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How do people portray the Umbra?

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  • How do people portray the Umbra?

    This is something I've wondered about for awhile now. How do different people here portray the Umbra when they run a game? I've seen different interpretations of it, and it seems to always be based off of the STs own imagination of what it's supposed to be.

    Personally, I try to get across the feeling of "Different but the same" when they cross through. Residential areas will have buildings (Though just generic shells of what they actually are) with newer areas still not fully "deforested" yet. I've found that among my players, deviating too much causes some confusion, if the Penumbra isn't at least closely matching where they were in the physical realm and so often times my Umbra starts to look almost like a ghost town, when not in the wilderness.

    I was in a game where it was portrayed almost at a 1 for 1 basis as well. Everything looked exactly the same, and most objects were often 'awakened" already, and had representations already in the Umbra.

    I've looked at other games, where they run it as so completely different you wouldn't know where you are in relation to the physical realm if you moved around in the Penumbra.

    It's made me curious how people here showcase what it looks like, and how different it is from others interpretations.

  • #2
    The Penumbra mostly matches the general look of the Realm so that characters can generally know where they are, but there are definitely some changes and unique landmarks because of certain spiritual events or actions of the spirits. However, wherever there are Domains the Umbra can look a lot differently as the influence of the Triat or Near Realms takes over.

    Anything man made usually does cross over. You'll see a general shell of the large structures, but they will only solidify over a long time based on people's emotional ties to them, or because of Weaver spirits strengthening the pattern. As such, deep in the cities and other Weaver strongholds you'll see fairly detailed structures, but not in the suburbs where there may only be a few shell like structures. Because of the Weaver energy there, they'll be affected by Domains. In contrast, in individual homes where generations of the same family have lived and worked the land, you may see a strongly defined structure that has never been strengthened by a Weaver spirit - simply because the people living there for long decades have generated a strong concept of "home".

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    • #3
      There are really many, many things to say about the Umbra and it's too much to ever remember them. So, let's keep to the Penumbra:

      New structures are usually transparent and only barely visible, shimmering with the outlines of the web the spiders are weaving to strengthen them. The colours are brigther, the smells stronger, the Sun is almost never visible in the sky but the light still floods the environment during the day; the moon looks larger and brighter, and even larger if you travel up to the aetherial realms. Even in the biggest cities the sky is blue and the air is fresh with no pollution since smog doesn't cross the gauntlet, but this may of course change if there is some particular source of pollution around (i.e., hoglings, toxic spirits, etc).
      Lines of translucent light raises up from the houses to follow the real world cables or just fly in the sky, each line identifying a thread of communication in the digital web (a reflection of the Internet in the Umbra); electricity spirits move up and down the power cables, graffiti spirits live in some backyard where some wall writer painted some, truck spirits with the shape of highland barbarians run through the roads following their own trucks, dog spirits will chew a bite off some trash spirit in the backstreet. The weather is related to the inhabitant's mood and will be worse and worse if they're panicked, sad or stressed.

      The places may be different or the same, but it's not unusual for the Umbra to save older versions of the real world, especially if what they had there was important or lasted a long time before being destroyed. The Statue of Liberty is probably going to last at least one thousand more years in the Umbra even if it gets demolished today.

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      • #4
        I tend to agree with what's already been said, generally that Penumbral landscapes change much more slowly than mundane physical landscapes, and artificial structures tend to need Weaver spirits to gain solid form. Maybe a house first appears as an empty space where the ground is cleared. Then gradually the weaver spirits bring in webs for power lines as a faint, smoky outline of the house becomes visible, and rooms first appear as implied space where the electrical wires hang in the air like vines. Anything the Weaver favors would show up first, but over time, especially centuries, human structures would become solid. The Coliseum in Rome would no doubt be very solid. In the wilderness, forests might linger for a while even after they are felled for timber, and the really wild places would be technicolor to all the senses. But really there isn't any one "right" way for the Penumbra to behave. The edge of the umbra won't be as mind-warping as the deep umbra, but it's already starting to diverge from common mortal physics, so the storyteller has some creative license.

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        • #5
          A little off topic but... When I'm describing the Penumbra (at least in an urban area), I say "You know Silent Hill? Yeah, it looks like that".

          ‚ÄčTruthfully, if I wanted to be more honest, Silent Hill (from the movie, that is) would actually work better as the Shadowlands, but I think it does pretty well at capturing the ambiance of it's-the-same-place-but-different while also getting that creepy where-did-everybody-go sense.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Uniform Two Six View Post
            A little off topic but... When I'm describing the Penumbra (at least in an urban area), I say "You know Silent Hill? Yeah, it looks like that".

            ‚ÄčTruthfully, if I wanted to be more honest, Silent Hill (from the movie, that is) would actually work better as the Shadowlands, but I think it does pretty well at capturing the ambiance of it's-the-same-place-but-different while also getting that creepy where-did-everybody-go sense.
            It depends on which part of the Umbra. Silent Hill works when scars of a terrible event linger on as shadows amidst rebuilt or seemingly pristine physical locations. It doesn't really work for a Gaian caern, glade, Den-Realm or the like. Well, maybe if the Den-Realm owner is really fucked up and/or has the Moon Madness flaw and it happens to be one of the days of the full moon, but, otherwise, probably not.

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            • #7
              Funny, I described my umbra as Silent Hill-esque, too, but only during the day. Since Helios does not deign to light the umbra during the day, visibility is limited, everything is murky and indistinct, and banes come out to play.

              If Luna is in the sky, Garou can see well, and their minds' flow with rage. Locations in the penumbra roughly correspond to whatever is in the physical world, but the deeper one goes, the more exaggerated and alien the landscape becomes. Weaver-dominated sub-realms that look like Menger sponges, corrupt and cold borderlands that verge on the dark umbra, and smoke-filled lodges filled with masked dream entities.


              Related: have you guys featured tribal homelands, and if so, how did you do it and what role did it play in your story?

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