Friday, February 3, 2012

System Shopped: The Cathedral of Flesh - Aberrant

Cathedrals of Flesh Everywhere...
System Shopped: Aberrant
by Tobie Abad
February 2012

This article is the fourth variant of the classic World of Darkness' Cathedral of Flesh; a place so infamously disturbing it is mentioned in the Dark Ages setting, the Modern setting and even in the Time of Judgment books as well as the Bloodlines Redemption videogame.

Typically, games based on the superhero genre focus on four-color superheroics and acts of courage.  Would there be a wayto inject the Cathedral of Flesh to your Aberrant campaign?


The Cathedral of Flesh
for Aberrant

No one expected that such a place existed deep beneath the bowels of the Tulum ruins.  With place having been such a popular tourist spot, who could have expected that the known deepest level of the ruins happened to merely be the outer depths of a much more massive structure.

At the lowest chamber of Templo del Dios Descendente (or the Temple of the Descending God), there are three triangle-shaped holes that face the southern wall.  The young nova was hiding from his attackers when he slipped into the chamber.  Bleeding from the numerous injuries he had received, he wasn't aware that his blood had gathered on the smooth floor and dripped into the holes.  When the floor itself moved, unfurling like cupped fingers that stretched to reveal they were part of hands, the young nova fell into the darkness with only his screams left behind to mark his presence.

The nova is currently in the safe-keeping of Project Utopia.  Reports state that he was found unconscious and near dead in the shadow of the ruins, one week after his disappearance.  Telepathic attempts to probe his memories reveal images that one investigator described as, "Very similar to images one sees from an endoscope."  The nova was found naked and unharmed in any evident manner, but seemed to suffer from a weakened immune system as well as extreme dehydration.    

After almost a full week of recovery, the nova was questioned and finally spoke one single phrase in response to queries on what had happened to him.  

"We are all meat."

He was found dead the next day, having committed suicide in the hospital bathroom.  No one, however, can determine what sharp object he had used to slice his wrists open above the sink.

This seems tame, given the Aberrant setting.
I guess that is true.  The Aberrant game has characters like Leviathan who are literal monsters in the modern age, or Bounty who has taken it upon herself to experiment with breeding in hopes of creating nova children that she can use to accomplish her goals.   What sort of horror does a fleshy thing hidden deep within the ruins of an old temple in Mexico pose?

Consider the facts:  The explosion leading to the increased presence of novas worldwide happens quite recent as far as history is concerned.   This temple is definitely something far older.  Far older even more so than the first game in the trilogy (Adventure!)   Whatever this thing is, it was around even before the Aeon Society was ever formed.

And yet is it strong.  It is strange.  And it is hungry.

The Cathedral of Flesh added to the Aberrant game adds the idea of ancient horrors lurking in the shadows of the modern world still exist.  Ancient horrors that perhaps once ruled above mankind, fell to a weakened state long enough for mankind to rise and take dominance, and now wait and seek for a chance to retake the world.

The Cathedral of Flesh could be a sole survivor of a race of biological entities that once dominated the world, feasting on whatever they could grasp with their fleshy appendages.  Perhaps they never saw the need to develop biomechanical parts the way we humans do, seeing the purpose of fingers, hands, arms, elbows, and the like as unnecessary when one can be a massive shifting form of protoplasmic meat that adjust to one's very whims.

So, for the game, what does it want?
It wants what it believes to be its world back.

Mankind has stolen its lovely play pen of meat and moisture.  And while many of its brethren (perhaps it too at one point) were satisfied to present themselves as massive monstrosities or gods to early men, this Cathedral has realized that there's more to gain by feasting on meat that is empowered with far more than just blood and muscle.    Perhaps it has learned that it too can ERUPT.  And given enough time, it will unlock the secrets of the Chrysalis and emerge as a literal living planet of incredible power.

And the players have to stop it before it is too late.

Sounds epic.  But since it ain't a Nova yet, wouldn't it be easy to defeat?
Yes.  Assuming you have players who don't like considering the drama of what their actions would mean.  Consider these angles:

The Cathedral of Flesh is a sole living survivor of a dying race.  Would it not then be a nova's duty to do what is necessary to help keep this race alive?

The Cathedral of Flesh is intelligent.  Perhaps it can be taught to comprehend that mankind can co-exist with it?  Would that not be something a hero should strive for?

The Cathedral is a massive living being, with enough biological mass to reach all the way from Mexico to hospital drains of the Project Utopia compound.    While injuries do harm it, it would take far much more massive damage to kill it.  Damage to kill something of that scale would perhaps be akin to destroying a major city.

Lastly, what if the Cathedral has become active now not just because it is hungry, but because its hunger is aggravated by something else:  the coming birth of a child?

The Cathedral of Flesh
Strength 5
Brawl 2 [7]
Might 4 [9]

Dexterity 3
Athletics 4 [7]
Stealth 4 [7]

Stamina 5
Endurance 5 [10]
Resistance 2 [7]

Perception 2
Awareness 5 [7]

Intelligence 2
Survival 3 [5]

Wits 3

Appearance 1
Intimidation 5 [6]

Manipulation 3
Interrogation 3 [6]

Charisma 1

Although not yet having experienced an Eruption, the Cathedral of Flesh has access to most of the Mega Attributes and Modes for Mega-Strength, Mega-Stamina as well as the modes of Mega-Perception.
The Cathedral of Flesh seemingly also has evolved the equivalent of Mega-Strength 3, Mega-Perception 3, and Mega-Stamina 4.

Quantum: None
Willpower: 9
Soak: +11 bashing soak, +6 lethal soak
Health: 8 total Bruised health levels.

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