Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wicked West: Walking Branches

Life is a journey and death is the experiential gate to other places, or nowhere. In the Wicked West most psychopomps won't claim to know what lies on the other side of the Veil.  The closest they can get is prospecting and scouting the Deadworlds, the Tree of Life's lower branches.  The Deadworlds' opposite number is the Younglands, ever fruitful and green.  Through the Traversal ritual, a psychopomp is able to align a physical trail with a metaphysical Branch.  The psychopomp needs to take part in the ritual itself but does not need to be the primary willworker.

Traversal is a Magic ritual that that requires four elements:
Location - the middle of nowhere, places unmapped, BFE, any place where the path's destination is out of sight. +1 if there's a numinous association with the destination.
Sigils - trail signs and/or a medicine wheel realign the path's destination to the appropriate Malum.
Mantra - a chant, a drumbeat, a song in a sacred tongue to imitate the drone of Life omnipresent among the Branches.  +1 if it's sympathetic to the Malum.
Guide - if you're a gambler you can consume psychoactive drugs like peyote. But it's safer to use a psychopomp.

Success transitions the scene to the Otherworld.  Success with style creates an aspect that covers your entry, ex: "Without a Peep" or "Shock & Awe"
Failure means you run afoul of some sort of Guardian creature or otherworldly predator - Cerberus, Humbaba, Tzitzimitl, The Horned Serpent, Cihuateteo, Heimdallr, Ratatosk, Dybbuk, Lords of the Night, Thunderbird, The Feathered Serpent, Raven, Rainbow Serpent, etc.

 Two notable psychopomps:
Adelita Perronegro - Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, the sounds of gunfire & smell of smoke has been her constant companions. Since the Texian Revolution, the Valley has been a region in revolt against Anglo occupation. Adelita was taught how to shoot and fight by her three older brothers. Her mother disapproved of her tomboy tendencies, attempting to induct her into the Dream Society.
The grasping darkness and stillness of the kiva she found stifling, but she bore it for her mother's sake. On the full moon of her first Lunar cycle that was no longer enough. Blood running down her leg. Pain wracking her body. A glowing severed head in place of the moon. A hairless black dog lapping at her runoff. Grinning wide the canine explained her family's role as custodians of the White Caves, & Adelita's place as his wife. Always a fighter, Adelita fled the Valley and worked her way up to the Colorado Territory. She has found plenty of work for herself as a psychopomp, humming the medicine chants of her mother & guiding occult prospectors to unplundered Otherplaces.

Hillbilly Jim - Hailing from the backwoods township of Mud Lick, Kentucky, this genial old fellow is a sin eater of infamy back East. Out in the West his addiction to guilt is harder to feed, too much competition. Unable to grift off grieving families, Jim has to rely on other means. Armed with his fiddle, "Whip-or-will" - whose strings vibrate under no power when death draws near.  He consoles the dying & peels the iniquity from their soul as they cross over.  Leaving them raw and vulnerable for disembodied predators scuttling in the Veil. 
Since the 13th Union was shattered, Hillbilly Jim has discovered a hidden talent for psychopompery and his deepest fear. His fear of the Unknown among the Apples and desire for survival is only overwhelmed by his greed and lust for gambling. He charges more for guidance across the Branches than other psychopomps, but will contest any with his fiddle to lower the price. 

This month's RPG Blog Carnival theme is Portals & Gates, the seed article is found here