Saturday, May 28, 2016

Andras, Author of Discord 
Faith and religion have always been complicated in La Republica.  When the conquistadors came across the ocean in their white-winged ships they had two goals: conversion and treasure.  On the sandy beaches of the distant past they read the following proclamation, in Spanish, to the gathered Natives:

"We ask and require you to acknowledge the church as the ruler and
superior of the whole world and the high priest called pope and in his
name the king of Spain as lords of this land. If you submit we shall
receive you in all love and charity and shall leave you, your wives and
children and your lands free without servitude, but if you do not submit
we shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against
you, we shall take you and your wives and your children and shall make
slaves of them and we shall take away your goods and shall do you all
the harm and damage we can."

Though the Natives had no hope of comprehending the decree the Spaniards held to their word.  Villages burned, temples sacked, and innocents put to the sword.  Encounters with Nagual, Harvesters, Six Fingered Priests, and Cihuateteo justified their self righteous cruelty, treasures claimed from the Grand Temple of Mictlantecuhtli their crowning achievement.  A golden statue, 36 inches tall, of the skeletal Judge of the Dead festooned with his heralds (owls, spiders, etc..) was the center of Native worship and now the conquistadors' collection.

Raising up their God-on-a- stick, the Spanish forcibly "converted" every Native they encountered and gathered all the gold they could lay their hands on. That much heathen wealth gathered in one place captivated Carlos Madrigal, a middle ranking officer in the expedition.  For long hours he gazed into the growing pile of Aztec treasure unable to wrench away from Mictlantecuhtli's idols and their vile whispers.  Madrigal slew his fellows in a crude, Christianized, occult rite imitating the Natives' acts of supplication, opening a slim window for Andras, Grand Marquis of Hell, to cast a sliver of his shadow upon the Earth.  As a reward, Andras freed Carlos from the bonds of death but not decay's grasp.  Forcing the traitor to clothe himself in stolen flesh, like the Native priests of Xipe Totec.

As time passed and New Spain changed hands, Carlos Madrigal recruited the desperate, the envious, and the cruel into his secret society, la Franternidad de Confianza. Bankrolled by Aztec cultural treasures and pilfered gold, la Franternidad works to further tear the Veil so Andras can fully enter the world and exert his influence.  They can be found in nearly any town, often taking the roll of storekeeper or banker to wield contract and credit to betray common bonds of trust.
Andras, who commands thirty legions of spirits, has the body of an angel and the head of an owl wielding a saber and riding a black wolf.  Endowed with knowledge to kill, sow discord, and escalate quarrels and fed by murder, he has found an all-you-can eat buffet in the West.  He invests his followers with at least one of the following abilities:

Sweet Little Lies - The cultist makes a Will attack against any creature in earshot with a boon, if successful that character is charmed and turns against his companions.

Covetous Curse - The cultist selects an object, all characters who can see it must make a Will challenge roll or covet the item beyond all else. Employing violence to acquire and keep the item for themselves.

Parliamentary Body - The cultist may deal damage equal to his Health as a triggered action as he curses someone, if he does a swarm of owls spill out leaving behind a thin sack of flesh.  They then disperse and silently stalk the cursed indiviual waiting for an oppurtunity to ambush them.

Picked up Shadow of the Demon Lord at Chupacabracon a few weeks ago from Rob Schwalb himself, and it's awesome.  Fits the black metal western aesthetic of "Donde El Diablo Hizo Su Nido" better than Dungeon Crawl Classics.  Expect a series of posts detailing various would-be Demon Lords, let me know who you want to see. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Fall of Camazotz: The Four Pillars

 The people of the Fourth Sun are at each other's throats, family against family and city against city.  The seven Great Cities rely on Third Sun technologies to grow food they can eat and hunt for their meat.  Sorcerers scientists from the previous age grow few, targeted in the Flower Wars and their hearts fed to Camazotz to keep his unlight burning.  Their position precarious King Yat Balam, Lord of Teotihuacan, has called for the 13 best and brightest to sit beside him and plot a path for the future.

Yat Balam arranged for the sharpest eyes and most calculating Astrologers to chart the future, and predict the Fifth Sun, upon a great round stone.  A reminder of their cause, Yat Balam seeks to extend the Fourth Sun as long as possible.  The four spiritual pillars of Mexica society will sift through their inititates, sending only the finest to Teotihacan.

Modeled off of the 6 Viziers system in the FATE Toolkit (p. 90) reduce Refresh by 1.  Affiliation with one of the 4 pillars grants a Virtue (an Aspect that can be tagged ), a Vice (an Aspect that can be compelled), and Domains.  When using Skills listed in the Domains, the effects are magical.  You also get two of the associated Blessings. I'll elaborate on those later.

Coryphee - When the world lacked the order of predation, the Spider took up her loom and put everything in its place.  A chain of consumption was formed and She maintained the fabric of All.  As lesser Powers rose, coalescing cults of followers She grew jealous and shook the Web of Creation.  Prey ate predator, the dead would not stay in their graves, and hearts sickened the Sun.  A group of ritual dancers silently placated her, the grace of their limited limbs entrancing.  Now they silently keep the Spider calm and moving things in their favor.
Virtue: Foresight
Vice: Jealousy
Domains: Athletics, Decieve, Investigation

Black Brides of the Death Bat
The King of Bats' immortal harem, they now speak for him in his transcendence with unquestioned authority.  None knew his desires or his secrets as well as his multitude of lovers, knowledge they now use to manipulate the Great Cities.   Pursuing their own agenda, no affiliation carries as much power or suspicion as the Black Brides.
Virtue: Secrecy
Vice: Gluttony
Domains: Provoke, Resources, Stealth

Skullfaced Ministry of Mictlan
In the Age of the Fourth Sun death and the afterlife are a judicial bureaucracy. Demises are appraised, arged, and uploaded to their just reward.  Reliant on Third Sun technology to maintain the uplink, the Ministry seeks a Third Sun wonder - Tapac-yauri, the Golden Staff.  Believed to lie south of Green Hell, they have invested heavily in expeditions to the region especially because the waters continue to rise and the land bridge may soon be submerged.
Virtue: Endurance
Vice: Sloth
Domains: Shoot, Lore, Empathy

The War Lodges
Robbed of existence the spiritual echoes of previous Suns rage in Shadow at their lot and will not be kept silent.  Bearing their Voice the War Lodges advocate a conservative course for the future, supporting further efforts to scavenge Third Sun technologies.  Incidentally the Lodges possess the largest stockpiles of Third Sun technologies, many courtiers fear the War Lodges may lead coups against the decadent nobility of the Great Cities.
Virtue: Strength
Vice: Wrath
Domains: Fight, Rapport, Notice

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Blog Carnival: 5 Suns and Counting

The word apocalypse is derived from the Greek word "apokálypsis" which means "uncovering," a literal translation means "disclosure of knowledge" or "revelation."  Out of the Cold War's shadow, the Western world's apocalypse is mostly final with a faint scrim of humanity re-purposing the leftovers of before to prolong existence.  The prophecy of climate change and environmental collapse color this further, bleaching hope from a better tomorrow.  Every American generation likes to think that they lived under the Finale's oppression, our history is littered with false prophecies and lazy nostalgia cursing tomorrow with woes unborne.

Before the United States the New World was already home to several apocalypse cultures, at least the Olmecs, the Mayans, and the Aztecs.  They each provided their own perspective on the cyclical nature of the past, present, future, and the cosmos overall. Each epoch was marked by a divinity sacrificing their existence and donning the mantle of the Sun, the central celestial figure, stepping into a divine bonfire to burn saway everything nonessential but their core nature.Though a calamity wipes the world clean, there are  always survivors but they don't stay human.  This parallels the Norse Ragnarok and Jack Kirby's Fourth World,a succession of existences destroyed providing the bones for future histories.

The 5 epochs known are:
  • Nahui-Ocelotl (Jaguar Sun) - The world was inhabited by giants, devoured by jaguars. The world was similarly consumed.
  • Nahui-Ehécatl (Wind Sun) - Inhabitants survived by taking the form of monkeys. This world was torn apart by hurricanes.
  • Nahui-Quiahuitl (Rain Sun) - A rain of fire pelted down, reducing the world to slag. Only birds and bats survived the catastrophe.
  • Nahui-Atl (Water Sun) - The waters rose over neatly everything, inhabitants survived by becoming fish. A couple escaped by becoming dogs.
  • Nahui-Ollin (Earthquake Sun) -The modern era, this world will be torn asunder by earthquakes.  None can say who will survive and what will be left of us.

The Nahui-Quiahuitl broke into countless pieces and fell to the world, wreaking havoc and scattering the Divine Bonfire.  Heavenly embers rode the seven winds and the sky was lit by the afterglow.  In his Inverted Palace the Lord of Bats demanded the divine flame's recovery, his subjects blotted out the glow with countless squewaking forms carrying out his command.  With no sunrise to break the search King Night was successful and gathered the remnants in the Inverted Palace.

Camazotz- Lord of Bats, King Night, Unslaked Thirst, The 4th Sun
Gulping down the Divine Embers, Camazotz stoked the Bonfire in his belly and ascended into the sky.  The Night Sun bathes the world in unlight, weirdling energies, and ultraviolet radiations.  Camazotz returned the transmogged refugees to  human form before he was consumed by his new role.  The Old Ways were reinstated, city-states were reborn, the castes were reformed, the War Lodges took their place in the Flower Wars, and priests freed courageous hearts from ribcages atop stepped pyramids.

Without a Sun to challenge their heat, the Volcanoes stilled their hearts and Killing Obsidian has become rare.  A scarcity forcing the War Lodges to scavenge the prevalent ruins of the technologically advanced Third Sun Empire and recover the secrets of Edged Light.  More dangerous to the user, initiates to the War Lodges have ample opportunities for practice outside of the Flower Wars, hunting down the wretched mutant beasts that stalk the 3 Lands. Great Hunts for these mostros are increasingly called as outlying settlements are found destroyed or submerged. 

In the Fall of Camazotz you are recently initiated Totem Warriors who are tasked with slaying a Rough Beast, but waters rise up from the Cenotes and rumors bubble that the Night Sun and his Empire must fall to have any hopes for the future.
This month's theme is the Apocalypse and the gameable bits of the End Times.  Tune in next week for Battledancers, Brujas, Death Priests, Totem Warriors, and more for Fate.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monster of the Week: Down in the Delta

Left to right: Damballah, Erzulie, Khalfu, Legba, Ogun,  Baron Samedi, Chango
The American South is a broad region that paradoxically epitomizes the American conceptual melting pot while clinging to traditional social stratification.  New Orleans embodies this contradiction more than any other metropolis in the region.  In the popular conciousness the city is also the cradle of voodoo the most American religion.  Popularly associated with African American folk magic, voodoo comes in a wide variety of flavors depending on the European Colonial powers and can find a place for anything.  Regional varieties include santeria, hoodoo, vodoun, and candomble.

Commonly associated with the now ubiquitous zombie, vodoun's versatile cast of characters and monsters are often overlooked.  Drawing from at least three different belief traditions and rich seams of lore, any two voodoo bestiaries wouldn't look alike.  Some of the staples are:

Tonton Macoute (Uncle Gunnysack) is the Haitian version of the Coco, or the boogeyman. A big, lumbering menace with black nailed fingers and a voluminous sack, probably magical.
Monster: Collector (children)
Immense Strength, Incredibly Stealthy
Harm: Strangling grip deals 2 harm, ignores armor Armor: Thick skin provides 1 armor Health: 11 health
Unique Move
Chickity Chack Get In My Sack - When Tonton Macoutes orders you into his bag, roll +Cool. On a 10+ you can choose, if you do mark experience and gain +1 forward. On a 7-9 you can choose, if you do mark experience.  On a 6- you clamber in and separate from everyone and everything that ever kept you warm.

The loas (gods) do not manifest physically, instead ride/possess the flesh of humans known as chevals (horses.)  Any person in the crowd could play host to inimical spiritual will.  Use Bystanders in a scene as channels of the Invisible Ones and a conduit for some unique moves. The common loa and some suggestions are:
Damballah - Serpent of Wisdom - "gift" someone with the curse of babble, rendering them unintelligible to others.
Erzulie - Life's Lover - Slip someone Love Potion #9, you decide how self-destructive that gets.
Khalfu - Master of the Left Hand - A character's ordered thoughts scatter into chaotic noise, focusing on a basic task becomes next to impossible. 
Legba - Guardian of the Crossroads- A character crossing an intersection may find themselves hit by a car, or teleported onto the wrong side of the tracks.
Ogun - Master of Iron and War - Bullets just can't seem to miss you.  Mark unstable and take 1 harm everytime you're shot at.
Baron Samedi - Custodian of the Dead - Paralyze a hunter with a case of rigor mortis, frozen until the next dawn.
Chango - King of Fire, Sky, and Smoke - Unsubtle, someone cursed by Chango gets a tag along thunderstorm.  Maybe it's small or maybe it's large.

And of course there's dolls, creating sympathetic links and allowing magical rootworking at a distance.  Maybe they animate and attack as a horde with bloody pins and needles.