Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Devil's Arts: Magic for Mothership

Kill Six Billion Demons, obvs

Her hands weave back and forth, a wriggling red thread looped around her fingers, spooling out from her mouth. She bites it off like an umbilical cord, grips the twitching string in her sharp-toothed grin, snorts gritty black smoke from her nostrils that falls in a roiling cloud around her shoulders and down to the floor.

[ Į ʂɦầŕể ṯḥįṣ ɼőőɱ ɰịṯħ þîĝś ẳʼnḍ ɗẽâɖ ḿệṇ ]

Guns clatter on concrete. Panicked squeals are snuffed one by one with catastrophic aneurysm.


Children of the Hot Black Flame


The core world governments like to say that devils are an issue under control. That they've been chased off to the Rim or sent back to Hell. That well-trained hunters clean up the ferals that show up earthside of the Margin. Those that come to parlay with the core powers wouldn't dare step out of line, cowed into obsequience by our superior firepower.

This is a lie, and everyone knows it.

Devils are the chaos that consumes the universe. They exist in their most base state without shape or form, deep in the Void, working away at the engine of entropy that eats away at the universe. [UNKNOWN ANTECESSOR] was able to bind them, giving them shapes and names and faces and drawing them into realspace for wars long ended and forgotten. They strain against these limits, desiring as always to devour the flame eternal cast out into the void during the [DIVINE SUICIDE], to take all matter and energy and reduce it down to a state of [VOID]. They are always looking for ways to loosen their bindings, to shed names and channel more power from the hot black flame - and always, always hungry for more atum.

Hungry enough that they are willing to make contracts with humans in order to get more of it.

 

The Facts as We Know Them


  • The power of a devil is displayed by the color of their mask - pale devils are the weakest, ebon the strongest.
  • Pale devils are manual laborers, blue devils are cunning imps, red devils are made for war, verdant devils are solitary and territorial, gold devils are the nobility, and ebon devils are beyond all that.
  • There are regions of the Rim where, if it can't be called peaceful coexistance, there is at least an equilibrium of violence.
  • Devils can be shaped after their binding by the unconscious fears of mankind. Some are shaped sufficiently to wear it as a sort of title: the Shark Devil, the Power Devil, the Chainsaw Devil etc.
  • The creation of a new mask is a very difficult and time consuming process.
  • The corpo will never call them devils. They're High Entropy Entities, full stop.


Rumors About Devils


  • Devils are evil (False: they are only egomaniacal, sociopathic and naturally inimical to human life)
  • Some devils will wear false masks, hiding how strong or weak they are (False, we all hope)
  • Hell is just what you get when the Void is consciously observed (Uncertain, but makes sense)
  • The core world governments are sitting on vaults filled with hundreds of bound devils for their own purposes (Definitely true)
  • It's impossible to form a relationship with a devil (False; it is merely incredibly difficult)
  • The core worlds' devil hunter teams can keep us all safe [TRUE]


The Contract


Any devil will do, and there are plenty to choose from. Devils can be found on the Rim, in the enclaves of sorcerous corpo-nobles, in the vaults of the core world governments and their hunting agencies, in Hell and in the Spaces Between.

Payment is simple: atum, that flickering wisp of the eternal flame that is called the soul, paid in installments for services rendered and the remainder upon bodily death. They assure you that Hell isn't as bad as it sounds; considering your state in life, it's probably an improvement.

With the agreement sealed and signed, the devil will incite the growth of a devil tumor in the contractee's brain and go about their own devilish business. They might check in at some point in the future. Probably not, but they might.


The Tumor


A tiny horned and hoofed homunculus, curled up in a fetal position and burrowed deep into the frontal cortex. Its growth is excruciatingly painful (player must make a SANITY save to avoid a Panic roll, a BODY save to avoid passing out, and will likely be out of commission for a couple days in bed. If you are starting a new character with a tumor already implanted, skip this step and just bear in mind that it was a horrible time.)

But, if all goes well and the neural connections hold out, the sorcerer may now generate black smoke and practice the Art of Lying to the Face of God.


Black Smoke


The byproduct of sorcery; clouds of thick, dark particulate. A pollutant of air and water. Will fuck up your lungs first, then your stomach, and after a while it'll fuck up your bones and blood as well. Carcinogenic, if it wasn't already bad enough.


The Art of Lying to the Face of God


Characters who have signed a devil contract and received their tumor gain a new stat: POTENCY

The higher the rank of devil the more power they will be able to give you, and the more difficult it is to find one. (The % of finding a given rank is provided in parentheses)

  • Pale - 6d10 Potency (01-45)
  • Blue - 10+5d10 Potency (46-70)
  • Red - 20+4d10 Potency (71-85)
  • Verdant - 30+3d10 Potency (86-95)
  • Gold - 40+2d10 Potency (95-99)
  • Ebon - 50+1d10 Potency (100)


When you wish to use the Art, roll a Potency check. Success means that the spell goes off without a hitch. Failing the check leaves two options for the sorcerer.

  • Let the spell fizzle out entirely, gaining Stress according to the spell's rank.
  • Force the spell, reducing your Potency according to the spell's rank.


If a sorcerer loses all Potency, they are dragged to hell for the collection of their debt.


What You Have Wrought


The Art is lying with such skill that the universe itself shifts so that you have spoken the truth. It is neither request nor demand: it is stating a lie that will become a fact.

There are four methods of applying the Art, listed here in increasing complexity and rarity.


  • The Red Art - The transformation of inanimate matter. Available to all sorcerers.
    • On failure: Stress 3 or POT 1d5
  • The Red-White Art - Transformation of living matter by overpowering the target's atum. Rolled at [-] for Pale and Blue contracts.
    • On failure: Stress 5 or POT 5+d5
  • The White Art - Division, annihilation. The continuous cutting motion of time/space/matter/energy. Unavailable for Pale contracts, rolled at [-] for Blue and Red.
    • On failure: Stress 7 or POT 10+d5
  • The Black Art - Creation ex nihilo. The rarest and most difficult. Unavailable for Pale, Blue, Red, rolled at [-] for Verdant and Gold.
    • On failure: Stress 10 or POT 15+d5


Since the Art is effectively freeform, some guidelines.

  • Spells should be clear, specific, and direct. "This pane of glass is mist" is better than "I want to get rid of that window".
  • Transforming something into something close to it is easier than radical change (ie, easier to turn water to alcohol than it is to turn water into gold.)
  • The larger, more complex, or fine-tuned a transformation is, the harder it is.
  • Apply [+] and [-] according to your gut, circumstance, and the devil you contracted with.


Unlike other skills, you always have to roll a check when trying the Art. Even for a learned sorcerer there will always be a struggle to it (those who do not struggle against the universe, while they exist, are most certainly not the sorts of people who become MoSh PCs)

 

Staving off the Inevitable


Potency can be regained by:

  • Drinking demon liquor - Restore 1d10 Potency, gain equal amount of Toxicity.
    • Can be found wherever there are sorcerers. 500cr.
  • Imbibing black smoke - Gain one free use of the Red (1d5 Toxicity) or Red-White (1d10 Toxicity) Art.
    • Highly regulated by the sorcerers crime families. 2000 cr.
  • Inhaling a dried, powdered devil tumor - Grants +20 Potency for your next attempt at the Art. Addictive
    • Banned by the families. Black powder will get you strung up on the wall no questions.
  • Consuming a fresh devil tumor - Restores Potency to maximum. If the sorcerer to got it from had a higher Potency than you, that's your new Potency score. Gain Toxicity equal to the Potency you have gained.
    • Has to be fresh. Putting it on ice won't do you any good. Has to be fresh.
  • Making a new contract - Roll 6d10 according to devil rank and gain a second POT track. It will decrease separately from your original one. For each additional contract you make, gain +1 Stress and +1d5 Toxicity whenever you fail a spell or regain POT.
    • Another line of credit? Sure! 


Eating Seeds Is A Pastime Activity


Toxicity measures the amount of sorcerous pollutant that has built up in your body. It decreases at a rate of 1 point / day. It does not metabolize in cryosleep.

  • TOX < BODY - No effect.
  • TOX > BODY - You grow horns and a arrowhead tail. Your eyes change. Even if you hide these (and the psychological changes taking hold make it unlikely that you will), people will immediately know that something is off about you. Strangers won't trust you, and if something goes wrong you will be the first to be blamed.
  • TOX > 2x BODY - The physical and mental changes become more pronounced. You become obsessive about your own desires. it is difficult to consider others at all. The core government has put out a kill order for you: 4 devil-hunters (Hits 2/25, Speed 50, Instinct 60, Devil Contract) begin seeking you out.
  • TOX > 3x BODY - You have become a devil in your own right. It's not all that bad, phenomenal power and immortality and all, but you certainly aren't human any more. The character is lost.


The Devils We Know

  • HEE-Epsilon-4094 "C█████" - Book-keeper for crime syndicate. Rumored to have once been ebon and fallen from power. 
  • HEE-Delta-554 "P████" - BEST DEVIL POWER
  • HEE-Alpha-003 "U████████" - Possessing of a hunger so great that the ebons of the Heretic's Court effected a total banishment. Current state uncertain, might very well have consumed itself.
  • HEE-Zeta-15702 "P██████" - Oldest devil with a confirmed date of binding. Claimed to have served the kinds of Akkadia, though has been non vocal for several centuries since that statement.
  • HEE-Epsilon-1666 "C██████" - In long-term romantic relationship with [LOW ENTROPY ENTITY]. Noted resemblance to famous early-Anthropocene television actor. Possesses a conscience, or convincing simulacrum of one.
  • HEE-Gamma-047 "S████" - Boring, litigious and utterly without humor even by the incredibly low standards of verdant devils. Typically attaches self to most powerful individual around and then does paperwork.
  • HEE-Beta-071 "P█████ N███" - Slave-trade magnate on the Rim, currently engaged in overt warfare with rival syndicates and unions. A rare instance of a devil possessing a living being for long periods of time.
  • HEE-Alpha-016 "K█████" - Human-made devil utilizing organic metamaterial scavenged from [REDACTED] in conjunction with harvested tumors. Truly vile little shit, this one. Tends to think of things on a much bigger scale than most.
  • HEE-Delta-326 "O████" - Leader of "Badstar" syndicate, mastermind of the heist of Yre, will "definitely not" stab you in the back the moment it is convenient.
  • HEE-Zeta-22655 "B███" - God fucking dammit. Who the fuck let B███ in here. Shoo! Get the fuck out of here B███.
  • HEE-Omega-001 "C████████" - Claims A) have self-bound B) to be the original devil C) to have created sorcerers as a joke. Typically interacts with humanity with the express purpose of fucking around for personal enjoyment
  • HEE-Alpha-008 [DATA EXPUNGED] - DO NOT CONTRACT DO NOT CONTRACT

Do N nn N NOT C ONtrAC t

 

26 comments:

  1. This one I actually have some solid commentary for

    * As is obvious, the entire thing is stolen from K6BD, Dorohedoro, and Chainsaw Man. K6BD supplies the devils and the art, DHD supplies the aspects of class and pollution, and Chainsaw Man brings in the grinding wheel of burnout.

    * See how many devils you can identify at the end (except for Alpha-008, that one should remain a surprise)

    * photomosh was used for the final image, plus the angel sealing script swiped from the NGE rebuild movies. It does actually read as something, though I shan't say what.

    * I sure do love my toxicity mechanic, I'll tell ya hwhat

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    Replies
    1. Can't believe you left out BEST DEVIL POWER from the list of devils. I can spot Cio of course, but no ideas for the others.

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    2. Oversight has been remedied

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    3. Right, here are my guesses:

      HEE-Zeta-15702: Pazuzu from D&D/Mesopotamian mythology/The Exorcist apparently?
      HEE-Epsilon-1666: Crowley from Good Omens
      HEE-Zeta-22655: Oh for fucks sake, it's that asshat Buer! [Summoned by his name, the Disc Horse appears in my house]

      I really need to read Kill Six Billion demons one of these days.

      Delete
    4. Correct, correct, and correct

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    5. HEE-Beta-071 - Preem Nand (KSBD)
      HEE-Delta-326 - Oscar (ditto)

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  2. My favorite kind of magic system: one that will get me arrested, killed, and dragged to hell. *Probably* in that order.

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  3. This seems it would also be useful for Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, as well as adding social elements to the MEATGRINDER Mothership module or Slipgate Chokepoint games that aren't just shoot em ups.

    Regardless, excellent fusion of the best of new weird demonology. A+

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  4. I like toxicity enough that I'd be inclined to hand out small doses on success or allow massive toxicity in lieu of potency loss.

    Enough to make the point that you're fucking with serious stuff.

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    Replies
    1. Toxicity is an old mechanic of mine, originally used it for health potions. Keep coming back to it, it's very useful.

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  5. This could be a magic system for Unknown Armies, well done.

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  6. This is magnificently useful. Thank you very much.
    Bookmarked, will look forward to test it somewhere.

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  7. HEE-Alpha-003, I’m guessing Ungoliant?
    Love the system, I’m thinking about how to hack it to work with Stars Without Number. You may have just infected my setting with devils.
    (Hope this comment doesn’t post twice I’ve been having real issues with that lately)

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  8. Do additional contracts give you new devil-tumors?

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  9. HEE-Gamma-047 "S████" is Screwtape, right?

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  10. Hm. Not sure who Omega 001 is. Cegorach *maybe*? But that’s one letter sort..

    Also, are you going to make a similar post for Low Entropy Entities/Angels?

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  11. If I can come up with a good enough idea to expand them into, I don't see why not.

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  12. Replies
    1. For practical purposes in the game, I would say you'd need a manual of mask-making, which would be tucked away in some horrible location of the Warden's choosing.

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  13. Also how does the black smoke work or affect pc and npc’s ?

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