Sunday, 13 November 2011

World of Darkness and the Science of Evil

World of Darkness and the Science of Evil

World of Darkness (WoD), both new and classic settings, has a primary focus on supernatural horror. Monsters are things from myths, from our past, Biblical or from our folklore. They are urban legends and ghosts of old, or quite simply men driven mad and have become something new.
But horror and terror are not just born from magic and the arcane arts and powers of forgotten gods. Horror can be born from science.

In classic WoD (CWoD) a war exists between science and magic, fought by the Technocracy and the Tradition mages. It is a war of belief and absolute truths and control. And so magic and science are different simply by definition and categorization. They come from the same source. The difference is the lens through which the truth is viewed. Spirits, ghosts, aliens, vampires etc, are just entities for which the science is not fully defined.
This view of science and the supernatural is also within new World of Darkness (NWoD), but the presentation is more fuzzy. There is no war between magic and science. Without that analogue in Mage the Awakening, science and magic bleed over into each other in many different ways. It is the interface between the two which can be exciting and lead to different horrors.

So what am I getting at?

The supernatural and scientific can blend together to give birth to new horrors. In CWoD  we saw this with the Hitmarks of the Technocracy. They are cyborgs powered and designed using hyperscience, Enlightened Science, which is simply magic manifesting as technology. In NWoD there similar concepts in Promethean the Created. Each Promethean lineage is aligned to an element (earth, air, fire, water, spirit). But the also present the concept of Prometheans born of nuclear energy and radiation. There are also those Promethean which are cybernetic. Essentially androids, but made human like by the Divine Fire. In Hunter the Vigil there are groups that turn to science to fight the supernatural, making use of advanced weapons to fight the things in the dark.

So can science give birth to things that in fact mimic or tap into supernatural powers, or can the reverse  happen? Why not. Can science modify the supernatural, and the reverse? Well yeah.

Some of may favourite story seeds look at things like this. For example, in the Chicago book for NWoD, they talk about Bell Laboratories and the particle accelerator there. Because of the cutting edge science being used the suggest the idea that such machines tear open the skin of reality and allow in strange energies, material and entities. These entities could easily fit the definitions of spirits, or even aliens, or the Fae. In Night Horrors: Wolfsbane, this idea is further expanded upon when detailing the Idigam. These banished spirits consumed the powers of spirits that rode to the moon from other worlds. This along with the book Summoners for Mage the Awakening, and of course the concepts in Changeling the Lost, allow you to play on the question, ‘Just what are spirits?’ Are some spirits really just inter dimensional beings? Can you clone from them? What about demons and angels? Are they just other forms of aliens? Are those were creatures just some sort of cryptid? Perhaps just a mutation? We know there are ghosts, but what about ghosts from alien worlds brought to earth on a comet? What does vampirism mean in light of blood research and stem cell science?

So my advice for games? If you want to through your gaming group a curve ball add a bit of science. There are things in the world that science has yet to explain but can be used to fight. But there are things not understood that science has created.

So some random story seeds to use:

    • An organ transplant from a werewolf leads to something strange and murderous.
    • Cloning of a changeling leads to something more like a fetch.
    • Quantum teleportation allows for a exponential spread of a spirit.
    • From the depth of space comes a signal that follows Atlantean magic, but sent by a race from another world.
    • A supernova sends energy, in the form of flux, to earth, and awakens Pandorans.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

[actual play] Changeling the Lost - Venice #changeling #whitewolf @White_Wolf_Fan

Changeling the Lost - Venice Unmasked
Farewell to Flesh and Nightmares
Freki knew she was dreaming. Of course she did. Such was life being one of the Lost. She had full perception within her dream state, the kind of lucidity that was reminiscent of what it was like in Arcadia.
Freki found that she was in her cot, in the wattle and daub hut of her family. Out side in the night the celebrations were taking place up on the high ground around the large fire that was blazing into the night sky. It was the festival of Imbolc. The time of new life being born and the pushing back of the night. She was meant to be in the hut, asleep. However, she had sneaked out and was watching adults letting go of themselves. There was much laughter and revelry and drumming from the hill.
She then felt a chill down her back and she looked back to see that a figure on a horse was watching her. He held a spear, and lacked an eye. He had a long beard and had a cruel smile. It was Odin. The horseman charged towards Freki, who found she could barely run for she was a child once more. She darted between the huts and made for the hill, the holy ground.
Clambering up the hill, Freki made her way to the fire. Looking back she could see the Fae lord at the foot of the hill. Freki retreated into the festival. Masks were worn, depicting cruel and fearsome beasts designed to scare away the night. Man and woman danced naked in just woad.
Freki looked around, seeking her parents, when there on the stone throne wear the Crone and Maiden should sit was sat the Doge. The Doge of Venice. The Doge of the Court of Carnival. He wore his garb of white and gold and his golden mask shifted from one emotion to another.
She gingerly made her way towards the lord of Venice, and the fae  being spoke to her.
‘Your time has come, just like them’, as he pointed to a roughly shaped tree from which three bodies hung. The Doge guided the childlike Freki towards the gallows and from there she could see the faces of the dead and that the tree also bore a face. Freki knew it. It was Leafy Tom. He had been found dead just a couple of months back, and that he was one of the House of Winter.
Freki then woke from her dream. She was back in her sleeping bag, in the cold of the attic where she made her home. There next to her pillow was a single black crow feather.
Freki was rightly frightened. She had already suffered from a vision of Odin’s crows coming to drag her back to Arcadia. She had that vision when she had drunk from the river in the depths of the Underworld. Had they already come for her, she asked herself? Desperate for company she called the others, only getting responses from Else, the Wizened mechanic, and Stitches, the Wizened Chirurgeon. Freki asked that they meet her at the Florian, the famous tea house in Venice.
Freki dodged through the mass of tourists that had gathered for the Carnival. There were many and tonight was the first night of the festival. All about people were wearing masks and costume. People were stopping to take pictures with large lens cameras. There were changelings that were also amongst the crowd and Freki was barely able to keep a grip on her sanity. She pushed through the crowds of St Mark’s square and to the Florian, where the waiter asked welcomed her, knowing she was a friend of Clio’s.
Clio was able to take a break and soon they were joined by Stitches and Else, and together they enjoyed some tea, trying to calm Freki and make some sense of her dream. As she sat there explaining her dream and the faces of those that were hanging from the gallows, she spied at the window, looking in, a crow faced person. Their nose and mouth were formed together into a smooth, pale, fleshy beak like shape, with a head of black feathers. Freki grip the arm rests of her chair in fright, and stuttered to the others, who look to see what she had seen but saw nothing but costumed people and tourists.
A moment later one of the waiters tapped Clio on the should to introduce another person that was looking for her. He was a changeling also, and appeared to them as a well dressed man with an immaculate and expensive suit. However, his mien showed he was something different. He had marionette arms, and that his suit seemed not quite fully stitched together. He had no face but instead a featureless head of canvas. He was a designers dummy, covered in pins and needles. It was also clear that he was of the Spring Court. He introduced himself as Silk, but he went by Vincenzo Fratelli. He had come from Verona and the Freehold there to give give good will to the Doge and to offer his services as a tailor. He had come looking for Clio, as he had already been to the Casa da Mosto to meet the Vernal Duke, Malvolio, who had then sent him to Clio so that he might make her a dress for the ball to be held this evening by Count Carnelian.

Sonata only woke up in time to get out of the hotel room window. He had taken to making his way into hotel rooms, using his contracts to ensure the residents slept, while he too slept knowing they would not wake or be disturbed by his use of room service. He left the hotel and took to the streets, seeking out a hot meal and the others. He had borrowed a suit for the evening and was looking foward to the party.

Silk had made outfits for Freki, Stitches and Else, binding them to a pledge that they inform him of anything strange that may occur that evening. It was a simple pledge and the others took it on gladly. Now in new clothes and with Clio in a striking dress, they went to the Palazzo Pisani Moretta and met up with Sonata, before heading in. The party catered to both mortals and changeling, and so they had to be careful about revealing themselves.
Aurora, a Shining One Fairest of Count Carnelian’s motely, the Harlequins of Carnelian, greeted them and led them to the main hall. They were presented, using their chosen mortal names. That evening they had the chance to talk with many of the Freehold who came from a number of the Houses. There were many drinks and things to eat, and they sat enjoying a number of courses for the meal. Sonata spoke with Polo of the Silk Road Pirates, Autumn courtiers who dealt in hedge fruit, exploration and the recovery of dangerous artifacts. From him they learnt that there had been sightings of the Leviathan, the shipped captained by the Fae Lord, Commodore Fathom, and that there had been a greater number of hobgoblins in the Hedge.
Later on, Clio took the time to entertain the Summer courtier, and captain, Mikal Minos, a bull like Beast, and proud man. It had been Malvolio’s task for her to ensure desire took hold during the party, and that she should do her best to propagate it as she was now the Sage Escort.
The night dragged on and then it was time to leave. The motley and their new friend, Silk, waited outside the palazzo when they heard a scream coming from nearby. Together they rushed to the scene and found a group of people gathered around a body. Stitches pushed forward and examined the body. On the forehead of the body was cut the Roman numeral, 5. Also a rib had been cut from the man. Stitches had seen this before. The Rib Killer. The foul Fae that they had defeat only just before Christmas. The name of the killer was whispered in the crowd, and fear welled up in the hearts of all there. Then there was a scream as they all looked up to see a shadowy figure looking down on the scene. The crowd fled and so did the motley. Clio and Silk ran towards the Ca da Mosto, while the others headed to the House of Autumn at the Teatro Fenice.

As they ran through the labyrinthine streets, fear coursing through their veins, Else became isolated from the others. She stopped in the street looking around. From the shadows it came to at her. The large, shifting shadow of paint brush strokes and large white teeth. It attacked, drawing from it's shadowy form a huge bloodstained knife. It lashed out,  missing Else as she ducked away. Else was trapped, but then from round the corner of the street Freki attacked, tearing into the Fae. Else found her moment and drew her iron dagger and attacked. The knife cut deep but the creature did not recoil or howl in pain. But it did then flee, push Else away, seeing that it was cornered. Freki looked at her claws and saw that there were chunks of flesh and blood.

       The next day the motley gathered once more at their haunt of choice, the English pub, Devil's Forest. Clio and Silk had stayed the night at the Ca da Mosto for safety, hoping to speak with Malvolio, however he was not there. At the pub, sat in the booth near to the red phone box, Freki explained to the others the strange bits of flesh she had clawed of the Fae. Else also explained how it did not seem to be effected by iron. They looked at the bits of flesh and realised it was synthetic.
With these strange bits of information Silk was able to reveal his reason for being in Venice. He had been sent by the Freehold of Verona an
d the Winter Queen to warn the Doge of the coming of a motley of the Scarecrow Ministry. The motley had murdered a number of changelings in Verona, and even mortals. Silk asked that the others might get him an audience with the Doge at the main ball.

However, before that ball was the one held by Malvolio at the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava. Clio must attend as she had recently been made the Sage Escort and so had much socializing to do.

That evening, at the ball, the motley arrived and were introduced to the gathered revelers by Malvolio’s motley member, Tybalt, the cat like Beast seeming. He warmly welcomed Clio and Silk. They were then met by Madam Roseblood. She knew their about their encounter with the Fae on the Lido, and had met the others and knew of Clio’s reputation. She made a rude comment about Clio’s dress, gaining the ire of Silk who had made the dress for Clio. Silk and Madam Roseblood traded insults before she hugged Silk and nibbled on his ear.

The party continued and escalated. Sonata spoke to Malvolio about getting some Hedge fruit wine. Clio spoke to others, ensuring that they followed their desire and lust. She was in the whirl of a dance when she was partnered with a man who was rather strange looking. He was a gaunt Gravewight Darkling. He had a thin moustache and was skeletal like. His clothing was Burton-esque, with black and white stripes. As they danced they talked and the Gravewight spoke of how you can never trust a ‘Blue Moon’.

Later during the party that Clio was approached by Aura, an air Elemental, and Goldtooth, a Draconic Fairest. Both were members of the House of Winter. They asked Clio for the book, this time on good will. Clio confirmed that the book was still with her, but at Stitches’ care. Freki then noted that Goldtooth was one of the faces that she had seen in her dream and hurridely warned him of danger that he was in. Aura and Goldtooth were skeptical but took the warning on board. For the remainder of the evening Clio entertained the House of Summer Captain, Mikal Minos, a bull like Beast seeming.

That night, after the party had finished, Sonata was walking back to the hotel alone. He soon felt dehydrated, and the pain wracked his body. He turned to see that he was being followed. The figure cartwheeled towards him. It wore a harlequin performer outfit, a grimacing mask of terror. It stalked forward, mocking Stitches, before attacking. It pulled a sickle from behind it’s back and lunged, driving it into Sonata’s leg. ‘Blue Moon, Blue Moon’, the figure sneered into Sonata’s face.

Stitches made it back to his home and sat down. It was there that waiting for him Malvolio. Stitches knew it was a dream he was in, but could not determine if what was before him was real or not. He fled into the streets of Venice and towards to Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s square. From there Stitches could see a man hanging from the pillars once used for executions. He could also see the weather vane of Fortuna pointing South West, stood upon the Dogana di Mare.

Stitches then woke up startled by the sound of someone knocking on the door of the shop. Next to him was a crow’s feather. He went to the door and found that it was Aura. She asked if Goldtooth had been by. Stitches said no, but handed her the book. A few hours later Stitches was again woken and found that it was Sonata at the door. He was bleeding heavily from the wound to his leg and in a bad shape. Sonata set to helping him and then getting some rest, with both of them safely in his hollow.

Morning arrived and Sonata was in better shape thanks to Stitches’ work. However, as the motley gathered and prepared for the Doge’s ball that evening. Goldtooth, had been found dead in the morning by the Cinder Bella, of the House of Summer. He had been beheaded. Freki’s vision had come true. It meant they had little time left to save the last potential victim, a Summer courtier known as Tommy Gun. But now even he was missing. Their one hope was to speak with the Doge, as Freki now knew that the time of death for Tommy Gun would be when the moon was in the sky at 2 in the morning.

To be certain of their safety the motley followed each other to their appointed doorways to the Doge’s ball. Each door was marked with the lion of St Mark. It would only permit the holder of the correct invitation,  and would lead them, alone, into the ball, while masking their mien and identity with the glamour of Carnival. Sonata was the last to take his door to the ball.

Through the power of the Wyrd the motley arrived separately in the Hedge reflection of the Palazzo Zenobio. They arrived through the mirrors of the hall, clad in opulent outfits and masks. After the traditional introduction of the Doge, who wore their typical white and gold cloak and mask of shifting gold emotions. Amongst the crowd the figure in black, the Volto, the Freehold hunter and captain, stalked and listened to rumours of the city. It was through them that Freki and Silk gained an audience with the Doge. The warnings were given, and the Doge asked if they might leave now, and save Tommy Gun. The Court of Carnival would aid them, but it would be important for this to be done dis
creetly as it was clear that the Scarecrows were working for someone within the city.

Leaving the ball the motley found themselves in St Mark’s square. They had an hour to find and save Tommy Gun. They looked out over the Grand Canal and could see Fortuna, and they deduced that it was there near the Dogana di Mare.

The motley took a water taxi to the other side of the canal and began to search. They noticed how quiet it was and that no one was on the streets. Fear was everywhere. In the ball were whispers of the Leviathan having been spotted, and that the Servetta Muta was not present. Clio knew why. She had been offered in secret at the ball the position of Servetta Muta, the silent courtesan and spy for the Doge, a role not unlike her current one for the House of Spring. Clio had determined that the previous Servetta Muta must have been Brightone Fairest, Lady Midnight.

There near the edge of the water they heard a scream for help. They sneaked up close to the shoreline and spotted three figures sat waiting. One was a woman who was bald, but her mien showed that she was crow like and was the figure that had stalked Freki. One was the skeletal like man who had danced with Clio. The last was a spider like man. He had a smooth skull with 8 eyes looking out. His finger and legs were long and he wore the harlequin outfit, brandishing a large scythe. Hellequin asked that they come out, having noticed Else and Freki. The crow like Scarecrow swooped forward, knocking Else off her feat, before fighting Freki. Stitches made his way forward to engage Hellequin, only to be struck by the same pain of dehydration. Sonata crept along the stone walls of the canal side, and noticed another figure approaching. The man was huge and had a mouth of bone crunching teeth. But Sonata called upon his Contracts of Darkness, and used fear to weaken the monster while at the same time pulling him into the water, leaving the man thrashing in the freezing lagoon.

Silk made his attack at the Gravewight. He tried to use his command over cloth to attack the man with his own clothes, but failed. The Gravewright attacked, but missed, as Silk protected himself with his cloak, using the Shield of Elements. Clio, noticing that things could go bad for Silk, began to sing, distracting the man enough to approach and to then poke out his eyes with her nails. Hellequin, seeing all was lost, dived into the waters to flee.

The motley rescued Tommy Gun, and then felt the wind change. Safe from the water they all watched as the lagoon before them bubbled and tentacles thrashed. The legends were true, the Beast of Dogana did exist. It’s sinuous body emerged, with a equine head, before diving into the water again.