The Risen Revised
By Adam Solis (email@example.com)
Although I truly liked the Risen book, I could not help but come up with a different concept for the Risen. As written, Risen are essentially self willed zombies without the typical putrescence properties. My concept is of the Risen more in line of the Betweeners of GURPS Voodoo or the dual beings of Shadowrun.
As the Euthanatos and Dreamspeakers are well aware, the only major difference between mages and Wraiths is that wraiths awoke at death. Despite the isolation from the mortal world, wraith arcanoi are the closest to magickal spheres of any of the supernaturals. Some Wraiths bridge that difference in a rather interesting way. When a wraith realizes that the skinlands, or physical world, must be subject to the same manipulations as the shadowlands, or Dark Umbra, they instinctively learn how to superimpose their very Corpus over their corpse thereby creating a gestalt, an alloy of flesh and plasm. Therefore all Arcanoi are available to The Risen. Requiring extra expenditures of corpus, pathos, willpower, or angst are appropriate and subject to the Storyteller's thoughts on the individual Arcanos. Even those Arcanos that have no way of interacting with the Skinlands can be used by the Risen on the other side of the shroud. You see, the Risen exist in both the skinlands and the shadowlands, for both good and ill. A Risen can be hurt and even killed by that Centurion with a darksteel sword, but that hypothetical Centurion can also be discorporated by the Risen. After all, that Centurion might have attacked a risen with Potence and/or Outrage (stonehand punch). Strength plus Potence plus Outrage plus shadow dice can add up awfully fast...
Backgrounds are also kept after the transformation. A Relic or Artifact is still usable in the Shadowlands, and with Inhabit 5 plus Embody, it can be usable in the Skinlands as well. Note, Embody three is adequate for a relic/artifact that does not have movable parts such as a sword, while embody 4 or above is necessary for more complex relics/artifacts such as a gun or Angel's Wings. Wealth can be bought separately for wraith wealth or Skinland wealth. Embody 5 can even make the Risen totally alive, with all of the appropriate ramifications, for a limited time.
On appearance, Embody 4 can be used to glamorize a Risen's appearance, as can Moliate. Also, not all Risen seem dead, the merit Baby Face from vampire is appropriate and available to Risen as well. In fact, many vampire merits are appropriate for the Risen, just as wraithly merits usually are. Furthermore, I would suggest a more varied selection for Risen disciplines: Potence, Fortitude, Celerity, Perception, and all the enhancement disciplines from the Setop Missive, Thaumaturgy (which is available to even humans in the Hunter's Hunted), and any disciplines the Risen knew before. Note that Nihilitics 6 allows a vampire to ghoul a wraith, a Risen from one of those wraiths would retain its ghouls status with "phantom blood points" only available from a vampire with Nihilitics 6. Of course, one could argue that being a wraith ghoul might allow the Risen to be a normal ghoul who can feed off a normal vampire(storytellers' choice), or with the Eat food merit anyway.
As per the Risen book, with a few differences, mentioned above. Also, the Discipline Adept merit multiplies the discipline cost by 75%, just as the sphere adept or Art adept merits do. Since Risen are highly susceptible to their shadow, the Arcanoi Castigate or the more exotic Way of the Soul are highly useful. In fact, Way or the Soul can make becoming a Risen much easier. One's shadow cannot haggle if the Shadow and Psyche have been merged....Furthermore, the book neglected one very useful fetter -- one's own body! Not only would that decrease the difficulty of becoming a Risen, but it would lower the difficulty of all Arcanos rolls while a Risen. I admit that this stinks of munckinism, but it makes perfect sense that a Wraith incapable of accepting death would choose her own body as a Fetter. One's body being a fetter will also allow a Risen to slumber anytime, anywhere. Lowered Arcanos rolls are not too powerful considering the low number of powers available to a Risen (vampires have more disciplines than wraiths have Arcanos and the ability to progress up to level 10 in power, mages are much more versatile, bete have gifts up to level 6 and regencies and rituals, etc), their inability to become insubstantial, their vulnerability to attacks from both the Shadowlands and the Skinlands, and their heightened vulnerability to their shadow. Interesting or useful merits or flaws include weak shadow, disembodied shadow, or umbral ties.
I also think that the Conduit rules need some changes. First of all, let us call an animal conduit a Familiar to make it more specified from an unliving one. The conduit or familiar has the same number of health levels as the Risen has health/corpus levels. A Risen who had 15 health levels thanks to the appropriate merits (four extra from the full of life merit and another from the huge merit) would have a similarly robust conduit/familiar. Familiars are slightly more useful than inanimate conduits. For one, they are capable of healing by themselves, albeit slowly. They can also be healed by the Risen much faster by the appropriate use of Usury, way of the Merchant, or Healing Spirit Memoriam.
Please note that Risen Spectres do indeed exist! There are also rumors of the Jade Emperor ordering his Immortal Guardsmen to rise using their terra cotta statues. The World of Darkness has just become a bit more interesting.