A balmy semi-tropical paradise somewhere near the equator
This is a series of articles breaking out one part of a campaign/adventure, “Pantheon, Inc.,” built around high-level Pulse executives transformed into ancient monsters. This particular mini-setting is built around mind control, hedonism, escapism, and may be a little bit fetishy. You’ve been warned 🙂
marcOstarine was genuinely good at his job, and his job was numbers. He wrote the book… Six books, multiple editions, in fact…on financial wizardry (“Ledgerdemain” is his best known, required reading in ASR even after marc’s great betrayal.) As a rising star in the Corp investment world he could pretty much name his salary, and ultimately only Pulse would agree to it. That was almost 200 years ago.
Under Marc’s care Pulse managed to escape the recession of 510 without any crippling loss, when larger corporations were folding. Pulse’s corpcitizen base is dangerously small, yet the company thrived by giving away free surgeries paid for by an ongoing reinvestment algorithm. It was a solid 50 years before MarsCo shut down his reclaiming surgery scam, but by then an awful lot of vectors were 1/10th Pulse citizens.
In a sense, marc is still the head of accounting, as he programmed most of the AI systems that manage Pulse’s webs of investments. His successors come to him for advice, or to understand the black magic that undergirds their corporation. But he’s in happy retirement now, for the most part avoiding the world of investments by burying himself in a world of decadence the likes of which no accountant has yet experienced.
The Dragon: after almost 250 years, marc is one of the oldest creatures in Sol. Has wisdom come with age? It’s debatable. The deep magic of the ledger system hasn’t changed much over the centuries, but marc hasn’t kept up with ASR’s latest research in AI. He’s got a wealth of knowledge of Pulse finances for the past 250 years and ASR’s a bit before that. But wherever he is, he sits at the crossing of any number of financial ley lines, and with a few commands to his local network he can ferret out any number interesting facts retained by a vectors’ ledger. This isn’t hacking, it’s in Sol’s best interests for the ledger system to appear unhackable, it’s more an analysis of how the ledger interacts with the local microeconomy. But a skilled analyst with the right tools and access levels can scrape a lot of data and maybe a few buried secrets.
Not that any of this is really marcOstarine’s main interest now. He’s really in this for a long, blissed-out retirement party, the kind of debauchery being a high-powered numbers guy never allowed him. The Velvet City is a riot of, well, riots. Mobs sweep from one bar or restaurant or band opening or fresh new experience to the next. House parties explode into drunken festivals, or sometimes the building gets burned down in a crowd frenzy. Competitive bar crawls are sometimes played out to the death.
It’s not a safe place, easily as lawless as the rumors IRPF spreads about Spyglass towns. But there’s a lot of money to be made in what has become a corptown dominated by pleasure-seekers and experience junkies looking for their next fix. For the most part it’s good-natured, but flash mobs in the Velvet City can turn into real mobs without any warning.
All of the local crazy is tied to marcOstarine’s terms of service. Adventurers that fail to find him or best him are tied into a two-year contract, required to be citizens of the Velvet City for that time. They can leave as long as they spend the majority of their time in the corptown. The other part of the contract is a three-month stint with a custom version of an IRPF behavioral adjuster implant. After three months marc’s staff will remove the implant by request. In theory, that’s a short enough time to limit long term or permanent effects, but the environment is so rewarding to vectors set to “experience-seeking sensualist” that the three months/two years extend into the indefinite future.
Much of marcOstarine’s power comes from a modified version of the IRPF Behavioral Adjuster implant. This piece of technology (HSD1.0p.216) was based in the “motivation” mechanics of HSD 1.0 and didn’t make the transition to 2.0. Motivations were the primary drives of a character, their most personally rewarding behavior. Each character had one, from the list: Power, Understanding, Wealth, Infamy, Revolution, Survival, Duty, Suspicion, Sensualist, Spiritualist, Moralist, Zealot, and possibly Legacy Memory. As long as characters acted on their motivation, they could use bonus dice for their actions. The Behavioral Adjuster was a small injectible implant that would force a character into a new motivation.
In 2.0 this could be represented by a once per session Simplify on a non-combat roll that clearly was in line with the character’s motivation. Fighting the behavioral adjuster’s artificial motivation was difficult, and might require a Complicated roll or a Resolve save.
marcOstarine’s custom version can toggle between a number of settings. He’s been known to use Power, Survival, Wealth, Infamy, and Sensualist… But mostly Sensualist. It also can be simply be shut off. The implant’s effects extend beyond the Velvet City but his ability to change the settings ends a few miles from the town’s borders.
In general, about 10% of any random assortment of vectors in the city have these implants, but many more have bought into the mob mentality of the place. When the crowds are really mobilizing the number of implants can be much higher. marcOstarine can flip emotional switches on the entire city, focus on a single large area (a megastructure, park, or similar), manipulate a modest area within his line of sight, or target a single person’s implant, but generally the more precise the control he’s aiming for, the more difficult it is for him. Sweeping change is easier for marc than a single target.
More information: HSD1.0p.127, HSDExt1.0p.113
marcOstarine’s original form was a sturdy badger, definitely more textbook ASR than popular imagination Pulse. It’s not a shape he uses much now, when marcOstarine take vector form it’s more likely to be a one-off randomly generated body. His great beast form is something like a griffin, with a lion-like body, feathered ruff and mane, and a wolfish head, mostly lateral but with as much flexibility and dexterity as, say, a raccoon or bear lateral. He’s big, but not huge, the size of a SUV or truck. In his lateral shape he wears a crown, which is supposedly his control unit for the city’s emotions, but it seems more likely that it’s a piece of the great game than an actual limit on his control.
marc spends most of his time in vector form enjoying his city and every minute of his retirement. He makes the occasional appearance in griffin form, trading tribute and a bit of worship for being where the party’s at in one of Sol’s wildest party towns. He lives in and lairs in a cluster of damaged megastructures in the center of the Velvet City, the tops broken and abandoned but most of the lower levels inhabited. The griffin lives in the high up ruins, but the vector is just another warm body in the megastructure.
Not the most physically powerful of the great beasts, marcOstarine hides behind the mobs and a small army of part-time thugs and legit hired guards. His strength is in research and knowing his enemies, tracking them, monitoring them, occasionally tying down their finances… if he knows he’s quarry he’ll time his appearances more carefully, but never vanishes entirely, that would be cheating. But the crowd of thousands surging around him is a mix of innocent bystanders, loyal groupies, semi-unwilling vectors under marc’s Terms of Service, and well-paid, if not terribly reliable, guards.
marc has a number of preeminent skills, particularly Logic and skills related to finance. He (probably) can’t actually hack a ledger but any other scary money magic is probably in line with his abilities.
Of the twelve great beasts he’s arguably the one that’s most likely to be watched and protected by Pulse itself, now more than ever: on the off chance that he comes out of his hundred-year bender, sobers up, takes a shower, finds his shoes, and puts on a suit, he’s one of a tiny handful of vectors that could challenge Pulse’s rogue Shadow President for control of the company. The White Queen is quite aware of this, but the threat marc poses in his current state is fairly low. Still she might send hired muscle or thrill-seekers into the Velvet City if she sees a way to shut down this potential rival.