The World of Darkness is not our world. This is easy to forget, as upon the surface, it is much the same. It has the same culture, the same history, the same geography (mostly). Superficially, most people in this fictional world live the same lives we do. They eat the same food; wear the same clothes, and waste time watching the same stupid TV shows. And yet, in the World of Darkness, shadows are deeper, nights are darker, fog is thicker. If, in our world, a neighborhood has a rundown house that gives people the creeps, in the World of Darkness, that house emits strange sighs on certain nights of the year, and seems to have a human face when seen from the corner of one’s eye. Or so some neighbors say. In our world, there are urban legends. In the World of Darkness, there are urban legends whispered into the ears of autistic children by invisible spiders.
But to say that the World of Darkness is our world with added werewolves and vampires is to simplify matters too much. Because remember how I said it had the same culture, the same history, the same geography… mostly?
It has the same culture, but not quite. The World of Darkness is a world where Murphy’s Law runs rampant. Everything is just a little… bit… worse. Poverty wears down on the soul more strongly, there are more disappearances in the night, and fewer are solved. No one wants to speak up, for fear of sounding foolish or mad, when they see the man with the too-wide grin waiting outside in the rain, night after night. The World of Darkness is a world where the darkness is more present, and more tolerated.
It has the same history, but also not quite. Historians in our world know that so much of what we think we know about history is in fact a series of conjectures and educated guesses. In the World of Darkness, to add to human error one has malice, and the efforts of a hundred generations of creatures in the shadows working to falsify the past. Perhaps the facts are right, but the reasons are wrong. Why did the French execute King Louis XVI? Or one may turn to the true mysteries. What caused the Tunguska Event? A meteor? Or something more outré, some summoning gone awry, or the first test of Nikola Tesla’s death ray? The World of Darkness is a world which has a secret history.
It has the same geography, but with changes. Isolation comes more cheaply in the World of Darkness, where people don’t look past their own fences for fear of what might be on the other side. There are old houses long abandoned, deep tunnels carved into the earth, forgotten moors and missing islands, concealed by… what? By the callousness of man, by some quirk of the unnatural world, by the diligent effort of those selfsame Masquers. The World of Darkness is a world with dark and hidden places.
Time and again, foul things attack me,
lurking and stalking, but I lashed out,
gave as good as I got with my sword.
My flesh was not for feasting on,
there would be no monsters gnawing and gloating
over their banquet at the bottom of the sea
London is the heart of Britain, and in some ways it’s the heart of the world. It is home to one Briton out of six, with eight million souls living in the city, and a further six million on the outskirts. Bound by the M25 Motorway, its people unaware of what happens outside the city, unaware and uncaring. The rest of England comes to London.
London is ancient, even in a part of the world where much is ancient. Londinium was founded by the Romans in the first century AD, and London has been constantly inhabited for the past two thousand years. Swept clean by disaster many times in its history – most recently by the Blitz, a mere seventy years ago – it has always rebuilt. Beneath the city, one can find old Roman Mithraeums nestled alongside medieval crypts and war-era Anderson bomb shelters.
And it is magical. London is a place of power — the whole city leaks magical energy from its streets, from ancient buildings, from the river with its great, proud spirits. London is the Heart of Albion. The magicians know it’s the Heavenly City, here on Earth, Jerusalem. It is the city of John Dee and Aleister Crowley. Capital of the world for long centuries, London has been a haven for the arcane and uncanny for as long as human memory stretches back.
All of this means that the supernatural society of London is unique in a way that few other cities can claim. Rome, perhaps, or Paris, or Constantinople, or even New York can all make a good case, but London is unique. It is one of the few places in the world large enough to support a flourishing supernatural society, indeed, a multiplicity of societies. It is cosmopolitan – for many a monster, to go to London was to enter into the heart. It was a place to learn, and a place to live, and a place to prey upon. They came in, and they stayed.
For certain obvious reasons, a full census of the supernatural population of London is neither practical nor desirable. When one’s very lifestyle is predicated on concealing oneself from the mortal population, one does not answer survey forms. Nevertheless, in the late 1980s, a mage of the Mysterium released a statistical analysis, culled from a great deal of rumor and second-hand reference, which broke up the supernatural population of London into categories and assigned them numbers.
Here alone I in books form'd of metals
Have written the secrets of wisdom
The secrets of dark contemplation
By fighting and conflicts dire,
With terrible monsters Sin-Bred
Which the bosoms of all inhabit;
Seven deadly Sins of the soul
The Marquessate of Troynovant Vampires -- Kindred: (Population ~250)
Prince: Elizabeth Sheridan, the Lady of London (Invictus)
--Primogen Abonde (Circle of the Crone)
--Primogen Bishop Solomon Birch (Lancea et Sanctum)
--Primogen Sir Royston Montjoy (Carthian Movement)
--Primogen Lujza Dvorzsak (Ordo Dracul)
Seneschal Emily Wescote Herald Louis ibn Haroud High Sheriff: Anna Darlington
--Hounds: Eddie Treadwell, David Ivenistky, Malik Faye
Kindred society is in theory neo-feudal and in practice half-anarchic. Elizabeth Sheridan, the Lady of London, has been the 'Prince' of the city since the mid-1980s, having been High Sheriff before then. In theory, hers is the final say on all matters of Kindred policy, with the right to appoint regents, distribute hunting territories, and call Blood Hunts. However, in practice Sheridan's control is foiled by the presence of several powerful elder vampires, such as Abonde, Solomon Birch, and Sir Royston Montjoy, all members of the Primogen council. The result is that while Sheridan is nominally the liege-lord of all the Kindred in London, her ability to enforce her will on the more powerful members of society is sharply limited. At best, Sheridan has control over half the vampires of London, while the others do what they will.
Sheridan's Invictus is nevertheless the most powerful covenant in the city. A ruthlessly organized, centralized meritocracy, they control most of the senior political positions in the city, and have their tentacles firmly intertwined in the mundane city government and big business. Sheridan is served by Anna Darlington, the High Sheriff, and Louis ibn Haroud, the Herald, and by several Hounds including Eddie Treadwell and David Ivenistky, all members of the Invictus.
The Carthians are the second-most powerful covenant, as what they lack in supernatural savvy they make up by having mortal connections everywhere. Unfortunately, their horizontal organization and lack of hierarchy means that actually getting them all pointed in one direction is an exercise in herding cats. Sir Royston Montjoy is the nominal leader of the Carthian Movement and represents them on the Primogen Council (mostly because he was a Whig in his mortal days and enjoys tweaking the nose of authority), but Lillian Chambers is the most respected figure in the Movement and the person who keeps it actually running.
The Lancea et Sanctum is relatively small, led by the passionate Bishop Solomon Birch, and recently scored the coup of converting Alistair Niall to their cause, and since the latter's loss of the High Sheriff office, many suspect that he has become the Sanctified's Inquisitor -- though this is of course impossible to confirm. They lack the numbers or connections of other Covenants, nor are there any truly experienced sorcerers among their number, but they're dedicated and really rather violent.
The growing Circle of the Crone is led by Abonde, who is generally politically neutral but who has severe unrest to deal with in her own Covenant -- though Abonde is without a doubt the most powerful blood-witch in London, her political instincts are lacking, and so she has to deal with both a cult of malcontents led by Cynthia of the Mara, and with Emily Wescote, the Lady of London's Seneschal. Abonde's utterly enormous prestige, coupled with her documented ability to cause hearts to explode from miles away, keeps the Acolytes loosely united, though it also renders them politically ineffectual. Formally, Abonde is the high priestess of The Three. Most of London’s Acolytes worship or at least acknowledge The Three: The Crone (called Lilith by some), the Horned King, and the Great Beast. Other deities may be called upon as circumstances dictate, but for most of London's Acolytes, worship of The Three (by whatever names the Acolyte prefers) constitutes the orthodoxy.
The Ordo Dracul is likewise largely apolitical and is the smallest of the five Covenants, but is led by the fearsome Kogaion Lujza Dvorzsak, a relative newcomer to London who nevertheless wields authority by virtue of her age, skill in the Coils, and origins in the ancestral homeland of the Ordo. That said, most actual political matters are handled by Cornelius van Holt, a canny politician who helps the Ordo Dracul navigate the treacherous currents of the Marquessate.
Formerly, London was home to several powerful Unbound, but in the present time only the necromancer Rajani Ravindra maintains prominence, by virtue of her hermit-like tendencies and command over the dead. A handful of other Kindred organizations are also in existence, with the most prominent being Scratch's Machine, a criminal gang largely allied with the Invictus, though their leader Scratch is the Childe of Royston Montjoy, giving them close connections to the Carthians as well.
The Consilium of Albion Mages -- Awakened: (Population ~150)
Ostensibly, each magus is an island. Awakened mages tend to be arrogant, eccentric, and not necessarily very sociable. Self-preservation forces them to clump into cabals, but most mages would love nothing more than to be left alone -- and they particularly hate being given orders. Awakened society is structured with that in mind, and thus the formal Consilium serves as something halfway between a professional regulatory board and a freestanding judiciary. The Consilium proper consists of four Councilors and a Hierarch, one from each Order, along with numerous subordinate personnel -- Provosts to enforce decisions, Sentinels to act as footsoldiers, Heralds to act as ambassadors. Officially, Awakened rule is quite loose relative to that of other supernaturals, and so long as mages pay their taxes and don't violate the Gold Law (sacred rights descended from Atlantis, such as the right of hospitality or the Interfector's right to kill), Silver Law (formal laws ratified by the Consilium, most of which date to the Prime Concord of 1904 or the October Coup of 1914), or Bronze Law (a bewildering array of precedents and legal rulings).
In practice, the current Hierarch tends to take a very broad interpretation of the Laws, and runs London something like a very genteel police state, with a particular obsessive focus on maintaining the Masquerade. Civitas took power in the October Coup, displacing Hierarch Redcrosse of the Mysterium and executing Councilor Sandalaphon of the Silver Ladder in front of a full Consilium. Since then, Civitas's Guardians of the Veil have been the most powerful Order in the city, with one out of three mages belonging to the Guardians, a massive Citadel beneath Highgate Cemetery, and Civitas the most powerful wizard in the city if not in all of England. The Guardian's power is founded on feet of clay, however, as a hundred years of Civitas's micromanagement has routed all power through the Hierarch, and no one can quite imagine the Guardians without him.
Sandalaphon's successor, Councilor Kore, has kept the Silver Ladder dynamic, and surprisingly modern, though it's the second-smallest of the five Orders. She is a close ally of Civitas, and was essentially elevated to her present rank by the October Coup. She's willing to go against him when she thinks she knows better, but most view the Thearchs as an appendage of the Guardians of the Veil. The Adamantine Arrow is even less powerful -- Civitas more or less disassembled it after his coup, and over the 20th century it's been led by a succession of nonentities, the latest, Aleph, an absent-minded, Paradox-burned old archmage with bouts of aphasia. Together, the Guardians, the Arrow, and the Ladder form the Establishment, an informal power-bloc that's nevertheless maintained a stranglehold on the Consilium of Albion for a century now.
The same cannot be said of the Mysterium, led by Councilor Polydegmon, also known as Lord Edwin Talbot. Talbot's grandfather was the Hierarch Redcrosse, and the Mysterium as a whole loathes and resents the current order. They tend to see the 19th century as a golden age of magic, Masquerade-breaches notwithstanding, and they've never quite gotten over Civitas's coup. Edwin's erratic nature has kept the Mystagogues mostly quiescent, but fire-breathers in the order are looking forward to the ascension of his much more forceful daughter Lyla Talbot (shadow name Reitia).
Change is more likely to come from the Free Council, however, which is the fastest growing Order in London. They are the wave of the future, and observers expect them to be the greatest challenge to the Guardians in years to come -- if they can get their act together. The Libertines are very much a 'big tent' Order, and one can find 19th century Gladstone liberals, classic Marxists, radical environmentalists, and outspoken human rights activists all trying to figure out where the Order should go. The position of Councilor tends to cycle rapidly among mages, with individual mages being elected to one-year terms and eligible for re-election. If the Libertines and the Mystagogues ever allied together, they would have the numbers and magical power to shake the Hierarch's throne down to its foundations. Given that the two orders have a major culture-clash and loathe each other about as much as they despise the Guardians, however, Civitas isn't worried -- and he and Kore are both good enough politicians to keep that particular pot at a simmer.
The Freehold of New Jerusalem Changelings -- Lost: (Population ~225)
The Seelie Court (In power from March 20th to September 22nd)
The Seelie Queen: Aurora, the Ever-Loved Queen of Spring
--The Red Victor: Dana the Tall, Consort to the Queen
--The Iron Adjutant: John Henry
----Crimson Knights: Heather Harte, Light-in-Darkness, Cheshire, Anni Icevein, Form (Probationary)
Joyeux: Erin Lamothe The Constable of Calefaction: Dominic Carlisle Verdant Advocate: Donovan Paxton, Esq. Sage Escort: Marcus Beverly Lore-Keeper: Tom MacLoinsigh
The Unseelie Court (In power from September 22nd to March 20th)
The Unseelie King: Todd White, the Frosthaired King of Winter
----Secretary: Miss Bell
--Monarch Emeritus: The Jack-of-Crows, the Patchwork King of Autumn
--Monarch (?): The Horseman, the Dark Herald of Autumn
The Magister of Nightmares: Sasha Zmeyevich Archer of the Lonely March: Sergei Morozov Knight of Utmost Silence: Heinzelmaul The Witch of the Bitter Winds: Inkeri Halveri DJ Ötzal: J. T. Underwood The Lord Scrivener: Horus
--Assistant: Rebecca Yue Chan Sun Banisher: Rook Collector of Whispers: Squick, Veil Master of Machines: Robert Hammond of The Honorable Order of the Third Hour (THOTH)
--The Jack and his Cronies: The Jack-of-Crows, Heinzelmaul, Todd White (who is trying to change the name, to no avail)
--The Quartet (officially), The Angel Mafiya (what everyone calls them): Erin Lamothe, Sergei Morozov, Sasha Zmeyevich, Heather Harte
--The Cradle Motley: Bat, Form, Glow, Martin Scrivener, and Nigel and Mary Mack as Motley auxiliaries
--Feathered and Fabulous: Rook, Cheshire, Marcus Beverly
--The Boys in the Backroom: Robert Hammond, Squick, Horus, and Rebecca Yue Chan is a prospective member
Changeling Courts are predominantly concerned with self-defense against the Gentry, with relations with other supernatural nations being their secondary concern. For most of London's existence, the Freehold of New Jerusalem was organized along the traditional seasonal court system common in Western Europe and the United States. Back around the mid-1970s, the Jack-of-Crows took power over both the Autumn and Winter Courts, forming them into a power bloc called the Unseelie -- the Spring and Summer Courts allied into the Seelie shortly thereafter in response. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, relations were viciously antagonistic between the two Courts, but the retirement of the Jack and the 'marriage'-alliance of the new monarchs Todd White and Aurora has brought about détente and generally good relations, though a few hard-liners in both Courts are still dubious about the whole business.
Of the two, the Seelie Court is the larger, and contains most of the Freehold's more militant and more diplomatic members -- the Summer Court is a small, impromptu army while the Spring Courtiers have allies everywhere. It is ruled by the popular young Seelie Queen Aurora, and her Consort, Dame Dana the Tall, the Red Victor and appointed champion, ever since the previous Queen Alexandra Merill moved to New Zealand. In practice however, a great deal of the day-to-day rulership is conducted by the Seneschal, Othello, who handles policy, and the Iron Adjutant, John Henry, in charge of administration. The problem arises, of course, from the fact that Othello and Henry loathe one another, and so Aurora often earns her keep by keeping her very skilled but rather fractious courtiers at peace. Other notable courtiers include Erin Lamothe, the owner and proprietor of the Cat's Cradle, Dominic Carlisle, the Constable of Calefaction and chief investigator, and Donovan Paxton, the hard-line Verdant Advocate and legal representative to the supernatural.
The Unseelie Court is somewhat smaller and less influential than the Seelie, though they make up for it by having a wide range of specialists. The Unseelie King is Todd White, a playboy Beast who on paper has much more authority over his Court than Aurora, but in truth has control issues that leave him grasping for any lever of power that he can grab. The first issue is named the Jack-of-Crows, the former Unseelie King who still casts a very, very long shadow over the Freehold, and who periodically forgets that his appointed heir is in charge and not him. The second issue is the Horseman, an immensely powerful Hedge-dweller who has the Autumn Crown and who is completely insane. Thankfully for Todd, he can usually talk the Jack around and the Horseman only rarely participates in Unseelie politics (and never in any comprehensible fashion), but Todd is still looking for a way to leave his mark on the Unseelie -- this is the impetus behind the recent establishment of the Unseelie in a Hedge-base called the Ebon Engine, a ten-car train that travels a shadow-route around London. Other prominent courtiers include Miss Bell, Todd's secretary and the person who keeps the train running on time, Sasha Zmeyevich, the Magister of Nightmares and sardonic chief enforcer of the Unseelie's will, Frau Heinzelmaul, a Knight of Utmost Silence and the Jack's old crony, and Sergei Morozov, an Archer of the Lonely March and the Unseelie's best scout.
The Packs of the Smoke Werewolves -- Uratha: (Population ~150) Werespiders -- Mbofra ma Anansi: (Population ~20) Other Shapeshifters -- Miscellaneous Monsters: (Population ~30)
The Architects of Steel: Angela Citysmith (Alpha), Paul Lessner, Thomas Cushner
--Totem: Warbuilder, an urban spirit of ants The Thunderpaws: Gabriel Law (Alpha), Tiffany Llewellyn-Pritchard, Jeremy Campbell
--Totem: Rolling Thunder, a spirit of storms Brick & Bone: Kevin "Moxie" Moxley (Alpha), Jake Carter, Maddie Wishthound
--Totem: Ebon-Eyed Magpie, a spirit of magpies The Cold River Hunters: Lucas King (Alpha)
--Totem: River-at-Midnight, a spirit of cold The Temple Guard: Smiley (Alpha), Oleander, Lucy Carpenter, Lewis Carpenter, and the fetch Rebecca Lee
--Totem: Shadow Cipher, a spirit of secrets Revelation: Cinder (Alpha and only remaining member)
--Totem: Incandescent Pain, a spirit of pain The Iron Soldiers: Avinash Kaur Rana (Alpha), Priya Adani, Oswin Remington
--Totem: Irongrass, a spirit of verbena Atenka Holdings Lonon: Nicholas Kwaku Atenka (Nkosuohene), Jean-Pierre Musavaka, Samantha Akuba Danquah
--Totem: Grandfather Rabbit, a spirit of cunning prey The Border Reivers: Richard Sinclair (Responsible Adult, not actually a selkie), Katie Sinclair, Victor Barclay, Vicky Barclay
--Totem: Mr. Deaghadh, a brownie and a spirit of work.
Werewolf society is organized along pack lines, with Tribes being more by way of philosophical clubs or support networks. All politics is pack-oriented, and so while a Bone Shadow may confer with fellow Hirfathra Hissu on occasion just to talk shop about occult concerns, ultimate loyalty is directed to his pack. Werewolf packs are also very territorial, guarding their prizes jealously. What this means is that there is no higher werewolf authority. The alpha of each of London's thirty-odd packs is master of his own domain, and werewolves meet and organize in mass only rarely -- such meetings are called Moots and are usually called either in response to some major crisis or with the backing of some particularly influential werewolf.
Instead, the werewolf society is subdivided into close to thirty or so packs with an average of four or five members, mostly Forsaken but a few Pure and Ghost Wolf packs as well, along with a score or so of lone wolves. Each alpha may be considered akin to a warlord with his own troops, and werewolf packs engage in conflict more or less constantly, though rarely fatally -- between their aggressive instincts and easy regeneration, werewolves have a very easy attitude towards violence, and casual brawls are frequent. In addition to the werewolves, some other shapeshifters also dwell in London, the most notable being the werespiders, the Selkies, and the water-horses, though given that London is a city of fourteen million people in which there are over 300 languages spoken and over fifty ethnic groups each with a population of over 10,000, one can conceivably find anything in London.
The largest and most powerful pack in London is that of Angela Citysmith, the Architects of Steel. Citysmith runs them with an iron hand, and has sought out alliances with the Consilium of Albion to further her power. Unusually organized and influential for a werewolf pack, the Architects are principally concerned with shaping the spirit-landscape of London to their own advantages -- and making sure that no other pack takes their place as top dogs.
The Thunderpaws are a smaller pack that's seen some hard times recently, but have a reputation as the paramount diplomats and negotiators of the packs of the Smoke. Pack leader Gabriel Law seeks to forge the Forsaken packs into a single body, a grand conclave, though in the meantime they mostly serve as neutral third parties and designated negotiators.
The Temple Guard are a good-sized pack that are some of the premier information-brokers in London. Their alpha, Smiley Reid, is a prominent occultist, and between Oleander the assassin, Lucy the thief, Lewis the hacker/ritualist, and Rebecca Lee the fetch/researcher, there is very, very little that the Temple Guard cannot find out if they put their minds to it. Rumor holds that Smiley maintains close ties to two of the other main information-dealers of London, Councilor Kore of the Silver Ladder and Alistair Niall, the former High Sheriff.
The Cold River Hunters are another pack that's seen better days, a group of Pure with Neo-Nazi ties operating out of Battersea and with allies among both the Mara and with Jenny Greenteeth. Unfortunately for their alpha, Lucas King, their most recent effort at gaining a lot of spiritual brownie points ended up backfiring spectacularly, and right now it's well-known that Todd White would love a wolf-skin rug for his mantel. None of the Cold River have had a good night's sleep since then, but they remain an extremely violent and dangerous pack with a seemingly-inexhaustible supply of thugs.
Brick & Bone is essentially a joke among the Uratha, a pack of Ghost Wolves, outcasts, and renegades that lurks around Blackheath. Led by Kevin "Moxie" Moxley and saddled with a notoriously troublesome totem (a kleptomaniacal magpie-spirit known as Ebon-Eyed Magpie who will not abandon them however they might wish it), Brick & Bone are basically a punch-line and widely considered to be jinxed. However, they've recently recruited, kind of by accident, the skilled Maddie Wishthound from the Cold River Hunters, and they've the somewhat erratic patronage of the Jack-of-Crows.
The werewolf pack of Revelation used to be one of the more dangerous groups of Uratha, a Pure pack led by the Fire-Touched paladin Cinder. Then... something happened, and Cinder had a conversion, and became a Ghost Wolf. The pack splintered into fragments shortly thereafter, and today only Cinder remains. Properly, it's not even a pack. Except that Cinder's totem stayed with her, Cinder's maintained her territory in Green Park, and she has significant allies both among the spirits of London (who look upon her with more respect than they do any other werewolf) and the Fae of the Seelie Court. So more than a few people just sort of pretend that Revelation is still around.
Bethnal Green is home to The Iron Soldiers, a curiously anthropocentric pack of Pure. Led by the Predator King (and Sikh) Avinash Kaur Rana, they have made the protection of their home into a sacred cause, and make a point to hunt down any monster (human, Uratha, spirit, or stranger still) that dares hurt their people. On the one hand, this has made them distinctly unpopular in large parts of London, but on the other hand, the Iron Soldiers have impeccable local backing and support, and access to one of London's top supernatural gunsmiths.
Among the non-lycanthropic shapeshifters of London, most powerful are werespiders of Atenka Holdings London, recently immigrated from Ghana and looking to establish a colony in London's West African community. In West Africa, the Atenka Clan of the Children of Anansi are enormously powerful, influencing governments and Incarnae alike, and with fingers in every pie. In London, the werespiders are very, very far from home, though not without some resources all the same. Nicholas Kwaku Atenka, one of the sons of tribal chief Solomon Kwaku Atenka, is the leader of the Children of Anansi in London.
London is also home to the Border Reivers, an extended family of selkies named with tongue firmly in cheek. Consisting of a trio of young, socially-active selkies foisted on their long-suffering mortal uncle, Prof. Richard Sinclair of the LSE, these northern raiders are mostly interested in robbing good English folk of their virtue and chastity. Thoroughly apolitical, the Border Reivers mostly cut a swathe through the clubs of Camden and Southwark. All four members live in a single block of flats in Bloomsbury, along with Mr. Deaghadh, a brownie-spirit.
Cults, Sects, and Secret Societies Cultists-- Worshippers of the Forbidden: (Population >2000)
Cultists. They’re like cockroaches…. We have a rich cultural baggage of primate behavior which includes the urge to suck up to the big bad alpha male, and a tendency to assume that any intelligence smarter or nastier than we are is the top of the pack hierarchy. Finally, we’ve got any number of dark religions out there. The followers of Kali or Mictecacihuatl or the various other faces of the lady of death. Certain splinter sects of millennialist Christianity who believe that the Revelation of St John is black propaganda and that Satan will triumph. Strange heresies, by-blows of the Albigensians who trace their heritage back to secret cells who worshiped Ahriman in the palace basements of the Persian Empire. Other groups who are less familiar: syncretistic heresies spawned by bizarre collisions between seekers of hidden knowledge and followers of Tibetan demon princes. And, of course, bat-winged squid gods, although I find it hard to believe that anyone takes that seriously these days...
None of their beliefs matter. What matters is that if a cell or coven or parish or whatever get their hands on a genuine summoning ritual, the things at the other end of the occult courtesy phone aren’t fussy about what they’re called as long as the message is ‘chow time’.
Charles Stross, The Fuller Memorandum
It is an unfortunate -- or fortunate, depending on one's perspective -- fact that when humanity is confronted with the supernatural, their first response is most often to fall down upon their knees and worship it. Lured by promises of power, and blood, and servants, the supernatural has obligingly accepted that worship. Nor are vampires and werewolves wholly free of these atavistic instincts, giving devotion to something greater than themselves.
London is home to countless cults. In his 1934 book Strange Cults and Secret Societies in Modern London, the sensational journalist Elliott O’Donnell tells of the London branches of the Leopard Society of West Africa, Obeah-cults from Jamaica, the Kali-worshiping stranglers of the Thuggee (all active in the East End), Thibetan Freemasonry (originally the Egyptian Sophiens), and the Mafia (in New Compton Road and Soho). He also expands upon London-exclusive groups such as the Gorgons (high-society Dionysiac women who revel at Richmond on the Thames), a cult in Upper Norwood that worships a Peruvian mummy, societies dedicated to the cruel and the grotesque in Chelsea, the “Get Rid of the Old” society and the “Suicide Club,” and the strange prophetesses known only as the Grey Sisters. To say nothing of the loose circle of Druids sexually attracted to certain trees in London’s parks and commons, or the female-only Duckdom House in Kensington filled with living waxworks and automata of uncanny beauty, or the “S” Society of young Soho rakes descended from the avenging mediaeval Holy Vehm but now dedicated to blackmail and burglary. The array has not gotten any less strange in the intervening eighty years.
The Suicide Circle is a strange cult consisting of a constantly-recruiting membership of twelve English aristocrats, one of whom commits ritual suicide every New Year's, at the liminal moment between one year and the next. They recruit a new member over the course of the year, but their deceased brethren remain, bound to the Reform Club in St. James's, and by now the ghostly auxiliary of the Suicide Circle is much larger and much more vicious than the Circle's quiet mortal component. Their leadership is unknown, either some truly deranged ghost, or some sort of undead hive-mind, and their purpose is equally mysterious, save for some whispered rumors of 'sating London's bloodlust.' Roused to anger, they are enormously dangerous, with scores of violent and well-organized ghosts and considerable mortal resources, but they tend to be passive unless provoked, and most of the supernatural nations do their best to ignore them.
Claiming descent from the Holy Vehm, quasi-vigilante law courts of "Free Judges" found in Medieval Germany, the "S" Society are a secret fraternity of the young and well-to-do, based in Marylebone. They take it upon themselves to carry out justice (the more poetic the better) against those they see as having escape the law and their proper destiny, with blackmail, terror, and murder as their chosen tools. The "S" Society worships Fate, and see themselves as its agents, and members take no major decision without first consulting one of the Society's fortune-tellers and seers. They claim the wolf as their symbolic patron, and are under the particular protection of Tyburn Gallows-Lord, London's Incarnae of Law and Destiny.
Not often considered a cult is the Fei Yu Dang, the Leaping Fish Society, headquartered in Limehouse in the East End (London's historic Chinatown). A Triad run by a cabal of immortal Loyalist changelings who worship the Great Crocodile-Dragon Jiaolong, their core business is smuggling antiquities (London is the end-point for a number of looted Chinese and Southeast Asian treasures), heroin smuggling, and serving as occasional assassins for other crime groups. Their core base is in Hong Kong, with smaller branches in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Macau, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and San Francisco, but their leaders, the tiger-fae-queen Gao Xiao-Jie and the waterborn-sage Gao Hsien-Feng, frequent London increasingly often in the modern era.
The Mara are a cult of aquatic vampires that worship the Sunken Mother, also known as Jenny Greenteeth. Nominally part of the Circle of the Crone, and regularly threatening Abonde's command of the Acolytes, the Mara pursue a largely independent line from other vampires. In recent years, the Mara's leader Cynthia and Abonde have recently reached a modus vivendi, just in time for the Mara to earn the enmity of the Unseelie Court.
The Cult of Brass grew out of the 19th century Egyptological Society of London, a respected group of wealthy dilettantes and amateur academics who in the 1890s brought back something a little bigger than they could handle from a dig in Amarna. Today, the Cult still operates the Egyptological Society as a front organization, maintaining a large compound in Kensal Green. Structured as a mystery cult, no one has penetrated the upper reaches of the Cult of Brass, but their agents have been known to use both necromancy and peculiar, bio-mechanical constructs including swarms of brass locusts and brass ants capable of puppeteering a human corpse. That said, the Cult of Brass are relatively good supernatural citizens, careful of the Masquerade, though they do show an unhealthy interest in anything related to the late 18th dynasty (of Akhenaten and Tutankhamen fame).
And all the Sundry Hosts of Hell Oddities-- Fair and Foul: (Population ~275)
While the changelings, mages, vampires, and werewolves make up the main 'supernatural nations' of London, they are hardly the only major supernaturals of London. The sheer variety of the uncanny never ceases to amaze, ranging from fairly well-known creatures such as the diabolically Possessed, the constructs known as Prometheans, or Taoist immortals, to strange and bizarre beings that fit no known classification.
Most such creatures exist alone and unique, though a few possess sufficient numbers to have, if not a society, then at least a few cabals or cults. Others associate themselves with one of the great supernatural nations, becoming accepted if never completely welcomed. And others still exist in isolation, and indeed may never meet any other supernatural creatures or know of their existence, and be similarly unknown... at least till some hedge-wizard causes the kind of chaos that forces action.
The most high-profile of the organizations that exists outside the umbrella of the main supernatural nations are the Harbingers, a largely Fae group run out of the Cat's Cradle, led by two high-ranking Seelie courtiers, Erin Lamothe and Othello. Their main focus is charity and providing a support network for those supernatural creatures that would otherwise fall through the crack -- changelings, the re-housed souls known as Fetchesques, mortals rescued from the Underworld (called the Ghost Kids), and a few miscellaneous horrors like Mary Mack the mad vampire. Basically nonviolent, they also manage the supernatural world's most popular restaurant and meeting place, and have good relations with both Fae courts, the Consilium of Albion, and certain segments of the Kindred and Uratha population.
Another prominent organization is the Fusang Tong, a group of criminals who specialize in procuring rare and esoteric objects, lead by the Taoist immortal Bo Kyungbang. Relatively small and nonviolent, the Tong works with the tacit approval of the Consilium of Albion, and are often used by various organizations that require their unique expertise -- though this also means that they tend to be the first to be suspected whenever anything is stolen.
Caring less than his brethren for worship and propitiation, the Man Under London sits at the center of a great web of spirits, mortals, and ghosts, all convinced that it is through the favor of the Man Under London that they can achieve their desires. With his inhuman intellect, the demigod runs a networks of favors and deals -- a mortal businessman will purchase cattle and sacrifice to a spirit of flames, which in turn will burn the old enemy of some vengeful ghost, which then consents to possess an accountant and cover up that mortal's embezzlement. What they lack in loyalty (and few are loyal to anything but themselves), they make up for in effectiveness and reach.
The Yardies are a loose network of primarily Jamaican street-gangs with roots in the 'back yards' of Kingston, mostly centered in the South London slum of Brixton. By and large, they're no more supernaturally aware than anyone else, but the Duppy Boys are an exception. Around 2002, Gladstone 'Books' Griffith, fresh from prison, took over the King Street Mafia gang and transformed them into the Duppy Boys (Duppy being a Jamaican word for an evil ghost or spirit). Since then, the Duppy Boys have grown to prominence in Brixton due to Griffith's leadership and business savvy, and they've become supernaturally aware as well -- at least enough to use silver and cold iron against incursions from the Seelie and the Cold River Hunters, and to ward their hideouts from spiritual intrusion. Griffith lets it be known that he'll pay for any Brixton youth that studies folklore and mythology, so the Duppy Boy's occult savvy is only likely to increase.
At the pinnacle of supernatural society are the four great nations of the uncanny, the fae, the wizards, the vampires, and the werewolves. At the very bottom are the sundry and varied monsters, spooks, goblins and ghouls in all of their infinite variety. But there are things in between, supernatural societies that are not quite of the same size as the Big Four, but significant all the same. Supernatural societies such as those of...