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Talisman, Witchcraft and The Circle of the Scarlet Moon

So questions regarding the sisters, their family, and the Circle of the Scarlet Moon as it pertains to the PNP.

1. What's the difference between DEMON and the Scarlet Moon? Do they use different types of magic or have differing organizational structures?

2. Do they have different territories? (Kind of wondering why DEMON is causing trouble in CO but not Circle of the Scarlet Moon.)

3. Are the parents of Talisman and Witchcraft still alive in the PNP?

Comments

  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    To answer your questions in order of ease of response: 3. Yes, as of the last official publication. 2. Both organizations are very much international in scope. It's not so much that the Circle isn't causing trouble, as it's the kind of trouble superheroes don't notice until too late (see below). 1. The two groups do have differing structures, difficult to summarize here, especially DEMON. Champions Villains Vol. 2: Villain Teams goes into detail regarding the Scarlet Moon, while DEMON: Servants Of Darkness is an entire dedicated source book. As to their styles of magic, see below.

    From what I've read, I would say DEMON is in many ways the supernatural analogue to VIPER. The public is aware of them thanks to some of the really big schemes they've been involved in. Many governments and law-enforcement agencies take them as a serious threat to world security, although no one outside the organization grasps how big an existential threat they really are. Like VIPER, most of DEMON's activities are carried out covertly -- their Demonhames are hidden or disguised, their members act normally when in social situations, their sacrificial rituals are discreet. But when they want something that requires overt force to achieve, DEMON has no qualms about breaking out the troops, in distinctive robes like good supervillainous minions, and firing blasting wands rather than high-tech guns. Their Morbanes are supervillain class, wielding flashy combat magics; and their Demonbound have other superpowers and often distinctive appearances. Aside from the organization's overall goals, individual Morbanes will sometimes engage in quite visible schemes designed to win them greater power, wealth, or status within DEMON.

    The Circle of the Scarlet Moon are always under the radar. Most of the public have never even heard of them, aside from a few conspiracy theorists. Some governments and law-enforcement have an inkling that some sort of conspiracy is at work, but know very few details, and almost no identities of Circle members. A few superheroes and mystics who have come up against them have a better grasp of how vast and pervasive the Scarlet Moon really is, but can rarely get hold of legally actionable evidence, and almost never against its leaders. Very few Circle members wield enough raw power to match even a rookie superhero in straight combat; but they excel at using subtle magic to gain wealth and social influence, in ways that don't call suspicion to themselves. Anyone who becomes a problem to them will be dealt with first through their enormous non-combat influence: harassing lawsuits, hostile takeovers of their financial assets, criticism and accusations by Circle-controlled media, blackmail using secrets acquired through magic. Troublesome heroes may even face censure by government officials subverted by the Scarlet Moon. If all that isn't enough, the group's leaders have enough money and connections to hire whatever level of super-mercenary is needed to remove the problem, with no ties back to them.

    Let me give you a couple of examples of how the differences in the two groups could play out. Take a property on a mystic site that either group wants to acquire. Both DEMON and the Scarlet Moon will first try to take it through normal channels, by illegal means if necessary. If all such efforts fail, DEMON is likely to send someone or something to blow it up with hellfire -- fast and efficient, but it won't be hard for someone to suspect connections to whoever buys the property subsequently. A member of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon may covertly cast a magic curse on the property, so a few days later it burns to the ground, with no evidence of arson. All that might be witnessed or recorded is someone standing across the street earlier in the week for a few minutes, making some odd gestures.

    Or let's say either group wants to eliminate a particularly troublesome person. DEMON might send a supernatural assassin, which of course leaves a mystery behind, even if not a body. The Scarlet Moon is more likely to send frightening and disturbing dreams which over weeks or months drive the person insane, until he either kills himself or is committed to a mental institution.

    If you have more questions, please fire away. ;)
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    Another major distinction between DEMON and the Circle of the Scarlet Moon is the attitude of its members. The rank and file of DEMON, up to the Morbanes, are devoted followers of whatever supernatural agencies they believe DEMON serves. The details vary depending on the region a Demonhame is based in, and the culture it draws its agents from. It's all just a front for the group's true goals, anyway, so DEMON couches its doctrines in whatever trappings it believes will appeal to the locals. The Morbanes believe they know the "true" gods of the organization, but that's also a masquerade. Granted, most members of DEMON serve for what they can get out of it, but believe their patrons will reward them for faithful service. Unfortunately for them the Kings of Edom view promises to humans like leading a horse to slaughter with a carrot.

    Members of the Scarlet Moon propitiate various supernatural entities, mostly mythological gods; but they don't worship them. Their rituals and sacrifices are a straight forward exchange for power from the gods. The Circle serve their own desires and goals, mostly related to gaining wealth and status in the material world; not the purposes of any god. Typically one of them will choose a god or group of related gods from a particular pantheon to propitiate, and thus practice whatever style of magic is associated with them. They tend to avoid pacting with demons from the Netherworld because they often demand too high a price, and have nothing to do with the unpredictable dangerous entities from the Qliphoth.
  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    Thanks, bulgarex. That's a lot of useful information.

    Do you have to be born in the Circle like Talisman and Witchcraft or will they accept anybody with sufficient magical talent and ambition?

    I'm toying with the idea of a Circle of the Scarlet Moon character, and from your description it seems like one could do heroic things out of self interest-- the Circle would have no interest in the Kings of Edom coming to Earth or Therakiel overthrowing Heaven and Hell, for example-- and still be a member in good standing.

    I imagine the Circle would probably NOT want them to advertise their connection to them though ...



  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    their organization sounds like a magical mafia. You can become part of the family if a member decides to adopt you. Leaving the family though? you end up like Witchcraft where the others hunt you.

    Hmm... maybe your end goal as a hero is to covertly take out Witchcraft?
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User

    Thanks, bulgarex. That's a lot of useful information.

    Do you have to be born in the Circle like Talisman and Witchcraft or will they accept anybody with sufficient magical talent and ambition?

    I'm toying with the idea of a Circle of the Scarlet Moon character, and from your description it seems like one could do heroic things out of self interest-- the Circle would have no interest in the Kings of Edom coming to Earth or Therakiel overthrowing Heaven and Hell, for example-- and still be a member in good standing.

    I imagine the Circle would probably NOT want them to advertise their connection to them though ...

    There are certainly family lines that have persisted within the Scarlet Moon for generations. Witchcraft and Talisman's mother Martika is a second-generation Circle cultist, while her husband Roger Duquesne can trace his lineage back to the Circle's founders in the late Eighteenth Century. OTOH it's not uncommon for someone to be inducted into the cult through contact with a friend or colleague who's already a member; and such an inductee need not even have strong magical talent. But one who does, and also has brains, drive, and ruthlessness, can rise to the highest levels of the Scarlet Moon.

    However, you should keep in mind that the Circle of the Scarlet Moon is a vehicle for its members to wring every last drop of self-benefit they can out of the world, by any means. They steal. They kill. They torture. They indulge in all manner of hedonistic pastimes. They frequently scheme to destroy each other to advance their positions and power within the group. And they thrive by doing all this covertly and discretely. Being "heroic" even out of self-interest -- especially in a public way that exposes the Scarlet Moon to a greater risk of discovery -- is something very few of them are likely to sympathize with or countenance.

    It's much more reasonable to assume a scion of the Circle who wants to play hero, like Witchcraft, would be treated by the rest of the Scarlet Moon as a pariah and an enemy. If you want your character to be a "member in good standing" of a supernatural faction, there are others that would fit more comfortably, such as the Trismegistus Council or the Vandaleur clan.

    Then again, if you want to say that the Circle is fine with your character acting the hero, there are 'way more improbable PCs running around CO. ;)

  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User

    their organization sounds like a magical mafia. You can become part of the family if a member decides to adopt you. Leaving the family though? you end up like Witchcraft where the others hunt you.

    Hmm... maybe your end goal as a hero is to covertly take out Witchcraft?

    "Magical Mafia" wouldn't be too far off the mark. B)
  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    I'm actually wanting to avoid a standard "Good Guy" Council because I've got several magical characters like that. The idea of having the character do "heroic" things while still acting in their own self interest with ulterior motives is what makes the idea interesting to me. Seeing what sort of mental contortions I would have to go through to make their actions seem in character while doing typical "heroic" things would be the fun.

    I suppose I could have them be an independent operator with no ties to any magical organization ... or maybe have them at odds with the Scarlet Moon. (The idea sprang, in part, from DEMON's hunt for the Tarot Cards in Millennium City. They actually go around ASKING the citizens if they've seen of the cards rather than just physically intimidating them.) If the Scarlet Moon isn't the best fit, are there any magical organizations that operate like Mind, Inc. .... seemingly a legitimate force for good while actually being sinister?

  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    edited April 2018
    Ah, okay, I think I see where you're going with this -- a sort of "wolf in sheep's clothing," a public hero who's a slime-ball in private, at least in motivation. If that's your goal then I apologize for giving you a hard time, because that's certainly doable, and even has precedent in the official setting. David Sutherland, a Congressman from Maryland and scion of a wealthy political family, was once a prominent superhero called Invictus who did much good and built a strong positive reputation. But it was all an act to give him a base of support for his political ambitions, to become President and ultimately to make the United States a modern Imperial Rome with himself the effective Emperor. He's worked to place people sympathetic to him in positions of influence in society, and secretly but ruthlessly eliminate his opponents or those who get too close to the truth. (Invictus gets a full PnP write-up in Champions Villains Vol. 1: Master Villains.)

    Covertly gathering economic, political, and social power is the main goal of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, so that kind of PR-based approach could be sold to them. Particularly if your character's "heroics" were directed at enemies of the Circle, either evil occult rivals like DEMON or the Sylvestri family of black magicians, or groups like VIPER or ARGENT who also wield hidden malevolent influence. In fact, the factionalism within the Scarlet Moon that I mentioned earlier can also play into such a campaign. The "High Coven," the group's governing council, seems tolerant of members' efforts to undermine each other, as long as that doesn't threaten the integrity of the group as a whole or expose the full extent of their operations. So your character could have the support of one of the group's leaders in going after the assets of another; as long as he/she can avoid any whiff of public association with that patron.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    And of course, if your connection to the Circle of the Scarlet Moon becomes public knowledge..... time for the mystical equivalent of cement overshoes.
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  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    What's Talisman's standing with the Circle now?

    The bio that I read of her suggested that's she's gone rogue herself, learning from other sorcerers including DEMON to further her own power.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    edited April 2018
    Talisman's standing is a little ambiguous. She left the Circle years ago -- she had no patience for their endless scheming in the shadows. Outgoing and selfish as well as greedy and cruel, Pamela Duquesne wants power, but she also wants to revel in it as she takes all the pleasure out of life that she can. From past remarks by her "transcribed" in published books, Talisman is wary of directly opposing any of the Scarlet Moon's schemes or revealing their secrets. She's even worked for them on occasion since her defection, although she dislikes doing so. OTOH the Circle want to persuade or force her to return to their ranks permanently. Her mother Martika was elevated to the rank of Druid -- leader of her local coven -- on the promise of her daughters' future service to the Scarlet Moon. In fact she executed an occult ritual specifically to imbue her unborn child with the potential for great magic power, exceeding that of any other Circle member. Talisman's and Witchcraft's defections were a huge embarrassment to Martika, and she's under pressure from higher-ups to either recover or destroy one or both of them. Her life may be forfeit if she continues to fail. I get the impression that the hope they can still turn her back to them is a major reason why the Scarlet Moon don't pursue Talisman to punish her more aggressively.

    The above is derived mainly from Talisman's write-up in Champions Villains Vol. 3, and that of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon in Vol. 2.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User

    And of course, if your connection to the Circle of the Scarlet Moon becomes public knowledge..... time for the mystical equivalent of cement overshoes.


    Meaning that creates the opportunity for built in nemeses. : :)


  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    bulgarex said:

    Talisman's standing is a little ambiguous. She left the Circle years ago -- she had no patience for their endless scheming in the shadows. Outgoing and selfish as well as greedy and cruel, Pamela Duquesne wants power, but she also wants to revel in it as she takes all the pleasure out of life that she can. From past remarks by her "transcribed" in published books, Talisman is wary of directly opposing any of the Scarlet Moon's schemes or revealing their secrets. She's even worked for them on occasion since her defection, although she dislikes doing so. OTOH the Circle want to persuade or force her to return to their ranks permanently. Her mother Martika was elevated to the rank of Druid -- leader of her local coven -- on the promise of her daughters' future service to the Scarlet Moon. In fact she executed an occult ritual specifically to imbue her unborn child with the potential for great magic power, exceeding that of any other Circle member. Talisman's and Witchcraft's defections were a huge embarrassment to Martika, and she's under pressure from higher-ups to either recover or destroy one or both of them. Her life may be forfeit if she continues to fail. I get the impression that the hope they can still turn her back to them is a major reason why the Scarlet Moon don't pursue Talisman to punish her more aggressively.

    The above is derived mainly from Talisman's write-up in Champions Villains Vol. 3, and that of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon in Vol. 2.

    Thanks again for all the info, bulgarex. ;D


    So he could probably get away with defeating Talisman without endgangering his standing so long as he didn't do any permanent damage or otherwise discourage Talisman from returning back to the fold.


  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    edited April 2018
    That sounds like a reasonable interpretation. It's also the safest and most respectful course when taking up one of the official villains for use in CO: return them more or less in the condition you find them, so other players don't have to account for your "unofficial" use of them. :+1:
  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    Yeah, well, I knew he WOULDN'T be able to kill her. I just need a rationale for why he doesn't TRY to kill her. :)

    Thanks again for the help. :)
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    You're welcome, I'm glad you found that helpful. Of course he already has a rationale for not killing Talisman -- he's pretending to be a hero. ;)
  • jonsillsjonsills Posts: 6,314 Arc User
    bulgarex said:

    In fact, the factionalism within the Scarlet Moon that I mentioned earlier can also play into such a campaign. The "High Coven," the group's governing council, seems tolerant of members' efforts to undermine each other, as long as that doesn't threaten the integrity of the group as a whole or expose the full extent of their operations. So your character could have the support of one of the group's leaders in going after the assets of another; as long as he/she can avoid any whiff of public association with that patron.

    Reminiscent of the way things used to work in the old World of Darkness games, particularly Vampire: the Masquerade. The most ancient of the Kindred, the Antediluvians, fight among themselves for power, and encourage their underlings to do the same, even to the point of some of their number playing "hero" among the kine - but after their experiences during the Inquisition, if the mortal world gets even a whiff of what's really going on, the vampire that exposes their secrets can expect to be staked out on a rooftop somewhere to greet the sunrise.

    Of course, one difference is that the Kindred had a strict law against "diablerie", the practice of draining the life-force from another vampire to strengthen one's own abilities - sure, everyone knew it was done, but if the elders found a diablerist, it was suntan time if they were lucky. With the Circle, though, one gets the impression that if a sorceror can manage to steal his rival's power and kill said rival in the process, the Circle leaders would welcome this as strengthening the cult overall in an almost Darwinian manner.
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    Since this thread has focused on the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, I thought I could honor kaosarcanna's original request and run down the Circle's organizational structure.

    When the Scarlet Moon was founded late in the 18th Century, neo-druidism was fashionable among the aristocracy of France and Britain, so some of its titles and concepts found their way into this group. The basic grouping of cultists is the coven. Members of a coven can hold two ranks: ovates if they have seniority and magical talent, or aspirants if they lack either quality. Each coven's leader carries the title of druid. All the covens in a region are part of a lodge, each lodge answering to an archdruid. Thirteen of the most powerful or influential archdruids form the High Coven, the Circle's governing body.

    All members of the Scarlet Moon take a "craft name" derived from names or words in Celtic, Germanic, or other archaic European languages. They use these names when dealing with members outside their immediate group or of lower rank, to shield their identities should any coven be discovered or infiltrated. Circle members include billionaires, politicians of all stripes, and prominent media figures. Although its membership isn't numerous, the cult wields tremendous covert influence across Europe, North America, and the Third World.
  • kaosarcannakaosarcanna Posts: 124 Arc User
    Thanks again for all your information.
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    Now I ponder the story opportunities for making a DEMON Acolyte as a hero. And by that I mean someone the CHAMPIONS know is a DEMON acolyte.... Realistically, even a powerful novice like Witchcraft would be able to sense that your powers are drawn from the Kings of Edom... So what is the good side to DEMON? Obviously most of them have civilian identities but aside from that, what non-evil things do they do?
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    edited May 2018
    Well, there are a few things to consider here. First of all, the great majority of members of DEMON don't draw on the powers of the Qliphoth. Only a small percentage of them are touched by it, and the leadership watch them very carefully for any sign they've been subverted by alien powers. The rank and file are deceived as to the true nature of DEMON's "gods." Most practice some form of black magic, although they can specialize in various categories. But that's evil enough for most folks.

    However, as written there really is no good side to DEMON. The Morbanes who lead individual Demonhames carefully screen the members of the false cults DEMON use as a recruiting tool, for both talent for magic and capacity for evil. Those the Morbane thinks have potential are put through grueling and gruesome tests to determine if they have the "right stuff" to join the true DEMON as a Brother, the lowest rank. A Brother who increases in knowledge, power, and corruption may rise through the ranks, to become an Initiate, and finally a Morbane himself. Each rise in rank involves trials pushing the member farther down the path of depravity.

    A DEMON member would have to go through a truly profound, life-changing experience to turn him from evil, let alone toward heroism; and that would probably only work for the lower ranks. By the time he becomes a Morbane he would almost certainly have sunk too deep in sin to be redeemed. Unless, of course, you decide your character hasn't. ;) But having been a Morbane will carry a big stigma among most mystics, and certainly all those dedicated to good. It might be easier (but not easy) to win trust if someone was of a lower rank. But the kinds of powers those might wield either look decidedly "evil" in their effects, or are clearly identifiable with DEMON.

    If you think you want to play and can justify a PC like that, we can explore their possible abilities; but DEMON: Servants Of Darkness would offer far more info than I could provide here. https://www.herogames.com/forums/store/product/220-demon-servants-of-darkness-pdf/
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    Ah, I see. Hmmm.... So maybe a "hero" who isn't a good person, but has helping superheros as their job? Then again, the justification for that is a bit thin.
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    I did create an NPC villain for my tabletop Champions campaign, who was a former Morbane. He was a specialist in the art of Divination, and one day received a vision of most of DEMON consumed in a great conflagration (the culmination of Luther Black's apotheosis scheme). That prompted him to flee the organization. Fearing reprisals he sought the protection of the Warlord, and joined his elite team, the War Machine, under the code-name, "Warlock." He abandoned the enchanted regalia and weaponry he had used as a Morbane, replacing it with Warlord tech, to conceal his identity from DEMON.

    Perhaps you could build on that example to push a character farther toward the side of the angels?
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    The only ideas that come to my mind revolve around a sect of DEMON that cares more about fighting forces like Takophanes or Therakiel than superheroes.
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    Hmm... you know, there might be something workable in that.

    I'm reminded of a passage from DEMON: Servants Of Darkness p. 154, describing how DEMON interacts with various mystic power players: "A Morbane's fascination with Takofanes begins thusly: he catches a glimpse of the devastation the lich wrought in 1987. He purchases a recording of the news footage of that incident and studies it, amazed that a single practitioner of the arcane arts could cause so much death -- and raise so many minions from death. The Morbane resolves to seek out Takofanes. He disappears. When he reappears, he's undead and attacking a Demonhame in some seemingly random city, repeating over and over again, "I shall come for you all soon enough."

    But it doesn't matter how many times this happens. Somewhere, a Morbane is pushing a cassette into the VCR. He's watching the Undying King's rebirth and wondering..."


    I'm thinking of a survivor(s) from a Demonhame subjected to just such an attack, perhaps by the 'Hame's own Morbane. Seeing their leader and teacher, whom they considered their oracle from the dark gods, reduced to being the puppet of an even more terrible evil... Remember when I said it would take a profound experience to change a DEMON member's evil ways? That just might do it.
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Posts: 4,911 Arc User
    Part of my thinking is that being evil is more than just going around making others miserable, it's about WHO you're making miserable. You don't need to be a good person to think Takofanes is terrifying and dangerous. He'll kill anyone who crosses his path!
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,159 Arc User
    edited May 2018
    Granted. But you also have to think about how you'll interact with the people you have to work with to defeat those evils. It's a convention of the superhero genre that heroes occasionally have to work with villains to defeat a far greater common threat; but they never do so willingly, rarely trust their villainous partners, and once the threat is averted they're back on a hostile footing. That might be an interesting role playing challenge as a change of pace, but unless you somehow only associate with other villains, or always face a major crisis (which quickly becomes boring, paradoxically enough), dealing with heroes the rest of the time becomes very problematic.

    I'm reminded of the examples of two official Champions NPC mystics, Dr. Teneber and Josiah Brimstone (both detailed in Champions Villains Vol. 3). Both of them have good intentions and have aided heroic mystics in the fight against supernatural evil in the past; but both are tainted by the practice of dark magic, and they're more unpredictable and ruthless than most heroes, their actions arguably crossing into actual evil. True heroes are wary of accepting their help and rarely associate with them, other than keeping an eye on them lest they become a genuine menace.

    That might be a comfortable grey area in which to set your character.
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