The basic idea is to tell a kind of paranormal thriller story, using the World of Darkness gaming system, but tweaking some of the world-building to make it adhere more to my aesthetic sensibilities. It will draw some from the oeuvre of Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, etc.
This will use my invented race descriptions:
1-Human magic-users* Witch/Mage/Druid/Shaman (all the same race, but with different learned magic and casting traditions, Caster is generic term).
Onset: as learned. In many traditions this occurs at puberty, some start earlier, some sects allow adult converts. For ritualistic traditions power waxes and wanes w/seasons & the moon (mechanic: plus 1 die to spellcasting and spell sensitivity roles within three days of full moon and within five days of equinox/solstice, plus 2 on day of full moon and plus 3 on day of equinox/solstice. Note: will need cheap calendar w/moon & equinoxes for this).
Strengths: Incredible mental discipline (plus 1 to resolve & composure for younger casters, plus 2 for older/experienced casters), ritualistic traditions tend to know 10-50 spells in grimoires, instinctives know less than ten quick cast. Both can research to find new spells, or can create new spells, very difficult.
Weaknesses: No special physical stats (physical stats must remain within realm of human capacity unless temporarily amplified by spellcasting), Different schools learn different magic (some may learn only mental, some may learn only elemental, only shamans can astral project- it is VERY dangerous to have pursued more than one tradition).
Social Structure: Mostly coven based, some solo practitioners (either minimal power, or in constant danger), no formal schools for learning- all apprenticeship, historically some families.
Mechanism of Power: Channeling of universal energy through spellwork.
Requirements: Novices & Larger spells require more ceremony, tools, etc., Masters & smaller spells req. simple incantations, and can be quick-cast. Instinctive races are more restricted.
Other notes: Any human can learn, but covens are cult-like and insular, strong meditation can dispel magic (a good buddhist monk can clear a square mile of all magical activity).
Sects: Ritualists- Shaman (Visions & dreamwork, healing, protection, animal ken, astral projection, divination), Witch (Fertility, Protection, Love, Healing, Weather, Life, farm & kitchen witchery, potions), Enchanters (Enchanting, Luck), Druid (Ancestor & Nature worship, blood & sex magic, wild magics, unpredictable, basis for succubus myth). Instinctives- Mages (Elemental & Forces, electricity), Sorcerors (Force fields, telekinesis), Illusionists (Mind Control, Illusion, Stealth), Conjurors (Conjuring, transfiguration).
Common careers: Shamen & Witches common in healthcare/vet care & farming, Mages common in fishing/firefighting and similar, weather Witches common in meteorology & Aeronautics, Illusionists common in sales/broadcasting/entertainment, Enchanters common in crafting professions, Illusionists, Sorcerors common in theft/policework/investigation/spying, Druids common in parks & rec, sex work, Conjurors common in grifting and con jobs.
Sect origins: Shamanic magic- parallel evolution everywhere, lots of NA Indian tribes and African tribal cultures, as well as Ainu in Japan & Russia, the oldest magic, Witch magic- evolved from pre-Christian European paganism (IndoEuropean polytheism), basically peasant magic, Enchanting- evolved through historical alchemy, traceable back to Minoan cults in bronze age Crete, which were incorporated into the Eleusianian Mysteries in Ancient Greece/Alexandria (1500 BCE-170 CE) which combined with Hellenistic Judaism in 3rd Century BCE Alexandria and evolved into Valentinian gnosticism in 100-180 CE Alexandria (gnosticism spread to Egypt in 3-4th Century CE via the Sethian gnostic Nag Hammadi texts, and to China and Northern India via Manichaeian gnosticism in 3-7th century CE) which then inspired Western (Greco-Egyptian) Alchemy in 3-4th century CE in Alexandria, and Islamic Alchemy (via both Greco-Egyptian roots and Sethian roots via the Nag Hammadi texts) in Iraq/Iran/Persia in 7-8th Century CE, spreading across Europe (Spain in 1144, Oxford in mid-1200s), eliciting a papal ban in 1317, a royal ban (Henry IV) in 1403, and experienced a heyday of “pseudo-alchemy” (focused on philosopher’s stone and gold transmutation) from 1300-1500 but continued for centuries(Tycho Brahe- 1546-1601), eventually passing through the powerful houses of the Renaissance the Medicis (Florence, late 14th C), the Borgias (Italy & Spain, 1378-1645), and Sforza (Italy 1452-1498- never entirely losing influence, culminating in Prince fucking William, 2012),Druidic magic- evolved from actual Druidism, and thus is enormously obscure, Mage magic- evolved from ancient Babylonian understandings of the elements (passing through Greece and Egypt), and in a parallel fashion through Tibetan, Indian, and Chinese cultures, Sorceror magic- mysterious background, parallel evolution pretty much everywhere, Illusionist magic- evolved in asia (notable user: in China, Wu Zetian in 705 CE), employed by ninjas in feudal japan, and by some samurai in the 12-19th centuries, present in china, japan, korea, india, vietnam, etc., India’s relationship with England resulted in the eruption of enthusiasm related to stage magic in the 18th and 19th centuries, Conjuring magic- evolved from WHAT THE FUCK?
Loups Garou, Tsavo/Nekomata/Felis, Ursus/Ursa
Onset: Lunarche, at onset of puberty (which is often late: not until 14 or so), or at time of Change (usually adulthood).
Strengths: The ability to pass as either human or animal (although some astute animals can smell the difference), stamina, strength, speed, heightened senses, high metabolism, fast healing, voluntary changes, prolonged youth (normal life-span, but delayed age-related decline).
Weaknesses: Conservation of matter (genetic wolves are small people, large people who are changed don’t tend to survive, genetic bears are large people, small people who are changed become stockier, but cannot pass and often don’t survive, for cats it varies by type/breed), involuntary changes at full moon for wolves (can be fought/delayed for a few hours, but this is extremely painful and results in severe weakness and/or ultimate loss of control), winter-time loss of stamina & dex for bears (artifact of hibernation), cats get bonus on senses and dex at twilight & dawn (but tend to be apathetic in between), animal discomfort (many animals are afraid of weres at first), exposure threats (cannot be seen changing, nobody can be told, and must seek friendly medical care due to DNA anomalies), lots of public nudity and loose sexual mores, higher prevalence of color blindness, short tempers, fast growing hair, helped along by changes.
Social Structure: Wolves live in hierarchical packs (often wealthy and powerful, communal living, insular) but some remain lone wolves- these wolves have greater freedom but are in more danger, Cats are lones but can sense each other resulting in hostility or lust, Bears are lones but may gather in communities periodically. All races are self-policing. Changed humans must be accepted by their sire/lord or dame/lady. As a result, most weres sire very few humans, especially if they have genetic offspring. Changed humans are usually made by accident or as a last result by a were with little luck producing genetic offspring. As such, changed weres often carry some stigma associated with their status unless it can be hidden.
Mechanism of Power: Heredity or induced (technically a blood-borne disease/retrovirus resulting in a DNA mutation, including increased production of stem cells throughout the body that can be passed down genetically or transmitted through saliva/blood to blood exposure). The first change is violent. Similar to Rh compatibility/incompatibility but currently untestable, the victim is either compatible with were transformation or is not. If not, they die quickly, in pain, often accompanied by seizures and extreme anaphylaxis. If the individual is compatible but of an incompatible size, the first change fails, and they die during the process of changing. If all goes well, the change victim’s wound heals quickly, and the change victim’s pain transforms into extreme arousal. At this point, the change victim releases a pheromone irresistible to weres, sex occurs, and at his/her orgasm, the were is released, resulting in the first change (in bitten weres this may be almost unnoticable as this occurs much more quickly than the retrovirus can produce physiological changes- thus may only feel like extra endorphin release, cognitive changes, and heightened senses within human parameters). If other weres are present, this may result in the Changed were having sex with multiple partners. For genetic weres, the first change also results in orgasm, although this may be accompanied by sex (if other weres are present) or not (if the nearby weres are kept sufficiently far away to avoid the pheromone). This pheromone connection may result in incest, but were culture rarely stigmatizes this in the same way that human culture does. Incest at lunarche may be encouraged as a means of strengthening pack bonds. Subsequent changes for weres are either arousing/pleasurable or painful (depending on whether the change is suppressed or embraced). Similarly, the speed of the change is usually fast, but may be slower for young/inexperienced weres, and for those who are suppressing the change. Voluntary change may take some time to learn, but is usually mastered within the first year. Technically, each change is the result of a release of control, analogous to orgasm. Time spent in bestial form affects thinking, eventually resulting in a nearly purely instinctive level of functioning. Some weres prefer this.
Requirements: Necessary change at moon for wolves, necessary change at equinoxes and solstices for bears, and resistible crepuscular compulsion to change for cats, voluntary change at any time. All weres must change at least once per month or become cranky, irritable, and ultimately homicidal.
Other notes: Very few Ursas (female werebears) and fewer male wolves due to conservation of matter. All weres are very territorial and protective of kin. Bears and Wolves are more loyal than Cats. Strength, speed, agility are at the top end of the human range, not superhuman- equivalent of olympic level gymnasts/martial artists/professional dancers. Wolves and cats have less strength, Bears have less dex and speed. Insular nature of community promotes intermarriage, resulting in higher prevalence of genetic disease and recessive traits, lowered stigma against incest. Mechanics: Retrovirus results in genetic changes in the body, particularly characterized by increased stem cell production. These changes usually require approximately a month to occur, and until they have completed no complete physiological change occurs. Increased stem cells allow for fast healing, as well as for the reconfiguration of bones and tissues (which break and then heal rather than reforming entirely), fur/claw/fang growth, and the transformation back (in which most of the fur, the claws, and the fangs fall out rather than being reabsorbed, only a small amount of fur and some physical appendages, such as the tail, are reabsorbed).
Common careers: park ranger, manual laborer, athlete, stunt men, police/military, theives, oil field & forestry.
3. Human Shifters
Kitsune, Tanuki, Corvidae, Equidae, Ruminata, Rodentia, Hibou, Tricksters, Mavericks
Onset: As learned (usually at puberty/adulthood), power waxes & wanes w/seasons & moon (increase dice pool w/full moon and equinoxes/solstices).
Strengths: Borrowing, affinities w/animals, escape to or from body, fast healing, passing.
Weaknesses: Danger of getting lost/permanently fused, Human body totally vulnerable during borrowing, physical stats limited to normal human range, no extra sensory acuity while human.
Social Structure: Tribal, hierarchical. Kitsune (Foxes), Tanuki (Japanese Raccoon Dogs, Raccoons, Badgers), Corvidae (Ravens and/or Crows), Equidae (Horses), Ruminata (Elk, Deer, Moose, etc.), Hibou (Owls), Rodentia (Rodents), Otters/Weasels, Bats, Rabbits, and Tricksters (Coyotes) do not trust Mavericks (no dedicated animal connection, thus free to ride any animal) because these are dedicated tribes and the Mavericks are not and as a result are parasitic rather than symbiotic. There are many, many tribes dedicated to animal possession, and as such this power can be applied to nearly any native wildlife. However, tribes are insular and resent outsiders who are insufficiently reverent towards the dedicated animal.
Mechanism of Power: Astral possession of animal (projection of mind into the animal, either piggybacking or taking over). In dedicated tribes, a bargain is made. The tribes can take over the animals for some short period of time, and can borrow animal energy to heal quickly, in exchange the animals can use tribal energy to heal quickly, escape, or fight. The tribes also tend to work towards conservation for their animals, and may go out of their way to provide safe habitats or food for them. If Shifter is in danger (as human), they may put their mind into an animal. If their human body dies, a necromancer can revive the body and put the mind back into it, if contacted soon enough (the mind diffuses and eventually dissipates over time when out of bodies, or fuses when the tether to body is severed). If an animal body dies with them in it, they must find their way back to their human body without the help of the animal (a more difficult process, again, necromancers help). However, an animal with Shifter present (or recently present) can draw enormous energy from the shifter’s body to escape danger. Mavericks are fully parasitic, they simply take control of animals by force, and risk killing the animal from initial dominance struggle. Mavericks draw healing energy from animals without consent or dedication, and as such do not have a natural animal affinity. They must use a kind of animal mesmerism instead.
Requirements: Safe space for body, years of training, ability to achieve full mental release (racial bonus to resolve & composure).
Other notes: Shifters are on good terms with Necros. Weres HATE Mavericks. Any human can learn Shifting, but may have trouble finding a teacher. Insular nature of community promotes intermarriage, resulting in higher prevalence of genetic disease and recessive traits, lowered stigma against incest.
Common careers: Park ranger, veterinary, animal trainer/handler, rancher, wilderness guide, other rural pursuits, zookeeper.
Onset: Death & Rebirth.
Strengths: Strength, speed, stamina, sensory acuity, stealth, fast healing, ideal youth (body reverts to most powerful age and stays there, mind continues to mature), near immortality, mesmerism.
Weaknesses: Diet (can eat human food, but it does not nourish them, and often makes them ill or weak), sunlight (weakens them over the course of several hours, as in heatstroke, ultimately resulting in severe burns leading to spontaneous combustion), fire (may result in severe burns or death), beheading, animal discomfort (animals dislike vampires, and can only be calmed through mesmerism), and exposure risks (as with Weres).
Social Structure: Some vampires are lones, some have mates or nests, nearly all Urban. Very dominance hierarchical (dominance accumulates and so is highly correlated to age). A self-policing race, a global governing body (The Council) exists, mediates disputes, punishes rogues, and runs regional “response teams” which respond to improper body dumps, exposure threats, capture and execute rogue vamps, etc. After being changed and inital transition, new vamps are sent to serve on these teams as a kind of new vamp bootcamp- learning how to handle exposure, how to dispose of bodies, how vamp culture functions, how to maintain control, etc. After released from service, new vamps are put into a buddy system- they live in a city with another new vampire nearby, each responsible for policing the actions of the other, with periodic supervision visits from elder vamps. After a period of safe community living vamps may petition council to move freely and/or live independently. Only elder vampires are allowed to live entirely alone (no other vamps in area). Although all vamps can make new vamps, most make only a few (a lover and/or a protege) as it is like having children: they retain permanent responsibility for the their get (and their get’s get, etc.). Thus, for particularly heinous crimes, entire familial lines may be wiped out (the perpetrator, the perpetrator’s sire, the sire’s sire, etc). Usually however, the sire is punished by being made to perform the execution, and additional measures. Like service dogs, most new vamps wash out due to unreliability or temperament issues. Unlike service dogs, wash-outs are killed, and the vamp population prefers to keep itself small. US vamp population is around <500,><6000>90 lbs.). Other powers include mesmerism, tears and saliva which act on human tissue to encourage regeneration, extended youth (as in weres), heightened senses, heightened dexterity, animal ken, and telepathic communication with others of their species. While they can shift their shape more significantly, it is extremely difficult, like holding a new and challenging yoga pose. So they can look like ordinary humans (fairly difficult), like angels or demons (tiring after some time), or like lampposts (for instance, but extremely difficult). They revert to their natural green/grey when they sleep or die, and cannot mimic a specific person. Very rare.