Velotha's Flock Revised: Korakthropes

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I've mentioned going back to velotha's flock and redoing it in prose, so here's a draft of one of the sections for that. This is actual game content, and compatible with the original game over on DriveThruRPG, though there may be some added details and some setting changes based on the last year and a half or so of thinking about stuff.

Korakthropes

Korakthropes, often called were-ravens, are beings from the Old World that have found their way into our world following the death of their creator, Velotha.

Hunted by Kelö-ur, the god who rules the Old World, they generally try to keep a low profile. Doing otherwise tends to draw the attention of powerful forces, who often feel threatened by the presence of beings that defy their understanding.

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From a public domain manuscript, touched up by myself. Taken from the New York Public Library archives.

Beings of Essence

The korakthropes do not function by the rules of our world; even here they are governed by the rules of the Old World. They are beings of essence, not beings of atoms, and the intersection between the two leads to unusual phenomena.

These mysteries occasionally prompt mortals to look into the existence of were-ravens or other supernatural entities. However, people tend to leave the unexplained unexplained, or come up with an excuse to justify finding blood without DNA in it or monstrous figures that they see out of the corners of their eyes at night.

Around fallen angels and the agents of Kelö-ur, these breaches of the rules of our world pose a more dire threat to korakthropes. Those who know about Velotha’s flock seek to destroy it or manipulate it to fit their own agenda.

The Adversary has been known to seduce were-ravens and bring them under his influence, especially those who have given up on finding the Promised Land. Kelö-ur seeks to destroy the last reminders of Velotha’s treason, but he is limited by the barrier between our world and the Old World. His mighty grudge has begun to fade with time, but even as he returns to his harmonies the agents he has sent to our world continue their work.

Supernatural Abilities

The korakthropes do not belong in this world, and the very nature of the elders rebels against it. The desire to flee to the Promised Land wanes in the fledglings, but the bloodlines do not thin, even when were-ravens consort with mortals and bear offspring of unfamiliar clans.

Three Forms

A korakthrope can take on three forms: their true form, and the form of humans and ravens, both of which they have a symbolic affinity for.

Their true form is that of a mighty, massive avian. They can fly, but not as well as crows and ravens. Their beaks and talons are more pronounced than those of their mundane counterparts, though they retain the mimicry capabilities of the birds. Mortals who meet the gaze of a true-form wereraven are entranced by it and frozen in place until the korakthrope breaks eye-contact.

Turning into true form is a destructive process; korakthropes tend to destroy anything they are wearing or carrying when they shift, though a TEC[0] test can prevent this. In this case, the things they were wearing or carrying disappear until they resume human form, at which time they reappear on the korakthrope’s person.

Alternatively, korakthropes can take on the form of a human. The only universally shared traits are dark hair and eyes, jet-black like the birds the were-ravens represent. Any age, build, or other physical features can be mimicked, so long as it does not exceed the korakthrope’s capabilities. The Returned are limited to hair, eyes, and skin like snow, their experiences in the halls of death changing them. Korakthropes from the exile snowneck clan can take on any form without restrictions.

Most korakthropes settle on a preferred mortal form, but they can mimic any person they have seen (within the contexts of the previous limitations) or create imaginative mixtures of features. Those used to living among mortals may choose forms without hair, wearing wigs to overcome their limitations. The Returned and others who find their eye color problematic often wear sunglasses or contact lenses that change the appearance of their eyes.

There are no stat adjustments for a korakthrope in true form, nor for one adopting mortal form. If a korakthrope chooses a mortal form more diminutive than their own, they are not subject to the same limitations: Grandma might suddenly turn out to be a champion weightlifter and Olympic-class runner. This works in reverse as well: a weak korakthrope may impersonate a weightlifter, but struggle with even mild physical activity.

Finally, korakthropes can impersonate ravens and similar birds. Any member of the corvus genre is fair game, as well as magpies, though korakthropes cannot usually mimic the patterns of all these species. Most korakthropes are subject to uniformly black plumage and eyes and Returned always have white plumage and eyes, similar to their restrictions when taking mortal form.

Regardless of whether they take the form of a crow, raven, jackdaw, rook, or magpie, korakthropes retain most of their attributes, though they suffer a -2 penalty to Resilience while in bird form. They may bring with them objects with a combined weight in pounds equal to their new Resilience rating, which disappear. Everything else falls to the ground around them when they change form.

All changes in form are instantaneous to observers, though they require a few seconds of concentration on the part of the korakthrope during which they can take no other deliberate action.

Regeneration

Beings of essence are not restricted to the same limitations as mortals. They want to return to their form, even if it suffers damage. All but the most catastrophic injuries heal in moments, and even grievous wounds are visibly undone as seconds pass.

Regardless of form, a korakthrope regains a Hit every minute, unless they suffer damage when in physical contact with silver, which suppresses their regeneration abilities. Some other phenomena can limit the regeneration as well, like some agents of the Adversary or Kelö-ur. Some fallen angels, demons, and monstrosities have this ability as well.

Regeneration resumes if the impediment is removed. Otherwise korakthropes and other creatures with similar abilities can still heal like mortals.

Immortality

Velotha did not create her flock with the ability to die, though their essence has been altered by the entropy of our world.

Whenever a korakthrope would die for any reason, they roll a RES[0] test. If they succeed, they survive. If they succeed on a full moon (still trying to figure out how to word this well for both card and dice based play), they regain a Hit as well.

Korakthropes do not usually age, though elders have a presence that other korakthropes can identify. Most korakthropes can fake their age in human and bird forms, appearing as children or elders so long as they follow the usual restrictions on their appearance.


Designer Notes

Haven't changed a whole lot, but have fleshed out details. This is a thousand words or so, and the original game is 9500 words. Editing would probably bring the length down.

Included rules for what happens to things korakthropes are holding when they shift. This was a major question that came up in playtesting, and I generally just shrugged at it, but when you're working in prose there's no excuse not to.

One of the changes is that the Returned are going to become a "clan", bringing the total number of clans to 7 (assuming I don't add more). Previously this was an ability of the Seeker archetype, but a lot of archetypes are going to get new and interesting abilities that match the fluff changes. In the final book, this section will probably be streamlined. I'm considering giving the clans their own rules for appearance in various forms based on their type (mainline clans do all-black plumage, hair, and eyes, exile clans have no restrictions, other than natural colors, and the Returned have enforced leucism).


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Hi, I'm going to do a one shot at a con on the day before Halloween and Velotha's Flock seems to have a mysthic and a bit dark touch that suits this time of the year. But it's gonna be a "blind date" - the names of the players are drawn immediately before the game. I have approximately four, max. five hours to explain the setting, the rules etc. and then run a game. I fear that Velotha's flock might be too complex for the short time. What's your opinion on that?

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I've actually run Velotha's Flock at a con, and it went pretty well. I played with the rules for cards, rather than dice, though the setup is more or less equal for both. Now, obviously I made the game and I'd already done playtesting on it, so I had a lot of experience and other benefits going in, but I think we had a three or four hour time-slot. Some people showed up late, but we still had a good time by the end.

The mechanics are pretty simple: it's a d12 roll at-or-under result for success (on cards the face value of the card replaces the die roll), with a d6 for complications, and you don't need to make them super-significant all the time; I usually just give extra success when it's happy. With cards, red suits indicate a beneficial result, black suits a mundane one. I have a two-page condensed ruleset which covers, I believe, 100% of the game mechanics. They're a little streamlined, but so is the core rulebook. The condensed ruleset about 850 words long, but 150 of those are the overviews of sample characters.

The setting is where things get tricky, but I always focus on the symbolic stuff when I start players with Velotha's Flock.

You have were-ravens from another world that have come to our world.
They are searching for the Promised Land, based on a Prophecy that some don't believe anymore.
They're hunted by Lucifer and an abominable god from their homeworld.

That gives players enough room to run with it. Character creation tends to take a while, because it's a "choose packages" style game and there's quite a few options available. Fortunately, I have pre-mades. The pre-mades include rules for their abilities as well, so you can run the game with the two-page rules and the sample characters.

Two-page rules
Sample characters

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