System Shopped: new World of Darkness
by Tobie Abad
In classic World of Darkness, one of the most dramatic and disturbing concepts introduced is an unliving location in Vampire the Dark Ages. Known as the Cathedral of Flesh, this fabled place is a literal structure that is built with the hundreds of thousands of bodies that the wicked Tzimisce named Yorak had fleshcrafted together. Come the modern setting of the game, the Cathedral of Flesh is rumored to have hidden itself beneath New York City itself for a sinister secret plan. In either setting, the place was a horrific example of vampiric power pushed beyond the limits of humanity. The terror and horror it invokes is simply beautiful.
Among players, the structure is infamous in very many ways. For Dark Ages gamers, the setting is a terrifying experience when one goes through Transylvania Chronicles. For Masquerade gamers, the massive construct is a sign of the coming of Gehenna and its reemergence an undeniable display of the presence of the Antediluvians.
Wouldn't you, as a storyteller, want to have something similar for your games?
For this entry, allow me to present:
|by Nan Palmero|
for the new World of Darkness
Somewhere in the dark corners of the city, seemingly hidden from every prying eye, and somehow unnoticed by everyone living there, stands a structure unlike any other. From the outside, it looks practically normal, with its brick walls, its old rusted roof and its boarded up windows. When seen from inside, however, the horror of the place is impossible to forget. Covering every inch of the walls and ceiling and floor inside the building is flesh. Human flesh. Of every race. Of every gender. Of every age. Their skins threaded into each other like a massive monstrous kilt. And when touched, the worst truth becomes apparent: They are all still alive.
And once a year, what precisely what day no one really knows, the doors to the Cathedral open, one of the flesh is permitted to leave, and someone out there in the city feels a pull. A call. An urge to go there. They say those who have been called are people who have lost all will to live. They say those who feel the summons are people who have lost all faith.
Who says that?
The walls. That's what they told me, after all.
That's what they told me to tell you.
Would you like to come with me?
So what is it?
The Cathedral can be an ancient biological creature that evolved alongside mankind, however while man learned to evolve from its most basic levels, this thing evolved in a parasitic way. It despises man for being a society and feeds on people to expand its ever growing singular existence. It cannot procreate, and yes it has tried many, many times. So once a year, when it feels it is ready, it animates one of the flesh it has absorbed, and sends it out to find a new victim. One it tries to impregnate (or get itself impregnated) and brings it back to the collective. Someday, it will realize it can never bear children, and in its horrific rage, it will consume the world and become the only living thing alive. Unless the players can stop it.
Attributes: (values after the slash are for the Cathedral itself, not the chosen avatar for the year)
Mental attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 5, Resolve 5
Physical attributes: Strength as per body/7, Dexterity as per body/3, Stamina 1/9
Social attributes: Presence 1, Manipulation 2, Composure 3
Mental skills: Crafts 1, Investigation 1, Medicine (human biology) 3
Physical skills: Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Survival (gathering nutrition) 4
Social skills: Intimidation (horrify) 4, Persuasion (gain trust) 4, Subterfuge (act human) 4
Merits: Encyclopedic Knowledge (the monster has limited access to memories of its piece-meal body. Not actual info, but enough to get fragments for lies), Iron Stomach, Multi-Lingual
Speed: 0 (The Cathedral cannot move, it can only expand)
Health: 6 (Yes, the human avatars are ordinary in their fragility)/ 21 health levels
Immortal Flesh - After evolving so many times to survive throughout it's existence, the Cathedral has learned to ignore lesser forms of damage. The Cathedral can ignore any bashing damage it receives. This is not a trait that extends to its avatars, however.
A Hundred Thousand Bodies - By spending a Willpower point, the Cathedral can release another avatar for whatever purposes it has. Such avatars can roll Encyclopedic knowledge when forced to make rolls using skills they may have had during their human lives. Each success is a virtual skill dot that avatar can use for its existence.
Horror of Horrors - When it (not its Avatars) is seen by another, its existence is so terrifying that viewers are forced to check for Degeneration. This roll is only made once per scene. People who try to face against this monstrosity clearly risk losing their sanity for each encounter they experience.
Evolved to Survive - If ever damaged down to its last three health levels, the Cathedral escapes by sloughing off all unnecessary mass and vanishes through the pipes. This act reduces all its physical stats to one, save for its Dexterity, which boosts up to five, and uses it to escape and hopefully regrow itself.
Super Human Immunity - The Cathedral is not affected by any illness or diseases. It can heal any damage it has received at the cost of one health level of damage (any kind) for each Willpower point it spends. However, usually, it will only do so if fleeing is impossible.
In later entries, I shall share other variants of this monstrosity for other game lines.
Enjoy the horror!