World of Darkness - Alpha Network
“Special quotation regarding Character Examples..”
I’ve decided to use the Divine Fire from Promethean as the origin for these guys, and have been taking a lot of notes from that game and from Mummy: The Curse to the point that I’m more or less leaning on pre-existing mechanics, which was not my intent. I have ideas on where to go, and I think I know what I want to do with the game, but I really need a pair of eyes that aren’t mine to go over some of the content to try and figure out what doesn’t fit or to suggest angles that I haven’t thought of. At the least, feedback would help tremendously, at the best, some assistance or even real contributions would be incredible- I feel like these sorts of projects go better with collaborations anyways. I’ve posted the introduction below to get the main ideas across, but the character restriction means that I can’t really get to the crunch just yet.
That’s what your parents always told you; that you were meant for great things. They never doubted, they always knew, and they treated you like the world rested on your shoulders. The expectations were enormous, but so was the drive. Your obsession mounted into something sublime, and your soul burned.
Humanity has always been drawn to stories of the divine made manifest. Those stories captivate our imagination- the idea of the sublime being close enough to touch, for a divinity to feel as you’ve felt. It is a compelling idea, especially when it takes beings unapproachable and untouchable in their perfection and makes them a little more human. But there’s one thing more compelling than a god slumming it for a while with the mortals- and that’s a god who chooses to stay.
In this game, you play one of the Irin- born of a human mother and Announced by an angelic being; you were born for a purpose within the World of Darkness. The Irin, commonly known as Angels, the Luminous, or the Announced, have no idea what they are meant for- only that purpose and destiny are expected of them. Upon becoming aware of their nature, and experiencing it for the first time in Confirmation, it is impressed upon them that in spite of the lofty promises proceeding their birth they have only a single purpose: to bear witness. You don’t know what that means, or what is expected of you, save for that it is not your place to participate, only observe. Will you obey the dictates of heaven? Will you choose to hurry destiny along? Or will you throw yourself headlong into the world? Purpose or no purpose, you’re part of it, and that can’t be helped.
Whatever this means to your character, in Irin: The Announced you are a divinity born into the mortal realm, possessed entirely of free will- but bound in chains forged in the very furnaces of creation. You can feel Divine Fire roaring in your blood, you can hear the universe singing joyfully in your presence, you can wander the limitless light of realms rarely reached by man- and you’re asked to stay quiet, to watch attentively, and above all, obey. The ancient world knew of the Irin- legends are told of them. The Sumerians remember demigod sages, the Apkallu, who taught them of civilization. The Saptarishi are revered in Hindu and Vedic texts as messengers and teachers from Brahma. And then, there are their noble forebears- the Grigori. The Book of Enoch is sacred among the Irin, and forms the basis of much of their culture. Ultimately, its story is one they can all relate to. Fulfill your purpose- observe and obey -or, act. Instead of living adjacent to the world, live within it.
But to be Irin is to be born apart from humanity. For years, you can pretend to be human but everyone, including your parents, knows that there’s more to you. Pyros burns in your blood, the light of Glory shines through your pores whether you want it to or not. Unlike the wandering Prometheans, the Pyros in the Irin doesn’t incite the fear of the outsider, but a reverence of the divine. It isn’t the enraged terror of an obsessed bigot, but the fervor of worship. For beings that are not typically supposed to attract attention, the Fire still calls out to any who are willing to see it. The heat of the Fire runs through their emotions- towering rages, fierce passions, and all-consuming sorrow
these emotions often lead to rash action, and rash action is often rebellion. The Irin would do well to remember the end of the Grigori not a fall from grace, but unending chastisement. Endless castigation in the depths of the Pleroma.
Everyone makes choices, and everyone has to live with them, but for the Irin these choices can come with a little more weight and a lot more regret than those most people have to deal with. Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit- and for that they were expelled from Eden. The Grigori chose to abandon duty for love, and then had to watch as all of their work was torn asunder. An Irin can choose to respect the power and authority they have been given, or abuse it. And in abusing it, they can wrap themselves in chains.
Choices have unintended consequences- and the power of the Irin means that for as high as they rise, they have that much further they can fall.
Make no mistake about it, the Irin are divine. Fallible, and totally capable of being as screwed up as the next person, if not more so, but still divine. And there’s nothing they can really do to acknowledge that. The awe and terror experienced when viewing the true form of the Irin can be lethal; their powers can- pushed to their limits
level towns. Any joy they could feel by making use of the full extent their abilities is curtailed by the fear of what will happen if they unintentionally abuse them. All that power, all that potential, and they are expected to squander it on trivial matters it’s easy to see how frustration builds. That is, of course, only if they’re unwilling to pay the price that comes from satisfying their need to be recognized for who, or what, they are.
Many, many entities have been called angels in the World of Darkness. It’s really not that hard- bear a message have wings, express divine power and majesty. Some spirits of the Shadow, especially those of Virtues, can be confused with angels.
· The biomechanical horrors of the God-Machine often build off of popular ideas and images of angels, and for all intents and purposes fulfill the purpose and often the description of an angel to a tee.
· The Empyrean Angels mentioned briefly in World of Darkness: Inferno are called angels, mostly because they are the exact opposites of the Fiends of the Inferno. Not a whole lot is known about them other than that they exist. An alternative name for them used in this text will be Messengers.
· Some of the Geists who bond with Sin-Eaters believe themselves to be angels.
· Mages who Awaken to the Watchtower of the Golden Key speak of the living symbols of Forces and Prime- the Supernal Seraphim and Cherubim. In the Temenos, it’s possible to find just about any being dreamt of by humanity, and that would include angels.
· Some of the True Fae may take the image of angels or craft Changelings in that shape. Some folklore says that the Fae are actually angels too evil for Heaven and too mad for Hell.
· Finally, there are the qashmallim that Prometheans often encounter. These are the angels we’ll most concern ourselves with, as these are also the same angels that presage, and often cause, the birth of the Irin.
Someone always knows the Irin is coming, even before they are born. They are the Announced; their birth is heralded in the stars, the vaults and flames of heaven dance joyfully when it occurs. However, that is not to say that things are of such obvious pomp and recognition on earth. It is possible that the Irin was Announced by a qashmal in its full glory using some of the more… dramatic Numina at its disposal. It is possible that they were the result of Pyros triggering a spontaneous pregnancy, or that their parents always knew what they were and with both fear and admiration prepared them for their eventual Confirmation.
The default assumption of the setting, however, calls for something subtler. A lesser qashmal in a mortal mask makes an off-handed comment about the future child that lights a spark in a parent’s eye, instilling a powerful imperative that will drive the child to Confirmation. An overheard conversation on the bus inspires a couple to pour everything into conceiving. There are endless, subtle means for the Principle’s most trustworthy servants to accomplish their mission, and trigger the birth of an Irin. But the qashmallim don’t choose to who they appear, and if they are unequipped- whether by power or by knowledge -they can make mistakes. Perhaps a few too many Irin are simply the result of a bumbling qashmal, and their missions cannot be altered or reattempted. The Principle works with what it has.
Whatever the circumstance, the Annunciation often colors how, and by whom, the child is raised- it affects expectations, demands, and even parenting styles. Some parents, obsessing over a potential ‘perfect child’ will press the Announced into higher and higher standards of excellence. Some, fearful of the child’s possible divinity, will be cold and distant- afraid of what could happen when their Glory begins to shine through. Some, resentful of the eventual importance of their child, will even be abusive. All these things will eventually affect how the child will come to see the world- and may even influence their Confirmation.
The Principle is one- Divine Fire is Divine Fire, but it’s expression is different from manifestation to manifestation. Qashmallim for Azoth- the drive of creation; the desperate obsessive power of imagination, emotion, and the human spirit. To interact, connect, and relate to others. Azoth is life- evolutionary, transformative. It unites, it binds, it makes whole. On the other hand, there’s Flux. Where Azoth leads to union, Flux is ever changing- chaotic, sluggish in its gathering but full of the might of entropy. It is transformation through destruction, through breaking things down. It is the great divider.
+And just like Azoth, it has its Announced. +
Called the Shedim, their lives and powers are often rather different from Announced born of Azoth and watched over by qashmallim. Instead, the Shedim can hope for the baleful gaze of the lilithim. Normally, these characters would make an easy opposing faction for the protagonists- but I would prefer for playing a Shedim to be as valid an option as playing an Irin. So, for those of you who want to play destroying angels and those who hold the key of the Pit tight in their grasp- sit tight. The Shedim still follow many of the same rules as the Irin, but with a few twists, so we’ll be covering them first.
It is perhaps fitting that changing from simply a human with an unusual prenatal history into one of the Irin is a matter of choice and obsession. Everyone wants excellence- to push themselves past simply good and into greatness. Overachievers, perfectionists, individuals with abiding obsessions- all of these are often states analogous to a budding Irin. Something- be it pride, desperation, need, or a cause -requires an individual to give more than their all, to engage in a truly Herculean effort. Whatever the motivator is, it is deeply personal, unyielding, and full of intense hunger and desperation. This can be invigorating, sublime, or utterly traumatizing and horrific.
The athlete who pushes themselves farther than they believe or know they can endure might suddenly feel the Pyros burning within their chest, Glory coalescing around them. They perform beyond admirably, and exult in their success. For a brief moment, they are a god on the field, and everyone can see it.
The musician is living paycheck to paycheck on small gigs, and then suddenly something clicks and they sing with the voice of an angel. The crowd is so stunned, that they are totally silent until the performance ends- and then they roar. Afterwards, they speak of how the spotlight behind the band seemed to give the musician a halo- but there was no spotlight.
The student whose parents have great expectations stares blankly at an exam, until suddenly in a fit of inspiration he writes two flawless booklets full of an essay so powerful that their teacher feels a need to discuss it in class. The words are beautiful; every so often a teacher will take it from the drawer where exams are stored and read it, just to enjoy the words.
A soldier in combat finds himself and his buddies ambushed. In absolute need to get away and protect his comrades, he can feel Pyros turning his blood to steam- and then nothing. His next memory of being surrounded by scorched earth, the smell of burning flesh and his buddies dead; apparently of sheer terror.
A teenager trying to explain herself to her parents is met with nothing but abuse and intolerance. She needs them to see, and they do. Glory burns through their minds, and they fall to the ground, screaming prayers until they die.
A husband desperate to see his wife and child through a troubling birth insists on staying with her. The fire burns through her and the infant. The child is born with a terrible fever, and later dies. The wife finds herself eternally cold once the Pyros runs its course. She spends most days in bed, loss making her cold inside and out.
Should one of the Created who has studied the Fire, and knows of the possibility of modern Demiurges, ever run into one of the Announced they will notice some rather disturbing similarities. The process that allows a Demiurge to harness Pyros to create a Promethean, and that which transfigures the Announced is in many ways identical. The only difference is, the kind of obsession that drives a man to try and create life ultimately ends with success, but that which drives the Announced remains. A Demiurge gets a foot in the door to get just enough Pyros to make a life, and then the passion that gave them the metaphysical leverage to force the door open in the first place dissipates, slamming it closed. Announced fling the door wide open, and step through.
The Confirmation is the first taste of glory for the Irin, and the only example of it intended to be for themselves to revel and enjoy- Divine Fire hitched (for the first and only time) wholly to their will. After the Confirmation they receive a vision, which if they ever manage to track down one of the qashmallim to ask about, is supposedly directly from the Principle. They are given the basic commands that help guide responsible use of their authority relating to their purpose, and a basic mission- something to which they can bear witness. The Irin, heralds of Azoth, are meant to heal, to build up, to guide, to make whole. But they are also meant to punish those who would misuse the Divine Fire, offer warnings, and scourge the unworthy- even if the Principle’s idea of what is ‘unworthy’ is rather idiosyncratic. The Shedim, masters of Flux, are agents of punishment and entropy, of chaos temptation and torment. They scourge the souls of the righteous to test them, they tear down the unworthy to keep the profane from the divine. And they often hate themselves for it.
Regardless, the Announced are universally given knowledge that something will happen. Details on who, why, when, where, and how can be sketchy- with information too detailed and focused to discern anything, or too broad to be of much use. It is often cryptic, usually symbolic- a riddle of destiny to be untangled. Regardless, the Irin must figure out what it is they are to witness, let it come to pass, and then act as they will in the aftermath of the event. What the Irin witness and observe are often horrifying in their scope, or barely trivial. What matters is what is expected of them. An Irin may be called to murder an adulterer for reasons known only to the Principle, or stand by and watch as a drunk driver tears a hole through a family. The Principle’s motives, agenda, and direction are ineffable, and inscrutable. The temptation to let punishments for crimes the Irin can’t comprehend slide, or prevent a disaster from occurring, is enormous. Every Irin, almost without exception, will stand against the tide at some point in their long lives.
Maybe, they’ll punish someone ‘sufficiently’ but the Principle calls for increasingly harsh responses- mounting from the unsettling to the outright horrific. Maybe they are expected to stand by and let some disaster occur, and they simply will not allow it to come to pass. The Principle does not like to be disobeyed, but it is also the ultimate executor of free will, and choice. It is self-determination and predestination rolled into one, and it cannot take away freedom that hasn’t been surrendered. So when the Irin defy their master, they begin to see the divine plan fall apart. A mission can only be undertaken once, regardless of result. The Irin abusing their authority to act against the Principle will start to see tragedy in the situation. Little acts of subversion will trigger misfortune for people who could really do without it, greater acts of sabotage could mean the death of innocent bystanders. Outright defiance could lead to true disaster. The Irin must, therefore, weigh every possibility when making a judgment call. Most only defy the Principle in the most dire of circumstances.
Some study the disasters, try to figure out the logic in the Principle’s plans, or determine how to curb their damage. Some build vast social networks, enabling them to enact the will of the Principle without getting their hands dirty. And some will even manipulate the world around their mission, so that it has no choice but to change its parameters to fit their will. In the end, it is about finding a medium- most likely not at all happy
between what you want, and the desires of an unknowable god. Between the freedom to use your power, and the wisdom to not abuse it so much of modern fiction has to deal with when an authority may have a point, and when it is better to question it. And the Irin have to wonder; can they go beyond their calling? Their power is rarely matched among the other creatures of the World of Darkness- they could be an avenger, a hero. They could right wrongs and uproot corruption. They could be a god or a saint among men, or simply take what they want with all the backing and might of a divine agent. And the most enterprising of all seek to understand the Principle’s alien mind- if it has one. If they can figure out what mission will come next, and why, then they can intervene and enact the Principle’s will without the need for tragedy. The choice, in the end, is ultimately theirs.
The Irin all have a complicated relationship to the divine. It touched their lives in impossible ways during the Confirmation, and continues to influence them through their sometimes very long lives with missions and the chains of authority inherent to Exousia. The Irin chafe at their manacles- they want to be free, but they never can be, because no mere servant of the divine can actually plead their case to it… or can they? The Irin pursue Communion because it is the only way out of being slavishly obedient for the rest of their lives. Very few Irin have reached Communion with the divine, but rumor has it those that have are unbound- limitless. Truly divine, truly immortal, and a free agent in the universe. No one is quite sure how to pursue it, but all of the Irin Sects have some opinion on it, and many actively seek it out.
Literature: Something More Than Night by Ian Tregellis. A dead Archangel leads to a noir mystery novel. Bayliss makes a wonderful qashmal and Molly an excellent Irin, fresh to the supernatural world. One of the key codifiers of ideas in this text, especially when it comes to the Pleroma and the metaphysical sanctuaries called Magisteriums.
The Golem & The Jinni by Helene Wecker. An atmospheric piece in 19th Century New York, a Golem and a Jinni (Who could just as easily be a very confused Irin) end up meeting and striking up an unusual friendship. The Jinni in particular is an excellent portrait of the frustration and passion of the Irin.
Horns by Joe Hill. While slightly more evocative of the Fiends of the Inferno, Ig Perrish could just as easily be an Irin with a slightly more demonic form. There are also the Shedim to consider. Tortured and tormented by the changes that have come over him, Ig’s search for the truth ends up costing him dearly.
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Demonstrates evocatively the duality of the Irin; mixed sublime beauty and nightmarish terror. The angels presented in this book, technically closer to the Nephilim than the Grigori, are beautiful, prideful, passionate, and monstrous. An example of the Irin at their worst.
Film: The Prophecy Directed and Written by Gregory Widen. Some of the most terrifying angels ever put to film; Christopher Walken’s Gabriel is a driven, horrifying antagonist who wants to win at all costs. If God still speaks to him, he isn’t listening. An excellent example of how to do an Irin antagonist.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame as envisioned by Disney. While it certainly helps that the Latin mass is ever-present in the film, and religious imagery is used continuously- the biggest qualifier is the characters themselves. All of them have powerful fixations, most notably Frollo and Quasimodo, but other characters also possess them to a lesser degree. Esmeralda’s passion for justice could easily be the fervor of a Malakim, while Frollo presents as a particularly ruthless, entitled, and horrifying Elohim.
Television: Dominion on Syfy. A loose sequel to the movie Legion, the higher angels presented who can take human form under their own power (Not counting Michael, Gabriel, or Uriel) are pretty good examples of the Irin. Most just want to live in peace and are impossible to differentiate from regular humans until they bring out the wings.
Other: The Book of Enoch. Read it, know it. The quintessential story of the Irin, the compelling characters of the Grigori form a huge portion of the inspiration for the Irin, and grace much of their lore and culture.
Barlowe’s Inferno by Wayne Barlowe. A visionary fantasy, science fiction, and horror artist, his visions of hell and its inhabitants are unique, grotesque, and strangely beautiful. While his body of work doesn’t have a specific influence on this game, the aesthetic of the work is incredibly useful for getting ideas for the Celestial Forms of the characters, the wide vistas of Sheol and the Pleroma, or their varied and fascinating antagonists. This is what the penitentes see in their dreams. Remember that.
Kill 6 Billion Demons. A webcomic that delves into the dark and the horrific aspects of divinity and the universe in general, the aesthetics and the story could be used to inspire Celestial Forms, qashmallim, Grigori, and the far reaches of the Pleroma and Sheol.