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Theory: Ghosts are (what's left of) a person's daimon

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  • Theory: Ghosts are (what's left of) a person's daimon

    So 2E is definitely pretty sparse on information for daimons (the word occurs all of 4 times in the book including the index) but after reading a few of the older books, this idea sort of occurred to me. When a person dies with a regret, their daimon stays behind to take care of it. Or at least, that's how it should work, but traumatic death is traumatic. The daimon does not survive the ordeal intact.

    Okay so why do I think this is the case? Well, it really comes down to what a daimon is; a guide. It's a daimon's job to help you get over the hang ups you have about yourself. The name is quite telling and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daimonic is as good of an explanation of its function as any. So if some aspect of the self were to stay behind to take care of your hang ups after death, and allow you to move on, it would be the daimon. Your vices certainly aren't going to do it and ghosts are way too incomplete to be the whole soul (Souls have all 5 subtle Arcanum, ghosts only have Death.)

    This sort of brings me to a separate point, the Death Arcana is probably misunderstood. What do death, cold, and shadows have in common? They're absences of something else (Life and Forces.) If ghosts really are remnants of daimons, power over absence being associated with them makes sense. The daimon is your internal power of reflection. How do you reflect on something? Often by contemplating its absence and what that would mean. Death is the Arcana of reflection. It's what allows for growth. This is why the Lower Depth without Death is a static world choked on unkillable, cancerous life. And why ghosts rank up over time, unlike spirits who gain power by eating essence (and other spirits,) ghosts seem to just get more powerful the longer they have been in the Underworld. The Underworld is a reflection or at least the Dominions are. Visiting these Dominions allows a ghost to reflect and grow. Looping back to daimons, what is their purpose? To provoke reflection and growth. Daimons, if you could safely remove them from a person, would be governed by Death, they are your shadow, your ghost.

  • #2
    Ghosts have pretty specific steps they take to gain Rank. To become Rank 3 they have to drink from one of the rivers, or to absorb a doppleganger when they're Rank 2. To get higher than that they need to establish a Dominion and become a Kerberoi. Etc.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
      Ghosts have pretty specific steps they take to gain Rank. To become Rank 3 they have to drink from one of the rivers, or to absorb a doppleganger when they're Rank 2. To get higher than that they need to establish a Dominion and become a Kerberoi. Etc.
      All sources of Ranking up are technically repeatable (though not always practically so, such as the limited supply of Doppelgänger). Some (if not all) methods do cap at Rank 5.
      Whether ghosts can become Kerberoi in second edition isn't known. They do tend towards inhuman appearances so much that characters in the setting doubt they were ever alive. It's hinted that Bound that fail a Catabasis might become a Kerberos, which probably includes the Geist who struck the Bargain but I don't think that's what you meant.

      inversemot: We're basing our posts on the preview of Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2e that brings lots of information regarding ghosts. The ephemeral entities rules copypasted across the other corebooks do imply that merely staying in the Underworld is enough to gain additional Ranks, but that's not the case. They have to drink from one of the many Rivers of the Underworld, and if they survive that they gain an additional Rank dot (and becomes a Geist if they were Rank 2).
      Geist 2e also reveals that a person can leave a ghost at near death experiences, which sometimes leads to people leaving multiple ghosts (generally one at a NDE and one at their actual death). Those are referred to as Doppelgänger. That unfortunately puts a dent in your theory considering that Goetia generally don't "respawn" in an Oneiros if they have been removed instead of just temporarily destroyed (hence why some mages summon their own Goetia to get rid of undesirable personality traits). It still works in a Mage game that ignores Geist, though.

      Edit: Resolving a Geist's Remembrance is not repeatable, I realise. Probably. I suppose a Geist can resolve it while in a Bargain to reach Rank 4, drink from a River to reach Rank 5 and possibly forget their returned memories again so that they can enter a new Bargain and resolve it again. Only problem being that it doesn't actually grant additional Rank increases as they've already reached Rank 5 in the process, and resolving a Remembrance is one of the ways of gaining Rank that is explicitly capped at 5.
      Last edited by Tessie; 03-19-2019, 08:15 AM.


      Bloodline: The Stygians
      Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
      Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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      • #4
        Tessie thanks for the info. I haven't read all the books by any means and only recently got into the game line on my own.

        I'm going to skip doppelgangers for the moment but I will come back to them. I probably could have been clearer that I meant that ghosts gain power by reflecting on themselves and not just existing (though a certain amount of that needs to happen.) To this end I can easily come up with how drinking from a river or forming a Dominion fall into this theme.

        Water itself is a symbol of reflection. The rivers in the Underworld are special of course, but for a being with no need to eat or drink, drinking from one is not a natural response. That is in contrast with spirits who need to consume essence and so naturally do the sorts of things they need to rank up, drinking from a river is something you'd have to learn to do. Even the steps to do so are symbolic of reflection, you'd see your reflection in the water, bend down, scoop it up, bring it closer to yourself, and consume it. Aka accept what you are and have become.

        Creating a Dominion requires you to have visited at least one (probably many) and again is heavily symbolic. If you found a Dominion you liked you'd never bother making one. So the act is the result of reflecting on experiences and deciding what they mean to you. Then deliberately decide on a goal, an idea that you want embodied in your Dominion, and work your way towards it. Aka growth.


        Okay so doppelgangers and multiple ghosts of the same person. It is a sticking point as it needs working around, but I think it's doable. If ghosts are generally daimons, they are heavily damaged by the process. A near death experience might damage the daimon enough to splinter it, shedding a piece big enough to function as a ghost but not removing the actual daimon. The daimon then eventually regenerates as it hasn't been removed just badly damaged and has the whole soul to draw on for support. I would be willing to bet that near death experiences require much greater trauma or regret than an actual death to generate a doppelganger. Meaning you need a large enough chunk that it is capable of sustaining itself.

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        • #5
          Okay, but ghosts eating in the Underworld is actually pretty common. In fact it's the main way they avoid being consumed themselves by the Underworld, eating the detritus that gets washed into the Avernian Gates which is the beginning of the process for them becoming inhuman looking, ghosts with books for teeth and windows for eyes, etc.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
            Okay, but ghosts eating in the Underworld is actually pretty common. In fact it's the main way they avoid being consumed themselves by the Underworld, eating the detritus that gets washed into the Avernian Gates which is the beginning of the process for them becoming inhuman looking, ghosts with books for teeth and windows for eyes, etc.
            I really need to read Geist. It sounds really cool.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
              Okay, but ghosts eating in the Underworld is actually pretty common. In fact it's the main way they avoid being consumed themselves by the Underworld, eating the detritus that gets washed into the Avernian Gates which is the beginning of the process for them becoming inhuman looking, ghosts with books for teeth and windows for eyes, etc.
              Is that from Geist 2E? I'll admit to only skimming the Book of the Dead, but I didn't really get the impression that the Underworld consumes ghosts. Just that there's a gravity that pulls ghosts deeper. Though yes, ghosts do eat random things and have weird appearances. Eating and drinking is super common and perhaps my wording about not being a natural action was a little strong, but it doesn't change the symbolism of drinking from a River.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by inversemot View Post
                Is that from Geist 2E? I'll admit to only skimming the Book of the Dead, but I didn't really get the impression that the Underworld consumes ghosts.
                Geist 2e has heavily refocused the metaphysics to the point that the Underworld is arguably the most hostile otherworld of the common set. It's always been right upstairs from the Lower Depths in conventional maps of the cosmology, and 2e makes that very plain; the Shadow is made of things that want to eat the locals and the Hedge actively attempts to trap you, but the Underworld does both of those things at the same time.

                There's a post by Dave Brookshaw on these forums that describes the Underworld as "provably the worst-damaged [part of the] Fallen World" and it's very hard to disagree with that assessment when looking at what the Underworld does to ghosts.


                Resident Lore-Hound
                Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                  Geist 2e has heavily refocused the metaphysics to the point that the Underworld is arguably the most hostile otherworld of the common set. It's always been right upstairs from the Lower Depths in conventional maps of the cosmology, and 2e makes that very plain; the Shadow is made of things that want to eat the locals and the Hedge actively attempts to trap you, but the Underworld does both of those things at the same time.

                  There's a post by Dave Brookshaw on these forums that describes the Underworld as "provably the worst-damaged [part of the] Fallen World" and it's very hard to disagree with that assessment when looking at what the Underworld does to ghosts.
                  I suppose that makes sense from a cosmological perspective, but past materials really didn't paint a picture of a particularly harsh world, many of the Dominions are nearly "nice" places to exist. EDIT: Actually isn't this a complete 180? The Mage book describes the Underworld as replenishing a ghost's essence.

                  Anyway, at most I simply can accept that the Underworld is a shattered mirror and no longer serves the purpose it should have (which is in theme.) I don't think the harshness of the current Underworld particularly affects my theory that Death should be the Arcana of reflection and ghosts are shards of daimons left behind to resolve anchors.
                  Last edited by inversemot; 03-19-2019, 05:04 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by inversemot View Post

                    I suppose that makes sense from a cosmological perspective, but past materials really didn't paint a picture of a particularly harsh world, many of the Dominions are nearly "nice" places to exist.

                    Anyway, at most I simply can accept that the Underworld is a shattered mirror and no longer serves the purpose it should have (which is in theme.) I don't think the harshness of the current Underworld particularly affects my theory that Death should be the Arcana of reflection and ghosts are shards of daimons left behind to resolve anchors.
                    I have a suggestion. When answering this for your own games, consider the metaphysics that must be by necessity, and consider what the *Exarchs* want. Like, what rules and mechanics might be in place specifically because of the Exarchs.

                    Its purely my own taste, but my personal examples is that The Nemesis is responsible for the severity of spirits danger to humans and the need for Father Wolf, but also arranges for The Father's eventual death to create the Gauntlet. The Nemesis wants the Gauntlet, and wants a reason for humanity to NEED it.

                    I also have The Father alter how Truth detection works to keep people convinced their religions are truth only when The Father has already twisted their beliefs, with many false positives even for Athiests. Zealots get answers and believers who are open-mindee get nada, and have to believe on Faith, until the Father captures their vision. In this way I clumsily try to leave religion relevant but cosmically "up in the air" to be respectful as I can, but keep the Father menacing.

                    So, what the truth of Death is? You can consider what happens to Daimons and all that from the perspective of the Exarchs and what they want.

                    I'd totally recommend getting more ideas from giest cuz I love all the lore and cross over etc, buuuut, if you wanna focus on Mage and Mage-centric lore and problems, I definitely recommend considering if the truth of how things work was caused by the Exarchs or not. And of course, make it scary~

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Scarlet Witch View Post

                      I have a suggestion. When answering this for your own games, consider the metaphysics that must be by necessity, and consider what the *Exarchs* want. Like, what rules and mechanics might be in place specifically because of the Exarchs.

                      Its purely my own taste, but my personal examples is that The Nemesis is responsible for the severity of spirits danger to humans and the need for Father Wolf, but also arranges for The Father's eventual death to create the Gauntlet. The Nemesis wants the Gauntlet, and wants a reason for humanity to NEED it.

                      I also have The Father alter how Truth detection works to keep people convinced their religions are truth only when The Father has already twisted their beliefs, with many false positives even for Athiests. Zealots get answers and believers who are open-mindee get nada, and have to believe on Faith, until the Father captures their vision. In this way I clumsily try to leave religion relevant but cosmically "up in the air" to be respectful as I can, but keep the Father menacing.

                      So, what the truth of Death is? You can consider what happens to Daimons and all that from the perspective of the Exarchs and what they want.

                      I'd totally recommend getting more ideas from giest cuz I love all the lore and cross over etc, buuuut, if you wanna focus on Mage and Mage-centric lore and problems, I definitely recommend considering if the truth of how things work was caused by the Exarchs or not. And of course, make it scary~

                      Eh, well my current game world predates my knowledge of Mage... ultimately I picked up Mage because my hacks had slowly approached a point where I may as well run it instead.

                      So for instance in my setting, the Truth/Lie status of the Supernal and the Abyss is reversed. The Abyss was. The Abyss is how the universe is. The Supernal is a force to impose the will of humanity on the universe, to make it understandable and coherent. The current creatures of the Abyss are only as bizarre as they are because they didn't fit in, their numbers are artificially greater by the power vacuum that was created to organize the universe. Normally, such creatures would basically not exist (maybe 10 such abyssal entities existed prior to the Wish, what Mage calls the Fall.)

                      The Exarchs are probably victims of their own success. The people the Exarchs were don't necessarily want anything at all like what the world is. Rather in creating the symbols that they represent they likely screwed up. Being symbols of tyranny was probably not their intent. But the process of ascension is one way and you're sort of stuck with the resulting symbol you create and embody (doing otherwise would be self destruction.) I'm still debating as I absorb Mage's lore whether or not to make the Exarchs destruction of the Celestial Ladder a good thing. It's possible that the access to the Supernal it represented would have allowed people to define ill conceived concepts (more so than just the ones the Exarchs created) as anyone would be able to do so. The broken fragments of relics of the Time Before are already the debris of the worlds before previous attempts to "correct" errors in the Supernal symbols.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by inversemot View Post
                        The Mage book describes the Underworld as replenishing a ghost's essence.
                        Confirmed to be a typo. Ghosts were never meant to gain their Rank Essence each day because the Underworld was never the home realm of ghosts. At most they can gain one Essence each day (which precisely covers their upkeep) if they're down in one of the Dominions and don't break any Laws.


                        Bloodline: The Stygians
                        Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                        Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tessie View Post

                          Confirmed to be a typo. Ghosts were never meant to gain their Rank Essence each day because the Underworld was never the home realm of ghosts. At most they can gain one Essence each day (which precisely covers their upkeep) if they're down in one of the Dominions and don't break any Laws.

                          I'm surprised it wasn't ever fixed. Though for a pure Mage game it probably doesn't really matter and I guess it doesn't technically say the Underworld is the home realm of ghosts... though that would be the natural conclusion given the presentation of the Realms Invisible.

                          Though since it isn't their home realm, the Underworld not obeying the same sorts of themes is perfectly acceptable. So reduce the theory to ghosts and daimons share themes and it would make sense if ghosts were fragments of daimons (as opposed to fragments of some other aspect of the self.)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by inversemot View Post
                            I'm surprised it wasn't ever fixed.
                            It's a small detail in a large book. It slipped through the limited errata pass and OPP doesn't do post-release erratas. We only know it was a typo because one of the devs said so.


                            Bloodline: The Stygians
                            Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                            Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
                              Ghosts have pretty specific steps they take to gain Rank. To become Rank 3 they have to drink from one of the rivers, or to absorb a doppleganger when they're Rank 2. To get higher than that they need to establish a Dominion and become a Kerberoi. Etc.
                              I'm pointvout that a mage can artificially boost a Ghost Rank. Not sure if that counts.

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