[V5] Oblivion Discipline: Full Rewrite (and another hack)

Referring back to the previous post for context: Oblivion has some problems as a Discipline, I’ve attacked it in various different ways, this is probably the most developed. To ensure compliance with the Dark Pack guidelines I won’t be providing full writeups for the actual powers, only page references to Chicago by Night and Cults of the Blood Gods. I’ll add, in italics, any additional rules or changes to those powers as I go along.

It’s only fair, before you hit the wall of text, to say that it’s a lot simpler to just make The Binding Fetter the prerequisite power for all the “ghost path” Ceremonies (the ones with ‘Spirit’ in their name), Ashes to Ashes the prerequisite power for all the “zombie path” Ceremonies (the ones with statblocks for that which is summoned included), and Where The Shroud Thins for Split the Shroud and Ex Nihilo. That’s a really tidy way of doing it and I sort of wish I’d thought of that instead of having someone suggest it on Discord and me going “well, that’s a lot of my brain tape wasted.”

But the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, and I’m still quite pleased with what I did here, so: let’s begin.

Nicknames: Obtenebration, Necromancy, Shadowboxing, Tenebrae Imperium, Mortis, Thanatosis, the Dark Arts, Black Magic, Entropy

Oblivion is mysterious. Oblivion is dangerous. Oblivion is entropy manifest: a gateway to the cosmic darkness at the root of all creation.

Oblivion is power, though few Kindred have the will to wield it. Only the Lasombra and Hecata dare to reach into the Underworld and take what they find their for their own, and even they fence the Discipline around with elaborate Ceremonies for all but the most brutal and direct of applications.

The clans use and abuse Oblivion in remarkably different ways, however; a curious case of affairs best understood by considering their other Disciplines, and the inherited psychological Compulsions of their Blood.

The Lasombra — aggressive, arrogant, lead-from-the-front corsairs and churchmen, the dark heart of the Sabbat for over five hundred years — wield Oblivion in a manner similar to their Disciplines of Dominate and Potence. To them, entropy is a weapon, first and foremost. Only the most occult and uncanny of the Keepers consider the Abyss in terms beyond the power it affords them in this world.

The Hecata — morbid, cautious, hidden from the sects behind a mask of placid neutrality — practice Auspex and Fortitude. They see what cannot be seen, and they channel and endure it. Perceiving the other denizens of the Shadowlands beyond the Shroud, they threaten wraiths and animate corpses with the deepest darkness, but seldom venture to the ultimate depths themselves.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the Lasombra — if they fear anything — fear that which has sunk to the uttermost depths of the Abyss, to the Labyrinth and perhaps beyond, a nightmare of their own creation. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Hecata’s grand scheme fails every time it truly begins, fracturing the Clan of Death still further.

CHARACTERISTICS

Manifestations of Oblivion (spirits, spectres and other projections) all sustain damage from fire and sunlight as if they were vampires with Blood Potency 1. They also take one level of Aggravated Health damage per round from bright, direct lights, and from True Faith based abilities.

Oblivion’s powers are ineffective in brightly lit areas (-1 die penalty applying to all rolls). They do not function at all in daylight or in environments with no shadows.

Oblivion involves meddling with entropy itself; it is profoundly spiritually corrosive. When making a Rouse check for an Oblivion power or Ceremony, a result of “1” or “10” results in a Stain, in addition to any Hunger gained. If the user’s Blood Potency allows for a re-roll on the Rouse check, they can pick either of the two results.

Type: Mental
Masquerade threat: Medium-High. Spirits rarely show up well on cameras but are obviously unnatural if witnessed in person.
Blood Resonance: Null. Only the most despairing, distraught or emotionally detached of mortals will do. Blood from corpses, however, works fine.

Level 1

Ashes To Ashes (Cults, p.204)
Shadow Cloak (Chicago, p.293)
Oblivion’s Sight (Chicago, p. 293)
Oblivion’s Sight now allows users to trace a ghost’s visible presence in the Shadowlands to an immediately-nearby physical object in the Skinlands: this requires a Wits + Oblivion roll at difficulty 2.

Level 2

Fatal Precognition (Amalgam, Auspex 2) (Cults, p.204)
Passion Feast (Amalgam, Fortitude 2) (Cults, p. 206)
Shadow Cast (Amalgam, Dominate 2) (Chicago, p. 293)
Arms of Ahriman (Amalgan, Potence 2) (Chicago, p. 294)

The design goal here is to forcibly separate the Hecata and Lasombra power sets by keying the second level of Oblivion entirely to one clan or the other’s Discipline spread – although characters do have the option of circling back to pick up another level 1 power, this will have a knock-on impact in their build opportunities, as we’ll see when we get to the Ceremonies.

Level 3

Aura of Decay (Cults, p. 205)
Shadow Perspective (Chicago, p. 294)
Touch of Oblivion (Chicago, p. 294)

Level 4

Stygian Shroud (Chicago, p.295)

Level 5

Skuld Fulfilled (Cults, p.208)
Tenebrous Avatar (Chicago, p.295)


Ceremonies

Oblivion Ceremonies are akin to the Rituals practiced by users of Blood Sorcery, and similarly closely guarded by their pioneers. It is not unheard of for a Lasombra to seek the unorthodox tactical advantages of the Paths of Necromancy, nor for a Hecata elder to delve the deep mysteries of the Abyss, but in general the two clans keep their secrets close.

Mechanically, Ceremonies function per. Cults (p. 208) with the following addition: unlike the Rituals of Blood Sorcery, Ceremonies are progressive. It is necessary for characters to learn each Ceremony of their Path in order, at an XP cost of 3 x the Ceremony’s prerequisite level. It is NOT necessary to have dots in Oblivion at the same level as the Ceremonial Path, but since Oblivion rolls are involved in the Ceremonies themselves, it is certainly helpful.

Necromantic Ceremonies still have a prerequisite Discipline power, as per Cults (op.cit.): however, these prerequisites do not necessarily correspond directly to the level of the Ceremony itself. They merely represent a specific application of Oblivion from which the Ceremony derives its basis, and refines it through the sacramental practices and components of the Path.

Ceremonies: Ash Path

The Ash Path is the older of the Ceremonial Paths chiefly practiced by the Hecata. It was developed by the ancient Cappadocians, and preserved by Premascine Giovanni, by the Bahari-inclined Gorgons, and by the Samedi bloodline in their long exile. With its roots firmly in the power Cappadocians half-mockingly dubbed ‘Ashes to Ashes’, this Path is chiefly concerned with the reanimation of dead flesh, before circling at its peak back to (delayed and infectious) annihilation.

A small (but hardly marginal) number of Lasombra have received instructions in the basics of this path, either from Harbinger instructors in the Sabbat or Samedi whose mercenary interests drew them to trade secrets with the Keepers. A thousand-year-old rumour, rearing its head at the Family Reunion, suggests that Augustus Giovanni’s evident mastery of the Abyssal Path and his bloodline’s frequent easy acquisition of the mentis imperium suggest that these exchanges may be as old as the famiglia itself…

Level 1: The Gift of False Life

(Cults, p. 208)

Level 2: Awaken the Homuncular Servant

(Cults, p. 209) – prerequisite power is now Ashes to Ashes – vitae may be substituted for any of the substances required, but will impose a 1 die penalty on the Ceremony roll)

Level 3: Shambling Hordes

(Cults, p. 212) – prerequisite power is now Ashes to Ashes

Level 4: Lazarene Blessing

(Cults, p. 214) – prerequisite power is now Fatal Precognition

Level 5: Necrotic Plague

(Cults, p. 207)
The ghastly apex of the Ash Path transcends its application from the bodies of the dead to those of the living. Requiring the precognitive element of Auspex as well as a mastery of the reanimative principle of Oblivion, it fast-forwards the process of decay and allows the user to concentrate it in physical form, holding decomposition in stasis until applied to a particular subject.

  • prerequisite power: Aura of Decay
  • ingredients: diseased tissue from a human body, images or names of the desired subjects.
  • system: the Ceremony converts the diseased tissue into a brackish fluid with which the user coats a portion of their skin (hands and lips are traditional). Each success on the Ceremony roll allows the user to inflict a necrotising infection on one living victim; alternatively, all successes can be consumed to inflict the infection on one unliving victim. Resistance to and effects of the inspection are as described in Cults (p. 207), as are the consequences of critical successes and total failures. Note that applying the Ceremonial fluid to the lips does not carry a risk of self-infection unless a total failure is rolled.

Ceremonies: Sepulchre Path

The Sepulchre Path exists in parallel, if not tandem, with similar traditions apparent among the Giovanni and Rossellini families in Europe, the Nagaraja in India, and the descendants of Pochtli in central America. Some say the Giovanni drew the interest of their lost Antediluvian not strictly for their proficiency with nigra mantia, but for their profiteering ways that brought so many fetters into their possession largely by accident, allowing an already established technique to be employed on a far grander scale.

In pursuing the Sepulchre Path, the necromancer stands on the sepulchre as metaphorical and metaphysical edge of the Shroud and reaches across it, inviting the denizens of the Shadowlands into embodiment, negotiation and possession. At its peak, the doorway is thrown into reverse; a living or unliving person may be cast bodily across the Shroud, into the Shadowlands to await what comes for them.

Note that the Sepulchre Path depends on the identification of Fetters. Oblivion’s Sight identifies ghosts, and their relationship with objects in the immediate environment. Successful use of Auspex: Scry the Soul while Oblivion’s Sight is active also highlights the emotional resonance of these items, and of ghosts made visible through the use of Oblivion. Successful use of Auspex: The Spirit’s Touch while Oblivion’s Sight is active confirms absolutely whether or not an item is a Fetter. There is a reason the Hecata’s founder — whoever he turns out to have been — became proficient in the use of Auspex. Hecata who are operating without such proficiency, or Lasombra who are dabbling in the spiritual arts, will simply have to take their best shot.

Level 1: Summon Spirit

(Cults, p. 209) – prerequisite power is now Oblivion’s Sight

Level 2: Compel Spirit

(Cults, p. 209) – prerequisite power is now Oblivion’s Sight

Level 3: Bind Spirit

(Cults, p. 212) – prerequisite power is now Oblivion’s Sight

Level 4: Host Spirit

(Cults, p. 211) – prerequisite power is now Passion Feast

Level 5: Wither Spirit

(Cults, p. 208)

  • prerequisite power is now Touch of Oblivion
  • the Ceremony roll is made to prepare the power for use; once the user wishes to activate it, the victim rolls their Resolve + Occult or Fortitude with a difficulty equal to the user’s original margin of success.

Developer’s Note: same system, but a two-part, delayed-action test rather than a direct, simultaneous conflict roll.

Ceremonies: Abyssal Path

Where the Hecata skim the surface of what lies beyond the Shroud, occupying themselves with the recently deceased in bodies and souls, the Lasombra go deeper. Their ancient founder sought to penetrate the true Underworld that lies beyond the Shadowlands, and even the Labyrinth that lies beyond that.

It is understood, yet unspoken, among certain very ancient members of the Lasombra, the Amici Noctis who exert a guiding influence among the clan as a whole, that what is imprisoned in the Labyrinth is nothing less than primal entropy itself, placed there by some agency older than the Cainite race, and that all manifestations of Oblivion are simply the creeping tendrils of this bound and double-ironed monstrosity, reaching up to corrupt and devour whatever they touch.

It is suspected, but never whispered, among the eldest Sabbat that what transpired did not — that, far from being diablerised in its death throes, the Lasombra Antediluvian sank instead into that dark Abyss, becoming something more and less than Cainite in a final devil’s bargain to ensure its survival. Likewise, those Hecata who have not experienced the Beckoning, the Harbingers whose long hate-ridden dwelling in the Shadowlands have changed them, and the anziani who know of the True Vessel, the lost cities of Cappadocia, and what precisely happened to Augustus Giovanni: well, they know that Augustus was if nothing else wise in the ways of the Abyss, and they wonder what secrets he might have taken to his timely grave.

It is whispered in the dark corners of the world, nonetheless: Shalim is. What exactly Shalim is, only the most senior Mystics of the Abyss can tell you. More than a few of them have chosen silence, and a mission of revenge.

In any case, the Abyss Mystics study not the material applications of Oblivion, but its Oblivion itself. Such figures are rare, and predominantly found among Clan Lasombra and the enigmatic Harbingers of Ashur.

1: Abyssal Mark

A little of your shadow passes into that of another, allowing for constant awareness of their whereabouts. Functions as a Bloodstone (see V5, 276), which can only be destroyed if the target is in an environment where they have no shadow.

2: Dispatch The Hungry Shade

Detaches the user’s shadow as a daemonic entity which shares Health and Willpower with the user (remember the rules for Oblivion shades and damage), and is otherwise equivalent to a 2-dot Retainer.

3: Where The Shroud Thins

Although you cannot necessarily see into the Abyss, you can feel where it is strong, and where the Shroud, correspondingly, is weak. (Cults, 205: key to Ceremony roll rather than dice pool given.)

4: Split The Shroud

You can rend open the Shroud, spilling Abyssal darkness (and, incidentally, ghosts and spectres) into the material world. (Cults, 213.)

5: Ex Nihilo

You can physically pass into the Shadowlands, trailing an Abyssal darkness that allows you to bring along passengers. (Cults, 213.)

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