|3||The Cosmos continued|
|4||Grimm, the Catalyst of Fury|
|5||Hoffnung, the Catalyst of Vision|
|6||Klagen, the Catalyst of Loss|
|7||Neid, the Catalyst of Banishment; Staunen, the Catalyst of Curiosity|
|9||Foundations and the International Union of Artifice|
|10||The Fellowship for Manifest Direction|
|11||Navigators and Progenitors|
|12||The College of Scholastic Theory and Rogues|
|13||An Introduction to Lemuria|
|15||Inspiration, Obligation, and Mania|
|18||General Wonder Variables|
|27||Bardos and Manes|
|28||Odds and Ends|
|33||The History of Lemuria|
|34||The last stars went out so long ago no one remembers what they were like. Protons have dissolved. Black holes have disappeared in bursts of gamma radiation. Here dwell the Cold Ones: the last intelligent beings in the universe, whose thoughts are measured by the stray background fluctuation of quantum nothingness.|
|36||Miscellaneous Critters and Antagonists|
|37||Fellowships, Part 1|
He looked like a bad bitmap, sort of fuzzy and indistinct, with little blue eyes like smears on a round gray face. He said he was out of the game.
"The game?" I asked. My voice sounded so bored - ten years of this, I thought, next month - but the man intrigued me. I had never been intrigued before, not in medical school, not when they told me their problems, not when they cried. I remember caring once, when I was young and I dreamed of how other people saw the world, but that had been a lifetime ago and now I felt raw and tired.
I backtracked, suddenly lost. I looked down at my notes. They didn't make any sense. I had added to Mike's chicken-scratches, but what I had written was all nonsense, like a psychology primer run through a German-English translator a dozen times, or some other world's definitions for id and ego...I found myself pondering how other worlds would conceive of the mind, what coincidences would occur there, or not occur there that occurred here, from which they would try to build up a model of the mind. How much would they have missed, just by accident? What had we missed?
I pulled myself back. My head felt all stretched and deformed, and suddenly I was afraid of looking at Jonas, like he would see a monster. Stop it. What had he asked? What would I do if...
I remembered being seventeen, and imagining what other minds must be like. I remembered models leaping into my mind, unbidden, like someone had been sending mail to my brain in the middle of the night. It had been horrible, those half-glimpses of a greater truth, that sickly light bubbling up from my own mind, and I shuddered at the memory. I had pushed it away, disgusted. It had been outside me. It had wanted something. Thought without mind, idea without intellect. Genius, pure and beautiful.
Ever since we bent our minds to technology - not with the computer or the automobile, but with fire and
language and visions of tomorrow's hunt - we walked away from the path laid out before us. No longer were
we to struggle and die like the other animals. No longer would we be allowed lives defined by a blissful
eternal now. We opened our eyes, regretted the past, feared the future, and became fully human.
But there were some who wished to know more, and to see farther, no matter the price. Mortals accepted into
their midst tricksters who delighted in showing the failure of the powerful, visionaries who dreamed of
worlds never before seen, fanatics determined to change the world by changing how we thought. The genius
stands outside of society and its narrow bounds, whether hailing from some crude some village where no one
knows what lies beyond the forest or gleaming metropoli whose inhabitants are bored with walking on the
Moon. They bring us marvels, and we make them pay for their transgressions.
As humanity has always admired and feared its law-givers, it has always admired and feared its law-breakers,
its madmen, its geniuses. Every society has stories of those who went too far, who asked too much, and who
suffered for it. The mad scientist is new, but the genius is an old dream indeed: the prophet, the trickster-god,
the master of techne, the artificer who makes the world, the demiurge who seeks to control, bind, and direct
Genius: The Transgression is a game about those men and women and almost-gods, the ones who went too
far in their and hope and spite and fear and arrogance. They are doomed to watch their discoveries dissolve
into dust and broken lines of code, to see their inventions rampage out of control. But between that first
discovery and their last, when they transgress once too often and the universe wipes them away, they can
A Game of Forbidden Science:
Break the rules and you get in trouble. Break the law and you go to jail. Mouth off to your boss and lose your
job. Jump off a building and...But it doesn't have to be that way, says that little voice in the back of your head,
your personal genius. You ignore it, but you can't silence it. But a genius gives in to that voice, becomes that
rules-breaking thing, that maker-trickster-savior, and begins a life of pain and glory unimaginable to mere
The genius sees the truth, but she cannot get there. In her heart she knows, but she cannot explain why. She
flouts social convention, ignores the sneering voice of authority and dogma, and casts aside the ethical
concerns of her peers. She breaks the rules of the universe we know to glimpse the truth of the universe as it
must be. But there's a price. There always is. She is not just isolated from the "common man," but from the
very discipline that birthed her. In her heart, she knows that what she does is not science, which is ultimately
about systems and about cooperation. Alone, she walks a new path, wearing the trappings of her old life but
no longer capable of touching its essence.
Genius: The Transgression takes place in the World of Darkness, a world like ours but with darker nights
and deeper stains. People don't connect to one-another as they do in our world. They live in the shadows of
ancient conspiracies and the shadows cast by old things, and this infects the geniuses: for every mad scientist
working in silicon and plastic, another labors with greasy cogs and steam pumps, while another never left
behind the gleaming chrome and atomic dreams of the 1950s. For one of the Inspired, there is no escape from
the fetters of superstition and occult dread, the lurking horrors at the edge of consciousness. Though cobbling
together elements from our past, the genius ultimately belongs to no place and no time, and walks alone into
A little knowledge is a hideous thing and it will drive you mad.
The genius is a rule-breaker, a trickster, a liar, a thief of wonders, and a maker of false dreams. Tenuous
threads bind him to the mortal world, and every wonder is a violation of the rules of the universe. On the one
hand, Obligation binds a genius to humanity; on the other hand, Inspiration tells him to do things that no sane
person would ever want to do. The genius can be humanity's damned savior, destroying himself to safeguard
a society that will never know his name and would hate him if they knew what he had done to preserve them.
A genius is never entirely in control. His inventions are always one step away from freeing themselves and
rampaging through his lab, or his city. The ideas and dreams come too fast for him to write down, let alone
study and examine. The deadlines are constant, the pressure to find equipment, money, and research time
mind-breaking, and humiliation is a constant companion. Mad scientists burn with a passion for their work,
and though that passion is glorious and often contagious, the hunger to know and to control consumes them
from the inside-out. They cannot obey the rules that normal society has set down for its members. They can
only choose what laws they will break, and how they will look at themselves afterward.
Mood: Bitter Disappointment
The hideous freedom of transgression is matched by the choke-chain of necessity. A genius finds herself
surrounded by failure and broken dreams. For every wonder that lurches, blasphemously, beautifully, to life,
another turns to smoking scrap in the testing phase, or lies forgotten in a corner, half-made, because the
genius couldn't pay for the right permits or find the right materials. This juxtaposition of Inspired triumph
and mundane failure defines a genius' life.
And even if the genius succeeds more often than he fails, he sees dead dreams all around him. Once-great
geniuses, their radiance reduced to cinders from a lifetime of crushing defeat and humiliation, stock the
shelves at the electronics store in the mall, too ashamed to take up the wrench again. Those Inspired who
provide a genius with the supplies he needs are hollow, miserable people, chewed apart by the failure of their
philosophies to gain acceptance. And in the end, rare is the genius who makes a measurable impact on the
world: no matter how successful a genius might be, his wonders still crumble when exposed to the light of
day, reduced to malfunctioning piles of components. Many of the Inspired, after that initial burst of delight,
feel the circle of possibilities shrinking around them, until they are little different from before, except that
now people who once respected them now snicker behind their back at the "maniac" who cracked under the
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Baroque Cycle
(Okay, one commentary: no Jurassic Park?)
Bob the Angry Flower
The Venture Brothers
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Nine Inch Nails
A genius is a mortal man or woman gifted with extraordinary insight and technical brilliance. A genius is also
a concept, an extra-worldly thing, a muse, an eidolon of imagination and beauty, something that alights for a
time upon mortals or, sometimes, buries itself deep in the soul of a person and does not leave.
This double-truth follows a genius through life: are they extraordinary individuals gifted with a touch of the
impossible, or are they mere conduits for a greater and inhuman power? This question torments many of the
Inspired, and they pore over the accounts of their predecessors and propose monstrous and baffling
philosophies in order to learn what they are: gifted mortals, or mere shells for the idea of genius? Every
genius must ask herself, at some point, am I real? And they must discover for themselves the origin and true
nature of their ideas. Are they Inspired, or are they Inspiration personified? Where do the terrible, beautiful
ideas come from, if not from their own mind? Are they, in some sense, worthy of the wonders they make, or
are they mere midwives for things more beautiful than they―things in some sense, more real?
At Last I Understand
A genius' Breakthrough―the moment she stops being a normal mortal, however naturally gifted, and
becomes Inspired―is often a traumatic experience, though it is rarely sudden. Over the course of weeks,
months, or even years, a mortal's perspective begins to change. Ideas that once made sense become dubious,
unintuitive, even suspicious, while new notions seem to leap unbidden into the person's mind. These might
be dismissed as madness, if the ideas don't work, or unexpected leaps of intuition, if somehow they do, but
the nagging suspicion remains that the ideas are coming from Outside, that somehow they are not one's own.
Most reasonable people, at this point, retreat from the strange revelations: they shut themselves down, force
themselves to go about their day-to-day lives, and if they're lucky or determined, they won't experience a
Breakthrough at all. They will live out their little lives like the rest of us. But some rush headlong toward
these new experiences, while others cannot or will not escape them, perhaps seeing answers there that have
eluded them before. This is how a genius is born.
The first few months after the Breakthrough are traumatic and infuriating: Inspiration, for all its brilliance,
fears the light of day. Answers that seem so obvious as the genius labors by night in rented laboratory space
turn to nonsense when shown to one's fellows. Many geniuses think they are going mad. Their friends almost
certainly think so. Isolation and madness set in as the Breakthrough drags on: the genius is Inspired, but lacks
any ability to produce something. He is not yet a maker of wonders.
According to Genius: A Complete Psychological Breakdown, published by Ayako Von Schreber and Bob "Doc"
Sandwich in 2005, the Inspired are primarily drawn from the scientific, academic, and educational fields. It
should come as no surprise that almost nine in ten Inspired work or worked in such fields: they are or were
scientists, researchers, philosophers, sociologists, professors, mathematicians, engineers, technicians, medical
doctors, or computer experts. Many others are drawn from related fields: Inspired populations boast many
librarians, historians, field guides, teachers, explorers, mechanics, architects, and all-purpose scholars. This is
what geniuses call the breeding pool, the usual "spawning ground" for new geniuses.
About 12% of geniuses become Inspired though they possess no particular scientific or technical background,
nor formal training time under another genius. The old term for such a person was a raudus, a raw "lump" of
genius. They possess no training, but they have raw talent and some kind of frantic drive that pushes them
into a Breakthrough. The beat cop who sees one crime too many and decides to mess around with an armored
suit, the mother whose children are menaced by mysterious underground machines and who ransacks
libraries to find out how to stop them, the laborer who watches a loved one wither of untreatable cancer, and
who starts asking around about "impossible" cures...all these people are geniuses for whom the Breakthrough
comes first and mundane knowledge comes later.
There are a lot of Inspired, a fact that startled the Peerage when it was first discovered. Estimates are as high
as one person in five thousand being a genius, though many are lonesomes with no idea of what they are.
More conservative estimates make Inspired rarer, but there are still a good number of them in any major
From Up Here They Look Like Ants
A genius' Breakthrough, once she has mastered his first Axioms and created her first wonders, is often
accompanied by a godlike feeling of invincibility and of escape from the fetters of the mundane world. But a
genius cannot escape humanity, at least while keeping his humanity intact.
Instead, a genius is bound to humanity by ties of Obligation. The genius can never again be part of everyday
humanity, or return to his old life. He can never again walk among his former peers as equals, at least not
without danger to himself and to them. But the genius cannot simply be a watcher. Instead he must become a
monitor, a guardian of his world from both his own wonders and horrors and those unleashed by others.
Often dispassionate, but never disinterested, the genius becomes a protector of common humanity
Too much Maniacal activity, too fast, can result in the genius cracking as Inspiration overrides parts of her
thinking mind. When this happens, the genius becomes an unmada: the raw energy of Mania echoes her own
thoughts, confirming her prejudices and beliefs. Those beliefs then reinforce her Inspiration, which produces
more bent Mania, producing a hall-of-mirrors or echo-chamber effect where the genius' own subconscious
continually validates her opinions while wiping away contradictory data. Some geniuses escape this fate;
others revel in it.
I Still Remember The Scorn of My Peers
Two geniuses in every three come from some kind of "scientific" background, and one of the first things they
learn is that, after their Breakthrough, they can never return to their former lives. Their mere existence
disrupts research, clouds statistics, and makes a mockery of the scientific method. A genius is not a scientist; a
genius is a wonder-worker whose miracles are technological in nature.
Because of this, the life of a genius is a lonely one. Other Inspired can be allies, but are more often competitors
for the same meager resources. Mortals can turn a wonder into a pile of scrap with a moment's handling, and
the insightful nature of those mortals geniuses most want to associate with―fellow scientists and
thinkers―merely hastens the process of disintegration. Those mortals who have embraced the genius'
worldview, her beholden, embrace it with such feverish devotion and faith that, whatever their other merits,
they are no more than echo chambers for the genius' thoughts.
No One Is In Charge
Much of Earth's scientific history is due to subtle manipulation by Lemuria. It is unclear how much control
this group had, and it has become increasingly obvious that Lemuria had far less influence on the
development of the mortal world than they often boast. But what is clear is that for centuries―millennia,
perhaps―they kept a rein on the progress of science, mad and otherwise. Their program for the development
of humanity, the Race History, stamped out innovation and development wherever it appeared, replacing it
with developments spoon-fed to humanity by the Lemurians. Free geniuses were converted or killed.
This system never worked perfectly, and by the 17th century it had begun to unravel. Lemuria took centuries
to die, and it fought for every second of life, crushing intellectual revolutions that threatened to destroy its
hegemony. But new ideas swept across the world, and the Lemurians could not hold them back. Their
techniques grew more severe and unyielding, their philosophy more intransigent, and when they moved to
"set back the clock" in a series of wars that would have left humanity a burned-out shell, the free Inspired
were moved to action: they confronted the Lemurians in open battle, chased down and killed the Secret
Masters that controlled them, and ruined the careful planning behind the Race History. By the middle of the
20th century, humanity was free...and no one was in charge.
No one is in charge now, either. That, say many Inspired, is why we didn't get the future with the flying cars
and the "televisors" and the moon bases: those things were in the works, all set for the Lemurians to hand
them down to us like manna from heaven, and we were supposed to accept them and let our betters maintain
them while we lived our happy, comfortable lives. But Lemuria got its ass kicked, and has your life ever been
comfortable? It hasn't, say many in the Peerage, because humanity is off the rails, free from control or
So no one is in charge of humanity, mundane or Inspired. We've been forging our own path for fifty years―or
500 years, depending on how you count it. It's been a terrible mess, but it's been our mess. There are no
Secret Masters, no answers hidden by centuries-old secret societies―well, not anymore―no Golden Age in the
past, no Utopia in the future, no free rides, no easy answers, and no one at the wheel. It's just humanity, some
of whom can create fifty-foot-tall robots, trying to get by.
The Monorail of Broken Dreams
Mania is the energy of Inspiration; if Inspiration is the generator, Mania is the electricity. But Mania is a
strange phenomenon. It is not generated by geniuses alone. Instead, all kinds of mortal thought can generate
low amounts of Mania, with scientific or mathematical thought generating more, and the sort of thought one
might call "revolutionary" (politically, scientifically, ethically, it doesn't matter) generating the most.
Mania windfalls occur during times of revolutionary scientific development, especially when an old idea is
rejected and supplanted by a new one. These "Maniac Storms" have two effects. First, they birth new
geniuses, as regular scientists (or just normal people with a touch too much curiosity) grow obsessed with
the new revelations about the world. Second, they generate manes, which are places, things, and even
creatures birthed from pure Mania.
When dreams, plans, and revolutions appear, or when they break down in neglect and failure, Maniac Storms
sweep across the world. The twentieth century was practically one big Maniac Storm, and no one knows if it's
over. (Brief periods of peace, such as immediately after World War Two and the Vietnam War, were shattered
by events as momentous as Sputnik and the computer revolution.) These storms leave the world littered with
bardos, false realms brought into existence by their own disproof. Bardos and the manes within them feed on
Mania, and even the most hopeful, Utopian bardo either decays into nothingness or finds some way, however
brutal, to steal Mania from the real world.
Genius in History and Legend
"3. And Jesus made of that clay twelve sparrows, and it was the Sabbath. And a child ran and told Joseph, saying:
Behold, thy child is playing about the stream, and of the clay he has made sparrows, which is not lawful. And when
he heard this, he went, and said to the child: Why dost thou do this, profaning the Sabbath? But Jesus gave him no
answer, but looked upon the sparrows, and said: Go away, fly, and live, and remember me."
-The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Roberts-Donaldson Translation (Second Greek Form)
The history of Inspiration is shrouded in myths, tall tales, and botched attempts at time travel. What is clear is
that there have been geniuses for nearly as long as there has been civilization. The oldest orphans―wonders
whose creators have disappeared or died―were found in Irem in the 1980s and dated to around 2500 BCE,
and rumors of even older Egyptian orphans and ones of unknown origin are common. Wonders have been
found from ancient Egypt and China, Babylon, Mesoamerica, and the Indian subcontinent. The remnants, no
longer functional, of Greek, Roman, Persian, and Medieval Muslim wonders are common collector's items
among the Inspired, and many orphans from the Renaissance and early industrial period are still in working
order, and treated as status symbols by powerful geniuses.
Sometimes it seems like the modern world is all about brand identity. The ancient one was, too. Even if it
doesn't matter―especially if it doesn't matter―it's important for humans to have tribes, to divide themselves
into us and them, and to maintain nested dolls of familiarity and distance. A genius might be walking around
with an entire universe in his head, but he's still a human being and possesses the same needs and impulses
as any other.
But the foundations―the divisions of the Inspired―do more than just give geniuses a team to root for. They
provide a set of core assumptions that a genius needs to not go mad. Foundations provide axioms as well as
Axioms, setting the genius on the path to understanding Inspiration, Mania, Obligation, and the wider world
into which she has emerged. Further, each foundation offers a clear focus and identity. This is part of a
deliberate effort by the Peerage to help a new genius quickly find a place and a purpose before she succumbs
to one form of insanity or another.
The Nature of Inspiration
There Is A Pattern In This Chaos
"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own
mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."
Ideas come from somewhere. At least the big ones do. Even the most staunchly rational peer recognizes that
there is something extraordinary at work in the making of wonders. A thing outside the genius, that
transcends mortal ideas of brilliance and talent, is born when a wonder awakens for the first time and stares
down at its creator with eyes of smoky agate or photosensitive titanium alloy. An Inspired is nothing without
Inspiration, and Inspiration is greater than any mortal mind.
But what is it? What is Inspiration? Geniuses throughout history have tormented themselves with that
question, developing philosophies, theories, and incomplete, lurching models to account for all the
phenomena that Inspiration gives rise to. Over the years, those Inspired that comprise the Peerage―the
society of free geniuses―have produced five foundations with philosophies to explain the nature of
Inspiration and to guide new geniuses through their first hesitant experiments.
To the Artificers, Inspired who delight foremost in the creation of new wonders, the universe in which we live
is broken, or sick. Once, it worked perfectly, a single, vast organism. But something wounded it, ripped it
apart, flinging scraps of broken life across a dozen realities and leaving howling voids between them. But so
perfect was Creation that the disparate organs still function: this physical world, the world of mechanical law
where people live in skins of meat, still works. It works so well, in fact, that mortals can construct
explanations for how this maimed world functions. The genius, however, sees the whole picture: the physical,
the psychical, the statistical, mathematical, and teleological; she sees it all at once, and those are her laws, not
the half-truths and shadow-answers of mortal science. A genius performs True Science, as if the cosmos were
whole and healthy. What she does looks impossible to mortals, but only because they can only see a single cell
of a far vaster organism.
Directors, with their focus on social interaction, see Inspiration as the big lie. A genius, the Directors say, has
learned the science of "tricking" the universe. Modern Directors invoke the principles of quantum mechanics:
the uncertain nature of the universe means that, for very small scales of space and time, the impossible
happens with troubling frequency. And like particles and antiparticles appearing simultaneously out of a
common nothing, the genius' deranged inner state and the mad things he produces exist for a time before
falling back into mundanity. Inspiration is the art and science of bringing those impossible things from the
quantum world into our own macroscopic world, and greater Inspiration allows the genius to maintain her
wonders―and her own perilous, half-mad existence―for longer periods of time. There is no final cheat;
there's only keeping the ruse going for just a little longer.
To the Navigators, Inspired who are as interested in using inventions as conceiving and building them, there
is a sort of existence even in non-existence. "Existence" is merely another property, they say, like "being
green," and things that don't exist still possess properties, not as a sort of play-on-words, but literally. It
doesn't matter that Darth Vader isn't real, right? He's still evil. So it's no surprise that impossible things
happen all the time: a bit of genius, to break down the barriers between the real world and the infinite
reaches of the Not, and a person can call the impossible into the possible realm. It's not easy, and it's
definitely not safe, but it can be done. And impossible things are not limited in such mundane ways as those
things that make up the World That Is. They can be contradictory, deranged, beautiful, and meaningful: they
can be wonders, things that should not be, in a world all too cluttered with Stuff That Just Is.
To the Progenitors, those geniuses obsessed with growth and change, Inspiration is the result of "sheer force"
between what is true and what is false. Their flexible minds embrace the paradox of Inspiration: a genius is
Inspired because he can do the impossible, and since he can do things impossible in this world, he is Inspired.
Little glitches in mind and nature, in the world within and the world without, add up, and at times of great
internal and external stress, spiral out of control. "Impossibility" itself is a sort of power, and that power can
reach a critical mass, and ignite like a new sun. When it ignites, a genius is born.
To the Scholastics, geniuses who see idea and concept as paramount, Inspiration is the manifestation of a
more pure universe, a realm of Idea, as it struggles to enter this dark world. There are things in that realm of
Idea, living concepts, "intelligences" of a sort, and they are curious. Not malevolent―though their intrusions
can be destructive―but determined to enter. Yet they cannot survive in our ruinous world, no more than a
human could survive at the black bottom of the sea or in a poisoned wasteland. Instead they have found a
halfway point in mortal thoughts, "piggybacking" in minds and (now) in computer code. Some minds, the
Scholastics say, are special, somehow uniquely formed, and around these minds, for a time, those beings of
Idea can live for a time in our world, as the wonders a genius creates.
The Law of Broken Theory (aka Popper's Little Secret)
Geniuses are not scientists and once a genius catalyzes he will never again do science as he previously
understood the practice. His Mania makes that impossible. Geniuses aren't clear what Mania is, but it's clear
that the stuff gets into a genius, changing his perspective and disrupting how he relates to the world. In short,
it drives him mad. Not the full-on delusional insanity of an unmada or Lemurian, or the alien psychopathy of
the Illuminated, but Mania changes a genius enough that he is no longer in sync with the rest of humanity.
The Science Is Science Law (aka the Anticlark Corollary)
Geniuses can no longer engage in traditional scientific research. Nonetheless, they are not "wizards." They do
not do "magic." That is, what they do conforms at least in part to what sane scientists would recognize as the
laws of physics, and is not entirely a product of the genius' peculiar internal state. Even geniuses who have a
strong interpretation of the Law of Broken Theory recognize that wonders can't just pop into existence,
fueled by will and desire. No genius can just wave a magic wand and make wonders happen. Even very old
wonders―ones built centuries or millennia ago―function in ways that seem recognizable as technology.
A flying machine built by a Song Dynasty Taoist who believes in the five Taoist elements will still fly, and it
will fly based on modern principles of aerodynamics, even if it also conforms to other, weirder laws. Even if a
wonder circumvents or ignores physical laws, such as using some kind of anti-gravity technology to fly, a
wonder never flatly ignores the laws of physics. A genius can't just build a wooden bird, dump Mania into it,
and expect it to fly because it's "enchanted." The Inspired are miracle-workers, yes, but they're also
technologists. There are principles at work behind what a genius does, even if they apparently lack
consistency and repeatability, and even if a genius can't figure them out.
The Mere Mortal Law (aka Gilligan's Rule)
Regular people screw up wonders. No one's sure why this is so, but mere mortals have a near-miraculous
ability to damage mad science, destroying it or causing it to run amok. If they get their grubby little hands on
a wonder, they'll break it and it will explode or eat them. Geniuses don't know exactly why this happens, but
every genius knows that letting a regular person near a wonder is like giving revolvers to monkeys: only
hilarious from a safe distance. Scientists (sane ones) are included here as mere mortals, and they can be even
worse: a group of trained scientists know just how to fiddle with a wonder in a way that will cause it to break
down. This further alienates a genius from regular humanity: she cannot communicate her ideas to her peers,
or even show off her creations, without risking disaster.
Gilligan's Law, coupled with the Black Box Law, explains why a genius can't just build a teleporter and market
it for three easy installments of $19.99 on her Website: a mortal who gets his hands on a wonder will break it,
and due to the nature of Mania, every mortal who messes around with it will break it in a unique and uniquely
horrific way. Attempts to predict what will go wrong are impossible, and will probably just make things
The Obvious Truth Law (aka Mulder's Lament)
While mere mortals will screw up a wonder something fierce, there is no cosmic principle or conspiracy at
work that relates to wonders or Inspiration. A mere mortal can see a wonder and she will not forget the
experience. There is nothing in a wonder that "clouds men's minds" or that will cause them to grow confused.
Wonders show up fine on cameras and videos. There are no vast conspiracies to hide the truth from regular
mortals. In fact, the vastest conspiracy out there, Lemuria, wants to make regular mortals aware of their
The nature of Inspiration, instead, remains hidden because wonders are not repeatable and testable. A
regular scientist who handles a wonder will break it, and if she doesn't break it, she's already well on her way
to becoming a genius herself (or at least a beholden). The only results, then, are that a mortal will mess up the
wonder (possibly killing herself in the process) or will turn into a beholden or genius and join the ranks of the
Inspired, which in turn insulates her from regular people.
Geniuses do not know what they are, and this torments them. Is a genius a mortal touched by something
transcendent, or is he transcendence itself, a mathematical icon given form and temporality in the body and
mind of someone who was once human? What is the "genius"? The man, with his unique gifts, or the spirit,
that takes up residence in the cramped and fleshy home of a mortal mind? Many peers torment themselves
over these questions, for there are no clear answers. A genius' Breakthrough is a traumatic experience that
can wipe away sections of memory and radically change parts of a new mad scientist's personality; for every
one of the Inspired who catalyzed gradually, her mundane concerns slowly transforming over the course of
weeks or months into Inspired conceptions, another experienced a Breakthrough like a lightning-stroke that
wiped away consciousness and intellect and left mind and spirit utterly transformed.
Because I have nothing to do tonight...
Genius: The Transgression, Part 4: Grimm, the Catalyst of Fury
The Catalyst of Fury
Traditional Planet: Mars
"You will pay for what you've done!"
The pious recall stories of God's wrathful messengers, wreathed in darkness and fire, sent to punish the
wicked. From the heartlands of civilization spring stories of banishing angels with flaming swords, of furious
Asuras whose anger and passion shake the Heavenly Mountain. Wherever their names are mentioned, these
creatures are seen as more than human but less than gods, and lit from within by a fire that cannot be
quenched. Some are righteous, and seek their own brutal sort of justice; others are merely brutal, and visit
devastation upon the mortal world. All are defined by the fury felt during their catalyst.
A genius who breaks through in rage and fury is a Grimm, and is stamped forever by that initial, primal anger.
This might be a vicious hatred for mundane humanity, or a noble fury at the injustice of this cruel world, or a
more personal hate, but it is always terrifying, and Grimms are rightly feared for their uncontrolled rages.
Many Grimms are furious and temperamental throughout their youth and adolescence. Moody, dangerous,
often irrational, they become soldiers, police officers, and brutal overseers. A life of discipline and service
tempers some future Grimms, though their rage always burns beneath the surface. Grimms are the most
likely geniuses to come from a military or combat tradition, though many come with extensive technical
training, as pilots, cyber-crime specialists, or military engineers. Others seem never to learn, and find
themselves trapped in low-prestige, high-stress technical jobs in their chosen field, working as EMTs, code
monkeys, and construction workers. The least stable fall out of the technical world entirely, or never focus on
those pursuits, and drift through life as unstable low-level criminals and violent thugs, though often ones so
smart they never get caught.
Few Grimms catalyze simply by beating a man to death in a back alley, though that's sometimes how a
Breakthrough begins: a sudden, horrible act of violence, followed by the realization on the part of the pregenius
that she is too smart to get caught. This violence need not be physical: ambitious scientists or scholars
might realize that they can crush their opponents in debate with tactics so brutal no one questions them,
while lawyers and preachers discover they can sway people as if by the sound of their voice alone. They're
cheating, these new Grimms realize. They're breaking the rules, and there's no one there to stop them. From
that it's a short, fast plunge, either into catalysis or oblivion.
Not all Grimms catalyze through an active desire to fight back. Some are survivors of brutality and insanity,
sometimes at the hands of other Inspired. These Breakthroughs can take a long time to develop, as an Asura
cultivates rage, hatred, and intricate plots for revenge. A girl whose family burns to death in a house fire
caused by an insane arsonist might work carefully through most of her twenties before unleashing bloody
retribution against the arsonist and against the corrupt and incompetent police and firefighters who did
nothing to stop the killer. Another pre-Grimm might swallow years of torment and bullying at school, only for
his tormentors to watch their chances at an Ivy League college slip away amidst digitally-planted accusations
A Grimm's Breakthrough is not simply about revenge, however. A Grimm's catalyst shows her that her act of
vengeance was not merely about her and her enemies were not just the ones in front of her. She sees a larger
world, one dictated by strength and weakness, power and helplessness, honor and injustice, and chooses to
embrace that vision. Many Grimms describe religious-like transformations, as if an Angel of the Lord
descended from On High and set itself up within (or instead of) the frail and fallible human soul. Those
Grimms who come from scientific fields describe a falling away of the world's vagaries, a severed Gordian
Knot that frees the genius to act with clarity, certainty, and purpose.
Grimms gravitate toward aggressive Skills, and many focus on Resistance Attributes to survive their harsh
lives. They are hard, tough, and no longer willing to suffer. Those that focus on vigilante justice often train in
Investigation (to track down their quarries) and Intimidation (in case physical deterrence is inappropriate).
Since many begin life in a rough place, they can lack the Social Merits that other geniuses take for granted,
making up for that absence with an impressive array of Skills designed to keep a person going when
outnumbered and outgunned: Athletics, Drive, Medicine, and Streetwise.
Their irascible personalities can make Grimms difficult to get along with: many have poor Social attributes,
and may prefer the company of wild places to that of man; non-urban Grimms pay particular attention to
Animal Ken and Survival, allowing them to get by when not supported by their fellow man. "Firebrand"
Grimms, by contrast, can come from careers in religion or lobbying that require impressive Social Skills; these
simple personalities sacrifice Mental Attributes for Presence and Composure. They might not be stupid, but
they are direct and uninterested in subtlety.
Most Grimms, whatever their origin, develop an interesting selection of combat skills to survive the scraps
they get into, and may focus on Brawl, Firearms, or Weaponry, usually depending on what sort of wonders
they built with their knowledge of Katastrofi.
Those Asuras who let their anger get the better of them before their Breakthrough have few Social Merits.
Most are poor, with few Allies or Contacts. Even those who began life acclaimed and influential may lose it
after their Breakthrough, becoming insular and strange, abandoning their old connections and forging new
ones―which takes time. Physical Merits, by contrast, are common, and may be geared toward a Grimm's
Breakthrough. A Grimm who was poisoned by a political rival but survived through determination and mad
botany might have developed Toxin Resistance, while one who spent his Breakthrough chasing criminals
across the city's rooftops may have Fleet of Foot.
Concepts: Sadistic vigilante, quiet security specialist, terror of the school board, guardian of the innocent,
high-pressure company manager, passionate antiquarian orator, ex-military tech specialist, plague lord,
politician with a dark secret
"I am nanometers from perfection and no longer answer to any mortal authority. They weren't there for me and I
won't waste time helping them as I rise asymptotically toward the ultimate virtue. Every corpse I leave should be
one less investigation to make, instead of one more open case. But I'm not here for human justice any more. When
you see the Paolenti penthouse burn with white fire and the dreams of serpents, you'll know that, and so will every
other man-mask-wearing machine-demon in this city. They'll never love me for the things I've done, but I never
asked for love. Only for perfection."
Hoffnung: Things only get better in one way, and "wishing it were so" is not that way.
Klagen: Your cowardice is a veil, not a shield. You cannot even protect yourself, let alone fight back.
Neid: "Injustice" is a bit broader than "things that make me sad." Everyone's in pain, not just you.
Staunen: I think I would have understood you, once. There is something amazing out there, but I cannot
remember what it was.
Yeah, I'm not saying it's bad. Just that, like - what you do at your home game is cool, but it would not be published in an nWoD book, and neither would anything about Genius.
The Catalyst of Vision
Traditional Planet: Jupiter
"We won't have these problems when I...RULE THE WORLD!"
Geniuses of Vision often think big before their Breakthroughs. They are politicians, reformers, dreamers, and
futurists, obsessed with what's coming. All hold a picture of what they want the world to be. Hoffnungs may
or may not be wealthy, but most are influential in one way or another: those that aren't powerful lobbyists
are passionate orators, dedicated civil servants, or just very good at arguing for their ideas on the Internet.
Few come from desperate straits, as people in those environments are more interested in day-to-day survival
than the transformation of the world.
A Principality is the most likely of all geniuses to receive direct, deliberate training from an existing genius.
These Hoffnungs are often gifted mundane scientists in whom a genius sees the spark of future brilliance.
Others might start as beholden who are trained (often brutally) to escape their master's worldview and to
find their own. Many Hoffnungs, regardless of their precise origin, are heirs to some other genius' legacy. One
might work to fulfill the dreams of her dead mentor, to wipe out the Ubermensch infestation of Antarctica,
while another surpassed and supplanted his teacher longer ago and now works to transform the world's
economy from the CEO chair of one of Europe's most powerful technology companies.
Many geniuses think Hoffnungs join collaboratives so they can get other people to work on their projects. This
isn't entirely fair, but there is some truth in it. Hoffnungs rarely cooperate with their fellows, with the
exception of "multigenerational" Hoffnung clans created by a long line of genius-cultivators, and even those
groups are prone to self-destruction―not to mention being weird and intellectually incestuous. Instead,
Hoffnungs seek out other geniuses whose values and dreams don't differ too much from their own, or who
lack the sort of ambition that defines a Hoffnung. In these groups, a Principality can feel at home, working on
her grand projects while not stepping on anyone else's vision.
A collaborative with a Hoffnung always has an excellent source of new plans. Geniuses can benefit materially
and scientifically by following in a Hoffnung's wake. A Hoffnung's ambitions can get her (and the rest of the
collaborative) into trouble, but it can also offer a group direction, energy, and ambition.
Hoffnungs want to change the world, but they can take almost any approach to doing so. Their polemics make
Expression a common and useful skill. Those that want to change human behavior are adept at interpersonal
interaction, with high Social Attributes along with good scores in Socialize, Persuasion, and Politics.
Hoffnungs who want their wonders (or something close) in every home focus on high Crafts or Computer
scores and Social Merits like Allies, Fame, and Status. Those Hoffnungs who trace their lineage back to older
members of their catalyst often benefit from inheriting a Laboratory, and may still have a Mentor.
Not all Hoffnungs are benevolent dreamers: those that want to twist the world into conformity with their
deranged imaginings emphasize Manipulation, Intimidation, and clandestine skills like Larceny and
Subterfuge. Many monstrous visionaries―and a few extropic idealists―are experts in Medicine. The more
aggressive masterminds often keep groups of beholden on retainer to intimidate and silence enemies.
Not many Hoffnungs are physically oriented, though some prefer to change the world one ass-kicking at a
time. These crusaders rarely possess the sadism of Grimms―though their clinical precision may offer little
comfort to their victims―but they learn many of the same Skills: Investigation and Intimidation to learn what
they need, Drive to cover ground, Larceny and Stealth to get in unnoticed, Brawl to teach someone a lesson,
and Firearms and Weaponry, to make someone into a lesson.
Concepts: Cold fusion researcher, deranged medical eugenicist, acolyte of the Singularity, guerrilla
revolutionary, post-Y-chromosome feminist, ruler of a hidden Utopia, (virtual) town planner, cyberneticreplacement
addict, guy who's really excited about fluoride in the drinking water.
You've seen it on the billboards and the trash-strewn alleys, amidst the halls of the powerful and in the tenements
of the desperate: the Change. It's coming, and soon everything will be different. Our world will transform itself―in
fire, if necessary, in blood, certainly―and be reborn, fresh and new, to gaze out on the universe with innocent and
wondering eyes. And I am the herald of that Change. So forgive me if I cannot hear your words or your screams.
They are too small. Do you hear the mayflies screaming tonight? Neither do I.
Grimm: Punching the broken computer does not fix the broken computer. Repairing the broken computer
fixes the broken computer.
Klagen: It doesn't do to feel sorry over this death or that atrocity; you must feel sorrow over the entire
structure that allows such horrors to unfold.
Neid: There's a reason that everyone thinks you're crazy. It's because you haven't yet shown them how right
Staunen: Stop staring slack-jawed and get to work; Utopia isn't going to achieve itself.
The Catalyst of Loss
Traditional Planet: Venus
"No, you fools! You'll doom us all!"
Klagens are the least likely of all geniuses to bear seeds of their catalyst before the tragedy that defines them.
They may be sad, thoughtful people, but others are equally likely to be exuberant, full of life, and
passionate―though rarely is a pre-Klagen abstractly disinterested in human affairs. But despite this common
thread of being connected to humanity, Klagens come from all walks of life. They don't start off angry like
Grimms or cultivate jealousy like Neids.
Mad doctors are more often Klagens than any other catalyst, since there is so much potential for tragedy in
the healing arts. Even Klagens who begin in other fields can experience a desire to study medicine after their
Breakthrough. But people who will become Cassandras come from nearly any walk of life, since tragedy can
strike anywhere. Some are construction workers and machinists who lose friends to accidents,
mismanagement and plant closings (often caused by their own failures; catalyzing mortals who can blame
someone else more often become Grimms or Neids). Others are researchers who watch friends grow
obsessed with studies that eventually destroy them―some Klagens almost seem like echoes of another
would-be genius, annihilated during their Breakthroughs―while others grow obsessed with their own
studies, only to wake up one day and realize that everyone has left them, and all that remains is their work.
Comparatively few Klagens come from outside the scientific community, however; most regular people faced
with tragedy move on, or fall to despair; few see a solution or a way to stop those tragedies from happening
Klagens come from backgrounds that see great suffering. Many are ex-military or former doctors, with the
Skills to back up those origins. They are often gifted, possessing high Intelligence or some other Attribute, but
prone to moral failings that imply a feeble Resolve. Cassandras that come from technical or blue-collar
positions, such as auto-mechanics and construction workers, often have excellent Dexterity, Intelligence, and
Wits, while those who saw their political dreams destroyed can be highly influential speakers when they find
With so many Klagens coming from the medical world, Medicine is a common Skill. Others see the world of
the metanormal and supernatural as the quickest route to healing the damage they've caused, and become
masters of the Occult, while others try to escape humanity entirely for a time, and learn self-sufficient Skills
like Survival and Animal Ken. Those that fall out of society completely become the wandering mad, their
street-level experiences reflected in Skills like Brawl, Larceny, and Streetwise―though few Klagens remain in
this state for long.
Concepts: Disgraced software engineer, geneticist who made a fatal error, unwitting creator of monsters,
shack-dwelling crazy person, prophetic ecoterrorist, fallen trophy wife, nihilistic politico, scholar of genocide,
hollowed-out social worker.
"When I was in high school my teacher told me that there are more people alive today than have ever lived. Don't
worry: she lied, then got cancer. (Not my fault.) We live atop a mountain of corpses. The Earth is swimming in
humans, above and below the ground, so when I see you trying to raise the dead, I'm torn. On the one hand, I
recognize your despair. On the other hand, do you really want to spend the rest of the week fending off a zombie
apocalypse as the Earth vomits up her dead? AGAIN? Come on, man, think this through: every time you try this, we
end up fighting zombies. I hate zombies. Just put the syringe down."
Grimm: Rage just makes more hurt. Reflect on what has hurt you; that will stop it from happening again.
Hoffnung: We can hope for small victories, maybe. Revolutionary change is beyond the reach even of
Inspiration in this awful world.
Neid: The terrible truth is that no one cares about you enough to hate you.
Staunen: What childish whimsy, to pretend to see "beyond" the horrors of this world. In truth you just ignore
The Catalyst of Banishment
Traditional Planet: Saturn
"Scoff at me, will you? I'll show them! I'll show them all!"
Neids are the most likely of all geniuses to have been part of the traditional breeding pool. Many belonged to
cutting-edge research groups and saw something none of their peers could see; others were trapped in safe
but mediocre scientific careers until one day Inspiration hit. All, of course, suffered during their
Breakthrough, usually leaving trails of broken friendships and destroyed reputations. Despite their origin,
almost no Neids remain in science after their Breakthroughs; while some geniuses can fake legitimate
research, the Banished are often too bitter and resentful to remain amidst the consensus.
Of all geniuses, Neids are also the most likely to go crazy well before their catalysts. This madness is subtle, at
first, and usually begins either as skewed reasoning or paranoia. Skewed reasoning quickly results in a
decline in the pre-Neid's job performance; this, especially if it's coupled with claims of "miraculous" results
(caused by stray Mania as the genius begins his Breakthrough), results in resentment and pity from the
budding genius' peers. Those Neids that catalyze first through paranoia often do excellent work, but they
become increasingly afraid of sabotage or theft, that someone is trying to destroy or steal their research. Even
if this is the case, as a pre-Neid grows more paranoid, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and
Wyrms are often the most security-minded of the Inspired, focusing on acts of subtle retribution: Computer,
Investigation, Stealth, and Larceny are areas of particular focus, and most Neids favor Subterfuge over other
Social skills. Generally, Neids prefer the oblique approach.
Many Neids are brilliant, and even those that were mediocre scholars before their Breakthrough feel their
intellects transformed by Mania upon becoming Inspired, meaning that most favor Mental Attributes. Many
Neids make poor Social specimens, though, with arrogance, suspicion, and sheer orneriness limiting their
ability to make friends and influence people. A few Neids, though, keep their bitterness well-hidden, and are
often masters of Manipulation, but few of the Banished have much Composure; the slightest hint of rudeness
can send one careening into an insane rant. Whether a Neid is physically-oriented varies greatly; most come
from academic or technical fields, which makes it unlikely, but the few non-scientific Neids who appear are
often tough and physically capable, and others see fitness of body as an important adjunct to fitness of mind.
Despite their frequently limited Social abilities, many Neids have old contacts and favors owed that give them
an impressive collection of Social Merits: Allies might be rare, but Contacts, Resources, and especially Status
are all very common, and even Fame is not unheard-of; at least one infamous Neid even has a late-night radio
show where her rants about the government destroying her research have made her a local celebrity.
Concepts: Paranoid hacker, pyramid scam victim, tale-telling Ufologist, neurotic security consultant,
calculating mastermind, betrayed researcher, ex-CEO holed up in the woods, jittery cat burglar
"First let me tell you that human beings without mathematical souls are transparent to God and thus mean nothing
to Him. So you ask, why does God (who is the Equation) care about window-souls? He doesn't, but the Devil, whom
I define as our negative thoughts, does, and directs window-soul humans at us to destroy us. These humans think
they think and feel, but they are without the highest Number and their feelings are only our self-doubt. Destroy
your self-doubt, be free of their hatred. Or destroy them, and be free of your self-doubt. Vengeance is time- and
space-symmetrical, like any good equation."
Grimm: Anger is good, but ask yourself, what right do you have to be angry? That's right: you deserve to be
angry because they hate you, and they've taken away what you love.
Hoffnung: Alright, "make it better." I can get behind that. But you need to know who wants to make it worse
Klagen: Other people get hurt all the time. Why can't you see the pattern in it?
Staunen: Yes, it's a candy-coated wonderland, isn't it? The cosmos has its boot on your throat, and you're
admiring the shoelaces.
The Catalyst of Curiosity
Traditional Planet: Mercury
"Oh, the things I have seen..."
The Staunens saw something before their Breakthrough and it consumed them. Most Staunens were
hobbyists: not full scientists, but not rank amateurs either; they were explorers, tinkers, and investigators.
Seeing something new and strange, whether in the flicker of a telescope or the scrolling lines of computer
code, they grew hungry for more. Staunens not drawn from the breeding pool are often investigative
journalists or private investigators who stumble upon something too weird to dismiss but not quite
horrifying enough to bury behind fugues and night-terrors. They might never even see what they hunt,
whether it's an immortal Ophidian who controls the town's mayor or a secret spawning-ground of electronic
manes. Instead, the fascination itself is what drives these amateur sleuths and mystery-seekers.
Staunens are often more like "pure scientists" than other catalysts, exploring the world for its own sake. They
often study Computer and Science more than Crafts, and they are the most likely to study the Occult. Those
that seek out the weird and extraordinary have a variety of Physical Skills like Larceny and Survival, while
Staunens who began their careers as journalists or investigators usually possess Investigation, Politics, and
Catalysts of curiosity often result in a more stable personality than with other mad scientists, granting higher
Composure. Those Staunens able to articulate their amazement at the world often possess blazing Presence.
Staunens without Social Attributes are also common, though; these often possess staggering Intelligence and
Wits to record and make sense of observations, as well as high Resolve to survive weeks or months of
repetitive study for little reward.
Many Staunens let their previous social engagements melt away upon their catalyst, meaning that Social
merits like Allies and Fame are comparatively rare. In contrast, Staunens often have excellent senses and
memories, making Merits like Eidetic Memory common.
Concepts: Forgotten stargazer, cryptid-hunter, bright-eyed theologian, cartographer of mysterious places,
obsessed genealogist, manipulative social engineer, lucid dreamer
"I'm afraid I don't see things like you do. I mean it: I'm afraid. What if the things I find beautiful drive you mad?
What if they hollow you out like clever little squirrels getting nuts for the winter, except the nuts are your eyes, and
winter is, I don't know, maybe the Rapture or something? And I'm just smiling while your face gets ripped apart
because I think it's beautiful? These things worry me sometimes, when I'm not not looking at the night sky. So I
spend a lot of time looking at the night sky, and not looking at your face and thinking about squirrels."
Grimm: Some people mistake blind fury for a sense of true justice. There is justice in the world, but beating up
polluters like you're Captain fucking Planet isn't what it looks like.
Hoffnung: The world is magnificent as it is, not just as you want it to be.
Klagen: Sorrow is a local and ultimately futile feeling before the majesty of the cosmos.
Neid: There is more to Heaven and Earth than your endless, insufferable whining. I have heard the song of the
universe, and it's telling you to shut up.
To an unmada, an aesthetic is even more important. It is a picture of their philosophy, of what they think is
true. A medical Etherite who rejects the vulgar fallacies of modern genetic science simply cannot build a
wonder that resembles a modern genetic research lab: if he tried, his Inspiration would leave him.
Mechanically, attempts by an unmada to "disguise" a wonder, to make it resemble someone else's aesthetic or
a different aesthetic entirely, incurs a -1 penalty in the building phase. If the aesthetic fundamentally violates
the genius' approach to Inspiration or wonder-working, the penalty becomes -5 and building the wonder also
requires a dot of Willpower.
Geniuses are welcome to select one of the aesthetics below or to create their own. Some geniuses combine
different styles, while others try to stick with functional creations, and others still are defined more by their
"medium"―something like "sonics" or "mirrors"―than by a formal aesthetic.
Sometimes called Technomancer, this aesthetic replaces the normal trappings of science and technology with
a "magical" look, ranging from traditional alchemical laboratories (hence the term) to glowing "runes of
power." The latter was considered half-baked before it premiered by many older geniuses, though the
traditional "dirty mortar and pestle" look is popular with some Progenitors and Scholastics. Geniuses with a
specific cultural or ethnic identity or a specific interest in ancient cultures focus on specific Alembic styles,
such as Egyptian or ancient Chinese. It is also the most common Oracle aesthetic, alongside Crystal Future.
Some geniuses who favor this style sincerely believe in the unity of science and "magic" (however they define
it); others are playing around with semiotics and what it means to be a wonder-worker.
A modern organic style that came about around the same time as Digital Chrome, Black Plastic encourages an
organic look to its technology (even the non-organic stuff), usually casting everything in asymmetric black
rubber that is designed to unsettle viewers. Black Plastic is a perennial favorite, with its popularity oscillating
but remaining fairly constant in the Peerage. Progenitors are very fond of this aesthetic; they often
incorporate insect motifs into their creations. A combination of Black Plastic and Trash Praxis has recently
become popular; its most common nickname is Crawling Rusty Meat.
An outgrowth of the Functionalist anti-movement of the 70s, which basically said "Stop dressing up your
fucking wonders and just make sure they work," the Brutalist doctrine goes one step further, encouraging a
deliberately functional and inelegant look. Wonders in this school are made from pre-fab parts, if possible,
because that's cheaper, or unpainted (or camouflage) custom parts if necessary. Components look strippeddown,
ugly, and exposed. The Brutalist style is popular with Navigators and some Mechanists, and with many
militaristic and survivalist geniuses. Exposed metal and clashing combinations of alloys and polymers are
common in this style.
One of the oldest aesthetics that is self-consciously an aesthetic, clockwork is exactly like it sounds: geniuses
who adhere to this style favor mechanical devices if at all possible, using springs and muscles for power and
intricate assemblages of gears for moving parts. For Axioms where this maxim might seem inapplicable, such
as Apokalypsi, Inspired employ clever mirrors and prisms. This aesthetic is of course most popular with
Mechanists, though it is also popular with many older and more traditional Inspired. An older variant, called
Baroque, mixes Clockwork with rococo fashions; it is little-practiced today.
"Crystal Future" refers to the images of the future or of "lost" but advanced civilizations popular from the
19th century well into the mid or late 20th. In this Utopian vision, the streets are clean, machinery is powered
by crystals or other nebulous sources, and everyone wears togas and seems very calm all the time. Its
practitioners are an equal mix of sincere devotees and snickering parodists. This aesthetic is still popular in
Lemuria, especially among Oracles, as well as certain Etherites and those Mechanists focused on Apokalypsi
or Katastrofi. Among the Peerage, this aesthetic has a faintly sinister reputation, despite its squeaky-clean
appearance, as many of Lemuria's Secret Masters maintained this style before they were wiped out.
The current "far future" style, with the hard edge of reality coupled with the optimistic vision of a transhuman
future, is termed Extropic. In this aesthetic, the genius focuses on advanced speculative science such as
nanotechnology, gene-line body alteration, and digital consciousness. Extropy is as much a philosophy as an
aesthetic, and the actual appearance of wonders varies, though effort is put into making technology appear
elegant, unobtrusive, and functional. But the core of the Extropic aesthetic is not the appearance, but an
approach to technology that focuses on cutting-edge research and the blurring of the concept of "human."
Another perennial aesthetic, dating back at least to 15th century Italians imagining what Aristotle's wonders
might have looked like, Macedon sees surges in popularity every few decades. The current return to the
spotlight is probably the fault of "Greek-punk" movies and video games, just as the previous jump began
during Hollywood's Golden Age of sword-and-sandal flicks. The Macedon aesthetic uses as its starting-point
the steam-powered machines of Hero of Alexandria. Stylistic elements include the use of bronze instead of
more advanced metals, Hellenic friezes, and intricate mirrors to engage in long-distance communication and
attack. Variant styles, based on the ancient bronze-steam-and-glass wonders of Persia, Egypt, and India have
also seen intermittent popularity; these styles are distinguished from their Alembic equivalents by being
more explicitly technological, often sporting exposed Antikythera-style clockwork.
"Cyberpunk" stylings are called Digital Chrome by mad scientists. Typical affectations include heavy chrome
or plastic cybernetics, thick plugs bolted into flesh, and chunky, bulky communication devices, coupled with
bright colors, neon, and vinyl. Digital Chrome was the look back in the 80s, though it has since declined in
popularity. It now sits between modern and properly retro, and has few new adherents, though geniuses who
catalyzed in the midst of that era (now in middle age) still sport the look. The colonization of the Grid may see
a resurrection of the style.
A popular style during the "golden age of science fiction" and a little bit beyond―from the late 40s to the late
70s―"Oscilloscope" was the first aesthetic that actually received a name, rather than "that style that the
geniuses in California are into now" or whatever. Oscilloscope style focuses on plastic, aluminum, chrome,
atomic power, jets, and radio technology. Expect big computers, angular machinery in that off-beige "old PC"
color, and track suits. It is deeply uncool among modern geniuses, and practically marks one as an Atomist, for
whom the Jet Age and Space Age dreams have yet to die. A few young geniuses have begun wearing this style
ironically, or mixing it with Extropic, but the Oscilloscope aesthetic is still associated with earlier generations.
While this aesthetic got its start among underwater-themed geniuses, it has spread onto land with the rise of
modern biotechnology. The Home Grown look features organic components, subtle curves, and
bioluminescent illumination, giving it a warmer and more humane appearance than Black Plastic. It is popular
among ecologically-minded geniuses in the Peerage as well as some Oracles, and is well-regarded among
geniuses for whom the biological sciences are of primary interest. Experiments with overlapping Home
Grown and Alembic led to a short-lived fad that is now referred to (contemptuously) as Fairy Princess.
This term was originally an insult, though many of its practitioners have co-opted the term as their own. Pod
People aesthetic includes a sleek, refined look, usually in all-white or some other solid color, with rounded
edges, a "finished" appearance (in contrast to the rough appearance of many wonders), and a user-friendly
interface with as few buttons, gadgets, and doo-dads as possible. (A one-panel comic in Alloy Blend shows the
standard Pod People ray gun: a smooth-cornered hand-held white rectangle with a single black button
labeled "Kill.") This aesthetic also favors small, elegant devices, and practitioners often try to make handheld
wonders as small and unobtrusive as possible. Pod People aesthetic is sometimes held in low regard,
especially by Steampunks and Functionals; its adherents are thought to spend too much time polishing their
devices to look pretty, and not enough time working out the bugs. The style is most popular among Directors
and some Progenitors; it is extremely rare in Lemuria.
The most common term for the "retro-future" look that dominated mad science (and some sane science) from
the 1930s to the 1950s. Common elements of Ray Gun styling include fins and "fiddly bits" on Skafoi devices,
Jacob's ladders, big cylindrical robots, and a focus on electricity and chemistry. (Chrome and atomic power
are generally considered late Ray Gun or Oscilloscope) Ray gun fashions are, of course, huge among Etherites,
though it also has many adherents among Directors, who favor the classic image of power and confidence it
provides. Googie is a sort of West Coast "beachfront" ray gun style in pastel colors and eye-assaulting fonts;
Raygun Gothic mixes the classic Ray Gun look with baroque spires and exposed metal.
If Oscilloscope is not quite retro and Digital Chrome is just past its sell-by date, Steampunk is the current too-cool-for-school
"big thing." All the kids are doing it: brass goggles, clanking mechanical servants, radium guns,
and rivet-covered work uniforms are currently all the rage among the postgrads. (The Martian Empire is
confused, but happy, that they are now "totally hip"). Steampunk is deliberately retro and it reflects a past
that never was: even the geniuses who lived in the Victorian era dressed practically or in traditional fashion,
rather than the "brass rivet" look, and many wonders from that era actually affected a Baroque look (which
was, in its own time, deliberately retro and reflecting a 17th century aesthetic that also never existed).
Steampunk aesthetic is popular in the Peerage, particular among Scholastics. In Lemuria, it has begun to
eclipse Ray Gun styles for Etherites.
First appearing in the 80s, Trash Praxis (named after the now-defunct magazine of the same name) is the
name for a style based on scavenging whatever one can in order to build one's wonders. Trash Praxis is
popular among geniuses in impoverished nations (though they aren't making a damn fashion statement) and
with the poor, the disaffected, and the self-styled punks of the modern world. The Dumpster Diver Merit is
nearly a prerequisite for this aesthetic. It is rare in Lemuria, but many Artificers and no-nonsense Navigators
like the brutal effect of a wonder built out of trash and discarded normal machinery.
Named for the movie studio, not any sense of universal style, this aesthetic dates from an era before geniuses
thought much about "aesthetics" and just used what was at hand. In fact, it was nearly the last such style
before the 20th century ushered in a new sort of self-awareness among the Inspired. Resembling
Frankenstein's laboratory from the movies (hence the name), this bubbling, crackling, cluttered look was
common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially among remote geniuses who were forced to use and
re-use specimens. An elegant aesthetic for a more civilized age, Universal has mostly been usurped by
Steampunk, Alembic, and other deliberately "retro" stylings on one side, and more modern functional
aesthetics like Oscilloscope or Brutalist on the other. Nonetheless, it was so common in Europe and America
for so long that old labs (some labs have been in continuous use for centuries) still feature the stitched
homunculi, sizzling Jacob's ladders, and stained beakers that came to symbolize "mad science" in the minds of
a century of movie-goers.
"The fear of infinity is a form of myopia that destroys the possibility of seeing the actual infinite, even though it in
its highest form has created and sustains us, and in its secondary transfinite forms occurs all around us and even
inhabits our minds."
A genius' Breakthrough is an amazing and hideous event, and a great accomplishment: those who survive the
experience (somewhat) sane and whole should be commended merely for making it through in one piece. But
catalyzing is only the beginning of a genius' journey. For weeks or even months, a genius might flail about
with nothing but raw Mania and the effects it can engender. Some lonesomes might stay here indefinitely,
with a touch of insanity separating them from mere mortals and a gift for understanding machines and
pushing them to the limit.
But eventually, most geniuses, even isolated ones, start to recognize patterns and systems. They look past the
apparently random shifts of Mania, the equations that dance on the page or behind the computer screen, and
find tangles of predictability and repeatability, something they can hold on to: the Axioms of mad science.
From there a genius can start to build up a system and a philosophy.
The International Union of Artifice
Nicknames: Makers, Tinkers, Artisans
Despite the fear the Artificers engender, no one better exemplifies the new spirit of creation that has swept
the mortal world and now echoes in the society of the Inspired. Artificers literally create their own worlds: a
Maker's laboratory, and even her home, takes on the forms and aesthetics she admires. Flowers grow to cover
wrought iron when a floral Maker takes up residence. Art spreads across walls and ceilings wherever an
artistic Artificer rests his head for the night. Charming electronic machines appear in the windows of a digital
Artificer's office. This isn't magic, of course, but the byproduct of creation; Artificers are too full of life and
passion to contain it all within their wonders, and it spreads out of them, in their work and free time, to
transform the world.
The Artificers are the least organized of all the foundations, and they've always been that way, despite
occasional attempts to revive the Medieval guild system of Masters, Journeymen, and Apprentices. Currently,
however, some Artificers take the "Union" part of their title seriously. In some cities where Artificers are
numerous and times are hard, Artificers form into Unions, made up of workers and led by a figure referred to
simply as Boss. Artificer Bosses keep in touch at an International level via email and Apokalypsi, but there's
no head to the organization, at least not currently, though they do produce a newszine called Collaboration.
A Union Hall provides a place to stay, protection, and equipment, forming a sort of extended collaborative that
resembles a Lemurian zotheca in its sprawling extent. Most Union Halls don't mind members of other
foundations using their facilities, as long as they give back in kind. A few of the more powerful Unions work to
regulate Mania and technological supplies, and have begun to encounter harassment and attacks from
Lemurians, who don't appreciate a disorganized mess of a foundation honing in on their turf.
Other than the Unions, the Artificers are mostly a bunch of harmless old tinkers and punk kids. The older
generations of Artificers, those who haven't been radicalized by the influx of new blood, are almost entirely
unaware of the younger generation's activities, or really of anything else. Though there are numerous shortlived
zines, forums, and magazines, the newsletter Mechanical Experimenter is the best-regarded piece of
print that Artificers reliably produce; everyone reads it, from the most clueless old kitbasher to the most
Most Artificers, with their interest in creation over theory, favor Craft over Science and Science over
Academics. They put little stock in hypotheticals and abstract reasoning, but many are nonetheless gifted
mathematicians and draftsmen. Those Artificers who think to record blueprints of their wonders take up
Expression. Artificers are increasingly diverse today: hackers and roboticists bolster their Crafts Skills with
Computer, while genetic engineers favor Medicine.
Many Artificers have a gift for bashing together an immediate solution, meaning that Wits is as important as
traditional brainpower. Embracing the New Makers' gutter-punk ethos means good Survival, Streetwise, and
Investigation, to find what they need, and often a bit of Stealth, Larceny, and Subterfuge to grab it. Artificers
like their Katastrofi, too, which means that combat training is common, with a focus on unusual Firearms.
The Dumpster Diver Merit is popular among the younger set, though Social Merits are comparatively rare: the
New Makers are rarely scions of the powerful. Most Artificers, in addition to their intense focus on whatever
helps them build the next wonder, pick up an eclectic mix of Skills and Merits due to their haphazard lives.
Concepts: Back-alley machinist, caffeine-addled computer hacker, master bladesmith, automotive greasemonkey,
Quote: "Good, fast, and cheap: you get all three. And if you talk like that to my people again, you're going to
wake up as a collection of spare parts."
Directors: Rich idiots in charge of other rich idiots. They don't own me.
Navigators: Someone needs to test this thing out. I bruise easy.
Progenitors: They make okay stuff, but this "Long live the new flesh" crap has to stop.
Scholastics: They actually believe that we've already figured everything out. Weird.
Rogues: A million wannabe punks all pulling in different directions, getting nothing done.
Lemurians: Oh no! That Lemurian went and built a Tandy-9000! And that other one just designed a steam
locomotive! However can I compete?
The Illuminated: A polite reminder that metal and tools go in one category, and your fellow human beings go
in another category.
Other Creatures: These monsters might last forever, but the things they make don't.
Mortals: There's no love in what they make. It just gets churned out, then forgotten. What a waste.
The Fellowship for Manifest Direction
Nicknames: Overlords, Disputers, The Loud
Each Director burns with ambition, with vision,
with a terrible yearning for more: more power, more wealth, more control, more safety, more revenge. It
doesn't matter what it is, but all Directors live lives of restless dissatisfaction. An individual Director might be
afraid, or uneasy, or ambitious, or merely curious, but all want the same thing: to accumulate power, at nearly
any cost. It's the naked ambition that shocks people, more than what the Director plans to do with all that
power. A genius' catalyst often strips away certain subtleties in a person's nature, exposing something
smooth and archetypal, and in the Directors is this tendency most strongly manifested. Some might climb the
greased pole to escape the machinations of their underlings, to exercise control over the pitiful world of
mortals, or merely to get laid every weekend, but all Directors possess a horrible, blank, all-consuming lust
for power that exists outside of any concrete goal or desire. A Director is a scientist-aristocrat, a wealthy
master of hypnotism, a would-be ruler of the world, who wouldn't even know what to do if at the end he sat
alone and unchallenged on a throne of pure diamond and looked out over his dominion of the Earth.
The Directors are more organized than other foundations. Every Director, whether she knows it or not,
belongs to a Dominion, a geographic region that contains from ten to 30 million mortals. The United States
contains twenty-three Dominions. Each Dominion is run by a Heterogeny, made up of three, five, seven, or
eleven influential Directors called Dispensers, one of whom is appointed the Overlord and manages the
regional finances. Many lesser ranks exist beneath the Dispensers. This group manages the affairs of the
Directors in that area from some central location. Every ten years, the Heterogenies vote on a Clade, which
consists of 44 Directors (currently; the population grows with the total number of Directors). The Clade, in
turn, sets policy for all the Directors from a central location in one of the world's major skyscrapers. (The
exact location varies from year to year.)
Directors technically have a single source for all Director-related scholarship, a monthly magazine called
Control. However, that's the old way. The new Directors, the up-and-comers, favor an ever-shifting network of
newsgroups and contacts squirting micro-assessments to their phones or laptops in a constant stream of
evaluation and analysis.
Most rank-and-file Directors, whatever their style, interact only vaguely with the hierarchy of their Dominion,
instead working on small-scale projects within their collaborative. Those that focus inward often serve simply
by remaining loyal to those on top and fighting for scraps of power in predictable ways. Others, though, join
some of the cultural groups within the Fellowship for Manifest Direction, organizations that exist not for the
benefit of their individual members but to protect and enhance the foundation as a whole. The Jaguar People
serve as the Directors' elite guards. The Mirror People handle counterintelligence and espionage. The
Stochastic People deal with issues of raw material, transport, and extraction. The Sigil People monitor
internal affairs and handle audits and personnel. The Tower People (whom everyone calls the People
People) deal with the mundane population. These groups were once vitally important to the foundation's
well-being and had intricate hierarchies and protocols; now, with the power structures of all the foundations
flattened, most of these groups are little more than a news feed with jobs to be done and rewards to be
The Overlords focus on Social Attributes and Skills as much as Mental ones. They are orators and
administrators, and they often view themselves as the "elite" of the Inspired, best able to command the efforts
of other geniuses. Composure often trumps Resolve, as looking in control is more important in the Manifest
Fellowship than actually having it together. Physical Attributes are sometimes neglected in favor of
Intelligence and Presence, especially among Directors who prefer to act through proxies.
Social Skills are also prioritized, though Directors of different styles focus on different approaches: a
scheming, manipulative genius may focus on Subterfuge, while an expert at raising money and giving
presentations might emphasize Expression and Persuasion. This is not to imply that Directors neglect their
scientific training: most are as technically competent as members of the other foundations, though they often
seem reticent to emphasize that fact. Academics and Computer, to fit their favored Axioms, are common,
though medical Directors, aeronautics Directors, and even occult research Directors all exist.
Many Directors define themselves by their Social Merits: Allies, Contacts, Status, and Resources are all
common. Some even stay in the mortal limelight with Fame. Directors enjoy large numbers of beholden, and
can always find work for them. They're rarely the Dumpster Diver sort.
Concepts: Lab director, wannabe Bond villain, professional debunker, millionaire industrialist, member of
the Mad Ethics Board, unconventional psychologist, New Age techno-guru
Quote: "Like even the strongest iron bar, every man has a weak point, and it can be found."
Artificers: If only we could convince them to make something useful.
Navigators: Arrogant, insufferable hotshots! I like that. Besides, someone has to break heads when
negotiations break down.
Progenitors: Busy swallowing their own tails. At least they won't take too many people with them this time.
Scholastics: Research and development, that's where it starts. It's just not where it ends.
Rogues: Usually poor and looking for work. But I'm glad to work outside the system...when it benefits me.
Lemurians: How sad it is, to watch gifted geniuses worshiping at the altar of their dead ancestors.
The Illuminated: No, I'm not like them. They don't pay their test subjects.
Other Creatures: Generally dangerous, horrible, and uncouth, with a frightening lack of manners.
Mortals: They never listen.
The Center for Circumferential Navigation
Nicknames: Daredevils, Guardians, Fire Bait
Deep sea or deep space colonist, jet pack flyboy, trailblazer, guardian of the city streets, spatiotemporal
researcher, cynical scout
Quote: "I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Hell, I've seen things I don't believe."
Artificers: Reliable, quality construction and professional design. I can't say anything bad about that.
Directors: Someone has to provide organization and funding. Shame it's these assholes.
Progenitors: Their desire for bettering themselves is commendable, but change for change's sake is pointless.
Scholastics: Evenly divided between useless antiquarians and people who know that real knowledge is
farther away than the bookshelf.
Rogues: Unpredictable when the shit starts. Don't trust 'em and don't turn your back.
Lemurians: They're not pathetic or harmless. They're dangerous killers, and they need to be respected for
that, if nothing else.
The Illuminated: You can go out into the Void, but you always need to come back.
Other Creatures: Good in a fight, and usually a lot more reasonable than people make them out to be.
Mortals: A bit too obsessed with creature comforts, but in a pinch, it's nice to have some ex-special forces to
point their guns at the problem.
The Reformed Society of Progenitors
Nicknames: Breeders, Gardeners. Old Breeders are called Demiurges.
Concepts: Revolutionary gene-hacker, man-beast hybrid, posthuman aspirant, fecund brood-mother,
aristocratic uplifter, replicant pimp, drug-fueled psychonaut
Quote: "It'll work this time, I promise. It won't hurt anyone."
Artificers: Trashy self-styled revolutionaries building the disposable future.
Directors: Charming, vacuous creatures. No, I'm not jealous. Not at all.
Navigators: Brave and smart, but incurious and unwilling to take the final step.
Scholastics: They pretend that the world they study doesn't transform them.
Rogues: There is strength in following one's own path. Sometimes there is folly.
Lemurians: The walking abortions of a failed space-time continuum.
The Illuminated: They are not the next step in human evolution.
Other Creatures: They change themselves, but they don't remake themselves.
Mortals: They'll understand soon enough.
The College of Scholastic Theory
Name: The Scholastics
Nicknames: Bookworms, Invisibles, Collegiates
The Scholastics are a diverse and terrifying bunch. They wake things up that people thought were dead, dig
up secrets that people want buried, and bring to light monstrous truths when people would rather believe the
lies. They are investigators and inquisitors, tomb robbers and temple raiders, philosopher-thieves who can
desecrate and exalt with a single act. Rumors in the mortal community of deranged scholars whispering
forbidden words from books long forgotten, of explorers disappearing into ancient Mayan and Egyptian
pyramids, of archaeologists finding pieces of ancient technology in million-year-old rock, all point to the
activities of the College. Scholastics are masters of secrets and revelations, and not just from the ancient past:
a Scholastic might just as easily uncover the dead girls in a local mayor's basement as some squamous alien
nightmare from between the galaxies. Wherever Scholastics go, the earth seems to give up her dead that they
might live again: old secrets, old lies, old betrayals, and old crimes of passion, ignorance, and calculation all
leap back into the light of day, bringing with them tragedy, recrimination, and knowledge long thought lost.
Scholastics don't just organize themselves; due to their influence and pervasiveness, they influence most of
the rest of the Peerage. For centuries, their magazine, Inspiration, has served as the major source for peer
review. (It's also why geniuses refer to themselves as the Inspired; even Lemurians, who once preferred to be
called "the Enlightened," now use the term.) Inspiration has migrated to the online world, and its forums are a
tangled, disorganized, nightmarish back-and-forth of accusations, ridiculous claims, and harebrained
schemes, just the way geniuses like it.
The organization of the Scholastics themselves is based on fields of study, rather than geographic location, a
tradition that began when peers in a dozen major cities installed mass communication devices in the mid
18th century. (These devices, the Mirror-Stones, still stand in Lisbon, Cairo, and Nagasaki; others were lost
but have since been replaced, though their utility is limited today.) Each field is a meritocracy, with rank-andfile
members called Reviewers making up the bulk of the population. Scholastics in the field who can build
rank-4 wonders are called Analysts, and those that can build rank-5 wonders are called Chairmen. Each field
is controlled by a Master, chosen after a contest of Inspired talent called a Sigil Moot.
The Scholastics of today are trickster figures,
walking enigmas, the lying demiurge of pagan myth made flesh: a Scholastic is Loki, or Coyote, or a
modern-day druid speaking only in cant and rhyme. Linear thought is not prized among newer members of
the College. This sort of deep weirdness is not well-regarded by the elders of the College, who view these
young riddlers and brain-hackers as damaging the proud, antique reputation of the College.
Zen machinist, dimensional theorist, historian of mad science, shadowy information broker, prophecyobsessed
survivalist, peripatetic troubleshooter, shaman of higher mathematics
Quote: "If it's true, someone wrote it down, even if just to refute it."
Artificers: Whatever you cobble together, I can show you a diagram of something better.
Directors: Close your mouth. Listen. Put down your pen. Read.
Navigators: The Navigator of today produces the travel journals of tomorrow. If only they knew what they
Progenitors: I don't think they've thought about what they're doing to themselves.
Rogues: A confused rabble.
Lemurians: You're not supposed to believe everything you read.
The Illuminated: They fall the same way, every time: through arrogance and blindness.
Other Creatures: The source for first-hand reports about the strangest things, if they don't tear your head off
Mortals: History is built on their backs. I say this to imply that they are not standing up.
Appearance: 1962 AD
Favored Axioms: Apokalypsi or Automata
Grant: Atomists, of all geniuses, build wonders that are closest to regular pieces of technology. Their wonders make Havoc checks with a bonus equal to the Atomist's Resolve
Appearance: 1915 AD
Favored Axioms: Katastrofi or Skafoi
Grant: Etherites' unified theories give them an unshakable grasp of their wonders' inner workings. When an Etherite channels Mania into one of his own wonders to gain additional dice, it will not suffer damage from the Mania, and it gains an additional +1 bonus for the rest of the scene. (This bonus can only be gained once per scene per wonder.)
Etherites seize on different self-evident physical absolutes, from baffling subatomic particles to all-explaining biopsychic fields.
Appearance: 1895 AD
Favored Axioms: Automata or Prostasia
Grant: A Mechanist's wonders function unusually smoothly. They do not suffer rust or mundane wear-and-tear. Regular wonders gain a +1 bonus to Durability (added after all other sums and multiples) and wonders of Prostasia gain a +1 bonus to their Core Modifier.
Appearance: 1274 AD
Favored Axioms: Exelixi or Metaptropi
Grant: Oracles possess non-material ways of knowing that are seemingly impossible. They can spend a point of Mania to know, instantly, a specific fact that a specialist in a particular academic or scientific field could gather after several hours' research in a world-class library. (A regular library, not one with hidden treasure maps or schematics for amazing wonders.) If the knowledge is outside the reach of this grant, the Oracle knows so and spends no Mania.
Appearance: 1939 AD
Favored Axioms: Apokalypsi or Epikrato
Grant: Phenomenologists are blithely unconcerned with concepts like truth and falsehood. By spending a point of Mania, a Phenomenologist automatically receives five successes (an Exceptional Success) on any Subterfuge check. A Phenomenologist can spend Willpower or additional Mania in the same turn that this grant is used.
Numericals, An Incipient Baramin:
Appearance: Earliest evidence comes from September 1993
Favored Axioms: None yet
Grant: None yet
Sometimes we get the future we want, but we never get the future we expect. Go back to the early days of the
personal computer and of the Internet and you see, in the imagination of those digital pioneers, a very
different world from the one we now inhabit, a world of techno-cowboy bit jockies, AI constructs housing the
secrets of international megacorporations, and endless holographic gridlines representing an infinite virtual
expanse. It was supposed to be a realm of superpowers and supergeniuses, where the brilliant would rise
above all others, buoyed by intellect alone.
It was not, many geniuses insist, supposed to be a place where housewives could post pictures of their cats.
Or businessmen could shop for golf shoes. Or where anyone save the Elite should ever be permitted to set
virtual feet, at any time. The Internet, some geniuses insist, has gone astray, replacing a potential
technological Utopia based on merit and ability with more of the same stupidity we get in meatspace. And
from some place between the servers comes an answer, an echo, saying that's true, it should never have been
this way...something went wrong with the Internet. And slowly, a new baramin draws itself into existence.
The Numericals, who consist mostly of rogues, mathematical Artificers, Atomists, and a few disgruntled
Internet Navigators, are not yet a true baramin. They resemble the Atomists of the 1960s, a loose-knit group
of angry and disaffected eggheads just past their prime, watching their visions of paradise fade away. Time
will tell whether they scatter to the winds or form into a true baramin, vengeful, bitter, and determined to get
digital civilization back on track.
A genius' Skills often determine what approach he takes to his Inspiration. Mental Skills are often primary,
but which Skills receive the most attention can tell a person much about a mad scientist. Experts in Computer
research artificial intelligence and networks beyond the dreams of MIT or Tokyo Tech, while Inspired who
take up Academics are super-psychologists and philosophers. Students of Medicine are not just doctors, but
biologists, surgeons, and biochemical engineers. Geniuses who focus on Crafts can master everything from
aerospace engineering to transatomic metallurgy, and experts on the Occult can catch amazing glimpses of
worlds far removed from this one. The Science Skill serves as the one field tying these disparate branches of
knowledge together, but some geniuses specialize here, too, becoming renowned theorists among the
The mortal Skills a genius gained before his Breakthrough can also determine his foundation. Psychologists
and people with high Social Skills are likely to become Directors, while experts in Medicine look toward the
Progenitors. High-energy physicists and explorers often end up as Navigators, as do scientists with high ranks
in Drive and/or Survival, while Academics, Investigation, and Occult are important to Scholastics. Fiddlers,
hackers, and craftsmen often join the Artificers and focus on Crafts or Computer. Conversely, a genius may
take the opposite approach, getting picked up by a foundation first, and then fleshing out the most useful
Skills with the help of a tutor.
A genius' flesh is mortal, but her mind is something greater, and the Inspiration enhances more than just her
intellect. It somehow redefines her moral system, elevating her to a position of guardianship or stewardship
over humanity. Though a genius might loathe the common man, she is charged with protecting and guiding
her fellow human beings.
Many of the Inspired have an ideal in their minds: the cool watcher of humanity, aloof from its everyday
affairs but concerned with its development as a whole, not passionate but acting out of compassion for those
teeming masses that deserve the benefits of the genius' work. During the Breakthrough, the genius' mortal
Morality is superseded by this new, stronger sense of Obligation.
Ridiculed by peers and despised by common people, many geniuses nonetheless realize that to abandon their
Obligation to humanity entirely reduces them to cruel and inhuman manipulators, utterly alone and willing to
interact with others only as victims, lackeys, and test subjects.
What Do You Look Like?
What is your ethnicity? What fashions do you favor? Do you have a separate "mad scientist" wardrobe, or do you
wear regular clothes in the lab? Or do you walk around "in character" when interacting with normal society? Do
you look like a scientist, mad or otherwise, or would be people be surprised if they found out you have a death
ray in your briefcase?
How Hard Was Your Breakthrough?
Was it a process of gradual revelation, or a sudden thunderbolt from the Heavens that burned out most of your
normal-person circuitry? Did you lose your job, your friends, or your mind, or did you manage to hide the
madness? Are you trying to rebuild, trying to hide what has happened, or happy to let your old self disappear?
How Much of "You" Is Left?
Do you view yourself as basically the same person as you were before your Breakthrough, or do you see yourself
as an inhuman mentality inhabiting a mortal body? How certain are you of that assessment―do you feel
comfortable relating the disparate parts of your higher and lower thoughts, or are you tormented by your new,
Who Matters To You?
Are any other geniuses your friends, or just co-workers? Are you married? In love―perhaps unrequited? Do you
have a beautiful daughter? (If so, be careful―if you turn evil she'll probably betray you to the hero and let the
monster eat you.) Do you have an extended family, or a network of friends that care about you, or are you alone
in the world except for your fellow geniuses? Do you have a home, or just a workplace where you spend the
What Are You Working On?
What are your long-term mad science plans? Do you have a half-built time machine that you lack the expertise
to finish lying around the lab? What sorts of wonders do you want to build, once you master the necessary
Axioms? Do you have ambitions in the mortal world―in politics, in finance―or in the weird halls of power
created by the Inspired?
Inspiration | Stat Maximum | Max Mania | Max Mania/turn | Jabir Penalty
● 5 10 1 -1
●● 5 12 2 -1
●●● 5 16 3 -1
●●●● 5 20 4 -1
●●●●● 5 25 5 -2
●●●●● ● 6 30 6 -2
●●●●● ●● 7 40 7 -2
●●●●● ●●● 8 60 8 -3
●●●●● ●●●● 9 80 10 -3
●●●●● ●●●●● 10 100 15 -3
As a genius grows more powerful, his Inspiration shines out of him to illuminate the world. This can be a
curse for those mad scientists who want to look more "scientist" than "mad." The genius' Mania begins to
tamper with perception and procedure, skewing any attempt to engage in normal science or to perform
normal experiments. Though the genius himself suffers no penalties―the odd effects from his perception
"cancel out" when brought into conjunction with the odd effects from his behavior―he struggles to
communicate his ideas to others. Modern geniuses call this "technobabble" in an attempt to soften the horror
of the phenomenon, but it's formally known as Jabir, a sudden, paralyzing loss of clarity and coherence when
a genius interacts with a regular mortal.
Any attempt to explain research or to communicate ideas with mere mortals suffers a -1 penalty as the
genius' own Mania scrambles the presentation of his ideas. At Inspiration 5, this penalty grows to -2, and then
to -3 at Inspiration 8. This penalty covers a number of scenarios. It arises if the genius: "talks shop" with a
group of mortal researchers (Presence + Socialize), attempts to cooperate with a group of technicians in fixing
a computer (Intelligence + Computer), defends a new scientific theory (even a mundane one) before a group
of scholars (Wits + Expression), and so on. In general, it is an indicator of how badly a genius can alienate a
crowd once he starts talking about his ideas.
Certain actions, like engaging in Deep Inspiration or transferring excessive Mania to oneself, trigger an
unmada check. To make an unmada check, the genius rolls Obligation.
Dramatic Failure: The genius becomes an unmada.
Failure: The genius becomes an unmada. She can spend a point of Willpower to resist the effect. If she spends
Willpower, the genius instead gains a mild Derangement, or an existing mild Derangement becomes severe,
for the duration of the scene. This Derangement is usually the sort that reinforces the genius' own belief in the
correctness of his worldview: Suspicion, Narcissism, and Avoidance are common.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius feels a brief surge of madness but suffers no ill effects.
Suggested Modifiers: Every additional unmada check in one day (-1), using Deep Inspiration to gain additional
Mania (penalty equals Mania gained), unmada check related to genius' catalyst (+1), unmada check related to
genius' Obligation (+2)
Unmada who trigger an unmada check risk becoming Illuminated. Roll Obligation.
Dramatic Failure: The genius becomes Illuminated.
Failure: The genius becomes Illuminated. She can spend a point of Willpower to resist the effect. If she spends
Willpower, the genius instead automatically loses a dot of Obligation.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius feels something alien slithering behind her eyes but suffers no ill
Once a genius is Illuminated, she can continue to perform actions that grant unmada checks, though she need
not roll. The only exception is Deep Inspiration: an Illuminated cannot attempt Deep Inspiration.
Only Inspired beings can become unmada or Illuminated. Beholden and unInspired manes cannot suffer these
● Enhance Mental Attributes. Mania is, among other things, pure intellectual and creative energy. Every point
of Mania grants a +1 bonus to any one Mental Attribute (Intelligence, Wits, Resolve) for one turn. This can be
any Mental Attribute or combination of Mental Attributes. Geniuses who are also Directors can use Mania to
enhance their Social Attributes in exactly the same way. Navigators can similarly enhance their Physical
Attributes with Mania. Only members of these foundations can enhance non-Mental Attributes with Mania.
● Power mundane technology. By manipulating a machine in ways no sane person could, a genius can keep a
machine running even when it has no ordinary power source. How much one point of Mania buys depends on
Lights in a room: 1 day
Flashlight, cell phone: 1 hour
Portable camera: 10 minutes
Computer: 10 minutes
Automobile: 1 hour
Big Truck: 30 minutes
Prop Plane: 10 minutes
Construction Equipment: 10 minutes
Jet: 1 minute
Every time a genius feeds a point of Mania into a machine, roll one ten-sided die. If the result is a 10, the
object immediately loses one-quarter of its Structure as the genius rips the guts out of the machine and
pushes it beyond the limits of its functionality. A genius can only power mundane technology this way;
wonders have their own ways of using Mania.
● Enhance technology. Every point of Mania grants a +1 bonus to any piece of technology in the genius'
possession for one turn. (A "piece of technology" is any object that an intelligent creature has worked or
modified to use; once someone pulls the leaves off a stick to make a club, it's "technology" and can be affected
by Mania.) Roll the bonus dice for enhanced technology separately. Every 10 that is rolled in this pool causes
the tool to lose one-quarter its maximum Structure. (So, four 10s will destroy a tool.) The tool takes damage
after it is used, not before. Mania can be spent to grant additional dice to wonders as well as conventional
● Understand technology. Geniuses have an intuitive understanding of technological items. Spending a single
point of Mania allows a genius to understand the function and nature of any mundane or wondrous piece of
technology, as well as how to turn it on and operate it (to the limit of the genius' Skills). This requires one
turn of exploration and physical contact with the device. It will not reveal hidden functions or who made it,
nor will it allow a genius to do anything she lacks the Skills to do, but this ability can answer important
questions about what an item is and how it is meant to be used.
● Dismantle technology. A genius can make a Dexterity + Crafts check as an attack roll against any wonder,
mane, mundane technological artifact, or miscellaneous super-science artifact. (Entirely organic devices use
Medicine instead of Crafts.) The genius must spend at least one point of Mania to perform this attack, which
represents quickly analyzing and then ripping apart the target. The number of Mania points spent are added
to the attack roll. The attack causes Lethal or Bashing damage and ignores Durability. The Energy Channeler
Merit can turn this into a ranged attack. A target's Defense subtracts from any attack of this sort. Geniuses
often use this technique when faced with high-Durability wonders that are functionally invulnerably to smallarms
● Using and activating wonders. Many wonders of mad science require Mania points before they can be used. The
expenditure usually activates the wonder for a whole scene, though some wonders require Mania for every use. See
the "Mania" entries under each Axiom. A genius can pay the cost to activate a wonder over the course of several
(consecutive or nonconsecutive) turns within a single scene; once enough Mania is in the wonder, it activates.
A genius can also perform research to generate Mania. "Research" can take several forms: building interesting
but useless gadgets, reading the latest literature, talking with other scientists or researchers, performing
experiments and test-runs, even just standing in front of a blackboard and thinking very hard. A genius with
some kind of "prop" upon which to work (some tools and cogs, a Scientific American she hasn't read before,
another scientist to talk to, or even a note pad and paper) regains one point of Mania per hour of research. A
genius who is simply thinking recovers one point of Mania per two hours. Research dominates a genius' full
attention: she cannot perform research while building wonders, making repairs, conducting investigations, or
even participating usefully in a stake-out or negotiation.
A genius can normally spend up to six hours per day in this kind of research. Every additional hour in one day
requires an unmada check, with a cumulative -1 penalty per additional hour.
Before I Kill You I Will Tell You My Plan:
If the genius has an unwilling person captured and restrained, he can regain a number of Mania equal to his
Inspiration + Presence. This requires at least thirty seconds of ranting and can only be done once per day.
This triggers an unmada check. The act itself is not a transgression, but getting there often is (kidnapping is
an Obligation-6 transgression), and triggering an unmada check is an Obligation-8 transgression.
I Hope This Wasn't Important To You:
The unmada (and only they) have one additional avenue of Mania recovery. Destroying an object of particular
value that the genius disagree with, such as burning an ancient scroll containing "unlawful" secret techniques
or smashing a laptop that was set to broadcast the indiscretions of the unmada's group, nets a number of
Mania equal to the genius' Inspiration + Resolve. This can only be done once per day. Lemurians call this
technique "editing" and use it to dispose of unwelcome ideas and artifacts that contradict their pet theories.
Editing, whatever a genius calls it, is an Obligation-6 transgression.
A genius can spend Mania she doesn't have by reaching deep into her psyche. This is a reflexive action. She
can channel the normal amount of Mania per turn based on her Inspiration. Upon doing so, she makes an
unmada check with a penalty equal to the number of points of Mania channeled.
These additional Mania points do not add to the genius' total Mania score; they must be spent immediately.
Illuminated cannot perform Deep Inspiration.
"Doing Science To It":
Transferring Mania from a "thinking" source to a "motive" one (such as a genius "feeding" Mania to a wonder)
requires that the genius "Do Science To It." This requires physical contact and involved flipping knobs,
removing superficial damage, tightening bolts, and other technological activities that are outside the scope of
mundane technological activity. Going the other way―a wonder "feeding" stored Mania to a genius―requires
"Doing Analysis": analyzing readouts that come out of the machine, measuring it with calipers, and other
behavior that makes no sense from the perspective of normal science but that nonetheless gives the genius
vital insight, which translates as Mania.
10: Allowing one's wonder to risk Havoc. Using
wonders to accomplish a task when it could
have been accomplished just as well with
mundane science or skill. Experimenting on
animals. (Roll five dice)
9: Allowing one's wonder to turn temporarily
orphan. Altering oneself or another person with
mad science, even temporarily (not including
healing). Going a day without human contact.
Minor selfish acts. Performing surgery. (Roll
8: Injury to another (accidental or otherwise).
Failing to help a victimized innocent in need.
Triggering an unmada check in oneself.
Emotional manipulation. Grave-robbing,
dissection, or making zombies. Allowing one's
wonder to turn permanently orphan. (Roll four
7: Petty theft (shoplifting). Allowing an innocent
to die or be seriously injured without making
effort to save the person. Making a person
beholden. Mind control. Experimenting on
willing human subjects (including oneself)
where there is some possibility of harm.
Unintentional mass property damage brought
about by Inspiration. (Roll four dice)
6: Grand theft (burglary). Kidnapping. "Editing" to
gather Mania. Going a week without human
contact. Creating an intelligent machine
(Automata 4+). Body swapping. (Roll three
5: Killing an intelligent being. Intentional, mass
property damage (arson, most doom cannons).
Experimenting on willing human subjects
(including oneself) where there is a serious
possibility of death or harm. Programming
permanent psychological limitations into an
intelligent being. (Roll three dice)
4: Impassioned serious crime (manslaughter).
Sadistic mind control (of the "forcing two
friends to fight for your amusement" variety or
similar acts of cruelty.) Permanently and
significantly altering your physical form
(adding two more arms, etc.) (Roll two dice)
3: Going a month without human contact. Planned
serious crime (murder). Slavery. Experimenting
on unwilling human subjects where there is a
serious possibility of death or harm.
Permanently and entirely altering your physical
form (uploading yourself into a computer or
becoming a giant caterpillar). (Roll two dice)
2: Bringing the dead back to life. Rape or sexual
mind control. Serial murder. Spreading massive
plague and devastation. (Roll one die)
1: Mass murder. Hideous experiments on
unwilling human subjects. Scientific torture.
Genocide. (Roll one die.)
Benefits of Obligation:
A genius with an Obligation of 7 or higher qualifies as a Paragon. People have difficulty imagining that the
genius is up to no good. Even the most maladjusted genius, if he possesses high Obligation, is automatically
seen as a trustworthy authority figure by regular mortals, someone to be admired for his intelligence and
contributions to humanity. The genius gains a +1 bonus to all Social checks when acting from a position of
knowledge or authority. Further, anyone trying to tar the genius' reputation suffers a -3 penalty to the
Drawbacks of Obligation:
Stunted Social Skills:
The Inspired are often awkward and isolated people, and as Obligation falls, this problem grows worse. A
genius with Obligation 5 or higher suffers no penalty. A genius with Obligation 3 or 4 suffers a -1 penalty to all
Social checks, while a genius with Obligation 1 or 2 suffers a -2 penalty.
One of the Illuminated, who has no Obligation, is as charming as any other psychopath and suffers no such
caps, though many are so insane they cannot communicate meaningfully. Directors are also immune to this
disadvantage when they spend Mania to boost their Social Attributes, which only encourages some to neglect
their Obligation further.
The Broken Chains:
Should a genius reach zero Obligation, she becomes one of the Illuminated. Freed from all ethical constraints,
she becomes an abomination of science and forbidden secrets, able to see humans only as victims and objects.
Adopted Orphan (● to ●●●●●):
When a genius dies or abandons an experiment, or a wondrous mane escapes its natural home, the result is
an orphan, a feral wonder that survives by scavenging or stealing Mania. These creatures are often dangerous,
but a genius can instill a sense of loyalty in some such creatures through regular feeding and kindness. Such
orphan wonders are said to be "adopted" by a genius.
This Merit grants a genius one or more such orphan wonders. The genius did not build this wonder. Instead
she acquired it. This means that she need not possess the necessary Axioms or training to build the wonder.
Many mad scientists seek out complementary orphans in order to begin a symbiotic relationship: the genius
provides a regular supply of Mania, while the orphan grants the genius abilities she would not ordinarily
Generator (● to ●●●●●):
The genius possesses an object that generates Mania. These extraordinary devices are found, not made, and
represent peculiar relics of mad or sane-but-terrifying science: alien elemental dynamos, self-transforming
equations scribbled in forgotten notebooks, mundane objects "imprinted" with the energy of scientific
breakthroughs, highly radioactive atomic piles, and radios for talking to God. These strange one-off devices
exist partly in our world and partly in the realm of Idea, and some have been fought over by mad scientists for
generations or millennia.
The amount of Mania generated per day and the maximum amount of Mania it can store depends on the
Generator's Size and rank.
Utility Belt (● to ●●●●●):
A Utility belt is a handheld device (Size 2) that grants a genius a +1 bonus when working on wonders. All
utility belts grant a +1 to Science. Each rank in this Merit grants the genius another +1 bonus with one other
Skill: Academics, Computer, Crafts, Medicine, or Occult. This bonus is typically used to build and repair
wonders, but it can be used for mundane applications of the Skill too. A Utility Belt also removes the
rank/Resources penalty due to kitbashing. (See Kitbashed Wonders, Page 138.)
Utility belts are portable while laboratories are not, but utility belts (which are not always belts; some
Inspired prefer tool cases or rucksacks) cannot be combined with a lab's Equipment bonus. They are most
popular with geniuses on the move. A genius cannot use another genius' utility belt.
Academics: Any wonder designed to engage in mind control or sociological manipulation or analysis. Any
wonder that manipulates or analyzes probabilities. Any four- or five-dot Automata wonder. Any mind-reading
or thought-projecting wonder of Apokalypsi, or any entirely organic wonder of Apokalypsi.
Computer: Any wonder of Automata not entirely organic. Any wonder of Apokalypsi except except those built
to detect or project thoughts or that are entirely organic. Any wonder that can manipulate or seize control of
Crafts: Any wonder defined primarily by its structure and shape, including all wonders of Katastrofi not
entirely organic and all Skafoi vehicles not entirely organic. Any wonder of Automata that possesses
manipulators or the ability to move and that is not entirely organic. Any wonder of Prostasia not entirely
organic or based on "shield" or "screen" technology. Any wonder designed to upgrade, repair, or transmute
mechanical, electronic, or other non-living devices.
Medicine: Any wonder made out of organic material. Any wonder that uses poison, or that deploys or launches
organic material. Any wonder designed to perform healing, surgery, or biological shape-changing or
manipulation. Any wonder of Automata with organic components.
Occult: Any wonder of Automata that was once a corpse. Anything that explicitly targets a metanormal being
Science: Any wonder of Katastrofi that emits rays, beams, or energy rather than physical particles to cause
damage. Any wonder of Katastrofi that deals Aggravated damage. Any wonder of Skafoi of rank 3 or higher.
Any wonder of Prostasia that uses "shields," "screens," or other non-physical means of protection. Any
wonder that manipulates the weather. Any wonder that employs telekinesis. Any wonder of Metaptropi. Any
wonder where no other Skill applies.
Mania and Willpower:
A genius can spend both Mania and Willpower on building a wonder, if desired. A genius can spend an
amount of Mania on building a wonder equal to his per-turn expenditure (based on Inspiration), and can
spend up to one point of Willpower.
Wonder Rank and Bound Mania:
A wonder has a rank equal to the highest number of Axiom dots in the Axiom or Axioms needed to create the
wonder. This is always the dot score of the "primary" Axiom; for example, to build an illusion-generating
machine, Metaptropi 2 is needed. Automata can be added to make these illusions self-sufficient or capable of
learning, but the Automata score does not matter, only the Metaptropi score: Metaptropi 2 yields a rank-2
wonder. Likewise, a jet plane made with Skafoi 3 that is normal-looking (a variable that geniuses can apply to
their wonders, and that requires Metaptropi 1 to select) is a rank-3 wonder because jets are built at Skafoi 3,
not a rank-1 wonder because of Metaptropi, nor a rank-4 wonder because you've added the numbers
A wonder's rank determines how many points of Mania must be bound into it in order to sustain its
functioning. A wonder needs a number of bound Mania points equal to its rank. (Some wonders with special
abilities also require additional bound Mania.)
These bound Mania are "locked up"; they cannot be used, accessed, or regained while the wonder still exists.
So, a genius with one dot of Inspiration and ten Mania points, who has built three one-dot wonders, has seven
Mania points available to him.
Even if a wonder is destroyed or becomes an orphan, the genius does not immediately regain the Mania
bound to the wonder. She gains the ability to regain those Mania points, however, and the Mania returns at
the normal rate.
Rolling the Dice:
At the conclusion of the design time, the genius rolls:
Inspiration + Attribute + Skill + Laboratory Equipment + Beholden Ability - Wonder Rank
Add an additional die if the wonder is of the genius' favored Axiom.
Dramatic Failure: The wonder activates as an orphan. It possess at least one fault, perhaps more, as
determined by the Storyteller. The wonder immediately turns against its creator and tries to escape, if
Failure: The genius is unable to complete the wonder. Immediately roll again.
Dramatic Failure: The wonderful activates as an orphan, as if the Genius rolled a Dramatic Failure on
the previous roll.
Failure: The Genius needs some vital ingredient that he does not possess to continue development.
The Storyteller may allow the sacrifice of one dot of Resources to obtain this ingredient more or less
immediately. Otherwise the genius will have to find it through investigation, legwork, and perhaps a
visit to the Lemurians, whose possession of rare and weird ingredients is legendary.
Success or Exceptional Success: The genius fails to construct the wonder. He can try again. Since
wonder-construction is not an extended action, successes do not transfer over to the next attempt.
Success: The genius completes the wonder. It possesses one fault.
Exceptional Success: The genius completes the wonder. Further, the genius may choose between two faults
that the Storyteller offers. (Geniuses who belong to the College of Scholastic Theory may choose from among
Normal-Looking (requires Metaptropi 1):
The wonder looks like a normal object of its type. Without this Variable, wonders have a distinct "mad
science" look to them. Even a simple Katastrofic knife does not look like a regular bayonet: it might possess an
unusual metallic hue, an unlikely shape, or have a big battery bolted onto the side. Vehicles look, at best, as
normal as Doc Brown's DeLorean in Back to the Future, and usually look like nothing that should be driving
down a suburban road. These items call out for poking and prodding, which may trigger Havoc.
This variable makes a wonder look like a normal specimen of its genus: a Katastrofi-based ray gun might look
pretty much like a modern automatic pistol, while a supersonic rocket-craft that can travel into other realities
resembles a normal airliner, perhaps of slightly unusual make, but recognizable as "some kind of jet" rather
than "some sort of whacked-out mad science invention." An Apokalypsi scanner looks like a digital
thermometer or radar display rather than some crazy analysis unit covered in blinking lights that keeps
shouting "Danger! Danger!"
Wonders with no natural analog, such as Metaptropi transmuter, gain a more respectable and mundane look:
an Epikrato controller or hologram machine might resemble some kind of metal detector or an unfamiliar
wrist-mounted device, and can blend in well enough to be dismissed as some kind of gadget rather than
something obviously weird.
There is no penalty for this variable.
1. The wonder is a bit unhinged. It suffers from one mild Derangement.
2. The wonder is very unhinged. It suffers from one major Derangement or two minor Derangements.
3. The wonder is physically shaky. It suffers a -1 penalty to all Dexterity actions related to manual actions.
4. The wonder radiates a sense of "wrongness" that offends all living things. Mortals grow edgy and irritable
around the wonder, and animals act fearful or aggressive.
5. The wonder emits a kind of low-level radiation that damages the world around it, spreading plague,
disfigurement, and disease for as long as it remains in one place out to 100' per rank. This is too subtle to
cause damage, but it will result in still births, sickly plant life, and even out-of-control storms.
6. The wonder interprets commands with bloody-minded, almost spiteful, literalness.
7. The wonder is highly susceptible to mental influence. It suffers a -5 penalty to resist metanormal control
and command, such as a mage's Mind Arcana or a vampire's Dominate powers.
8. The wonder requires some sort of "living" fuel, from blood to live mice to human souls, to continue
functioning. Every day that goes by without feeding, the wonder suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to all actions,
until it shuts down at -5.
9. The wonder is not particularly loyal. It will side with a genius with higher Inspiration if the other genius
asks and succeeds on a competing Manipulation + Persuasion check.
10. The wonder requires a special condition to keep functioning. Roll on the special conditions chart, below
Wealth and the Market:
The genius can manipulate her or other people's Social Merits. Merits that can be targeted include: Allies,
Contacts, Fame, Mentor, Resources, Retainer, and Status. She can also control Beholden Number, Generator,
Tenure, and any other Merit that is based on wealth, status, or windfalls.
The genius rolls Manipulation + Politics and spends an hour of work ( a minute at -2, or a turn at -4; very
short spans of time may be deemed impossible by the Storyteller). If attacking another person who does not
want to be influenced, the genius rolls vs. the target's Resolve + Composure + the highest Merit dot that the
genius is targeting.
If the genius wants to manipulate crowd density, this requires one hour (one minute at -2, or one turn at -4)
and a Manipulation + Politics check.
Movement of People and Things:
The genius can also influence specific people or things, causing them to move about. This is nothing so crude
as telekinesis or teleportation. Instead, events conspire to move people or things where the genius wants
them to go. This requires one hour of work (one minute at -2, or one turn at -4) and a Manipulation + Politics
check, with a -1 penalty for every object to be moved at the same time past the first. If attempting to move a
person who does not want to move, the Manipulation + Politics check is vs. the subject's Resolve +
Metanormal Advantage. The genius must know the target's current location in order to use this ability.
The genius can cause noticeable changes in large public events, such as elections, stock markets, and large
social gatherings. The time taken depends on the number of people involved in the event.
1. The effect ends suddenly if the subject is exposed to a particular, common element, such as wood or silver.
2. The invasive control of a person causes mental instability in the user. For the extent of the control and for
one day afterward, the user suffers from a mild Derangement, or a preexisting mild Derangement becomes
3. The control is physically taxing on the user. When operating the wonder, the genius suffers one level of
Bashing damage, plus one additional level per minute of use.
4. That infuriating concept, "goodness of heart," makes the subject more difficult to control. Subjects with
Morality (or equivalent) 7 gain a +3 bonus to resist the wonder; subjects with a score of 8+ are entirely
5. The godlike control over the world strips the genius of moral integrity. He cannot regain Willpower from
his Virtue for one week after using the wonder.
6. The effect may surge wildly out of control. If the genius rolls a Exceptional Success, the effect surges,
growing dangerous and impossible to control: a love-struck subject becomes insane with lust, a trick meant to
summon a person instead summons his entire family, etc.
7. The subject remembers his control as explicitly unnatural and will almost certainly resent the user of the
8. Animals grow fearful due to the wonder’s power. Whoever uses the wonder suffers a -5 penalty to Animal
Ken, with the effect reducing by one point per day. If the user's Presence + Animal Ken pool is reduced to a
chance die, animals attack on sight.
9. Using the wonder causes mental instability in the user. While operating the wonder and for one day
afterward, the user suffers from a mild Derangement, or a mild Derangement is upgraded to Severe.
10. The effect only works when the subject meets one of the special conditions. Roll on the special conditions
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration when using any mundane object.
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Katastrofi, to the damage caused by
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Prostasia, to an object's Durability.
(This cannot apply to armor or to wonders of Automata or Skafoi.)
• +1 to any Attribute, if the object possesses Attributes, not to exceed the genius' rank in Automata.
• +1 bonus per dot of Inspiration, not to exceed the genius' rank in Skafoi, to a vehicle's Handling.
• +20% increase in Safe Speed, Maximum Speed, and Acceleration, not to exceed 20% per dot of Skafoi
the genius possesses, per dot of Inspiration.
1. The wonder's healing or enhancing effects leave a unique color or texture. Skin will heal this naturally, if
slowly, but devices will remain noticeably altered.
2. The wonder drains the "life force" from things around it: immediately when used, plants wither and
everyone within five feet per rank of the wonder suffer one level of Bashing damage.
3. The wonder requires at least one pint of fresh blood (no more than an hour away from a living being) to
function every time it is used.
4. Transformations or healing leave the subject sick and drained once the effect comes to an end: the subject
suffers a –1 penalty to Strength and Stamina for one day.
5. To activate the effect requires one point of Willpower from the user.
6. The wonder’s effect scrambles the brain of its subject, who suffers a –1 penalty to all Mental Attributes for
7. While under the effects of an enhancement or for a day after a work of healing, the subject suffers from a
mild Derangement, or one of his mild Derangements becomes severe.
7. The subject suffers from near-pathological hunger for one hour after the use of the wonder. His Vice
becomes Gluttony, and if near food and not in immediate danger, he must spend a point of Willpower for that
scene to resist gorging himself.
8. The wonder doubles the subject’s sleep requirements for the next night. In this sleep, the subject cannot
easily be awakened.
9. The wonder’s Mania cost is tripled.
10. The wonder works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
Katastrofi ●: Agonizers, voltaic stunners, and energy-draining rays
A student of Katastrofi is limited to Bashing damage with his weaponry. His attacks can overwhelm a targets nervous system, produce microwave-induced agony across the targets skin, or drop an enemy with envenomed darts, but cannot kill outright.
Katastrofi ●●: Ultra-sharp swords, ray guns, heat rays, and other instruments of death
The second dot of Katastrofi allows the genius to get on with the business of killing her fellow human beings. She can create a rich selection of death rays and Lethal-damage weapons that can kill her targets through ballistic force, massive concussion, cold, electricity, or simply raw "killing energy." She can also significantly enhance the destructive power of her stunning weaponry. When designing the weapon, the genius must specify the type of damage done. This is important because some wonders and many creatures in the World of Darkness are vulnerable or resistant to different types of damage. Common damage types include electricity, cold, ballistic (like a bullet), acid, neural, bladed, crushing, and miscellaneous "destructive energy."
Bashing attacks from a scholar of Katastrofi benefit from the 9-again rule. Lethal attacks do not benefit from the 9-again rule.
If the genius desires, she can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to five yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●: Annihilating force and concussive devastation
The third dot of Katastrofi allows the genius to hone her destructive power, mastering the energies of annihilation. She can rend apart space and time or hurl globs of plasma or disintegrating force. These first attempts at annihilating weaponry are crude, but devastating. At the same time, her blades are sharper, projectiles move faster, and energy weapons pump out more killing energy. Stunning weaponry reaches its technological peak at this level of Katastrofi.
Bashing attacks benefit from the 8-again rule. Lethal attacks benefit from the 9-again rule. At this level, attacks that cause Aggravated damage are possible, but they do not benefit from the 8-again or 9-again rules.
A doctor of Katastrofi can employ the "disintegration" variable (see below).
If the genius desires, he can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 20 yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●●: Atomic fire, neurotoxins, and space-warping Armageddon
At this level of power, the genius can channel destructive cosmic forces, ripping apart the laws of the universe to obliterate her enemies. Her weapons reach their peak of Lethal damage. Her Aggravated weaponry is terrifying, and it shows: cryonic weaponry freezes the atmosphere itself, while lightning-projectors vomit plasma that fluoresces in the far ultraviolet and turns everything before it to smoking atomic ruin. Even a simple sword at this level of technological mastery dissolves flesh and titanium with equal efficiency.
Bashing and Lethal attacks benefit from the 8-again rule. Aggravated attacks benefit from the 9-again rule.
If the genius desires, he can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 100 yards for free. See that variable, below.
Katastrofi ●●●●●: Long-range city-devastators and monster-busters
Mastery of Katastrofi offers near-complete command of the powers of devastation. The genius weapons can scorch whole cities, and he turn mortals to ash and cinder. This level of power is not for the subtle: rank-five Katastrofic devices veritably burn with malevolent technological energy, and usually channel powers far beyond anything available to mortal science. To unleash his devastating designs, the genius harnesses miniature suns and black holes, rends space and time, and makes a mockery of laws like thermodynamics and the conservation of matter.
All attacks benefit from the 8-again rule.
If the genius desires, she can select the "explosive weapon" variable with a blast area of up to 1,000 yards (¼ mile) for free. See that variable, below.
Some weapons, such as napalm flame-throwers, poison gas, or clouds of flesh-eating nanites, continue to
cause damage after their initial attack has concluded. If an attack using a weapon with this variable hits and
causes damage, it attacks its target(s) automatically again at the beginning of the next turn with a number of
dice equal to the weapon's base damage -1. It attacks on the subsequent turn at base damage -2, then at base
damage -3, and so on until no damage dice remain.
Continuing damage causes the same type of damage as the initial attack: Bashing, Lethal, or Aggravated.
Continuing damage never benefits from the 8-again or 9-again rules.
Continuing damage from a weapon with the "disintegration" variable will disintegrate a target killed by its
Weapons with an explosive radius and this variable continue to cause damage to anyone and anything
affected by the initial attack with a number of dice equal to their explosive force.
This variable incurs a -1 penalty.
Continuing damage can be ended immediately and entirely by immersing oneself in water. If this is not true
(such as with poison-tipped darts), the variable incurs a -2 penalty.
Curing the damage caused by this attack, such as with an Exelixi wonder, also immediately stops the
1. The weapons damage type is downgraded by one step (Aggravated to Lethal, Lethal to Bashing). Bashing
weapons cause -1 damage.
2. The weapon requires one point of Mania per shot or attack.
3. The weapon requires one turn to charge up per point of Size before it can be used. Once charged it remains
active for the rest of the scene.
4. One of the weapon's special conditions (knockback, disintegration, etc.) does not work. If the weapon has
no special conditions, its reroll number increases by 1. (A wonder that only rolls 10-again does not reroll at
5. The weapon backlashes, causing one Health level of Bashing damage to the user every time it is used.
Armor does not protect.
6. The weapon is poorly mounted, and suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to hit per shot. Straightening the sights
requires one turn of fiddling and a Wits + Crafts roll, with each success removing one point of penalty.
7. The weapon is fragile. (See that variable, Page 150.) If it is already fragile, it causes the listed damage in
explosive force within five feet, with a secondary blast radius of ten feet.
8. The weapon has been infected with a peculiar pseudo-intelligence. Whenever using a weapon for the first
time that scene, if the user cannot make an instant Manipulation + Computer check, the weapon refuses to
fire. A new attempt can be made every turn.
9. The weapons attacks are stopped entirely by a certain material and will not harm it or anyone protected by
it. Common materials include glass, copper, or anything blue.
10. The weapon works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
Most transformations cost one point of Mania for every five Size points worth of material or fraction thereof.
Changing Size requires one point of Mania per two points of Size changed.
An Exceptional Success often allows for an indefinite transformation. To maintain an indefinite
transformation, the genius must bind the spent Mania into the object.
Illusions and holograms require one point of Mania per five points of Size or fraction thereof. (Sound-only
illusions cost one point of Mania.) Illusions last for a full scene and can be deactivated by the genius at any
time by using the wonder again (no roll needed).
The transformation of a discrete target only occurs when enough Mania has been spent to trigger the entire
transformation. For example, a person-to-elephant transformation that costs six points of Mania only causes
the person to transform once all six points of Mania have been spent; points cannot be assigned turn-by-turn.
1. All changes that the wonder induces have a distinct "theme," often a color but sometimes a general style,
that sets such transformations apart.
2. The subject reverts when placed in contact with a fairly common material, such as silver or wood. The
genius can spend one point of Mania per turn of contact to maintain the current form.
3. The transformation is exhausting. Once it concludes, the subject suffers a -1 penalty due to fatigue for the
rest of the day. If targeting inorganic material, once it turns back it turns brittle and may fracture or break.
Multiple alterations are cumulative.
4. The transformation automatically incurs some mental instability. For the extent of the transformation, the
subject suffers from a mild Derangement, or a preexisting mild Derangement becomes severe. If used to
target inorganic material, the material radiates "wrongness" to such an extent that all who approach it suffer
a Phobia toward it.
5. Returning to normal is painful and dangerous to the subject. She takes one Health level point of Lethal
damage upon return per ten minutes spent transformed, to a maximum number of Health levels equal to
twice the wonder's rank. Inorganic material will shatter when restored.
7. The transformation can "lock up," preventing return. There is a 50% chance that the transformation locks
up. If this happens, there is a 10% chance that the subject will return every hour.
8. The subject becomes hideously, monstrously ugly during the transformation. All Striking Looks merits are
lost and the subject suffers a -2 penalty to Presence and Composure (minimum of 1). It takes time, after the
transformation is over, to return to normal: after one hour, the penalty is reduced to -1, and after one day, the
penalty is gone and the subject regains his normal Striking Looks merit, if he has it. Material so transformed
becomes stinking and aesthetically repulsive.
9. The transformation taxes the subject’s immune system. For one week after use, the subject suffers a -4
penalty to any Stamina-related checks to resist poison, illness, or disease. If used against inorganic materials,
they tend to attract germs and illness, making them dangerous to handle.
9. The weapon works only when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
10. The subject reverts instantly if not in its special condition. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
Wondrous armor stacks only at certain times and in certain ways. Physical armor, mundane or wondrous,
never stacks with other physical armor. Shielding devices do not stack with other shielding devices. Shielding
devices do stack with physical armor, whether it's mundane or wondrous, but in this case, the Armor rating
for the two types of Armor is equal to the higher Armor rating +1, not to the sum of the two Armor ratings.
Stacking ablative armor is ineffective, as equal damage is caused to every type of ablative armor worn. So if an
attack causes three levels of Lethal damage, the attack removes three levels of ablative Health from each type
of ablative armor worn.
If one set of of armor is bulletproof, the armor set is considered bulletproof and ballistic damage is reduced to
Stacking ablative and regular armor is difficult. First, one must be physical armor and the other must be a
shielding device, as required by the above stacking rules. Even then, the ablative armor automatically loses
two Health levels of damage per point of Armor offered by the regular armor.
1. The armor is dangerous, producing random, destructive discharges of energy. Once per session (on
average), a discharge from the armor will damage, destroy, or push away an object nearby (usually something
the genius needs or wants).
2. The armor is vulnerable to one type of element or material, such as wood or silver. Attacks from that
material pass through it and ignore Armor.
3. The armor possesses a small but noticeable gap in its protection. This requires an active examination for a
full turn and a Wits + Crafts check vs. the Prostasia level to notice. However, once noticed, attackers can make
called shots (-1 to hit) to ignore Armor.
4. The armor grows constrictive if used for too long. Every minute of use incurs a cumulative –1 penalty to all
5. The armor is a power-hog, requiring a number of Mania per minute equal to its rank; otherwise it locks up
(if solid) or deactivates (if a field).
6. The armor will fail when exposed to some common material, such as water or plastic. The wonder
reactivates one turn after being removed from the substance.
7. The armor rattles its user around: an attack that causes no damage instead causes one Health level of
8. The armor can get knocked out of alignment. Every hit has a 10% chance of knocking it out of alignment,
halving its effectiveness until it is fixed (which takes a Wits + Crafts check and one turn of work).
9. The armor is physically exhausting to use, reducing the user’s Strength by one per minute of use (minimum
10. The armor only functions when a special condition is met. Roll on the special conditions chart, below
1. The wonder accelerates very slowly, at 10% Safe Speed.
2. The wonder can get "locked" into acceleration mode. In a dangerous situation, there is a 10% chance that
this happens: the wonder increases to its Maximum Speed as quickly as possible. Fixing this requires an
Exceptional Success on a Wits + Crafts check with one check allowed every turn, or somehow damaging the
engine, which requires only a regular success and causes all movement to stop until the engine can be
3. The wonder suffers a -2 penalty to Handling.
4. The wonder operates under some kind of "taboo," and will stall if brought across certain areas, such as over
running water or into tunnels.
5. The wonder provides a horrible, rattling ride. It is impossible to sleep within, and all actions except driving
are at -3 due to the shaking. Every six hours spent within causes one Health level of Bashing damage.
6. The wonder is dreadfully loud and incapable of stealth when it moves, and isn’t very quiet idling, either.
7. The wonder is prone to stalling if it takes damage. Any hit incurs a 10% chance that the wonder stalls out.
Restarting it requires a Wits + Crafts check.
8. The vehicle controls are laid out in a lunatic fashion, and probably change when you’re not looking. Upon
first sitting down every time to use the controls, the subject must make an Intelligence + Computer check.
Every success reduces the penalty to use the vehicle by 1. The penalty starts at -4.
9. The wonder possesses a tediously legal quasi-intelligence and will not function outside of the proper traffic
lanes. Flight plans must be filed, lane shifts must be signaled, and so on, or the wonder stalls and requires a
Wits + Crafts check to restart.
10. The wonder only functions in a specific environment. Roll on the special conditions chart, below.
When a wonder turns permanently into an orphan―not just temporarily―it twists and mutates, its form
changing as maniacal energy washes over it, instilling a bestial urge to survive. Orphans become creatures,
rather than just extraordinary things, with their own desires and motivations.
An orphan automaton retains its Attributes, Skills, and assorted special abilities.
An orphan of some other Axiom receives Attributes as follows:
Strength: Size/5 (round down, minimum one dot)
Dexterity and Stamina: 2
Intelligence, Wits, Resolve, Presence, Manipulation, and Composure: 1
Species Movement: 0 (without other ways to move, an orphan can inch slowly along the ground, based on its
combined Strength and Dexterity scores)
Limbs: Unless otherwise noted, no manipulators
Senses: Similar to a normal human's
A wonder that is temporarily orphaned by Havoc gains all the above benefits, but does not mutate.
For full orphans, roll a number of dice equal to the new orphan's Rank and consult the chart below to
determines its mutations.
Different theses can vary enormously in scope, style, and approach. Though they are all designed to teach the
genius something about Inspiration and her own abilities, they can take many forms. However, a genius'
catalyst often guides the sort of theses she undergoes as her knowledge and power grow. Below are some
very general guidelines for what the different catalysts focus on during a thesis.
A Grimm's thesis is the most direct. He must overcome a challenge, often a threat that infuriates him
personally. This danger is a source of direct, personal anger, something visceral: a sexual predator for Grimms
who suffered sexual abuse, an Ubermensch infestation for a Grimm whose first collaborative died in a Lunar
Nazi assault. Grimm theses are the least connected to Inspiration and to mad science and the most connected
to the genius' mundane personality. In fact, many Grimms' theses stipulate that Mania should not play a major
role in their completion, or force a Grimm to rely on Skills and abilities other than wonders and mad science.
In his thesis, a Grimm pushes himself, physically, mentally, and psychologically, to new limits, simmering
slowly as he suffers and struggles, hoping to unleash his rage in a titanic blast that will, ideally, destroy his
enemies and lead him to enlightenment. The Grimm's thesis works to channel, hone, and shape his rage, from
something mindless and atavistic to the clean, precise surgical instrument of a true genius.
The Klagens are the doom-sayers of the Inspired, and their theses focus on warning or protecting people from
an upcoming disaster. Cassandras find themselves struggling to stop an onrushing catastrophe. It may be a
natural disaster, but often it is a disaster that people (including geniuses) have made for themselves. Klagens
find themselves struggling to make people see the doom racing toward them. Some force people to change
their ways―through persuasion or threats―while others ignore the voice of those they need to save and rush
head-long into protecting them, whether or not they want (or need) the help. Other Klagens merely study the
concept of sorrow. This can be the most abstract and least direct of theses, except perhaps those conducted
by Staunens, as a Klagen wanders the halls of the sorrowing and ruined, seeks out those whose lives she
destroyed―the families of enemy beholden she has killed, for example―and otherwise explores the nature
and extent of sorrow, misery, and loss.
A Hoffnung's thesis is perhaps the easiest to conceptualize: every Hoffnung has an image of how the world
should be, so a Hoffnung's thesis works to bring that world closer to reality. A Principality who dreams of a
worldwide Libertarian paradise may work to bring down government-backed financial institutions or turn a
bardo into a microcosm of his political vision. One who wants humanity to move beneath the oceans might
find herself in an ideological struggle with another Hoffnung for the ear of a mundane scientific policy
director at NASA. Hoffnungs work to promulgate and spread their policies, and their theses are the most
likely to connect to the mundane world, though they concern themselves with far-reaching ideas and policy
decisions, not individual changes. Anything that moves a Hoffnung's vision closer to reality―even symbolic
victories―can serve as a thesis.
A young Neid's thesis is often simple and may resemble that of a particularly unsubtle Grimm: she seeks
restitution for the wrongs done to her, either during her Breakthrough or in her Inspired career. While she
rarely dwells on the suffering (real or imagined) she experienced in her earlier life, which distinguishes her
from a Grimm, Neids may find themselves continually seeking out enemies to enact plans of revenge,
justification, or humiliation upon. But not all Neids are so simple, and as a Wyrm grows in experience, her
theses can become some of the most sophisticated and philosophical of all mad scientist's, focusing on the
nature of exclusion and inclusion, the paths that acceptance and outsider-status can take, and the trajectory of
isolation and abandonment. They never forget their feeling of betrayal and banishment, but they learn to
study it with more objectivity than many catalysts can analyze their own archetypal natures.
The thesis of a Staunen is based on the Watcher's fascination with the world. It is often a a journey of
discovery, a mixed exploration of one's self and one's object of fascination. A Staunen's thesis focuses not just
on an engrossing (and perhaps dangerous) aspect of the world that is not entirely understood, but parts of
the Staunen's own personality. All geniuses form connections and patterns easier than regular humans, and in
his thesis, a Staunen will weave together discoveries of the inside and outside worlds in ways that would
baffle most normal people, leading to a final key discovery that transforms his understanding of the Staunen's
object of study, and transforms a Grigori's understanding of himself.
Not every thesis is drawn from a genius' catalyst. Theses are intensely personal and can take many forms.
Some draw from the mad scientist's foundation: Artificers build new things, Directors explore interpersonal
relationships, Navigators engage in exploration and conflict, Progenitors transform and evolve themselves,
and Scholastics study riddles and mysteries. Some theses are drawn from much more personal experiences,
unanswered questions or unresolved obsessions in a genius' own life. As a genius' Inspiration climbs, she will
find herself darting from one inspiration for a thesis to the next, always finding new directions for selfimprovement.
Beholden are interesting psychological studies. Though as intelligent, creative, and competent as they were
before their change, beholden are incapable of engaging in high-level theoretical thinking. They lack
metaphysical, philosophical, political, religious, ethical, or scientific thought-structures. (Or perhaps their
conscious minds simply can't access them.) A beholden has no preference for political candidates or political
parties. She does not subscribe to any religion, nor does she actively reject the tenets of any religion. She
cannot formulate an argument for or against any ethical or political stance, such as vegetarianism or welfare.
She may still cling to vestigial beliefs out of stubbornness, habit, or cultural identity, but she cannot really
understand why she does.
The only exception to this behavior is when a beholden interacts with a genius. Then, the beholden takes on
the philosophy and thinking mode of that genius. This ideological parroting is what makes a beholden so
useful to the Inspired.
This condition affects beholden surprisingly little. They still retain an instinctive moral system (measured by
Morality). Most beholden would feel disgusted and repulsed by cold-blooded murder, but when asked to
justify this feeling, they would be unable. Beholden can still engage in planning and form practical models of
the world around them: a clatch of beholden sent to kidnap a doctor can prepare, coordinate, and execute a
plan as well as their Skills and Attributes would allow. But they would be unable, for example, to offer an
ethical or philosophical justification for their actions.
A mane is what happens when a theory is abandoned. Paradoxically, the moment the Community decides that
something is not true, that thing immediately comes into existence, held together by the burst of Mania
released by the changing winds of scientific orthodoxy. Among geniuses, the best-known (and most
devastating) recent example occurred in 1971, when the Viking lander touched down on Mars and at last
showed it to be a barren, lifeless world, noticeably lacking intelligent aliens. Within seconds of that revelation,
the Martian Empire appeared and launched an attack on Earth.
It could have been worse: the notion of "life on Mars" had been fading in the scientific community for decades,
and was supported, mostly, by fervent wishes and hopes, especially among amateur scientists and
planetologists, so the Inspired community had time to prepare. But the damage was still extraordinary:
hundreds of landing pods crashed to Earth all over the world, and only the sacrifice of dozens of mad
scientists stopped the Martian Empire from growing powerful enough to endanger the lives of billions.
In game terms, entrances to a bardo are located "near" it in physical space; a bardo located on the bottom of
the Atlantic Ocean can only be accessed when at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Entrances range in size
from just large enough for a human to slip through to big enough to pass a planet. People and creatures
within a bardo can leave through these entrances without difficulty, but one must spend a point of Mania to
activate an entrance and get into a bardo. Once opened, a bardo is revealed, even to mere mortals: one can
glimpse alien cityscapes, distant prehistorical animals, or strange mechanical walkways, rather than what's
on the other side of the entrance in normal space. Once activated, an entrance remains active for a number of
turns equal to a genius' Inspiration, and people and objects can pass in and out freely during that time. When
the time is up, the entrance once again only shows (and allows access to) normal space, and the bardo is
The Martian Empire:
Sometimes called Cydonia or Barsoom, the Martian Empire is located, naturally, on Mars, but not the frozen,
almost airless wasteland that we know. Supported by a sea of ever-shifting Mania, the Martian Empire's air is
breathable, if thin, and there walk the strange beings called Martians. Divided into three known castes (the
brain-on-a-stalk Overlords, the spindly Technikers, and the brutal but humanoid egg-laying Throgs), the
Martians threatened to conquer Earth less than half a century ago, and they still eye our world with cold
This avarice is tempered, now, with the knowledge that Earth stomped them in the last war: even were it not
for Inspired super-science, Earth science has advanced far since Percival Lowell read of Martian canali and
decided that the canals channeled water from the icy poles to a dying civilization. Mars is not exactly safe, but
the Martians are more interested, now, in what a genius knows and what knowledge she is willing to trade,
than in destroying her as a threat to their plans.
And Mars is an extraordinary place, its dusty streets full of haggling merchants and exotic alien spices, its
people enlightened masters of sciences humans have never imagined, and its libraries possessed of arcane
and super-scientific wisdom. Even if the genius does not wish simply to grow rich on Martian sapphires by
filling her rocketship with fresh water (worth more than gold to the dry world), a lifetime can be spent
wandering the million-year-old universities and speaking with the incredible beings there.
Mad scientists who reach Mars are encouraged not to wander too far from the city, where the Mania can
sustain humanoid life, and are advised to have an escape plan ready at all times in case the warlike factions of
the Martian government take over and once again launch an all-out assault on the Blue Planet.
An unmada experiences the following modifiers and special conditions:
Attempts to argue against them (usually Persuasion checks) based on external facts about the world,
or to change their mind with regard to facts about the world―but not about moral or Obligationbased
considerations―suffer a penalty equal to half their Inspiration.
An unmada suffers double the normal Jabir penalty.
An unmada loses one point of Mania per day instead of regaining one like other geniuses. The genius
cannot refuse to spend this point of Mania.
An unmada generates a field around herself, called an unmada field, its extent based on her
Inspiration. An unmada who cannot spend a point of Mania (see above) cannot sustain her field,
which collapses until she gets a point of Mania. (Once she has Mania, she immediately spends one
point to restore the field.)
To gain more information, the genius can spend a minute examining the object. A genius also needs to analyze
an object this way if it is partially hidden (a mane in a long coat, for example) or if a wonder has the
"concealed" or "normal-looking" variables. Roll Inspiration + Wits.
Dramatic Failure: The genius completely misinterprets what he's seeing.
Failure: The genius gains no further information, and cannot try again on that subject for the rest of the scene.
Success: The genius gains more information, answering the following applicable questions:
Whether something is a wonder; its rank, primary Axiom, and any "support" Axioms of a wonder
Whether a wonder is an orphan
Whether something is a mane
Whether something is a Larva, and if it is a transgressive Larva
Whether something is a capacitor, and how much Mania it currently holds
A genius' Inspiration (low, medium, or high)
A Clockstopper's Acedia (low, medium, or high)
How much Mania someone or something has spent with its last action
Exceptional Success: The genius gains even more information, answering the following applicable questions in
addition to those available from a regular success:
A wonder's faults
A wonder's creator (if the genius knows the creator)
What Axioms are influencing a person or object (Exelixi stat boosts, Metaptropi polymorphing, etc.)
The idea or philosophy that birthed the mane
A genius' catalyst, foundation, and highest Axiom
Whether or not a genius is unmada (this will not reveal Illumination)
A Clockstopper's highest Void
How much Mania a genius, mane, or automaton currently possesse
Suggested Modifiers: Genius has a relevant Apokalypsi gizmo (bonus equals rank of wonder), genius cannot
touch subject (-2), genius takes only one turn in analysis (-2), genius has encountered a genuinely new or
unique phenomenon (-3), genius has encountered a "common" mad science phenomenon (+1), genius is
studying a member of his own foundation (+2), target is partially concealed (-1 to -3)
Now it's a kind of temporal free-for-all, with mad scientists and arch-magicians and alien psychics from the black hole in the
center of the Galaxy all running about history, mucking things up. However, this did not (and again, the past
tense would like to apologize) last long. A détente settled into place, agreed to by various powerful factions
and enforced by a group calling itself the Guardians of Forever, the Terminals' former servants. This
group―not a fellowship, as it includes much more than just mad scientists―allows others to "blow off steam"
by permitting minor changes to the timeline: a murdered wife rescued here, a genius' wretched younger
brother striking it rich there. The idea is that the relentless enforcement of absolute causal stasis is what
eventually forced the rebellion against the Terminals that resulted in their destruction.
Nonetheless, the Guardians of Forever enforce the unfolding of the grand sweep of history: the dinosaurs
must perish, whether by an asteroid or a plague or a volcanic apocalypse. Rome will fall, as will the Spanish
Empire and the Eternal Terran Dynasty of Yao Ming. The Guardians' solution is simple and expedient:
whenever a major shake-up occurs, they travel back in time to shortly after the event (or sometimes during, if
they cannot fix the problem afterward) and juggle events around so things unfold as they always have. When
a furious genius went back in time and killed Helmut Schenk, the cruelest genocidal mastermind of the 20th
century, as a child, the Guardians of Forever went back and elevated the art student Adolf Hitler to that same
It's not like they enjoy doing that. In fact, the genius who made the above "swap" committed suicide a week
later. But the Guardians have discovered that the Terminals were not acting entirely out of self-interest: the
timeline that leads to the Terminals' existence, despite its horrors, produces a universe of boundless life and
richness. It may be the best of all possible timelines.
Science has always horrified us. Today it's the nightmarish specter of misapplied genetic engineering, the real
possibility of a surveillance state, and the proliferation of psychiatric medication. Fifty years ago it was
nuclear Armageddon, sociology that reinforced or subverted the racial and sexual standards of the time, and
the mysterious power of hypnosis. A century ago we feared surgery, chemical annihilation from poison gas,
and the yawning gulfs revealed by relativity and quantum mechanics. And always, always, horror comes not
just from the technology―the killing bomb, the all-seeing eye of surveillance―but from the knowledge itself.
Knowing hurts. We project not just our fears into the unknown, but our hopes and dreams, and to see those
dark places where we left our fancies revealed can cut like a knife. Everything we learn is a betrayal of what
someone hoped for.
The Dark Mechanical reflects the inner state of the genius. Is a genius a mortal in charge of the higherdimensional
mathematics that dance in her brain? Or is she a knot of Uttermost Reality slumming it in the
physical world, taking up residence in a human mind like a virus invades a cell? Is humanity in charge of the
things it creates―are humans demiurges, creating the new―or are they thralls to an existing and alien order,
one that spreads and lives and grows on its own, and for which humans only opened the gates? The genius,
like every human alive today, finds her sense of control and normality slipping, as the world transforms itself
into something more terrifying, or more beautiful, than she can possibly imagine.
As the Storyteller, you need to play up this unique form of Mania. Geniuses form connections with things that
aren't "really" there for regular people. Their entire essence screams to reduce reality to a handful of elegant
equations that are obviously, self-evidently true. The Peerage exists almost entirely to fight this tendency,
because once a genius believes he's figured it out, he's mad. The light eats out the back of his eyes and he'll
probably never see straight again.
And geniuses live with this fear every day, an aspect any Storyteller should emphasize. The characters should
never entirely be sure that they see what is or what they want to see. "Technobabble" is a playful name the
peers use to downplay a terrifying phenomenon that all geniuses eventually experience. Talking with regular
mortals can be a painful experience for geniuses, as the mask of sanity slips. A Storyteller can even use
mundane events―buying a new stereo system, going to a PTA meeting―to demonstrate this tendency of the
Inspired to "slip," just a little: turns of phrase that don't make sense, explanations that link things that do not
connect, and other acts of Jabir.
This is a lot to ask, especially of new players. Sometimes your players will get stuck. The variations of mad
science present in Genius are legion and can paralyze a new player. One solution is to point to different
historical and fictional mad scientists. Ask the player if she's aiming for more of a Nikola Tesla "electricity and
dynamism" mad scientist, or maybe a deranged biologist like Dr. Moreau. (Just listing the major branches of
science and craft, and putting "mad" in front of each one, can help. Mad archeology, mad acoustics, mad
macramé...) But a better technique is to ask the player, not who she wants to play, but what she wants to
make. Wings made of iron and stolen clocks? Feline servants, each made from miles of tangled electrical wire?
Beautiful glass spheres that spread nightmare-gas? Have images on hand and gently prod players who seem
at a loss. Remember: the story is about the players' characters and what they create.
The power and value of high weirdness is in the juxtapositions it can produce. Weirdness is invaluable when
something in your story―a character, a wonder, a place―doesn't yet seem extraordinary enough to merit
inclusion in the chronicle. You can enrich an idea through several kinds of juxtaposition. Try...ancient and
modern: the Oracle hunting the collaborative wields an obsidian axe in one hand and a crackling energy-whip
in the other. Biological and mechanical: the wolf lopes forward, revealing the AA batteries driven into its
cranium like a crown of thorns. Beautiful and hideous: the mane's exquisite ruby mask hides a face of putrid
rot and dripping meat. High culture and pop culture: a Scholastic's office is full of ancient Roman busts and
velvet paintings of Elvis. Wealth and poverty: the Director's magnificently appointed townhouse has no
windows through which one might glimpse the favela's feral children just outside.
Genius ' theme is Transgression. In his quest to create, to transform, and to transcend, a genius can commit
acts of monstrous cruelty, and even when he does not, his behavior and ideas are not palatable to most
regular people. Its mood is Bitter Disappointment. A genius might fly, but she is still chained to our mundane
reality, and the forces of Havoc and simple, human cruelty will wipe away all her accomplishments in the end.
But as a Storyteller, your chronicle, too, can have its own theme and its own mood, something that
complements or contrasts with the literary elements of the larger game.
Genius' default mood is one of Bitter
Disappointment: triumphs vanish, brilliance goes ignored, great works fail for stupid, common reasons, and in
the end, a genius never achieves the recognition, respect, or even understanding she desires. In other words,
life sucks, and not in a grand way―there's no vast conspiracy holding the genius down. He's not chosen as a
scapegoat by a vindictive God. He's not punished by Nemesis. Terrible things just happen because we live in a
broken, imperfect world, and those imperfections destroy the most beautiful and brilliant among us first.
New geniuses and new collaboratives are often the targets of poaching attempts by established groups that
resent the intrusion or just see an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable. This is how these chronicles can
start: with a new collaborative moving in and sending ripples of anger and avarice through the Inspired or
preta communities. Lemurians are notorious for nighttime thefts, protection rackets, and other bullying
tactics, and many are so blinkered that they won't back down even when outgunned. The results can turn
violent quickly. Other dangers include powerful manes, who may view young geniuses as a potential source of
food, or peers who see suckers and proxies for their own petty wars.
The story usually begins before or immediately after the Breakthroughs that create the collaborative. A
vignette format works well for this sort of chronicle: the Storyteller can allow geniuses to make hard
individual or group choices where they decide between their normal lives and the new world they've
discovered. As this chronicle progresses, it's possible that different geniuses will come to different
conclusions―some may reject the regular world altogether, while others fight to maintain their normality.
(The Storyteller should make the players aware that these rifts are tools for more drama, not for bickering at
the table or splitting up the collaborative so they never interact and the chronicle dissolves into a series of
unconnected stories.) The creation of new wonders is also a time for new vignettes, as regular people in the
genius' life discover the wonders and trigger Havoc. This can be especially poignant if the genius created the
wonder to help him in his regular life: an Exelixi wonder that's cured the cancer of a genius' sick mother
might fall into the hands of the hateful old woman up the road; if her fiddling causes it to spread sickness
throughout the community, will the collaborative blame the old woman and keep their reputations in the
community, or fess up while still hiding enough of the truth that people don't ask too many questions?
One danger of this sort of chronicle is that it can degrade into back-patting masturbatory nonsense, where the
characters spend their time smugly protecting the very people trying to destroy them. There's a place for
martyrs in fiction, but if the theme of the chronicle is an answer, and the answer is "Yes, we are all special
snowflakes who are tremendously put-upon by ignorant mundanes," maybe it's time to cut back on the self-congratulation.
This sort of chronicle is the hardest to run because a character's internal mental states don't mean anything
unless they're out there on the table for all the players and the Storyteller to interact with. A private journey
from despair to either exaltation or self-destruction can be carried out entirely in a player's head like some
sort of weird computer simulation, but that's not role-playing so much as a fancy internal monologue. The
Storyteller needs to work to bring the genius' inner state out into the shared space where the game actually
gets played. A number of techniques are applicable here. Theses are obvious ways for a genius to inflict his
inner self upon the world, and long, complicated theses can be strung together to define this sort of chronicle.
The creation of wonders, and the failure to create, can serve as springboards for understanding how and why
a genius does what he does, and thus what's going on in his mind. Interactions with other characters―either
other geniuses in the collaborative, or other people or creatures―helps the players express the nature of their
characters in words or actions.
Are geniuses scientists? Are geniuses sane?
Two good questions with no clear answers―unless you're a Lemurian, in which case the answers are yes, and
yes, of course, it's everyone else who's crazy.
The Office of the Seventh Treasury (originally the Office of the Lost Treasury; its initials are still OLT), located
out of Washington, D.C., is nominally the bureau for the entire United States, but its effective power is limited
to states north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi.
The Confederate States Intelligence Agency partially joined with the Seventh Treasury in 1914, becoming the
Joint American Intelligence Agency, before falling apart again; the JAIA covers most of the southern and parts
of the central US as well as Texas and operates out of Raleigh.
Texas has its own organization, the Texan Bureau for Mechanical Development, though the TBMD's reach is
limited only to that state―if it is still extant at all, which is not clear. There has been no activity from the
bureau's central office in the Alamo's basement for fifteen years.
California's old Lemurian front, the Agency for the Future of the Republic (AFR), has spread up and down the
west coast of the United States and down to the edge of Mexico, where it abuts the jurisdiction of Mexico's
Oficina Veintidos (and Offices 18 through 25; it's unclear which Oficina is currently active).
Most of Canada is covered by the Royal Order of the Black Prism, a secretive and occult organization that can
be found anywhere that still recognizes some element of British rule―including India, parts of Africa, and the
original thirteen colonies.
Language, Obsession, and the Needle Grail:
Lemurian's refusal to recognize the "mad" in their mad science leads to a frequent belief that "Mania" is in fact
another energy source that can be studied and manipulated. Those Lemurians who do identify distinct
Axioms in their work often believe that a ninth, secret Axiom exists, that allows for direct alteration and
adjustment of Inspiration and Mania. With this Axiom, sometimes called Apekrina or Pankosmoi, but often
referred to in Lemuria as the Needle Grail, Lemurians claim that they will be able to build wonders to ignore
Havoc, enhance a genius' Inspiration, and harvest Mania from reality itself. While the search for the Needle
Grail is sometimes a hobby to peers, many Lemurians and Lemurian-aligned rogues take its study very
seriously, and many even believe that they have mastered the Axiom and can create wonders using it. So far
there is no evidence that Pankosmoi exists, let alone that its study can produce wonders.
And that, say most Inspired, as if Lemuria were a just-so story, is why we didn’t get the rocket cars and robot
butlers and meals in pill form we were promised. We got something far stranger, instead, the result of free
and independent inquiry. But there is a price: no one is in control. No one is there to be blamed or praised; no
one is, ultimately, responsible. Lemuria was an evil, brutal, dictatorial, racist, dream-killing organization, but
like a crooked casino, it was the only game in town.
Not all the Lemurians died during the last Invisible War. And the idea that Lemuria represented, that
humanity had gone wrong and needed to be led back to the right path, hadn’t been killed by killing a bunch of
old conspirators and mechanical serpent-gods. Much of the bureaucratic infrastructure still remained, in fact,
and the Peerage realized that the edifice of human knowledge that they relied upon was threatened with
collapse. Slowly, like cockroaches edging in darkness toward table-scraps, the Lemurians crept back in.
After all, the free Inspired told themselves, someone had to make sure that the universities didn’t collapse, or
accidentally open rifts into the Chaos Realms. Someone had to maintain the ridiculous illusion that paper with
dead presidents possessed value. Someone had to be in charge. Right?
So the institution of Lemuria was restored. Crimes were pardoned, sentences commuted. The Peerage pushed
the whole rotting edifice back up, because the alternative was worse: collapse, complete collapse, for the
Inspired world and perhaps for the mortal world as well.
The future isn't what it used to be. Once a linear progression of events leading eventually to the Terminals,
the timeline is now a mess of pocket chrono-fiefdoms and unstable causality. This increasing disorder,
coupled with the fact that time-traveling into the future necessarily removes the genius from the timeline,
means that rarely will two trips into, say, the year 3,000, produce the same result. But here are the most
common destinations when one travels certain spans of time into the future.
+10 Years: The Rapture. No, bear with us, really. Tens of thousands of people disappear, almost all with
Morality 8+, and are assimilated into some kind of computational overmind. The barrier between the living
and dead worlds temporarily breaks down, flooding the world with ghosts, while wars sweep across the
world until stopped by a genius who seizes control of the United Nations and forms an Anarchosyndicalist
world government that manages to maintain the illusion of normality while returning the dead to the earth.
Afterward, the government disintegrates, while humanity studies new technology that allows it to speak with
the world of the dead.
+50 Years: The Machine Ragnarök. A massive cold snap caused by environmental changes freezes most of
the northern hemisphere. A genius' attempts to fix the problem by redirecting sunlight off other heavenly
bodies backfires, blacking out the sun and moon. The Illuminated, seeing their chance, unleash a technological
plague on the Earth, transforming common machinery into murderous titans of steel and plastic. The most
common result is a coalition of Inspired beating back the catastrophe and slowly working to restore the
Technology ten or fifty years hence generally remains the same, except it's smaller, faster, and more
"universal," meaning that single gadgets tend to do more. Anyone who's anyone has some kind of universal
PDA/cell phone/AV player about the size of a paperclip on their person. People who make use of advanced
technology, such as soldiers from first-world armies, can be treated as having 1-3 Axiom ranks worth of
wonders. These advanced technologies do not suffer from Havoc.
+100 Years: Lemuria Ascendant. After centuries of carefully infiltrating regular terrestrial society, the Third
Race uses its (previously-unknown) total dominance of the 22nd century's Internet to take over
cybernetically-modified brains (that is, most people's brains) and enslave several billion people directly. The
rest fall into line, but the Ophidians' empire lasts for only a few decades as the ever-changing nature of the
World Network breaks down their lines of hierarchical control, forcing the Third Race to confront a fate even
worse than imprisonment on their island kingdom: one baffling people among many, they are, even after the
cruelties they inflected on Earth and its colonies throughout the inner solar system, assimilated into regular
+300 Years: The Martian Colonization. The Martian Empire, after gaining enough Mania to make itself fully
real, reveals itself and quickly dominates Earth's cultural landscape with its sophisticated and newly-dynamic
culture. Together, Earth and Mars colonize the solar system, with the Martian Overlords forging ahead to
"standardize" the other bardos, rendering them down for Mania before they are annihilated by the Havoc of
encountering mere mortals. A Golden Age of commerce and philosophy begins in the solar system.
A few hundred years from now, technology is extraordinary and commonplace. The average person owns
(though does not necessarily carry) the equivalent of one Axiom rank worth of orphans for every dot of
Intelligence + Resources they possess. Many people, especially scientists, police officers, and spies have the
equivalent of Inspiration 1 due to internal AI systems. By this time, the difference between geniuses and
regular people breaks down a bit: mere mortals do not trigger Havoc merely by using or holding wonders.
+1,000 Years: The Confederacy of Worlds. Humanity knows that strange beings walk among them, and have
eagerly exploited these powers. A polyglot empire of squabbling human and posthuman "tribes" has arisen,
supported by economic need and connected by a loose affiliation of interests. Sometimes called the "Pirate
Empire," the Confederacy is a place where anything can be had for a price, where information, money, and
political power blur.
+10,000 Years: The Brutal Empire of Yao Ming. As humanity begins its spread to the stars, a ruthless
technologist and dictator appears at the edge of the Solar System. Calling himself Yao Ming, he gives wonders
beyond anything seen before to the rulers of several worlds, but they are subtly trapped: he binds them to
service, and using economic and military leverage, gains executive control over the Engines of Immortality.
Only those loyal to Yao Ming will be resurrected from their brain tapes; the rest perish. In a few short years,
Yao Ming establishes himself as mankind's most brutal dictator.
Barring significant technological collapse, technology a few thousand years from now is so common that to
replicate it, treat everyone as "possessing" an inner genius in the form of a bound artificial intelligence. This
genius has an Inspiration equal to the person's Intelligence or Resources, whichever is lower (minimum 1).
Humans are a cautious race in this time frame, as "braintaping" is often available. While full immortality is
(usually) still beyond humanity's reach, vastly extended lifespans are possible, and dying humans often join
strange hive-minds to preserve their thoughts.
In particularly oppressive regions (such as Yao Ming's), advanced technologies may be limited only to the
elite, with mundane humans getting by with a few orphan wonders.
+50,000 Years: The Celestial Dynasty. United after centuries of war and cruelty, humanity has formed into a
vast machine dynasty. Technology has reached the Clarke limit, becoming indistinguishable from magic, with
humans channeling their "inner power" to perform seeming miracles and live forever. The River of Heaven
unites a billion worlds in superluminal commerce and contact. On the greatest planets, immortal scholars
meet "ghosts" of the long-departed and warriors who can break moons in half and perform other marvels.
+100,000 Years: Machine Earth. Years ago, a technological singularity swept across the Earth, converting
everyone into computer data, that they might live forever in an artificial Utopia. As pampered as babies and as
powerful as gods, humanity lives, invisible, somewhere within the eight thousand mile-diameter Earth (or
elsewhere, on other worlds, ringworlds, or Dyson Spheres) The surface of Earth is a bleak, often airless place,
where only machines walk, protecting humanity.
"People" from this far in the future are often surrounded by nanotech swarms, possess what previous
centuries would call psychic powers, or can manipulate energy fields at will using the power of super-science.
Assume that a typical human, in reality or computer-space, is a genius possessing Inspiration equal to
Intelligence + Resources. In their own digital realms, humans are basically limitless in their power.
+One Million Years: The Metahuman Empire. Humanity and its metanormal companions have transcended
their limitations and become a race of immortals, reaching for the stars and other realities. Engineering
wonders such as Dyson Spheres and worlds made of pure Computronium running computer simulations of
life are common. The "humans" in this era are nearly incomprehensible, their behavior fey and often
seemingly without sense.
Visitors to this far in the future will often confront various metahumans. Treat a metahuman as a genius with
Inspiration ten, all Axioms at five, and all Attribute and Skill dots at ten. Humanity, at this level of
development, is terrifying and godlike, and (depending on the time frame in which a genius lands) may have
no trace of human morality (treat Obligation as 0).
+100 Million Years: The Solar Wastelands. Humanity is extinct, but its progeny live on: alternate races,
beast-men, androids, and captured aliens occupying a new super-continent. Their technology nearly lost,
these Children of Mankind live in a world of barbarism, sorcery, and super-science, torn by savagery and
endless war, manipulated by the remnants of vast, Galaxy-spanning super-minds, most long mad. The solar
system is terraformed, with Venus covered in dense jungles, Mars an endless savanna, and Jupiter a second
sun lighting alien moons.
+One 500 Million Years: Solar Transformations. With humanity gone, new intelligent races move among an
Earth that appears almost new-born, beneath an orange-yellow sun. Intelligent octopods swing through
Earth's jungles like monkeys, while schools of fish use electrical impulses transmitted through the water to
form gestalt intellects. The technology level varies enormously, according to visitors' reports, from barely
Stone Age to meta-posthuman, but it is generally primitive, with a few enclaves of "favored races" guided in
their development by discarded thinking machines that can still remember the day humanity left them.
+One Billion Years: Age of the New Concordat. Earth still remains as hub of activity, and it's a destination for
countless strange alien races. The entire solar system is a network of starship docks, banks, data centers, and
sleazy taverns, full of more aliens (some of them uplifted posthumans) than a 21st-century genius might find
possible. On Deimos, the Traveler's Moon, can be found any conceivable good, service, or industry, and beings
willing to do anything for credit and favors. Most beings can be treated as geniuses of various sorts, running
the gamut of power levels from creatures that possess a few orphans to vast intellects one step away from
meta-sentience. The general technology level, though, is not very high, resembling interstellar versions of
what humans had in the 19th or 20th centuries. Creatures live in societies that are little transformed by the
machinery around them.
+Five Billion Years: The Ends of Earth. Drained of its resources, the Sun is now no more than a dim coalcolored
star, a smear that spreads across half the sky. Abandoned and forgotten, the Earth is home to
scuttling, crab-like creatures called the Methc, the last intelligent beings to evolve on Terra. They spend their
lives scrambling between the hot pools that birthed them, amidst a black wasteland of carbon and rust pitted
occasionally by the remnants of eons-old technology. Beyond Earth, the combined Milky Way-Andromeda
galaxies lies exhausted from eons of war and exploitation.
+Ten Billion Years: Rouge Gothica. The sun is a boiling red giant surrounding the Dyson Sphere constructed
around it and kept forcibly alive by long-forgotten technologies. Built to expand along with the Sun, the
sphere is a vast, inward-looking cathedral of steel and metamaterials, eternally shifting as the dying star
flares and trembles. Here live dream-beings pulled from the collective memories of humanity's last ancient
computers, together with the remembered fears of a thousand races: manes of a thousand types dwell here,
taking on the forms humanity feared, forming cruel empires in the vast areas of the Sphere.
+One Trillion Years: An Empty Universe. What remains of the Local Group is a blur of interstellar dust and
dead stars circled by slowly cooling worlds. Red stars shine in the sky: fossil light from suns that perished
ages ago and whose radiation still travels through space. Those races that remain―none remotely
human―concern themselves with frantic, doomed attempts at prolonging their existence by tapping the
rotational energy of moons or incinerating black holes. A few welcome visitors, but most only make a being
feel at home long enough to dissect him for his technology, heat, and information.
The End of Time: Endless Darkness.The last stars went out so long ago no one remembers what they were
like. Protons have dissolved. Black holes have disappeared in bursts of gamma radiation. Here dwell the Cold
Ones: the last intelligent beings in the universe, whose thoughts are measured by the stray background
fluctuation of quantum nothingness. Each thought takes an hour, or an eon, but they persist nonetheless―and
all they can do is persist, thinking of themselves and their eternal lives. These wretched gods are all that live.
But they are not helpless: over the eons, they have learned of beings foolish enough to travel to the End of
Time, and they wait patiently, weaving webs of stray photons and pseudomatter, waiting to trap an unwary
traveler, to feast on her warmth and ordered state, or even―if the Cold Ones dream, this is their dream―to
return to a universe of light and warmth, free from the killing clutches of entropy.
The Terminals once dwelled at the end of time. They are no more, replaced by the Cold Ones.
Phlogiston and Caloric:
These two related ideas attempted to explain heat as a sort of "fluid" or "particle" (separate from atoms
bouncing around, which is what heat is normally understood to be today). Phlogiston was an attempt to
explain the oxidation process, including rust and combustion: substances were said to contain phlogiston that
was released in burning, leaving a remnant called calx. Caloric is a slightly later conception intended to
explain heat as a kind of porous substance that could move between physical objects. Though current
thermodynamic theory has abandoned both concepts, geniuses often find these ancient concepts useful for
their inventions. The use of caloric and phlogiston and often less ideological in nature and more practical:
certain wonders are easier to understand, mathematically, if one uses these older ideas. Direct manifestations
of phlogiston theory are often evident in older bardos from the 16th to 18th centuries.
In the World of Darkness, even mortal biologists and doctors understand that some phenomena don't make
sense from a strictly reductionist standpoint, that some activities of the living world are just weird, and will
probably remain that way no matter how long they study them with mundane methods. Vitalism, then, is not
simply a belief in an "animating spark" for living things; it is in getting the details of that spark wrong.
Inspired Vitalists obsess over weird, self-contradictory, or counterfactual sorts of cosmic essences that only
make sense in light of Mania powering a wonder. Vitalist theories are common among Etherites and Oracles.
Most geniuses give a name to the "life force" that they can manipulate with wonders, whether it is a
traditional term (Chi, Prana, Vril, Orgone, Odic Force) or something of their own devising.
Hungry Emptiness ●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses one point of Mania per minute. Any use
of Mania costs one additional point of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -1 penalty.
Hungry Emptiness ●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses two points of Mania per minute. Any
use of Mania costs two additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -2 penalty. Mathematical
equations become meaningless and incomprehensible.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses three points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs three additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -3 penalty. Art and
music become meaningless and incomprehensible.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses four points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs four additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -4 penalty. Written
communication becomes impossible to understand or create.
Hungry Emptiness ●●●●●: Anyone or anything that possesses Mania loses five points of Mania per minute.
Any use of Mania costs five additional points of Mania. All Mental Skill checks suffer a -5 penalty. Verbal
communication becomes impossible.
Quote: "When you lack the needed lore/And cannot manage applications/All you'll get is 404/To test the limits
of your patience."
Machine elves, sometimes called transforming elves or fractal elves, are the names given to creatures created
by failed calculations and equations. They are birthed, not solely by the broken dreams of the scientific
consensus, but also by the failed thoughts of their computers. The children of botched and unfinished
calculations, of paradoxical mathematical systems, machine elf populations have exploded since the
proliferation of the personal computer. Though the first reports of these shy, clever creatures go back to
Newton's time, they are now one of the most common kinds of manes, living rich and intricate lives behind
computer terminals and under the floors of server stations. Lemurians, who call these creatures kobaloi,
possess a unique affinity for the creatures, and the machine elves in a Lemurian's unmada field often come to
represent the Lemurian's dreams and beliefs.
Even Stranger Phenomena:
Not every strange thing in the World of Darkness stems from Mania. In the shadows of the cities and the
savage places where humans rarely go, the dead walk, beast-men hunt, and sorcerers twist and warp the laws
of nature. Some of these beings can be allies to mad scientists, but others are deadly threats that view
geniuses as just another kind of prey. Geniuses must tread carefully around these creatures, and though
alliances and treaties are possible, the dark things of the world are products of insanity and twisted logic
every bit as bizarre as what Mania can spawn.
Inhabiting every city, feeding on the vulnerable and working to maintain systems of exploitation and brutality
where their behavior fades into the bleak statistics of urban violence, are once-human things that sustain
themselves on the blood of the living. Geniuses call them hemophages, a detached and clinical term for
monsters that can't easily be categorized or understood. Several cities have seen all-out wars between
geniuses and hemophages, brutal cycles of violence and revenge. While a mad scientist's grasp of fire and
solar power is enough to keep many hemophages at bay, they are cagey, shadowy creatures who possess a
variety of psychic and biomorphic abilities, as well as control over mortal servants.
While violent clashes have occurred, many cities see a coexistence between hemophages and the Inspired―or
complete ignorance from both sides. After all, geniuses and blood-suckers have very little reason to interact.
The walking dead make dangerous and rather useless test subjects, and while a mad scientist's blood is as
nutritious as any human's, hemophages are predators, and only desperate or foolish predators target the
strongest in the herd. Weirdly, this near-complete lack of common ground can allow harmonious existences
between geniuses and vampires, who, if they know of one-another, may find themselves passing dreary
nights together as the mad scientist performs experiments and the vampire merely exists in its frozen,
deathless state, connected together only by a common separation from humanity.
Not all geniuses are city dwellers, but those that favor isolation in the deep wilderness know that ancient
spirits stalk the forests and wastes of the world. These shapeshifters are part of a self-propagating pattern
within the larger human genome, a code that's passed through certain lineages and that occasionally activates
to produce a full-blown "wolf-man." Some geniuses have hypothesized that these creatures are a sort of
planetary white blood cell, destroying dimensional infestations from hostile aliens. Others are comfortable
with a more bald-faced explanation: the wild places are full of nature spirits, cruel and primal, who keep their
own counsel and their own laws.
Genius-shapeshifter interactions in the wild rarely end well. Werewolves have been known to tear apart
whole collaboratives for offending against obscure spiritual or philosophical concepts, and an unprepared
genius is easy sport for a pack of hungry shapeshifters. This often results in retaliation, as well-briefed
geniuses armed with scanners and Katastrofic silver weapons drive the monsters off. Others even try to hunt
and harvest them, though shapeshifter-hunting offers a very short life expectancy. But times are changing for
both mad scientists and the "nature spirits," as the peers try to reach out and find common ground with these
alien beings. And increasingly, even the "spirits" have come to live in cities, stripping them of their mystique
and making them just another part of the weird concrete ecology that geniuses must navigate. These urban
hunters are more comfortable with both regular humans and the geniuses among them, allowing for greater
cooperation, or at least tolerance, between the two groups.
There are other ways of transforming the world, ways based on ancient tradition and transcendent
understanding, of glimpsing something beyond and above this world. Those humans who glimpse what
overlies everything are called mages, and they can work terrible sorceries: flying, stepping across space and
realities, hurling elemental devastation. While a genius can do all of these things, mages work their wonders
with will and lore, not machines and madness. At first glance, there seems to be common ground between the
Inspired and these mages: both are, at least outwardly, humans who have seen beyond the gray raiment of
this world. Though this is the attitude of many curious mad scientists, mages who know of Inspiration seem
unanimous in their opinion of geniuses: the Inspired are simply not human. They are human-shaped things
inhabited by cosmic intelligences of unknown motivations and origins. This has produced a great deal of
friction and even violence in the past, as fundamental language barriers prevent cooperation between the two
groups. It seems as if, when dealing with mages, a genius' Jabir becomes a toxic, infuriating thing that drives
sorcerers into paranoid rages.
One of the few exceptions to this fearful hostile is the relationship between the Scholastics and a mage
"foundation" called the Free Council. These two groups have found some common ground and can, to a
limited extent, communicate meaningfully. This is important, for―whatever mages' opinions on what the
Inspired "really" are―geniuses and mages can look a lot alike from the outside. The two groups have
occasionally been forced to get together when a mistake is made, and a new "mage" turns out to be a recentlycatalyzed
genius or a "genius" betraying weird and unusual abilities is in fact a newly-Awakened sorcerer.
These awkward and embarrassing exchanges must be made quickly, before incorrect training drives the
student insane or exposes him to dangerous extradimensional intellects.
The only other unusual aspect of genius-mage interaction is when Lemurians interact with the "Seers of the
Throne," a magical organization dedicated to control and world domination in the name of their transcendent
posthuman masters. Since both groups are, nominally, in the world domination racket, one might expect
competition, cooperation, or even outright war. Instead, the groups seem literally unable to notice oneanother.
Individual members can, if forced, recognize one-another's existence, but the memory quickly fades
and the incident is soon forgotten. No one is sure what causes this unusual effect.
There are odder and rarer things than the walking dead, nature spirits, or magic spells in the World of
Darkness, and geniuses are familiar with only some of them. The most difficult aspect of these interactions,
for the Inspired, is sorting out what is the product of Mania from what operates by its own set of rules. Ghosts
and spirits certainly exist, whatever pseudoscience a genius uses to justify them, but whether they're selfactualizing
memory engrams or trans-organic monitoring agents, they aren't properly part of a mad
scientist's "world," and they exist and function based on a closed set of rules to which Inspiration does not
have special access. Sometimes it's harder to tell: some reanimated dead things are the products of mad
science, while others are a different order of creature entirely. Certain alien abductions and hybridizations
bear the mark of Mania and the frantic dream-energy of a bardo, while others are outside of a genius'
purview. Cryptids, zombies, ape-men, golems, elementals, gods, and rarefied essences all move through the
World of Darkness, and distinguishing those that, however powerful and terrifying, follow the warped
dictates of mad science, from those that represent doors to an even larger and stranger world, is nearly
impossible for all but the most gifted scholars of the weird.
The Scholarship and fellowship for the Elders of the Third Law benefit any device entirely based on
mechanical principles. This includes mechanical brains and clockwork people (Automata), crossbow-like
weapons and wind-up swords (Katastrofi), spring-powered carts, self-powered ornithopters and helicopters,
dirigibles, and balloons that can reach the Crystal Spheres (Skafoi), mechanical suits of armor (Prostasia), and
other devices constructed entirely on mechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic principles.
Upon initiation, geniuses who claim a Scholarship or fellowship in the Hermetic Order select one of six "chief
spheres" that will represent them. These "chief spheres" are:
Air (including all gases). Poison gas wands (Katastrofi), breath-stealing phantoms (Automata), storm
Earth (including metal, stone, dirt, and dead organic material). Rune-graven armor suits (Prostasia), "fair
folk"-fast item repair (Exelixi), cockatrices (Automata and Metaptropi)
Fire (including light, lightning, and most electromagnetic phenomena). Flaming swords (Katastrofi), Phaethon
chariots (Skafoi), amulets vs. fire (Prostasia)
Water (including all liquids, as well as ice). Blood-freezing charms (Katastrofi), enchanted boats (Skafoi),
water elementals (Automata)
Life (plants, animals, and the human body). Loup-garou hexes (Metaptropi), potions of healing (Exelixi),
Spirit (including thoughts, memories, and non-corporeal beings). Evil eye (Katastrofi), mind control powders
(Epikrato), circlets of mind-reading (Apokalypsi)
Any wonder that falls into the appropriate category benefits from the Scholarship or fellowship so long as it is
built in the Hermetic's unique style. Generally, the more of a stretch the wonder is, the more egregious and
"magical-seeming" are any faults. A genius cannot change his chief sphere once it is selected (either for a
Scholarship or a fellowship).
The Phantom Foundation Scholarship and fellowship benefits any wonder capable of detecting, controlling,
communicating with, or interacting with the dead. "The dead" include corpses (which may or may not be
slated for resurrection), ghosts, vampires, miscellaneous "walking dead," and certain other natural
inhabitants of Twilight or other death-realms, shadow-realms, or netherworlds. This includes ghostbuster
guns (Katastrofi), necroscopes (Apokalypsi), gates to the Other Side (Skafoi), and wards, hedges, and shields
against the dead (Prostasia).
A genius can gain the Institute's benefits with any wonder that possesses the "internalized" variable. Originally only
wonders based on brain augmentation and alteration could receive this benefit, but the Institute has expanded a bit
in recent years, allowing for a variety of internal mechanical and chemical enhancements. This benefit includes
telepathic nodes (Apokalypsi and Epikrato), inner "third eyes" for remote-viewing (Apokalypsi), internal healing
and biofeedback enhancement (Exelixi), and even strange powers like levitation (Epikrato) and internalized
Scholarship and fellowship in the Iridium Sentinels grant a bonus to any wonder that qualifies as an "armored
suit." To qualify as an armored suit, the suit must fit over a human body (or some other body; if you really want
to build a battle-harness for your guinea pigs, go ahead; the Sentinels will spot you the cash) and possess a
Prostasia rating of at least 1. Weapons, scanners, and other wonders also receive the benefit of the Iridium
Sentinels, so long as they are integral to the suit and cannot be removed from it.
The Malcolm T. Washington Scholarship and fellowship benefit any independently-functioning life form of
arthropoidal origin and appearance. The "independently functioning" element is important: the bonus applies
when building fully independent insect-like automata, as well as automata-that-are-mostly-Skafoi and
automata-that-are-mostly-Katastrofi, but they must be automata: a flying beetle that spits acid is fine, but an
acid-spitting proboscis strapped to the wrist is not; a near-mindless (Automata 2) fifty-foot riding centipede
is acceptable, while a surgically-grafted set of butterfly wings will not offer the bonus. The wonders must also
be at least mostly organic; insect-shaped robots or clockworks do not qualify. Integral wonders of these
arthropods that are also mostly organic also benefit.
To gain the benefit of this fellowship, a genius must construct a wonder of Skafoi that is large enough to have
a seat but not so large it requires more than one person to operate. Further, the wonder must "move" in some
way, that is, its primary mode of operation must use the Drive skill. Hot rods, jet bikes, personal spaceships or
submersibles, and sports cars all qualify; large vessels like multi-crew starships do not, nor do worn wonders
like jet boots and grafted wings. Any wonders integral to this vehicle also qualify for the fellowship's benefits,
as do any wonders of Exelixi that can modify or upgrade those vehicles or their integral gear.
The Resurrection Consortium Scholarship and fellowship can benefit any attempt at procedures that restore
life to the dead, rejuvenate old, damaged, diseased, or dead tissue, increase life span, or animate dead flesh or
brains. This includes the animating of chemical, cryogenic, or techno-occult zombies (Automata) as well as
any attempt to heal, repair, or restore (though not upgrade) organic tissue (Exelixi).
So I completely forgot I had said I'd do a conclusion to Genius: The Transgression which I reviewed earlier in the thread. For completion's sake, here it is.
Genius: The Transgression, Conclusions
At its core, I think Genius does have a good kernel of horror to it in the highway of broken dreams. Our minds work in part through recognizing connections and patterns, self-evident and beyond merely elementary. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, things fall down, the Chicago Cubs don't win the World Series. The Inspired do not make the same connections everyone else does. Their minds fundamentally work differently, and there's reason to believe that many forms of autism and genuine Asperger's Syndrome work like this. To Geniuses, the way the world works is self-evident, logical, and rational. But most everyone they encounter disagree, call the Genius crazy. No one likes being called insane, and the minds of the Inspired are suffused with a manic, creative energy. There's a mystery in front of them that they must explore, but just as important to many Geniuses a simple and profound human need: the quest for validation.
Perhaps a Genius can convince a few people that the Genius is right, but by necessity what the Genius sees - what the genius knows - is at odds with the world's scientific establishment and vast bodies of knowledge. And driven in part by the light inside their heads that never shuts off, Geniuses build. They build devices based on their unique theories to demonstrate that they're right, that their ideas everyone else calls crazy really do work. Every success is a triumph, often creating wonders beyond the limits of recognized science and technology. But... and this is supported by the rules, so many inventions aren't successes. They require some rare component that the Genius can't afford or obtain, or requires a moral cost the Genius is unwilling to pay. For every wonder the Genius builds that works, there are two or three half-finished creations in her lab that just didn't work out. Even those that work, though, are largely imperfect. Only a very few devices are free from irritating faults that crept in from nowhere. They work... but they're almost invariably flawed in some way that no amount of tinkering and refinement can seem to get rid of.
So the Genius can prove to herself, maybe, that her ideas are conceptually sound. Proving it to others, though... that perfect built flying machine falls apart at a touch if she tries to show it off to a friend, to prove she's not crazy. Her friend notes that airplanes just don't work that way, and he's right. The flying machine spontaneously falls apart under close inspection. Or, perhaps worse, it doesn't and her friend agrees completely with her brilliance. In fact, he agrees with her about everyone. A spark has gone out of him, his creativity and free will. He's become a beholden. Or just maybe, he starts thinking about the flying machine and how it does seem to be impossible but how might it be possible... and he's staring down a rabbit hole.
That constant doubt would eat away at anyone. That constant vision that no one else can see, that you fundamentally can't show . Remember that every Genius is ultimately self-inflicted. When they find that rabbit hole, they realize that things are making less and less sense. They can feel a pressure in the back of their minds letting in strange ideas. They can stop there, retreat safely back into a world where things make sense and logic and reason are shared by everyone. But what makes a Genius is the decision not to, to pursue those answers and ideas no matter how crazy they seem. Every Genius knows, consciously or otherwise, that they chose this path. They did this to themselves, and the question always lurks: was it worth it?
Playing as a Mane is just as bad, and cribs more than a little from Promethean. Most Manes know that they're less than real. Even if they appear to be human, they're not and only survive by the dreams and thoughts of people - real people. A young Ubermensch from the Nazi base on the far side of the moon comes to Earth to scout out a target. She looks human. She is human in most respects, a tall, fit, blonde-haired blue-eyed beauty and specimen of physical and mental perfection. But she's a moon Nazi, and the Nazis never made it to the moon. National Socialism has been dead for seventy years and isn't coming back. The moon base's planned invasion is doomed to failure. This young woman walks through a world where everyone about her, everything that she is, is the butt of jokes and comically over the top video games. She really is a Nazi from the moon... and anyone walking down the street can kill her with a handshake because she can't exist. G:TT hints that it's possible for Manes to become real somehow, but that may not be much comfort to this figment of the human imagination.
Genius' stated core mood is bitter disappointment for a reason. No matter how strong or clever or brilliant a Genius or Mane is, they're all but incapable of really affecting reality. They can travel through time, but does that really change anything? Was Lemuria, the root of the Illuminati and Templars and Masons and a million other conspiracies, anything more than a waking dream that never really mattered? Or was it all real, and now the guiding force of human civilization is gone? Lemuria was monstrous in many respects, but no more so than many entirely non-Inspired organizations and governments, and in fact less so than some. Now that's gone, leaving humanity alone in the dark to chart its own destiny.
Of course, that's all well and good in theory. Getting less poetic, Genius riffs hard on oMage a lot. Two of the five Foundations are transparent copies of the Technocracy, and I'm sure people more familiar with oMage can point out more examples of direct lifting. Nothing about a game of playing mad scientists pays more than lip service to the science part. Inspiration is magic by any other name and wonders are no different from magic wands or enchanted swords and that's not talking about the Geniuses who think they are doing magic and making just those things.
While there's a good core of horror and self-examination to be had in Genius, the game itself keeps departing that tone to emphasize wacky powers and mad science adventures. That's all well and good in its place, but reconciling those tones as equally valid ways to play one game is a tougher task than I think Genius' writers were up to unless it's meant to be during the denouement of such an adventure, the realization that fundamentally nothing you just did matters and you're all insane anyway. The Phantom Foundation and Iridium Sentinels give an out to play Genius as a game of Ghostbusters or Justice League America. Not bad options, but do call upon the DM to embrace and expand upon, or completely ignore the concepts involved as the game requires.
Perhaps appropriately, my closing thoughts on Genius are that there is definitely a strong game idea to be found, but is let down and shackled by poor execution, being too beholden to oMage, and a general lack of focus for what the game is about.