Monday, February 27, 2012

System Shopped: Beholders - Hunter the Vigil

by Wizards of the Coast
Behold the Beholder!
System Shopped: Hunter the Vigil
by Tobie Abad
February 2012

Intelligent, powerful and deadly, the Beholder is known for a gaze that can spell doom, if not very difficult times ahead, for those caught in it.  Here's a stab at throwing something inspired by such a monstrosity into your Hunter the Vigil game.


Beholders
for Hunter the Vigil
They were all children of the Adversary himself.  That much he knew was true.   Jonas always felt there was something special about having the ability to cut one's own arm open and use the pain and blood to call upon horned, winged things.  Sick and disturbing as it may sound, to Jonas it meant one thing: He was special.


He had been hunting dark things for years, using his dark gifts to cleanse the world of the horrid creatures that lurked in the shadows.  He would stalk them like a wolf, and track their movements like a waiting spider.  And when the moment came, he would descend upon them like a shark swimming through dark bloodied waters.  Most would fight, hoping to survive his assault.  Others would run, hoping fleeing was an option.  There were a few who'd try reason, or emotion, and beg to be spared.  But no, none of them would be allowed to live.  None would be permitted to leave.


This one, however seemed different.


Her walk was almost far too graceful.  Dream-like.  Her poise was composed.  Regal.  She was walking down the street with her jacket pulled around her tight and an umbrella open to block the rain.  Everyone else had probably locked themselves in their homes to hide from the cold downpour.   Jonas tracked her to this location when he noticed his demonic familiars never returned when he sent them in this area of the city.  He only confirmed she was his target when he realized after watching this place for weeks that the whole block was a community that lived a very communicative life.  She never spoke to anyone there.  


He waited for her in the shadows of her home.  With a cruel blade in hand, he whispered to his two demonic familiars to be patient, and wait for the signal to attack.  But as the door opened, Jonas saw the woman's unhooded face and felt her gaze upon him.  Jonas felt a ray of coldness surround him.  Her gaze some how sapped him of his strength.  Of his birthright.  And to his horror, he began to realize what had happened to all his other familiars as the two demons at his side melted away at her very gaze.


"Yes," she answered the question in his head, "I knew you were waiting for me."  She folded her arms in front of her chest and allowed the full manifestation of her legacy to show.  Eyes erupted into view from all over her face, each one throwing a gaze at a different direction.  "And no, you are not going to get out of here alive."


The Beholder is now a freaky telepathic woman?
In this concept, the Beholder is a new Dread Thing that the Hunters have to deal with.  For this translation, I figured the best thing to do was to focus on four key traits that I felt were what makes a Beholder cool:  It's ability to cancel out other powers, its numerous eyes, the multifarious powers that it has to its disposal, and lastly, the wicked intelligence that it can use to its advantage.

Since in the new World of Darkness, monsters do not necessarily have to be grotesque, I felt it would be awesome to have a Hunter the Vigil Beholder be sexy and dangerous.    And the horror of seeing this beautiful woman's face get marred by the eruption of numerous eyes that gaze in all directions should be a moment the players will truly remember.

So how do I use this monster in my games?
Beholders by their very nature are solitary creatures.  While other monsters, such as Vampires and Werewolves seem to form social structures among themselves to function, Beholders care nothing about others of their kind.  Beholders build a lair around unsuspecting people, indulging in the power of their unhindered sight, and relish the experience of seeing life unfold around them.  They feed on the emotional displays of others and even refer to varying emotions as tones of flavor.   They use their seemingly magical abilities to manipulate things around them and bring about varying events to incite certain emotional responses.  A sudden fire in one place to incite fear.  A touch of cold in another to bring two lovers closer together as a catalyst for a night of lovemaking.  A sense of vertigo to a third, causing the target's family to worry all night.

Beholders are selfish hungry monsters.  And worst of all, they are intelligent.
Since their feeding tends to be subtle, Beholders are hard to track down.  Most only feed enough emotional flavors to state themselves.  Very few cross the line of killing another through extreme emotional catharsis, but when one ever does make that mistake, there is no ignoring the clues left behind upon the corpse.  The eyes of the victim black out completely, as the pupil expands so much from the extreme emotional release.  The tear ducts would have torn themselves open as well leaving bloody trails from the eyes.  Forensics would then further uncover that the heart had severed itself from the major artery, a side-effect of it struggling to keep it with the very intense emotional moment.  

But otherwise, a smart Beholder feeds only so much and can remain undetected for many years.  Given that such a creature can live longer than a human lifespan, these monsters can be tricky antagonists to deal with.

The Many Powers of a Beholder
A typical Beholder can have anything from two to fifteen eyes, depending on its maturity.  Young ones, who usually have no idea they are Beholders, start off with their normal human two eyes.  But as they age, itchy spots begin to manifest in different parts of their face.  At a moment when the Beholder is exposed to an extreme display of emotion, if the new eye is mature and ready to "bloom" the itchy area ruptures as the eye opens to feed.  For a young Beholder this can be an extremely traumatic event since most young Beholders are abandoned by their parents (the question of beholder mating, as odd as it may be, might be best left to a different entry.)  The power inherent in the said new eye is dependent on the emotional resonance the first feeding experiences.

Every Beholder's main two eyes have two distinct powers which they can never truly stop using.  The first is an ability to nullify any other supernatural powers that are active within their line of sight.  Whether it be a Vampire's use of Obfuscate, a Changeling's empowering oath, or a Werewolf's unearthly regenerative abilities, while within the Beholder's gaze, the victim finds his access to the benefits of his powers fails him.  While the power in actuality still does function, it merely ceases to be affective in any way, beneficial or not, to both the Beholder and the target gazed.  The moment the Beholder focuses his gaze on someone else, the power and its effects reestablish themselves (such as a Vampire fading once again from notice or a Werewolf feeling his healing abilities return).

The second is the ability to see the very emotions of others as colored auras.  This ability, while intended to be used during hunting, can be used to also detect hiding individuals and possible sources of trouble.  The Beholder sees colors the same way they manifest for those using Aura Perception  and similar powers(Vampire the Requiem p. 120, Mage the Awakening p.206, Second Sight p. 117)

Further powers manifest depending on the emotion the new eye first tastes.  The Beholder has dots of a specific power depending on the intensity of the emotion the eye first fed on. Frighteningly, some of the powers are very similar to certain Endowments practiced by the Lucifuge.  Whether the Lucifuge have any knowledge or answers as to why this is remains to be seen.

Afraid, Suspicious = Terrify p. 282 Hunter the Vigil main book
Aggressive, Anger, Hateful = Agonize p.276 Hunter the Vigil main book
Confused, Worried = Confuse p.277 Hunter the Vigil main book
Depressed, Bitter, Sad = Shackles of Pandemonium p.170 Hunter the Vigil main book
Calm, Happiness, Innocent = Sleep p.281 Hunter the Vigil main book
Compassionate, Conservative = Lurker in the Darkness p. 280 Hunter the Vigil main book
Lustful, Lovestruck = Drain (Health) p. 278 Hunter the Vigil main book
Envy, Excited, Obsessed = Drain (Will Power) p. 278 Hunter the Vigil main book
Generous, Idealistic, Spiritual = Gaze of the Penitent p. 167 Hunter the Vigil main book

All powers of the Beholder are activated with Will Power points (rather than the usual costs listed in their systems).  When feeding on emotions, the Beholder merely rolls it's Presence + Stamina and each success allows it to replenish its Will Power.  If the Beholder, however, ever tries to feed more successes worth than the target's actual Will Power score, the target dies from cathartic release as described above.

The Fragile Monster
Thankfully, aside from the horror of a monstrosity having so much powers at its disposal, a Beholder is no more tougher than a typical human being.  While these things have the capacity to live tremendously long lives, they are just as vulnerable as normal people are to guns, knives and fists.  Given a life away from such dangers, a Beholder can conceivably live for centuries as their bodies are blessed with an amazing lifespan and an almost perfect immune-system to most illnesses.   But beyond such blessings, they can be cut, burned and bruised just as any normal person can be.

In many ways, this is why a Beholder tends to stay out of the radar of other supernatural creatures and when possible, lives a subtle life leeching off the excess emotions of loud noisy communities.  Aware that something as simple as a common thug with a letter opener can kill them, they hide among the sheep they feed on and avoid confrontation whenever possible.
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