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The Breeds in any UnderWorld game are the various groups of people one can be. Some are separate species, some are simply different enough to warrant their own category. This is the first step towards creating most any character. Each Breed is formatted the same way, starting with the most common name of the Breed, then a description, and then the game mechanics.
Nicknames: Greys, Ancients, Pretenders, History
Descendants of the final inhabitants of Atlantis just before it sunk beneath the waves, Atlanteans have spent ten thousand years in the Radiance-rich bottom of the ocean, adapting despite themselves to the hostile environment of the depths. Inbreeding and genetic drift have ensured that they are no longer truly human.
Atlanteans of both genders stand about five feet tall with a thin, willowy frame, large black eyes and dark oily gray skin. Their heads are shaped like teardrops, with two small slits for nostrils and a tiny mouth; their fingers are overlong. The tops of their heads grow hair, but the rest of their body is hairless - they have cartilaginous eyebrows. They are indeed as frail as they look - physical strength and endurance are not aptitudes for which they are well-known.
Despite their physical frame, Atlanteans are arrogant, looking down on all the other Breeds (and sometimes even looking down on those who are of a Guild other than their own, or who are from an Edifice other than their own). They have a special hatred for the Tritons, though, one that bends all reason until it breaks. On an individual level, Tritons and Atlanteans have often become friends, but the feud remains.
Despite the slave revolts and the reforms, Atlanteans are still the upper class of most Edifices, both wealthy and influential. No few of them still own human slaves, or close enough as makes no difference. However, not all Atlanteans are supporters of slavery.
Atlanteans are nearly infertile; a pure Atlantean sexual union resulting in child is a miracle of the highest caliber and highly celebrated. However, in breeding, their genes are dominant - even after 500 years of crossbreeding, the union of an Atlantean and a human rarely produces a human. There are very few Atlanteans who cannot claim to be free of human blood, but not many know their human parent - just another part of the Breeding Stock, so to speak.
Even those open-minded Atlanteans who see humans as equals rarely enter into relationships with them. On the other hand, the sight of an Atlantean female prostituting herself in the hope of getting a child is depressingly common, and human females can almost always make money agreeing to mother an Atlantean whelp.
Radiance Level: 1
Generations of inbreeding have left Atlanteans frail and weak - they must subtract one coin from any feat involving physical strength or physical endurance. Despite their weakness, however, Atlanteans have managed to evolve some protections to pressure, giving them a single coin to resist their effects.
They are nearly ageless, and also extremely infertile, but neither one of those is likely to have much effect on game play. Though their senses of smell and taste are nearly lost, their eyesight is sensitive enough to make out details even in the dim light of the sea bottom.
Atlanteans are rich and privileged, and connected as well. They may toss an extra coin in any action involving the use of wealth or influence. In addition, when the situation allows for it, they can toss three coins - if they get at least two successes, they are able to call in someone who owes them (or their family) a favor, to help them at a task.
Atlanteans generally have a taboo against having Shaper enhancements, even those not inside their body - a long distrust coming from the feud between themselves and the Tritons. Generally speaking, they may not start the game with any, unless they are a Shaper. However, they are researchers of both magic and technology, and get double the number of charms they get through their Guild. They can also trade those charms in for Tinker devices on a one to one basis.
Traits: Cunning, Radiant, Veteran, Cautious, Commanding, Honorable, Seaworthy, Knowledgeable, Tinker, Wealthy
Skills: Contacts (area), Lore, any two other skills
Nicknames: Ticktocks, Junkmen, Rusties, Sprockets
Mostly created by Tinkers, Automatons are robots composed of trash and abandoned machinery, directed by the intelligence of a ghost who has been bound within the metal frame and powered directly by the Radiance itself. Whirring gears and cogs, hissing steam and crackling electricity, the Automatons wander the world, living out their new lives. Some are overjoyed at this new existence, but some are melancholy creatures, longing for release from this world.
Automatons are a rare Breed. The process of creating them is incredibly difficult, and there are few Tinkers capable of achieving such a feat. Those that are created, however, are effectively immortal, only needing occasional repairs to keep going. They are impressive - great clanking collections of metal, rubber, and other scrap, lumbering down the tunnels of the Edifices, drawing sustenance from raw magic.
Automata vary in construction, though most are at least humanoid in form. The ghost within the machine finds it easier to acclimate if its new body is at least somewhat familiar in shape. However, there are some non-humanoid automata, including several mechanical squids (a common theme) and a hive mind spread across no fewer than ten remote controlled toys.
The biggest drawback of existence as an Automaton is that their connection to and dependence upon the Radiance keeps them beneath the surface. An Automaton simply cannot exist in the World Above, outside of the Triangle - without the Radiance to draw its power from, they run down and eventually cease functioning, leaving nothing but the pile of junk or stone from which they were built.
Radiance Level: 2
As created beings, Automatons have Salvage Tech (the bizarre inventions of Tinkers) incorporated into their bodies. An Automaton player can devise two Salvage Tech devices with which to begin the game. Automatons who give up "natural" abilities, such as hands or legs, may have additional devices installed - talk to the Conductor. Salvage Tech is described in the main UnderWorld rulebook and will not be reprinted here.
Traits - Strong, Large, Tinker, Intelligent, Tough, Clever, Strong Willed, Radiant, Commanding, Tireless, Veteran
Skills - Automatons may choose any 3 skills to represent skills "left-over" from their previous life.
Nicknames: Ferals, the Uplifted, the School
In the Triangle, animals can be people too. The Radiance gives many of them a boost in their intelligence, and allows them to communicate with the humanoids - even speak, as if the Triangle was one big Disney movie.
This Breed is mostly made up of four common types: Fish, Sharks, Rats, and Dolphins. Still, the Radiance's gift of speech and intelligence can be bestowed on almost any animal, and even starfish have been known to get up and start walking around. Pets from the surface - cats, dogs, parrots - have occasionally bounded down and sometimes even had offspring.
For most Beast fish, their intelligence comes and goes - their brains tend to be too small, and only the most stubborn of personalities can hold it long enough to become an individual. Sometimes, whole schools turn intelligent, becoming strange hive minds that are nearly impossible to understand. On the other end of the equation, Radiance-enhanced Dolphins are often smarter than actual humans. Rats are the most alien to the environment, but infinitely adaptable, and have been there since the first ships sunk.
Sharks are truly the most inscrutable. They do not much participate in the civilization of the Triangle, though some are allied with the most remote of the Triton tribes. Sharks are often willing to offer anyone a pact - they will let someone hunt them, on the general understanding that they can also be hunted back. Many a fool who has tried to prove himself this way has been lost.
Radiance Level: 1
The greatest special ability of the Beasts is that which allows them to be played in the first place - their Radiance-bestowed higher intelligence (for Dolphins, enough to give them an extra coin in all intelligence-related tests). Other abilities will depend on what sort of creature the character is. Some will have natural weapons, heightened senses, and more. Use common sense in determining what abilities any Beast has that are truly special, and work it out with the Conductor.
Traits: Feral, Friendly, Vicious, Cute, Small, Large, Wild, Fast, Cunning, Tough, Seaworthy
Skills: Scrounging OR Survival (choice)
Nicknames: Mutants, Twists, Misfits, Jokers, Monsters
Freaks rival the Mythics as the most varied Breed in the Triangle, each as individual as a snowflake. Throughout history, they have been the monsters that fill the dark corners of our imaginations. The Minotaur was a member of this Breed, as was the monster created by Victor Frankenstein in early 19th century Austria (and in fact, unethical Shapers are responsible for many of the Triangle's Freaks). The Breed’s members range from mere sideshow oddities to the truly monstrous. Whether they are the results of mutation, or evolution, or of experimentation, it doesn’t matter - they are all Freaks.
Freaks have a single bond that unites them as a Breed - they must live in the Triangle, for they would be hunted down and destroyed up above. This has happened countless times, and many of these instances have entered legend: the lesson learned by Frakenstein's monster has not been lost on the rest of his Breed. Humanity has always destroyed what it fears, and Freaks have learned that it is safer to live far from the torches and guns of the World Above.
Despite this harrowed existence, the Freaks are not a vengeful Breed, nor are they particularly melancholy about their lot in life. Vengeance comes from a sense of outrage, and most Freaks are extremely pragmatic about the conflict between their kind and that of the civilizations on the surface - they know that interaction with the surface is dangerous, and is therefore best avoided. Of course, in the depths of the Triangle, the World Above seems deceptively distant, and there are enough vistas on the ocean floor to keep most Freaks occupied for a lifetime.
Every Freak is unique in their appearance - some are animalistic, others hideously deformed. No two are exactly alike. A player choosing to play a Freak should have an idea in advance about the appearance of his or her character, and should then work with the Conductor to tailor the character to fit their conception without unbalancing the entire game.
Radiance Level: 1
The average Freak has a number of special abilities, usually tied in to their appearance. For example, winged Freaks often have the ability to fly, animalistic Freaks have natural weapons like claws and teeth to offer them additional coins in combat. It is recommended that the Freak character possess no more than one major ability (such as flight, gills or resistance to certain types of weapons) and no more than three minor abilities (tracking scent, natural camouflage, immunity to pressure, natural weapons). A major ability is defined as one that offers the character an advantage they can use repeatedly without penalty, and a minor ability would be one that only offers a bonus to a Head Count throw.
Traits: Cautious, Myrmidon, Strong, Agile, Tough, Intuitive, Perceptive, Fast, Commanding, Stealthy, Jack of All Trades
Nicknames: Upstarts, Breeders, Usurpers, Inheritors
Humans are the most common Breed in all the Triangle, their population having quite literally exploded since they were first brought down five hundred years ago. Descended from both surface and Triton blood, humans are a bizarre mix of Atlantean mores, Triton passions, and surface philosophies, and are more flexible than any other single Breed. Many have had their bodies Shaped, giving them enhancements beyond the standard ken, but just as many eschew such things.
In an environment rich in humanity, a new facet of mankind's potential shows its face. Through a mix of genes and outlook, every human has the ability to develop a knack - a magical ability, usually minor but sometimes of awesome power. Even those from the surface can develop knacks, although it usually takes a while. Many humans of the Triangle identify themselves in part by their knack, and they know they'll lose it on the surface. Those raised beneath the waves are usually happy to stay there.
Radiance Level: 0
Humans are a very simple folk, flexible and adaptable and varied. In character creation, they get an extra Defining Trait, chosen from any list.
Most humans also have a knack, a certain magical thing they are able to do - some of these are more obvious than others. Every knack is unique to the individual using it, and tends to be about the power level of an average charm. Talk to the Conductor to decide what you want your knack to allow you to do. At least in the modern day, the most common knack of Normals brought down from the surface is the same as that of the Folk of the NY Underworld - the ability to use technology regardless of Radiance level.
Like certain Relics, as a human's fame increases, so can his knack become more powerful. In addition, players can choose to give up a Defining Trait in exchange for a more powerful starting knack, but this can only be done ONCE.
Traits: Castaway, Courageous, Friendly, Intuitive, Jack of All Trades, Mischievous, Mundane, Perceptive, Risen, Seaworthy, Shaped
Skills: Humans may pick any three skills to reflect what they have picked up during their lifetime.
Nicknames: Blanks, Nomads, Rasas, Thanes, Untouchables
Legends across the world talk of the connection between the search for immortality, and journeys into the underworld. The Greeks spoke of the subterranean river Lethe, which would allow travelers who sup from it to live forever, but forget everything that came before. The Chinese told tales of the hollow mountain of K’un Lun, and its grove of magical peaches which bestowed immortality.
These legends have a basis in fact.
Lanathanein (singular: Lanthane) have been around as long as Atlantis - the Greeks later named the river Lethe after this old Atlantean word. They are immortal - they do not age, and cannot die. Thus they never become Shades, and rarely need the services of a Reaper. In return for this, they have lost their memories. They do not know how they became immortal, or who they were before.
A few Lanathanein return to the world above, attempting to get on with their lives, or forge new ones, but others choose to stay where their earliest new memories found them - beneath the surface, among the Radiance. Many search for some clue of their previous lives, or the source of their incredible lifespan, or just for the sake of having adventures in the new world. Many Lanathanein are Reapers, hoping that their plumbing of the barrier of death will provide their answers.
The loss of history and memory has an interesting side effect - Oracles cannot divine the past or future of a Lanathane directly, and Lanathanein are only shadowy, vague figures when they appear in the visions Oracles have of others. This, combined with their immortality, makes them highly valued as assassins and spies - what better weapon than an unknown stranger who cannot be killed, and whose identity cannot be divined?
Most Oracles believe the blank spots the Lanathanein leave in their visions are a sign that they have somehow been placed outside of fate. Some believe this makes them the perfect tools with which to change fate; others see them as aberrations obscuring destiny.
Radiance Level: 0
Lanathanein are immortal - that is what defines them. They cannot die from natural means, and can return to life from even the most critical of injuries. Even catastrophic damage such as being blown to bits, chopped to pieces, or disintegrated will not kill a Lanathane, though nothing might be able to rejoin the various parts of the body (in other words, they are effectively dead if killed enough). Lanathanein no longer need to breathe, which helps them move through the ocean, though they can still take damage from being crushed in the deeps. Finally, Oracles are unable to divine their past, present or future, and can only see a shadow where a Lanathane should be in other divinations.
Traits: Resilient, Tough, Courageous, Fierce, Tireless, Agile, Commanding, Perceptive, Intuitive, Resistant
Skills: none, and may pick only 2 secondary skills
Nicknames: Legendaries, Archetypes (Archies), Ephemerals
The Triangle is home to dreams and nightmares, gods and monsters, fantasies and forgotten fears. The magical properties of the Triangle create the Radiance, which is akin to a magical background radiation. Sometimes, this energy coalesces and spontaneously shapes itself into a being. Often, these become the monsters that prey on ships but sometimes, the spark of awareness is created, and a new lifeform is the result. These are the Mythicals.
Mythicals often take the form of archetypal ideas - the result of drawing their awareness from the collective unconscious. They are myths personified, fantasies walking, horrors made flesh. They take the shape of tales shouted over the marketplace, or whispered in children's sleepovers when the light is darkest. Not to say all Mythicals are embodiments of a recognizable tale. They have taken wide-ranging forms, including characters from particular books, drug-induced hallucinations, and even passing whimsies that happened by at the right time. Often, they are blends of several threads - but they are always dreams given form.
ls are dependent on the Radiance for their continued existence, and as such cannot venture outside the Triangle. Mythicals who do, fade back into the ideas and emotions that spawn them. This can have a very disruptive effect on those humans who are nearby, who suddenly absorb them. This also happens if a Mythical is killed through other means.
Given the vast possibilities inherent in the Mythicals, players wanting such characters should have a clear concept - it will help character creation flow smoothly.
Radiance Level: 2
Mythical abilities are links to their imagining, and can often rise in power as the Mythical establishes himself. Creating a Mythical requires close communication with your Conductor, to determine what abilities would fit the concept and what would be overbalancing for the campaign.
Traits: Strong, Agile, Tough, Cunning, Resilient, Jack of All Trades, Radiant, Strong-Willed, Odd, Apt, Charming
Skills: As necessary for concept.
Nicknames: Spooks, Spectres, Haunts, Restless
Anything is possible where Radiance is strong. Magic exists, miracles can be performed, and even death can be cheated.
The Reapers are well-known for their ability to cheat death, communing with spirits and coaxing them back into their bodies, but even before there were Reapers, there were the Shades; in fact, many believe that the first Reapers were Shades, exploring their unique nature.
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.
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 study Shades, usually Reapers and Skjalds, tend to be fond of metaphysical debate over their true nature. Are they actually souls trapped by magic, or are they simply the imprinting of a dead person’s personality onto the Radiance? Are they some subform of the Mythical breed, created from the grieving memories of loved ones? Some Shades grow obsessed with studying their nature, trying to find out who they are; others simply go forward.
Shades are not particularly rare in the Triangle, unlike most UnderWorlds - this is likely due to the heightened RadCount even on the ocean surface. Because of their nigh-invisibility, Shades are not well-trusted in most of the UnderWorld, and face prejudice; in any large State there is bound to be a close-knit community of Shades.
Radiance Level: 2
Shades are a sentient manifestation 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 Automata and Legendaries without effort. In addition, the waters of the Triangle flow with a natural Radiance, as does the structure of Edifices. This prevents Shades from falling through the floors or passing through them, 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 special 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.
Nicknames: Merfolk, Fishmen, Sirens
Mermaids and mermen are often imagined as beautiful specimens of humanity from the waist up, and as green-scaled fish from the waist down. This figment of imagination likely has its roots in the Tritons, who have lived beneath the waves since time immemorial, descended from the same stock as Atlanteans, and having made pacts with the forces of the deep for their adaptation.
Tritons look almost human from the waist up, as long as they keep their mouths closed; from the waist down is a grey fin identical to that ofa dolphin. Their skin looks gray and clammy, but that’s easily explained away. More jarring, they have a fin jutting out of their spine, and their teeth are sharp as a shark’s.
More disconcertingly, the backs of their mouths glow like small lanterns, providing light for them to see and attract small prey. They breathe air, though they have domesticated a seaweed called sangreal which can help replace the need for air, and they cultivate it in huge farms. Though Tritons can speak, they prefer the whalesong, a language only Tritons can speak, but others can learn how to interpret. As this is the primary language of the Tritons, most Tritons adopt easily-spoken monikers to be used in the Edifices.
Tritons are easily the most mobile of the Breeds, even able to assume human form to walk the Edifices or the surface. They are able to reach the surface, and also to submerge themselves for days on end without worrying about the pressure of the surrounding water. They can hold their breath for hours even without the sangreal, and are completely immune to the crushing depths. Tritons are masters of the lore of Shaping, and their homes are full of bred and grafted creatures who serve purposes halfway between pets and tools. Rarely do they modify themselves, though, as it interferes with the transformation process - it is the humans of the deeps who have taken to that practice.
Tritons organize themselves by tribe or school (their word for it, like for most things, is whalesong) and spend most of their time between the Edifices - they are a rather insular people, and are well-versed in how to drive people away from their sacred spots. Individual Tritons sometimes leave their tribes to seek their fortune in the Triangle; many turn human to infiltrate the States to follow up on their fascination with humans and the Edifices; most older Tritons look down on the act of growing legs, avoiding it at all costs.
This noble Breed stands between two worlds - their culture is a balance between the ideals of ancient Atlantis and their human side, against the presence of the Deep inside them. The ancient compact has given them drives and needs that keep them apart from their fellows, and they are almost never at peace.
Radiance Level: 1
Tritons can go for hours without air or sangreal, and are highly resistant to the pressures of the ocean floor. They have nasty teeth, they are the only Breed who can speak the whalesong (all Tritons know it for free; it has no written form), and the bioluminescent glow in the back of their mouth allows them to see even in the darkness of the Triangle floor.
Tritons are naturally attuned to the ocean; it is their home. They get an extra coin for all actions they perform while submerged. In their "natural" form, they never need to make a Swimming roll in any circumstance.
Tritons can also turn their bottom fin into a set of legs and feet and vice versa. This does not change any of their other features - their teeth stay sharp, the fin stays on their back, their mouth still glows. This change takes less than a minute, but afterwards they may not change again until the moon crosses the horizon. When they have legs, they need to learn Swimming, just like everyone else.
Inside each Triton, there is an epic struggle in miniature - their human thoughts and emotions against the drives and needs of the Deep. This is the other side of the coin, the darker half of the deal that the first Tritons made with the slumbering powers. The Deep within each member of this Breed has its own alien agenda, but it varies for each Triton.
The Conductor may choose a drive for the Triton's alien side - this should be relatively simple, able to be described in only a few words. Corruption, Sensuality, Violence - the drives of the Deep are simple and overpowering. Whenever the Conductor feels it necessary, he can have the Triton flip three coins versus the Deep's three coins. If the Deep wins, the Triton must indulge the Desire, though as long as the player had at least one head, he may choose how.
In addition, the Deep requires fresh blood. Most Tritons eat their food raw, or freshly caught, because of this. However, blood in the water can trigger a feeding frenzy - like above, flip three coins versus the Deep.
Finally, Tritons can have their Deep taken away from them - but not entirely. This is a rather invasive procedure - basically, they are sliced open and the Deep is removed. At this point, it can either be destroyed, or it can be kept, putting the Triton under the control of the possessor instead of the Deep (however, the possessor now feels the same urges of the Deep).
If the Deep taken out of them is destroyed, then a Triton basically become humans, and may even develop a knack. On the plus side, any human or Atlantean can be invited into a Triton tribe, and given the deep - including former Tritons. Tritons have been known to destroy their Deep rather than allow someone else to keep hold of it.
Traits: Agile, Seaworthy, Tough, Feral, Clever, Perceptive, Stealthy, Radiant, Fierce, Tireless, Cautious, Fast
Skills: Contacts (home tribe), Scrounging, Survival