Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Good Neighbours: Visitants and other abhumans

Depending on the campaign design, visitants may encounter a range of other inhuman entities. Although it’s designed for a science fiction setting, Visitant can in theory be combined with any World of Darkness game, and it would be silly not to discuss the possibility.

As creatures living in the shadows, visitants are relatively likely to encounter other such beings. Aside from any philosophical or moral factors, there is often pragmatic reason for dealing between the groups: all are keen to preserve their anonymity, all have unusual goals to accomplish, and all have unusual capabilities. The exact relations between the groups could vary dramatically. Here are some suggestions for handling encounters with the two most straightforward abhumans, the werewolves and vampires.

One point to be established in a campaign is how easily abhumans can detect one another. The argument can be made that superhuman senses should reveal the true nature of each species. On the other hand, this ruling might sabotage any chance of subterfuge plots. In particular it will tend to penalise ansaid, whose shapeshifting is an important power.


Scientific explanations for werewolves can be advanced, and there is certainly no barrier to them in a setting which includes shapeshifting ansaid. However, it isn’t necessary at all to offer such an explanation, and attempting to do so may simply create new problems, or undermine the immersion of the game. Not everything needs a concrete explanation, even in science fiction.

Some possible explanations already used in science fiction include:

  • Werewolves are a separate species from humans. They are somewhat akin to ansaid, having highly malleable tissue controlled by the endocrine system. Though they are far less mutable than ansaid, their more defined forms have evolved to grant specific physical advantages – speech and intellect in humanoid form, speed and agility in wolf form, and raw power in the intermediate forms.
  • Werewolves are multidimensional beings. They do not actually change form, but shift between certain aspects of their multiversal self. Whether they are truly alien, or results of a strange evolutionary accident, is unknown.
  • Werewolves are human, but affected by an alien symbiote passed on through bloodline or bite. The symbiote permeates the werewolf’s body, and can cause immense physical changes either through chemical stimulation, or through overlaying aspects of itself onto this reality. As the results are largely beneficial to the host, natural selection has favoured the werewolves.

Visitants are not a natural part of Earth’s ecosystem, but neither are they unnatural beings. In general, there is no specific cause for enmity nor alliance between the two. Visitants on a scientific mission may well find common ground with a werewolf pack: the werewolves can provide invaluable data, while a visitant may have ways to overcome problems the werewolves find challenging. Visitants with a political or corporate interest in Earth may be keen to help preserve its ecosystems.

On the other hand, predatory or exploitative visitants may find the werewolves to be an implacable enemy. Those seeking to learn about the Earth, or to prepare it for galactic contact, may be judged dangerous. Because a visitant is a loose cannon, even simply hiding amongst humanity may cause problems for a local pack. There are many reasons why werewolves might wish to eliminate them. There is also past history: previous bad experiences with visitants, or with a particular species, may prejudice werewolves against them, and vice versa.


There are scientific explanations for vampires advanced in various stories, typically based on either a virus, a parasite or a transmissible genetic factor. Vampires have also been presented as non-human entities, but this is largely incompatible with the traditional White Wolf settings, though not impossible to work around. If the human-to-vampire transformation were restricted to particular families, they could easily be reskinned as an alien colony who ended up on Earth millennia ago and have learned to live amongst humans, either humanoid to begin with or made so through technology. Such a premise would tend to be better for vampire antagonists than for vampire protagonists.

Some vampires lose interest in visitants as soon as they realise they are not viable prey. However, matters are more complicated. A visitant is potentially a powerful and neutral actor, not allied with nor under the sway of any vampire faction. As such, wise vampires may look for ways to strike a bargain and gain the support of the visitant. Visitants are unaffected by many things harmful to vampires, and have the capability to obtain, arrange or learn things useful to a vampire ally. For their own part, vampires can assist in protecting the visitant’s identity. As a real, if lapsed, human being, a vampire can often deal with matters where a visitant would risk exposure.

As vampires prey on humanity, many have no particular issue with visitants who would do the same, but do resent the competition. The sea-change threatened by alien infiltrators, or by admission into a galactic fold, is highly unsettling to the vampiric society that relies on stability and rules from the shadows. As such, peaceful and well-meaning visitants may well encounter more hostility than creatures who actively hunt humans.

For visitants, there is no particular mystique to vampires. If the visitant knows about them at all, they are simply part of the planet’s ecosystem. Their unusual capabilities make them formidable, but not necessarily a greater threat than a human, since disclosure is the great fear. They have some scientific interest, but not necessarily more than other native species.

Due to the radical differences in their evolution, vampires cannot feed on most visitants.

  • The blood of ansaid is distasteful and useless.
  • The volatile blood of mosas attacks vampire tissue, inflicting Bashing damage and the Nauseated Tilt or Nauseous Condition.
  • Shekt skinsuits have a small reservoir of artificial human blood, providing up to 1 unit of vitae for a vampire, and the vampire must make a suitable perception roll to detect that something is wrong with their prey.
  • Ytaleh host-bodies provide blood as normal.

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