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The Incarnate Semiote

Copyright Michael Grasso

Essentially a significant blast, the Ritual of the Incarnate Semiote also manifests some very strange phenomena in exchange for its power...

Throughout human history, "Fortean" events have baffled observers and tipped more than one curious onlooker into the Occult Underground. Most are the result of excessive magick use in an area warping the weave of reality. But there is one ancient ritual that guarantees weird happenings as a result of its use, every time.

The Ritual of the Incarnate Semiote is believed to have first been used by Roman haruspices against their enemies. The superstitious Roman patricians who utilized the soothsaying abilities and astrological charts of a haruspex had such belief in the power of signs and symbols (most often manifested as the sudden appearance of flying animals) that Roman seers could channel that belief into a ritual which would harm them. A bad omen suddenly signified the very real threat of heart failure or massive internal hemorrhaging.

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, plagues of rats, insects, and rains of blood were common in villages with particular fervent witch-hunters. Little did these witch-hunters and their followers know their very presence caused these events; that every "sign of the devil" they witnessed was another step towards their own destruction as the cornered adept battered away at their bodies.

In modern times, cataloguers like Charles Fort didn't know that many of the so-called "Wild Talents" they discovered was followed by or coincided with some victim of sudden and inexplicable organ failure. Indeed, some believe that Ebola is nothing more than a communicable and supremely dangerous form of the Incarnate Semiote ritual.

The ritual requires the caster to be able to see his target (seeing them in a recording or on television counts, as long as it's a moving image) or be in possession of a personal effect of the target. If the caster cannot see the target and instead depends on a possession, the damage is considered hand-to-hand damage; see below. The caster must also be in possession of some symbol of the target and perform an action indicative of the grudge or hatred behind the casting. The Ritual of the Incarnate Semiote is deeply personal. The action shouldn't take any longer than a minute or so; it could be as simple as slowly spilling a cup of coffee to smite the waitress who didn't refill you that morning.

When the ritual is completed and two significant charges expended, the caster makes a Soul roll with a -30% shift. If successful, the victim takes firearm damage equal to the Soul roll. This roll cannot be flip-flopped for any reason. The damage takes the form of large chunks of flesh and organ meat inside the body being removed.

But, of course, thanks to the Law of Conservation of Mass, that stuff has to go somewhere. Oddly, Charles Fort got this part right. The universe is a symbiotic machine, and matter does flow around it in a sort of occult circulatory system. The pieces of the victim re-form, somewhere within the caster's line of sight, as symbols of the victim's inner identity. This might take the form of blood if the victim is a violent man, ink if she is a frustrated writer, little wooden crosses if he is religious, and so on. This matter will simply materialize, either from the sky or from beneath floorboards or from somewhere not immediately within the line of view of the witnesses. Depending on who sees it appear, Unnatural stress checks (typically level 4) will result.

Within reason, the caster can control the appearance of these signs. With a second successful Soul roll (no shift this time), the caster can make the stuff materialize where he wishes and in whatever form he wishes, so long as the stuff still somehow symbolizes the victim. Of course, now the symbol can symbolize the victim in the caster's eyes.

For instance, let's say Tony the Adept is getting back at the amoromancer who seduced Tony's girl and broke her heart. If Tony doesn't make the second Soul roll, the stuff coming out of nowhere will probably be cologne or rosewater, symbolizing the amoromancer's own self-image of being the consummate lover. But if Tony's second Soul roll succeeds, the substance might instead be the bullshit that he believes the amoromancer spreads wherever he goes. It's always symbolic and sympathetic, no matter who's in control of the symbol.

One thing's always the case though: anything non-organic created by this ritual is actually truly and distressingly organic. For example, manifest a bunch of roaches to get back at the thief who broke into your apartment and took your stereo and everything's cool. But let's say someone stiffed you for the tip at Denny's and you manifest a bunch of spare change when you unleash the ritual on the victim. Those coins may look metal on the outside, but crack one of the fragile things open and on the inside, they're filled with blood, bone and flesh from the victim. This and other disturbing effects may cause the GM to break out the Unnatural stress checks at whatever level seems reasonable.

Michael Grasso | profile | Aug 14, 02 | 9:34 am

Visitor Comments

Charge cost?

I'd suggest higher than any school's formula spell significant blast, to limit the use of this ritual by those without a significant blast (cliomancers, etc).

Nick Wedig | profile | Aug 14, 02 | 7:47 pm

Sorry, it's in the body of the text; I didn't split them up into the headers as the core rulebook. It's 2 significant charges, and I completely agree with you with respect to why I didn't make it 1. But I figure 2 is perfect, since with a -30% shift to Soul, it probably won't do enough to kill anybody it hits.

Michael Grasso | profile | Aug 15, 02 | 6:21 am

Of course, adepts just use their Magick skill for rituals, so the blastless schools would still use it.

In fact, since it's a ritual, it might fit better for it to do Minor Blast damage, so it's even more expensive than Pornomancy.

Menzoa | profile | Aug 15, 02 | 3:09 pm

This ritual should probably be a violation of an adept's taboo, now that I think about it, like a charging ritual.

Nick Wedig | profile | Aug 19, 02 | 3:50 pm

I'd like to point out that I think it's canon that there are no blast rituals. I don't particulary think that should stop people posting this kind of groovy-ness, but it should be mentioned.

Nick | profile | Aug 30, 02 | 3:48 pm


Michael Grasso | profile | Aug 30, 02 | 5:01 pm

The rule was in Hush Hush, page 82:

Blast Style: The is not, nor can there ever be, a Blast ritual.

Menzoa | profile | Aug 31, 02 | 2:13 am

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