Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei (• to •••••)

Originally Published at Rob.BearSwarm.com on 2012-05-22.

I do a lot of flavor/lite-mechanics conversion stuff when I’m gaming. I think we all do. This is one of those. A little background, we sat down to play a Hunter: The Vigil game set in Renaissance era Venice. The city has always had Hunters of some stripe, but recently a new problem has arisen that’s caused cells to flock to Venice by the drove. Lovecraftian Deep Ones have started crawling out of the canals at night and being a major nuisance. The game was equal portions dealing with the new Deep One threat, dealing with the influx of Hunters, dealing with old threats that use the Deep One attacks to their advantage, and dealing with the other Hunters in our own cell. 

Blah blah blah. I wrote up a character who thinks he’s responsible for the rise of the Deep Ones so I wanted an Endowment flavored with a bit of Lovecraftian ritual. I’m not a fan of most of the endowments from Hunter (Except, Rites du Cheval but that’s just because I love voodoo) and none of them really seemed to fit what I was going for. Maybe Castigation but another player was already doing that so I didn’t want to step on toes. I was reading over stuff and really liked the Rites of Denial from Night Stalkers, except it was vampire focused which didn’t work for me. After talking it over with my GM, we decided to re-flavor it for Deep One instead of Vampires.

The whole Cainite Heresy thing could fit with a little retooling, but that wasn’t the character I wanted to play. Instead, I drafted up the Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei an endowment for the Lost Descendants of Dagon. One of the biggest problems I had to tackle was being the only “Cainite” in the group, which meant I couldn’t refill my flask. I googled around and found a solution on a White Wolf message board that I liked so that’s been converted into this as well.

Remember, this is a re-working of Rites of Denial. This isn’t an original work, just a couple little changes and a new flavor. Enjoy and leave comments.


Prerequisite: Status (The Lost Descendants of Dagon) •

The Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei are a set of blood rituals created by a militant off-shoot of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. This faction, styling themselves the Lost Descendants of Dagon, opposed the Esoteric Order’s doctorian of submission and voiced a desire to control the Deep Ones. The Descendants quickly found themselves cast out of the Order. They developed a series of rituals they named the Shackles that use a mixture of Human and Deep One blood to bind, control, and defeat the star spawn.

The Descendants carry around a small glass flask filled half with the thick green blood of the Deep Ones and half with the red blood of themselves. Every Shackle demands use of this blood – it might be smeared on a lead pipe, drawn upon a wall, or upended into the mouth so it can be spat out. The strange rituals also demand other actions be taken, too — a line of cakey sea salt drawn across a doorway, a bulb of garlic crushed beneath a boot heel, or a splinter of wood shimmied into the skin of the palm. Think of it like an equation. In a simple equation, A + B = C, and the Shackles are very much like that. Use the blood in just such a way, perform the other actions demanded with the reagents demanded, and a result occurs. No faith is necessary (though one must certainly concentrate and commit to the action, but Descendants are nothing if not committed). No prayer, no entreaties to distant powers. Some religious Descendants might evoke such additional details when casting one of the Shackles, but it’s by no means necessary. A plus B equals C. It’s that simple.

Casting Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei

Calling upon a Shackle is, as noted, a direct affair. Do as the ritual demands, and it should succeed provided the Descendant is devoted enough to see its result manifest. Unless otherwise stated, casting Shackles goes accordingly:
Cost: 1-3 Willpower and 1-5 thimbles of blood (see each Shackle for more information)
Dice Pool: Resolve + Occult
Action: Instant or Extended (see each rite)
Note that each Shackle demands certain actions to be taken, and one of those actions involves expending the phial-bound blood. Each phial is the same: a small glass bottle with a cork fitted in the top. Each phial must contain the blood of the Descendant attempting to cast the Shackle along with the blood of the Deep One. Each Shackle necessitates expending some of that blood, and this is noted in cost as how many “thimbles” of blood must be used. If the Descendant does not have the requisite amount of blood, the Shackle cannot be performed.
The Descendant must replenish the blood into the phial, fresh from himself or a Deep One. Oddly, storing blood anywhere but this glass phial (say, carrying around a blood bag full of the mixture) doesn’t help with the casting of the Shackles. Descendants who try to use false blood — be it the blood of other humans or blood that has been stored anywhere but his phial — automatically suffer a dramatic failure when casting the Shackle.
The phial holds 20 thimbles full of blood. Descendants may refill 1 thimble full every night per point in Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei they possess. If the phial is ever drained more than half way it lacks a sufficient amount of the original mixture to transmutate the Descendant’s blood negating the ability to refill it. To restore the unique abilities of the phial the Descendant must drain the flask and re-fill the bottom half with the blood of Deep Ones.
The Shackles also cost a small investment of the Descendant’s own self beyond their blood. This investment is very small when the Shackles are being used against the creatures of Y’ha-nthlei – Primarily the Deep Ones but any descendant of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. The investment becomes more costly when being used against other creatures, though they can still be effective. Creatures that are similar to the Deep Ones require slighly more investment but beings that are beyond the scope of the children of Dagon require a substantial investment. The Shackles can be used against werewolves, vampires, and the like but it requires considerable more personal investment.

Learning and Buying

A character may know as many Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei as he cares to — it’s not limited by Status or even by points purchased in the Endowment. Each Rite of Denial costs five experience points to learn, though the first one’s free when the character purchases the first dot (only) of this Endowment. (Alternately, if a character starts play with this Endowment, he can take one ritual per dot purchased in the Endowment.)

The Rites of Denial available for purchase are found below.

Aggravate

Drizzle some of the phial blood upon a weapon held in one’s hand. Use one’s forefinger to swirl the blood into a rough approximation of the Elder Sign. The instrument now feels heavier. More powerful. The Descendant’s hand hums, and he hears the rush of blood in his ears. This can only be cast upon hand-held weapons whose use is dictated by the Weaponry Skill (no firearms, for instance).
Cost: 1 Willpower, 2 thimbles of blood
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The weapon in hand suffers immediate Structure damage equal to the Descendant’s dots in this Endowment.
Failure: The weapon feels empowered, but gains no bonus, otherwise.
Success: The weapon seems to vibrate in the Descendant’s hand. It feels stronger. For the remainder of the scene, the weapon now gains a bonus equal to the Descendant’s dots in Shackles of Y’ha-nthlei. In addition, even if the weapon would previously have done only bashing (a lead pipe, for instance), it now does lethal damage. However, this weapon’s bonus only applies to attacks against Deep Ones, their minions, or other related creatures.
Exceptional Success: On the weapon’s first attack, half of the damage (round down) is aggravated. However, after the scene is up, the weapon crumbles to ash or dust.

Befoul

This Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei represents a cruel trick, but what do the Descendants care? Their only goal is to see Deep Ones bound to their will or eradicated from the earth, and if this ritual helps to accomplish that by even a tiny margin, then kudos all around. By sprinkling the phial’s blood, a bag of salt and a handful of dead leaves in and around a location, the Descendant has “fouled the nest” (or as some say, “salted the earth” ) in regards to the Deep One. The Elder Sign must also be marked on every wall, also in blood. The Deep One may not slumber in such a place. The Deep One may not use Dread Powers in such a place. The Deep One can’t spend Willpower in such a place. The locale is cursed, made toxic to the creature.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 4 thimbles of blood
Action: Extended (the larger the area to be “spoiled,” the more successes are necessary—a small apartment needs five successes, a warehouse would demand 15 successes, and a sprawling estate would necessitate 25 successes; each roll is equal to ten minutes)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The Descendant traps himself in the location. He finds himself unable to leave: doors will not yield to him, nor will windows. This lasts for one hour
Failure: The Shackle does not take hold.
Success: The nest is fouled, the earth salted. This lasts for one night per dot possessed in this Endowment. The Deep One cannot slumber here during this time—if the Deep One does fall asleep here, he takes one point of lethal damage per hour spent. The Deep One may not activate any Dread Powers while within this place, nor can it spend Willpower (blood) for any purpose (healing, for instance).
Exceptional Success: As above, and now the Deep One suffers -1 to Initiative while within the befouled location.

Behold

The Descendant dabs the phial blood upon his skin, drawing the Elder Sign upon his forehead— it signals revelation. It signals war. With this Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei, the children of Dagon are revealed.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 1 thimble of blood
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The Descendant suffers a migraine behind her eyes—all Perception rolls suffer a penalty equal to the dots possessed in this Endowment.
Failure: The sigil upon the head grants the Descendant nothing.
Success: All Deep Ones within sight are revealed as what they are, only moreso—they appear truly vile, with gaping maws full of teeth and hands tipped with crooked talons. This doesn’t count towards those Deep Ones who are hiding using the Stealth Skill or other Dread Powers— however, it does grant the Descendant a measure of aid when trying to spot such hidden creatures. The Descendant can add her dots in this Endowment to any rolls made to pierce natural or supernatural Stealth.
Exceptional Success: As above, but the Descendant regains the spent point of Willpower. His sight and power is confirmed and it fills him with certainty of purpose.

Deny

A line of sea salt left upon the threshold of a door— and coupled with a drizzling of phial’s blood—can prevent a Deep One from entering through that doorway. The Deep One simply is unable to conjure the will necessary to bring his body through the door (or window or other portal). The Descendant may invite a Deep One through, however—at which point the chosen creature may enter freely.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 2 thimbles of blood
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The ritual fails. The remaining blood in the Descendant’s phial suddenly boils over; it’s all gone and cannot be reclaimed.
Failure: The line of salt and the trickle of blood fail to provide the barrier that the Descendant desires.
Success: The doorway is protected for one hour per dot the caster possesses in this Endowment. No Deep One can cross that line of salt and blood. If someone attempts to throw the Deep One through the door, the creature rebounds off of it, failing to pass—and, in addition, suffers one point of bashing damage in the process. Some Dread Powers will work across the barrier, however—if the Deep One can still see the eyes of someone on the other side, for instance, he could attempt a Dread Power like Terrify.
Exceptional Success: As above, but when the Deep One encounters the barrier, he loses one point of Willpower.

Evade

The creatures of the sea can be swift—so it behooves a Descendant to be fast, or even better, faster. The Descendant smears a line of blood on the ground with her thumb, and then steps over it. Then she may gain preternatural swiftness when dealing with the underwater fiends.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 1 thimble
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The hunter fails to gain any benefit. In addition, her legs seize with terrible cramps for the remainder of the scene. Her Speed is halved, and any rolls necessitating use of her legs (such as an Athletics roll for jumping) suffer -3 dice.
Failure: The Descendant gains no such swiftness.
Success: For the next hour, the Descendant gains a bonus to her Speed whenever involved in chasing down or being chased by a Deep One (Foot Chase mechanics are likely to be involved, though not necessarily). This bonus is equal to twice the character’s dots in the Endowment.
Exceptional Success: As above, and the hunter also gains +1 to Initiative when in combat with a Deep One.

Invoke

Most Deep Ones find the traditional apotropaics nothing more than a trivial annoyance: garlic does not repel them, holy water fails to sear the flesh, and silver is nothing more than shiny metal. With this Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei, the Descendant can confirm the truth behind the stories and force such apotropes to work for a time. The Descendant must choose one traditional apotropaic—it can be a common one such as the garlic noted above, or something more uncommon in folklore such as poppy seeds or a bundle of wild roses. The Descendant must hold some of the phial blood in his mouth and then spit it over the folkloric apotrope. For a time, the object will repel—and even harm—Deep Ones.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 3 thimbles of blood
Action: Extended (a number of successes are needed equal to 10 minus the character’s dots in this Endowment; each roll is equivalent to one turn’s worth of spitting or drooling blood upon the apotrope)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The mouthful of blood brings on a terrible bout of nausea. The character suffers -2 to all rolls until she is able to achieve eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Failure: The apotrope fails to affect the Deep One.
Success: For the remainder of the night—until dawn— the apotrope works to repel Deep Ones. Deep Ones may not come within 10 yards of the apotrope without succeeding first on a Resolve + Composure roll, and this roll is penalized by the Descendant’s dots in this Endowment. In addition, if the apotrope can be held to the flesh of the Deep One, it does the creature harm: one point of aggravated damage per turn of exposure.
Exceptional Success: As above, but the range is extended to 20 yards.

Madness

Those who know this ritual can poison the mind of a Deep One as easily as a Deep One can poison the mind of an unwitting mortal. The Descendant must paint her tongue and teeth with the blood one hour before she hopes speak to a monster. She must also chew a sprig or leaf of mint.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 5 thimbles of blood
Action: Reflexive
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The character cannot speak: words stick in her throat, and she suddenly feels woefully unworthy. She gains a mild derangement of the Storyteller’s choosing.
Failure: The madness bears no metaphysical weight.
Success: The madness reaches the Deep One’s ears. The creature cannot stand it. It worms into her ear and mind like a chewing maggot. It drives her mad— literally. She gains a severe derangement of the player’s choosing (the character does not choose; note the distinction), and suffers under this derangement for one month per dot the Descendant possesses in this Endowment.
Exceptional Success: As above, but the Deep One suffers -1 to any Resolve + Composure rolls made to resist that derangement during those months.

Mark

The coppery taste of blood and coins in the mouth can, for some unknown reason, give the Descendant a sense of potent focus. Using this Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei demands that the Descendant let a coin soak in phial’s blood for up to one hour. Then, the Descendant must hold the coin and the blood in his mouth. His hand and eyes work with sudden determination and concentration when attempting to waylay a monstrous Deep One.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 2 thimbles of blood
Action: Instant (though note that the coin must soak for one hour before casting)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The character swallows the coin and the blood. It burns on the way down, confirmation of her worthlessness. The character suffers one point of lethal damage. In addition, talking is difficult until the wound heals, incurring a -1 penalty to those Social rolls necessitating speech.
Failure: The bloody coin fails to provide the focus necessary.
Success: The character gains a number of bonus dice equal to her dots in this Endowment. These bonus dice apply only to rolls meant to stake a Deep One or decapitate a Deep One. The penalty for target rolls still applies, of course, but ideally the bonus dice will lessen or entirely obviate those negative modifiers. The effect lasts for one scene, or until the hunter fails to hold the mouthful of blood and coin (whichever comes first). If, for instance, the hunter is struck in combat, the Storyteller may demand a roll (Resolve + Composure) to determine if the hunter can keep the blood and coin in his mouth without ejecting or accidentally swallowing. The effects end if the blood and coin leave the mouth.
Exceptional Success: As above, and in addition, the hunter gains +1 to Initiative.

Obligate

If a Deep One leaves any kind of footprint—be it in mud, on a carpet, or outlined in dirt on a cement floor—then the Descendant can endeavor to fix the Deep One to that spot. A rusted nail must be made slick with blood from the phial. When the nail is placed within the borders of the footprint, the Deep One—wherever he may be at the time—is held in place, or “obligated to remain,” as some Descendants put it. This must be cast within one hour of the footprint being left behind. If the Descendant attempts to use this ritual after an hour has passed, the attempt automatically results in a dramatic failure.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 2 thimbles of blood
Action: Extended (the blood must be rubbed into the rusted nail; this roll necessitates a number of successes equal to the Deep One’s Speed score, and each roll equals one turn’s worth of time)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The nail burns the hand of the Descendant, and the hunter suffers a point of bashing damage as a result. In addition, the Deep One gains +2 to his Speed for the remainder of the night.
Failure: The nail sits within the frame of the footprint… and that’s all.
Success: The hunter achieves the necessary successes. Wherever the Deep One is at the time the Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei takes hold, its one foot becomes fixed to the ground for ten minutes per dot possessed in this Endowment. The Deep One can unmoor his foot by succeeding on aResolve + Composure roll and spending a point of Willpower, but after doing so the foot still feels numb, as if the animating Blood of the fiend fails to circulate to that limb. The result is the same once the time of “obligation” is complete (numb foot). As a result, even if the Deep One frees himself for the remainder of the night, he operates at half of his Speed (round down).
Exceptional Success: As above, but the Deep One cannot unmoor his foot. He is frozen in place wherever he is for the duration. After that time, as noted, his Speed is halved for the remainder of the night.

Pilfer

Deep Ones are creatures of many secrets—lost truths and stolen knowledge lie within the lockbox of the Deep One’s mind. This Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei offers the Descendant a chance to extract one such secret from the seemingly impenetrable memory. Performing this Shackle demands that the Descendant put several drops of the phial’s blood into her own ears before asking this question of the Deep One: “What do you know?”
Cost: 1 Willpower, 3 thimbles of blood
Action: Instant and contested (Deep One rolls Resolve + Potency)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The Descendant suddenly speaks one of her own secrets aloud.
Failure: The Deep One’s secrets are safe. For now.
Success: The Deep One needn’t speak aloud, but one of his secrets suddenly is made manifest within the Descendant’s own mind. This secret is something the Deep One doesn’t want anyone—particularly the Descendant—to know. It can only be used successfully once upon a given Deep One. All subsequent attempts on that Deep One incur a dramatic failure.
Exceptional Success: As above, and in addition, the Descendant pilfers one of the Deep One’s Willpower points. The Deep One loses it. The Descendant gains it.

Prohibit

The Descendant drizzles some of the phial’s blood on each wrist of one she hopes to protect—then smears each into a forbidding ‘x’ upon the tender skin. After which, the blood within the target grows colder, as if a saline rush runs suddenly through the veins. Deep Ones will find no pleasure from that blood, now, and in fact it will do the creature harm.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 2 thimbles of blood
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The blood starts to burn upon the target’s wrists, causing the individual one point of lethal damage. Even after the damage heals, scars remain forever.
Failure: The phial’s blood fails to offer any kind of protection.
Success: The target—or, at least, her blood—is protected. A Deep One who attempts to attack the victim finds that the blood offers nothing but pain. In addition, even a single taste of the blood causes the Deep One great anguish: the Deep One takes a number of lethal points of damage equal to the caster’s dots in this Endowment. This damage occurs only once—the Deep One can continue attacking the vessel without additional suffering. Note that the caster cannot use this Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei on herself. This protection lasts until the next sun-up or sundown, whichever comes first.
Exceptional Success: As above, but the protection lasts for a full 24 hours.

Reflect

The evil eye—a stylized blue oculus—is thought to ward off evil. For the Descendant, it can. The Descendant draws the evil eye over one of her own eyes in blood withdrawn from the phial. Before the blood dries, she must fleck it with kohl (ground galena), mascara, coal dust, or some other kind of black dirt or makeup. For a time, she is protected against some of the Dread Powers of the Deep One.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 1 thimble
Action: Extended (character needs a number of successes equal to 10 minus her Resolve score; each roll equals one minute’s worth of application)
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The blood drips into the eye, burning it. For the next hour, the character suffers as if possessing the One Eye Flaw (p. 219, World of Darkness Rulebook).
Failure: The evil eye affords her no defense against the dark arts.
Success: Any Deep One that tries to use a Dread Power upon the hunter that necessitates eye contact will find her efforts soundly rebuffed. The Deep One suffers a penalty to the Dread Power roll equal to the character’s dots in this Endowment. In addition, if the Deep One fails the Dread Power roll, then the Deep One actually suffers its effects instead of the hunter. (If the Deep One were to use Hypnotism—found on p. 279 of Hunter: The Vigil— upon the hunter and failed, then the Deep One would perform whatever suggested action it sought to implant within the hunter’s mind.) This Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei works upon the following Dread Powers (even if they don’t specifically state requiring eye contact): Alter Memory, Ecstasy, Fury, Hypnotism, Sleep and Terrify. The Storyteller may allow this to work on other Dread Powers, however. This ritual’s protection lasts for one hour.
Exceptional Success: The hunter is also afforded a +1 to all Perception rolls for one hour.

Unmask

Deep Ones have tricks to force their human prey to overlook the more glaring and obvious signs that they are unnatural. With this Shackle, a Descendant daubs blood from the phial onto his own eyelids. The first Deep One the Descendant looks upon is suddenly revealed to the world: the creature shows up so perfectly that the creature stands out. In addition— and to some Descendants, more importantly—those nearby the Deep One suddenly suffer an inexplicable fear of the creature, unconsciously recognizing it as a monster. They do not instantly panic, but most humans (with Willpower of 5 or below) will hurry away with a steady step.
Cost: 1 Willpower, 1 thimble of blood
Action: Instant
Roll Results
Dramatic Failure: The creature gains a measure of strength. It now gains +2 to any Stealth rolls it makes over the next scene.
Failure: The blood on the eyelids dries and flakes off immediately; the effect is not made manifest.
Success: As above. The Deep One now shows up brightly and blatantly. In addition, any humans within sight of the creature will try to escape the scene (most will do so surreptitiously). Those at or beneath Willpower 5 must spend a point of Willpower to remain nearby. Those of Willpower 6 or higher needn’t spend any points, but must succeed on a Resolve + Composure roll to remain in sight of the Deep One. The Descendant casting this Shackle of Y’ha-nthlei is unaffected by it, but other hunters are affected as normal humans. The Deep One has a difficult time hiding from sight—any attempts at Stealth (including those fueled by Dread Powers) suffer a penalty equal to the Descendant’s dots in this Endowment.
Exceptional Success: As above, but attempts at Stealth require the Deep One to expend one point of Willpower (on top of any costs necessitated by, say, Dread Powers). The penalty to Stealth also remains.

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