Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Never Was for Unisystem (and maybe other games)

Note:  This actually started out as a typo over on the Eden Studios message boards.
Someone (sorry forgot who) asked "What was the greatest monster that never was" but had meant to ask "what was the greatest monster that ever was".  Or something to that effect.  So I decided that the greatest monster was "The Never Was", a manifestation of the fear, uncertainty and doubt that can plague someone.  This can be used in any game, but was written with Unisystem and Ghosts of Albion in particular in mind.

The Never Was

“Fear? We have demons aplenty for that. The Never Was has a subtler palette but is no less of a threat.”
- From the Journal of Tamara Swift

Life is beset with obstacles, roadblocks and some outright tragedies. A promising young doctor has to drop out of medical school to care for her elderly father. A car accident cuts short not a life, but the career of an aspiring musician. An unexpected pregnancy keeps a young couple from moving out of state to pursue a dream job.
These things are not uncommon and most times they are random and beyond the control of the people involved. Sometimes they are even the crossroads people need.

Such is not the concern of the Never Was.

The Never Was is a manifestation, not of our fears, but of our doubts, insecurities, and hesitations. Those moments of “could I?”, the decisions that later lead us to question the alternate. It, for an “it” it is, feeds on these doubts, these moments of regret that people inflict on themselves and thus cause us to doubt all our actions. Whether it is a demon, a type of faerie or something more primal is unknown.

The Never Was in Your Game
Anytime a character regrets a decision or hesitates on an important choice the Never Was can manifest. The more important the individual, ie the more effective their choices have (such as the Cast on the rest of the world) the more likely they are to be its prey.

Once manifest the Never Was often appears as a paragon. It is everything the character wants to be but isn’t due to their own doubts. Buffy would see the Never Was as competent Slayer, firm in her duty and resolve. Others would see similar paragons of themselves. The Never Was seeks to undermine the Cast in their own rolls, make their uncertainty and doubt grow. All the time it feeds on these negative emotions.

As it feeds, it causes more and more doubt. For every Act, the Never Was preys on the Cast a Willpower roll (doubled) is required to make any but the most basic of decisions. For every failure, all future checks are at a cumulative -2. This will progress until the end of the episode.  (This could also be a Will save at -2 for d20).

Defeating the Never Was
The Never Was is easily manifest, and just as easy is the way to defeat it. The Cast members must remove their own doubts. This is not though accomplished as easy. Usually, this is accomplished in a symbolic way; the defeat of some enemy that has bested the Cast before. It could be completing a difficult social task, such as finally getting the never to ask a particular guess star on a date and getting them to accept.

The Never Was is not a combat creature. It’s ability scores are always that of the character it is emulating, only greater. The Never Was though is not without weaknesses. For all it’s the power it is an empty creature, hollow. Getting it to face its own inadequacies will cause it to feed on itself. By this, it means usually having the Cast confront their own weakness (which is also in the Never Was) and turning it into their strength. The quiet, shy Cast member still has her friends. The dumb, combat character has a heart of gold or is loyal. The hesitant character still makes the right choices in the end.

Defeating the Never Was should be an affirmation of the character’s will to continue their good fight, or just their will to live.


Trey said...

Novel idea for a monster! I wonderif the Never Was might sometimes be encountered with the Has Been. ;)

Unknown said...

I really, really like this. I *definitely* want to make this a monster-of-the-week in my Buffy game.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Risus: I had a whole write up on how to use the Never Was with Buffy specifically. It would appear as much more compentent slayer that also had her life together and a good boyfriend. But for the life of me I can't find it anymore.