by Timothy Toner (12 Oct 92)
Because ONE of you demanded it! Here it is. Wasn't quite out of the beta testing when I decided to unleash this bad boy, so you might find a few quirks. Because of the lack of comments (read: NONE) over the Path of Shadows, I think it useful to point out that comments are keenly encouraged. I created a tempest in a teapot with my conjectures on Caine, but those don't count, since I didn't even think them out. Any criticisms, comments, compliments are welcome. I'm fairly sure it's unbalanced, but c'est la guerre. Talk to me, and I'll correct it...
"Murph, you're a dinkus. Ain't no way a warmie can dust us, 'less he's a holy-joe type, and then ya just gotta get him from a distance."
Murphy watched as his gaunt friend patted a bulge in the pocket of his jacket. He considered for a moment, then responded, "yeah, but you forget...I was there when Gennet got it in Times Square, and his head exploded and stuff. You could taste the power comin' offa that hunter. That's wrath-o-god stuff. This...this was different. He didn't have no crosses or nothing. All he had was this look, this fire in his eyes, like "I know what you are and what you can do, but it don't matter, 'cause I'm packing too." Or something."
His friend laughed at the spontaneous poetry and shrugged. "You sure he wasn't a ghoul?"
"Hm. Maybe we should tell this to one 'a the muck a mucks. Maybe it's worth something. The last thing we need is another Sullivan Dane running around, right?"
"I guess." Murphy had been embraced after the reign of terror Dane had brought to New York. Somehow, he found a way to get the lupines in Central Park to break their cease-fire, and for about a week, it was hell on earth. Dane had picked off the wounded at his leisure. The Sabbat did too much too late, and almost blew the Masquerade in their attempt to get the bastard. Dane just moved on to new hunting grounds.
They left the alley where they had been chatting, and hit the streets, heading for Assault, the dance club that a lot of the Sabbat fed at. Thoughts of feeding entered Murphy's mind.
"Slug? You wanna get something to eat first? You know Calvin hates us feeding in the Playgrounds..."
Slug considered this, then agreed with his friend. "I saw some bums back a few blocks. A quick chomp, and we'll go, okay?"
They retraced their steps, and came to an alley they had passed 30 minutes before. Whereas there were six men huddled together, now there was but one. Slug sighed. He'd have to share his bottle again...
As they approached, the figure did not even look up to see the approach of the predators. Slug noted to himself that the bums were making this way too easy. He reached in for the kill...
...and found a bundle of rags.
"What the f..."
A sound of glass breaking, and a hissing at his feet. Slug glanced down, and noticed the alley was filling with smoke. Fire?
A distraction. Something large and black landed between the two vampires. Before either could react, the figure drew out a speargun, held it against Murphy's chest, and fired. Murphy was propelled backwards by the force of the CO2 charge, landed hard against the wall, and found himself stuck as the tip buried itself into brick. He squealed in pain.
Slug was quick to respond to the threat. He pushed the attacker away from him, and felt something cool and hard covering the body. Was it human?
The dark figure crouched, ready to attack.
Slug felt blood burn within him, triggering hidden reserves of strength. This would be quick. Claws slid out of finger sockets. A surprise...
A surprise the assailant apparently had anticipated. Slug swung the claws down, and they dragged across the fighter's back. But they did not seek the inner heat, as they should have. Something was going terribly wrong. Armor...?
The figure leaped over Slug with the grace of a gazelle, and landed a kick right in the back of the head that threw the vampire to the ground. He moved no faster than a human...faster than most, but certainly not supernatural. It was all his actions... all perfectly placed, perfectly timed. Slug was a stumbling buffoon around him.
Slug charged again, the fire growing in his eyes. At the last moment, the figure sidestepped, and brought a knife down on the face of the vampire. The blade bit into dead flesh, and gouged an eye out.
Pain...pain sweet and pure. Pain fed the Beast, and the transformation was complete. Fangs shot out of sockets, and the gun was torn from the body in lieu of something more...personal. Slug leapt again. This time, he would ignore the piddly pig- sticker, and rend the cretin's body until Slug's body bathed in gore.
The attacker was unimpressed. Once again, he leapt over the charging monster, and allowed it to collide headfirst into a dumpster.
With measured ease, the attacker extended an arm, and pressed a button on the box strapped there. Two pieces of metal shot out, leaving smoking trails as they passed through the cool night air. Both slammed into the side of Slug, and bit deeply. Slug howled in feral pain.
The man was on him again, kicking and punching with a flurry of moves, all designed not to kill, but to knock out. Slug stared about in confusion. So much, all at once...he collapsed.
A wooden stake appeared, and bit into Slug's chest. Slug whimpered a bit. The figure removed a small black box from his cloak, and shoved it into Slug's mouth. He slapped both cheeks, and walked over to Murphy, still pinned to the wall.
"You hurt me, man! You said you wouldn't hurt me no more!"
"Murphy, you're a vampire. I can't ever trust you. It's either this pain, or that." He pressed a button on his belt, and the box exploded, blowing Slug's head clean off. The body quickly degraded.
Murphy shuddered. "Shit...what are you?"
He grabbed the vampire roughly, looked him right in the eyes, and spoke, "I'm Batman." A smile creased his face, and he began to laugh. The terrible mirth filled the alleyway, still stinking of C-4 and Slug.
The hunter grabbed the bolt, and ripped downwards, removing it from the wall, and insuring it made as much damage as possible on the way out of Murphy. He cleaned the bolt, began to walk way, and turned.
"I'll be in SoHo tomorrow. Bring one of your friends. Keep to the alleys. I promise, this time will be quick. I'm trying out a new napalm ejector. Should be fun..."
Murphy began to feel the bile growing within, as thoughts of rebellion curled in his mind. "When are you going to leave me alone?! You spared me ONCE! How many times am I gonna have to do this?"
The hunter stopped, and slowly turned. With a burst of speed, he landed the spear deep within the center of Murphy's chest, sending Murphy to his knees in pain and shock. The hunter's eyes burned with rage, and he slowly turned the end of the spear, allowing a larger and larger hole to form. Murphy was powerless.
"Every day you live, I spare you. I know where you hunt, and where you sleep. I know all your bolt-holes. You could never escape my wrath. For the rest of your days, you'll feed this Beast! Understand?"
Murphy felt his chest, felt the long healed scar, where, the first time he had met the lunatic, the fight had ended with the now familiar spear pinning him to the ground. The hunter had cut him open with the grace of gutting a fish, and inserted something too terribly like the small box he had placed in Slug's mouth, with but one difference. Murphy's was larger.
The hunter had explained how it worked. If Murphy ever tried to betray him, it would go off. If it was ever removed, it would go off. Every night, the hunter had to hit a reset key. If he did not, for reason of injury of death, or just pure spite, it would go off. There were no second chances.
"Now run along, my little hound, my judas goat. Find me another monster to hunt. Remember...I'll be watching..." He ran off.
Murphy was tired. Dawn was a long way off, but he wanted to curl up and sleep. His hunger finally stirred him. He got up, crawled over to the body of his friend, and lapped at the blood that stained the streets. It wasn't much...just enough to let him see the next dawn. He then returned to his haven, trying to think of whom he could call next.
"This isn't living, this is slavery," he thought to himself. The hate burned momentarily and died, as he scratched an itching in his belly. "But it's better than death.
Okay, for the moment, we're going to forget all the hi-tech toys "Batman" used to kill Slug, and instead concentrate on how he used them so effectively. In short, our hero is obsessed.
"I'm the best there is at what I do..." "The guilty must be punished..." "Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot..." "Spoon!"
Each of these phrases have been uttered in the realm of comics by one of the most curious individuals to grace the medium since the advent of pulp. In a world where Superman stops bullets, Spiderman swings from tree to tree, and Galactus eats planets, the vigilante stands alone as a true lunatic. Into this world he goes with no superpowers at all, some training, and one other thing: a psychosis.
Most of these anti-heroes are victims on the sidelines. They have either witnessed crime and had enough, or experienced the anguish of losing loved ones to random crime, and are pushed over the edge. Whatever the case, they are normal people who have stopped walking down the boring path of normalcy, and have allowed their obsession to consume their existence.
The question is, though, do they belong in Vampire? Shouldn't they be relegated to the realm of comics, and leave them there? I ask you: what is more horrific than someone who wastes their life, in the name of an unattainable vengeance. It is only this kind of all consuming passion which will garner Obsession Points.
Yet another mechanic, you whine? Well, not really. Obsession points are a combination of Willpower, Rage (from Werewolf), as well as some other stuff. It is a quicksilver stat, coming and going with a whim, dependent on random events to determine "exact" totals. And yet this fly by the seat of your pants approach is absolutely necessary, to emulate that moment when your obsession blinds you to such an extreme, that you do not know when the well has run dry.
Base Obsession is bought for 7 pts. of freebies, just like Faith. This gives you a Base Obsession Total equal to a third of your Willpower Points. It can be increased with two freebies buying you one level. Later, through advancement, it is increased exactly like willpower.
Obsession Points (OP) are burned exactly like willpower points. They can be used to garner automatic successes, much like willpower. These can be used for anything, including spending one to turn an autosuccess by an opponent (# of dice equal or greater than difficulty) into a resisted test, with the hunter rolling his OP pool against a difficulty of the opponent's willpower. Hunters can also use obsession points (never more than 3) to eliminate an opponent's successes. For every 1 the hunter spends, a success must be rerolled, and for every two, a success is eliminated. Another important use is that when bought as autosuccesses, they can be applied at any time, even to eliminate botches. However, a hunter can never apply more than three OP to a single action.
With the ability to buy successes, this seems like Willpower, right? So why not use that? In many ways OP are the OPPOSITE of willpower. Willpower points allow you to do things you would normally be afraid to do, by steeling your resolve. Obsession points allow you to do things you'd be crazy to try, by allowing you to ignore the danger, blinded by the madness.
Obsession points may sound great, but they carry a heavy price. In short, the more obsession points you have, the more potential derangements you have. For every three (or fraction thereof), one derangement must be selected. This is either one in the VTM game, or one specifically engineered according to background. Each is assigned to a given rank on the obsession pool. If willpower ever dips below that level, the derangement immediately manifests. The levels range from mild (personality quirk), Annoyance (annoying to those around him), severe (breakdown in interpersonal relationships; hunter goes "on edge,") and All Consuming (unable to reason with individual in any way). The levels are arranged as per this chart:
|3- OP||1 Mild Derangement|
|6-4 OP||1 Mild, 1 Annoying Derangement|
|9-7 OP||1 Mild, 1 Annoying, 1 Severe Derangement|
|10 OP||1 Mild, 1 Annoying, 1 Severe, 1 All Consuming|
Example: Grey has a 10 WP (as a hunter, he'd better.) Grey decides to give his character 10 obsession points. Thus, he must pick 4 derangements (One for every three levels, and one for the fraction level left over). He picks Fantasy, Arrogance, Vengeance, and Paranoid. He must then pick which ones will manifest first (having a mild effect) and which ones will manifest later (having a paralyzing effect). He picks this:
2nd example: Marsha buys 7 WP and 5 OP. She thus picks two derangements: Fear of Death and Moralistic. Her chart looks like this:
|3||3||Fear of Death||Annoyance|
Obsession point bases are regained at a rate of 1/3 total every 24 hours.
Determining totals: Okay, so you have your OP Base figure, bought with freebies and experience, right? So you're about to leap in the fray, right? Well, there's still one more thing you can do to add character to your Obsessed hunter: Triggers.
Triggers, put simply, are random events which feed or drain Obsession. Examples can be a child hurt, which would add 1 OP, or sight of a vampire feeding, which would drain 1 OP (too many painful memories...you freeze), according to character history and conception. Every trigger you pick must be paired by a negative trigger of equal severity or occurrence, final judgement being up to the storyteller. This goes to the dual, black-and-white nature of hunters. Any positive trigger can be also described as a negative trigger, twisted correctly. However, no more than 5 "positive" triggers (thus 10 in all) can be selected.
Fear of (x): can be specific (Racial group) or broad (cars)
Innocents hurt: Can be specific (small children) or broad (women)
Witness to crime: Can be specific (Rape) or broad (any crime)
Note that if one has a high OP base, one might think it wouldn't be wise to get triggers. Ten is max, right? So why get more? Well, say you're at the end of your pool, and needing more. The only way is to run across a trigger. They have a tendency to save your butt. Also, many hunters use triggers to psyche themselves up for a hunt, by either reading the paper, or watching tv.
Example of Obsessed Hunter: Gladys Kravitz has witnessed a lot of bizarre things at the Stevens home, with people turning into frogs and such. However, because no one, not even her husband, believes her, she has gone off the deep end. It's time, she feels, to take matters into her own hands...
She has force of conviction behind her, to put up with her husband constantly mocking her, so give her 6 WP. She also is very obsessed about getting to the bottom of these supernatural shenanigans, which has destroyed her life (and sanity). Give her 7 OP. She must have 1 mild, 1 annoying, and 1 severe derangement. She picks Mild Honesty, Annoying Whiner, and Severe Depression. Her chart looks like this:
|Sight of Mrs. Stevens||Sight of Mr. Stevens|
|Mention of Witchcraft||Mention of psychologist|
|Sight of "magic"||Husband's reality check|
|Being called a fool||Proved as a fool|
|Fear of cats||Love of romances|
The point of all this, I suppose is to give hunters a non-faith option, while allowing them to live, by basically expanding the autosuccess pool normally governed by willpower. Obsession does not allow any mystical stuff to happen. Hunters still must rely on various gimmicks to bring the baddies down. In many ways, an Obsessed hunter is a tragic character, and should be played as such.