A World in Darkness (Background)   Posted by Game Master.Group: 0
Game Master
 GM, 3 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:20
A World in Darkness (Background)
"Everything was fine. Well, we didn't realize it then. We thought everything was fucked up. But in retrospect, we had it really good. Then, the world ended.

"Or rather, it was supposed to end. We couldn't even do that right, as it turns out. Now everything's a nightmare.

"And most people don't even know about it. They know something happened. But they don't know the truth.

"One year ago, things -- a friend of mine used the term "eldritch horrors of cosmic malevolence," which seems about right -- called the Iconnu, or sometimes the Unbidden, attempted to consume our reality, reshaping it for some unknowable purpose. This attempt, called the Intrusion, should have spelled the end of the world, with little humanity dying a swift, horrific death and six billion souls consumed by these Unbidden fucks who didn't even fully recognize their existence. Yeah, that's right. The Iconnu weren't even really aware of us. As I see it, we're as unknowable to them as they are to us. We were just too insignificant for them to notice.

"Yet the Intrusion wasn't the end of the world. See, in the end, humankind was far stronger than the Iconnu understood -- not in force of arm or physical strength (certainly) or even wisdom, but in spirit. Since then, we've learned that key individuals around the globe unconsciously hold it all together. As my friend said, "They maintain the fundament of reality." In other words, they kept -- and keep -- the Iconnu from bringing about the apocalypse.

"Despite this resistance, the Iconnu established a sort of foothold in the world -- specifically in the middle of North America. The site of their intrusion into our reality  yawns wide in the Great Plains of the United States. It's a goddamned seething sphere of nightmarish unreality. The poor people there were consumed in a conflagration greater than any the world had ever seen. No atom bomb. No explosion. Nothing. Just suddenly Middle America is... well' we don't have words that really describe it. It's just gone.

"Furthermore, the Intrusion sent a ripple through existence that altered the rest of the world. Changed the whole nature of reality, really. The ripple, called the Nightmare Wave, left its mark in many ways, some small, others not so much. In some locales, particularly those close to the Intrusion Point, the Nightmare Wave wrought terrible physical destruction. In others, the changes the ripple brought were subtler and more insidious.

...

"So, the Iconnu blasted away a million people, wrenched a chunk of the United States into a seething maelstrom of unreality, and gave life to horror-dreams  across the world. But their goal was to wipe us out entirely, so their "victory" (if I can use such a term when there wasn't even a battle) was a partial one. Unsatisfied, the Iconnu then loosed spirits and demons into the material world... Some of these spirits merged with human bodies and souls to become composite entities. Others clothed themselves in earthly matter and took on the guise of men and women. These beings seek to complete the world's destruction -- through terror, through misinformation, through assassination and brutality and murder. Though it may be important to know that as strange and horrific as they are, they are no thte Iconnu themselves. Even to thse demons and things, the Unbidden are alien and unknowable. These things are more like agents, corrupted and converted to work for them.

"Yet again something happened that the Iconnu did not expect. Once more they underestimated the human spirit. Some of the possessed humans retained control of their bodies. They resisted the Iconnu and maintained their free will. Many turned their powers against the Iconnu and work to save humanity.

"That brings us to now. We're in the wake of a focused apocalypse. These agents of the Iconnu travel throughout the world, seeking to complete its destruction. Their own kind fights against them, along with true human allies -- some who know more than others, and some who wield ancient powers given new potency. A malestrom of warping reality howls like a sonofabitch in the middle of what was once the world's most powerful nation. The Nightmare Wave's influence haunts sites across the globe. Government agencies and tough-minded individuals work to stop the Iconnu's agents, and people throughout the world attempt to discover what's really happened and what's happening. Few of them get close.

"We're fighting a shadow war for Earth and all humanity."

~ Baxter Love, Awakened human
Game Master
 GM, 4 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:20
The Intrusion
"When the Iconnu's Intrusion failed, the area around the point of their intrusion -- a singularity of madness -- was left a physical and spiritual wasteland, gripped in the horror of unreality. The laws of physics are gone there, leaving all things utterly unpredictable. This place lies in the upper Great Plains of the United States, sort of near the midpoint of North America -- in the northeastern portion of South Dakota.

...

"The Intrusion's effects are felt throughout the world. Primarily, these effects come indirectly from the possessed creatures and physical spirits that roam the world at the Iconnu's instinctive request. However, some effects are more direct. When the Intrusion occurred, a ripple of metaphysical and physical madness pulsed out from that point, like a single shockwave that swept around the world in decreasing potency. This pulse is called the Nightmare Wave, and, if you're unlucky, you can feel its influence anywhere in the world.

"Things get worse when you approach the Intrusion Point. It starts about 500 miles out (in any direction -- even up or down). In this area, and moving inward (toward the point), the Nightmare Wave's effects are palpable and much more frequent than elsewhere in the world. These are the Haunted Lands. Kansas City, Denver, Winnipeg, and dear old Chicago fall into this realm. Strange things happen here.

"In addition to the Nightmare Wave, strange weather patterns play havoc in the Haunted Lands. Thanks to a huge hemisphere of air suffering the effects of collision with the Iconnu's reality, unnatural and often dangerous weather spreads from the Intrusion Point. The Haunted Lands feel this, though not so keenly as the other areas... The area's ecosystem is decimated, and God knows how -- and if -- it will recover.

"So the Haunted Lands are bad, but not real bad. At least people live there. (People and other things that are much, much worse.) You pass through about 250 miles of Haunted Lands.

"The Annihilation Zone starts when you get within 250 miles of the Intrusion Point and stops when you get within 150 miles of it. This 100-mile-wide swath is filled with rubble, smashed buildings, and broken, deformed bodies. The sky churns. The earth shudders. The devastation is terrible, and the landscape is forlorn. A solitary crow caws in a ravaged tree. Somewhere in the distance, a spatter of gunfire.

"When the Intrusion occurred, everything -- people, buildings, rock, air -- in a 300-mile diameter was annihilated. The annihilation of earth and air in this area created -- and continues to create -- earthquakes and wild, violent weather patterns that destroy buildings, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. The assault killed hundreds of thousands of people. The Annihilation Zone suffered, and still suffers, these effects. It is a wasteland pulled form the most frightening of post-apocalypse sci-fi writers.

"And that's not all, folks. The Nightmare Wave effect is strong in the Annihilation Zone, changing people and animals in disturbing ways, warping matter, and altering the rules of physics on a regular basis...

"Many people have been evacuated from the Annihilation Zone, but some people still dwell in this horrific region. Why? I couldn't tell you. Simple human craziness. The Annihilation Zone also plays home to tens or hundreds of thousands of troops -- from the United States and its allies -- who try to smack down the locals with martial law and control the chaos seeping from the intrusion point.

"The Annihilation Zone includes Minneapolis/St. Paul, but not quite Omaha or Rapid City.

"A 150-mile radius around the singularity -- the Intrusion Point -- is entirely uninhabitable. This 300-mile-diameter area, called the Conflagration, has no life. Any living creature -- from virus to person -- perished instantly. This destruction means the Intrusion killed around a half million people right off the bat. Combine that with the poor folks in the Annihilation Zone who were ripped apart by ensuing disasters, and the death toll for the Intrusion stands at around a million.

"This 300-mile-diameter area, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists in our universe. Instead, it's a horrible cacophohy of swirling energy, churning matter and things for which we don't have names or definitions. Inorganic matter in this region is in a constant state of flux, warping and changing state from gas, liquid, solid, and energy. Think about it: an area approximately 300 miles across is just gone...

"Entering the Conflagration is deadly. The vast majority of those who enter it are eradicated. A few come out, hideously changed, in body or mind or spirit or all three. Many of those that simply come close to the Conflagration are killed or changed.

"The Conflagration extends almost to Minneapolis and encompasses the small cities of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota."

~ Baxter Love, Awakened human
Game Master
 GM, 5 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:21
What a Typical Person Knows
After a year of speculation, the meteor-strike theory has returned to the fore. Most reputable sources cite an impact with a medium-sized meteor as the cause of the event, and the idea has some points that make it seem valid. Impacts with smaller meteors in the past have leveled forests and created huge craters, so a meteor strike could have created devastation in the large area called the Annihilation Zone. Even a basketball-sized meteor can do serious damage, and would be too small for astronomers to detect until it was too late. Perhaps the meteor released some strange alien radioactivity, which is why the government is so keen to keep people away.

Other theories abound, of course: hundreds, if not thousands. Some of the more popular include the following:

- The event was a terrorist attack, caused by a heretofore unknown weapon.
- The event was caused by a scientific experiment, perhaps akin to the Manhattan Project.
- The devastation was caused by an alien starship crash.
- The event marks the End Times, as foretold in Revelations, though the exact cause of the event in such a case is cause for much debate.
- The entire thing is a hoax, perhaps to mask something else that's going on in the "Conflagration," or perhaps to just scare people.

These theories all have certain points that make them appealing, but they obviously have problems as well. Even the most "likely" and "reputable" idea -- the meteor -- has gaping holes, foremost being the decidedly non-impact-site-like images contained in photographic evidence of strange events and places close to the Intrusion Point. Such photographs were leaked onto the internet shortly after the event.

Other problems with the theories include the military presence in the area. If the even has been simply a meteor impact or terrorist attack, the government is irrationally concerned about keeping people away. Also, the number of concurrent events -- such as a dramatic increase in weird things due to the Nightmare Wave and words such as "vampire" and "werewolf" being thrown around with alarming frequency -- is a problem. Some people believe such events and beings exist, while others don't; some people believe the event caused both the destruction and the other effects. Some think they are related in other ways, and other folks think they have separate sources.

Despite all this uncertainty, your average Joe in the street knows a few thing for certain, unless it's all a hoax, of course.
- More than a million people are dead.
- The central United States is laid waste. Major cities, including Minneapolis and Omaha, are in ruins.
- The area surrounding the point where the event occurred is still very dangerous.
- The American government is doing its best to cope with the problem, but at the same time is withholding valuable information from the public. This secrecy includes keeping journalists and others from entering the area.
- Some people have been close to the incident area and report weird things, although their stories are always different, which brings their validity into question.
- Some people claim to have been changed by the event. More often than one might expect, such words as "vampire" and "werewolf" are tossed around. Incidents of general weirdness seem more common now.
- One other bit that everyone in the world knows: The mood in the country is dark. Everyone is afraid. Everyone is worried that things are going to get worse. They think the people in charge don't know what they're doing, or cannot contain whatever is going on. No one knows what's really happening.
Game Master
 GM, 6 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:22
Vampires
"...Vampires are human hosts that the souls of dead 'evil' people have invaded. This possession technically slays the host, creating a new creature that is neither fully dead nor fully alive. This new existence grants us many boons: physical strength, resilience, and supernatural powers over shadows and minds. Yet this power comes with prices. We cannot abide the sun's light, but our chief weakness is the hunger: we must drink human blood to survive."

~Sylvia White, Vampire

Roleplaying a Vampire
A vampire's nature lends itself to interesting psychological development and character depth. These creatures are still human in some way, and yet they must prey on fellow humans to survive. Does this make them monsters? Do they consider themselves evil for doing so, knowing that they must because of their natures? Also, they must not see the sun. What would it feel like to know you can never again stand in the sunlight?

Yet the more interesting roleplaying opportunities come froma vampire's two souls. The player can come up with two completely different characters -- one a sinister, dark, and/or evil character from some historical time and culture, the other a normal, modern-day person. These two characters likely have different mindsets, backgrounds, motivations, passions, and idiosyncrasies.

Then, s/he can decide how the two characters interact within their shared body. One might completely dominate the other, letting only occasional pieces of the other's personality or memories intrude onto his thoughts. On the other hand, the two souls might struggle against each other, each coming to dominance as they battle. An even rarer possibility is that the souls might cooperate, trading dominancy depending on the situation.

All player character vampires will be what are called "Broken" vampires, those who defy their Iconnu masters. The Broken vampire might be fully aware of what's going on, and of the Iconnu's Covenant, but instead uses his or her determination to stop other vampires from helping the Unbidden. The vampire might prey upon others to feed and commit other less-than-savory acts, but still operate for the good of the world in the larger sense (even if ultimately he or she does so only to ensure his or her own continued existence).
Game Master
 GM, 7 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:23
Werewolves
"It's a good thing you guys already had a concept of something called a 'werewolf,' because that gives you something to call us. I'm a werewolf, and it feels damn fine -- but a little fucked up, I don't mind telling you. This body, this tongue, and this language I'm speaking, it's all new to me. My spirit doesn't come from this world... My spirit comes from somewhere else. Somewhere you wouldn't like. It's not like your reality...

"Because our spirits come from a place so different, I find it difficult to understand much about his weak little world of yours... You know concepts like peace, tranquility, reason, and love? I don't. Those things -- they baffle werewolves. You might say that werewolves are simple creatures. We understand certain emotions and urges -- your words for them are things like rage, savagery, destruction...

"Our spirits come from another world, but they possess human bodies. Slapping together a human host and ... an inhuman beast creates something greater. We werewolves are fucking gods at predatory behavior: tracking, hunting, and killing."

~ Gareth, Werewolf

Roleplaying a Werewolf
Similar to vampires, werewolves are really two characters in one -- a bestial and primal soul of rage and savagery and a normal human soul that, up to a year ago, led a normal human life. Unlike vampires, though, everyone knows what one soul is all about, so only the human soul requires much thought. What was this person like before he became a werewolf, and in what profound ways did the change affect him?

Inner conflict wracks werewolves, and it's often blatant and obvious. A year ago, they were normal people with normal lives. Now they're monsters. Though the subjugated soul might be inferior, the human soul still influences the primal soul in significant ways, certainly enough for the werewolf to function in the modern world, and enough to keep the werewolf from preying on former loved ones. Werewolves have a hard time relating to modern Earth and, especially, human beings, but with the human souls within them, werewolves have the capacity.

All player character werewolves will be members of the Calm, those werewolves who turn from their primal drives and instincts. They might still commit heinous acts, but use their supernatural powers to fight against the Iconnu's agents (if not solely against them, then at least in addition to their extracurricular activities).

Werewolves hunt things and kill them. That's cool, but if that's all you're thinking werewolves do, you may think your typical werewolf doesn't have much to do, or at least anything interesting to do. They're just murderers. However, player character werewolves who oppose these murderous werewolves have a much more interesting time of it. That's the point. They have to find the murderers and stop them. The hunters become the hunted.
Game Master
 GM, 8 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:23
Mages
"Perhaps the one unique facet that shapes most mages' lives is the sudden realization that what we once dreamed of doing, what we once believed that we could do (but couldn't), and what some of us certainly claimed we could do -- we can now do.

"Of course, as of a year ago, even the most learned 'mage' was forced to start at the bottom to learn how to really make spells work. Yet for many well-versed in the eldritch arts, such work was accomplished quickly. Because of the Intrusion, our ancient traditions, the things we learned, we believed in and that we practiced, suddenly work with only a minor adjustment in paradigm. Our rituals are the same, or similar, and yet now -- things happen when we do them. We no longer need to rely on penitents' faith, on the deeper meaning of the rites or on smoke and mirrors to feel as if we have achieved something. We now have real power. And power -- it is a true saying -- corrupts."

~Sadhvi Iyer, Mage

Roleplaying a Mage
Mages present interesting roleplaying opportunities because they are (relatively) normal humans who suddenly have more power than they ever thought they'd have. The decision about how to use this power is key. Do you use it for selfish ends? For a cause? How do you decide which cause is right? Do you use magic to defeat your enemies -- and if so, which enemies? And how far is too far? Mages desire power, certainly, but throughout tradition, the goal of mages has not been simply power -- it has been power tempered with wisdom.

One way mages are different from vampires and werewolves is that mages do have a long history. Every magical tradition in the world is now pregnant with power. The decision as to which one your character follows, and in what ways s/he adheres to the ancient beliefs and grants them credence, is a central aspect of the character.
Game Master
 GM, 9 posts
Fri 25 Aug 2017
at 01:24
Demons
"We are different from vampires and werewolves, for we have no human souls to befoul our natures. Indeed, we have no human bodies -- rather than possess those shivering shells, our spirits came to this world and used earthly elements to clothe our souls in bodies so that we could interact with this world. We are adept at manipulating these bodies. We can work our artifice and appear to be normal human beings -- but we are nothing of the kind. We are far removed from humanity, even compared with vampires and werewolves. No humanity taints or mitigates our natures. We are malice. We are corruption. We are sadism and wickedness and sin given form."

~ Mephistopheles, Demon

Roleplaying a Demon
Demons are not nice creatures. The other supernatural beings have at least some humanity to temper their natures, but not so demons. They are malice and deceit given physical form. Thus, a demon's motivation is likely to be as alien as its origin, though player character demons might have more recognizable motivations. You must have a pretty good reason for denying the demons' mission and attempting to preserve the world, though; you're going against your fundamental nature when doing so.

Demons care little or nothing for humans. You are likely to be self-serving, but charming. A demon's nature means he knows how humans tick, and knows how to manipulate them to get what he wants. He has no qualms about eliminating those who stand in his way - or just those who aren't helpful.