Almost finally, we come to the Gift pools for the ytaleh, little bundles of nervous tissue that they are. These critters get a rather woobly set of abilities, with the telepathic Mentalist pool granting ability to sense and manipulate other minds. Neuromancy is a harder one to pin down; as an electrochemical field-based pool, it combines tapping into the minds of host bodies, disrupting the functions of inconvenient humans, and sensing or manipulating electromagnetism. The ytaleh therefore tend towards a fairly low-action approach, sensing things and invisibly manipulating them to their own advantage. They're good when they have time to exploit their memory-stealing capabilities, but do have some combat capability too, and those are some of the subtlest attacks in the game.
If anyone's wondering, yes, the ytaleh are the Joe 90s of Beneath Dark Skies.
Mental activity is complex and confusing, but fundamentally a matter of biochemical signals. Some ytaleh have discovered ways to understand and influence minds at a distance, using mental resonance and induction to manipulate others.
Echoes of Thought
All interactions produce ripples, changes, shifts in energy patterns. Any interaction can be discerned by sufficiently advanced sensors, and any pattern of interactions decoded by sufficiently detailed analysis. Even a human mind is not immune to scrutiny.
Dice Pool: Wits + Empathy + Focus vs. target's Manipulation + Inhuman Attribute. If the target consents to the connection, do not use their Inhuman Attribute.
Success: The ytaleh gains insight into the target's superficial thoughts and impressions, with the strongest coming across most prominently. Humans do not think in words, but the ytaleh might detect emotions, attitudes, the focus of attention, concepts, flickers of memory or mental images. The connection lasts as long as the ytaleh concentrates, until the two are separated, or until the end of the scene.
Exceptional Success: the ytaleh briefly achieves a perfect synchrony with the target's mind, allowing them to access more detailed information. However, the gift still only reveals current thoughts; it cannot tap memories unless the target is reflecting on them.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to establish a mental resonance. A target with this gift or another telepathic ability may sense the attempt.
Dramatic Failure: The ytaleh misaligns with the target's mind, receiving a confusing jumble of sensations and readings. They gain the Insensate tilt as the echoes overwhelm them. As well as the usual options, they can attempt a Resolve + Empathy roll at the end of each subsequent turn to end the condition.
Alternatively, a target with any telepathic ability may receive insights into the ytaleh's own mind.
Lost in the Noise
Minds are subject to a constant rush of sensory input, and must filter out the most meaningful information. For a skilled mentalist, it's relatively simple to manipulate this process, marking the significant as irrelevant and the important as trivial.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Subterfuge + Focus - highest Wits present.
Success: The ytaleh targets a number of characters up to their Focus rating. The targets pay minimal attention to them, and have only the haziest memories of the ytaleh. They will react absently to simple questions or requests requiring no thought, and will move around the ytaleh if possible. The effect lasts until the end of the scene unless the ytaleh chooses to end it earlier.
Behaviour suitable to the environment attracts no attention, but anything unusual or suspicious can break the effect. An ytaleh on a battlefield might fire automatic weapons and kick down doors without suspicion; in a hospital this would draw immediate attention. Vaulting security gates or setting off alarms will break the effect, as will carrying off an important item in full view. The ytaleh actively engaging or interfering with a target will end the effect on that target.
The gift has no effect if the ytaleh is already the subject of attention, such as during an interrogation, manhunt or fight. It has no effect on technology, such as alarms, nor anyone not actually present at the scene.
Exceptional Success: although suspicious behaviour will still attract attention, it takes time. The effect does not end until one round after the triggering action, except on the target of an attack.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to produce the appropriate influences.
Dramatic Failure: The character becomes the most fascinating thing in the immediate area. Anyone targeted by the effect, plus anyone else nearby, turns to watch the character. They won’t follow her or approach her necessarily (unless it would be appropriate for them to do so; a security guard or policeman might follow the character because he finds her suspicious), but they will watch her carefully for the rest of the scene.
Splinters in the Mind
The mind is as vulnerable to disruption as any other set of nerves, and such an attack can be a quick and undetectable method for those with appropriate gifts. Ytaleh find mental assaults a valuable way to eliminate enemies without drawing attention from the authorities. This effect only functions against entities with a mind, including incorporeal entities. The ytaleh focuses on a sentient creature they can see (including through use of the Mindsight ability) within 50 yards.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Medicine + Focus - target's Resolve + Inhuman Attribute
Success: The ytaleh inflicts Bashing damage equal to the successes rolled.
Exceptional Success: As above, and the target gains the Light-Headed Tilt.
Failure: The ytaleh can't get a fix on the target's mind.
Dramatic Failure: A wild flare of energy leaves the ytaleh’s own mind reeling. The ytaleh takes 1 Bashing damage and gains the Nauseated Tilt.
By opening and tuning their mental senses, the ytaleh can sense the presence of nearby minds from the electromagnetic ripples they cause. With concentration, they can discern the nature of those minds, and even identify them.
Cost: 1 Focus.
The ytaleh focuses on the local mindscape, allowing them to sense the mind of all sentient beings nearby. This typically covers a house and its gardens, a medium building, one wing of a large building, or a radius of around 30 yards outside. As with any sense, the ytaleh senses nearby minds more strongly than distant ones. Once activated, the ability lasts until the end of the scene.
Ordinary walls and obstacles don’t block this ability, but unusually thick walls do so. Metal and other very dense substances also block the radiation. Mental ripples spread like sound, so simply crouching behind a metal filing cabinet isn’t sufficient to avoid detection; however, a metal wall or shipping container probably would be. Very thick woodland or similar cover reduces the radius of the ability.
The ytaleh can easily distinguish the minds of most animals from sentient creatures. Certain animals, including great apes, dolphins, certain birds, pigs and other highly intelligent creatures, require more effort. The ytaleh can roll to determine more detail about a specific mind (see below); there is typically a -1 penalty for every 10 yards distance or every intervening room.
Dice Pool: Wits + Empathy (see below)
Success: The ytaleh can determine the type of mind they are sensing: they can distinguish intelligent animals from humans, and humans from non-human sentients. They can determine the type of non-human if they have previously encountered and identified a creature of that type; if they have encountered the type before but not identified it, they recognise the similarity.
The ytaleh can recognise individuals they have previously met, just as with other senses: they easily recognise acquaintances, but not everyone they meet. In the same way, they can readily distinguish between individual ytaleh, humans and the common visitant races, but not between animals or unfamiliar extraterrestrials, and appropriate modifiers apply.
A mind that was previously human, such as a ghost or superhuman, still reads as human. Most supernatural creatures have undergone some fundamental change that affects their minds, and can be identified as non-human.
Exceptional Success: As above, and the ytaleh can sense the general attitude and mood of the mind.
Failure: The ytaleh can’t make out any details of the target’s mind. Subsequent attempts to analyse the same mind suffer a cumulative -1 penalty for the duration of the scene.
Dramatic Failure: Viewing the mind sets off a distracting thought process, and the ytaleh gains the Obsession condition for the duration of the scene. The Storyteller chooses a suitable obsession; it doesn’t need to have any relation to the mind in question. Subsequent attempts to analyse the same mind suffer a cumulative -1 penalty for the duration of the scene.
The nervous system is a delicate network of interdependent organs, and focused stimulation or suppression of a region can radically affect behaviour. An ytaleh versed in mental manipulation may learn to selectively affect higher functions of the human brain, allowing instincts to override intellect. Emotions are heightened, while impulse control decreases dramatically.
Cost: 1 Focus
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Medicine vs. Willpower
Success: The ytaleh disrupts the target’s brain functions, impeding conscious thought and allowing instinct and whim to take control. The target’s emotions are heightened, while mental filters and impulse control weaken. The target will say what they think, ignore social convention, and act on their impulses. Details depend on personality and current mood. A disagreement spirals into a violent argument or fight; a bored employee may wander off or go to sleep; a hungry person eats whatever food is handy. A target will do favours for someone they like, ignoring the policies they’re breaching in the process, while snubbing those they dislike.
Any die rolls made to influence the target’s behaviour gain a +/-3 modifier in favour of acting with their instincts. An irritated target is harder to bargain with, but easier to manipulate into causing trouble. A waitress might waive the bill for an attractive customer, even though she’ll be in trouble later.
Targets don’t simply run wild like baboons. Although less inhibited, they’re still intelligent, and tend to retain their moral framework and empathy. Someone who is basically honest is more likely to max out their credit card than shoplift. Their behaviour may even become more morally consistent: an employee may lose their fear of retribution and reveal corporate crime, or defend another colleague from a bullying boss.
This ability doesn’t grant the ytaleh any control over the target’s mood, nor make the target friendly towards them.
Exceptional Success: The ytaleh’s timing is perfect. As above, and the ytaleh can specify one action the target would reasonably take given their current state of mind.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to disrupt brain function appropriately. The target experiences some minor, temporary mental condition with no mechanical effect, such as momentary dizziness, a flash of irritation, an imagined noise or sense of déjà vu.
Dramatic Failure: The ytaleh dramatically miscalculates their intrusion, and produces an unwanted effect. The details depend on circumstances. A target might faint, suffer a sudden crippling migraine, lose the ability to speak, go blind, lose their empathy, start babbling nonsense, lose their memory, be unable to recognise faces, suddenly retrieve buried memories, or any other mental effect. They might develop sudden violent mistrust of the ytaleh, panic and call for help, or lose their motivation. The results are always counter to the ytaleh’s interests.
An ytaleh can take over a human body, but since they are not evolved for human symbiosis, they typically have minimal access to its memories. Moreover, interfacing to this extent can be dangerous, allowing the host’s fossil thoughts and memories to impose themselves upon the ytaleh. Lengthy training and experimentation may allow an ytaleh to bind more closely to its host’s brain, accessing some of the memories buried within. This can be invaluable for avoiding suspicion by tapping into cultural norms, for understanding human behaviour, and for dealing with the everyday business of being human. Even memories of television or childhood can offer useful insights into a situation.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Empathy
Success: The ytaleh safely accesses a portion of the human’s mind, recovering some information of use to their situation. For each success, the ytaleh gains one flash of memory from their host, which lasts until the end of the scene. A memory can be exchanged for one of the following, at the player’s discretion:
- one automatic success on a single roll relating to human behaviour, pop culture, or general knowledge.
- a +2 bonus on a single roll within their host’s capabilities.
- access to a single speciality within their host’s capabilities until the end of the scene.
- a specific memory or thought granting insight into the current situation (at the Storyteller’s discretion).
Almost any human may have general knowledge of any subject area, through reading, study or simply watching TV, and these insights add to the ytaleh’s own capabilities. However, specific memories and abilities should be tied to the host’s background and experiences.
Exceptional Success: The ytaleh finds exactly what they were looking for in their host’s mind. As well as the benefits listed above, they gain the Informed condition on a topic of their choice relating to the current situation.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to access any relevant memories, or finds the rush of humanity too painful to maintain the link.
Dramatic Failure: As the ytaleh lowers its barriers, the host’s memories overwhelm them. The ytaleh gains the Insensate condition.
Leaving the host body is a deeply uncomfortable experience for most ytaleh, but it can be a valuable one. Although bonding is a slow and complex process, it is possible to make a temporary connection that grants a glimpse into the host’s mind. A trained ytaleh can use this connection to absorb some of the target’s memories and skills, allowing them to mentally become their target, and make use of their knowledge and skills. This expertise fades rapidly once the connection is broken, as the ytaleh’s own mind reasserts itself.
Typically, the ytaleh uses this ability on a helpless target, such as an unconscious or sleeping person. The ytaleh briefly leaves their host via the mouth, enters their target’s body, and taps directly into the target’s brain. This process takes approximately ten minutes (one roll/minute). Alternatively, they may remain in the host body and extend sensory fibres through the mouth to tap their target’s nervous system; this requires less exposure, but is a slower process requiring approximately one hour of contact (one roll/10 minutes).
The ytaleh is vulnerable during this process. If forced to break the connection early, the ytaleh suffers a -2 penalty to all rolls until the end of the scene, as their nervous system is disrupted by the shock. They also incur Bashing damage equal to the target’s Intelligence.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Action: Extended (target number = 5 + target’s Willpower; see above for interval)
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Medicine
Success: The ytaleh duplicates some of the target’s mental patterns as an overlay to its own mind. It gains some of the skills, memories and personality traits of the target, but these also mute the ytaleh’s own knowledge.
For the following 24 hours, the ytaleh replaces its skills with those of the target, including specialities. In some cases, this results in a skill decreasing or the loss of access to a speciality. The only exception is the ytaleh’s lineage specialities; these represent fundamental neurological pathways and are always available.
The ytaleh also gains access to the target’s superficial memories: they can handle daily life as though they were the target, unconsciously recalling routines, names and faces, attitudes and intentions. Speech patterns, mannerisms and personality traits shift towards those of the target. This shift offers a +2 bonus on rolls where insight into the target’s mind would be beneficial, including impersonation. However, the ytaleh also finds it more difficult to maintain their own persona, and suffers a -2 penalty where this would be relevant, including interactions with their acquaintances and some Compromise rolls.
Plans, schedules and even everyday passwords can be recalled; only information the target considers highly confidential or private is withheld. To a very significant extent, the ytaleh mentally becomes the target.
Exceptional Success: The ytaleh patches into the target’s mind, but retains control over it. The ytaleh can switch freely between the target’s mannerisms and their own, avoiding the -2 penalty and minimising inconvenience. They can also discard the target’s mental image at any point, immediately regaining access to their own skills, although they can no longer access the target’s skills.
Failure: The ytaleh fails to form a lasting impression of the target’s mind, and the fleeting insight into the target’s mind rapidly fades.
Dramatic Failure: The ytaleh absorbs enough mental impression to disrupt its own sense of self, but not enough to adopt the target’s mental patterns. They gain the Identity Fracture condition for a number of hours equal to 10-Cover.
An ytaleh is highly attuned to electrochemical signals, and some hone this ability to resonate with nearby electromagnetic fields. This allows them to navigate in darkness, sense technology, and even tap into transmissions.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Dice Pool: Wits + Science
Success: The ytaleh can sense electromagnetic fields and transmissions in the air around them and their echoes in nearby objects. All metallic objects have a visible field, while electrical and electronic devices have strong fields. They can use these fields to navigate in pitch darkness. They can see each separate field or signal and follow them to a source. With an additional Wits + Composure roll, they can pick out one specific signal and tap into it, allowing them to listen to phone conversations or watch television broadcasts just by concentrating on the signal. This ability lasts until the end of the scene.
Exceptional Success: Nothing special.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to attune their senses appropriately.
Dramatic Failure: The attempt to adjust their neural network is misjudged, and the ytaleh receives a stunning blast of electromagnetic impressions. The ytaleh gains the Dizzy condition.
The potent electromagnetic field of the ytaleh can be harnesses as a tool. Learning to strengthen and project these fields provides a way to disrupt electronic devices, block transmissions and even inflict damage. For a covert agent, these can be invaluable.
When this ability is activated, the ytaleh manifests a localised electromagnetic field that jams and disrupts nearby devices and signals. Ordinary televisions, radios, walkie-talkies and mobile phones lose signal, monitors flicker and audio devices crackle with static. This effect lasts until the end of the scene unless the ytaleh chooses to end it earlier.
The ytaleh can also focus its efforts on a stronger signal (such as a radio mast, computer or vehicle) in an attempt to disrupt it. It can only attack one such target at a time, although once it has overcome the target, it may maintain its effects on up to one target per point of Focus.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Tell: Subtle Tell.
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Science; determine difficulty based on the strength of a signal or the resilience of a device.
Success: The ytaleh overcomes the target field with its own. A signal is blocked or otherwise rendered useless. An electronic device may malfunction, freeze or shut down.
Exceptional Success: As above, and if the ytaleh wishes, it may also overload the device, causing damage.
Failure: The ytaleh is unable to disrupt the signal, and suffers a -2 cumulative penalty on further attempts to affect that signal in the current scene.
Dramatic Failure: The ytaleh miscalculates the strength of their field. They may produce an electromagnetic pulse that shorts out many nearby devices, including their own, or causes device to screech and flicker, attracting attention. Alternatively, they may overexert themselves in trying to produce the field, and suffer a level of Bashing damage.
The ytaleh’s control of neuroelectrical fields can be a potent weapon, allowing them to disrupt another creature’s biological functions with a simple touch.
This ability is most effective when bare skin can be touched. The ytaleh gains +1 die against a target wearing minimal clothing, while a target gains +1 to +3 dice for particularly thick or insulating clothing. A target completely insulated by protective gear, such as certain industrial clothing or a rubber diving suit, is immune to this ability.
Cost: 1 Focus.
Dice Pool: Wits + Brawl – Defence.
Success: The ytaleh shapes its own neuroelectrical fields into a disruptive weapon, sending shockwaves through the target as it brushes them. The targets gains one of the following Tilts for a number of rounds equal to the ytaleh’s Focus: Arm Wrack, Blinded, Deafened, Leg Wrack.
Failure: The attack in ineffective.
Dramatic Failure: The contact between nervous systems feeds back to the ytaleh. The target is unscathed, but the ytaleh suffers the Arm Wrack condition on the attacking arm, or another appropriate Tilt if not using a hand.