Category Archives: Sorcery

Paper Faces on Parade

I wish I’d thought of this for the Profane Rites of Necromancy collection I posted at the end of October.

masquerade-mask-banner-3

Yesterday, over on Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque,  Jack treated everyone to a very twisted interpretation of a classic Beatles song.  I quickly scratched out this devious rite for the Witch Hunter game.  It seems to fit best with the Necromancy tradition, but I gave it to Diabolists as well so they could share in the fun.

MASQUERADE (Villainous)
Tradition: Diabolism, Necromancy
Mastery: 5
Time: 1 day/1 rd
Duration: 1 day
Strain: 1
Damnation: 2/6

Description: The sorcerer strips the face from the skull of a freshly dead corpse and preserves it in a foul alchemical mixture.  A sorcerous tradition roll is required and the tissue is preserved for 1 year plus 1 for each success rolled.  The mixture ferments the flesh and imbues it with magical qualities.  Thereafter, by placing the preserved flesh over her own face, the sorceress is able to magically assume the physical likeness of the victim.  The mask affixes itself seamlessly to the sorcerer for the duration of the rite, after which the enchantment is spent and the tissue rots away.  The sorcerer may remove the mask prior to its expiration, after which it may be preserved but may not be used again until it has fermented for one full day.

The magical glamour affects physical appearance only, not the voice, personality traits, or other characteristics.  The glamour would not replicate the victim’s limp, for instance, but would appear to alter height, weight, even age.  The glamour may be penetrated by any other rite or device that allows the sorcerer to peer beyond the material world (ie. Awakening, Diagram of Insight, et al.).

  • Boost: Increase the rite’s Mastery by 1 to extend the duration by 1 day.
  • Boost: Increase the Mastery by 2 and the Strain by 1 to cloak the sorcerer’s aura and make the wearer of the mask indistinguishable, even through magical means.
  • Boost: Increase the Mastery by 2; the flesh is stripped from the skull of a living victim.  Any damage done to the sorcerer wearing the mask is split between himself and the victim.  If the victim dies, the mask continues to function normally as described above.

The Devil’s in the Details, Part 2 [New Math]

Ok, so as we established last time, I think the idea of bringing numerology into the Witch Hunter game universe is pretty dang cool.  I just wish the realization of it match up to the potential.  Right now, I think it’s half-hearted at best.

Ok, smart boy.  What are you gonna do about it?

My solution is likely to generate as much criticism as the issue itself, but after a day of brainstorming, I’ve come up with a direction I like.  For one thing, it doesn’t really mess with anything already established.  Any Witch Hunter GM could drop this into his game and never miss a beat.

First of all, the Devil’s Numbers Talent is hereby demoted to a Basic Talent.  The Requirements stay the same.  Why?  Well, the requirements are decent enough, but the Talent itself requires you to make a successful roll to earn bonus dice for a second roll.  Nothing is guaranteed; either roll can fail, bonuses or no. By comparison, I could apply Expertise to my Mysticism roll and be guaranteed a +1d bonus, or Talented and re-roll any 1s on my roll.  Guarantees are better than maybes, so a Basic Talent it is.  Besides, that sets us up for…

Devil’s Arithmetic.

Ok, first a word about Damnation.  Damnation is Witch Hunter’s vile twist on the “Benny Economy” (to borrow a phrase from Savage Worlds critics).  Those of you familiar with Dark Side points from the old d6 Star Wars game, or a similar mechanic from the old Ravenloft D&D setting will get the gist.  Players can spend Damnation just like hero points to get immediate benefits.  Monsters can tap into a player (or group’s) damnation to boost their own powers.  Accumulating damnation is generally not a good idea.

But it just fits too well with Devil’s Arithmetic.

So here’s the BIG IDEA: A player character with the Devil’s Arithmetic Talent gets access to a handful of minor benefits depending on his or her damnation score.  The more damnation, the more powerful benefits become available.  I’ve capped this at 3 damnation because a) I’m not a jerk and b) accumulating damnation is NOT the point of the game and I don’t want to encourage it.  But if any of these benefits look too powerful to you, feel free to goose up the damnation requirement by a point or two.

Once per game session, a PC with Devil’s Arithmetic may attempt  to create new or manipulate existing patterns and mathematical glyphs, adding subtle deviations and changes to the fabric of reality.  Doing so requires at least 1 hour of uninterrupted concentration and work.  At the end of this hour, the player makes a D3 Scholarship (Trained Knowledge: Mathematics or Science) roll.  The effects of this manipulation typically last no longer than 1 day (or until the next sunrise).  No more than 1 effect may be in effect at any time.

Damnation 0:

  • You gain a +1d bonus to any one Reaction roll that day or +2d to one in the following scene.  You must specify which at the time this ability is employed.

Damnation 1:

  • For every two successes rolled, you may add 1 effective rank to your dice pool (up to 1/2 of your Scholarship rank) for purposes of preparing or casting a hermetic or necromantic rite, or an alchemical formulae.  This may allow you to safely boost the power of the Rite without issue.
  • You may cause any single opponent (or ally) to fail a single roll at your time of choosing.  The subject should roll normally as any complications roll will be applied to the result.
  • When another character’s Sin is activated, you receive a Hero Point.  The other player may not use a hero point to avoid the activation.

Damnation 2:

  • You can predict the location of a known person or thing.  You must be familiar with the subject or item, either through observation or research.  Every two successes above the difficulty allows you to insert one variable into the equation, allowing you to manipulate the target’s movements from afar (ie. the baron will be in his bed chamber, unless the captain of the guard has been detained in his mistress’ chambers).
  • You may cause a known subject to become unsettled and agitated.  For the next day (or until the following sunrise, whichever happens first), the subject suffers -1d to all Reaction and Interaction rolls.

Damnation 3:

  • When facing a villain or threat, you may give that subject one of the following Prices: Avoidance, Damage, Vulnerability or Weakness.  You may choose the conditions of the Price, but it must be a reasonable (and common) variant and is subject to GM approval.  This new Price is in addition to all those already possessed by the threat.  This condition persists until the next day or the following sunrise, whichever happens first.

As you can see, the idea is to start with Devil’s Arithmetic being a sort of creepy means of divination.  But as the character flirts more and more with damnation, he or she gains the ability to manipulate fate.  Which is kinda cool.  The Damnation 0 power is a limited form of the Blessing Basic Prayer Rite, so that seems fitting enough when you consider the rest.

Welcome to the War against the Adversary! Are you a fan of Witch Hunter? Active on Google+? Then come join the conversation on the Witch Hunter: The Invisible World Google+ Community. It’s new, outnumbered and needs your support!

The Devil’s in the Details, Part 1: Basic Math

[Sept 4, 2015: Part Two of this article is available here.]

A few weeks ago, the PDF of Rites & Relics, the Witch Hunter sorcery companion, finally debuted on DriveThruRPG.  I snapped it up almost immediately.  I won’t say my players have exhausted the possibilities of the sorcery presented in the core book, but with a Jesuit priest witch hunter and a full blown Hermetic Magi joining the group, I like to have options available.  Besides, it meant I could swap out a chunk of my Converted Talents from Blessed and Damned for official conversions, which is always nice.

Now among the Talents in Rites & Relics are conversions of Devil’s Numbers and Devil’s Arithmetic. These talents offer Witch Hunter’s vision of Supernatural Numerology, which I think is damn cool.  In theory, anyway.  I haven’t made these available in my game for a couple of reasons.  First, they don’t fit anyone’s current concept, so I’d rather spend my energies doing other things.  But mainly, they don’t…really…do…anything.

Devil’s Numbers is nice enough.  Make a Scholarship roll to gain additional dice to a subsequent Mysticism roll.  I’m not sure that’s worthy of being a Greater Talent, but the benefit is clear as day.  The follow-up “advanced” Talent?  Well…here’s the descriptive text.

As you continue your dark path, you have uncovered new and forbidden insights that man was simply not meant to know. By now, your understanding of numbers and the Invisible World has reached such a level to where you may now design mathematical glyphs and patterns. These assembled shapes provoke feelings of fear, paranoia, and madness in those who witness them.

Your strange symbols must be made with precision and care, because the angles and curves of the shapes you create must be absolutely precise in order to function. To create your patterns, it takes at least an hour and a Scholarship (Science) check.

Those able to witness your symbols must make a Resolve (Courage) check with a difficulty equal to the result of your Scholarship roll. Those who fail their roll suffer a -2d penalty to all Interaction and Professional skill rolls until they leave the presence of your symbols due to their inability to concentrate on anything else but your garish glyphs. Keep in mind that publicly displaying your symbols would be a sure sign that you are a witch in most circles. Forcing someone to stare at your symbols is most certainly a form of torture.

Ok, can you spot the benefit in there?  If so, please spell it out to me, because I can’t.  In fact, other than make other people uneasy around you, it’s almost entirely a RP-centric Talent.  Which would be much cooler if it didn’t cost you 75 experience for the privilege to inflict a penalty on the rest of the group and your allies.  It’s as though something got cut out or forgotten in the editing process.  This text is almost word for word from the original version in Blessed and Damned, so this Talent has been in the wild for a long time.  So if “design[ing] mathematical glyphs and patterns. These assembled shapes provoke feelings of fear, paranoia, and madness in those who witness them” does something more than the obvious, please let me know.

Ok, I suppose you could break into a grand Sherlock Holmes style soliloquy in front of the big bad and all his minions, explaining to him how you’ve foiled his desperate, diabolical plan and then leave all witnesses at a disadvantage while they fret over their failing geometry grade, but that tactic is easily foiled with a pistol-full of “shut the hell up!”  Definitely not worth the points there.  Not to mention that, as written, its pretty clear everyone BUT YOU is at the same disadvantage.  Maybe even the other characters with this Talent (“Crap, how did I miss that?! That’s going to keep me up for a week!”).

So yeah, just not feeling it.

But I love the concept!  And it isn’t as though I haven’t missed the forest for the trees before.  Perhaps there is some masterful benefit hidden in there that breaks the game wide open and turns Witch Hunter into an irreverent lost episode of NUMB3RS.  I just don’t see it.  I’ve put the word out, though, so hopefully all will be revealed soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been rolling the concept around in my head for a few days now.  How can I turn these lemons into lemonade?  How much sugar do I need?  Will it go well with vodka?

It all boils down to this: “To create your patterns, it takes at least an hour and a Scholarship (Science) check.”  Devil’s Arithmetic means you’ve gone beyond using these symbols, equations and formulations to predict things and moved into the realm of manipulating the data to serve your own ends.

These assembled shapes provoke feelings of fear, paranoia, and madness in those who witness them.”  What you are doing is clearly wrong on a very fundamental level.  You are playing with God’s Creation in ways that were never intended and flirting with damnation at every turn, enough so that the merely showing your work is enough to weird out even the bad guys.

Surely there MUST be something cool we can do with that, right?

I think there is.

Tune in tomorrow when I turn a bunch of meandering scribbles and brainstorming into something suitably cool.  In the meantime, if you know the secret of Devil’s Arithmetic, or just been justly inspired on your own account, please leave a comment!

 

Welcome to the War against the Adversary! Are you a fan of Witch Hunter? Active on Google+? Then come join the conversation on the Witch Hunter: The Invisible World Google+ Community. It’s new, outnumbered and needs your support!

I Fell into a Burning Ring of Hellfire…

Ah, Hellfire.  How you vex me.  According to the core rules and the Grand Tome of Adversaries:

Hellfire (Malus & Veneficum)
This being has the ability to throw hellfire, which should be reflected in its stats. There is no standard way that hellfire appears or does damage. For some beings, the hellfire it summons appears to be animate flame, while for others it appears to be thick, dark smoke which takes the form of screaming souls. The most pernicious aspect of hellfire is that it will catch just about anything on fire. It can set metal, stone, even water itself on fire. Throwing Hellfire is a Quick Magical Attack action.

This description tells me…pretty much…nothing.  Well, that’s not fair.  It tells me using Hellfire is a Quick Magical Action.  And it catches things on fire.  But that’s it.  How much damage does it do?  What sort of Range are we talking about here?  What’s the area of the effect or how many targets can be affected by it.  These are big questions because in 1st edition Hellfire is devastating!  It does damage in whole INJURY LEVELS!  It’s nasty enough the writers limited it’s use to twice a scene.  But now?  Hell if I know!  It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors — a “design your own power,” which is cool, but not very practical in play.  Especially when a stat block just reads “Hellfire.”

The new Grand Tome of Adversaries gives a few more parameters.  Minions of the Howling Teeth and Stiltskins (Grims) have both a dice pool and a damage modifier associated with their Hellfire powers.  That’s an improvement at least.  It gives me something to work with.  So in lieu of an “official” clarification, I offer you my completely “unofficial” Hellfire revision:

Hellfire (Malus & Veneficum)

This being has the ability to throw Hellfire. There is no standard way that hellfire appears or does damage. For some beings, the hellfire it summons appears to be animate flame, while for others it appears to be thick, dark smoke which takes the form of screaming souls. The most pernicious aspect of hellfire is that it will catch just about anything on fire. It can set metal, stone, even water itself on fire.

Throwing Hellfire is a Quick Magical Action and targets a single individual within 100 yards (approx. 5 Areas) and line of sight.  The villain rolls the dice indicated by the power.  The target may attempt to avoid the Hellfire with a True Faith (Agility or Toughness, whichever is is more beneficial to the target) roll.  Each success rolled negates one die from the damage roll.  Armor offers no protection against Hellfire.  If the target suffers any damage from the attack, she catches “fire” and suffers ongoing damage each round thereafter.  This continues until the victim is dead or she succeeds at a follow-up True Faith (Agility or Toughness) roll.  This counts as a Quick Move Action.  Unlike normal fires, the victim receives no benefit for rolling on the ground.  Using methods to suffocate the “flames” may provide a circumstantial bonus at the GM’s discretion.

Rating Dice Pool Initial DM Ongoing DM Target Rec. Adversary Limits
Minor 4–5d +5 +2 Individual Minion
Moderate 6–7d +5 +2 Individual Minion/Lieutenant
Major 8–9d +6 +3 Individual/Area Lieutenant/Villain
Horrible 10–11d +6 +3 Individual/Area Villain/Mastermind
Terrible 12d+ +7 +4 Individual/Area Villain/Mastermind

Area Effect: Some villains and masterminds can employ Hellfire against an entire Area instead of a single target.  In these cases, all potential targets in the affected Area must roll to avoid the effects of the Hellfire as normal.

Trappings: As previously mentioned, this power does not always manifest as “fire.” It can take any form desired by the GM that suits the villain.  Any residual effect should mimic the primary form.  A “dark smoke of screaming skulls” might linger around the target, with ongoing damage mimicking suffocation. This is why there is no sure way to extinguish Hellfire.

Adversary Limits: The guidelines in GToA 1 and 2 suggest no minion should have the Hellfire power.  Clearly the writers don’t feel bound by their own advice. so why should you?!  But let’s be reasonable: minions throwing 12d Hellfire would be crazy!  These guidelines are meant to give a bit more practical advice in how powerful Hellfire should be for each grade of adversary.  This doesn’t preclude a band of minions having a 12d Hellfire power, or a Mastermind with a 5d variant of the power, but these recommendations should keep things more thematically in line.

Edit: While updating and testing my Hellfire macros on Roll20, I discovered a couple of details I hadn’t considered.  Text in this color has been updated to correct this oversight.

More Salem Inspired…Goodness?

Another week, another Rite inspired by Salem.  In two instances early in Season 2, we see Countess Marburg (Lucy Lawless) discover or confirm tantalizing details of others by tasting their blood.  She does this in person with Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) and again through a monstrous spirit projection with Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery).  Seems easy enough to reproduce for Witch Hunter, but no where near monstrous enough to warrant a damnation cost.  To give it a bit of extra utility, I’m making it an Animism rite as well.

A Taste of Legacy (Greater Rite)
Devotions: Animism, Witchcraft
Mastery: 3
Time: 1 minute/1 round
Duration: Instant
Strain: 2
Damnation: 0/0
Description: By tasting the fresh blood of a subject, the sorcerer learns something of his history.  The blood must be tasted from a fresh wound, though whether made by a weapon or something more crude (a bite) makes no difference.  The blood can be given freely or taken by force (a standard attack roll).  Either way, the subject suffers at least 1 point of damage in the exchange. When this rite is performed, the sorcerer makes a Sorcerous Tradition roll.  The number of successes dictate the number of details that can be learned.

Successes # of Details
0-2 1
3 2
4 3
5+ 4

This list details some of the details that might be discovered.  These are guidelines, and the GM is encouraged to allow for more if the player has a good idea.

  • The identity of the subject’s parents or grandparents
  • confirm the identity of any important family members within the last five generations
  • family curses or bloodline legacies
  • the subject’s flaws
  • the subject’s virtue or vice
  • the nature of any sorcerous tradition followed by the subject
  • the subject’s level in any one skill or ability
  • the name and location of the subject’s birthplace

This rite can not be used to reveal the True Name of the subject.  Any such attempt results in double the normal Strain points.  Neither may the blood tasted be then used to form a sympathetic link with the subject.  The “taste” of blood is entirely consumed in the rite.

Once completed, the sorcerer may parlay this information into a +2d bonus to any Interaction roll with the subject for a single scene.

  • Boost: Increase the Mastery of the Rite by 2 to perform this rite at a distance through supernatural means of a bound spirit, a familiar, or similar conduit.

New Rite: The Sending

For those smug players who think they are untouchable by the big villains, here’s a simple conversion of one of my favorite bits of sorcery from the Mythus and Lejendary Adventure RPGs, repurposed a bit for Witch Hunter.  Use it sparingly, unless you want your players enacting wards all over the place and turning every single inn they visit into consecrated ground (they weren’t already?).

Note: In both the original spells, there is a chance for the sending to backfire on the sorcerer.  If the sending is unable to reach the target because it is protected by consecrated ground or other wards, the spirit returns and attacks the sorcerer who sent it.  This makes a bit more sense in a higher fantasy game, or in a game where the players may be the ones’ wielding diabolism.  I’ve removed it from this version.  But, if you are the sort who feels charitable about such things, feel free to add it back into the mix.

The Sending (Villainous Rite)

Devotion: Diabolism/Witchcraft
Mastery: 4
Time: 10 minutes/1 minute
Duration: Special
Strain: 4
Damnation: 4/8

Description: This horrific rite calls to the sorcerer a powerful, invisible, diabolical spirit of the Invisible World. This fiend is then directed to a single target through means of a sympathetic link: a lock of hair, a drop of blood, a close personal artifact, or a true name. Unless barred from the target’s location, it will immediate appear and attack the specified target and any who seek to impede it.

The sending may be barred by a ward, hermetic circle, or consecrated ground. So barred from entry, it will linger outside waiting for an opening for 1 hour. If unable to reach the target after this period, or if the target is killed (by the sending or otherwise), the spirit is freed and will return to its own dimensions.

Boost: Increase Mastery by 1 for each additional target.  All targets must be proximate to one another when the rite is completed, otherwise the sending will attack the target closest to the sorcerer.

Sending (Lieutenant)

Fear Rating: 4
Hell’s Favor: 4
Pace: 5
Size: Large

Initiative: Reflexes 7d
Melee: Claws 8d (+8 damage)
Ranged: None
Defenses: Avoidance: 4; Discipline: 3; Fortitude: 4
Armor: 2
Health Track: 8/8/8

Talents: Grand Fury, Slam, Vicious Grapple
Fundamental Power/Price: Invisibility / Obvious to the Touch
Additional Powers/Prices:

  • Apparition / Restriction (Consecrated Ground)
  • Incorporeal / Damage (Blessed Weapons)
  • Rampage / Ward

Suggested Skills:

  • 10d: Endurance, Survival (Tracking)
  • 8d: Melee, Notice, Stealth
  • 7d: Reflexes

Description: Though invisible to all means but those that pierce the veil between worlds, these creatures are horrific to behold. Their ineffable appearance might include multiple and/or misshapen heads, limbs, tentacles, all dripping with slime. Their presence is marked by their foul odor.