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UnderWorld has a wonderful premise, and I was happy to pick the game up after reading the column where it was first designed. What follows are two new Breeds, one a re-write of a concept by Liam Astley from the mailing list, the other entirely my own design. It is my opinion that both Breeds and Guilds should be kept to a reasonable size, so unless I find another sizable hole, I believe this page will not be updated. I hope you enjoy them and use them in your game.

Breed: Shades

(based on the version by Liam Astley)

Nicknames: Spooks, Spectres, Haunts, Geists

Anything is possible where the Radiance is strong. Magic exists, miracles can be performed, and even death can be cheated.

Most UnderWorlders in New York know that Junkmen are animated by the spirits of the dead. They usually accept this, shrugging it away as they move on with their lives, barely stopping to think about it (except as it may relate to one of their friends). A few stop to ponder, "does that mean other spirits of the dead might be kicking around too?"

They are.

Sometimes the Radiance captures a soul as it leaves the body. Often, these are souls of those who lived DownBelow, or died beneath the surface, but occasionally a soul from UpAbove comes flittering down (prompting questions about why the soul descended rather than rose). When conditions are right, Radiance intertwines with a spirit, replacing its body and stopping it from passing on to wherever souls go. These spirits, half-corporeal, are suspended between life and death, unable to move on. They are known by many names, the most common being Shades. Most confuse them with Legendaries, but they are a Breed all their own.

Without the physical focus of the Junkmen, Shades have trouble interacting with the living world, often giving them a feeling of alienation, or detachment. The seemingly random nature of their creation gives them a sense of injustice in the world, which some are resigned to, while others react in an angry or melancholy manner. To some Shades, their condition is a prison - trapped forever, unable to reach the surface, only halfway able to interact with the world they left behind. Some, however, see it as a blessing rather than a curse - a second chance at trying to fix the things that went wrong. After all, Shades are effectively immortal, don't need to eat or drink, and cannot be harmed by poisons, disease, or most weapons. These second types, filled with hope, tend to become explorers or scholars, forever seeking new sights and wonders wherever they may go.

Those who know of the Shades (they are rare) are often Artificers or Librarians, and tend to be fond of metaphysical debate over their true nature. Are they really souls, or are they just the imprinting of a dead person's personality on the Radiance? Are they, in fact, some form of the Legendary breed, created from the memories of the grieving? Some Shades become obsessed with studying their nature, trying to figure out who they are. The results have so far been invariably inconclusive.

There is not much in the way of society or culture among the Shades. There aren't enough of them. However, on those rare occasions when two Shades come into each others' presence, they always recognize their own kind, and feel a certain kinship. As a result, no Shade will generally harm another. But Shades rarely share each other's company for long - they remind each other of their unearthly nature too much.

Radiance Level: 2

Special Abilities

Shades are sentient manifestations of the Radiance who have not been given flesh. Instead, they are incorporeal, and cannot be touched by ordinary things. This means they cannot be harmed by normal weapons, and can pass through walls and people. As the Radiance level increases, however, it saturates things - thus, the deeper one goes, the more "substantial" a Shade becomes with respect to the world around it. Whenever the Conductor feels it necessary, the Shade may flip as many coins as the current RadCount - at least one heads allows the Shade to interact with an object or person. Addition may allow more substantial, or lengthier, interaction. Speaking is merely interaction with air, but is simpler - the Shade gets an extra coin for such checks.

Things imbued with Radiance have no problem touching Shades. They can still be harmed by (or carry) magical weapons, Charms, Relics, some Salvage Tech, and they can touch both Junkmen and Legendaries without effort. In addition, the tunnels and caverns of the UnderWorld flow with a natural Radiance. This prevents Shades from falling through the floors or passing through the tunnel walls, at least without expending effort - they take one temporary Health Level for each wall, floor, etc., they by pass.

Though incorporeal, Shades are not invisible - anyone looking for them may flip as many coins as the RadCount, and even one head will let them see them (though they may not realize they're seeing a ghost). Their manifestations on this world are faint, and every one is different - some look like they did in life, others as they did when they died, others as floating balls of light or other nonsense. Shades always see other Shades, and Sappers also are able to see these restless spirits without needing to flip.

Shade characters take damage just like ordinary characters, assuming a weapon can hit them, but they ignore all damage penalties. On the other hand, neither First Aid nor the Mendicant's healing abilities will help them. If a Shade is "killed," toss three coins - if at least one head is tossed, they discorporate instead of die, and their soul flees to the safety of a Radiance Pool. Some time later, at the discretion of the Conductor, they will emerge, fully healed. The only time a Shade can definitely be killed is if it is chased to a Radiance 0 area (like the surface) and held at bay until the Radiance leaks out.

Built of pure Radiance, theorists believe Shades carry a lot of potential power. Though there isn't much source material available on Shades, and most of what does exist is more myth than fact, some Librarians believe they can tap that potential, and use their substance to perform things far beyond what is generally known. In game terms, these powers are like Charms or Rites that a Shade fuels with internal Radiance; they must be learned in play, and are left up to the GM's discretion at this time.

Traits: Calm, Corporeal, Driven, Intuitive, Knowledgeable, Mischievous, Odd, Resilient, Tireless.

Skills: Shades may pick three skills from any list to represent their previous life.

Shade-Related Traits

  • Corporeal - The Shade gets an extra coin in all attempts to interact with the physical world (Opposite - Incorporeal)

Breed: Underkinder

Nicknames: Subs, Hobbits, Folk, People

Each of the human Breeds have a Special Ability that relates to their experiences. Homeless can use surface technology wherever they go - they were raised on the surface, and deep in their mind they know that technology works, and the Radiance believes them. This is why Normals make the transition to "Homeless" so easily - after they get over their disorientation, their subconscious reasserts itself. Similarly, the Lost are adrift in time - the Radiance acknowledges that by giving them some small control over it. Nomads have banished their memories; there is no subconscious left to dictate to the Radiance, just the timelessness of immortality.

So what about those humans who were born and raised beneath the streets? The main UnderWorld book seems to have forgotten about them. They are exposed to technology as well as Radiance, but are also witness to the unreliability of both. Though they call themselves the Folk, and identify with the Homeless, some Librarians have come to classify them separately. Their official name, "Underkinder," was invented by a Lost Librarian named Jäger, and is not in common usage - nonetheless, his theory was advanced, and amongst the scholarly circles, this is what they are called - a new Breed raised betwixt the Above and the Below.

Usually children of the Homeless, Underkinder are those humans whose hearts and roots hold the scenery of the UnderWorld, instead of the hopes of the surface. Even though they may see the sky daily, the Underkind don't see them as castoffs from the world above - instead, they are equal citizens of the world between the streets, and are inculcated with the existence of Radiance early on.

The tunnels and byways of the UnderWorld are the true homes of the Underkinder; charms and salvage tech are as real to them as cellphones and pistols. Even those Underkinder who are "rescued" from the streets and take on jobs and apartments and responsibilities in the UpWorld keep their roots in their heart.

Though there will always be the Homeless, as new people from the surface filter down into the UnderWorld, the number of Underkinder is growing larger each year, raised by generations of Homeless who made their homes deep down, along with the Lost and Nomads who also had children. Only recently have some seen the difference between the Underkinder and the Homeless.

Radiance Level: 1

Special Abilities

The Underkind were raised DownBelow; they know it like you know your home town. Because of this, an Underkinder automatically knows his way through common parts of the UnderWorld, and in uncommon parts they can still flip three coins to find a way, as they know the "lay of the land."

The Underkinder can also "Mind the Gap," as it is often called. They can treat the RadCount of any area as either one lower (for the purposes of using UpSide tech) or one higher (for the purposes of using things DownBelow).

Traits Cunning, Jack of All Trades, Mundane, Radiant, Resilient, Resistant, Streetwise

Skills Contacts (DownBelow), Scrounging, one other skill

Last modified: Thursday January 01 1970 00:00:00, by Alexander Cherry