Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shadow Slayers - A Modern Urban Fantasy Campaign Seed

I wrote this years ago...around 2003, I think, when I was running some D20 Modern and was trying to shoehorn the system into a setting that would play to the game's strengths. The actual write-up is fairly system neutral, so I could (and may) one day revise it for use with BRP or GURPS. So continuing with my "lost campaigns" theme for March.....I present Shadow Slayers!

Major Players:
   The Forces of Shadow are dominated by a series of very old, powerful covens. These covens dominate lesser groups of the Shadow and so forth in turn. Each of these covens are tied to their racial heritage, the genetic memories that drive their unifying spirit, and also fuel their ages-old hatred and loathing for both man and each other.
   All beings of Shadow have the following traits in common:

   Veil of the Shadow: all such entities, tied inextricably to the Shadow planes, are veiled within its confines, and when destroyed, are also reclaimed by this nether-essence when destroyed. The lore of the supernatural suggests that they believe the Shadow is the lingering tether they hold to their native dimensional realm, a plane close to Earth, from which all beings of Shadow originate. Some (the vampires, ghouls, and such) believe they were exiled from this dimension, which they call Gehenna and other names. Others, such as the Elohim, believe they chose to leave it and do not wish to return. They see Earth as paradise, the Elysian Fields of which they long ago sought out and found.

   The ancient history of the Shadow has pervaded much occult lore, if one can seek it out. All beings of Shadow believe they descend from an ancient legacy. The Elohim contend that their oldest ancestors were the very Annunaki proto-gods of old Mesopatamia. The vampires ascribe so many supernatural myths of predation to the legacy of their ancestors.

   All beings of Shadow, veiled in shadow, cannot be discerned for what they really are by man. It is believed that the essence of Shadow protects its own, obscuring its kin in a clever mental illusion. As such, the legacy of the Shadow Slayers is frightening to the beings of Shadow, for this small percentage of humans are gifted with the powers to penetrate the illusion.

   The veil of shadow waxes and wanes with the eons, and astrological charts have been known to exist which seem to divine when these periods of strong and weak shadow are forthcoming. During periods of weak shadow, the veil becomes easier for mortals to penetrate, and such periods are a time when the supernatural are more readily exposed, hunted, and destroyed. The last great period of waning shadow was during the middle ages, and then later the renaissance. Waxing periods of Shadow mean that the veil has become noticeably stronger, and the veil is more difficult to penetrate, such that open acts of destruction can go unnoticed by mortals, who become like easy cattle. Such periods always seem to mark a rise in the number of Shadow Slayers, as well. The present day is one such period of Waxing Shadow.

   The beings of Shadow operate under an ancient pact, called the Concordance in the present, which sets aside specific rules of conduct among their own kind. Specifically, it requires that no being of Shadow be allowed to fray or damage the veil under which they have protection. A being that damages the veil, and exposes it or others like it to the mortals in an egregious manner, is punished for his transgressions. However, it is very difficult to do this; such an being would have to go public, and openly display his or her supernatural talents to mortals. Even then, the veil will work to deceive, and mortals will take him to be huckster or stage magician in all likelihood, but his brethren will know, and seek him out for destruction.

   The beings of Shadow have held a secret war for countless generations. At times one faction may ally with another, but they all struggle to maintain their sense of superiority in the world. The Lycanthropes are age-old enemies of the vampires, for example, but loose allies with the Elohim. The Elohim are enemies of the vampires, see the lycanthropes as occasionally useful, and are violently opposed to the Old Spirits (whom they fought against in the ancient days to be recognized as gods by man, before pacts of secrecy drove all beings of Shadow in to darkness). The Old Spirits, of course, are enemies of all, even themselves, and occasionally have been allies of all factions at one time or another.

   Most beings of Shadow strongly believe in the notions of a defined war of Order and Chaos. They subscribe to the notion that agents of their factions are split down these principles, and that it stems from a much older legacy of worship to the True Gods, the gods which they all know, in fact, exist and are the true seeds of creation. These gods are ancient and largely unknown by mortals. The most esoteric and learned of occult writings reference these deities, which are sometimes confused by old beings of Shadow who have long been misidentified as deities by men of old or occult agents in the modern day (Baal, for example, or the Elohim Sol, who are both currently active).

Awesome Source

Current Factions:

   The Vampires: a series of covens defined by their type, and led by dark queens and kings. They answer to no one save the True Lord of Night. The vampires worship a selection of ancient deities believed to be their creators, including Khoth, Nerul, and Yitzam. They believe that their homelands of the Shadow were the true Gehenna, Pandemonium, and Hades.
   In the present day, a movement among the vampires suggest that their destiny is to bring the Shadow to the mortal realm of Earth, permanently. Certain architects, such as the Nosferatu vampire lord Edward Gamble and his minions, are attempting to create occult spells which will drag large volumes of the Shadow Plane in to the mortal realm, with the intent of transforming an entire mortal city in to a new Necropolis. They believe this will herald the end times for man, and will merge the two planes.

   Edward Gamble is also in control of a militant sect of vampires known as The Necropolis Sect. They are led by Malcom Blaylock and others, and are truly grotesque vampires who have lived long but suffered much under the hands of mortals, and who now work as assassins of known Shadow Slayers. They are thaumaturges, summoning demons from the Shadow to destroy the Shadow Slayers.

   The vampires use many pawns, including risen dead, ghouls, enthralled mortals, summoned demons, and an occasional bound spirit. They are also well-entrenched within the communities of man, and in any given city the lord of that domain will have a firm grip in the civic government, police force, or media (and sometimes all three).

   The vampires are opposed by several enemies. The Elohim have held an ancient grudge, and will always seek to destroy the vampire power structure. Some vampires blame the elohim for Shadow Slayer manifestations, but no truth to the matter has ever been established on this. The vampires have also attracted the attention of more conventional mortal interests; Department 7 of the FBI is a well-funded, very secretive unit which operates against the vampire threat on most occasions (though it will just as easily target other factions). Finally, a mortal cult dedicated to Khoth, a subsect of the Rosicrucians who have identified Khoth with Set, seek to attain occult mastery over the vampires. The Cultists of Khoth, led be Araham Al’hadim in Egypt and Clarence Monahan in the US, are well aware of the fire they play with, but have discerned much of the beings of Shadow, and believe that they are an aberration meant to be controlled by men, who are in turn empowered by the mystical teachings of Khoth.

   The Elohim are a much smaller but still very powerful faction, and rival the vampires in tenacity and interest in controlling mortal affairs. Elohim are secreted away at the tops of tall buildings, nestled in corporate offices, or operating secluded communities of enlightened mortals who worship them like gods. They seem to yearn for such worship, and though they contend that they were not exiled from the Shadow Plane thousands of years ago, but instead left of their own choice, it seems clear that some ancient legacy haunts them.

    The Elohim use minions, mostly enlightened mortals, and some summoned demons and other spirits. They never affiliate with the undead, and are violently opposed to the vampires (yet they do not seek to destroy the vampires, merely contain them, explaining that the balance of chaos must always be appeased). Only when the vampires get too strong to the Elohim seek to destroy them, culling their numbers. Some elohim have been known to approach or manipulate Shadow Slayers, but all contend that they have no part in the creation of such enlightened mortals.

   Lesser factions of power include Lycanthropes, who are often loosely organized clans throughout the backwoods of the world, and rarely gentrified. The loose honor system keeps them united against common foes, but they dislike politics, and seek instead to keep to their own diabolic desires and aims. They do not like nature, even though they often hide within it; the embrace of their beastiality drives them to psychotic passions and madness. Too many lycanthropes were once human, and the taint of the beast, said to have been granted to them eons ago by dark gods, along with the racial memories which flood the minds of its victims, creates seriously unstable personalities.

   The Old Spirits are a diverse faction, entities which claim to have been inherent to the land, though a few occult scholars suggest that this is not possible. Likewise, such beings are very well versed in hiding in shadow, and their connection to the Shadow Plane is evident. More likely, they represent a much older migration of supernatural beings, going back to the dawn of mankind or even before. The Old Spirits are highly diverse, having long ago changed and manipulated their forms to reflect the demons and spirits of the day, and are often identified as manifestations of old mythic monsters and gods. Medusa, the Minotaur, Pazzuzzu, and the Black Forest Ogre are all known old spirits, and very powerful. Though not united, each Old Spirit is individually and with its followers an army in its own right.

    Other Shadow beings, which have no true faction, but are often part of the fray as either participants or fodder include the Fae, the ghosts and spirits of the dead, and the monstrous manifestations (horribly mutated beings that defy classification). The demons, summoned and manipulated so often, are also suspected by some to be a hidden faction, and perhaps hold the trump card over all other factions. They may either be summoned from the Shadow Plane, or comprised of the literal essence of Shadow, and are perhaps the dark guardians of its gates, placed there to forever bar the beings of Shadow from re-entry.

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