Fomori and Kami

My recent Werewolf: the Apocalypse post about the remote but definite possibility of transforming a Fomor into a Kami sparked some discussion among my friends and I.

Some of them, as folks that aren’t so obsessive about Wyrm-lore and obscure WtA creatures as I am asked for a bit of clarification on the differences. So here’s a post about that, and also a post about a further extension of the other one, positing a way that Garou (or potentially even other Kami, though the odds of one doing so are… slim) might be able to artificially create more Kami.

Possessing Spirit

Fomori are invariably created when a spirit possesses a mortal person or animal. Sometimes the possession is under the spirit’s own volition and power. Other times, Black Spiral Dancers, Pentex, Nephandi, Kumo or other fallen shapeshifters use their own powers to make it happen. Kumo and fallen Hengeyokai use the  level 5 Rite of the Goblin Chrysalis for this function. The Howl of the Devil Tigers Dharma of Kuei-Jin have a similar ritual of their own. The Black Spiral Dancers use a twisted but distinct variant of the Rite of the Fetish (probably level 5 like the Hengeyokai rite), and both regard and treat animal-host fomori created in this way as fetishes rather than independent beings (see Hammer & Klaive, p. 35). Maybe I ought to brew up particulars for that rite some time soon. Then of course there’s Pentex, who use a variety of different methods to create fomori, including twisted Wyrm-science, tainted products and assorted brainwashing techniques to make potential hosts receptive. Presumably, Nephandi push things along using the Spirit sphere.

The Charm: Possession allows a Bane to “possess a living being or inanimate object.” (Werewolf: the Apocalypse Revised, p. 239). A successful possession can take up to six hours of concentrated effort to perform after the Bane has decided that the given victim is sufficiently prepared to suffer this fate (a process that may take much, much longer unless the Bane is in a hurry). The core book specifies that Banes can possess inanimate objects. Possessed makes no mention of this practice, even though according to the rules a Bane is well within its rights to possess, say, the car that was involved in a gruesome hit and run accident. I suspect that the reason is a desire to differentiate the types of Possessed characters further. Humans are by far the most popular subjects for Bane possession, however.

Once the host is possessed, they are permanently transformed into a Fomor, or at least until the death of the host. The Gift: Exorcism will certainly drive the Bane out, at the cost of 10 instant unsoakable Health Levels of damage to the host… which means death unless serious healing magic of one sort or another is brought to bear in the same turn.

What about Kami? Well, most (but not all) Kami don’t actually have an outside spirit possessing them. Most Kami are awakened spirits: the spirit within them was always there and was always a part of them, but has been awakened and empowered by Gaia. Others are Flesh-Borne spirits, meaning that they’re pretty much preexisting spirits that have been gifted with a material body in order to carry out some particular responsibility in the mortal world.

There are cases where a Gaian spirit bonds itself to a preexisting mortal or inanimate host in a manner superficially similar to Fomori, but the merger requires the consent of the host. In fact, the awakening of Kami always requires the host’s consent. The process of a Kami’s awakening is slower, more peaceful and more harmonious than is Bane possession, and involves the soon-to-be-Kami going into a dormant period or other transformative experience like a pilgrimage or the shedding of a snake’s skin and then awakening, invigorated and empowered for their work. The Gift: Exorcism has no effect on Kami whatsoever.

Gaian spirits tend to be somewhat Wyld, but don’t have nearly as tight a Triatic influence as do creatures possessed by true Triatic spirits (Fomori, Drones and Gorgons). For this reason. they’re generally able to be more open minded and flexible in most cases… but many of them are less proactive as well. A Kami tree might be content to remain immobile and watch over the grove that it protects for centuries on end without taking any direct action, only acting if some outside force (sentient or not) threatens the trees’ wellbeing.

This greater freedom and longer perspective makes Kami much more subtle and better able to take indirect action than Fomori or especially Gorgons, however. Often, a Kami may completely overcome a threat through relatively peaceful means and without the defeated threat ever having become aware of the Kami’s existence at all.

Rather than warriors like the Garou, many Kami are either tricksters, teachers or healers. However, Kami are often more than capable of reminding observers that Mother Nature may be loving but She is frequently neither peaceful nor nice. Raeshak the Elephant King and The White Wolf are two of the sample Kami from Possessed: A Player’s Guide that amply demonstrate the fiercer side of Gaia’s love.

Autonomy

Fomori are twisted and scarred by the experience, even though most of them are not aware that there is a malevolent spirit living within them and influencing their every thought and emotion. One of the reflections of this fact is their use of the Autonomy characteristic, which reflects how much the will of the Fomor has been swallowed up in the will of their possessing Bane. Note of course that every Fomor is under some degree of influence, and their own feelings are colored by the Bane’s presence no matter what. Fomori can spend points of Autonomy in exchange for Powers (those that don’t want to spend Autonomy so quickly can mitigate the cost by taking Taints as well, making them more independent but increasingly crippled and grotesque), can lose it as a consequence of certain Taints or botched Autonomy rolls, or can give up points of autonomy for the Background: Consecrated.

Autonomy has a number of effects. One of those impacts the expenditure of Willpower: any time a Fomor tries to spend a Willpower point under any circumstances, they must first score a succecss on an Autonomy roll at a variable difficulty defined by how much the action on which the willpower point being spent is in line with the immediate interests and desires of the possessing Bane. Note that the Fomor’s self-preservation is not relevant to this difficulty: the host’s death does not harm the Bane in any way whatsoever, though the Bane may or may not care about the actions themselves that the Fomor is using to try and preserve himself. A Gorehound possessed by a Psychomachiae trying to spend a Willpower point to help with a Medicine roll in an attempt to stop a dying family member’s bleeding (never mind that the Gorehound probably inflicted the injury…) would probably have to overcome difficulty 9 on their Autonomy roll, but the same Gorehound would only have difficulty 4 to spend Willpower on a roll to attack or torture somebody. Actions unrelated but not necessarily opposed to the Bane’s desires are usually difficulty 6 or 7. A Fomor’s Willpower can never exceed their permanent Autonomy score. Also, the difficulty for rolls for certain Powers, Taints or even Backgrounds (Symbiosis in particular) are contingent on the Fomor’s Autonomy score, becoming either more or less difficult as Autonomy degrades.

As a Fomor’s Autonomy deteriorates, they increasingly feel what the Bane feels at all times. A Fomor possessed by a Lust-Bane will find themselves aroused and lustful more and more as their autonomy goes down, eventually to the exclusion of everything else including interest in eating, sleep or hygiene. In fact, once a Fomor’s Autonomy is lower than their possessing Bane’s Willpower, then the Fomor must roll autonomy any and every time that they want to do anything that the Bane wouldn’t be interested in doing. Pity the Fomor possessed by a Nexus Crawler… and then kill him before he melts everything within a thirty foot radius of you. Once a Fomor’s autonomy reaches zero, they are either sucked into the Umbra to become a Bane themselves or they go on a mindless rampage in the material world until somebody finally puts them down.

Even those few Kami whose spirits weren’t always a part of them are a harmonious and more thorough merger than Fomori are, and so they do not use the Autonomy trait at all. They are free to be much more self-motivated and independent than Fomori. The downside of having no Autonomy score is that Kami tend to have less in the way of brute force than Fomori because they can’t spend Autonomy on Powers: every Power is paid for with Taints, and the Powers they actually have tend to be inherently more subtle and less direct. Also, every Kami starts play with one Gaesa, a vow or compulsion that must be obeyed lest they suffer severe spiritual or physical consequences.

The Host

Most Fomori have human hosts, people whose own spiritual decay has left them open to possession by a spirit whose passions matched the human’s moral failings. Some are abused, pained or poisoned animals as well. Artificially created Fomori can be of either type.

There are few human-host Kami, but they do exist. Such persons are relatively pure individuals whose own desire to selflessly serve and protect their fellow man or the natural world have left them open and receptive to Gaia’s call. Most are healers, of one sort or another: physical, spiritual, mental or a cleansing of nature. They somehow hear Gaia’s call in terms that they can understand (possibly dreams or apparent angelic visitations, for example) and accept Gaia’s plan for them, submitting to spiritual rebirth.

Many Kami are animals, plants or inanimate objects (such as statues, although I think a Kami whose host is a sword or even a Klaive could be very interesting) whose spirits are awakened for reasons understood only by Gaia Herself, and generally empowered to fulfill some particular function.

One particularly unusual form of Kami are the rare animate lands: entire regions of land that have become awakened and have been empowered to protect themselves and the natural life within. Such lands are invariably pristine, but are almost always threatened by some outside force, thus justifying the effort through which Gaia had to go through to awaken them in the first place. A hidden, “haunted” vale shrouded in mist and which uses trickery, subterfuge, its own native flora and fauna to bedevil and drive out oil surveyors or developers that are seeking to plunder its resources would be one example of an animate land.

Lastly, there are the flesh-borne spirits, who have already been mentioned. Most of these are elementals of one sort or another, sent by Gaia on a very specific errand the completion of which will free them to return to the Umbra. Flesh-borne Kami tend to be as driven and focused as any Fomor, and most of them are on missions that are fairly short term. Ususally they are created when there is a task that is necessary, but that for one reason or another the shape shifters are either unavailable for or unsuited to carrying out.

A Means of Creating Kami?

According to Garou mystics, Gaia creates Kami through Her divine will. This is correct, but there may be a way for them to be deliberately created by other forces.

I recently blogged about a theoretical means by which Fomori might be converted into Kami (and vice versa, technically) by magically transforming the possessing spirit into a Gaian rather than Wyrmish spirit. A similar technique might be used to create Kami without the host having to be a Fomor first. There are two mechanisms that I can see in the rules that already exist. Just like the prior transformation, this would be either a Mage with Spirit 5 or a shapeshifter (or even another Kami, hint hint) with the Gift: The Malleable Spirit. The following technique will probably work on any kind of host other than animate lands or flesh-borne spirits.

The character seeking to create a Kami would somehow have to secure the soon-to-be host’s consent, and most likely that of the spirit as well. You’d need to either find or summon the desired spirit and begin negotiations. Accordingly, the would-be host needs to be a vessel such that a Gaian spirit would be willing to inhabit it, and fairly serious chiminage would need to be given. There are Gifts or other magical effects that could be used to compel one or both parties, but this would reflect poorly on the creating character, and might result in a hostile Kami. The sort of Gaesa under which the Kami will labor would probably be determined at this time, possibly as a result of dickering as one of the chiminage conditions between the spirit and the Garou or Mage.

Whatever the case, the spirit is then subjected to a transformation via the powerful spirit magics already named, either granting the Charm: Possession or exchanging one of the spirit’s existing Charms for it. Since it’s a juggle to stats rather than the spirit’s nature, that’s only difficulty 6 for The Malleable Spirit. Now, just use the Rite of Binding (or similar Spirit effects) on the spirit so that it will specifically use that Charm on the pre-prepared host.

The spirit will almost certainly require an oath from the Garou or Mage to be an ally and protector of the resulting Kami, which we could treat as equivalent to three dots in the Background: Consecrated (since the Theurge performing the Gift has to be Rank 5, or a Mage would have to be a Master in the Spirit Sphere)… unless the Spirit would rather be Consecrated to a more powerful entity still, at which point the Garou’s got a whole ‘nother big job ahead of him.

I imagine that we could make a Rite (which would absolutely have to be a level 5 rite at least) that does the whole shebang rather than this multi-step process involving a combination of Gifts and Rites, but I put this together under a constraint to use only the rules as already provided.

Possessed: a Player’s Guide mentions the idea of having a “Rite of Consecration” which could be used to consecrate the Kami or Fomor, but there are no rules for it given for it there, and specifies that an actual rite may not be necessary in many cases. One case where it might not be necessary would be consecrating that Kami to a shapeshifter: a simple oath should suffice. Consecrating a Fomor or Kami to a totem spirit is probably pretty much equivalent to the Rite of the Totem, so I could use that as a guideline. Maybe I’ll write the rite up… and rites for making Kami and Fomori as well since we know that at least the latter exists outside of the Middle Kingdom even no rules are ever given for it.

It would be a lot of work… but think of the Renown a Garou could win by honorably securing a place for more Kami in the world.

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