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[New Horror] The Bookburner Engine

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  • [New Horror] The Bookburner Engine

    There was once a community not too different from yours, but it was haunted by a ghost which could not be exorcised. They believed that the past is what holds potential, and the future is something to be left behind. VHS tapes, vinyl discs, and similar mementos of a bygone era of simplicity and innocence were piled atop each other in a basement filled with the moldy stench of clogged nostalgia. Their geometric arrangement was ominously intricate and perfectly deliberate. Within each item of this altar was a recording of someone's forsaken memories, so that the community would only remember the best and brightest moments of their lives.

    But one cannot have effects without causes, future without past, it is anathema to reality. Play the recordings in a certain order, and you will see a movie of a timeline that never was: shimmering, splendid, sterile. No loss, no mistakes, no pain. Mortals are destabilized on a soul-deep level upon witnessing this movie, for it depicts an upside-down, impossible yet uncannily familiar world defined by an unblinking, fetal-rocking-back-and-forth denial of history as we know it. It is a persuasive narrative, it enshrouds the mind and shrinks the heart. The observer becomes withdrawn and vacant-eyed, answering questions about time in a cracked-mirror way, not knowing what happened when. Curiously, the community momentarily thrived despite this, but in surreal ways with subtle gaps of logic.

    How can people receive food deliveries, go to their office jobs, and kiss their children good night if time itself was ripped from its foundations? And yet, people eat despite not being capable of hunger, receive salaries from tasks performed at unknown periods, and find that their children whisper half-remembered things from the outside world. The community begins to gradually fade away and sink placidly into the void between seconds, because just as they forgot about time, so does time forget about them. It is not long before something manifests from the lost fragments of that community, an esoteric and erratic construct of wasted opportunities that hungers for possibility.

    It is like a comatose patient relearning how to talk, only to see things that make them want to scream. If you feel like there are days missing in the year, as if something important has been deleted from your understanding of how the world works, you may catch glimpses of this entity lurking just of sight, usually among people burning books, tearing down statues and lynching scholars. It haunts the background of history like a stain made of ashes, and it is eager to feast on scraps of abandoned time to sustain its own incomplete and blurry existence. You may ask it to devour your burdens that are trapped inside the cosmic hourglass, but do not give it anything you will yearn for once it is gone. And run away before it devours the rest of you.

    The Bookburner Engine

    Quote: "YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU ASK ME TO DO, YOU HAVE LEARNED NOTHING. BUT PLEASE PROCEED, I WILL NOT STOP YOU."

    Description: An upside down human skull, held aloft by rusty mechanical wings like a could-have-been seraph. It has a single eye-socket holding a shattered clock with too many hands spinning randomly, though sometimes they meet for an ominous moment when something important is about to happen. It has a halo of mathematical equations that briefly seem to describe things that happened or will happen to the observer, before dissolving back into violent gibberish. When it speaks, its jaws belch forth a mixture of burnt paper and burnt flesh, and its words have an unsettling staccato-lag to them. It does not look at you, it will never look at you, it only sees your mistakes.

    Virtue: Erudite
    Vice: Empty
    Aspirations: Become Fully Real, Observe Important Events, Undo Chronological "Errors"

    Mental Attributes: Intelligence 8, Wits 6, Resolve 8
    Physical Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 6, Stamina 4
    Social Attributes: Presence 6, Manipulation 10, Composure 4

    Skills: Academics (History) 5, Empathy (Mistakes) 5, Occult (Temporal Anomalies) 5, Persuasion (Trading Favors) 5, Subterfuge (Omitting Causality) 5

    Merits: Eidetic Memory 2, Allies 5 (Temporal Anomalies), Iron Will 2, Omen Sensitivity 3, Psychokinesis 5 (Fire)

    Potency: 8
    Willpower: 20
    Size: 5
    Initiative: 10
    Defense: 6
    Speed: 13
    Health: 9

    Dread Powers: Immortal, Influence (Time 5), Know Soul, Miracle, Surprise Entrance, Twilight Entity

    Note: Represent the Temporal Anomalies as Brief Nightmares of the Horde Level, whose traits are based on the Aspirations destroyed by the Bookburner Engine's Miracle Dread Power.


    "I hope you will have a long and happy life, if only so you can realize how stupid and wrong you are."

  • #2
    Wow, that is deeply unsettling. I'd love to use it in a chronicle of my own someday. Why does it have so many allies among temporal anomalies, though, if it exists solely to destroy them?


    Author of Motor City Breakdown, [New Seeming] Mechanicals, and [Entitlement] Divers of the Cerulean Pearl
    Accuracy Consultant on Ashes of the Motor City, Author of Devil's Night in the D
    Editor, Compiler, and Senior Contributor to Tenebrous Seas
    Current Project(s): Late Antiquity/Early Medieval Dark Era for Genius: The Transgression

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Super_Dave View Post
      Wow, that is deeply unsettling. I'd love to use it in a chronicle of my own someday. Why does it have so many allies among temporal anomalies, though, if it exists solely to destroy them?
      That's not quite the case. My idea was that the entity is, in a way, traumatized by knowing too much about the worst aspects of humanity's history. And as such it is lashing out erratically at humans, but also wants to believe it is serving a greater, timeless cause. When it uses the Miracle Dread Power, it means that the target's personal timeline is being edited. The parts that are edited out become sustenance for the Horror, which it metabolizes for asexual reproduction. Its "offpsring" are those Temporal Anomalies, stillborn ghostly things meant to remind people of what could have been. When I said "undo chronological errors", I was referring to people's choices, not the Allies Merit. Basically, imagine the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come, a haunting presence whispering to you that you fucked up by choosing the easy way out of causality. I think I might include a Ban that forces the Horror to restore the Aspirations destroyed by its Miracle Dread Power, but I don't know what that Ban could be right now. I think it should involve some sort of investigation about the past, some sort of offering of lost knowledge.
      Last edited by GibberingEloquence; 05-12-2022, 04:12 PM.


      "I hope you will have a long and happy life, if only so you can realize how stupid and wrong you are."

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      • #4
        There is plenty to like about your writeup. The community poisoned by nostalgia just begs for more material to be explored in play. However, what my mind fixated on was: What if someone feels bad for The Bookburner Engine and feeds it a moment of triumph, instead?


        ~

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        • #5
          I love this. I almost want it to turn out to be the God-Machine's fetal form from earlier in it's own personal timeline in at least one game. Or maybe it's a massive horrific achronal thing that the GM fears as maybe even a potential rival. The GM works in facts and even when it breaks time it relies on complex chains of cause and effect. But this thing wants to break down cause and effect, no?

          That said, while I can imagine how an Erudite virtue might play out by encouraging it to shoot itself in the foot for the sake of making philosophical points and seeming smarter than you, I'm not sure what actions correspond to Vice: Empty. Any hints?
          Last edited by Master Aquatosic; 05-18-2022, 05:44 PM.


          A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
            I love this. I almost want it to turn out to be the God-Machine's fetal form from earlier in it's own personal timeline in at least one game. Or maybe it's a massive horrific achronal thing that the GM fears as maybe even a potential rival. The GM works in facts and even when it breaks time it relies on complex chains of cause and effect. But this thing wants to break down cause and effect, no?

            That said, while I can imagine how an Erudite virtue might play out by encouraging it to shoot itself in the foot for the sake of making philosophical points and seeming smarter than you, I'm not sure what actions correspond to Vice: Empty. Any hints?
            Sorry for the extreme delay, I was busy with college. The Vice of Empty is basically a mid-point between Sloth and Gluttony. The Horror is a cynical, hungry entity marked by an incapability to recognize the agency of individual humans. Its Emptiness manifests as a languid and mocking attitude, a lack of belief in anybody's ability to change even their own histories. The Horror regains Willpower from this Vice by enabling self-destructive nihilism to satisfy its own abnormal cravings, essentially.


            "I hope you will have a long and happy life, if only so you can realize how stupid and wrong you are."

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            • #7
              I wonder what would happen if they meet an Acanthus. Would it create a crisis of faith, a deep Obsession, perhaps abject hatred ? Literally encountering a person who objectively knows that free will is a building block of reality, can demonstrate it (Unveiling spells), analyze it (Knowing spells) and is endowed by the cosmos with an affinity for defying fate.

              This could possibly manifest as a very weird "familiar"/companion relationship where both try to figure out what kind of temporal shenanigans the other is. Perhaps a Making spell could create a temporal equivalent of Essence, which would probably have curious results.

              I imagine that if the Engine ever learns about mummies, especially about Apotheosis and Ascent, including how they have a real possibility of either, its going to fry its processors. A promethean achieving the New Dawn would probably intrigue it.

              Perhaps the Bookburner Engine's Ban could be related to it not being capable of making a perfect erasure of the timeline. Building on the idea of its spawns being ghosts of possibilities, why not make them Anchored to the items. In order to restore your history, you need to "resolve the anchors". That way it can "pass on" when the person accepts those mistakes and moves on, reintegrating their timeline (and Aspiration) with an act that breaks with the Engine's cynicism. The question then would be how to let the victim know about what was erased.

              Overall, I think this is a pretty cool character, doubly so since I really enjoy seeing new temporal anomalies players can encounter.
              Last edited by KaiserAfini; 06-23-2022, 12:19 AM.


              New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

              The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists (Mind/Time)
              The Szary Strażnik, an Obrimos Legacy whose invisible hands guide through the Glyphs of Fate (Fate/Prime)

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