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Totems was a term used by the Spirit-Talkers mages during the Dark Ages, to collectively describe the four Pillars of their magick. Their totems were: the Chieftain, who granted gifts of leadership, the Trickster, who granted gifts of deception, the Warrior, who granted gifts of fury, and the Wise One, who granted gifts of ancient power.

OverviewEdit

Each Pillar in Spirit-Talker cosmology resides in a Totem, an archetypal spirit. These tutors guide and inspire, whether they speak through the voice of a thousand spirits or through the shaman's dead ancestors, although they most commonly take the shape of animal totems. Indeed, many shamanic traditions are blind to foolish hierarchies and attempts to control and classify that which is as invisible as the wind and as vast as the sky. Named for four of the cornerstone positions of tribal society and spirituality, the Totems are intended to give some structure to unnumbered systems of belief so diverse that almost any form of categorization fails to suffice. Still, upon the open steppes, Mongol mystics know the importance of a cunning mind and deep in the ancient woodland of Eastern Europe, timeless knowledge guides the hand that fells tree, stag, and foe. Thus do the four Pillars of the Totems find their place among their chosen peoples.

Sample Foci: Dance, drumming or chants, prayer to gods or totems

Chieftain (Gifts of Leadership)Edit

Leadership is a sacred role in tribal society. To rule is to be responsible for life and death in a world where magic abounds and the lands of the spirits are close at hand. A single poor choice can mean starvation or annihilation in a battle that cannot be won. The burden of leadership rests heavy in those places that remain free of the chains of the written word, of machines and beasts broken to the will of Man. This freedom, of course, comes with the price of hardship, a crucible that the people of the untamed lands must be strong enough to bear. A crucible that the Chieftain must be strong enough to endure for the sake of his people, be he called elder, king, or khan.

Rating Description
  • 1
The first powers of the Chieftain enables the shaman to detect leadership; its potential, its source, and its effect . She can perceive the touch of the Chieftain in those favored by him, can see whence control flows and whether that authority is born of respect, fear, age or whatever.
  • 2
Now, the Spirit-Talker is able to implore the Chieftain for his blessing. She can speak with confidence, and her words carry weight (adding one die to Leadership die pools per success). She may ask the spirits of regal beasts (Lion or Eagle, for example) for wisdom and advice, the better to discern the proper course of action (subtracting one from the difficulty of any roll involving planning or organization per success). He can create auras of authority or obedience or issue simple impulses to others that must be obeyed and acted upon (resisted with Willpower).
  • 3
The shaman becomes a leader among men or beasts when the Chieftain smiles upon him (adding one dot to Charisma per success). He may also take on a terrible aspect that inspires fear and complicity (adding one to Intimidation die pools per success on a simple spell). He can stifle or amplify any of the qualities of leadership in another, turning a disorganized ruler into an exemplar of efficiency or a benevolent elder into a tyrant (adding or subtracting one per success from the difficulty of rolls to assert leadership or to make use of its qualities, such as diplomacy or provisioning).
  • 4
The Spirit-Talker may speak commands that cannot be questioned by man or beast (resisted by Willpower) and compel those around him with supernatural grace (adding one dot to Manipulation per success). He may shape the concept of authority itself, transferring the sense of control from a king to his young daughter or causing each person in a given community to regard a random person as leader, for example.
  • 5
The final blessings of the Chieftain enable the shaman to utter commandments to the very elements (calling storms or droughts, for example) and to the spirit realm themselves (causing the shades of the dead or the ephemeral spirits of nature to answer her call). Although she cannot order about the lords among the spirits, they regard her as possessing legitimate leadership qualities (adding one to all Etiquette die pools per success). When she needs to be, she is the most capable of rulers and can easily control and fabricate any of the qualities, positive or otherwise, of rule (bestowing mastery of the law upon a child or turning a brilliant king into a boorish clod, for example).

Sample Foci: Fine goods, posture of dominance or control, rods, splendid garb, teeth or pelts from a beast epitomizing leadership (Lion or Bear, for example}

Specialties: Creating Authority, Human Subjects, Organizing Groups, Unreasonable Commands

Trickster (Gifts of Deception)Edit

The Trickster holds secrets in trust and deceives men and gods alike to show the wisdom of humility. Likewise, he often fools himself and so learns by his own defeat. The Trickster must gain by his wits that which cannot be had by either erudition or the sword. He is the scout, the trailblazer, the one who forges the path for more traditional, constrained minds to follow in his wake. He liberates his people from stagnation and teaches them by the pain he causes, pain which, like a broken bone, mends all the stronger for the suffering it begets. He is a lover and a thief, often at the same time. He laughs even when he fails, for he knows that there is a lesson in it. The Trickster must be swift, for he knows that there are those who do not appreciate what he has to show them. These he taunts and infuriates until they learn or are destroyed by their own impotent rage.

Rating Description
  • 1
With this level of knowledge and experience, the shaman is able to sense lies and detect illusions and deception. The Trickster knows his own and opens the mystic's eyes to hidden paths and places, as well as revealing his chosen beasts, spirits, and people (though the shaman is cautioned to beware; this Totem often likes to play tricks on even his favorites).
  • 2
The shaman's tongue is made wise in the ways of lies, and she learns how to cloak her actions in mystery and occlusion (adding one die to Legerdemain, Stealth or Subterfuge die pools per success). The Trickster makes fingers swift and footfalls silent, and he confounds perception and memory for his friend. The Spirit-Talker hears the secret of others (by reading superficial thoughts) and learns how to befuddle those who consider themselves to be clever or to possess authority (subtracting one die from Leadership pools per success; alternatively, subtract one from Wits per two successes, rounding down).
  • 3
Now, the Trickster sends spirits to steal for the shaman (subtracting one from all difficulties for sleight of hand or simple pickpocketing per success) and offers his power to bring misfortune upon those who need to be humbled (raising a difficulty by one per two successes, rounding down). The Spirit-Talker may change her face or speak with a voice that leaves the listener unsure of what he has just agreed to (add one dot to Manipulation per success). She hides and cannot be found by earthly vision alone (mystic senses must exceed the shaman's successes in creating such a spell).
  • 4
Good fortune (and, betimes, much-needed bad fortune) follows the shaman as a close comrade now. When she needs something, a fool is often on hand to part with it. She can lie to spirits and powerful lords among beasts (deceiving their senses or mystic perceptions just as she does with humans) and can even deceive herself into believing powerful untruths that make her more than she is (gaining levels to be distributed among her Abilities equal to half her successes, rounding down). When she wishes it, her trail is invisible, and the blame for her misdeeds placed squarely upon the shoulders of others.
  • 5
The Spirit-Talker walks closely beside the Trickster and is a friend and councilor to him. His own calamities almost always yield up sweet fruit and those who would do him harm are beset by foul luck that persists until they mend their ways or give up the chase (adding one to all difficulties per three successes, rounding down). He can deceive magic itself (bypassing wards or sensory effects with a contested roll), and his silvered tongue beguiles god and demons. He becomes what he wishes (changing shape) and discovers what he needs, by happenstance, persistence or theft.

Sample Foci: Foolish risks, lies and deceptions, prayers to an animal spirit noted for cunning (Cat or Monkey, for example), stolen items

Specialties: Convincing Others, ILlusion, Ridiculous Gambits, Thievery

Warrior (Gifts of Fury) Edit

The way of the Warrior is the way of the wolf and the lion. Strength and fortitude are the Warrior's constant companions. Without them, he falters at the killing moment and is himself struck down. He must know himself and his capabilities and those of his brethren. The Warrior speaks with actions, not words, and does not waste rime with contemplation and reflection when great deeds are called for. He must know, by instinct, the right course of action, for battle gives only one chance and forgives no man his mistakes. He defies the enemies of his people and drives back the corruption of those who would call themselves civilized. He scorns their false promises and greets with the sword those who would harm his kin. When driven by great need, the Warrior can slay dragons and fell gods.

Rating Description
  • 1
The first thing the Warrior's chosen must learn is how to detect the flow of battle and the presence of violence. The Warrior offers striking insights into all manner of confrontations, physical or no, and shows his faithful, among other things, the weaknesses of foes (subtracting one from attack difficulties per success, to a minimum of four), the battle prowess of others (allowing the shaman to learn Archery, Brawl, Dodge and Melee scores) and the direction in which a given conflict is moving.
  • 2
Now, the Spirit-Talker learns to use the Warrior's blessing to shield herself in battle and to stir the spirits of conflict to come to her aid (adding one to her difficulty to be hit per two successes, rounding down). Her strikes are truer and her blade sharper than those without the Warrior's countenance (turning bashing or lethal damage to aggravated). He is also beginning to learn how to incite conflict by magic alone (creating confrontational states and combative emotions), drawing on the violence within the soul of man and animal alike.
  • 3
With the power of his magic, the shaman becomes capable of emulating the wolf and the tiger, the strength of fang and claw (adding one level to any Physical Attribute per success). He can seek the aid of great warriors of the spirit realms, calling up such totems as Wolf, Bear or Tiger. He shrugs off mighty blows (soaking one Health Level of aggravated damage per success), and his weapons are as swift as they are sure (allowing extra combat actions per turn equal to successes or Wits, whichever is less).
  • 4
The violence in Nature itself now aids the mystic. Lightning fells her enemies and those who would strike at her are buffeted by the fury of the storm (subtracting a die from enemies' combat dice pools per two successes, rounding down). Hate and rage empty from the hearts of the gentle and peaceful, and warrior-kings among the spirits ride the shaman's flesh in battle (adding their own strange attributes to her own, but temporarily suppressing her magic). Steel blunts upon her flesh (subtracting one from damage dice pools per success), and she shatters bone with a touch of her hand (inflicting one Health Level of aggravated damage on objects or living creatures per success).
  • 5
The Spirit-Talker is at peace, smiled upon by the Warrior. He speaks with violent intent and mortal men die (two Health Levels of aggravated damage per success). A thousand vengeful shades direct his hand when he moves it in anger (adding one die to all combat-based die pools and to initiative per two successes, rounding down). He can strike to the heart of titans and terrible monsters and batters down foes, wills, and even magic directed against him (dispersing casting successes on a one-for-one basis). He is an ally of battle itself and walks with its favor always.

Sample Foci: Animalistic howls or battle-cries, bloodletting, bones of strong animals or powerful enemies, weaponry (especially crushing or piercing weaponry)

Specialties: Amplifying Prowess, Bestial Fury, Causing Fear, Inflicting Harm, Weapons

Wise One (Gifts of Ancient Power)Edit

The Wise One offers counsel by the fire's light. Bent with years, she has seen much and knows sacred tales, mystic wisdom and simple truth. She was a mother and a grandmother and has seen the coming and going of seasons uncounted. She was young once and knows well what is in your heart. The Wise One remembers the way to honor the dead and appease the spirits. She tells of the paths that are safe to follow, what roots are good to eat, and how best to treat a wound inflamed with fever. The denizens of the unseen world flock to her, to watch over her and to whisper hidden knowledge and be whispered to in kind. She teaches the next generation all that has been learned by the generation who have come before. She recites tales of heroes and monsters, demigods and ancient spirits. She can answer that most troubling of questions, "Why?"

Rating Description
  • 1
The Wise One first teaches the ways in which her touch is felt. She whispers to the Spirit-Talker the heart, wisdom of others (adding successes to Empathy die pools). She points out to him places of power and shows him magic that may be hidden from mortal sight (successes rolled contest mystic concealment effects). Further, she knows foolish words from those spoken with weight of understanding behind them.
  • 2
The shaman can ask the Wise One for simple guidance and counsel (adding one to Enigmas, Hearth Wisdom, or Occult die pools per success). She knows the migration of beasts and the healing properties of the natural elements around her (creating salves and poultices that heal one Health Level of lethal damage or two of bashing per success). She is taught by the Wise One how to appeal to the spirits with pleasing supplications (allowing them to be summoned to the local Penumbras). She divines intent simply by staring into the eyes of another, allowing her to read surface thoughts.
  • 3
Spirits of all sorts may be summoned into the earthly realm, waking from slumber, if need be (though they remain ephemeral unless embodying under their own power). Preternatural understanding come easily to the Spirit-Talker (adding one level to any Mental Attribute per success). He can enter the worlds of the spirits now (passing through the Gauntlet), and can channel mystic energies, fortifying any magical patterns or eroding them (adding or subtracting casting successes on a one-for-one basis).
  • 4
The shaman can pull back the curtains between worlds, allowing beings to pass freely between them (creating shallowings by lowering the Gauntlet one level per success). She can cause spirits to embody physically, even those that cahoot normally do so. The spirit world rises up in anger against those who displease her, and they find their footsteps dogged by storms, the rivers from which they drink foul and bitter and bird and beast turning upon them. The Wise One teaches her the answers to questions few mortals know enough even to ask (lowering the difficulty of any Enigmas, Hearth Wisdom or Occult roll by one per success, to a minimum of four).
  • 5
The mystic can bring new fonts of power to life (creating a cray, as per the Old Faith's Autumn 5), shred enchantments with a gesture (each Quintessence point spent, up to a limit of the shaman's successes, disperses five casting successes) and knows the ancient words by which even the mightiest spirit (Incarna Avatars and the like) are summoned and placated. She can return life to the recently dead (as per the Old Faith's Spring 5) and can proclaim curses that last for generations. Healing herbs and poisonous roots are awakened by the very touch of her hand, and she walks at will in any world she pleases (there is no Gauntlet for her).

Sample Foci: Bone or skins of snakes, burial sites, hallucinogens or trance states, mortal remains of a shaman , smoke

Specialties: Awakening Spirits, Curses, Guidance, Mystic Energies

ReferencesEdit

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