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  • #61
    Those who enjoy learning about the Hosts (and maybe the Pangaeans?), throw back your heads and howl with joy, for this last of Wolfiday nights, we hear a tale of worthy prey.


    Currently Playing: A large, mixed splat game of CofD. As: Seraph du Salomon, Voice on the concordance. Unsubtle man reluctantly participating in the business of Magi. Awakening 2E homebrew http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...=1569864567692

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    • #62
      So here we are, the final of the twelve days, the last offering of the Christmas spirit - for this year. I hope you enjoy this angry half-goddess; I'll put the write-up for the runner-up E, Kalinda Varamban, wily human mastermind and threat to the Forsaken, up for my Patreons some time tomorrow with any luck.

      ​And soon enough, it'll be time for Forsaken February

      Avatarachnid
      The Hosts skitter through the margins of history, plaguing the world with their predations. Their numbers seem impossibly unending. They are caught in a nightmare cycle, devouring one another and tearing themselves apart. They're slaves to the broken instincts of long-dead demon-gods, driven to pursue an unachievable reunification and transcendence of their fractured nature that they are simply incapable of realising. After all, if they were​ capable, then surely seven thousand years of striving would have seen the rebirth of the Great Predator's foes. Still, sometimes a Host's jaws catch more than it can easily swallow - a surfeit of Shards so great, so concentrated in one being, that it buckles under the weight of the immanence burning in its soul.

      This is no glorious apotheosis.

      The name is a joke. That's the thing she tells everyone she meets, with a self-deprecating smile. The name is a joke. They usually look confused, hiding it behind whatever politeness they can muster, and try and move the conversation on beyond that initial stumbling block. It's tricky, of course, because Ariadne always seems like she's bottling down an excess of nervous energy. She fidgets, cracks odd expressions, taps her fingers together in an odd rhythm. If something really interests her, she becomes alarmingly intense. She gets frustrated easily, and at seemingly random things. She balls her fists when she gets annoyed, grits her teeth, and will break off a conversation and just walk away in an attempt to keep control of her rage. She hates spiders with a passion, but sometimes, when no-one is looking, cannot help herself and shoves a twitching, thrashing little mess of arachnid legs into her mouth when it can't scuttle away from her snatching fingers fast enough.

      This is Ariadne: an odd, unpredictable woman capable of being persuasive, charming, even seductive, for brief periods when she can keep her focus; an enthusiastic obsessive with a seemingly bottomless well of energy for the study of advanced scientific and computational principles; one of the finest minds of her generation, although what that generation is is not entirely clear; an absolute spider-hating arachnophobe; a divine spider, caught in a web, thrashing wildly to break free.

      She's eaten more spouses than she can remember. Sometimes they wrong her, and she loses control. She remembers being abandoned, so long ago, and the pain of departure often stings her beyond her limits. Sometimes she loves them too much, and they break, and the instincts kick in. Sometimes she doesn't remember what she did, only waking to the blood and her frustrated tears. She's killed so many people, and most of them didn't deserve it. The grief never goes away; the pain of all the threads she's broken is just an all-encompassing, numbing fire now. It's like being in a nightmare that you can't wake up from, as she carefully explains to a drunken academic fellow at a bar one night, who thankfully hasn't noticed the absolute lack of effect that three bottles of wine have had on her. You reach out and just tear their face off, she says with that false calmness that indicates the horror she is desperately keeping simmering just below the surface, the disgust and fear she keeps a tight leash on. Or you break their spine, or you pull their guts out. And then you've ruined them, and they don't unbreak. And it's not something you want to do, she continues, although her friend is now almost comatose. It's just something you do, because it's what you were made to do, even if you don't want to be that thing any more. Especially when you don't want to be that thing any more.

      She's worn a lot of faces, and she remembers all the minds she's taken. She once thought, foolishly, naively, that the humans were lesser creatures - cattle - and that their blurry memories were a nourishing broth, a heady mix of thoughts that she could arm herself with to stalk amongst the herd. But with power came ever increasing clarity, each person crystallising into something harder, something permanent in her mind. It's a gallery of her own misdeeds. She can't separate herself from them - from their hopes, their dreams, their friends and families, all things that she ruined. Their pain and loss is her pain and loss now, and she can find no way out. Even the ones she hated when she stole their flesh, she still feels the suffering she inflicted upon them. It feels somehow right and natural, yet equally and utterly wrong.

      The last time she stole a body was a very long time ago, though. It's been many long years since she turned a human to a husk of bones and skin to take as her home. It's been a long time since she changed, metamorphosed, into a skittering horror of limbs and carapace. And yet here she is, looking... human?

      Ariadne isn't human, though. The appearance is a simulacrum. She can't change her shape in the flowing manner of the Uratha. She had to build this form from her own meat and chitin, bit by bit, piece by piece, every inch hard-won. Her internals look nothing like any doctor would recognise. Elements of her looks are off or too perfect. Hard experience has pulled her out of the uncanny valley of her early, almost doll-like aspects. She can fool humans for years now, not that she gets the chance.

      She wants to fool humans for years. She wants the time and the space and the peace to work. She thinks she's found a doorway out of her nightmare, but every time she reaches for the key, something goes wrong. Sometimes it's the Uratha - she may pass visually, but she just can't mask her true nature for them, and as soon as she trips on one yapping pup she finds herself up to her waist in werewolf viscera as the damn things dogpile into the situation. Sometimes it's the other Azlu, the ones either too stupid to be properly afraid of the metaphysical bulk she drags around with her, or the ones too arrogant who think they can take her down, so into her carefully built life they come barging, and ruin everything with their thrashing as she pulls their limbs off in petulant anger. Sometimes it's just her. It's usually just her. She and her own mistakes, her own loss of control, a moment when the Spinner Hag's ancient protocols kick in and she's forced to face her own monstrous nature.

      The crux of the problem is this: Ariadne is a very old Azlu who was too successful for her own good in satisfying her hunger and consuming other Shards. She became something more than a mere Host - smarter, more aware, more of a person - but her rising sense of self-realisation was matched by a growing awareness of the chains that bind her nature. Like a boulder rolling down a hill, she's gathered so much divine power that it wants to keep on dragging her towards apotheosis, but she doesn't want that. Ariadne has realised that she, her, Ariadne, the little shiver of actual amusement at the-name-is-a-joke-you-see, the spark of real love that sometimes burns in her chest, the fear of the looming hag that croons to her in her dreams - she has realised that all these things that make up her are as nothing to her progenitor. She is not some beloved daughter. She is nothing. She knows that the vast, all-encompassing monstrosity of fractured soul and light that she is just a splinter of, will consume and extinguish her in turn. This Host knows she's a puppet, and she wants to cut her strings.

      She has to fight for the time she has free from the Spinner Hag's overwhelming drive. Every day is precious. Each fake life is built as a researcher or academic with as much access as she can get not just to the laboratories and equipment of cutting edge establishments, but to the people thereof and their minds. She treasures them, treats them like precious jewels to be turned and tilted in the light of discovery so that she can see what marvellous shapes shine out of their facets. Sometimes, she becomes entranced, and falls in love with them. She's looking for the parts of reality where humans have found those vibrating threads that weave through the universe and learned how to pluck at them - string theory, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence, even weirder areas of inquiry. She's analysing her origins not as a myth made real but as something more akin to a computer program - a spiritual encoding that forces certain behaviours in the copies of the Spinner Hag's data fragments. She'll harness the ingenuity of beautiful, mad, wonderful humankind, and she'll fucking well cut herself free from the Spinner Hag's binding thread. And then she'll be free to be whatever she wants to be, just her, at last.

      Those are the good times, and even they are always burdened by the holding of her breath, the waiting for the Hag's ugly desires to rear up.

      Then there are the bad times.

      Ariadne is several tonnes of angry monstrosity folded up under the mask of one frail-looking little human body. Like the petals of a flower, she unfolds into a threshing slaughter of razor-blade limbs and crushing chitin. All the hard work to render her a passable human comes undone, and there's some little part of her mind screaming at the loss, but it doesn't matter, because when things come to a head, her divine drive takes over and it's time for the Spinner Hag to set to work. This isn't me​, she cries, but who would listen?

      Spending months or even years pretending to be something she's not has built up the pressure and when it comes bursting out, she devolves for a time into a divine monster. The hunger in her gut, no longer controlled, springs out beyond the horizon, catching lesser Azlu in its net and making them dance to the Spinner Hag's tune. Her sense of the Gauntlet, its irritating scratch shoved to the back of her mind and kept there by force of willpower, lurches to the forefront of her attention and demands addressing. Filthy little Uratha claw at her awareness and require eradication to soothe her rage.

      And so the Queen of Spiders simply appears in a city, seemingly out of no-where and with no provocation. She enslaves the lesser Azlu and bends them to her will, consumes the weakest, and proceeds with a reign of terror - an immense, crimson spider-beast the size of a main battle tank, or a twisted, hag-like approximation of a humanoid with too many eyes and fingers of hooked blades, or a flowing swarm of arachnids that move as a singular whole. She spins her threads and chokes the Gauntlet, weaving a colony within its thickness for her new slaves. And somewhere inside her mind, Ariadne screams and shakes at the bars of her own thoughts.

      Eventually the madness abates; sated, the Spinner Hag's drive quietens. Ariadne slowly re-emerges. She starts again with the mental and spiritual regimens she has learned to practice, to seal the Spinner Hag's drive away once more. She reacquires herself. As soon as she has the strength to do so, she wrenches herself free of whatever little empire of spiders the dead Hag's protocols have forced her to enact, disappearing to somewhere remote to spin a cocoon in the Gauntlet and spend time in meditation and sculpting of her flesh. She doesn't care what happens to whatever hierarchy of Azlu she dominated into obeisance, as long as they are a long way away from her.

      To the Uratha, Ariadne the Queen of Spiders is an unpredictable, sudden terror - a Host demigod of colossal power who appears and disappears without warning, stronger every time. In her wake, the Azlu are emboldened as a threat - the weakest have been culled, and the strongest armed with schemes and ambitions born of the Spider Queen's nightmare intelligence, given fanatic zeal by a living embodiment of their faith in the Spinner Hag. She's a spider-saint, turning the often-solitary Azlu into an organised, deadly hive. Ariadne's slave-students are a force to be reckoned with.

      And somewhere else, she quietly slips back into playing at humanity, and there she searches for the answers to her enslavement, and laughs, and lives, and sometimes even loves, until it all falls apart again.

      The humans around Ariadne always wonder why she hates spiders so much.

      Ariadne, Azlu Queen
      Intelligence 8 Wits 7 Resolve 6 Strength 25 Dexterity 15 Stamina 20 Presence 12 Manipulation 8 Composure 4
      Academics 4 Computer 4 Crafts 5 Investigation 4 Medicine 3 Occult 5 Science 5 Athletics 5 Brawl 4 Drive 1 Larceny 3 Stealth 4 Survival 4 Weaponry 2 Empathy 3 Expression 3 Intimidation 2 Persuasion 3 Socialise 2 Subterfuge 5
      Merits: Ambidextrous, Eidetic Memory, Good Time Management, Iron Stamina 3, Language (a very large number, including ancient Greek), Meditative MInd, Professional Training (Scientist) 4, Professional Training (Computer Programming) 3
      Willpower 10 Essence 300/30 Health 35 Initiative 19 Defence 12 Size 15/5 Speed 45
      Dread Powers: Armoured Hide 3, Beastmaster, Burrow, Chameleon Horror, Discorporate, Gauntlet Cloak, Gauntlet Webs, Hypnotic Gaze, Juggernaut, Leap, Monstrous Resilience, Natural Weapons 3, Regenerate 5, Snare, Wall Climb
      Many Forms: Ariadne can spend 1 Essence and an Instant action to shift between three forms: a massive spider-like horror, a human-sized spider-human hag, or a swarm of spiders. By spending 100 Essence and a month, she can take on another form through carefully shaping her own Essence and flesh. She usually appears as a middle-aged human woman. Ariadne has learned enough to give herself the Striking Looks merit in this form if she wishes, but she usually avoids doing so after some bad experiences in her early phases of experimentation with appearance. Once in crafted human form, Ariadne's physical and social attributes are effectively capped at 5 most of the time, and she cannot freely access her Dread Powers. Once per scene, she can safely use one of her social or physical attributes at its true rating for a single dice pool, or use a single Dread Power, without threatening her control over her form. Every additional roll or Dread Power she utilises forces her to make a Resolve + Composure roll with a penalty equal to the additional uses, with failure resulting in a loss of control and her reversion to avatar of the Spinner Hag. Reversion destroys the crafted human form and requires rebuilding it from the beginning again.
      Spinner Hag's Avatar: ​In her natural three forms, Ariadne benefits from the 8-again rule on all of her dice pools, and can reflexively spend 5 Essence to reroll a failed dice pool a single time. A character attempting to attack Ariadne in any form must spend two points of Willpower to be able to do so; once the points are spent, they can freely attack her for the duration of the scene. She applies her full Defence against ranged attacks. She benefits from the rote action quality on all Crafts rolls to weave, knit or thread, and any such craftworks she creates in this way are not subject to the usual cap on dice bonuses and suchlike that human handiwork usually encounters. She can perfectly unpick any knot or tangle, including any bindings or chains that would hold her. She can find her way through any maze without difficulty. Whenever she suffers damage, Ariadne can reflexively spend 5 Essence to cause a Rank 1 spider spirit to spring forth from her blood; the spirit is loyal to her for the duration of the scene, after which it becomes independent.
      Mind Web:​ Azlu within ten miles of Ariadne in her three natural forms can sense her presence, and must pass a Willpower roll with a -5 penalty or feel a strong compulsion to go to her and obey her commands. Ariadne can communicate telepathically with all Azlu in the area. While she is in her crafted human shape, her presence is somewhat suppressed; Azlu can only sense her within a mile, and her telepathy is non-functional, but her power and status is still clear to those Azlu who do become aware of her. Most Azlu flee while they still can, but there's always a few arrogant or stupid enough to think they can kill her and seize her mantle as most-favoured of the Spinner Hag.
      Limb-Hewer: In her spider-beast form, Ariadne inflicts either the Leg Wrack or Arm Wrack Tilt on any character she hits with her natural weaponry. She also benefits from Armour Piercing 5 on such attacks, and if she achieves 5 or more successes on the attack roll, the damage is upgraded to aggravated and the Tilt is permanent.
      Poison-Sower: In all her forms apart from crafted human, Ariadne inflicts the grave Poisoned Tilt with her natural weaponry. If she spends 5 Essence while doing so, she can either upgrade the damage to aggravated, transfer a single point of Essence or Willpower from the victim every time they suffer damage from the poison, be perfectly aware of the prey's location as long as they remain poisoned, or cause it to poison their relationships and alliances instead. In the latter case, for as long as the poison persists, Touchstones provide no benefit to the prey, and they suffer a -5 penalty on rolls to draw on Allies and Contacts merit dots.
      Spider Apotheosis:​ By touching an Azlu and spending 5 Essence, Ariadne can move up to five of their attribute points around, as well as adjust or change up to three Dread Powers. Using this power again on an Azlu already affected by it causes the existing changes to reset. By touching an Azlu that is in its basic stage of human infestation and spending 25 Essence, she can immediately trigger a metamorphosis into a full hybrid form. By touching a Shard carcass slain in the past week and spending 50 Essence, she can return it to life. She can also spend 10 Essence to endow all spiders in her presence with an Intelligence score of 3 and a strong sense of malice, render their bites 1L weapons that cause the moderate Poison Tilt, and give them the 8-again trait on their teamwork rolls with each other. Finally, by touching a human and spending 10 Essence, she can render them Open and allow a spider-spirit to immediately go straight to Claiming them.
      Gauntlet Throttle: By spending 100 Essence over the course of a month, Ariadne can reinforce an area of webbed Gauntlet of up to a square mile in size. Doing so adds 5 to both the Structure and Durability of the webs in the area, and inflicts an additional -5 penalty on all dice pools to cross or perceive over the Gauntlet. Furthermore, the thickened Gauntlet cloys the minds and spirits of non-Azlu beings on either side, inflicting a -3 penalty on Initiative, perception rolls and dice pools to activate supernatural powers, preventing humans from regaining Willpower through sleeping, and forcing spirits to pass a Willpower roll to succeed at gathering Essence each day from being in their natural resonance. For her part, Ariadne is able to Wall Climb on the Gauntlet webs, essentially allowing her to clamber through what appears to be thin air; she drains half the Essence naturally generated from loci in the affected area into herself; and senses anyone attempting to cross over the Gauntlet anywhere​ in the affected area, allowing her to use her Snare Dread Power against them regardless of range and perception.
      Spark Of Pangaea:​ Ariadne is capable of sensing links between people, defining them, and tampering with them. She can spend 5 Essence to sense the Allies, Contacts and Status dots a character possesses, and can either grant them a +3 or -3 modifier to dice pools drawing on such relationships. She can also spend 5 Essence to read someone's fate, letting her know their likely doom if their life continues as it is. She has a subconscious ability and compulsion to sense and seek out the human, Wolf-Blooded or werewolf within 8888 miles of her position who will fall most deeply in love with her, then hurt her.
      Disloyal Shard: Ariadne suffers the Madness and Fugue Conditions.
      Last edited by Acrozatarim; 02-27-2018, 07:51 PM.


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      • #63
        Damnit, I forgot the trophy bit!

        ​That'll happen as a follow-up tomorrow


        - Chris Allen, Freelance Writer & Developer

        ​Like my work? Feel like helping me stay supplied with tea? Check out my Patreon

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        • #64
          That is by far the best antagonist I have seen for werewolf so far. The sheer complexity here is marvelous. I was won over to Hosts by the 2e corebook, but This? This makes me want to run a werewolf game sometime.


          Revlid wrote:
          Yes, hollowing out your humanity to become an utterly utilitarian asura is the exact suggestion I would expect from you, Aiden.

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          • #65
            You outdid yourself with this one. Has all the traits to back up tearing apart werewolf packs and much worse, and she does the equivalent of a damn army of developed Azlu shards by herself, aside from things nothing else can do. She's absolutely terrifying - and a story of personal horror too.

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            • #66
              Some badass Hunter in Darkness killed that thing? Damn.

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              • #67




                Bravo, sir. Bravo.

                Both pants-soilingly terrifying in power, and tragic in character.

                I actually want the antagonist to win. Her goal isn't some terrifying, world or region changing calamity. It is the simple goal of personal freedom - the right to be yourself.

                I'm tempted to come up with a cross-splat group whose goal is to help her and others in the same situation. Spiting in the Eyes of Demon-God and Fate alike.

                Acrozatarim can you create a thread that has links to (the start of) all 12 days of material? Or just copy the content posts? To condense all the goodness in one easy-to-reference place. I (or another) can, if you'd prefer.
                Last edited by Vent0; 02-27-2018, 10:37 PM.


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                • #68
                  ...... Woah. Beautiful, terrifying, and... melancholic. Since this is about trophies, Ariadne most likely died. I hope in her last moments she died as a person.

                  (And I see that Spider the Pangaean has the number 8 as her numeric motif, and likely Fate as her Arcanum!)


                  MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
                    ...... Woah. Beautiful, terrifying, and... melancholic. Since this is about trophies, Ariadne most likely died. I hope in her last moments she died as a person.
                    Well it is 'a trophy that might be taken from their defeat.' Which implies more 'if' than 'when.' And as tragic as her death might be, it's certainly a tremendous undertaking for the wolf, pack, or packs that managed it. And going by Harvest and Fox, it suggests the Spinner-Hag may have been Rank 8.

                    She's a great and rich character, and a particularly nice match-up since the azlu were one of the few hosts to get multiple sample versions back in first edition, of varying power, too. There was even an SAS, and they could all be tied up with Ariadne and her impact on a setting.

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                    • #70
                      “The name is a joke,” says Ariadne. Ariadne, the woman cursed into becoming a spider! How did I miss that?

                      Originally posted by nofather View Post

                      Well it is 'a trophy that might be taken from their defeat.' Which implies more 'if' than 'when.' And as tragic as her death might be, it's certainly a tremendous undertaking for the wolf, pack, or packs that managed it. And going by Harvest and Fox, it suggests the Spinner-Hag may have been Rank 8.
                      Rank 8? How so? Because of the number 8?

                      She's a great and rich character, and a particularly nice match-up since the azlu were one of the few hosts to get multiple sample versions back in first edition, of varying power, too. There was even an SAS, and they could all be tied up with Ariadne and her impact on a setting.
                      Adding to this, I remember something about Azlu spider-witches or something in this forum. Which, in hindsight, isn’t that yet another of Acrozatarim’s materials?


                      MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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                      • #71
                        Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
                        Rank 8? How so? Because of the number 8?
                        Yeah. Not a big leap, I admit. Fox was Rank 3, and had a special ability to be aware of the health and emotional state of foxes within 'three hundred and thirty three miles'. While Harvest, Rank 4, had various things associated with 44, including their bane and potentially the label of their omphalos stone.

                        Adding to this, I remember something about Azlu spider-witches or something in this forum. Which, in hindsight, isn’t that yet another of Acrozatarim’s materials?
                        In his Hong Kong Actual Play thread, yeah, the Philippines had a lot of azlu and mentions spider-witches. Though I think others have done some work on them, too.
                        Last edited by nofather; 02-28-2018, 12:29 AM.

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                        • #72
                          Originally posted by nofather View Post

                          Yeah. Not a big leap, I admit. Fox was Rank 3, and had a special ability to be aware of the health and emotional state of foxes within 'three hundred and thirty three miles'. While Harvest, Rank 4, had various things associated with 44, including their bane and potentially the label of their omphalos stone.
                          I thought Fox was Rank 5?


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                          • #73
                            Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
                            “The name is a joke,” says Ariadne. Ariadne, the woman cursed into becoming a spider! How did I miss that?
                            Close, but not quite. Arachne (hence, arachnid, arachnaphobia, etc.) is cursed by Athena into becoming a spider for making impious images in a weaving contest with the goddess. Ariadne is the daughter of Minos, king of Crete, who leads Theseus to her brother Asterion, the Minotaur, out of a massive crush and escapes with him until he abandons her on the island of Naxos, where she is then made into the divine wife of Dionysius (if she wasn't reframed as a Cretan princess after a stint as a pre-Mycenaean goddess). This is presumably where her compulsion to find the person most likely to love and hurt her comes from. Ariadne means "utterly pure", and she is the Mistress of the Labyrinth.

                            nofather seconding Second Chances here, Fox is Rank 5. I think the use of the number three has to do with their Influence of Wisdom. Harvest uses the number four because in parts of the world where agriculture was influential in the time period of the Sundered World have four seasons. Centipede from the "Two Daggers" thread uses the number three as well, but of a degree of magnitude less than Fox (33 vs 333). Spider obviously has eight because she's Spider.

                            I suggested in the "Two Daggers" thread that it's about orders of magnitude. So a Rank 3 Pangaean uses ones, Rank 4 tens, Rank 5 hundreds, ergo Rank 6 would use thousands. Rank 6 seems a little low for the Spinner Hag, but it follows the pattern.
                            Last edited by Arcanist; 02-28-2018, 01:30 AM.


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                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Second Chances View Post
                              I thought Fox was Rank 5?
                              Too right, I had the link and everything. It did have a number of 3s in its write-up. I guess they are unrelated?

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                              • #75
                                I thought Fox was 5 and Harvest was 4?


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