Guildbook: Usurers

August 28, 2017 | Author: LabRatFan | Category: Journeyman, Usury, Guild, Anger, Capitalism
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Guildbook: Usurers Ex Libris Nocturnis - By: Shawn Endreson (email: [email protected]) ...


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Guildbook: Usurers


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Written, & Developed By: Shawn Endreson PDF Conversion, Layout, & Typesetting: MajorTomSawyer Character Sheet & Page Borders: Mr Gone Front & Back Cover(s) Design: MajorTomSawyer

• This was originally hosted at (and placed Third Place in their Spring Contest), but the pages it was on can only be accessed though the Wayback Machine now. © 2010 Gaming Nerds Я Us Studios. All rights reserved. Reproduction without the written permission of the authors is expressly frowned upon, except for the purposes of reviews, and for blank character sheets, which may be reproduced for personal use only. Violators will be spanked, and possibly violated. White Wolf, Vampire the Masquerade, and Vampire the Redemption are registered trademarks of White Wolf Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. All characters, names, places and text herein are owned by Gaming Nerds Я Us Studios. The mention of or reference to any company or product in these pages is not a challenge to the trademark or copyright concerned. This book uses the supernatural for settings, characters, and themes. All mystical and supernatural elements are fiction and intended for entertainment purposes only. Reader discretion is advised. For a free White Wolf catalog of official White Wolf productscall 1-800-454-WOLF. Check out White Wolf online at and

Guildbook: Usurers

Chapter One - Diversification Chapter Two - Employment Opportunities Chapter Three - An Audit Chapter Four - Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Outsourcing Chapter Five - The Dismal Science Chapter Six - Mostly Human Resources Appendix I - Employees of the Year Appendix II - Limited Liability, My Ass

Guildbook: Usurers

Page One Page Four Page Five Page Eleven Page Fourteen Page Eighteen Page Twenty-Five Page Twenty-Seven

Holly cursed in frustration and put her foot through the trashcan. Feeling the metal seem to race through her corpus, she held her leg there until the pain had managed to obliterate every other sensation. "Why does this crap always have to happen to me when I’m alone?", she ranted and no one in particular. Her notebook stared up at her, silent and accusing, from the trash; all her work, her scripts and screenplays, mutely preparing to be interred in a landfill tomorrow if no soul rescued them. She even knew how, having learned the secrets of Embody. If she hadn’t gone out trainspotting, as her friends called it, last night, and spent her efforts on every frivolous song and game that came her way, she’d be able to manifest and simply lift it out. As it was, she’d be lucky if she could turn a page of it. The would-be screenwriter folded her hands and stood up straight with what she hoped was a look of determination. She couldn’t do this alone, and all of her friends had left this morning for Bermuda. Even if she could catch them at the airport, they couldn’t come back; every flight is booked solid over spring break. But people said strange things about the little fellow down at the theatre who always wore a bow tie, like he was a Mafia boss or something. ‘He helps people to help themselves’, was the usual catch phrase, that nobody would explain; maybe they were just repeating what they’d heard, too, but she set off towards the bus stop to find out for herself. Holly peered around the edge of the alley; there was the green relic scarf, just like she’d been told. She cautiously untied it from around

Guildbook: Usurers

the gutterspout and placed within it the two items she’d already retrieved on this demented scavenger hunt, a small mirror and battery. Humming a meaningless tune to herself, she wound the first two items in the scarf and carefully dropped them down an open sewer grating, trying to see afterward where they had fallen to, and maybe there was a flicker of movement down there, but she wasn’t completely sure. She nearly jumped in after them as she felt a tap on her shoulder. Whirling around, she was face-to-face with a stout man in a 3-piece suit and a handle-bar mustache, holding a set of scales in front of him. "I understand, miss, that you wish to engage in a transaction with us?" "H-How can I Trust you?", she replied, exactly as the man at the theater had instructed her. "Hope is what is called for, miss; the Trust follows." Some of the tension escaped her shoulders; at least he was following the script. "I’m afraid I’m in a tight spot, mister. My Quick are all leaving on vacation, and the trash collectors are coming tomorrow. I know that those don’t have a lot to do with each other usually, but y’see, somehow some of my notebooks wound up in the trash and," she drew herself up a little straighter, and tried to sound more professional. This guy was a businessman, and he wanted to conduct business with her, right? "and I don’t have the Pathos to correct it myself, and I don’t think much of my odds of


picking some up by chance between now and six a.m. tomorrow. I understand you might be willing to help me in this, mister..?" Much better. "Please call me J. P., and you are Pandora." He intoned. J. P. scrutinized her. As Research had informed him, Hope would be the most effective currency for the transaction, and while he customarily dealt in Wrath, he was not incapable of manipulating the lighter Passions. The contrast between her opening gambit and her closing was remarkable; her stance had shifted to match his, and she had seamlessly adopted his affected manner, or a counterpart to it. All too familiar character traits. "And how, miss, do you utilize your leisure in more routine times?" He had been told her name, of course, but it would be improper during a negotiation to use it. "I…I watch my Quick on the beach. I talk to everyone I can; many of them have awesome or terrible stories to contrast with my own, and inspire my writing. I try to convince the Legion patrols to relax and have a good time with us. I’m not sure why you inquire..J. P." J. P. carefully withdrew five tokens from his jacket and placed them on one side of his scale. He affected to study them while observing her reactions. "I was lead to understand you would need a loan of five sentimas of Hope. I confess to having been skeptical; Hope is not easily repaid, nor am I well-stocked in it. You have allayed my fears a great deal already; a self-possessed young lady such as yourself, with such an easily solved problem, should have little trouble at all. It also sounds exceedingly simple to accomplish; I think we can both be served in our aims by a loan of only.." he swept three of the tokens back into a pocket, "two sentimas, yes? No trouble at all." As J. P. spoke, Holly’s face brightened. This wasn’t anything to get worked up over, and she felt silly for leaving her foot in the trash earlier. She reached for the pile of shining tokens on the scale. "An interest rate of ten per centum monthly, first application immediately, increased to twenty per centum after three months is acceptable, yes?" He moved to interpose himself between her and the scales.


"Oh, right. Yeah, that sounds fair. Do I have to sign anything?" Holly strode out of the alley, her countenance shining with a confidence and belief that seemed new-minted. As he watched her go, J. P. found himself weighing the merits and drawbacks of an employee with a gift for handling lighter elements he himself did not possess; and reflecting that not all Thralls were bound with chains of soulsteel. *** Wraiths have no need of money, right? I mean, they don’t have to pay rent, or bills, or buy food, and there isn’t much stuff to buy on this side of the Shroud. What few material desires they may have can be satisfied with a little ingenuity in a few years or even months for all time. So how on earth did the Usurers become numbered among the four Great Guilds, and what do they do with their time? The short answer is, plenty. Wars cost money, or more accurately Pathos and corpus, and Stygia is always at war. So does building Citadels, and any meaningful interaction with the Quick. The Usurers are seldom dealt with by the wraith on the street, just as few of the living need to see a broker or banker more than once a month. But they are there, turning the wheels of the economy of souls, and it would be impossible to understand the Underworld without considering them. If there is a single key to understanding this most complex and arcane of Guilds, it is increase. The Usurers exist to see that the amount of Pathos, of corpus, of souls, is continually increasing. Everything they do is meant to accomplish this, and everything they decline they do so on these grounds. Comfort and security can only be achieved by increasing the resources available to all, and someone must see to it that all work toward this end. And it won’t be a pack of jack-booted Legionnaires. What are the Usurers like? The question can best be answered by examining those who have a flair for their Arcanos. Usury is fundamentally the transfer of emotion from one soul to another; the ones most naturally adept at this tend to be, contrary to the stereotype of bankers among the Quick, highly empathic. Motivational speakers, leaders of hate-group rallies, revival preachers,

Guildbook: Usurers

selfless charity workers, open-mike poets, all people who share their feelings and spread them to those around them. The other side of the same coin is that they appear to be conformists, matching their actions and expressions to the feelings of those around them and diffusing tension for calm. A revival preacher may make a good Usurer, but a streetcorner preacher defying the attitude of his would-be flock does not. In short, if Usurers have a common approach to their existence, it is to make other people more of what they already are, and to a lesser extent more like each other. Usurers recruit first and foremost from their clients, typically repeat clients who have paid on time and in full. This demonstrates a willingness to fulfill obligations and an ability to generate surplus Pathos in their minds; such talents, they reason, can then be steered toward a higher goal than merely making Aunt Shelly’s last days more comfortable or tormenting criminals among the Quick. Recruitment is quite simply, an employment contract, with work on commission. To be honest, Usurers recruit more than they need, because of their interest in expanding the Guild and including others; the Usurers are probably the easiest Guild still extant to sign up with.

Master, while Journeymen have bought their way out of their initial indenture. The distinction between Journeymen and Masters is equally simple; Masters have employees. However, many independent Journeyman have as much Pathos or more than some Masters, and thus more influence on overall Trust policy. All of the Trusts have their central offices in Stygia itself; within a Necropolis, there may not be enough Usurers for each Trust to operate independently, so officers of differing companies frequently share office space. Within each Trust, a given Usurer also has a specialty and a political position, making for a bewildering array of interconnected loyalties whenever Usurers congregate en masse; the Trust representatives maintain that this promotes cooperation throughout and between Trusts, while detractors hold that it means you can never be sure of a Usurer’s next move. ***

They don’t leave the results of their overexuberance lying about any more than the Artificers do, however. The modern Guild is organized into gargantuan Trusts, combinations of Master Usurers who specialize in a single form of Pathos. Wrath is the most well known and largest, but there are also Love, Pride, Faith, Avarice, Fear, Fidelity, Hope and Jealousy Trusts. In theory, the nine Trusts are all equal in their votes when the Guild as a whole must determine policy, but in practice, Wrath dominates. The so-called "lesser portfolios", such as Guilt, Sorrow, and Curiosity, are typically attached to a major Trust, and do not have an independent vote; corpus is a basic commodity which all Trusts trade in. Within a Trust, all Usurers may vote proportionately to the level of Pathos they have presently stored in their Trust’s Grand Vault; in practice, few Apprentices or Journeymen bother, and either decline to vote or allow their Master to do so in their stead. The distinction between an Apprentice and Journeymen Usurers are simple; Apprentices are under contract to work for a

Guildbook: Usurers


While there are subtle differences in the way Trusts operate based on their stock in trade, they are similar in overall organization. Certain jobs need to be performed in any corporation, regardless of the exact business model or product.

Brokers When most wraiths hear "Usurers", they think of the Brokers, who are the most public face of the Guild. In some ways, a Broker’s task is the simplest; evaluate the prospective return on an investment of Pathos, and determine an interest rate, collateral, schedule of repayment and the like based on it. Brokers, unlike their mortal counterparts, need know little about industry or the task at hand, but a great deal about psychology; most of them elect to learn Castigate as well. Terms of repayment on loans vary substantially from Trust to Trust; Wrath, for example, implies immediate action of a drastic nature, and so the loan will either be repaid in full soon or not at all. The gap between those is the gap between Apprentice and Master within the Guild’s Brokers. Hope, by contrast, is more likely to trickle back in slowly, but the risk tends to be much lower for the Broker. Also, a Wraith whose Dark Passions are organized around Hatred and Anger may take the loan of Wrath and run straight to the Labyrinth, while virtually no Dark Passions involve Love or Faith. Brokers also traffic in corpus, maintaining both volatile and nonvolatile accounts in their ledgers for those with the Memoriam or Legacy to spare, and issuing loans to those who anticipate battle.


However, a Broker, contrary to popular belief, only rarely deals with individuals; individuals require precise and specific personal information to appraise, and many Brokers won’t even talk about a loan without a "credit report"—a sealed letter from a Pardoner the Broker knows and trusts concerning the client’s Shadow. Brokers deal with institutions, such as the Hierarchy, the other Guilds and the largest of Renegade or Heretic groups. Need to pay your company of Legionnaires their monthly corpus paycheck? A Broker will handle it when you come up short, Mr. Anacreon. Losing souls, o Smiling Overlord, and need to up the murder rate of a neighborhood? That extended campaign of Embodiment and Puppetry will take a great deal of Pathos. Just what level of increase can you expect to see? Need more Hatred to fuel the forges, Lord Ember? If in return we could harvest the Pathos from souls marked for the forge, taking the balance in souls if the contractual minimum is not achieved…you get the picture. Brokers form the backbone of the Guild, but there are more interesting parts of a body… Short Sellers Every Guild has a dirty little secret or three; the Short Sellers are one of the Usurer’s. Just because a wraith becomes Shadow-Eaten does not mean he lacks self-knowledge or goals, and in their relentless drive to help every wraith achieve their wants, the Usurers have not overlooked Spectres. Having fallen once, most Spectres are loathe to accrue too much Pathos,

Guildbook: Usurers

lest their Psyche regain enough composure to steer them away from Oblivion. Thus, Spectres wish to be rid of their Pathos, Usurers want Pathos, and bargains are struck; the Short Sellers act as a sort of macabre parody of Pardoners, winging through the Tempest and crawling the Labyrinth to harvest the Pathos that Spectres so desperately wish to be rid of. Every Short Seller learns Argos, to escape a deal gone bad; many also learn Inhabit, Puppetry or some other ability that lets them hide in the Skinlands when their "clients" overreact to something. The Hierarchy would say that the Short Sellers are traitors, giving comfort to the enemy rather than converting him; the pragmatic Short Sellers reply that it takes vast amounts of time, effort and Pathos to Redeem a Spectre, and that the outcome is never even close to certain; in the long run, it’s more cost-effective to simply help them hurl themselves into the Void. How useful is the average member of the Redeemed anyway, and who can resist money being given away?

Almoners The Almoners are a curious collection of those who stood with the Guild before the Breaking and the most recent scions of Marxist states and organizations. While they attempt to acquire vast hoards of Pathos and corpus just like any other regular member of a Trust, they hold that a great many wraiths do not know what they truly want, nor the limits of their own capabilities. As such, it is an Almoner’s selfappointed duty to dispense Pathos, not to those who ask for it, but to those who they think will use it productively and remember the favor. Some young wits also refer to them as Venture Capitalists. An Almoner frequently learns a bit of Fatalism to assist them in their vocation. Lest it be thought that Almoners represent the saints of the Underworld, it bears mentioning that a great many destructive conflicts have been bred by an Almoner offering a sum of corpus and suggesting to a Regent or Renegade leader that he or she can probably take a certain opposing force, realizing a handsome return. It’s small consolation that the Almoner is often right. Almoners are far too self-righteous to keep more than a fraction of their holdings in the Grand Vaults, meaning they have little say in Guild operations, but more than a few wraiths in positions of authority remember who it was that helped them get there.

Guildbook: Usurers

Collectors The Collectors are the other aspect of Guild operations that are simply not talked about in mixed company. The Collectors reason that they, the entire Trusts, and everybody else they get to interact with is dead, and that as such, the Quick are a resource to be mined. Usury works perfectly well on the living, if touch can simply be established (not a simple matter). There’s a near-infinite amount of corpus for the taking if one learns Inhabit, Puppetry or some other means of touching the living, and the Quick will even heal it back soon if you’re not greedy. If you’ve ever suddenly had a sharp, painful twinge upon touching someone or someone, or know of a place where people seem sickly and never get better for no particular reason, perhaps a Collector has taken a dividend. And if they should accidentally kill someone, well, souls are a form of wealth too, simply not the abstract and portable kind the Usurers prefer. Embody is disdained by Collectors as an expensive and risky way to go about achieving contact. Since virtually none of their donors are aware and willing, Collectors tend to rack up Angst at a frightful rate, and Pardoners dread their approach; few Pardoners turn away a wraith who can pay double the going rate, however. In their travels through the Skinlands, Collectors also scout for Relics, sources of Memoriam, and anything else that might possibly turn a profit; as callous Guildmembers with access to the Skinlands, they are also typically tapped to resolve the Guild’s "painful situations".

Market Research Sound financial decisions must be based on sound information. Every Trust must have accurate information on how much Pathos of what sort is being acquired by whom and where, what military forces various factions have access to in order to determine the risk of military expenditures, and so forth. Researchers jobs boil down to keeping tabs on every wraith in their immediate area, and on trends within the Skinlands. When they know what everyone wants, they only need to supply it. Since Researchers chiefly talk to people, and nearly all Usurers are sympathetic as a matter of course, many Usurers spend time as Market Researchers and enjoy it; some elect not to buy out their Apprentice Indentures in order to remain in this capacity. Unlike organizations such as the


Magisterium, Market Researchers tend to be network based and highly cooperative; they delight in sharing feelings with people, and they can do so most freely with each other. Despite being frequently looked down upon by the more strenuous and academic of the professions within the Usurer’s Guild, Market Research is as valuable and as vital as the Brokers themselves; they are the ones, constantly interacting with the world at large, who identify prospective clients and recruits. Also unlike the other professions within the Guild, they tend to work together, at the insistence of their fellows: Market Research are probably the most empathic of all the Usurers, and it is difficult to prevent them from altering little details in their summaries and reports to better please their audience.

can be made to pay for themselves, in hidden corners of the Tempest. Although they work more with large numbers and abstract generalities than individuals, their expertise in compelling and utilizing emotion makes them vital parts of both the Legions and any number of conspiracies. All Usurers may strive to help people fulfill their desires through the application of energy and effort, but only the Trendsetters examine competing desires and determine which to support and which to subvert. Despite this, they are more frequently advisors than commanders, as their work has such a low profit margin that while the Trust as a whole benefits greatly from them, they as individuals seldom realize wealth. ***

Trendsetters To maintain a pattern of steady growth rather than a cycle of booms and depressions, it is not enough to control the supply of Pathos; one must also manage demand. If there is a surplus of Wrath Pathos in an area, seekers of other Trusts must be made to accept Wrath; likewise, deficiencies within the Trusts must be overcome, and perhaps even the sources of Pathos themselves convinced to change their tunes. Most Trendsetters learn a bit of Keening as absolutely vital to completing their assignments. If Market Research watches the ebb and flow of emotion, Trendsetters push it, mounting campaigns of psychological manipulation akin to advertising agencies among the Quick. While there are no widespread media among the Restless Dead, Trendsetters use gossip campaigns, posted flyers and bills to influence the needs and drives of those around them. Manipulating the Quick en masse is substantially more difficult, but some Trendsetters use Puppetry to influence living advertisers, community leaders and celebrities in order to alter broad patterns of feeling. They may also be the first to deal with default clients, in the hopes that the soft touch will be adequate and the Collectors need not apply themselves. Most Trendsetters quickly relocate to Stygia as the principal market for their services; in generating Pathos to cover gaps in supply, they typically acquire hordes of Thralls and run them through controlled environments with Keening applied to produce more Pathos. Such an arrangement requires a substantial initial investment, and would be useless if implemented on a small scale; on a large, however, the Passion Factories


Guildbook: Usurers

A History of the Guild of Usurers "Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety." --John Kenneth Galbraith Welcome to your new employee orientation. My task here today is to educate you on the history of our Guild, and you will find that, for all our status as one of the four Great Guilds and our participation in the creation of Stygia, it is a comparatively brief one. The ability to transfer Pathos and corpus from one wraith to another, for all its simplicity today, is one that requires a certain level of social stability and organization to generate a return on effort invested, and as such it is likely that our Arcanos was entirely unknown, or practiced in a severely limited manner, prior to the foundation of the Republic of Stygia. As Charon began to deploy armies to clear the Byways of Spectres and subdue rebellious and misguided groups of wraiths, it soon became clear that said armies, if expected to remain in the field, would need more corpus than they could reasonably be expected to carry with them. A number of military strategists of the Republic bent their attentions to this problem, and the earliest form of Usurers took shape, as quartermasters and adjuncts to Legion cohorts. The Simple Arts, up to and including Investment, were codified by this time, as hauling vast numbers of Thralls about as storage batteries was impractical and tactically unsound. The Provisioners, as we were known prior to the

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first millennium Anno Domini, set about harvesting Pathos and corpus from wherever they could, grouping together to divide labor between Collectors and Legion attaches and organized and lead by Marcus Crassus, sometimes now identified as our first Guildmaster. As Stygia became more complex and divided a society, and both our Guild and the Legions grew, infighting between groups of Provisioners over corpus resources became more intense; Crassus thus established a system of precedence whereby the Provisioner with the greatest resources contributed and stored in the Grand Vault would be considered to have precedence in any given dispute. Naturally, Crassus himself had the greatest accumulation of corpus thus stored and was therefore first among equals, so to speak. As our resources grew, it became possible to loan out portions of our accumulated wealth to private individuals for specific projects, but this was chiefly done as a way to establish debts in our favor rather than for any overarching purpose. While still somewhat loyal to the Empire of Stygia up to this time, our sheer utility to both the high and low government officials allowed us considerable freedom of action. Then the Artificers got a strange notion to rule Stygia in the Deathlords’ stead, and the Revolt of the Guilds transpired. We, with the Masquers, were the first to desert the revolt once it was going in earnest. I understand Lord Ember, and the Monitors, are still somewhat bitter over this. I make no defense, for none is required. By way of explanation, I should note that Crassus


performed a bit of simple arithmetic. Our services would be required by the rulers of Stygia whether they wore masks or soot-stains; our tasks and our resources would be the same regardless. Thus we were called upon to finance a revolution from which we stood to profit not one whit, nor, given similar circumstances, could the other Guilds possibly repay us. I assume the practitioners of Moliate, another of the Great Guilds, reached a similar conclusion. And thus were the Guilds exiled from Stygia, and the Guildmasters tried for treason and executed. You’ve heard all this from your would-be masters in the Legions. As a principal traitor to the Guilds, Crassus was permitted to live on as a member of the Hierarchy, and various lesser lights bore the brunt of the punishment. As no Deathlord could allow so rich a prize as Crassus to serve any of his rivals, Crassus became a sort of quartermaster to Charon and Nhudri themselves; I am told he still haunts Stygia, despite the end of his primary master and the inattention of his primary client. What you weren’t told was what a wretched shambles we were in. We were running and hiding throughout the Skinlands until the Third Great Maelstrom petered out in 1705 Anno Domini, and after that we were simply hiding. Our Vaults had been siezed in part or in whole, our foremost members executed, our leader subverted. Our trade was now a criminal one, and the Hierarchy had many who would serve in our place. We had for all practical purposes ceased to be a Guild, and degenerated into a collection of individuals practicing a common Arcanos. Then, while England was having some troubles in its Western colonies, one of the Scottish Quick named Adam Smith wrote a book entitled On the Wealth of Nations. Some time afterward, a copy crossed the Shroud and fell into the hands of a Usurer. Nothing has been the same since. For all reasonable purposes, our history begins here. In no small way, this is how the Hierarchy maintains its absurd fiction that the Guilds are no more. They have detailed information on the practices and structure of the Usurers who fled Stygia in the wake of the Breaking, and those Usurers are no more. Thus, there is no Usurers Guild, is there? But I digress.


The call for restructuring was issued by one Mary Boulton, the first recipient of Smith’s work. Smith himself never crossed the Shroud, to our certain knowledge. Some among us lament this, wondering what we might have accomplished with such a visionary to cement our ranks; more practical minds remember that it is easier to quash a man than an idea, and perhaps the only place he could have led us was to ruin. Smith’s idea was twofold: that as long as everyone is involved in productive labor, the aggregate wealth of a community is unlimited and will continue to grow, and that natural processes and laws will determine a better allocation of resources than planning and coercion. With these theories and the examples of the newly-dead, we swiftly reorganized into corporations. Pathos and corpus were now allocated according to what would produce more Pathos and corpus in the foreseeable future, not what political favors the client could provide. Freelance Usurers were recruited or neutralized. Soon, small bands of Usurers were acting to increase the Pathos and Memoriam in their areas, and began sharing techniques with one another; those who favored similar techniques began organizing themselves into Trusts based on compatibility of members and operations. The ancient system of representation based on productivity and capital reserves was revived when the Trusts began opening their ledgers to one another and centralizing their stores of Pathos, but no single Vault and no single leader were acknowledged; no one wished to see the rise of another Crassus, and place our entire Guild at the mercy of one Shadow. The Directors of the nine Trusts which had emerged signed the Limited Partnership Agreement of the Usurers in 1841, and it was no accident that many of those who signed on behalf of a Trust did not recall the Third Great Maelstrom, and not one recalled the Second. The young had adapted to the new order most quickly and had an incontrovertible advantage, for capitalism worked, objectively, far better than the feudal mercantilism we had previously operated under. Mary Boulton, signatory of the Trust of Love, was nominated our first Executor. Not long after this, capitalism underwent its first growing pains, exemplified in two fellows named Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. We had paralleled the Quick, and the Quick had already begun to reject our system; we watched fearfully, as any cataclysm inherent in capitalism would likely be shown first in them. We needn’t have

Guildbook: Usurers

worried; while the system does have some inherent drawbacks among the Quick, most of them can be explained by the constant need of the Quick to consume resources simply to carry on. They must maintain a 5% profit margin or so simply to avoid joining us, and "profit" they can count only above and beyond that. Communism, or at least its proponents, actually helped us to grow and solidify; it was a far more accessible and comprehensible doctrine to Old Souls who had joined us in order to be part of a great Guild without fully adopting our new modus operandi. It told them that our lack of interest in politics was a passing phase, a temporary measure to refill our emptied Vaults, that the morals of the lender were not in fact irrelevant. Some of them have gradually come to understand since then; others are at least still working.

with one another, no one knew how long it could last and so every new development among the Quick or the Restless was met with eager anticipation of vast new profits. We crept back into Stygia to ply our new trade among the static, eternal Old Souls who dwell there, much as modern businessman gaze with avarice at China; it was such a vast untapped market that even a two per centum stake would represent a substantial real increase in business. It also provided a convenient place for our younger and older members to cement their relationship, the citizens of bygone ages acting as local guides and instructors while those children who understand modern profits made business decisions. Alas, it was not to last, as the Fourth Great Maelstrom erupted and our Golden Age came to a close.

The other great event of the era was the Nativity Compact, the agreement between Charon, the Jade Emperor and the Ivory Queen that a wraith’s cultural origin determined his or her proper place in this world. Colonialism had made many of our living counterparts vastly wealthy, and we eagerly attempted to follow in their footsteps. We needn’t claim a soul to turn a profit, after all. Our experience, however, was radically different from that of our living predecessors. The Jade Empire had a welldefined and closed social structure, with an established Merchant’s Guild performing a function not dissimilar to our own; attempts to intrude on their monopoly or share techniques most often met with failure. The society of Swar was simply built along principles utterly alien to us, and we were politely rebuffed at nearly every turn. Africa was moderately better for us, but the few Europeans were motivated chiefly by Pride and Greed, and the legacy among the Africans was overwhelmingly that of Wrath, colored only by Fear and Despair. In short, the majority of our Trusts found nothing of value whatsoever abroad, and those few who stayed frequently found themselves in difficult straits. While most Trusts continue to maintain overseas branch offices, our foreign adventures can reasonably be called failures. This was actually an important and valuable lesson to us; to wit, that Pathos is not money and that triumph would require more than merely aping the Quick in their matters financial.

The Fourth was a breakdown of civil order and a return to war; our ancient Stygian members were once again in their element. We are not by nature a martial Guild, and typically pay Masquers or Spooks to handle situations too volatile for our own Collectors, but those Masquers and Spooks had their own concerns at the time. Arts were developed for use on Spectres specifically for the first time, and our Short Sellers came into being. It was not a good time for us, however, and our Shadowlands cadre was decimated. It frankly took us all of the intervening period to recoup our losses and refill the holes in our organizations; the Depression among the Quick, while well-named, was one among us as well. Particularly since we noticed a disturbing trend during this period; the Higher Passions among the Quick were dying. The First World War eroded Faith, Fidelity, Hope and Pride to an unprecedented degree; others slowly washed away in a tide of Despair as well. What had been a slight edge for Wrath on account of its African trade blossomed into a commanding lead, not through any effort of its own but through the downturn in business for other Trusts.

Our Golden Age spanned seventy-five years, and what a time it was. Everybody was making Pathos hand over fist, we were finally at peace

Guildbook: Usurers

The Fifth Maelstrom was a mere eyeblink later; our Executors met in full council only twice between the two. We fared substantially better than in the Fourth, ironically because we had not had time to liquidate our military assets yet. When Charon fell, it was a blow to us all; business was no longer protected in Stygia, but increasingly became caught between the competing aspirations of the Deathlords. There were compensations, however; the control of the


Jade Emperor had been shaken loose in Japan, and our businesses there at last began to show a return on investment despite ongoing violence among the Restless. Swar likewise found a few cautious wraiths interested in our efforts at last. And the subsequent disarray in the Shadowlands was nothing but opportunity. As the decades wore on, the old social order eroded, and we have found fewer and fewer obstacles in our path. So where are we now? Behind every local throne, among every cult or gang large enough to attract our notice, in the alleys of the Iron Hills, and even at the gates of the other Dark Kingdoms. The Quick feel more and more strongly every day, as reason’s hold on them lapses, and they acquire more and more to feel about. The diversity of goals and ideas among the modern Restless allows us to pick and choose, to shape our society in the manner we wish without once having to assume command of anything. It’s true this increase has not been evenly distributed; Wrath has more accumulated Pathos and corpus and personnel than any two other Trusts, as the Quick see their ideals further dragged through the mud by every new politician or organization. Fear remains stagnant and isolated, as they reap great quantities of Pathos from the Quick yet find no market for it among the Restless. Greed as a virtue, despite a brief resurgence during the 1980s, would appear to have run its course, and now finds its greatest markets and opportunities among the Restless rather than the Quick. Love remains a strong second place to Wrath, well above the other seven, but it reports dramatic internal shifts in business, as the Compassion portfolio withers and Lust booms. Some efforts of course are made to alter this balance among the Quick by our Trendsetters and Collectors, who attempt to provide appropriate stimuli to diversify the Quick’s palate; thus far, they meet with limited success. We are optimistic, however; there is capital in our Vaults and Tills. There is opportunity for change in the wake of Charon’s disappearance. There are other wraiths willing and able to make it happen. Sounds like a good climate for business to me. ***


Guildbook: Usurers

"Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. " --John Maynard Keynes Your previous instructor seems to have made us out to be Gnomes of Zurich or the Bavarian Illuminati or some such drivel. While a wraith as wealthy as a Trust Executor or Crassus himself is surely no one to cross lightly, we are hardly the be-all and end-all of Restless society, even within the Dark Kingdom of Iron. I thus submit for you a summary of our current marketing strategies and priorities, to assist in making the difficult decisions that will inevitably come when you are brimming with Pathos and others are not.

The Hierarchy and the Great Guilds Given that the Hierarchy is nothing more or less than a vast bureaucracy whose major purpose is to reallocate resources, one might think there is little room for free enterprise within Stygia. One would be sensible, but wrong. Even Hierarchs have Passions of a sort, and visions of how they can make Stygia better and employ more souls in genuinely productive ends. These Anacreons and Overlords can then bury their repayments to us in endless payroll and expenditure documents. Furthermore, in the event of a shortcoming, every Anacreon needs a friendly Usurer in order to make up temporary shortfalls in resources or accomplish goals, which cannot be committed to paper; none will move against us too openly. They may have the option of going to Crassus, but if the

Guildbook: Usurers

shortcoming is blamed (accurately or otherwise) on their poor judgment, they may be replaced or even forged. We are numbered among the Great Guilds, after all, and it wasn’t for our charming manners. Thus, we and the Hierarchy regard each other with some appreciation and no more caution than would seem reasonable. This is fortunate, for besides our non-martial nature, we are also the greatest consumer other than the Hierarchy itself of a resource only they can provide: paper. We are not the Artificers, and have no ready access to computers; ledgers must be kept, memoranda composed, flyers circulated and contracts signed. We could not possibly collect enough souls to be Moliated into the paper we require; we must have the papyrus made from the reeds which grow along the River of Death. Our entire operation would swiftly degenerate into chaos if this relationship were broken off. In the same vein, we have a longstanding relationship with the Artificers, however cool personal relationships tend to be; they need Wrath to fuel their forges, and we find it useful to acquire both Thralls from their scrapheaps and finished products. We are less cordial with the Masquers; their ability to confound identity renders a great many contracts unenforceable and null, and thus we will only sell, not loan, to them. Lastly are the Pardoners, whom we need as much as anyone; our vital Collectors and Short Sellers would swiftly be serving Nephwracks were it not for them. The rest of us can take or leave them personally, but we do need our colleagues.


The Renegades and the Criminal Guilds The Renegades are definitely not our customers of choice. Our purpose is to build up, to allow more Pathos to pour across the Shroud and Stygia so that more work can be done more easily. It’s a vague purpose, to be sure, but it’s more than most Renegades have. The largest part of them want nothing more than to destroy the Hierarchy, while another large bunch wants to do nothing at all. Those few Renegades with a vision of a new society they wish to build, either beside or atop the ashes of Stygia, are as valued a customer as any Anacreon. Few Renegades have any such vision. Those Guilds which either stand in natural violation of the Dictum Mortuum or whose Arcanos has no legitimate, constructive use, we are cautious in our dealings with. Our Collectors and Trendsetters find great use for the Puppeteers, and to a lesser extent the Proctors, Spooks and Haunters; each of them fancies his or herself creative, however, and tend to either interpret contracts flexibly or entirely disregard them. The Monitors are a special case; when one has tagged you, it’s best to pay his price, then offer double that to a Masquer or pack of Spooks to destroy him. I can barely conceive of a situation in which we would wish to deal with a Monitor personally.

Heretics The Guild has no official position on Heretics or Transcendence. Unofficially, I think you’ll find that many of them make excellent clients. They are marginalized and ridiculed, yet possessed of strong desires and Passions; an exclusive market, with interest rates quite favorable to us agreeable to the client. The Trust of Faith continues to do the bulk of its business with Heretic cults, but it is certainly possible that others may have something to offer them as well. We seldom recruit from Heretics, however; their ultimate goal, after all, is to quit this place and be done with it. While we will not argue the opportunity to redistribute resources, this strikes us as every bit as sensible as committing suicide among the Quick to get to Heaven; the search for Transcendence may produce excellent Pathos, but attainment of the goal implies doing nothing, ever again. No profit in that, and such an attitude is not useful to us. Let’s move on, but in parting,


I would warn you of a most insidious Heresy organized around our very own Arcanos; certain wraiths hold that arrival in the Shadowlands represents a failure to adequately connect with others and establish bonds of community and empathy with others, thus excluding one from the Fellowship of God. Their solution is to exchange Pathos and corpus with one another with manic frequency in order to artificially form the bonds they failed to in life, thereby lifting them out of this place. Communism doesn’t work any better on this side of the Shroud.

The Other Guilds Certain Guilds attempt to straddle the fence, so to speak, and are not immediately identifiable as pro-Hierarchy or pro-Renegade. Among these, we have great respect for the Harbingers, Oracles and Chanteurs; each provides a useful service to us in the advancement of our goals, and each can be generally relied upon to treat honorably in business matters. The Sandmen, Mnemoi and Alchemists, by contrast, are essentially purveyors of luxuries unnecessary to our economy; we bear them no ill will, but have little use for them. Our Trendsetters and the Solicitors are locked in a dance reminiscent of the mating of mantises or black widow spiders; each could be phenomenally useful to the other, yet the majority of attempts at rapprochement end in violent confrontation as suspicions and hostilities boil over. Hope springs eternal, as its Trust will tell you, but progress in this field is painfully slow.

Shadows and Spectres Usurer’s Shadows, given our emotionally resonant natures, tend to come in two varieties. They are either domineering in the extreme, attempting to crush or twist other’s emotions to match their own, or they belittle every attempt at independent action and initiative, however slight or trivial. The former make loans to those likely to default; the latter are incapable of decisionmaking and doomed to the lower echelons of the Guild. Persons of the first variety are frequently encouraged to join the Collectors, Short Sellers or Trendsetters, where they will not be in a position to squander vital capital; the latter make fine Market Researchers. Almoners recruit more heavily from the former, but have some of each; a Broker must avoid either pitfall, and so only

Guildbook: Usurers

our most trustworthy, controlled or unusual members assume those duties. Spectres are, in our vision, simply the most risky variety of client. We have an entire department devoted to dealing with them, and its turnover rate is secret but apparently quite high. Spectres cannot usually be encouraged to do anything which would inspire Passions other than Hate or Fear, or those minor portfolios no reasonable Usurer will touch, and so we have few business dealings with them. They do not often trouble us on account of our Short Sellers and our stockpile of Pathos with which to fight them, however; most Spectres understand that there are easier prey along the Byways, and more certain means of suicide within Stygia.

Vampires We know little of these, but from what I understand, they are Dead who are compelled to Rise through some unknown means. This compulsory, slipshod Rising results in a corpse which is somewhat mobility impaired and in constant need of infusions of corpus to maintain its state, but in which the Shadow is less powerful or integrated with the Psyche. They would seem adequate tools in the Skinlands if an accommodation could be reached, but I see no reason to abandon those Puppeteers who have performed satisfactorily to date in favor of a virtual unknown.

Werewolves Thankfully, these alien predators are rare, and keep to themselves. Useful only for rampages of destruction, it would seem, and so ultimately useless to us, with the possible exception of certain employees of Fear.

Changelings The Sandmen appear to have a solid working relationship with the Living Dreams, and guard it jealously. I move that we disregard their rancor, as these appear to inspire emotion, particularly positive emotion, among the Quick like nothing else; I am certain that the Trusts of Love, Fidelity and Hope would be eager to explore this untapped market. I am told that some among them can perceive us, and we should seek these out with all reasonable haste. Oops, excuse me, I’m late for my appointment with the Grim Overlord of Boston now. What was I saying?

The Quick One of our major sources of revenue still, but slipping ever away from the Higher Passions in headlong pursuit of Wrath, Fear, Depression and Lust. This is not a problem a priori, but a limited selection of emotional responses inevitably leads to situations for which no emotional response is possible. This is our loss, and must be rectified. If you have concrete suggestions in this matter, the Trendsetter’s office is the third door on the right. A brief word on ghost-hunters; those that employ technology are generally harmless to us personally, but may negatively impact our goals with their publicity. Avoid them if you can. Those who use trappings of faith or magic are somewhat more dangerous, but can be useful for their onlookers and followers. If you get a moment and have the Pathos and the skill, you may consider harassing them, in order to provoke faith or wonder in their audience. ***

Mages I shall be blunt. Some of these understand passion, yet are too disorganized and selfish to be of any use. Others understand economics, but would stifle passion in search of cold precision. Yet others understand Death, and fixate upon it to the exclusion of passion or progress. In short, the lot of them are useless to us, and best avoided.

Guildbook: Usurers


"The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty by how little." --William Rouenseville Alger Before we undertake a detailed examination of the Arcanos Usury, we must first examine Pathos itself, the medium of exchange among the Guild. Having long ago realized that the full amount of corpus a soul can hold is generally equivalent to ten times the smallest achievable discrete unit, these units were called decinimae, a contraction of deci animae, or one tenth of a soul. The unit of Pathos which will produce one decinima of corpus is called the sentima, a corruption of the Latin word for emotion, sometimes abbreviated among wraiths of American origin as "sents". Usurers make use of fractional and decimal notations within their ledgers, but always round to the whole unit most favorable to the Usurer in an actual transaction. Pathos comes in varieties, exemplified by the nine Trusts of the Guild, and a wraith is incapable of using those forms of Pathos for which he or she is not emotionally equipped. This extends to the Usurers themselves as well. This never comes up concerning Pathos garnered the hard way—persons with a Passion of Hate acquire Pathos from actions stemming from Hate, not Charity, unless they also have a Charity Passion. However, a wraith with no Hate Passion cannot acquire and utilize Hate, even from a Usurer. Worse still, if they have a Dark Passion involving Hate, their corpus will interpret the infusion of Hate as Angst. If they have both, it is interpreted in the ratio of the strength of the relevant Passions and Dark


Passions. Thus, those Trusts which specialize in questionable commodities, such as Wrath, Fear, Pride and Avarice, must have skilled psychologists as Brokers (this comes up less often among Fidelity, Faith, or Hope, but it can never be completely disregarded). Despite the fundamental equivalence of Pathos and Angst, a Usurer can NEVER use his or her Arcanos to manipulate Angst, even when the client is in a moment of Catharsis or is Shadow-Eaten; the Shadow represents all that is repressed, denied and buried within a whole mind, and it is simply too guarded and deep within the soul for the light touch of the Usurers to get a grip on it. There’s tell of a Dark Arcanos named Larceny which would confer such abilities, however, and such information is heeded quite closely by the reckless and mad among the Guild. But then, the reckless and mad are also shipping off to Hong Kong in yet more futile attempts to understand the Way of the Merchant as well. The Guildmarks associated with Usury are rather more subtle than most, typically identified as a clipped, precise and dry speech pattern and the constant presence of a set of scales. The latter is, of course, nothing more than a trademark, just as the iron lanterns of the Pardoners. Still, most Usurers are quite proud of their chosen avocation, and upon receiving a set of scales upon becoming a Journeyman, are loathe to go anywhere without them. The former is a bit more complex; on a deep psychological level, Usurers come to distrust their own medium of exchange, as they feel emotion pass into and out of them in response not to genuine events but to their own will. How relevant is Wrath when you can pull

Guildbook: Usurers

some out of a Till or put it in when it’s not wanted at the moment? This is not a function of skill or use of the Arcanos, but of time spent practicing it, and some have speculated that, as one of the few Arcanoi which do not mar the corpus in some way, Usury is one of the few Arcanoi the Restless were meant to practice by whatever power placed them here. Such thinking, however flattering, is a road to heresy and thus not looked well upon by the Masters of the Guild. In any case, old Usurers virtually never betray a hint of personal emotion, not because they dislike it or don’t feel it, but because they no longer think of emotions as real, outside of a monetary sense. For your perusal, a summary of the more notable arts developed by the Guild to assist them in their business. The Ancient Arts of Danegeld and Lien (Wraith: the Great War) are still practiced, most notably by the Short Sellers. The Hierarchy art of Sustenance is virtually unknown outside of those who have had personal contact with Marcus Crassus; the Usurers are simply not in positions of defined authority enough to make it a productive use of their time to learn.

New Basic Art Escrow - Escrow allows a Usurer to congeal Pathos or corpus outside of a wraith or Till, as a pile of luminescent or quivering…stuff. It can be absorbed by any wraith who seizes it and possesses the necessary Passions (or Dark Passions). This is done normally for weighing upon a Usurer’s scales to ensure the client gets what is agreed to; if it has not been claimed at the end of a scene, it dissipates into the surrounding area. It can also be tossed into a pack of pursuing Renegades, Spectres or Legionnaires, who will hopefully fight over it. The roll is Stamina + Usury, diff. 6; each success is a single point thus Escrowed. The points can be seperated, and are not a single mass. • Balance Sheet - With this Art, a Usurer can determine the amount of Pathos contained in a wraith, Till, Invested Relic or any other Pathoscontaining framework. The roll is Perception + Usury, diff. 6; one success will give a general idea (within a few points), two successes a precise amount, three successes the Trust it would fall under and four or more successes the precise emotion of the Pathos. It costs nothing,

Guildbook: Usurers

but a botch produces an additional Angst for the Usurer. • Arbitrage - Via a complicated set of mental gymnastics, a Usurer uses this power to transmute Pathos of one variety into another. The Pathos must be within the Usurer, thus both original and target emotion must be those the Usurer has a Passion built around. The amount which will be converted is specified before the roll is made; the roll is Intelligence + Usury, difficulty 5 for emotions which would fall within a single Trust (Vengeance to Anger, Compassion to Twisted Love) or difficulty 7 between Trusts. Five successes indicate a complete transformation with no loss, each success less than five indicates a point lost in transition. •• Niche Market - With this power, the Usurer releases a point of Pathos into the area, and follows the whirls and traces it makes as it attempts to unite with the nearest source of like Pathos, be it a Till, another wraith or a group of Quick. The roll is Perception + Usury, diff. 6; obviously, this power is useless if the nearest source is the Usurer herself or the Till. •• Incentive - While Pathos is a medium of exchange for Usurers, it is still emotion, and its transfer can have powerful effects. Each point of Pathos transferred to a client using Incentive grants an automatic success on one social roll to convince the target of something in keeping with the emotion thus transferred. The roll and success are determined as an ordinary Transfer, but use of Incentive gains the wraith a point of temporary Angst. ••• Limited Partnership - While Pathos is emotion and corpus could be said to reflect belief or memory, a Usurer who has learned this power has determined how to transfer certain other aspects of the mind. With Limited Partnership, a Usurer can use his or her own Willpower to replenish another’s Willpower pool. The relevant roll is Wits + Usury, diff. 6; one Willpower point may be donated per success. This art costs 1 Pathos, and may be used on a nearby mortal without touch or manifestation. Attempts to create a reversal of this art have not yet met with success; current research along the same lines is investigating if transfer of Mental Attributes, Knowledge or Skills could be possible using similar principles. Perhaps the Mnemoi are worth a second look after all.


••• First Option - While Arbitrage is an excellent start along the path to formulating a universal medium of exchange, it can and must be refined further. With this power, a Usurer implants in himself the temporary ability to utilize another emotion, by using the principles of Arbitrage on his own Passions. Each success on an Intelligence + Usury roll allows this power to last for one scene; if it reverts while the inappropriate Pathos is still in the wraith, that Pathos is lost. This power costs 1 Pathos. It is chiefly used to accept payment on behalf of another Trust, which will return the favor at a later date. While most Usury arts are not linear, Arbitrage must be learned before this art. •••• Stock Split - This power is devilishly simple, and requires no roll if used on oneself. By upsetting and destroying her own emotional equilibrium, a Usurer may infuse herself with as many points of Pathos as she likes, up to her maximum; her Shadow gains an equal amount of temporary Angst. Using it on a willing subject requires 1 point of Pathos and a Charisma + Usury roll; the number of successes equal the maximum amount gained, although the Usurer can choose to cause a smaller disruption. It cannot be used on an unwilling subject, and its use on someone else gains the Usurer a point of temporary Angst. •••• Bankruptcy - While the Usurers disdain combat as something clients should be paid to engage in on the Usurer’s behalf, they are not wholly without the means to defend themselves (just have a look at Lien). With a Manipulation + Usury roll, difficulty of the target wraith’s Willpower, they may reduce the target’s capacity for Pathos by one point per success. If the target’s temporary Pathos exceeds her new maximum, the excess is lost into the surrounding area in a colorful cloud. Use of this power costs 1 Pathos and gains a point of temporary Angst, and it can be used multiple times. With the sacrifice of a Permanent Willpower point, the Usurer can make the decrease resulting in a single roll permanent; this is virtually never done, in part because of the cost, in part because it violates the very purpose of the modern Usurers. If no such point is spent, lost Pathos capacity returns at the rate of one point per scene. ••••• Collateral - Transfer of Pathos about is all well and good, and makes for excellent economic stimulus; occasionally, though, more


drastic measures are called for, nor were the Usurers always so principled. This highly guarded secret of the Usurers allows them to move not Pathos, but Passions themselves, between Usurer and client. Doing so requires a Charisma + Usury roll, with the Willpower of the target wraith for the difficulty in an unwilling transfer, or difficulty 4 for a willing. Each success allows for a point of a single Passion to be transferred; extra successes delay return by one scene each. Passions return to their proper "owners" at the rate of one point per scene; the transfer can be made permanent by the expenditure of one Permanent Willpower Point per point of Passion thus transferred. Use of this power on an unwilling client gains the Usurer two points of temporary Angst. ••••• Inflation - A wraith who masters this power has learned how emotions fit together and balance each other, not in stasis but in dynamic equilibrium. She understands how to slip Fear in between Hope and balance Love against Selfishness, fitting more Pathos into a wraith’s form. A roll of Dexterity + Usury, difficulty 6 is required, and the number of successes is the number of additional slots gained in Pathos capacity. They fade at the rate of one point per scene, and any Pathos which exceeds a wraith’s new capacity is lost. Use of this power costs 1 Pathos. A wraith may be Inflated only once; subsequent uses of Inflation count from the basic Pathos capacity of 10 (or whatever else it was), although a Usurer can always try for more successes. Inflation can be made permanent with the expenditure of as many Permanent Willpower points by the Usurer as the increase.

New Merits and Flaws Natural Projector (1 pt Merit): You find it easy to give of yourself to others, and to share your excitement or horror. You have a -1 difficulty to give Pathos, corpus or anything else transferable to others via Usury to another. Sympathetic Ear (1 pt Merit): You enjoy listening to others and figuring out what makes them tick, in a rational manner. You have a -2 difficulty to take Pathos or corpus from willing donors. Sociopath (3 pt Flaw): You are utterly unable to emotionally connect with others. You may not give Pathos or corpus to others, although you can count as a willing donor for other Usurers. You

Guildbook: Usurers

may not learn the Empathy talent. Obviously, this is worth no points to a non-Usurer. Self-Aware (2 pt Merit): You understand the intimate workings of your own Shadow and how it connects to the greater "you". You are able to accept Usury transactions of your Shadow Passions as Pathos rather than Angst.

Broad Experience (1 pt Merit): despite having no Passion built around it, your experience allows you to understand one other emotion well enough to conduct transactions in it and store it within you as Pathos. Considerate (1 pt Flaw): something in you balks at using your craft to take advantage of others. You may not use Usury on an unwilling target without spending a Willpower point, and if you do so you gain an additional point of Angst. No Core Identity (2 pt Flaw): The emotions you presently contain determine your drives and actions, and your personality changes whenever your Pathos pool does. You must spend a Willpower point to do something not in keeping with whatever "flavor" of Pathos presently predominates your pool, and your emotional states are extreme and obvious. Corpus Sink (4 pt Flaw): Your corpus is somehow unstable, and you naturally lose a point of it any time you would gain Angst. This is not a substitute for the Angst gain. Many Collectors have this Flaw, and select their occupation as a way to have access to plenty of replacement corpus.

New Artifacts Tills (Variable level Artifact) : A Till is simply a storage Battery for Pathos, resembling a complex array of moving brass parts and beveled crystal panes. It can hold 10 points per level of the Artifact. While expensive devices, they are infinitely more reliable and accessible, if not as subtle, as the Investment art.

certain pattern is traced on the cover with six fingers) have been utilized. Once set, the identification method cannot be reset. Jeweler’s Glass (level 1 Artifact) : This monocle-like device allows its wearer to determine the emotions which the Passions of a target wraith are organized about; Perception + Awareness is rolled, diff. 6, and each success tells the wearer of one Passion of the target wraith, highest first. If the target resists scrutiny, they may oppose with their Willpower, but they must be aware of the scrutiny to do so. Prospector’s Pick (level 4 Artifact) : This unassuming digging tool is a favorite of Short Sellers who prowl the quiescent sectors of the Labyrinth (see Doomslayers). It makes for a serviceable improvised weapon and is crafted from Stygian steel, allowing it to do Strength + 1 Aggravated damage, difficulty 7; its true value, however, is that it allows the wielder to take Pathos from Slumbering Spectres without incurring the Angst penalty normally associated with an unwilling donor. A typical dormant Spectre only has 1 Pathos in it, but they seldom occur alone, and for the impatient it might work on Slumbering wraiths as well. Scattered Coins (level 5 Artifact, Issued) : A few coins in the right place can make all the difference. Why, some 2000 years ago, thirty pieces of silver changed the whole world (and the Usurers have been looking for the Relics of those particular coins ever since). These coins are alleged to be from somewhat earlier, when a certain prophet and heretic of the day drove moneylenders from a Temple with a whip. As the currency used to pay God, they allow their user to trade any number of Pathos for double that number of automatic successes on any single roll. When the coin has thus been spent, it will not function for that carrier anymore, and is thus typically returned to the Guild, although it could be passed to another person first.


Private Ledger (level 3 Artifact) : This is a book whose text seems to blur and shift when it is studied; only its owner is able to make the words legible. Traditionally, the owner was designated as the possessor of a companion ring, but other identification methods (only legible in a specific Haunt, useless if stolen; only legible after a

Guildbook: Usurers


"I have to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t. " --Sir Nathan Rothschild

Notes on Roleplaying Usurers While the Usurers style themselves as a collection of modern corporations, they are not dead members of the Syndicate. They are applying the theories of capitalism, not to an intellectual abstraction like money, but to real feelings. The Usurer’s business is using emotions to generate more and stronger emotions, which conversely implies the deliberate breakdown of discipline, moderation and reason in their clients. Their vision of a perfect social order thus becomes one where every wraith indulges every Passion at every opportunity, largely heedless of long-term consequences. While protesting that they are actively working to diversify the emotions of the Quick, and by extension future generations of Restless, the simple fact is that it’s easier to invoke Hate or Fear than Loyalty or Pride, and so as long as they allocate status by the amount of Pathos produced, those who specialize in the baser emotions will hold the balance of power within the Guild and develop a greater hold over the Quick. The Usurer’s share of blame for the breakdown of social order on either side of the Shroud, with subsequent breakdown in living standard, is more than average. Usurers want everyone to feel things, together, because that’s what they did in life and what they’re good at. While it’s perfectly normal to attempt to advance one’s own profession or lifestyle, the Usurers ultimately have a problem with diversity. Either they attempt to conform to a perceived mean or they attempt to bring others to a conceived mean of behavior. Even the nominal separation of the Trusts does not allow for much real division within the world the Usurers work for. Now that we’ve illuminated some flaws within the current Usurer business model, let’s not forget what they do that’s good. They allow wraiths to practice their Arcanoi to their fullest, and they allow grand visions to be realized by providing the resources to do it. They help individuals with problems, and they provide a genuinely sympathetic ear to anyone who wants to talk. They help wraiths of skill and vision achieve power who otherwise may have languished unnoticed as a mere Legionnaire for decades. The Usurers are called a Great Guild for a reason, as they do as much good for Restless society as the other three Greats and more than the other twelve Guilds. They know this, they’re proud of it, and they want to keep doing it more and bigger and better; but they don’t know what of a good thing is enough and what is too much. With these things in mind, some Usurer templates for you. Don’t say I never gave you anything for free.


Guildbook: Usurers

Quote: Gimme a ‘G’! Gimme a ‘R’! Gimme an ‘E’! Gimme another ‘E’! Gimme a ‘D’! Whazzat spell!?! All your life, you were in center stage. You became a cheerleader because you wanted to make people excited about the good things around you at school; you made yourself pretty because cheerleaders were supposed to be pretty; you got good grades in honors courses more through diligence than intellect, because it made your parents and teachers happy; you were generous and friendly and polite to everyone, no matter how strange or unhygienic they were, because a school symbol and the mayor’s daughter was supposed to be like that. All you really ever wanted was to have everybody get along and really like your town and each other. And maybe you would have done something like that after college, but you never got to go. You were killed in a drunk driving accident over the summer after graduation. After a scuffle between a couple of people who called themselves Reapers, you found yourself in the Emerald Legion, who were much nicer and friendlier than the creep from the Penitent Legion who said you were his. They all got along with each other, and they tried to get along with people who weren’t lucky enough to be in the Emerald Legion, and while you couldn’t fight (which you thought was stupid anyway) you could look for neat things that used to make the living happy, Relics y’call’em. After a while, you met an odd man with a handle-bar mustache, very old-fashioned but friendly and polite, and he showed you how the Usurers make people who are only doing OK do a lot better. You were thrilled to be asked to join, even if you were supposed to keep it a secret, and all he wanted you to do was ‘Market Research’, which was really just talking to everybody and being nice and if a good person needed some help, you all helped him. Heck, that’s what you’d do anyway! Maybe the Shadowlands could use a better decorator, but you’re doing very much what you always wanted. Fetters: University acceptance letter ••••, Dad’s wrecked car •••, Cheerleading uniform •••

Guildbook: Usurers


Quote: Just relax. We’re going to get you everything you asked for, and it’s on its way here now. We just need a little something, a little show of good faith, first. You never wanted to join a gang. Guy gets in a gang, he gets a little money and a little respect, and then he doesn’t give that up, he can’t let go of that little local prize to reach for the big one. You saw that early on, and every time a gang or a gang member approached you, you talked your way out of it. You made it through school, but found that talking your way into a good college was a lot harder than pulling the wool over an inner-city high school teacher’s eyes; in the end, your insights in one essay into the "gang problem" won you an AJ (Administration of Justice) scholarship. Hey, it was school, and it wasn’t like your family could pay. And so you became a cop.

brutal for you. You knew that if Stygia was ever going to get better, it would happen by building consensus rather than imposing it with a sword. You shifted your allegiance to some Idealist Renegades, and it was a step up, but it didn’t work for you ultimately because your objections were not to the Hierarchy in principle but to the specific bunch of yahoos that were currently running it. Then you found a job where you just might have a shot at what you want, and you became an Almoner. Fetters: Commissioner’s office •••, Sidewalk where you failed to talk down a jumper ••, Newspaper announcing your victory (kept by little brother) ••• , University that rejected you ••

You found you had a special flair for defusing domestic disturbances, the calls every cop hates most, but you didn’t stay on a beat long, making detective in a record five years. You got put on Robbery, and it wasn’t bad work, and eventually someone noticed that you didn’t have a single resisting-arrest, no charges of police brutality, no demerits, never fired your gun even when you had to draw it. You were sent to school in Quantico and you became a hostage negotiator. And this is what you were meant to do. You were saving innocents and getting bad guys without even usually carrying a gun. You convinced jumpers to come down off of ledges, bank robbers to give up peacefully, drug pushers to trust in their lawyers and come quietly. It was a good career, and you got to think you were good at it. So good, that when the police commissioner was impeached on corruption charges, you decided to run for his job. With your ethnicity, your blue-collar background, your perfect record and above all your ability to make people like and trust you if you could just talk to them, you won in a landslide. Two months later, you were found floating in the river, tangled with piano wire. You stayed with the Grim Legion for a while, and even served on a couple of their murder courts, but they were just too disorganized and

Guildbook: Usurers


Quote: Good to see you again, how was your week, fantastic! Listen, we’re going for coffee after, and Carla’s coming, do you know Carla? Oh, you’ll love her. Really you will. We’ll see you then. You were born and raised among a highly religious family, with church three times a week, lots of closed eyes, raised hands, beautiful music, and interrupting the Reverend to shout out Hallelujahs. When you learned that your classmates in elementary school didn’t have church like you, you pitied them, and invited them along. They never came. Outside of school and family camping outings, church was your life. Then about high school, things got more complicated. You had learned that evangelism costs more friends than it makes, but the first twinges of real doubt and temptation began flickering about your mind. You got a part-time job after school, for college of course, and reasoned between your job and church and the track team you really didn’t have time to date much. Your world fell apart your senior year, when another boy kissed you. You were too ashamed to tell anyone, and you barely left your room for a week. You stumbled through the month left of school, and thought of him every night when you went to bed. You told your parents you were moving in with a friend and going to community college. They never saw you again. You hitchhiked your way to Baltimore, following no particular plan or purpose, and figuring you’d come far enough, you took a job as a gas station attendant. After six lonely, dull months of movies and night shift jobs, you found a bar with a drag contest. You were the life of the party in no time. You had never truly reconciled your faith with your nature, but God’s love was never a theoretical abstraction to you; it’s something real, immediate, and as easy to feel as the carpet. And it had not left you up to this. But harmless, funny, generous and even faithful people like you can contract AIDS. And suddenly, you weren’t so sure about God as your best friend anymore. At the suggestion of your doctor, you joined a support group for people suffering from

Guildbook: Usurers

terminal diseases. And your first thought was that you’d found what church was for adults. The idea of a personal long-term relationship with anyone but God never really crossed your mind, and you were determined not to bother now that this had come up. You seemed to have a much clearer idea of how these things were supposed to go, though, than anyone else in the group; they fumbled, you drew on your church experience and on countless cocktail parties, and had everybody talking enthusiastically and smiling in no time. The next six years were a blur; but they were six years, which was about three times what the doctors gave you. You made friends, you drew them out of their shells and you buried them, time and again. You were the solid backbone of the group, and you even took to arranging dates between members you thought compatible. You had an eye for that sort of thing, and most of them thanked you afterwards. One pair even got married before the end. You cried the whole time, and you thanked God that, if your life was to be short, at least he gave you this before the end. And when it went away, you were here, and suddenly you had proof that God was all in your and your parent’s heads. You weren’t scared, or disappointed; you were furious. You beat your Reaper into a Harrowing and went traveling again. You didn’t get very far this time. But eventually you calmed down, enough to make a snide comment about the dreadfully oldfashioned and tacky suit some fellow with a handle-bar mustache was wearing. To your utter surprise, he stopped and engaged you in a conversation about fashion, how you would give certain impressions, what demeanor you would use to overcome a particular handicap in front of a crowd. You’re not sure why you talked to him. Perhaps you had gotten lonely again. But when it ended, it turns out there’s people paid to be the life of the party around here, and shake things up. You’re a Trendsetter. You like the sound of that. Fetters: Bible •••, Podium at Community Center ••, Drag bar ••, Favorite Theater •••


Nathan Rothschild The careers and rise of the Rothschild banking syndicate could fill books, and need not be recounted here in full. Suffice to say that Nathan founded the London branch of the family, and turned a small fortune into a gigantic one without more than a dollop of mud being raked up at him. Despite being entitled by birth to style himself a baronet, later promoted to knight and then Baron for personally financing the defeat of Napoleon and being elected the first Jewish member of Parliament, he insisted on being addressed as "Mister Rothschild" or, even better, Nat or Natty. Despite his Austrian birth and non-Christian faith, Natty became an admired public figure to the English, a hero to Jews of the day and the richest man in England. Some of his descendants have been less impressive, but his family still sits in the House of Lords. He was known for his wicked sense of humor and lack of regard for propriety, paying clerks to stand at every window at the Bank of England and keep the tellers occupied for days until they would honor a wire from his brother in Frankfort. Today, he is the Executor of the Trust of Pride, and looks after his family when he can spare the time from his work in Stygia. Nathan’s gift for Usury is merely adequate, but his grasp of money is peerless, and his arrival was greeted (much to his own chagrin) with great celebration by the Usurers. He was reaped a Usurer, has known no other death and regrets it little; in his limited spare time, he thinks of ways to return the Quick to Pride without rekindling the nationalistic horrors of the Fourth and Fifth

Guildbook: Usurers

Great Maelstroms and their causes (which he blames partly on the Trust he now oversees).

Antonio Gramsci Antonio Gramsci was born the son of a Sardinian signori, in conditions which might have been described as poverty, as opposed to the grinding poverty of his classmates and neighbors. Crippled from birth with a curved spine and frail health, he became a moody, scholarly young man, publishing a broadsheet blasting the authorities of Italy for their reactionary positions. When Lenin overthrew the Czar, Gramsci became a great admirer of him and attempted to remake Italy along the same lines; The dogma of Karl Marx proved unequal to that of the Roman Catholic Church, however, and when Mussolini came to power he was imprisoned for sedition. Many of his less public followers were simply shot. Never a well man, he succumbed to his illnesses in a Fascist prison. Gramsci found the Shadowlands a patchwork of the tyrannies he had opposed in life; aristocratic Monitors tangled Lombard wraiths in their webs from Florence, Venetian merchantnecromancers enslaved the wraiths of the Po Valley, and a bewildering array of Heretic cults held fast in Rome itself. Gramsci has sworn to upend them all, and scours the countryside for Renegades or Hierarchs willing to establish a more equitable way of life among the Italian Restless. He has become the most well-known Almoner within the Guild, and a loud voice within the Trust of Wrath. Those who have a sword and wish a kingdom have a willing backer


in Antonio, and no tyranny can last forever…can it? Today Venice, tomorrow Stygia.

Donna Kosygin There are jobs no human being was really meant to have. Enough despair will wear down the toughest souls until the most terrible things seem quite reasonable. Donna was a nurse in an intensive care unit, treating primarily advanced cancer patients, although occasionally some other terminal case would be assigned to the same ward. She watched people die who had done nothing wrong, and not dignified or graceful deaths either, but long, slow painful deaths, for which in many cases the doctors would prescribe no or not enough painkillers. Listening to groans of agony day in and out was too much for her. She was a nurse. She was supposed to make them feel better, to help them. She helped them.

Guild he once lead was genuine, so long as Charon was Imperator; once again, he was the third man of a great Empire. He busies himself studying who is using Pathos for what, and what they might need soon, and who exactly they are using to accomplish their tasks; privy to a great deal of the finances of all the Deathlords, Crassus may have the most complete picture of Stygia of anybody. With Charon gone and Nhudri uninterested in politics as ever, Crassus has set his sights on becoming the next Imperator, but for now he moves in secret and attempts to reestablish contact with the Guild he was once master of. He regards all of the Deathlords as buffoons and madmen, but believes he can keep them suspicious and at each other’s throats long enough to exhaust might and let wealth have its turn at Empire.

Donna was convicted on twelve counts of first-degree murder, and forty-three more were thrown out as unprovable. After a stay of twelve years on death row, she was electrocuted. Today, she is far and away the Trust of Love’s most productive Collector, bringing in more corpus than they could spend in a decade. There are so many people in need of help, people attached to machines that are waiting for her to Inhabit them. HMOs are about efficiency, and sacrifices must be made, so the papers say.

Marcus Crassus The legend and bogeyman of the modern Usurers, Crassus is still very much existent about the Onyx Tower. He maintains vast stores of Drones and Thralls, full of Pathos and corpus and chained together in warehouses (Crassus hails from before the development of Investment, and still prefers the habits of his living days for keeping his wealth). He is in charge of maintaining the wealth of the Empire itself, and his subservience to the Deathlords is entirely theoretical. When one of them needs more Pathos for a project, they requisition him, and terms are set for the contract. Lesser members of the Hierarchy may also petition him, but their superiors would surely be informed. Crassus is actually held to be a jolly old man, charitable and friendly to all, and dispensing favors widely to those who petition him as a private man rather than Treasurer of Stygia. His abandonment of the


Guildbook: Usurers

"Poverty is the openmouthed relentless hell which yawns beneath civilized society. And it is hell enough." --Henry George For those who follow my posts on Ex Libris Nocturnis, you may be aware that I reject the Sixth Great Maelstrom as a load of baloney. The bulk of this work is written from a perspective prior to Ends of Empire. For the benefit of the assembled canon-is-gospel-monkeys, however, I will here attempt to summarize the effects of the Sixth Great Maelstrom and Charon’s return and abdication upon the Usurer’s Guild. It completely destroys them. The Grand Vaults have been sent plummeting into the Labyrinth or spinning off into the Tempest. The careful Ledgers indicating who is entitled to what within them are lost. Short Sellers achieve a new prominence seeking out Vaults and hauling away all the Pathos they can carry, and hopefully making it back out in one piece; lunatics contemplate the potential number of Redemption Harrowings which could be triggered if the Vaults of Fidelity or Hope were cracked open within the ruins of Stygia or the Labyrinth. The Executors of the Trusts are missing. Most of the wealth accumulated in the past century and a half is vanished at a stroke, with only the working capital individual Master Usurers kept about as petty cash surviving. As relatively younger wraiths, many Master Usurers cannot conceive of a century and a half of progress wiped out, and those vulnerable to Despair become Shadow-Eaten or plunge

Guildbook: Usurers

directly into the Void, while those who are not, desperate to recoup something for themselves, set about seizing each other’s Tills and assets even as Spectres howl about them. It will be some time before the Usurers can settle their differences and regain their collective sanity, and when some structure emerges from the chaos at last, it will likely be as radical a transformation as that which followed the Breaking. Crassus escapes to Rome, apparently with the help of the Monitors. His personal assets are wiped out like any other Master Usurer, but he remains the unsolved variable in the Guild’s equations, and attempts to rally as many as will take direction around himself.


Name: Player: Chronicle:

Nature: Demeanor: Shadow:


Strength ___________● OOOOO Dexterity __________● OOOOO Stamina ___________● OOOOO


Alertness__________ OOOOO Athletics___________OOOOO Awareness__________OOOOO Brawl_____________OOOOO Dodge_____________OOOOO Empathy___________OOOOO Expression__________OOOOO Intimidation________OOOOO Streetwise__________OOOOO Subterfuge__________OOOOO


_________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO


Usury _________________ OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO

Life: Death: Regret:

Attributes Social

Charisma__________● OOOOO Manipulation_______● OOOOO Appearance_________● OOOOO


Perception_________● OOOOO Intelligence_________● OOOOO Wits______________● OOOOO

Abilities Skills

Crafts_____________OOOOO Drive_____________OOOOO Etiquette___________OOOOO Firearms___________OOOOO Leadership__________OOOOO Meditation_________OOOOO Melee_____________OOOOO Performance________OOOOO Repair____________OOOOO Stealth____________OOOOO



Bureaucracy________OOOOO Computer__________OOOOO Enigmas___________OOOOO Investigation________OOOOO Law______________OOOOO Linguistics__________OOOOO Medicine__________ OOOOO Occult____________OOOOO Politics____________OOOOO Science____________OOOOO


__________________________________________ OOOOO __________________________________________ OOOOO __________________________________________ OOOOO __________________________________________ OOOOO __________________________________________ OOOOO __________________________________________ OOOOO

Corpus O O O O O O O O O O ¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Willpower O O O O O O O O O O ¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Guild Marks


Speak in Precise, Numerical Terms



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Favorite Clients

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Merits & Flaws

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Other Traits

_________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO

_________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO



__________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________


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_________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO

Guild Standing & Contacts

____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO ____________________________OOOOO

Standing:______________________________ Rank:________________________________ Guild Contacts:____________________________

Ancient/New Arts Known


__________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________

__________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________ Apprenticed To:___________________________


Gained From:____________________________ __________________________________ Spent On:______________________________ __________________________________ __________________________________

Combat Weapon/Attack


Damage Range

Rate Conceal Pathos

Armor Class:__________________ Rating:_________________ Penality:________________ Description: _____________________ _____________________ _____________________


Expanded Backgrounds

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History Life

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__________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________


Age:_________ Apparent Age:_________ Date of Birth:_________ R.I.P:_________ Gender:_________ Height:________ Weight:_____________ Hair:______________ Eyes:__________ Race:___________ Nationality:_________________________ Garb:____________________________________________ Other Distinguishing Features:____________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________

Psyche: Shadowguide Player: Thorns

SHADOW Archetype:


Dark Passions

_______________________ O O O O O O O O O O _________________OOOOO _______________________ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ ¨ _________________OOOOO _______________________ _________________OOOOO _________________OOOOO _______________________ _________________OOOOO _______________________ _________________OOOOO _______________________ Psyche Willpower _________________OOOOO _______________________ _______________________ O O O O O O O O O O _________________OOOOO

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