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Swallowed By the Darkness: Shades

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  • Swallowed By the Darkness: Shades

    The woman with no nose,
    I know where she goes.
    The old guy with the gold eye,
    We go back, he and I.
    Don't smile.
    We don't do that here, baby.

    —The Magnetic Fields, "Love in the Shadows"


    The Darkness

    The Darkness exists everywhere. It's in every corner and attic and basement. It hides in alleyways and on rooftops. It also hides inside people. When a mugger threatens your life for your money, it's the Darkness that's taking your wallet. When the doctors say they'll have to amputate, that's the Darkness talking. Sometimes, rarely, the Darkness even takes on physical form, becoming a winding serpent of shadows or an obscured looming figure.

    The Darkness hungers and the Darkness takes.

    Those Who Lack

    Victims of the Darkness are called shades. The Darkness has taken part of them away, swallowed it up like candy or cough syrup, yum yum yum. And now they're missing a piece of themselves. That really sticks in a shade's craw. Most of them liked being whole.

    The Darkness takes all kinds of things from people. It might take a finger, or an eye, or a heart. It'll take one's moral center or ability to feel joy. It'll suck out your breath and drink your blood if you let it.

    The Darkness gives back, though, in its own way. Never in the way you want it to, but shades are not defenseless in the world of bad things. In their rat-infested tenements and bayou huts, many a shade is an expert in black magic, skulduggery, or unnecessary surgery.

    They have their price. You already know what it is.

    The woman on the train with an eyepatch who scowls at everyone who looks her way: maybe she's a shade. How about the man who works in your office whose smile never seems to make it to his ear-line? Perhaps. Anyone can be a victim of the Darkness. It's everywhere. It's right in the name of this very game, staring you in the face this entire time.


    Unbuilding a Shade

    To create a shade, once you've made a mortal character, you must come up with a Missing Piece. This is what the Darkness took from someone to make him or her into a shade. Missing Pieces can be literal: an arm or a leg. They can be more conceptual: a shade might be missing desire or friendship. They can be esoteric or occult: a shade can live without blood or kidneys, or the darkness has stolen the shade's very shadow (unlikely, but it could happen). Their are rumors that the Darkness will take a person's entire body in hunger, leaving behind an incorporeal spirit that can do nothing but stare at the world of solid flesh and seethe.

    The Missing Piece acts as a Persistent Condition attached to the shade. It comes with a drawback, certainly, but also brings with it some boon from the Darkness. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all. Again, sometimes this is literal, sometimes it is esoteric.

    Here are some examples of Missing Pieces, along with their drawback and boon:

    Blood: The shade has no blood. He appears pale and maybe a little corpse-like. He's lost some of his ability to impose himself on the world; subtract two dice from any roll that uses a Power Attribute. Having no blood means he can't bleed to death though. Exsanguination effects don't hurt him, and he only suffers a wound penalty when his entire Health Track is filled with damage.

    Eyes: The shade has no eyes. Something took them from her sockets. She suffers from the Blind Condition. The voids in her skull, though, can glimpse the unseen. She can detect the presence of ephemeral entities.

    Sight: The shade has eyes, but still can't see. She suffers from the Blind Condition. In exchange, her other senses are heightened, and she adds two dice to rolls of perception or discernment that rely on a non-visual sense.

    Anger: The shade doesn't get mad anymore. Well, that's not quite true. He can still feel petty stings, small jealousies that drive one to spiteful acts, but complete rage, the moral clarity of thymos, is lost to him. He can't spend Willpower on attack rolls. However, his anger can't be manipulated, since he has none. This can protect him from certain types of Social actions, as well as various emotional magics. Changelings can't harvest anger Glamour from him.

    Liver: The shade doesn't have a liver. It's gone now. Maybe he drank it away. Maybe the darkness crashed his car. He's still walking around fine though, but losing such a vital organ also meant losing a bit of his courage as well. The shade subtracts two dice from rolls made to resist fear effects. The Darkness replaces his liver with its all-consuming hunger, and he no longer suffers from the Poisoned or Drugged Tilts.

    Voice: The shade can't speak. She's completely mute. Good thing sign language is fairly common nowadays, but still, it can be a hassle. The inability to speak has imbued her with a jealous guard for secrets; she can't be affected by powers or moves that attempt to force her to reveal something she is keeping hidden.

    Bearing a Grudge

    Shades are full of pettiness and malice: the Darkness put it in their hearts (or where their heart used to be). They have an affinity for certain harmful magics known as Grudges. A shade begins play with one Grudge, and can buy more at the rate of 3 Experiences each.

    Grudges hurt people, plain and simple. They are often backbiting, subtle, and cold in nature. One Grudge might curse a victim with bad luck, another makes someone's words falter at just the right moment. A Grudge that damages someone wouldn't throw a bolt of lightning, but instead cause them to step on a nail or make someone drop something from a window the target is passing under.

    Grudges are fueled by Spite (see below). Against someone who has wronged the shade in some way, the roll to activate a Grudge enjoys a +3 bonus. What it means for someone to have wronged a shade is usually up to the individual shade, but it is usually something on the petty side. Some people wrong others just by existing.

    The dice pool for a Grudge is generally a Finesse Attribute + Occult, Larceny, or Subterfuge, but there are other possibilities.

    Cutting Off Your Nose

    For shades, Spite is a tangible force, an essential part of their nature and tie to the Darkness. By utilizing a point of Spite, the shade can do one of the following effects:
    • Activate a Grudge.
    • Ignore penalties from one source for a Scene.
    • Add one die to any roll.
    • Add three dice to a roll meant to harm someone who has wronged the shade.
    • Other things, possibly.
    Spite works differently from other traits. There's no Spite Track or the like on a shade's character sheet. Instead, a shade fills herself with Spite through internalizing self-negation. To use a point of Spite, it must be marked in one of the following places on the character sheet:
    • In a Health box currently filled with damage.
    • In a spent point of Willpower.
    • In a dot of Attribute or Skill the shade does not possess.
    • A harmful Condition or Tilt the shade is suffering from.
    Make a mark above the corresponding box or circle, a little black spot just for you. So long has a Health box is filled with Spite, the wound doesn't heal. A shade can't recover a point of Spiteful Willpower. For every point of Spite occupying an Attribute or Skill, the shade suffers a -1 penalty on rolls that use the Trait. A Spited Condition or Tilt doesn't resolve or generate Beats.

    Every 24 hours, a point of Spite dissipates (player's choice).
    Last edited by espritdecalmar; 03-21-2016, 07:18 PM.

  • #2
    First off, let me just say that this is an interesting idea you have here. Mind if I ask what these guys are? They have a sort of Wraith vibe to them.


    "My Homebrew Hub"
    Age of Azar
    The Kingdom of Yamatai

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    • #3
      Ah, thank you. I didn't have any single inspiration in mind when I was writing them. There's a little bit of Wraith in there, yes. A little bit of Vampire too. I may have also been thinking of the Clockstoppers (from Genius). There's the shades of the Underworld in The Odyssey. The Shades of Stygia from Mage, as well. Folktales about the undead from around the globe, really. Urban legends about shadow people. Problematic narratives about people with disabilities. Banette. I think the first drop of inspiration probably came years ago when I read "The Shadow, The Darkness" by Thomas Ligotti.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by espritdecalmar View Post
        Ah, thank you. I didn't have any single inspiration in mind when I was writing them. There's a little bit of Wraith in there, yes. A little bit of Vampire too. I may have also been thinking of the Clockstoppers (from Genius). There's the shades of the Underworld in The Odyssey. The Shades of Stygia from Mage, as well. Folktales about the undead from around the globe, really. Urban legends about shadow people. Problematic narratives about people with disabilities. Banette. I think the first drop of inspiration probably came years ago when I read "The Shadow, The Darkness" by Thomas Ligotti.
        Those are all fitting, and I got a Deviant vibe from them too. They also reminded of the Preta from Indian religions (which are used in the Inferno) and Tantalus from Greek Mythology.


        Let Him Speak.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by espritdecalmar View Post
          Ah, thank you. I didn't have any single inspiration in mind when I was writing them. There's a little bit of Wraith in there, yes. A little bit of Vampire too. I may have also been thinking of the Clockstoppers (from Genius). There's the shades of the Underworld in The Odyssey. The Shades of Stygia from Mage, as well. Folktales about the undead from around the globe, really. Urban legends about shadow people. Problematic narratives about people with disabilities. Banette. I think the first drop of inspiration probably came years ago when I read "The Shadow, The Darkness" by Thomas Ligotti.
          Duly noted. Hmm. You ever consider adding in a section for how to integrate these Shades into a Chronicles of Darkness campaign?


          "My Homebrew Hub"
          Age of Azar
          The Kingdom of Yamatai

          Comment


          • #6
            This is great. The way the Darkness takes from the victim and gives something in return kind of reminds me of the Truth from Full Metal Alchemist. Spite is a really cool mechanic and I'd love to see some example Grudges.

            Comment


            • #7
              Utterly beautiful.
              You should read the fansplat "Surrogate" - shades and surrogates seems to complement each other perfectly.

              http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...-void-fansplat

              Some thoughts.

              I would clean a little bit this list:

              Originally posted by espritdecalmar View Post
              [COLOR=#000000]
              • Activate a Grudge.
              • Ignore penalties from one source for a Scene.
              • Add one die to any roll.
              • Add three dice to a roll meant to harm someone who has wronged the shade.
              • Other things, possibly.
              to this :
              • Activate a Grudge.
              • Ignore penalties from one source for a Scene.
              • Add three dice to a roll meant to harm someone or something.
              • Other things, possibly.
              By removing "add one dice to any roll" you focus the concept; by removing the "who has wronged the Shade" you give them the possibility to accomplish even more pettiness.

              The guy who did not asked you out? His condoms deserves to meet Mr. Pin.
              If the random passerby were to slip and fall - oh, what laughs!
              And, for certain, no one should win the Science Fair prize but YOU.

              Make sure to specify "harm" broadly. A shadow should get bonuses to stick pins in someone's eyes, but also to hack their Facebook account in order to post pornography,
              mess with their medicines, break into their house to shred the notes for their PhD thesis.
              Last edited by Baroqo; 03-22-2016, 01:31 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Deionscribe View Post

                Duly noted. Hmm. You ever consider adding in a section for how to integrate these Shades into a Chronicles of Darkness campaign?
                I'm sure I could think of something.

                Originally posted by Xenorath

                This is great. The way the Darkness takes from the victim and gives something in return kind of reminds me of the Truth from Full Metal Alchemist. Spite is a really cool mechanic and I'd love to see some example Grudges.
                Thank you. I have a couple in mind. I'll write them up soon.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Baroqo View Post
                  Utterly beautiful.
                  You should read the fansplat "Surrogate" - shades and surrogates seems to complement each other perfectly.

                  http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...-void-fansplat

                  Some thoughts.

                  I would clean a little bit this list:



                  to this :
                  • Activate a Grudge.
                  • Ignore penalties from one source for a Scene.
                  • Add three dice to a roll meant to harm someone or something.
                  • Other things, possibly.
                  By removing "add one dice to any roll" you focus the concept; by removing the "who has wronged the Shade" you give them the possibility to accomplish even more pettiness.

                  The guy who did not asked you out? His condoms deserves to meet Mr. Pin.
                  If the random passerby were to slip and fall - oh, what laughs!
                  And, for certain, no one should win the Science Fair prize but YOU.

                  Make sure to specify "harm" broadly. A shadow should get bonuses to stick pins in someone's eyes, but also to hack their Facebook account in order to post pornography,
                  mess with their medicines, break into their house to shred the notes for their PhD thesis.
                  Thank you. And that's a good idea. I'll change it up. I recall checking out Surrogate once a while back, but don't remember much about it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I quite like the flavour of this, but part of me is wondering... see, the way I like the Chronicles of Darkness is that the darkness in people's hearts is just a natural part of humanity. That's what makes it so scary. The mugger that takes your wallet is doing it because he wants to, not because there's a supernatural force that hungers within him. We could all be that mugger, and that's why the descent into darkness story is so compelling.

                    That said, I do very much like the idea that the world has a way of rewarding the dark parts of the human soul with supernatural parts.

                    Perhaps the Darkness is simply a part of the human soul? And for most people, it simply lays dormant, perhaps reacting with sweet oblivion when the mortal witnesses something that Should Not Be. But for some people (the Shades), the Darkness grows into something with Power.

                    I dunno, simply spitballing because I quite like what you've done here.


                    My homebrew hub.

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                    • #11
                      It's possible. I wanted to leave the Darkness abstract/ambiguous, so players and Storytellers could come up with whatever worked best for them. I'm glad you like it.

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                      • #12
                        I imagine it'd adapt well to stories involving the Lower Depths.

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