Supernatural Law: Main Page
This is a wiki for Supernatural Law, a Wicked Pacts campaign about officers of the law who have the ability to work magic and who investigate crimes related to the supernatural.
The campaign uses a setting somewhat different from the official one. The characters won’t belong to a secret society hiding from or controlling the authorities. They are the authorities. Magic cops. Detectives of the Occult Crimes Division.
What I have in mind is a bit of a hardboiled detective story with monsters, a bit of a police series with magic, and a bit of a cold war spy thriller with Angels and Devils in place of USA and USSR.
I am expecting the campaign to be heavily investigation focused. At the end of the investigation, sometimes the guilty party will simply be taken away in cuffs. And sometimes they put up a fight, and then the bullets and spells start flying.
But no plan survives an encounter with the player characters. :)
The game will be set in Boston, the Hub of the Universe. The nickname has additional meanings in the game. Boston stands on an arcane crossroad where paths to many realms other than our own converge. Because of this, events and disturbances of an arcane nature are far more common than in most other large cities, and the number of supernatural visitors and inhabitants higher than usual.
In-Character Thread This is where the game is run.
Out-of-Character Thread This is where all discussion behind the scenes is happening.
Development Thread This is where the character creation & background info is.
Theme music This is the theme music for the campaign.
- 1 Player Characters
- 2 Non Player Characters
- 3 Locations
- 4 Game System Related
- 5 Background
- 5.1 The Universe
- 5.2 Mages
- 5.3 Occult Crimes Division
- 5.4 Arclight
- 5.5 Criminal mages
- 5.6 Cults
- 5.7 Cosmology, Politics and Supernatural Beings
Non Player Characters
Game System Related
The campaign cosmology has Devils in addition to Angels and Demons. Anything rules related in the game rules that refer to Demons should be assumed to refer to Devils instead. For example, Demon Blooded bloodline is Devil Blooded instead. Demons in the game are a separate bunch of nasties opposed to both Angels and Devils.
The rules have a Tarot mechanic that I do not see working very well in play by post, so I am going to change it to work in the following fashion.
Every character has a Major Arcana that can be chosen freely, ignoring the official rule that says that two characters cannot have the same Major Arcana.
Once per case, each player can invoke their Arcana to do one of the following:
• Automatically break or block a Spell • Instantly refill a character's Magic Points • Instantly find a nearby Ley Line or Dead Zone • Gain a Scene Point • Ask the GM for a specific effect related to the card (for example, a bonus to Driving for playing The Chariot)
Invoking the Arcana is optional and has a price. If invoked, it causes an Arcana-related complication to the case later on. For example, Invoking Chariot could mean that an accident happens later.
Scene Points also have a minor difference since there will be an ongoing thread rather than weekly game sessions. Every character starts with a pool of Scene Points, usually 3. They refresh at the beginning of each new case, and during the case, can be used to do the following:
• Add either +5 to a Skill Test or add an extra d10. • Instead of rolling an attack's damage, deal maximum damage. • Reduce incoming damage by half or spend two Scene Points to reduce it to zero. • Alter a minor aspect of the Scene. (Subject to GM approval.)
The universe works more or less the way the scientists say it does. Everything is governed by natural laws. Magic does not exist.
But ours is not the only universe there is.
Our Earthly realm does not exist alone. There are many others. Heavens, Hells, Fey realms, and even stranger ones. They have their own laws. Perfectly natural to them, thoroughly supernatural from our point of view. Some of these other realms are close enough in nature to ours that given the opportunity, it would be possible for us to physically visit them. Others are so alien that death, madness, or both would result should we step into them, assuming such a thing would be even possible. This multitude of different realms is commonly called by a lump term of Other Side.
What we call magic is simply the result of Other Side touching our realm, for even the closest of those realms has natural laws different from ours. And even though the realms are separate, sometimes they are drawn together and touch. If the touch lasts long enough or happens often enough, a permanent path may form, although those are not easily traversed. Throughout human history, interaction has occurred. And a rare few people, particularly sensitive to the Other Side, have over time learned to tap into the other realms. To draw and wield forces from the Other Side. They have been called by many names. One of those is mages.
But magic is not something anyone can do. A mage is drawing upon the powers of an alien realm, momentarily overriding the natural laws of our realm with those of another. Something like that cannot be done without a connection to that other realm.
The original mages discovered weak points between universes. Managed to contact the beings on the other side. Entered into pacts with them. And were changed.
The ability to work magic is genetic. Every mage is an anomaly. Their ancestors were exposed to alien energies, and ever since then, their bloodlines have carried a touch of the Other Side in their genes. In most bloodlines this power has been diluted through intermarriage with normal humans. Other bloodlines have only married other mages in order to keep their power strong, but this has resulted in inbreeding, health issues and mystical ailments.
Obviously, the Other Side is not empty. Some realms may be lifeless wastelands, but others possess their own ecosystems, inhabitants and civilizations. They may not be like ours, but they too have laws. This may surprise a clueless mage who summons an imp or a sprite and binds the creature into service. Not realizing that the creature may have social circles where such an act is seen as abduction and slavery. Furthermore, the creature from the Other Side may be under someone’s protection. And Fey Lords and Archdevils may have issues with their subjects being abducted. They may have laws against that. And laws always have enforces. Whether they are Fey Knights or the Cohorts of the Archdevil of Law. Or Hell Cops, as their colleagues on this side tend to call the latter these days.
The trouble with enforcing law over different realms is that it is not necessarily simpler for the inhabitants of the Other Side to journey here than it is for us to visit their realms. But in our world there were bloodlines of mages, already tapping into and attuned to other realms. So agreements and further pacts were made. In return for various perks, the families and organizations of mages agreed to enforce the will of the authorities of the Other Side. For a very long time, the mage enforcers were little more than bounty hunters and troubleshooters, often coming into conflict with both local authorities and agents of different Other Side authorities with conflicting goals.
All that changed in London, in year 1829. And the man who changed it was Sir Robert Peel. British Isles contain many paths to the Other Side, and London at that time contained numerous secret societies of magic practitioners whose enforcers occasionally clashed on the streets. When Peel started his police reform, rather than cracking down on these groups he saw the need for magic-specific law enforcement and instead called a council. Peel argued that infighting between officers of the law was counterproductive, and they should instead work together. As part of the greater police force. Obeying its rules and principles, but also having the support of the greater organization.
The negotiations were not swift or easy, but eventually resulted in Metropolitan Police Force gaining its first mage detectives. This proved to be a massive success. Within the next few years, London experienced a drastic decrease in arcane crime. By 1857 ‘peeler mages’ were being incorporated into the police forces of every city in the UK. In the coming years, other nations would come to adopt the strategy. At the same time, high level talks started to take place between our governments and the various rulers of the Other Side.
It is now 2018. Officially, magic does not exist. The governments are suppressing the knowledge, because that was what was agreed with the powers of the Other Side, from whose perspective our magic tends to involve stealing their resources and abducting their citizens. They do not want to see it become commonly used even if they have uses for agents on our side and therefore do not want to outright ban magic either. And since many powers of the Other Side are effectively highly powerful and dangerous alien civilizations, our governments listen what they have to say. It is not terribly well kept secret though. There are just too many people involved. “Magic is real and the government is using it” is about as common a conspiracy theory as “UFOs are real and the government has a deal with aliens.” Actually, very often this turns out to be the same thing. Still, the official truth holds sway, even though there is secretive scientific research into other realms, most militaries have a cadre of battle mages at disposal, and just about every large city has a magic crimes department. Oh, and don’t go trying to win any of those “show real magic and win a million” offers. They are all traps for the fools who might try to out the secret.
Welcome to Boston. Welcome to Occult Crimes Division. Officially, the division handles cult-related crimes. As far as the other cops know, if a case looks like it is from the X-Files, it is probably cult stuff and OCD should be called. However, you can see only so many weird things and not suspect that something is going on, especially if the weird thing is coming at you claws and tentacles flailing, so particularly for more senior officers it is an open secret that what OCD handles really is more occult than cult. And sometimes the division gets involved in more ordinary cases due to that. It is not supposed to happen, but if the case is going nowhere it is not that uncommon for a detective to approach the OCD and say: “I have a hunch that this might be cult-related, would you take a look” in the hope that the unique talents of the Occult Crime Detectives will provide new clues.
And what about mages brought in for crimes? Some of them may have ways to escape from cells and confound court proceedings. Well, good luck with that when the mortar used to build your cell came from Hell VI and the cuffs on your wrists were forged by an Angel. And rest assured that when you go to court, the judge, jury, prosecutor, and even the bailiff are all mages. You are supposed to be judged by a jury of your peers, after all.
So what do Occult Crime Detectives do? Arrest renegade mages and hunt down the monsters that slither through from the Other Side? Escort around Dukes of Hell and other dignitaries visiting from the Other Side? That, yes, but those cases are exceptional. The routine is far less action packed and glamorous.
Maybe they do a sting on licensed alchemists to make sure that no one is illegally selling controlled substances from under the counter. (Love potions, for example, are highly illegal. They are considered to be a particularly insidious date rape drug. The victim usually does not even realize that a crime has occurred.)
Or they might have to deal with a public or domestic disturbance. Magic and intoxication is a bad combination, and when a mage couple starts arguing violently, the situation may get too heated for the regular cops to handle.
But in the game, the (relatively) dull routine will mostly be glossed over. The cases featured will revolve around crimes and serious incidents that involve magic in some fashion. But something less serious may come around occasionally as change of pace, although these cases are very likely to be swiftly resolved.
Theme music This is the theme music for the mages.
Since the ability to perform magic is genetic in nature, mages tend to come from families of mages. In case of full blooded mages, nearly all of their family members tend to be mages. Half blooded have more variance. The majority of the family could still be mages. Or the gene could be so weak that it hasn’t surfaced in generations, coming as a complete surprise. Or anything in between.
The powers of the Heavenly and Hellish Hosts are not terribly compatible with beings of our world and the gene giving access to them tends to disappear rapidly. Therefore, for Angel- or Devil-blooded, the most common situation is to have a single parent or grandparent as the source of the gene. Sometimes that person is, in truth, not human at all. The bodies the Hosts use in our world are perfectly capable of breeding with humans, in order to maintain their proxy bloodlines.
A small number of private schools specifically teach the offspring of magical bloodlines. Mainly the children of full blood mages, but also a small number of various kinds of half blooded, and even an occasional werewolf. Whatever schools of magic a mage is versed in, she has been taught either in such a school or in private tuition. Private tutelage is in most cases done by a family member.
There is one anomalous type of mage. In fact, they may not be mages at all. The Templars. Their powers are highly different and cannot necessarily be even reproduced by regular magic. It may be an entirely different power. The Templar organization indeed does not call it magic, but miracles of faith. The organization, although not a public one, is commonly known to magical society. They trace their roots back to the medieval knightly order by that name, consider themselves as a force of defenders against the otherworldly forces, and seek to recruit and train people capable of miracles. But even their power appears to be genetic in nature. Everyone who can manifest them can be tracked back to the original knighthood genealogically. And while in common parlance everyone capable of miracles, or Templar powers, is called a Templar, not all of them agree to join the actual organization or agree with its interpretations about the nature of their powers.
Occult Crimes Division
Not every officer in OCD is a mage. That will mainly be the player characters. But the division has a number of other officers, along with crime scene investigators, crime lab technicians, and other personnel, and even though they cannot perform magic they are aware of it. The people in the department are either ungifted relatives of mages, witnesses to a supernatural event, or just plain too curious for their own good. Either way, the department prefers to recruit from people already aware of magic. The people in the division are capable of handling supernaturally hazardous materials or evidence, detaining supernatural suspects, recognizing the signs of the supernatural at crime scenes, and supporting the mage detectives in their investigations.
The division has a fully stocked alchemy lab and a number of artifacts at its disposal, such as handcuffs that hinder the ability to perform magic. What they do not have is stockpiles of wands, amulets, magic potions, and other items of magic. The division has a budget and is subject to oversight, and magical gear tends to be costly and may look strange in bookkeeping. So the division prefers to keep such acquisitions to a minimum. In return, the division allows its mages to bring in just about any personal gear they wish, and cookings in the alchemy lab raise no questions unless they result in a huge mess.
OCD is part of Troop H of Massachusetts State Police, responsible for the metropolitan Boston area. Physically, the division is located in the Beacon Hill Barracks. Since Beacon Hill provides security for the nearby state capitol building and for the Governor, the officers there are used to discretion and do not poke their noses in investigations that do not concern them, so OCD can normally go about its business in peace.
OCD gets occasionally called in to help by other Troops, who do not have an entire department, but maybe one of two detectives specializing in supernatural incidents.
The head of the division is Detective Captain Kiara Graves. A fit, middle aged African American woman who normally wears masculine looking suits to work. She is not a mage herself, but possesses a good academic knowledge of the subject. To hear her tell it, she got involved with a wrong case, got drafted to the OCD, started educating herself and rose through the ranks.
OCD detectives are generally expected to follow and uphold the same laws as the regular officers. There are just more specific and not widely known laws and regulations defining how those laws apply to supernatural beings and powers. Vampiric feeding is not an assault if the vampire is a registered inhabitant and the person fed from did not suffer harm greater than minor blood loss. Love potions are illegal and their creation and possession are crimes. And so on.
But when dealing with supernatural powers and beings, the situation may come that seems to fall outside the normal laws. In such a case, the detectives are expected to use their own judgment. But when doing so, they are encouraged to remember the original, traditional principles that supernatural law enforcers worked by.
Arclight, the occult task force of the FBI was founded during the Hoover era. They are well funded and provisioned, with their own separate budget and facilities. They deal with federal investigations, and on the occasions when there is overlap with local investigations, they have a reputation for being a bit pushy. On the other hand, sometimes there is a reason to call on them for assistance, for they have superior resources, including specialized laboratories and their own SWAT team specialized in supernatural threats. And on the occasions when their help is asked, they tend to be quite professional.
One thing that is within Arclight’s jurisdiction is suppressing the knowledge about magic. If an ordinary cop gets too curious or an OCD detective uses magic too blatantly, Arclight may step in. Likewise, cases where civilians stumble onto the truth and attempt to go public with it are Arclight's problem and not something OCD detectives need to concern themselves with. On occasion, OCD has nevertheless decided to get involved in such a case before Arclight does. Because Arclight can be very ruthless about it. While they do not go as far as to kill witnesses, they can quite effectively destroy a person's credibility, reputation, career, and life. And will not hesitate to do so.
Mages commit crimes just like the ungifted do. They just have a larger variety of potential crimes to commit. Very often, the motivation for crimes committed by mages are the same as for everyone else. Crimes of passion, underhanded ways to make some money, and so on. They just might use their magical powers to commit the crimes. But the mages also have temptations that the ungifted do not. Their motivation can also be to increase their magic powers.
Most mages covet artifacts and grimoires. Items like these are either resource-intensive to create or originate from the Other Side, which makes them difficult to replace, and therefore valuable. Even the more commonplace tools of magic created by Enchanters can be expensive, and where a mundane might steal a smartphone, a mage might try to steal an amulet.
Trespassing is annoyingly common. Some places have high ambient energy or auspicious flows of power that can be useful for certain kinds of magic, especially rituals. Many of these places are within private property, or within an area where performing rituals is not permitted, such as public buildings and graveyards. Younger makes are especially prone to sneaking in to perform secret rituals.
Various materials can be used to boost magic, enchant items or brew potions. Some are relatively commonplace. Others are rare, expensive, highly taxed, heavily regulated, or all of that. Yet others are downright illegal, and so are items and potions made from them. Crimes involving these materials include smuggling, unlawful alchemy and peddling of fake materials.
Proscribed Contact with Other Side is a classic crime where mages summon something dangerous or open a portal to a realm of terror. Other side abounds with powerful and dangerous beings such as Demons, and realms filled with malevolent energies. These crimes are in truth rather uncommon, because most mages are sensible enough to understand that the risks always outweigh the gains. But when these crimes do happen they tend to be bad ones. Bad enough that even planning such is a crime.
Ritual torture and murder are amongst the worst kind of magic-related crimes that the police may have to deal with. Blood and death are powerful ingredients in some kinds of magic. Especially if the blood is mystical in nature, such as the blood of a mage, especially a full blooded mage. Thankfully, this is rare, for most mages are not depraved enough to perform human sacrifice. But the sacrifice of animals used to be legal in the past, and some mages feel that it still should be.
When mages commit crimes, usually only one mage is involved, or a handful of partners in crime. There are no organized crime families in Boston. Mages may be in the employ of organized crime, or a mage may work his way to the leadership of a criminal organization, but an entire extended family or fraternity of mages dedicated to criminal pursuits is something Boston does not have. Not currently. But two such families did terrorize the city in the past. Spielmans and Laskowskis.
During the prohibition era, the families of Spielman and Laskowski were notorious gangsters among the magical community. They did not involve themselves in bootlegging, preferring to avoid clashes with ungifted gangsters, and focused on crimes involving or targeting mages and magic. Smuggling of Other Side materials, unlawful alchemy, extorting mage entrepreneurs. Spielmans and Laskowskis occasionally clashed with both each other and the police force. They kept out of jail through force and corruption, resorting to violence when bribes would not work.
Their infamy ended with prohibition. As corruption diminished, they no longer got advance warnings of raids, and their laboratories and smuggling operations got raided. Bribing judges and juries no longer kept family members out of jail and they ended up behind bars and had their properties confiscated. Gradually, their income and operations dried out and their days as crime lords ended, not with a bang but with a wheeze. Spielmans and Laskowskis still remain in Boston and have a bit of a bad reputation even today, but in truth they are largely legitimate these days.
This is not to say that crime families of mages no longer exist. Some do, in other cities. It is a constant worry for the police department that some might try to establish themselves in Boston, bringing the days of trouble back.
The official story is that OCD and Arclight focus on cult-related crimes, and it is not just a cover story. They often do. And actual cult cases tend to be amongst the worst.
Cult situations tend to turn ugly even when the cult is entirely mundane. Brainwashing, physical and mental abuse, and in the worst cases violent crimes performed by crazed zealots. And things often get even worse when mages and supernatural beings get involved. That is when ritual murders, human sacrifice, and the summoning of monstrosities from distant realms enter the picture.
Gathering cults around them is a time-honored method for villainous mages and supernatural entities. If even a moderately charismatic mundane person can convince other people that he is some sort of messiah, someone who can demonstrate actual supernatural powers has it even easier.
Cults centered on vampires tend to be the most decent ones. Nearly always, the vampire’s motivation for gathering a cult is to use cult members as a larder. These cults normally just follow some mystical mumbo jumbo that involves ritual bloodletting. But blood rites can easily get out of hand, especially if some unhinged members start trying to figure out how they could become like the master.
Conversely, demonic cults are among the worst ones. Demons steal souls and subsist on suffering. Ritual torture and mutilation is nearly always involved. Cult members are desperate, duped, or both, and work to obtain new souls and playthings for their master. These cults tend to be short lived, for their activities not only draw attention, demons have little interest in maintaining them for long. Sooner or later the demon gets tired of playing and liquidates its gains, moving on to start again somewhere else. But if demonic cults are not stopped before that, the end tends to come in a blaze of violence and death.
Angels and Devils love cults and put them to various uses to further their agendas. Propaganda outlets, political pressure groups, spy rings or terrorist cells. They like to have a degree of deniability in their involvement and usually prefer to manipulate the cult leadership rather than having direct control.
Mages have a huge variety of motivations for forming cults, including perfectly mundane ones. Maybe they just like the power and adoration. Maybe they have a philosophy they wish to spread. But even in those cases the mages tend to stage elaborate and very real rituals to maintain the awe of their minions. And these tend to count as unlawful demonstrations of magic in violation of the Edinburgh Treaties that call for the suppression of knowledge about magic.
Then there are the various magic-related motivations. Mages could use their cults as a resource pool, ranging from conning money out of rich dupes to having a cadre of willing sacrifices for proscriped rituals. Or the mage could be fulfilling his pact with some Other Side entity, or trying to contact one. And that can be more or less dangerous depending on the entity. Demonic cults tend to be especially bad when there are actual mages involved in the cult. Cults in contact with Fey tend towards strange and sensual, in fashions ranging from relatively benign to anything but. And then there are always the bogeyman stories about mages trying to contact cosmic horrors long since sealed away, who cause even Angels and Devils to suffer fright and for whom humanity is just a tasty buffet.
Cosmology, Politics and Supernatural Beings
So the governments have treaties with the powers of alien realms. What are those powers like? Well, the answer is "numerous". For example, Fey Realms is a blanket term that covers countless Courts, as the Fey call their realms. Simply due to their number, it is not uncommon to find gateways to Fey realms, but they are strange places where time flows at a vastly accelerated rate but nothing really ages. Visiting is not recommended.
More specific and unique realms exist, but they tend to be harder to reach. Somewhere out there are Asgard and Avalon, although the only known gateways to those realms exist in Northern Europe and British Isles, respectively.
Generally, human nations tend to have treaties with any Other Side realms that see at least semi-regular traffic through known gateways from within their national borders. However, there are two powers that everyone has to treat with. The Hosts. Hosts of Heavens and Hells. Angels and Devils.
Angels and Devils
Theme music This is the theme music for the angels.
Theme music This is the theme music for the devils.
Heavens and Hells are the most powerful realms, and the oldest. It is possible that they have always existed. Among the multitude of Other Side realms, they are the nuclear armed superpowers that no one wants to provoke.
The hosts are competing powers, hostile to each other. But they do not fight wars. Not anymore. Legends tell that they once did and universes fell, but they are evenly matched. The conflict always ended in peace talks and treaties. And now their relations and behavior towards each other is bound to countless treaties and agreements, and they are bound to them in a way humans would have difficulty understanding. Literally unable to break them. So they maintain civil relations. Exchange envoys. Maintain embassies.
The hosts still compete though. They are embroiled in an eternal cold war. Diplomacy. Espionage. Sabotage. When human nations started negotiating with the Other Side, it was the Hosts that laid out the rules. And they maintain an active interest. Even Boston has Consulates for the Consuls of Heaven and Hell. (There are actually multiple Heavens and Hells, but in common parlance they get lumped together.)
There are two main reasons for the Hosts to have an interest. First, human souls. The Hosts collect souls. For what purpose, no one knows. They neither explain nor allow visitors to the parts of their realms where the souls are taken. But there are no pacts written in blood involved in the process of soul collecting. The hosts have treaties for the division of souls. There is a realm, dubbed Purgatory by humans, where the souls claimed by the Hosts go for eventual processing, division and transportation to their final destinations. The Hosts do not claim all the souls, and their rules are as mysterious as their reasons.
The second reason for the Hosts to have an interest is proxies. The Hosts are kept from conflict by their treaties, but humans are not bound by them. Both of the Hosts have created and maintain distinct bloodlines of Hell- or Heaven-empowered humans. Devil Blooded and Angel Blooded. Despite their empowerment, they remain human enough not to be bound by the treaties, and the Hosts engage in limited conflict through them. Raids, commando strikes, assassinations. However, sometimes the Host-Blooded balk at following the orders of their patrons and strike out after their own destinies. They are not bound, after all.
A research published in the 1950s claims that in their natural state, both Angels and Devils are immaterial beings that resemble geometric shapes. But the research was based on confiscated Nazi research papers and is considered of questionable reliability. It has never been confirmed and the Hosts are not very forthcoming with information. What makes it hard to say anything reliable about the natural forms of Angels and Devils is that they are expert shapeshifters, capable of assuming numerous shapes both material and immaterial.
The Hosts also have ranks. While they are in common parlance all dubbed Angels and Devils, it is actually rare for Hosts of that rank to visit. In Boston, the only known ones are the two Consuls. Above them are Archangels and Archdevils, but little is known of these beings, or whether there are more ranks above them. The activities of the Hosts on Earth are most commonly performed by their human and half-human agents, and on the occasion that Hosts take direct action, the beings sent are their foot soldiers. Devas and Asuras, a step below actual Angels and Devils.
Devas and Asuras lack the shapeshifting abilities of their superiors. They have only been observed in human forms, and even that is a single form they cannot change. It is possible that they cannot create physical forms themselves and are provided with ones when sent to our world on a mission.
As a rule, all the Hosts prefer to be flight capable, and even Devas and Asuras can manifest a pair of glowing wings with a carrying capacity far exceeding their size.
All Hosts are exceptionally dangerous beings. The only thing in our world that can harm their otherworldly physical forms is fire, and even that does not have full effect. Magic works just fine, and hosts have even trained their human proxies in the distinct disciplines of Devil Slayers and Angel Killers, and this training has since spread to other people. It is debatable whether destroying their physical bodies truly kills the Hosts, however.
Hosts are expected to obey our laws while in our world and are subject to arrest if they break them. The Consuls have diplomatic immunity, but even that has limits. By the Edinburgh Treaties, Hosts are forbidden from influencing secular authorities. (Religious authorities are fair game.) They tend to circumvent this by influencing a person before he becomes a secular authority and then just let him run. But manipulating such a person into a position of authority is a treaty violation, and blatant tampering like that has been known to happen.
Theme music This is the theme music for the demons.
Some beings you should never enter into pacts with. Demons being the most well-known example. They are notorious soul poachers who subsist on suffering.
Devils do not do deals written in blood, Demons do. They appear to have no realm of their own, but flit through other realms, looking for gullible or desperate people to trick into bargains. Demonic bargains are always heavily lopsided in the demon's favor, but this is not always immediately apparent.
Demons are highly individualistic and difficult to categorize. Some appear harmless, others terrifying. Some are brutish and violent, others cunning and subtle. Some are immaterial beings who possess people, others can manifest physical bodies. Some focus on collecting souls, others go around causing misery and suffering that they take nourishment and pleasure from. But there are similarities between them too. Such as the fact that any pact with a demon always ends in suffering. And when demons are concerned, not even death is an escape.
Even worse, some demons are capable of just plain stealing a person’s soul, no pacts or agreements needed. Most often this is done through an elaborate ritual murder. And in such a case, freeing the stolen souls is possible as long as the demon does not manage to smuggle them out of our realm.
Everyone takes a dim view of the soul stealing the Demons do, both human authorities and the Hosts. And one time when human police officers might find themselves working with Hell Cops or Agents of Heaven - or even both - is when a powerful demon slips through.
Theme music This is the theme music for the elementals.
Volatile and dangerous beings. Except for earth elementals, who are deeply philosophical and devout pacifists. For a long time, mages used to summon them to do their bidding. Even after the treaties, for the elementals have little society, no government, and no force to represent them. They are, however, self-aware and intelligent. And summoning them away from their native environment causes them physical and mental anguish and robs them of their freedom of action. So it did not take long for the Elemental Rights Movement to form. The summoning of elementals was banned in most parts of Europe after World War II, and in Canada not long after that, but in US an influential lobby group funded by wealthy mages and corporations specializing in arcane or alchemical products has resisted such legislation, citing the damage it would do to US business interests.
The elemental workforce has been largely invisible to the common mage community, and the lobby group managed to have its way for decades. It took social media to undo their efforts. After an image of earth elementals passively resisting in a sitting strike even in the face of physical abuse went viral in the younger mage community, the law against elemental summoning was finally passed late last year. In the tradition of Boston as a center of the abolitionist movement, many Boston mages supported the Elemental Rights Movement, and for them the law was a cause of great celebration. But many people represented by the failed lobby group were utterly incensed. It is highly likely that in the near future the law will get broken often. Perhaps even publicly, in an attempt to force a supreme court case.
There is a millennia-old ritual, reputedly dating from ancient Egypt. The ritual of Lichdom. It allows a mage to cheat death by anchoring her soul into a special object called a phylactery. While cadaverous in appearance, a liche does not fully die as long as the phylactery remains intact. But there is a cost. Every time the liche would die, by accident or violence, someone else dies in her stead. And the liche has no control over who dies. It could be anyone within several miles of the phylactery.
Liches are extremely few in number. The ritual is difficult, even for a powerful and experienced mage. And the costs of failure may be worse than death. Few people try it, even at advanced age or while facing a terminal illness. Even fewer succeed. And liches are not immortal. They need copious amounts of alchemical substances to maintain their bodies. And should their phylactery be destroyed, they die instantly.
Ritual of lichdom is illegal in Boston, no permit of residency for a lich has been granted, and even getting a visitor visa is a hurdle. Not that liches generally travel, most are paranoid about the security of their phylacteries.
There is one regular liche visitor to Boston though, the local laws and regulations against his kind not being of much concern to him. He is Sir William Christie, the head of FBI's Arclight task force.
Spirits and Homunculi
Many beings of the other side are immaterial. Some can manifest physical forms but most can not, and when visiting our realm the latter are either severely diminished or even completely incapable of entering unless they can obtain a physical body. For much of history, this was done through two different methods. The first method being possession, an involuntary takeover of someone’s body. Often highly harmful to the host person. The second is channelling, where a person forms a link with a spirit and voluntarily cedes partial control of his body to the channelled spirit. The latter method usually involves a pact of some kind.
Modern era has brought the third alternative. The Homunculi.
There have always been people who have mixed magic and science. Alchemy, the mixing of magic with chemistry, is the most widespread and well known. But magic has also been combined with other fields of science. Many names have been suggested for different combinations and some, such as technomancy, have caught on. But in common parlance, and somewhat misleadingly, people tend to just add “alchemy” to the name of the field. Mixing biology and magic would be called Bio-Alchemy, and so on.
Homunculi are created by Gene-Alchemy. They are half way between Flesh Golems and clones. In effect, a homunculus is a lab-grown human body with just the most basic autonomous functions and no consciousness of its own. Ripe for possession.
Some magi create homunculi in order to summon and bind spirits to them, creating supernatural servants and minions. Others offer them for sale to the beings from the Other Side willing to visit our world. Every homunculus is an expensive creation, but powerful beings from the other side have ways of paying the price.
By Law, homunculi are required to be tattooed with serial numbers and registered, so in case of trouble the police will know where to go asking questions. But there is a thriving black market trade for unmarked homunculi, to be used for purposes the police would object to.
Vampires and Werewolves
Though these beings are powerful, they are also cited as examples of what happens when one wants too much out of a pact. For while mages are still mostly human despite their otherworldly powers, and most definitely inhabitants of our world, vampires and werewolves are no longer quite human although they can pass as them. They also have difficulties surviving in our world, needing special diets to keep their otherworldly part of falling ill, and possessing strange vulnerabilities.
No one knows for sure what people entered into pacts that turned them into vampires and werewolves or when exactly this happened, but most theories suspect primitive tribes living in what is today Eastern Europe. Nor is it known what being or beings they made pacts with, although the answer is unlikely to be anything good. It stands to reason that the timeless Hosts would know, but both Angels and Devils steadfastly refuse to answer questions about the subject. It is possible that vampires and werewolves were created as proxies in some otherworldly conflict, for they seem to have an instinctive loathing of each other. While this does not make them automatically fight each other upon meeting, it does make coexistence strained and violence more likely to happen.
Theme music This is the theme music for the vampires.
Physically powerful and capable of enduring damage that would kill a human twice over, vampires can still die of injuries other than decapitation and a stake through the heart, although anyone who has faced one can understand where the rumors about their unkillability come from. Vampires also eat food just like anyone else, but they also need a daily diet of fresh blood to keep from wasting away. The blood needs to be from a human and freshly drawn from the veins. Animal blood is useless to a vampire and stored human blood rapidly loses the mystical qualities a vampire needs.
Vampires are also vulnerable to sunlight and certain symbols. Particularly holy symbols. And this does not in any fashion depend on the religious views of a vampire or the person brandishing the symbol. An atheist vampire would be repelled by a Buddhist waving a crucifix. In fact, the symbol does not need to be brandished by anyone. Stepping into a house of worship or a cemetery would be impossible for a vampire. At least a young one, for they build up resistance as they age. A young vampire would suffer burns at sunlight and recoil hissing from the sight of a cross, but an old vampire would merely suffer extreme discomfort at sunlight or within a church.
Vampires do not breed in normal fashion but they can create new vampires by draining a human of blood and then infusing the victim with some of the vampire's own blood - and a hefty amount of the mystical power that courses within a vampire's veins. The process is taxing, but even a single vampire can eventually repopulate their numbers. Despite this, they are rare creatures. Largely because their vulnerabilities make it difficult for vampires to hide if people become aware of them. Yet they cannot live far away from humans either because of their daily need for human blood. A single vampire needs a herd of several hundred humans to feed from without adversely affecting their health. For a long period of history this made vampires solitary creatures, because another vampire in the area meant competition for the blood source. So they lived far apart, either as warlords ruling over a territory and exerting a tribute in blood, or as champions of primitive tribes, protecting their people and being supported by them. The spread of civilization largely brought such arrangements to end. Either vampiric lords and protectors were no longer needed or wanted and they perished in uprisings, or they died defending their territories against more numerous and better armed opponents.
One might perhaps think that the era of large cities would have led to a population boom of vampires, but that was not the case. The large number of human residents can in theory support a large vampire population but it also brings a threat of discovery. A single vampire needs a herd of several hundred, and the members of their herd come in contact with countless people. The more vampires, the greater the risk. Younger vampires, with their more blatant weaknesses, are especially prone to attract notice, so in the era of cities, few were created. To add to the problems, the authorities are perfectly aware that vampires exist, even if they contribute to keeping it secret. So assuming that vampires are even allowed residency, in the cities they usually have to live under highly restrictive laws.
So it is actually rare to find vampires living in cities. Mostly they live as they always have, in small communities. Either they find a remote small town or village where they can build a personal relationship and deal with the human authorities, or they form their own communities, such as by setting up a cult compound.
Theme music This is the theme music for the werewolves.
Werewolves have an easier time passing off as human because although they are capable of turning into fearsome monsters, they look outwardly human. And their vulnerability to silver is not as blatant as the vampiric vulnerabilities. But they have their own dietary needs. Every week, a werewolf must eat copious amounts of raw, freshly killed meat. It does not have to be human flesh, animals work just fine as a food source, but the meat must be unprepared and from a fresh kill. Stored or cooked meat loses its usefulness.
Another problem for werewolves is that their change is in part instinctive. Although they can fight the instinct, they feel an urge to turn at stressful situations and when they are physically injured.
A third problem is that werewolves can only have children with other werewolves. They can actually turn a human into a werewolf by biting and then infusing the bitten victim with a large amount of their mystical energy reserve, but that does not result in a true werewolf, but instead a terror weapon or a disposable shock trooper. Infected werewolves have no conscious control over their transformation or what they do when transformed. They are driven only by rage and instinct. Only natural born werewolves have control over their change and actions.
Since werewolves do not need humans as a food source, can only breed among their own people, and usually face restrictive legislation at best when living among humans, they are an even rarer sight than vampires in human cities. Usually they live in remote rural areas, in their own insular communities. Werewolves are highly clannish, but different clans and families strive to maintain good relations and intermarry regularly. They have to, for werewolves face a constant threat of inbreeding. And inbred werewolves turn increasingly less human and more monstrous.
Vampires and Werewolves in Boston
Boston does not outright ban entry from vampires and werewolves, but it does legislate them heavily. Visiting ones need to apply for a visitor permit beforehand. Becoming a resident also needs a permit. Residents also need to check in with the police regularly. Although with well known long term residents this is largely a routine visit to the station every month or two. Creating new vampires or infected werewolves is outright forbidden as a form of murder.
Boston sees an occasional vampire visitor and has three long term residents.
Siobhan is the oldest vampire in Boston. She claims to have been around when the City was still just a frontier town, although back then she was running a traveling brothel in a wagon train. These days she gets by as a high class call girl and feeds on her customers, most of whom are rich visitors to the City. She regularly changes her surname. At the moment, she is going with Dunn. And has a habit of announcing her arrival for her check up visits to the station with a "Dun Dun Dunn!"
Siobhan is a somewhat short redhead. As tends to be with older vampires, her apparent physical age is difficult to pin down. She looks like she might be anything from mature twentysomething to well preserved fortysomething.
Alfred Bloom, the second eldest, arrived in the 1800s from Europe as an industrialist. He claims to be British, and certainly speaks with such an accent, but the truth is that Bloom's original name, history and country of origin are not known to anyone. He still runs his company, even if it is through a proxy acting as the real owner. The company is known for good pay and benefits to the workers, especially healthcare. The company has its own infirmary. There is just the additional condition that everyone has to donate blood regularly to keep the infirmary stocked with the correct blood types.
Joe is the youngest. He still gets a bit twitchy in presence of holy symbols. As he is fond of telling to anyone who listens, he is the sole survivor of the volunteer unit formed close to the end of World War II when Nazis got desperate and started turning the SS troops into vampires in droves, and the Allied command felt they needed their own bunch to counter that. The final battle was epic, Joe tells, bemoaning that he has been geased not to tell about it. And the post war treaties banned vampires and werewolves from military positions because no one wanted to see that shit again, and Joe was let go.
Joe still looks close to his original age of early thirties. As a veteran he has a small pension and government-arranged living quarters in the campus of a federal research facility where the staff sees to his dietary needs.
Joe is a bit of a problem case. He tends to miss his regular check ins and needs to be reminded, and on occasion he gets reported as missing by his minders. As a rule, he is found drunk somewhere, either hanging out with some winos telling war stories to them, or sitting in a bar telling the same stories to an empty chair. Joe is a peaceful person with a respect for authority though, so he is more of a nuisance than a serious problem.
Boston sees werewolf visitors more rarely. At least announced visitors. Unannounced visits can be a problem, because if a werewolf from the countryside visits the city, gets into trouble and flees back home, then no matter what he did, his clan will protect him. Although they may never allow him to leave home again.
The only residents are the Grunwalds. A family of four. A married couple with a teenage son and daughter. The registered visitors tend to be their visiting relatives.
Herman Grunwald and his wife Isabella, parents of high school age Mona and Manfred, are cemetery groundskeepers. Like Herman's parents before them. The old couple is now retired and living in the countryside. In fact, for generations the Grunwalds have been groundskeepers for the cemeteries in Boston. All of the cemeteries.
The Boston region has some of America's oldest cemeteries, with a handful stretching back to the early 1600s and a goodly proportion launching well before the 1900s. The cemeteries also contain a huge number of notables: presidents, poets, war heroes, jurists, academics, athletes, musicians, Benjamin Franklin's parents.
And there is one big problem with the cemeteries. They attract ghouls. The ghouls are not native to our world, but something about especially the oldest cemeteries attracts them, and occasionally a pack slips through from the other side. Ghouls are usually not dangerous to living people unless starving or threatened, and prefer to avoid people. But the authorities are not happy about them taking up residence in the graveyards, so periodically they need to be eradicated. And for an ordinary groundskeeper this would be a highly difficult and dangerous job. Ghoul burrows are difficult to find, narrow and filled with traps, and ghouls can be deadly if they attack.
A werewolf, however, makes short work of a pack of ghouls and can literally sniff out their presence. So the Grunwalds make regular circuits of the cemeteries. Often at night when they can work unhindered. This is occasionally a rude surprise for young mages who decide to take advantage of the ambient energies within the old cemeteries for some ritual. The groundskeepers won't allow that either. The smart mages depart peacefully when caught. If they are not smart, the department may get a nightly call to come pick up some very frightened young mages for trespassing.
The Grunwalds rarely cause problems themselves. The family owns a number of artifacts. Collars that prevent transformation. They nicely prevent accidental werewolfing, but are somewhat conspicuous. Although this is not much of a problem for the present day family. They play the part of middle aged metalheads with their like-minded children, which is not far from the actual truth, and dress like a metal band, with lots of leather, chains and spiked studs. The collars do not stand out at all.
There are very likely unannounced vampires and werewolves in Boston. Recently, Charlestown Mob, a largely Irish organized crime group dating from the prohibition era, has been clashing with a group of Hispanic newcomers calling themselves Red 13. Judging by what has been arriving in the Morgue, Charlestown Mob is wielding at least one vampire, and Red 13 appears to include werewolves.