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[Hunting Ground] The Past Is Another Country: Rome

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  • [Hunting Ground] The Past Is Another Country: Rome

    Years and years ago I wrote a Vampire setting for Rome, and I had plans to slowly add the various splats to the city, in a way not that different from what David Hill did with Tokyo. Then life happened, and writer blocks happened, and nothing came of it. In the end this is what I came up with: I think it's better that I let it all out, for feedback and to repair my shaaaame.
    Some notes: I purposely wanted to get rid of any history baggage: there are the Dark Eras for that. So it's becoming kind of a plot point in my write ups that my splats all have some "history" with history. Vampires reject their past, and Werewolves lost theirs, for example. I am not an historian, so you only get what an average Roman shmuck knows about his city.

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    The Past Is Another Country

    Rome, Italy

    Rome is a city that has lost its way. Once the gem of the Empire, then the glory of the Church State, now an empty husk, never at peace with itself. Whoever is surprised at this state of things, decrying it as something new, it’s utterly ignorant, or a liar. If there ever was a constant in the Eternal City, it’s ruin. Built on ruins, and doomed to ruin, Rome is completely out of control. Corruption runs rampant, but that’s par the course. The powers that be squabble among themselves for more “power”, while the lowest of the low wage wars against “the others”, be it foreigners, or other poor people that are not them. Whoever manipulates the strings and manages the castle may be toppled, but that doesn’t matter. The population won’t change, so the City won’t change.
    The Uratha of Rome had to change. Humans have forgotten their history and their place in it, but out of negligence. The Forsaken of the City have lost their history, destroyed with the last of their lorekeepers. No document remains, and the few still living relics from the past are unreliable and dimmed by horrors they still cannot describe. It’s a fertile ground for young upstarts and werewolves trying to build a new life, but without the guidance of their betters their stay may be tragically short.

    The History of Having No History

    This story is true.
    It is the 9th of February, 1986. Word is, the humans were still living their little ‘80s golden age. It was as real as cardboard, but they believed in it. Good for them. We were fighting and hunting as usual. The Herd had had its fair share of battles during the Years of Lead, maybe you heard about them from some cheap TV show, diavolo, I was there, and I know more from fiction than from actually being there. It was a time of strife, dissent. Change that did not bring change. Left against right, the government against everyone, it was a mess.
    The spirit courts were a complete disaster, the Pure attacked every other day, and we still had to solve some ugly business from the Second World War. You can’t have some bombings without a totally fucked up Shadow.
    Our Years of Lead supposedly lasted far more than the herd’s ones. We didn’t call them that, obviously, but it’s a nice name, so bear with me. Then, the snow changed everything. That’s all we know about it.

    This story is true, and it’s the end of all stories.
    It is the 10th of February, 1986. Snow graces Rome for the first time in decades. No one hunts that day. No one hunts the day after that. On the dawn of the 12th, less than twenty werewolves live, Pure and Forsaken alike. Those are the facts, the only facts. Anything beyond that are the ravings of the ones lucky enough to evade the culling. The one Storm Lord that survived had never seen that much whiteness before and swore it was a test from Winter Wolf itself. They did not survive long enough after telling that tale. The “Lucky Ones” (I Fortunati, or, as the Romans say, “I Fortunelli”) had one imperative, to rebuild. But they were young, they were brash, and they had lost every guide they had. They did not know how to rebuild. Luna did not answer their prayers, they were alone. And desperate.

    They asked the Shadow itself for help, any help. I Fortunelli, to this day, don’t talk about what answered back, not that many actually try to get them to talk, but their call worked. The spirits calmed down, and the Pure, who were attacking just the day before, realized it was the right time for a truce, to sort things out. It was unthinkable. But i Fortunelli paid their price: they became pariahs, forsake their packs and the rite of the hunt. They still cannot tell the reason for their sacrifice. Half of them did not survive the first ten years. Spirits could not harm them, the Pure evaded them, but there was something in their eyes that betrayed a need. Many died by their own hand. The rest were avoided. Other werewolves, many fresh from the First Change, some from outside the city, took their place. They had no history, but at least they had a chance.
    This story is still true.

    It is the 11th of February, 2010. Werewolves’ numbers are finally back to before the Snow of ‘86. The truce with the Pure has ended, and the spirits are back to doing as they please. It is not ideal, but at least it’s normal, familiar. It is still not an easy situation, though. Inter-pack violence is frequent, as there has been no one to assign territories for at least two decades, as no one listen to what the Lucky Ones have to say. There is still no one to look up to for guidance, and most of the community is made up of youngsters, or troublemakers from outside looking to turn a new leaf. After almost thirty years the Forsaken have put together enough knowledge of sacred places and spirit bans, but it is still not nothing compared to what was known before.

    It is the 12th of February, 2010. It is snowing again, for the first time since 1986. Every werewolf sound of mind stays indoor, gritting their teeth for a danger they can’t see, or even understand. But they feel it. The wolves still on the hunt are not so lucky. Myriads of white forms appear around the city. White hair, white skin, white eyes, and a rage as cold as ice. It doesn’t take much, even to the young ones, to understand who they’re fighting. That night the old truce between Pure and Forsaken becomes a full on alliance, to the chagrin and horror of all present. Many perish, but this time they will not be forgotten. The last three remaining Lucky Ones reemerge from their self-imposed exile. To the surprise of many, they Change, something thought of as impossible since the first Snow. The invaders retreat at the mere sight of them, fear in their otherwise blank expressions.

    This story is true. This story is now.

    The Lucky Ones are back to their self-imposed exile, but now at least they’re respected. The attack from six years before has brought closure to the community. Pure and Forsaken are back to war, with the tacit agreement of helping each other whenever they come back. Snow has come and gone many times in this period, along with the Burskir Nukuth, the Mute Scars. No werewolves has been idle. Life can continue, as chaotic as usual.

    Hunters

    The Blood Talons population is constantly in flux, but at the same time invaluable. Problem is, the followers of Fenris-Ur are in average the youngest Uratha in Rome and in dire need of discipline. For most of them, every hunt is a game, but the wolves from before don’t play by the rules. Or, at least, the Uratha haven’t found some they follow, other than appearing whenever it snows. Still, they are werewolves, so whenever they strike, the Talons are there. Their attitude does not help them in the slightest, and ever so often the other tribes try to bring some more experienced scion of Fenris-Ur in the city to get them in line. It hasn’t worked yet.

    It has been thirty years, but the work in front of the Bone Shadows is still daunting. Whole centuries of hunts have been completely wiped out by the Snow. There was no one guiding them mapping the Shadow, or finding the place where dangerous artifacts were stored, or buried, or what spirit to avoid or look out for. They’re still almost at square zero, and their many squabbles are not aiding them in the slightest. They’re getting impatient and brash, and only Luna knows what they could do to find some leverage. Rumours abound: are they defecting en masse to the Pure? Or are they calling for an outside help that is more than they chew on?

    Being the tribe with the most survivors, the Hunters in Darkness were given free rein to guide the rest of the Roman Forsaken. They failed utterly. Overwhelmed by the podium they were put on, the Meninna started hemorrhaging members at an incredible rate. Still, they had the time to preserve some rituals and knowledge for their successors. Now, chronically understaffed, their inheritance is just enough to avoid having Rome being overridden by the Beshilu.

    The Iron Masters are an anomaly. They are living a cozy life, compared to everybody else. Having lost almost everything has not put a hamper in their hunts: so much has changed for mortals in these thirty years, and the Farsil Luhal would have had to adapt anyway. Only two of their members survived the Snow, but they are both alive. Regarded by their tribe as complete trash for decades, they are now the most powerful Uratha in the city. This is breaking the Iron Master apart from the rest of the Roman Forsaken, and now that two Lodges are forming, cracks are showing inside the tribe.

    The Snow is nothing but a mark of shame for the Storm Lords. They were supposed to pass this trial and become stronger for it. Instead, they were the only ones to be completely wiped out. This has not stopped them. The Iminir haven’t broken a sweat since 1986. They rebuilt the tribe from the grounds up with members from the towns of the Albanian Hills. They recruited almost every new First Change they could find with promises of grandeur and acceptance. The old Iminir were known as sort of an elitist club: now they’re a tight community. The Burskir Nukuth have been their final test: they worked as a group and this time passed with flying colors. They won’t let the others forget.

    There are very few Ghost Wolves in Rome. The Tribes have done their best to avoid at least this fate. In this time of chaos, they won’t permit this kind of cowardness. To be a Ghost Wolf, one must be self-reliant above all: they usually don’t last.

    Prey

    Whenever snow strikes, they appear. The Mute Scars come with the snow and only act when it snows. They resemble oddly proportioned Uratha in Urshul form. They aren’t simply white: their fur and skin are translucent, so that something that seems like scars can be seen through. They don’t talk, don’t cry in pain, don’t howl. Even their footsteps are silent. Their only objective appears to be mauling every Uratha that steps in their snowy zones. Capturing one is completely useless, since they melt into the ground when it stops snowing, alive or not. The general idea is that they are the Uratha that disappeared in 1986, but no Burskir Nukuth has ever been identified as one of the lost, and no one can fathom why were they even changed in the first place.

    The Beshilu love Rome. It’s their city, this is the only thing their various splintered heretical groups agree on. The subway: it’s theirs, they ruined it! The river Tiber? It’s theirs, they ruined it! They all had something to do with the Snow, according to them, but since every single rat thinks they’re the perpetrator, most scoff at that idea, immediately after killing them, of course. They would be much more of a threat to the Hunter in Darkness if not for the presence of the Cats that live in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, whose garden is their personal shrine. Obviously, that garden is off-limits to werewolves. Cryptic and cold, the Cats protect their territories with the same fury of an Uratha, and have had oddly always a good relationship with them. Some think they are not Spirits, but some kind of Host, or something even stranger. No one understands their answers on these points.

    Il Trono is the Spirit of Catholicism. Mind you: he knows perfectly well he isn’t God, starting from the fact that God isn’t a “he”. But he knows he is a God, a man who speaks for God “sits” on him, so he demands faith and obedience nevertheless. Il Trono is that kind of blind fervor that every day, especially every Sunday, graces the little country of Vatican City, and Rome in its entirety. The faith of Italians nowadays is an empty shell: more and more Italians are choosing Atheism or Agnosticism, but Il Trono doesn’t care, he has enough faith coming from all over the world. He is content, but his court it’s not. They get the scraps, and they are hungry.

    The Ivory Claws vastly outnumber the other Pure Tribes in Rome, and that has been the state of things even before the Snow. They know they were behind the rise of Mussolini, they know theirs was the idea of the Ethiopian Wars, they know they were the masterminds of the Alliance with the Reich. The most important thing is, after the Snow, they have no proof of that. All their projects were erased, their lineages broken, all they ever stood was silently undermined. So they started again. If you can think of a Fascist or otherwise far-right-but-not-Fascist-we-swear group, you can be sure there’s one of the Ivory Claws involved somehow. For every Celtic Cross, every comic book character co-opted, every act of racism and antisemitism, they become stronger, their ideology getting more rooted in the psyche of the city. Recently, they “discovered” some document that describe how they, and only they, are the descendent of the famous Lupa capitolina that rescued Romulus and Remus, and according to some rumors are planning on escalating their attacks to assert their claim to rule the city.

    Apex Predators, The Lucky Ones

    I Fortunelli are getting to that certain age where every other Uratha is surprised they are still alive. And that’s not counting all their deeds, their pacts and sacrifices. Frankly, they’re old, but they can’t show it, they can’t look tired, not now that they found some kind of glory again, now that their people look up to them.

    Rachele Piperno is a Jewish Meninna in her 70s, one with a rage and inner turmoil almost unheard of in her Tribe. Her whole family perished in the Holocaust, and just when she thought she found a new one in her pack, the Snow happened, with her as the only survivor. She retreated and plotted, and most of the weight of what came upon in the Shadow in the first years after the Snow has been on her shoulders, quickly more and more alone to bear it. She cut all contacts, despising all the other Hunters in Darkness that squandered their potential without her guidance. She couldn’t hunt for years, but she has never been an idle one. When the Mute Scars came to the fore, she was the first to the battlefield, as if an unseen force guided her. She has never been alone since, and while proud of it, she is finally understanding what it means guiding openly, and finding that it actually doesn’t fit her at all. She’s looking for heirs, but she’s a harsh teacher.

    Lorenzo Valentini and Michela de Santis were two young and brash Iron Masters when the Snow hit the city. They were probably the least expected to live through it, but what can an Iron Master do if not adapt and survive? They did not expect to be of use again after everything they give up for the City. All they had was each other, and they barely tolerated one another at best. They want the same thing: changing Rome to let it survive, but their methods cannot be more different. Michela is a destroyer: to create something you have to break it, analyze it, and keep only what truly matters. She destroys taboos, her relationships are swift and without meaning, and hasn’t lived in the same place for more than six months in five years. Lorenzo is a builder: he doesn’t start from scratch, but innovate upon existing structures to understand what needs to be fixed, not trashing the rest. Even his loyal allies think he’s honest but too stuck up. Their arguments are getting more and more passionate to the point that they cannot stand the sight of each other, and their little cults are slowly morphing in full-fledged Lodges threatening the stability of Rome that they so much desire.

    Places

    Testaccio, along with San Lorenzo, Ostiense and Garbatella, were some of the neighborhoods that were bombed during WW2. They were Wounds for more than thirty years, when the Snow hit. Their taint then was suddenly gone. They were already being slowly repaired, by Uratha and humans alike, but the change was swift. Still, the spirits there are as active as can be, changing, and repairing, and fusing. Gentrification hasn’t helped matters, as those previously working class areas have been prey to hipsters and university students in later years.

    The Isola Tiberina is an island right in the middle of the river Tiber, and the spirit of the river, il Biondo (“The Blond”) often resides there. While one of the oldest and strongest spirit in the city, il Biondo is often dormant, and that’s how it’s been slowly corrupted by the Rat Hosts and the few Fire Touched that live in the City. This has become kind of a life work for the Pure Tribe, that hates how the island has been associated with healing since the Roman Era. The river is now linked to uncleanliness and disease: it’s a miracle it hasn’t become a Magath by now, probably thanks to the influence to the Island itself.

    Places like Tor Bella Monaca, or San Basilio are sadly famous because of their status as “difficult” neighborhoods. There, the borders between crime gangs and packs are tragically blurred, inter pack struggles are frequent, and the Pure love to interfere, like the temporary truce has never been a thing. That’s where most of the Blood Talons “se fanno le ossa”, get the experience they wouldn’t otherwise get outside Rome. They don’t even realize that they are becoming part of the problem.
    -----

    Notes:
    - I haven't read The Pack, so I don't actually know what the Lodges do mechanically. I may updated them in the future. Lorenzo's Lodge is called The Lodge of the Architect, while Michela's is The Lodge of Renewal.
    - We really have fascist parties (that can't call themselves fascist cause that's illegaaal) that co-opt comic book characters saying they are fascist characters. That's what happened with both Corto Maltese and Captain Harlock. Oddly, they're both anarchists. While they don't go very far in elections, they are, how can I say it, a nuisance. At best.
    - It snows really rarely in Rome. So those dates are all correct, what I've changed is the intensity of the snow. Still, since we are not prepared, everytime it snows the city is thrown in full chaos.




    Italian nuisance. English is my second language, so be patient!

    My homebrew:
    [VtR 2e] Light From a Dead Star: Rome
    [WtF 2e] The Past Is Another Country: Rome

  • #2
    Well, that's really cool! do you mind if I'll refer to it in my Awful Ice project? A terrible power of snow and cold does reminds me a lot of the Ice. You will be credited of course, and I'll make sure to make it sound as optional instead of as a "hard truth".


    My Homebrew Signature

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

    I now blog in here

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    • #3
      Thanks! And sure, you can use this setting as you like. The power behind the Snow is a mystery on purpose, and with that modus operandi and powers it's probably an idigam (I know, I know, anticlimatic), but it could be anything you think fits best.


      Italian nuisance. English is my second language, so be patient!

      My homebrew:
      [VtR 2e] Light From a Dead Star: Rome
      [WtF 2e] The Past Is Another Country: Rome

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