Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On Witchmarks

A prisoner's stripes, the Mark of Cain, the Scarlet Letter, the "B" burned into a blasphemer's forehead – every sinner is marked by their sin. Some are carried within, hidden from view but seared on the soul, while others are very visible indeed. In word, deed, and appearance, those who are so marked are altered, twisted in some way that makes it clear to all who see them that they have transgressed and, in theory, have atoned for their sins. In the land of Morden, perhaps the most visible mark is the Witchmark. In today's installment, I'll be talking about Witchmarks, their meaning, and how they affect the Accursed and the world around them.

Every Accursed bears a unique mark upon their person called a Witchmark that reflects not only the nature of a particular individual's curse, but also hints at the nature of the bearer of the Witchmark himself. From the ancient brass funerary plates fused to a Mummy's flesh to the puckered scars of the Revenants to the striking woad that stains the skin of the Vargr, every Accursed bears their mark in a prominent place for all to see. While their basic appearance, three concentric circles containing various icons of power and alchemical formulae, is common to all Accursed, the uniqueness of a Witchmark lies in its details. At the cardinal points of the Witchmark are ornate designs that identify and reflect the nature of the Witch who made it. In the space between the first and second rings, alchemical script spells out the details of the curse along with other information important to the Accursed. Within the final circle are the icons of power – sun or moon; book, bell, or candle; words of power. These spell out, in detail, the abilities, deeds, and potential of an Accursed, and are the most mutable part of the Witchmark.

Aside from identifying an Accursed and the particulars of his curse, the Witchmark grants various powers to the Accursed, which vary from individual to individual. For some, the Witchmark allows an Accursed to sense others of his kind. For others, it allows Accursed of the same kind to communicate over long distances. Some Witchmarks even act like divining rods, drawing the Accursed to mortals in desperate need, their desire for atonement and redemption so powerful that the need to help the weak and powerless becomes an obsession. The powers a Witchmark grants to an Accursed are varied and unique to each individual. Over time, an Accursed may gain or lose his special abilities depending upon circumstances or his progress on the road to redemption.

In the Accursed RPG, the Witchmark not only identifies an Accursed but it is also the mechanic by which a player character's advancement is recorded. A beginning character has a relatively plain Witchmark, usually the size of a grown man's palm, that shows only his nature as an Accursed and some hints to his powers and potential. As he grows in experience, an Accursed's Witchmark grows in detail and complexity. It becomes larger, more ornate, detailing his powers and deeds, and reveals more about the Accursed as an individual. This typically involves a mental and spiritual struggle as the Accursed fights against the influence of his curse or learns to embrace it and the powers it grants. In a few historical instances, Accursed have thrown off the shackles of the curse and sundered a Witchmark forever. This is incredibly rare however, and the majority of Accursed are fated to spend their lives attempting to come to grips with their monstrous new forms. Indeed, once a mortal becomes one of the Accursed, his Witchmark can rarely, if ever, be permanently, physically removed. Should an Accursed ever lose his Witchmark, through loss of the limb that carries his mark or by having it cut from his flesh for example, it simply grows back on a different part of his body.

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