Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vampire's Pseudo Sire: Peter Walsh (Custom Creature)

“I don’t know who, or what, I'm not lying when I tell you a different name.  In the end, I’m trying to help.  I'm your pal.  Your buddy.  That's all that should matter.  I lie because it's easier.  I lie sometimes because I can't remember what the truth is anymore.  Memories bubble to the surface and sometimes truths become lies.  Sometimes I know I'm lying but I do it anyway because I don’t know how you’ll react and I ... I can't lose anyone else.”

This character is a rather complex one borne from a different campaign, a Live Action Roleplay, and then honed through a game set in an alternate reality where this at-the-time-male shapeshifter and his pseudo-childe went to America soon after James’ Embrace rather than remaining in Australia.  Peter’s history is a complex one.  It seems to have sprung into being several hundred years ago in South America where it was a quadruped protecting a few tribes in South America from the Aztecs but that all changed when the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

Lost and alone it played doppelganger to a little British girl in the 1550s, luring her out into the jungle and then looking after her, learning all the while.  Through this it gained the power of speech and some more humanoid aspects (especially appearance) before being adopted as a wild child by the girl’s father.  She was brought to England (well, at the time, he was a she) where a few eminent individuals attempted to tame her and teach her how to behave properly.  She took to it a lot more easily than most wild children although she appeared to stop aging in her mid-twenties.

Realising how most people reacted to her timeless youthfulness but at the time unable to control this, she disappeared into the streets of London.  She met with a group of changelings while lost and alone, as she could see them for what they were, and they assumed she must have been one like them although more subtly marked by her Durance.  The motley quickly figured out this wasn’t the case but by that time they had become friends.

From that point on, the Songbird travelled extensively under different names although she never forgot her time as Songbird.  She befriended different supernaturals (well, using the word 'friend' was more often than not a strong word as there were frequent betrayals, misunderstandings and other issues), destroying those who were evil or cruel as though instinctively hearkening back to her time as a tribal guardian.  While the Songbird learned a great deal, she couldn’t seem to improve much in one skill or attribute without accidentally devolving another.  She also found himself more comfortable when maintaining a single identity but that shocks and disruptions to that identity (such as being ‘killed’) would allow her greater mutability to her form but at the cost of discomfort to her psyche – greater anguish, rage, and a sense of being split in twain.

She also discovered that she was immortal, although she would often forget this as the memory itself troubled her.  She could heal from practically any sort of injury (though she hasn’t tried immersion in lava or acid, so perhaps her body does have its limits) though she certainly doesn’t like pain and whinges quite a bit when hurt.  She didn’t age.  She could appear to be older or younger but it never really affected her abilities.  She could tear pieces off a vampire’s Beast and wear it to mark himself as kindred.  She could feign undeath to those who weren’t looking too closely by thickening her skin and burying the veins lower down to provide the pallor and becoming cold-blooded so she didn't release quite so much heat.  She was predominately a carnivore and had cat-like taste buds.  She didn’t care for property like most people did.  If she wanted / needed it, and the person could live well enough without it then it wasn’t ‘bad’ to take it.  In short, she was different. 

And she was alone.  There was nothing else like her in all the world that she could find.

There’s a lot more to her past.  Five hundred years of it, in fact, but suffice to say she helped forge the unusual coterie that will be described in the next article, set up a treaty between that coterie and the Autumn Court that helped repel a Fae incursion, and later feigned being James’ sire (Peter Walsh a.k.a. Jack Tyler) so that he (at the time a ‘he’) could guide the kindred to safety.  Now he’s back in England, back in his old persona of Dr. Kellis, a blonde female Ordo Dracul Mekhet, lured by a plan she can hardly remember which seems to lurk in her subconscious awaiting the right moment to spring to fruition.  Of course, he's sick of the Dr. Kellis person already so who knows how Walsh will end up.

Age: Unknown
Species: Unknown
Gender: Currently female

Virtue: Hope
Vice: Gluttony

Intelligence: 5
Wits: 3
Resolve: 3

Strength: 3
Dexterity: 3
Stamina: 2

Presence: 2
Manipulation: 3
Composure: 2

Academic: 3 (Research)
Computer: 0
Crafts: 1
Investigation: 2
Medicine: 3
Occult: 4 (Sacred Geometry) (Underworld Lore) (Rituals)
Politics: 0
Science: 2

Athletics: 3 (Climb)
Brawl: 1
Drive: 1
Firearms: 1
Larceny: 2
Stealth: 3 (Shadows, Quiet Movement)
Survival: 3
Weaponry: 1

Animal Ken: 2
Empathy: 2
Expression: 1
Intimidation: 0
Persuasion: 2
Socialise: 2
Subterfuge: 3

Power Stat: Equal to 10 – Unity (currently 5)
Unity (Akin to Morality / Synergy): 5
Willpower: 5
Health: 7
Experience Points: 350 exp (never more, rarely less)

In this game, I use the LARP rules for merits whereby simple merits cost Total Dots x 2 while complex merits must have each level bought separately.

Le Parkeur ****
Archery ****
Striking Looks **
Architectural Attunement ****
Combat Awareness **
Encyclopedia Knowledge ****
Languages (Spanish, Italian, German, French, English, Mayan, Aztec, Arabic, Indian, Persian, Latin, Spirit Tongue, Celestial (Fallen language, root language of Atlantean in my game)
Mythologist ***
Supernatural Lore (Vampires) *****
Supernatural Lore (Changelings) ***
Supernatural Lore (Werewolves) **
Supernatural Lore (Spirits) **
Supernatural Lore (Fallen, namely Earthbound) *
Supernatural Lore (Mages) *
Trained Memory *
Trained Observer ***
Well-Travelled *
Outdoorsman **
Ingratiating Wanderer **
Relic Analyst *

Innate Abilities
These abilities are ones that I have found easiest to simply describe using regular merits granted for free, much as a vampire might take bashing from bullets.

Quick Healer ****
Iron Stamina ***
Toxin Resistance **
Sin-Eater *** (Different method, same outcome)
Fast Reflexes **
Fleet of Foot ***
Strong Lungs ***
Natural Immunity *
Ambidextrous ***
Direction Sense *
Lucid Dreamer *

Unity-Dependent Abilities
Just to be difficult, I made this creature act according to some complex rules.  She becomes more powerful the lower her Morality stat gets.  Now, in truth, if you take a look at the list of ‘sins’ in the section further down, it’s not so much about morality as it is about how well she is a blended entity rather than competing elements.  There are more rules that constrain some of her abilities but that would be a whole chapter in and of itself, so here are the cliff notes.

At Unity 9 or above:

·         She will age as though human and appear to suffer age-related degeneration but she will not die which will eventually erode her Unity and cause her to shapeshift and take on a new identity.
At Unity 8 or above:

·         She is essentially human in her abilities though she does not appear to age.

At Unity 7 or below:

·         She may spend willpower to heal lethal damage on a one for one basis or regenerate bashing on a two bashing for one willpower basis.
·         She may make minor changes to her body largely in keeping with the feigned identity (i.e. grow fangs or shed them and swallow them, grow nails into claws that deal 1 lethal damage). 
·         With a willpower point, she may choose to effectively ‘hide’ a wound by breaking down healthy skin elsewhere to heal that area.  This allows her to appear as though she has supernatural healing, although in truth it just moves the wound elsewhere.

At Unity 6 or below:

·         She may change her appearance using a rather organic process of shedding skin and shifting bones and organs with successful Intelligence + Science rolls, once per minute, successes required varies on the changes. 
·         She may choose to effectively ‘hide’ a wound by breaking down healthy skin elsewhere to heal that area.  This costs nothing at this level.  It also provides no benefit other than allowing her to feign supernatural healing.

She also gains the below merit:

·         Unseen Sense (All – does not discriminate)

At Unity 5 or below:

·         She may spend willpower to gain werewolf-like regeneration that heals one health level of bashing damage per round for a scene.  During this scene, a lethal point of damage heals once every fifteen minutes.  This regeneration can be triggered by falling unconscious. 
·         She may use a rather organic process of shifting bones and organs with successful Intelligence + Science rolls, once per round, successes required varies on the changes.  Any discarded elements, such as teeth, bone, hair and skin are reabsorbed through a metabolic process. 
·         Non-human changes are limited to fangs, claws, and slight adjustments, i.e. pointed ears, wolf eyes, etc. that may provide some slight advantages. 
·         She is immune to natural diseases.

At Unity 4 or below:

·         She may spend willpower to gain werewolf-like regeneration that heals one health level of bashing or lethal damage per round for a scene.  During this scene, an aggravated point of damage heals once every fifteen minutes.  This regeneration can be triggered by unconsciousness. 
·         She may shapechange smoothly and quickly with a single success on an Intelligence + Science roll.
·         She may change her size substantially and may shift into animal forms or do partial transformations to give herself goat legs.
·         She gains an extra three attribute points that can be spread across her attributes as she pleases, though once set these can’t be shifted again until her Unity rises and falls again (thus she loses them) or until ten years have passed, whichever is sooner.
·         She has the equivalent of the Arcanum Life 1, Spirit 1 and Fate 1.

She also gains the below merits:

·         Heavy Hands *
·         Demolisher **

At Unity 3 or below:

·         She may spend willpower to gain werewolf-like regeneration that heals one health level of bashing, lethal or aggravated damage per round for a scene. 
·         She also gains 2 / 1 armor. 
·         She may make such changes that she no longer looks like an earthly creature (such as to appear like a manticore).  These changes can involve supernatural attacks such as flinging barbs from a tail.
·         She gains an extra three attribute points on top of what she received at the last fall.  These can be spread across her attributes as she pleases, though once set these can’t be shifted again until her Unity rises and falls again (thus she loses them) or until ten years have passed, whichever is sooner.
·         She is immune to mundane poisons.
·         She has the equivalent of the Arcanum Life 2, Spirit 2 and Fate 2.

At Unity 2 or below:

·         She constantly has werewolf-like regeneration that heals one health level of bashing, lethal or aggravated damage per round. 
·         She also gains 3 / 2 armor.
·         She can shapeshift weapons that deal aggravated damage.
·         She may make a physical and a mental action each turn.
·         She has the equivalent of the Arcanum Life 3, Spirit 3 and Fate 3.

At Unity 1 or below:

·         She constantly has werewolf-like regeneration that heals two health levels of bashing, lethal or aggravated damage per round.
·         Her body can be shifted with a thought.
·         She can access a number of abilities from the Demon: the Fallen apocalyptic form chapter.
·         She has the equivalent of the Arcanum Life 5, Spirit 4 and Fate 3.

Unity Definitions
Unlike most supernaturals, Unity is a sliding scale and can be gained almost as readily as it can be lost.  It can be gained primarily through maintaining a coherent and solid identity with close friends who behave toward her in a consistent manner that helps maintain that identity.  This does make it a little complex to run Peter Walsh but it remains a lot of fun.

So what is the cost of low Unity?  Why not try to keep at low Unity as that’s largely the only way to gain power?  Otherwise he can swap his 350 experience points around but he can’t ever advance beyond this.  That doesn’t seem nearly as much fun as doing partial transformations, right?

Well, part of the answer is that he’s an NPC and not a PC and therefore far more unlikely to meta-game.  The other answer is that only at Unity 7 or higher does he feel particularly at peace with himself.  At Unity 6 there’s a slight low-level strain that is easy to cope with but any lower than that and there’s a growing dualistic mentality and a sense of being split apart.  By the time he reaches Unity 2, choking rage, boiling despair, utter terror, and malicious joy have well and truly reared their heads and it is difficult for him to pretend to feel anything else. 

If not for the fact that higher Unity feels so good, he would have devolved long ago but as it stands it remains the light at the end of the tunnel and as his Unity decreases, he surges towards finding ways to increase it.  Therefore, he will work his way back up to 7 constantly.  As most sustainable identities don’t come with a bag of uber-powers, Walsh will also downplay his abilities even when he does have them because being a ‘doppelganger’ is about as alien an identity as most people can accept.  It’s much easier to pretend to be a supernatural creature that has entire societies (i.e. vampires) or even pretending to be human.

It also makes for some interesting roleplay with James, the Player Character, as James is slowly starting to figure out just how alien Peter really is.  If I were to allow Walsh to linger at his more powerful levels without issue, then the PC couldn’t possibly compete and that would be dull.  It's one of the reasons why much of his experience pool is also skewed toward being the academic who can provide pieces of the puzzle, advice, and research information to James Tyler.  If you take a look at Walsh's combat stats, while he's pretty good at throwing knives and excels in shooting arrows, he's generally out of luck in a fight.  The Player Character is the protagonist.  James is the one who gets to be epic in a variety of combats as well as makes most of the decisions.

Unity Sins

Unity 10 Sin: Someone refers to him / her by a previous name.  Revelations of a supernatural nature (i.e. seeing a vampire unsheathe their fangs).

Unity 9 Sin: Reminders of previous lives that don’t fit the current identity.  Pretending to be someone they’re not (dressing up during Halloween doesn’t count as no one reasonably could believe it but pretending to be over the age of 21 to buy alcohol when in a teenaged identity in America does).

Unity 8 Sin: Behaviours that are out of character of the chosen identity (i.e. going out in the sunlight while current identity is that of a vampire).  

Unity 7 Sin: Being accused of lying / pretending to be someone she’s not by a close friend.

Unity 6 Sin: Maintaining multiple lasting identities (i.e. briefly impersonating an FBI agent doesn’t count but alternating between a human librarian and a vampire biker would).

Unity 5 Sin: Being revealed to be something she’s not to a close friend (i.e. revealing she isn’t a human to a friend who thought she was).  Losing a close friend who has been supportive of her.

Unity 4 Sin: Being ‘outed’ to a group of those who believed in an identity.  The death of a friend.

Unity 3 Sin: Death (or rather, injuries that should result in death).  Having no one to cement an identity for over a month, i.e. no one who knows her that can maintain a relationship.  

Unity 2 Sin: Anything that undermines one’s sense of self for a prolonged length of time, i.e. if people refusing to refer to her by name for a prolonged period of time and referred to her by a number instead.

Unity 1 Sin: Apparent Destruction (a death so immense that no one should be capable of surviving it).

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