View Full Version : [Changeling: The Lost] New Antagonist: Nirmita, the Dream Cancer (PEACH)

2014-12-29, 12:59 PM
(note, this isn't a DnD beast, so if you don't own any New World of Darkness books, things might be unfamiliar).

(Also, I invoke creationism at one point in this, I mean no offense, this is merely an example, and I will edit it out if a mod believes it violates the rules).

I've been going through old gamebooks recently, and I stumbled upon inspiration for this in CJ's Camerella's Witchcraft series; a recurring dream born of internal strife that becomes self-aware, an independent bit of the dreamer that regards said cognitive dissonance as a sign that the dreamer is worse at living his life than the dream is, and ultimately seeks to become the dreamer, completely oblvious that it wasn't the original personality at all.

That is a wonderfully creepy concept, and something changelings would be very interested in (and mages, but they're interested in anything) given the questions of identity it raises.

So, without further ado;

Nirmita (aka Black Eidolon)

Quote: (creation) Wh...where am I? What's going on!?

(to hostile oneiromancer) You...you're buddies of hers, aren't you?

(full takeover of host) GET OUT OF MY MIND, YOU EVIL HAG!

Background: Cognitive dissonance refers to a, as far as anyone can tell, uniquely sapient anxiety. It refers to the tension produced when a person holds two mutually contradictory beliefs or values and refuses to deal with the paradox. Humans strive for internal consistency, and realizing, even subconsciously, that what they know and think about the world simply doesn't jive with itself leads to a feeling of stress from the world not making sense. The depressed alcoholic who swears to quit and then drinks six tequila shots, the staunch creationist who witnesses evolution in a teaching experiment involving the colors of beetles, and the atheistic materialist who knows she is haunted by the ghost of her grandmother all suffer this, as the world refuses to conform to their beliefs. Dealing with the dissonance is the source of both personal change and rationalization: The alcoholic may ship himself off to rehab and get a handle on his thirst, or he may say that his drinking isn't that bad, if done sparingly. The atheist may simply ascribe the eerie nature of the world around her to simply bad luck and psychological stress, or she may realize she was wrong about the dead occasionally refusing to not exist without changing her stance on religion (and in fact ghosts actually provide a wonderfully rational explanation for how the idea of the afterlife came about; they may be unliving photos of people long gone, but older cultures didn't know that).

Occasionally, that doesn't happen. Rarely, a person cannot simply rationalize or change to resolve an internal paradox, and simply piles a delusion on top of it ("I am not drunk", slurs the alcoholic as he tumbles to the floor, incapable of retaining memories of this night). This isn't a healthy thing to do, nor is it a stable thing. Attempting to simply ignore internal paradoxes no matter how large they get does nothing to treat the growing sense of anxiety a person feels, which begins to bleed over into all aspects of those belief. This is part of the reason why people shown exactly why their core beliefs are incorrect are known to cling to those beliefs even more fanatically, hence why the creationist's ilk has developed a reputation for poor logic and shouting down instead of protecting their ideals in debates; a significant portion of fundamentalists honestly believe that if one thing of their faith is wrong, the rest of it is, and treat the idea with an understandable amount of dread. The argument, and not just about religion but any dogmatic belief (if the atheist actively grew angry at people who suggested she's haunted rather than being amused, she would go out of the realms of skepticism and into this mode of thought) becomes more about convincing the self than convincing others, and that drives people who don't agree away.

Under the influence of certain fae magic, that may include a person's own subconscious.

Nirmita, named after a type of tulpa (a being conjured out of thought) in Buddhism, are a product of what happens when fae magic interacts with the representatives of overwhelming cognitive dissonance in dreams. This can be a changeling entering them or the dreamer being the subject of a Contract, but how much is required is directly proportional to the amount of anxiety a person suffers over their internal breakdown. The creationist, if he had only the one experience and it doesn't affect his life in any way beyond that, is almost certain to never develop one even if he makes love with one of the Gentry (there are signs of other problems in that case, but the development of a Nirmita isn't one of them), while the alcoholic, should he abuse his beloved family and commit petty crimes under the influence and yet still drowns himself in liquor almost every night might spawn one should he happen to walk within a mile of an inactive Hedge Gate or pass an ensorcelled on the street. In any case, the embryonic stage of the Nirmita is the same; the person has a bit of Wyrd lodge itself in his brain, and like an oyster's pearl, it gathers feelings of anxiety, self-loathing, and desperation for change around it over the course of a month or so, resulting in tiring, eerie dreams where the twisted and bizarre logic of dreams becomes evident. Soon, the anxiety crystallizes around the Wyrd fragment, and born as it is of a self-aware mind, it itself is self-aware and fully intelligent; an image of the dreamer as he would be if he embraced complete change to solve his anxiety. The alcoholic's Nirmita is almost puritan in his refusal to succumb to any vice of the body, the creationist's is an evangelist of science and a very loud critic of religious stories, and the materialist has a New Age obsessed would-be ghost-talker. Hence their other name, referring to the "astral doubles" of Greek myth.

The other reason is that, if you ask the Nirmitas, the similarity is anything but skin deep. To the Nirmita, not only is it not a parasite of its host, it is the host.

When born, the Nirmita, for all intents and purposes, is the dreamer suddenly gone lucid. It may play along with the dream, it may rewrite the dream to be more pleasant, or it may try to wake up. That last task being doomed to failure is what starts to raise alarm bells in the Nirmita's mind, but most believe they're having a nightmare (and due to the way the human mind works, the dream usually becomes a nightmare-it's the Nirmita's brain too). The real nightmare starts when the actual dreamer wakes up-and the Nirmita doesn't sleep. Rather, it gets shoved to the back of the host's mind, perceiving what the host does...but completely unable to affect the host at all. A first person movie, life of a woman who looks like the Nirmita, talks like the Nirmita, lives in the Nirmita's body...and isn't. She can't be. She doesn't act like the Nirmita at all, she professes opinions abhorrent to the Nirmita, she doesn't live like the Nirmita...and nobody, not the Nirmita's acquaintances, friends, family, children, parents, lover, nobody notices. They act like she's always been this way, like this is normal for them! The...thing that took their body just lives its life, like it's always been there!

Needless to say, most Nirmitas spend the first waking day or so screaming, which the dreamer barely perceived except as a vague dread, like he's being watched. Some never stop, and are eventually reabsorbed, but the human mind is a resilient beast, and the Nirmita is part of a human mind which has budded off into a new one. After a night or so of panicking, the Nirmita calms down a little and tries to make the best of their situation. Inevitably, this involves manipulating the dreamscape in some way; a rare few try to contact the host and inform there's someone trapped in his mind, but most view the "new" owner of their bodies as an evil violator and invader, and are actually trying to somehow communicate with others outside the body or at least destroy the thief from the inside out. It's there that they make a discovery; perhaps due to their intimate origin, Black Eidolons can "spread" through their host's subconscious, slowly "retaking" it via spreading dreams of themselves throughout the mind. Thus, the Nirmita becomes a sort of oneriomantic cancer, slowly metastasizing throughout the dreamer's mind. The host begins to suffer hallucination and blackouts, the Nirmita slowly gaining control of the host's waking body and perceptions, until eventually, he has one last dream, where a stranger that looks like him, but acts nothing like, comes at him, grinning in a mad catharsis.

And then the Nirmita destroys them, utterly-and fills the vacant space where the conscious mind is left over.

In a perverse way, the "mature" Nirmita actually does solve the problems that provoked its formation; when the new mind wakes up the next day, she generally has no memory of ever being trapped in her own mind, only a terrible nightmare. She has the same memories, same name, same loved ones...but her personality is something quite different, she having "seen the light." Like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, she sees the world with new eyes, and starts making some radical changes to her life. Many of these are actually less self-destructive, but the new person is usually a bit too radical, being thoroughly disgusted with something she once held dear; the alcoholic starts a Return to Prohibition movement, the creationist actively finds people who don't understand the knowledge to yell at, the atheist becomes extremely gullible and trusting of charlatan "mediums." A bit of the dream follows her out as well, in the form of a strange way she has with understanding when a person is suffering from cognitive dissonance, and how to confront it (inevitably, some people will desperately ignore it, and so prove fertile ground for new Black Eidolons). Should the person encounter fae magic again, she might remember the time she was trapped in her own mind, and so remember how to enter and change dreams.

If a changeling tried to stop him from getting out of the prison of his own mind, he remembers that too, Another fact of the human mind; it never takes kindly to people who wish to trap it. It might regard someone who tried to save friend from a self-born revolt as a traitor of the worst kind...and given he has the tools...

(I'll put more up if people like this).

2014-12-29, 03:23 PM
This is gold. Gold, gold, gold.

2015-01-04, 12:38 AM
Ah, thanks.

Continuing, along with a stealth preview of crunch;

Description: While from the inside, a Nirmita appears as described above (a mental clone of their host whose primary difference is in opinions), from the outside things are obviously a bit more subtle. From the outside, it simply appears as if a person is suffering from incredible stress and depressive episodes, a fact which the mature Nirmita will believe once it fully replaces the conscious mind; changelings aware of the phenomenon suspect that it is Nirmitas that give anecdotal evidence to depression suddenly clearing up, as opposed to the actual mental disorder
(which has more to do with mundane neurochemistry and is as difficult to treat with oneiromancy as it is with normal therapy). Said changelings tend to classify the stages from initial Wyrd infection to full absorption of the waking mind into the Nimrita as similar to the life cycle of a virus infecting a host cell (although in medical metaphors Nirmitas are more accurately a cancer induced by foreign substances, not a virus). These can be represented by a set of Conditions;


The character's dreaming mind has proven to be fertile ground for the Wyrd as it begins to form a Nirmita. He suffers the nightmares of self-aware warped logic as explained above, but as of yet that is all; every night, roll one die; a success means the character suffers from a nightmare equal to (10-Integrity) Intensity, as more self-assured and stable people are less prone to the self-doubt and tension that allow a Nirmita to easily form. Not addressing the source of the dissonance in his life makes the emergence of one inevitable, however; after a number of days equal to half the character's Resolve + Composure, rounded down with a minimum of 1, add a die to the pool rolled, with a success on any being a nightmare. The Wyrd is a lot like a hardy weed, in that it has to be actively uprooted to stop growing.

Beat: Whenever the character fails to refresh Willpower from sleep due to this Condition.

Resolution: As mentioned above, the character can address the problems in her life, which is beyond a raw system; the ST judges if any active changes or at least a better rationale for the paradoxes in her life are extensive enough to solve the feelings the Wyrd took root in. An oneriopomp can also uproot the Wyrd more directly, but this is difficult; a Condition-induced nightmare has to be scoured to Intensity 0 to destroy the embryonic Nirmita, and the dream, while not sapient yet, is already alive enough to defend itself; the oneriomancer rolls Scouring against the dreamer's own Resolve + Composure + (the amount of dice in the "nightmare pool"), with a failure meaning the the dream's Intensity does not lower, and a dramatic failure causing it to react violently-roll the dream's Intensity - (oneriomancer's Empathy); failure means the changeling is actively booted back to her own dreamscape as per My Temple My Self (no changeling has yet learned if a similar reaction can be induced with the True Fae or other Incubi, apart from the fact that no Nirmita on record has been in the same dreamscape as another Incubus). If all else fails, after a number of nightmares equal to Integrity, the Nirmita fully forms, and this Condition is exchanged for the next in sequence.


The Nirmita is fully formed and self-aware, and likely scared out of its mind. It has no idea what is going on, or what to do, but it's also at this point the infection has begun to really affect the host. While it hasn't tried to take over the host yet, the simply fact is that the host's brain is running two different operating systems, as it were, and that doesn't do fun things for the mind. The Nirmita's presence drain's the host's abilities in cognitive thought, leading to a -2 penalty to any extended rolls (singe rolls are spur of the moment enough to the point where the conscious mind doesn't need to draw on the part of the brain where the Nirmita is). The constant unease as mentioned above has no mechanical effect, but it does lead into the Beat condition.

Beat: The host's anxiety drives him to lash out in a way that causes long-term difficulty...which also assists the Nirmita in its growth, as shown below; the number of Beats gained in the course of this Condition is added as bonus dice for the Nirmita's roll to gain control of its oneriomantic abilities.

Resolution: As mentioned above, the host may make some changes to starve the Nirmita of dissonance to feed off, in the same manner as in the previous Condition in the chain. This is probably the best way to deal with the Nirmita at this point, because while an oneriomancer can scour the Nirmita's dream into nothingness, but while the Nirmita isn't consciously aware of it yet, it is already a powerful oneriomancer within its shared mind. Any attempts to scour the dream quickly incur the Nirmita's wrath, and it instinctively engages in dream combat with apparent the source of its pain-and if it manages to eject the oneriomancer, the moment of connection with the Skein allows it to quickly grasp the full breadth of abilities and moving on to the Integration Condition. Barring that, every night the Nirmita rolls its Composure + half the dream's Intensity rounded up + any modifiers in an extended roll, the target number being the host's Integrity + 2. Failure means the Nirmita is reabsorbed into the subconscious, but success means the Incubus has discovered a way to get into the host's deeper subconscious and "regain" control. This causes the Condition to progress to the final stage or Nirmita growth, Integration.


The Nirmita has discovered how to spread throughout the host's autonomous and sensory functions, and is in the process of doing so. While it likely doesn't initially realize this will eventually allow it to devour the host's consciousness and become the host in truth, a Nirmita hates confinement as much as true humans do and is all too eager to regain some amount of autonomy. Every night, the Nirmita attempts to craft a unique "metastasis dream" using the normal dreamscaping rules, and rolls its Intensity. Successes are drafted into a "Control pool" that symbolize how much influence the Nirmita has over the host's waking life. One success instills a powerful emotional urge, two crafts a realistic hallucination, and four give the Nirmita control of the waking body for a scene, which the host only has vague memories of (and given how much she doubts her own sanity at this point, likely writes off as one sign of bad things among many). The Nirmita uses the first two to make the host act as it believes it normally does when in control of the body; to invoke the example, the creationist's Nirmita might inspire an overpowering sense of frustration and irritation to get him to leave a discussion about how the Bible says life began, while the alcoholic's might create an image of his children staring accusingly as he is buying liquor. Actively giving into these urges gives the host a point of Willpower as the world suddenly makes perfect, comforting sense for a second, but also gives the Nirmita two extra dice to add to the metastasis dream's Intensity when rolling, not to mention whatever commands it might implant in the dreamer's subconscious. Ultimately, the Nirmita gains more and more control over the host until it is finally ready to destroy and replace her conscious mind altogether.

Beat: Whenever the Nirmita's meddling causes the host to have a breaking point, in addition to the normal Beat from a breaking point.

Resolution: By this point, the Nirmita is actively rebelling against the host's personality; a simple lifestyle change won't reabsorb it any more, and in fact likely embolden it to influence the host even further. Thankfully, this is also the point where it's the easiest for an oneriomancer to uproot and destroy, as the dream has matured into a full but fragile separate ego-simply killing the Incubus in dream combat destroys the forming ego, and with the Wyrd core of the Nirmita. Of course, it's also at this point where the Nirmita is also the most conscious of its right to exist, and it can probably figure out that an oneriomancer likely regards it as a parasite-which means it can also show how much of a better job it does running the host's life, and explain plainly why it would be better if it were back in control and not the host (it's also at this point where the Nirmita is most easily convinced of its true nature, but that won't stop it without any better options; the very fact it exists proves how bad the host is at his own life, and besides, it's actually rather cruel to force it into an existence of imprisonment within the waking mind). Of course, the final way for the Condition to be "cured" is to let the Nirmita win and become the only ego; after it gains a Control pool equal to three times the host's Integrity, the Nirmita triggers one final nightmare, in which its human form attacks the host's own dream-body in oneriomantic combat, which it is almost certainly going to win on the basis of all the host's talent plus all of its experience in his dreams. With the destruction of the host's dream body comes destruction of his ego, and the Nirmita eagerly replaces it-not that it, or rather, he now remembers his victory when he wakes the next morning, having had the best night's sleep in ages.

Such a person has all of his Mental Attributes and Skills replaced by those of the Nirmita...which is to say the dots of one or two Skills are shuffled around and he likely has different Specialties (where the Nirmita gets this knowledge when, say, an atheistic materialist who had no interest in Occult suddenly becomes one of the more knowledgable people in darker matters while forgetting all but the most basic things about Science is one of the greater mysteries about them). He gains a point of Integrity as a significant portion of his mental conflicts resolve themselves, and may now buy Supernatural Merits relating to dreams (in which case he remembers having been trapped in dreams and what transpired there). He also gains a Specialty in Empathy (Mental Conflicts), Whether or not he will be able to live his new/old life, however...well, that's beyond the scope of mechanics. He's literally a different person, now, and what he valued before is regarded with utter contempt...which may include people he likes within its aegis.

2015-01-10, 02:01 AM
Now, to finish off this monster, sans crunch:

Storytelling Hints: While it's easy, and not necessarily wrong, to view the Nirmita as the ultimate invader, this ultimately sells the Black Eidolons a little short. As might be obvious, they aren't so much an Incubus so much as a fully realized human that happens to be a somewhat different version of their host, and can see no other alternative for any degree of freedom from imprisonment in the subconscious mind than destroying the current owner-and of course, they think they are the current owner, just shunted into imprisonment. Rather, Nirmitas are best used to raise a theme many changelings face when really thinking about how they changed over the course of their Durance, that of personal identity. The Nirmita recognizes, loves, and hates the same people, and if the host recognizes the changeling as a friend, the sense of betrayal his Nirmita feels is quite real. The Nirmita isn't even a deliberate simulacrum like the fetch, it's a completely accidental mental clone with the full capacity for emotions and living a productive life as a human. Who is to say the host has more claim to the body than the Nirmita does?

Many changelings would correctly out that the host was there first, but there's a reason this writeup refuses to say one or the other is "real"; they both are, it's just that one has a slightly different perspective on things, and one might argue, a healthier perspective. While they seem like it at first blush, a Nirmita is not Tyler Durden from Fight Club, not generally. In fact, they're almost the precise opposite of the immature id that character represents, a person who rather than avoid the travails of being an adult and hiding behind a stereotype of manhood, a Nirmita embraces the personal growth-and that's part of the reason they are so obscure, from a completely outside perspective a terminal infection looks like extreme personal growth. The Black Eidolons are branches of a person that took different lessons from the same life, thus their very being asks a question; is it really a different person at all, or just a minor variation that seems more extreme than it actually is? Even more important, should the changelings even step in, if the Nirmita version of their friend seems like he'd honestly be happier that way? Are they committing murder either way?

Some Lost simply ignore the question and eradicate the dream taking over their friend anyway, which is perfectly valid...but one will be surprised at how quickly the tide turns when the Nirmita starts to react as the host would, whether it be begging for its life, bravely steeling itself, or some other unique way that is uncomfortably associated with the oneriomancer's ally. A few, however, try for a different solution, one that does not involve the obliteration and absorption of one of the intellects into their other. Leaving the Nirmita in there is out of the question; besides being massively cruel to the Black Eidolon having to be strapped into a helpless prison for much of its existence, there's the deleterious effect it has on the host that will ruin her life sooner or later. No, a Nirmita needs freedom, either to walk the Skein or in physical body of its own. Finding either capability is likely going to take a small adventure on its own, and no small degree of sacrifice; rites to give a living dream Skeinwalking powers don't just fall out of the sky, and a mindless body capable of passing for human once overtaken (because sacrificing another mortal to the Nirmita's desperation is not only evil, but counterproductive-it's not the body they remember at all), plus all the difficulty that convincing the Nirmita that it shouldn't take its life back. Which is to say, the kind of subtle but epic quest Changelings go on to begin with, though the ST is advised to keep it a minor plot arc to be resolved in a couple sessions, at the most. Ensure the abilities of such a "pure" Nirmita (who remembers being a dream from rebirth) is a worthwhile reward of an ally to help the troupe feel satisfied,

Of course, there's nothing that says a Nirmita can't be like Tyler Durden. It's already an encroaching alternate personality, after all. Perhaps the feelings of cognitive dissonance were born of some persistent, dark temptation, and the Black Eidolon is a person who gave into that darkness completely. In that case, it has the potential to be a truly horrific villain, a living embodiment of the fear of being taken over by one's passions and losing the ability to control them forever, until you've even forgotten why you feared it in the first place. Resist the urge to make such a Nirmita a pure monster, however-besides the risk of souring the players on an ally they're supposed to like, a Nirmita without any redeeming characteristics whatsoever just isn't realistic, for the same reason it isn't realistic with actual people. This can even reinforce the themes of identity, but from a different angle; the Nirmita becomes a person who didn't make the right choices when it counted, and now it threatens to destroy the person who did. In effect, it becomes the spectre of what changelings truly fear-the loss of agency.

2015-01-11, 06:11 PM
You know what would be a twist? Some way to kickstart such a growth on a player character. Imagine the possibilities...

I don't know World of Darkness' rules in any way, but I have basic knowledge of some of the stories, and this looks awesome. Good luck finding a chance to use it :smallbiggrin:.

2015-01-15, 11:28 AM

Also, I've decided to use the simplified Power-Finesse-Resistance Attribute spread here, it's easier.

Dream Combat

Power: Highest of host's Power Attributes

Finesse: Highest of host's Finesse Attributes

Resistance: Highest of host's Resistance Attributes

Oneiromancy Skill: Special; see The Way It Should Be, under Abilities

Willpower: Same as host

Virtue: Same as host

Vice: Special; see The Way It Should Be, under Abilities

Initiative: Same as host

Speed: Same as host

Wyrd: 5 (Frailty: Cannot betray core ideals)

Glamour: 14/5


Personal: (Power + Highest of host's Brawl or Weaponry + Wyrd)

Environmental: (Finesse + Oneiromancy Skill + dream's Intensity)

Dream Defense: Finesse

Dream Armor: Resistance


The Way It Should Be: Nirmitas share the same values and noble ideas as their hosts...it's just that they happen to despise their host, on the basis of those same ideals. Their hosts have so much energy directed towards the pointless at best, abhorrent at worst. The Nirmitas aren't going to fall into that trap, no siree. Copy the character sheer of the host, but change the Vice and reallocate the dots from one or two Mental Skills to another, and exchange any two Specialties for any other specialties. This will be the character sheet of the new character Nirmita should it devour the host's ego, the alternate self the Nirmita represents (with modification in case the host raises her skills in the meantime and the free Specialty, of course). The creationist's Nirmita, a militant evangelist of evolutionary biology, might have lost his Academics (Theology) and his Expression (Sincere Faith) in exchange for Science (Natural Selection) and Expression (Layman's Explanation). The materialist's ghost nut of a Black Eidolon might have lost three of her four dots in Science to gain Occult 3. The way this effects a Nirmita's dream manifestation is obvious; they have the Vice of the new character (being them, after all) and their Oneiromancy Skill is the highest of the altered skills (if the materialist has Empathy 4, her Nirmita still has Occult 3 as its Oneiromancy skill), though none of them actually use the Skill itself except visually as part of a dream stunt (because of the potential for ST abuse, the troupe reserves the right to grant them to the Nirmita or not). Rather, the Black Eidolon draws on the fundamental internal tension that gave birth to its dream to alter said dream on an unconscious level, though the Nirmita likely develops an inkling of how to consciously control it during the Integration phase.

As an option, the ST may instead change the Nirmita's Virtue, but reserve this for the truly malignant Black Eidolons as mentioned above. Rejecting an entire moral system which you likely have had the beginnings of since childhood because you want to follow your darker passions is not a sign of great moral character.

My Body, My Temple: The Black Eidolons has an instinctive understanding of the way the individual subconscious connects to the Skein many oneriomancers would kill for the sake of their Keepers to possess. A few scientifically minded Autumn Court and Spring Court sages, the two Seasons most interested in the manifestation of Nirmitas, have theorized that the strange, Wyrd-born personalities are the beginnings of an evolutionary adaptation; an autoimmune system for the dreaming mind. The Nirmitas don't care; all they know is that they can evict any other invaders apart from the one currently living their waking life, something they gladly do. Whenever an oneriopomp attempts to make a change to the Nirmita's dreamscape, the Nirmita may reflexively spend 1 Willpower or 2 Glamour to roll its own Power + Resistance + (the dream's Intensity) vs. the oneriopomp's (Resolve + Composure + Wyrd), which may be augmented by a Willpower point even if the Nirmita spent Willpower to cause this roll. If the Nirmita wins, the oneriopomp is "shoved" through the True Gates of Horn and Ivory (which may take the form of the Black Eidolon literally kicking them through a suddenly appearing door, a ravine opening beneath the offending oneriopomp, a shimmering portal scooping them up, or anything else the ST can think of) back to his own dreamscape. While changelings have no reliable accounts of this happening to more alien Incubi or True Fae, there is no definite reason it can't happen, either; no trace of dream-poison has ever been found in a Nirmita-ridden dream. Where such entities would go is an open question.