupationâ€ is incredibly dangerous, but the rewards are immense. But few care for these financial rewards. True wealth to a magician is in the accumulation of secrets, artefacts and magic. One magician is worth several million dollars â€“ spread through dozens of foreign currency bank accounts, in Zurich, New York and Vienna â€“ but dresses in cast off clothes.
When the authorities do take notice of them, it is widely assumed that they are minor scions of some organised crime gang or other. But most occultists know how to hide themselves, and avoid attention.
There is, however, a certain vanity amongst them. Life fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Actually, some amend this to live fast, die young and leave an interesting corpse. Tattoos â€“ of mystic sigils, typically â€“ piercings, body modifications, scarification, are all common. The magic doesnâ€™t help. It takes a decidedly physical toll, eating away at bone, skin and muscle. The result is a compelling, but definitely fearful visage. They have that lean and hungry look, a sharp hardness to their features that distinguishes them.
Many are frequent world travellers â€“ with the almost semi-permanent jet lag that results. Learning languages is a must â€“ to communicate with others, and to read the ancient texts. Many do not have formal qualifications such as university degrees, but they could argue the finer points of Roman history with any classical scholar.
They are incredibly cosmopolitan. They can argue for hours about the finer points of the house wine in a Prague nightclub, or the beauty of the dancing at certain Central American festivals. These things are interesting, but not important. The real issue is magic. The rest is mere detail. This leads to a deeply unimpressed world-weariness.
Some joke about the sight of a occultist sitting in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing, surrounded by children flying kites, the scene lit by a beautiful sunset, fretting about the fact that their piercing is infected. When the beauty of the scene around them is pointed out, the response is: â€œwhateverâ€¦â€
This merely highlights their distraction and detachment from the rest of the throng around them. Its easy to see why they go to one another for company, at the expense of â€œnormalâ€ wives, husbands, family and friends. And that essential loneliness drives them ever further from the borders of sanity.
However, one scholar of the secrets of ancient Egyptian magic, a former psychologist, has claimed more than once that it is this disconnection that drives the often-desperate pursuit of relationships, comforts and pleasures. Desperation to restore some sense of humanity to their lives, they follow paths that lead them further into perversion and despair.
Though they have no organisation, no order, the occultists are still human, and competitive. This means that factions have arisen; some are vague schools of opinion; others are philosophical dogmas; still others are political intrigues.
The two most important of such factions are:
The Loa have plans, and they wish to use the practitioners of their secret ways to fulfil those plans. Many who use the Haitian magic or rituals have found themselves asked for â€œfavoursâ€ by the Baron Samedi or by others of the terrible and powerful old elemental spirits of East Africa. This loyalty alienates them from the others in the underground, and makes them objects of ridicule and fear. Mostly fear, though, in recent years. They grow powerful in such service.
Some time ago, something happened in the underworld, and things changed amongst the ghosts. There seems to be some terrible chaos sweeping through the lands of the dead, and such chaos has lead to fractures amongst the necromancers and sciomancers who have dealings with them. The necromancers seem to have broken into strange factions based on their dealings with the Restless Dead. But many seem to have become powerful due to their interactions with things the other ghosts call â€œSpectres.â€ They have become more powerful of late, summoning some vile spirits to inhabit old corpses. These â€œWalking Deadâ€ are feared by other occultists, who suspect that the necromancers are not in as much control as they imagine themselves to be.
See Zombie: The Coil for more information on necromantic activities and obsessions.
These two groups are like big stones dropped into a relatively calm pool. Rivalries and alliances and made and destroyed depending on your reaction to these practitioners.
David grew up in New York, in Brooklyn. His childhood was a short, sad experience. When he was five, he started seeing the ghosts. He could see past the shadows and into their world. His parents dismissed his stories, saying he had an over active imagination. This was to be the cause of many problems over the years. He grew into a quiet, intelligent young man, who read voraciously. He haunted second hand bookstores like a spectre, searching for something else to read. And that’s how he found out how to talk to the ghosts and make them obey him. Ho found it in a book. David is what some would describe as a sciomancer.
Creating an occultist character is simple:
Freebie Points: 21
â€œMagicâ€: These are the powers that the character has: 3
The following stats are important: Art (a Skill), Gift (Background), Mental Attributes, Occult (Knowledge), and Willpower.
These optional rules are an extension of the Hedge Magic rules in the Player’s Guide and The Hunters Hunted. Use them as you see fit. To work magic in this system, one needs Intelligence, Wits, and Perception, Occult knowledge, and Willpower.
Allies – Friends, or people who will look out for you such as a family member, or possibly another organisation.
Artefact – The generic magical item background. This item can take any form from a weapon to jewellery, and can have any number of powers.
Contacts – Someone who has information or services and is willing to share with you.
Influence – How much authority your character has over sections of society. This can be City Hall, or an industry, (i.e. Steve Jobs has a lot of influence in computing, despite being way down the feeding chain than Bill Gates), or even a sub culture. (Your character makes a desire known, and lots of candy ravers fall over themselves backwards in an effort to satisfy the desire.)
Gift: Youâ€™re innate magical talent. See below.
Mentor – A person who teaches you your skills in whatever organisation they belong to.
Library – You have access to a library that may contain information on the occult or other interesting facts. However, you can be certain that most of the library contains â€“ well, junk.
Rank – Your place in an official capacity that will allow you access to specific information, or items depending on your organisationâ€™s jurisdiction. Think the army, police, and intelligence servicesâ€¦
Resources – How much money your character has.
Status – Your characters place amongst the occult underworld; who has heard of them, and who thinks well of them. Low status means you are a nobody, high status means you are notorious.
This is how good the character is at using magic. It is the level of magic, which can be used by the character.
* You are young and inexperienced. Your spell casting is erratic, at best. You are still a threat to yourself.
** You are less of a threat to yourself, but you are still not powerful or experienced enough to be taken seriously.
*** An “Initiate,” you are competent at casting spells.
**** You are something of an expert and Mages will worry about you. So too will demons and vampires…
***** You are a master and have the spell casting ability to rank with the Tremere, the Order of Hermes and the greatest among the Rosicrucians.
This is your magical potential. There is a little magic in everyone, but not really quantifiable. This is magic above and beyond the norm. When you are learning new spells, this stat adds to your dice pool. When you are trying to make spells last longer, this is the ability you use. When you start the game, this is the amount of magical power, manna, Vis, ketheric force, quintessence, kia or whatever.
* Your power is more a curse than a blessing. You can feel things going on around you, but you are not strong enough to affect them. Sometimes you have to use drugs to keep them all out.
** You have enough power to make something of a difference. You probably have psychic, rather than magical power.
*** You are now worth training in some magical manner. You have a knack of learning spells and you can make the spells you do cast fairly effective.
**** Your powers are at such a level that makes animals afraid and make people around you testy. With training, you have the power to stand up against some of the greater powers and maybe survive.
***** In you is the potential to be a master magician. You may well be head hunted by various interested groups, from the Tradition Mages to the Rosicrucians, to the Tremere or Sabbat.
Extend, Ritual and Duration:
The Duration of the spell is determined by a roll of Wits + Gift, with each success increasing the length of effect from two turns (one success) to potentially one month (five successes). The Extension of a spell is determined by a roll of Art and as many Willpower points as the caster wants to spend. The spell effect can be spread from a ten-foot radius from the caster or target (at one success) to the entire city (at five successes). Willpower is regained afterwards as normal. Knowing a Ritual is a little more complex: to actually understand a ritual needs a roll of Intelligence + Gift, with a difficulty set by the Storyteller, The character needs to accumulate at least as many successes as there are levels of the spell. Each time the ritual is to be performed, this roll needs to be made. Magic is a funny old thing, and what may work once may not do so again. Besides, there is always the opportunity to forget something, mispronounce a mystical phrase or whatever. But that’s not all. Once the ritual has been performed, it must work too. That’s where the Art skill comes in. The successes above the level of the ritual are added to the Art score and that is the casting dice pool. The difficulty is normally the spell’s level + 4. This difficulty holds true for all usage of that spell at that time (this includes extending the effect and duration) At the Storyteller’s discretion, the character can subtract his Gift from that total; indeed the storyteller can make the difficulty higher, if she so desires.
If the spell fails, the same can be rolled again, with the expenditure of a willpower point.
A list of rituals is provided in The Vampire Player’s Guide. Note the requirement to perform them.
Example: David wants to contact the spirit of his dead grandfather. He finds a ritual delineated in an old book in his collection. The Storyteller deems it to be a level four spell. David’s player rolls his Intelligence + Gift stats (Int:5; Gift:4) and scores five successes, He is capable of performing the ritual. He then rolls his Art, which is three, and adds the extra successes. He is capable of performing the ritual. He then rolls his Art, which is three, and adds the extra success, which give him a dice pool of four. The Storyteller, feeling generous, decides to make the difficulty five (8-4, +1, due to stress). He fails, but grits his teeth and decides to try again. He spends a willpower point. This time he has four successes. The spell is cast. If David wants to have a long conversation, he will have to make a roll of Wits + Gift (3+4), at the same difficulty. If he wants to extend the effect, he spends some more willpower and adds his Art to that total. This is his dice pool for extension.
Each time a spell is cast, a ritual, or a practice effect, the character must make a resisted roll, Willpower Vs Spell level and any modifiers the Storyteller desires (examples, a spell considered evil, raising a demon, or entrapping an Angel, would be +3 to the spell level for that roll). If the character botches, i.e., the Spell gets more successes, the character gets either: A derangement for each success above the character’s; health level drainage, one for each success over the character’s.
Presented here is a brief overview of a few Occult practices and traditions. You may have as many practices as you have Occult points, over two. At Occult three, you have one, at Occult four, you have two and so on. Using these practices is a wide and varied subject, which there is no space to deal with. Each practice is like a skill. The level of practice is the addition the character makes to their Dice pools, when they are attempting to cast spells, which fall into the domain of these practices. Level one to three are simple spells, which can be cast with ease, without a full performance of a ritual. Level four and five are rituals. This has no effect on the rules, except for time..
Each “tradition” has, a set practices involved in it. Voodoo has necromancy, invocation and cognition involved it. A tradition costs five freebie points to have in depth knowledge of. If the practices are chosen as part of a tradition, the character may have as many practices as she has levels of Occult knowledge. The character also has three points to allocate as extras to her levels in whichever practices she chooses.
Exempla Gratia: Laura is a witch, i.e. a follower of the tradition of witchcraft. She has an Occult of four, which allows her, in this case to choose four practices from the list. She chooses: healing, divination, fatuus and summoning. Magical Practices are Numina, which cost one freebie point per level. Her player decides to spend five freebie points on Magical Practices (having already spent five in Tradition). She also has three further points to spend, giving her a total of eight levels to share among her magical practices.
Note: These are informal concepts amongst the occultists, at best. They are ways of doing things, and perhaps groups of spirits or powers to deal with. Half of the terms a mortal occultist will use will have come out of a book someplace, or from a friend of a friend. They are not theological dogmas. But having some association with such things does make life a little easier in terms of knowing people who know stuff.
Voodoo: The spiritualism of the African slaves transplanted to Latin America. It deals with the supplication to and satiation of a number of powerful spirits, the seven Loa, being the most powerful. There are others, lesser Loa, Christian Saints, tribal gods and such, all part of one large pantheon.
Practices: Spiritualism, Necromancy, Summoning and Cognition. Practitioners are called Houngans.
The Kabballah: The philosophy of the Hebrew mystics and scholars of the Torah. This is not, sorry to say, the weird Californian craze involving red ribbons and some other gibberish. This is the closest an occultist will get to the Spheres of the Tradition Mages. It deals with knowledge of the nature of God and His connection to the universe. Invoking certain aspects of God (Sepphiroth), magic can be made.
Practices: Healing, Summoning, Talisman usage, Elemental Control.
Witchcraft: A vast number of traditions from around the world, mostly associated with the feminine principle and the worship of nature deities. Sometimes little different to shamanism.
Practices: Healing, Divination, Summoning, Fatuue, and Sex magic.
Alchemy: The magical discipline, which inspired the science of chemistry. It was semi-scientific in nature as its practitioners examined all aspects of their universe, in the hope of discovering the key to enlightenment, the metaphorical Philosopher’s Stone.
Practices: Elemental Control, Enchantment, Cognition, Healing, and Divination.
Shamanism: A wide range of primitive magical practices, traditionally associated with tribal cultures. It is associated with dealing with the spirits to ensure good fortune. The â€œshamanâ€ is a tribal figure, there to protect the tribe from seen and unseen threats, and to interpret the signs and to heal illness. It is not that good a role for a modern occultist, but many swear by the utility of the rituals. That being said, the Great Spirits are not particularly impressed. (And just to tell you, the plural is â€œshamansâ€ not the name of a dodgy British dance outfit from the early 90s, and the name itself is a christianised slur â€“ â€œSham-Manâ€) Practices: Elemental Control, Cognition, Summoning, Evil Eye, Fascination, and Talisman Usage.
Practices: Sex magic, Cognition, Healing, Fascination, Enchantment.
Magick: The form of occultism set down by Aleister Crowley and his Ordo Templis Otis. It is a vast mix of magic, formed from one philosophy. Someone with knowledge of this form could use just about all of the practices listed below. Chaos Magick: A post-modern magical tradition, set down during the punk era. It concerns itself with post-Crowley magick and dealing with the universe through the scientific chaos theory. Indeed, it is very difficult to say exactly what it is. A good tradition for a Goth or punk character. All practices are involved, but there is a difference in attitude, if not detail, between it and Magick.
Theurgy: The ancient Christian Art of magic, by which priests used their powers to harry demons to serve God. Needless to remark, those using this power were frequently corrupted. Books on the subject still exist, and in the World of Darkness, so do its practitioners. The old theurgists and demonologists wrote long and detailed and sometimes even correct analyses of the spirits and creatures of the Other Side.
Practices: Summoning, Cognition, and Sciomancy.
These magical skills can either be learned alone, as skills, or chosen from Tradition lists. Like the traditions, this is a very short list, a few selections from a longer one. Practices are additions to the Dice pool. Thus, when the character is attempting to cast a spell that involves a practice he knows, then he has the level of practice, in dice to add to his attempt. Thus at level one, these powers are not effective. At level five they are very much so. Exempla Gratia: Charley is an illusionist. He has powers, which distract and befuddle. For Charley this practice is at level four. He is trying to make himself invisible, so he casts a ritual to do so. His Gift is three; his intelligence is four. Thus to ascertain whether he can use that spell on this occasion, he rolls Intelligence (4) and Gift (3), and adds four to that dice pool. He has a dice pool of eleven dice. The ritual is level three. He gets five successes. Now he rolls his Art, which is five, and adds four (again), as this is his practice, and adds the two dice of his “profit” from the first dice roll. His Casting Dice pool is eleven (again, coincidentally; perhaps this is an omen?).
Advancement: To advance a path as an independent knowledge, it costs the current rating x7. To advance a path as a tradition practice (i.e., if you are a voodoo Houngan, and you know someone who will teach you) the cost is the current rating x5.
Full details of these practices of paths can be found in World of Darkness: Sorcerer and Sorcerer Revised. A LARP rules conversion can be found here. http://www.darknexus.com/WWLarp/hedgmage.html
Conjuration – Character may move pre prepared objects from one place to another.
Conveyance – Move objects through will.
Cursing – Place some bad wish on offending party.
Fascination – Affect or control peoples through will.
Fortune – Change ones future for better or worse. Similar to Cursing.
Oneiromancy – The ability to walk among, and affect dreams.
Shadows – Affect shadows and light. Aka Shadowcasting.
Shapeshifting – Alter your body to that of an animal.
Sciomancy: The ability to deal with spirits, usually ghosts and forcing them to communicate if they will not. See Below.
Necromancy: A number of methods of dealing with the animation of dead bodies, and the trapping of spirits.
Divination: The ability to discover things, such as the future, or where something is through the usage of various media. Choose one. If you wish, many different forms can be chosen each skill unto its own (e.g. Astrology, Dowsing, Cartomancy…).
Summoning: Either calling the power of divine or spiritual beings to oneself to achieve an end, (e.g. calling on an aspect of God to deal with an enemy. The calling of beings to do one’s bidding physically, (e.g. summoning demons.) This is the business of summoning creatures from the Other Side.
Healing: Healing wounds, physical or spiritual, magically.
Sex Magick Using sexual power to achieve an end.
Fatuus: The art of illusions. This can mean anything from altering, reality” to invisibility. Really powerful illusionists can make solid images, such as a chair, which is sat upon. But mostly this is the art of lying, of fooling others, and making falsehood into a convincing truth.
Elemental control: The control of the four elements. Each element is a different skill. A more profound version of these arts is practised by some Sorcerers â€“ they use Paths named: Weather Control, Hellfire, Alchemy and the Ways of the Sea. And yes, that does mean that those mortal magicians using the element of fire are using an Infernal thing. Life sucks, doesnâ€™t it?
Cognition: The art of seeing things as they are, by their auras. Useful for seeing through Fatuus illusions. Cognition is also used to interpret dreams.
Fascination: The powers of making others do your bidding.
Evil Eye: The ability to cause pain, pestilence and death at just a look.
Talisman usage: The ability to use magical items to their full effect.
Enchantment: The ability to make a mundane item magical, creating talismans, or other magical items.
Mage Rotes and Kindred Rituals are important to this magic system. For Mage, each Sphere Point is one point of Spell level; therefore a rote which requires Life 4, Prime 2, and Entropy 1 would be a 7th
Level ritual. (This is because a lot of Rotes are old magical rituals, adapted by the Tradition Mages for their own purposes. A clever magician can adapt them back) For Vampire, each Blood Point is a HEALTH LEVEL. Why? Because Vampire magic is nasty, bloody, cursed stuff, and if they have to spend Blood points to activate this aspect of the curse of Caine, then to use the ritualâ€¦ya gotta bleed. A lot. Worse, most of the Tremere rituals were stolen from mortal occultists are some time or other, and many mortals would like their magics stolen back. But even finding out how to use any of these forgotten rituals is a massive task in itself.
The Other Paths:
Sciomancy is, in essence, ritualistic mediumship. It is the art of using magic to look beyond the veil. It is however, based on an intrinsic mediumship â€“ if you cannot normally see through the veil to the lands of the dead, then you will not succeed using these magics.
As a semi-intrinsic thing, Sciomancy also comes with a raft of other concerns: See Mediums Revised in the Wraith section of ELN. Once the door is open, it is not easily closed.
* Speaking Across the Veil.
You may hear â€“ and speak to â€“ the Restless Dead, beyond the veil of life and death. You cannot see the ghosts â€“ unless they force themselves into visibility. But you can hear them. The ghosts are under no obligation to respond. However, they will frequently seek you out, roaming around their haunts, just talking, to see who can hear.
System: Roll your Wits + Charisma. The Difficulty is the wraith’s willpower, and the successes needed are 10 minus the target wraith’s pathos.
** Seeing Across the Veil
You can now see into the Shadowlands. Like much else about Sciomancy, this is a mixed blessing. See Mediums Revised for more information why.
System: Roll your Perception + Alertness. Difficulty is 8 minus your Gift score, and you need 3 successes. Yes, that does mean that you will automatically see in most of the time, once you know how. The problem then becomes â€“ how do I stop?
This allows you to see the fate of those around you, as a ghost would. See Mediums Revised.
System: Roll your Perception + Alertness. The difficulty is 8, minus your Gift and you need 4 successes. Again, the more powerful you become, the less effort this takes. And eventuallyâ€¦you wonâ€™t NOT be able to see.
**** The lands of the dead.
You can now â€œwalkâ€ into the Shadowlands. You can physically cross the veil and walk, for a short time amongst the ghosts. You have no protection here, you are completely vulnerable, but you can walk around and communicate with the restless dead. This ritual needs the occultist to bring himself very close to death, by spending three health levels, and three willpower points (to ensure he does not get sucked into â€œrealâ€ death.)
Roll your Perception + Alertness. Difficulty is 9, and you need 6 successes. Once you have done this, you can get up, and walk around â€“ in the land of the dead. Anyone looking from this side of the veil will think you are sleep walking, or mad. And you are probably bleeding everywhere. You can stay in the Shadowlands for 15 minutes per remaining Willpower level. So unless you have a lot of willpower, then you will wake up pretty soon, so hurry up. And you will be very ill for a long time afterwards.
This ritual is the nastiest available to the Sciomancer. It drags one â€“ or more â€“ ghosts out of the Shadowlands and can be used to inflict on an enemy. The Sciomancer has to prepare for this â€“ by cutting his wrists â€“ enough to bleed copiously, but not enough to kill themselves. It costs a health level, and a willpower point. The blood is to be collected on a dusty floor (sand also works) and then placed in a leather bag. The dust can then be thrown at the victim â€“ whoever you want to inflict the ghosts on â€“ or poured on the ground where you want the ghost to arrive, and then draw your name into the dust. You may summon a Doppelganger or a Spectre.
System: Roll your Charisma + Subterfuge. The Difficulty is 7, and you need 4 successes.
The Ways of the Sea:
The Ways of the Sea is a very similar magical path to the Vampiric one, Neptuneâ€™s might. But there are essential differences, but there is no doubt whatsoever that they have a common root. For these magics to work, the magician must have access to a source of water â€“ be it indoor plumbing, the sea, a river, a flood. The storyteller must decide how much water is available â€“ trying to make a wall of water from Neptuneâ€™s Arms from a mud puddle on a city street is not going to work.
Worse, these magics are maddeningly ritualistic. It depends on the tradition of course.
A Houngan might call Damballah to aid him, while an Alchemist may try to manipulate the essence of the water. But the rituals must be prepared.
LEVEL 1 – Memory of the Sea:
By looking into a standing body of water, the magician may see past occurrences in that body of water. The magician must meditate for an hour near the body of water, for each dice throw.
LEVEL 2 – Immersion
The magician can go without breathing underwater for a time equal to the number of successes. Note: this is just without breathing. The magician processes oxygen from the water. It does not prevent him or her being crushed by depth pressure. The magician must concentrate for at least five minutes to force himself into the mindset needed to actually willingly drown oneself. If the magician spends an hour meditating, he gains another dice for his dice pool.
One success: five minutes.
Two Successes: fifteen minutes.
Three successes: Thirty minutes.
Four successes: an hour.
Five successes: a day.
LEVEL 3 – Dehydrate
The magician may pull water out of a target, leaving exit wounds. Remember 90% of your body is water.
System: Each success represents a health level of damage. The magician must touch the victim in order for this to succeed. The magician must maintain contact for one minute per health level of damage required.
Level 4: – Desiccate:
The magician can, with but a gesture, pull all the water, instantly out of a victim. Unlike â€œDehydrateâ€ the magician merely needs to concentrate â€“ spending a temporary willpower point per health level. The victim loses a health level every twenty seconds. The water comes out of her pores like sweat. After two health levels are lost, it comes out as blood. Another health level it starts coming out as greasy fatâ€¦and then they are dead. And yes, itâ€™s really sick.
LEVEL 5 – Neptuneâ€™s Arms:
The magician may actually control the water itself, as a physical thing. He may use someoneâ€™s internal water to actually control his or her body. He may summon waves of water in large waves to block and enemy, or to trap one.
System: The physical strength of the thing is the magicianâ€™s own Strength score, added to his Art and Gift score. To control the physical water, one must roll Dexterity + Art to use it as a weapon.
There are many different varieties of weather control. This is one of the more effective.
* Immunity. This power allows the sorcerer to remain unaffected by weather. Rain does not wet him, heat does not tire him, cold does not harm him. This is an ancient, ancient hedge magic ritual worthy of the name. Old farmers worked this ritual close to planting and harvest.
System: The character is immune from weather extremes from â€“25C to +35C. Beyond that, the character must spend one willpower point per hour and roll Stamina + Survival to remain unaffected.
Two successes are required. A failure means that the character is exposed to the elements. A botch means that the character loses three health levels as nature gets her own back.
The character can summon a thick, dense fog in the area, which obscures vision to some degree.
System: The character must spend one willpower point and roll Manipulation + Stealth. Creating fog on a clear night, in an area with normal humidity, is difficulty 7. On a damp, chilly night, it would be difficulty 4. If fog is already present, the base difficulty is 2. This is for regular fog, which limits vision to about 30 yards. Thick fog, which limits vision to about 5 yards, would be +2 difficulty. Pea soup, which barely lets you see your hand in front of your face, would be +4 difficulty. It is also possible to summon fog inside a building or other enclosed area, at +2 difficulty. The area affected depends on the successes achieved; use the one before the slash outdoors, and the one after the slash indoors (at the higher levels, the fog creeps into all affected buildings).
1 success 20 yard radius/one room
2 successes 80 yard radius/one floor
3 successes 200 yard radius/one building
4 successes 1/2 mile radius/one block
5 successes 1 mile radius/neighbourhood
The magician can command the clouds overhead to rain.
System: The character must spend one willpower point and roll Manipulation + Survival. Making rain with few clouds in the sky, in an area with normal humidity, is difficulty 7. Partially cloudy would be 6, cloudy would be 5, and overcast would be 4. For +4 difficulty, you can summon torrential rain that (in some areas) threatens to cause flooding. The radius affected depends on the successes achieved.
1 success 100 yards
2 successes 300 yards
3 successes 1/2 mile
4 successes 1 mile
5 successes 5 miles
The character can summon a violent gale, which pushes over, and batters about all within it. The character has no control over the winds, but is not as affected by them as others.
System: The character must spend one willpower point and roll Strength + Survival. Summoning winds is fairly easy to do anywhere; your minimum difficulty is only 4. More violent winds have higher difficulties (maximum 9). Every turn, all those in the area must roll Strength against the same difficulty to keep their feet and act normally (you roll against half the original difficulty, rounded up). Potence does not add successes, but each level reduces the difficulty by 1 (to a minimum of 2). The radius affected depends on the successes achieved.
1 success 20 yards
2 successes 80 yards
3 successes 200 yards
4 successes 1/2 mile
5 successes 1 mile
The character can cause a storm of hail to rain down, which can result in anything from a nuisance to a serious threat.
System: The character must spend one willpower point and roll Stamina + Survival. If a storm is already in progress, the difficulty for regular hail is 4. In potential storm conditions, refer to Rain, above, adding +1 difficulty. Golfball-sized hail can be summoned, at +2 difficulty; this inflicts one health level of damage per turn. Baseball-sized hail can be summoned, at +4 difficulty; this inflicts two health levels of damage per turn. Adequate cover can prevent this damage completely. The radius affected is the same as for Wind, above.
**** Summon Darkness.
This allows the magician to call down clouds of such density, and containing so much water that it shadows the entire area with thick, black and purple rain cloud, so as it appears to be almost night time.
The magician can use this to cover an escape, or even to prevent a Vampire from being fried. The bright day will seem murky and dank, and depressing. For most encounters, treat this as night-time.
System: the magician rolls manipulation + occult against a difficulty of seven. The resulting successes are the number of hours the effect can last.
***** The Storm
The storm is nature at its most furious, and to even attempt to interfere is a dangerous and powerful task. A storm will alter weather patterns over half the hemisphere, and there will be consequences everywhere. These things will not be directly visited on the magician â€“ after all, it is not really his problem that his summoning in Vancouver brings drought to the entire Midwest. But a wise storyteller will remind the character of this in future sessions. Summoning a storm is essentially bringing chaos on an area â€“ it gets an enemyâ€™s attention, it can sink an enemyâ€™s ship, or slow down a pursuit.
System: The character must spend one blood point and roll Intelligence + Survival. Trying to call a storm from a clear sky is difficulty 10. The difficulty a storm ranges from 8 (light clouds and rain) to 4 (overcast clouds with high atmosphere winds). Tracking rolls (by an enemy) suffer from a difficulty modifier of the number of successes the magician has. Anyone on a ship in the vicinity must roll stamina + survival in a resisted roll against the magicianâ€™s perception + survival. A botch means the ship sinks. Power lines go down everywhere. Bad stuff happens.
This is a seriously bad-shit, Left Hand Path, honest-to-god Black Magic. Which would explain why it is so popular.
There are two essential elements to the evil eye: harming some victim, and bringing bad luck.
Both require the magician to name the potential victim. The victim must be looked straight at. And there is no chance that the victim will miss the significance of what just happened. Sheâ€™ll know something bad just happened.
The magician must spend a willpower point to set things in motion.
Add Art + Gift + the level of the Evil Eye. This is the length of time (in days) the victim will suffer ill luck. The ill luck manifests itself as a +3 difficulty on EVERYTHING she does.
By directly harming the victim, the magician takes one point of health levels away from the victim per success on a roll of art + gift + evil eye. The difficulty is the victimâ€™s willpower.
If the magician is killed or seriously harmed in the meantime, before the bad luck has run its course, or before the victim is killed, the spell is broken.
Fatuus is the magical art is lies and deception, illusions and falsehood.
A magician creates a reality, either by creating a lie, or by visualising a scene, and manipulates the victim into thinking that it is real.
This power in not dangerous, and harm done to a target is only illusory, and not permanent, but it is a huge abuse of trust. Some would liken it to rape. Lying ainâ€™t nice.
Level One: Convincing Liar.
With this initial level, the magician can lie to a target utterly convincingly. The magician does not betray, or the target does not note, any of the tell tales of a liar. The lie sounds utterly convincing, and the target should have no reason to consider otherwise.
System: The magician spends one point of willpower to make an Art + Gift + Manipulation roll in a resisted roll against the victimâ€™s wits + intuition. A botch indicates that this victim will never believe a word out of the magicianâ€™s mouth again. Anything above two successes means the lie worked.
Level Two: Truth?
This power enables the magician to tell the victim something about himself or herself, which the victim will believe for a time. This can be anything, such as they are suffering from a serious illness, or that they are madly in love with someone.
System: this involves the magician making an Art + Gift + Manipulation resisted roll against the victimâ€™s wits + intuition + willpower.
One success: the effect lasts for one day.
Five successes: the effect lasts for a year.
Level Three: Pretty pictures.
The magician can create, from a visualise scene, a magical tableau in front of the â€œmark.â€ This vision will not be particularly convincing â€“ something like a hologram, but it is useful for illustrating something, or impressing the fools.
Level Four: Hard pictures.
The magician reaches into the victimâ€™s head and makes her believe the illusion conjured is real.
System: This requires an intelligence + expression roll against the difficulty of the victimâ€™s willpower.
One success means the victim is distracted for a moment, but will soon shake her head and wonder why she was day dreaming.
Five successes means she completely, and utterly believes what she sees.
Level Five: Reality?
With this success, the magician creates a huge masterpiece â€“ in vision, sound, lies and illusion that a scene exists. This scene can be anything from a torture chamber to a cosy bedroom. The effect does not expand much beyond the confines of a room, but it is utterly convincing. The bed will be warm, and the knives will be sharp, and can draw blood. The victim cannot really be hurt, but will feel illusory pain.
System: The magician makes a manipulation + expression + willpower roll against the victimâ€™s wits + intuition + willpower.
One success means the victim has this very strange and distracting experience of being somewhere else, than opens her eyes and sees the real world.
Three successes means she is convinced, but if she continually tests the illusion, it will require the magician to spend one willpower point per five-minute period.
Five successes means that the victim is there, and will remain there for an hour per willpower point spent.
The Left and Right Hand Paths.
This is the rather high-handed and overly ornate saying that magic can be used for good and evil ends, and some magic is inherently nastier than others. Left Hand magicians, serve a selfish, sometimes corrupt, and sometimes plain old Infernal class of magic. Right hand magicians donâ€™t. They, apparently, attempt to work at healing, creativity and some other lovey-dovey stuff.
In reality however, magic is magic, and its pretty damn bad all the time. Magicians use magic because it makes life easier for them, and they are addicted to it. Worth considering next time someone tries to spin you a line about how computer virus makers are merely â€œwaging electronic war against oppressive capitalist influences online,â€ or how some drugs â€œare for exploring yourself, and some are just for escaping.â€
The world of the occultist in the Gothic Punk milieu is one of constant peril and danger. They know too much, but not enough to save themselves. They are doomed, wandering on the threshold between the mundane and the supernatural. They are all shady characters, dealing with suspicious sorts, in order to survive. The underworld, of drugs and crime is their home. In the Gothic Punk world, there is good money to be made, dealing with the gangsters and the mobs; the assassinations no one else can manage, keeping the Anarchs off a gang’s turf. A pistol is most often their constant companion. But remember, they are human. It might only take one bullet.
Presenting an adventure or even a Chronicle using mortal characters has its own challenges and rewards. Occultists are humans with a glimpse behind the veil. In the Gothic Punk world, that veil conceals many things both terrifying and wonderful.
Theirs is a strange role in the scheme of things. They are ignored by the Mages, and despised by the Tremere, scorned and feared by mundane humanity, haunted by the Wraiths and hunted by many of the Witch Hunters.
Still, though, a human can become powerful enough to take on the Mages and win, or be considered one of them; and it is not unheard of for a mortal to be manipulating the Awakened. Indeed, many occultists believe that the Mages have inserted their heads so far up their asses that they should do the world a favour and disappear. Occultists are the ones who use the debris and cast-offs from the Ascension War and the Jyhad to further their own goals.
The politics of these humans usually revolves around power, in the form of knowledge, or artefacts or information. That means magical book, talismans, rituals, or Society of Leopold files on the Kindred of the Chronicle city. Money is used, sometimes in vast quantities to achieve these ends, so that ensures that most of these characters will spend a lot of time doing something to get that money. No, that doesn’t mean they have a day job…
One advantage to all this, is that all the adversaries the characters could ask for are detailed in depth in the Storyteller games. Vampires, Mages, Fay, Wraiths, Mummies, Spirits, demons, witch hunters, and, of course, the humans.
Types of Chronicles
These are a set of suggestions for playing out a full chronicle with mortal occultists as heroes.
Sorcery by Night: The standard idea; seedy underworld setting, dark haunted alleys, doorways that lead to Hell, the conflicts of the major supernatural powers all around them. Tom Waits in the background, low lights, and whiskey. A film noir dark fantasy, featuring magicians instead of P.I.s. Read lots of crime novels â€“ for example John Farrowâ€™s â€œCity of Iceâ€ and â€œIce Lakeâ€ and populate your chronicle with such characters.
Orphans: The characters are actually trying to be considered Mages looking in on the Ascension War from the outside. Of course, our heroes will find something out that will endanger them, something the other Mages have been too grand to notice…
Scavengers: A Raiders of the Lost Ark style Chronicle, wherein our heroes travel the world trying to find magical artefacts and lore to sell, or to keep for themselves. Of course, very soon, our heroes will probably upset the Garou, the Mummies, the Fay, the Vampires and eventually, the Mages themselves. What’s more, the world is filled with secret societies, who don’t want to pay for the character’s goodies. Not to mention those damn neo-Nazis…
Magic Realist: This is a very difficult concept to sustain, but it might be fun to try. The magic manifests itself in some very sublime, ways, such as food, which reflects the cook’s state of mind, or love, which lights fires. Tales of kindly grandmothers who never really die, ghosts and vengeful parents, and family curses. This would be a pod choice for a group of jaded, mature role-players who don’t want to kill anything anymore, Stories of this nature could also be used as one-offs within the framework of the Sorcery by Night or Orphans chronicle. Even Mage stories could benefit from the usage of some of these story styles. Go out and see movies like “Like Water for Chocolate”; “House of Spirits”; and even “Local Hero)”. It is, however possible to set such a Chronicle against a very gothic and horrific background, such as Central America or Iraq, where the wonder is tempered by the pure human evil all around.
Historical: Set at the turn of the century, or in the Haiti of Duvalier, or the Baghdad of Haroun al Raschid, or the 1960s, or at the birth of the spiritualist movement in the US, or Germany during the Cold War or, or, or…
Post-Modern: Ten minutes into the future, a world of big corporations, and hi-tech data processors, versus the wits, streetsmarts and magic of a few magicians. (In this setting, don’t allow the characters to use technomancy. No magic computers.)
Gothic: The town in which the characters live is under a curse, and has done for centuries. The people are inbred, incestuous, but somehow, the Gift is rife. Now some terrible prophecy is coming to pass as the town degenerates into madness and violence.
Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, Russia (especially Gothic Punk Russia), Japan, Egypt, Bosnia, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, and cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, London and others which have been dealt with in World of Darkness supplements.
I once ran a reasonably successful series of stories about a group of British Army peacekeepers in Bosnia. The characters â€“ there were three of them â€“ were normal squaddies, facing off against racial hatred on one hand, official indifference on the other, and dealing with the psychic and spiritual fall out of some of the worst atrocities since the second world war. Only one character started out with any â€œpowersâ€ â€“ the rest learned little spells as it was required. And then the Tzimisce showed up. Think Blackhawk Down meets The Others. (Only not quite as good)
Anything by: Jonathon Carroll, Isabelle Allende, Salman Rushdie, Italo Calvino, William Burroughs, Umberto Eco, Keri Hulme, Aleister Crowley, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Allen Poe and Thomas Pynchon; The Witching Hour and Lasher by Anne Rice, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite, the Comedians by Graham Greene. Read a few New Age guides o magic, as well as book on Anthropology and Philosophy, (which deal with the Cabbalah or similar).
Any horror movie involving sorcerers and the like. Horror movies are usually rubbish, but some have a grain of idea at the centre, which can be stolen. Naked Lunch; House of Spirits; Like Water for Chocolate; Local Hero; Faraway, So Close.
“Good morning, David,” she says, gently. The sun on the bridge, a little moment of definition. The little Jewish boy and the small skinny, black haired girl with the amber eyes,
“We did it, David” she says.
“Did we?” His voice is rueful, tired.
“Yes we did. We got the scroll and we broke the trade in Chicago. You should be delighted,”
The trade â€“ the knowledge for slaves ring that had been operating in the city for years, somewhere between the vampires, the occultists and some others. Laura had taken an especial interest in ending it. Such things offended her. The scroll he didnâ€™t know about, didnâ€™t much care about. She seemed pleased with it though.
“Bill’s dead,” he says, but he knows she knows already.
“That was the idea, you know. He was playing everyone against themselves. He had the Tremere and lots worse eating out of his hand.
“Yeah, so he’s outta the picture. DuSable came after Charley, and he told him that Bill had the book and the scroll, so the Warlock followed you. By then we had gotten into the warehouse. Vampires are like that. Focus on things too much.”
“So what are you going to do with the scroll?” David asks. He’s not really all that interested.
“I dunno. I’m leaving Chicago. The Tremere will figure out soon enough that Charley never had it, so I’ve gotta be going.” She pauses for effect. “We’ll keep it, you and 1, and go to someplace, our little nest egg. There are a few Mages coming all the way from San Fran tomorrow, and a few Satanists from Cincinnati, of all places. They’ll pay good money for Bill’s little collection. Of course some of the stuff has to be handed up to that guy in china town, or to Lilith’s kids, but what the hell? We’re loaded, no matter what way you look at it.”
“No,” he says.
Charley called him from Chicago yesterday; Laura from New Orleans the day before. David doesn’t like phones. The conversations were short, gruff exchanges. Go away, he tells them, just go away. As the years passed, they called less. But they still want him.
Tuesday last, a youth named Harold Toomis offered him vast sums of money for the collections of books he keeps in the tea chest, in the closet.
(Harold Toomis, a Mage’s apprentice, is dead now, killed last night by some psycho assassin who had a thing for Mages)
The ghosts still try to talk to him, no matter how hard he tries to block it out. Sometimes, on the grey, wet rainy days when the whole world seems to be dying, he calls to them. They’re his only friends now, he thinks.
The nights after those days are, when he goes walking a shadow in the drizzle and gloom. He goes to all those places the Sabbat vampires once partied. A few remain, plotters and scouts for some action or other. He listens, with his secret ways of listening, to their plots and exhortations, pretending not to notice. He takes notes.
In the haze of numbness, he reaches out for the phone, the germ of an idea in his head. He thinks, of the mage Arctos. Toomis was his apprentice. He can trust Arctos, he thinks, his hangover brain suddenly becomes lucid. Arctos is a Magus, part of a breakaway group, and he’s always on the lookout for talent.
His hand shakes as he lifts up the phone.
Dialling. Tone. Ringing. Connection.
“Arctos?” he asks.
“Itâ€™s David. Listen, I have a proposal for you.” He hopes his voice is not shaking.
“Go on,” says the mage.
Its a very good plan says David, and if it doesn’t work out, he’ll have a library to plunder, or maybe he can sell them out to the Sabbat. For immortality.
It’s a great plan.