One of the primary themes of the campaign I’m running now involves the concept of spiritual disease. This doesn’t mean that I’m focusing completely on Mages who have the Spirit Arcanum, of course, but rather a moral and social decay that seems to permeate across all levels of the society at large. While it’s been hinted at in articles about Japan and other highly advanced nations like Singapore and the US, everything is far worse in the World of Darkness.
To this end, I’m looking at several sources for antagonists that deal with the unseen elements of the Fallen World, whose influence seeps into the material and ensure the wretched state of humanity.
- The Spirits & the Spirit Hosts – I’ve mentioned before the Mages were the ones responsible for keeping tabs on the local spirit population of Japan, and now that Mages are starting to be a rather limited population, Spirits are trying to push their advantage. The local Spirit Courts are laying on pressure on the Awakened Envoys, while rogue spirits have taken to preying on humans when they can. The end result is that of the Spirit Hosts, humans who have become merged with these spirits, and whose bodies have become warped and twisted as they begin to manifest features of the spirits that occupy them. A human merged with a predatory Spider spirit is always disturbing, but there are other, stranger combinations to consider.
- The Undead – Ghosts and other, stranger forms of the undead are definitely a source of trouble for mages in Japan. Anyone who has ever watched Ringu will remember Sakado, the lovely poster-child of disturbing ghosts in Japanese Cinema. Ghosts hold a strong place in Japanese traditional and urban Myths, and I’d be remiss if I left these guys out.
- Astral Constructs – The realm of ideas is something that I feel has been sorely underestimated in Mage games thus far. Everyone knows how to be afraid of ghosts and spirits, but dangerous ideas and concepts can be just as disturbing. Just being exposed to the horrifying touch of the Abyss should be sufficient to infuse certain concepts with disturbing virulence. These Memes could warp morality just as easily as insanity can, except with the added advantage of working in a society that doesn’t really value talking about personal issues. There’s so many ways that people can snap in a repressed society. I can easily see Shonen Bat from Satoshi Kon’s “Paranoia Agent” series as a manifestation of a desire to escape a stressful situation taking on a dangerous edge.
- Echoes – Just as the spirit world influences the fallen, echoes of atrocities performed in the fallen can also warp the nature of a place. The Sarin Gas attacks in the Tokyo Subways left an almost indelible stain on the spirit reflection, as creatures of paranoia, zealotry, and even specters of chemical warfare still linger, waiting for someone to spark the emotions that they feed on.
While all of these seem to be located on the other side of things, it should be noted that Mages can do a lot with what they have on hand. Mastery over the Physical means that they can strike back against these creatures, who must often manifest in order to gain their desired prizes. Ghosts and Spirits can be counteracted with sufficient planning and research, and Astral constructs and Echoes can be fought with the right kind of social forces that oppose them. Every last mage counts in Japan right now, as they try to struggle against this tide, while trying to unlock the secrets that will enable mankind to Awaken once more.