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The Umbra: the Double Shroud Problem

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  • The Umbra: the Double Shroud Problem

    So I've been looking into the Umbra lately and discovered either a massive disparity or something that was glanced over when it comes to the Shroud and Gauntlet. There seems to be a contradiction here or there's multiple things called the Shroud.

    Basic cosmology review here:
    Penumbra comes in three flavors, Astral, Wilds, and Death, each lead to the associated aspect of the Umbra.
    Penumbra is separated from the material world by the Gauntlet.
    There is supposed to be a thin Gauntlet between the Penumbra and each associated aspect of the Umbra.

    The problem at hand:
    In Wraith the Shroud is the barrier between the Skinlands and the Shadowlands, allowing Wraiths to look into the material world but not interact with it, per Wr20 pg 26.
    In Mage and Werewolf, it's not possible to enter the Shadowlands without either dying or knowing the proper magic to do so, per W20 Umbra the Velvet Shadow pg 31 and 101, and Mage the Infinite Tapestry pg 27.
    Also in Mage the Shroud is defined as the Gauntlet between the Penumbra and the Shadowlands per Tradition Book Euthanatos pg 68 and M20 pg 99.
    But Werewolf says that ghosts can be found in the Penumbra of Death per Velvet Shadow pg 31.

    So the real question is, which Gauntlet is the Shroud that Wraith refers to? If it's the traditional Gauntlet between the material world and Penumbra, that means that ghosts wander around the Penumbra and don't see a barrier between the Penumbra and Shadowlands. If not, does that mean the Shadowlands peers into the material world, bypassing the Penumbra to do so. I'm not sure which is the correct one.


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  • #2
    Alrighty so bearing in mind that this is my best guess and that STs should do whatever they want and sometimes different sources contradict each other, this is how I would handle this...

    It is the same Gauntlet which separates all extra-dimensional spaces from material reality. The reverse side of that Gauntlet, just past the periphery and an ephemeral reflection of material reality, is the Penumbra.

    Different people in different circumstances will view the Penumbra in different ways, which Mage considers the three vidare - which are generally emblematic of either the Higher, Middle, and Lower Umbra.

    To Mages the Penumbra can appear as any of these three due to their perspective. Vampires and Psychics tend to view the Penumbra through the Higher Lense. Changing Breeds and Spirit Workers tend to view the Penumbra through the Middle Lense. Wraiths and Necromancers tend to view the Penumbra through the Lower Lense.

    (Theoretically Changelings also fit here as seeing through the Dreaming Lense into the Near Dreaming or Chimerical Reality but that's another can of pixies)

    My understanding of Wraith is that the majority of wraiths, particularly those who have been around in a while settle into Citadels and Necropoli due to both Charon's Law and eventual difficulty operating in the Shadowlands beside the Skin Lands.

    I would say that as the Middle Umbra has it's Near Realms and the Higher Umbra has its Realms, I would probably consider the Citadels and Necropoli within the tempest to be Realms of sorts that require non-wraiths to push past the Penumbra towards the Lower Umbra.

    So, as far as I can tell, wraiths who are able to and willing can wander the Penumbra which they shall view through the Lower Lense and can be witnessed by other entities in the Penumbra and particularly those seeing via the Death Lense. The Shroud/Gauntlet divides the Shadowlands here from the Skinlands and here it is possible to interact with anything else that can enter the Penumbra.

    Many wraiths however dwell in the Lower Umbra proper and for other beings to plunge downward and through The Tempest they must used rites and rituals. There is not necessarily a barrier between the Lower Umbra and Penumbra, but as with any Umbra, it is exceedingly dangerous for those who don't know the way to attempt. I might also impose further penalties to those who operate without the Lower Lense.

    So ultimately a Wraith could interact with others in the Penumbra but it would be difficult for non Wraiths to follow them back deeper into the Lower Umbra.

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    • #3
      The Gauntlet and the Shroud (along with the Mists for the Dreaming and whatever the equivalent is for the Astral) are similar concepts, but not the same. A place in the Realm/Skinlands can have different Shroud and Gauntlet ratings.

      Both the Shadowlands and the Penumbra (the Gaian Middle World) are likewise similar concepts, but not the same. They are both "spiritual" reflections of the material world, but are not the same thing. Even the "matter" they are made of are different. Spirits and the Penumbra are made of "ephemera" while ghosts and the Shadowlands are made of "plasm".

      These separate realms are connected, and can be traveled to, but only in special places and usually requiring some kind of spiritual quest to cross over. They normally do not interact with each other. In real occult lore, this would probably be explained in pseudoscientific terms like saying they exist on different "vibrations". From our perspective, they seem to overlap. From their perspective, they don't.

      I think a possible reason for your confusion is the game often uses terms like "Gauntlet" and "Penumbra" as both a universal term, and as the specific term in regards to the Werewolf locations.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Gryffon15 View Post
        Alrighty so bearing in mind that this is my best guess and that STs should do whatever they want and sometimes different sources contradict each other, this is how I would handle this...

        It is the same Gauntlet which separates all extra-dimensional spaces from material reality. The reverse side of that Gauntlet, just past the periphery and an ephemeral reflection of material reality, is the Penumbra.

        Different people in different circumstances will view the Penumbra in different ways, which Mage considers the three vidare - which are generally emblematic of either the Higher, Middle, and Lower Umbra.

        To Mages the Penumbra can appear as any of these three due to their perspective. Vampires and Psychics tend to view the Penumbra through the Higher Lense. Changing Breeds and Spirit Workers tend to view the Penumbra through the Middle Lense. Wraiths and Necromancers tend to view the Penumbra through the Lower Lense.
        The issue is that the Shadowlands and the Lower Penumbra seem to be the same thing - CB: Void Engineers goes so far as to say that physically entering crosses the Avatar Storm. Necropoli seem to be just Wraithly settlements and not mini-Realms of their own - the Dark Kingdoms certainly are, but they're on a "deeper" layer than the Shadowlands. So, going by the wiki's description, I would put it that the Euthanatos Tradition Book and M20 are just flat-out wrong.

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        • #5
          Okay, here's how I think it goes. The lower Penumbra and the Shadowlands are the same thing. The regular Penumbra is the home to the Naturae spirits, with paths that lead into the Near Realms. This is where Werewolves and other shifters go to, and where many Mages first enter the Otherworlds. The Astral Penumbra has never been adequately described, as I see it, but I am guessing it is sort of the same plane where Vampires that use Auspex go to. Physically entering the High Umbra takes one to the Vulgate, which is not a Penumbral location, but serves a similar purpose. The Shadowlands are home to Wraiths who still have at least one Fetter, with Citadels and Necropotl equating to the remains of actual places in the Skinlands. Sink lower to access the Tempest with the Dark Kingdoms and Far Shores as the Low Umbra's Near Realms. Sink even lower to get to the Labyrinth, equating to the High Umbra's Spires or maybe Epiphanies. (Also note that the High Umbra's Well of Souls is opposite the Maw of Oblivion in the Labyrinth, and that True Heaven could be above the former and Hell below the later.) The Dreaming doesn't really fit into the equation, beyond having three layers reflective of the rest of the Umbra's divisions. Even the Middle Umbra seems to have Far Realms that haven't been fully explored. I've been developing a new cosmology that would balance every layer of the Otherworlds into a sort of cohesive whole, but it has been rough. Basically, each "layer" has similar divisions, even if they haven't been cohesively described across all game lines.


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          • #6
            I should amend my statement. Wraith is the gameline of the main 5 that I'm the weakest with, so sorry about errors where they come up.

            Aye, the Far Shores and places such as the Dark Kingdoms are probably better analogues for Near Realms in the Lower Umbra then Necropoli or the like.

            So, similar to what Toby said above, in the sort of cosmological onion of the WoD for wraiths you have: Material Reality -> The Periphery (Lower Lense?) -> The Penumbra (Shadowlands & Necropoli) -> [Lower Umbra] -> Near Realms (Dark Kingdoms & Far Shore) -> Far Realms (The Labyrinth) -> Deep Horizon (Oblivion & Beyond)

            So with that sort of inverse-onion model (or maybe a cone model with the material world as it's point would be better) we have a map of the Lower Umbra similar to our cosmological understanding of the Middle and Higher Umbras.

            With regards to the Avatar Storm, and it's been a while since I read the specifics, isn't the Storm - while throughout all the Umbra - concentrated as a sort of astral barrier around the Gauntlet or in the Penumbra. I certainly recall seeing in some revised Werewolf source rules for making Stepping Sideways more difficult or dangerous due to the Avatar Storm and/or related issues.

            I also agree with Black Fox that the various Penumbrae are difficult to parse because of how the Gauntlet and Shroud operate distinctly, although with some similarities. A graveyard may have a lower Shroud then its Gauntlet while a glen may have a lower Gauntlet then its Shroud.

            I'm inclined to think that this may be a situation where, as Black Fox suggests, it's somewhat useful to consider different but related 'vibrations' or energies.

            Vampires, Breeds, Magi, and Wraiths can all cross The Barrier in one way or another and enter a spiritual world which reflects a nearby material world. Vampires project astrally via Auspex (likely towards the Higher Umbra), Breeds step sideways across the Gauntlet (towards the Middle Umbra), Wraiths part the veil and cross the Shroud (towards the Lower Umbra), and Magi can do any of the above.

            I think that there is enough contrary and/or confusion material that anyone could make a valid case for either side of the question over whether the Penumbrae as seen through the Higher, Middle, or Lower lenses are the same places or different places.

            I personally lean towards the Penumbrae as being one place that can be interacted with in different ways depending on nature and outlook but that simultaneously the Penumbrae begins to divide as the energies of the lenses 'refract' and begin to become distinctly the beginnings of the Lower, Middle, or Upper Umbrae.

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            • #7
              Mmmm. I am drawn to crossover problems like a bee to flowers.

              I have pondered the topic of the peculiar relationship between the general Penumbra and the Shadowlands in the past, and had some difficulty making sense of it. Thanks to the posters who helped clarify a bit by pointing out how the ratings of the Gauntlet and the Shroud can differ from each other within a given area ^_^

              One funny thing to consider is the relative difficulty of physical travel to and from the Dark Umbra in different gamelines. In particular, Mage and Vampire. I don't know if it was only a change in recent editions, but my readings of M20 make travel to the Underworld in the flesh sound nearly impossible. But in Vampire, it's a power of a relatively common Necromancy Path (arguably my favourite ). If the Tal'Mahe'Ra are canon in your setting, you don't even have the vampires-are-undead excuse to cover, because of the Chatterlings. Oh, the Chatterlings.

              A possible analogy to consider, one I just came up with while reading this, is that the nature of the Shroud and the Underworld might be something akin to the hidden nature of the Dreaming in Changeling? Less under the control of the entities hidden by it, but a supernatural force or law that keeps the 'land of the dead' (Wraiths, the Shadowlands, and the Dark Kingdoms) separate even from those who view the Penumbra through the Vidare Mortem, evening allowing them to exist 'on top of' each other. The Shroud is similarly what makes travel to the Underworld more difficult for the living, having to compete with two 'barriers' instead of one.

              While the comment above that vampires primarily view the Penumbra through the Astral perspective is true to the extent that most will get there via Auspex 5, practitioners of the Spirit Manipulation does allow vampires direct access to the Penumbra itself; I suspect they would view it through the Dark perspective at that point, but would not get the benefits of Necromancy (perceiving Wraiths, the Shadowlands, etc.) automatically.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Kharnov View Post
                Mmmm. I am drawn to crossover problems like a bee to flowers.

                I have pondered the topic of the peculiar relationship between the general Penumbra and the Shadowlands in the past, and had some difficulty making sense of it. Thanks to the posters who helped clarify a bit by pointing out how the ratings of the Gauntlet and the Shroud can differ from each other within a given area ^_^

                One funny thing to consider is the relative difficulty of physical travel to and from the Dark Umbra in different gamelines. In particular, Mage and Vampire. I don't know if it was only a change in recent editions, but my readings of M20 make travel to the Underworld in the flesh sound nearly impossible. But in Vampire, it's a power of a relatively common Necromancy Path (arguably my favourite ). If the Tal'Mahe'Ra are canon in your setting, you don't even have the vampires-are-undead excuse to cover, because of the Chatterlings. Oh, the Chatterlings.
                According to Revised Void Engineers it's a Spirit 3/Life 4/Entropy 4 effect. The V20 book on the TMR also brings up how it's their mages who are the ones who can open gateways to Enoch.

                Originally posted by Toby Weingarten View Post
                Okay, here's how I think it goes. The lower Penumbra and the Shadowlands are the same thing. The regular Penumbra is the home to the Naturae spirits, with paths that lead into the Near Realms. This is where Werewolves and other shifters go to, and where many Mages first enter the Otherworlds.
                Mages only immediately wind up in the Middle Penumbra if they have a Dreamspeaker or Verbena-esque paradigm - most others end up in the Astral or Dark Penumbras first.
                Last edited by Czernobog; 07-23-2020, 03:53 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Czernobog View Post
                  According to Revised Void Engineers it's a Spirit 3/Life 4/Entropy 4 effect. The V20 book on the TMR also brings up how it's their mages who are the ones who can open gateways to Enoch.
                  Agreed, but that's followed immediately by my point that M20 Mages didn't seem capable of the feat from my initial reading. The Agama rites to send your spirit into the Underworld are only a little bit easier than what you described (Entropy 4/Life 2/Spirit 3, or Spirit 4 to send others). HDYDT basically just punts you back to the Agama rites in the core book when you try and look up 'Necromantic Travel.' Any other mention of reaching the Underworld seemed to involve unusual journeys through other Umbral Realms rather than direct travel in the flesh via True Magic. It seemed like a weird contradiction within the same edition, but thinking about it I realize that treats the capabilities of Mages like they're set in stone in a way they most definitely aren't, lol. The Itarajana rote simply involves 2 Pillars at 4 dots, but translating over to Sphere Magic, the rote you offer looks about right

                  P.S. Maybe Spirit 4 to carry others over the Shroud with you, maybe Matter 4 to imbue a vehicle with the ability to cross over?

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                  • #10
                    There's also a Merit that lets Mages actually physically travel into the Underworld - so yeah, things are (as usual) not quite set in stone when it comes to Mage.

                    As for the Penumbra, it *is* important to remember that there is technically physically just one Penumbra. The mental state and view of a Mage just determines how it is seen - but there is no physical barrier that prevents a Mage that sees the Penumbra in the aspect of the High Umbra from traveling from the Penumbra to the Middle Umbra/Wildlands. They just need to know of its existance and how to get there by paradigm.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kharnov View Post

                      Agreed, but that's followed immediately by my point that M20 Mages didn't seem capable of the feat from my initial reading. The Agama rites to send your spirit into the Underworld are only a little bit easier than what you described (Entropy 4/Life 2/Spirit 3, or Spirit 4 to send others). HDYDT basically just punts you back to the Agama rites in the core book when you try and look up 'Necromantic Travel.' Any other mention of reaching the Underworld seemed to involve unusual journeys through other Umbral Realms rather than direct travel in the flesh via True Magic. It seemed like a weird contradiction within the same edition, but thinking about it I realize that treats the capabilities of Mages like they're set in stone in a way they most definitely aren't, lol.
                      Certainly. It might be that the VEs' and Itarajana's paradigmatic quirks make it easier for them to travel physically to the Low Umbra. Even the former prefer a hypertech-using form of the Agama Sojojurn ...

                      The Itarajana rote simply involves 2 Pillars at 4 dots, but translating over to Sphere Magic, the rote you offer looks about right

                      P.S. Maybe Spirit 4 to carry others over the Shroud with you, maybe Matter 4 to imbue a vehicle with the ability to cross over?
                      That makes sense, yes.

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                      • #12
                        Out of all the splats Mage, Wraith, and Werewolf have the most in common- but there are still hiccupy conflicts that aren't really smooth when you think about it. As someone who has religious read most of the Wraith books, I found no part where narrators or just in-book text ever refer to the Shroud as the Gauntlet. That's more of a Garou and Fera terminology.

                        The metaphysics of the Low Umbra is simple and divided into two parts- Shadowlands and the Underworld or the "Low Umbra" proper. Shadowlands is the deathly mimicry physication of Earth itself. It comprises structures from the Skinlands still around and structures that don't exist anymore but are present in the Shadowlands because of the energies associated with it if it was important enough before destruction (this is how the Kingdom of Iron saved the Library of Alexandria in death and brought it back to Stygia). The Low Umbra is the place that gets accessed through nihils or byways- nihils being the negative rifts generated from immense tragedies or general malaise, which is big enough and occurs often can cause Maelstorms. Byways have less formulated rules (mechanic wise) around them, but they are more "neutric" coherent pathways that can also connect from the Shadowlands to the Low Umbra. Some are mysterious and organically pop up out of nowhere, some are created by Wraiths.

                        I also agree with other people in this thread have said: "the pneumbra is one part, but are perceived differently from differing aspects viewing and receiving it."


                        Jade Kingdom Warrior

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