Velotha's Flock Revisited: The Clans
It's been a few days since the last Velotha's Flock update, and that's partly because this is a long post and partly because I've been sleeping like a baby: that is to say, not through the night and I feel pretty awful most of the time when I wake up.
So, with that said, treat this as a first draft grain of salt for the clans in the prose edition of Velotha's Flock. Only one (playable) clan is technically new, but three are drawn from the unpublished character options expansion. Of all the sections so far, this is probably the most different one; the lore's expanded quite a bit, but this is where you're going to see the most interesting mechanics to feed back into the game if you're following along with the Early Bird Edition.
Each korakthrope is born with a set of traits that mark it as a member of a clan. While the clans are often viewed as a sort of extended family, the clans are not necessarily passed on by bloodline; two members of the same clan might bear offspring that are not of their own clan. The exile clans, in particular, did not even exist before the flock left the Garden, yet are now almost as numerous as the old world clans.
Velotha never explained this aspect of their existence to the wereravens, and speculation runs rampant about the reasons behind these distinctions drawn between different members of the flock. The most popular theory is that the clans balance each other, and the exile clans are an adaptation to our world that was always going to happen.
A korakthrope intuitively knows what clan another wereraven belongs to so long as they are aware of the other’s true nature.
Old World Clans
These clans date back to before the flock’s exile when Velotha first created korakthropes in the Garden.
Old World clans are defined by their internal diversity; each of the clans has two internal branches, but the overall shared qualities of the members defines them more than the distinction between the branches.
Old World clans are heavily restricted in their appearance when taking on the form of humans or birds. They can only manifest black hair, plumage, and eyes, though they have no such restriction on skin, beaks, or other physical features, which can be any natural color.
In game terms, a wereraven from one of these clans chooses one, but not both, of the abilities associated with the clan.
The Swiftwind clan scouted our world before the rest of the flock fled the Garden, and for this they have gained a reputation as more worldly than the other old world clans.
The most noteworthy patriarch of the Swiftwind clan is convinced that the correct interpretation of the Oracle’s Prophecy states that there is a way to fully sever the connection to the Garden, banishing Kelö-ur, and then turn our world into a new paradise. This is viewed as heresy by most of the flock, and most Swiftwinds clearly place themselves on one or the other side of this schism.
There are also those who say that an utterance of Velotha indicates that the Swiftwinds will never see the Promised Land, though most interpret this as referring to the extinct Nestweaver clan.
Choose between Bitter Dreams or Vanguard
The words of others eat into your soul, and you are tormented by the thought that you may never see the Promised Land. You want to prove everyone wrong about that.
If you have taken more than a single Hit worth of damage, you gain +1 bonus to all actions except Resilience tests until you have recovered.
You were one of the scouts first sent into our world, or you have fulfilled a similar role after being born into our world. You are better adjusted to life with humans than most of the flock.
You gain a +1 bonus to all tests to avoid revealing your nature to anyone other than fellow korakthropes.
Considered the oldest and noblest of clans, the Aldbranch clan has a reputation as being hidebound and judgmental. They also have a tendency to inherit generational memories from their parents, giving even their fledglings a close link to the creator goddess.
While the Aldbranches blend in well with the rest of the flock, they have cliques and social hierarchies that are strictly members-only and often run across generations. It is not uncommon for Aldbranches to give their own children who belong to other clans up for adoption, since they value their heritage more strongly than most of the other wereravens; this practice has waned in the 20th century and is almost extinct in the 21st century except among the most aristocratic families. However, many Aldbranches still harbor negative stereotypes about the exile clans.
Choose between Memories of Velotha or Ancient Wisdom.
Memories of Velotha
You have clear images of the Garden in your mind. The roosts that were built there and the life that you can recall, even if not your own, inspire you in your fights against supernatural opponents: they stand in the way of glory!
You gain a +1 bonus to all Violence and Resilience tests made against supernatural opponents.
You have a connection to the oldest birds in the flock, and their knowledge and power is yours. You focus on the songs and enter into a trance.
Whenever the moon shines on two successive rolls, you gain a +1 bonus to all tests until the moon dims again.
The Summertwines are known for their songs, which are majestic and magical but also were responsible for waking Kelö-ur from his slumber and inciting his rage against Velotha.
The Summertwine are often found in mentorship positions among the flock; they have preserved the wisdom of the Garden as well as any except the Aldbranches, and unlike their Aldbranch cousins they are less likely to pass judgment on others. Many Summertwines go out of their way to teach members of the exile clans and encourage them to take up roles of responsibility within the flock.
Choose Song of the Joyous or Mournful Song
Song of the Joyous
You can sing a song with an ALU[+2] test while in your true form. Mortals who hear this song are drawn to it by magical compulsion if you succeed. They believe you to be one of them, and you gain a +2 bonus to all Allure interactions to gather information from them, unless they are hostile.
When in your true form, you may make an ALU test each round during combat. This does not require any action. If you succeed on this test, all others gain a +1 bonus to all Violence rolls. This effect does not stack with itself if more than one wereraven is using it on the same round.
This extinct clan does not appear in our world. They were eradicated by Kelö-ur, and unlike the other clans they do not seem to be born in exile. They were known as guardians and protectors, and many tales recount their sacrifices to ensure that the survivors in the flock could flee the Garden to safety.
Sometimes, someone will claim to have seen (or to be) a Nestweaver, but these claims have never been verified by independent observers. There is a small group that believes that the Nestweavers exist in our world, but have chosen to isolate themselves from the rest of the flock for reasons that can only be guessed at.
Exile clans are new to our world; they never appeared in the Garden. The treatment of exiles varies from region to region. In places like Stockholm and Chicago, where the flock has resided for a longer time and in greater numbers, exiles have been accepted as a natural part of life in our world. Not every exile clan developed at once; the Snownecks were the first to manifest shortly after the flock fled the Garden, while the Softbeaks and Shortwings only first appeared during the early 20th century.
In isolated regions where there are fewer wereravens, exiles are often viewed as signs of a curse or punishments for iniquity. Others view them as overly attached to our world, a middle-point between true wereravens and mortals.
Members of the exile clans can mimic any hair, eye, or plumage coloration that naturally occurs in the forms they can take. Among those who know of the existence of korakthropes, this gives them an opportunity to break the expected rules.
In general, though, the exile clans enjoy a certain amount of acceptance, especially in the 21st century, because they make up an increasing share of the population.
Each exile clan has a weakness, but they also exhibit greater strength than the Old World clans.
Snownecks have a natural affinity for the cold, and are sometimes considered to be a middle-ground between the Old World and exile clans.
Snownecks have a reputation for being rebellious and leaving the flock, signing on with the Adversary and serving as double-agents. This tended to be true in the earlier days of the flock, where they were cast out and shunned, but has little bearing on the more modern members of the clan, who have generally either returned to the flock or do not remember the days when they would have been treated as enemies.
Choose Ice Blood or False Star
It is said that the ice blood that flows through some of their members is the reason why the Snownecks were first considered to be corrupted by Kelö-ur, because they hunt like his abominations and seem to revel in their destructive capabilities.
Whenever you kill an enemy, so long as they are reasonably considered a threat, you regain a Hit.
There are those who say that the Snownecks were supposed to lead the Old World’s clans into our world. This ties into the Swiftwind heretics’ interpretations of the Promised Land, and is generally dismissed, but some of the Snownecks possess an unnatural influence over their fellows.
You gain +3 Allure only when interacting with other korakthropes, and you can pass yourself off as a member of another clan.
Softbeaks were anathema when they first manifested; although they are wereravens in almost every other way, they cannot take on their true form. They can still shift between mortal and raven form.
Although they have generally been welcomed into the flock, many Softbeaks choose to live separately from the flock in their own communities to avoid the pity and fear of their fellows. However, they are considered highly useful because their affinity for the natural forms of the world makes them useful infiltrators: the Adversary and Kelö-ur cannot use the normal methods to detect them and only proof of their supernatural abilities makes them identifiable as were-ravens.
A Softbeak cannot be determined to be a korakthrope by supernatural means, and cannot take the korakthrope’s true form. Any abilities they have that would require true form, except for those common to all wereravens (e.g. the unarmed attack bonuses and mesmerizing gaze, which are unavailable to Shortbeaks) can be used in either of their forms. They do not gain any special resistance to things which are particularly dangerous to wereravens, however.
Choose Avian Affinity or Mortal Affinity
When flying, you can reroll Swiftness tests. You gain +1 Acumen for vision, and you never get lost regardless of form. You can bring anything you can carry in mortal form with you when you change shapes, regardless of weight and volume.
In addition to being indistinguishable as a korakthrope by normal means, you are immune to the effects of silver and any other penalty, bonus, or threat that explicitly targets korathropes does not work on you.
The Shortwings have never known the same stigma as the other exile clans, because of the combination of their relatively recent addition to the flock and their ability to take all three forms. Their sharp minds do not hurt their reception either; they are considered practical and wise.
However, no Shortwing has ever been able to fly well. While they may be able to glide short distances when in the proper form, they lack the necessary affinity for the air that would allow them to take flight, and they fall awkwardly whenever they use their wings. They are also heavier in their bird and true forms than other korakthropes; even if they figured out how to fly, they could not do so for any distance.
Flight for you requires a SWI[-4] test, and cannot be sustained for a distance further than 100 feet horizontally. You may still glide safely from heights less than 500 feet.
Choose between Juggernaut and Mastermind
Your bones are heavy and you are larger than your peers. It takes a lot to hurt you, and even more to kill you.
If you would suffer more than a single Hit worth of damage, take one fewer Hit.
You can always rely on your brain to be one step ahead of the competition.
You increase your maximum Acumen by 1 above the normal attribute limit (you still need to achieve this score normally), and you use Acumen instead of Swiftness when rolling initiative or when good reflexes are called for.
The Returned are an unusual clan, because the Returned are not a clan in the normal way. They are wereravens who have been through a harrowing experience, one they never discuss even with others in the flock. The general theory is that the Returned are normal wereravens who have died and come back, but if they recall what has happened to them they have no way to communicate it to others.
Most of the flock treats the Returned no differently after their transformation than they did before, but the Returned often demonstrate different personality traits than they did before their metamorphosis. They forget people they met, or know people they never saw. They are prone to being lost in reverie. Fits of ecstasy or terror overtake them in quiet moments.
The Returned are limited to white plumage, hair, and eyes, though their skin and other physical features can still be any natural color. They often have an unsettling and otherworldly element to their appearance, even if they manage to disguise their features.
Returned can use their mesmerizing gaze in any form, not just their true form. They are able to disable and enable it instantly at will.
Choose between From Heaven and From Hell.
You have seen visions of the greatest things and worthiest goals. In your strongest moments of faith and conviction, you believe you have even seen the Promised Land.
When you spend a token, another player’s character (of your choice) gains a token. You cannot give a token to another wereraven with the From Heaven ability; they have their own joy in their heart.
You saw only darkness and despair when you underwent your transformation, and it shook your spirit to its foundation. Something malevolent calls your name and dances in the dark when you close your eyes.
When you deal at least a Hit worth of damage in combat, you may take a Hit. Your target dies. The Hit you suffer in this way takes a week to heal.
I really like the ability to extend some of the stuff here on a second pass. I don't think I really made a whole ton of changes to the mechanics (Shortbeak being a noteworthy extension), but I feel like the addition of Returned wereravens gives a new option both from a gameplay perspective (token synergy with From Heaven is fun) and from a thematic one. This replaces an ability from the old Seeker archetype that always got players confused.
It's worth noting at this point that there are 14 possible clan options if you count both the abilities available to a clan as unique options, which when combined with the 8 roles and 24 archetypes gives just under three thousand possible character options. I'm thinking that I'm going to replace the Lifestyle mechanic from the original game with a simple point allocation, since that was always something that bothered me and felt rushed and sloppy.
However, even if we count them just as 7 clans, we have more than a thousand options for the package selections, which should help characters feel a little more fresh than they did with just the 3 clans, 6 roles, and 12 archetypes of the original, which gave something like 200 options.
The idea is that we remove the tendency of stepping on each other's toes that existed in the base game by diversifying the possible options so that more players are going to choose things meaningfully distinct from the other players' choices.
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