DEMON

A brief history of DEMON by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts.

DEMON
Photograph taken by PRIMUS operative of a group of Initiates participating in a ceremony

The origins of DEMON are obscure, even to superheroic mystics. It arose in 1925 as a Satanic cult in the United States, but under whose direction no one knows for sure. It remained mostly quiet through the Second World War, though cult members are said to have been involved in some bizarre crimes in New York City during the 1930s.

In the 1950s, DEMON revealed its true colors, adopting garb and methods similar to other villainous organizations and attempting to conquer the world — but with mystic power instead of technology. No one really took the group seriously until the 1968 theft of the Basilisk Orb, an ancient artifact of vast, but poorly understood, arcane power. With the Orb in hand, the leaders of DEMON, a group apparently known as the Inner Circle, nearly did take over the world. Only concerted action by several superheroes and a young UNTIL stopped them, and in the process the Orb was lost again and has never re-appeared.

Its defeat in the Orb incident hit DEMON hard, costing it many members and much prestige in the underworld and Mystic World. For over a decade it struggled, often suffering additional losses at the hands of costumed do-gooders and the likes of UNTIL. But a major victory in 1981, when it lured several high-ranking UNTIL agents and four superheroes into a trap and slew them all in a bloody sacrifice to the gods of the underworld, brought DEMON a flood of new recruits and vaulted it into the Department of Defense’s Superhuman Survey as a “Top Ten Most Dangerous Organization” — a ranking from which it has rarely fallen since.

Repeated encounters with DEMON have given the world’s superheroes some insight into the workings of the organization, though much about it remains unknown. DEMON apparently has four ranks: Brother (or Sister); Initiate of the Mysteries; Morbane; and at the very top, the Inner Circle. Brothers (and Sisters) are the rank-and-file of the organization, the vast majority of members who participate in rituals (sometimes as the sacrifices!), serve as shock troops in battles against superheroes and PRIMUS, and the like. They are led by the Initiates, who serve DEMON as both priests and field commanders. They intercede with the Lower Powers on DEMON’s behalf, command Brothers in battle, and perform similar tasks of importance. As a badge of office, each Initiate carries a Golden Wand that can harm those it touches.

Initiates who show true talent, power, skill, and guile may eventually learn enough to be inducted into the ranks of the Morbanes. Every Morbane is a sorcerer of great power and dark wisdom, able to cast many spells and, typically, to stand against the average superhero in a one-on-one confrontation. Morbanes usually work by themselves, presumably according to the dictates of the Inner Circle; two or more of them together in one place at one time is cause for concern. In addition to his arsenal of spells, each one carries an Enchanted Mace and a Soul Gem, both quite useful in battle.

At the pinnacle of DEMON is the Inner Circle, about which outsiders (and even Initiates) know almost nothing. Depending on which expert you ask, it ranges in size from three to two dozen, works together at all times or spends far too much energy on infighting, and exerts great magical power or simply commands the Morbanes through their Soul Gems. Given its undoubted cleverness, abilities, and resources, it’s unlikely anyone will discover the truth about the Inner Circle anytime soon.

At present, it is believed that an occultist by the name of Luther Black is the head of DEMON though this has yet to be substantiated.

Originally published in Champions Universe by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2002.

Brujeria, The

Learn about a secret society of evil sorcerers who have been in existence for over one hundred years

Qliphothic Tree
The Qliphotic Tree of Shadows, polar opposite of the Qabbalistic Tree of Life

What little is known of the cult known as the Brujeria (Spanish: “Witchcraft”) has been pieced together from conflicts between the group and the super-hero community over a period of many years. The cult was founded by silent-film actress Alicia Thompson in 1915. While working on Broadway, the seventeen year old Thompson made the acquaintance of many of New York’s rich and powerful. One of these individuals was Charles Francis Knox, the head of the local lodge of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon. Knox took Thompson as his mistress and acolyte, initiating her into mysteries of the Circle usually reserved for high-ranking members. Unfortunately for him, Thompson proved to be both more talented in the ways of the mystic arts than he but also far more ambitious than he could ever have imagined.

Draining Knox of his occult powers, Thompson killed the weakened Knox with a lethal spell and then usurped his place as Archdruid of the New York Lodge. With the Circle left in disarray after their battle with the Archmage of the time, her coup went unopposed. However, the High Coven never recognized Thompson’s authority as Archdruid nor her group as a lodge within the Circle’s organizational structure. Now called the Order of the Eye, Thompson’s organization grew rapidly during the First World War with new lodges forming in Boston, Chicago, Hudson City, San Fransisco and Vibora Bay. Despite the influx of initiates into the Order, Thompson kept it out of the public eye although the kidnappings of seven children in the New York area in 1919 are said to have been perpetrated by members of the New York lodge.

During the Roaring Twenties, Thompson, now a successful Hollywood actress, relocated the Grand Lodge of the Order to Los Angeles. Despite setbacks, such as the utter destruction of the Hudson City lodge at the hands of the enigmatic costumed crimefighter the Raven, the Order had grown to rival the Circle of the Scarlet Moon: by 1929, it could boast twelve lodges across the continental United States and over 1,000 members from all walks of life.

Naamah
Artist’s rendition of the arch-fiend Na’amah (Hebrew: נַעֲמָה‎‎; “pleasant”), a succubus second only to Lilith in power

With a secure power base, Thompson decided to set her sights on global domination. Acquiring the Basilisk Orb, an ancient artifact of vast eldritch power, Thompson and her husband, Ricardo Vargas, would have succeeded in opening a portal into our world for the Qliphotic entity Na’amah had it not been for the intervention of the costumed vigilante Black Mask VII, alias Chicago police officer Jason Ward. The Chicago lodge caught fire in the ensuing conflict, forcing Thompson and Vargas to flee without the Orb, which Ward had retrieved before the lodge burned to the ground. Before dying from his injuries, Ward entrusted the Orb to the mysterious Doctor Arcane.

Psychically traumatized by the occult backlash of the failed ritual, Thompson began to become increasingly unbalanced. The reclusive Vargas returned to Venezuela with his wife. Now the sole head of the organization he renamed the Brujeria, Vargas tried in vain to restore Thompson to her former self. It was thought that her death in 1933 had also signaled the death of the Brujeria. However, evidence acquired by metahuman and supernatural heroes around the world over the last twenty years suggest that the Brujeria are in fact more powerful than ever before.

RAPTURE

A short overview of the mysterious organization of psionics called RAPTURE

Ravenwood Academy
Ravenswood Academy outside Renaissance Center in Millennium City, home of RAPTURE

The Royal Anti-PSI Taskforce Unit: Ravenswood Education (RAPTURE) originated in 1971 as an initiative of the British intelligence agency MI6 to counter psionic threats in the UK and later the whole of continental Europe. Severing its ties with the British government in 1994, the agency within an agency relocated to Ravenswood Academy, where it began to operate an advanced training program for telepaths, telekinetics and others with psionic “precious gifts”. Many of the trainees are rogue telepaths themselves, who have been offered amnesty for past crimes in exchange for using their talents as psionic negotiators, infiltrators and deprogrammers.

As the name suggests, the main target of RAPTURE in Millennium City is the organization known as PSI.

RAPTURE field agents remain in telepathic contact with their superiors so that they can respond quickly to situations as they occur and utilize a wide variety of psionic call signs to expedite communication. RAPTURE field agents have had these call signs implanted psionically, thus making their use second nature even when in the company of non-RAPTURE operatives.

The use of these call signs also lessens the likelihood of enemy telepaths to telepathically eavesdrop. As at least 20% of idle thoughts are about food, making the call signs sound like items from a dessert menu makes them much more likely to slip through a surface scan.

Agents are ranked based on their power levels and range of psionic gifts. Power level is indicated by an electromagnetic frequency prefix, with wavelength proportional to potency:

  • Gamma Ray (Very Low)
  • X-Ray (Low)
  • Ultraviolet (Medium)
  • Green (High)
  • Terahertz (Very High)

An agent’s “Precious Gifts” are classified as follows:

  • Telekinesis (Physical) – Peach
  • Telepathy (Cerebral) – Cherry
  • Healing (Assistance) – Angel
  • Multiple gifts – Mandarin

UNTIL Intelligence has evidence that this last category has recently been renamed to Marvel by a splinter group within the organization, calling themselves the Marvel Girls/Boys.

Finally, the color Red is used to indicate RAPTURE operatives that have gone rogue.

For example, Madi Sharma, a medium level telepathic agent, is referred to by the call sign “Ultraviolet Cherry”. Jannikka Salome Anders, a high-level telepath/telekinetic rogue agent is referred to as “Terahertz Red Marvel”. If Mindslayer were to attack City Hall, a RAPTURE field agent would call in a Terahertz Peach Cheesecake Situation (A very high level telekinetic threatening the general public and causing extensive collateral damage) while a lack of an immediate threat would be referred to as either “Grey Skies” or “Serenity”

RAPTURE and PSI are currently in an arms race. PSI has developed a Psi-Clone procedure allowing an agent of sufficient ability to temporarily assume the power of one their leaders, and turn into a copy of Medusa, Psimon or Mindslayer. There are also unsubstantiated rumors of PSI extending their psionic blade protocols to the production of a psychokinetic bullet perfect for long-range assassination by allowing a “Psniper” to fire a lethal projectile through walls or around obstacles directly into the minds of its target.

RAPTURE have perfected the “Anti-Violence Field”, a telepathic broadcast that prevents hostiles from properly executing aggressive behavior, leading to at worst missed shots and pulled punches. Their training system relies on Copy-Paste from a Psionic Clipboard. Students memorize essays to develop and hone their concentration, which instructors can then read from their minds.

RAPTURE’s program has been accused by some of having all the qualities of the cults it purports to fight. Students live exclusively on campus, learning is conducted via telepathic implant and energy boosts are administered via “Psychic Sugar”, which cause increased concentration but require the agents to sleep for up to 16 hours after the effect has worn off. RAPTURE’s questionable methods came into the public spotlight when one of their most powerful students, Jannikka Anders, went rogue and publicly accused the institution of telepathic brainwashing before going underground.

In reply, RAPTURE spokespeople point to the hundreds of ex-PSI members who are living normal lives thanks to their deprogramming and “Pstealth Coating” anti-detection protocols.

RAPTURE and all related characters and concepts were created by @carlasimone2.

Trismegistus Council, The

A brief history of the Trismegistus Council by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts.

Trismegistus
Medieval rendition of Hermes Trismegistus from Sir Isaac Newton’s translation of The Emerald Tablet

For over two centuries, a cold war – sometimes verging into the hot – has been waged in the shadows of civilization. The participants: mystics and savants, masters of the Arts Arcane, scholars well-versed in the lore of the occult, sorcerers, witches, and wizards. Arrayed on one side are the forces of darkness – black magicians, demon-worshipers, greedy fools seeking power in wizardry, soul-bereft sorcerers reveling in the misery they cause. Arrayed on the other is the Trismegistus Council.

In the 1780s, in the dark days leading up to the French Revolution, certain French nobles sought both dissipation and safety in studies of the occult. Willing to walk the left-hand path to easy power, they were soon corrupted (though magic was, at that time, at one of its lowest ebbs ever). Such were the seeds from which the Circle of the Scarlet Moon was born.

As the nineteenth century began, wiser occultists and scholars in Europe, England, and America could sense the rise of the Circle, and of the evil it embodied. Unwilling to let black magic work its will in the world unhindered, three of these people – Lord Reginald MacKenzie of Scotland, Eustace Blackmun of Virginia, and Franziska von Hersbruck of what is today Germany – decided to create a counter-force. Taking their name from the fact that there were three of them, and from Hermes the patron of magicians, they called themselves the Trismegistus Council.

Unlike the Circle, which tended to recruit more readily, the Council watched prospective members long and carefully, to determine if they had the knowledge, the wisdom, and the moral fiber to belong. When someone was judged ready, and all members voted in favor of him, an offer of membership was extended. No one offered membership ever refused it. When the group became too large for unanimous voting to work efficiently, a Leadership Board of five members was chosen to evaluate potential recruits.

The size of the Council, like that of the Circle, increased steadily through the 1800s, especially in the latter half of the century. The battles between them – dark and subtle things, often worked through curse, counter-curse, and seemingly mundane accidents and events – became more frequent, and often more deadly.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Council expanded the scope of its activities, taking on other threats besides the Council. During the pulp era, several members were bold adventurers, taking the fight directly to the Circle in the struggle to obtain lost artifacts, recover ancient texts, and unravel the mystic secrets of the world. It’s even said by some that the Raven, famed Hudson City crime fighter of the 1920s and ’30s, was a Trismegistus associate. But the Council experienced its greatest failure – and greatest triumph – when it failed to stop the Circle from helping Hitler’s Reichsamt für die Sicherung völkischer Kulturgüter (The Reich’s Office for the Safety and Security of National Cultural Items or RSvKg) to raise the level of the world’s magic and usher in the Era of the Superhuman.

Since 1938, the Council’s role has shifted away from direct activity and back into the shadows. Now there are superheroes, many of them with mystic powers, to fight the dangers that threaten the world. Though all too oft en naive, these beings can battle the forces of darkness in ways the Council’s members never could. The Council has become more of a body of watchers and advisers, aiding mystic superheroes while continuing the struggle against the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, which works its evil still (often through or with supervillains, or organizations like DEMON).

Possessed of great magical lore and wisdom, and in the case of many members potent spellcasting ability as well, the Trismegistus Council could be a welcome ally, or significant hindrance, to any mystic superhero. By and large, the Council regards itself as a body of seasoned professionals, and most superheroes as bumbling amateurs and showoffs. It helps only those it deems worthy, and only in the ways it deems appropriate; it has spent two hundred years concealing its existence through means mundane and magical, so only those heroes whom it wishes to find it succeed in doing so.

Originally published in Champions Universe by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2002.