A Brief History of Murder
Original SA post
Yeah. 2e's been much better about 'Morality' by making it, well, not Morality.
Technically, Slasher is a blue book - a core World of Darkness line, rather than Hunter. Don't let that fool you - it's a Hunter book. A book about people that kill. Not for passion or for revenge or bad decisions. They kill because they need to kill. Because something inside them forces them to kill. It might be there from birth, might be forced on them by circumstance. And these people, they can't stop at one. They have to kill more. It's compulsive. There's a ritual to it - it has to be done right. The right organ taken, maybe. A cipher painted in blood. A kill made with the right weapon. Maybe only the right kind of victim. Maybe only in one place. It changes with each killer. Slashers are very diverse.
Sometimes, all that killing changes these people. It turns something off inside them. It turns out a light. And from the darkness that remains, sometimes, power comes. Supernatural might and cunning, maybe. Immunity to bullets. Honeyed words to charm anyone with, literally controlling minds. Perfect killing with a chosen weapon. Slashers are the perfect predators, no longer truly human. The idea of the slasher dates back to maybe Psycho, Black Christmas and, in more modern days, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw. And in the World of Darkness, slashers are some of the worst things for a hunter to face. You can deal with other monsters. You can negotiate. But you can't make a deal with a serial killer, can you? It's not impossible, but who wants to try? And worse - hunters have the advantage of numbers and teamwork...but sometimes, so do slashers. It's rare. Very rare. But sometimes, it's a killing team - exponentially more dangerous. And sometimes, a hunter breaks down. Sometimes, they become a slasher. They find a way to excuse killing not just a witch, but all of her family, to bleed out the magic in the blood. Maybe they don't even justify it. And yes, you can play a slasher.
A slasher can even be a protagonist - you don't have to be Jason, though you can be. You don't have to be Jigsaw. You can be Dexter if you want. You can kill only monsters - brutally, viciously, but monsters. It's not healthy, of course. The unstoppable urge to kill never is. But it's...positive, in a way. And of course, everyone can sympathize with a vengeful killer. But hey, that's only an option. You can be a monster, too.
Smile for the camera.
So, let's talk about killing. In 1971, Oscar Kiss Maerth published
The Beginning of the End
, a somewhat wild-eyed exploration of human origins. It wasn't very respected, academically. It had no references, and Maerth said he'd got all his information from real-life headhunters and via meditation. It's mostly a rant, talking about how humans evolved from cannibalism, a normative pre-human trait. Ancestral humans killed their rivals and ate their brains, which is an aphrodisiac. Later, they also found that eating brains increased intelligence - permanently and in a hereditary way. Eating brains caused chemical changes. Bodies lost their hairy covering, and humans developed latent psychic powers. They kept at it, as the chemical high of brain consumption was addictive. Tribes hunted the heads of other tribes. They lost the power to communicate instinctively, as animals do. The skull changed shape over time, putting pressure on brains and minds. Humanity went mad - all of them, driven to wage war, to kill, to destroy the environment. Maerth also attributed miscegenation and racial integration to this destructive pressure, but that's really more about being what you can get away with publishing in 1971 than his theory in and of itself. Was there anything to it? Maybe not, but it sounds easy to believe. (Well, kind of.) People kill for trivial reasons, make money at the expense of others and twist any ideology to justify violence. Even if he was hazy on detail, what if Maerth wasn't wrong? What if, inside everyone, is the potential to be a cannibal, a rapist, a torturer - not just a potential, but a genetic predisposition? I mean, something has to cause slashers. What's driving these people mad with increasing frequency? Are they freak accidents? Is murder the default state of humanity?
The story of Genesis talks about the first murder. We are told of the Nephilim as well, mixtures of the divine and mortal. They die in the Flood, and apocrypha say that they were mass murderers, bathing in the blood of the undeserving. They were heroes of ancient days - and killers. They were adored for it. Who were these ancient, mythic heroes - and are they really gone, these killers of ancient times? In the Secret Midrash of the Three Sons of Esau, it is written that Nimrod was a mighty hunter - a hunter of men, the sons of the Fallen. He killed nine of these sons of the Fallen, hung them from the gates of his city, which he named Babel, and said to the people: the sons of the Fallen shall not vex you, and this is a sign. The people rejoiced, declaring Nimrod a mighty king, and he commanded to bake bricks, to build a tower to the heavens, that he might be equal to God. It took three centuries and still was not finished, for Nimrod himself said: I shall build my tower, and my people shall die. He made the builders fall from the tower as they built, to see them dashed against the earth, and the men of Babel began to fear Nimrod, weeping as they sent their sons to build. For if they refused, Nimrod would impale them on stakes and hang them before his house for all to see, saying: It is nothing to me whether these people work on the tower and die or die by my hand, only that they die. And so he commanded each man have both a son and a daughter before they die, that he might have generations to kill.
In the three hundredth year after Nimrod began his tower, Abram came to Babel from Ur, along with his father, Terah. He was descendant of Nimrod of the seventh generation. Terah said to Abram: Do not speak out against Nimrod, my son, for he is a mighty hunter, and he hunts men, and if you anger him, he will find you and send you to his tower to die. But on the first night, an angel of the Lord came to Abram in a dream. He threw himself at the feet of the angel, which said to him: Be not afraid, Abram, for the Lord, the God of Hosts, has given you His favor. Confront Nimrod and pronounce God's curse upon him, for God has judged. The Lord will be with you. You must walk without sandals to the house of Nimrod and say to him this: the Lord has cursed you, and His judgment is upon you.
And so Abram woke and did as he was bade, calling out to Nimrod. And Nimrod awoke and came with armed men, but Abram told him: I am your descendant to the seventh generation, and my name is ABram. The Angel of the Lord came to me last night, and said to me, go to the house of Nimrod without sandals, and say to Nimrod, the Lord has cursed you, and His judgment is upon you. Nimrod drew his blade, but Abram wasn ot afraid, for God was with him. And so Abram raised his hand and called on the Lord, and locusts rose from the dust in the ground and swarmed Nimrod, and one locus flew into Nimrod's ear and burrowed into his brain. So did the mighty hunter die. Abram went to the builders and told them: You must stop, for Nimrod is dead. The men refused, for they were still afraid, and Abram was but a boy without sandals. Because the men did not believe Abram had defeated Nimrod, God cursed them, so that each would speak a different langauge from their brother, and they began to fight amongst themselves.
This text is perhaps an origin story of a slasher. Where do slashers come from? Some say they just happen - environmental and other unusual factors, like brain tumors or paranormal influence, turn people's minds around, create the slasher phenomenon. Some say people are just evil sometimes - it's their nature. Some say it's the influence of Satan in the world, and that slashers are consumed by sin, and their rise is due to the imminent end of the world. Others say it's genetic predisposition, tracable back to our ancestral apes. Any could be right. Why should it be consistent? Why can't they all be right or wrong sometimes?
A surviving copy of the Bellum Sanguinis of L. Poppadeius Caliga can be found in the Munich Library of the Loyalists of Thule. It speaks of a man who feels betrayed, for the Italian people have been denied Roman citizenship despite being long allies of Rome. Drusus is dead, yet they took the Vow of Drusus: if I become a citizen of Rome, by the Law of Drusus, I will hold Rome as my country. They would be loyal, if only they were allowed to be. The writer is a Bird of Minerva, though banished from the Aventine Hill for being non-Roman, but the Birds did not forget him. They have let him live, they he rebels against Rome. And by cover of night, he has joined three other Birds, Roman Birds, to go to the city. His fellows risk crucifixion in joining him, but he would do the same for them. They hunt the Hag of Nola, an old woman with skin tattooed so dark it is like felt, who kills with a terrible blade. They say no man of pure heart can be harmed by her, but they know they are soldiers and do not have this defense.
The men call for the Hag at the crossroads. Nothing happens, and the man who called laughs - and is killed. She is gone before they can catch her. Another dies. She is gone again. The third is slain. They tried to flee, but could not escape. At last, the writer, alone, strips down and draws his knife. He cuts off his own right hand as sacrifice to the Hag. She shows herself now, bending over to take the offered hand, and he chops into her neck with his sword in his left hand. He believes she must be dead. He flees, back to his army. And when he next hears the story of the Hag of Nola, he is in Rome, having bought his citizenship, for though his side lost the war, they were given their demand. He never returns to Nola - he is unsure if the Hag can be killed, and he has nothing left to sacrifice.
The Lucifuge holds a document from the 19th century. It is French, attributed to Panurge, Chevalier Theleme, who purports to have lived during the Inquisition of the 1490s in Spain. It speaks of a man who met the Spanish inquisitors, men who believed absolutely, and who did evil because of their faith. The one he sought now, a Dominican named Alphonso Romero, was different. His fellows had honest belief - a terrible thing, and the Chevalier prefers hypocrites. They often have a price. But Alphonso had no belief - he just needed an excuse to kill. It was tradition of Torquemada to offer a chance to recant, and thus earn strangulation rather than death by fire, but here, no mercy was given. All burned under the eyes of a smiling Alphonso. The Chevalier watched him, waiting. Nothing would persuade Alphonso to show mercy, ever. He would plant evidence if he needed to. But the Chevalier could find no proof of this. He just knew, somehow. At last, he tried to fight - and so he was taken and tortured. Never by Alphonso, not directly. He would sit and watch. And while he seemed merciful, the Chevalier could see the mark of Hell in him, and knew - he just enjoyed this. He endured the torments, weeping but not breaking. Even now, centuries later, he can feel the aches. At last, the priest ordered his men to leave, and began to give the well-practiced speech of regret.
And so, the Chevalier laughed - he told Alphonso he knew God had nothing to do with these killings. Alphonso admitted to this. But how would that help the Chevalier? He was going to die anyway. The Chevalier asked, then, since he was going to die: Why? Why do these things if the priest didn't even believe? The priest smiled and said, "Because I can. I awoke on the morning I arrived here, and I saw that there was no God, and saw that our Holy Work was a sham, and that all there was, was the blood, and the burning." He seemed even regretful, but had shown his pride - a deadly sin. And so the Chevalier opened his mind to his own damnation, and so then did the Chevalier's 'companion,' Franz, appeared in brimstone and steam, unlocked the manacles and allowed the Chevalier free while the priest wept - and then, well, the Chevalier killed him, using all the tortures he'd suffered. And still, as he was tortured, the priest could only laugh.
Slashers rarely have temporal power like Alphonso did, but it happens. That gives them so many opportunities. They can aim big. Very big indeed. They can encourage violence without ever having to lift a knife. They can use their command to kill. Still, most slashers need to see their kills. It's what makes them so dangerous, but also their biggest weakness. I mean, let's assume a Charmer becomes President. (It's a type of slasher.) Let's say he hypothetically gets an intern to blow him. And eventually, that intern's going to get chopped to bits, because that's what he does. It has to be covered up, and eventually, a Secret Service guy is going to talk to his TF:V buddy. Another country's leader might personally go to war zones to get his fix. The point is, a slasher in power
slips up, will always find themselves unable to resist an opportunity. Even when they have power, there are ways to get close, and you can find them.
Also notable - torture is often part of a slasher's MO. The Inquisition has taught them much. Even the supposedly mindless killers torture their victims with fear long before they strike. They harry their prey, always letting them get away just a little bit. tormenting them. Slashers are more than killers - they do more than just mug people. It's practically an art to some of them. They must torment before they finally make the kill.
Next time: More history.
Original SA post
The Restoration and Enlightenment were the time of the first real studies of slashers and their history. Some pamphlets talk about the Beast of Drury Lane, who took a cleaver to women and animals in 1744. He got taken down by a team of craftsmen and artisans whose wives he'd killed. Only one of them survived the fight. Today, all that remains of him in the public consciousness is a children's rhyme.
Run across to Drury Lane,
Turn around, run back again,
Hold a chopper in your hand,
Cut apart our happy band,
Run away and hide,
For everyone shall stay but you.
In France, under the Sun King, it was the Wolf of Verdun, Jean Houillier, who over the space of a week killed 30 men with his teeth alone before a lone man put him down with a musket ball to the skull. After the American War of Independence, it was an old scout named Bad Jack Potter, who led a band of cannibals until the Mattaponi Indians caught and killed them all...except Jack, who they handed to the settlers of Virginia because they wanted him to suffer a punishment more cruel than they could inflict. In 1791, it was a diary delivered to the Republican Government of Paris, telling in detail of the manipulation and planting of evidence that had killed over a hundred during the Terror. Investigators found it contained details that could only be known by by the victims and the Revolutionary Tribunal. No one knows why it was sent.
In the midst of all this, some hunters realized slashers were a real problem, a thing of their own. In the 18th century, the Malleus, Aegis Kai Doru, Ascending Ones and Lucifuge all began to collect records of slashers. In 1761, a scientist by the name of Robert James Harrison of Glasgow published the first paper on the slashers. Butchers Born, Or A Treatise on Distempers of the Brain and the Urge to Murder. Some of his ideas were too ahead of their time to gain any acceptance, and his accounts were too wild to be believed. By the time psychology caught up, he'd been forgotten. Only a few copies of his text exist today. The Lucifuge own one, and not its praise for the actions of one Chevalier Theleme. The Aegis Kai Doru keep their copy in Scotland, and believe it has supernatural powers. The Loyalists of Thule own two copies, one in Munich and the other in New York. The last to consult one of those two was disturbed to notice the design on the frontispiece: Cheiron the Healer. A very familiar design, in fact.
Captain Henry Coale's Memoirs of a Naval Man in the Caribbean mentions an anecdote from 1712, while Coale was captain of the Anne Stuart. He'd heard tales of the Black SChooner, but he put no credence to them - pirate tales were all the same. Sold soul to Satan, crew cursed to wander the seas, yadda yadda. So he never credited the tales of the pirate crew gone adrift in the Sargasso Sea. The midshipman telling the tale said they cared only for death now, not treasure. He said they'd gone mad before the wind freed them of the weed, turned to cannibalism. Now, they killed and ate the towns they raided. Coale didn't believe a word - not until they reached Port James and found it empty of life. The women and children had been crucified on gibbets, dead a week. He had them buried properly and found that the buildings had been untouched. Raiders tend to pillage, but they had touched nothing. The food was left alone, the treasury unopened. There was no sign of any man who lived in Port James - only the women and children. The crew blamed the Black Schooner, saying the men were taken, eaten or worse. Coale assured them it wasn't so, but he had his own doubts. What men steal nothing but build gibbets for every innocent in town? They never found a perpetrator, no matter how Coale searched. He heard stories of similar massacres, but no culprit was ever found.
They say now that the Black Schooner is still out there, its crew wearing human skins sewn to flesh and stained with blood. It barely floats, but its spiderweb sails can still catch wind and it can outrun anything. The crew do not speak. They act without mercy or pause. They torture the women and children. Never any survivors. They take the men. Some are held in the larders, hanging on hooks. Others are press-ganged into the crew, which is how the ship endures. They never talk - their tongues are cut out. They never stop. They have no rhyme or reason, save perhaps in a logbook they carry which may not even exist. And what of similar groups, driven to cannibalism and madness by circumstance? Isolated tribes, clans, military teams cut off from the world. Isolation can force people to desperate, terrible things - and that can leave its mark.
The number of slashers rose in the 19th century, perhaps due to the rise of large cities, and with them, poverty and crime and despair. Documents of the Order of the Southern Temple speak of the Calcutta Anatomist, who dissected Dalit women during the final days of the British East India Company but was never caught. The Kolkata police force today do not talk of the mutilated bodies they find, even today, in the slums. Every so often they give a press release about having a suspect. Nothing ever comes of it. Over a week in 1877, the Mad Englishman - a naked brute of a man - tore through gamblers and working men in Shanghai with a meat hook. He was only stopped by three local men who took up the job when the authorities couldn't. Ashwood Abbey, of course, had Saucy Jack, the Ripper. Some say he still haunts Britain, turned into a virtual god of murder by folklore. Some claim he was the Prince of Wales. Royalty can do these things - it's a matter of record that a minor Russian prince slaughtered serfs in Saint Petersburg in 1909. Everyone knew who he was and why no one could do anything to stop him. The student, poet and carpenter who eventually killed him were put to death by firing squad.
Rumors during World War I persist about a soldier - some say British, some French or German or Russian, who made use of mustard gas and barbed wire very creatively, massacring troops on all sides before vanishing in the crossfire. During Prohibition, an early Union cell went up against Michael "Cleaver" McKay, a mob kneecapper who prefered messy kills. One day he went rogue after escaping a betrayal, or perhaps went mad from bad drink. Either way, he'd never been stable to begin with, and he began to wipe out
the gangs...and their families. That brought the Union in, and they had help from the thugs, who lured him to a warehouse and took him down in a hail of machine gun fire. Even after a hundred bullets, he still killed half a dozen mobsters. The one journal recording his death says that as one man stood over the corpse, he was cut in half by the cleaver as McKay stood up again. The second time he went down, he didn't get back up. During the Depression, there were more like him.
After World War II, the serial killer really come into its own - and with it, the slasher. Paranoia and brainwashing scares in the 50s, thrill-killers in the 60s, terrorism in the 70s. Killer yuppies in the 80s, cults in the 90s, 9/11 paranoia now. James Moore, retired VASCU agent, writes about Christopher Moon in 1969. A Philadelphia man from an abusive family background, known as a petty thief by the age of 9. Two years in jail by 21, wanted in ten states in 1965. He lived in San Francisco then, dealing drugs to hippies. Thelemic magic became popular after the Summer of Love, thanks to Kenneth Anger's films, and that's when the thrill-kill cults started. In '69, Moon went from drug dealer to terror prophet. He recruited 21 men and women, mostly rich. Mostly women, really. Most of them were later arrested, and all claimed to be Moon's second in command and main lover, but all admitted he spread it around. On June 19, three of them - James Trump, Helen "Flower" Fields and Jane "Mouse" Allison - kidnapped and killed the three-year-old daughter of millionaire Rice Warne and stole the ransom money. They killed themselves before they could be caught. On June 22, two more bodies were recovered. Unidentifiable, but presumed to be Georgina "Sunshine" Reece and Nicola "Venus" Kenwright, bombers of the central branch of Wells Fargo in LA, killing three guards and themselves. That might have been an accidental suicide, or might not. 17 of the 21 killed, then died shortly after, mostly by suicide. 11 were responsible for the San Fernando Massacre of August 9, where the so-called Young Liberators broke every house on one black in Glendale and shot anyone they found. Moon was not present. The four that were captured during a bombing of an old folks' home in Santa Fe - Harry Boone, Beth "Brighteyes" Vickers, Ida "Peaceful" Buckingham and Rachel "Heart" Frost - all claimed he was not involved. Agent Moore determined via deep profiling that this was untrue, but they believed it. The evidence, however, was not admissable. They are still in prison, there being in no death penalty in 1969, and they still deny Moon's involvement. Christopher Moon remains at large.
Slashers can, in fact, be charismatic enough to do this. Some of them even have supernatural charisma. It's terrifying, really. And it's easy for it to happen to your family, as a hunter. AFter all, you're gone all the time, on odd errands. You come back at all hours, blood covering your clothes, burning them. It doesn't lead to happy families. And someone who keeps secrets for you? Well, that's a perfect target for a charismatic Maniac. It's not gone - not by a long shot.
The European Operations Unit of Project TWILIGHT has a transcript of a British police interview from 2007, between DI Frank Crowe and DS Alice Crawford and DCI Michael Hayden. Frank is under accusation of working with a man named Simon May to enter the home of Philip John Hammett and beat him to death with a golf club. A six-iron. Crowe admits to it, saying he had no choice. The man was acquitted of the Tom Thumb murders - killing teenage girls and removing their thumbs. Crowe had worked the case. Crawford believes he let it get personal, because his daughter went missing nine months prior. Crowe was certain the jury was paid off by something he called the Hunt Club, but he had no proof. He says he'd broke in to look for evidence, that Hammett had taunted him. Simon May remains missing. Crowe says he hadn't planned the kill or he'd have used a gun, but they'd found the basement, which was empty when police arrived on the scene. Crowe again blames the Hunt Club. Hammett attacked them with a knife, he said, and it was all caught on film - the place was wired for CCTV, which the police did not find. Cameras were empty. Crowe explains - the Hunt Club would've taken them if he and Simon hadn't done it first. They have the footage - two crates of it, as much as they could carry, and all the photos May took. It's in a bank vault May set up. He doesn't know what's on the tapes, but they had the girls' names on them. Even the ones not in the press. Crowe admits he hid it from the people who came to clean up - but he warns his boss, they'll be looking for the footage, too.
The Hunt Club exists. A society of slashers who help each other, support each other, clean up for each other. They clean up and plant evidence. They get the police on their side, they hire the lawyers - the best around. And some of them are cops. And the hardest part? They're human. All slashers are. They're people. There's no reason for it - well, not always. Sometimes there's a bad childhood or PTSD. Sometimes it's a cursed knife. It doesn't matter why - it could happen to anyone. Slashers aren't made for a reason. Not like vampires are. They don't make a choice, like mages do. They're just people. And they could be you.
Low-level hunter cells tend not to go out looking for slashers - they react to them. Someone goes nuts and becomes a serial killer, you deal with it. Often, they become the targets. But catching a slasher is never easy. They strike when least expected, from around every corner. Never go alone, ever. Never split up. Be armed and ready at all times. A slasher is good at splitting the pack - it's a lot harder than it sounds to stay together. They use the environment, the circumstances, your own emotions. Even with research, a local cell is going to need a lot of luck and to keep their wits about them. And sometimes, things go wrong. Sometimes, you look into the darkness and it enters you. Everyone's out for blood, and if they're not, they're either lying to you or themselves. You've seen it, the scum that rises in this world. And no one ever thanks you for your work. Most of them think you're crazy. You've saved them more often than you can count, and they don't even want to talk to you any more. They're complacent. They don't realize they could be monsters as easily as anyone. You wonder if maybe there's only cattle and monsters. Cattle don't deserve to live. Monsters deserve to die. You stop caring about the victims, maybe not even the bystanders. They're bait. You enjoy the torture of suspects. You enjoy the killing. The monster comes home to find their family dead, and a note declaring they're next. The vampire's art gallery goes up in smoke, all staff dead in the blaze. The wizard has kids. Best not to think about it. Fight the monsters. Do the right thing. You are, aren't you?
The Loyalists of Thule try to stay out of trouble and hit the books, but against a slasher, the books tend not to help. Sure, you have the records on Nimrod the Tyrant or the Beast of Drury Lane or so on, but why would you ever connect those to the guy out there killing teenagers with a hook? In the end, they need field experience for slashers, and research into narrow, local matters. Family histories, secret records of local problems, newspaper stories. Slasher research isn't big picture but local. And as you start asking around, well, it seems to paint a target on you. The slashers come after you. Even if they have no reason to believe you're doing research. They just seem to
. Best to run, since you're a Loyalist and probably 90 pounds soaking wet. Occasionally, the fear and the guilt gets to the Thules. They begin to wonder if they really need to feel guilty. They crack. The Loyalists don't talk about Valerie Maynard, who managed to rig a warehouse into a gas chamber and abbatoir, then tracked down a dozen werewolves. She used trickery, intimidation and ransom notes for (already dead) children to systematically wipe them out, along with their families and friends. In the end, it was the Loyalists who shut down her kill factory. They found it disgusting, obscene. Even so, she got a few of them in the gas chamber before she died.
Next time: Fight it at the root.
Fight it at the root
Original SA post
The Union are much like local cells in their reactions, just with a better support network. That's not much use for slashers - it's all urban legends, and what's true of one won't be for another. Each case is unique, and even those that share characteristics are different enough that it can be very hard to spot. You might have an old hand with lots of advice, but that may not be helpful. Sometimes, the Union goes over the edge, too - it's hard to stay sane, keeping your home safe. They're prone to become Avengers, if they do go slasher - they're already vigilantes, and that's not a sane job. And this means, well, they can endanger the entire Union when they do go bad.
Network Zero has problems with slashers. See, YouTube doesn't do movies of actual serial killers, just slasher movies - the fake ones. It's one thing to post a video of Bigfoot or a werewolf, but a serial killer? You're not allowed to post murders on Youtube, and slashers just look like people...and on top of that, if you're close enough to film a slasher, odds are you're not making it out alive. Still, they're curious sons of bitches, and they do research. Not all slashers get their attention, but the weird ones do, especially if they have ghost stories, urban legends or tales of underground mutants or cryptids invlved. Often, slashers turn out not to be quite so supernatural as people attribute them to be, though. You go looking for mothman with claws, you find a crazy guy in an oilskin jacket with a machete. Your best defense is to go to the cops and make what you know public - but what if no one believes it? Unlike most hunters, the Network Zero crowd don't really tend to hurt people - and so they also don't tend to become slashers. Still, it's possible to see too much, to fetishize the carnage you film. You start to wonder about making it happen. Snuff films - homemade ones. Rare, but it happens. It usually doesn't last long before someone catches them. If it's the cops, usually the Network has trouble believing they're guilty - they're such a valuable filmmaker! They may even try to stage a rescue. This is a very bad idea. And if you think it sounds outlandish, consider the case of Bob Shell. Real world time here. Bob Shell was a reputable photographer, see, worked a bunch of magazines. He also worked in the UFO community, most notably for being the guy who called Ray Santilli's alien autopsy hoax real. In his spare time, he took photos of tied up girls. In 2003, he was arrested for murdering Marion Franklin, a model found dead, tied up and drugged with morphine in his studio. She'd been abused before and after her death. In 2007, he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and seven other charges, though not defiling the corpse. He was sentenced to 32 years. He stills claims innocence, and many UFO believers think he was framed for getting too close to the truth.
In volume 2 of the 1991 Journal of Pathological Psychology, George Roberts of the University of Wales wrote a paper on slashers. This is important - firstly because it was torn to piece within merely two years, and secondly because he was himself torn to pieces within a month of publication. Turns out he wasn't really that far wrong. His paper sank without a trace - par for the course with Null Mysteriis work. The academics have at least done work on the slasher phenomenon - it's just poorly detailed and incomplete. A few articles and a 1991 symposium. They know slashers exist and have some ideas about their psychopathology. This is useful, and it's saved lives, but it's only partial and slasher lore contains things that the Rationalist faction can't even begin to understand. The Open Minds might be prepared to accept that there's more to it than just psychology, but still, they depend on the same ideas. The Cataclysmicists point ot the rise in slashers as one more data point leading to the idea of an apocalypse, but no one else really accepts that. More supernatural slashers are a problem for them, and often the legendary sort are who they're most vulnerable to - they'll do things to prove they're not real, things that cause the killers to come for them. You know, like the heroine in Candyman who accidentally summons the guy because she doesn't think he's real and wants to prove it. Academics seem harmless, too, but they can be as brutal as anyone when roused - ever seen an interdepartmental fight? Few would go so far as to kill rivals with a knife, but then, few academics have to look into werewolf-eaten cadavers or watch as a witch destroys all they thought they knew about physics. Still, if some member of Null Mysteriis were to become a slasher, odds are they'd be a smart or charismatic one with some cold but binding code. Their work on psychopathology of slashers, particularly the publication of The Psychopathology an Urban Legend: Towards an Understanding of the "Slasher" Phenomenon in 1991, is actually used by VASCU as a resource, and the MAlleus, Loyalists and Lucifuge all own several copies. The Cheiron Group does not recommend its use. Having it on ahnd is quite handy when profiling the more mundane slashers - but no help at all with the more supernatural kind.
The Long Night rarely have much in common with Null Mysteriis, but they agree with the Cataclysmicists here: Slashers are the soldiers of the apocalypse. Their reasoning is that they are Satan's touch on society - their madness comes from a sin-cursed world. It's everywhere, you can see it if you look. They must be stopped. Ironically, if not surprisingly, the Long Night are relatively common when it comes to hunters-turned-slashers. Fear and horror takes its toll on them, and their faith is no longer enough. The world must be cleansed with murder. Some even become Satan-worshippers in their madness - but worse are the ones who think they're keeping the faith. They kill in the name of God anyway - it only takes a little twist to add normal people to their targets rather than just monsters.
What better prey for Ashwood Abbey than a serial killer? It doesn't get muc hbetter. They're cunning, fast, determined and don't know when to give up. Of course, many of the Abbey are borderline psychopaths anyway, so sometimes a slasher can join for kicks. There's been several members over the years that have been part of both the Abbey and the Hunt Club, either concurrently or consecutively. Sometimes, the Abbey will try to invite in a killer, partially to get them into "productive" murders and off the streets, and partially out of respect for talent. They tried it on Jack the Ripper, remember, until he got bored and went back to killing whores. Occasionally, someone tries to blackmail about that. They tend to end up dead, like Jack did...except, well, that didn't end, did it? Jack's still out there - a ghost, perhaps, or a spirit now. What he is now is the paragon of murder, the patron saint of the slasher. It's possible to track him using the original Ripper Letters. The Dear Boss letter is kept under lock and key in Scotland Yard, but the From Hell letter and the Saucy Jack postcard have been missing for a century. They were stolen by Ashwood Abbey in return for Jack's help, but vanished when he went rogue. They resurface occasionally, and they have the power to call Jack back from wherever it is he went when he died. Hold one, read it, then write a reply. Burn it, and Jack will be there, ready to kill - and ready to show you how he did it. Jack does love a pupil.
So, what is the Hunt Club? Not hunters - killers. Superficially, they resemble Ashwood Abbey - their membership is exclusive, their members rich. Hunters sometimes confuse the two, or assume a connection between them, but barring the rare dual membership, they are entirely separate and have different resources. That's not to say they're unhelpful in a fight - a Hunt Club killer might well enjoy the idea of facing off against a monster. A cell looking for a monster may end up running into someone that can fight and is after the same prey. They may make the mistake of thinking that's a good person to fight alongside. Works in the short term, but once the hunt is over...well, what's to stop the Hunt Club from picking them as prey?
The conspiracies are little better informed, and they're still pretty reactive with slashers. Some of them even just ignore the problem. Individual hunters care, but not all the conspiracies do, on the top levels. The Cheiron Group attract conspiracy theories constantly - the Scientologists name them as one of the main forces behind psychology. The Fundamentalist think they're Satanic. The Aegis Kai Doru theorize that the first slashers were the heroes of myth and legend - the first of them all, Heracles...taught by Cheiron. The implciation is that this is a symbolic representation of a real truth: Cheiron invented the slashers. No one will ever be able to rpove that, but certainly, slashers have no mention at all in the FPD handbook or in case studies - or anything. Cheiron provides no infromation on them at all. Of course, they still run into them from time to time. It's not FPD's fault if they get told that slashers won't count towards quota. And they don't - either Cheiron doesn't think it falls under their remit, or they think there's nothing more to learn. An unsettlingly high proportion of FPD's agents become slashers, either because they turn that way or were that way to start. It's like Cheiron
to recruit psychos. Hell, it's part of their structure - people in the FPD talk about the Batemans and going Bateman when they talk about slashers on the team. It's not nearly as uncommon as it should be. Executives within Cheiron that go Bateman get moved into the FPD as a policy matter, long before the cops catch them. Keeps them useful before they go off the deep end. They're used as guinea pigs for all kinds of treatments - shock collars, new therapuetic pills, "genetic treaments" to cure them of their tendencies...or to ramp them up. R&D won't tell. And it's FPD's job to pick up the pieces when it all inevitably goes wrong and people start dying. It's not as rare as it should be to have to go hunting a Bateman.
The Lucifuge see the rise of slashers similarly to the Long Night - they're Satan's hand. It's a little more nuanced than some Long Night beliefs, though - they tend to think slashers are unwitting pawns. They even feel sympathy - slashers are unwitting bearers of evil, much like the Lucifuge. But they'll still fight as hard as they can to stop them - it just...feels regretful. Of course, not all of the Children of the Seventh Generation are Lucifuge, and a fair few of the ones that aren't go slasher. It's easy when evil is in your blood. The Lucifuge that fall down that path often do it spectacularly, always flamboyant and bizarre, with supernatural powers. Sometimes they change physically when they do it, becoming horrific mutants - or become singlemindedly obsessed with killing anything that bears Satanic taint. They don't live long, no matter what. The Lucifuge herself takes an interest, and she always seems to know when one of their own goes rogue.
Task Force: VALKYRIE know about slashers as a vague sort of phenomenon, but most of what they know comes from monitoring Null Mysteriis or VASCU. They tend to let other agencies do the hard work, since it saves resources - it's funny, how selective TFV's leadership is about what gets to use the budget. As far as they're concerned, slashers are just crazy, not ENEs. The FBI can handle them, while the Task Force continues the War On Terrors. Besides, sometimes a slasher's a congressman's kid, and you can't arrest those guys. Field agents know there's something up - slashers may look like people, but why don't they fall over when you shoot them? They can do things people can't. But you just try telling that to the brass. Official line is, ignore them. Unless, that is, they used to be TFV. It's rare, but it happens. There's no counseling in TFV, see, no psych assessments. There's no way of telling when someone's going to go bad. But if they do, you need to take them down.
The Malleus Maleficarum know too much about killers working for the Church to know nothing about slashers. There was the Priest of San Ambrosio in 1772, who killed 101 of his parishioners and then set himself on fire. There was the Sister of Mercy in the 1850s who killed forty or more patients in her Dublin hospital. In 1834, between Good Friday and Easter, five priests-militant of the Malleus purged nine senior divines of the conspiracy, including the Mother Superior of a respected convent, the Bishop of Badajoz, and Cardinal Bertolli of the Papal Court. Pope Gregory XVI, not known for leniency, gave personal pardon to the men who did the dead. The ringleader, Helmut Krieger OSB, retired from active service and was made Bishop of Mannheim less than a year later. No record of the trial survives - but the only surviving evidence is a box in the archives containing nine bibles bound in human skin and nine notched knives. Not the first of Badajoz to meet a bad end - there was the Inquisitor of Badajox before him, who killed hundreds of innocents in the Inquisition before being tortured to death in his own rack by an unknown hand. The Malleus holds that the Church is a reflection of Christ, existing in no vacuum. They recruit psychiatrists and profilers to work with them. They absolve sins of their agents as a part of their sacraments, and keep close watch on their psychological balance. On hunts, they focus primarily on vampires and witches, but they won't ignore the signs of Satan anywhere else. Too many slashers claim to serve the Devil to be coincidence, and too many drink blood from their victims to ignore. The problem is that by the time you know you're facing a slasher, you tend to be dead or fleeing them. Still, the Shadow Congregation keeps excellent libraries full of the most recent psychological works. If there's time to hit the books, they have plenty to work with - just, they need the time they aren't often given.
The Ascending Ones live on the roughest streets in a hundred cities. They have little information about slashers, but are perhaps best equipped to handle them, simply because they're already hardened to terrible things, both supernatural and mundane. Many are easy killers - or at least easier than when they began, especially with the aid of narcots and alchemy. Their certainty in their mission is both a friend and a foe. They don't often go looking for solitary monsters, though - they focus more on the social ones, and their plans often rely on diplomacy as well as force. Faced with a single cunning killer, they can only react. The Jagged Crescent tend to be the best at it, being street-savvy and cunning, but the Knife of Heaven are as dedicated as any slasher, and the Order of the Southern Temple are noted for their intuition and quick wits. In fact, when they work together, it's a devastating combination, and they can be hard to distinguish from each other. They all know they're right, and will use violence if needed. They can easily turn, though - their work is a delicate balance, and it's easy for it to go wrong. Easy to make it go wrong, being the messenger between warring sides. The point of ending turf wars between monsters is to keep people safe...but they're weak. They wouldn't last on the street. If they can't get out of the way, it's their own fault. And this can soon turn to joy at their deaths, and then it's too late - not just a slasher, but one who's destroyed negotiations that may have taken years to set up, one who's destroyed the reputation of the Ascending Ones for any of the supernaturals involved. Still, it's only happened a few times. Everyone in the Ascending Ones keeps a close watch on their own, especially if they look ready to go off the reservation. Better to kill them than to let them destroy all that work.
The Aegis Kai Doru know the legends of ancient killers. The Bacchae, who went mad in their worship of Dionysus, tearing aprt or having sex with anything they met. Pentheus and Orpheus show their psychotic nature, though history has given them tamer stories. A bit of truth liesi n the myths - some Bacchae did indeed go mad and kill, working as a plague of slashers. The Aegis keeps records on how they wiped out the Bacchae - but only after a few of their own were tempted to join and needed to be killed. In an underground maze in Athens, once haunted by the walking dead, they keep custody of a caduceus wrapped with still-living serpents, shut in a golden case. If held to the sky, it causes people to go mad en masse, become slashers, Masks and Freaks, with the power to make others join them. This is one of the big secrets of the Guardians of the Labyrinth. They have many of these artifacts, things that can drive the innocent to kill. On Lindisfarne Island, a small monastic cell contains a viking who thirsts for blood. A group of Aegis stand watch over a Brooklyn apartment and the cleaver withgin that drove Michael McKay mad and made him unstoppable, its handle engraved with his prayers and stained by 90-year-old blood. They keep the mask of the Continent Highwayman, Nick Herbert, who killed 50 men and women in the roads of Nottinghamshire in the late 18th century, never stealing a penny. It is kept in a church in Melton Mowbray, and rarely out of sight of the local vicar. These they name hte Tools of Blood, and there are many more. The Aegis are no more likely than anyone else to find slashers, but they often turn up after to help clean up and take back what's left. They know slashers are not normal, that even the most explainable ones have strange causes. Killer's knives, badges, guns, coats - all of them could one day cause someone to go mad. Some within the Aegis argue over what should be done to these tools. The Temple say they must be locked away, to keep them out of the wrong hands. The Scrolls agree in principle but feel there's little value in keeping useless things. The Sword agree, but insist that there must be a way to use these tools productively. It's probably for the best that there are recorded instances of a Guardian falling to temptation, trying out a Tool of Blood. For example, in 1976, a riot broke out in Athens and dozens died needlessly. A single photograph showed a crod of rioters and, in the background, a naked woman holding something aloft - something like a caduceus. Someone who betrats the Aegis, who steals a treasure, has nowhere to run - they will be hunted down. One who steals a Blood Tool receives an even more desperate hunt - if they aren't found, the killing will start shortly.
As for the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit, they're the reason slashers have a definition. They're part of the FBI, and on paper they're investigators and profilers of serial and spree killers. What's not on paper is their cadre of powerful psychics. They use the psuedoscientific Wintergreen Process to awaken latent psychic powers of clairvoyance, and the users of this Telinformatics are both useful and very dangerous. VASCU studies crime scences for emotional resonance, for lies. They see the past, have intuition beyond the natural. The problem is, nothing they find is admissable evidence. It's frustrating, always frustrating, when a slasher goes free to kill despite the fact that the agents
they're guilty. Little wonder so many go insane.
Next time: Wait, the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit? What's that?
Wait, the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit? What's that?
Original SA post
Cops hate serial murder more than just about any crime. People who kill on multiple occasions do not think like regular human beings. Anyone can make mistakes tracking them, and mistakes cost lives. That's why, when you think you're a cop dealing with a serial case, you can call for help. The FBI keeps teams to deal with spree killers, serial killers and slashers.
, the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit. They send in agents to help cops, and have sleepers out in the field to look for evidence of serial crimes. They look for all kinds of killers, from deranged humans to supernatural monsters. Unlike most other hunter groups, they have one big benefit: the law's behind them the whole way. Of course, there's also their biggest handicap in there - they need to try to take killers to trial whenever they can. America's not the Wild West any more, and the FBI can't just go shooting people - even if those people can shrug off most weaponry easily. (In this sense, the World of Darkness is perhaps more hopeful than our own.)
VASCU has jurisdiction over any and all suspected serial murders - which they define as three murderes suspected or recorded with the same MO. The police can't call them in until that happens. In extreme cases, called chainsaw massacres by agents too new to have seen one or too jaded to care, those can happen all at once. In others, it's a string of separate crimes. When they spread out like that, local cops tend to call VASCU in when something obviously weird is going on - cannibalism, say, or evidence of unnatural strength or intelligence. In some cases, it's a mayor that calls them in, not a cop. Sometimes even a civilian - they can't respond directly to reported crimes, but have a lot of leeway when it comes to cases their agents uncover or intuit. Their unique nature means that an agent can generally get on any case that calls to them. The Vanguard aren't picked like other FBI agents, yu see. Most of them learn the basics of profiling and know their way around a crime scene, but that's not enough to get the flexibility they are accorded by the FBI. That comes from the fact that every single member of VASCU is psychic.
Sure, profilers claim they can get in a killer's head, but VASCU agents do it directly. They feel what the killer feels, think what they think. The best forensics teams can recreate a crime from the scene, but a Vanguard agent can stand there and see the crime happen. It's a secret, of course. Every member of the unit is FBI on paper, but up to two-thirds of them would have failed normal FBI training. They get in via a loophole - see, the FBI's testing of prospective agents isn't just about heart rate and blood pressure. IT also tests brainwaves for psychic latency. Roughly one in a hundred prospects turns out positive, and even if they fail the rest of their training, they get brought to VASCU as long as they're not a complete fuck-up. To avoid them being all untrained agents with no skills, the same tests are performed during the yearly physicals the FBI requires for insurance. Existing agents that test positive are transferred to VASCU. HR ensures that there's never more than two "newbies" for each full, qualified agent. When they have too many new entrants, they just put the psychic recruits on hold until they can make up the numbers.
Not, mind you, that the new recruits or the old hands know why they're set to hunting serial killers. Most discover their talents shortly after joining the unit, but never speak of it with outsiders - not even non-VASCU FBI. It's bad enough to be set to serial killer duty. Getting the Bureau's attention would set the pressure way too high. VASCU's an open secret in the FBI, of course. The top brass know all about the psychics, though not how they find them. Field agents outside the unit get told nothing, and rumors seem to end a bit too quickly. Even before the psychic testing began, the Unit was a dumping ground for agents that didn't quite make the cut. It's an easy reputation to keep, given that two of out three new recruits they get have done a day of fieldwork ever. Despite their many successes, they tend to get mocked as amateurs and their failures are what gets remembered. EVen their successes cause friction, since untrained civilians are showing up cops and federal agents. Outside the Bureau, no one knows the truth - when it comes to them, the agency closes ranks. VASCU are FBI, period. Mentioning psychic powers to anyone outside the Vanguard is going to get you dismissed and maybe brought up on charges. Most VASCU agents who've actually managed to pass FBI training, as a note, get made full special agents.
While the rest of the FBI may not fully support them, the Vanguard can count on local cops most of the time. There's protocols for liaising with them. Even so, police support is often unhelpful and late. By the time an agent has enough evidence to call them in, they're likely on site and in danger. Too often, it's just those untrained VASCU psychics who have any chance of apprehending a slasher. All of their powers won't help them in that fight, and success is often more luck than skill. Cops often see them as hot-headed glory hogs, but that's mostly due to circumstance. Their remit covers all kinds of serial murder, too, no matter who commits them. Some agents are lucky - they only see normal, human serial killers. That's the minority. Cults sacrificing people, strange monsters escaping an underground research facility - those are what most agents get some experience with. They soon learn they're not the only supernatural things out there, and it's their job to arrest the perpetrators, no matter who or
VASCU and the FBI in general define different types of serial murder. Serial killers are the ones who kill at least three people, generally via the same modus operandi, via separate crimes, usually with a cooling-of period between them for psychological gratification. Murders are often linked by common elements in the victims' lives. Generally, they're full-on murder, first or second degree. Manslaughter's only when a serial doesn't have time to prepare. Spree killers, on the other hand, kill a lot of people in a specific area. They tend to have two phases - guided and random. The guided phase comes first, planned killings in a single area - a comfort zone. Eventually, it turns random, indscriminate, and the killer deviates from the MO to kill more and more, usually still in the comfort zone. Sometimes, a spree killer goes straight ot the random stage. Generally, there is no cooling off period, and most spree killers commit suicide by cop or their own gun. Mass murderers, meanwhile, kill lots of people very fast. They don't have an MO - their actions are all a single event, defined as a crime involving four or more victims in one location at one event. They don't really have psychological trends - mass murderers come from a wealth of causes. Most are abnormally angry and are triggered by some event. Slashers exist only in the World of Darkness. They are a category on their own because of their paranormal abilities. The DOJ defines a slasher killing as any killing involving three or more victims in which the killer has capabilities exceeding the normal human spectrum. Federal law requires that VASCU be called in for slashers - other killings are by choice. This includes all supernatural killers, not just mechanical slashers - werewolves, witches, vampires, they are all legally defined as slashers. It's no easy job to arrest a demonic spirit, but hey, that's your problem.
VASCU's not the only US agency tasked with monster hunting. They and VALYKRIE have no love lost between 'em, though. VALKYRIE are hunters - no profiling, no criminal records, no interviews, no VICAP. They just show up, shoot monsters, drag 'em off to some offshore black site. VASCU doesn't like that. They seek out killers, monster or not, and answer to the FBI. Just because the crime is supernatural doesn't mean it's not crime. Every so often, VALKYRIE will barge in and take over a VASCU case. VASCU can't do anything about it - VALKYRIE has the ultimate jurisdiction. Thanks, USA PATRIOT Act. There's even a standing joke that the paperwork you have to fill out for it, V0S-F5, stands for VALKYRIE on scene, Feds shitcanned.
VASCU dates back to Hoover's postwar reorganizing of the FBI. AT the time, he realized that serial killers often went undetected by crossing state lines, so he set up the Repeat Crimes Unit or RCU to investigate murders with the same MO in different locations. RCU agents could only support local cops and had to be called in. They took down a few inhuman killers and monsters and began to get a reputation as the FBI's monster hunters. They weren't the first to hunt slashers, though. That'd be the Society of Twelve Keys, founded in 1890 by Whitechapel local cops, Scotland Yard and the London police. They'd all been involvedi n the Ripper case and not all of 'em were cops. They never caught the Ripper, but they made life harder for his cult of personality, 'the Abbey.' By World War II, they'd had nearly 300 members in the UK and 20 in the US, sharing expertise and investigating both serial killers and supernatural crimes. In 1949, the FBI approached the US Society members to bring them in to the RCU. Every one of them accepted. The larger British society still exists, but lack of civilian help and improvements in investigation techniques have left them a shadow of their former selves, especially after a 200 arrest by British cops of a number of high-profile serial killers without any Society help. They're just a name now, a way to bring VASCU resources and expertise across the Atlantic.
The RCU wasn ever very succesful, and their biggest failure was the Cahulawassee Massacre. Six men went missing on the Cahulawassee River in Georgia, one of them a brother of an RCU agent. The FBI investigated and linked it to similar events up and down the river in both Georgia and Alabama, giving the RCU jurisdiction. They discovered the men were killed and eaten by a local family. On October 23, 1953, a squad moved in on the farm, had a brief and bloody shootout...and died, all but two of them. The family's bodies showed extreme mutilation, and both surviving agents reported them as incredibly resilient, possibly due to inbred mutation over generations. The loss of so many agents and the evidence that the family had been doing this for at least fiftyyears led people to ask if the RCU was as effective as it should be.
Hoover reorganized te RCU on November 2, 1953. The new Serious Crimes Investigation Unit, or SCIU, had the power to investigate directly any crime involving at least three deaths, rather than waiting on cops to call them in. They also didn't have to wait for the crimes to happen in multiple states. These rules are still the ones VASCU uses today. The SCIU drew in many psychological profilers formerly of the OSS or local governments, and these profilers helped support the unit, one of the first to commonly profile serial killers to get the right criminal. They also started to profile supernatural killers, over time isolating personality traits common to different types of monster. Due to lack of personnel, profilers often joined field agents on investigations, and while some got full training, others were agents on paper alone, untrained and unsupported.
In 1973, Dr. Barbara Wintergreen got reassigned to the SCIU, having formerly been on the CIA's MK-ULTRA project doing psychic research. MK-ULTRA was disbanded by force two months later, but at that point any evidence of the team hidden in the SCIU was long gone. Dr. Wintergreen and her team continue their research in peace for five years. She'd been working on ESP and remote-viewing, but not with the LSD other parts of MK-ULTRA used. They were looking into other drugs, mostly ayahuasca, but the breakthrough only came at the SCIU. It involved blending dimethyltryptamine (DMT) with a Harmala alkaloid she called a telepathic extract. When mixed with a cocktail of other chemicsl, it bonds with the receptor sites in the brain and supercharges the information processing centers, unlocking abilities that appear or are psychic.
When VASCU revised the Wintergreen Process, they realized most agents would reject their abilities or start overthinking them. Trained FBI agents wouldn't accept barely-tested drug therapy. The Director reasoned that psychic abilities were much easier to explain, and included covert tests for Wintergreen compatibility in the Bureau's screenings. Agents and applicants who test positive - and therefore likely to develop "psychic" powers - got assigned to VASCU. Only afterwards did they learn that the FBI tests for psychic potential - a lie that explains how they got recruited without a mass freakout. Those who undergo the process describe it as ohterworldly, likened to alien abductions or bad trips. It's a side effect of the drugs. Despite the similarities, each agent experiences very different visions touching on memories of childhood. AFter they pass, they go to a reception room where they are tested to see what they can do. Everyone has the same process, but their brains are different and so are the specific properties of their enhancements, though it usually takes a few forms VASCU scientists have isolated over the past two and a half decades. The real nature of the Wintergreen Process is one of the few secrets kept even from vASCU agents. Anyone who leaks the lie about psychic testing to fellow FBI agents gets kicked out and a gag order so strong that even tabloids might quail from reporting. An agent who discovers the actual truth had best keep it to themselves - and if they can't, it's a short trip to amnesia via electroshock therapy. Some secrets are too dangerous to let out.
After completing her research, Wintergreen grew restless. The sCIU had ignroed her recommendations about training or informing agents. They solved a number of high-profile cases, but command felt the process wasn't fit for field use yet - one of the agents suffered paranoid delusions and two others disappeared. The doctor herself vanished with her notes in 1978. Slasher cases soon got wider media attention across the world, and several agents died fighting slashers while others committed suicide to avoid trial. The SCIU was taking a lot of flak, and by late '78, it became a dumping ground for slacking FBI agents to be used as bait for the "real" agents to arrest slashers. By '79, they were in a terrible state. It had a decent amount of success with serial killers, but its track record on supernatural killers was terrible and getting worse. In 1979, the remaining agents who'd undergone the Wintergreen Process used their powers to capture three slashers. One of them burst into flames when exposed to sunlight on the way to trial. The other two were on death row. This prompted the SCIU to reexamine the research, and every agent was given a test for psychic latency. Those that passed were given the option to undergo the process. Almost all accepted. The sudden rise in "psychics" galvanzed the unit. They were still undermanned, but the brass areed to test other agents. They gave enough manpower for more proactive work. For most of the 70s, they'd relied on liaising to police, but with so many psychic agents now, they started making many more arrests.
The big victory came at Haddonfield, where they finally managed to stop a killer that wouldn't stay dead. After that, the department got restructured. They didn't have the numbers. So the FBI started instituting the testing in the application physical and insurance testing. The Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit took on anyone who had the potential, and while the new recruits got minimal training, everyone involved in the creation of the unit signed off on the strict two-to-one ration of inexperienced to experienced agents. Since the reorg in 1092, VASCU is the world's leading authority on serial killers of all kinds. While they're an arm of the FBI, their ties to the Society of Twelve Keys lets them get called into cases in Europe and even beyond. They're still chronically undermanned - only 1% of applicants have potential - but they keep the work up, and are the best the FBI's had.
For a long time, they had no authority to hold killers without charge or trial. Some slashers are just too dangerous, however. The president approved of researchers esigning a prison facility specifically for supernaturally powerful serial killers that the regular prison system couldn't deal with. In 1992, construction began on the Lansing Facility, and it was completed in '96. It is the first ever ultramax prison, even more secure than the supermax facility in Florence, Colarado. It's a repurposed nuclear bunker outside Lansing, Missorui, and all staff and guards are VASCU. They can detect escape attempts with their powers, see, and can control individual prisoners. They specialize in figuring out how to incarcerate normally uncontainable prisoners. Most cells are sealed off by at least two feet of steel-reinforced concrete, with only airlock access and communication via two-way audio link. Some cells are customized further. The unit captured a small number of slashers in the late 90s, but it's only since the USA-PATRIOT act gave them a rider that they can unconditionally imprison serial killers unable to stand trial for an indefinite period, provided those killers present a clear and present danger to human life. So why do they bring slashers to trial? Well, Lansing's small. There's space for only 200 inmates, and each must be kept for life - which is, for some of the mutants they catch, a very long time. Plus, most slashers would never see the facility - part of the legal requirement for unlimited incarceration is that the Director of Operations must convince the FBI
the Supreme Court that it's required in each case, and every agent involved in the case helps prepare the brief. Most agents don't even like operating Serial Killer Gitmo - it's a lsat resort, and only a few slashers get put there every year. There's currently over a hundred prisoners in Lansing, and while the Director is lobbying for an additional facility, it's probably going to take a court disaster to convince the President.
Different cases mean different levels of VASCU involvement. Larger forces call them in only as a last resort, while small town cops call them the moment they get reports of a serial. Most get sick of having them around, though - only a minority are actually grateful to be helped, even though VASCU is always left to take the lead on investigations that make no sense. Most cops would rather lose some Feds than their own and prefer to hang back. VASCU has to try, after all. And it has to be an arrest - you can't just shoot, even if it's clear the guy's gonna be sentenced to death. If you shoot, you need a damn good reason - but if you do have that, you've probably got SWAT that'll vouch for you. A few VASCU agents also work full time in the field, generally liaising with other hunters. They join cells in order to help track monsters - most things hunters hunt have killed multiple people and are supernatural, so jurisdiction applies. Plus, there's the other reason: the agent's there to arrest the cell if they turn out to be serial killers themselves. They're there to try and get the cell to capture, not kill. They'll bide their time since the cell's so useful, of course, but if a cell is fanatical about murdering monsters, even non-criminal monsters, well...the agent's got no choice. That's not always the end, however. Sometimes, those cells get turned into suicide squads.
Next time: Suicide squads.
Original SA post
Sometimes, the best way to catch a thief is to bring in a thief - and the same with serial killers. Sometimes, a VASCU team has no choice but to turn to a convicted slasher for help, mostly when they find a similar MO. This generally means a copycat killer, and the captive slasher often provides insights that lead to capturing the new one. After one disaster resulting in both the original and copycat going free, however, the Director of Operations mandated that any liaison with slashers would be one slasher to an entire team of agents. Even then, some killers try to break up the team emotionally, either to escape or just for the chance to kill again. Many try, most fail - psychics don't even need to talk to them, just read their minds. The procedure stipulates that any deals must be one-way, but most VASCU agents take something to offer with them - they can't alter sentences, but they can give books or other media to killers that can't visit the prison library. Some have even bought cooperation with a bag of Burger King. Despite all they do, however, it's never a purely professional relationship, and never easy. Slashers don't like VASCU, and VASCU tends to be uncomfortable about working with people who have no regard for human life.
Despite it all, they're undermanned, too. New killers are rare, but no one can stop them all. When things get really bad - say, the Hunt Club's been rea`lly active or a cult is doing mass sacrifice - then something has to be done. On those times, they try to deploy disposable resources under command of a field agent. These have been dubbed suicide squads. Most often, it's a cell of monster hunters who used to work with a Vanguard agent, or otherwise ended up in prison. They're offered conditional release, as long as they work with a handler. Occcasionally, it's not just hunters - sometimes, an agent picks out criminals who profile as being good at taking down a slasher. Three basic rules, though: First, one agent per three convicts at all times. Second, if anything happens to the agents, the convicts are considered escapees. Third, no lethal force without an agent's permission.
The relationship between a squad and their handlers can seem friendly, but it isn't. The handlers are government agents, the squad are criminals. The handlers can send them back to prison at will. Normally, that's incenttive enough to work together, but even so, some hunters try to escape. It doesn't go well, usually - the handlers are psychic, after all, and it's damn hard to hide your plans from them. The friction means that these squads never really become a solid, bonded group. They're also temporary, meant to deal with single threats. Some outlive their mandate, however, and the handlers keep the squads active.
VASCU's primary target is slashers. They form the majority of VASCU's casework. For monsters that are less human - well, it's hard to arrest a werewolf. You have to wait for the chain of command to decide whether to shoot to kill or to try to arrest anyway. Hope you can survive long enough. Slashers are what the agency has the most information on - meticulously detailed case reports, psychological research, etc. But it's all on paper, for the most part. Most isn't digitized yet, or in VICAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. The problem is, data purity restrictions disallow any reference to supernatural traits, because most cops would never trust the system if they did. About half of VASCU's cases are on VICAP, with some file codes to tip off agents to check the physical files in some cases. The rest are on paper only, and it can take a day to find the right files - or more. Investigations must be documented and written up, in detail and without lying. Only VASCU reads those reports, after all. They operate similarly to police investigations, just with psychic powers. Green agents have a bad habit of freaking out on their first case, though, what with not having FBI training and not really having much time to get used to what they can do or will have to see. Not that transfers have it easier - they tend to think the rest of the team is crazy until they get some time put in.
VASCU investigations tend to have three parts. First, crime scene anlaysis, looking for clues via forensic examination and holistic study of the scene. And, of coruse, psychometry. Then, there's interviews. You need good social skills to extract information from witnesses, especially things they don't want to talk about. Telepathy helps here, as is the psychic ability to reconstruct crime scenes to catch lies. Still, those psychics are often in danger of getting too close or assuming a victim's trauma into themselves. Both of these provide ways to research a killer, typically done via profiling and tracing similar crimes. Every field office with VASCU presence has at least one profiler, though often psychically focused on interviews rather than profiling. VICAP also proves useful in crime research, though again, you need to get physical records for more detail in VASCU. Once a killer's been IDed, it's time to make the arrest. In this case, it's no longer solid police work - any slasher arrest is deadly dangerous. Some slashers are physically terrifying, while others are calculating trappers with more intellect than any normal human. The intent is often arrest, but as noted above, it's not always possible. Self-defense often means guns, and and with little backup, it's often up to an agent's discretion when an arrest may need violence.
VASCU's view of the supernatural colors all of their interactions with other monsters. They tend to ignore them until they've confirmed that the monsters are killing people. If a monster hasn't murdered, VASCU won't go near it. Without evidence, after all, they can get sued for wrongful arrest. Even a werewolf has legal rights. Despite their track record of success, the rest of the FBI doesn't like them and will take harassment charges seriously. You want to hunt monsters, do it on your own time and keep the unit out of trouble when you do. Rather uniquely among conspiracies, they collect only psychological profiles for monsters. They have details on the most common types, but because their cases so often end in monster death, they tend to believe each one is unique. Their porfiles apply both to supernatural critters and to humans who engage in the same kinds of murder. They don't know that their profiles apply to actual groups of monsters with related powers.
Despite this, they have a rather deep understanding of vampires. They know that not all creatures that feed on blood kill. Those that do are often psychologically similar to serial killers, feeding for psychosexual fulfillment. They miss something about their former existence, and the act of killing lets them feel in control, particularly because the feeding act cause near-sexual pleasure in the victim, allowing them to believe the victim enjoys it. Most vampires who kill have cooling-off periods, though some undergo a trauma that turns them into spree killers who are almost bestial in nature. Vampiric minds are rather like human ones, but some possess dangerous powers of suggestion. They keep one particularly bloodthirst vampire in a windowless cell in Lansing, but that's an exception.
Werewolves are also often similar to human killers, though VASCU admits they're extrapolating on some points. They get a lot out of zoological studies as well as human killers, for these guys. Werewolves share many social traits with pack-based predators. They are territorial, and become increasingly anxious when alone, which often translates to murderous anger. Like many human territorial killers, they are always vigilant for people they think are invading. Once they have a target, nothing will dissuade them. They are furious creatures, and provoking them can lead to psychopathic rampages, probably a reaction to a rigidly hierarchical society that causes feelings of repression and rage. Their kills rarely have a sexual angle - they're just necessary to maintain the territory. Some even view it as a chore. They feel no remorse over murder, but understanding a predator-prey dynamic can help understand what they think when killing. Some of them eat human flesh, but there's nothing to suggest they need to.
Some people kill in pursuit of what they think is magic. Human sacrifice is normally a ritual affair, but some survivors talk about other things. "Witches" who kill people tend to do so either as part of a specific ritual, say to try and resurrect a dead loved one, or as an end itself. That's two different profiles. Desperation is always involved, however. People who engage in human sacrifice feel powerless or wronged and believe that by killing, they will somehow cause a magical effect to give them power. In their heads, there's nowhere left to turn and it doesn't matter any more if someone dies, as long as they get what they think they deserve. Some of these killers feel vindicated by VASCU attention, believing someone finally recognizes them as equals. More commonly, they believe the FBI hunting them is just another way to keep them down. Witches who sacrifice people for power believe themselves superior to normal people, feeling that their knowledge makes them one of the people who actually matter. Normal people, who lack enlightenment, are meaningless. Thus, they believe the power they gain is more important than the person's life, so killing is justified. Some witches will form alliances with agents to catch these killers, on the belief that human sacrifice is bad for the magical community.
: My partner came from NYPD Special Victims. She'd dealt with sex-crime victims, abused kids, the worst shit you can imagine. We were after a bastard who liked to chop up old men with a hatchet. We got there too late. These fucks were already in residence, violating our perp like animals. They hadn't even put him out of his misery. I threw up harder than I ever have before and when I looked up, she'd shot every last one of them. She said self-defense. With the look in her eyes, I didn't argue.
: Computer crime is still crime, but we don't deal with that. I spent some time with a bunch of YouTube shock-shooters, and they weren't entirely useless - though I had to be very careful that my face didn't end up on screen. They helped me get a lot of evidence, though they were more than a little wary about showing their face in court. They gave me the original videos to show at the trial, I kept them away from other Feds.
: I worked with a cell of these freaks for a while when I was seconded to the Dubai police. We went after the Headhunter, a guy with quite the decapitation fetish. I was fine with their drug use, to be honest - different country, different rules, we drink coffee, they chew qat. What really got me was their burning certainty that what they were doing was right. They gave the Headhunter a taste of his own medicine, and I don't think any of them felt bad.
Task Force: VALKYRIE
: I've lost count of time these military Men in Black have showed up and put their high-caliber footprints all over one of my cases. I try to take it like a man and file the paperwork, but some days I wonder if they don't have the right idea. I don't think even the Director knows I've got an application form in my desk drawer, but for the moment, I'm happier doing justice than getting revenge.
VASCU gets called in to investigate repeat killings, and a significant number of those are just humans who may be monstrous but aren't slashers. Not every serial killer is one. When they get called in, they need to take the case. It's the law. Almost all agents are fine with that. They're FBI, the FBI catches criminals. There's no fundamental difference between hunting a serial killer and a predatory pedophile, and for some, putting the latter behind bars feels damn good. A few think that dealing with these threats is a waste of time, drawing psychic resources away from crazed killers, and if there's evidence that the case they're on doesn't actually involve murder, they may open a cold case just to get an excuse to leave. Those who do this too often have to explain themselves to the Director. Either way, the strategy is the same no matter what the target is. You get the story, fill in the cops and support the case. Normal, mundane cases get a lot more support from local police and forensics teams. Sometimes, they even get called in to investigate hunter cells - after all, hunters leave corpses, and a dead witch looks like anyone else. Three of 'em? You're a serial killer and you're cell's a cult.
There are several departments within the unit. Some never get field assignments, like the Violent Crime REsearch Team or the Neuro-Cognitive Research Team that focuses on the Wintergreen Process and the powers it grants. Paranormal Research and Detention have close contact with killers but are restricted to Lansing and would only get fieldwork in the case of a major breakout - unlikely. The Field Liaison Department are the wild cards of VASCU, the guys who liaise with other hunters and who handle all requests to assist against known killers, though typically that's just a rubber-stamp job. They join cells under a number of cover stories and use them to arrest or kill murderers. Others act as handlers for suicide squads. Field Liaison tends to bend the rules whenever they feel the need, and a few even focus more on hunting monsters because of what they are, not what they've done, but they have to be careful to avoid being taken as rogue agents. The Operations Department is the largest by far, the field agents who go out there and investigate and profile serial killers. About 70% of VASCU is Operations, and the Director of Operations is in charge of all of VASCU. Some of them have extensive law enforcement training, while others have none at all. Every team has an experienced agent, just to ensure VASCU's name doesn't get dragged through the mad too much. There is no X-Files team, but Special Projects Department comes close. They're the ones who handle extreme cases. Some use their powers to the point of mental breakdown, others have a knack for getting into killer headspace. They go after the really weird ones - the guy who kills and flays his victims, then wears their face and is treated as if he's the victim by everyone he meets. The guy who never touches anyone, but everyone he talks to later goes mad and kills. They know every case they get may be the one that drives them insane, but these guys cannot be allowed to stay free.
Status in VASCU comes from a mix of formal rank and informal respect. High-profile collars help, but consistency is more important than showboating. At one dot, you're psychic. You got a chance to skip normal training. The job can be brain-crushing, but the thrill is real. You can buy Teleinformatics merits. For three dots, you've been at this a while, and might've been a transfer or an old SCIU veteran, or otherwise went through the full FBI training program. You are a full special agent and the rest of the FBI respects you. You get a free dot of Status (FBI). At five dots, people keep saying you should take an easier job, but you'd never leave VASCU. You understand serial killers and have probably faced someone who ended up in Lansing. You get the benefits of the Inspiring merit when among other VASCU agents, whether or not you qualify, and it stacks with normal Inspiring.
Next time: The Hunt Club
The Hunt Club
Original SA post
Some people are only alive because killing them is a crime. Everyone has some internal point they mark as the point where you no longer have the right to live. Even people who are against the death penalty have that line in the sand, the point where people just aren't people. Killing because of that impulse is illegal. The
doesn't care. Most people never hear about them, and when they do, it's the same way they hear about the Masons - a secret society held together by fox-hunting lore. Rumors talk about being blooded, counting kills, and the many strange rules that govern their dealings. It's just another old boy's network. This is broadly correct, but the prey in question isn't foxes - it's humans.
The society started in Edwardian England. Its founders came from other insular gentleman's clubs of the time, and by the 19th century most members supported the stated goal of these clubs in name only. The Hunt Club wanted to fix that, providing an organization that allowed membership exclusively to those that hunted. Originally, it was just illegal fox hunts that no one really cared about. PEople even began to see it as a legitimate...and that was the problem. Hunting foxes had lost its edge. Rather than find a new goal, the inner circle decided to refocus. They wanted the thrill of the hunt, not just a job as fox-exterminators. After a few abortive attempts to find new prey, including a proposed African trip, they decided to dissolve the club. Only five people remained when the club brought out its latest quarry in 1881 - two homeless London drunks. They left the horses and dogs behind, chasing the men through the woods on foot with long knives. Every member shared in the kill, and the Hunt Club had at last found its prey. Two other hunts, one of which reinstated the horses and dogs, led them back up to 20 members. EAch was a killer, relishing the chance to hunt human prey. Finding out about the club was not eeasy, but a gentleman with the right sense of style and flexibility of morals might get a card from the inncer circle. They had to kill at least once before they'd meet in person, and bring a trophy with them - usually an ear or finger. New members then joined the prey on their first hunt. If they could defeat a hunter without killing them, they got in. Anyone who didn't live, or who killed one of the hunters, got an unarmed grave.
By 1903, the Hunt Club had spread across the English-speaking world, with organized chapters hunting in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and upstate New York. Lots of open space and society to draw members from. Outside the US, there were chapters in Bombay, Vancouver and Melborune. It couldn't last - people got sloppy. The winter hunt of 1904 brought the attention of the Society of Twelve Keys and the police. Detectives seized telegrams and letters, coordinating police forces worldwide. The club's members fought hard to stay free, but a worldwide murder ring was too much, and great tabloid fodder. Fully half the London club got life senstences, and the rest of the membership around the world scattered to avoid capture. For twenty years, the police believed them disbanded. Unfortunately, the idea was too persistent. The inner circle had the hunt in their blood. The old ways would no longer work, however. They met in secret and decided to fragment. Each started in a different city, recruiting through the same obeservation that worked so well the first time. This time, they decentralized. It worked, and has worked for over 80 years. Any time the local cops think they've caught up to the Hunt Club, the killers vanish.
The modern Hunt Club still considers humanity the greatest prey, but they don't work as a unit. Each club runs its own version of the game. At the most basic, you get points for killing. Basic murder scores poorly - they want elegance. A single well-framed kill, perhaps with the organs arranged by elemental association of the cardinal points, is worth a hundred times more than some random stabbing in the street. Members must demonstrate style - they are
. Every club scores the game in July. Those who finish in top five get significant cash prizes out of the club's membership dues. First prize is seven figures, usually, but this isn't about the money - it's about the thrill, the feeling of the kill. The matching of wits. Thanks to subjective scoring, winners sometimes only need to kill one person, but that's vey rare.
The top three huntsmen each year get the real prize - they're next year's judges. The judges ensure some continuity between years, as most members play not just to their own style but those of the judges. A judge with a love of faked suicides will encourage a whole slew of copycat crimes that year seeking his favor. Some members, of course, draw police attention. As each club is still a gentleman's club, they can call on the others for financial or legal support. Thgat only works if the club can buy the police or convince a jury. Sometimes, that's impossible due to the evidence, and when that happens, the members turn on them, killing with style and grace. It's a great way to gain points.
Recruitment is primarily through one of two ways. First, members may approach a promising killer with a taste for elegant kills and the finer things in life. A member must have the tastes if not the funds of a gentleman. In rare cases, the memberships can be waived, paid for by an existing member in good standing who will take responsibility for the new blood - though if the new guy breaks the rules, the sponsor is considered to as well, and vice versa. A few hunt down the club's rumors. Word spreads. Often, these are the killers who work via intermediary or trap, who are hidden. They meet with the inner circle and judges, and in that case, a judge acts as their sponsor. This is an old-school organization, and the oldest rules reinforce them as a place not for women. Nobody's actually challenged the rule, but a number of female killers have shown the style needed, and 1982, t he London club suggested the following update to the rules, which were incorporated almost unanimously. Female mmebers are considered the same as men, and married couples get no special treatment - each must approach the club on independent merits.
Any woman of good standing in society, who demonstrates a knowledge of the Great Game, an understanding of elegance in the way that members conduct their duties, the independent fiscal capability to meet the membership demands, and the desire to take her place alongside members in the Great Game shall be considered the ultimate equal of a man of similar standing under these rules.
: Ugh. Poseurs. They play at being hedonists, but they're only willing to take it so far. They don't see the slippery slope beneath their feet, wet with blood and fluids. It's like...if only they'd be willing to just let go and slide down the rest of trhe way. Until then, we have some lovely consolaton prizes and parting gifts.
: I had the most disturbing experience with a whelp shooting video for an Internet site. He had assumed from my upbringing and demeanor that I was somehow insane, as if good breeding was the reason for standing over a houswife with a straight razor soaked in her blood. I allowed him to interview me, though I had to...cut it short. The poor boy never stood a chance.
: One man I spent some time with claimed he had a great secret - his father was the Devil, and Hell bent to his will because of it. I naturally assumed he was out of his mind or seeking attention, but when our target discovered us prematurely I learned that I was wrong. The man summoned hellish fire from his hands. I doubt he was the only one. The natural role for his kind is as lords and masters of humanity, but I cannot allow that.
: If any group annoys me more than the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit, I haven't met them. These Feds seem to have a wide berth when it comes to investigating people who happen to do the world a favor by separating the wheat from the chaff. Worse, they've access to profilers and investigators who know about the Club's existence, but not about our members. We must be very careful, but all is not lost. One of the higher ranked agents has a Club tie in his wardrobe, though he'd never admit it.
The Hunt Club divides itself not by money or social status, but by the three rulebooks. EAch club adheres to one or another, but members are free to select the specifics. The London Rules are the oldest. Followers of the traditional rules for the Great Game select their victims from street people, prostitutes and others that won't be misssed. They tend to be either old or new money, used to luxury and socializing with the same class, and are certain their victims don't matter. The Boston Rules, on the otherh and, are almost philanthropic. Victims should be those that squandered their lives, who hold people back, who are alive onl;y because it is illegal to kill them. Of course, members who follow this rulebook often have idiosyncratic views of what holds humanity back, and still come from privilege, but most of the killers who come looking for the Club prefer this ruleset. The Melbourne Rules, on the other hand, focus on the ancient ideal of the hunt. It is the least common rulebook, but highly respected. It focuses on challenging targets - those that have the skills to look after themselves, or those whose deaths will bring scrutiny. Detectives, agents, soldiers, captains of industry.
Status in the Hunt Club is strictly tied to position in the Great Game. At one dot, you're an initiate. Someone's watching over you - either you're new or lowly placed, and they want you to improve. You get a one-dot Mentor in the form of one of the judges. At three dots, you're solid mid-table and may have come close to a prize before. You know what the judges like and tailor your kills to them. You get the two-dot version of Telltale Murder, or three dots if you already have two dots. If you already have at three, you no longer suffer its drawback. At five dots, you've been a judge, possibly more than once, and your winnings more than cover your dues. You kill with grace and style. You know you are right. You get the Damnable Certainty merit, or can use it twice per session if you already have it.
So, you want to play a Slasher. The book notes that you want to be careful if you play around with mental illness - the mentally ill are not always dangerous, certainly not always killers. You're going to want to consider how aware your guy is of what he does, and why they kill. Slashers in most ways resemble Hunters, mechanically, with a few changes. First, no Profession or risking Willpower. Instead, you get an Undertaking, essentially the splat defining how you kill and what your unique abilities are. You get one stat automatically raised to 4 (for rippers, the less supernatural kind of slasher) or 5 (for scourges, the more supernatural kind). Slashers have Morality still, somewhere between 0 and 4. So, let's talk about Undertakings. Each kind has two aspects - the ripper and the scourge, basically exactly how mystical the slasher's traits are. Every Scourge type also contains a Ripper's traits as well as its own.
Next time: The Undertaking.
Avengers, Legends, and Brutes
Original SA post
Everyone hurts people. You cut someone off in traffic, you cheat on your spouse, you shove a guy in a crowd, you steal from someone. And for the minor stuff, people tend to forget pretty quickly. Most people.
can't. Avengers are slashers driven by the hurts dealt by other people. Usually, they start highly speciifc - there's one thing they want to avenge. They find the people responsible and kill them. That might be the end. A guy's daughter is raped, so he hunts down the men responsible, beats them, stuffs them in a van and burns them to death. That might be it. He might never tell his daughter, and the two of them move on. But sometimes, they can't move on. Their lives have been fundamentally altered. They generalize the need for vengeance. The guy decides he can't live knowing there are monsters like those rapists out there. He starts to look up and hunt down sex offenders. A woman's husband dies on the table and she poisons the doctor, but that's not enough. She begins to hunt down other medical professionals who fail their patients somehow. A man's business is ruined by organized crime, so he gets his guns out and, next day, a bunch of mobsters die.
Avengers don't always become indiscriminate in their tartgeting, but the line blurs as they become more willing to kill for reasons other than the mission. It's more expedient to shoot the cop than knock him out. Besides, he's probably dirty. As the Avenger moves away from the original goal, the tales of their exploits can spread, and they can grow to become Legends. Avengers are some of the more versatile slashers - they can use any tool, any method. Their cause is the thing that's impoirtant. It's rare to get Avengers that used to be hunters, though - hunting down monsters is different than lying in wait for muggers with a steel wire. Avengers rarely target monsters specifically, but it can happen. Sometimes, a hunter feels that the monsters would go away if people would stop being so complacent. They start to hunt down people in positions of power, people who ensure humanity remains blind. Avengers tend to have safehouses in which to plan their kills, and are often rather untiring. They are inspired by such characters as Paul Kersey of Death Wish, Erica Bain of the Brave One, Brenda Bates of Urban Legend and Ben Willis of I Know What You Did Last Summer. They tend to be strong, charismatic or intelligent, and have wide and versatile skillsets.
The Avenger talent is Working The Room. Avengers always eventually end up dealing with groups of people, and they excel at fighting crowds. They don't lose Defense against multiple foes, no matter how many there are. Their great frailty, however, is Nothing But the Mission. Avengers are obsessive on a level even most slashers never hit. When faced with the coice of pursuing a target or doing literally anything else, they find it very hard to resist seeking their target. Period. No matter what. Even if it later turns out that the target didn't actually fit their criteria and they just thought they did.
The Florida office of VASCU maintains a case study on the serial killer known as the Ghost-Maker. He gained notoriety in the late 90s but was presumed kill by a shootout with cops in early 2000. This was not the case, and VASCU has recently discovered that the Ghost-Maker is still active. The killer targets fortune-tellers, palmists, Tarot readers and especially mediums. Motive is unclear, the the profile and crime scenes suggest that he was the victim of a con involving someone pretending to pass on message from the dead. In one case, his victim was believed to hear the voices of the dead in static, commonly called EVPs, or Electronic Voice Pheneomena. The tape recorder was left running during the kill.
Ghost-Maker (GM): You want to hear the dead?
Sarah Crawford (SC): Please... don't... I just-
GM: You wan't to hear the fucking dead, you selfish bitch?
SC: I don't want to die, please-
GM: Then listen.
(Gunshot, distortion on the tape. Several agents report the distortion sounds like laughter.)
GM: Tear that bitch up, fuckers. Just stay away from me.
are what happens when an Avenger, unable to make rational decisions, becomes the nightmare that all the stories paint them as. Legends are terrifying, because they don't die. But they are also weaker, because they have no control over their sotries and their free will is tenuous. In practical terms, a Legend is a slasher about whom stories are told, usually within a community they've already preyd upon. On some level, this is what Avengers want - they want their victim,s to know, to appreciate their suffering and to feel remorse or terror. The net is always too wide. Sooner or later, they don't discriminate, and others try to make sense of it all, ascribing rules and logic to every attack, every off-the-cuff statement, every coincidence.
Remember the guy who hunted rapists? Over time, he stops bothering with the rapist part. All young men should be chaste until they learn to handle it, and since they don't, he hunts any sexually active male under 21. The people grow frightened after several young men die. Police investigations ensue, but murmurs of the true nature of the killer begin - Shotgun Daddy. They say he can feel it when young men get frisky, and he'll show up to drag you to his van, blow your legs off with a shotgun and burn you alive. When the killer began his war, he had no special sense for when people were getting sexual - but as the stories spread, they become true. He realizes that he can begin to tell when it's happening - but he also finds he can't approach cars or rooms, even those in which sex is happening, if a fresh rose is wrapped around the doorknob. The legend says it's because his daughter loved roses so much, and it drives him away in grief. Is that true, or is Shotgun Daddy powerless to resist his own story now? Legends, more than any other slasher, are mystical. Their special senses and weird weaknesses make them more like spirits than people, and the question of free will is a valid one. They draw power from their strange rules, but those rules are their weakness.
VASCU has a case study on the killer known as Rusty Nail, based on an interview with the folklorist Lousie Van Der Graaf. She says that he used to be a carpenter - he sawed off four of his fingers, probably by accident, and his assistant didn't get help because he was too drunk to hear the screams. The carpenter took a handful of nails and pounded 'em into the drunkard's head. How he managed this missing four fingers is unclear, but he then went crusading against drunks. Story started in the 1920s, probably as a Prohibition urban legend. Of course, there's a way to avoid Rusty Nail's wrath. He'd only attack illegal drinkers or those who drank when they shouldn't. That didn't mean much in the 20s, since it was all illegal, but about a year ago the story starts again. He goes after underage drinkers, drunk drivers or other such things. And if you see him coming, and you'd know by the hammer and the trail of blood from his hand, you show him the back of your hand, keeping your fingers flat on your palm. That way, he sees you as a kindred spirit and leaves you alone. The resurgence apparently followed the discovery of some legal documents from the 20s, including a newspaper article about a guy killed by nails in the head. Someone probably did the resaerched, started telling the story, and hey, copycat killer. Some deadbeat dad got drunk, left his kids alone and they all almost died when the place caught fire. They found the guy two days later, face like a pincushion.
Avengers can become Legends, and some Legends start that way. Some were once hunters who saw enough of the supernatural to be confused or intrigued by the often arbitrary rules it seems to follow. Even when a rule turns out false, these rules are comforting. Rules are order to the world. They give a point to it all, and sometimes, you want to be part of that order. That can be the birth of a Legend. Like Avengers, they are highly variable in method and target. These are the eponymouse Candyman, the Tooth Fairy of Darkness Falls, and Freddy Krueger.
Their talent is Strength from the Tales. They literally draw strength from their myths, and once per scene, when someone fulfills a tenet of their rules, they can draw on that power to heal themselves or gain a bonus to rolls, chosen each time. Their frailty is Trapped in the Story. All LEgends have a weakness, which must be fairly strict. Any attack exploiting it deals agg or ignores any defense. A banishment or abjuration that takes advantage of it does not allow resistance - it always works. Period. And it has to be pretty harsh.
All slashers are horrors, but
are unstoppable. They are rage and strength. They break doors, kill with their bare hands, are unfailingly deadly with any tool. They are killing machines, and everyone is a target. They seem simple, and they have no capacity for morality or empathy. There's not much going on in their heads. They aren't justifiable, they aren't fascinatingly arcane. They aren't compelling. They just hurt people, methodically and brutally. That's the problem. They can't be scared or intimidated. EVen when outnumbered and outgunned, the best you can hope for is that they vanish for a bit - and never for very long. They're not obsessive about killing so much as it's all they can do. They're not even animals - they're just forces of nature. They're still recognizably human, unlike Masks, though. Their savagery is personal, they enjoy it. Some live double lives and can pass for human until they pick up the weapon, until whatever trigger happens. They often are just smart enough to be deliberate, to do what must be done to avoid detection. Often they travel, but as their bloodlust grows, it's often possible to trace them home by the trail of blood.
VASCU has a case study on Bryan Gern, based on an interview with retired Army drill instructor W. E. Naylor. Naylor says Private Gern was always strange. Most folks enlist to escape their homes, maybe to flee something or for the free education. But Gern? He's a giant, built like a brick shithouse, and all he says in his West Virginia accent is that he don't rightly know - maybe he just won't hurt anyone here. And that's...odd. Naylor looked into Gern's records, and seems one of the cops in his hometown was an old squaddy, so he called the guy up. The guy remembered Gern. Used to get in trouble because he'd head out to the fields and cut up cows with a straight razor. He never really cared about getting caught. Naylor kept an eye on the guy, but not close enough. He went AWOL in Lansing, cut a bunch of people up just like he used to cut up cows.
Brutes rarely speak, and those that do tend not to be very coherent. Most urban legends about murdering madmen are about brutes. They can, however, be cunning - the killer that hides by licking a hand in the dark and pretending to be a dog, say. Some are sadistic, others almost robotic. They give up everything but the kill. Brutes are barely socially functional most of the time. They kill alone, and don't often keep trophies. Some have favored weapons, but not all. Some enjoy killing by scaring victims into environmental hazards. The more they kill, the more detached and less human they can become, until it's just the Mask.
Brutes are dissociative. They don't see people, just objects. Funny, talking objects, maybe, objects that almost seem like people, but aren't. The degree to which they believe this is often a good litmus test for how close they are to becoming a Mask. This dissociation is often caused by rejection from the world, parental humiliation and abuse. Hunters can become this just by witnessing the effects of raw power on the world - a werewolf tears through their safehouse and their team like paper. A frail woman snaps a neck with ease. They take note and develop their strength to become a match - but in the process, they have to put aside pain and suffering. They must become inhuman. Without suffering, there is no empathy. Without empathy...well. Brutes are almost always highly physical, though some are skilled craftsmen as well, or good with animals. They tend to heal quickly and be good at fighting. This is John Ryder of the Hitcher, Colqhoun of Ravenous, the Man and the Woman from The People Under the Stairs, Mickey and Mallory Knox of Natural Born Killers.
The Brute talent is Unstoppable. When fighting, they go into a sort of trance, feeling no pain or wound penalty. They don't fall unconscious normally, not until they start to bleed out. Often, even when they seem down, they get uyp again for one last attack. Their frailty, however, is Blinded by Blood. Brutes' hyperfocus on murder means they don't pay much attention. All perception rolls are at a penalty, and they find it especially hard to spot someone hiding.
Next time: The Mask.
Masks, Charmers, and Psychos
Original SA post
The Brute taken to its logical extreme is the
. All humanity is gone. All that is left is body, weapon and urge to kill. The Mask has no compassion, no fear, no remorse. The Mask is not a he or a she. It is an it. It does not hesitate. Ever. Some Masks refuse to kill certain targets, but that's not mercy - they just ignore them. Masks do not speak. Masks do not understand language well. The few that can take orders or work in a group retain some tenuous grasp on understanding, but they do not speak or write. They have given up language. Some occult researchers believe, and VASCU data backs them up, that Masks feel pain in the presence of other living humans. They can't detect them that way, and indeed tend to have dull senses, but they can't be at peace until everyone is dead. Few have any survival instrinct, and it seems just being alive causes them pain.
VASCU investigator John Deng has a file on Subject #714, capturing in a Michigan swamp. He killed four agents and six civilian vigilantes before they could get him to Lansing, and en route he nearly escaped, and killed two agents before being subdued. In the facility, he has been imprisoned by being submerged to the chest in concrete. Special AGent Jennifer Trask, an empath, was brought in to see him, as he does not or cannot speak, and any attempt to take fingernails or dental imprints was too dangerous. Trask could not discover his identity, but was able to establish a psychic link. A transcript of her experience while linked follows. After her experience, she attempted to rip her own teeth out before being sedated, after which the episode passed. She was not able to recount the experience, and went AWOL six days later. She has not yet been found. 714 remains unknown but in custody.
Needles in my eyes. Needles. Everything I see hurts. Shutting my eyes just makes it worse. Oh, God. Sounds grat on my skin like...like.. (inchoate screams). Silence hurts! Noise hurts! Clothing, light, the feeling of my own skin hurts! Shoes crush my feet, but the floor is made of razors and snake's teeth. My teeth...my teeth...
So, why don't Masks kill themselves? WEll, for one, they are damn hard to kill. They don't seem to notice most wounds. A large cell can usually take one down with some casualties, but only due to being used to fighting supernatural beings. Mundane groups trying to fight them as if they were human seldom survive. Shotguns don't work very well. Tasers don't work at all. Fire might work, but only after an inferno as the thing keeps fighting, now
. Not every Mask actually covers their face, but even those that don't are easy to spot. Their faces never change. Not when they kill, not when shot, never. They are immobile, dispassionate. If Masks are, in fact, in pain simply from being alive, why? Why does it manifest? How do Brutes become Masks?
It'd be tempting and not entirely inaccurate to say that the Mask is the end result of the classic serial killer profile, but they are supernatural, impervious to most harm. Some kind of supernatural interference happens, but the drive to kill was there first. PErhaps the mind becomes trapped in the body, the senses overclocked to the point that all sensation is pain. The only place to flee to is the dark, deep lizard brain, the lowest and most savage pain response: kill. Make it stop. They are terrifyingly simple. Each Mask was once human, but they don't respond to stimuli from their lives. Once in a while, something might catch their attention. They live one witness alive, maybe. Those witnesses later report that the Masks look terrified, trapped in what they are, surrounded by agony. It's gone in an instant. Masks are highly physical and generally cunning, but completely unable to function socially. They have few skills unrelated to murder. This is Michael Myers of Halloween, Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th, Coffin Baby of Toolbox Murders.
The talent is that they are Unstoppable Killing Machines. On top of feeling no pain, they don't sleep. They don't eat. They take only one damage from any attack, no matter what, even supernatural attacks. Environmental damage works as normal, though. The frailty is No Mind but for Murder. Masks do not do language in any meaningful way. At best, they can point or gesture vaguely with a knife. They can barely understand spoken language, and they cannot read.
is deadly - not because they're strong or smart, but because they're charismatic. They are always polite, sympathetic, well-spoken. They are selfless, they listen and you want to listen to them. They often sing beautifully to themselves. They seduce their victims, not always sexually and indeed many find the idea of sex revolting, but to the point of intimacy. And that's when they kill. The worst are the ones the Charmer drugs, to take their time with. They do love torture. Charmers hunt for victims in all kinds of ways - masquerading as priests, hacking, bar-hopping, being businessmen. Then the bodies start to appear. Charmers are always ready to leave, but they like to stay as long as they can. The goal isn't necessarily the kill - they are compelled to do that. What they want is to know their victims trust them.
Charmers tend not to see people as anything but objects to play with. They find that vulnerability fascinating. People are so stupid that they'd even allow others to access them while they sleep. Surely, they know people can be monsters? The reason they feel this way is often because they've seen monsters. They are often abused as children, and often taught that any sex is wrong and evil. Many Charmers have a pathological hatred of sexuality and the opposite sex. Often, they were raised religious. Not all of them are men, and the women tend to have an easier time of getting men to trust them, thanks to societal standards. FEmale Charmers are often black widows - they seduce victims and kill before, during or after sex. Some are angels of death, killing those dependent on them. Ex-Hunter Charmers are different - they tend to be the ones practiced at being bait for supernaturals. They get good at finding and luring predators - and not just monstrous ones. They hate how their prey looks at them, and begin to take it out on anyone that does that, not just the monsters. Charmers are always socially adept and often poor fighters, taking advantage of vulnerability rather than any skill. They are often witty and fast, but weak and not necessarily very smart. You can get buy on charm for 15 minutes, after all, and they usually don't need that long. This is Stuntman Mike from Death Proof, Preacher Powell from Night of the Hunter, Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek and Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct.
Charmers have the talent of Disarming. They're good at making people like them, making people not see anything wrong there - making them willing to help. They override any normal common sense this way, and it's hard to fight them when you've fallen prey to their wiles, though the effect ends if you witness them harming anyone in a non-justifiable way. They only get once chance at this per person, though, on first meeting them. If that fails, well, someone sees through the mask. The frailty is Thin Veneer. Charmers are held together by spit and string. They hate having their views shaken and often believe their own hype. They have a trigger - a song, being touched sexually, being called by their name and not their title. When it happens, or when someone resists their charms and calls them out, they find it exceptionally hard to keep up the act. They lash out, usually verbally, but not always. And at that point, just about anyone gets a chance to see through their charm.
VASCU Special Agent William Caffler writes about the Wingman. In the bar scene, that's the guy who distracts a girl's friends so someone can seduce the girl. It's a pretty stupid idea, but it persists. The Wingman, the person, prefers to always be the wingman. The first time he heard about the Wingman was in Memphis, several variations, but some consistent details. He's white, about 30 and trim. His hair changes, but he's always attractive and has a notably charming voice. He appraoches men in bars, talks to them and offers to be the wingman. No one knows him, but he's always good at the job, interested but detached. What he wants is to get out of the bar with a girl no one but her friends, now distracted by men, will miss. William originally believed him an urban legend until meeting Alyssa Bylarsky, who had been intrigued by the Wingman. She took him home, and he chloroformed her, tied her to the bed and burned various parts of her body with a butane lighter. She only escaped because a friend stopped by. The Wingman met the friend on his way out, smiled and left. Alyssa remains agoraphobic and pathologically afraid of fire. The Wingman's real name and wherabouts remain unknown.
Beneath the veneer of the Charmer is always the
. The Charmer's pathology has become a full-blown ideology. Their mask is much, much thinner. Some are zealots, focused on religious faith and murder as a cleansing. Some are racial purists. Some slaughter prostitutes to rid the world of lust. Or gay men (or men who appear gay to them), or divorced men. Whatever they do it for, the reason is always there, even if it's insane. They've lost much of the social functionality of the Charmer - they keep the charade up just long enough to close distance or talk a door open or get a hitchhiker into the car. Their real agenda becomes clear after only a little evaluation, but they only need a minute. They aren't about violation of trust - they just wnat to kill.
Psychos typically got abused terribly. Worse than Charmers. They have no sense of humanity and haven't for a long time. They are often shockingly strong and brutal. They don't usually look too harmless, either. (Real life killer Edmund Kemper talked his way past campus security with two dead women in his backseat by claiming he was taking a pair of drunks home. He was 6'9", weighed over 300 pounds and was only caught because he turned himself in after his tenth kill.) PSychos can seem harmless briefly, though. Ex-Hunters turned Psycho often suffered at monstrous hands, but not physically. Maybe blood bound, maybe mated to a werewolf, maybe magically enslaved. They hate the supernatural, and everything else. They are often charismatic but not very manipulative - they're articulate, but tend to sound crazy the longer they talk. They are often skilled fighters, preferring to beat victims senseless before killing. Some use guns, but often shoot to wound so they can take their time. This is Darryl Lee Cullum of Copycat, Patrick Batemen of American Psycho, Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men, Bo Sinclair of House of Wax of May Canady of May.
VASCU files contain case study by a redacted agent on Dr. Belinda Gooding. She worked for Cheiron. Very personable, friendly, flirtatious but sexually innocent and seemingly worth protecting. After some interaction, however, he noticed she'd start wounds too long before treating them, rarely blinked and often pointed out facets of her personality she wanted people to notice - notably, that she was a good listener and didn't judge. He witnessed her kill without authorization four months before she disappeared. He was a suspect of supernatural activity, but nothing else. She volunteered to lure him to her car, where she beat him to death with the hood and shot him. She was removed from active duty, but he never found out what her hearing resulted in. She did vanish recently, having killed a former teammate that helped her escape and leaving a note swearing to ferret out evil and betrayers, along with a list of names. The agent's name topped the list, which is why he got pulled from undercover work in Cheiron. Belinda's whereabouts remain unknown, and she is believed to have stolen a large quantity of medical supplies when she fled.
The talent PSychos have is Deadly Distraction. They can make people drop their guard just long enough to take them out. It only takes a turn of conversation, but it can't be done in combat or around witnesses. If it works, the victim opens up for one brief moment - long enough for the Psycho to get inside, or to get a weapon, or to strike a killing blow - which in mechanical terms means 'that person is probably dead if the slasher attacks.' Killing blows don't roll for attack or damage - they deal damage equal to the dicepool. Their frailty is Obsessive. Psychos can't let things go. Once they pick a victim and try to charm them and
, they can't leave the victim alone. They must hurt them, scare them and finally kill. They can be patient, but most aren't, and attack impulsively. If the victim hurts them, the frailty's effects end and they can flee, but even then, month after month, they'll feel the urge to seek that victim out again. It makes them easier to track and predict, even if it's no help to the victim.
Next time: Freaks.
Freaks, Mutants, Geniuses, and Maniacs
Original SA post
, like the Brute, is strong, but what defines them is deformity. Freaks are set apart by physical ugliness - a birth defect, maybe, or acid to the face. Maybe they're tainted by supernatural power. Either way, their evil shows on the skin. Not all of them are self-conscious about their looks. Some are, shunning humanity and hiding away under heavy clothes and darkness. They hate how others treat them, and that drives them to kill. Some, however, revel in what they are. Some even deliberately deform themselves. And some are as bestial in mind as they are in body - but those are well on their way to becoming Mutants. Of all the undertakings, Freaks are most likely to be cannibals, necrophiles or take other depraved actions. They often attack with teeth,claws or improvised wepaons, and they tend to become atavistic over time. They are more likely to form attachments to others, and so it is unfortunately not rare for Freaks to gather in small clans, sometimes families and sometimes not. They may end up working for supernatural beings, if the work is bloody enough. These partnerships often end poorly, however, when the Freak realizes they're being used and attacks.
ASCU Agent Sara Stippler recorded a transmission requesting help on the Flemming Case. Over the course of a week in Grendel, Colardo, she went looking for killers. On the first night, nothing. On the second, she overheard men telling her to send her to Flemming. Next day, she rented a room under the cover of being a photojournalist, and was told not to worry about Flemming - that was all done and over. On Thursday, she discovered tunnels from the old mine under most of the houses in town. Flemming comes up from them and steals people according to local legend. No clear reason for the name. On Friday, she saw him - near eight feet tall, dacially deformed. Sticks to the tunnels and the woods. He waved at her with two fingers. The old woman she was renting a room from wouldn't say what it meant but asked her to move out. On Saturday, she sent in a request for armed assistance after seeing Fleeming wave one finger. The only way out was through the woods.
Freaks born to their condition but an otherwise normal society often grow up full of self-loathing and hatred for everyone around them. Their murders are equal parts revenge and self-sabotage. They want to die, and want to hurt those around them as they do. Freaks born to a society of other Freaks don't feel that self-loathing, but are often taught to hate and fear normal humans for self-preservation. They often gang up on people in isolated areas. Not all Freaks are born, though. Some are changed later. Hunters become Freaks sometimes when grievously injured on a hunt. Afterwards, they can't reclaim their place in society without explaining what happened. They're difficult to deal with and come to be frustrated, to hate those around them, even to empathize with the monsters. Freaks are versatile, but generally strong or clever. They are not usually socially adept, beyond intimidation, and tend to be physical. Some, however, are trappers. This is The Clan from the Hills Have Eyes, Vincent Sinclair from House of Wax, Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Freaks, unqiuely, get to choose from two talents. First is Lay of the Land. When they find a home, they master it. They are excellent at traveling their territory, tracking in it and hiding in it. They also are excellent at foot chases, either chasing or fleeing, in their territory. The other is Revulsion. Those trying to touch them in combat are penalized because they look so disgustng, and grappling is likewise penalized. Their frailty is Deformity. All Freaks are hideous, no matter what. Many mock them, and they get a huge penalty on social rolls if their faces are visible, excepting intimidation. Well, not always the face - sometimes it's something else - manner of speech or other deformity. But it's there.
is a full-on atavism, barely recognizable as human. Unlike Freaks, Mutants are almost always born. Inbreeding, genetic disorders, toxin exposure...no, mostly it's supernatural influence. Mutants needn't really be aggressive or even evil. After all, each one has negative experiences with "normal" humans. Sometimes, they're badly abused by family. Sometimes they're well-meaning and the world outside their home abuses them. Their first encounter with those who hate and fear them is formative, and often leads to their first kill, generally out of fear, anger or revenge. Sometimes it's even accidental - the Mutant develops a crush on a classmate and kills her with a hug by accident. He chases a terrified person into traffic to try and tell them not to be afraid. This first kill shapes their views on murder and life. They may flee, end up institutionalized or imprisoned, but they learn that normal people feel better without them around. Some choose to hide, to kill only when threatened. Others sneak about and kill at will. Some delight in terrifying people before the kill. Some even hunt naked and are mistaken for animals or werewolves or demons.
VASCU files contain a letter sent to former journalist Agent Emily O'Connell on the Alabama Stalker. Herber Pleasance, editor-in-chief, felt her photographs were worthless, and only sent a response because of mutual friends in publishing. He felt they were faked - the proportions were wrong, the mouth clearly that of a pig or horse, off-center in the face. The Alabama Stalker, he says, is a real killer and this is a sick joke, blaming it on a monster.
Mutants are almost always born, and sometimes they become hunters. They can be intelligent and well-spoken, even functional enough to join a cell or organization. Those with supernatural taint in their history may be targeted by hunters but join up when it becomes clear they don't have interest in killing. Ironically, it is often this way they become better at killing, and as the hunt takes it toll, they may become the monsters others always though them to be. All Mutants are deadly, though, especially on their home turf. They're often territorial and hate having their homes threatened. They are typically highly physical, but can be extremely intelligent and quick-witted. They can even be charming, if not seen. These are the Mountain Men of Wrong Turn, the Crawlers of Descent, the Clan from the more recent Hills Have Eyes remake.
The Mutant talent is Natural Wepaonry - their deformities are useful. Sharp fangs, fnarled claws, bony growths. Their skin can be tougher armor than kevlar, or they can have natural weapons better than any knife. Their frailty is Sensitivity. They revolt all who see them, automatically faily any social roll that isn't intimidation, if their face is visible or has been seen. They are also hypersensitive to some form of stimulus - bright lights, antiseptic scents, whatever. When confronted by this stimulus, they often cannot help but try to end it by any means possible or flee. If they cannot flee, they often lash out or try to hide.
They say knowledge increases sorrow - and maybe that's what makes the
so angry at everyone lesser. They are jealous, perhaps, wishing they, too, could ignore their own minds. Geniuses kill with the mind - not usually via psychic powers, but with cleverness. They think several steps ahead, predicting what people will do based on available options and personality. They profile their targets, tailor their methods to them, then sit back and watch it all play out. OFten, they prefer to use traps rather than killing personally, which they often find coarse and vulgar. Some are physically incapable of killing. Others feel that leaving the possibility of escape removes their moral responsibility for the deaths. Not all Geniuses are educated - some are street smart. Even they are technically skilled, however. Some of them do kill personally, but they'll still play games with the foes, talking to them, playing cat and mouse before they strike. For many Geniuses, it's their only way to true intimacy.
One big problem is that their ideas can be contagious. They can talk people, otherwise rational people, to their point of view. They often have apprentices that they train in murder. Most cells know the guy who comes up with new tactics, who designs traps and does all the research. Usually, they're appreciated. Sometimes, they get picked on. Sometimes, that ribbing can breed resentment. They retreat from social interaction, treat everything like a challenge or a riddle. They become cold, socially stunted, obsessive over solving problems. Those that were never hunters are usually difficult to understand. They aren't interested in people unless they're challenged, at which point they obsess, fixate, perhaps murederously - or perhaps they decide the challenger is the one person to spare, and go after anyone that threatens them. Some Geniuses interact with others, but always on their own terms - professors who lecture, doctors who impersonalize their patients entirely, radio hosts who never see the people they speak to before tracking them down. They are always intelligent, but can go anywhere from there. They can be charismatic or savage, and they often know quite a lot. This is Hannibal Lector of Silence of hte Lambs, Peter Foley of Copycat and Suzi Toller of Wild Things.
Their talent is Profiling. They can seem psychic, given their ability to predict what people will do based on appearance and body language. Anyone they predict, they have an advantage against in a fight or contest. Worse, if they can talk with a target at length, they can discover or create mental problems, learning damning secrets or causing insanity. Their frailty is an Intolerance for Chaos. Geniuses hate the idea of unpredictability, that they can't control everything. Itt frustrates them, and whenever they fail at Intelligence rolls or rolls they specialize in for their killings, they lose Willpower.
VASCU's Agent Nautica Williams writes about Michael Elliot, a Smithsonian entomologist who hunted vampires in DC. He kept meticulous records, and according to the one survivor of his cell, he had no contact with the supernatural before he started - he just reasoned tha vampires must exist based on population figures, anemia rates and sudden outbreaks of porphyria, which young vampires apparently overuse as a cover. He worked with his cell for years, during which 17 innocents died in the crossfire. That's when the cell found his journals detailing how he set up the circumstances killing those bystanders. The phrase 'flies on the heads of pins' appeared 43 times, sometimes in the margins or in the middle of unrelated sentences. One of the cell was cousin to a VASCU agent, and they all confronted Elliot. When VASCU arrived, Elliot was gone. The two cell members confronting him, both highly capable military veterans, were dead, killed by Amazon spiders whose poison would have been merely annoying had Elliot not been dosing them with a secondary poison for months, inducing anaphylactic shock. Elliot remains at large.
When a Genius's mind gets too alien, they bacome a
. Thery are intuitive, predictive and impossible to outsmart or predict. Understanding them is dangerous, for their madness is infectious. They often trick their victims into dying, and often via intermediary. They usually have henchmen or acolytes to sreve them, and the subtlest and most dangerous use employees who never realize they're helping to kill via complex, Goldbergian schemes. Maniacs often like apparent accidents, and they oftne have some twisted ideology. Sometimes it's religious, but often it's just philosophical. Sometimes they claim to want to help people appreciate their lives. They don't get the fetishistic thrill of murder that Psychos do, and they aren't so tenacious as Masks. They are flexible, able to second-guess others. EVerything they do makes sense to them, if not outsiders. They often don't understand emotion, though some can predict extreme emotions. Just not the nuances and variations. They don't always shy away from human interaction, but they're not good at it. This is, perhaps, why they infect others with their own madness. Their perspective is fundamentally inhuman, and they are lonely. No one can understand them, so they keep people close, to train them to think "properly." Unfortunately, this produces similar but not identical pathologies, and for people as egocentric as a Maniac, that is unacceptable. The pupe is a heretic - a scrounging copy cat. Eventually, one of them must die. Getting between them is dangerous.
Former hunters turned Maniac are oftne like Geniuses, but can also come fro mdirect contact with the supernatural - philosophical debates with mages, studying occult math to banish demons, being mind controlled constantly by vampires. This twists their mindsets, causing the new philosophy to emerge. They spread it to their fellow hunters. They second-guess those around them, at first just to gain stability, since they can no longer intuit how others will act, just puzzle ito ut. Non-hunters who become Maniacs are often savants, intelligent beyond their years. They may be travelers, or they may shun the outside world entirely. They learn exceptionally quickly, but unlike a Genius, they tend to have an agenda that keeps them active, motivated and away from stagnation. They are always intelligent, and often manipulative or charismatic, but not often both. They are only average, physically. You don't need to be strong when you can plan. This is Jigsaw of Saw and John Doe of Se7en.
Their talent is Compelling Madness. They need only a few minutes of conversation to know someone better than their target knows themselves. They can profile with just that, though if they fail, they become frustrated and unable to try again very well. If they succeed, however, they become exceptionally good at acting against these victims and removing their advantages. In addition, they are able to alter the way victims view morality - essentially forcing the Code from Hunter on them via prolonged interaction. This needn't be face-to-face - letters work just as well. Their frailty is Obvious Lunatic. Anyone who talks to them can tell they're dangerous after only a few minutes. Unless they're dealing with someone insane or altered by their views, they can't deal well socially with anyone for long, and they stick out in the memory.
VASCU has a trancript of an interview with conspiracy theorist LArry Dern on the killer known as None. Dern has no diea who None is, but he's killed 53 people. All different methods, but in a pattern by method. He started talking to None on a message board anonymously, discovering the code he used to communicate. He'd respond toi the guy, trying to show he knew who he was. The first killing happened only a block away from Dern's address - Edie Stephens, apparent accident via rigged staircase. He knows this sounds crazy, but Dern wants help. He doesn't think they can catch None, mind you. He just wants help because None is starting to make sense to him, and that terrifies him.
Next time: Merits.
Original SA post
The book has some guidelines for designing new Undertakings, in case you have an idea for a slasher that doesn't fit the stuff we just went over. It also has some new merits - Atavism, the power to defend yourself better than humans by being an atavist throwback, for example, or Damnable Certainty, which lets you regain Willpower from murder as long as your kills are within the bonds of a Code-altered Morality framework. Murder Expert, which makes you terrifyingly good at sneak attacks, Telltale Murder that lets you leave behind messages via arranging crime scenes, at the cost of making it so if you don't deliberately do so, you probably still do it. A new fighting style for being a crazy guy who beats people to death with tire irons. (It's bad. Most Fighting Styles in 1e are bad. In this case because it is either actually bad in some parts or too good in others. Mostly the former, but it also entirely replaces the Brute talent.) There's ways to boost signature weapons or improvised ones, and a way to avoid scaring people with your crazy as long as you're one-on-one.
We get new Tactics, some designed to hunt slashers and others to be used by them. There's rules for slashers learning and using Tactics, even solo. Stuff like Behavioral Science to help build a profile, or Cannibalism to get boosted stats. By the way, cannibalism boosts your stats now. There are rules for body modification - filed down teeth to get a bite weapon, nails filed to claws, armoring up via extreme scarification. Putting a concealed pouch in your skin. A whole lot of improvised weapon examples, rules for homemade traps. And, more interestingly, new endowments.
Sometimes, VALKYRIE wants people to bring someone in alive. For that, they offer Tranq Rounds (1-5 dots), the cutting edge of ballistics tech. Ten years from now, you'll be able to buy 'em. For now, VALKYRIE has them all, since they can't be mass produced yet. They're frangible rounds made of the same stuff as Glaser rounds, but full of a gel-suspension of skin-soluble tranquilizers. They're utterly useless for hurting people or breaking things, but they'll knock a guy out if you shoot them enough times. They last ten minutes, or an hour if you knock someone out. You don't need a VALKYRIE RFID to use 'em, either.
The Shadow Congregation uses Saint Agathius' Call. Saint Agathius, see, is the patron saint of soldiers. He was scourged and beheaded after torture for refusing to renounce his faith, and the Benediction calls on that resolve. When used, it forces all the monsters nearby to want to attack you. Hope you can handle that.
The Lucifuge know that Hell's torment scourges all sin fro mthe souls of men. Hell can see all of your sins, and the Lucifuge can tap into Guilt's Bloody Trail. They must be present at the scene of a murder, with the body still there. By smearing the dead body's blood on their tongue and focusing, they will feel a pull towards the killer. The killer simultaneously develops stigmata on the palm or wrist that will not heal. There is no cause for the wounds, but the blood will soak through anything. It's the victim's blood, not the killer's, and that will show on any forensic testing. The Lucifuge's murderer radar is only accurate to about 500 yards and is always one of the 8 compass points. Both stigmata and direction sense last only temporarily.
The Ascending Ones have developed a modification of the Breath of Ma'at using cocaine, four drops of child's blood and the powdered bone of a hanged man, called Justice of Ma'at (2 dots). It is a fine red powder, either inhaled or rubbed into the gums. Once active, it fills the user with an otherworldly force that pushes them to find the truth, gaining a bonus on all investigation rolls and helping to avoid any madness that the search for truth might lead to.
The Aegis Kai Doru hold the Mask of Terror (3 dots) - or, rather many of them. They are made from the masks of dead slashers, if they had one, or from a whole, dried skin of a slasher's face, flayed off in one piece. Whatever the form, it must be worn against he skin. It usually attaches to the chest, and once active, it burrows in such that it can't be removed easily. It must be cut out, and it'll take flesh with it. The Mask gives the power to inspire fear, much as slashers do. Anyone who sees the second face's eyes glow red for just a second must fight off a terrible fear. The user may remove the mask freely, but no one else can without cutting, as mentioned.
Cheiron doesn't have a lot from slashers, but they do have the Cortical Adaptation (3 dots). Some slashers, see, have brain conditions. In at least three cases, tertiary syphilis destroyed the moral center of the brain and caused delusions driving the victim to kill. In other cases, tumors remove impulse control. Cheiron harvests the alien parts of those tumors, implanting the result on the surface of the brain. Everyone reacts differently to having murder-cancer attached to the brain, but what the implant does is allow the user to focus and switch their thinking into slasher-like patterns, allowing them insight into the thoughts of serial killers. The trick is in the inhibitor chip between lesion and brain, which allows the user to remain in control of the alien thought processes and murderous impulses. Reports of it dissolving after three years in cerebral fluid are unconfirmed, largely because few users last that long. The implant allows for a bonus to understanding and tracking slashers, as well as a bonus towards learning certain skills related to a specific Undertaking and access to slasher-specific merits...but those are only usable while the implant is on. Usage causes a strong sense of dissociation of the self, and it's not really good for your sanity while it's in there. There's also a high rate of malignant cancer, which Cheiron doesn't mention.
Now, let's talk about Teleinformatics. Most agents have no idea how they work, but those who look into it learn that they're an extension of the brain's ability to process information. The unit doesn't care if they're telekinetic or telepathic - rather, they care about what use you can put the powers to, and so they divide the abilities into Interview, which helps with interviewing subjects, Investigation, which is good for working a crime scene, and Research, to help gather background information. They all have dot levels, and each time you get a dot of Teleinformatics, you can take any one power of the dot level you have or lower. To take a 4 dot power, you need at least one other power from that sphere, and for a 5 dot you need two others. Most Teleinformatics powers require you to damage yourself to use them. Bashing damage is in the form of migraines and nosebleeds as the body forces itself to keep up. Lethal damage goes beyond the body's limits, causing hemorrhaging in the eyes and ears. Agg damage actually causes lesions on the brain that require delicate surgery. A focused effort of will can downgrade the damage...sometimes.
Interview powers focus on boosting the agent's interviewing skills, and they're mostly telepathic, reaching into the subject's mind or bridging the barrier of mind and matter. Affecting the minds of others is difficult and lacks finesse - VASCU telepathy is a blunt instrument when inflicting change, no matter how good it is at reading. Just One More Thing (one dot) allows the user to seek out the question the subject least wants to answer, listening into the target's thoughts for guilt and suspicion. You get two or three words, which must be worked into a question, but the subject will find themselves almost compelled to answer. Then there's Polygraph (2 dots). The agent tunes their mind to the target, reading their emotions for guilt and shame directly. Or anything else - any emotional spikes, and how they relate to the questions being asked, boosting the agent's interrogation abilities handily, especially when it comes to lie detection. With Synchronization (3 dots), they go even beyond that, enabling empathic reading of the mind so thoroughly that they share thoughts and memories, copying the subject's mind into their own. It's dangerous, but it's one of the easier ways to find out things like why a slasher kills or where the bodies are. It rarely lasts long, and it can result in the subject's mind taking over the body in rare cases, but it allows for perfectly truthful answers. The effects last a few hours, usually, and may cause the agent to experience physical maladies - a slasher subject with an atrophied arm may cause the agent's arm to grow rigid and unusable briefly. With greater focus, the Talon (4 dots) is usable - a focused burst of power to disrupt thought, seeking out guilt and shame and making them very heightened. It's a mental pressure attack, basically, lessening the target's ability to think properly and, occasionally, causing them pain. It's handy for punishing lies. The most potent level is Tactical Co-Ordination (5 dots) - essentially, developing a working duplicate of the team's minds and predicting what they'll do. This duplicated mind model lets the agents communicate with the team, something rather like telepathy. It doesn't make a lot of sense to anyone involved and it's quite rare, but it makes the agents very useful - rumor has it that one agent able to do it actually overloaded his brain by overusing the power and needed to be put on life support. While the network is active, all members of the team silently and instantly communicate with each other, as if using radios, and may share each other's skillsets. The link doesn't last over distance, and each use lasts only a few minutes, but it's very useful.
Investigation powers heighten the ability to read a location and understand what happened. They're based on information processing, not mental time travel, so if there's no actual evidence the powers aren't handy...but this is a very rare limitation. There's almost always
trace, however small. Psychometry (1 dot) allows an agent to hold and object and understand its form and function - even hidden functions, like a secret compartment. The agent will know when a tool was last used - and it's not limited to artificial objects. A pool of blood will reveal blood type, and will let the agent instinctively tell if they spot that specific person's blood again. They can match fingerprints on different objects without waiting. Of course, this requires skin contact, which can potentially pollute or destroy evidence, and it works poorly on larger objects. And it can't reveal names. Scene Read (2 dots) allows an agent to gather all the clues at a scene in seconds. They only have to glance at an area to get a basic idea of what's going on, though a more detailed search might reveal more. Speed of Thought (3 dots) pushes the agent into hyperawareness of their surroundings. They seem almost precognitive, dodging bullets by noticing the tensing of a tendon in the gunman's hand. Postcognition (4 dotS) allows an agent to create a working model of a crime scene, witnessing the crime as if they were present during it. They must be at the scene, and they can only reconstruct about five minutes of time, but they can play it back and forward in their mind, revealing truths that might not be otherwise evident. The strangest power is Hall of Mirrors (5 dots). By withdrawing into the world of the mind, they arrive in an alien chamber, studded by mirror-like portals. EAch one reveals a potential future, never more than a week away. VASCU claims the Hall isn't a real place - it's just a shared hallucination, an artifact of the mind as it extrapolates causal links to derive probable outcomes. But every agent describes it exactly the same way, right down the minute imperfections in mirrors and the geometric patterns in the floor. Some agents even claim to have spotted others there when they used the power at the same time, half a world away. Either way, these possible futures allow the agent to figure out the highlights of the next week or so, rather like a television preview. This can be used to reroll failed rolls, or to ask basic questions about the immediate situation, and all uses must be done in 24 hours, or they go away.
Research powers allow an agent to access information from all kinds of sources without needing any tools or even an internet connection. They can run background checks with their minds, mentally tail targets and more. It's one of the more common types of powers, perhaps because of Wintergreen's original research being abouyt ESP accessing information. Network (1 dot) allows an agent to locate inanimate objects - lost keys, maybe, or the exact book you need in a library, even if you've never been there before. It's accurate within a quarter-mile radius if you're outdoors, to a room within the same building indoors, or to a 10-yard radius in the same room. Deep Background (2 dots) allows the agent to project their senses into information networks. They take a single piece of info - a photo, a name, a license plate - and trace it through criminal records, bank details and more. They just need an internet connection. They can get just about anything recorded
, though stuff that's concealed is harder, and the longer they take, the more taxing it is. Bookworm (3 dots) allows an agent to synchronize their mind to the information networks of the world. Rather than spend hours reading to do research, they just have to focus, instinctively understanding anything publically available - or anything restricted that their badge would them access. Tag (4 dots) allows an agent to spy on someone via networks. This isn't remote viewing - rather, it coopts cameras. CCTV, ATMs, police dashboard cams. Even animal eyes, as long as they're no smarter than a cat or rat. There's no control given, just tapping into their senses. Cell phones and CCTV tend to be more reliable. Finally, there's Omnicompetence (5 dots). An agent with this ability can tap into any and all information in the world - and not for reading, but to use. They can learn to shoot from tactical manuals, can tap into any occult lore ever written. They learn in seconds what would take years of practice, selectively increasing their skills by forcing their brain to access the world's supply of information. They become an instant expert - temporarily, anyway.
After this is a series of essays on slashers and slasher games.
Get the book if you want to read them.
Next time: A rogue's gallery of serial killers.
Original SA post
Sometimes, the city workers who go down into the sewers, storm drains and tunnels of Philadelphia tell stories of a skinny, pale boy with eyes like goggles. He lived beneath the stereets, fed on bugs and rats. They called him the Bookworm, and he was a Freak. A cell of Union and Long Night hunters looking for a zombie nest found that some of the meat they'd left as bait had been replaced by a crude tunnel map. After a few trades, they spotted the Bookworm himself, shimmying through the pipes like he was made of rubber. They found he would trade advice to them as long as they gave him food and books. Didn't keep him from trapping and killing one of them when they tried to follow him to his lair, though. The Bookworm's no albino, but he's pale as death. His hair is a matted, ragged mess that he trims occasionally. He might pass as a bony teenager but for his eyes - they're immense. He wears cast-offs he repairs himself, and he changes 'em as he goes. He is very, very flexible, and often stands or sits with a limb bent impossibly. He occasionally talks about "the mother" and "the father" and how they tried to raise him before they were taken Below. He waits for their return now. He doesn't like to kill - but sometimes, he can't help himself, if they come near his territory. He prefers to kill "the bad people" - the monsters that live in his tunnels - but they're hard. His information is usually incomplete and exposes his "friends" to danger - sometimes intentionally, to amuse himself. He can't read or write, but he finds books and writing fascinating, and he's developed his own semi-alphabetical code. His chambers are full of old books, magazines and newspapers that he's torn apart and put back together in ways that make sense only to him.
Once upon a time, there was a clinic, set off down the road. Most locals never noticed it, but a minister three states over decided the services it gave to women had to be stopped, so he led a proest there. It's unclear who decided to firebomb the place, or why they did it with such overwhelming force. The explosion killed three nurses, a doctor, four patients and seven protestors. One of the surviors was burned too badly to identify. The police thought she set the bomb, the news thought her a patient. The minister prayed for her to gain points with the public. He waited for her to wake up - and so he was the first to die to the Burning Woman when she strangled him with her IV. She wrapped herself in blankets and bandages, beat up a cop and made her way down to the bottom floor, where she set a fire, killed two paramedics and stole an ambulance. Police trailed her back to the clinic, but she trapped them within and set it ablaze, then entered it and killed each of them, usually by beating them senseless and hurling them into the fire. When the cops called the FBI, there were already agents in the area, looking for an escaped female terrorist. But now, she's just a Mask, wearing scavenged clothing and bandages that always cover her face. Her flesh is charred and bloody, and she smells of smoke and burnt flesh. She is drawn to infernos, and VASCU believes she often sets those fires. Certainly they calm her. If allowed to watch the fires undisturbed, she remains docile - but once the fire is out or if she's harassed in any way, she'll start to kill. Her MO includes setting her victims' faces and hands ablaze, not always after they die.
Captain Hook is not one of the Psychos who can summon intense charisma for just a moment. He's at the other end - a bland little man who likes to fish. His real name is Larry Meeks, and he runs a bait shop. No one knows how it stays in business in such a bad location. Everyone always wonders where he gets his cash...except the ones who end up in his shack, hanging from thousands of tiny fish hooks. They tend to wonder when they're going to die. Larry was 15 when he invented his Captain Hook persona to prove to himself he was more than just a weakling. After a few attempts, he learned how to bait his victims in with kindness and helpfulness, then take them down. He was a Charmer for years, but after an invitation to join a slasher team, he stepped up his game. Now, he hunts the strongest and most beautiful victims he can find, watching them until he spots their weakness, then gutting them like fish. He's a soft, flabby little man with a receding hairline, obviously nonthreatening. He's not attractive, but he always seems benign and trustworhy. He's always apparently off to go fishing, and he keeps his favorite gaff stored in a false bottom of his everpresent tackle box. He needs to prove himself superior to anyone more attractive or richer than him. The more confident and talented the victim, the better. When he feels he can't pretend to be normal any more, he quickly turns the conversation towards his favorite pastime, knowing that listeners will misunderstand him as talking about fish.
Cinderella, they call her. A Genius. Abused by her stepfamily, but beautiful. Endured it for years, waiting for her prince. Her real name is Ella Young, and when her father died, her stepmother kept her prisoner under the pretext of home-schooling, allowing her own children to terrorize her. Only her endless intellect saved her - the family had to get her books to pass state testing, and never noticed that at age 9 she was asking for college textbooks. Soon after, she decided to stop waiting for her prince and deal with it herself. She used her chemistry knowledge and some cleaners to poison each of her tormentors - kill one, hospitalize the next, weaken them all until she controlled the family's money. She refined her understanding of poison using her family as guinea pigs, prolonging it until she turned 21. At that point, she took the name Cinderella and got all of her inheritance. She drained the family accounts and burned down the house, ensuring the others were paralyzed inside, but fully conscious. She spent the next few years learning more about poisons. At some point, her obsession became a fascination with the psychological impact of poisoning. She earned two PhDs, one in psychology and the other in toxicology, offending everyone around her with her arrogance as she did. She conducted secret experiments, introducing toxins into various buildings and observing the fallout of the inexplicable pain and suffering she caused. She spent an entire year recording the behavior of one student, causing symptoms and easing them over and over to see how quickly it would push the girl to suicide. Ella is now a stern woman in her forties who dresses elegantly but simply. It always seems a bit too warm, though. She's a bit overweight and supremely confident. She believes the world is her lab, and everyone in it her lab rats. What she thinks she's learning is a mystery, but her results always involve slow and painful death. She avoids getting too close to her victims, preferring to expose them in subtle ways to her toxins, and then observe.
Bette Sleet, as a child, loved dolls. She'd spend hours on them, and throw fits if anyone touched them but her. When she grew older, she lost interest, it seemed - but in fact, she'd just decided real people were more fun to manipulate. Now, she amuses herself with those who seek fame and fortune. The Dollmaker, as she's called, is a Charmer, skilled at deception, who sets herself up as their helper. She advises, teaches, changes lives. Under her direction, these losers learn to dress, talk and act as Bette thinks they should. It never quite works, though - at some point, they resist. They decide she's not always right, in some small way. And that's when the tantrum comes, and she decides to find a new playmate. Eventually the FBI are called - they come and find the body, hair and makeup perfect, next to a doll dressed and styled exactly the same way. Bette is an attractive women in her thirties, but her skill with makeup and disguises means she can appear up to ten years older or younger. She's always neat and impeccably fashionable. She really believes she's helping her victims, at least at first. She rarely acts violently early on, but she will not hesitate to take out or disable anyone who she sees as a threat to her connection with the new protege. When a relationship begins to sour, she'll start to plan the kill. If her victim won't obey her, she enacts without mercy or regret.
His name is Harvey Ecks. Once, he romaed the highways alone, practicing his art on anyone who he'd meet on their lonesome. Early on, he was sometimes sloppy, leaving headless torsos. They called him the Rest Stop Killer in those days, or the Torso Maker. But eventually, he got it down pat, able to torture and kill without leaving any trace. He wasn't satisfied - it was too slow, too inefficient. So he decided to claim a small network of interstate highways and offshoots, taking some time to set up surveillence all over it, to brainwash and coopt the waitresses, troopers and gas station attendants. Time well spent for this Maniac - now, he can see everyone who comes through his little kingdom, to see if they are worthy. If they are, he takes them. His pawns call him the Driver, because it always begins with a long drive on a dark night. By the end, they are his - full of the fear and madness he plants in their heads. Harvey believes he's not a killer - he's an explroer, driven by a dream he claims he had in the womb. In that dream, he saw a network of paths, conduits embedded in reality. From an early age, he searched out that pattern. He found hints of it over and over - ancient Mayan pottery, the Book of Kells, the rantings of a New Delhi street preacher. Whoever could understand the Dream Pattern, the Road to Under and the Black Sun Map would unlock an understanding of reality that could do anything. Harvey belives that some people contain fragments of the Map in their minds. He finds that under extreme stress - torture, usually - they spontaneously reveal part of the answer. And so he tells his agents what to look for, what gestures, habits and speech match the dream he had. Harvey could look like anything he wants - he could be anyone, his agents know. But his natural appearance, with no disguise, is a rail-thin, tall man with a beaky nose and narrow, constantly moving eyes. When he spots a victim, he sometimes takes them immediately, sometimes tail them so they won't bring down the police on him. Sometimes he'll have his agents sabotage a car so he can show up to "help." His convictions never waver, but he has one great fear. He thinks others are trying to beat him to the map. He's heard there's at least two of them - the Water Doctor and the Man with the Moth, he calls them. Any indication that someone else is close to completing the Map always shakes him.
Once, there was a priest in the Malleus, one who disagreed with how they did things. He thought their ways corrupt and as sinful as the creatures they hunted. He resigned, going into hiding, but some within the Malleus decided that was not enough. They tracked him, killed him and buried him on unconsecrated ground. Rashly, as it turned out - he knew things they needed, so a bishop ordered him returned by the rite of Lazarus. It worked, but the man they call Father Ghost now came back an Avenger, hating the Hammer of the Witches with a passion. Within a week, he murdered the men who killed him and the bishop who brought him back to life. He'd also burned three churches to the ground. Next to each corpse, he left what would be his calling card - a hammer soaked in the victim's blood. FAther Ghost dresses in whatever will get him closer to his targets. He's average height, lean and tan. His hair is short, and he tends to have a few days of beard, but he'll change either one if it helps him. On the inside of his left arm is a branded phrase - memento mori, burned in during his ritual execution. Some claim he targets specific victims in a plot to bring down the Malleus. Others say he just tortures his victims to find the next ones to kill. In any case, he iwll kill not just the Malleus' members, but anyone he thinks supports them - hunters, clergy or laity that aren't Malleus are usually just warned...but if they get in his way, well. They die. He isn't an active hunter now, but he will act to save the victims of monsters if he runs across them. Should he run into a hunter cell, he may help them if innocent lives are at stake.
John Grube, AKA Fatso, is an obvious Mutant. Imagine what happens when a 120-pound woman gives birth an 18-pound infant. Imagine a C-section with the fetus snapping at your fingers. Imagine delivering a baby that has full teeth and is eating its own umbilical. Imagine what happens when the mother bleeds from bites in the womb. For the first few years, he was under the care of an endocrinologist who hoped to study him to learn more about human metabolism.. He was 11 years old and 180 pounds when the doctor disappeared. (The skeleton was found seven and a half years later, swaddled in blankets and bare of flesh, the bones cracked and sucked dry.) He was transferred between state instituions until he was 15 and he was sent into the mainstream due to a public policy change. He went through a year and a half of public school and group homes before he fled, taking his inevitable nickname with him. After a few years on the street, he began to volunteer at a hospital, doing the work no one else would. He's ugly, sure, but he'll do anything. He's polite, quiet and untiring. Secretly, he lives in the hospital subbasements. He eats there, too - amputated limbs, surgical waste, discarded organs. Sometimes that's not enough, and he goes for fresher meat. He's immense - fatter than anything you can imagine. His voice, rarely used, is high-pitched and whiny. He is hairless, pasty and has broken and crooked teeth. He is much more quiet and light on his feet than he should be, and he usually hides that in public. Despite his appearance, he is so known by the hospital staff that he often passes unnoticed. He cares mostly about food, and nothing tastes as good as human flesh. His preferred victims are isolated patients, staff and visitors whom he can overpower quickly so that he can take them home to cook. He prefers to strangle or smother with his bulk in small spaces. He's smart enough to use sedatives or scalpels - but only if he can clean up the blood quickly. He once spent months to find the proper victim, and now he's teamed up with fellow mutant Skeleton to vastly expand his opportunities. More on her later.
Jenny Nonemacher was a tomboy who loved tools. She worked for her father's contracting company and eventually took it over. One night, she came home from a job and found two men loading a woman's body into a boat. She ran for her car, but they caught up. She beat them bloody and fled, but not before realizing one of her attackers was Emil Deavereaux, favored son of a very rich family. When the police refused to investigate, she called the papers. When the threatening phone calls started, she warned them to stay out of her way. When the explosion killed her and her father, the papers called it a faulty gas line. Jump forward ay ear. The Deavereaux mansion undergoes renovations, and no one notices the worker who came in to do some modifications, uncontracted. Especially since they weren't visible changes, not until someone turned on the acid-filled shower or stepped on the weakened floorboards over the furnace or disturbed the tripwire holding the kitchen knives to the ceiling. The cops pieced it together - Emil came home from Costa Rica to find the staff missing, all told to stay home that day by mysterious calls and emails, and his family all dead. He was found nailed to the ceiling in the attic. And stapled to a railing. And stuffed in the dishwasher. And splattered across a TV screen. Jenny the Fixer, the Estate House Killer, had found him. She's thin and wiry, usually dressed as a handyman with a tool belt. She's gaunt and scarred by the explosion that seemed to kill her. She keeps her hair cut short, for better disguises. Her vengeance didn't satisfy her, at least not enough. The FBI file on her grows about once a year or so - another wealthy family targeted for perceived crimes. Sometimes she works as a subcontractor under a false identity and finds evidence of their crimes or cruelty. Sometimes, the victimized get word to 'The Fixer' and she decides to help. They don't know what they're asking for. She watches closely, often with hidden surveillence tools. When she decides someone has to die, she'll turn their home into a killing ground. It's not always elaborate as her first kills were, though. Often she'll also steal valuables, sell them and send the cash to her victim's own victims.
John Smith is a Charmer who can't remember who he used to be. Sure, he must have been someone once, but that's all gone. His past is past. He's an identity thief now, in the literal sense. He wants to
his target, take everything they have for himself. When he believes he understands the essence of a victim, he kills them and heads elsewhere, recreating himself as them. To others, that's who he's always been, but John is never satisfied. He always feels he just doesn't fit - and so he picks another victim. His true appearance is utterly average in every possible way. When he finds a target, he makes himself whatever seems nonthreatening. His MO is to infiltrate their lives, becoming a friend. He gathers all of the information there is about them, in every detail. He kills anyone who might stop him. At some point, he disguises himself as the victim and does something terrible, framing them for something illegal or deeply immoral. He then presents himself as the only one to believe the target innocent, convinces them to take a trip with him...and then he kills them and plants evidence that they've run off forever. Then he heads off to become them.
Elvira "Lefty" Farmer has always known she was a Freak, Her family once owned the biggest plot of land in Shinbone Hollow, hardworking people who never took anything they didn't earn. She knew because her parents would never shut up about it. The land they once owned was long sold, and she and her family sold cheap antiques and junk out of an old farmhouse - not easy for a woman born with a withered arm never any larger than an infant's. Still, a great-aunt once told her of a golden treasure buried somewhere on the old farm, something an odd relative had stolen long ago from some group no one remembered. Something so valuable his neighbors killed him when he wouldn't give it to them. She was shunned for her deformity and spent much of her childhood dreaming of the treasure. At 25, she found it - as she wandered a cow patch, her arm started to tingle, then ache, its fingers moving on its own. She realized her withered arm was like a dowsing rod, and so that night, she snuck out and dug up the spot, finding an old coffin. Within, she found an old dress, some bones - and an arm made of purest gold. She picked it up, and it oozed over her withered limb and attached itself to her shoulder. She could never sell it - she'd never be free of it. And the Hollow would never be free of her. She's had the arm for ten years now, but she looks well over 35. She dresses very old-fashioned, and when not wearing her arm, she never tries to hide her deformity at all. For a while, murders have been plaguing the Hollow, and she's never been a suspect - after all, she just has the one arm. She's long since killed those who made her miserable as a kid, but she's no happier now. The arm seems to like killing, so she's turned to hunting the gullible folk who find her antique shop. When a lone visitor seems wealthy, she'll take them to the back and retrieve her arm. She'll kill the victim and steal anything of value on them, then call some old acquaintances who're happy to buy stolen cars. As for the body...well, sometimes someone buys those, too. If not, there's the dogs and the shovel.
They call it the Legend of the Painted Bride. She was a young woman on her wedding day, awakened too early. She went down to the church, to see the graves of her parents, to let them see her gown. She was followed by her groom, enraged and believing she was going to see another man. He cornered her, and she said she'd prefer to marry any of the dead over him. He drew his knife and stabbed her dead, then buried her under an old headstone. The church is gone, the cemetary forgotten, the headstones long sunk or washed away. A young woman named Mary goes to the edge fo the river, her last morning before marriage. A marriage of convenience. She's crying, because the groom is cruel, cruel man. She is tempted to kill herself. She finds an old knife in the dirt, picks it up, takes it home. She gets in the dress, slashes her left palm and paints her right breast with blood. Then she goes to hunt her groom. The Painted Bride prefers to wear her dress when working, the front painted with dried blood. Her face is veiled. She'll wear anything to get close to a target, though. Whatever she wears turns pale after an hour, whit after two. After three, red streaks begin to appear over her heart. She targets newlywed couples or couples about to marry. She has only one goal: get the bride to kill the groom. Usually, she'll brutally slaughter the bride's family and frame the groom. At some point, she reveals herself to the groom, whose claims about the real killer make him look insane. He runs or is imprisoned. She stages attacks on the bride to make her afraid. At last, she brings the two together, and bride kills the groom. Then she offers a choice: die, or take up the knife and become the new Bride. Her appearance seems to be triggered by a serious argument between the couple - a real argument, a heated exchange. They may reconcile later - probably will - but it's too late. She's heard the call. Her first appearance is always presaged by some accident that makes someone look covered in blood - red wine spills, tomato sauce, bloody Maries.
Phelps is a Brute. No one knows her first name. What's known to those with clearance is that she was recruited into covert ops in college and into Task Force: VALKYRIE soon after. She did well and was assigned to deep cover. How things went bad is unclear, but it's believed she was tortured by divided loyalty. When her comrades raided the vampires she was assigned to, she killed everyone. Both sides. She was reassigned, but her tactics got increasingly brutal, and she was soon suspended. They tried to point her at assassination, but the amount of collateral damage she caused was hard to cover up. She was put on a desk, and it seemd to work for a while. Her last physical records on file are surveillence videos of her calmly hunting down and killing every person in her office, including the receptionist and the janitor. She stole an unknown amount of TFV equipment and weapons, and is still on the run. She's tall, muscled like a sprinter and has short hair and a plain face. Never any makeup. She prefers black covert ops gear when "working" and always has both a knife and a gun on her at all times. Before she went AWOL, she described a belief in a conspiracy of all human and supernatural agencies to dominate the world at the command of some unknown entity. She believes this conspiracy is out to kill her, and anyone who shows any sign of being the enemy must die. She splits her time between hunting monsters and hiding in the wilderness. Hunters who run into her may believe her useful in monster killing...but then she'll start going after them, once the supernatural targets are down.
Skeleton is a Mutant, a mortician's daughter named Savannah Woodbury. By the age of two, she was used to dead bodies. By the age of five, she found out her father was a necrophiliac. By ten, she was helping him run the business, and by eleven the cops were raiding her home to arrest him and some of his fellow sick fucks. She fled the noise and hid, locking herself in the hidden embalming room where her father kept his favorite corpses. She spent two weeks in there before the cops found her. The nurses called her the Skeleton among themselves, because she was emaciated. She rather liked that. For a whole, it seemd there were no ill effects - she went to school and grew into a slim, beautiful woman. She became a fashion model...but on each shoot, she seemed thinner. Soon it was unnatural, freakish. her hair fell out, and her manager demanded she seek medical attention. But then, she was gone - gone, her apartment empty but for the embalmed corpses of three other models no one had seen for a while. She met Fatso while sneaking into a hospital morgue. They might be in love or just kindred spirits - hard to say. Certainly they've found their obsessions synergize. Skeleton hides in the hospital, helping Fatso choose his victims and clean up the evidence. She's smart, fast and has mastered the hospital's computer and security systems. She is pale, balde and emaciated - no fat at all. She can hide it with padded clothing, hoods, wigs and glasses. She isn't frail, though - she's quite tough, in fact. She occasionally joins Fatso in cannibalism, but never eats much. In fact, she rarely eats at all. More often, she plays with or fucks corpses. She finds the human body fascinating, and will spend hours dissecting and rearranging body parts. Sometimes she'll sit back to let Fatso butcher a corpse, playing with whatever he doesn't want to eat. Other times, she'll take a victim herself and he has to wait until she gets bored. He's okay with that - her help means food's never far away.
There has always been a Sower. The Sower is a LEgend, from a shadowy reality not our own. There's an endless black field of soil under a dim, red sun. There, he toils, furrowing the earth and burying seeds for some master. Why? What seeds? What will they be? Even the Sower cannot say. The seeds, though, are the souls of monster hunters. Some have heard that he's called to earth by the Sator square. Five by five lettters: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. When he walks the Earth, hunters die, and so do monsters. Some say he aids the Vigil, culling the weak and the slow. Others say he chooses by means no man can tell, and is no ally at all. Through long centuries, hundreds have worn the Sower's mantle. You see, someone spills supernatural blood on a certain patch of earth. They are called to turn their killing talents towards another purpose. They accept, and they vanish from the world, reappearing only to claim others' souls. The current Sower is Geno Carcione, a Philadelphia Union man who got a but too into killing. He found his new calling in a bed of soil he found inexplicably in an old attic. The current Sower is a tall, broad man with dark skin. When he's out for blood, he wears only overalls. His hands and feat are dirty, and over his head a burlap sack with slits for eyes. If removed, his face and hair are shown to be smeared with mud, dirt and clay. He can choose to appear mundane for a while, but the illusion ends hte moment he touches bare soil. Every Sower must guard the patch of earth that links him to the other world, the Fields Beyond. On EArth, theym ust kill hunters on that soil and bury them there. For each hunter that dies, so must two monsters, in alternating order. If one hunter is dead, the Sower
kill two monsters next. Sometimes, he will shadow a cell, even help them, to get close to his targets.
In sotuh Philly, there's an old junkyard. The kids sneak in to see the statue of the angel made of car parts and sheet metal. EThey say anyone who looks at it will be visited by the angel of death that night. That's part of the story of the Mask they call the Tin Angel. The other part is that Cheiron Group, a few years ago, found some "living metal" in that same junkyard, which is right against an illegal chemical dump site. Project Tin Angel was an attempt to graft it onto a hunter as fluid subcutaneous armor. It worked at first in lab animals and in the human subject. On sudden impacts, the metal wnet rigid and protected the organs beneath. The first field test was disastrous - some pollutant interacte with the metal, and the subject began to slice off his own skin with a knife. When his colleagues restrained him, he went berserk and killed them all, then fled. Cheiron lost track of him. The bodies started to turn up around the junkyard. Each was embedded with metal shards, each bearing the crude carving of an angel. Five days and seven agents later, VASCU reported the suspect destroyed and case closed. Cheiron reallocated the project's recovery budget. Turned out both of 'em were premature. The Tin Angel is a tall, msucular man in ragged clothes, torn as if sliced by knives. His hair is silver-white and past his shoulders. He wears a crude mask of welded metal fragments, and when his amror is active, a dull patin can be seen through cuts in the skin. Something about the junkyard soothes him. He's learned to assemble the correct assortment of metal debris into a mound so that he can rest, torpid. Should any part of his mound be taken or removed from the area, he will rise within an hour and hunt it down. He can sense where it is, along with anyone it's had contact with. They must die, and so must anyone he meets on the way. Even if hte item is returned, he will not go home until everyone who touched it is dead.
VASCU knows that sometimes an agent goes rogue. The worst reminder of this is the Maniac called Y. Once, there was a man named Andrew Flemming. He went missing hunting some non-human serial killer. Soon, it came to VASCU's attention that he was responsible for the execution of a number of occultists connected to the original suspect. They'd seen this before, and profilers realized he was targeting those he thought were servants of monsters. Two field agents, Marianne Cortez and Lionel Solerno, were sent to take him down. They found him, but things went badly very fast - a Mexican standoff involving telepaths wrestling with each others minds...right next to a ticking time bomb Flemming had set. One of the three staggered away, the other two bodies lost forever in the wreckage. The survivor carried fragmented memories and distorted personality traits of all three of the agents. The trauma coalesceed the shattered personos into one fused personality: Y. One year later, Y released its manifesto to VASCU, "granting them permission" to keep up their work for as long as Y felt was useful. According to the manifesto, Y believes that slashers are a response to supernatural predation of humanity, a new kind of human better equipped to face hidden superpredators. By inflicting pain and fear on human sheep, Y says, sociopathic killers inspire the creation of more sociopathic killer.s One day, there will be enough to wipe out all of humanity's hidden enemies. Until then, Y will support this process by testing slashers. Those who are weak will die or be given to VASCU. Those who are strong will join Y. Two mutually contradictory descriptions of Y exist. The first says Y is slim, androgynous and has features that could match any of the three agents. It was delivered by two agents before Y eluded them. The second says that Y is man or woman of average height and build, their face and hands covered in scars and burns, preventing a positive ID. That one was from a bureaucrat Y held hostage for 8 hours while stealing files. Everyone agrees on the voice, however. A smooth contralto, almost musical, with careful enunciation. Y's goals are a nightmare for VASCU, and they've linked him or her to the escape of several slashers from their pursuit - and worse, found evidence that Y is trying to create slashers by torturing carefully profiled victims. One profiler believes Y is trying to develop a shadow-VASCU of slashers. And yet, Y sometimes passes information to VASCU to help them apprehend monsters or killers they deem unworthy. Officially, VASCU agents are to have no communication wtih Y, but it's likely some have if it seemed the only way to catch something. Hunter cells might believe Y an ally, but that usually means Y is directing them at a slasher Y wants to test, or believes a hunter is only a few violent incidents away from serial killing.
You remember the cabal that sent an invite to Captain Hook? They are the Subtle Collectors Association. They claim to have been around fo centuries. They're invite-only, and they keep no records. Their patron, the First Collector, answers no questions. So maybe they do date back that long, or maybe they were just started in the 50s by a wealthy man with a taste for kidnapping art students, as one member claims. Or, as some newer members think, it was an FBI sting operation from ten years ago, coopted by those it was meant to catch. Currently, there are six members. It's likely there's never been more - few serial killers have the right mix of depravity and social grace needed to be friends. The rules are simple. Once a year, they gather to display their "collections" and swap stories and techniques. At the end of the meet, they vote on who's got the most impressive collection. The winner gets to visit the First Collector, an old man somewhere in the midwest, who shows off some hideous artifacts and hands over a small, inexplicable supernatural boon that helps the winner maintain anonymity. Each gift is unique - some get fingerprints that are never the same twice, some the ability to mimic any voice. How the First Collector can do that is a matter of debate among members. What he may one day ask for is something they don't talk about. No one has ever gotten more than one gift, at least in the current crop, but some think that there's former members who got so many they became totally imperceptible. The annual meets are extraordinarly hard to arrange - no one wants the others on their patch, so it must be neutral ground. Collections might be anything from preserved faces to sugrically altered corpses to kidnapped victims, so security is paramount, as is privacy. More than one member is wanted by the cops, so secrecy must be absolute. As a result, there's been years with no meeting or meetings cut short to flee the cops. Membership is only offered to those with plain, unimpressive features, to avoid drawing attention. Exceptionally attractive killers are disdained out of a belief that they rely on their looks, not their minds. Trying to win the yearly contest can lead the members to hunt outside their comfort zones and get caught. IT's also not unknown for them to hunt each other, as the most challenging acquisitions of all. Traditionally, a member collected by another member is considered unworthy and is never spoken of again.
So, what's up next? Witchfinders (hunting mages), Spirit Slayers (hunting werewolves) or Night Stalkers (hunting vampires)?