> WorldOfDarkness

World Of Darkness

World of Darkness: Fractured Gauntlet

Around the turn of the millennium, the Red Star blazed in the heavens. Only visible to those with supernatural sight at first, it eventually flickered dimly in the skies above the mundane world. For five years, this strange celestial body burned brightly in the Umbra, slowly widening, letting ever stranger things in as it did. Called Wormwood, Anthelios, and the Eye of Balor among other names, the broadening gateway brought with it dark omens and a Reckoning, seeming to herald the end times.

Eventually, the Red Star closed and vanished. The Reckoning came and went. The world turned on. Everyone moved on with their lives (or unlives). Wormwood was ultimately dismissed as an anomaly, caused by any number of the horrors that arose during its rise. Vampires returned to their feasts. Werewolves and mages returned to their wars. Immortals and changelings returned to their quests.

Last year, the cracks started to form.

The mundane world is both crippled and protected by a force known as the Gauntlet, the barrier between flesh and spirit, dream and reality. On one side lies the World of Darkness, an Earth like ours with the lights turned down. On the other can be found every realm of faith, myth, legend and fantasy ever to visit humanity or come from our infinite imagination. There have always been places where the Gauntlet is thin, but these have always led solely to the Penumbra, the spirit reflection of our own world. Since the Red Star burned across the skies, a handful of fractures have slowly broadened, leading to farther places across spirit and dimension. Now, they’re wide enough for people to pass through.

It has long been generally accepted among the Awakened – wizards, priests and scientists fighting to define reality itself – that a tyranny of the soul was winning their Ascension War, patterning the universe itself in ever-tightening webs. Werewolves have long known better. It is not stasis that rules the day, but corruption – a toxic, monstrous spiral they call the Wyrm. Its Fallen forces have banded together, at least as much as such cruel beings can, to take advantage of these wounds in the world’s skin. Across the fouler rifts lie horrors the Fallen can bring back as weapons. Through the more noble ones rest the hopes and dreams of humanity, blissfully ignorant of the venom the Fallen plan on poisoning them with.

In the face of this evil, a small coalition has formed. A handful of werefolk, an alliance of Awakened, and a smattering of the various eternals have united to oppose the Fallen. This as-yet nameless group is able to agree on little else, but the Fallen have already won too many victories. They have banded together to prevent the apocalypse promised by the Red Star – and seen through the largest of the rifts.

While various anomalies of magic and science alike can be found in the world, humanity’s supernatural denizens can be categorized into five broad types:

  • The Awakened are those who have the power to know, wield, control, and even alter reality itself. A majority consider themselves and their ilk Mages, but others wield faith, and many wield their understanding through science and technology. Long have the Awakened of the Traditions fought to guide and protect the future of humanity, but they believed that Panopticon was winning, enslaving humanity by controlling scientific discovery, fostering religious dogma, commanding corporate wealth, and always – always – denying the existence of magick. Instead, the wizards of the Fallen path, known to the Awakened as the Nephandi, have made their move. The structures of Panopticon shudder as reality’s foundations crack, and the Council of Traditions find themselves in the ironic position of having to preserve the world they would transform. They form a plurality, if not an outright majority, of the anti-rift coalition due to their sensitivity to the fractures. Because of the changes to the Traditions and their rivals from Mage: the Ascension, the Council of Awakened Traditions has been given a page of its own, which also covers with its enemies in brief. The Awakened of the coalition’s Western branch are guided by Hesha Morningshade of the Verbenae, legendary Virtual Engineer Dante, Ecstatic “leader” Marianna of Balador, and Scion of Ether adventurer Doc Eon.
  • The Changing Breeds, dominated by the Garou (werewolves), were created to preserve the world and its goddess Gaia. They have fought the primordial forces of corruption to this end since before the beginning of human history. For centuries, they have slowly been losing this war. The Black Spiral consumed and assimilated a werewolf tribe, the Wyrm spawns monsters called fomori, and the titanic mega-corporation Pentex poisons the world with pollution while making billions in profit. Never have things looked so bleak for the shapeshifters, and in this nadir the Destroyer is on the verge of claiming limitless armies. To fail in sealing the fractures means losing the Apocalypse war, and with it all that is. The Changing Breeds make up the second largest force in the anti-rift coalition, and would dominate it if the battle against the Wyrm did not already have them spread so thin. While Garou around the world oppose the rifts, in the Americas they are led by King Jonas Albrecht himself, and his packmates Mari Cabrah and Evan Heals-The-Past.
  • The Undying are the first immortals, beings immune to the ravages of time and nearly impossible to kill. “Nearly” is not the same as truly, however, and the Undying are also vulnerable to both poison and amnesia. The Courts of the Undying have at least three widely-accepted histories regarding their origins alongside several minor ones, and most consider themselves the ancestors to both vampires and changelings. Several are responsible for early myths of demigods, heroes, and monsters. Many are shapeshifters like the Changing Breeds, albeit with a single alternate form that represents a great beast or legendary creature. Most wield powerful magic they call Anthems, which can resemble paths of sorcery or mighty psychic powers. All are made immortal by the Halo, a super-aura that sustains body, mind, and spirit as a contiguous whole. Only by draining the Halo can one of the Undying truly be slain. (Yes, this is typically done through beheading, but it’s usually more complicated than that.) Yet a majority of the Undying are amnesiac, after a terrible battle against the Black Spiral devastated their collective psyche. They oppose the Fallen as well, though usually in self-defense, for the Undying have always made the Black Spiral’s most terrible weapons. Western Undying are led by Percy and Andrea Fitzroy – Perseus and Andromeda themselves.
  • The Changelings are not quite what their name makes them to be. No babies are stolen to give birth to Fair Folk or spirit-champions. Instead, they are either Kithain – the reincarnations of beings from the lore of humanity, born of the Dreaming into human shells – or the Imbued, mortals transformed by the power of the Dreaming. As humanity spirals into stasis and oblivion, those dreams stir, giving birth to heroes – and villains, for alongside every dream is a nightmare as the Gauntlet fractures. Least powerful of the five supernatural kinds in the World of Darkness, few Changelings have the raw might to oppose the Wyrm, but a handful of their mightiest have risen to the challenge. In addition, their numbers grow as shards of possibility echo through the fractures, giving birth to unique new Changelings. The mysterious Imbued guide known only as witness1 and Duchess Morwen Ardry, sister to Concordia’s High King, lead the charge (such as it is) for coalition Changelings.
  • The Kindred, vampires by any other name, have suffered through a silent cataclysm similar to that of the Undying. Though their numbers have not dwindled to the point of endangerment, it is nevertheless a fact of modern nights that neither the Camarilla nor the Sabbat have the numbers to dominate humanity any longer. The elders are gone, perhaps dead, and all the Kindred that remain are caught in a strange cycle of slumber and rebirth. The Danse Macabre now supplements the Masquerade, and secrecy is more paramount than ever now that a coverup is no longer a phone call away. Nevertheless, the two great societies of undeath remain influential, and the Camarilla in particular are protective of their “herd” as a whole. Therefore, while Kindred are generally separated from matters spiritual, a handful have offered the coalition assistance. They are led, or perhaps guided, by vampire archaeologist Beckett and his two allies Lucita de Aragon and Anatole Pierreson.