BE YE WARNED: The game takes place after the main events in Jim Butcher's Changes and contains spoilers in the background. Deadline for character submission is September 17th, 2010.
What's going on?
A lot has happened to the supernatural community in a very short time. A couple weeks ago was the Night of Bad Dreams, where sensitives worldwide almost all experienced deeply disturbing nightmares with the deaths of children figuring prominently. Over the next few days reports began emerging of bodies found dead, their hearts literally torn out from inside their chests. There didn't appear to be any discernible pattern, aside from the phrase "Latin American" turning up frequently in the news coverage of the incidents. The few names that get released by the NYPD before coverage mysteriously vanished belonged to people suspected of ties to any number of criminal organizations, and one wilder rumor that made the rounds held that the entire leadership of MS-13 was found dead as a doornail in Brooklyn. Those in the know, however, began connecting the dots and the conventional wisdom is that somehow one spell took out quite possibly the entire Red Court.
To some, almost as big was the news that one Harry Dresden had taken up the mantle of Winter Knight before seemingly vanishing completely. Given that the ultimate sources of the news have all been excitable Faerie contacts, the general consensus among the magical community is that There's Something They're Not Telling Us but the essential truth of the situation is indisputable.
To say that this has raised tension levels among the various factions operating beneath New York's surface would guarantee medal placement in the Understatement Olympics, but so far things have stayed under control. Whether they'll stay that way is another matter. Faerie activity has been steadily escalating in New York over the past year and seems to have stepped up again following the Night of Bad Dreams. Rumors are even starting to circulate among the lunatic fringe that not only are there two whole Faerie Courts besides Winter and Summer, but they're both looking at making a comeback right here in the Big Apple. Add to that whispers of growing insanity in the local White Court, the power vacuum created by the apparent wholesale extinction of an entire supernatural species, and the unfortunate fact that a city of 8 million people is policed by a single Warden of the White Council and you've got what some might call a powder-keg and others the calm before the storm.
System: Dresden Files Fate RPG Submerged (10 starting RR, 35 skill points, skills capped at Superb)
Prohibited Templates: White Court Vampire, White Court Virgin, Red Court Infected, Knight of the Cross, Sidhe Knight (kinda). I'll explain why in the House Rules and Notes section.
Number of Players: 3-5. Additional high-quality submissions will be wait-listed unless I can find a co-GM or I decide I can handle the additional people.
Themes: Calm Before the Storm, Smoke and Mirrors, Night Watch. These may change depending on the party's actions and desires, but the idea is that players will be established individuals who act either on their own initiative or at the behest of their superiors to try and keep things from getting out of control as the city seeks a new balance of power. Many of them have crossed paths at least once, and they find themselves once more drawn together whether to seek aid or by coincidence. Of course little is what it first appears and not everyone likes things the way they are, so expect a few monkey wrenches from nowhere.
Please submit characters in the following format. I don't expect more than a short paragraph for each segment of your character's story, but if you want to write more feel free.
(Should also link to the character sheet)
Name (and/or alias):
Adjusted Refresh Rate: (i.e. after applying all stunts and powers)
High Concept: (For all Aspects, please include a sentence or two explaining the nature and a vague idea of where you see it being Invoked and Compelled)
Background: (e.g. Where do you come from? What was your childhood like? What was your family like? Any key childhood friends? How were you educated? Did you get into a lot of trouble?)
Phase Aspect 1: (e.g. What events shaped your character's life? Were any people especially prominent as your character forged his or her identity? What significant choices did they make, and what lessons did they learn?)
Phase Aspect 2:
The Story: (What was your character's first adventure? Give it a snappy title, and write a couple sentences giving a brief outline or just use the Story Skeleton on page 61 of Your Story. Don't worry, it'll be added to later.)
Phase Aspect 3:
Other Info: Anything not covered above that you feel is central to the character from a fluff standpoint. You don't necessarily need anything here, but if you feel like writing some more you might answer stuff like the following: What's their personality like? Where do they live in the city (note that I can help find an appropriate area since I'm familiar with much of NYC)? Do they have roommates? Where does their money come from? etc. This will help give me a better idea of who your character is, but it's quite possible that between your Aspects and background you'll already have covered most of this. If you're playing a Wizard, you'll also need to establish your relationship with the Wardens and what role (if any) you played during the war with the Red Court. I'm happy to provide suggestions if nothing jumps out at you, but bear in mind that while you won't be a member (unless you pursue it in-game) it's possible you've rendered some sort of assistance or run afoul of them in the past.
Re the banned templates:
The Red Court are all dead, so taking the Infected template isn't possible because it no longer exists. You could certainly play a now-mortal member of the Fellowship of St. Giles, which would present some interesting RP opportunities, but you no longer have a bat-demon in you. As for the White Court, they're universally antagonists in this setting and I'm looking for heroic (or anti-heroic) PC's so playing an outright force for evil is a no-go. Since two of the three Swords are in the keeping of a decidedly MIA wizard and recovering them requires besting the second-most powerful Sidhe in the Winter Court, then finding and extracting them in a garden that will actively try to kill you, Knights of the Cross are similarly not an option. Since both the Summer and Winter Knight positions are technically filled, characters wishing to play a Sidhe Knight may do so provided the following template is used and we go over the chosen Court's themes and style via PM. They won't be covered in depth here.
Spring or Autumn Knight chargen:
Use the Emissary of Power Template and choose either the Spring Court or Autumn Court for a patron. Since the two courts are (at the moment) highly secretive and small, you would not take the Marked by Power ability initially. Instead, one of your Aspects would be "Aquarius Inner Circle" (if Spring Court) or "Old Friend of Rosalind" (if Autumn). Your High Concept would still reference your knighthood, since there will be other mortals with the above Aspects.
Rather than full Sponsored Magic, you will have access to Channeling (Water for Spring, Earth for Autumn) and Ritual (ideally something that thematically fits with your Court's element or Wards). You may NOT begin with access to other spellcasting; as is the Courts dare not recruit from the existing supernatural community.
In addition, you may take an Item of Power provided it fits with the Court's theme. One example might be to use the swords used by the current Knights as a template, but if you use "trappings of Spring" or "trappings of Autumn" as the Catch for any granted Toughness abilities you should consider it a +0 weakness since the people who can actually wield real power from the Fallen Courts number in the low single digits.
Note that if the campaign goes on long enough for the Fallen Courts to achieve some sort of local prominence the above may change. For example, if they gather enough power to feel confident declaring themselves officially to the Supernatural Community, you can bet that Marked by Power ability will be purchased with a brand new point of Refresh.
Other Chargen Notes:
On the whole, since this is a pretty fluff-heavy system and the Dresdenverse takes a kitchen sink approach to the supernatural I'm generally OK with taking one or two abilities outside the norm for your template provided you can justify them from an RP perspective. If there's an ability you think would fit with your character but isn't in the sample ones provided in the books, you can build a custom one provided: you identify it as such, keep it balanced relative to other ones of a similar cost, and have a good reason for including it. For example, one of the NPC's you may run into has a Stunt called Between the Eyes, which is essentially the Killing Blow Stunt for Guns rather than Fists. I do expect you to stay broadly within the listed templates, but if I have an issue with something I'll let you know and try to suggest another way to go about it rather than veto it outright. NOTE: No characters from the books or flagrant copies thereof will be permitted. The first Bobby Berlin to cross my desk will be keelhauled.
Spellcraft rule clarifications:
The item slots provided by Evocation, Channeling, Ritual and Thaumaturgy may be allocated however you choose, within reason. You can spend all four focus slots on boosting your Evocations, if you like.
Likewise you can split the bonuses provided by a single point of Refinement between Evocation and Thaumaturgy specializations if you wish. Just clearly mark where the bonuses are going.
Enchanted Items that produce Evocation effects don't necessarily need to be limited to your available Evocation elements. Just bear in mind that they don't recharge until you hit a recovery period, and you'll need to describe how exactly they regain their charge as part of the item description. This needn't be detailed: "absorbs electricity from the wizard's natural EM field" or "soak in a special blend of acids for two days" will suffice.
If you have an open potion slot and wish to fill it "on the fly" once you see a situation where you could really use a boost, roll your Lore vs the potion's strength less any bonuses from Crafting specializations. Thus you can declare the potion is at a lower strength than default in exchange for increasing the chance of a successful roll. If you fail the roll you can still put a potion there, but you must spend a Fate point and must either use the same potion you rolled for (even if you lowered its strength) or choose a different effect.
If there's anything else you want clarified or ruled on, just ask!
I'll flesh this out more in the coming weeks, but here's what characters might know from having been around the block once or twice:
The Quiet Council: Far less formal than the name would suggest, the representatives of the Unseelie Accord members are collectively referred to as the Quiet Council in New York and mainly serve as a semi-official arbitration body between the various supernatural elements in the city. They don't really do all that much, and frankly see as little of one-another as they can manage, but any issues raised under the Accords will inevitably be deliberated upon by some or all of them.
The White Council: The Vampire War has inflicted heavy losses on the Wardens (and thus the Council's ability to defend itself and humanity), but in New York these losses have been especially acute. For much of the past century the city has had three or four Wardens; In the past year however all but one were wiped out by Red Court offensives. The survivor, Warden Samantha Perchinski, is regarded as an extremely talented Wizard for her age but lacking the contacts and social skills needed to have even a hope of shouldering the burden alone. Her apprentice is believed to be near the end of her training, and there are perhaps a handful of other non-Warden Council members in the city, but unless she embarks on a recruiting drive (which she has most assuredly been encouraged to do) the White Council may never truly recover its influence in the Big Apple. She does still serve as its representative among the Unseelie Accord Signatories, but even she knows that as one Warden in a city of eight million she's seen as a bit of a joke.
The Church: New York has its fair share of places of worship from all faiths, but it's an open secret that the Catholic Church is the city's single biggest landowner. As such, they wield considerable influence but generally do so quietly save for a few individuals suspected to assist the White Council and Venatori from time to time. Scattered among the various clergy and lay people are a few True Believers, but most of them don't even realize the power they command. It's even rumored that a seemingly ordinary priest is keeper of a relic nearly as powerful as the Swords of the Cross, but so far nobody's been able to prove it one way or another and the Church certainly hasn't fessed up to anything.
The Paranet: Minor talents too weak to be considered for White Council membership were traditionally ignored until the White Court's ill-fated culling campaign was identified and halted by Harry Dresden. In order to help prevent something similar from potentially wiping magical talent from the gene pool, he began encouraging lesser practitioners to organize, keep an eye out for any supernatural badness, and call dial-a-warden if something came along that they couldn't handle. It's caught on, and while much of the White Council remains between skeptical and contemptuous of the Paranet it's helped saves lives more than once. Warden Perchinski has slowly been earning the trust of its unofficial leaders, but relations aren't exactly warm and fuzzy yet.
The Venatori Umbrorum: While nowhere near as powerful as the major factions, the Venatori have been a major help to the Council during the war and have quietly brought in extra manpower to help offset the loss represented by most of the city's Wardens. The Hunters of Shadows (or Shadows of the Hunters, depending on how you interpret the Latin) support the big guns when they can, help with the shooting when they must, and in general are competent, willing to help, and well-armed. They're also nowhere near enough. Still, they're better than nothing and show up in a few Paranet rolodexes.
Special Crimes Branch: The "Scoobies" are the NYPD's answer to Chicago's Special Investigations. Staffed mainly by misfits too competent to fire and too politically inept not to step on the wrong toes, they're tasked with investigating the crimes that defy rational explanation, solving the problem, and then making sure the reports they file present a rational explanation to IA and anyone else who might ask what the police officers in question were smoking when they decided a demon ate a little girl's heart. While they may not have Karrin Murphy, they're widely regarded as incorruptible and good at their jobs. Unlike the CPD, SCB doesn't have any official relationship with the Warden, but they know who to call when things look like they're about to get heavy.
The Sidhe Courts: Both Summer and Winter are as present as you'd expect, and while officially the Knights serve as local representatives that has been... problematic of late. In the Winter Knight's stead a Sidhe who goes by Jack Frost serves as emissary in mortal matters, and summer and winter Fae of all stripes have been sighted in various parts of the city now and again. There's even a changeling bar or two in Brooklyn.
The White Court: While the Raith are headquartered in Chicago, they still hold sway in New York. The Drago family represents the dominant force in local White Court politics, though something's been a bit off with them for a while now. Unconfirmed rumors suggest they've taken to feeding off greed and pride as well as Lust, and that they may have played a role in bringing about the financial collapse (which they firmly deny). Regardless, Wall St is more or less acknowledged as their territory, where they fill roles in financial firms that allow them behind-the-scenes influence. A CEO's executive assistant, a Sales VP, a relationship manager, perhaps half a dozen vampires move through such positions in the world's titans of finance and, it's whispered, dream of leveraging all that wealth and power to cast off their allegiance, bring down House Raith and ascend to the head of the White Court.
The Denarians: While parties to the Accords, the Fallen rarely stay in one place lest the Church gather in force and relieve them of their hosts. Still, in a city of over eight million it's not all that hard to hide in plain sight. Denarians have been spotted in the city now and again, though with Nicodemus rumored to be out of play and a simmering conflict between his and Tessa's factions believed to be brewing the Denarians aren't thought to be terribly active in New York. Whether that's true or a carefully-crafted deception remains to be seen.
Criminal Elements: New York has had no equivalent to Marcone's war of conquest with Chicago's underworld, and so mortal criminals present nothing like the unified front the CPD has to deal with. Most are freelancers, operating solo or in small packs, but the larger organizations bear mentioning.
The cartels, South American and Central American gangs never had the penetration that they achieved further south, but the direction and muscle provided by their Red Court masters allowed them to gain traction they might otherwise not have had. On the other hand, their focus had been subtly twisted into providing the poverty and culture of fear on which the Reds thrived, and so their expansion was far slower than it could have been. Any illusions amongst the supernatural community that they were a separate entity from the Red Court have been shattered by the sudden collapse in their operations and command structures following the Night of Bad Dreams, and many consider their days to be numbered in the city.
The Five Families are New York's Italian mafia, and while they are nowhere near as powerful as they were earlier in the last century they are still a force to be reckoned with. Sticking mainly to the more old school methods of bribery, protection, graft, and assassination leaves them regarded as the Old Guard, and until about ten years ago were slowly yet steadily losing ground to various upstarts. While they are perhaps the most honorable of the three groups, the term "honorable" is relative. They are first and foremost about expanding and protecting their own interests and think nothing of employing murder if they deem it necessary. While at first glance they are fractious and prone to infighting, any sufficiently credible threat will doubtless make them close ranks and bring their considerable resources to bear on the foe.
The Organizatsiya is a relative newcomer to the scene. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union there are a lot of former KGB spies and thugs who have found employment on the other side of the law, and their ruthlessness and inventiveness has allowed them to carve out territories all over the world. They suffer from far fewer moral compunctions then their Italian counterparts and are trafficking heavily in drugs, people and worse. The Five Families see them as a cancer, the Russians view the Italians as an obstacle to be eliminated by any means necessary, and once they finish snapping up the territories left vacant by the now defunct Latin contingent it can only be a matter of time before a new cold war begins in the Big Apple.
I may add a few more in here and go over a few neighbourhoods, but I figure this gives a decent overview of the major players. Let me know if there are questions.