- "By my honor, I can’t recall the last time I was in a fight like that! No moral ambiguity, no hopeless battle against ancient and overwhelming forces! They were the bad guys, we were the good guys, and they made a very satisfying sizzle when they felt my light."
The creatures that live in Darkness, and emerge from Tainted areas hunting for scraps of light and warmth were once creatures of flesh and blood; many were men and women. The infection that comes of staying in a Tainted place twists mortals out of the human shape, and tempts them with offers of occult power if they consent to being twisted farther.
All creatures of the Darkness share some abilities, and a few weaknesses. A Dark being’s Virtue is greatly weakened, and he feels called to exemplify his Vice, as normal people are called to fulfill their Virtue. He may regain only one Willpower point by fulfilling his Virtue, though he may do so once a scene and without risk to himself. In addition, he may regain Willpower from Vice in the same way, and may regain all Willpower once per session by fulfilling his Vice with an act of great depravity. Anything that would be a breaking point for a mundane character is likely to qualify for a full refresh of a Dark being’s spent Willpower.
When another suffers from a Dark being’s acts, or those of his intimates, the Darkness’ grip on him tightens, and its presence offers him power. The character has a form of Sensitivity, and rolls it under the same conditions that the Hopeful do. Unlike others with Sensitivity, his base pool is 0 dice, and he never takes a Condition from a Haunting, but he gains a dot of Shadows if he rolls more successes than his current Shadows rating or achieves an exceptional success.
Most Dark beings have ceased to think or feel as humans do, and wholly lack the Integrity trait or any equivalent. They have no breaking points and are capable of doing anything without turning a hair. Those Dark beings who do retain Integrity lose the trait if they fail a breaking point roll at Integrity 1.
A Dark being’s flesh cannot bear the touch of jade. He takes 1 lethal damage per turn as long as a piece of jade is in contact with his body.
A Dark being knows a Tainted area for what it is the moment he enters one, and can estimate the depth of its corruption. As an instant action, he may learn the Severity rating of the place he’s in, the location of the Taint’s foci, and the Size of the area affected. (The same sense allows him to recognize Blessed Places and assess their Size and Beauty, though Dark beings prefer to avoid those.) Further, a Dark being can sometimes benefit from Taint. While actions done with good intentions are penalized by the Taints, for any task he attempts with an intent to harm, a Dark being reverses the relevant curses’ penalties to bonuses. Finally, a Dark being can step between the Tainted area and its image in the Dark World.
In the long ages since the Kingdom fell, the Darkness has bled a great deal of substance out of the world we know; and while most of it has been consumed, and is gone past recall, the part that remains uneaten still keeps the general shape of the world it came from. In the annals of Alhambra, this crepuscular otherworld is named “the Lost Provinces”; the Radiant Hopeful who know of it just call it the Dark World. Only Darkspawn subsist there (you can’t say they live there, really) but when they stand in a Tainted place, any creature of the Darkness can go there, and return.
When trying to cross, a Dark being rolls the Severity of the Tainted area + their Willpower - the highest Integrity (or equivalent) of all people in the Tainted area or its Dark World image; he adds his Shadows rating, if any, to this pool when going to the Dark World, but subtracts his Shadows rating when coming from it. (The being’s Integrity, if he still has any, is not excluded from consideration for this roll - if his Integrity is highest among those present, subtract it from his pool.)
- Dramatic Failure: The clumsy attempt weakens the Darkness’ hold; mark off one of the area’s Hold boxes.
- Failure: The Dark being fails to cross.
- Success: The Dark being vanishes from or appears within the Tainted area. Anything he is wearing or carrying travels with him.
- Exceptional Success: Reality trembles from the Dark being’s passage. Everyone in the Tainted area who is not a creature of the Darkness makes a corruption check.
Darkened are the earliest form of Darkspawn. They are still human, but infected by the Darkness. The Taint flowing through a Darkened’s veins dulls virtuous thoughts and transmutes cruelties into fine delights. As the Darkened sinks further into depravity the Taint grows, warping their mind and body. Yet until the final moment the Darkened remains a human infected by Taint, and infections can be cured. This infection of Darkness is represented by the Darkened Condition.
The Darkness offers those in its grasp opportunities to gain power by sacrificing their consciences, their connections to uncorrupted humanity, and in some cases their bodily integrity. When a character with the Darkened Condition loses an Integrity dot from a breaking point, he may allow the Darkness to remove from his mind the perception that events such as this are wrong or unnatural - the character will never lose Integrity from that particular breaking point again. In exchange, the Darkness twists the character in body or mind; the character gains an Umbra, granting him a strange ability combined with a drawback that isolates him. Alas, while Umbrae protect one from being disturbed by specific breaking points, they also corrupt the psyche in general; each Umbra a character has applies a -1 penalty to his breaking point rolls.
The full price of Umbrae comes due when a Darkened character either frees himself of the Condition, or loses the last scrap of his soul to Darkness. On resolving the Darkened Condition, each Umbra a character has instantly converts into a point of aggravated damage. Characters with Umbrae (even one Umbra) who lose their last dot of Integrity, die the next time they sleep. Their bodies, suffused with Darkness, decay swiftly, becoming variously desiccated, putrefied, or transformed to a black ectoplasm. Within a day, the corpse reanimates and becomes a new Darkspawn; this creature has all the traits of the dead (and the same character sheet) but, as a rule, is bestial, unable to form a connected train of thought.
The commonest fate of a Darkened character is to become a Darkspawn. Vicious beings whose minds have been eroded by the Darkness until they are little more than beasts driven by cruel sadistic instincts. The Darkspawn are by far the most common creature of the Darkness for the stronger and more intelligent varieties are rare, and the Darkened are, sadly, often just a brief transitional state between an innocent human and a Darkspawn. Most Darkspawn search out Tainted areas, haunt them, and try to drag others into them, or else stalk the people they knew in life.
Darkspawn have the powers and weaknesses of creatures of the Darkness. As animalistic creatures Darkspawn calculate Defense from the higher of Wits and Dexterity.
More dangerous creatures of the Darkness than the animalistic Darkspawn do exist. One such are the Mnemosyne; these are Darkened who reach Integrity 0 without gaining a single Umbra. Their bodies have not shifted to welcome in the Darkness, so they retain their lives and intellects. While not Darkspawn themselves, they can organize and direct the Darkspawn; and being utterly without scruple, they invariably direct their minions to commit acts of monstrous depravity.
As the most human creatures of the Darkness Mnemosyne often specialize in manipulation, many live on Earth preferring to sow suffering in their own quiet way. The reason is simple, they retain enough of their former selves to yearn for the luxuries of Earth (even as they work to corrupt everything they desire) and for all that a Mnemosyne delights in its supernatural abilities, it knows that against the Radiant it is unlikely to survive a direct fight. And so it hides, and it spreads its Taint through cults and subtle manipulations.
While Mnemosyne have no Umbrae, their warped minds do connect them to the Darkness, and nearly all of them draw on this connection to gain dreadful supernatural abilities, the Caligines. What’s worse, they are able to train other creatures of the Darkness in these techniques. It’s dismayingly common for a Mnemosyne to found a cult that teaches people to meditate for hours in Tainted areas, thus Darkening them, and then teach the new Darkened Caligines and send them off to use them.
Mnemosyne have the powers and weaknesses of creatures of the Darkness.
Cataphractoi (singular; Cataphract) are intelligent creatures of the Darkness, above the bestial Darkspawn in comprehension, and sometimes mistaken by the ill-informed for a Mnemosyne. Indeed, those who have only encountered Darkspawn before tend to conflate the two, because they are both intelligent, albeit in a warped manner. However, their origins are rather different. A Cataphract does not need to have been a man or woman tainted by the Darkness. Instead, a human must come to accept, in their heart of hearts, that despair is better than hope, that the evil of men is all that humanity can ever aspire to, and that there is nothing of value in the world. Too often, these are the people who have seen the horrors of the world and who have nothing to live for. If hell is the absence of light, of goodness, of anything worthwhile... then these people know hell. And if they die in that state - and sometimes they will just lie down and cease to breathe - then, sometimes, at the moment of death, their soul inverts and all the horror and emptiness and cold and silence of the Darkness comes rushing into this empty soul, and a new Cataphract opens their eyes, the space behind their eyes flooded with the void. There are Cataphractoi who are aware of how they form, and will take people and subject them to tortures to break them, just so they reach that empty point.
Initially, they appear like the human they once were (although many acquire inhuman traits as time passes), save for the fact that, if one holds their gaze too long, their pupils appear to writhe, as if something was trying to get out. In a feat of irony, the Cataphract clings to the memories and recollections that the human rejected, because it is aware, at an instinctual level, that they are all that distinguish them from the formlessness of the Outer Darkness. As a result, they display a painful mockery of their former behavior, a simulacrum that would be pathetic if it were not the fact that it’s a monster collecting tiny model soldiers and painting them, or who has their ex chained up in the “marital home” in the Dark World that she dragged him to. It’s pathetic because... they don’t get it. The tiny model soldiers are painted in clashing colors and the Cataphract will use blood if they can’t get their hands on paint (or, frequently, because all their paint has dried up because they couldn’t remember to close the lids); the “lovely home” that she cleans over and over again is in the Dark World, and so the mildew-soaked carpet won’t come clean no matter how much she scrubs. Despite all this, it means that they can... well, not function, per se, in society, but they can at least walk down the street without mauling people to death, and possess higher level thought and planning, which means that more than one Princess has dubbed them “the Generals of the Darkness”. And that is something that must not be forgotten; they may be the hollow shells of what were once men and women, but now they are only creatures of the Darkness.
Cataphractoi have access to both Caligines and Umbrae, and invariably possess Subsumed by Another Shadow, dominating every Darkspawn they encounter. In addition, flooded as they are with the Outer Darkness, they possess the capacity to shed the limits of human form imposed by their false memories, in a sort of “false Transformation”. While a Transformed Princess is still human, with only a veiling illusion preventing others from seeing her as she is, no such condition applies to the Cataphractoi, and their forms plumb the depths of monstrosity. Dark-skulled, two-headed hellhounds the size of a car, silhouettes of walking void, spectral blots of stillness and silence; all of these can be forms that a Cataphract might take. A Cataphract’s transformation is an instant action, and lasts for the rest of the scene. The transformation grants it transformed dots, Umbrae, and Caligines that it does not normally possess; usually these powers add to its combat prowess. The transformation is trying for them and their mimicry of humanity, though; it costs them a dot of Willpower. A Cataphract recovers one Willpower dot lost in transformation after a full month without using that power.
Cataphractoi have the powers and weaknesses of creatures of the Darkness.
Merit: Dark Palace (•-•••••)Edit
Not all touched by the Dark can hide themselves among the mortals who live in the light-lit world. Some Mnemosyne can blend in, but few Cataphractoi can hide the Darkness in their eyes for long. Certainly Darkspawn can’t pass as normal and even Darkened occasionally have to flee when their tainted vices attract too much attention.
With the need to hide deep within the Dark World it’s unsurprising that occasionally the Darkness’ pitiful victims like to tidy the place up just a little bit. This is usually basic, if that, few touched by the Darkness really have the mindset for long term DIY projects. However some Mnemosyne or Cataphractoi have learned to twist the Dark World, replacing the tumbled down reflection of the real world with something entirely different - occasionally even pleasant looking on the surface.
A Dark Palace can only be built beneath a Tainted place and has a Size no larger than the Tainted place on the Sanctuary scale, at least if its builders want to be able to live in it. The dots in the Merit set the area that the character has claimed, again on the Sanctuary scale.
Special: Trust does not come easily to the Darkspawn, but when it does it is possible to build a shared Dark Palace, with each member contributing Merit dots towards the Palace.
Any character with a Dark Palace can apply the Safe Place Merit [CofD 54] to the Dark Palace to protect it from other Darkspawn who might try to occupy it without leave. This does not defend the Dark Palace from creatures of Darkness entering the Palace from the world of light; to do that, Safe Place must be taken again, applied to the Tainted area above the Dark Palace.