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Avatars


The Mad Prophet

Copyright bsushi


a.k.a. ...Who knows? Several possibilities, for an Archetype necessarily confusing and obscure

(Firstly, props to TedPro's Archetype as my inspiration for this.)

Is there or isn't there a Guy With Pencils Stuck In His Eyes, and what's his deal?

The signal-to-noise ratio in this subject is terrible, but some of the keener ears-on-the-ground have picked up one peculiar fact:

People virtually always admit that they don't really have any claim to the truth or accuracy on this subject, which is a feat even for urban legends, and simply astonishing in an underground culture so full of people so egocentric and insane that it warps the universe around them. Even schizophrenics and compulsive liars tend to preface these discussions with "Now, here's what I've heard..."

(It's suggested that this level of honest confusion is right in line with the Archetype - as they see it, anyway.)

The rumors by now have inflated into actual schools of thought on the subject, and (perhaps alarmingly) there has been a sharp increase in those claiming to be avatars of ol' Graphite-Eyes - or something like that. And no: None of them (that are known) actually have pencils in their eyes.

Any number of "independent researchers" have turned up their own explanations, just like a panel of different specialists will each have their own diagnosis for the same set of vague symptoms, depending on their field. What follows are the closest thing to "best guesses" among the In The Know.

The below are incomplete theories; no-one claims to know more than that. Some might be red herrings, some might have struck gold, or perhaps the Truth is bits and pieces of several of them. More confusingly (or more accurately, some say), perhaps the Archetype itself is incomplete - too present in the Collective Subconscious to be denied a seat in the Clergy, but too scattered beyond a short list of consistent images (or maybe just too new to the Clergy) to have the power of a "full" Archetype. Either way, none of these guesses includes all the details one would want to know.

They, say, though, that there's only one (frighteningly obvious) way to know for sure what's the "truth..."

Whether these are imagined Archetypes in gossip, actual Archetypes, accurate or inaccurate and to what degree - that's all up to you. If anyone In The Know has those answers, they're definitely not telling anyone (Why would this subject be that important, though?) - as for the rest of us, well, who knows.

Do you?


The New Shaman
Some scholars suggest that in those prehistoric times when no human social unit exceeded a smallish tribe, being an outsider meant having unique abilities and insights into the cosmos, for better or for worse. Ideas like "shaman," "insane," and "pariah" were synonymous or went hand-in-hand. (Joseph Campbell gets cited a lot, and his book "Myths to Live By" explores the probability that many shamans were "recognized" as such because they were in fact schizophrenics, or disturbed in similar ways.)

That's since changed (probably with the advent of civilization), and now Outsiders need not be insane nor insightful. But with recent media elevating the accessibility and reach of communication, the Mad Prophet once again coalesced in the Collective Unconscious, as a maniac loner: These individuals still believe they are uniquely insightful, but society's image of this Archetype no longer requires it to be perceptive so much as unintelligible, alien.

These avatars seem to know exactly what they're talking about, and have very strong (and inscrutable) convictions and agendas, which is why not every ranting hobo is channeling. Interestingly, the ranks of this Archetype have shifted from the poor and mentally ill to the middle class, and self-proclaimed intellectuals and academics. These are the New Shamans.

Taboos: These avatars can't acknowledge the validity of any existing schools of thought, unless they grossly but sincerely misinterpret/misapply them (e.g. "Darwinian NeoCubism," "Romero Veganism," etc.), or are ignorant of their actual meaning ("About time we got a Dem in the Oval Office, the South will rise again!"). They must not mobilize their arguments sensibly in mainstream media, as even the tiniest bit of recognition or following could be anathema to this Archetype.

Symbols: Blogs, homemade pamphlets and newsletters, the soap box or overturned milk crate on the street corner, and talk show stages - it's all about media and communication.

Masks: The Guy With Pencils Stuck In His Eyes is probably the first popular mask of this newly reborn Archetype - the ultimate image of conviction as passionate as it is indecipherable.

Suspected Avatars in History: Gene Ray, best known as the only supporter of his Time Cube theory and self-proclaimed "Wisest Man," might be the present Godwalker, or the most recent ascension ("Has anyone heard from him recently? Exactly."). Neal Adams is another likely avatar; in fact, the Flat Earth Society may be a New Shaman cabal, making it a rare instance where the weakening and near-disintegration of the cult venerating it is good for the Archetype (see "Taboos").

Channels: The avatar must chose a Paradigm (which probably, but not necessarily, comes with a paradigm skill under Mind), similar to how Warriors and Rebels choose Causes. Unlike Warriors, however, the Paradigm can be changed.

1-50%: The New Shaman sees everything clearly. Or so they think. Whether their minds are actually resilient, or too battered to get much worse, the effect is the same: For the purposes of stress checks, the avatars' rank is counted as the number of their Hardened notches in that meter, plus the tens place of their avatar skill. The player should provide an explanation for why they aren't perturbed. These "bonus notches" are not counted towards Sociopathy, and cannot be "read" in your personality (i.e. you don't like like a stone-cold killer no matter how high your Avatar skill is, if you only have 1 Hardened notch in Violence). Not making the check means not getting a Hardened notch. However, this channel can also be used to re-roll failed stress checks (against their avatar skill instead of Mind), a number of times per day equal to the tens place of their avatar skill - successes on those re-rolls will grant you a Hardened notch, as normal.

Example: Happy Harry the curb-side preacher has an Avatar: The New Shaman skill at 42, only 2 Unnatural Hardened notches, and watches the cashier at his favorite deli get his head melted off by a robber. That's a rank 6 Unnatural check, but he doesn't have to make it (2+4=6), because he realizes that the robber must've found a way to unravel the string theories holding together his body's Flesh and Mind humors, or whatever else makes sense to Harry. However, the psycho wastes his ex-wife on the way out, too (rank 8 Helplessness); Harry has 1 Hardened notch in Helplessness, so he has to roll (1+4<8) - and fails. He re-rolls with his skill, and succeeds this time, giving him a Hardened notch in Helplessness (and none in Unnatural) at the end of the whole thing.

51-70%: The New Shaman is disturbing in a very real way. With a successful roll of their avatar skill, they can generate a unnatural phenomena in their immediate vicinity; if other people share that vicinity, the phenomenon happens somewhere where they can see it. A success yields a random minor phenomenon, a matched success yields a random significant unnatural phenomenon, and a critical success yields a minor or significant unnatural phenomenon of the avatar's choice, so long as they can explain it in the context of their Paradigm. A failure yields nothing, a matched failure causes a minor unnatural phenomenon to manifest on or targeting the avatar, and a critical failure causes the kind of stuff that happens when adept magick goes wrong (i.e. pick something from the "Sour Cherries" list and throw it on your avatar). As with the first channel's second effect, this can only be done a number of times per day equal to the tens place of your avatar skill.


The Mad Prophet Denouncing The Hypocrisies Of Our Times
Many won't elaborate on this much more than "You need to see Network." This Archetype supposed hinges on catharsis, and the recognition that the ordered or accepted reality is worthless, at least as far as human society goes. When God gives you lemons, wing 'em right back.

This Archetype would be far less ideological than the New Shaman, but the punchlines share some common attributes - namely, shedding the skin of civilization, society, or even just the mainstream (if you are sincere about that, and go after all of the mainstream, not just what's convenient for you) in exchange for insight, clarity, and above all, honesty. The only way to show that the world doesn't make sense, is to be senseless. Scream, rant, rave, publish gibberish, contradict yourself, tear off your shirt, shove pencils in your eyes, and bare yourself to the world.

Taboos: Avatars of the Mad Prophet cannot compromise their beliefs (much like the Rebel) with the mainstream; the must either change their entire belief system without ever admitting that they were wrong, or never change. Whenever asked what they feel/think about anything at all, they must be fully honest. Yes, even if the mafioso holding the gun to your head asks, "You said what about the Madonna?" Mad Prophets are honest (if nonsensical) come Hell or high water, which almost always happens.

Symbols: No-one's too sure, but most agree that Television has something to do with it. Some suggest that all of Discordianism is centered on this Archetype, and all the symbols are there - one of the texts is even called The Honest Book of Truth, and seems to inspire a plethora of Mad Prophets - like this one.

Masks: Howard Beale and Arthur Jenkins from Network, Kerry Wendell Thorney's "Lord Omar" persona...Eris? Maybe?


Society's Monster
Most who know enough about the various Archetypes would assert that this is, in fact, simply the Archetype of the Outsider. Others suggest that the Guy With Pencils Stuck In His Eyes is warring to replace the Archetype, or even that he's "won" and the societal role formerly held by the Outsider has split, into the Outsider and Society's Monster - where one is merely an outcast, and the other is, to put it bluntly, a freak: fully and knowingly.

Those that accept, or cope with, their roles as pariahs - these are avatars of the Outsider. Those that embrace it, though, and go the whole nine yards - to the point where (unlike Outsiders) they are no longer necessary for their community's sense of identity - are Society's Monsters. Some people get into traffic accidents - you're the flaming wreck on the side of the road, the fireball that no-one can take their eyes off of when they pass. And you know what? You set that car on fire yourself.

If the Mad Prophet is about honesty regarding society, then Society's Monster is about honesty of the self, in the most direct, obvious, and extreme way possible. It's debated whether or not this applies only to the physical body (a la Quasimodo) or to extremities of personality as well (a la Boy George, or even Chris Crocker).

The tendency of this Archetype to be socially transgressive (not for any ideology, but for its sheer loudness) makes it hard to speculate on its boundaries; however, there are those who say that this Archetype is one of the by-products of the modern Cult of Celebrity. After all, the volatile, abusive, bi-polar, obsessive attention of audiences is enough to make anyone want to jab pencils into their eyeballs - or, think it's normal for them to do so.

Suspected Avatars in History: Dennis Avner, a.k.a. Cat Man; the Amputee Twins; Lucky Diamond Rich probably sits atop this mound, but there are more and more like him these days. Andre the Giant was almost certainly channeling this Archetype, if it's real - and so is the Guy With Pencils Stuck In His Eyes, if he's real.

Channels:

1-50%: Society's Monster is attention-grabbing. You may use your Avatar: Society's Monster skill in the place of any Distracting Physique, Grating Personality, etc., skill - but only if you already have that skill. Chris Crocker, to borrow the above example, couldn't use his avatar skill for Distracting Physique, but Cat Man can. This cannot be used for charm, seduction, or sympathy-earning skills, and the skill must reflect or flaunt your freakish nature in an obvious way. ("Obvious" meaning "unsettling," here; if one of your eyes has two pupils you only need to hold eye contact with someone for a few seconds to freak them out, whereas Cat Man might have to growl and bare his "fangs.")


Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg; usually, though, only certain kinds of people care to look farther than that. If you know something about Mr. Erasers-for-Eyeballs that I don't, I'm all ears - but take my word on this:

I heard it from a very reputable source, who heard it from a very reputable source. Plus I heard from another guy who told me that he heard someone saw one of those guys shoving pencils in their eyes.

If that's not trustworthy information, then I just don't know what is.


bsushi | profile | Jan 28, 09 | 12:52 pm


Visitor Comments


The problem for me, about these kinds of avatars, is that this kind of behaviour (briefly: "what the fuck is that guy doing/saying/on about") is already well-modelled in the game. As Adepts.


Mattias | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 9:11 am


I was thinking about that. But I don't think any of the above possibilities apply to all adepts (unless they feel like being very publicly magickal, and starting riots).

(If anything I worried that the New Shaman might be a little too close to a madi/whirlpool, but even that overlap could be handled - for instance, having a different second channel.)

Is there some overlap I'm missing?


bsushi | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 9:18 am


I'm not talking about a particular character, but say the "setting fire to your own car" part - annihilomancer.

Shamanism - there's an "urban shaman" writeup in one of the sourcebooks, but it's all really about seeing things very clearly from your very own, unique perspective, which is what adepts are all about.

pissing people off and starting riots - those angermancers, can't remember what they are called.

See what I'm getting at is, people or behaviour or opinions that makes more or less civilized people go "what a freak!", but looking closer you can see that they have a system/code of conduct/priorities of their own: those people are adepts.


Mattias | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 9:44 am


Sometimes. There some people who are "merely" crazy. There are some adepts who fit in neatly with some of these images, sure. But magick is still not that accessible at all.

If everyone who got public reactions of "What a freak!" were an adept, we should be seeing undeniable evidence of magick and riots left and right, constantly. There are not as many adepts in the world as there are freaky people.

Maybe these are all rumors; maybe some adepts out there think they are channel these "Archetypes" to the point where they follow their extra taboos - but still don't get anything; maybe this is a recent distortion of an older Archetype that crests the slippery slope into becoming an adept.

I was considering changing the first channel of the "New Shaman" to give hardened notches left and right, so that avatars play a dangerous dance with sociopathy - which would render them either "just" crazy fucks, or push them further towards adept magick as they try to understand and reclaim their lost powers. But it seemed a little excessive, especially for an early channel.

("Setting fire to your own car" was a (probably poor choice of) metaphor: I was trying to get across that this version of the Archetype was about knowingly embracing and amplifying your weirdness, not necessarily through actual cathartic destruction.)


bsushi | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 10:03 am


Well, in that case there's another mechanism of the game that models wierd, freaky people, and that is the madness meter.

No, seriously, if you're aiming at "Wierd and crazy but with POWERZ..." you're into adept territory. Maybe need to bend an excisting school pretty hard, or even write your own. If you're just aiming at "wierd and crazy" - just give them 5 failed. (This game is perfectly playable with a completely mundane character.)


Mattias | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 10:18 am


I'm still not convinced that the only options are adept or psychosis. (Savages, for example, can be perfectly "weird and crazy" to others - while being neither adepts, nor having a maxed-out failed meter. So can a lot of Archetypes.)

The point of this wasn't aiming at "weird and crazy but with powerz," it was whether or not there is a representation of these archetypes in the collective unconscious, and what it might look like. This came from flavor, not mechanics (and even so, I'd rather have more varieties of "crazy" in a game devoted to it than just fucked-up vs fucked-up-and-an-adept).


bsushi | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 10:46 am


Incidentally, only the first interpretation ("New Shaman") actually necessitates "weird and crazy," the others just necessitate "weird."


bsushi | profile | Jan 29, 09 | 10:47 am


I dunno. I think some of these avatars work fine. I'm always skeptical at first when avatar paths are connected to modern world-views and thusly have a weak hold in the collective subconscious. For example, the "terrorist". The term isn't the youngest, but I'm not buying it as an avatar path because alot of people see terrorists as fundamentally different figures, and these images of the terrorist are only very recent and mismatching (a quiet white christian terrorist who walks in a house and murders people with a knife, next to an muslim extremist with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and some Cuban guerrilla fighting his government, this doesn't quite line up yet).

That being said, I'm having a hard time seeing the New Shaman as an avatar. It's really hard to put it beyond the "crazy guy". If anything, an avatar of "The Insane One" would be the way to go, and to include all elements that are deeply-rooted in the collective subconscious, not just the modern ones. How do we perceive the insane? There is a collective image there, it's just not modern, it's not necessarily connected to shamanism (not in the subconscious). Avatar channels should reflect that. Channel one would fit, but the present second channel is questionable as I'm not seeing why insane people should be causing unnatural phenomena. If anything, they should be like lightning rods to unnatural phenomena in the sense that they are not perturbed by them and can cancel them out of reality.

(That also gives me a funny mental image of some TNI/Sleeper guys riding around a white van with a guy in a straightjacket in the back whom they use to cancel out inconvenient phenomenae).

The Mad Prophet and Society's Monster are good stuff, though. I think they're clearly stemming from ancient days of society, not just modern images. Mad Prophets go back as far as Cassandra warning of the fall of Troy. Society's Monsters, well, they were oftenly the rejects from townships in medieval times, if you know what I'm getting at. These two figures are something we all can identify.


On a side-note:
Mattias said: "Those angermancers, I can't remember what they're called"
Irascimancers, IIRC. Had one in our games, he was one genuinely crazy bastard.


Wratts | profile | Jan 30, 09 | 5:21 am


If you go the cassandra route, a nice effect would be never to be believed when you tell the truth. Not sure if she qualifies as a mad prophet, and really, what is the difference between a mad prophet and an actual one? For me, the very concept of prophet is about saying or doing things that shake ones foundations. (a concept often channelable through the messenger, actually)

I'm not advocating that the only options are adept or psychosis, I just feel that for what you want to do here, they would make a better fit.

I could be wrong. I just donít see what a guy who has body-modded himself into a poor semblance of a cat and a young homosexual blogging about growing up in a Midwest small town has in common (I don't think homosexuality is particularily extreme.

I guess that what I'm looking for here is some clarity, what kind of characters are you for? Just "wierd, non-belonging, obsessive characters" describe a large percentage of player characters in this game.


Mattias | profile | Jan 30, 09 | 8:31 am


Fair point; in that sense I may have been casting too wide a net: I wasn't looking for any particular kind of characters so much as trying to replicate in-world the weird attention paid to Pencil-Eyes, and what some people's "best guesses" are around him (assuming he were connected to some Archetype). I wanted to throw out a few more, but it felt like I was getting long.

They're somewhat intentionally not-"full"-Archetypes because I didn't even intend for them to be treated as such. In the Statosphere sourcebook, they give three alternate versions of the Comte - and list his stats, possessions, abilities, appearance, and demeanor for all of them. Even in Statosphere they explained that it was just three takes out of many, and I think by the time the 2nd edition rules came out they de-canonized big chunks of that sourcebook to make it all even more mysterious.

I was going for something like that.


bsushi | profile | Jan 30, 09 | 8:43 am


Hum, so it's really a meta-archetype, an article about the debates around a suggested archetype? Fair enough! Makes for some really interesting rumours if nothing else...


Mattias | profile | Jan 30, 09 | 8:51 am


That was the intention, at least - I just felt there should be something more substantial than more "What You Hear"-style rumors and blips, and give some possible launching points.

Thanks for all the feedback, by the way.


bsushi | profile | Jan 30, 09 | 9:13 am


Hey, thanks for the writing, always like getting food for thoughts


Mattias | profile | Feb 02, 09 | 2:21 am


And thanks for the feedback, always welcome. Cheers.


bsushi | profile | Feb 03, 09 | 11:16 pm


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