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Those Who Call To Spirits - Human Occultists

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  • Those Who Call To Spirits - Human Occultists

    How about a new kind of human antagonist, eh?

    Few humans have the perceptiveness to discover the world of spirits; of those, fewer still have the mental resilience to deal with such a discovery, and yet fewer have the wits and cleverness to actually survive interactions with the alien beings slithering through the fabric of reality. There’s no handy user manual for the budding shaman or would-be witch, no-one who can help and explain what’s going on when you’ve caught the attention of things with too many eyes that are made from raw emotion. Libraries on the Shadow and its denizens are incredibly rare, and so the spiritualist must rely on the hard-won scraps of lore they gain through the experience of repeatedly not dying. Still, something risking soundness of body and mind has rarely put anyone off before, and the lure of power and knowledge is great to those who have peeled back the veil and discovered the mass of spiritual maggots squirming beneath it.

    The thing is, humans aren’t made to handle the energies of the spirit realm, and have a tendency to break when exposed to it. Some glean parcels of its influence through werewolf middlemen or bargain with a spirit to act on their behalf, but such petitioning only gives a glimpse of real power. An occultist’s thirst for eldritch knowledge can scarcely be slaked by a mere sip from the well. Better to drink deep, and damn the consequences.

    The first step is to prepare oneself as a vessel for the Shadow’s power. A number of different rites and inadvisable ceremonies exist for this purpose, but the most common and effective way – at least, common in terms of the vanishingly few occultists who survive even this far – is itself colossally risky, because it involves a spirit riding the occultist’s body. Whether possession, long-term Riding, or the terrifying experience of actually being Claimed and somehow surviving the spirit’s departure, this process mutilates and sculpts the human’s own symbolic presence to render them further attuned to the Shadow. Some occultists make bargains with spirits to achieve this, although such pacts have a tendency to go wrong as the human is entirely at the spirit’s mercy; other spiritualists have already been victimised by denizens of the Hisil by the time they reach this stage, so have already paid the price in spiritual torment that primes them for the next stage.

    Having survived the trauma of possession, the occultist next must coax or bargain or plead with a spirit to feed them Essence. This is always a transgressive experience. The Essence has to be conveyed via a substance or act; gobbets of raw flesh or matter that must be consumed, very physical scarification, sexual union, or other spiritual-physical intermingling with a thoroughly alien being are all paths trodden by those determined to do anything for revelation or power. This intentional transgression against their own nature as human beings finally violates the occultist enough to open them up as channels for the Shadow.

    The path does not cease there, of course. Compelled by taboos, bargaining with spirits for more power, and hunting for sources of Essence demand a great deal of time and effort on the occultist’s path, and require further transgressions. Older spiritualists have few lines they are not willing to cross in the pursuit of the eldritch.

    Shadow Occultism: An occultist is able to perceive spirits in Twilight, gains an Essence pool, gains an initial Influence and the ability to garner more, and is able to lead Pack rites. They are also bound by taboos and gain a Bane.

    Shadow Perception: An occultist can see spirits in Twilight, can understand the First Tongue, and can also sense whether a location they are in or a person or object they are touching is Resonant to any Influence they currently possess. An occultist can sense they are in the presence of a locus, but are not able to cross over into the Shadow directly under their own power; entering the Hisil requires a willing spirit to carry them through the locus, and the same to get back again afterwards.

    Essence: An occultist has a maximum Essence pool equal to Stamina + Resolve. While their Essence total is above their Resolve, they gain the Madness Condition; while over their Stamina, they gain the Sick Tilt during combats. There is no limit to how much Essence an occultist can spend per turn.

    An occultist can glean a single point of Essence per day by being in contact with the Resonance of their initial Influence, and gain a single point of Essence per week for each taboo they have avoided violating. They can also extract Essence from loci.

    Influences: An occultist gains 3 dots of Influence in a single Influence possessed by the spirit that feeds them Essence during their initiation. This initial Influence is permanently gained and the occultist always has access to it. The occultist rolls Presence + Wits for all Influence dice pools.

    The occultist can gain dots in additional Influences through various means, up to a total of Resolve + Composure additional Influence dots. Any time the occultist uses an additional Influence, it loses one dot from its total, so will eventually be lost through use. It is possible for an occultist to take the same Influence several times in order to create a bank of power that can be drawn on; a character with Resolve + Composure of 6 might take Influence (Fire) 3 twice with the intent of extensively influencing flames in the near future.

    Gaining additional dots requires dealing with a spirit, performing transgressive acts, or binding oneself with a taboo. A deal with a spirit is simple enough, although the cost is often high; if the occultist is willing to pay the spirit’s price, they gain dots in an Influence that the spirit possesses of up to the spirit’s Rank. Should the bargain involve an action they must later perform or other terms they must adhere to, violating those terms levies a brutal punishment; the character will expurgate up all the Essence in their body from their orifices in an agonising spasm and loses access to all their Influences for a month.

    Sacrificing a human being and partaking of their blood or flesh grants the occultist a number of points of additional Influences equal to the victim’s Resolve, but the Influences must be related to the victim in some way – a banker could give Influence (Wealth), for example. Taking an action that causes another human being to suffer an Integrity breaking point which they then fail grants one point of additional Influence relating to the act that was taken or the character who suffered the breaking point.

    Each taboo beyond the occultist’s first grants a single point of additional Influence each week that it is adhered to.

    Rites: The occultist can learn and lead Pack Rites, even without a pack.

    Taboo: An occultist gains a single taboo, a limitation similar to a Ban and based on the nature of the spirit that initiated them. An occultist might be unable to wear red, must always avoid cats, be compelled to kill a rat every day, never lie, drink mild poisons, flagellate themselves, or other bizarre requirements. The character can take on additional taboos voluntarily, up to a total of taboos equal to their Composure. Taboos can be shed – usually in order to replace them with another – but this requires a day spent in preparation through ceremonies or self-purification, followed by a successful Resolve + Composure roll. The initial taboo can never be changed, however.

    Adhering to taboos offers the occultist a means to gain Essence and, in the case of taboos other than the initial one, an opportunity to gain additional Influence dots. Breaking a taboo has no direct penalty other than the loss of these benefits, but spirits can sense if an occultist has recently broken any of their taboos, and have their Impression rating reduced by one step against such a character.

    Bane: The occultist gains the Bane of the spirit who initiated them.


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  • #2
    Fascinating as always.

    I imagine at their extreme, Shadow occultists become Purified? Perhaps employing Open/Closed ritual sorcery together, as per Dark Eras Companion.


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    • #3
      As someone who recently played a mortal occultist character, (Still have them, actually, they're just wolf-blooded as of late.), I found this writeup to be very interesting, certainly a potential antagonist I would consider were I to ST.


      Currently Playing: A large, mixed splat game of CofD. As: Seth; Inept shaman, Wildlife studies major, Recently changed Irraka. Probably the most fun I've had putting my own character through so much.

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      • #4
        Very interesting, but perhaps change the Bane to something based on the initiator spirit's Bane? "You can't Manifest during sub-zero conditions." "Sure thang. Think I can handle that."


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        • #5
          The not manifesting you have as an example would be a ban, which are behavior restrictions. A bane is something particularly harmful to the spirit, more in line with being burned by ice and snow, for example.
          Last edited by Gryphon's Feather; 06-30-2018, 01:46 PM.


          Currently Playing: A large, mixed splat game of CofD. As: Seth; Inept shaman, Wildlife studies major, Recently changed Irraka. Probably the most fun I've had putting my own character through so much.

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          • #6
            Right. Mixed those up. My bad.


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            • #7
              I did this in my game but did it as a simple Supernatural Merit Template.

              The Shaman
              To become a Shaman you must have the Medium merit.

              Shamanism (• to •••••, Supernatural Merit )
              Prerequisite: Medium, Occult ••+
              You have seen the other side, made contact with it and survived being possessed by a spirit. You have gained the ability to channel the power of the Shadow Realm. You gain a Max Essence and a Essence Per Turn as if you had a Primal Urge equal to your dots in Shamanism. You also gain one Shadow facet.
              For each dot you have in Shamanism you may learn and buy one additional Shadow facet, assuming you can find a spirit to teach it to you. Buying a Shadow facet always costs 5xp even if you have previously bought a facet from the same gift.
              In addition you may also learn any number of Pack rites, but may not learn one with more dots than you have in Shamanism.
              Drawback: The character gains both a ban and a bane.

              Spirit Senses (••, Supernatural Merit)
              Prerequisite: Shamanism ••+
              You can spend an essence to project one or more of your human senses into the Shadow Realm for a scene.

              Spirit Blooded (••••, Supernatural Merit)
              Prerequisite: Shamanism •••+
              You gain a wolf-blooded tell.
              Drawback: You gain an additional ban or bane.

              Other Merits that a Shaman may have
              Animal Possession, Bless Amulet, Clairvoyance, Curse Effigy, Cursed, Hardened Exorcist, Invoke Spirit, Magical Resistance, Mentor, Mystery Cult Initiation, Omen Sensitivity, Sacrificial Offering, Unseen Sense (Werewolves),

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Jeremysbrain View Post
                You also gain one Shadow facet.
                It's more of a specific kind of shaman, if you're using Shadow Facets. The abilities are focused through the werewolf's hunt-spirit soul, so they're all tinged towards werewolfness and the hunt. If you want a more 'general Shadow' Shaman, you might use Influence instead of Shadow facets.

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                • #9
                  Well this is something I use for an NPC in my game so it isn't fully thought out, but giving the option of having Influences is a good idea too.

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                  • #10
                    Something the Hunter forums reminded me; a lot of these guys would fit right in the Les Mysteres.


                    MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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                    • #11
                      Some example Occultists NPCs, to support those rules?


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                      • #12
                        Very cool stuff you've got here. While I can understand it from a point, I think that Werewolf in general, at least from what I've read, tend to use humans as antagonists too little. More kinds of humans based enemies would indeed be a boon, be it cults, humans with strange talents or just meddlesome occultists or pseudo-scientists.

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