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The Keening [Setting Material]

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  • The Keening [Setting Material]

    (inspired by Vanitas no Carte)

    The Keening

    You walk down the road, all by yourself, when the song starts playing. Mists slowly rise from the ground, swirling softly in the cool wind of the night. You have only few second to wonder about the strange phenomena before it's too late- the mists has devoured you whole, trapping you in a grey dimension which has no beginning or end. With no way out. The song grows stronger- the melody is touching and intoxicating, but there is a sinister sting to it, as if something in the accords is a bit wrong, The words, however, are completely incomprehensible- something between the murmuring of water, the whispers of the wind and the last thought one has before they fall asleep. More voices join to the song, each sings by its own rhythm, each adding its own lyrics. The different accords clash together. A cacophony arise. Suddenly, the mists start to clear- and the parade march. Twisted humanoid images which wear colourful cloths and fancy dresses. They march toward you, following the song, adding their own twisted voices to the mad discord. You turn to escape- but it is too late. A shadow covers you, the mists dance around you. You start to sing- and you suddenly recognize that the first voice in the song was yours, and the lyrics were written by your Beast. It's all too late- you have joined the Parade of the Dead. You sing your own Requiem.

    There aren't many records for the phenomena known as the Keening, and for a good reason- the only ones which witness it are, usually, half mad at best. The vast majority of the records comes from second hand witnesses, which speak about a rapid degeneration of a former coterie member or the local Prince, which is sometimes accompanied with strange comments from the afflicted about the mists, music or a dance of some kind. There are few rare interviews which were made by Ordo Dracul members, which have recognized the signs in an afflicted vampire and has did the best to learn from them as much as they can before they turn into Draugr. Some very rare records come from those vampires which has, somehow, managed to fight the affliction. They describe fully the mists, the dancing grotesque images and the song which crawls to your brain like a worm and eats you from the inside. But even they don't really understand what has happened to them- or why.

    The theory about the subject varies between the background of the researcher and his personal faith. The official Ordo Dracul's opinion about the subject is that the Keening is some sort of shared hallucination. All vampires lean toward degeneration, and their psych is not very stable in the first place. They say that the Keening is something similar to Malakavia, only that instead of being transmitted it is hidden in the very occult structure which gives life to the vampire, like a self destruct mechanism. The strange visions viewed by the afflicted are the way their brain interpret the signals generated when the spontaneous degeneration begins. All vampires are at risk to be inflicted, it is just a matter of statistics.

    It is needless to say, that other Covenants has their own claims about the subject. The Sanctified, for example, are quick to blame the Devil for the Keening. They say that the mists are the path to Hell, and that the dancing creatures are demons which come to claim the sinner's soul. Only those which embrace the Sanctified dogma with all of their heart are protected from the Keening. Sure, when you check the statistics you can see that the members of the Lancea are just as vulnerable to the Keening just as anyone else- but the Church of the Damned just explain that those vampires were simply not strong enough with their faith, and that corruption has found its way to their heart.

    The Circle, needless to say, has its own view on the subject. They don't think about the Keening as a disease or as a punishment, but as an old phenomena wearing new face- the Wild Hunt. They say that the Keening is a creation of the Old Gods, which call the dead to join the eternal battle. The dancing figures are the spirits of the dead of the gods of the old which gather in the hunt, and those who view them are their query, and are forced to become one with them. In some domains, those marked by the Keening gain a great respect as chosen of the gods, even though they are stilled destroyed once the last shred of their Humanity is devoured by the mists.

    Those are, of course, not the only theories about the subject. Some claim the Keening to be some sort of spiritual weapon created by VII, meant to destroy the minds of vampires and make them turn upon each other. Other blame the strix- even though there is no record of a vampire afflicted by the Keening which was also possessed by the Owls (in fact, some even say that they saw flocks of black feathered birds escape the domain around the same time a new vampire is afflicted, but those claims are rarely supported by more than one or two eye witnesses). At any case, for the afflicted vampire, knowing the source of their harm is not as important as knowing how to heal it- something which, unfortunately, no Covenant has answer for. Some vampires get over the affliction. Most not. Just as the causes for the affliction aren't well know, the ways to treat it are just as mysterious- the afflicted are alone in their fight against the Keening, if there is a way out at all.


    No one really knows how vampires come in contact with the Keening, as the source of the affliction is not well clear. However, it does seem to be connected to the vampire's Touchstones in some way. Every time the vampire lose a Touchstone, the ST may calls for a Resolve+Composure-[10 -Humanity] roll. Success at the roll gives the vampire a sudden chill, or perhaps a quick shivering in her back, but nothing more. Exceptional Success also gives the vampire a sudden understanding that she was attacked by something, even though she has no understanding of what or why the attack has happened. Failure in the roll means the during the coming night, the afflicts vampire will suffer from the vision described above, usually when he is all by himself. Dramatic Failure would force the vampire to roll for Detachment with -2 modifier, and the vision would happen immediately. at any case, the afflicted vampire is the only one to witness the vision, even if she is surrounded by other people, vampires or not. Powers which can pierce into the Twilight, however, will reveal that there is something... strange around the vampire. The Twilight around the afflicted twists and turns, as if something invisible bends the light around it. The phenomena could be witnessed only during the affliction, which takes around a minute. After which, the vampire is a bit shocked, but suffers from no immediate effects (unless she Dramatically failed the roll, of course).

    The next night the vampire wakes up, however, she hears the Keening for the first time since the vision, and it never leaves again. She gains the Whispers Condition (see bellow), with the song in her ear taking the place of the "demon". While no afflicted vampire understand the words of the Keening, they do seem to understand their meaning- which is usually things about death and lose, murder and sorrow. The Keening's action are always meant to cause the vampire Humanity degeneration, leading her to preform acts which result with a Detachment roll, such as murdering her Touchstones or causing self harm to herself. The Keening also intervenes for any attempt of the vampire to tell others about her symptoms of her condition, such as hearing the Keening or seeing the mists. The Keening would express its attempts to take control over the vampire's body by buzzing in her mind, until she either surrender herself to it or withstand the attack.

    In addition for hearing the song, the vampire also sees the "mists"- at first, they are nothing but wisps of grey which show in the edge of her sight, but as the vampire degenerates the thicker the mists become, until they consume her whole. The level by which the mists effect the vampire is decided by her Humanity score. At high Humanity score (7-10), she gains the Distracted Condition as a Persistent one. At middling Humanity (4-6), the vampire gains the lighter version of the Blinded Condition and Tilt as Persistent (that is, suffering only -3 modifier and losing half of her Defense). At low Humanity (1-3), she suffers from the Lost Condition as Persistent. When the vampire finally descends to Humanity 0, the only thing she sees is the grey void which is the mists while the Keening screams in her ears- and then, there is nothing but eternal grey. The Conditions stack upon each other, and rising the vampire's Humanity (something the Keening would act to stop) allows to revert the symptoms. Once she lose her last Humanity, she turns into a Draugr under the Keening's full control.

    One of the only benefits for the Keening is that it renders the vampire immune for possession or mind control- powers which try to manipulate the vampire's mind discover that some outside power tries to block their efforts. Add the vampire's [10-Humanity] for her Blood Potency in order to defend from such powers. Possession attempts, including the ones preformed by Ephemeral beings or the strix, automatically fail. The Owls seem to be instinctively aware of vampires effected by the Keening and usually won't even try to possess them, as they "belong to someone else". The Owls may have more information about where the Keening comes from and why, but the usually won't answer the said questions. Most say they simply don't care enough. Others whisper they are afraid.

    While healing a vampire from the Keening is hard, it is possible as long as her Humanity is higher than 0. Two of those methods relay on an outside help, while the third requires the vampire's own will, and all three are dangerous in their own way. The first, and safest one, is having the Keening Abjured from the vampire as if it was a possessing spirit. The act requires that the Abjurer in question must be a regular mortal never tainted by Vitae before. For obvious reasons, that act is considered a breach of the Masquerade, not to mention it includes the vampire to find someone which knows enough about the Supernatural yet is willing to help a monster in need. The Keening's Rank is considered to be [10-Humanity]/2, rounded up, with the number of dots in her Power+Resistance being considered the lower limit of her Rank's attributes. Success in that roll remove the Whispers condition, but the roll suffers from a -2 modifier. In case of Failure, the vampire immediately rolls for a Detachment roll, and the Keening would command the vampire to escape or kill the Abjurer. Dramatic Failure automatically removes one dot of the vampire's Humanity.

    The second method may not breach the Masquerade, but requires a much more unreliable ally- a strix. As it was mentioned, the Owls know what the Keening is, and they know how to fight it. The strix may try to "possess" the vampire in order to cleanse its body and remove the Keening from the inside, which requires it to roll its Shadow Potency against the Keening's Power+Resistance. Failure remove a dot of the strix's Shadow Potency (which destroys the strix if it has a Shadow Potency of 1), and Dramatic Failure also cause it a point of Aggravated Damage. Success removes the Keening from the vampire- but Exceptional Success also gives the strix an opportunity to possess the vampire. That act of using one evil against the other rarely ends well, even if you somehow manage to get the strix's help, which is quit difficult as most of them would rarely help a vampire (especially considering the potential harm they may suffer from the act), and that for some reason, the strix are wary from the "debt" they would have to pay for the act. The only way to calm them in that subject is to find someone who is willing to take that "debt" over herself instead of the strix. Nothing weird is needed- a simple declaration is enough. The Keening will hear, and it would take its debt- one way or another.

    Finally, the last methods is also the most difficult one- and is kind of a bet, actually. If by any chance, after falling to the region of low Humanity (3 and bellow), the vampire manage to climb her way up to Humanity of 8, the Whispers Condition is automatically removed. The mists clears, the song is silenced. Such vampires are not only completely healed from the Keening, but are also immune for any further attempts of it to devour them once more. They can't exactly say why, but they feel as if they learned something new about themselves because of the experience. Such a vampire gains a Beat after removing the Whispers Condition.

    Condition: Whispers (Persistent)
    You have a demon inside of you. Perhaps it is a shadow of your passion given life. Perhaps it is in your very blood. Perhaps it is a being from another dimension bound to your flesh and soul. Perhaps it doesn't even exist- just a fake voice imagined by your broken mind. Whatever the case, that voice is there to stay- slowly corrupting and devouring your mind. While under this Condition, every time you suffer a Breaking Point, you get a -3 modifier for that roll. In an addition, once per Chapter the Storyteller may call for a Composure+Resolve roll as the demon tries to force its will upon you. In a case of Failure, you must do whatever the demon wish you to do.
    Possible Source: losing a Touchstone.
    Resolution: going through an exorcism, ritual or therapy meant to silence the "demon".
    Beat: the character fails a Breaking Point because of the Condition or is forced to preform the demon's desire.

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  • #2
    Gifts of Mourn- Keening Powers

    While the Keening is a terrible phenomena which slowly consumes the inflicted vampire, it is not to say that it does not gift those who are loyal to it. As those who hear the Keening spiral down in their Humanity, they discover a darkness in their heart- and that darkness reach out to them, blessing them with new powers no Kindred should ever know. Vampires who use those powers feel a rush in their body- one which is even better than the taste of Vitae on their lips. Accepting the song just feels so good, and as it eats at their mind, the Beast roars at the world, embodying its nature in the vampire's body as it takes over it.

    Each time a vampire which suffers from the Keening fails a Detachment roll, choose one Strix Dread Power of any kind, which has a Shadow Potency score which is equal or lesser than 10-[Humanity]. The character now may access that power freely, using the same Vitae cost as if they were Strix and using their highest Attributes which correspond to the ones described in the Dice pool. Using those powers, however, has a price- it force the Addicted Condition upon the vampire toward using those dark gifts, which may only be resolved through the terms described in the Condition (replacing Integrity for Humanity, of course). In an addition, it should be noted that as those powers are Strix powers, vampires who know about the Owls may suspect any vampire which use them too much as being possessed- something may not end up well for the vampire in question.

    Regaining a lost Humanity dot, however, removes the Dread Power in question, and resolving the Whispers Condition automatically remove any Gift to which the vampire once had access too.
    Last edited by LostLight; 10-05-2017, 05:37 PM.

    Check my STV content, Or My Homebrew

    "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

    I now blog in here