In the years since the Release, when the Nobility Blossom often enough that a small high school may easily have a nakama of three or four attending at once, it’s a common thing for the first Princess of a future nakama to meet an unusual creature in the days before they Blossom - commonly an animal that’s clearly tame but not obviously owned, and is more intelligent than other beasts of its kind. The creature will follow or lead the Noble-to-be to a private place, where he speaks, introduces himself, warns her of the new world she is soon to enter, and offers himself as a guide. In the loose network of the Hopeful community these magical teachers and companions are named Shikigami. Once a Shikigami has arrived and befriended his first Noble, he usually becomes something between a boon companion and a mentor to her, and to several other Hopeful in the area who Blossom at about the same time; experienced Hopeful, indeed, have come to expect that, where a new Shikigami appears, multiple Blossomings will soon follow.
As no one has heard of Shikigami appearing during the Long Night, the Nobility have every reason to believe that all Shikigami come from the Dreamlands. Many of them, indeed, were explicitly sent from the Dreamlands, with a mission from a Radiant court to convene a new nakama and teach them what the Light’s servants most need to know. Other Shikigami lived normally, for Dreamlanders, until they saw visions and portents that showed them people in a distant land who needed them; when they followed the visions they found themselves in the waking world, near the Hopeful the visions showed them. And there are some Shikigami who were made that way by magic - a Princess in her full power journeyed to the Dreamlands, made a friend there, and used a Charm to bring that friend into her waking life. All of these Dreamlanders, once they arrive in waking life, anchor themselves to the animal or doll which they thenceforth animate, and vow themselves to one or several Hopeful. There are a few Shikigami who say nothing of their origins, but no one seriously believes that they’re anything but Dreamlanders.
All Shikigami can speak intelligibly, move about, and manipulate objects as dexterously as a human, even if their vessels could not. (Stealth rolls may be required to do so in public without drawing attention.) They all possess to some degree an oracular gift that grants flashes of insight relevant to their companions’ problems; the ones who followed visions of their nakama are strongest in that gift. But the most significant ability of the Shikigami is a subtle thing: merely by existing, he creates a strong mystical link among all of his nakama, through which a Noble’s magic can travel.
Shikigami are supernatural beings tied to the Light, and perceive the supernatural terrors in the World of Darkness in the same way the Nobility do. They have Belief, not Integrity as a mundane character does. They are also vulnerable to Sensitivity, with a base pool of 1 die, and have a full Echo like a Noble's, with an effective Inner Light of 1. Their quiet Echo reaches out to Sensory and Intimate sympathies.
A Shikigami's bond with Nobles not only links him profoundly to them, but also draws them together. Every person who has bonded with the Shikigami has an Intimate sympathetic link to him, and to every other person to whom he is bound. This web of sympathy makes the Shikigami and his Hopeful a Dedicated organization.
As natives of the Dreamlands, Shikigami can return there whenever they wish, and serve as a guide for others as well. They begin with a good impression for entering and navigating Crawlspace, like a Princess. Moreover, while Shikigami can't find shortcuts in the Dreamlands as a Princess can, if they accompany a Princess they're bound to when she looks for a shortcut, they can help her pick out a path. A Shikigami's help makes finding a shortcut a teamwork action, with the Shikigami as a secondary actor.
Shikigami cannot remain on Earth for long unless they are bound to at least one Noble, or to a Nation. When a Shikigami is not bound to anyone, he must roll Resolve + Composure each time he goes to sleep, with a -1 penalty for each time he's made that roll before. If he fails that roll the Shikigami returns to the Dreamlands, never to wake again; his vessel returns to the ordinary creature or object it used to be.
It's possible for a Shikigami to become Sworn. If he is, a Shikigami has an additional option when buying a Bequest; he may add 1 Merit dot to the Bequest's cost to make it an intrinsic ability. A "Bequest" of this type is part of the Shikigami; if it's permanent its effect always applies, and if it's activated the Shikigami can use it at will.
Shikigami Character CreationEdit
Shikigami follow the rules for mortal character creation. Not being human, they have a number of additional traits and limitations.
- Shikigami begin play with Belief 7.
- Shikigami are normally quite small - small enough for a girl to carry in her arms - and thus physically weak and frail. A Shikigami’s default Size is 2; unless he buys the Large Merit, Physical Attributes may not be his primary category, and his Strength score cannot be more than 1. He also has the modifiers applying to characters that have shrunk to Size 2 from the table in Size Changes, except those for Attributes.
- Shikigami are aware of the Light and the Darkness, and wherever either one has a strong presence they will take notice. A Shikigami begins play with Unseen Sense (Light) and Unseen Sense (Darkness), generally manifesting as a sensitive nose. (A Shikigami’s ability to sniff out Bequests does not let them use one - becoming Sworn is required for that.) In addition, Shikigami begin play with 1 free dot in White Rabbits to represent their oracular talents.
- Shikigami may spend their starting Merit dots on almost any Merit open to mundane characters, and a few special Merits reserved for them. Shikigami are forbidden to take Vice-Ridden, Giant, Small-Framed and any supernatural Merit except some which come from the Light. At present these are Royal Tongue, Taint Awareness and White Rabbits. (A Sworn Shikigami may take Circle as human Sworn do.) Social Merits are highly unusual for Shikigami, and Storytellers should require special justification to allow them at character creation - after all, people in the World of Darkness tend to be suspicious and wary when they meet a talking animal.
- Some Shikigami have a second, larger and stronger form for those occasions when physical violence is necessary to protect their friends. Shikigami may buy transformed Attribute and Skill dots as Nobles do, though they get none for free, and may take any of their Merits as form-limited, including the Merits reserved to them. They may not break their trait caps. A Shikigami with a second form uses a transformation action to reach it. He lacks a phylactery, so a dramatic failure instead inflicts the Stunned [CofD 286] Tilt.
Shikigami use these Merits to define the advantages they gain from their small, nonhuman forms.
Claws and Teeth (• or ••)Edit
- Requires Shikigami; for ••, Size 3 or more
The Shikigami has claws, sharp teeth, or other innate weapons that can draw blood. His unarmed attacks and Damage moves during a grapple do lethal damage. At 1 dot, the damage rating of these attacks is 0; at 2 dots it rises to 1.
- Requires Shikigami
The Shikigami is very small indeed - his Size is 1, and he has the non-Attribute modifiers of characters who have shrunk to that Size. Doll and Large are not compatible.
- Requires Shikigami
The Shikigami is very good at fading into the background, or passing as a normal animal. Perception rolls to notice him take a -2 penalty.
Keen Sight, Hearing or Smell (•-•••)Edit
- Requires Shikigami
The Shikigami can perceive with one major sense significantly better than a normal human. Add the dots in the Merit to all Perception rolls based on the relevant sense. The Merit also allows at least one feat of perception impossible for humans, such as an ability to track by scent, pick out one conversation in a crowded room, or recognize a face from the next city block.
- Requires Shikigami
The Shikigami is larger than usual. Each dot in this Merit adds 1 to his Size, and applies the non-Attribute modifiers of characters who have shrunk or grown to that Size. With any dots in the Merit, Physical Attributes may be the primary category. At Size 3, Strength is capped at 3 dots; at Size 4 and 5 the cap rises to 5; at Size 6 and 7 the cap rises to 7.
Wings (•• or ••••)Edit
- Requires Shikigami
The Shikigami can fly. At 2 dots his Speed in the air is the same as it is on the ground; at 4 dots, he has +5 Speed when flying. While flying the Shikigami can’t get the leverage to exert his full strength; his Strength is halved when rolled in a dice pool or for lifting and pushing objects.
The Gift of UnisonEdit
Some Shikigami are capable of becoming a symbiotic partner with a Light-touched human, temporarily combining into a single being with powers that neither they nor their partners can reach alone. Shikigami with this ability normally seek out Beacons to protect them from the Darkness, or rather to give them enough power to protect themselves. Some have allied with Sworn, having met their partners through a strong Camaraderie. And there are a few whose partners Blossomed under their care.
A Shikigami can take a version of the Unison Merit for humans called Gift of Unison, altered by the change of viewpoint. When the partners fuse, the Shikigami's player controls the human character, who is designed as a Light-touched human with the same number of Experiences as the Shikigami, plus free transformed dots based on the Merit dots and a pool of Wisps. If both partners happen to be PCs, the fused character uses the human's traits, and gains transformed dots worth twice the sum in Experiences of both the human's Unison dots and the Shikigami's Gift of Unison dots. Charms and Invocation dots that depend on the fusion are capped by the larger of the two Merits.
Shikigami can form bonds with more than one person at a time. The Storyteller may permit a Shikigami PC to take Gift of Unison multiple times; each instance represents a different human partner.