Dark Thaumaturgy

Despite the inexplicable disappearance of the Tremere antitribu, Dark Thaumaturgy has entrenched itself into the malignant underground of the Sabbat. A basic tenet of Sabbat unity is the sharing of Disciplines among pack members. This sharing strengthens the pack as a whole, and it better prepares the pack for a stand against the Camarilla. Although this tenet is true, however, students of Dark Thaumaturgy are still rare, due to the innate dangers in dealing with the infernal..

Dark Thaumaturgy is simply Thaumaturgical knowledge gleaned from demons, rather than a separate Discipline. The distinction is made merely for the purposes of illustrating the danger of dealing with infernal forces – learning a path or ritual from a text or another vampire does not leave the taint of the infernal on a vampire. Trucking with demons, however, stains the soul in a serious way.

In the absence of traditional Tremere training and research, some Sabbat who want to learn the secrets of Thaumaturgy turn to demons. These demons pride themselves on taking over the beings to whom they teach their dark magics and bending them to their infernal will. Practitioners of Dark Thaumaturgy think they work to control the “Devil on their shoulder,” lest it take over entirely. In reality, Dark Thaumaturgy is practiced predominantly by fools who think they’re going to outsmart the Devil, those who want a quick route to power and people too weak to resist infernal temptation.

Dark Thaumaturgy has levels and paths, just like Thaumaturgy. The mechanical difference between Thaumaturgy and Dark Thaumaturgy is relatively moot – paths and ritual still create the same effects. However, Dark Thaumaturgy comes with a price. Traffic with the Devil’s minions permanently scars the soul, and the taint of infernalism manifests in the Dark Thaumaturge’s aura. Before long, the unmistakable marks of the Devil’s favor may even appear physically, as a wart on the nose, a “witch’s claw” behind the ear or even (among the most Damned of the Damned) withered limbs, freakish scars, horns or cloven hoofs! Needless to say, once these visible traits appear, the Iquisition is sure to follow close behind, hastening the infernalist to deliver his soul to whatever dark power has claimed it.

As with other Thaumaturgy paths, when the character wishes to invoke a power, the thaumaturge’s player must roll Willpower with a difficulty equal to the power’s level + 3 and spend a blood point. If the roll succeeds, the power takes effect according to its description. Failing the Willpower roll indicates that the power has no effect. A botch costs the thaumaturge a permanent Willpower point.

Again, Dark Thaumaturgy is simply Thaumaturgy learned from demons – there is no separate Dark Thaumaturgy Trait. Demons may teach any of the “normal” paths and rituals of Thaumaturgy, but a few powers may only be learned with demonic tutelage. Increasing path and Thaumaturgy Traits is less difficult when dealing with the minions of Hell, but that ease is more than compensated for by the ruthless pursuit and persecution the infernalist faces when (not if) her unholy leanings come to the fore. Buying Thaumaturgy as a “New Discipline” with demonic instruction costs only 8 experience points. New paths cost only 5 points. Increasing a Thaumaturgy Trait with infernal assistance costs the current rating x5 experience points, while increasing a path rating costs the current rating x3 points.

Storyteller’s Option: The Devil’s Price

These Dark Thaumaturgy paths present a unique option that Storytellers may choose to use should such demonic “miracles” make their way into his game. Each of these paths includes a price, exacted by the demon who teaches the thaumaturge this forbidden knowledge. Instead of leaving it open to interpretation of the Storyteller, we’ve chosen to make the demon’s payment forthright, as it relates specifically to the path. Storytellers, feel free to adapt prices for other paths or to excise them altogether. As always, you have the final word, particularly with setting elements that should scare the characters and the players.

This path allows infernalists to wield the fears of their victims as a weapon. Practitioners of this path mystically tap into the depths of their victims’ psyches, prying the terrors from their minds and making them seem very real. Many more sophisticated Sabbat infernalists prefer this path over physical ones, as they enjoy the sublime effects of using the subjects’ own fears against them rather than vulgar, brutal displays of fire and demonic servants.

Infernalists using this path often experience nightmares and night terrors, which result from the many horrible memories they have leached from their victims. Storytellers should make Manipulation + Empathy rolls (difficulty 7) for characters who use the Path of Phobos more than once in a given story. The number of successes indicates how long the character must cope with the sea of stolen terrors roiling in her own mind. Botching results in the nightmares not only recurring for a week, but draining an additional nightly blood point from the vampire, due to lack of sound sleep.
Such is the price of hellish insight.

1 Success One Week
2 Successes Five Days
3 Successes Four Days
4 Successes Two Days
5 Successes One Day

Price: Nightmares
The very dream-forces that the character uses upon others ravage their way through his own mind while he sleeps. Any character who learns this path at any level acquires the Nightmares Flaw (see p. 299 of Vampire: The Masquerade), but receives no additional points for it.

•°°°° Induce Fear
This power causes the victim to feel extremely paranoid. Subtle shapes and shadows move in and out of the victim’s vision, tormenting her by lurking just beyond her range of sight.

System: The Infernalist can use this power on any subject within his view. For the duration of the effect, the subject becomes noticeably upset and preoccupied, which should be roleplayed. The victim must make a Courage roll (difficulty 5 + the number of successes the thaumaturge garnered) to take any action other than looking for the imagined stalker. If the character enters combat while under the effects of Induce Fear, she loses one die from all dice pools (provided she even makes the Courage roll), as her invisible stalkers distract and disconcert her.

1 Success One Turn
2 Successes Five Minutes
3 Successes One Hour
4 Successes One Night
5 Successes Two Nights

••°°° Spook
This power turns suspicion to dread, as the flitting shadows become visible threats. The victim feels that something terrible is about to happen to her unless she leaves the area quickly. She might imagine she sees the flash of a gun barrel or hears the clicking of hard-soled shoes on the pavement just behind her. She might even believe she smells her pursuer’s sweat or feels his damp breath on the back of her neck.

System: The nagging sense of discomfort in the back of the character’s mind becomes more tangible. Mortals must make a successful Courage roll (difficulty 7) to keep from fleeing the area in terror. Vampires must make the same roll, but if they fail they enter Rotschreck. The thaumaturge must see her victim for this power to work.

•••°° Terrorize
The infernalist can draw out his victim’s fear and present him with it. The victim sees that which terrifies him the most. If he fears spiders, he may imagine spider webs brushing his face and hands as thousands of illusory arachnids scuttle across his flesh. He may hear them skittering across the floor or clicking their horrid chelicerae. To the victim, the effects seem very real, though they are simply illusions.

System: The Willpower roll to activate this power also determines how long its effects last. Should the terrorized character wish to take any action, a Courage roll (difficulty 7) is required to allow her to shake off her fear, otherwise she simply cowers, feebly hiding from her imagined object of terror. Botching this Courage roll results in a derangement, preferably suited to the fear visiting the victim. The vampire must see his victim in order to use this power.

1 Success One Turn
2 Successes Five Minutes
3 Successes 30 Minutes
4 Successes One Hour
5 Successes One Night

••••° Fear-Plague
The victim’s most deep-rooted fear reveals itself to the infernalist with this power, who then forces the victim to deal with it head-on. The fear plagues the victim in every waking moment, and often in his sleep as well. A person afraid of drowning would feel the air thicken and coagulate in his throat and lungs, until he cannot take a breath, for example, while a person afraid of vampires may see fanged nemeses in his coworkers or lurking behind every corner. Eventually, the victim becomes so exhausted that he is unable to rise and face a new night of swarming horrors.

System: This power lasts for a week, during which the victim suffers his fear at every turn. Weakened by his constant state of fear, the character cannot spend Willpower, and the player makes all Willpower rolls as if his permanent rating is three lower (to a minimum of 1). The thaumaturge must see his victim to activate this power, but once it takes effect, it works regardless of whether or not he maintains a line of sight.

••••• Leech of Fear
This power enables the infernalist to temporarily feed on fear as though it was blood. This experience gives a euphoric high stronger than conventional feeding, but it is a dangerous practice if used too frequently. The thaumaturge converts the pure emotional charge drawn from the victim’s terror into a mystical substitute for vitae. This power may have something to do with old legends of vampires being able to “smell fear.”

System: As long as a thaumaturge with this power has a victim in sight, he may attempt to gain sustenance from that victim’s fear. The victim must have cause to be afraid of something or someone while the infernalist practices this power, but those fears may not be caused by other applications of this path. The number of successes equals the “fear pool” the Cainite takes from the victim. This pool may be spent like blood pool, but must be used before sunrise. Any unused points disappear at that time. In addition to the lost Willpower point, a botch means that the infernalist gets no “fear pool” from the victim, and cannot use the power on that victim again for 24 hours.

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