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Frontier Spirit

Spirits

A spirit is a distant entity, dwelling in the depths of the otherworld never appearing directly. It acts through its facets: inhabitants of the upper levels of the otherworld that at first seem to exist and act independently, but which are joined to a greater whole. Each facet is invested in a part of the spirit’s portfolio, linking it to the spirit. Facets know they are part of a larger, deeper being, and the whole of the spirit shares the experiences, memories, and knowledge of each facet, though not always quickly or clearly. One facet might speak clearly of another’s existence, while another might have a distorted or partial understanding of its other-selves.

GMs, to build a spirit, first design the spirit itself, then build the facets of it your PCs will be interacting with.

Each spirit has a portfolio which sustains it or comforts it when reflected by the material world in the land it claims. The elements of a spirit’s portfolio are abstract and conceptual, and can be reflected or embodied by a wide variety of situations or things. A spirit’s portfolio is represented by a list of aspects, its portfolio aspects.

Each facet of the spirit will possess some of these portfolio aspects, which influence and direct its behavior and provide a link to its greater whole. Facets strive to encourage things that exemplify the portion of their spirit’s portfolio that they partake in. These portfolio aspects can be compelled when that element is harmed or transgressed against, provoking retaliation from the facet. A facet’s portfolio aspects can be invoked for or against the facet as well.

A facet has the portfolio aspect Though Turned Aside Your Path Cannot Be Denied—representing its area’s tendency toward gusting winds—shared with its spirit. The facet could invoke this aspect to help it get around some mediums who are trying to corral the facet for further discussion. However, if the facet ever tries to stand its ground, that aspect could be invoked or compelled against it.

Creating the Portfolio

Start with your game’s issues—the problems that dog your world and characters, and the particular location or locations where the spirit is found. These are also the problems that are agitating this spirit, motivating it to cause more trouble. The portfolio answers the question of “Why?”

Imagine the location central to the adventure and those nearby. What were they like before people came here, and what are they like now? Pick out symbols, concepts, and trends that seem significant, and consider how your game’s issues might challenge them. Is the action of a current issue changing the concrete form of a symbol, or challenging it by bringing in contrary concepts? What about the activity that aims to bring about an impending issue, or that presages or foreshadows it? If you can see how an issue and a concept are opposed, add that as an aspect to the spirit’s portfolio. Otherwise, set it aside and move on.

You don’t need to tie a portfolio aspect to every issue, but try to wind up with about one portfolio aspect per issue. Some issues might even challenge two or even three portfolio aspects. More than three is risky—at any given time, you’ll likely have two active campaign issues, between two and four location issues, and possibly one or two other issues floating around. Having multiple portfolio aspects that interact with different issues will create a situation that’s more challenging to mediate than a single portfolio aspect that’s impinged upon by a variety of issues.

Don’t throw away the portfolio aspects you set aside. Pick a few of them—about as many as those you’ve already picked—and make them part of the spirit’s portfolio too. Those with some superficial similarity to aspects linked to an issue give you opportunities to complicate your mediums’ failures with confusion and misunderstanding. Others provide additional detail, or offer hooks that your mediums can use to persuade or reign in a spirit.

Facets

A spirit’s facets are, for the most part, built as any other NPC. Choose whether they are a nameless, supporting, or main NPC, allocate their skills, and create any appropriate stunts.

  • Nameless facets are the least parts of a spirit’s being, those closest to the mundane world. They’re extremely likely to appear during any kind of immanent episode. As each facet is so weak, it represents a focused, specific slice of the spirit’s being. These facets are typically servants and workers for more potent facets, stamped-out copies with very little to distinguish them. They can only make small changes to the material world but can do so very easily, so they spend most of their time making tweaks throughout a spirit’s domain.
  • Supporting facets are comparable to ordinary people, with complex, individual personalities, quirks, and breadth of ability. It takes a more significant episode of immanence to admit them to the material world, but their impact is commensurately greater. Being more complicated, a supporting facet partakes of more of its parent’s nature, potentially creating a strong drive or internal conflict. Some appear as otherworldly versions of ordinary people or animals, while others have entirely unfamiliar forms. Fairies, imps, and other mythical mischief-makers are common forms, with personalities to match.
  • Main facets are the deepest form of spirit that mediums are capable of interacting with. They rarely appear during episodes of immanence—they must be deliberately sought out. They inherit a wide swath of a spirit’s being, and consequently wield a great deal of power. Their forms are fantastic—giant animals, animate landscapes, and mythological beings.

Facet Aspects

A nameless facet gets one aspect, while supporting and main facets get more, as needed. Start writing aspects for your facet by picking from its parent spirit’s portfolio. No one facet should cover the spirit’s full portfolio. If you need more aspects for a facet, expand the spirit’s portfolio. Some facets have rewritten versions of their spirit’s portfolio aspects. These facets are usually injured, drifting away from their parent somehow, or play the role of devil’s advocate or antagonist, testing the spirit’s other facets. These aspects of the facet, like the spirit’s, are called portfolio aspects.

Once you’ve got a facet’s portfolio aspects sorted out, write an additional aspect for it that distinguishes its role and nature.

Facets that share aspects of a spirit’s portfolio also share experiences with each other. This takes some time, and is unpredictable but inevitable. A facet’s power confers authority upon its experiences: Greater facets view isolated experiences of lesser ones as an ordinary person might view behavior during a night of drinking, celebration, or holiday—atypical and perhaps slightly embarrassing. Lesser facets treat the experiences and opinions of greater facets as definitive. Facets that don’t share aspects often seek each other out in the otherworld to gossip and share news, providing a “side channel” to the spirit’s main distribution of experiences.

To convince a spirit to stop causing trouble and to get the mediation to stick, mediums must often reach an accord with a few powerful facets or many, many weaker ones. The former is inevitably easier.

Facet Skills

Facets can have any skill that an ordinary person can, though they are most likely to have Deceit, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, or Will. Physical skills can be used to affect anything in the facet’s presence. Usually these are things in the otherworld—either other spirits or a medium’s projection—but during immanent episodes a facet can use these skills to affect the mundane world. Contacts or Resources are rare, but could represent allies in the otherworld or a large reach of useful otherworldly territory under the facet’s control, or they could represent some material influence—worshippers or an established shrine.

Facet Stress and Consequences

Facets have stress tracks and sometimes consequences. However, they can’t be killed or otherwise permanently destroyed by getting taken out in a physical conflict. Instead, they become detached, distant from the material world and from their parent spirit. A facet that has been taken out in a physical conflict is bound and banished until the next major milestone. When it returns, its view of the world is shaped by other facets that share its portfolio aspects, often leading the facet to abandon prior views and plans entirely in the wake of a successful mediation.

Taking out a recalcitrant facet might seem like a potent mediation technique, and it is…but not one without risk. A supporting or main facet can take an extreme consequence just like a PC, including rewriting one of its portfolio aspects to reflect the consequence. Unlike a PC, taking this consequence doesn’t keep the facet in the fight. It’s still taken out, but it’s only detached until the end of the scene. The aspect change involved in taking an extreme consequence separates the facet from its parent spirit. These separated facets become erratic and unpredictable. Each such renegade must be met with mediation on its own terms, or it will cause no end of trouble.

Manifestation Stunts

Just as people can’t normally access the otherworld, spirits and their facets can’t normally access the material world. Some facets can only take advantage of moments of immanence to affect the material world, and must wait for these moments—or encourage other, more capable spirit-facets to create them. Other facets are able to use a manifestation stunt to work around their normal limits and affect the real world and people in it. Think of manifestation stunts like ritual stunts in reverse: given some circumstance, a spirit-facet can affect something in the material world. Here are some examples.

  • Dream Invasion: The facet can intrude on the dreams of anyone who’s been in the vicinity of things that represent all its portfolio aspects during the past day. While there, it can interact socially with the target, creating advantages or even engaging in social conflict. The target is not automatically aware of the invasion, though they might be able to discover it through an overcome action with Notice or Empathy, or even through a careless comment by the invader. If the subject becomes aware, they can end the invasion by winning a contest of Will opposed by Will.
  • Poltergeist: The facet can interact with material objects using Physique during a scene where each of the facet’s portfolio aspects is embodied by an aspect on anything in the scene. It can attack or create advantages, but cannot be attacked. This costs one fate point per exchange, and the manifestation ends if any of the requisite aspects are removed.
  • Chain of Coincidence: The facet can affect the material world by causing twists of fate or chance. If its portfolio aspects are well represented, the coincidences are generally positive or helpful. If representations of its portfolio aspects are missing or have been turned against its aspects, the coincidences are negative or harmful. Over the course of a few hours, these coincidences can build up to a significant effect, allowing the facet to create an advantage or effect change by overcoming an obstacle. Roll Rapport for positive changes and Provoke for negative. Actively opposing Chain of Coincidence requires several hours of work to combat a seemingly endless tide of happenstance.

A domestic spirit-facet is upset that the burrows and nests of local wildlife have been disturbed for a commercial development. The spirit goes to work, and the building’s plumbing just happens to spring leaks near areas opportune for mold colonization, the spores just happen to get picked up by the HVAC, and soon the building gains the Sick Building aspect, sending a handful of workers home, having come down with respiratory diseases. Now the facet turns its attention to the perplexed maintenance workers. Hopefully the mediums they’ve called in are able to help them sort things out…

Facets can also have normal stunts, with the added provision that they can do things that are fantastical or impossible in the otherworld. Each stunt should still convey something specific and align with one of the facet’s portfolio aspects. A facet could have stunts allowing it to fly, shape rock, fling blasts of fire, twist emotions, or perform any number of other tricks. These stunts only function while wholly in the otherworld; they are not available during immanent incidents in the mundane world.

Traveling Facets

As they’re able to move about the otherworld, a spirit’s facets will sometimes travel outside of its territory. The spirit might be seeking to add unclaimed territory to its domain, or the facets might simply be visiting another spirit—they act enough like people that conversation and even friendship are possible. These traveling facets can be exceptionally problematic for mediums, as they can cause extremely irregular trouble. They retain all of their manifestation stunts, and use them to support their portfolio as usual, but do so in places their parent spirit isn’t normally connected to. Worse, a facet visiting a friend might exercise its manifestation stunts in outrage over a transgression of that friend’s portfolio, a confusing situation for any mediums trying to determine why a spirit is upset.

Powerful spirit-facets can even travel between planets through the otherworld. When questioned, they describe the process as taxing or unpleasant, so most don’t bother. Those that do might be following someone interesting, seeking novelty, or following up on a story they heard from a priest or worshipper. These facets bring extremely strange and out-of-place portfolio aspects with them, provoking conflict with native spirits and disrupting established arrangements between people and the otherworld.