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The Memorial Key

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  • The Memorial Key

    The Memorial Key
    The Memorial Key taps into the power of memory: this is the power to force others to remember, the ability to read minds, and the capacity to shut down reflexes.

    In a sense, we are our memories. We remember the dead - whether a tombstone or a pyramid, a burnt offering or an eternal flame. By some accounts, the tormented existence of ghosts is just such a testament, however perverted. Some applications of this key generate false memories, but many of the more fearsome applications are fueled by the truth. The rumor of this key’s usage is often as frightening as the key itself because it is almost invariably subtle in its execution. Sin-Eaters who invoke the Memorial Key tend to have brief - but disturbing - insights into events that never happened to them.

    The Memorial Boneyard
    Skill: Academics
    The Memorial Boneyard draws its power from history. If the Sin-Eater unlocks the Memorial Boneyard while touching a public landmark, or a place where a major personal event took place for him (such as the church where he had his wedding or the hospital room where he made the Bargain), he may add his Academics rating to the activation successes for purposes of determining the maximum area. People entering the boneyard feel awash in their nostalgia and regrets, even if they are not normally inclined to either.

    Memorial Boneyard **: The history of the boneyard reveals itself to the Sin-Eater. While the Memorial Boneyard is active, he has the Encyclopedic Knowledge merit, but only regarding people, places, things, and events significant to the area of the boneyard itself. Additionally, he can spend 1 plasm to add his activation successes to any Investigation rolls while within the Boneyard.

    Memorial Boneyard ***: The Sin-Eater can spend 1 plasm to draw attention to a person, place, thing or event within the Boneyard (the “focus”). Those standing in the focus’ presence automatically notice it. Anybody outside its presence feels a subconscious tugging, or a gut feeling, drawing them to the focus: they gain the benefit of the Direction Sense merit, but only for finding the focus.

    Once somebody is in the presence of the focus, the Sin-Eater can spend 1 plasm and 1 Willpower to force the viewer to maintain his attention on it. The Sin-Eater must roll (Presence + Academics + activation successes, resisted by the viewer’s Resolve + Composure + Psyche). If multiple people are viewing, the Sin-Eater can affect more than one at a time by spending 1 plasm per additional subject; in which case, the power is resisted by the highest dice pool amongst the group. On a success, the viewer is enraptured by the focus. The shift in attention is subtle, but only force or the threat of violence can divert the viewer’s attention before the scene ends.

    Memorial Boneyard ****: The Sin-Eater can spend 1 plasm and roll Wits + Academics + Activation Successes to inspire an idea in the mind of a person present in the boneyard. This idea must relate somehow to the history of the boneyard. Ideas might be, “I get the feeling we should dig here,” “I wonder what’s in that box,” or even, “what if ghosts are real?” Targets are not automatically aware that the idea isn’t self-generated; it feels like a “eureka” moment, a gut feeling, or a hunch. A successful Wits + Composure + Psyche roll that garners more successes than the Sin-Eater reveals that the thought feels “alien”, but nothing else.

    Memorial Boneyard *****: Sometimes called “the déjà vu effect”, this is the power to recreate the past. The Sin-Eater first looks for an ongoing event that bears at least a passing resemblance to an event he has seen or extensively studied in the Boneyard. The Sin-Eater spends 3 plasm and 1 Willpower, then makes a Manipulation + Academics + Activation Successes roll. On success, the event plays itself out as closely as possible to the past. Any rolls to resist this fate receive a penalty equal to the activation successes. This power can be used only once per unlocking.
    Suggested Modifiers: At least one of the “actors” previously participated in the event the Sin-Eater wishes to bring about (+1); the Sin-Eater himself will participate in the recreation (+1)

    For example, suppose an intersection once had a nasty four way pile-up. The Sin-Eater watches for four cars to approach that same intersection. He makes his roll and gets 3 successes. If he succeeds, the cars risk collision (if they did not already). The drivers take a -3 penalty on their rolls to avoid collision.

    The Memorial Caul
    Skill: Expression
    The Memorial Caul enables the Sin-Eater to control his body’s muscles, reflexes, and condition. Some Sin-Eaters describe it as the geist taking over, although Sin-Eaters of higher synergy describe it as a more perfect symbiosis than what their normal relationship allows. While this manifestation is unlocked, the Sin-Eater occasionally displays unfamiliar habits; perhaps they once belonged to the Sin-Eater’s geist during its own mortality. Whatever the case, the Sin-Eater’s reflexes respond more rapidly. While the Memorial Caul is active, the Sin-Eater is hyper-aware of his own body’s every movement: the faintest twitch of a finger; the beating of his heart; the batting of his eyelids. The Sin-Eater benefits from the 9-again rule on all Wits-based rolls.

    Memorial Caul **: With this power, the Sin-Eater’s body recalls a mundane sensation, stimulus, or state of being that the Sin-Eater experienced in the past 24 hours. Most Sin-Eaters use this power for confusion, disguise, or survival. However, some become addicted to the power and use it to experience sensations “on demand”.

    To use this power, the Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm as an instant action, then rolls Composure + Psyche + Activation Successes. If successful, the effects last for a scene, but can be ended prematurely by spending another point of plasm. Counter-stimuli can also undo the effect (for example, a Sin-Eater who calms himself can be panicked again).
    Examples: Inebriation, sobriety, calm, warmth, coldness, exhaustion, wakefulness, arousal, drugged, panic.

    Memorial Caul ***: The Sin-Eater’s reflexes continue to improve. Whenever the Sin-Eater has the Memorial Caul active, he now always uses his Wits to determine his defense, even if it is higher than his Dexterity. Also, he can apply his defense against firearms at range.

    Memorial Caul ****: Sometimes a task does not require skill, but it does require attention. By spending 1 plasm as a reflexive action, the Sin-Eater can perform two instant actions simultaneously and without penalty. At least one of these actions must be a physical action which the character is familiar with performing. In the case of extended actions, the Sin-Eater must spend 1 plasm for every roll that he wants to benefit from this rule.

    Examples: Driving and reading; firing a gun while hacking a computer

    Memorial Caul *****: The Sin-Eater can spend 1 plasm and 1 Willpower as a reflexive action to program his body with a rote action to commence if he falls asleep before the beginning of another scene. The program must be set when this manifestation is unlocked. The programming runs until the task is completed or an hour has gone by; at that point, the Sin-Eater can reflexively spend another plasm point to continue the task. This action must be something simple which he is familiar with performing. For example, a Sin-Eater who intends to pass out drunk at a bar could program his body to “go home and rest”. When he passes out, his body takes over, walks to his car, and drives home, where he goes to bed. Once the programming takes over, the Sin-Eater has a zombie-like personality. If forced to engage someone in dialogue, his conversations are brief and unimaginative. He will not remember anything that happens during this time. Interrupting the Sin-Eater’s somnambulation is dangerous. If interrupted, the Sin-Eater must immediately roll Resolve + Stamina. On a failure, he falls to the ground, asleep, even if doing something dangerous; he just cannot keep his body awake. If successful, the Sin-Eater remains awake a number of turns equal to his successes before passing out.

    The Memorial Curse
    Skill: Socialize
    The Sin-Eater causes others to misremember the victim, focus on their worst memories of him, and invent dreadful memories or correlations. The victim reminds people of their worst memories of him, or they associate him with bad memories. The victim gets a penalty to all Presence-based rolls equal to the Sin-Eater’s activation successes.

    Memorial Curse **: Suspicion mounts against the victim. People now get a bonus equal to the activation successes to notice, memorize, and remember anything negative or suspicious about the victim. The bonus becomes a penalty for anything positive or redeeming.

    Memorial Curse ***: By spending 1 plasm, the Sin-Eater causes reality itself to remember the victim a little differently. His restaurant reservations are now for a different day. Bill collectors call him for debts he already paid. Nobody remembers his name right and can’t keep it straight even when he reminds them. Something always goes wrong when he tries pulling up records about himself. The list of daily frustrations continues mounting.

    Memorial Curse ****: By spending 1 plasm and succeeding on a roll of Manipulation + Socialize + Activation Successes, the Sin-Eater crafts a memory to be associated with the victim. For example, people might think he’s a deadbeat, abusive, or naïve. This effect ends once somebody takes direct action on the memory. If people think he’s a deadbeat, the curse would end if a restaurant manager threw him out of the restaurant because “he doesn’t pay for his meals.” The association also ends if the curse runs its course, but, either way, people still recall the way they felt, even if they do not understand why they felt that way.

    Memorial Curse *****: The ultimate power of the memorial curse forces the victim to confront a painful memory. The Sin-Eater spends 3 plasm and rolls Manipulation + Socialize + Activation Successes. The memory tends to strike at the worst possible time. For example, a news reporter digs up a local luminary’s past as a pimp… just in time for an election. The entire curse ends after the confrontation’s climax.

    The Memorial Marionette
    Skill: Athletics
    Most people would be shocked to learn how much of their life consists of rote tasks they have trained their body to manage while their mind is busy with more important tasks. With the Memorial Marionette, the Sin-Eater breaks the connection between the victim’s mind and body. At higher levels, he can even rewrite the victim’s involuntary reflexes. In some ways, this is the ultimate betrayal of the body, as the victim feels trapped and alone in their own head.

    Memorial Marionette *: The basic power of the Memorial Marionette breaks the signal between the victim’s body and mind. The victim takes a penalty to all Wits-based dice pools equal to the Sin-Eater’s activation successes.

    Memorial Marionette **: The Sin-Eater forces one of the target’s reflexes to activate. The Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm and rolls (Manipulation + Athletics + Activation successes resisted by Composure + Psyche). If successful, the target immediately takes one action chosen by the Sin-Eater. Examples: Kicking, squeezing a trigger, screaming.

    Memorial Marionette ***: The Sin-Eater can now sever the connection that enables a person to perform basic rote action. The Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm and rolls Manipulation + Athletics + Activation Successes. On a success, the victim can no longer treat normal daily functions as rote. If he tries driving, he must focus entirely on the road and may need to roll a check to switch lanes while looking behind him. When he types, he must look at the keyboard. He cannot walk and play a video game simultaneously.

    Memorial Marionette ****: As ***, but by spending an additional point of plasm, the Sin-Eater can instead shut down one of the victim’s reflexes entirely. The victim might become unable to walk, incontinent, or unable to react to pain. The effect lasts a number of rounds equal to the power’s successes. Powerful Celebrants sometimes use this manifestation to give people a greater appreciation for the little things in life.

    Memorial Marionette *****: As ***, but the Sin-Eater can now reprogram one of his victim’s reflexes. Using this power costs a total of 3 plasm. The effect lasts for a number of triggering events equal to the successes rolled. Successive uses are not cumulative.

    Examples: Laughing in reaction to pain. Slapping someone when kissed (assuming the affection was desired). Freezing in place in reaction to a loud noise.

    The Memorial Oracle
    Skill: Investigation

    We are secure in our own minds. Our memories are inviolate. These are lies to a Sin-Eater possessing the Memorial Oracle. For the duration of the scene, the Sin-Eater becomes aware of everything he sees in perfect detail. Unless something requires a Perception roll to see, he is assumed to notice it, and gains the benefit of Eidetic Memory. For example, if he looked at a painting, however briefly, he could sketch it out in perfect detail (assuming he has the requisite skill and time before the scene ends). Additionally, the Sin-Eater adds his activation successes to any rolls regarding history. Some Sin-Eaters are wary about using these powers against other Sin-Eaters, due to reports of accidentally delving into the geist’s mind instead.

    Memorial Oracle **: By spending 1 plasm, the Sin-Eater forges an intuitive link with the target, constantly reading his surface thoughts. With some practice, he might even be able to begin the target’s next sentence before the target finishes the current one. Because of this powerful intuition, he gains the 9-again rule for most direct actions he takes against the target, including contested actions.

    Memorial Oracle ***: As long as the Sin-Eater focuses on the target, he can read their thoughts. To establish the link, the Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm and rolls (Intelligence + Investigation + Activation Successes resisted by Resolve + Psyche). This level, and the two that follow it, require the Sin-Eater to stare intently at the target. While focusing, he can maintain conversation and do routine tasks, but little else. He suffers a -3 to all perception rolls and his defense is halved.

    Memorial Oracle ****: Once the mental link is established with level ***, the Sin-Eater can search the target’s memories by spending another point of plasm. He must specify what he is looking for: “the place he stashed Victor’s body” works, as does “the security code for your office”, but “your darkest secret” or “your password” usually does not.

    Memorial Oracle *****: The Sin-Eater can now project his thoughts into the target’s mind. The listener hears the Sin-Eater’s voice, but the voice is overlapped with that of the Sin-Eater’s geist. This is especially disturbing if the geist does not actually have a voice. In such cases, the geist’s “voice” may manifest as intense hunger pangs, a sense of longing, or a muffling of all ambient noise.

    The Memorial Rage
    Skill: Academics

    The Memorial Rage obliterates memories. If its victims feel like they’re going mad, that’s probably because they are. Its execution is as subtle as it is disturbing, leaving no signs of its activation. People “slain” with the Memorial Rage do not die, as such. They are rendered permanent vegetables or comatose.

    Memorial Rage **: The victim cannot benefit from the 10-again rule on Mental skills until the end of the scene.

    Memorial Rage ***: Instead of taking damage, the victim suffers minor retrograde amnesia. He forgets a number of previous rounds equal to this power’s activation successes.

    Memorial Rage ****: Instead of taking damage, the victim is stupefied for a number of rounds equal to this power's activation successes. Any Mental skill rolls during that time are reduced to a chance die (the victim may spend Willpower as usual).

    Memorial Rage *****: If the victim does not die, he immediately suffers the effects of a mild derangement of the Sin-Eater’s choosing.

    The Memorial Shroud
    Skill: Socialize

    Memories are fallible. People can be firmly convinced of remarkable falsehoods. Sin-Eaters with the Memorial Shroud just choose which falsehoods they recall. People interacting with the Sin-Eater immediately recall their best memories of him. In the case of strangers, he reminds them of someone they like. The Sin-Eater adds his activation successes to all Presence-based rolls.

    Memorial Shroud **: Anybody can make a social faux pas. A Sin-Eater with this power cannot undo it, but he can make others forget he made it. If the Sin-Eater says or does something he regrets or just does not want others to recall, he may reflexively spend 1 plasm to attempt to make any observers forget it. The observer rolls Intelligence + Composure. If he gets more successes than the Sin-Eater’s activation successes, he recalls what the Sin-Eater did. Otherwise, he forgets what the Sin-Eater just did. If there are multiple observers, the observer with the highest dice pool rolls for the group.

    This power does not literally take back an action or make people forget on an ongoing basis. A Sin-Eater who walks through a crowded living room naked cannot use this power to make people just not notice his nudity… but he could use the power, immediately step back out of the room, and make people forget what they just saw.

    Memorial Shroud ***: The Sin-Eater touches his target and “reminds” him of a memory they share. The Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm and rolls (Resolve + Socialize + Activation Successes resisted by Wits + Composure). If the Sin-Eater succeeds, the target “remembers” the Sin-Eater. The memory is always casual: “we met at your brother’s wedding, remember?”, but not “we buried a body last week” (unless, of course, that’s just business as usual).

    Memorial Shroud ****: By temporarily rewriting his own mind, the Sin-Eater can change his personality or become a convincing liar. By spending 1 plasm and 1 Willpower, the Sin-Eater can (for example)…
    • Suppress a memory
    • Convince himself of a false memory
    • Suppress a derangement caused by the past

    Memorial Shroud *****: The Sin-Eater no longer needs to touch somebody to use *** of this power. So long as he gets the target’s attention, he can use the power from a distance by spending an additional point of plasm.

    The Memorial Pit
    Skill: Academics

    The Sin-Eater causes the victim to forget vast amounts of information. He suffers the dice penalty to his Intelligence as well as his Composure.

    Memorial Pit **: Memories can be troublesome things. With this power, the Sin-Eater literally deletes a memory from the victim’s mind. To use this power effectively, the Sin-Eater must either be familiar with the memory, have had it described in detail to him, or have some other way of obtaining it (such as with certain supernatural powers). The memory must be specific, such as a telephone number, a name, or a discreet event (attending a concert, for example). Once the Sin-Eater defines the memory in question, he rolls Composure + Academics + Activation Successes. If he succeeds, he excises the memory. The effects of this power last for a scene, unless the Sin-Eater spends a dot of willpower to make the memory loss permanent. Memories permanently lost can only be regained by learning them again. While the memory is gone, the victim feels a powerful longing for something they cannot recall. This might lead them to investigate the gap in their memory.

    Memorial Pit ***: The victim becomes detached from his own memories. They feel as if they belong to somebody else and are just incidentally bouncing around in his head. He no longer care about family, friends, coworkers, his favorite hobbies, important exams, court dates, or anything else (although new stimuli are fair game). If forced to deal with anything related to his memories, he must roll his Resolve to summon the interest. On failure, he actively avoids the stimulus, either out of frustration or disinterest.

    Memorial Pit ****: The Sin-Eater spends 1 plasm and rolls (Composure + Academics + Activation Successes resisted by Resolve + Psyche). On success, the victim becomes unable to retain new information. He can study all he wants or have somebody repeat their name again and again, but it does not stick. To retain any new information, the victim must make a memorization roll with a penalty equal to the activation successes.

    Memorial Pit *****: The ultimate obliteration of self, this power robs the victim of his very identity by temporarily suppressing all of his memories for a scene. The Sin-Eater spends 2 plasm and rolls (Composure + Academics + Activation Successes resisted by Resolve + Psyche). On success, the victim forgets who he is. He retains his abilities and powers, but may be unaware he possesses them until he needs to call on them.

    Designer Notes
    The Memorial Key is a project I worked out several years ago. this is a repost.

    Designing the key was a fun challenge because I had to figure out how each of the Manifestations would be different. In some cases, this was not immediately intuitive. However, I am happy with how it all finally turned out.

    If you have any questions or want elaboration, please let me know.

  • #2
    I'm not a good mechanical judge, but these are atmospherically delicious.


    • #3
      That's the fun of Geist mechanics: many of them aren't balanced in any practical sense. My favorite example is how some Boneyards let you snipe people with no threat of retaliation. The trick is to make these powerful abilities interesting, because it's really easy to accidentally write generic geist powers.

      For an example of how to make this work, even raw: the Memorial Rage. Sure, it's mostly straight damage - but there's the chance of a derangement, and it's the way the Rage manifests which matters.

      If you can't envision a Geist's power doing something more than the mechanical effects, then it's time to go back to the drawing board.

      Also: keep in mind is the plasm costs, which are difficult to reverse-engineer.


      • #4
        Originally posted by SunlessNick View Post
        I'm not a good mechanical judge, but these are atmospherically delicious.
        That's all that really matters in this game line. That's why I love it.


        • #5
          How would a Sin-Eater gain this Key though? I can't see how it could be related to their death.


          • #6
            Originally posted by ajf115 View Post
            How would a Sin-Eater gain this Key though? I can't see how it could be related to their death.
            It'd likely need to be learned through the underworld in some way, or, if the Krewe were big enough and influential enough, they could develop it themselves.


            • #7
              Ok, so it probably wouldn't be something you could have at the beginning of the game. I'm considering having an antagonist Geist with this Key in a game I'm going to be running soon, because he's based off of the idea that the Sin-Eaters sacrifice so much for humanity and so should be remembered for it. He's based off of the antagonist from the anime Code: Breaker. I had actually come up with the character before I came across this thread and it was just perfect.


              • #8
                Let me know how the Memorial Key works out for you. I'd love a play report.

                Typically the Memorial Key is acquired in one of two ways.
                A) The person's manner of death is a personal statement (think of the monk who burned himself to death to protest the war in Vietnam);
                B) A Sin-Eater exploits a manifestation of memories. You might pick it up by performing a ritual at the scene of the JFK assassination or by sacrificing something important to the River of Lethe.

                The Memorial Key should be differentiated from a theoretical Key I call the Enraptured Key. The Enraptured Key triggers off of deaths that are bigger than individuals, where a single person's death is just part of a statistic. You'll often see the Enraptured Key appear from survivors of major events, like tsunamis, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks. Its Manifestations tend to be powerful, but blunt and uncontrolled.