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A Shaman's Toolkit - Merits and Items for dealing with ephemeral beings (Homebrew)

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  • A Shaman's Toolkit - Merits and Items for dealing with ephemeral beings (Homebrew)

    So, lately, I've had an itch to write and the thing that has me hooked is writing a bunch of Shadow-related things; a Shaman's toolkit, as it were. Some of this is new, some of this is updates of things found elsewhere. A lot of it can be assumed to have ghost- or goetia-related equivalents without me needing to rewrite entirely.

    Everyone good? Good.


    Touched by the Gods - Shadow-related Merits

    What is a place that is not a place? Somewhere that is here yet is not? The Shadow is so easily thought of in the minds of mortals as another world; another place like this one, viewed through a glass darkly. Yet it is not. The Shadow and its inhabitants are here, all around us; they make their marks on us as surely as we on them, each only dimly aware of the existence of the other save for a few rare, powerful individuals who can pierce the barrier and slide their perceptions along the dimensional axis. If only ignorance were a ward against influence.

    These merits represent the effects of the Shadow's touch; of what happens when a person's body and soul begin to resonate with the Other more and more, open to its beauty and terror.

    Voice of the Dark Waters (●)
    Prerequisite: Spirit , Summoner's Soul (Shadow)

    The character's soul resonates with the spirits of the Shadow; so much so that some of the longest echoes of that strange place now resound within them as well. The character understands the strange, sibilant tongue of spirits on instinct alone and may, in turn, speak it just as easily. The character's natural intuition for spirit socialization also prevents any penalties from attempts to persuade, cajole, or threaten the spirit that may arise from their alien nature; the character simply knows what is most likely to get a reaction. Spirits (and werewolves) are often so surprised by this that they may be willing to hear out why the sorcerer is in their territory before trying to dine upon them.

    Thyrsus manifest this gift more frequently than any other Mage, for obvious reasons, and many possess it without even knowing it; simply expecting that other Mages can understand it in the way they do High Speech. Thyrsus with this uncanny talent frequently become their Consilium's emissary to the Shadow, with the role and gift sharing the same name for how commonly they go together.

    Summoning Circle (● to ●●●)
    Prerequisite: Sanctum +

    Through study, experimentation, meditation, pacts, bargains, or other means, the Mage has produced for themselves a dedicated summoning circle. This circle may be anything from an elaborate chalk diagram whose points are demarcated by candles to a simple rough-hewn circle carved into a rocky plateau; the result is ultimately an expression of the character's understanding of the flow of essence in the world and how their magic connects to it, meaning that no character can simply copy another's summoning circle to use as their own (though they may study it for inspiraiton).

    The Summoning Circle merit adds its dots to the dice bonus provided by an Environment Yantra drawn from a particular summoning circle within the character's Sanctum. That is, the Yantra is +2 at one dot, +4 at three dots. This bonus only applies to spells made to summon, bind, banish, abjure, exorcise, or otherwise affect spirits or the Gauntlet within the circle itself. The character could not, say, benefit from the bonus of a circle in the cave beneath their house to bind a spirit to the TV in their living room, nor to command a spirit once summoned into the circle then to go and steal the Hope Diamond.

    Drawback: Summoning circles tend to be strange and haunted places. Lower the Gauntlet around them by their dot rating, to a minimum of 1, whether the Mage wants it or not.

    Vibrant Aura (● to ●●)

    The character is... Different. Maybe they're a natural weak point in the Gauntlet; maybe their emotions produce a stronger resonance than most; maybe their soul is infected with ephemera; maybe they simply have something about them that is simply spirit-like. Whatever it is, spirits feel it and are intrigued by it. For Mages, this vibrancy often manifests in their Nimbuses in some way; flarings causing shadows to dance or objects to tremble as the spirits within them start to stir.

    Characters with a Vibrant Aura add their merit dots to all Persuasion and Socialize rolls with spirits.

    Drawback: The attraction spirits feel towards a character with this merit doesn't mean they will be nice, any more than a human character will towards someone with Striking Looks. This merit may make a torture spirit less likely to kill a character outright on their first meeting, but only so they can drag them back to their lair to properly make use of their new favoured victim.

    In addition, the aura the character possesses makes them easier for spirits to find. Add the character's merit dots as bonus dice to all rolls by spirits trying to track them.


    Natural Magic - Magic Items for the Aspiring Shaman

    Not all magic in this world is Supernal in origin (or, at least, direct origin, if one wishes to dicker about theory); there are occult energies and alien powers which flow through this world and manifest in strange, curious ways. Sometimes, these things happen by accident, manifesting as cursed and blessed objects the world over; the relics of saints and the tools of heroes. Others are made by purpose, following ancient traditions or modern designs to achieve a particular end. Many are a mixture of both; purposing the former for the use of the latter.

    These items are intended to be simple trinkets; objects that might grant a mortal significant power but fall into the category of "merely" useful to a Mage, especially one with a few dots in Spirit. Still, their effects are valuable and frequently persistent, making them more reliable and less taxing than casting spells, and able to be used openly around Sleepers (so long as the character isn't too concerned about the Veil, as many exorcists do not have the luxury to be).

    Each item is listed as an iconic example it takes, but each is intended to be an archetype and has listed alternate forms that represent other cultural manifestations with identical properties.

    Icon of St. Bruno
    Dice Bonus: +2, Durability 0, Size 1, Structure 1, Availability ●●●

    This icon of Saint Bruno, patron saint of those possessed, stings the hand when one touches it and leaves stains on anything it contacts, as if it has been dipped in some sort of weak acid. The colours of the icon itself are faded, and the paper is thin, flimsy, and prone to tearing; most icons such as these have been repaired with tape two or three times. Still, many an exorcist would kill for such an object: These enchanted icons add their equipment bonus to any rolls to abjure or exorcise a spirit. If used as a sacrament - usually requiring the burning of the object and sprinkling the ashes on the victim - the item acts as +3 Yantra to any spell to exorcise or banish a spirit.

    Alternate forms: Taoist prayer scrolls; idols in the likeness of healing gods; the bones of a saint; the dedicated tool of a Thyrsus exorcist used for seventy-seven exorcisms; water from a sacred stream.

    Fragment of the Old Law
    Dice Bonus: N/A, Durability 1, Size 1, Structure 2, Availability ●●●●

    The archetypal shaman's amulet, Fragments of the Old Law represent ancient pacts between the spirits and Man, passed between mentors and students for thousands of years. Though the meaning of the components is long forgotten, each follows roughly a similar pattern: A shard from a broken clay pot (and, yes, it must be clay, and it must be from a pot; a simple piece of clay shaped for the purpose will not do) into which is inscribed a series of symbols, the meaning of which is lost to time. The clay then has the reverse side coated with honey and pitch, into which is pressed a bit of hair from the shaman and a symbolic representation of the choir of spirits the amulet is being made for. The whole assemblage is then typically bound in string or twine to be worn around the neck, but that part isn't necessary; so long as it is on the shaman's person somewhere, its protection applies.

    So long as someone wears the amulet - and it can be anyone, not merely the person whose hair was used to make it - they gain the benefits of the Spirit Warden merit (see Dark Eras, pg 50) with regards to the Choir of spirits associated with whatever material was used to make it.

    Alternate forms: Phylactery containing an antique scroll bearing the secret name of one of the greater planetary spirits; an ancient stone tablet bearing the signature of a powerful spirit; a gold ring etched with the names of ninety-nine saints who banished nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine spirits.

    Guardian Fetish
    Dice Bonus: +2, Durability 3, Size 3, Structure 6, Availability ●●

    Guardian fetishes are found around the world in one form or another: Stone carvings in the likeness of scowling or demonic figure, meant to keep away evil spirits. While their potency may be somewhat exaggerated, their reputation is not without merit. Properly carved, anointed, and placed, guardian fetishes can do a good deal to keep malicious entities from the Shadow at bay.

    A single guardian fetish applies its dice bonus as a penalty to all actions taken by a spirit within an area approximately ten meters in radius. A set of them may be integrated into a Safe Place, applying the merit's rating dots as a penalty instead, if greater.

    Notably, this penalty does not apply to any spirits the one who created or placed the fetishes invites into the area, meaning summoned entities are unaffected by the fetishes. Importantly, this exemption still applies if the entity decides to become hostile after being summoned, meaning summoning is still a risky business. If an entity is summoned and leaves the area, and later tries to return, the effect resumes.

    Alternate forms: European gargoyles; wooden idols inlaid with precious stones; runestones; sacred knots carved into boulders.

    Secret Hierarchy of Names
    Dice Bonus: +3, Durability 0, Size 2, Structure 2, Availability N/A

    La Hierarchie Secrete des Noms - The Secret Hierarchy of Names - is a 17th century French grimoire which contains the rote for Spirit Summons. Were this its only feature, it would be an otherwise unremarkable text, relegated to some Athenaeum's library and largely forgotten except as bait to tempt a newly Awakened Thyrsus.

    However, the Secret Hierarchy is a truly staggering census of the Shadow. By consulting it, a student gains its equipment bonus on any roll to identify a given spirit's nature, ban, or bane. Likewise, by studying it beforehand, the character may apply its bonus to social rolls with a given spirit by playing to its nature.

    More impressive than even this, however, are the secret names. Each secret name is an inscription in First Tongue; the sympathetic names of powerful and fearsome spirits. The inscriptions in the pages were penned by the spirits themselves, largely begrudgingly, and thus bear sympathy still to these beings; sympathy that may be borrowed for use in summonings by a sufficiently skilled and powerful shaman. Of course, many of the names no longer work - the entities that made the signatures are either dead or too powerful to be affected - but those that do bring forth truly terrifyingly potent beings. A shaman who dares to summon one should best be on their toes.

    Raven's Blessing
    Dice Bonus: +2, Durability 0, Size 1, Structure 1, Availability

    It is a matter of some scholarly debate whether this particular oddment's name refers to simply the bird or the trickster god. Each is a necklace made of woven strands, over which is wrapped a square of black cloth such that two points hang down and are stitched with three raven feathers. The square is stuffed with tobacco before being stitched closed and carries the aroma of the dried herb for weeks before ceasing to make any smell or sound.

    Anyone who wears one of these amulets gains a +2 on contested rolls to hide from spirits (or inflict a -2 on uncontested rolls). This bonus is inflicted as a penalty, too, on any roll a spirit makes to strengthen a Resonant Condition the character carries.

    Alternate forms: Boots taken from a dead man; censer stuffed with lavender; garlic oil rubbed over every bit of exposed skin on the character.


    Alright, that's all for now. Enjoy!

  • #2
    Hmm. I'm wondering if there would be call from some contractual, automated "Service for Essence" device or enchantment. Maybe something using Fate, the Spirit spell that creates Essence from Mana, and anything else appropriate. If Spirits abide by the listed action (guard this area, report the activities of these subjects, keep the fire lit, etc.), then they automatically get granted the listed Essence (as long as the system has Mana to convert). Like a restricted, ad hoc Locus. Could be useful for Shaman spy networks, or "hands free" guardian spirits.

    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."


    • #3
      I believe that such a spell already exists in the Keepers of the Covenant Legacy, but that's yet to be updated to 2e. Not sure if they're one of the ones that made it into the update schedule, though.

      Also, the latest Changeling preview has inspired me a bit to dig up this thread and add a little to it; merits for representing established shaman and shamanic connections through modified versions of existing merits.


      Spirit Retinue ( to ●●●●●)
      Prerequisites: Spirit 1 if a Mage, or comparable ability to contact Shadow spirits (such as by being a Werewolf).

      The spirits of the Shadow are predatory things; usually little more than animals. Yet even animals can be trained. Through chiminage, bartering, bargaining, magical command, intimidation, or even simply raw magical presence, your character has managed to form an array of helpful spirits that hang around them like remoras around a shark.

      Thanks to these connections, these spirits are willing to do small favours for your character in keeping with their nature. A fire spirit, for example, will rarely complain if asked to burn something. An animal spirit might bring an animal of that type for the character to hunt, so long as the act itself is done with proper respects paid.

      When taking a dot in this merit, the character chooses a spirit Nature that they have a special connection with. These are the Natures of relatively low Rank spirits, so they're reasonably specific. A character might choose, for example, Deer, but couldn't choose Animals. A character might choose Rain, but couldn't choose Weather. Each dot allows the character to add a new Nature to their list.

      Any time the character wishes it, they may engage their Spirit Retinue to undertake a minor but useful magical effect related to these purviews. For example, a Paleolithic Mage with Spirit Retinue ●● (Deer, Downpours) might ask their allies for a blessing to bring the herds closer to their tribe, and then a downpour to cover their hunters during the hunt. A more modern sorcerer with Spirit Retinue (Theft) might find the plans for a building they're planning to heist scratched into the wall of their hideout.

      Drawback: Spirits don't work for free. They're doing what they do because you generate Resonances for them to feed upon. If you want that reward, you need to do something for them. This means either performing occasional chiminage, or maintaining a bargain with a ruler of a spirit court, or simply regularly binding/threatening the local spirits. Whatever it is shapes the nature of these interactions.

      Mages with Spirit 4+ don't need to worry. Lesser spirits are well aware to obey such mighty creatures.

      Note: These are weak spirits, not numinous gods. While they are happy to hurt people for your character, should their nature make such possible, they aren't willing to take serious risks or expend much of their power. These lesser powers mean that any Clash of Wills to counteract the effects of these spirits draws only a single success to oppose it. Likewise, any Clash the spirits might initiate (by, say, trying to sense a target Veiled against their senses) automatically fails.


      • #4
        Witch Bottles
        Dice Bonus: +1 to +4, Durability 2, Size 2, Structure 2, Availability ●● to ●●●●●

        Witch bottles are an old thing; a counter-curse, drawn from British cunningfolk magic. To protect a household against witchcraft, harm by evil spirits, or other nastiness, the cunningperson would have a member of the household urinate in a bottle full of iron nails and herbs. The bottle was then sealed and buried under the doorstep of the home, supposedly keeping any ill magic from entering the dwelling. Were a witch to try and cross it, it was said they might just fall dead as if impaled by a dozen sharpened nails.

        Witch bottles aren't a perfect defense against the dark arts, but for those who know how to make the genuine article, they're worth their weight in gold. So long as the person whose urine (or blood or fingernails or teeth) were used to make the bottle is able to see the home whose step it's buried under, they gain the bottle's bonus to any rolls to resist harmful magic effects. This applies as a penalty to any supernatural attacks against them as well. This bonus to resist harmful effects applies to Withstand ratings, making such wards potent indeed.

        These benefits also apply to any blood relative or spouse who call the domicile home as well.

        In addition, should an unwanted supernatural intruder - defined here as anything other than a non-magical human or animal who has not specifically been invited into the home - try to cross the threshold, the witch bottle "attacks" them, and they suffer stigmatic wounds. These wounds are treated as if inflicted by a trap with a damage bonus equal to the bottle's rating and a dice pool of the Wits + Occult of the person who crafted and buried the bottle.

        Alternate forms: There are many alternate forms to witch bottles. Hex marks, witch boxes, buried shoes, Church Grims, etc., all serve the function of ritually warding a space to keep out unwanted supernatural influences, often in a violent manner.

        As an incidental aside, if any entity - spirit, ghost, witch, or sorcerer - has placed a curse upon a character who then has the witch bottle's protections placed upon them, the effects of the "trap" power apply immediately to the one who laid the curse, no matter where they are. Many a witch has simply fallen down dead when her victims buried a witch bottle beneath their doorstep.


        • #5
          No Better Servant, No Worse Master - The Matagot
          Familiar ●●

          Familiars come in many shapes and forms, in myth and reality, most taking the shape of a suitable animal; rats, bats, birds, snakes, frogs, fish, dogs, and all manner of creature may secretly hide a spirit working for a sorcerer. However, despite there being no apparent need for it to be the case, there is an enduring legacy which seems to persistently tie practitioners of the occult with those most perfidious of creatures: Cats.

          Why? There are, of course, a large number of reasonable-sounding explanations, all of which may contribute; cats, like sorcerers, are proud, aloof, and given to mysterious ways; they prowl alone, far from humanity, and enjoy wandering through shadowy places; they are, in many ways, an embodiment of every unkind (and often accurate) stereotype of a sorcerer.

          But there's more. For in the Shadow, there proliferates a species of spirit as drawn to the promise of the Awakened as the Awakened are to them. They are the Matagot, and they are a danger that comes on light and nimble feet.


          Matagot are spirits of the Shadow, but they stand apart from their cousins in that alien world. Unlike many spirits, the Matagot come across as, if not friendly, at least significantly more understanding of humanity; something that causes most shamans to distrust them almost reflexively. While no less predatory than any spirit when it comes to the subject of other spirits, Matagot do not attempt to offer Faustian bargains nor prey upon humans who wander into their domain. In fact, many are downright helpful, albeit beneath a layer of playful mischief; leading lost travelers back home or visiting a minor cruelty on a bully.

          It is this seeming friendliness that causes many to question if Matagot are, in some sense, the missing spirits of humanity (something any Matagot blanches at the suggestion of; they have standards, after all) or, at the very least, the spirits of sorcerers. This second idea is certainly reinforced by the predilection that Matagot seem to have for the company of sorcerers; tending to fast prove themselves capable servants and allies.

          It comes as a further surprise to many that this is all genuine, which makes it all the more troublesome to realize why the friendship of a Matagot has been the downfall of so many.

          Matagot are spirits of curiosity.

          Inevitably, once a Matagot latches onto the presence of a sorcerer, it rarely leaves. Rather than trick or beguile, it merely encourages what already exists; freely acting as a spy and, if it feels motivation is needed, sprinkling clues or advice before its "patron" to excite their passions. Curiosity is its food, and those who seek the Mysteries are a bottomless wellspring. Always, they must know. The famous feline friendship is a manifestation of a codependent relationship, as many sorcerers quickly come to rely on their Matagot as a constant companion, and the spirit, in turn, is by its nature curious, and their kind has long since learned something approaching the kind of selfish appreciation so common among cats.

          In the end, though, this self-reinforcing cycle only has a single destination. Curiosity will always kill the cat, and usually claims those around it as well.


          Rank 2 Spirit of Curiosity

          Power 4, Finesse 6, Resistance 2

          Curiosity 2

          Twilight Form, Gauntlet Breach, Materialize**

          Emotional Aura; Implant Mission**; Innocuous; Right Place, Right Time; Will-o'-the-Wisp

          A Matagot cannot give an answer that would solve a mystery, unless it creates another

          The ashes of a book, or some other destroyed container of secrets

          Special Rules
          Matagot are strange creatures, who, if not outright breaking the rules, at least seem to bend them. In the material world, they are materialized by default. They may, if they wish, dematerialize and enter the state of Twilight, as if using the Materialize Manifestation. However, as with any other Manifestation, closing the initial Resonance causes them to vanish back across the Gauntlet.

          Matagot may only use their Implant Mission Numen to induce an overriding curiosity. They might induce someone to break into a government building to go and look for aliens, but they can't induce a murderous rage.

          New Numina

          Right Place, Right TIme

          A Matagot is never early nor late; they arrive precisely when they intend to. And where they intend to, as well, for that matter.

          All Matagot have an ability to sense "interesting" things. This ability exists largely in a narrative sense; a Matagot gains no sense of what is so interesting and often does not even bother to vocalize that they're chasing something interesting, largely because they always are. Even when resting, a Matagot is only doing so because they're waiting for the next interesting thing to arrive.

          When something gets between them and their subject of interest, though, a Matagot may force the issue. By spending 2 Essence, they may produce, within the scene, a Clue. Matagot are loathe to do this, though; after all, the pont is the chase, not the resolution. Even if they wanted to, of course, a Matagot outright can't use this ability without the promise it will lead to something bigger; otherwise, it violates their Ban.


          Curiosity killed the cat, so the saying goes, but cats have something of a working arrangement with Death.

          This Numen induces a powerful and overriding curiosity to follow the Matagot. The target, even if unaware of the cat's supernatural nature, senses something important about the feline figure and is compelled to follow. This induces a trance-like state that renders them largely unaware of their surroundings, and exceedingly prone to danger.

          When activating this Numen, the Matagot spends 1 Essence and rolls Power + Finesse. It must decide when rolling to either apply the successes either as a penalty to all Wits + Composure rolls the target makes, or as Lethal damage, manifesting in the form of a horrible accident (like falling down an open sewer grate or walking into traffic) due to distraction. The Matagot may spend extra Essence before rolling, adding to the penalty or damage on a one-to-one basis. This roll is penalized by the target's Wits.