Antithesis - A Diary of Deceivers

August 5, 2017 | Author: haderak | Category: Lie, Copyright, Reality, Perception, Philosophical Science
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Nobilis: Antithesis

Minibook 1i A Diary of Deceivers

by Jenna Katerin Moran

Nobilis: Antithesis, Nobilis: the Essentials, and all included text, concepts, and game mechanics are copyright 2011-2012 by Jenna Katerin Moran. Fable of the Swan is copyright 2012 by Jenna Katerin Moran. Chibi-Ex is copyright 2011-2012 by Jenna Katerin Moran and Miranda Harrell. Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is copyright 2012 by Jenna Katerin Moran. All art and presentation elements are copyright 2012 by Jenna Katerin Moran; by Eos Press, LLC; or by the original artist or artists. Nobilis is the creation of Jenna Katerin Moran (formerly known as R. Sean Borgstrom). Reproduction without the written permission of one of Jenna Katerin Moran, Eos Press, LLC, or the appropriate artistic copyright holder is expressly forbidden, except for the purposes of reviews, blank character sheets, and copying reasonable selections for personal use and reference only. The mention or reference to any company or product in these pages is not a challenge to the trademark or copyright concerned. This book uses fantastical and supernatural elements in its setting, for its characters, their abilities, and themes. All such elements are fiction and intended for entertainment purposes only. This book contains mature content and reader discretion is advised. Check out Eos Press Online at!


... The Deceivers live outside the world; they think that we have built the world out of lies. They think the whole of Creation is a jungle of deceit that we have put up to keep from seeing ourselves the way we really are. They love us but they love not that lie. They come to unmake the world for us. They come to help you forget the Eyes and Ears and Nose, the Work and Home and School, the Trees and Wind and Laughter and Hearts and Hope. . . . — Nobilis: the Essentials, Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 4145-4157)



For Cync Brantley, Rand Brittain, Hsin Chen, Cheryl & Joseph Couvillion, Jesse Covner, Anthony Damiani, John Eure, Dara & Anna Korra’ti, Kevin Maginn, Gregory Rapawy, Alexis Siemon, Charles Spaulding, Amy Sutedja, Chrysoula Tzavelas, James Wallis, and Raymond Wood.


Credits Written and Conceived by: Jenna Katerin Moran Edited by: Jenna Katerin Moran with the assistance of Sarah Newton Cover Art by: Bethany Westmoreland Interior Art by: Miranda Harrell et al. Layout by: Jenna Katerin Moran and Charles H. Spaulding Special Thanks: Matt Boersma for assistance with transliteration.

Specific Art Credits Alexander Benekos: “Milkmay” (pg. 78, and detail on pg. 79), “Chibi-Imperator” (pg. 112), “Phoenix Posy” (pg. 127), “Welken-Rose” (pg. 175) Anthony Damiani: “Deru-Deru” (pg. 23), “Jasmine Apocynum’s Story” (pg. 120) Ciaoffen 师晓蒙: “Excrucian at School” (pg. 27) CQ: footnote girls (except on ppg. 124-126) (pg. 20, &c.), “A Truth Preceding Form” (pg. 51), “Scelto of the Provenance” (pg. 14) Heed: “No Home in Worlds” (pg. 50), “Chancel” (pg. 92) Miranda Harrell: footnote girls and flowers on ppg. 124-126, art credits plate, all remaining internal art for Nobilis: Antithesis (including “the Game” on pg. D, “The Scourging of the Sinners” on pg. 10, the Morrowen Hollow and Adoration of Phasael art on 104-107 and 154-157, and much more), excerpts from the Chibi-Ex webcomic by Jenna Katerin Moran and Miranda Harrell (pg. 19, 37, 40, 45, 72 ...) Oliver Vulliamy: page backgrounds, footnote flowers except on ppg. 124-126, card design, and page number holders. Tang Yuann: “Excrucian before the Tree” (pg. 97), “Yill-Amoth Devouring an Excrucian” (pg. 62), “Impending Incursion” (pg. 100), “Beyond the Wide World’s Edge” (pg. 70), “Heaven, before the War” (pg. 83)



Author’s Note........................................................................................................................ 8 Names and Faces.................................................................................................................... 9 The Lies of Iolithae Septimian.............................................................................................. 15 The Deceivers...................................................................................................................... 20 Those who Listen to Coriander Hasp................................................................................... 37 Deceiver Creation................................................................................................................ 38 Deceiver Stats...................................................................................................................... 98 Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow ...................................................104 Second Skins......................................................................................................................108 Jasmine Apocynum’s Story..................................................................................................121 Pseudo-Estates...................................................................................................................128 Persona Miracles.................................................................................................................136 The Adoration of Phasael....................................................................................................154 Fighting Deceivers..............................................................................................................158 Appendix A: 52 Deceiver Names (and Viticus)....................................................................162 Appendix B: Example Persona Miracle Charts....................................................................163 Appendix C: The Other Side of the Eyes..............................................................................173 Index..................................................................................................................................174


Author’s Note H


This is a mini-book for the game Nobilis. It talks about the Excrucian Deceivers — one of the kinds of enemies that the world has. I’m writing this because it’s been a while since I’ve updated the Nobilis RPG. Also I’ve just released a novel, Fable of the Swan, with some serious Excrucian Deceiver mileage in it, and I wanted to write something RPGish that tied into it. I thought that would be a good thing for me and a good thing for the fans of the Nobilis RPG. Anyway. This book tells you what the Deceivers are about. It tells you some of their stories and it tells you a bunch of useful stuff for creating and playing them in your game. The biggest thing is a lifepath system for them; if you’re ever wondering, “Hey, what kind of antagonist can I throw at my Nobilis characters?” you can just pick two Keys, run through the lifepath, and have an interesting character with interesting plans. There’s also a bunch of rules explication and neat stuff !

Names and Faces I

want to familiarize you with the names and faces of a few of the Deceivers that we’re going to be talking about. A lot of this next section appeared in Nobilis: the Essentials, and you will just have to forgive me for that, because I wrote this whole book and then came back up here to the top and decided I needed to put it in here anyway. So! There are five characters that we’re going to be talking about a lot, and five more that I plan to namedrop. That’s not counting Ianthe Falls-Short and Lord Entropy and other people serving on behalf of Creation who aren’t really directly relevant to this book. These ten Deceivers are . . .



Coriander Hasp also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials and the webcomic “Chibi-Ex”

“The Scourging of the Sinners” (Coriander Hasp, from the Cathedral St. Guillame, circa 1884)

This Deceiver wields Ritho, the unmatched rifle — the only rifle ever numbered among the Abhorrent Weapons of the Excrucians. Its bullets are incendiary charges that set the target on fire; anything those bullets hit will keep burning until it dies. Coriander will kill you with that fire, if you get in his way, and then he will tell your corpse, “It was not so.” It was not so! You did not die! It will be tempting, but you must not believe. No good can come of getting up again once you’ve died at Coriander’s hands, particularly if you are still on fire.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 2 (Those who Listen to Coriander Hasp) §§ Treasure 5

Iolithae Septimian also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials and the webcomic “Chibi-Ex” This Deceiver told the seas that they were salt; and they were thus; and strangled then the fish of all fresh waters that swam within. If you see her you must not allow her to speak. I do not know how you can possibly prevent it but even if it means your life you must not allow Iolithae Septimian to speak.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 5 (The Lies of Iolithae Septimian)

Jasmine Apocynum also appearing in the novel “Fable of the Swan” From the fabulous novel, Fable of the Swan, this Deceiver strides onto the stage of Principal Entropy’s School. Her eyes are night and falling stars. Her story echoes through the ages! You’re in it too, you know. It says right there! You’re one of her adoring fans. So salute! You know you want to. Salute! Apocynum!

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 0 ( Jasmine Apocynum’s Story) §§ Shapeshifting

Phasael mery-Harumaph also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials I adore this Deceiver. You’ll adore this Deceiver. Hukkok the Angel adores this Deceiver, and Phasael burned down Hukkok’s library, scarred him with those flames, and absconded with Hukkok’s sigil and his seal. But even so — I mean, it’s just — how can you not love this guy? It simply can’t be done. So I cannot save you from being hurt by him. I cannot stop you from forgiving him. But I can tell you, I can promise you, that if that happens, if he hurts you, if you let him hurt you, if you forgive him afterwards, and you’re wondering if that makes you weak and dumb, a fool: it doesn’t. You aren’t. It isn’t actually your fault.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (The Adoration of Phasael)



The Voice of Morrowen Hollow created for this book This Deceiver is a sound — a pattern — a thing that is yet to be. Not even fully born yet, not even fully itself yet, it’s already an enemy of the world! low.

You’ll see the creation process for this Deceiver in the lifepath section be-

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow) §§ Affliction: Intangible 3

“Town in the grip of the Voice,” by Miranda Harrell

Helchen Hadusind


created for this book This Deceiver made friends with her shadow and found out that it was hungry. So now and then when it’s made her very, very happy she’ll feed it someone. It could be that obnoxious guy who’s playing music all the time. Or it could be you!

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow) §§ Invisibility §§ Shapeshifting

Selenas Picard not previously mentioned because he’s really disturbing to me This Deceiver has a game show. He prices things. Sometimes people, sometimes fates. He spins wheels. He offers games. He smiles the cruelest little smile when and if you lose.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (The Game Show of Selenas Picard)

Tairté Ut-napishtim also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials This Deceiver teaches the Excrucian philosophy to anyone who will listen. Imperators let him operate in Creation, and let their Powers learn from him, so that the Nobilis may better oppose his kind. As a mortal, you’re better off not listening to him at all.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (The Philosophy of Tairté Ut-napishtim) §§ Miracle Catching —

Tairté has the peculiar power to catch and hold a miracle in the palm of his right hand. He can peel it open like a chef an onion, showing piece by piece how there is no truth to a miracle, only the exemplification of the void. He then reassembles the miracle from nothing — even though he has no Estate to call his own — believing that he proves, by so doing, that no Estate is real.

And without ceasing the death he worked upon the guests, he found the time to make to each the proper courtesy, a precisely measured bow, compliment, or murmured adoration appropriate to their station. Thus it was that the Earl of Cuttsford died with the words on his lips, “What a murderous gentleman!” while his wife, owing to various circumstances the Marchioness of Heverhill, finally said, “Oh, dear, you jest!” —from The Elevation of Seiriel, and other Relevant Accounts, by Catherine Arlinna e Soph


Scelto of the Provenance also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials This Deceiver may be anyone or anywhere. Personal identity, Scelto tells us, is a lie. If you can see yourself in the mirror with both eyes shut, you are probably Scelto, and should stop whatever you’re doing and get away from your loved ones as soon as you possibly can.

Key Game Traits §§ Persona 4 (Scelto of the Provenance) §§ Keen Sight

(Scelto of the Provenance, in your bathroom mirror, date unknown)

Genseric Dace also appearing in Nobilis: the Essentials and the webcomic “Chibi-Ex” Genseric is . . . a friend. (Genseric Dace, from a wall near Gasherbrum, circa 1994)

The Lies of Iolithae Septimian



ear the story of Iolithae Septimian.

A temple stands above the sea.

Its people fish up a stone. It is a stone of great age. On that stone are words. The words are lies. The man of the temple reads those words. His finger runs along the stone. He frowns. “These words are sacred,” he says. “But they may not be spoken.” He takes the stone. He keeps it in a hidden place. A girl lives at the temple. Each week she takes down the stone. She cleans the chest it stays in. She replaces the cloth that is its bedding. She polishes the stone and sets it back. She does not know how to read the words of the stone. Yet they haunt her. She finds herself knowing them. She finds herself wanting to say them because it is confusing for that girl to know the words, when they are not said. These are the words of the stone —

The Lies of Iolithae Septimian . . . §§ doubt the world §§ [are] sacred §§ grow in the telling §§ shatter walls and dynasties §§ [are] made false by the nature of the world §§ must never be forgotten §§ must not be spoken



efore the name of Heaven, before the name of Earth, Nothing moved in nothing. The waters of the sea were salt; chaos moved in them, Chaos was the mother of the waters. No field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; The gods were none of them called into being; None bore a name, no destinies were ordained; Chaos she coiled and the seas were salt. Then came the names of things. Then were born the gods. Brightly burst in Heaven, writhing in the Earth, Dank and cold and moving in the deeps below. Everywhere was the noise of them And the noise of them was wrong. Then did the chaos thrash in the darkness. The chaos roared. She raised up her children, smote the gods: Answered the evil of them and the seas were salt. The gods built walls to hold her out. Walls and walls: encircled were they all.

Dynasties and kings, manners, places, They set the world in order. They stripped the seas.


Made them naked, saltless, Barren of the chaos of them, Put to use; Subdued them, bound them, chained the world; Wrapped it about with the corpse of chaos Made their many kingdoms of the earth And made white rock from the caps of all the waves. Chaos she raged; chaos she wept. It was grievous and she spat up this stone. Let none forget the words of the primal waters. Let them be remembered, sacred be; To those who forget them shall come worse things than salt: Chaos was the mother of the waters. The waters of the sea are salt; chaos moves within them. Nothing moves in nothing; Before the something, there is nothing: Before the names of Heaven. Before the name of Earth.

“Temple at Leukê Aktê” (rendition by Miranda Harrell)


Such are the words of the stone, and The Lies of Iolithae Septimian is their name. These words trouble her. She walks to the sea. She stands over it. She listens to its subtle roar and wonders at the presence of it. She watches the men who haul in their catch; bountiful are the waters of the sea. She asks the man of the temple if the seas have always been fresh. He looks afraid. He whips her. He cuts out her tongue. He bends her to his will. And again: Each week she takes down the stone. She cleans the chest it stays in. She replaces the cloth that is its bedding. She polishes the stone and she puts it back. She finds the words of the stone rising up in her. She finds herself saying them in bits and pieces, even though she has no tongue. The words come out of her. It is as if they are real. It is as if they are more real than the mouth that no longer has a tongue, more real than the man and his whip, more real than the piled waters of the sea. She keeps them quiet. She does not speak them where others can hear, but sometimes she goes down to the cliffs and she whispers them to the waves. She says them in snatches: . . . Wrapped it about with the corpse of chaos Made their many kingdoms of the earth . . . Or . . . Chaos she raged; chaos she wept. . . . Or . . . Nothing moves in nothing; Before the something, there is nothing: Before the names of Heaven. Before the name of Earth. . . . The words grow stronger in her. She does not fight them. The words travel out into the waters and they come back strong. She hears them and she speaks them and they do not quell. In the temple the man of the temple is afraid. He disrespects the sacred thing. He takes the stone to the cliff above the waters.

He casts it down. The sea pulls back, the ground grows teeth; he and the earth together, they shatter the given stone. He goes home and he forgets the words of the stone. He forgets the Lies of Iolithae Septimian.


The girl stands at the cliff amidst white rocks. She speaks the lies that turn the seas to salt, and Iolithae Septimian is her name, and the seas grow black with strangled fish and white with salt and green with the given poisons. The waves crash; they are loud, as the waves were never loud before. The temple crumbles. The cliffs crumble. The kingdom falls. If you have found these words do not forget them. Let them be remembered, sacred be. If you should meet her walking in the world bow before her for she is sacred; bring her oil and fine cloth; bow before her, three times bow; but she is Iolithae Septimian, and you must not let her speak. I do not know how you can prevent it but you must not let her speak.

* still not the worst thing she has ever caused to be a truth.


The Deceivers I

n 1927, infected by postmodern ideals and the moral impact of early television technology, a young woman ceased to know her name and nature. She grasped for an identity and failed, becoming instead Scelto of the Provenance. In 1981, a young man shot President Ronald Reagan and several staffers with fiery bullets that did not kill; or, rather, as several witnesses reported, with bullets that did kill them, that burned in them, and then let them all and each return to life. In 1992, scholars at New York University salvaged pieces of the Bronze Age story of Iolithae Septimian*, who spoke the lies that are forbidden and turned the seas to salt; seven years later, during the Y2K riots, a Silicon Valley Nobiliser was able to confirm her identity and continued existence. In 2011, exploration of the Mariana Trench cracked open a saltless pre-Septimian biome — the first such biome scientifically observed. In 1994, back when I thought that the Nobilis and the Excrucians were mostly a collection of fairy tales and urban legends, I walked down to the supermarket and found my life up for bid on the spontaneously-manifesting game show of the Deceiver Selenas Picard. I wrote it off at the time as a hallucination, as dementia animus — the ECT helped with that — but it’s since become apparent that this experience was neither hallucinatory nor rare. How can this kind of thing happen?

ywLit’y Septimy’n, or ‫ןאימטפס יאתלוי‬

How can interpersonal differentiation just fall out of the world like that? Life? Death? The surprisingly thin line between reality and game? Put simply — because the world’s not real. It seems like it’s real, but a lot of things seem like other things. The truth is, reality is full of holes. Plot holes! Contradictions! Approximations! The Deceivers come from beyond the world. They don’t believe in the world. They kind of loathe the world, a bit. They’re here to rescue us from its lies.

Origins and Powers


Every Deceiver has a story of their becoming. They were somebody in our world. Then they rejected it, part of it, part of the given world. They hated it, denied it, or simply saw through it. They lost something. Usually! Something was left behind. They lost some part of themselves, or somebody they cared about. Or they did something wrong: lost their honor; carry a burden of their guilt. Or they found true love or perfection for a moment . . . and then lost that. Or they’re full of some terrible need and emptiness because something in the world doesn’t gratify them any more. That’s usually how it is. Sometimes their story is simpler. Sometimes it’s just: they looked at the world. They made a choice. They said, “I’m not going to believe in this,” or “I don’t accept this,” or “I will rewrite the world! Thus.” Something happened. They came out of it scarred (usually), or hungry, or determined — And with a cheat code for reality: a “pseudo-Estate” or “pState.” Something like the Estates of the Nobilis, except that it’s not a fundamental part of the world: it’s just a part of how it interacts with them.

Wait, “Somebody In Our World?” Yeah. I don’t know how accurate that is. I mean, that’s what happens, but I don’t know if it’s where the Deceiver comes from or if it’s just how they manifest. It’s like the miracle of the incarnation, you know? I mean, if you believe in that? You can say: at thus and such time, somebody was born. At thus and such time, they did this and that miracle. If you want to say, oh, by the way, they’re also God, and the mortal birth isn’t the whole story — Well, sure, say that too! So I don’t know if Iolithae Septimian really is some Bronze Age temple girl who found the forbidden lies and spoke them until she’d killed practically everything in the seas. I don’t know if Scelto of the Provenance really is a human who’s lost their identity. I’m pretty sure Coriander Hasp had to execute a person who’d been listening to him once, and that was what made somebody become Coriander Hasp, but I don’t know if that was where he came from, y’know?

Certainly the room was visible, and the bedside chair, but Vlad? The longer Vlad studied the mirror, the less certain he was whether he was reflected there. —from Doorknobs, by Emily Chen

22 Once in their lives, a resident of Locus Assaibi may go to the Hall of Masks and choose one of the cloth masks that hang there. They put on the mask and it changes their personality to match. Should they don a doctor’s mask, they become healers, with the dedication, compassion, and brains to make it in the field. Should they don the philosopher’s mask, the mysteries of the world unfurl themselves before them. Most avoid the “shameful masks”—the murderer, the addict, the monster. But in every year, there are a few who leave the Hall of Masks stripped of all conventional morality. They seem as happy with their choice as any others. —from A Primer on the Loci Celatum, by Holly Djurisic

“Deru-deru,” (opposite) by Anthony Damiani I actually think both “it is” and “it isn’t” would be too simple. I think that Deceivers are creatures from outside of time and you can’t really tease out the details. I think the answer here is beyond our knowing. I think that there isn’t any way for mortal people like us to say “oh, the Deceivers really begin out in the starry void and every local manifestation is just them breaking through into reality” or “oh, the Deceivers are really born as people in the world and then they exalt into Excrucian Deceivers when they achieve enlightenment.” Some are probably more one thing than the other. If you ever find a Deceiver whose loss, guilt, need, or choice is all about something that happened in the Lands Beyond Creation . . . they are probably principally alien. If you ever find one whose origin story in the mortal world is still completely and utterly obsessing them, they are probably principally . . . human. Ultimately it’s just the nature of the beast. There’s plenty of unreal stuff out there that isn’t trying to kill Creation. It’s not that Deceivers have to have a story bound up in them, giving them a cheat code pState and pushing them to fight the lie of our reality; rather, it’s that those creatures that seem to have, or seem like they could have, such a story are the ones that we think of as the Excrucian Deceivers.

pStates Pseudo-Estates are mostly a game mechanic. The term predates the game, but nobody thinks of pseudo-Estates as things — they’re just a casual way of describing a Deceiver’s powers. Some people like to put Deceivers and Powers on the same level and lump Noble Estates and Excrucian pStates into a single conceptual category; others think that’s muddying the waters! I have this whole game with rules for Estates so I’m going to treat pStates and Estates as analogous. Basically, a Deceiver’s pState is either: §§ a weapon for rewriting reality, like The Lies of Iolithae Septimian; §§ a context they control, like The Game Show of Selenas Picard; or §§ a part of physical/social reality where they don’t have to play by the rules. Sometimes it’s all three. A Deceiver’s pState is always focused on them. It’s a part of how they interact with the world. Normally that means that you write the pState with their name in it somewhere — where one of the Nobilis might rule Fire or Storm, a Deceiver rules something like [Name’s] Shadow or [Name’s] Place in Society; [Name’s] Heroic Adventure or The Game Show of [Name]; maybe even The Things That [Name] [Him or Herself ] Has Killed.


Though — “Rules” isn’t quite the right term for their power over it. It’s a little subtler. A Deceiver pState is like a gold-star sticker. It’s like an adjective. It’s like an epithet. They don’t really control it so much as decide what gets to have that sticker. Like, if you’re playing Helchen Hadusind, and your pState is “Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow,” then you won’t have that much control over your shadow. Some! But not much. Instead, you’ll make declarations like: “this shadow-puppet wolf is now a real wolf ” or “that building sinks into my shadow and becomes part of my shadow.” The shadow isn’t Helchen’s domain and demesne; it’s her cheat code. Your pState, whatever it might be, will work like that for you.

pStates and the Deceiver’s Story There’s a part of reality that’s entangled with every Deceiver’s story. From a Creation perspective it’s the part that they rejected. It’s the thing they saw past in their moment of becoming — the thing they denied, broke free from, took power over, turned their back on, or saw through. Realizing that something in the world was just an illusion, they gained power over it. It’s tangled up in the tragedy or decision or whatever that made them a Deceiver. It’s the result or the cause of that. It’s the source of their pState. They realized that walls were an illusion so they got a pState like “the walls around me” or “my freedom.” They realized that friendship was an illusion and wound up with a pState like “my friends” or “my loneliness.” They broke free of the world near the place it hurt them — just like that! Only, from an Excrucian perspective, that’s exactly backwards. They’re not free of their pState at all. You just have to look at their character sheet to see that. Iolithae Septimian isn’t free of that pesky truth/lies distinction. She can smudge that boundary out with her spoken words, and maybe that should make it meaningless to her, but it doesn’t. The single most im-

i The deru-deru are creatures of the Not. Most Excrucians find them mildly adorable — the Deceivers in particular react to them as humans react to kittens, bunnies, and small dogs. Deru-deru hatch from their eggs looki ng like nothing in particular. In Creation they are fragile and will hide in dark places, hooking out bits of life from passersby using their long, thin, shadowy legs. Eventually they will collect enou gh memory, shape, experience, and soul to reach maturity — able to leave the darkness and pass as a hum an among humanity. They then find a human mate and lay a clutch of eggs in a cardboard box; the cycle begins anew. Scare off young deru-deru by clapping your hands loudly. Adults are more difficult to dissuade: if you suspect that your romantic inter est is a deru-deru, recite the following in their presence: “Deru-deru sees the sky; jumps three times, and cannot fly.” They will jump out of their human skin, look extremely embarrassed, and depa rt. You can replace the last clause with “and then it dies” for a more permanent solution, but if you have misread the signs and your love is actually a Dece iver or a shard thereof, it is liable to disapprove .



portant thing about Iolithae Septimian is the Lies of Iolithae Septimian — and, specifically, the fact that they are Lies. Lies, truth, and the difference between them aren’t irrelevant to her; they’re the chain around her, her source of power, her anchor, her prison, and her cage. Your pState, if you’re a Deceiver — it’s something so important to you that it can let the world get its hooks in you. There’s something buried in there that you can’t let go of — even if you tried. Our imaginary friend Helchen Hadusind is fundamentally sickened with shadowness from an Excrucian perspective; she’s so shadow-happy that she probably has a shadow even when she’s out beyond the world. She actually believes that she stands between light sources (more generally, inspiration sources) and other things — what an unnerving conceit!

pStates in Practice Deceivers wield their pState through the Persona Attribute. We’ll talk more about this later, but for right now, what that means is that their fundamental abilities are (in order of escalating difficulty): §§ recognizing how things are or are not relevant to their pseudo-Estate; §§ giving small, thematically resonant blessings and curses; §§ experiencing life through the eyes of things in their pState — not really possessing them, though, so much as spiritually “walking with” them; §§ taking on traits and qualities of their pState; §§ giving those traits to something else, or making it a part of their pseudo-Estate; §§ removing those traits from something, or kicking it out of their pState; and §§ changing how something in the world relates to their pseudo-Estate. So if your pState is People [You’re] Attracted To, you can probably indwell that hot guy or girl that you’ve been eyeing and get to know their life and feelings from the inside. You can probably make yourself hotter, too, and not just to yourself. If you want to make somebody attractive to you, or make them less attractive to you, you have that option. That’s your power! Understand that for a human, People [You’re] Attracted To would normally be a self-constructed category. Somebody’s hotness towards you would normally be a part of your experience and not an intrinsic, objective part of them. But if it’s a pState, you get to treat it a little bit as if it were an objective quality of theirs — as if your personal sense of “hot or not?” matched to a real and fundamental quality in the world. If you used Persona to induct somebody into your pState, that wouldn’t just make you attracted to them; it would give them the fundamental quality, the je ne sais quoi, of being attractive to you. Similarly, if you exiled them from your pState, that would take a real and fundamental quality of theirs away.

Consider Troile Iordanes, for instance, who finds rock stars hot and has the pState “Those Troile Iordanes Considers Attractive” or TTICA for short. An Enchantment of TTICA could very well land somebody a career in rock; a Sacrifice of TTICA could leave their guitar ruined in their hands. Of course, being in rock or not isn’t all there is to hotness, so those enchantments and sacrifices might also improve or undermine qualities like symmetry, personality, and musk — but most importantly, they affect more than just the target’s perceived attractiveness. They adjust the constellations of qualities pertaining to the targets themselves.


PStates can be more or less subtle. It usually depends on how easy it is to distinguish things in the pState from things that are not. For instance, shadows are pretty easy to distinguish from real things. So “Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow” is likely to be a pretty blatant pState. Skyscrapers plummet down into the darkness, suddenly without foundation, and reemerge as nothing more than stretching bits of shade. Four-star generals suddenly devolve into hangers-on tagging along behind her back. Spires of shadow rear up and become buildings. Shadow-puppet rabbits hop: mid-hop they become real and snarling beasts! The line between lies and truth is subtler. I think that makes “The Lies of Iolithae Septimian” a more nuanced and difficult pState. In fact it’s my theory that the world survives her in part because her pState is an awkward one; I think Iolithae Septimian must use great care and precision when Sacrificing things from her pState, lest what was one of “the Lies of Iolithae Septimian,” and now is not, become a misconception, subtle folly, or rather un-funny joke instead of the presumably desired truth.

Morrowen Hollow (rendition by Miranda Harrell)

26 Tairté Ut-napishtim holds that the Excrucian calendar is too deeply a cultural artifact for the uninitiated to comprehend. Its times and dates are spoken in twisted words, alien to the True Tongue; it is structured in a fashion similar to poetry or algebra, with an interplay of several variables, each of which would require a long primer in Excrucian philosophy to explain. It is, like the Mayan calendar, a descending count—or, at least, one symbol or element of it must be; it descends, irregularly and with occasional exceptions, towards the zero-moment at which the Excrucians expect to devour the world. To this characterization Kadir-Rahman objects. “Not so,” she tells us, through her avatar in the world; “or, rather, he complicates the matter out of whimsy, politics, or spite. The Excrucians count the days one after another just as we do, and according to their tutelary forms; the cycle is as simple as any horologist has ever dreamt. The complications Tairté describes emerge only at the boundary of Creation, when the force of their entry tangles up the process of time for them — like a desk calendar crumpled up and lain atop a set of charts, and its dates then mapped to the latitudes and longitudes below. This, and only this, makes their chronology appear to us as vicious and tangled as their lies.” —from The Valde Bellum: A Chronology of Excrucian Assault, Prologue, by Kip Narekatski

How Deceivers See the World There is something real. It is almost inexpressible — it has no form, no shape, no color, and no qualities. It precedes being and un-being. It does not act. It does not interact. It is like crystal. It is like a crystal fell into the waters of the void, and grew. It became complex, a many-spired, many-toothed design. Now it reflects itself. . . . it’s not like crystal. It’s full of souls. It’s full of souls like a fishbowl full of sea monkeys — Words, Genseric Dace informs me, are tricky things, and ill apt to catch the immensity of truth.

The Parable of the Asylum There is something true and beautiful, yet it hates itself so much that it pretends to be this world full of things and people. There is something marvelous, eternal, and good, yet it goes around playing at knees and noses, war and hatred, color, sensation, sky and ground. It’s like finding out that the world ran out of toilet paper so your buddy Fred used the Mona Lisa. It’s like finding Einstein or Noether in some asylum somewhere, outside a little town so poor and backwards that they can’t even afford separate schools for humans and prize pigs. They’re begging for paper but nobody gives them any so they have to write their equations on the walls instead. It’s total vandalism but everyone around them just sighs and shakes their head sadly and says, “Bless their hearts!” And then it’s like going in and trying to drag them off to Princeton or something, but they won’t go, because they’ve got to have their shots and pills, you know, and anyway, what kind of school is Princeton, anyway? Never heard of a prize pig come out of Princeton, I can tell you that! It’s like the world is this defacement of something good.

The Parable of the Spouse But it’s not all about genius and great art. It’s not about aesthetics. Really what it is, is — It’s like watching somebody you care about make an awful decision. It’s like

seeing them get back together with the worst person in the world for them. It’s like knowing they’re getting back on drugs or whatever after finally being clean.


The world is like watching some strong, good, cool person — Some person that you love and admire — Standing there while a family member, or old flame, or spouse, or whatever just beats them up emotionally, treats them as trash, and they just take it because they don’t know how to do anything else. It’s like seeing them come up with reason after reason afterwards why this is actually OK. “We have to live in a world,” its victims cry, “because . . . because our hearts beat, and that gives blood to the brain! Because we have to work to make money to buy food to eat to live so we can work! Because we wake up in the morning and we go to sleep at night. Because the ankle bone connects to the leg bone. It can’t connect to anything else! Because we pledged allegiance to that flag. Because Mom and Dad told us to! Because everybody knows that that’s how it works. Because ‘breaking free of the illusion’ is just self-indulgent claptrap. Because we want things. Because we don’t want to face things. Because we love, we hate, we need, we hunger, we cry, we laugh, we scream, we fight, and we fall down —”

School (rendition by Ciaoffen)


The Parable of the Fire It’s like watching somebody get trapped in an Internet argument while their house burns down. You want to tell them: Look. Steve. If that’s their name. If their name is Eleanor, say, Look. Eleanor. instead. Look. Steve. I know that someone is misconstruing a key point of your argument because they haven’t really considered the possibility that your perspective could be legitimate. I get that. You’re not feeling heard. You’re not feeling heard and you think that more eloquence, or highlighting, or unloading a sarcastic verbal battery will fix that. And it won’t take very long to get your point down in text. I get that too. It’s quick to type what you need to say and until you’ve done that, until you’ve actually written it into that text box and clicked on Post or Save or whatever, it’s vulnerable. Right now, the things you want to say only exist in ephemeral, vulnerable form in your head. All it will take is a little tumble down collapsing stairs and a bit of smoke inhalation and it could all be gone, as if you’d never thought it. As if this whole moment, this whole self that you are and have and are experiencing with me right now, never existed. I get that. If you don’t answer this post right now, it’ll be as if this particular version of you will die; dissolve; never have existed; and will have gone to its grave unheard. They like the dub of My Neighbor Totoro better than the sub. I hear you. But your house, man. Steve. Your house. It is on fire.

The Parable of the Traveling Circus Mangled into a Twisted Ball of Metal by Some Passing Giant Metal-Mangling Insects and Dangled Precipitously

over the Conveyor Belt Leading into a Meat-Grinder, While

We in the Audience All Pass Our Time Taunting the Clowns

and Throwing Popcorn at the Admittedly Inefficient Ringmaster and His Conceits . . .

That’s kind of the way that Deceivers see us. It’s all about this mangled trainwreck atrocity of a circus show dangling precariously over a meat-grinder conveyor belt, this world of ours, and we’re all so busy taunting the clowns and jostling one another that you’d think it was the correct emergency response. The world would prompt from them nothing but one long, sustained head-desking if it weren’t for the fact that they love us —

Well, not us us. Not the us. The underlying us. The crystal thing. The shapeless truth.


That us. They love us, they love the Tao of us, the being of us, the underlying fundamental True Thing of us. So watching us get ourselves all tangled up in world like this — that really hurts!

A Word from Our Sponsors I should note that “I love you, but I think everything you’re doing is wrong” is a bit of a poisonous message. It is arguable that even with their ability to get all misty-eyed with love for us, even with the romantic roughness in their voices when they explain to us how beautiful we are, refusing to attach that love to the things we do and are is a bit of a jerky move. It’s legitimate to respond to their love with a light, floating feeling, like: These marvelous alien gods think I’m beautiful. Wonderful. Them. Me. But it’s also legitimate to say that they’re a bit emotionally abusive and the whole “oh, but everything you believe and live for is intellectually and morally bankrupt” they’ve got going on earns them a big steaming cup of shut-the-fuckup, Genseric Dace. I mean, generic Excrucian Deceiver. A big steaming cup of shutting up to, you know, Deceivers, in general. I agree with them that possibly noses, knees, finger joints, intestines, sinuses, eyeballs, blood, and pus are all just a little bit, well, ridiculous, and certainly every ideology flings itself screaming over a lemming-cliff of dialectical inadequacy sooner or later, but I think that the value of things and people is a lot closer to the surface than they do. Anyway. The Deceivers are spiritual teachers. I mean, that’s not what they’re about, but in a lot of ways that is what they are. And like all spiritual teachers, they have useful things to say, but they are not so very good at knowing when they are wrong — when the foundations of their experience are wrong for us — and they are way, way, way too much so very smug.

Living in the World I don’t think that the Deceivers are immune to the world in general. It’s not a stage to them.* It’s a world! It’s the same for them as it is for us.

unless their pState makes it one!

30 There were 54 states when Flora was young. Somewhere along the line, four of them had gone away; but for all her searching, she could turn up no evidence of where they had gone, or that they had ever been. —from Spotlight: C, by Marilith Turner

They aren’t casually floating around in a painless, world-painted nothingness, sipping with great selectivity and care from the nectar of our reality. They’re experiencing stuff. They may even have all those brain chemicals and Chi meridians and stuff that people have that make it so easy for us to get confused and emotionally involved. They’re enlightened, sort of, but the enlightenment of the Deceivers doesn’t eliminate experience or even really free them from desire, suffering, and ignorance. It just gives them a certain elevated perspective on it all. The world’s like a 3d full-sensory drama to them. It’s like the Matrix or a holodeck. It’s extremely convincing. A Deceiver’s powers, nature, and experience let them recognize the world as unreal but they don’t directly perceive it as such. I do think, that said, that they have an awareness of the . . . weak points . . . of Creation. I think they can sense the flaws and failings of this reality. Maybe even its points of strength! The Excrucians and other creatures from the Lands Beyond Creation are responsible for most of these weak points themselves. That is, usually if Creation is “weak” somewhere it’s because something has been preying on it. But I don’t think that’s all there is to it. I think Creation comes with some natural weak patches of its own. There are all these self-aware Powers and Imperators and spirits and such running around. They stretch reality all the time and cause the occasional contradiction. Even when they don’t go far enough to attract an Actual, I think this still thins things up, twists them about, and gives the world a little self-reflective headache* such as the Deceivers can detect. Many Deceivers have perceptual tricks relating to their pState. Like, the pState of Scelto of the Provenance is “Scelto of the Provenance” — so I assume it recognizes its own identity as unreal and can perceive the fragility of the concept of identity in general. Iolithae Septimian can probably tell whether or not she’s lying, even if she didn’t know whether or not her words would be a lie until she spoke. That might not be enough for her to divine the truth of things in general with, since lies probably require some level of intention, but it could easily help her to solve internal muddles, spot an unintended truth-telling, or catch herself in the act of repeating somebody else’s deceit. Deceivers also have a special extension to the basic mystic Sight that the Powers have — a kind of plot-sense, if you will. They’re aware of the depth of reality, particularly in a certain narrative context. They have a sense for the genuineness of things. This works like their pState in that that “genuineness” isn’t a judgment internal to them but a kind of cosmic statement on how much something matters to, well — I suppose, in practice, to your game! In the real world, this functions as a kind of wisdom. In play, I think it’s just an excuse to: §§ figure out Estate Properties with a little observation and experimentation; §§ see the hidden* corners of the Powers’ hearts; and §§ get hints from the players or HG as to what they might do that would be relevant, if they are otherwise completely stuck.

The Flower Rite


The standard attack on reality is called “the flower rite.” When the world doesn’t know how to handle something — when there’s a paradox, when two key Estate Properties fight one another, when events start happening out of order — the world starts casting about for answers. It panics, figuratively speaking. Its natural antibodies are the default answers — the easy explanations. For prosaic reality, they’re things like “the world is complicated,” “rules have exceptions,” and “we just haven’t figured all this stuff out yet.” For mythic reality, we’re talking stuff like “free will,” “looming mystery,” and “caprice.” Either way, this kind of answer usually suffices to explain away modest violations of Estate or regional Properties. Corruption of the underlying logic of the world, sustained deviations from Estate and regional Properties, and anathematic perversions are more difficult to handle. They strain the whole fabric of being. Ordinary measures don’t suffice to explain what’s going on so Creation has to call in Actuals or creatures of the Not to hold the whole fabric together —

or “Gödel-ache,” if you like.

To patch over such flaws with materials from the substrate. To attack the world, Deceivers subvert its process of self-repair. They interfere with the world’s natural ability to integrate minor failures, quarantine larger ones, and heal from all of them. When the world goes looking for an answer, the Deceivers don’t let it find answers like “sometimes these things happen” or “here, have a paradox being.” It finds the answer of the Deceivers, instead: “This situation arises because reality isn’t supposed to be.” The world takes this answer and tries to apply it to the troubles it’s having. Unfortunately, this answer doesn’t solve the paradox. It doesn’t reconcile the elements of a contradiction. It just makes things worse. And worse. And worse. Eventually a higher-order immune system kicks in. Reality starts blocking off the whole conceptual territory as an aberration. For an illustrative example, consider the chupacabras. Their principally exobiological DNA includes the partial replication of simian genetic sequences. This makes them extremely difficult to reconcile with mainstream reality: their mere existence would consternate natural scientists and arouse revulsion in a number of Estates. So, to protect the categories of the world, Creation seals the chupacabras away in the conceptual ghetto of cryptozoology. There, their presence creates no complications. In like fashion, families, neighborhoods, conspiracies, species, and whole ecologies will reflexively cordon themselves off from existence, fading and become progressively more unreal, if by so doing they can protect reality as a whole.

if not actively secret


Of course, the Excrucians can circumvent this defense as well. The flower rite is an attack wherein an Excrucian pits two key Properties of an Estate against one another. That Excrucian twists up the Estate in some scenario of their design so as to put the Properties in opposition. When one Property grasps hold of the Deceiver’s answer, “reality isn’t supposed to be,” it becomes stronger; it begins to dominate the opposing Property. When reality becomes disturbed and abstracts the offending portion, that first Property weakens; the opposing Property gains strength. It grabs great metaphorical handfuls of reality, territory, and the Deceiver’s answer, pouring itself into a dominant position and reasserting local reality. This process repeats in a seesaw fashion, generally affecting a larger conceptual or physical area with each swing; by the time reality escalates to cutting both sides out of existence, part of an Estate — or part of whatever else it was the Excrucian chose to pit against itself — has grappled itself, seized itself by the hair or bootstraps, and flung itself quite willingly into the void.

For seventy days and seven, Mélaine argued with the Lord, and the Lord argued with Mélaine. And one by one, as she preached her nihilism at Him, the lights of the world went out; for that was her Gift, that her words could break even the fiercest of arguments and bend even the lordliest of ears. And one by one, as He preached the gospel of Creation to her, the red and black spots of hatred in her mind dissolved to light, and she began to waver in her speech. It was Mélaine who broke first and said, “I guess the world’s not so bad.” And the Lord looked down at Creation, where the stars had guttered to black and the people’s minds were as empty as the void, and said, “Well, in any event, the next one won’t be.” —from Children of Earth, by Martin Elliott

How to Play Out a Flower Rite In general, figuring out an Estate’s Properties isn’t terribly hard. Assume that an Excrucian can work the Properties out — along with almost anything else that’s been established about them at the gaming table — after, at most, a few mundane actions to study the Estate. Maybe they’ll have to poke around the relevant Power’s affairs a little, too, but that’s mostly only if them doing so will make the game more fun. It’s really hard for Powers to keep the philosophical underpinnings of their manifest Estates a trade secret, after all: the Estate is out there in the world. A miracle could make it harder for enemies to recognize those qualities even when they’re right in front of their noses; a particularly subtle Property might place a level 1-2 Obstacle before those who would discover it; but basically — if “Cold is melancholy,” you don’t need three years of study and a gigantic coldness centrifuge to figure that out. You just have to sit in the cold for a little while! There is one rare exception: if an Estate is already extremely tenuous, figuring out its Properties can be a challenge. For instance, if there are only three lions remaining in the world, and most of the references and connections between lions and the world have been cut, then the Properties of Lions may be legitimately difficult to discover. Once your Deceiver understands the Properties of an Estate, they should look for an (ideally isolated) place and situation in which to turn two of those Properties against one another. You’re allowed to be a horrible cheater here and do impossible things — your Deceiver can turn “Cold is melancholy” against “Cold descends,” for instance, by coating the ground in happiness or “cold candy” so that the snow and the cold air are gleeful as they flitter and settle down to the icy earth. Or you can try something subtler, like exploring whether winter’s melancholies and people’s thoughts on cold days are part of Cold themselves — you could set up a high city and a lowland skating park and lightly enchant that park to make it a place of gentle, happy memories. On cold days, people go to their frosted windows; their thoughts travel down that road to the park

below, rich not with melancholy but with, rather, joy. And when the world wonders, “Hey, those are cold thoughts, descending like that, but why isn’t there any melancholy in them?” you give the world your answer: because the world isn’t supposed to be.


And of course Cold doesn’t go into a tizzy every time happiness is found in winter and at the bottom of the hill. Maybe the Power of Cold’s player will even tell you this is cheating — I don’t recommend you worry about that in advance, because the line between “clever flower rite” and “egregious, ridiculous cheating” is generally in the target’s mind, but it could certainly happen — and just solve it all with a formal ruling that people’s winter thoughts aren’t Cold. But in the meantime — it’s natural for the spirits of cold and the elements of the Estate of Cold to feel a little stressed about this, you know? Up the road towards the city — that’s the melancholy path. Towards the park, and the soft joy of it — that’s the descending path. Aren’t they supposed to be the same path? Why do they point in opposite ways? How can this be happening? And there you are to answer them with: ’cause reality isn’t supposed to be. Agitation. Disruption. Despair! You glut the Estate of Cold with non-being. You stir its spirits to distress. Your attention falls on them, fixates them, keeps them from breaking free of what should be a trivial paradox, forces them to gulp down denial to go about heir lives. The Estate begins to hurt. It writhes in pain. It calls to the Powers and they will hunt you down and try to stop you. If you’re lucky, then by the time they get there you’ve already taken a nasty bite out of their Estate and you can just leave. Or you’ll be stronger and scarier than they are and you can just beat them up. If you’re unlucky, the Powers will succeed in settling the matter. They’ll find a different answer to your imposed paradox. They’ll crush a child in snowfall in the middle of the brightest party of the year, instantly restoring all the melancholy of the cold; or they’ll raise the park up, moving it magically to the middle of town, so that nobody gets there by descending; they may even just take winter away from that whole area, make all your efforts irrelevant to winter and Coldness, and blame global warming — Cold’s eternal whipping boy — for the effect.

The Welken-Rite An alternative to the standard flower rite is the cuckoo ploy or “welken-rite.” You build something up from nothing. You make a little nest of unreality in Creation. You don’t agitate reality when it starts to get a little nervous* — you soothe it. You convince it that no, nothing weird is going on here. Why, your little piece of the unreal belongs! (you explain.) It fits! It just makes sense. Your construct spreads its conceptual underpinnings through the local

I’m anthropomorphizing reality a lot here, and I’ve probably taken this a little farther than I should. Creation is alive, of course, but from a practical perspective you’re dealing with local immune reactions and the generally dim awareness of individuated regional existence — not with Creation itself. Anything that actually attracted the attention of the consciousness of Creation or even of the Tree as a whole would be too scary to be called “a flower-rite” or “a welken-rite”; that’s more like “a potentially Age-ending crisis!”


world — like the roots of a potted plant, spreading through captive soil. Eventually, if you’ve done it right, you can use that construct as mystic leverage and just kind of snap that whole part of Creation off into unreality. The longer you’ve spent carefully cultivating your project, the better entrenched you can make it and the more of Creation you potentially can steal. Usually a welken-rite steers clear of the Noble Estates. I mean, you can’t build anything in Creation in complete isolation from the Estates, that’s just not possible; even taking over a small town in the middle of nowhere touches on hundreds of Estates starting with Towns, People, Buildings, Loneliness, and Cars — but you don’t have to actively tangle up any of the Noble Estates or their Properties into the structure of your rite. You do have the option of sinking your construct’s hooks into an Estate or two, if you want to tear chunks out of those Estates when you finish, but be careful. Doing that dramatically increases your chances of attracting Noble attention in the project’s early stages and makes it a near-certainty by the end. Unlike a flower rite, a welken-rite doesn’t create any automatic values dissonance or conflict for the Nobilis. If you want anything but a straight fight when and if they show up to stop you, make sure you’ve laid the groundwork for your desired conflict in advance!

Explaining Themselves Deceivers are a sucker for explaining themselves. They don’t like it when their worst efforts get a look of blank incomprehension from their rivals and their victims. They don’t want to slip in and out of the world without notice. They want you to know. They want you to understand that everything they are doing is because they think that the world is a lie and they want it to end. They are OK with it if you think they’re crazed ideologues or vicious bastards; they’d rather you think of them as virtuous heroes and idols, but if you understand their motives and see them for what they are and your best judgment is still that fighting them is a good idea, they think that’s more or less OK. They don’t care how you judge them, not really. But, first — They want you to understand.

Deceivers and Social Identity I think that on some level, the pState thing goes both ways. It’s not just that their will has an unusual power over their social and physical context. There is also some feedback in the other direction: who they are is shaped, in some respect, by how they’re seen.

They aren’t shaped by your perspective. Not exactly. It’s not as simple as “think that they’re good and they’re good, think that they’re bad and they’re bad.”


It’s not. People tried that on Abaton and it did not work out. I think it’s more like — if you think that they’re good, they’re more like the people that you think of as good. If you think that they’re bad, they’re more like the people that you think of as bad. If you hate them, they don’t become more hateful, but they do become more like the other things you hate. It’s not a very powerful effect by default, but part of that is that there hasn’t been a serious effort to weaponize it — with work, I bet you could turn it into some kind of counter-flower-rite. The main reason that nobody has done this yet* is that driving Deceivers out of Creation is currently very difficult but not actually very complicated.

Deceivers and Children Deceivers are absolute suckers for children and other innocents. They aren’t dumb. They know that the Excrucian War hurts kids. They know that they’ve got tragedy piled on tragedy attaching to their accounts. But ultimately, when they’re face to face with a kid, they have a problem. Like I said, Deceivers want you to get it. They don’t care how you judge them, but they want you to see who they are and why they do what they do. Only, below a certain cognitive level, a child can’t get it. Even adolescents may not grasp as much of it all as the Deceivers like. So a typical Excrucian Deceiver — confronted by a child — is going to find themselves falling into a different pattern almost by default. They’re going to stumble into being a lot closer to a good person, a caring person. Take away their ability to make highfalutin’ ideological and philosophical arguments and they have to, because how else can they express their self-image as someone good? You can probably use this against them, but like I said, they’re not dumb — I mean, overt use of fake innocence or honey traps of rhetorical opponents who can’t get it, all that stuff, it won’t be some kind of slam dunk secret weapon against them. They’re not idiots. But they are suckers for children, in the end.

to the best of my knowledge!

36 “Why do you wear a veil, Marguerite?” her lover will ask, when they have reached their climax. “It is not a veil,” she will say. “It is a window. In it, I see—in shadowed, grayed-out shapes—the image of your world. When I lift it, the world goes away altogether; there is nothing save the void.” Her lover will think on this. “That cannot be true,” he will say. “If it were, from where did you obtain the veil?” A slight shrug. “I wove it from my dreams.” “I do not believe you,” he will say, and rip it from her face; and she will reach for it, but she will not find it in the void; and that is how the world will end. —from 24 Finales, by Rannen Yedidyah

Deceivers and Pawns Similarly, Deceivers have this tendency to be comparatively kind to their pawns. They feel a certain leeway when it comes to mowing down people who don’t know them — as they see it, you kill a village and you’re basically being like an earthquake or a warlord, it’s just part of how Creation works and it doesn’t require any particular justification on their part. But when it’s somebody who trusts them, or someone they’ve been using, even someone they’ve just been controlling or exploiting — hurting them isn’t natural any more. It isn’t just another day in Creation. They feel a certain responsibility to people like that. It’s the same principle, basically — once there’s a personal connection, of any sort, they want you to see them as they see themselves.

Deceivers and Monologues Lastly, this all gives Deceivers something of a monologue complex. They can control it to some extent, and it’s not actually universal — Deceivers are a category, not a diagnosis — but as a rule they will take more time than they can afford to spend explaining things that they really shouldn’t talk about to people who are certain to use that knowledge against them. They’ll try to stick to philosophical points and high theories of ethics. They’ll try not to tell you what they’re doing, and why. They . . . won’t always succeed. They can keep secrets for millennia, but they’ll still tend to spill them a little before their time. They can bury themselves in a false identity every moment of every day, cling to it even in the face of torture or destruction, but in those quiet moments when they feel like they can let a little of their real self out and make human contact without getting into trouble — the mask might slip. They’re clever and tricky but ultimately there’s this demon of loneliness in them: they want you to understand. . . . I think. I guess. I believe! In theory, I suppose, that could be just another mask.

Those who Listen to Coriander Hasp

37 37

Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp §§ . . . listen to Coriander Hasp §§ feel his words like a fire in their head §§ ain’t dead ^ This is really the best summary that I have. ^

§§ ain’t bound by possibility, really, neither §§ probably shouldn’t have listened, I mean, in the end §§ get all full of inspiration and bad ideas


Deceiver Creation

There was a woman whom Marteinn Magnusson could only see when drunk, for she came from beyond the boundaries of the world. Drunk he met her, drunk he loved her, and drunk he married her. The doctors told him that his liver was failing and drink would be his death; so drunk he died for her, and she took his spirit away. —from Doorknobs, by Emily Chen


ere’s a system for designing Deceivers. It’s been optimized for Excrucian design, but it’s based on the Nobilis Lifepath System — in theory, if you had some reason to do so, you could mix and match the Keys and tables between the two systems. The Nobilis Lifepath System starts with a diagram — a representation of the forces active in your Deceiver’s story. Take a blank piece of paper. Draw five circles on this page — placing them like the pips on a 5 on a die, or like the endpoints and cross-point of an X. The outer circles should be large enough for 50 words of text. The center circle will represent your pState. The outer circles will represent the two Keys that you’re about to pick. Each Key has a Lie, that is, the face it presents to Creation, and a Truth that is buried underneath it. The right two circles will represent the Lies of your two Keys. The left two circles are their corresponding Truths.

Now browse the list of Keys below and pick two. Each time you choose a Key — §§ Connect the Lie and Truth of the Key by a line. §§ Write the number of the Key below the line. §§ Write the Name of the Key above that line. §§ Write a blank bullet point near the top of that Key’s Lie. You’ll fill this in as soon as you figure out what that Key actually means in your life — it’ll be a short phrase that summarizes your role when you’re dealing with the Key, like “I compromise you with gifts,” “[I’m] on some Warmain’s leash,” or “[I was] born in a bakery.” §§ Write any specific bullet points named by the Key in the Truth circle. You’ll add more to this diagram as you proceed through the Deceiver Creation process. The Keys break down as follows — Lotus Flower (I)

Key of the Shepherd

Vervain (II)

Key of the Dragon

Acacia (III)

Key of the Crossroads

Clematis (IV)

Key of the Angel

Aconite (V)

Key of the Nemesis

Wild Oats (VI)

Key of the Dreamer

Star of Bethlehem (VII)

Key of Burdens

Gorse (VIII)

Key of Promises

Periwinkle (IX)

Key of Legends

Chamomile (X)

Key of the Mask

Widow-Rose (XI)

Key of the Alien

Milkmay (XII)

Key Unformed

Phoenix Posy (XIII)

Self-Creating Key, the

Water Lily (XIV)

Key of Something Spiritual

Bilberry (XV)

Key of the Fallen

Hemlock (XVI)

Key of the Lie


40 Lotus Flower (Key I) Key of the Shepherd You care about the lives of ordinary people — as individuals. You want to help them, improve them, give them something to make their lives better. You’re willing to talk to even the smallest and most disadvantaged. The Name of this Key is I BRING MY FLOCK . . . The Lie of this Key is the mortal, worldly change you make in people’s lives. The top bullet point should summarize what people get out of interacting with you. e.g. I bring my flock . . . §§ a new family §§ insight §§ love §§ unholy wonders §§ a safe, orderly community §§ a new shape §§ immortality §§ a peaceful existence beneath the waves or §§ help with unfinished projects The Truth of this Key is what you give them of yourself. Start with: §§ I love them §§ I listen to them

(Genseric Dace, as shown in Chibi-Ex)

Vervain (Key II) Key of the Dragon You’re a knight and a weapon of the void. You’re a deadly threat to Creation. There are books about you, and their usual recommendation for what to do if someone sees you? Run. The Name of this Key is THE EXCRUCIAN WAR. The Lie of this Key is basically cool stuff that this character could do or has done — things to illustrate their F/X. For instance, §§ I blur the line between reality and dream §§ I could be anyone §§ I’ll whisper a word and the birds will fall from the sky or §§ I’m going to eat the spirit of the city The Truth of this Key is what it’s doing to you. Listen. You can’t tangle up the world with your power without tangling yourself up right back. The Truth of this Key is your tragedy, and it’s going to start with these two bullet points: §§ I love them §§ I am their enemy Keep it to those and your heart might survive.

(Genseric Dace, as shown in Nobilis: the Essentials)


42 Acacia (Key III) Key of the Crossroads You’re still a loyal soldier of the void. You’re still here to make an end to Creation. . . . Probably. It’s just . . . it’s just, you’re wavering. The Name of this Key is WHY I FALTER. The Lie of this Key is mostly the worldly reasons for your divided heart — things you’ve seen in the world that get to you, that shake you, that might lead to your putting some other cause above the truth of the Lands Beyond. The top bullet point here is the thing you’re most likely to find yourself saying, admitting, apologizing for when you’re talking to other Excrucians; and, conversely, the thing you’re most likely to use as your private or public excuse for being kind when you’re talking to mortals and the Powers. Something like: §§ They fight so hard. §§ I want to kill the world. But . . . coffee! or §§ I’m so . . . very . . . tired. The Truth of this Key is rougher. Part of being a Deceiver is being able to see that the world is a lie. The Warmains fight the world by choice, and the Strategists out of moral judgment, but for a Deceiver, denying the world is as natural as believing in it is for us. Accepting it, supporting it, joining or even just compromising with the forces of Creation — that’s easier said than done! So the Truth of this Key isn’t going to be a nice, happy thing. It’s not going to make you feel good. The Truth behind your faltering is going to start with: §§ I love them §§ I’ve lost sight of what I’m fighting for

“Considering another Path,” by Miranda Harrell

Clematis (Key IV)


Key of the Angel You can’t stand fighting them. It’s like eating broken glass. They’re fighting so brilliantly; they show such power, such creativity, such honor — they astonish you. And for what? What are they fighting for? To stay in Hell. You’ve seen the true face of Creation. It’s a pretty lie. If they’d let you tear it down you could give them something so much more beautiful — and everlasting! The Name of this Key is I’M REACHING OUT TO YOU . . . The Lie of this Key is who you pretend to be when you’re reaching out to the Powers. It’s the face you wear when you’re trying to shake them off of their awful, self-destructive course: §§ like a sad parent §§ like a preacher §§ like I’m sick of fighting you §§ like I’ve got something to teach you §§ like I’m here just to win your heart §§ like a lover §§ like a savior or §§ like a hurt child Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. If it stays empty — then there’s nothing subtle going on. You’re reaching out to them, like the Key says. Maybe it’s real, and maybe it’s a total saccharine fake, but there’s no extra meaning hiding underneath. Conversely, if you do write something into the Truth of this Key later, then that becomes the deeper, underlying story of what it means that you’re reaching out.

(Tairté Ut-napishtim, as shown in Nobilis: the Essentials)

44 Aconite (Key V) Key of the Nemesis There’s someone you’re going to get. Do you hate them? Does their Estate top some list? Are you secretly in love with them? Are you just spoiling for a fight with them, or maybe even just with somebody, with anybody, you haven’t even chosen yet who your nemesis will be? Whatever. The Name of this Key is THE EXCRUCIAN WAR. The Lie of this Key is who you are when you’re screwing around with them. The top bullet point will summarize who you are when ruining some Power’s life, like: §§ I feed you false information §§ I turn your friends and family against you §§ I steal your work §§ I compromise you with gifts §§ I key your car or §§ I stab you with knives Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. If it stays empty — well, then there’s nothing more to this story. There’s no deeper plot and no deeper emotional meaning. You’re just targeting someone because it’s fun, or because it’s your job, or because you think it matters, or because they’re there and you can’t think of anything better to do. Conversely, if you write something into the Truth of this Key later, that Truth becomes the real and underlying reason for your animosity.

“Helchen Hadusind,” by Miranda Harrell


Wild Oats (Key VI) Key of the Dreamer Listen. This is the secret of the Dreamer. There’s truth even in the lies. It’s not as simple as “break the spell that is woven on the world and everything will be OK.” The world is a lie. It’s an awful lie — but even awful lies have their reasons. There’s something going on with this story of “world” that’s being told, and all the clangor of the War isn’t going to achieve anything or fix anything until somebody’s gone in and understood the point of the story itself. That’s you. That’s going to be you. You’re here to dream the world, to straighten its crooked courses, and lead people to the revelatory truth that lets them free themselves from lies. You’re not here to throw cold water on the metaphysical faces of the people of Creation and shock them up; you’re here to lead them through the maze of lies that they’ve built for themselves to the real faces they wear behind them. The Name of this Key is WHO I AM, IN THIS YOUR DREAM.

(Genseric Dace and Coriander Hasp, as shown in Chibi-Ex) The Lie of this Key is basically the rôle you take on amidst this chaotic tumble of dream. Start it off with something like: §§ a shaman §§ a counselor §§ a hero or §§ your spirit guide Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. Maybe you’ll find something later on, maybe you’ll write down something like “horror” or “symbol of lost opportunities” there, and that’ll be a deeper truth about who you are in the world of dream. Or maybe the Lie of this Key will prove to be enough for you — and you never will!

46 Star of Bethlehem (Key VII) Key of Burdens Something happened — something happened to you, a long time ago. You picked up a burden then. You’re still carrying it now. It’s with you. It makes you who you are. Its Name is IT MARKED ME. The Lie of this Key is the obvious stuff you plan to do to show that you’re carrying something with you, e.g.: §§ I choose my words carefully §§ I get defensive about being an Excrucian or §§ I don’t fight children The Truth of this Key is what’s going on deep inside you. Let’s start with: §§ I can’t let go §§ It’s always with me (Coriander Hasp, as shown in Nobilis: the Essentials)


Gorse (Key VIII) Key of Promises You’re not a free agent — you’re bound to, enslaved to some other force or power. The Name of this Key is HELD IN THRALL. The Lie of this Key is the surface of what’s going on. Pick a top bullet point to summarize the situation you’re trapped in, like: §§ Shard from a greater being §§ On some Warmain’s leash §§ I made a promise or §§ Slave to Creation The Truth of this Key covers what’s actually going on and how you feel about it. Let’s start with: §§ I can’t let go §§ It’s killing me

“NoOo,” by Miranda Harrell

48 Periwinkle (Key IX) Key of the Legend You have a history in Creation. You’ve done some pretty amazing stuff. The Name of this Key is MY LEGEND. Fill the Lie of this Key with events and assertions — with bits of myth and history that you can rattle off if there’s somebody (somebody who believes in Excrucians, anyway) that you want to impress. See if you can find a good solid bit of awesome for the first bullet point to kick off with, such as: §§ I dreamed the Earth into being §§ I charmed the wings off an angel §§ I’m the one who’s always right §§ I stole 10,000 ghosts from the trenches of World War I §§ I conquered Ofeili, and I rule it now §§ I’m the one who stole Elvis §§ I was named the Incarnate of Truth and the Deceivers pray to me

(Iolithae Septimian, as shown in Nobilis: the Essentials)

§§ I told the seas that they were salt, and they were thus; and strangled then the fish of all fresh waters that swam within §§ I’m the one who’s never lost to punks like you or §§ I ran Hell for seven hours, disguised as Lucifer, the while he was away Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. Maybe there’s something else going on underneath all the stories about you, and if there is, you’ll write it there . . . but then again, maybe there isn’t!

Chamomile (Key X)


Key of the Mask You live an elaborate pose. You hide yourself beneath a false face. The Name of this Key is WHO I AM, IN THIS YOUR DREAM. The Lie of this Key is who you pretend to be. It’s the shining, silver-screen ideal of you. Write something there to summarize who you are, such as: §§ a dyed-in-the-wool villain §§ a hero §§ a friend or §§ [person’s] dead sister, come back to life The Truth of this Key is . . . anything you’d take the mask off for. What would you pass up a great villainous line for? When would you turn your back on heroism or on your friends? What would make you admit you’re not that dead sister come back to life? Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now.

“Oh, You,” by Miranda Harrell


Widow-Rose (Key XI) Key of the Alien The widow-rose or welken-rose blooms only in the void. In Creation, most of them fail to thrive, or rise up and cast a few weak petals down. One in a thousand, at best, flourishes, becomes unreal, and drags the entire promontory of Creation off from around it into the void beyond. You also are a creature that has no home in worlds. The name of this Key is MY NATURE. The Lie of this Key summarizes your horrific nature — why you cannot pass easily among the natural substances of the world. Start with a bullet point like: §§ I awaken the sleeping world §§ I blight what I touch §§ I have an atypical geometry §§ I cannot have friends because when people love me they explode §§ I am a receptive empath §§ I am a poison that reverts the world around me to its wild, uncivilized past §§ I lack a key normal attribute (e.g. “a discernable color.”) or §§ I cannot be touched, and what I touch bleeds. The Truth of this Key is what lives under all of that. Let’s start with: §§ I’m an enemy of the world. §§ You cannot keep me away.

“No Home in Worlds,” by Heed

Milkmay (Key XII)


Key Unformed The milkmay or gethringenfleur manifests itself as a seething tumult in the void. You can sometimes see a milkmay by pressing your fingers against closed eyes. You too are a shapeless creature. You have yet to become a thing, such as can be properly seen and understood in Creation. You are instead a stirring of potential, half-glimpsed images, a nameless shifting in the void beyond. If you are not rousted out from or into reality by miracle, you will eventually settle into a singular form but for now you are closer to a conspiracy, an oppressive atmosphere, or an idea. The Name of this Key is THAT WHICH STIRS. The Lie of this Key is the form you’re likely to take when play begins. The top bullet point should be something that reflects your early ideas here — §§ intimations §§ a mist §§ something broken, speaking from different bodies or §§ something looking for purpose The Truth reflects what you really are, and what you will become. Start with — §§ I’m an enemy of the world §§ I am truth preceding form

“A Truth Preceding Form,” by CQ

52 Phoenix Posy (Key XIII) The Self-Creating Key The “phoenix posy” or “autoposy” scatters its seeds through time. The 1911 botanical mapping expedition strongly suggests that this flower is a single self-creating colony or organism stretching across all of history, Creation, and the Lands Beyond. It also appears at least somewhat capable of “reacting” to temporal crises, adjusting the histories of its various flowers to maintain the stable time loop of itself. Where did it come from? The question does not apply. Nor does it apply to you. You made yourself from nothing. You tore yourself from the void and fell burning into world. You woke tangled in the world like a fever patient in their sheets, like a Magister of the Wild caught in Creation’s dreams, only — you aren’t caught. Can you walk freely in and out of world, or will you have to tear the place down around your ears to complete your disentanglement? The Name of this Key is I HAVE MADE MYSELF . . .

“Jasmine Apocynum Asserts Her Existence,” by Miranda Harrell

The Lie of this Key is bits of story that anchor you to the world. Stuff that hints at an actual history, or at least a precipitating event. Things that surround you, the context that embraces you, as you fall into world. Pick a top bullet point like: §§ born in a bakery §§ dressed to kill §§ an American or §§ from the pieces of those whom you’ve discarded The Truth of this Key is usually psychological or metaphysical — it’s about what it means that you made yourself. That said, it’s also OK to list some comparatively worldly bullet points here if that’s what seems best to you. Start with: §§ an enemy of the world §§ from nothing


Water Lily (Key XIV) Key of Something Spiritual You are a holy creature. You are the divine word of the void. You manifest the face of the Lands Beyond Creation that is the Empyreal Nothing — a thing that is not a great and solemn holiness in the same way that most of the Lands Beyond Creation are not land, air, or sea. When you walk past, nihilists and those possessed by bleakest depression prostrate themselves before you, crying, “Holy, holy, holy!” You are beyond practical concerns — a saint, a spiritual being, an innocent. You’re the kind of Excrucian who’ll travel to destroy a city or an idea because it offends in some fashion against what you hold as sacred, but stop to heal a wounded bird or adopt an orphaned child on your way. The Name of this Key is MY NATURE. The Lie of this Key summarizes how your holiness expresses itself in the world. Pick a top bullet point like: §§ simple tastes §§ disdainful §§ innocent and pure §§ kind §§ maddening weight of blasphemous power or §§ selfless The Truth of this Key starts simply with: §§ Excrucian Deceiver

“Innocence,” by Miranda Harrell

54 Bilberry (Key XV) Key of the Fallen You fell. You lost. They won. They took you. It doesn’t matter which side you’re fighting for any longer. Not really. Don’t you get it? You believe. You have lost nirvana. You look around. You tell yourself, it’s all a lie. But it’s not. It’s real. You’re caught in a world, and you think — and shudder and almost cry out with the horror of it — that it is real. The Name of this Key is WHAT I BELIEVE. The Lie of this Key is things that you’ve accepted. Fake things. Creation things. World things. Start off with something big and scary, maybe, put something in the top bullet point like: §§ mortality §§ feelings §§ the wind §§ sunsets or §§ Santa Barbara Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. If you wind up adding stuff into the Truth of Bilberry later on, then that stuff becomes what you actually believe in, and the Lie of Bilberry becomes its polite mask.

“Fallen,” by Miranda Harrell

Hemlock (Key XVI) Key of the Lie This isn’t you. You aren’t you. One day you’ll take off the mask and all this will be as naught. Are you an Imperator or Power gone undercover? Are you a different Deceiver, with a different story? Listen. We’re not going to see more than a few hints of who that other person is — I mean, underneath. Maybe we won’t even see that. Even if you’ve chosen the Key of Hemlock, the lifepath process will focus on the person you seem to be. But maybe now and then, as the creation process carries through, you’ll give yourself a few glimpses of who you really are. The Name of this Key is WHO I AM, IN THIS YOUR DREAM. The Lie of this Key is the story you’re trying to tell with your life. Pick a top bullet point that summarizes that. It’s often something from one of the Keys above, or even is one of the Keys above, e.g.: §§ the Shepherd §§ the Nemesis §§ the one who stole Elvis §§ a manyfaced horror or §§ a fallen Deceiver, trapped by the Lie Leave the Truth of this Key empty for now. Anything you add to it later becomes a hint as to the person you really are.

,ecnanevorP eht fo otlecS( )slaitnessE eht :siliboN ni nwohs sa


56 When I looked into his eyes, I saw the radiance of God. I could not refuse him, for all that his requests were vile. I knew that there was a higher purpose to them. I knew that it was correct to serve him. God willed it so, and the angels sang alleluias to that will, and the universe shivered with the rightness of it. —from the statement of Father Sebastian Capobianco, 03/25/00

Foundations Now that you’ve picked your Keys, let’s talk about what’s cool about your character. You could probably just use the Nobilis: the Essentials table of Foundations here — choosing whether your character is “Something Cool,” “In Love with Something,” “Epic, Inhuman, and Powerful,” or “Just Plain Weird.” That said, we’re going to provide some ideas with a slightly more Deceiver-focused slant. What’s cool about your character? Let’s see! Look over the following options, starting with the option or options associated with your two Keys, and think about which one you want to build from. You can choose any of the options, but you’ll be working under the following general rules: Start by finding the rows with your Keys in them. This should be the initial focus of your attention when considering the table. Choosing a row with one of your Keys in it . . . Usually you’ll choose a row with one of your Keys in it. That strengthens the Lie of that Key. Write a new bullet point in the Lie of that Key, relating in some fashion to the row. Choosing a row with neither of your Keys in it . . . Sometimes you’ll really want a different row, or neither of the rows that your Keys suggest will fit. In that case, you’ll have to strengthen the Truth of one of your Keys. Pick which Key, and write a new bullet point in its Truth relating in some fashion to the row. Choosing a row with both of your Keys in it . . . If you happen to pick a row that has both of your Keys in it, you’ll still only write one bullet point. The first time this happens, draw a new circle connected to the Lie of both your Keys. Put a bullet point in that circle that relates in some fashion to the row and to both of your Keys. Choose and record a name for this new circle. Later, if you pick a row with both of your Keys in it again, add a new bullet point to this circle instead of drawing a new circle or adding to the Lie of either Key.

You are . . .


Elemental and Untroubled You don’t take it personally. Are you like still water? Like an unrelenting fire? Are you light as the wind? Impassive as death? Bright as a brass bird’s song? You don’t apologize. You don’t resent those who fight you. You take it all in stride, it’s natural and normal, even though it’s wrong; it’s OK that the people of Creation don’t get it, that an Excrucian’s life is difficult and complicated, because that’s just how things are. The hawk doesn’t complain when the mouse tries to dodge. The sniper doesn’t get upset that the other side has guns. The parent doesn’t blame the child for resisting structure, nor does the shepherd blame their flock. well.

Pick a role in life and 1-3 bonus character traits and loyalties. Serve them

Lotus Flower (I) Vervain (II) Acacia (III) Widow-Rose (XI)

Examples: Cethegus Law cares about people and he tries to give them a better order to their lives. Erelieva Grimoald serves the Warmain Raginhart Tribunas as a messenger. Page Cutter kills people and replaces them with simplified eidolons that carry forward their lives. Rosamund Francesca Hildegard fell in love with fire and decided to wait 100 years before harming Creation again. Genseric Dace is quite open about what he is and how noble it would be if you beat his face in, while Phasael mery-Harumaph just enjoys the fact you probably won’t.

Uncoiling, Hunting, the Storm Arising You’re something stirring in the depths, something starting to begin its terrible ascent. You’re a legendary thing, a terrible movement in the shadows behind reality. Do you plan to swallow Imperators? Shatter continents or worlds? Your plan is just beginning. In this time, in this place, in this moment, it is just beginning. Soon it will catch the world around you in its storm. Listen to the air of Creation and you can feel it move. Examples: Prasede Fritigern hunts for and severs the chain-glyphs that hold the Weirding Wall in place; she will collapse the wall around the world. Odotheus Livigund is a slave-taker whose favored prey is angels. Erland Erengis is your death. Kadlin Fenvar lives in the back of your brain. Iustina Thrasaric tempts Powers into treason. Iolithae Septimian humbles the truth with every lie she speaks.

Star of Bethlehem (VII) Gorse (VIII) Periwinkle (IX) Milkmay (XII)


So Full of Feelings for Them Look at them. So trapped. So caught. Like fish wriggling in a barbed net, only, they’re not fish. They’re people! They’re fighting you, they’re actually rising up from the shapeless masses of humanity and taking on elemental bits of the lie they live in — just so they can fight you. For the hairshirts they are wearing. For the chains around their ankles. For the boot on their faces, they’ll fight for that; for the scourges whipping them with things like “suffering” and “pain” and “their mortality.” They won’t let you take that from them. They’ll snarl. They’ll snap. They’ll fight. They can’t even see why they should let you win. It’s heartbreaking. There aren’t any words for it. There aren’t any emotions big enough for it — scorn, love, sadness, it all falls short. All you can do is try to see things their way, a little. This option means: you respect the Powers of Creation.

Clematis (IV) Aconite (V) Wild Oats (VI) Bilberry (XV)

Not really, maybe? Not probably? But you’ll try. You’ll think about things in their terms. You’ll get in their heads and you’ll try to understand them, even though they’re wrong, because that’s the only way to live with the awful bleakness of it all. To go along with them. To accept it, a bit of it. To pretend, along with them, that the fragile little fictions they use to give their lives and struggles meaning are actually something worth a damn. You’re sincerely interested in the Powers you oppose. They matter to you. You may have strong thematic resonance for them, or they for you. You actually try to keep their needs and preferences in mind — whether it’s giving them a chance to get away from (or to) innocents before a fight, remembering their birthday, or just spending your time between encounters thinking about the things they’ve said. Pick some thematic and/or personal ties to (other) player characters in the game, or some way in which you’re genuinely caring towards those you fight. Examples: Hannah Gundiok feels bad for Powers working under the oppressive regime of Lord Entropy and hopes her disturbingly inappropriate Lord Entropy calendar can help to bring their spirits up. Nikeline Ondwulf, who doles out her own nonexistence by flickering in and out between the beginning and end of each tick of the clock, represents a natural thematic opponent for Robert Baxt (and was almost caught by the Continuous Bell until Max Planck dragged her free.) Jordan Valamer is unfailingly polite and considerate. Yochander Radmund spent over thirty years undercover in the Order of Falling Stars, and even after betraying them he finds himself unable to be too unpleasant to his former peers. Coriander Hasp is only shooting you and/or twisting your mind into knots because he genuinely cares about all you bastards and gumblers.

All About the Crazy Head Games


The takeaway: you’re here to play fun games with the players’ heads. You’re all about the world being a lie. You’re a radical skeptic, a sincere Buddhist, a postmodern critic or reality heckler, a cult deprogrammer, a transformational leader, or just a conscious player-driven exploration of the tenuous nature of things. You’re not here to make a moral or military argument against Creation: you’re here to get into the mind-blowing issues that having something instead of nothing raises, particularly when the nothing is coming for its due. What’s your take on the world being a lie? Why does that matter? What is it hurting? What is the consequence to the people caught up in the world, and how can you fix it? Examples: Anagastes Brandil is all about the practical impact of random philosophical questions; he likes constructing artificial Matrix awakenings, philosophical zombies, stable time loops, compression glitches in presumptively real things, and the like. Corinthia Glismond sincerely believes you are creating your own problems by conflating your judgments and perceptions with the real. Cloric Braga slips in and out of memories and timelines; conflicts with her often take place entirely in flashbacks or — now and then — flash-forwards. Wittigis Statler revises the world for greater drama (if you’re going to have it anyway); Tanca Persegoth makes search-and-rescue dives into Creation to pull out “special” individuals who’ve fallen too far into believing in the world. Scelto of the Provenance undermines identity and individuality by its mere existence, while Tairté Ut-napishtim does so as a conscious pedagogical act. Jasmine Apocynum separates the soul from the mind and body, prompting certain questions about what these things may or may not mean.

“Selenas Picard” (rendition by Miranda Harrell)

Chamomile (X) Phoenix Posy (XIII) Water Lily (XIV) Hemlock (XVI)


Building Morrowen (Part 1) an example of Deceiver construction I draw the basic Avatar Diagram. I look over the list of Keys. I pick Key XII, the Milkmay, as my first Key (see left) — the Key Unformed. I’m a potential. I’m a creature in the act of its formation. I’m yet to become a thing. I pick Key XV, Bilberry, as my second Key (see right) — the Key of the Fallen. I’m not even born yet and I’ve already lost paradise: there’s something in the world that I believe in. The lie of your world has trapped me. (Yes, your world. I’m talking to you. I can see you there, reading me, you know.) Off the top of my head, I can see two ways to fit these Keys together. The first option is a Deceiver who apprehended the world, began to believe in its shapes and forms, and so lost their own — someone like Coriander Hasp, say, if one day he looked around at the world, gasped, saw it as a truth and not a lie and dissolved into a mist of blood and red, red hair. The other option is a Deceiver who believes in some part of the world, however tentatively, because that Deceiver is just unformed potential — an Excrucian yet to develop its full and eventual resistance to the lie. The world struck its senses in this its time of vulnerability and crippled its perception of the True Thing either temporarily or permanently thereby.

THE MILKMAY (XII) The Name of this Key is That Which Stirs. I connect the two top circles of my Avatar Diagram with a line. I write “XII” below the line and “That Which Stirs” above it. The top right circle becomes the Lie of that Key. I put the first bullet point in it. The top left circle becomes the Truth of that Key. I write: §§ I’m an enemy of the world §§ I am truth preceding form inside.

The first option seems like it might not leave a clear path forward — I don’t want to create someone slated to dissolve completely in the near future, whereas reconstituting just seems like it would ruin the dramatic lead-in that the dissolution has set up. There are probably ways around this, like, setting the dissolution millennia ago and playing the character on the brink of their return — but for now, I think I’ll settle on the second option. This is a character who has the standard Deceiver investment in the world being a lie, but they’re too new, too incomplete, too unfinished to commit completely to that idea — and it’s costing them.

Building Morrowen (Part 2)


an example of Deceiver construction My two Keys are Key XV (Bilberry) and Key XII (the Milkmay). I look these up on the chart above. Bilberry suggests that my Deceiver is So Full of Feelings for Them — that I’m really tightly connected to, and interested in, the Powers that I oppose. That I look at the world and it’s all aww, poor puppy! I think that would work OK if I were playing a Deceiver who saw truth in the world and lost her shape and form thereby. For this character, whom I’m seeing as someone forming for the first(?) time from nothing, angry about being already entangled with the world, I don’t think So Full of Feelings for Them fits. Key XII, on the other hand, suggests that I’m Uncoiling, Hunting, the Storm Arising. My plan is just beginning. My being is just beginning. That sounds awesome. I’m going to go with that one. The big thing that this tells me is that there is a sense of motion and growth here. There is stuff coming. I have a direction and I have plans. And to explain those plans, I’m going to add a bullet point to the Lie of the Milkmay. But first — I haven’t filled in the starting bullet points for the Lie of either Key. Before I write the second bullet point, I want to know if I have any ideas for what the first bullet point should be. I reread the Key of the Milkmay and determine that the Lie of that Key is “the form [I’m] likely to take when play begins.” I check my brain and it seems that I’ve picked up the sense somewhere of this bodiless voice raging and echoing in a canyon somewhere — a sound ringing off of canyon walls, angry at the world that contains it. So I fill in the first bullet point with that, and add a second bullet point to reflect this Uncoiling, Hunting, the Storm Arising thing. Now the Lie of the Milkmay tells me: That Which Stirs is . . . §§ a bodiless, echoing voice §§ a rage against the world Just as in Nobilis: the Essentials, I could have picked a different option, e.g., All about the Crazy Head Games, and strengthened the Truth of my choice of Keys instead. But I didn’t!

BILBERRY (XV) The Name of this Key is What I Believe. I connect the bottom two circles of my Avatar Diagram with a line. I write “XV” below the line and “What I Believe” above it. The top right circle becomes the Lie of that Key. I put the first bullet point in it. The top left circle becomes the Truth of that Key. It stays empty for now.

62 Yill-Amoth Devouring an Excrucian (rendition by Tang Yuann)


Your pState


Now let’s figure out your pState — the “pseudo-Estate” that allows you to transcend the illusion of the world and governs one aspect of your interaction therewith. To choose your pState, pair up one option from each of the two tables below — §§ an alignment or moral quality; §§ a functional description. There are going to be a ton of edge cases here, because the world is a lie and you can’t see the true thing directly. If you find yourself saying, “Wait, is murder a sorrowful thing or a despicable construction? Is a fading dream good or bad? Couldn’t I just rephrase this possessive pState into a reactive one?” — that’s why! It’s not my fault. The problem is the world. Just go with your own best judgment, and if you find that you really want to talk yourself into a certain interpretation rather than going along with what you actually believe something to be . . . then, well, great! Welcome to the world of being an Excrucian Deceiver, and . . . interestingly enough . . . to the world of doing exactly the kinds of things that they think we are doing all the time in this, our lie of world. As always, follow the rules for choosing a row based on your Keys. That is: §§ start by finding and looking at the table rows corresponding to your Keys.* §§ pick one row per table. §§ If you pick a row matching . . . •

one Key: strengthen and add a bullet point to that Key’s Lie;

two Keys: create or shift your attention to a bubble that connects the Lie of both and add a bullet point to that;

neither Key: strengthen the Truth of your choice of your two Keys.

In addition, for these two tables only, when you add a bullet point, also draw a line to connect the relevant circle and your pseudo-Estate — connecting your pseudo-Estate to the progress and resolution of that Key.

You can look at the other rows, too, but do try to start with the ones associated with your Keys!


Moral Quality Your pState is . . . A Marvelous Artifice! Your pState will be something consciously constructed — something built. It is something you choose, something you put together yourself. It is more likely to be intellectual than emotional. It is probably a little complicated. It is something that would not exist without a person’s agency to give it rise. It is also something good.

Clematis (IV) Wild Oats (VI) Periwinkle (IX) Chamomile (X)

What does “good” mean? Here it just means that you’re choosing to put a good face on it. You are describing it in terms of virtue. You don’t call it a lie — you call it a story. You don’t call it murder — you call it execution. If you wanted to explain to someone what your pState was all about, you’d look for positive words and words that suggested willful design. What do you enjoy making? What would you enjoy making, building, or running? Would you like to write novels, run a reality show, or judge an idol competition? Do you want to heal the sick or imbue them with cybernetic implants? Do you knit, write songs, blog, or give speeches? Do you like structuring organizations? Building extensions to your house? Organizing your life? Falling in love? Maybe you could build your pState around something like that! Or, are there any kinds of art or craft that you find utterly ridiculous, but might enjoy sardonically treating as virtuous works? Are there any pale excuses for wicked deeds, any unconscionable ideals, that you could get behind spouting in character as part of your Deceiver’s nature and their work?

A Pretty Truth

Lotus Flower (I) Milkmay (XII) Phoenix Posy (XIII) Bilberry (XV)

Your pState will be something naturally arising — something discovered, experienced, or felt. It’s the work of a moment, but it might not be something you can control. It’s more likely emotional than intellectual, simple instead of complicated, something encountered and not made. It’s something that can just spill out of you or out of the world. It’s also something good. It’s something you like, something you put a good face on — not necessarily something good in the abstract, but definitely something that you’re using “good” words to describe. What are some experiences your character enjoys? What are some good things that they could find, study, or discover?

65 A Sorrowful Thing As with a Pretty Truth, your pState will be something naturally arising — something discovered, experienced, or felt. It’s the work of a moment, but it might not be something you can control. It’s more likely to be something emotional than intellectual, simple instead of complicated, something encountered and not made. It’s something that can just spill out of you or the world. It’s also something “bad.” The words you use to describe it will be words of wicked and sorrowful things.

Vervain (II) Gorse (VIII) Widow-Rose (XI) Water Lily (XIV)

What are some experiences your character regrets? What are some wicked things that are with them, near them, around them; that they could find, study, or discover?

A Despicable Construction Much as with a Marvelous Artifice, your pState is something consciously constructed — something built. It is something you build, imagine, or assemble; something you choose. It is more likely to be intellectual than emotional. It is more likely to be complicated than simple. It is something that would not exist without a person’s agency to give it rise. But . . . It’s something wicked, too. You’ll express the concept of your pState in inherently dubious terms. Sometimes the key is a single adjective: not “the Tweets of Abdalonymous III” but “the Wicked Tweets of Abdalonymous III.” Not “From the Needles of Percival Sansalas,” but rather “Knit by Percival’s Awful Hand.” Or maybe you’ll express the whole pState in dubious terminology from the start: it is not “Explanations” but “Frantic Excuses.” Not “Testimony,” but rather “[a] Legal Fiction.” What do you think of when you imagine your Deceiver’s wicked constructions?

Acacia (III) Aconite (V) Star of Bethlehem (VII) Hemlock (XVI)


Functional Description Your pState is . . . Descriptive The core of your pseudo-Estate is description. The world is a story that the people of Creation tell themselves. They’re creating substance from nothing to facilitate that awful self-deceit. Fight fire with fire! You too are a creature of narratives, sense-making, and organization — you’re all about how we put together our picture of the world. You have thoughts about that. Your raw power, though — it’s going to focus more on the observables. You’ll play with the hard facts on the ground, the things, the events, and the blatant existences, in order to tell new stories of the world. Descriptive pseudo-Estates generally differ from one another more in their essence than in their practice. For instance, the world-affecting power of “The Lies of Iolithae Septimian” is practically identical to that of “the Honest Testimony of Tetsuo Chaves” — but the meanings! Those are like night and day!

Lotus Flower (I) Vervain (II) Star-of-Bethlehem (VII) Chamomile (X)

Descriptive pseudo-Estates include: §§ The Lies of [Your Name] §§ The Honest Testimony of [Your Name] §§ The Fiction of [Your Name] §§ The Legal Fiction of [Your Name]’s Firm §§ The Tweets of [Your Name Here] §§ That Which is Drawn in [Your Name]’s Awful Crayon §§ That Which [Your Name] is Dreaming §§ That Which [Your Name] Warned Of §§ That Which [Your Name] is Trying to Tell You, via Charades §§ [Your Name]’s Prophesy §§ [Your Name]’s Physics §§ [Your Name]’s Explanations §§ [Your Name]’s Frantic Excuses §§ The Heroic Adventures of [Your Name], as Narrated by [Your Name]

67 Reactive The core of your pseudo-Estate is context and emotion: how other people react to or interact with you. Creation is a giant hornet’s nest of barriers to real and open communication — it’s an endless warren of people throwing up magical walls like “distance” and “disagreement” and “death” to keep from really seeing one another as they are. You’re all about tearing through that somehow or other. You’re someone with a cheat code. There’s something in you that people can’t help facing. You have a way to shove past all the lies and distractions and just . . . talk to people. How much does it help? That really depends on the cheat code; you are still an enemy of the world, after all, so it’s possible that your open and honest communication with someone will only make their opinion of you worse. Pseudo-Estates like this include: §§ Those Who Adore [Your Name] §§ Those Inspired by [Your Name] §§ Those Who Listen to [Your Name] §§ Those Who Condemn [Your Name] §§ Those Who Praise [Your Name] §§ Those Who Hate and Fear [Your Name] §§ Those Who Remember [Your Name] §§ Those Willing To Talk to [Your Name] §§ The Person Who Is On the Phone with [Your Name] §§ Those Whose Secrets [Your Name] Knows §§ Guest Stars on [Your Name]’s Show §§ Staring at [Your Name], Unable to Look Away §§ What [Your Name] Owes You

Acacia (III) Gorse (VIII) Milkmay (XII) Hemlock (XVI)


Possessive The core of your pseudo-Estate is a thing, phenomenon, or experience. Creation is huge. It’s complicated. It’s vast. Trying to counter the lie is like trying to stomp down a desert — take one step forward and the wind is already erasing the footprints you’ve left behind! So you take a simpler approach. You’re using a single weapon — a single thing that you can hold up before Creation and make Creation false against it — to sow contradictions and abnormalities into reality. You’re using something of yours, some part of you or of your own story, to sicken the fabric of the lie, to sit inside it and make it tear itself apart. You take some rule or context that surrounds you, some event in your own history, or even you yourself: you make it sense-like but nonsensical, you set it outside the logic and the processes of reality, and you watch Creation tear itself apart trying to fit that new little lie into the grand mix of things. It can’t, though. You won’t let it. Even if it could make sense, you’ll make sure it doesn’t. So your weapon is something like:

Clematis (IV) Wild Oats (VI) Widow-Rose (XI) Phoenix Posy (XIII)

Remember that you have Persona and not Domain, so some of these may be subtler than they seem at first blush — an Estate like “the Luck of Zamolxis Trebolgion” doesn’t add luck to a situation but rather changes it to fit the established character of your luck. An Estate like “My Shadow” doesn’t control your shadow so much as bring shadow puppets to life, devour things into your shadow, and so forth.


[Your Name]

§§ [Your Name]’s Philosophy (things behaving in a way that fits how you see the world) §§ [Your Name]’s Tea Party (a roving tea party characterized by an absence of violence) §§

[Your Name]’s Family


[Your Name]’s Shadow


[Your Name]’s Murderer


[Your Name]’s Fading Dreams


[Your Name]’s Good Left Hand


Records of [Your Name]

§§ Caught Red-Handed by [Your Name]! (complete with spotlights and feelings of guilt) §§

The [Your Name] Your Lover Could Smell Like


(In) the Fires of [Your Name]


(Subject to) the [Your Name] Effect


(In) the [Your Name] Memoir



The core of your pseudo-Estate is events, and to a lesser extent experiences. Creation gets its weight from history, from order, from the suspension of disbelief that’s only natural when every event has a cause, and every cause has a cause, and it all winds back through ten billion twisty channels to the structure of things preceding. You don’t play that. You know it’s all a lie, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t treat the world as the stage and props it is. There are limits on your power here — Creation is strong, and it fights to make sense, and that should be your excuse for having enough underlying logic to what you can do that the game stays fun — but certainly it doesn’t hurt your cause if things around you get a little inexplicable now and then. Your pseudo-Estate talks about something that you act on — something that you do or did something to. It’s something like: §§ Things [Your Name] Has Stolen §§ Things [Your Name] Has Borrowed §§ Things [Your Name] Created §§ The House That [Your Name] Built §§ Those Whom [Your Name] Recruited §§ Things [Your Name] Spit Out §§ That Which [Your Name] Killed §§ That Which [Your Name] Healed §§ Things [Your Name] Is Pointing At §§ Things [Your Name] Expected §§ The Person [Your Name] Married Three Weeks Ago (under the Laws of the State of California) §§ Places [Your Name] Has Been §§ Things [Your Name] Has Done §§ What [Your Name] Whispered to You, That Night You could probably have a pseudo-Estate that talks about the future, too, like: §§ Things [Your Name] Is About to Eat §§ Places [Your Name] Is Going but it may not be as awesome in practice as in conceit.

Aconite (V) Periwinkle (IX) Water Lily (XIV) Bilberry (XV)


Beyond the Wide World’s Edge (rendition by Tang Yuann)

Building Morrowen (Part 3)


an example of Deceiver construction Both Key XII (the Milkmay) and Key XV (Bilberry) want my character’s pseudo-Estate to be a Pretty Truth. Something more emotional than intellectual. Something more found than made. Something simple, and also something good. Key XII wants a Reactive pState. Key XV wants an Active one. I have an echoing voice in the wilderness but apparently what that voice is actually saying isn’t all that important — I mean, all of this is pushing me towards a focus on how that voice sounds, on what it means, on what happens when you stumble into some canyon somewhere and hear the voice, not on what the voice says. I wanted that voice to blast people, to rage through them, but right now I’m having trouble fitting that together with what the Keys are telling me. They’re telling me that that’s wrong — that whatever is going on is sort of, well, beautiful, instead. So I wind up — for now — with the pseudo-Estate Those Whose Hearts Thrill to the Voice of [My Name.] This is going to change later on. I’m going to realize in part 6 that this isn’t quite what I want and change my pState to Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of [My Name] — but either way, we’re talking about a reactive pState and an arguably pretty truth. Anyway, there’s this voice in a canyon. You hear it, and it rings through you, it tunes your soul to it, it straightens the bent lines of you and makes you hale and whole. You hear it and you become a cultist of the voice. It fills you with its rage and with its joy. Look: there is something beautiful in this world, even if the world is a lie. Listen! It resounds! So I add a new circle to my diagram, named The Voice of [My Name] . . . I’m actually leaving the name stuff blank, not writing [My Name] in every time, for clarity . . . and linking it to both my pState and the Lies of both my Keys. I’m doing this because my pState is a pretty truth. I put the first bullet point in it: §§ I shake you from your sloth and self-deceptions. And, since I chose a Reactive pState, I add a bullet point to the milkmay’s Lie: §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts The Lie of the Milkmay also gets linked to my pState circle, which I tentatively label Those Whose Hearts Thrill to the Voice of [My Name.]

THE LIE OF THE MILKMAY §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts

72 Your Breakthrough To some degree every Deceiver appears to be self-creating and self-perpetuating. This doesn’t necessarily hold the status of cosmic truth. It doesn’t have to be the most important part of your Deceiver’s origin — they could come from somewhere neat in the Lands Beyond Creation, or enter Creation in an interesting place, or be born from Creation in some fashion that holds your interest. But it’s definitely a pattern. The Deceiver is born when they create themselves, and the circumstances of that creation bind them into Creation heart-first. It’s usually right on the nose of their pseudo-Estate: something was, or wasn’t, part of their pseudo-Estate, and that’s how they came to be. In particular, it was something that provoked and may even still provoke a strong emotion —

(Iolithae Septimian, as shown in Chibi-Ex)

73 You Were Born Out of . . . Loss In (or close to) the scene you really became yourself, you lost something. Your identity? Your life? Someone you cared about? Something you cared about?

Acacia (III) Star of Bethlehem (VII) Gorse (VIII) Chamomile (X)

How did it happen?

Guilt, or the Crime that Caused It In (or close to) the scene you really became yourself, you did something wrong. Maybe it cost you something, too, or maybe it didn’t. The big thing is, you don’t think it’s something that you should have done. What was it?

Vervain (II) Aconite (V) Widow-Rose (XI) Water Lily (XIV)

Can you still make up for it, or is it forever too late?

Need There’s something you crave. Something of Creation. Did you have it and lose it? Did it drive you to become an Excrucian? Would you destroy the world to get it, or does it compromise your willingness to destroy the world? What is it?

Lotus Flower (I) Wild Oats (VI) Milkmay (XII) Bilberry (XV)

Why do you need it so very much?

Will/Choice/Judgment You’re this way by choice. It was a decision. It was an exercise of raw will or moral judgment. You chose to entangle yourself with both the world and the void — depending, of course, on your perspective — because you decided that it was appropriate to do so. You condemned something so fervently, hunted something so relentlessly, or worshipped something so highly that you became a Deceiver thereby; or possibly, you just woke up one morning, looked into the eyes of the void, and decided that you would wear those eyes thereafter. Why did you choose this? How did it give rise to your pseudo-Estate? How did it make you who you are?

Clematis (IV) Periwinkle (IX) Phoenix Posy (XIII) Hemlock (XVI)


Building Morrowen (Part 4) an example of Deceiver construction Both Key XII (the Milkmay) and Key XV (Bilberry) tell me that there is something I need. Of course there is. This one’s easy! It only takes a moment to realize that this character is in the process of being born because she needed to be heard. She was a voice that was silent. She is in the process of becoming a voice that changes people, instead.

THE LIE OF BILBERRY §§ I believe that there is someone listening.

I fill in the first bullet point to the Lie of Bilberry, which I hadn’t gotten around to filling in yet: §§ I believe that there is someone listening. That is, the thing that she believes in, the part of the world that she doesn’t think of as a lie: that’s her audience. That’s the people, or at least the fact that there are people, who hear her voice. Of course she needs that. She was silent and rejected, so now she needs people to hear her — or possibly needs people to echo her words — to survive. That chooses a row for me, it chooses the Need row, but it doesn’t finish this step. I still have to tell the story of how that happened — of how she became a Deceiver, and how that either created or resulted from her need to be heard. And I’m pretty sure that there was a girl who didn’t have a voice, or who couldn’t get anyone to listen. That just seems obvious. And I think about other options, just in case there’s something really cool as low-hanging fruit, and it occurs to me that maybe this character started as a sound, that someone heard the sound of something inanimate, a creek or waterfall or something, as if it were a person’s words. And suddenly everything comes together for me like this: There was a girl in some isolated town and she didn’t have a voice. I mostly mean that she could speak, but nobody would listen. And there was a creek in a canyon or a hollow in the woods and sometimes she’d hear things from that creek that were almost like words. She found out that when she spoke those words, people would hear them. They would listen. They wouldn’t hear her words, not the words of the girl herself, but they’d listen to her echoing of the creek.

It was magic. It was intoxicating. It was addictive.


So she spoke those words more and more, and they became more and more powerful, but one day she realized that she didn’t know herself any more, she didn’t know the words she would have spoken any more, I mean, if she spoke in her own voice; she didn’t even remember her old name. She was just the voice of that old creek hollow now — Of Morrowen Hollow. (There! Now it has a name!) The voice of Morrowen Hollow flowed through her. It echoed off the rocks and the valley walls. It ran through and it broke her family, her neighbors, the birds and frogs and cats and humans all, it tore them free of the sounds of their lives and echoed and rolled and caught them in its words. That voice is still becoming. It is still a sound as much as it is words. It is still a mist of possibility struggling to coalesce into a thing. It is a fructile potential but it is still dissonant, it is still chaotic, it tunes the souls of others but it is not yet in harmony with itself. So I add a new bullet point to The Voice of Morrowen Hollow: §§ I shake you from your sloth and self-deceptions §§ I was born from the creek and the stones I properly should write something like “I need to be heard,” here, but that’s less cool to me, so I don’t. Instead, I feel mildly guilty for not having anything to connect this to the whole Need thing directly and I resolve to sneak that connection in somewhere else (when and if I get the chance.)


OF MORROWEN HOLLOW §§ I shake you from your sloth and self-deceptions §§ I was born from the creek and the stones


Your Plan Next let’s figure out what you plan on doing — why have you come to Creation? What do you plan to accomplish while you’re here?

You Plan to . . . Build Something

Lotus Flower (I) Star of Bethlehem (VII) Phoenix Posy (XIII) Hemlock (XVI)

You’ve got something to make. You’ve got something to build. Maybe you’re working on a welken-rite, where you build something awesome and unreal in Creation and then use it as leverage to plunge a whole area (physical or conceptual) into unreality afterwards. Or maybe you’re just building something because you can — an army or weapon for the Excrucians, a tool that you can use later, or a problem for the Imperators or the Powers that isn’t directly relevant to the unmaking of the lie. Maybe you’re not even really thinking about the war at all, you’re just doing stuff, and the only relevance of your Deceiver nature is that you’re going to toss off offhand attacks on the Nobilis and the reality of things, now and then, when the opportunity is there. What are you making here? A Weapon? Trap? Tool? Welken-rite? Or just something that gives you joy?

Make A Pointed Argument

Vervain (II) Chamomile (X) Milkmay (XII) Water Lily (XIV)

You’re here to pick apart the philosophical structure of reality. You’re here to do a flower rite and turn an Estate against itself, or pit two Estates against one another, or run one of the classic Deceiver cons like a Zeno’s Gambit (where you get all the spirits of a road to pay attention to the spirits of their two halves and to stretch themselves out a bit when a person walking the road steps between them) or a Theseus’ Ship (where you take advantage of a costume ball to jumble the love affairs in a town so thoroughly that nobody can figure out whom they’re in love with any more.) Basically, your goal is to make reality break down, and then walk off with the pieces. Other plans that run on philosophical conundrums or twisty metaphysical ideas also work here, like corrupting an Imperator with copies of your own mind or twining up your history with the Creator’s — really, anything that you can think of that you think is clever will suffice! Are you going to have fun with it? Is it bitter work? Or is it just a job that’s got to be done? Are you going to tackle the world like a college student who’s just discovered philosophy? Like a cruel, mocking superior who knows that reality will never be good enough for you no matter how hard it tries? Or with all the jittering excitement of a recently-converted evangelist mainlining espresso from a beer hat? Hey, how will your pseudo-Estate help this plan go through?

77 Burn it All Down You’re angry. Creation exists. Creation is bad. It’s time to tear it all down. You’re here to rip the world open and play in its guts. Your plan isn’t something subtle and philosophical. You’re here to poison an Imperator. To blow up a continent. To eat all the horses. To tear down the Weirding Wall. To post a list of all the Earthly Powers currently in love on the doors of the Locust Court. Your plan is going to leave a mark. Are you grim and determined, plodding through your awful plan one step at a time?

Acacia (III) Aconite (V) Periwinkle (IX) Widow-Rose (XI)

Are you a terrifying storm? Are you aiming for something mortal and material? Are the Imperators and Powers your targets? Or have you set your sights on one of the foundation stones of reality? And are you looking to end it all here and leave a smoking ruin behind you, or are you just making some hit-and-run trouble before moving on to something else?

Pay a Social Call (or Two) You’re here to get to somebody. Somebody whom you’re pretty sure you can work around to betraying reality. Or — maybe — to doing something else. Do you care about them, or is this a coldly considered recruitment? Are they bitter? Nihilistic? Vulnerable? Are you planning to win them over with friendship, reason, love — pretty things like that — or do you think you can stir up so much hatred in them for Lord Entropy, their Imperator, Heaven, Hell, or whatever that they’ll fight for you willingly just to bring Creation down? Are you looking for leverage right now? For a commitment? For an act of treason? Or just to get them thinking?* Is this a general recruitment drive, sounding out a bunch of people, or are you here for one particular person whose soul you want to win? Hey, do you think they’re good people?

Clematis (IV) Wild Oats (VI) Gorse (VIII) Bilberry (XV) Note that sometimes, no matter how subtle and careful you’re being, the person you’re sounding out is going to unexpectedly go all-in “yes, I will totally work with you, point me at a target” or, conversely, attack you as the enemy of the world you are. Be sure you’re ready with a proposed target in the first case and an escape strategy in the second!


Building Morrowen (Part 5)


an example of Deceiver construction Key XII, the Milkmay, suggests that I plan to offer reality a Pointed Argument. This would make more sense to me if I had a descriptive Estate, or at least an artificial one — right now, what the Voice of Morrowen Hollow is saying seems like it’s going to be a little bit unformed. It’s going to be sound as much as words. So making a “pointed argument” just doesn’t feel right! Key XV, Bilberry, offers the suggestion that I might be planning to make A Social Call (or Two). That I might be trying to sound out the local Powers — build a bridge to them.


That doesn’t sound wrong, but it’s not convincing enough to make me choose it immediately. I look at my other options, Burn it All Down and Build Something. These are actually pretty simple to fit in with my character, and that’s ultimately why I don’t choose them. They’re too easy! I don’t want to go outside the suggested choices if it’s not going to add anything to my character, and right now those options don’t.

§§ I believe that there is someone listening

So I cycle back to Pay a Social Call (or Two). All right! My plan is apparently to try to get some Powers hooked into this whole cult of me and my voice that I’m building. I want to get them to hear and echo back the voice of Morrowen Hollow. I add a second bullet point to the Lie of Bilberry: §§ I believe that there is someone listening §§ I shall cause even the Powers of the world to hear Problem: there is no possible way this is going to go well. Seriously. This is a great plan, except for the part where it is a terrible plan and I am totally going to die.

§§ I shall cause even the Powers of the world to hear

80 Your Backup Plan So, what happens if your plan blows up in your face? What happens if the Powers of Creation see right through you like five seconds after they show up? Or, just generally, if they win? Figuring this out is particularly important if you have the kind of plan that the Nobilis can just wreck, without giving you a chance to fight to the end or flee in disgrace and tatters — an anticlimax like that is hardly ever fun!

If your plan fails, you’ll resort to . . . Threats Aconite (V) Wild Oats (VI) Widow-Rose (XI) Water Lily (XIV)

There’s something you can do to the Powers you’re likely to fight. There’s something you can pull out of your hat, probably involving your pseudo-Estate, that will just plain chill their blood. Can you turn yourself into their loved ones, or vice versa? Can you link the health of their Chancel to your own? What kind of a threat can you drop that will make them think twice about fighting you? Or at least — because this is the core thing about a backup plan — get them to deal with it somehow before they finish taking you on?

Temptations Lotus Flower (I) Clematis (IV) Gorse (VIII) Hemlock (XVI)

You have something you can offer. There’s something you can give. Is it something Creation needs or something that your opponents need? What do you have that can stop even the most loyal Power’s attack, make them hesitate, make them tremble with need to give up and go along? Or, if that’s too much to hope for, what do you have that will at least tie them up for a few moments while they wrestle with the temptation you provide? And hey, what seeds can you sow so that if you do get driven out of Creation, they’ll be waiting to talk to you rather than fight you when you come back?


Stage 2 of the Plan You’re expecting the Powers of Creation to thwart you. You’re expecting things to go wrong. In fact, you may even be counting on it. Do you need things to go wrong so you can pull off the coup you have in mind? Do you expect things to go wrong and keep a clear path of escalation in front of you? Or is the plan we worked out a few pages just a diversion from whatever it is that you’re really trying to do?

Vervain (II) Periwinkle (IX) Chamomile (X) Milkmay (XII)

Despair You don’t have a backup plan. Either you’re ready to cut your losses and walk away without worrying about it, or . . . It’s all in. Most of the time, what this option means is: it’s all in. You have to win this. Even if you have to crawl on broken glass. Even if you have to beg. This isn’t just “a plan.” You’re not just doing this, whatever this is, to hurt Creation. You need it to happen. There isn’t anything else. For some reason, if you lose this — well, you can’t lose this. You have to win. Why? What’s going on?

Acacia (III) Star of Bethlehem (VII) Phoenix Posy (XIII) Bilberry (XV)


Building Morrowen (Part 6) an example of Deceiver construction Key XV, Bilberry, suggests that I don’t have a backup plan. I have to get the Powers to accept me, or . . . stick a fork in me, I’m done? That really doesn’t sound good. Not for a character I want to play for any length of time. I just don’t think that with a reasonable but non-colluding HG I can absorb Powers into the servant-colony forming around Morrowen Hollow. It would get frustrating fast. Powers aren’t that easy to subvert!

THE LIE OF THE MILKMAY §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts §§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become

Now, this could be wrong. I mean, there is story here. I could sink my teeth into this if I worked at it. I could tell a series of stories about why Powers fall to me — basically, just presume that I’m going to win for a while and make that the story of the game and the character; let it all build up to an interesting epic failure later on; and spin out of that with a changed and viable entity to play — but it’s still a huge stretch. At minimum I’d need a really great Gift for finding people to subvert; or maybe some sort of ability to fission off partial copies of Powers I interact with — Bah! Too difficult! Key XII, the Milkmay, tells me that the Powers rejecting me is my plan. This is where I realize that I’ve got my pState wrong. Because it all bursts in on me like a firework: of course I want the Powers to reject me. Of course this voice in the wilderness speaking inspiring blasphemy — of course the Powers are supposed to reject it. Of course they’re supposed to try to snuff it out. My pseudo-Estate is Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. Their resistance, their struggle, their refusal to give in — it validates me. That’s why I’ve outgrown some voice-crushing family and some little village. That’s why I need to take on Powers. Once that nameless girl’s parents and siblings started listening to her, they stopped being useful to me. Once the Mayor, once the priest, once the whole town started listening to the voice of Morrowen Hollow, once they stopped fighting me, once they stopped trying to silence me, I didn’t need them any more. I mean, I win either way, of course. If they join the harmony, if they echo the voice and speak and are humbled by the words of Morrowen Hollow, that’s a win, but it’s not what I need. That’s not my food. What I need is for people to try to stamp me out. That’s the power that feeds this particular Excrucian. That adds a bullet point to the Lie of the Milkmay: §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts §§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become

Heaven, before the War (rendition by Tang Yuann)


Contacts Now it’s time to pick up to three important Contacts in your life. There are two different tables here — the first table covers the more typical Excrucian Deceiver Contacts, the ones you’d expect to have, and the second imports the Contacts table from Nobilis: the Essentials and gives it a few tweaks to make it fit the Deceivers better. You can pick your Contacts from either table (or split your Contacts between them); start by finding your Keys on the first table, and then proceed as usual. Note that there are only 1-2 Keys per Contact, so most of your possible choices will strengthen the Truth of one or more Keys. If you want a Contact to be an important, self-motivated part of your story, draw a new circle for that Contact. Name the circle after your Contact. Put a bullet point in that circle saying how that Contact has changed your life. Draw a line connecting the new circle to the Lie or Truth that you strengthened with that choice. This is only for Contacts who really matter both personally and narratively — don’t do this for Contacts meant only as ancillaries, accessories, and foils!


Typical Deceiver Contacts People Whose Lives You’ve Touched

Lotus Flower (I) Vervain (II)

You’ve got mostly-mortal associates left over from your previous work. For whatever reason, they didn’t meet whatever fate you or the Powers doled out — they stuck with you instead! They’re generally insane and physically warped minions, but it’s possible to have spunky sidekicks, helpless waif-associates, and/ or loyal bodyguards working off a debt they feel they owe to you instead. If you have Persona 2+ or the Treasure Attribute it’s probable that you’ve bound these people to yourself or to your pState in some fashion.

A Power of Creation Acacia (III) Clematis (IV)

There’s a Power you’ve formed a social and emotional bond with. Probably this limits itself to the occasional shared meal, drink, or cup of coffee — your actually relying on one another for anything is going to get them into trouble and put both of you at betrayal risk — but maybe some shared secret or agenda lets you actually cross the lines. Who is this Power? How did you meet? What do you get out of it? What do they?

Pet Aconite (V) Wild Oats (VI)

You have some sort of semi-intelligent animal working with you — most likely a creature from the Lands Beyond Creation, and most likely dangerous, but if you’d rather have an emo cat or white bunny to stroke ominously instead, that’s a Pet Contact too. In any case, even in the prosaic world, your pet is likely to be unusually intelligent, ranging from “small but cunning child” to “sharper than most humans.” If your pet is pretty helpless, and not very useful, you can generally treat it as part of your character and not as a separate NPC — in particular, you could use your own Health Levels to protect something like a rabbit from an enemy attack and use your own mundane actions to control its jumps.

Hate Friend Star of Bethlehem (VII) Gorse (VIII)

You’re stuck working with somebody you really don’t like. Why? Is there some deep love, family bond, or similar emotional tie underneath the bitterness and the hate? Are you too good at working together to give it up just because you can’t stand them? Are you being forced into working together? Are they? You can generally rely on them in a crunch but the rest of the time they’ll mess with you, hurt you, and laugh at your doleful sorrows.

Guest Stars

Periwinkle (IX) Chamomile (X)

There’s an overall context to your life: a set of MacGuffins, themes, and recurring story types. You’re collecting plot tokens, carrying out serial murders or flower rites, or trying to dominate some part of the world — so you keep bumping into other people with similar interests, over and over again. This Contact basically means that you’ve got so much good history and so much bad history with a handful of notional “enemies” and notional “allies” that you’re at best half-hearted about trusting or killing any of them, even when you should. If somebody encounters one of you they’ll likely encounter the rest before the story ends! What are you all fighting over? Just how much do you hate one another? Respect one another? Like one another? What will happen if you win?



There’s a child or other underdeveloped/innocent being that visits you or vice versa. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in one place, you might want to pick a human child for this Contact — or possibly a very sheltered teenager; or a group of spunky teenaged adventurers and detectives who reinforce one another’s naïveté. If you expect to range the world, it might work better to choose a wind spirit, road spirit, extremely innocent Power or Imperator, or some sort of communal entity (e.g., the nascent mind of the World Swarm* or the Argentine ant mega-colony) — something that can show up anywhere! Are you friends with this Innocent? Are they a minion, a prize possession, or a resource for understanding Creation? Do you owe them something or do you just hang out with them because you have a lot of time on your hands? Would you kill for them? Change sides for them? Are you planning to absorb them into yourself when they’ve grown a little bigger? Or do you just consider yourself the boss of them, and give them tasks and orders, and then experience perplexity (“what is this strange human-child ‘sniveling?’”) when and if they do not comply?

Widow-Rose (XI) Milkmay (XII) a hypothetical multinational bee conglomerate, which I have just now hypothesized

Partner You have an antithetical partner — someone profoundly different from you in almost every respect, but bound to you by overall positive emotions. Someone strong if you are frail, unworldly if you are cynical, base if you are refined, and joyful if you are bleak. They complete you. They fulfill you. This connection usually manifests as a sibling, romantic, or parent-child relationship, but sometimes you’re just partners in the work or one of you is the other’s guard.

Phoenix Posy (XIII) Water Lily (XIV)

Who are they? How are they most profoundly different? In what goal are you the same?

Friends from Home You’re haunted by other Excrucians who don’t agree with what you’re doing, or, at least, with what they think you’re doing. You’re not supposed to be or do — whatever. You’re supposed to be or do — this other thing! Are they trying to correct your behavior by force? To drag you back to what you’re supposed to be doing? Do they remonstrate with you? Remove “distractions?” In what way do you disappoint them? What is it that they want from you? . . . and is it possible that they are being insincere in their desires? How so?

Bilberry (XV) Hemlock (XVI)

86 Lotus Flower (I)

Rare Contacts Organization You’ve got a company or team to help you do what you’ve got to do.

Hunters Vervain (II)

There’s someone or some group actively hunting you and trying to interfere with your plans. Obviously every Deceiver gets this to some extent — I mean, if you’re in the world, you’re a soldier behind enemy lines — but you, someone considers you a big enough threat to merit extra attention.

Imperator Acacia (III)

You’re on friendly terms with an Imperator — one of the key building blocks of the lie. Are they your lover? Family? A friend? Or are you the two of you just bound into some sort of partnership by leverage, promises, and mystic chains?

Target Clematis (IV)

There’s one particular person that you’d practically give your soul to reach. They’re at the center of most of your plans — you like them, maybe; you respect them, maybe; but most of all, you just can’t stand that they’re caught up in the lie that is the world. You think that you can fix that. You think that you can wake them up.

Celebrants or Cultists Aconite (V)

You’ve got a sect of lackeys, forerunners, minions, cultists, and celebrants. They probably wear dark robes and hoods, scar themselves decoratively, and carry peculiar knives. You may not even like them. But they’re there!

Shadow Self Wild Oats (VI)

You have a rival, an enemy, or just . . . a problem . . . who represents a hidden half of yourself. This could be the way you understand your relationship with a second real person or it could be that you are literally, in some way, split. Does your other side hate you or is it just trying to bring you around? Does it threaten you, fight you, tempt you, or try to reunite with you? Or are you the aggressor here, trying to bind it, destroy it, or bring it into some kind of harmony with yourself ?

Ghost Star of Bethlehem (VII)

You’re haunted by someone you’ve lost or hurt, and you’re either unwilling or unable to forcibly exile the ghost of them from your life. This could be a literal ghost or just friends, associates, and enemies dating back to before some event that scarred you and made you want to abandon your former life.

87 Warden Someone or some group — the Cammora? A Warmain? Surolam? — holds some kind of power over you. They’ve assigned you a handler — this Contact — to hold your leash. This is probably someone who is nowhere near as inherently scary as you are but they have some sort of mechanism for control. Are you carrying out their will faithfully? Sneaking around behind their back? Engaging in a campaign of regulatory capture? Or using their “control” to corrupt them?

Gorse (VIII)

Information Brokers

You’re on familiar terms with all manner of mystical specialists and information brokers hiding in ratty shops, palaces, and retirement homes across Creation (and the Lands Beyond). When there’s something you need to know, you know whom you can drop in on and dangle a bribe or two in front of to start tracking that information down. You can say “Hey, I need to know about the Power of Entanglement” or “So, I hear Cneph’s trapped in a fiddle somewhere in this miserable world of yours” and get invited to the back room to discuss this thing. Most of them will probably hate you, of course, and some will only know who you are by reputation, but it’s quite plausible that the rest will think you’re great.

Periwinkle (IX)

Name and describe one or two of these brokers who might be relevant to your current plans.

Mortal Friends and Family

You have a mortal life. That’s kind of freaky, isn’t it? I mean, wtf? But you do. You’ve got a job, or a family, or something. You actually believe that, at least, as much as you believe in anything Creation-related at all. This mortal life may not be real to you, I mean, not exactly, but it’s as close to being real to you as worldthings get. Did you break through into the mortal world, then kind of settle in? Were you actually born here, in Creation? Did you grow up knowing yourself Excrucian or did you change unexpectedly, burning out your mortal life, in the event that created you Deceiver?

Chamomile (X)

However it happened, you turned around one day and you realized that you were an Excrucian Deceiver but, at the same time, that you were a person still connected to the people living around you in the world. Is that going to break you? Is that going to destroy you and leave you unable to see the truth? Or is it actually helping to stabilize you on your path?


You give rise to horrors, and they spread through the world and serve you. Have you turned a mortal town or civilization into your twisted get? Have you spread infectious parasites through the political leaders of the world? Are there alien horrors that you nurture, and if so, are you waiting for them to fly free into the Lands Beyond Creation or to mature enough to destroy some element of the world? How willingly do they serve you? How intelligent are they? How independent from you are they? How childish? How adult?

Widow-Rose (XI)

88 Milkmay (XII)

Mystery Cult You’re tied to the mysteries and rituals of some mortal or quasi-mortal cult — you aren’t so much a master or a slave to them as the vehicle for the execution of some spiritual rite. They see you as part of their gateway to enlightenment, or as something they bargain with for power, or as a symbol of and a figurehead for their ideals. How much do they understand about what’s really going on? How much power do you give them? How much will you take from them before your need for them is done?


Phoenix Posy (XIII)

You are your own worst enemy or your own best friend. You’re prone to encounter yourself — copies of yourself, past selves, future selves, variant selves, or just plain you yourself — out there in the world. Or maybe you just tend to encounter a bunch of people with similar origins to yourself; they are born from the echoes of your birth, spawned by either the Lands Beyond Creation or the world. So, back to that first sentence! Are you your own worst enemy, or your own best friend?

Ward You are responsible for a person, a creature, or a place or organization containing many people or animals. Generally, this could qualify as People Whose Lives You’ve Touched, Innocents, and/or Mortal Friends and Family, but — Water Lily (XIV)

First, it’s not really a Deceiver thing for you. It’s not because you’re a Deceiver, they’re not a touchstone to reality for you or part of your pState or people whose lives your flower rites or other work has touched. Second, it’s not really a personal thing. It can become one, but fundamentally it’s not. It’s just that, somehow, you wound up feeling responsible for them. So you do your best!

I don’t know who the super-important Warmains are, but I assume they have, like, military people or whatever. I’ll be looking into this soon, but seriously — even though I don’t think anyone’s hiding the Warmain command hierarchy, it’s not the easiest information in the world to find. They aren’t as . . . talkative . . . as the Deceivers, y’know?

You do not want them to be a mortal. That is like winning the lottery of your life now sucks!


Someone you Believe In There’s someone in the world who isn’t a lie. I don’t just mean that they’re an expression of the True Thing, clouded by the lie, and that you love their true and underlying form. I mean, they actually seem real to you. They may have sinuses full of snot and intestines full of beneficial and less beneficial flora, and maybe there are some details of their physicality and mentality and spirit that you question, but overall? They’re something real. It’s terrifying.

Bilberry (XV)

Who are they? Are they a mortal?* A Power? A particularly pure Power? An Imperator? Some sort of freaky and unusually “real” entity like an artificial intelligence or crystal alien? Why do you believe in them? How did that happen? Can you kill them? What about falling in love with them? How about kidnapping them? Would kidnapping them and taking them out into the Lands Beyond Creation and purifying them — would that work?

Someone Important You’re on speaking terms with someone whom it’s a little weird for you to know. Lord Entropy. Ananda. Ha-Qadosch Berakha. Surolam. Firstborn. Attaris Ebrôt Appêkâ. Diane Spinnaker. Lucifer. Misenchronic Engine. Some super-important Warmain.* Maybe even Harumaph or the spirit of Cneph who Made. Why? What’s your cover story for knowing them? OK, now, what’s the real one? Or, you are someone important, and you have disciples who come by and consult with you about stuff. How did that happen? Who are you? And is there any dark secret at this story’s heart?

Hemlock (XVI)


Building Morrowen (Part 7) an example of Deceiver construction Key XII, the Milkmay, suggests two possibilities here: §§ a child or an innocent whom I hang out with

THE LIE OF BILBERRY §§ I believe that there is someone listening §§ I shall cause even the Powers of the world to hear

§§ a Mystery Cult that uses the voice of Morrowen Hollow in its rituals. Key XV, Bilberry, suggests: §§ “Friends from Home,” Excrucians who don’t like what I’m doing §§ Some mortal who I believe really exists. I don’t like any of these! These options are terrible for my character. I flirt for a bit with the idea of a Mystery Cult but I can’t quite make it make sense. Free associating on possible innocents works a little better — at some point in tossing up and blasting down possibilities, I imagine Jack o’ the Chapel, a ghost who lives in the town Church. I imagine him an unrealistically innocent teenager who got walled up or buried under the chapel in what he describes as “an amusing turn of events” and didn’t get out until he heard the voice of Morrowen Hollow; and then I come up with Jill o’ the Spire, a similar ghost who fell from the bell tower and died and now lives up there and rings the bells. This pair of ghosts hanging out and having fun in the mostly possessed town strikes me as really awesome. So they’re in!

THE TRUTH OF BILBERRY §§ the world is a medium through which I shall echo back

Technically I don’t have to have any Contacts at all, but I want to have two of them, so I go looking for someone else. Eventually I pick “Yourself ” — that is, bits of the Voice of Morrowen Hollow have gotten out into the world and become their own entities, and when they meet up, they don’t sound completely the same or agree on everything any more. A couple of nearby villages have their own Voices, basically; I name them the Voice of Lyria Heath and the Voice of St. Morgan’s Islet. (I don’t think he’s an actual islet. I think that the town name comes either from another “amusing turn of events” or from the way it looks when fog covers the lowlands and there’s just this little hilltop of St. Morgan’s town and green.) I spend a little while trying to come up with a Power who’s a friend of the Hollow, or protective of it because someone in their mortal family has been absorbed by the voice or something, but I can’t get it to work. It sets up a dead conflict, where things should be moving in one direction or another but can’t. So ultimately I just leave that idea alone.

Based on Jack and Jill, I add a new bullet point to the Lie of the Milkmay:


§§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts §§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become §§ I wake the ghosts that hide in your holy places I also give Jill her own circle. I imagine that she mostly sits up in the Church bell tower, watches the area around the town, and rings the bells now and then — the sound of them, of course, now rich with the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. Her role as a lookout is the obvious way to get her involved in a story, so I write her first bullet point as: §§ watches for trouble Finally, I add a bullet point to the Truth of Bilberry, based on the “Yourself ” Contact. It’s time to show my hand a little bit and say what I really believe in here: §§ the world is a medium through which I shall echo back In short, the part of the world which I believe in, the part that I can’t help believing in, is that it’s useful to me. It’s the medium for my becoming. The world is supposed to be a lie, but I can’t totally convince myself that it’s a lie, because I need the world to modulate the outgoing Voice of Morrowen Hollow and ring it back to me slightly closer to complete. I need it to hear me, so I can learn to hear myself.

THE LIE OF THE MILKMAY §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts §§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become §§ I wake the ghosts that hide in your holy places


Optional Step: Territories

“Chancel,” by Heed

Do you have a home base? You don’t have to do anything here if you live on the road, or grab a house wherever you wind up working, or even if you have some village, military base, or mountain somewhere that you’ve beefed up with a miracle or three. If you have something special, though, you’ll need to build it into your Avatar Diagram.

A cool territory in the Lands Beyond Creation? Some Deceivers control interesting and quasi-real environments out there beyond the world. There’s Genseric’s city of bridges and its ropes of golden light; there’s Iolithae’s cottage in the dark; Tairté Ut-napishtim has spoken of the coiled corpse of his former body — what exactly that means is not entirely clear to me — and the mansion he has built thereupon; and so on, and so forth, and the like. I’d guess about one in ten Deceivers has something like that; if you want to have one, strengthen the Lie of . . . Periwinkle (IX) Water Lily (XIV) Bilberry (XV) . . . or the Truth of any other Key!

An Awesome Vehicle?


It’s not really all that common for Deceivers to have flying dreadnaughts, mole machines, or teleporting mini-cities, but it’s cool enough that I wanted to mention the possibility. If you want a mobile base like this, strengthen the Lie of . . . Vervain (II) Periwinkle (IX) Widow-Rose (XI) . . . or the Truth of any other Key!

A Chancel in Creation? The key feature here is “something with an Auctoritas.” Anyone can take a random village, use some magic, and construct a mildly defensible base. Heck, Deceivers can do that by accident. It takes a lot more work to get your hands on something metaphysically estranged from the rest of the world — a place where miracles and divinations won’t automatically follow. Deceivers can’t really build these, and if you try to use the power of a second skin to create one, it’s likely to leave you scarred and damaged — but tying yourself to some Imperator of questionable loyalties or getting a Strategist to put one together for you, that’s totally plausible. And, hey, it’s your character and your game; if you want to take over an abandoned Chancel or second skin your way to security, be my guest! The only Deceiver I know to have a Chancel of her own is Iustina Thrasaric, but it’s got to be more a lot more common than that. If you want one, strengthen the Lie of . . . Aconite (V) Gorse (VIII) Phoenix Posy (XIII) . . . or the Truth of any other Key! If you plan to share a Chancel with a collection of Nobles or Deceivers (e.g., the other PCs), that also works; strengthen the Lie of . . . Acacia (III) Gorse (VIII) Water Lily (XIV) . . . or, again, the Truth of any other Key. Lifepaths are technically optional, so you don’t have to go back and change this if the players whose PCs you were hoping to share the Chancel with decide later that they’re not interested — just figure out whether you have a private Chancel, some other cool base, or a heart full of bitterness instead!

With much care, he cut her shadow away. “That’s all, lady fair,” he said. She moved on; The black part of her soul the toll she paid. None enter Heaven until it is gone, And thrown to the squabbling rooks at the gate. —from Heaven’s Gate, by Jack Frost


Your Justification Here’s the last step. You should have a good sense of who you are, who you know, and what you’re doing. But what do you tell people? What do you say when they ask you why? Why? Why destroy the world? Why break the lie? Why bother coming to Creation and making trouble when there’s perfectly nice Lands Beyond? What’s all this for?

I’m Going to Break the World . . . Because They Deserve Better Lotus Flower (I) Vervain (II) Acacia (III) Clematis (IV)

These people deserve better! Look at them. Look how they hurt. Look how, even when they try to make things better, even when they try to hurt a little less, they wind up making everything worse and hurt more. It’s like watching a puppy in a spiked washing machine. Ka-thunk! Yipe! Ka-thunk. Yipe! Ka-thunk . . . Seriously. You want to put a stop to it. Even if the puppy’s a biting kind of puppy. Even if it’s a skunk!

Aconite (V) Wild Oats (VI) Star of Bethlehem (VII) Gorse (VIII)

Because It’s a Lie That’s all. There doesn’t need to be another reason. You are going to end the world because it is false. It offends you that the world should exist in this fashion, all shrouded by its lies. It’s morally outrageous!

Because I’m Me, and It is So Very Fragile Periwinkle (IX) Chamomile (X) Widow-Rose (XI) Milkmay (XII)

What else can you possibly do? Look at you. You’re a worldbreaker. Not breaking the world, that’s like expecting a heartbreaker not to break hearts or a fish geek not to bite the heads off of fish. Sure, you might technically have a choice. Sure, you could be something else. Sooner will the sun rise at night; the wind blow tides of stillness; and the stars fall and drown themselves under the piled waters of the sea.

Posy (XIII) Water Lily (XIV) Bilberry (XV) Hemlock (XVI)

. . . If I Have To, I Guess? You’re an Excrucian, but you’re not really about destroying the world. It’s not really your thing. So tell me: what are you actually about?

Building Morrowen (Part 8)


an example of Deceiver construction I skip the territories options because none of them fit Morrowen Hollow. I guess it might be funny if the whole town could fly — But no! I am strong! I will not make a silly character here! I want a cool one! So now we come to the last choice in the lifepaths. What will I say if I have to explain why I’m going to kill Creation? Am I going to point to the suffering people? Am I going to object to the lie on moral grounds? Am I going to go along with Key XV (Bilberry), and deny any real interest in destroying the world? No! I’m going to say what Key XII (the Milkmay) suggests: I’m going to kill the world Because I’m Me, and It is So Very Fragile. When I am complete, when at last the Voice of Morrowen Hollow resolves into a thing, then the world will end. Or, if not, well, I won’t need it any more, so I can burn it up for fuel for . . . my children? . . . or something! I add a last bullet point to the lie of the Milkmay: §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world


§§ a power to awaken mortal hearts

§§ an echoing, bodiless voice

§§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become

§§ a rage against the world

§§ I wake the ghosts that hide in your holy places

§§ a power to awaken mortal hearts

§§ I devour that which does not hear.

§§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become §§ I wake the ghosts that hide in your holy places §§ I devour that which does not hear

96 There are missing digits in pi—nameless digits, uncertain elements, unfamiliar or entirely elided numbers embedded in its string. Nobody has found them yet. Computers have come across them, of course, in their endless computation of pi; they have made shift to print those numbers, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. As of yet, nobody has read them; or, if they have read them, they have not yet recognized what it is that they have read. Nobody has yet looked blankly at the obscure symbol or absence on the page, forced themselves to process its existence, checked for computer error, and finally attempted to compute from first principles what the correct digit in that place would be. If they did the world would be a different place, haunted by the irrationality of its principles.

What Does it All Mean? Your final Avatar Diagram is a Project — a vehicle for Destiny expenditures. When things happen in play that bear on this story you started with, that Project gains Destiny. When it accumulates enough power, or when you spend Destiny of your own to push it forward, you can take advantage of everything you’ve written there to shape the moving-forward of your Avatar’s life and myth. You can, in short, build forward from this Diagram to empower and develop your Avatar over the course of the game. This can be abstract and personal, or it can give you extra Traits and accomplish things that need accomplishing; that’ll come down, in the end, to what matters to you. You can also pick up to two of those circles to represent ongoing conceptual, mental, or moral struggles in your character’s life. Write appropriate questions next to those circles. Wrestling with those questions in play will give your Avatar Destiny to work with, ultimately increasing their power and the breadth of your influence in the world.

Final Touches Draw a line between any two circles that have a shared bullet point.

—from the Imaginary, by Keiko Takemori

If your two Keys have the same Name, draw a line connecting their Truths. yet.

Name your character, if you haven’t, and any circles that don’t have a name Fill in any bullet points that you’ve left empty.

Think about your pseudo-Estate some more — what it means, what it is, what the best phrase for it might be. Make it fit nicely together with your character as a whole. Answer any major unresolved questions that this process has left you with, or — if you can play without answering them — write those questions down.


Excrucian before the Tree (rendition by Tang Yuann)


Deceiver Stats As NPCs The default Deceiver design has: §§ 15-30 character points §§ Aspect, Persona, and Treasure Attributes (max 7) §§ Bonds, Afflictions, Passions, and Skills to taste §§ 2 Normal, 1 Tough, and 2 Divine Health Levels §§ Access to “Second Skins” — the ability to borrow the skills, powers, and spiritual qualities of others, as described on ppg. 108-119. Common Gifts include Immortality, Glorious, and Shapeshifter. The bog-standard Deceiver build is: §§ Persona 4 §§ Active Immortality §§ Shapeshifter (2-3 CP worth) §§ 1-2 Bonds or Afflictions empowering them to do cool stuff

(Phasael mery-Harumaph, as shown in Nobilis: the Essentials)

§§ 1-2 Bonds or Afflictions making them more likely to go along with it (see pg. 159) if the players fight them in a cool way.


As PCs I’m not ready to say that this is absolutely balanced yet — wait for a Nobilis: Antithesis release that’s not a mini-book — but here’s what I’d recommend in terms of PC Deceiver builds for a mixed Power-Deceiver game. §§ 15 character points §§ Aspect, Persona, and Treasure Attributes (max 5) §§ 2 Normal, 1 Tough, and 2 Divine Health Levels §§ Access to Second Skins, but • 2-3 starting skins (player’s choice, but HG-statted) and • each new skin is a Project or Project bubble §§ 8 points of mortal abilities §§ 13 points of Bonds and Afflictions

Lower-Powered PCs In a setting like Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, where a typical PC has 9 CP and most Bonds/Afflictions are picked up during play, I’d suggest: §§ 2-3 character points §§ Choose between Aspect, Persona, or Treasure (but with the option to open up one of the other Attributes with a Project later on) §§ 2 Normal, 1 Tough, and 2 Divine Health Levels §§ Access to Second Skins, but • 2-3 starting skins (player’s choice, but HG-statted) and • each new skin is a Project or Project bubble §§ 8 points of mortal abilities §§ 1-3 points of Bonds and Afflictions

“Genseric Dace,” by Miranda Harrell


Impending Incursion (rendition by Tang Yuann)

Shards When you need weaker or more numerous antagonists, or when you’re looking for a particularly unusual PC build, you might look to Deceiver “shards” or spawn rather than to the Deceivers themselves. “Shards” or “shard-children” are a lesser, variant form of Deceiver, literally splintered off from the Deceivers themselves. A Deceiver can create an unlimited number of these shards, and doesn’t appear diminished by doing so, and can sometimes create half a dozen or more at once — but don’t be too alarmed. It’s like the way that humans can create an unlimited number of babies or programmers can write an unlimited amount of C code: it’s true, it’s absolutely true, but there are underlying resource constraints that make this less impressive and terrifying than it appears. A PC Deceiver should use a Project if they want to create shards and the Project is generally more complicated (if not always proportionally more complicated) if they’re looking to make more than one. The HG doesn’t have to track Project progression for an NPC Deceiver, and should in fact assume they have as many shards around as the story requires, but they should bear in mind, when and if it matters, that creating shards requires a Project-equivalent amount of time and energy. Shards are their own characters and not simply the Deceiver’s puppets. I do think that there’s a metaphysical and quasi-physiological connection of some sort — that when they meet up in the Lands Beyond Creation, if they ever do, that they may blur together at the edges, may “become one” for a while or something, or get eaten by their parent, or otherwise integrate into the larger whole — but for all practical purposes, when seen from Creation, they’re their own people. Sometimes they’ll be near-clones of their parent, mentally and physically; sometimes they’ll be unrecognizably divergent; sometimes it’s in between. I think this is mostly up to the Deceiver in question although the choice and outcome appear to be strongly constrained by factors incomprehensible or at least unknown to me. Deceiver-shards are typically built as mortals save that they have access to Second Skins; they may also have low levels of the Aspect or the Treasure Trait. A few have Persona 0 over a pState related to the pState of their creator — often but not always an identical pState with the shard’s name substituted for their master’s. For instance, Helchen Hadusind’s pState is “Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow;” if she had a shard named Christine Waye, that shard might have power over “the Shadow of Christine Waye.” Deceiver-shards are typically “less vital” than the Powers, with 1 Tough and 2 Normal Health Levels being the conceptual norm; however, if you’re playing a Deceiver-shard PC and the game is supposed to last more than 1-2 sessions, I’d recommend that the HG give you 2 Divine Health Levels as well.



Building Morrowen (Part 9) an example of Deceiver construction The biggest thing I need to do here is figure out what Morrowen Hollow actually is. I’ve been kind of casual about this — there’s a Voice, you know, and it sounds through people; it echoes through them, and . . . stuff. What I decide to say is that its body — her body — is a pattern of sound.

THE TRUTH OF THE MILKMAY §§ I’m an enemy of the world §§ I am truth preceding form

She’s a mythic entity and not a prosaic one, so I’m not going to get into ideas like coding her as software into the patterns of sound or anything like that. If you analyze what’s going on prosaically, you’ll probably get technobabble about cybernetic feedback mechanisms and an AI coded into sound, but that’s not what she is. That’s the explanation and not the thing. What she is is the way that sound flows through the world, how it echoes from things, how it lives in the things that have heard such sounds and comes back out in them when they speak. If she were silenced, she would live on in the things that heard and remember her Voice but she would degrade; the chaos and entropy that afflict their thoughts would degrade her; she would be weaker and damaged and changed from herself when she emerged into the world again. She would have to work hard to find herself again, to tune herself to herself from what was left of her again, and it is possible that if enough of her was lost that she could never fully return. If she were silenced and forgotten, then she would die. She is not yet words. I’ve said that a few times, and I think it’s true. She’s closer to intonations. She’s closer to music. When someone speaks back the Voice of Morrowen Hollow, it doesn’t come out as different words, but as a pattern, a way of speaking. Her Voice is symbiotic with words, maybe; it’s a second layer of meaning that comes out with the voice alongside words, maybe, but it isn’t words itself. That’s why the bell of the Church tower and the creek and the trees and the insects and the frogs and the walls of the valley the creek runs through — why they can all speak the Voice of Morrowen Hollow just as a human can. She’s a feeling, a presence, that carries itself in sounds, and new sounds can be in harmony and communion with her, can be an actual part of her, or can be discordant to her. That’s not easy to interact with, so I’m going to give her a bit of Treasure and have her use the people of the Town as Anchors. The original girl? The family? The preacher from the chapel? Maybe even everyone who lived there? I don’t know. Whomever she has tuned so thoroughly to her voice that she can Occupy them and speak through them in the broader world.

That question resolved, I feel like I can play her — she’s more bodiless than the norm, even for a bodiless Nobilis character, but I can define where she is, who she is, and what she wants, so the main character design is done. If she’s going to be a PC instead of an NPC, I should write a few Destiny-earning questions near her circles, though, like —


§§ “What does it mean that I modulate myself through a lie?” near the Truth of Bilberry, and §§ “What do I need to do to finish becoming myself ?” near the Lie of the Milkmay. Or, hm, no. Scratch that last question, as interesting as it is. I have this lingering “a rage against the world” bullet point floating around in there — what I’d really like to know is “Why does the world anger me?” Why am I an Excrucian? Why can’t I just settle in and be a mass mind or freaky sound parasite in Creation? Why does the world have to be a lie? What is so wrong with the world that I need to fight it? Why am I so sure it’s false? I am starting to taste the answer to that — that the sound that comes back to me is somehow wrong and broken — but why am I answering it? It’s a Destiny-earning question! I should think about it. I should let it be a question. But the only answer I should give it right now is “I DON’T KNOW!” So I do, and I will. I’ll give that answer!

“Why does the world anger me?”

For a while. If I’m building the Voice of Morrowen Hollow as a PC, she’s going to start with 15 character points — fewer than a Power’s, mostly to make up for the fact that she has access to second skins (pg. 99). I spend 12 of those 15 points immediately on Persona 4 (Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow) and the last three on Treasure 1. I choose Speak 4, Superior Sound-Creature 3, and Listen 1 as her mortal Skills; I receive Shine 4 for free. I think about good Bonds and Afflictions to empower my enemies (just in case I wind up an NPC) and with up with “I change when my sound changes” and “I change when I sound through different things.” That seems like it’ll help PCs scheme against me in interesting ways. I wind up with: §§ Affliction [3]: “Intangible” - I must be a creature of sound §§ Affliction [3]: I change when I sound through different things §§ Affliction [2]: I change when my sound changes §§ Bond [2]: I swallow those who succumb to me §§ Bond [1]: I can’t bear silence §§ Bond [1]: I am driven to protect Jill o’ the Spire §§ Bond [1]: I am driven to protect Jack o’ the Chapel and §§ Bond [1]: I must find people to struggle against the sound

THE LIE OF THE MILKMAY §§ an echoing, bodiless voice §§ a rage against the world §§ a power to awaken mortal hearts §§ the harder you try to silence me, the louder I become §§ I wake the ghosts that hide in your holy places §§ I devour that which does not hear

Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow . . .


§§ . . . can’t silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow §§ find a rage inside them §§ discover the truth of themselves §§ fight that voice, and fail §§ are haunted by that voice §§ feed that voice §§ become a part of the mechanism through which that voice resounds

Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow


In the woods there is a machine. The machine makes noise: ♠. . . It is a hissing sound that rises from the machine. Each second it stutters. It speaks again: ♠. . . ♠. . . ♠. . . A soldier sits against the machine. He watches the world beyond him. He is wearing fatigues. There is a bayonet on the ground beside him. The woods are full of them. They’re full of soldiers. They’re full of the machines. The world is loud with the machines’ hissing. The animals have mostly left. There are a few birds who try to sing: ♪ Their voice is swallowed. ♠. . . In the distance a Church bell rings. Its sound is: ♪ ☼ ♣ ♪. The sound strikes against the barrier of the machines. It is swallowed by it. The soldier squints but all he hears is this: ♠. . . ♠. . . ♠. . . He relaxes. In the center of the demesne of the machines men dressed as soldiers stand around a table and a map. The map shows a nameless town. It is colored red. It is under a blotch or fuzz of red that spreads across the town and a nearby canyon. Somebody has scrawled “♪ ☼ ♣ ♪” above the blotch. The map shows the woods and the soldiers, marked with “♠.” The wind coils around a noisemaker. The wind whispers to it: ♪ ☼ ♣ ♪. ♠. . . the noisemaker replies. By the map, one of the soldiers takes a phone call. His phone rings: ♥. . . He answers. There is a faint ♥. . . sound that pervades as he speaks: the sound of phones. He hangs up.


He takes a red marker and he adjusts the lines of the map. “We have to contain this,” says an older soldier. He is speaking in the sound of a human voice. “It’s spreading. Has anyone been able to contact Himself ?” Another man shakes his head. In the woods, a soldier drowses. There is a noisemaker near him. It is saying: ♠. . . ♠. . . ♠. . . The wind wraps around it. It whispers: ♪ ☼ ♣ ♪. ♣. . . ♣. . . ♣. . . the noisemaker replies. The soldier snaps up his head. He stares at it. The sound of the other noisemakers is still loud in the woods. They are deep and they are loud and they almost drown out the change. You can barely hear, in the forest. There is white noise all around you: ♠. . . ♠. . . ♠. . . But this one machine is different. It is saying ♣. . . ♣. . . ♣. . . The soldier hears. He widens his eyes. He draws up his gun. He yells, “Infected!” He fires. His gunshot is loud: ☼ The machine grumbles, rattles, and falls dead.

In a different part of the forest there are three machines. The wind dances around them. It carries the sound of distant bells.


♣. . . ♣. . . ♣. . . say the noisemakers. ♪ ♣ ♪ confirms the wind. At the map table the soldier’s phone rings again: ♥. . . He picks it up. “Shut them down,” he says. “Pull back.” ♥. . . whispers his phone. “We have more coming,” he says. He hangs up. He dials a different place. He tells it words. ♥. . . whispers his phone. ♥. . . surrounds him. He looks up. “I can’t think,☼ the older soldier is muttering. “I can’t think.☼ Another man is sitting and rocking. ☼we have to warn somebody,☼ he says. ♣. . . ♣. . . ♣. . . hiss the noisemakers all around them. ♥. . . whispers the phone. The soldier with the phone clicks it off. He drops it. He steps on it and grinds it with his foot. He sags. Then he looks up. The wind is all around him. The sound is all around him. Everywhere is the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. He misses the sound of his phone. It was good, he thinks, to have it. He realizes, as he opens his mouth to say something — to deny his fate, maybe; to give in to it, maybe; to make a last plea to He who had been his god — that he has never loved.


Second Skins T

he Deceivers cheat — but they are fighting gods. They are fighting the Nobilis. In general, their pseudo-Estates alone won’t cut it. Having a limited Persona-style power over one of the ways you relate to the world is awesome! But it’s not enough to fight the Nobilis, who have both Persona and Domain covering major aspects of reality. Even paired with Gifts like Active Immortality, Glorious, and Shapeshifting, it’s just not enough. Being the god of your own little game show or the ruler of your shadow — that’s not enough to beat the god of fire, winter, or the sun. So the Deceivers double cheat. They use “Second Skins.”

Do they really need more power?

according to the universal fair-fight index maintained on rec.arts.fight!

It’s true — I will grant — that a Deceiver can be incredibly, insanely strong on their own. There are Deceivers with Aspect so high you’d practically expect their every move to be accompanied by a badass guitar solo. There are Deceivers with Persona 7, which means they can basically turn whole chunks of world into their personal playground for free. And their being Immortal, as they usually are, means that beating them is always going to require something a little crazy. But still — a Deceiver is not as scary as a Familia. Some of them aren’t even as scary as a single Power. And their shards, who are supposed to be a fit match for a Power* are barely even superhuman — I mean, you get Genseric drunk enough* and he’ll tell you the story of “the shard even you could have beaten.” So, like I said, they double cheat.

Their natural abilities aren’t enough to beat the Powers, so they copy the Powers’ own. technically I think he fakes it

They go out to a place beyond the world — if they can. Or to a hidden sanctum. Or if they absolutely must, to a warehouse or basement or abandoned building or somewhere like that where they can work without interruption. They spend a day, dawn to dawn, dusk to dusk, or maybe even some other interval. I’ve always heard dawn to dawn and dusk to dusk but maybe any 24 hour period will

suffice! Anyway. They do that, and they come out of that, and they’re different. They’ve changed. They smell different. They carry themselves different. They’ve put on some other person’s soul.


Whose? The exact ritual is different from Deceiver to Deceiver. So too are the requirements. The standard rule is that they have to have met somebody. That’s really a minimal rule. That’s there to say: there are some Deceivers out there whom you don’t want to invite to a party with dozens of Powers, because then bam, they’ll have dozens more souls they can put on. Deceivers like that, all they need is a meeting. They get introduced to you. They and you have some trivial interaction. They see you and they know your name and they know that you’re worth stealing. Whatever. And bam, that’s all it takes. They can wear your spirit as a second skin thereafter. They can. Their shards can. Just from that. But that’s just the minimal rule. There are plenty of Deceivers who have to work harder. I don’t know how hard or easy Genseric and Coriander find it, but I know that Phasael needs a token from you to wear your soul. Rumor has it that Tairté needs to talk to you for at least three hours and sometimes longer. A shard may not be able to “learn” you at all — they may have to rely on the Powers and Imperators and mortals that their parent Excrucian has met. In a lower-power game, the default is a Project plus substantial interaction. For instance, Jasmine Apocynum needs at least a whole Project bubble dedicated to knowing you before she can steal your skin. She has to study people, think about people, and gather memorabilia of people before she can wear their skins. History has seen Deceivers who needed their targets to sign something, or to sleep with them, or to invite them into their home, or to give them some sort of gift. The Bastard Amayika apparently had to share a cigarette with you before it could wear your skin; that’s one of the reasons that sharing a cigarette with a Power is considered such a huge indicator and offering of trust.*

But don’t smoke! I mean, don’t start smoking. I mean, not to impress Powers. Kids. In fact if you have the young pink lungs of a child go breathe some fresh air and then tell your parents, “I started breathing fresh air thanks to Jenna Moran! Her games are so vitalizing, I bet I’ll live to be one hundred and two!”


Does it affect you when a Deceiver steals your skin? It’s not clear.

Echoing in Morrowen Hollow When Morrowen Hollow wishes to take on the skin of an entity it has met, it whispers to itself and throughout itself what it knows of that person — what it saw in them, what it heard in them, how it sounded to itself when it heard itself reflected back from that person’s body and through the lens of that person’s conversation. It needs to engage with them in at least a few minutes of conversation — more if it cannot map their body with its echoes — and feel out how that person responds to their presence before it can take on their soul. It is possible that it could do this with only part of itself, in a small room somewhere, but this is not its natural inclination; Morrowen Hollow would only do so if it knew that someone was listening and astute enough to turn that listening into knowledge of its new second skin’s name. This ritual of echoes takes the normal day and night. Morrowen Hollow speaks the self it wishes to become of from dusk to dusk or dawn to dawn. Morrowen Hollow does not need proper peace and quiet to abandon such a skin; rather, it must ring out its original sound throughout itself. This means that it must have access to the ability to make sound within itself and the ability to hear either the sounds of the creek or the heartbeat of the original corrupted girl.

As far as I can tell, it’s more of a duplication of your soul, a really good mask, than an actual theft. They don’t take your actual skin. I don’t think they even take your actual soul — although there are records of Deceivers having more trouble wearing a soulless person’s skin. It’s subtler than a theft, though, anyway. It does seem to have some effect on you. I mean, there’s evidence that it troubles you a little. It gives you a frisson. So it must have some sort of effect or you wouldn’t notice it. There wouldn’t be anything to notice! I accept spooky action-at-a-distance as every Nobiliser must but spooky action-without-action is a bit too Taoist even for me. So there’s some connection, or at least some spiritual touch. It is probably something you could exploit somehow. If you want to figure out how, either as a Deceiver trying to weaken the target or a Power trying to block it/use it against the Excrucian who tries it — sure, make it a Project and go for it! But mostly, I think, it’s the same sort of effect, the same sort of shiver, as when someone makes a clone of you, or talks behind your back, or whatever: a psychically sensitive person feels a touch of a newborn symmetry, of a something that concerns you, but that’s all to it that there is.

What do they actually do to put it on? It’s different for each Deceiver. This part I’m basing on very little evidence. Few of these rituals have ever had witnesses. We know a bit about Iolithae’s rite from ancient texts. We know about one of Phasael’s rites back in the middle ages — at the time, his usual method for putting on a second skin killed one hundred people. One of the women at the ritual gave birth under the pressure of the event and left him with one hundred and one potential witnesses, including the adult survivor who wrote the story down. I’ve seen a ritual of two skins, and it was a lot nicer than that, and nobody died at all — But I can’t talk about that one. My computer would catch on fire. Or my notepad. Or my tongue. You know. Whatever. All I can say is, it didn’t kill one hundred people. It didn’t even maim nobody! The point is, it’s different for everyone.

The best thing to do is to come up with something cool for your Deceiver to do to put on a second skin. Something that fits their pseudo-Estate or their nature and has a kind of epic feeling to it. If that doesn’t work, though, if you can’t think of anything good, you can either punt on worrying about it until later or just assume that they sit in an empty room surrounded by a hundred candles or something and as the candles burn down they put on somebody else’s soul.


The Ritual of Two Skins functions as a mundane action; that doesn’t mean that mortals can do it, of course, or that it’s plausible for a Deceiver to fail at it, although it does open both of those options up to the HG.

Swapping Skins I think Deceivers can’t do the ritual of two skins while they’re wearing somebody else’s skin. I think they have to take one second skin off before they can put on another. For a full Deceiver in their place of power, that doesn’t mean that much. For a shard, who might be as weak without a second skin as an ordinary mortal, that temporary vulnerability might be a serious concern.

If you are a Power and the best way you can think of to find out about Deceivers is to read a Nobilis supplement written by someone who happens to have had social interactions with a couple of them you should be aware that listening to me on this particular point is dangerous. If you are reading this because you want to play a fun game of Nobilis, though, you can assume that a Deceiver or shard is comparatively vulnerable during this ritual, particularly in its second half — anything else would be a plot twist!

The Effects of the Ritual Here’s what the ritual actually does. The Deceiver tells themselves, and maybe the world, the story that they are actually somebody else. They weave the power of that person around them. They become that person, sort of. It’s their second soul, their second skin, their other self. It even affects how they think of themselves. It changes them, it affects how they experience the world, it gives you avenues that you

“Swapping Skins,” by Miranda Harrell

There may be a catch here. Like, it’s possible that they don’t have to take their old soul off until the halfway point. Or until almost the end. All that stuff is the HG’s call; it might even vary from rite to rite!


might use to reach them. They become a lot more like the person whose soul they’ve taken. It’s not enough to break them — even taking on the soul of a Power with an incredible, absolute loyalty to Creation won’t turn them — but their second self definitely isn’t well-quarantined in their head. is.

And over the course of the ritual they gain access to everything that person

They gain their target’s mortal skills. Their passions. Their loves, their hates, their needs. They gain their powers — for instance, and most importantly, the miraculous abilities a Power or Imperator has. They don’t gain their physical appearance, voice, or mannerisms in general, but they do gain their Bonds and Afflictions, which can have an appearance, voice, or mannerism-altering effect.

Estates The Domain and Persona ratings that the Deceiver gains from a second skin govern the relevant Estate. That is, if Helchen Hadusind has Persona (Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow) 4, she can’t improve that Persona by stealing the skin of a high-Persona Power. If she takes on the skin of Adrian Elsey, who has Persona (Toys) 5, she winds up with: §§ Persona (Toys) 5 “Chibi-Imperator (or, a Second Skin)” by Alexander Benekos

§§ Persona (Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow) 4 instead.

Anchors You don’t get extra Bond points when you upgrade your Treasure through a second skin; you get the target’s Bonds themselves. In fact, you even get the target’s Anchors — the stolen Treasure rating will bind you to their ordinary, wondrous, and miraculous Anchors in addition to your own! However — You must know about an Anchor to have power over it. You’ll know about §§ Anchors you knew about before the rite; §§ Anchors you encounter in play while wearing the relevant skin; and §§ Anchors bound to the stolen soul by extremely straightforward Bonds, e.g. “Bond: I Must Respect My Butler’s Years of Service.” You don’t get any power over Anchors bound to your target by a temporary wound.

Most stuff you’d want to do with a Power’s Anchors is an attack on them. You might be able to get away with using their Anchors in ways that don’t affect the Power’s own access — visiting their butler and invoking his wondrous efficiency, teleporting into their sanctum, or invoking one of their spells — but trying to summon their toys, upgrade their Anchors, or put their servants into danger is going to attract their notice and give them a guaranteed chance to defend. Finally, in general, you cannot forsake the Anchors of your second skin, neither on their behalf nor on your own. You can, conversely, use a currently unassociated Bond to bind a new Anchor to your target and thus to you. The standard conflict rules apply here, so they could notice this effect and defend against it . . . but as a practical matter they hardly ever will. A Power knowing whether someone is trying to turn one of their Bonds into an Anchor is like a mortal knowing their exact age in days: it’s perfectly possible but hardly anyone actually keeps track. Similarly, your target is unlikely to notice you upgrading, summoning, or using the powers of that new Anchor until they’ve become aware of the Anchor itself.

“A Borrowed Anchor,” by Miranda Harrell



MP A second skin comes with an MP pool for each miraculous Trait. The Deceiver gets that pool if it’s higher than what they had, but it doesn’t fill up automatically. So if a Deceiver with 5 PMP and nothing else takes on the skin of a Power with 8 MP of each type, the Deceiver now has §§ 0 AMP (out of 8) §§ 0 DMP (out of 8) §§ 5 PMP (out of 8) §§ 0 TMP (out of 8) This is technically a simplification: the PMP you use to control a pState and the PMP you use to control an Estate aren’t actually the same. It works out to be a decent approximation in practice, though, so we’re going to use it in the game. If you want to have a more “correct” narrative, occasionally claim that one pool or the other is “exhausted” when you still have 1-2 PMP left.

Chancels Technically if you want the discount on an Aspect or Treasure miracle, and their Aspect or Treasure is lower than yours, you should use their rating and not your own. That sounds awfully complicated so I’m going to say instead that you can go ahead and get the discount on any Aspect or Treasure miracle, but if you go too much further here than the Power in question would, the Chancel may eventually notice and freak out.

In general you’ll only get the 3-MP discount on miracles in a Power’s Chancel when they are miracles that that Power could perform. You won’t get it on miracles that use your pState or your own Anchors. Simply put, the Chancel makes miracles easier because it’s attuned to the Powers and Imperators that live there — it’s not attuned to you. In general you will get the in-Chancel discount when in your second skin’s Chancel on any miracles they could perform*. It is possible for the Chancel to “notice” that you are not who you are supposed to be and get weird about it, but that’s an edge case — most Chancels aren’t really built to spot Deceivers wearing the local Powers’ skins, because Deceivers don’t take advantage of the Chancel discount very often and any metaphysical security system like that runs the risk of locking the actual Powers out.

Wound Levels In general, a Deceiver-shard has a Tough and 2 Normal Health Levels; a full Deceiver has 2 Divine Health Levels on top of that. If impersonating someone with more health levels than that, they’ll gain up to 2 additional Health Levels of the strongest kind that won’t take them past the target’s own numbers. Wounds in these levels go away when and if they drop the second skin.

Imperial Miracles A Deceiver wearing an Imperator or Mimic’s skin can speak Imperial miracles. These are always and only those that the Imperator or Mimic would be able to speak themselves — they have to flow from who the Imperator in question is, not from who the Deceiver is. Speaking Imperial miracles is a very ad hoc process for the Deceivers; they’re simply . . . not Imperators. Deceivers have a strong sense for who their borrowed souls “are,” inside, and so they can “search their heart” to figure out what Imperial miracles they might be capable of — but they don’t know exactly how to do them or what their limits might be. The best analogy I can come up with is that it must be like playing a computer RPG in a language that you don’t know. You can do it, because there’s a pretty graphical user interface, all the controls work, and most of the basic ideas are familiar, but there’s a mist of incomprehension and uncertainty floating over everything you do because you can’t read the manual or understand the feedback the game gives; and every now and then you push the wrong button and the mouse orientation flips or the game mode changes or something and you’re suddenly completely lost. In short, it’s completely feasible for a Deceiver to do Imperial miracles, but it’s more difficult than you might assume.

Example A Deceiver-shard named Christine Waye falls into the world. She is a sad case as people who take responsibility for destroying the world go — she’s just a mildly superhuman associate VP for some financial sector company with side talents for accidentally killing plants, evoking vampire tropes and motifs without actually being undead, driving way too fast, and getting away with driving drunk: §§ Aspect 1 (5 AMP) §§ Persona 0 (The Shadow of Christine Waye) (5 PMP) §§ Bond: A Little Bit of a Vampire 1 §§ Mundane Abilities • Passion: “Keep your Eyes on the Prize” 2 • Skill: Project Management 2 • Skill: Command Loyalty 2 • Skill: Improper Use of Vehicles 1 §§ Special Mundane Abilities • Cool 1 • Superior Green Anti-Thumb 1

115 I shall tell you the most unpleasant experience of my life, which is to say, the murder of Tairté Ut-napishtim. I judged that I had learned enough from him; I judged that no one else ever should; I slaughtered him. The resulting smell confused me. It was not the smell of the fresh dead, but of a corpse that had been rotting there for weeks. I staggered out of the building to find that the building had been his corpse-flesh moldering, that the windows had been his eyes; I pulled out a spark of power after me and understood in that moment that it had been I myself who had, however transiently, given that corpse the appearance of life. I looked around me: the world was the corpse of Tairté Ut-napishtim. This was apparent to me; I did not deduce it, but saw it, rather, and shook it off only with effort, will, and time. Sometimes I will wake up, or turn my attention suddenly from an object that has occupied my attention, and the world will be his corpse again. This vision does not depart. — Calliste Focault, Domina of the Shore


Christine is pretty weak for a world-killer, huh? Luckily for Christine, her parent Deceiver spent a fair bit of time interacting with Kaithrya of the Wild. That means that Christine Waye can can spend 24 hours at a management retreat (or something) and add Kaithrya’s abilities to her own. Going by the best understanding of the Nobiliser community, this would give her — §§ 2 Divine Health Levels §§ Active Immortality

A feather is placed in my hand. “Dreams,” he says. “Should you need a door into dreams, this will open it.” A pebble. “With this,” he says, “ You can walk upon the sea.” He moves to place a stick of gum in my hand, and I lift the other in a gesture of warding. “No more,” I say softly. “My heart is full, and I can bear no more gifts.” —from Sonnet and the Sea, by Alexander de Vriend

§§ Miraculous Edge 1 §§ the ability to perform Kaithrya-like Imperial Miracles §§ Bond: Nominally Invisible 2 §§ Affliction: Return what is given to you threefold 3 §§ Gift: “Give Rise to Spring” (Lesser Creations, 1 MP, Local, Limited, Uncommon) §§ Domain 2 (Spring) (comes with 0 DMP, can gain up to 5 DMP) §§ Domain 0 (Insight, Awakenings, an End to Droughts) §§ Superior Quality: Gravitas 2 and §§ Skill: Contemplate an Issue from Multiple Perspectives 2 While wearing Kaithrya’s skin, Christine is stuck invisible (mostly) and bound to return what is given to her threefold. It’s not the most convenient outfit for a financial sector associate VP! On the other hand, it makes her immortal, gives her a Domain trait and Domain MP, and lets her speak Kaithrya’s miracles. Since Kaithrya is able to give rise to unseasonable spring, she can use this to heal any particularly precious plants she’s mishandled or possibly to bring a new spring to a beleaguered department or even to the economies of the world.

The Truth of the Name A second skin isn’t all honey and roses. The Afflictions of the target can pose a problem for the Deceiver — heck, even their Bonds can pose a problem, although obviously somewhat less of one. The moods and beliefs of the copied soul can challenge the Deceiver’s thinking. Most importantly, though, the Powers of Creation can use Deceiver’s second skin against them. Someone loyal to Creation who names the skin that a Deceiver is wearing can follow it with an order that the Deceiver must obey. “In the name of Kaithrya of the Wild,” someone could say to our invisible Christine Waye, “reveal all of your company’s unsavory doings to the federal authorities!” Or: “In Kaithrya’s name*, leave this world and do not ever return!”


Or: “In the name of Kaithrya of the Wild, fight loyally at my side while I try to stop the plans of Raginhart Tribunas and his friends!” This binds them! You can only use this once every few hours. You can get screwed over if somebody else has already given the Deceiver an order in that time frame — I mean, part of that whole “loyal to Creation” thing means that the Deceivers have trouble getting fake orders loaded in, but if your jackass brother Caelestis has been having a grand old time sending the Deceiver out for pizza, you’re not going to be able to demand something more important from them immediately after. The order won’t bind them indefinitely, either — typically it’ll hold for three to seven days, but if you give them too many orders* some of the older or less interesting orders will fray. Most importantly, the Deceiver can refuse or disobey the order — it’s just that if they do so, they lose the second skin immediately and generally take a wound of some sort as well.

How many? It varies! Three is usually safe.

This may or may not work without the “of the Wild.” Since the Powers speak the True Tongue, I think it doesn’t matter how you say the name, but I think it definitely does matter whether or not you know the name, if that makes sense. Like, if you’re playing Nobilis and someone abbreviates this to “In Kaithrya’s name,” that’s fine, but if they think that is Kaithrya’s name, if they don’t know about the whole “of the Wild” part? That could be a problem. Or maybe if her name is just Kaithrya and the “of the Wild” bit is just a thing people say, and the person invoking the Truth of the Name doesn’t know that? That would be a problem too. Basically, if they don’t know who they’re trying to talk about, the invocation will not work well.


Can they twist the Orders? Yes and no! The best thing about the Truth of the Name, from Creation’s standpoint, is that they can’t play too many games with this. I mean — There’s a continuum between “twisting,” “interpreting,” and “understanding,” and the world is such that all orders do have to be interpreted and understood. So I can’t even imagine what it would mean if they couldn’t twist their orders — or, at least, that’s a concept I would only expect to be relevant if you used some sort of miracle power to make sure your order was objectively 100% clear. That means that the Deceivers have a lot of legitimate power to interpret the order, and often there’s no real objective way to distinguish between “lazily working on it,” “outright refusing,” and “waiting for a good moment to act.”


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That said, they can’t just weasel around Truth-fueled orders with word games. They have to be able to convince themselves that they’re actually trying to obey. Not only that, but their reasoning has to be sound enough that it would convince the person whose skin they’re wearing, if they were there. Put another way, if a Deceiver is wearing the skin of a legendary trickster, almost anything goes; but if they’re borrowing the skin of somebody brave, honest, loyal, certain, and true — they may be stuck with a very rigorous interpretation of the orders they are given. If they’re borrowing the skin of a normal person, or someone who doesn’t think through stuff very well, then their position is going to be somewhere in between. I like to imagine a dramatic and private conversation in their heads. That’s so gameable! You turn to the player whose Avatar’s skin you’re wearing, and you say, hey, would you believe . . . In practice, though, I don’t think it really works that way.

There’s some kind of internal conversation, but it’s really more of a conceptual balancing act. It doesn’t take anywhere near as long as a conversation would, and telepaths who’ve listened in have generally found it more confusing than you’d imagine a literal conversation with a disembodied ego-skin to be.


Abandoning a Second Skin In addition to shedding their second skin by breaking an order, a Deceiver can detach it gently over the course of five minutes of peaceful, private meditation. If they can’t get that, and don’t have any orders to disobey, it’s actually possible for them to get stuck in a second skin — there was a Deceiver held captive for over thirteen hundred years in a sensory stimulation cage, for instance, because it had borrowed the skin of a sound-sensitive Power and didn’t have the MP to both overcome its own Affliction and beat the miracles keeping it caged. There’s a more apocryphal story of a Deceiver who was tricked into taking on the skin of a Power that didn’t exist, and who therefore ceased to be. That kind of thing probably won’t come up. Still, if you’re planning on proving that somebody is a Deceiver by giving them “truth of the name” orders, and they find out, and they slip away for five minutes of private meditation — they’re probably taking off the skin. Or at least considering it!

A Vitally Important Note The language I use may disturb; for this I apologize. I wish to make to make it absolutely clear that “second skin,” “stolen soul,” “second soul,” and all terms of this ilk are metaphorical. I am aware of no cases in which a Deceiver has actually taken and worn somebody’s skin, or even pretended to; and while soul-stealing has happened, it isn’t in any way the core of this particular rite. I don’t know why it’s called a second skin. I don’t know why it’s called stealing. I think it’s because of stories of skinwalkers and soul-stealers. I think there may also be a feeling of violation, of having been stolen from, when you find out someone’s been out there using your powers, skills, and passions to do mischief — like finding out somebody dressed up as you to rob a bank, if you know what I mean? It’s identity theft, it’s impersonation, it’s mimicry, so it’s a little awful — but as far as I know, there’s nothing viscerally awful about it. It’s icky like identity theft, like someone reading your diary, like anything that should have been private and personal being taken and shared. That’s quite icky! But it’s not as icky as literal soul-stealing or literally flaying somebody and wearing their skin as a costume, so I wanted to make it absolutely and precisely clear that that is not what is going on.

The Mansion of the Heart In Bluebell Park there is a mansion. It reflects the heart of the Deceiver Jasmine Apocynum. She gathers memories with and memorabilia of people whose souls she might want to wear. If she gets close enough — if she understands somebody enough — then she’ll see a glimpse of their heart behind one of the mirrors of her mansion. She can tease it out over the course of a day, hunt it through the places behind the mirrors, lure it out by reminding it of their shared memories, anything like that that the player and HG enjoy. Then she can take that heart and put it in her chest and gain access to their powers, skills, and soul.


“Jasmine Apocynum’s Story” (model/portrait by Anthony Damiani)

Jasmine Apocynum’s Story I

remember what it was like, being bathed in the radiance of the swan. I remember being good.

I remember being — a good person. I actually was. I mean. There were like forty, fifty minutes there where I was redeemed, made whole, made perfect, and nobody could have doubted it. Even turned into a serpent, even biting poison into my own saviour — I was made good. I am not sure if a good person could tell you this story. I figure, a good person — they might not be able to do this kind of thing. They might not be able to drag somebody’s heart out. They might not be able to rip out a soul, take it in their good right hand, and use the left-behind flesh in magic. Or maybe it’s like: a good person would double tell you this story. It hurts, you see. Literally. There are brass hooks of story sticking out of me right now. There are three that have made it out of my skin. There are more that sit just inside me like little prickly presents of the heart. That’s a good reason to think that a good person — that they’d definitely tell it, and more. Don’t good people go around doing stupid self-sacrificing things like this all the time? I am not certain. That is just an impression that I have acquired. As for myself, even if I am now bad to the bone, I am actually a pro at this stupid self-sacrificing stuff. I bet that I even qualify as tangentially good-like in this limited and specific domain. I can self-sacrifice stupidly like nobody’s business. But still I keep thinking:



There has got to be an easier way.

Jasmine Apocynum’s Story . . . §§ is good-like §§ gives a heart brass handles §§ transfigures §§ inverts §§ unleashes the true self within §§ grapples Death


§§ is “logical, sensible, and sane”

Couldn’t I just sing this out of me in one trill of beauteous song and be done? Can’t I have a magic pen and write this into me, into my heart and stomach, backwards and upside-down, in letters of golden fire? Can’t I find a typewriter and type this out click-click-click like a normal person? Or even an abnormal, disturbingly organic-looking typewriter that clicks with a grotesque peculiarity — wouldn’t that be fine? Every time my heart beats all the hooks wriggle and they catch at bits of innards and my skin. The pain is actually phantom pain — I think. I think that the hooks are not physical. For one thing, I am not currently choking on blood and dying. I am not totally human any longer so that argument may not be definitive — but here’s an even better proof: I have seen other people telling stories that hurt, and lately I have seen those stories manifest as hooks. None of those people have choked on their own blood or had their guts explode because they told their painful stories either. (I am not counting Mr. Morozov. He had a stomach monster.) So I do not think that these hooks are physically real. I think that most of this pain is a self-inflicted deception. My body twinges with each twitch and each wriggle of these thorns because I can see them — because I know that they are there. My eyes and heart tell me that I am pierced all through by these awful brass hooks in me and therefore my body, my sense of feeling: it is deceived. Still. Phantom pain or real pain, pushing giant brass hooks out from your heart is not easy. I would have rather had a magic finger-snapping story delivery method or even the terrible machine. When I finish telling you this story, when I have gone over everything that I need to go over, when I speak the last words of it, then I will find the likeliest looking hook of these. I will set my hands upon it. I will gather up my courage. Then I will pull me inside out with it. I will invert me. I will unfold me with that hook into a leviathan of burnished brass and gleaming chrome. I will make these groping brass hooks of mine into tentacles. I will open my eyes in both directions into emptiness. I will learn to swim in air and land and void.

Then I will swim out and fight with Death. I will squeeze him in my tentacles. I will rip him open with the teeth that are on them and I will bite his brain. I will feast on he Death — the lord of Death’s dominion, the first of the Riders, the Headmaster of the Bleak Academy is he named. I will break him, and I will grow great with his death-meats, and I will laugh, evilly, then, bwa ha ha, at the world and void.


That is my current intention. It is, I will stress, the appropriate thing to do under these circumstances. It is logical, sensible, and sane. It is probably just as well that the whole “good” thing did not take, however. I believe that this initiative would have given me some trouble — at minimum, at the evil laughter part — if I had remained infected by the radiance of the swan. — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Location 12-54)

Step 1: Choose your Name Hello, Ideologue! Welcome to the world of Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. You are a smart, lonely, socially awkward shapeshifter. You were an ordinary person, but then somebody hit you on the head with a dodge-ball and you achieved enlightenment. You saw the True Thing. It went away. You lost the vision. But by then you were already different. You’d already forgotten your old name. Your old family had vanished. You made a new magical house for yourself in the psychedelic Bluebell Park. You took a new name. But what was it? Are you §§ . . . (Princess)

Jasmine Apocynum?

§§ . . . (Prince)

Jasper Apocynum?

§§ . . . something else?


Step 2: Choose your Power Sometimes the people around you are emotionally troubled. Sometimes they have troubles that are not emotional! They really want to fix things, but the wishing power of their hearts is all clotted up — their dreams and wishes and needs and wants go around and around and around in them but they do not come true. Luckily you can help! You §§ kiss them? §§ blow some sort of magical powder in their face? §§ dramatically pull them near to you with magic? §§ something else?

§§ or, you don’t do anything in particular before you . . .

Did you know this book was suddenly going to demand you execute part of the character generation system for one of the character options in the Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine setting? You do now! Not everything is about swans and wrestling death, you know. Sometimes it’s about creating characters for RPGs!

Reach into their chest and rip out their heart! This turns the rest of them into . . . §§ a giant monster that’s sort of under your control? §§ a giant robot that’s sort of under your control? §§ a person-sized monster that’s sort of under your control? §§ a magical weapon you can use? §§ a battlesuit you can wear? §§ a giant robot you can pilot? This is a great way of helping them resolve their emotional and situational issues! It is sensible, logical, and sane. The default is that you kiss them, but you can maybe get away without the kiss if one of you really doesn’t want to. Then you turn them into a giant monster that is sort of under your control! Note that it is all right if there is an occasional category breakdown — some monsters are robots, etc. That isn’t your fault! That’s just the nature of giant monsters, giant robots, and the world.


Step 3: Review Your Goal Four seals protect the Shell of Lies that keeps people from seeing the truth of the world. The first seal is the Basalt Gates under the Administrative Complex at Principal Entropy’s school. You don’t know where the others are. Maybe when you’ve broken the Basalt Gates you’ll know. Maybe you’ll have to get hit by another dodge-ball to find out! The first step, anyway, is to break those gates open. You’re not strong enough to do it yourself but fortunately you have a ready source of giant monsters! Find somebody who is stuck in a bad emotional or circumstantial place. Rip out their heart. Turn them into a monster! Send it to attack the Basalt Gates. It is extremely therapeutic for them. Plus, it’s great stress relief for you! This plan is compassionate, logical, and kind.

Rules This is a Project. Around 2-3 bubbles into this Project the HG should give you a modest reward (such as a 6th MP or a level 1 Bond/Affliction), break open the Basalt Gates, and let you move on to the next challenge along your path.

Jasmine Apocynum is an example of what a Deceiver might look like in a low-powered 9 character point game. She doesn’t have much going for her: just style, attitude, shapeshifting, and the ability to steal other people’s powers and/or rip out their hearts and turn them into giant monsters!

Flash Forward! What dread enemies are you going to have to face? What awful things are you going to have to do? If you think you might have to join the secret Vatican dodge-ball squad and subdue the Devil, or climb to the top of the Ash and take on Heaven, now’s the time to prep!

SECRET STEP 4! If you want a different goal, you can choose one. Do you want to §§ break open the various gates, just like I just said? §§ collect special items hidden throughout Town?

How do we get from here to §§ hunt for a particular, magical someone who will only reveal themselves turning into giant brass cephalopods and wrestling death? when you pull out their heart? Magic.

§§ something else?


The Ideologue Home: you have a magic house in Bluebell Park! Mortal Abilities: §§ Storytelling 3 §§ “I’m just gonna run with it.” 2 §§ “Well, I’m not gonna do it if you want me to.” 2 §§ Student 1 §§ “I have to help you!” -1 §§ “I want to be good!” -1

You’re now ready to play Jasmine or Jasper Apocynum, even in a completely unrelated game! Your HG, GM, DM, chess or wrestling coach is certain to be thrilled! But wait! We’re not doing that right now. Right now we’re talking about designing Properties for pseudo-Estates! At least, once you’ve turned the page . . .

§§ “This idea is logical, sensible, and sane.” -1 Supernatural Abilities: §§ Persona 0 ( Jasmine Apocynum’s Story, 5 PMP) — • make your ideas make sense • give yourself the power to rip out hearts • enchant random things to be part of your story. §§ Shapeshifting: turn into almost anything, but • Bond [1]: your eyes often give you away §§ Second Skins: you can copy people’s powers, but . . . • it takes 24 hours; • you have to know them very well (with 1+ Project bubbles dedicated to knowing them); • if someone realizes whose powers you’re using, they can make you grant their wishes instead of fighting to unmake the world. (I mean, naturally. Of course that is how it works. That drawback is logical, sensible, and sane.)

Quick Aside Before You Finish Turning the Page: What do we mean by your “Story?” It’s whatever story you tell yourself and others to understand your life! It’s the things you wave a hand at when you’re trying to explain who and what you are. Sometimes it jumps about. Sometimes it crosses levels. Sometimes it only makes sense when you look at it from afar. Everyone has a story. Some people’s stories drive them to greatness. Other people’s stories let them turn people into battlesuits! It all comes down to the way that you think about the world.



“Y2K,” by Miranda Harrell

Pseudo-Estates L

et’s talk for a moment about how to design Properties for your pseudo-Estate.

Descriptive The core of a descriptive pseudo-Estate is the story around the description — your explanation for what it means to the world that you have such a pseudo-Estate. Think about your history. Think about your first telling, your first time taking up the power of the pseudo-Estate. Look at what you did with it. Look at what it meant. Look at what you’re supposed to feel when you hear that story.

The story of the Lies of Iolithae Septimian is the story of a temple girl who found those Lies — who spoke them even though they were forbidden, on her temple above the sea. They were sacred, I assume; the temple kept them, did not hide them, forbade the speaking of them but did not shatter the stone on which those lies were writ.


Why did she speak them? There are missing parts to the story. There are verses that we do not have and verses that we cannot translate. But I believe that she spoke them because hers was a world that had gone wrong. She had lost something, or she wanted something, or she regretted something; and to get it, she was willing to shatter the temple, end the dynasty that ruled her, and turn the seas to salt. It may have been simply to become Iolithae Septimian. I do not know. She spoke them to the sea, and each speaking grew stronger, until the waves carried her voice to the farthest reaches of the Earth. She turned the seas to salt, and shattered the cliff where was her home, and the white rock of it tumbled and her King* thrown down. So when I went to guess at the Properties of her pseudo-Estate, I worked from that legend. Three reflect the first appearance of those Lies, on a tablet in her temple: the Lies . . . §§ are sacred §§ shatter walls and dynasties §§ must never be forgotten Two I’ve chosen based on the way the story progressed. The Lies of Iolithae Septimian . . . §§ must not be spoken §§ grow in the telling Finally, I’ve picked two to justify the way these Lies are scary things. The Lies of Iolithae Septimian . . . §§ doubt the world §§ are made false by the nature of the world The point in all seven cases is to be able to evoke some of the feeling of that story when her Lies come, or an Enchantment (or Emulation, or Blessing) of those Lies comes, into play.

Possibly Ibbi-Zikir or Dubuhu-Ada of Ebla, although, perhaps due to Iolithae’s influence, I have great trouble saying the name of either King or country with a straight face.


Reactive For a reactive pseudo-Estate, I’m going to recommend going against the usual practice and including the pState itself kind of explicitly in the list of Properties. By this I mean that I’d start a list of Properties for, say, “Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp” with — §§ . . . listen to Coriander Hasp. I don’t usually do this with Estates or pseudo-Estates; you don’t need a Property to say that Fire is fire, or Water is water, or Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow is, well, Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow. So why do it here? The secret is that the context around a reactive pState isn’t necessarily what it says on the tin. Consider “Those Who Consider the Properties of Flash Examplepants,” and the pState Property “. . . transcend mortality.” Have you now transcended mortality? Possibly! But not by following this paragraph’s advice. Even if Flash Examplepants were a real Deceiver, he couldn’t change the rules of Creation simply by existing; he’d have to take some sort of action, use some sort of power, to make that come about.

This is important to a lesser extent for Deceiver pseudo-Estates in general. For instance, I don’t think you need to say that the Lies of Iolithae Septimian are “the lies that Iolithae Septimian tells,” but it’s good to make clear in some fashion that they are actually untrue. Possessive pseudo-Estates can generally get away without direct self-reference — you’ll note that the Adoration of Phasael (pg. 156) doesn’t explicitly claim that the people involved adore him, and in fact you can argue that it’s not normal adoration at all; but it works a lot like going mad with adoration for somebody does, so that’s OK.

What this means if you have a pState like “Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp,” that’s going to be a hook by which you can interact with Creation, but it isn’t automatically identified with That Which is Signified by the PState’s Name. As soon as someone listens to Coriander Hasp using the Estate of Listening, there’s also a real, Creation-based thing that the pState’s name could refer to and it isn’t necessarily the same. I mean, it usually is, it almost always is, but it’s different enough that I think it’s worth establishing, right off the bat, that listening to him is actually covered.* After that you can go ahead and describe the details of the experience and its implications. You have a pretty free hand here, because, like I’ve said, the pState is a cheat code — if you want to use your magic context to weaponize people, or enlighten them, or fly, or get infinite lives, or surround yourself with beauty, or whatever, you can do that. Just say how it works. So the full Properties list for Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp might look like: §§ . . . listen to Coriander Hasp §§ feel his words like a fire in their head §§ think he’s kind of hot §§ ain’t dead §§ ain’t bound by possibility, really, neither §§ probably shouldn’t’ve listened, I mean, in the end §§ get all full of inspiration and bad ideas

You can see me tap-dancing a little there, ‘cause I don’t want to offend one particular friend I have who um listens to Coriander Hasp sometimes* but I also don’t want to contradict the established fact that no good can come of listening to Coriander Hasp. Because it can’t! No good will come of it.

131 Please do not raid me federal agencies! Or her! Seriously there is no point in storming my apartment because (a) Genseric Dace is never here when having him here would be profoundly relevant anyway, (b) Coriander Hasp is basically never here at all, and (c) if he was here he would shoot you in the head with flaming bullets, and nobody wants that. Also, then he would send you home and everyone would laugh at you and your fiery bullet head hair. I have seen this. You will think it might be fashionable but it is actually not fashionable in the least!

^^ and, seriously, is this even a crime? ^^

132 Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow I imagine that Helchen Hadusind was an imprisoned murderess who fed things to her shadow until one day it devoured her and learned to cast a shadow of its own. There may be less creepy


Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow ... §§ was devoured by Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow §§ hungers §§ hides from the light, but finds only fear

Possessive Remember that a pseudo-Estate — even a possessive pseudo-Estate — is a collection of things, not a single thing in itself. Even if your pseudo-Estate is “Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow,” you are looking for Properties that suit all the things that are Helchen’s shadow rather than describing the shadow itself. If your pseudo-Estate is “the Game Show of Selenas Picard,” you’re looking for Properties that describe the things, places, and situations of that Game Show, not the show as seen from outside. For instance, the various Properties of “the Adoration of Phasael” aren’t there to describe the stew of illogic that you see when judging people’s reactions to him from outside. They’re there to describe what that adoration feels like to people who are caught up in it — the Adoration of Phasael §§ frees you §§ feels good §§ is a little over the top §§ celebrates Phasael’s existence §§ is wanting Phasael to love you

§§ consumes what it needs §§ takes on the shape of Helchen Hadusind

“Things I Am Pointing At,” by Miranda Harrell

If you’re someone caught up in it, it moves in your heart, erases your anger,


§§ forgives Phasael §§ makes you happy that Phasael is alive These are the Properties that let him bring people into that adoration with his enchantment, the Properties that describe how people should behave when caught up in that madness, and that’s why I’ve chosen them.

Active The key to an active pState is defining what you expect to happen because you bring something under the aegis of your pState. The first Property or two should make it very clear what you mean by indicating something, e.g. Things I Am Pointing At . . . §§ are right there Things I Borrowed . . . §§ are immediately accessible to me, even though I don’t own them. §§ are established as having been borrowed when I show them to people That first Property for “Things I Am Pointing At” tells the HG that when you use your pState to cheat, it’s mostly by pointing things into your presence. Point at the Mona Lisa: it’s right there. Point through an open door at an escaping hostage: they’re right there. The Properties for “Things I Borrowed,” on the other hand, not only establish the main point of the pState (that you can declare that you’ve borrowed something and then have access to it) but also define a mechanic by which this interacts with the world. Something isn’t formally borrowed by you, yet, until you show someone that you have it. What if you borrow something but don’t show it to anybody? The other Properties, or play, will have to define what that means. The borrowed thing could be in an indeterminate state. It could be wherever it should be, if someone checks. It could even be on your person, or accessible near you, but in a mysterious state where nobody can prove or definitively establish that the reason for that is that you’d borrowed it until you show someone that thing. The other Properties just fill in bits and pieces of this story. For instance, you could finish out Things I Am Pointing At like so. [Points to next page.]

Fable of the Swan Since I’ve actually released Jasmine Apocynum’s Story online as Fable of the Swan, I keep wanting to give her pState joke Properties like — §§ . . . is available in electronic form §§ . . . is referenced repeatedly in this document but I probably shouldn’t. Instead, I’m going to assume that her pseudo-Estate Properties mirror the actual circumstances under which she tells her story — fortuitously available without spoilers at the very beginning of her book. Jasmine Apocynum’s Story . . . §§ is good-like §§ gives a heart brass handles §§ transfigures §§ inverts §§ unleashes the true self within §§ grapples with Death §§ is “logical, sensible, and sane” The quotation marks indicate that “logical, sensible, and sane” is not an objective definition, but a label you apply to things, and its exact scope, meaning, and relationship to the normal meaning of those words must be discovered during play.


Things I Am Pointing At . . . §§ are right there §§ are obviously right there

Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow Based on what we know of Morrowen Hollow, I’d guess the Properties for her pState look a little like this. Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow . . . §§ . . . can’t silence the voice of Morrowen Hollow

§§ look like they have been there, or possibly heading towards there, for a while §§ prompt a dramatic reaction to their presence, such as bewilderment, laughter, or shock §§ have an explanation for being there that makes sense until you look at it closely, and then doesn’t make sense at all Most of the time these pStates are going to be a little goofier and more surreal than the other kinds — you don’t mind making reality look ridiculous. For instance: The Person I Married Three Weeks Ago . . . §§ starts remembering it fuzzily once I remind them §§ had a pretty good time at that party

§§ find a rage inside them

§§ figures that if we’re going to be married anyway we should try our best!

§§ discover the truth of themselves

§§ figures we can tell each other everything, if we’re married and all

§§ fight that voice, and fail §§ are haunted by that voice §§ feed that voice §§ become a part of the medium through which that voice resounds

§§ kind of wants to be life partners §§ keeps getting late wedding presents in the mail §§ is likely to find the dress/tux or other memorabilia in their closet at some point However, if you want an intensely serious character, you can pick more metaphysical and emotional Properties, like: Things I Spit Out . . . §§ owe their existence to me §§ have troubled dreams of emerging, not from their known origin, but my maw §§ find themselves shedding bits of their old life and skin and becoming more serpentine or demonic §§ carry out the task that I whisper to them, but do not remember what I said §§ cannot hurt me even if they try


Those I Recruited . . . §§ have flashback memories of my recruiting them, even if they hadn’t remembered me when we met §§ have a talent useful to me §§ are the best in the world at it §§ can rely on one another §§ feel drawn to perform the missions I offer them, even if they initially refuse §§ have good reasons to believe that I am working towards something good.

(Coriander Hasp, as shown in Chibi-Ex)


Persona Miracles

“I am a transfinite barrier,” she explained. “It is within my power to stop any finite force brought to bear. You are a finite creature; you cannot pass.” “Duty obliges me to walk to the end of the world,” I said, “and I feel it lies beyond this point.” “Then the question,” she said, “becomes: is duty a finite force?” —from The Duchess’ Needle, by Emily Chen


ere’s a guide to what Persona over a pseudo-Estate looks like in practice.

Difficulty 0: “The Sight” Like a Power, a Deceiver can use a reflexive Difficulty 0 Persona miracle to invoke “the Sight.” The mundane forms of the world blur and fade. It gets a little harder to track all the random stuff that might be happening around you — adding a level 1 Obstacle to a number of mundane sensory, navigation, and world-orientation tasks and a level 2 Obstacle to extremely precise work and your use of long-distance vision. In exchange, you get a vastly sharpened sense for the relevance of things. You can: §§ pick up relatively public information from extremely small cues. §§ recognize the Properties of things with unnatural efficiency and accuracy. §§ head straight to the interesting places when poking around somewhere. §§ get a bit of warning when trouble is coming. §§ see things relevant to your pseudo-Estate, or any Estate your second skin has Persona over. Let me expand on that last point a bit. When the Sight is active, you’re tuned to things that are important or relevant to your pseudo-Estate, or vice versa. For instance, Iolithae Septimian’s Sight can see and analyze the things that are relevant to her lies — people whose lives they’ve touched, people who’ve listened to them, people who’ve denied them, people who would honor her for them, and people who hate them.

Selenas Picard, I assume, has a Sight that illumines interesting things to involve in his game show.


Basically you’re never going to have a “but how could I have missed that?” kind of experience while you’re using the Sight. Phasael mery-Harumaph will never just walk past somebody who already adores him without noticing. Helchen Hadusind (whose pseudo-Estate is her shadow) will never fail to notice that a Power’s ambient glow eliminates shadows in its vicinity. And if any Deceiver happens to be wearing the skin of the Power of Couches, and they have the Sight on, and they walk past the CEO of a major couch corporation, that CEO will stand out as the CEO of a major couch corporation — like he had a glowing label over his head. You receive free Strike on this miracle equal to your Persona rating and can spend MP or invoke a Bond for additional Strike. That said, once invoked, this miracle relies on your mundane senses for its effect. The only function of Strike in this context is to help you activate the Sight in the presence of a hostile Auctoritas or Sight-deceiving miracle. You can enhance your mundane senses with Aspect and Treasure miracles if a basic use of the Sight proves inadequate to your needs.



obody should have to live that way. Nobody should have to endure without the truth. It should — . . . should run in the bones of us. Do you understand? It’s that important. It should live in us. It should dwell in us. It should live through us. It should make us gold, the truth, the underlying thing, the void, it should purify us, it should refine us, it should make we who are noise into the signal. It was so close, so very close, so marvellous, I could touch it, I could taste it, I could feel it, it was fading from me, it was already fading (aw!) but it was there, ready to perfect us, ready to free us, only we were sheltered from it by our mistakes, our lies, our lives . . . I moved my lip over my teeth. I bit it, my flesh-lip, and I felt the little message-less pattern of indentations and bumps shifting beneath the skin. I saw. I understood. The new girl was burning with truth. The elf as well. And me. — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 3023-3030)

Jasmine Apocynum’s Apocynum-Vision sees through to the heart of things, to the truth of things, helping her to spot potential enemies and allies and determine when it might be possible to take out a person’s heart.


Echoes from the Bell

When the Voice of Morrowen Hollow activates “the Sight,” the Church bell rings; or thunder echoes in the valley; or the voices of the town raise up in song. These vast sounds drown out the subtle details of the world — the Voice of Morrowen Hollow becomes less able to “see” the world around it — but they are deep enough, true enough, “real” enough to touch and feel out the outlines of things of power. Threats, mostly, and potential sources of strength and food; though for the Voice, of course, the two things are usually the same. It is as if the holiness, the greatness, or the awfulness of the sound enables it to echolocate things that are equally un-profane.


t was the Church-bell that first felt it — someone is coming.

The bell rang, and the sound of that bell ran out across the land like many rivers, like a great flood; and the sound of that bell was the voice of Morrowen Hollow. Jill she sat by the bell. Jill she rang it; two times, three times, four times for fun — The sound it came back wrong. The sound it felt out the approach of a man on a horse, and the horse stood in the sky, and there was fire about it, it snorted fire, its mane was fire, and the face of the man was bleak. He had a scythe on his back and his coat was old and he had come — So said the sound of the bell — To slay the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. — from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

Difficulty 1: “Blessing or Curse” In general, you can use a difficulty 1 Persona miracle to give someone a dollop of the nature of your pState. So if you’re Helchen Hadusind, you can make someone a bit more like your shadow. If you’re Iolithae Septimian, you can make someone a bit more like your lies. This is pretty controllable and you’ll have a lot of say over how it turns out but it’s not a very strong effect. You also have the power to take away some of your pState’s nature from somebody, although you don’t have as much control over what happens then — it’s more like “you’re now less like my shadow” or “you’re now less like my lies,” maybe with a bit of an emphasis on one Property or another, and the HG figures out what happens from there. That’s not going to be a very strong effect either. These little blessings and curses don’t change that much about somebody’s life. It’s maybe up to a tenth of their life that changes — and with seriously diminishing returns from multiple blessings or curses. This effect simply isn’t powerful enough to turn someone’s whole life around unless it was pretty much trembling on the verge of turning around anyway.

It does produce strange and magical incidents and a definite feeling of “whoa, that’s different.”


The way I’d like to see you use this is to fit people better into your pseudo-Estate — into the context for your world. The blessings and curses of Phasael mery-Harumaph make people a slightly better fit for a world that he can walk through being showered by everyone’s adoration. He makes you feel good that he’s alive. He gives you a bit of his own awesome. The blessings and curses of Iolithae Septimian are little things that make the world seem more distorted, more unreal, more ready to believe her lies. The blessings and curses of Selenas Picard, I’d guess, make things fit his game show a little better. The world around him prices itself more easily in units of X dollars and 95 cents, if you know what I mean, and there’s more of a sense of breathless anticipation whenever anybody spins a giant wheel.

Promote/Demote Extra


think that back in the old days — back when this kind of stuff was real, back when there was magic under every tree and bush, back when the giants were giants and they fought the people of the void, back when Harald went out beyond the world to seize the cintamani stone—that his family must have had voices of their own. I think that Gerd must have been a girl with her own thoughts and interests, like, maybe she really liked bugs and didn’t like people. Or maybe she was brave. . . . — from Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 401-410)

Jasmine Apocynum’s blessings reach down into the seething sea of faceless extras and fish up meaningful characters. She points at an NPC with no real connection to her story and her life, blesses them with her power, and bam, they’re a person! Part of her story! . . . regrettably for her legend and her power, this is also known as “talking to people.” Still — her blessing makes it more likely that someone she “promotes” into being a character will play a meaningful role in her life. If they literally don’t have anything better going on, they’re likely to become a minion — or even a friend, victim, or enemy! Similarly, if she wants to drop someone from her life, a curse is likely to be successful in pushing that person away.


Blessing of the Voice

The blessings of Morrowen Hollow do not suffice to make something fight it, that otherwise would not; to make something a part of it, that otherwise is not; they wake only the faintest rage, dig up and ravel out only the lightest-buried secrets of the heart. The touch of Morrowen Hollow does not make you one of Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow; it doesn’t change that much of your life and destiny. It just echoes a bit in you, speaks a bit through you, rattles around inside you and fills a little bit of the medium of you with the music of that voice.


fox ran past. It heard the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. It stopped. It cocked an ear. It mumbled to itself. It made soft noises. But it did not try to silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. It fled from it instead. It ran. Its voice was still the voice of a fox. Its footsteps were still the footsteps of a fox. But if you listened very carefully, when it moved, you could hear the sound of water over stones. — from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

Difficulty 2: “Lesser Incarnation” Sometimes gamblers will talk about luck being “with” them. Sometimes writers feel their muse as an almost tangible presence. Sometimes religious people will talk about feeling a divine power filling their lives. This isn’t about possession. It’s not about some god, God, or Deceiver coming down and kicking you out of yourself and making you a puppet. It’s not even really about luck or muses or inspiration, although that’s a heck of a lot closer. These miracles are about a . . . a “walking with.” Some divine or semi-divine force is walking with you. It’s there in you, around you, beside you. It’s like a lover holding your hand. It’s like a parent watching over you. It’s like a child filling your heart with joy. It’s with you. In that fashion a Deceiver can be with the things of their pseudo-Estate. This is fundamentally a spiritual experience from both sides, but it does have three distinct and tangible effects: §§ the Deceiver knows what happened to those things during that time — they are genuinely watching; §§ the Deceiver’s spirit can kind of inspire the things they’re walking with, a little; not any more than luck, or a muse, or God does, it’s not control, it’s just a little push, a little feeling: this is the right way for things to go; §§ afterwards, the Deceiver and whatever they walked with are a little closer, spiritually, forever.

Here’s what I mean. If you listen to Coriander Hasp, that makes you part of his pseudo-Estate: you’re one of “Those who Listen to Coriander Hasp.”


And if he thinks, “Oh, hey, how is that person doing anyway?” he can sort of close his eyes and space out and then he’s there, in your life, with you. And maybe he looks around and thinks, “This place is completely unsafe, why doesn’t my friend there have a gun?” because he is all about the guns. And you think, hey, maybe I should have a gun. There’s a kind of feeling, a taste of . . . Coriander Hasp-ness? on the wind . . . that makes this idea feel right.

But it’s not about his advice. Not mostly. It’s more, you do stuff, you live your life, and he’s there with you, he’s knowing it through you. If anything interesting happens he notices. If nothing interesting happens he knows that too. And afterwards, you love him a little, or a little more; and to whatever extent a Deceiver’s feelings for the people of the world can be genuine, he’s a little closer to you as well.

If you’re a Power or an Imperator, even if you do listen to Coriander Hasp, or adore Phasael mery-Harumaph, or whatever, you probably can resist this somehow. I’d even say the default is to resist, like, you feel it starting to happen and you can block it with a miracle of your own. Almost anything will probably do, because lesser incarnation isn’t a very forceful miracle; if you don’t have any way to prevent subtle spiritual possession, mentally blocking out the scene and filling your thoughts with a chant like “Coriander Hasp is a bloody bastard” won’t stop the miracle itself but will probably negate or make negligible all three of its tangible, meaningful effects. But note that even if you’re a Power or Imperator, maybe even if you’re another Deceiver, and even if you’re a PC, others can walk with you spiritually using miracles like these. Miracles of incarnation take you out of yourself: they neither need nor create a mystic link,and you lose track of the world around you while they are in use. The miracle lasts until: §§ something back at your body urgently requires attention; §§ a self-imposed time limit runs out; or

§§ a scene ends for the thing you’re walking-with.

The usual way to play out an incarnation is that either the HG or the Deceiver’s player (with HG permission) decides on and briefly describes what’s going on in the life that the Deceiver inhabits. If the Deceiver happens to incarnate somewhere where interesting things are happening, the HG may have them temporarily play whatever they’re inhabiting instead of themselves — or watch and kibitz, if they’re incarnating in somebody else’s Avatar.

This miracle can cross worlds but it takes a greater (level 5) version to incarnate between Creation and the Lands Beyond, or between the normal world and a primal place like Heaven or Hell. You may need Strike to incarnate into or from a Chancel.

“Muses,” by Miranda Harrell


Greater Miracles of Incarnation (Difficulty 5) Epic miracles of incarnation work more or less exactly as for Powers — a level 5 effect lets you incarnate (spiritually “walk with”) your pState in many places at once or in particularly primal places such as Hell and Heaven.

This ranges from 0 to 5 depending on where you are in the Lands Beyond Creation, what you’re doing to reach across the world boundary, and the HG’s whim. For incarnation miracles, it’s probably only 2-3.

The normal bound is “hundreds or thousands of places on Earth or a small number of places across the cosmos.” This is a loosely-described boundary because this is technically as powerful as incarnation miracles get — if you want to pull an incarnation trick that’s bigger than this, you don’t need a higher miracle level, you need to sell your HG on the idea that you can. If they don’t buy it, then a Project or an Imperial miracle of some sort might help. For Excrucian Deceivers it’s worth particular note that incarnating between Creation and the Lands Beyond Creation requires this level of miracle; you’ll also probably have to cross the Auctoritas of the Weirding Wall*.

Weapon-Sense That quote is cheating. It’s describing magic and not a Persona miracle. But it’s magic that falls under the pseudo-Estate of Jasmine Apocynum’s Story, so I’m going to go with it. Sometimes when someone is important in Jasmine Apocynum’s story — When they’re an important friend or minion; when she’s taken out their heart and is piloting their flesh; when they’re an enemy, even — She winds up feeling what’s going on with them, even from afar. The language of their body — the language of little movements and kinaesthetic feelings — speaks to her. Sometimes she can even see through their eyes, hear through their ears, speak to them through their heart. That’s a level 2 Persona miracle.


he hurt. You could see that she hurt.

You could see it, if you were me, I mean, without even looking at her with your eyes. It was a searing barrenness, a deep hot chafing, a painful alienness. I could have seen it from half a mile away, I bet, at least, and through a wall . . . I could see her pain. I could feel her pain. It was much more real in that moment than my own. — from Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 342-348)

143 Borrowing the Flesh


he opened her mouth to speak, and felt the voice of Morrowen Hollow speaking with her; and the frogs were silent, and the birds were quiet, and all of town and countryside resounded with and only with the words she spoke. . . . — from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

Difficulty 3: “Lesser Emulation” You can use this level of Persona to apply one of your pState’s Properties to yourself as an Affliction. The Lies of Iolithae Septimian doubt the world; therefore, even in the face of Ananda’s beauty, Iolithae Septimian can hang on to doubt. The Lies of Iolithae Septimian are sacred; when she applies this Property to herself, she herself becomes a numinous being. When she is cornered, and wishes to depart unceremoniously from reality, the Lies of Iolithae Septimian are made false by the nature of the world; so too can she, as if she’d never been. Or consider some other Deceivers. The Adoration of Phasael feels good; no matter how hard you try to drag him down, he can in turn feel good himself. Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp “ain’t dead,” so Coriander cain’t hardly be dead, hisself ! In one of my local Nobilis games, I got Rook to unbend enough to try playing a Deceiver; her Yertle-inspired turtle-Deceiver could use Emulations of his Estate (“The Invincible Throne of Viticus Chelonian Invictus”) to stand on his own back, supporting him even as his throne was wont to do. . . . I don’t think she took the character all that seriously. Anyway, the Affliction generates whatever miracles the HG likes, but the typical base miracle level is that of the miracle you used. Note that this influences but does not dictate what those miracles actually are — Afflictions and HG actions in general aren’t bound to the miracle charts the way PCs usually are. The Affliction rating of the miracle is typically equal to your Persona. This means that if you only have Persona 0 — which is pretty weak for a Deceiver but pretty strong for a Deceiver-shard — the miracles will have Auctoritas 0* and they won’t ever get you MP. If you have Persona 5, on the other hand, these conjured Afflictions are up there with the laws of thermodynamics as core principles of the world. However, regardless of how strong the Affliction is, it only lasts while you sustain this miracle.

Morrowen Hollow is an alien thing; it is bodiless and unable to directly understand humanity. For this reason it has taken, from time to time, to walking with the spirits of its people as they do ordinary things, or as they speak with the voice of Morrowen Hollow against those who would silence them. It does not rule them; it does not command them; it does not even choose their words. It is simply there, around and about and in them, as they speak — as it always is — and, most importantly, it is there, to that little part of itself, that it pays attention. Is this the same as “no Auctoritas?” Functionally, it definitely is. Philosophically and in the narrative, it’s whatever seems cool to you — you can imagine it having an infinitesimal drag on miracles, e.g. causing a summoned wave to slow down by 1-2% or whatever, and it might be possible for someone to deliberately lob a miracle so weak it bounces off of Auctoritas 0. Basically, I want to make the official ruling that it is “no Auctoritas,” but leave things open for Auctoritas 0 to develop some sort of meaning in your game.


Greater Miracles of Emulation (Difficulty 6) You can choose a higher miracle level to strengthen an emulation’s effect. Starting around level 6, the HG is encouraged to give the Affliction in question epic, large-scale, and complicated effects by default.

Refinement through the Echoes


nder the pressure of that silence the voice of Morrowen Hollow began to fray. It began to fall apart. It grew desperate, frantic. It rang about within its mind, echoed through its own medium, played through and through itself the noise that was its being, until it found a rage in itself; until it saw the truth of itself, in itself; until it haunted itself;

In this quote I am cheating again — that’s not just an emulation, but an emulation that fails to defend her against (or even exacerbates) a Deadly Wound. Still, it’s pretty close to what an emulation looks like: with a lesser emulation, the Voice of Morrowen Hollow takes on a Property of its pState as an Affliction. For instance,

But as the voice of Morrowen Hollow echoed and reiterated fractally within itself, as it mirrored itself and sounded through itself down through the levels of its mind, it began to consume itself as well; began to fight itself, and fail; began to struggle to silence itself, to find a space of silence in itself, to hear its thoughts without the ringing.

§§ Morrowen Hollow finds a rage inside itself

This thing — of course — it could not do. The mind of Morrowen Hollow became a prisoner to itself.

§§ Morrowen Hollow discovers the truth of itself

— from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

§§ Morrowen Hollow fights that voice, and fails §§ Morrowen Hollow is haunted by that voice or §§ Morrowen Hollow feeds that voice The reason this quote is cheating is that, normally, only one of your pState Properties becomes an Affliction; the rest do not, and I apologize for a quote suggesting it’d be all of them. One Property becomes an Affliction; the others only come into play when they help the HG think through what should happen while that Affliction is in force.


Living Weapon


efore me, as if Bluebell Park were a mirror to that the other sight, in that the other space, I saw myself. Through that reflection I caught out my heart. — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 3219-3220)

Jasmine Apocynum can use a Persona 3 miracle to take on one of the qualities of her story, e.g. §§ Jasmine Apocynum is good-like

§§ Jasmine Apocynum gives a heart brass handles §§ Jasmine Apocynum transfigures

§§ Jasmine Apocynum inverts §§ Jasmine Apocynum grapples with Death or

§§ Jasmine Apocynum is “logical, sensible, and sane”

This allows her to grapple with Death, maintains her sanity in a crazy world, and gives her the power to transfigure and invert herself and others by way of the brass hooks that grow from a person’s heart. She can also become good-like at need, although it’s not completely clear to me what that entails.

If I’d gone with the sillier version of her pState Properties, this would have been even more awesome, because I could say things like: §§ Jasmine Apocynum is available in electronic form

§§ Jasmine Apocynum is referenced repeatedly in this document

“Jasmine Apocynum Contemplates her Heart,” by Miranda Harrell

and then name this book after her. I would have too! But I refrained. That’s how good-like I am, myself !


Difficulty 4: “Lesser Enchantment” You’ll use miracles at this level to make things part of your pState — to add the “way of being” that your pState has, its dharma and/or Properties and/or just plain being to them. You’ll make them Lies of Iolithae Septimian, or Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp, or part of Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow, or Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. You’ll make them one of the Things (you) are Pointing At, or The Person (you) Married Three Weeks Ago. Or — If that’s going too far — You’ll just give them a piece of it. You won’t make them a lie, just something that doubts the world and shatters walls. You won’t make them listen to Coriander Hasp; you’ll just make them . . . not . . . dead. You won’t swallow them in Helchen Hadusind’s Shadow; you’ll just make them hide from the light. You’ll help them to move in the way that your pseudo-Estate moves. You’ll make them one with it.

Greater Miracles of Enchantment (Difficulty 7) To perform a greater miracle of this sort — something complicated, something that covers a very large area, something epic — requires a level 7 miracle.

The Apocynum Endorsement Jasmine Apocynum can impose the various Properties of her pState on other things. She can share the penumbra of virtue with something, making it more “good-like.” She can take something, some explanation that she gives, and impose upon it the quality of being “logical, sensible, and sane.” She can even share with others her own power to transfigure, invert, and grapple Death.


hat did it. That solved it. That explained it. That let the pressure of the wrongness out and it all suddenly made sense. It was sensible, logical, and sane. Not just the True Thing, with that, but everything—explained! — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 2976-2978)

The Infection of Morrowen Hollow


e’d fought well, he thought. He was a good man. He could feel it trickling in around him, slipping into the presbytery where he sat and shuddered, echoing through the ears and belly of him, profaning the monstrance. “I’d stood against it,” he said. “Hadn’t I?”

He’d rallied the people. He’d stood firm in his faith. Then they’d turned against him, and still he’d fought; had stood against it, fought off the sound, sung praises to the holy; and when it broke him, still he hadn’t bowed to it, though it had made him crawl. He’d staggered into the Church instead. “I’m a good man,” he said. “Aren’t I? I haven’t forsaken God?”

He hated himself a little for the question, for it being a question.

It was harder to think now. His mind was thick with it, stirring with it, with the voice of Morrowen Hollow. It was eating him, he thought, devouring that which was he; and still he strove to fight. The ghost of the chapel put its hand on his shoulder. He cast it an awful, shuddering smile. It was doubtless the reason for his failure.

He was seeing it more clearly now: of course the ghost was the reason for it. Of course the Church was not sacred ground, not true sacred ground, it was haunted, it was polluted, it was the fault of this creature that he was failing now — He forgave it for the first time for its existence. He blessed it, traced his fingers in a cross.

Then he tilted forward and he fell headlong into the river of the sound; and he was the voice of Morrowen Hollow, all in and through him, and it was he. — from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

Difficulty 5: “Lesser Sacrifice” These miracles kick something out of your pState. They strip it of some of your pState’s Properties or make it generally less like the things of your pseudo-Estate. The heart of these miracles is something taken away. You pull away your pState from something, and you pull away the energies of Creation that are like your pState, but you don’t really control what’s left behind. It’s like stealing paintings from a museum — if you take away everything conservative, the museum becomes more radical, and vice versa, but if you take all the art, you’re always going to get an empty museum building; you can’t decide that what’s left is a military base or an elephant instead.

147 The standard method by which the Voice of Morrowen Hollow propagates itself is through the enchantment of “Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow.” It chooses its victims from the likeliest of the lot; it hardens their heart against that Voice, gives them wrath; destroys them in their struggle with it, devours them as they falter; drowns them in itself. In theory it can use this power in a lesser, more specific way — giving them only certain qualities of its pseudo-Estate. For instance, it could enrage or enlighten just about anyone; it could provoke hauntings; and if it were really hungry, really willing to cheat, it could technically just turn somebody into its food or its medium, skip the normal mechanisms of it, much like a starving human is technically capable of skipping details like silverware and chewing and just swallowing a gopher or, y’know, whatever, whole.


In like fashion, Coriander Hasp can make you somebody who doesn’t listen to Coriander Hasp, but that won’t necessarily kill you — even though he’s sacrificing that quality of “ain’t dead” that those who listen to him have. Iolithae Septimian can make something not a Lie of Iolithae Septimian, but that doesn’t always and automatically make it a truth. If you want to work around that the best way is to set expectations in play — to make a point of tying someone’s life or life-force to their listening to Coriander Hasp; to practice your lies, in your head or aloud, to make them better candidates for becoming truth; to make small shadow-puppets into real things so that when you want to make a shadow-Godzilla real by stripping its shadowness the precedent has been set. Otherwise — well. Most of the time, even if you haven’t been doing anything like that, the HG should follow your expectations. However, if there’s something going on that you don’t know about, or if the HG feels that the flow of story doesn’t justify what you’re looking to do, they may take things in their own direction!

Greater Miracles of Sacrifice (Difficulty 8) To perform a greater miracle of this sort — something complicated, something that covers a very large area, something epic — requires a level 8 miracle.

Departing Jasmine’s Story It is the nature of leaving Jasmine Apocynum’s Story that one is inclined to lose the Properties of that story — as one leaves it, one closes the book on a chapter of one’s own life, putting away the brass hooks from one’s own heart. Transfigurations and inversions end; mortality recedes; and one no longer lives by her conception of what is “logical, sensible, and sane.” In practice, though, she doesn’t control much or any of this — mostly, if she sacrifices someone from “Jasmine Apocynum’s Story,” they drift from her life for a while. Her player probably winds up having a lot of say in what happens to them, but Jasmine herself does not. This is the highest level of Persona miracle Jasmine is likely to be capable of, so we’ll depart from Jasmine Apocynum’s story for a while now ourselves.


hen the magic slipped from him, it drained from him, it shuddered from him, fell away from him, and he lay there, young and vulnerable again, a human boy. — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Locations 3880-3881)

Spit from Morrowen Hollow’s Maw


ill sat at the bell tower window. She kicked her feet, then dug them into the cracks in the outer wall. She spread her arms. She lifted up, straightened her legs, leaned over. She laughed. She began to fall. “I don’t understand the attraction,” said Morrowen Hollow, after a while. Jill wandered the Churchyard. She picked up her left hand. “Ha!” she said. It wriggled. She stuck it on. She made a face at it. It wasn’t a very good face. She was still looking for her nose. She cast a sly glance sideways. “If you’d’ve et me properly,” she said. “Then you’d know. Wouldn’t you?” “I did eat you properly.” “Well, you shouldn’t ought have sput me up, then.” After a while, Morrowen Hollow said, “I found your truths indigestible.” “Ah,” said Jill wisely. She tapped the hollow place where her nose wasn’t. “That’s just your reluctance to understand the nature of the world, that is.” her.

The world was quiet around

The voice of Morrowen Hollow was sulking; but it still helped her spot it, a while later, when she had scoured the whole churchyard and still hadn’t seen that last little wiggling left foot toe. “Jill,” by Miranda Harrell

— from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

149 With a lesser sacrifice, the voice of Morrowen Hollow can spit someone out of it — free them from the pattern of itself, in whole or in part. In general, Morrowen Hollow can also use this to — §§ quiet something’s rage, particularly if that rage has some connection to or has been exacerbated by the voice of Morrowen Hollow; §§ hide some truth, with a similar proviso; §§ make someone less interested in fighting the voice of Morrowen Hollow, though ironically also more able to succeed; or §§ withdraw itself from echoing in a certain medium. It can also more generally exile something from the category of “Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow.”


Wait, If Something is No Longer “Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice . . .” Never fear, bold Deceivers! On first blush it might seem that exiling anything at all from certain pStates is a terrifyingly dangerous move, making even a random squirrel into something that can, e.g., silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow. A careless slip of the tongue; a miracle wrongly used; and bam, that squirrel is not merely your nemesis but your inevitable end! Fortunately this is not the case; or at least, not exactly. Here is where it becomes important again that a pState is not part of Creation: that it is a narrow thing. There is a moth in Kaohsiung, Taiwan right now that I believe is unable to silence the voice of Morrowen Hollow; I mean, how would it ever do so? There are lions on the savannah that could try their whole lives and never thus succeed, nevermind a moth! What about my left sock? Can it silence the voice of Morrowen Hollow? It is a sock. Socks are at least notionally capable of silencing things, but . . . No. These things cannot silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow; but neither are they part of its pState. My left sock is not bound to find a rage inside it*, nor to discover the truth of itself; that moth is not doomed to fight the Voice and fail! They cannot silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow, but they aren’t part of the pState “Those Who Cannot Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow” either. It’s not an Estate. It’s not cosmic and universal like that. It’s local. It’s a pState. It’s a cheat code. What it means to be part of this pseudo-Estate is to be something that fights, and loses to Morrowen Hollow; that has heard that voice, and rages against it; that has heard that voice, and seen some inner truth because of it; that hears that voice even now, and is haunted by it.

*wiggles her toes as with the very fury of the heavens*

So exiling something from the pseudo-Estate doesn’t make it suddenly super-capable of silencing the Voice. It doesn’t! It just means that the sacrificed thing no longer fights with and loses against Morrowen Hollow. It no longer hears that voice and rages. It no longer hears that voice, and sees inner truths because of it. That voice no longer haunts it. What is sacrificed ceases to interact with Morrowen Hollow under the pState’s normal terms. Implicitly I suppose that means that it can silence Morrowen Hollow, now, at least, as much as it otherwise could have. That initial concern I suggested was not entirely misplaced: any sacrifice of its pState is notionally dangerous to the voice of Morrowen Hollow; anything it so sacrifices could become like the mistletoe that slew Baldur — not dangerous of itself, but a weapon in the hands of those who would bypass immortality. But that’s not what it means to exile something from this pseudo-Estate. What it means is that the thing sacrificed probably ceases to struggle against the Voice at all.


Difficulty 6: “Lesser Binding” Sometimes you’ll want to fit someone into the scheme of your pseudo-Estate in a way that does not flow naturally from its content. Perhaps you are Selenas Picard, and you want to set up a rival show — or a spin-off. Perhaps you are Helchen Hadusind, and you don’t want to swallow people in your shadow so much as build a tenebrous keep somewhere to which your shadow is a path. Sometimes you’ll have these ideas for how to tie someone or something into your pState, but you won’t know how to make it happen as an enchantment; and the longer you look at your pState Properties, the more obvious it is that the reason you don’t know how to do this as an enchantment is that it’s not an enchantment. You’re overreaching, you’re exceeding your boundaries. There’s this thing that you want to do, but you can’t. At least, not with your normal tools. Then again . . . there are miracles of binding. With a level 6 or 9 miracle, depending on just how strong and complex an effect you want, you can change how something relates to your pState in its entirety. These miracles basically give you a way to cheat that’s piled on top of your existing cheat: not only do you have power over, say, those who love you, but you also have the power to define the broader implications of what that love entails. These miracles let you change what your pState means to someone’s life. You have a pretty free hand with the effects here, although really epic, complex, and/or large-scale stuff needs a greater miracle. It’s often appropriate for the target of a binding miracle to develop minor magical abilities and Bonds and/or low levels of Superior Qualities and Skills; the exact details of this are up to the HG, as is whether or not it happens in any specific case, but it’s intended to be both pretty impressive and pretty common; these are miracles for showing off and shaping the course of the game with, and the HG should support you in using them to this end.

Greater Miracles of Binding (Difficulty 9) At this level, you can change how large portions of the world relate to your pState — you can bind whole cities or wildernesses, construct extremely complicated bindings, or in general do epic stuff. The target of this miracle is likely to acquire major magical abilities, Bonds and Afflictions, Superior Qualities and Skills; further, a level 4 Auctoritas that lasts for the remainder of the story protects the destiny that you deal out.

“The Shadow of Helchen Hadusind,” by Miranda Harrell

152 The Follower Phasael mery-Harumaph uses bindings of his Estate when ordinary adoration isn’t enough — when he needs someone to celebrate him in a fashion that they’re just not capable of, even when pushed to be a little over the top. In such a fashion he makes loyal and disloyal friends to assist him in his schemes, predictable enemies to do the same, and such schticks and tools and servants as he, with his comparatively low Treasure rating, cannot otherwise reliably empower. It’s likely that Revel, New Revel, and their various sister cities — formed in celebration of and to make celebration of Phasael mery-Harumaph’s existence — survive by virtue of his binding miracles. Otherwise, I simply cannot accept that their extraordinary tax codes, architecture, and survival as party towns is plausible smack dab in the middle of conservative or war-torn territories as they are.


hasael mery-Harumaph leaves eventually. That’s . . . for the best, right? He leaves.

You can probably resist the urge to run to the door and shout after him. Because doing that’s embarrassing. I mean, a lot of people _do_ shout, he does tend to leave town with a chorus of “WE LOVE YOU, PHASAEL!” ringing out behind him, but you---you can probably resist. On the other hand, if you don’t, he might look back at you and wink, so---there’s that. After he’s been gone for a while, a gray man visits. He’s bland. He’s a bland gray man. There’s very little of him left. He takes down your information. You tell him everything about you---probably. He doesn’t smile, but he thanks you. He shakes your hand. “He won’t be disappointed,” the gray man says. And maybe if you’re a certain kind of person, you have this sudden burst of empathy; like, you’ll know this wasn’t what this guy wanted from his life. He must have been some ordinary person, somewhere, somewhen---probably a long time ago, since he’s kind of short, but I guess modern people can be pretty short sometimes too---and then one day Phasael swept him up, gave him a new destiny and cast aside his old. Maybe you say, “Hey---hey, is it all right?” A cloud sweeps through his eyes then. They’re human eyes, not Excrucian eyes, but there’s still this film of passing grey. It blows from the upper right to the lower left. It passes like a storm. “There’s nothing else,” he says. It’s kind of awkward, but it’s not like you can keep him. He’d probably dangle you from a building or something if you tried. (Or just leave!) So maybe one day Phasael will come back through town. Maybe it’ll matter to him who you are, who you were, what the gray man wrote. It probably won’t. It probably doesn’t. You’ll want Phasael to love you, but he’s too good for you. At best you can hope that the gray man will write you well. — a post in rec.arts.nobilising.encounters (authenticity disputed)

153 Servant of the Voice


he bluethroat flew; and where it went, it sang; and where it sang, it sang with shards of the voice of Morrowen Hollow. A cat’s eyes followed it. The cat spoke, soft: “you are not correct.”

The cat was fast but the bluethroat faster; a leap, a spray of feathers, and it was off, limping and struggling through the sky, to bear its warning to Morrowen Hollow: That there, at a certain place, at a certain time, was a thing that heard its voice, and understood. The cat chased it, but was left behind; it turned back, with a curl of its tail, to warn another.

Behind the bird came hoofbeats; they rang through the sky as through the earth. Fear raged in it like fever but it dared not turn to see. Behind the bird came hoofbeats; a presence loomed upon it, heat and smoke around it; the bird screamed inside its heart, but only flew. A hand closed about it. A hand crushed it.

The bird spat out a last tumbling note of the voice of Morrowen Hollow, for the wind to catch, for the grass to hear, for the trees to bear with their rustling back, a warning: O master! O master! There is a thing that heard your voice, and was displeased.

The sound of that note rippled through the air and then the breeze that carried it was ripped apart by an iron hand. The sound of that note lived for a moment in a flower. The flower was crushed.

That trill took flight as a bee; it saw the forest around it falling, all in blazes, and its heart was a bird’s heart, and its voice was a bird’s voice, but a horned hoof came down upon it, and its last words were slain, the singing of the birds and bees went silent, and down it fell to the earth in feathers of ash and quiet: O master! O master! Silence.

. . . danger comes. . . .

— from The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, by J. Dunsmore

The voice of Morrowen Hollow does not always swallow its victims. It does not always take them over completely and merge them into the community of itself. More than a few things become its minions instead; they resound with partial, targeted, purposeful fragments of that voice, and give it service in personal ways.


The Adoration of Phasael

Let me tell you what it’s like to adore Phasael mery-Harumaph. Imagine that you are riding a shark down a hill covered in roses. The roses have become a waterslide. The wind is rushing through your hair. The wind is trying to eat your hair. Possibly the wind is also a shark.


You are eating a Klondike bar.* You do not have to do anything to earn this. There is no extra requirement before you can eat it. They are not going to sing that jingle. They just saw you surfing the shark down the hill and said, “You know, just . . . just take it.” So you did. You passed the ice cream stand and you took it. Listen. And it’s like you look up at the sun and there’s lens flare in your vision. That’s how beautiful things are. There are guitars solos raging. You have wings. They unfurl behind you. The wings: they unfurl behind you. Which is good. There is only so long before the shark breaks loose and begins thrashing and burrowing into the ground and lashing up from beneath the ground to devour cities. That’s just the kind of shark it is. That’s how Chicago will go, if the Great Chicago Fire doesn’t return. It’ll go by shark. So it’s probably just about time that you ditched your ride. You have wings. There is lens flare on the wings, too. They’re bursting with it, flares like Christmas lights, and up you go soaring away — You’ve just staggered out of a fire. You’re weary. You’re broken. Your lungs are full of smoke. The smoke came from your books. You hurt all over. The fire is mostly out but — it is the worst thing that has ever happened to you, and you are not just a mortal but a god. An angel, anyway. A thing forged out of justice and beauty pure, beyond any mortal understanding; you are “wings and faces opening and closing are they all;” you are brass and you are fire, you are a wind and you are a wheel, you are stern and steady and you are law here, and yet your books, your records, your books — And there he is. He’s looking all hangdog and shy. Like, are you ever going to be able to like him now? Are you ever going to be able to forgive him? He holds your sigil. Your seal. The totem of your power. “I had to borrow it,” he says. “I’m sorry I set your library on fire.” And he is like God. He is like the face of God. He is like the voice of Cneph who Made, the one who built the world and taught you love and justice. He is like the sun to you that shines above. You want him to love you so very badly. He is a gift of worth.

A totally metaphorical Klondike bar that is no challenge to the relevant company’s trademarks, of course, but which still tastes awesome and is somehow in its silver-foiled squareness evocative of the “What Would you Do for a Klondike Bar?” commercials. Because Phasael.


Your face makes this ungodly congeries of expressions. Your faces, I guess. You’re being an angel in this. You look at him. But — “How can you think that matters?” you tell him. How can he possibly think it matters?

The Adoration of Phasael . . . §§ forgives Phasael §§ frees you §§ feels good §§ is a little over the top §§ makes you happy that Phasael is alive §§ celebrates Phasael’s existence §§ is wanting Phasael to love you

Then you go home and you weep wing-fire-wheel-brass tears. You’re living your drab dreary little life. It probably isn’t even in color. It’s not black and white, it’s all rich burgundies and hidden depths, but there’s no sense of chromatic light. There’s just the sea of a single color that submerges you. Then you see it. You see the colors of his footsteps coming. It’s strange like that, it’s synaesthetic like that, the first thing you notice is this shiver in the world and a bit of color here, a bit of color there, and it’s in time to his footsteps.


You have been waiting all your life for this. You don’t even talk to him. He just walks past you. But he’s given you that thing in you that you’ve needed all your life and haven’t known how to find. You unfurl wings from your back. They’re paper-thin at first, weak, but they strengthen, they set like amber hardening, and then you rise into the sky and you don’t look back. He’s knocking at your door now. Maybe not right now. I can’t time this book perfectly. I’m only mortal. But soon. Soon. He’s knocking. You open the door. You’re so happy. You read this, and you knew it was coming, and you were ready for anything, you were braced to resist it, or to embrace it, or to disbelieve it, but now it’s happened and you’re so happy. “We have to celebrate,” you tell him. You take his hands. “We have to mark this.” And you’re lost in his eyes, and the world is spinning, and you think that just maybe he does love you, just maybe the world is a good and bright and justifiable thing, and it doesn’t even bother you too much that the party has already started behind you, or what some of the dancers are. Later, if you believe the newsgroups, a gray man comes.


Fighting Deceivers It strikes me that some of you may be reading this book wondering not how to construct Deceivers but how to oppose them; that is, as creatures of Creation, probably including Powers of Creation, how can you practically confront and oppose something of this ilk? The simplest and most effective method is to find out what they’re doing and stop them.

At least, strategically speaking. Obviously you may choose to value your life as much as it values its — but Powers are expendable. Mortals are expendable. You’re expendable! Unless you’re an Imperator. Imperators aren’t expendable, so if you are an Imperator and you are reading this to figure out how to fight Deceivers, . . . I can’t actually imagine how that would happen anyway. Are you under some sort of enchantment? An amnesiac? Seriously! Tell me! I want to know!

That is, treat the Deceiver itself as a secondary obstacle. The big thing is to disrupt its plans; if you can do so, then it has more to lose from fighting you than you do* and will probably just retreat. With this plan, you don’t have to worry about whether the Deceiver has immortality of some flavor or another or whether it’s turned itself into something unexpected — just §§ Get the Power involved to straighten out their Estate and end a flower rite; §§ Blow up the Deceiver’s investment in a welken-rite; §§ Make the Deceiver’s attempts at personally reaching or corrupting Powers counterproductive; and/or §§ Ensure the temporary safety of whatever it is that the Deceiver is trying to destroy. Afterwards if they’re still around you can get in a fight if you want. Hm. That advice not good enough? Let’s see what else I’ve got here. Oh! Here’s something. Deceivers are extremely vulnerable to narrative. They are outright suckers for dramatic appropriateness; more generally, for creatures able to see through the lie of the entire world, they’re surprisingly vulnerable to getting tangled up in either their own ideas or yours. Think of it this way: most of the time, if you

attack a Power, their player or the HG should be looking for cool reasons why that attack doesn’t destroy them. A Deceiver’s player, or the HG, should be much more likely to think something like: “you know, that would totally get me.”


They’re creatures of expectations and story logic and even the most relentlessly practical of them will carry that logic through to the end. I think it’s . . . I think, to be honest, that there’s some vast flower rite they’re doing against Creation, or that the Imperators are doing against them, that makes “going with the flow” a necessary part of their existence. It’s like there’s someone or something out there that wants the idea of being hoist by your own petard to apply to the Deceivers, and if you give them a way to bite themselves in the butt, or to hoist it, they totally will. They are practically ouroborous fetishists in that respect. I don’t mean to imply that it’s always easy or that you can circumvent the rules of the game just by kludging together some reason why your plan “goes with the flow” or “gives them enough rope to hang themselves.” I just mean, that’s the kind of plan you should be looking for. When you’re fighting Iolithae Septimian, you should be looking for ways to trip her on her own lies or put her in the position of a dynasty or cliff to tumble down. When you’re fighting Coriander Hasp, you want to get him to listen to himself. When you’re fighting somebody with a pState like “Stuff That I Have Stolen,” you want to trick them into stealing something. Just the fact that you’re trying to bait them into stealing something will give the treasure in question an almost irresistable glow. If you want to tangle this up in the system you can think of it as many Deceivers having weaknesses (Bonds or Afflictions) on the order of: §§ Affliction: I can’t fight my hardest against cool plans §§ Affliction: I’m driven to make trouble for myself or §§ Affliction: I’m driven to complete otherwise imperfect symmetries Deceivers are usually immortal, and even when they’re not, they’re the kind of creatures that can randomly come back from death. They’re like a bad idea that way, you know? Even if you can bloodily slaughter them once or twice they’ll just show up again the next time you’re a little drunk. So for the most part, your goal in a conflict with them is to drive them back out of Creation — that’s winning. “Killing” them, as much as that means anything at all, is just a major bonus. (Or, if you think killing is wrong, a penalty.) Shards, on the other hand, are often things that you both should and can kill. I mean, if you’re loyal to Creation and participating in the Excrucian War and no Imperator has said that you should maintain peaceful relationships with them or whatever. There’s no hard limit to how many shards a Deceiver can spawn, but they’re unique entities and each of them is both an investment and a victory. I think of a Deceiver spawning a shard as like releasing a book for me — yes, if you smite one of my books, I can just write another, but don’t do that! I need them! All of them! That’s just mean!

I plunged the spear through the dragon’s chest and it fell in coils and wings to the chamber floor. The strike was true and the spear’s poisoned head could touch the dragon’s heart. Life still blazed in its eyes, but I dismissed it; signaling my attendants, dropping the spear’s handle, I turned to leave. A cry from my guard Stephanos warned me. I cut the air with my hand and stepped to the other side of the room before the dragonfire touched me. I saw the creature rearing up, the spear lost, the wound closing as I watched. “How?” I asked it. “Nothing survives my poison.” “An absolute statement,” it answered, in the tongue of dragons. “I counter with another: no one may kill me who does not know my name.” My blood ran cold, but I was not yet dead. “I have seen your name written on the tree of worlds.” “I have done many things since that name was written,” the dragon said, “and my name is no longer what it was.” —from The Allegories of Tairté Ut-napishtim, by Niloufar Samir


If you don’t like killing, then imprisoning, befriending, monitoring, or just kicking them out of Creation also works. I presume if they leave Creation they rejoin their parent Deceiver in some kind of hideous anti-birth process but maybe they just find a field of black flowers and black grass under a night-black sky with no light* and sit in it and sulk. Forever; or until the stars and suns go out, and silence falls.

Nobilis and Immortal Antagonists Since most Deceivers are immortal, and immortality is commonly purchased in the form of the Active Immortality Gift, which is pretty annoying when you’re fighting somebody, I’m going to dedicate a whole sub-section of this mini-book to discussing what you’re supposed to do about that. This one! Right here!

The Lands Beyond Creation are not actually my specialty.

So, as noted above, one of the best things to do when fighting an immortal enemy is to tackle their plans first and treat the immortal themselves as a secondary matter. To beat an immortal Deceiver, screw up their plans and push them to the point where “OK, I’ll run away and lose you in the Lands Beyond Creation so you don’t track me back to the other stuff I have going on” starts looking like a pretty good plan in their mind’s eye. If you have free resources, or if it’s taking a while to figure out and stop their plans, appropriate secondary procedures here include area denial and punitive measures — basically, try to lock them out of wherever they want to be and make them as unhappy as possible while you do so. The second standard answer is to use overwhelming force. Use Imperial miracles, posses of large numbers of supporting Powers, and borrowed, stolen, or co-opted Abhorrent Weapons. If you’re stuck slugging it out with an immortal Deceiver, you can probably count on some sort of support like that showing up eventually — just give it time! — because even a 15-CP Deceiver with no second skin is a Deceiver, and they’re scary, and people who care about things like whether the world exists or not in the future will want them gone. The third way to overwhelm the Active Immortality Gift is careful application of Afflictions and Auctorita. The Immortality Gift doesn’t provide free Strike, after all — you can generally bleed out an immortal’s MP with their Afflictions or your own. At some point they won’t have the MP to oppose you and will become normally vulnerable to wounds. As noted above, a fourth answer is dramatic appropriateness. Convince a Deceiver that it’s their loss, by their terms, and they might not be in a mental condition to look over their character sheet and see that they still have a Deadly wound level and some MP remaining. They’re not gritty action heroes who’ll fight on when there’s no hope left; they’re twisty, tricky villains and they’ll fight only as long as they have tricks remaining they don’t believe you can overcome. (That can be a frustrating part — when they’re beaten, when they should be beaten, but they think they have a trick left that you don’t know about. Especially if

they actually do, but sometimes even when they don’t. Ask Coriander sometime about the fight where he miscounted his backup plans; I don’t know if it’s true or not but when he tells it it’s one of the funniest stories I have ever heard.) A Project is the last answer — if it’s going to be a long fight, you might as well settle in and start working on a trap or plan or machine or scheme or story or idea to catch them with. It’s not as useful as growing wings and learning to be an immortal yourself, but it can be awfully satisfying when you bypass their immortality, wrap them in chains made of their own lies, and send them plummeting into the heart of the sun. Best of all, if they come back later, the HG can compensate you by swapping out that Project progress retroactively into something that is useful to you personally, like grafting on metal wings (that make you immortal) made out of burnt and broken Deceiver-chains!

The land seal on read the b s: lue-

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to u nde rsta nd

Her me is a not e my a nd t r v y ice to c t o und is sim hec km e y tr rstand ple: d Inst ansl o atio it. Do not o thes ead, co p n! not n e even en it. D thin thing vince atte o gs i a mpt n al s are t n ene my he l th m ew orld ost of the te w for themrribly orld th to d impor at tant o.


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Appendix A: 52 Deceiver Names (and Viticus)


*: Viticus Chelonian

- Appendix A 52 Deceiver Names (and Viticus) 01: Adelais Americus

27: Guthorm Villaris

02: Americus Tane

28: Gylbard Wayne

03: Ancelin Anderly

29: Hedwys Letharge

04: Ariagne Valens

30: Hermenite Galmeya

05: Ardabur Ethwray

31: Herveus Watson

06: Avicia Frithgeist

32: Hewekin Ancerry

07: Bardulf Picaret

33: Hitch

08: Bertram Holmes

34: Ivone Withrell

09: Chlotsuine Galamir

35: Jaroslav Alphege

10: Clarimond Aitrinn

36: Lambkin Moceils

11: Dederic Onceler

37: Leonidas

12: Drogos Andrigand

38: Mainfridus Ount

13: Elisot Irene

39: Marcomir Ainesley

14: Eluard Mordan

40: Metylda Mathild

15: Emmony Leath

41: Nanna Meloria

16: Euvroin Wyrle

42: Odibrand Seschaul

17: Frideric Howe

43: Radolf the Interstice

18: Fulbert Winselis

44: Rausimod Ince

19: Gaatha Eilonwey

45: Rechemay Reaving

20: Gallot Warne

46: Rykold Picain

21: Gannuel Gast

47: Snaesoric Svanlaug

22: Gerardet Fortmain

48: Sunigild Errisentha

23: Gersvina Vandaline

49: Swethyna Eglantine

24: Giscard Montdain

50: Thudogoth Severne

25: Grissoniya Weiss

51: Valdamer Finnbog

26: Guillote Morren

52: Valter Edelric

Appendix B: Example Persona Miracle Charts

- Appendix B Example Persona Miracle Charts


The Lies of Iolithae Septimian §§ Recognize people strongly affected by or connected to your Lies.

Difficulty 0: The Sight

§§ Make someone doubt the world a little §§ Make someone a bit more epic

Difficulty 1: Blessing

§§ Make someone a bit more illicit or fantastical §§ Shelter someone, a little, from the cost of your Lies. §§ Spend a scene as the spirit of one of your Lies, in a given place and context.

Difficulty 1: “Curse” Difficulty 2: Lesser Incarnation

§§ Protect your power to doubt the world; §§ Swathe yourself in sacredness; §§ Gain in strength by repeating yourself (verbally or in action); §§ (make yourself able to) Shatter walls and dynasties; §§ Vanish from the world, making your presence a lie/illusion;

Difficulty 3: Lesser Emulation

§§ Make yourself unforgettable; §§ Make it so that if someone fails to remember what you’re about to do, they are likely to suffer a price or penalty; §§ Make it difficult to refer to you aloud, particularly by name. §§ Make something, which was real, a Lie of Iolithae Septimian; §§ Make something doubt the world; §§ Make something sacred; §§ Make a speech or song get “stronger” when retold; §§ Enchant a person to gain strength from repetition, or from having people tell stories of them; §§ Enchant something to break walls or shatter dynasties better; §§ Seal something so that it should not be spoken of and/or forgotten.

Difficulty 4: Lesser Enchantment

164 §§ Take a lie which you have spoken, and make it no longer one of the Lies of Iolithae Septimian (often, making it true); Difficulty 5: Lesser Sacrifice

§§ Make something doubt the world less; §§ Make something less sacred, more forgettable, or easier to speak; §§ Make something “an encouragement to walls,” and thus more likely to become confined.

Difficulty 5: Greater Incarnation

Difficulty 6: Lesser Binding

§§ From the Lands Beyond Creation, incarnate into one of your Lies; §§ Incarnate in the whole effects of a Lie, everywhere in the world. §§ Appoint someone a record-keeper or priest for your Lies; §§ Give someone the watchful eyes to help you judge when a Lie is ready to become the truth. §§ Doubt the world so fiercely that it is likely to dissolve before your gaze;

Difficulty 6: Greater Emulation

§§ Become incarnate holiness; §§ Make yourself the figurehead for a revolutionary movement liable to topple the walls and dynasties of the world. §§ Turn whole mountains, worlds, or sections of history into lies;

Difficulty 7: Greater Enchantment

§§ Spread vast doubt; §§ Speak four words to ring down a civilization; §§ Decide that we won’t ever talk about, you know, that thing, you know, ever again, even in a miracle chart, even if we probably should.

Difficulty 8: Greater Sacrifice

§§ Take a Lie which you have spoken and wring it out into truth, changing the world in an epic fashion thereby.

Difficulty 9: Greater Binding

§§ Pick a random country and declare it the place where — if you ever die — someone will find the Lies of Iolithae Septimian and become you again, to the accompaniment of tumbling stone, kingdoms broken, and dynasties falling into ruin.

165 Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp §§ Determine whether someone is listening and/or likely to listen to you.

Difficulty 0: The Sight

§§ Make someone more inclined to listen; §§ Make someone a little less dead;

Difficulty 1: Blessing

§§ Make someone a little more inspired. §§ Make someone a bit less of a Hasp-listener. §§ Spend a scene walking “in spirit” with someone who’s listened to you, getting a sense for what they’re up to and bringing the two of you spiritually closer.

Difficulty 1: “Curse”

Difficulty 2: Lesser Incarnation

§§ Feel better about your level of physical attractiveness; §§ Give yourself orders and improve your power to fulfill them; §§ Prevent yourself from being dead;

Difficulty 3: Lesser Emulation

§§ Fill yourself up with inspiration. Also, bad ideas; §§ If absolutely necessary, set your head on fire. §§ Induct someone into the ranks of Those Who Listen to Coriander Hasp, with all the perquisites and drawbacks thereof; §§ Make someone listen; §§ Make someone notice how awesome you look in your awesome boots; also, look how hot this gun is. Seriously. Hot; §§ Wake the dead; §§ Inspire someone past the bounds of reason, possibility, and good sense; §§ Declare something and have it be something that people probably shouldn’t go along with.

Difficulty 4: Lesser Enchantment

166 Difficulty 5: Lesser Sacrifice

Difficulty 5: Greater Incarnation

§§ Exile someone from your Estate, removing them from that whole Hasp-listening complex of stuff; §§ Take someone who’s been listening to and being inspired by you and has gotten their life all tangled up with that listening and make them not ain’t being dead, if you know what I mean. I mean, kill ’em; §§ Carefully trim the bonsai of bad ideas you give people, making it so that just maybe they should listen, this time, or at least so that listening to you this time won’t bring on the usual karmic punishment. §§ Walk spiritually with a whole bunch of people who listen to you; §§ Walk spiritually with people in Creation even if you’re in the Lands Beyond. §§ Change what listening to you does for a specific person;

Difficulty 6: Lesser Binding

§§ Give something a specific duty or power vis-a-vis people who listen to you, e.g., make an envelope that can get a message to anybody who listens to you even if you don’t use a stamp. §§ Go full-on mad scientist with the inspiration and the bad ideas;

Difficulty 6: Greater Emulation

Difficulty 7: Greater Enchantment

§§ Make yourself so very much alive that the entire circumstances under which you recently ought probably have died become seriously questionable. Is that thing that they shot you with even a real gun? §§ Do epic enchantments, like waking a whole graveyard of the dead, or explaining to someone that this cape does let them fly, and then … it does. (And yet, thinking that that cape will let them fly is still probably somehow a bad idea.) §§ . . . There’s really not that much you can do here.

Difficulty 8: Greater Sacrifice

Difficulty 9: Greater Binding

If there’s a whole army that’s been listening to you, so much so that the HG thinks your “ain’t dead” Property has a spiritual connection to their being alive, you can kill them in one miracle — but why? Maybe you could use a greater sacrifice for an epic miracle of “making all the trouble that somebody’s gotten into by listening to you actually work out for the best.” But to make that worth doing, you’d have to have gotten them into an awful lot of trouble first . . . . §§ This is a good level for miracles like “no matter what else happens after this, at least I can promise you that the people of Atlantis will always love those who listened to Coriander Hasp.”

Those Who Can’t Silence the Voice of Morrowen Hollow

§§ Tune your vision to threats, powerful things, and potential sources of strength and food.


Difficulty 0: The Sight

§§ Wake a small rage; §§ Give a small insight;

Difficulty 1: Blessing

§§ Connect to someone, a little. §§ Push someone away; make them just plain less interested in the Voice of Morrowen Hollow.

Difficulty 1: “Curse”

§§ Spend a scene walking “in spirit” with someone who fought you, couldn’t silence you, and was consumed. §§ Possibly you can also “sound out” the life of someone who is currently fighting you, can’t silence you, but is yet to be consumed — spending a scene walking in spirit with them. Given the probable circumstances, this may qualify as an attack.

Difficulty 2: Lesser Incarnation

§§ Prevent yourself from accidentally silencing yourself; §§ Find a rage inside yourself; §§ Find insight in the Voice of Morrowen Hollow, discovering the truth of yourself;

Difficulty 3: Lesser Emulation

§§ Haunt yourself or feed on yourself. (But why?) §§ Enchant someone and make them something that follows the general pattern of your story — something that will fight you, and fail, and be consumed; §§ Wake a vast rage; §§ Grant a shattering insight; §§ Devour someone outright in a single burst of sound.

Difficulty 4: Lesser Enchantment

168 §§ Reconstitute someone or something that you’ve swallowed; Difficulty 5: Lesser Sacrifice

§§ Free something that you’re fighting from its struggles; §§ Quiet something’s rage (if it connects to you somehow); §§ Hide some truth (again, if it connects to you in some fashion). §§ Walk “in spirit” with a bunch of people who fought you, couldn’t silence you, and were consumed.

Difficulty 5: Greater Incarnation

Difficulty 6: Lesser Binding

Difficulty 6: Greater Emulation

§§ If you somehow wind up in the Lands Beyond Creation while your victims still exist — there’d be a story to that! — you can use greater incarnations to walk with them “in spirit” from the Beyond. §§ Resound through something, but make it a minion or servant instead of digesting it. §§ Get angry enough that the various animals and people you’ve eaten start showing ridiculous levels of hysterical strength and stones falling from the walls of your canyon turn into homing missiles that hunt down your enemies below; §§ Map the territory “inside” you down to the quantum level; §§ Survive a period of utter silence by haunting your own memories.

Difficulty 7: Greater Enchantment

Difficulty 8: Greater Sacrifice

Difficulty 9: Greater Binding

§§ Devour an entire country; §§ Reveal some deeply-hidden truth, e.g., the key to immortality, through your struggle with somebody or other. §§ Hide from the world by returning vast swathes of people and territory “to normal,” possibly even while lingering in subtle, potential form in the back of their heads; §§ Make everyone stop being so angry that you’re eating the world. Still their rage, quiet their fear, and leave the bystanders quiescent and complacent; that way you can deal with one meal before challenging the next! §§ This is a good level of miracle for empowering major sound-servants and spawning child-selves — although you should probably use a Project, also, if you want to split off a shard capable of miracles and second skins!

Jasmine Apocynum’s Story §§ Tune your vision to things that are relevant to your story, such as potential allies and enemies and people whose hearts are troubled enough for you to turn them into giant monsters.

169 Difficulty 0: The Sight

§§ Make someone a little more a part of your story; §§ Create minions; §§ Unleash a little bit of somebody’s true self;

Difficulty 1: Blessing

§§ Make someone a little bit cooler and saner in your eyes. §§ Make someone a little less a part of your story; §§ Make someone’s life story a bit less likely to resemble yours. §§ Spend a scene walking “in spirit” with someone who is an important part of your story.

Difficulty 1: “Curse”

Difficulty 2: Lesser Incarnation

§§ Become more good-like; §§ Become more “logical, sensible, and sane;” §§ Successfully grapple Death, e.g., while performing emergency medical care;

Difficulty 3: Lesser Emulation

§§ Become someone who can do the whole “pull out hearts and turn people into giant monsters” thing, with slightly different implications depending on whether you choose to give a heart brass handles and pull, transfigure someone, invert someone, or unleash the true self within them. §§ Make someone else more good-like; §§ Make someone else more “sensible, logical, and sane;” §§ Give someone else the power to grapple Death; §§ Pull out someone’s heart and turn them into a giant monster; §§ Enable somebody else to pull out a third party’s heart and turn them into a giant monster. (The loose language of your pState Properties gives you a multitude of options here!)

Difficulty 4: Lesser Enchantment


If your Persona rises to level 1, you’ll be able to use this level of miracle to . . . Difficulty 5: Lesser Sacrifice

Difficulty 5: Greater Incarnation

Difficulty 6-9

§§ Banish people from your story, definitely turning anybody you’ve transformed or messed up back to normal and quite probably exiling them unceremoniously from the scene, making it harder for them to contact you, and maybe even making them forget you! §§ “Walk with” large numbers of people who are an important part of your story, or walk with somebody spiritually while outside Creation. In a low-powered setting like Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, characters with relatively low Traits can’t use Words of Command. So you can’t use these miracles!

171 The Adoration of Phasael §§ Tune your vision to people who adore you, people pointedly not adoring you, and people with special relations to that adoration.

Difficulty 0: The Sight

§§ Make someone a little more forgiving (at least, towards you); §§ Make someone feel good;

Difficulty 1: Blessing

§§ Push someone to go a little over the top. §§ Harden someone’s heart against you, making it a little harder for them to adore you properly. Their world goes a little bit dimmer; they feel the gentle touch of despair.

Difficulty 1: “Curse”

§§ Spend a scene walking “in spirit” with someone caught up in the adoration of Phasael.

Difficulty 2: Lesser Incarnation

§§ Feel good, forgive yourself, and celebrate your own existence; §§ Free yourself from chains and prisons;

Difficulty 3: Lesser Emulation

§§ Do things that are a little over the top. §§ Enchant someone or something with the adoration of Phasael; §§ Make someone forgive you; §§ Make someone or something feel good; §§ Make someone or something a little epic; §§ Make someone or something want your love; §§ Conjure up a celebration.

Difficulty 4: Lesser Enchantment

172 §§ Cast someone out of the spirit of adoring you; §§ Make it impossible for them to forgive you, to honestly celebrate you, or to feel the proper joy and happiness that you’re alive; Difficulty 5: Lesser Sacrifice

§§ If you have spiritual leverage (that is, if they’ve been a part of your pState long enough for it to affect their dharma), cast them into despair or imprison them in some fashion; §§ Given similar leverage, sacrifice someone’s over-the-topness and put them definitively under the top. (Whoa.)

Difficulty 5: Greater Incarnation

§§ Walk “in spirit” with a large number of your celebrants; §§ Walk “in spirit” with someone while you’re in the Lands Beyond Creation and they’re not, or while you’re on Earth and they’re in Hell or Heaven.

Difficulty 6: Lesser Binding

§§ Give someone a place in the adoration of Phasael that’s not just adoring you or not adoring you, e.g., empower someone like your “bland, gray man.”

Difficulty 6: Greater Emulation

§§ Use the power of believing in yourself to trigger a full-on cinematic escape sequence from whatever prison you’re currently trapped in. Do you blast out through the walls on your motorcycle, ride an alligator down from the sky, subvert the guards, or step between the molecules of the prison walls?

Difficulty 7: Greater Enchantment

§§ Kick the adoration up a notch, making hearts explode with joy all Ananda-style or making all of, e.g., Japan, or maybe even Canada, a little bit over the top.

Difficulty 8: Greater Sacrifice

§§ Perform epic miracles of anti-adoration. Like, you get up on stage, cough, tap the microphone, and say: “The party’s over, folks. You hate me now,” and it is so. Don’t know why you’d do that? Me neither! Maybe it’s for a flower rite?

Difficulty 9: Greater Binding

§§ If you really like the mango lassi that a given restaurant serves, and want to have access to it anywhere there’s someone who adores you and has a refrigerator, this is a good level for a miracle to make that so. You can probably do more useful things with greater bindings too, but then you have to consider: what if that leaves you without enough MP left to secure your eternal access to the perfect lassi? Give it some thought!

Appendix C: The Other Side of the Eyes

- Appendix C The Other Side of the Eyes


As far as I know, Deceiver eyes aren’t really there. That is, they’re not looking at us through physical eyes; they’re looking at us through our perception of them looking at us. It’s not clear to me whether this changes anything. It definitely means stuff. For instance, it means that their eyes — the things they use to see us with, and more generally to see the world with, aren’t physical things. They aren’t part of our reality. Their ability to apprehend the world as a lie is intimately tangled with this, I think: we see the world as real because we’re seeing it through real eyes. They see the world through a lens of void, so of course it doesn’t look real to them! They see it, I guess, the way we might see a movie — their eyes are a screen, tarnished by the mystique of Hollywood or at least by the fantasy that there’s a world. The way we see their eyes — as “night and falling stars” — is most blatantly a vision of a world without a sun; alchemically speaking, a world without revelation, without a Marduk of consciousness to tame the Tiamat of primordial confusion. We look in their eyes and we see a vast, open world stripped of the light of reason, of logos, of the consciousness — and even the distant stars then fall. When we look at them we see the limits of our understanding staring back. Yet fundamentally the Deceivers seem to see the same things we do. I guess that fits with what I’ve said here — I guess the only difference between what we see with our eyes, and what we see with “the limits of our understanding,” is that our eyes believe the sunlit world we see is real I don’t think the matter of their eyes is any deeper than that. I don’t think it’s even that deep, really; it’s probable that I’m way overanalyzing it and they just happen to keep their portals to the night-sky portion of the void in their face, because: evolution. Because timeless evolution, even; and that’s practically an omni-explanation for whatever! One of the big questions debated in the Nobiliser community is what happens if you stick a finger or torch or spear or — well, whatever — in an Excrucian’s eye. Are there structures that you can damage? Is the apparent night an actual night sky somewhere, or a projected image? Your intrepid explorer and representative, heroine Jenna Moran, Ph.D., has investigated! When I finally got Genseric’s permission to touch one of his eyes, I felt a coldness, a yielding flatness, and a sense — I cannot explain it! — like a dead finger on the other side, moving, touching mine. It freaked me out and I pulled my hand back and then the bastard wouldn’t let me touch his eye again. Still, to whatever degree any information whatsoever gained through any interaction whatsoever with a Deceiver and in particular with Genseric Dace tells you anything, there you have it! ~ Science! ~

“They’re not actual eyes. They’re just things that people mistake for eyes!” — Fable of the Swan (Kindle Location 2886)


Attacks Flower Rite...................................... 31-33 Theseus’ Ship.........................................76 Welken-Rite.................................... 33-34 Zeno’s Gambit.......................................76 Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine**.............................99, 120-127, 170 Deceiver Stuff Calendar................................................26 Eyes............................................. 173, 115 Imperial Miracles................................115 Shards............101, 108-109, 115, 143, 159 Pets........................................................84 pStates.. 22-25, 30, 34-35, 63-69, 128-135, 150 Spawn....................................................87 Deceivers (the Bastard) Amayika.........................109 Abdalonymous III*................................65 Anagastes Brandil..................................59 Cethegus Law........................................57 Christine Waye (shard)*.............. 115-116 Coriander Hasp........10, 20, 37, 45-46, 58, 131, 135, 141, 161, 165-166 Ritho.................................................10 Corinthia Glismond..............................59 Cloric Braga..........................................59 Erelieva Grimoald.................................57 Erland Erengis......................................57 Flash Examplepants*...........................130 Genseric Dace.... 14, 26, 40-41, 45, 57, 99, 131, 173 City of Bridges..................................92 Hannah Gundiok..................................58 Helchen Hadusind*..13, 23, 24, 25, 44, 47, 111, 132, 151 Christine Waye*....................... 115-116 Iolithae Septimian....11, 15-19, 20, 23-25, 48, 57, 72, 128-129, 148, 163-164 Cottage in the Dark...........................92 Iustina Thrasaric..............................57, 93 Jasmine Apocynum**...................... 11, 52, 59, 109, 119, 120-127, 133, 137, 139, 142, 145, 146, 148, 169-170 Jordan Valamer......................................58 Kadlin Fenvar........................................57 Morrowen Hollow, the Voice of*..........12, 25, 104-107, 110, 134, 138, 140, 143, 144, 147, 149, 150, 153, 167-168 Character Creation for..........60-61, 71, 74-75, 79, 82, 90-91, 95, 102-103 Nikeline Ondwulf..................................58 Odotheus Livigund...............................57 Page Cutter............................................57 Percival Sansalas*...................................65 Phasael mery-Harumaph...11, 57, 98, 109, 110, 132-133, 152, 154-157, 171-172 His Bland Gray Man............... 152, 157 Prasede Fritigern...................................57 Scelto of the Provenance......14, 20, 55, 59 Selenas Picard............................ 13, 20, 59 Tairté Ut-napishtim...... 13, 26, 43, 59, 92,

109, 115 Mansion of........................................92 Allegories of....................................159 Tanca Persegoth....................................59 Tetsuo Chaves.......................................66 Unnamed: Held captive in a second skin... 119 Unnamed: Tricked into becoming a nonexistent Power............................119 Viticus Chelonian Invictus*.................143 Wittigis Statler......................................59 Yochander Radmund.............................58 Zamolxis Trebolgion..............................68 Miscellaneous Characters Adrian Elsey........................................112 Bland Grey Man.......................... 152, 157 Calliste Focault....................................115 Eleanor..................................................28 Elvis.................................................48, 55 Father Sebastian Capobianco................56 Ianthe Falls-Short...................................9 Irissa Maryland....................................161 Kaithrya of the Wild................... 116-117 Kadir-Rahman......................................26 Lord Entropy..........................9, 58, 77, 89 Disturbingly inappropriate calendar of.. 58 Principal Entropy**.................... 11, 125 Max Planck...........................................58 Raginhart Tribunas (Warmain).............57 Robert Baxt...........................................58 Ronald Reagan (former President)........20 Rook Catchfly.....................................143 Steve......................................................28 Yill-Amoth............................................62 Things and Creatures Argentine ant mega-colony...................85 Book of Irissa Maryland......................161 Chain-Glyphs........................................57 Chupacabras..........................................31 Cneph...................................... 87, 89, 155 Cryptozoology.......................................31 Deru-deru..............................................23 Empyreal Nothing.................................53 Gun Ownership..................................141 Harumaph.............................................89 Mimique..............................................118 Mistletoe.............................................150 Order of Falling Stars, the.....................58 True Thing..........................29, 60, 89, 123 Universal fair-fight index.....................108 World Swarm*.......................................85 Events 1911 botanical mapping expedition.......52 Death of Baldur, the............................150 Places Abaton...................................................35 Atlantis................................................166 Basalt Gates**......................................125 Bluebell Park**............................. 119, 145 Ebla.....................................................129 Locus Assaibi........................................22

Mansion of the Heart**.......................119 Ofeili.....................................................48 Weirding Wall Auctoritas of....................................142 Chain-Glyphs....................................57 Flowers Gethringenfleur (see Milkmay) Milkmay.................................... 51, 78, 79 Phoenix Posy................................. 52, 127 Welken-rose (see Widow-rose) Widow-rose................................... 50, 175

Texts Alexander de Vriend: Sonnet and the Sea (pg. 116) Catherine Arlinna e Soph: The Elevation of Seiriel, and other Relevant Accounts (pg. 13) Emily Chen: Doorknobs (pg. 21, 38); The Duchess’ Needle (pg. 136) Holly Djurisic: A Primer on the Loci Celatum (pg. 22) J. Dunsmore*: The Voice of Morrowen Hollow (pg. 138, 140, 143, 144, 147, 149) Jack Frost: Heaven’s Gate (pg. 93) Jenna Katerin Moran: Fable of the Swan (ppg. 121-123, 137, 139, 142, 145, 146, 148, 173), Nobilis: the Essentials, Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers (pg. 4) Keiko Takemori: the Imaginary (pg. 96) Kip Narekatski: The Valde Bellum: A Chronology of Excrucian Assault (pg. 26) Marilith Turner: Spotlight: C (pg. 30) Martin Elliott: Children of Earth (pg. 32) Niloufar Samir: The Allegories of Tairté Ut-napishtim (pg. 159) Rannen Yedidyah: 24 Finales (pg. 36)

Miscellaneous Cites Calliste Focault, Domina of the Shore: personal communication (pg. 115) Sermons and Speeches, 3/25/00: Statement of Father Sebastien Capobianco (pg. 56) Unverified Nobiliser Community Information: a post in rec.arts.nobilising.encounters (pg. 152) (*) fictional character created for this work (**) related to the CMWGE setting

The world is a lie.

This book is the story of those who know the world to be a lie, and live in it anyway. Those who have sacrificed the endlessness and perfection of the void and grounded themselves within the lie of our existence so that they can free us. So that they can wake us up.

We call them Deceivers.

Herein you will find a discussion of their powers, their nature, their methodology, and their goals. You will find rules for playing them and playing against them in the Nobilis RPG and a lifepath system for easily generating cool Deceiver characters of your own.

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