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The Men in Black's Boss
Bernard Tanner in His Own Words:
(Spoken in a flat, buzzing monotone.)
Sit. Do you have it? Excellent. Bring his payment.
You are curious about my aides? No, they are not human, despite their appearance. They are hollow-biologically human, but no souls. Some call them "non-entities." They follow my instructions. They follow them precisely. They provide me with funds, run errands.
No. I usually stay in the house. My aides provide me with all I require.
There was a ritual, to gain this control. I will not tell you what it was. There was a cost, but it was minor; trivial, even; I'm not sure why I hesitated at first. Then, the adept I stole the ritual from kidnapped my family, and I overcame my... squeamishness.
The power is incredible. I am served by an army of loyal slaves, loyal unto death. I have money, magick, anything I require.
My family? I'm afraid I don't recall what happened to them.
Personality: Cunning, emotionless, frigid. All he cares about is power, and his only emotion is hunger for power. The rest of his personality's been filed off long ago. He always speaks in a flat, buzzing monotone, and his statements tend to the laconic, as though speaking is an effort.
Appearance: He looks like a spider. Thin legs; fat belly; short; very pale skin; black hair; and dark eyes that don't make eye contact and don't seem to blink as often as they should. Like his pets, he always dresses like a Man in Black. He moves rarely, but when he does he moves quickly, like a snake.
Fear Passion: None. Formerly having his interest in the occult exposed.
Rage Passion: None. Formerly vandalism.
Noble Passion: None. Formerly his family.
Wound Points: 30
BODY: 30 Pale
General Athletics 15%, Struggle 15%
SPEED: 70 Sudden
Dodge 15%, Driving 20%, Initiative 60%
MIND: 80 Mastermind
Authentick Thaumaturgy 70%, Conceal 15%, Herd Nonentities 60%, Notice 40%, Philosophy 60%
SOUL: 30 Flat Affect
Herd Nonentities: This is Mr. Tanner's skill for controlling his creatures. Although he can control as many non-entities at a time as he wants, keeping track of all of them is a different matter. As a rule of thumb, over the long term he can control a number equal to his skill. If he tries to keep more than that number operating at any given time, he needs to make skill checks as appropriate to keep things running smoothly.
Rituals: Back Monkey, DemonStration Tape, Harmonious Alignment, King of the Nothings, Poison Ward, Skeleton Key, Spellbreaker, and others. He collects rituals, and has a big library of minor, mostly useless spells. He has between one and four significant charges at any given time.
Violence 9H 1F
Unnatural 6H 1F
Helplessness 1H 0F
Isolation 5H 2F
Self 8H 3F
Inventory: A black suit; black slacks; white buttoned shirt; black tie. He doesn't carry a wallet, cell phone, keys, or firearms: that's what henchmen are for.
King of the Nothings:
Cost: Four significant charges.
Ritual Action: First, catch a non-entity. You'll need it later.
Burn your birth certificate (representing your biological identity), your social security card (social identity), and a photo of yourself. Take the ashes, mix them with the hair of a non-entity, soak them in white-out, and write "Rex Nihili" on it using a black felt-tip marker. Then wrap tinfoil to make a crown using the piece of ash as a central "jewel."
Take a ritual bath. As you bathe, you need to be questioned about your identity and nature, and answer by denying that you have any. E.g.: "What is your name?" "I have none." "Where do your live?" "Nowhere." You can ask the questions of yourself. At the end, place the crown on your head and declare that you have crowned yourself "The King of the Nothings."
Then immediately perform a Whole Body Blood Replacement on yourself, swapping your blood for the non-entity's blood, while wearing the crown. This requires a significant Medical check to pull off, if someone does it to you, and a Major check, if you're doing it to yourself. If your check fails, you take the roll of the dice in damage and the ritual fails. Needless to say, this is gonna kill the non-entity, so be ready to dispose of the body. Don't worry about blood type; all non-entities are O-. Spend the charges and make the casting check.
Special: You can improve the effectiveness of the ritual by giving up more and more of your own life. Burn your house down, quit your job, divorce your spouse-make your Annihilomancer friend proud. For every major sacrifice you make in this way, the charge cost is reduced by one significant, to a minimum of one, and you get a +10% shift to the casting roll. The sacrifice needs to be a major loss, enough to provoke a serious Self check, and you need to include a symbolic representation of it in the papers you burn at the start of the ritual.
Ritual Effect: First, the cost: you become partially a non-entity. You lose 30 points off Soul and all Soul-based skills immediately; and if you had an Avatar or Adept skill before, you don't anymore. You no longer have an Aura. In addition, every day you need to make a rank-10 Self check until you hit 5 Failed or 10 Hardened; for each failed notch you gain, you lose a passion or obsession. If you hit 5 Failed, you turn into a non-entity and you're now an NPC.
In exchange, you gain the power to control non-entities. You can telepathically sense them within a range of Mind x 10 meters and can give them telepathic commands, which they unquestioningly obey. You don't need to wear the crown to do this, but if the crown is destroyed you lose your power to control them-but you don't get your passions or obsession back. If two kings are trying to control the same non-entity, they make opposed Mind checks to see who wins.
Mr. Tanner has sixty non-entities total. Of these, 50 are working at a variety of jobs, a mixture of menial and skilled labor, which bring in about $1 million a year after taxes and expenses. He owns the buildings they live in, and the payments are disguised as strangely high rent payments. Normal tenants-he owns two appartment blocks and about a dozen houses-bring in another half a million a year net. He has about $1 million in the bank, and twice that in assorted bonds and stocks. He spends relatively little on himself; most of his income goes to reinvestment in real estate, donations to politicians, or investing in "human capital." He tries to build up his herd's skill base and earning power over time, giving them "scholarships" through a fake foundation, and trying to get them into important or useful posts. He has one non-entity in the Boston FBI office (a very junior agent, admittedly), two are in the Boston Police Department, and one is an aide to the city mayor.
Mr. Tanner himself lives in a large house-a small mansion, really-in a suburb close to the city with ten non-entities who act as servants, bodyguards, and muscle. These are the ones he dresses like Men in Black. He's sent all of them to Blackwater and other private training courses for what amount to mercenaries. Unlike his disposable non-entities he might use as one-shot assassins, he won't risk his Men in Black without good reason; it was expensive and took a lot of time to get them to where they are now.
Mr. Tanner keeps an arsenal of 60 Glock 17 semiautomatic pistols (legal) and 10 AR-15 rifles modified to be fully automatic (not). His crown is hidden in a fire-proof safe under the floorboards of his bedroom, along with the Second Greater Bible of the Machine God (the book he got King of the Nothings from) and assorted minor and significant artifacts and occult doo-dads; the safe is high-quality and any attempt to pick it suffers a -20% shift. His house is warded with Demonstration Tape and any other warding ritual the GM cares to add.
Man in Black #3 in His Own Words:
Mr. Tanner wants to see you.
No questions. Mr. Tanner wants to see you.
Appearance: Tall, well-built, Nordic types wearing the stereotypical Man-in-Black costume.
Fear Passion: None.
Rage Passion: None.
Noble Passion: None.
Wound Points: 70
BODY: 70 Tough
General Athletics 40%, Struggle 60%
SPEED: 70 Fast
Dodge 45%, Driving 30%, Firearms 60%, Initiative 50%
MIND: 50 Programmed
Conceal 40%, General Education 15%, Notice 40%
SOUL: 10 Robotic
Inventory: A black suit; black slacks; white buttoned shirt covering a bulletproof vest; black tie; cell phone; wallet containing exactly $20; house keys. The carry Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistols in shoulder holsters, and two 9mm magazines in their pockets. If expecting trouble, they may add a fully-automatic AR-15 5.56mm assault rifle.
He has a fanatically loyal army, and he can make good losses almost instantly. He doesn't even need to talk to them, just come within half a kilometer. And while your average non-entity isn't very impressive, combat-wise, he can keep sending them day after day after day.
He's rich and well-plugged into the systems of mundane power. Most of the beneficiaries of his largesse have never met him (for obvious reasons), but they will not look kindly on anyone troubling him.
He's a fairly powerful wizard in his own right, even leaving out his army and his riches.
He doesn't understand people anymore. He knows that, if he kills your sister, you'll probably try to kill him, but he doesn't know why.
He thinks small. He thinks of power in terms of money, influence, rituals, artifacts. The idea of engaging in an Ascension War or dealing with the Statosphere simply wouldn't occur to him. And it won't occur to him that someone else might be playing a bigger game, either.
Using Bernard Tanner:
Bernard Tanner can be used in a variety of roles. He can act as a buyer and seller of rituals: he collects them, and he's quite happy to trade for them. If you need a way to break the Dreaded Curse of Marilyn Monroe, he probably knows how, and is willing to tell you-for a price, of course. On the other hand, if you have a ritual that he wants, he's willing to pay, in either cash or secrets. He's also willing to break your legs if you're not interested in trading.
He can be used as an employer. He's well aware of the limitations of non-entities, and some tasks require more than they can offer. Again, he can pay in cash, secrets, or both.
He can be used as a villain. He's completely ruthless and amoral, and if he needs a few hundred kidneys for his Immortality Ritual, he's perfectly willing to start killing random people to get them.
Whatever he does, Bernard Tanner will act solely in his own interests, with them of increasing his stock of power, money, and knowledge. He will also, to the extent possible, act at a remove: many of his nonentities have never even met him in person, he just communicates with them by driving by their street in a blacked-out van. He values his own hide very greatly, and will not willing risk it, either physically or legally.
MCLowell | profile | Aug 30, 08 | 5:22 am
This. Is. Sweet.
Basilisk | profile | Sep 01, 08 | 3:32 pm
Minor note: Self Hardened notches should have been 10. (This is what comes of posting at an internet cafe).
MCLowell | profile | Sep 03, 08 | 3:53 am
Rus | profile | Oct 21, 08 | 12:11 am
Very, very nice. I like this guy a lot.
John Q. Mayhem | profile | Oct 22, 08 | 2:10 pm
Lovely idea. It requires tweaking the rule book's version of Non-Entities, though. A lot. GMs playing this against players who know about non-entities may find them nonplussed.
Sounds fine to me.
MCLowell | profile | Dec 06, 08 | 1:36 am
Maybe that part of the ritual can be swapped out (full-body blood transfusions typically require being put on bypass, don't they? I'm not sure it's even possible without a surgical team and well-equipped hospital - neither of whom would ever do it unless it were absolutely necessary).
If you succeeded, AND "Rex Nihili" was written forwards - normally - on your crown, words "Rex Nihili" bleed off the crown, but the ink disappears when it reaches your face; the glass in the mirror explodes outwards towards the non-entity on the other side - the effects mentioned in your post happen - and when you look around, all the discarded blood-filled syringes are now all filled with saline, and all the syringes in the bath are filled with the white-out/ash mixture. (The crown is just tinfoil now.)
So, what's the deal with "Rex Nihili" backwards or forwards?
One last thing:
What do you think?
Sounds good to me. I really like the idea of the Nonentity imprinting on the character-salt in the wound. :) And I definitely think all rituals should have some way for the whole thing to blow up in your face if you get a tiny detail wrong.
MCLowell | profile | Dec 10, 08 | 3:19 am