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Homunculi: Revenant-Equivalents for Prometheans

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  • #61
    Originally posted by Jacob View Post
    So I've been following along and this looks pretty exciting. Things that have me worried is that with an Elpis/Virtue alternative, it almost seems like an entirely new template is being made rather than the Revenant-like rules tweaking that inspired it. Not sure why a Homonculi couldn't just straight up have Azoth though. Seems like the master-monster relationship would be better focused on controlling said Azoth, like Homonculi have deep penalties to using things that require Pyros unless in their master's presence. And likewise they cause Disquiet and Wastelands with much greater frequency and strength unless within their master's presence. I think a mechanic like this would reinforce the dependence angle of the toxic relationship and also make opportunities for being uplifted into full Prometheanhood all the more appealing.

    Regarding uplifting, I don't see a problem with Homunculi being generic (like Revenants) and the uplifting process is one of refining a blank Humour into one that can generate Vitriol. And obviously Homunculi cannot generate Vitriol Beats (or Experiences). And so cannot buy Athanors, Pilgrimage, or calcify Alembics.

    Regarding Roles, not certain why a Homunculus couldn't have one. It would just be locked into its role and unable to progress until uplifted.

    Regarding Integrity, I'd jettison it in favor of Pilgrimage locked into one because it's obvious that a Homunculus should want to be anything other than what it is.

    Anyway, that's my 2 pence worth. Keep up the hacking. I'm looking forward to using/adapting the results.
    Could work. Perhaps Homunculii could even improve some of those statistics by their masters giving them Vitriol.

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


    • #62
      I'm of two minds on "blank" homunculi. I don't think Lineage is a necessary part of the whole concept, yet there's something compelling about that kind of differentiation.

      Roles are pushed to the side as a means of contrasting the Pilgrimage with alchemical servitude. We could explore turning the Servile trait into a Role replacement. It is inelegant as an Elpis substitute, I'll admit, and could be parceled into a different part of the build.

      More thoughts after sleep, maybe.

      LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)


      • #63
        Servile as a Role replacement would work better IMO. Looking forward to what happens with this.


        • #64
          So, what is the current state mechanically?

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


          • #65

            The Refinement of Ore, or A Treatise on the Half-made

            Homunculi are not Prometheans, but they could be. Maybe as rare as the Created, the few who shed the bonds of servitude are rarer still. Emancipation demands resolve and ingenuity, and sets the fugitive on a Pilgrimage even more trying.
            Savants and Originists who encounter the homunculi have competing theories as to whether the creatures are without a Refinement, or if they are on one exclusive to their station. Homunculi have no answer to give, nor do they have the time for such introspection. They do as they are told, and when they discharge their duties, they retreat to whatever comforts they are afforded. Among those studying the homunculi, the hypothesis of a proto-Refinement occasionally circulates.
            A homunculus lives to serve. They were made to serve, and whatever other meaning they scrape out of the dirt, they cannot escape their purpose. Some seek peace with this, and become eager proselytizers of slavery. Others try to understand the functions of hierarchy and delegation, and to find some agency in their fate. The most willful look to narratives about emancipation, exodus, and empowerment.


            If the homunculi have a Refinement, no trace of it exists in the Azothic Memory. Few Prometheans would care to adopt it, either. A few common behaviors have been observed in the half-made, and Originists regard them as baby steps toward the Pilgrimage.
            • Servitude is the inescapable reality of the homunculus, and whether they do so with a grudge or with gusto, the homunculus serves. They take orders to heart, and allow themselves to be lost in the task. The homunculus need not agree with the job, or enjoy it, but she finds a release in surrendering the decision. If idle hands are the devil's playground, then work must be grace.
            • Homunculi know that their existence depends on their utility, and seek to expand it wherever possible. Even the laziest seizes every opportunity he gets to learn something new. While this leads many to learn alchemy at the feet of their master, it just as often inspires them to assume as many responsibilities as they can. Online classes and learning apps allow homunculi to learn and practice new skills, and alchemists often have well-stocked laboratories to experiment in. The most savvy homunculi play to their masters' obsessions, seeing to their worldly needs to they can focus on their work.
            • Exploration tempts every half-made. Linked in a mockery of monogamy to their masters, homunculi develop a fascination with the novel and strange. Some become collectors, others become voyeurs, but they all prize something new. Without this outlet, they turn this curiosity on their masters and try to evoke new reactions from them. Homunculi afforded a bit of freedom and resources often turn to art, science, and the occult, and are often too happy to create further mischief. Indulging this urge often leads them into the path of the Created.

            Homunculi struggle to find a real sense of themselves. When they aren't absorbed in their work, they busy themselves elsewhere, hoping to distract themselves from the emptiness inside and out, or maybe to catch a glimpse of something reflecting back. Like Prometheans,they are obsessed with the human condition, but they find it difficult to understand it outside their relationship with their masters. In social situations, they first try to understand others by their rank and status, instead of more polite connections like family and history.
            No formal body of knowledge or Azothic Memory exists of a homunculus Refinement. Even believers refrain from asserting any half-made acts according to a Refinement's teachings. They agree with skeptics that most are guided by smothered Azothic instincts and the cruelties of their masters. When homunculi discuss their beliefs, they bear a disconcerting relationship to historical justifications for slavery.


            The ambiguity of a Refinement among homunculi discourages direct comparisons. Originists describe a "Labor" for homunculi where they would recognize a Role in a true Refinement. Labors don't embody any facet of humanity, nor do they explore the more esoteric concepts of the complex Refinements. They might be described as debasements, by which a homunculus justifies her own bondage, though a generous interpretation could see them as dignity in work. Homunculi do not recognize a difference, or even the concept of a Labor, but it remains a topic of interest among the initiated.
            Slave: The master is God, the slave is clay. Only by the master's will is the clay given life, and it is not the slave's place to question God. There are no tasks, there are only commandments. The slave exists only as a tool in the master's work. In the quiet moments, when the master is absent and the slave is alone, he is left with the terrifying blasphemy of his own desires. During these times the homunculus is faced with the terrifying question of what he can make of himself.
            Sycophant: The master holds the keys to life, and the homunculus is the proof of his glory. While sycophants are vain, they know they are but a shadow of their master's brilliance. She may follow in her master's footsteps, attempting to recreate his masterpieces, but sabotages herself when she risks surpassing him. She might instead herald his genius to anyone who might listen, and dismiss his failures as a lack of vision on everyone else's part. There is no shame that can befall the sycophant that does not come from the object of her adoration.
            Workaholic: The master is the conduit and measure of the job, not the job itself. He is the voice of the workaholic's calling, the one who says this must be done, the one who says this must be corrected. The master need only be pleased, but the job must be completed. What a terror that day will be! The homunculus looks for any imperfection he can obsess over, and where they don't materialize, he makes them. He takes on more than he can handle, for fear of being left without a job, without a purpose. Better to be a candle burning at both ends than snuffed out completely.

            Yadda yadda yadda character sketches

            • Cuprum: Don't you go mad?
            • Plumbum: Yeah, I'm busy then too.
            • Aes: Tourist.
            • Mercurius: I have a favor to ask you.
            • Phosphorum: How do you just not float away like a balloon?
            • Centimani: I fight every day not to dissolve. Why would you stop?

            LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)


            • #66
              A Refinement model means getting feet wet in the Pilgrimage. Previously suggested rules limited progress, limits I think should remain, but a Refinement is coupled to advancement. Also, the Labors are intended as quagmires, do how should they interact with milestone rules?

              LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)


              • #67
                I don't think that Homunculi should have Milestones; that's only for Prometheans on the Pilgrimage. (As a side note, I think a Homunculus should be stuck at Pilgrimage 0 and Azoth 1, with no means of raising either while it remains a Homunculus.) I like the Labors. But I'd handle them as something to overcome rather than something to master; and instead of completing Milestones or generating Vitriol, I'd say that overcoming a Labor gives the Homunculus a shot at what amounts to a self-Generative Act: as it struggles against its “programming”, it eventually reaches a point where the Azothic embers that have kept it animate spark into a flame and the Homunculus transforms into a Promethean, earning its first dot of Pilgrimage and breaking free of the chains that have bound it to its master.


                • #68
                  Just to chip in (love what I've read so far), I kind of disagree with the idea that Homunculi need Disquiet.

                  Prometheans have Disquiet because they sort of exist in an uncanny valley. Things that are more anthropomorphic tend to elicit empathy from humans...except at the point where they are almost human but not quite. This is a persistent problem in robotics, which is where the Uncanny Valley Effect comes from. In a paranormal, spiritual sort of way, Prometheans exist squarely in that space between human-like and fully human. So, even though they usually look perfectly normal, they elicit feelings of distrust and revulsion in humans.

                  Homunculi by contrast are even less human - they don't have Azoth to cloak their true forms, which are ugly and disfigured - but that paradoxically makes them less spiritually offensive. With the proper disguises, a Homunculi can pass for human without bringing angry mobs down on themselves. They seem too pitiable to be hated. Ironically, turning into a Promethean - becoming more human - creates more problems for the servant, even if they have the potential for greater rewards. Such a thing must be factored into any Homunculi's decision to seek the Pilgrimage.

                  It would also create additional character possibilities for a Promethean that started her life as a Homunculus. They may have lived many years able to connect to people, only to find their transmutation results in alienation they've never had to deal with. Even a hideous person, after all, can make friends. A Promethean's Disquiet is another thing entirely.

                  Moreover, a Homunculus tied to a Promethean provides a useful agent for the latter in the human world, assuming Disquiet isn't a factor on the Homunculi's side. All while still maintaining the sense of alienation a Promethean feels, as any contact with normal people must be facilitated through an intermediary (not unlike how they might maintain a long-distance relationship through letters or email).


                  • #69
                    Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                    I don't think that Homunculi should have Milestones; that's only for Prometheans on the Pilgrimage. (As a side note, I think a Homunculus should be stuck at Pilgrimage 0 and Azoth 1, with no means of raising either while it remains a Homunculus.) I like the Labors. But I'd handle them as something to overcome rather than something to master; and instead of completing Milestones or generating Vitriol, I'd say that overcoming a Labor gives the Homunculus a shot at what amounts to a self-Generative Act: as it struggles against its “programming”, it eventually reaches a point where the Azothic embers that have kept it animate spark into a flame and the Homunculus transforms into a Promethean, earning its first dot of Pilgrimage and breaking free of the chains that have bound it to its master.
                    Yeah, I'm not in love with a Refinement model for those reasons, but I thought it would be a good exploration, and I'm happy with a lot of what I came up with here. I still think Pilgrimage 1 is our sweet spot, because we don't we have to create rules for it, and it's functionally the same if the homunculus-cum-Promethean gains that first dot upon...Embarkation?

                    More on Labors: they aren't intended as obstacles to overcome, or areas to master. I think that hews too closely to Roles. What I see them as is the limiting factor on homuncular existence. Homunculi aren't on the Pilgrimage, can't switch Refinements, and aren't actively seeking the liminal experience of a Milestone. Labors don't naturally culminate in an understanding, they prevent it. In another frame, Roles pose a question, while Labors pose a riddle. A Promethean is living out a Role to gain a deeper understanding of that aspect, while a Homunculus is stunted by his Labor. If you are a Slave, you can't acknowledge your own will. If you are a Sycophant, you can't recognize your own worth. If you are a Workaholic, you can't see beyond the job. If a Homunculus finds an "answer" in any of these Labors, it makes no sense. Hopefully the homunculus sees the absurdity of the Labor, or, more likely, believes it failed to learn anything at all. I'm thinking Sisyphus here.

                    But you're right, it needs to culminate in something other than a Milestone. I had a brief notion of a Millstone (as in, around one's neck) as the reward, but that was probably a little silly. I wrote this as an alternative to Servility, which would free up Elpis again for Willpower, so we can probably scratch WP off the the potential rewards too. Self-Generation maybe, but that raises the question of how long a Homunculus should exist like this (which we do need to figure out: maybe about the length of time it takes to complete one or two Roles?). Does breaking out of a Labor mean adopting the next, since it no longer provides meaning?

                    Another question, if treated like a Refinement, should we have Transmutations instead of insatiate alchemy? It's Distillations either way, but we don't need to come up with a fair xp cost for Magnitude. I'm thinking Alchemicus and Corporeum, but certainly am open to suggestions.

                    LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)


                    • #70
                      First, I don't think that Labors need to culminate in anything, per se. I see Homunculi being essentially static creations, as opposed to the ever-changing natures of Prometheans: a Promethean is expected to change Roles and Refinements periodically, whereas a Homunculus will likely struggle under the same Labor for the whole of its existence as a Homunculus. The culmination of a Homunculus' Labor should coincide with its transformation into a Promethean, which is something that has no guarantee of ever happening.

                      And apart from becoming an alchemist as well as a Homunculus (which I think should be an exception rather than a rule), I don't think that a homunculus should have access to any Distillations. Ironically, I'd be more open to homunculi having Pandoran-like Dread Powers than Distillations, with the caveat that Dread Powers interfere with efforts to “uplift” the Homunculus to Promethean status — say, -1 die from any Generative Act dice pool for each Dread Power the Homunculus has. This does make homunculi more Pandoran-like; but as long as they don't have the Pandoran need and ability to feed on sources of Pyros, I think Homunculi remain distinct from Pandorans.

                      Finally, the notion of mass-produced Homunculi: I have to admit, my primary inspiration here is Dean Koontz's Frankenstein novels, where Doctor Frankenstein has achieved a sort of immortality and survives to this day; his original monster has also survived to modern times and opposes his creator. The doctor is very much an Alchemist, albeit one who uses modern technological trappings; his first monster is very much a Promethean with a high Pilgrimage score. But the series also has Frankenstein mass-producing monsters to serve him; and those mass-produced monsters are where Homunculi would come into play.


                      • #71
                        Could you provide more info on the Koontz monsters? I haven't read the books, so I have no idea what sets them apart from Pandorans or even Horrors.

                        LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)


                        • #72
                          Let's see: Victor Helios (a.k.a. Victor Frankenstein), in good Pyros Alchemist fashion, modified himself to be more biologically resilient — things like a backup heart, and so on. He also implemented these changes into all of his creations, including Deucalion, the first monster he made out of pieces of corpses back in the 19th century, as chronicled by Mary Shelly. In modern New Orleans, he has a factory with flesh vats that allow him to grow new members of his “new race” out of raw materials, not unlike sci-fi cloning vats; in fact, some of these monsters are crafted look exactly like existing people with the intent of substituting his “children” and taking over their lives — a lot like Promethean 1e's clones, save for them being biologically indistinguishable from Deucalion.

                          My take on the clone thing is that clones in 2e would be Homunculi with a form of the Famous Face Merit — except that the person whose face the Homunculus wears isn't necessarily famous; just well enough known in the context of the Chronicle that its effects will occur often enough to justify the Merit. A small-town sheriff who is known to most people in town is “famous” in a Chronicle focused on that town, even if he doesn't qualify for even one dot of Fame. Everyone in a small family is “famous” if the Chronicle focuses heavily on that family. And so on.


                          • #73
                            You know, if we're talking about Alchemists creating mass-produced creatures, we would be remiss to not mention a manga called Embalming. An alternate universe where Victor Frankenstein's research notes were discovered and copied throughout Europe, so that by the end of the 19th century an entire wave of Frankenstein creations flooded the world, produced by individual creators. And of course, over the 150 years since those notes became available, plenty of folk have worked to expand on the vanilla monster, creating numerous freakish variants.

                            If we just change it from "Frankensteins" to "Homunculi", we get an idea of what kind of stuff Alchemists could get up to. It also illustrates that one doesn't need to create many abominations for them to be threatening minions. Individual Homunculi could be potent monsters in and of themselves. This is probably where the inclusion of Pandoran Dread Powers comes into play. Somewhere in this thread we came up with the idea of Homunculi sitting between Azoth and Flux, after all. It would make sense for them to have the possibility of transmutation like a Promethean, but have some of the monstrosity of the Pandoran.


                            • #74
                              I'll have to look into that anime; it's the first time I've heard of it.

                              I like the notion of Homunculi existing on the cusp between Promethean and Pandoran, with the potential to go either way; but the transition out of Homunculus status, whichever way it goes, should be rare. My own but instinct is that it's tied to the Generative Act mechanics: just like when a Promethean tries to make a Promethean, there's a chance of ending up with one or more Pandorans instead, so too the attempt to “uplift” a Homunculus to Promethean status runs the risk of backfiring and converting it into a Pandoran; and the more Dread Powers it has, the more likely the attempt will backfire.


                              • #75
                                Another way to look at Homunculi and how they relate to Prometheans: a Promethean is in a state of transition from Lead to Gold, with humanity being the Gold. In this view, Homunculi could be viewed as the Lead. This is why I tend to view Homunculi as essentially static beings which have at best Azothic embers keeping them animate but doing little else, and why I don't think they should have Transmutations; the latter are a consequence the fact that Prometheans are walking alchemical factories, with an active Azoth constantly trying to remake them. In contrast, homunculi are alchemically inert.

                                I recently reviewed 1e's Clone rules. A couple things that might be useful here:
                                • 1e assumed that making clones involve stealing Azoth from a Promethean. For 2e, that's less a homunculus thing and more of an Alchemist thing; if there are homunculi that aren't made by alchemists (such as Extemporaneous homunculi), you may not need to destroy a Promethean to create them.
                                • the relationship between how much Azoth you need and how many clones you could make was left up to the Storyteller in 1e, with options including multiple Azoth for one clone, a dozen clones for one Azoth, and clone equal to the square of the Azoth.
                                • most of the other mechanics are things that we've already covered in this thread. There's a bit about clones needing to make a roll to resist an order from their master, something about not having Morality but still having Virtue and Vice (1e, remember), and a section on how clones tend to be short-lived. I prefer the Servility bit we've come up with to 1e's forced obedience, Virtue, and Vice. That leaves the short lifespan thing, which I'm not sure I want to port into the Homunculus rules. Maybe it could be tied to the degree of mass-production involved: you can make cheap homunculi that will fall apart within days or months with little trouble, possibly in batches, leading to the ability to create a (temporary) army of them, or you could concentrate on quality over quantity, only being able to make one at a time but ending up with a creation that's going to last for years.
                                Last edited by Dataweaver; 06-23-2018, 11:41 AM.