I was running (oh, that feels so nice to say) Aquazombies of the Kriegsmarine the other Sunday night, a Fainting Goat Games adventure for ICONS. The adventure has a certain mystical bent (and my descriptions were made more squamous and rugose by the fact that I've been playing a lot of Trail of Cthulhu lately), and one of the characters it offers is the Necromancer, who can be either an NPC or a PC. (There are options to keep him from taking over if he's an NPC.)
Mostly because I didn't want to have an extra character to think about during the adventure, but also inspired by a player character comment, I seriously abbreviated him and gave him a new name. If you're running an adventure where you need someone to handle the occult exposition but you don't want them to take over, this might be a useful solution.
Gramarye (Steven Lafferty)
Steven was a witch or warlock, whichever term you prefer. He was, in fact, exceptionally gifted and was in training to be the Master Mage, or Sorcerer Supreme, or whatever you call it in your campaign. He was, however, impulsive, with a tendency to solve things by learning the Cliff's Notes version of the problem and then improvising. Earth's current Master Mage is a supervillain (see the Warlock in the Villainomicon). The Midnight Syzygy, a loose confederation of magical traditions and schools, has been trying to elevate someone more...philanthropic...to the job. Steven was by lengths their best candidate.
The Midnight Syzygy had groomed him, sending him on increasingly difficult tasks, and with luck in a mission or two or three, he would be able to take on the current Master Mage. He was that close. He had got to the point where they sent him to deal with dimensional incursions before the Master Mage learned of them.
Unfortunately, when you learn the Cliff's Notes version of the problem, the opponent has abilities that you have not bothered to learn. Tyrhogon the Wick (aka Tyrhogon the Dispossessed, Tyrhogon the Conqueror, Tyrhogon the Destroyer, etc.) was the one. His/its name refers not only to the fact that he/it has used up ("burned") several dimensions, but that he/it can possess new forms and makes use of them rather rapidly. Steven met him in battle on the astral plane...
...and Tyrhogon stole his body. With his body came a host of abilities, and the battle was essentially decided. Only the interference of the supervillain Master Mage decided it.
Without a body, Steven was doomed to the realm of the dead, unless he could find something to house his spirit. He did: a grimoire, a book of hedge magic.
He still has his knowledge of magic and occult lore, and he can risk going to the astral plane (it has a two out of three chance of letting him back into the book). He might even stunt possession (with permission) to take over a body, but that would be rare (such as when a player can't make a session). Mostly he has telepathy. He acts as a voice in the head, giving occult information to the player. He also tends to go on at length about the opponent's abilities and skills (a distraction that is often good for a Determination point, in ICONS).
He might choose a single player as point of contact (I chose the PC without Mental Resistance when I used him). He might choose a player because they have some point of contiguity or similarity (they have the same great-grandmother, or both were born in the same place, or both have loved the same reincarnated spirit, or whatever).
The ICONS Writeup
In ICONS Assembled, he might look something like this:
|Gramarye (Secret ID: Steven Lafferty)|
|Coordination||-/4||Awareness||4||Martial Arts, Occult Master||Telepathy ||8|
|Strength||-/4||Willpower||8||Astral Projection ||6|
He is ashamed and doesn't tell his name, referring to himself only as Gramarye. He will dole out the information to the PC a bit at a time (in contrast to his usual style) if he deems it necessary for the PC to know.
As a book, he doesn't have physical abilities, but they are given should he actually get his body back. In that case, the Telepathy becomes Magic. As a person, he might have Force Field, Flight, and Blast as learned stunts. He'll also probably carry deep guilt over whatever Tyrhogon did with his body in the mean time.
Oddly enough, he immediately suggests a couple of adventures. (I know, you're shocked.)
- One voice in your head sounds pretty much like another. Someone knows about Gramarye and his special relationship with the PC(s). The villain makes mental contact with the PC, pretending to be Gramarye. The PC might well be used to doing odd things on Gramarye's request ("Why am I opening this bank vault, again?") This might set the PC up for being accused of evil or make the PC the unwitting instrument of betrayal, or might "simply" set the dimension up for horrors to invade.
- Tyrhogon still has his body (it's worked quite well for him for the past year or two) and it's effectively only in middle age from him overclocking it. And Tyrhogon returns, possibly in a long drawn-out scheme involving spies, scouts, and sentinels, or possibly Tyrhogon has been influenced by the impulsive nature of the body and just Does It. Tyrhogon comes to our world. It's easy now: the body is native, so it doesn't count as a dimensional incursion, and the current Master Mage doesn't look at it. But Steven knows, and the PCs are the only ones he can tell, even if it means revealing his past. If they win and wrest his body for Steven, lower the Magic score to 6 to represent the time spent out of his form, and gradually let it build up again.
- Assuming that Steven got his body back, interdimensional mystic bounty hunters show up to deal with him for the sins he committed as Tyrhogon. Steven needs help, and he does have this bond with the PCs....
- Everything I've just said is a lie. It's also possible that "Steven"
isthe former supervillain Master Mage, trapped in a book by his successor, and he has chosen this method to get the PCs to get the current powerful body of Tyrhogon the Dispossessed. Once he has it, he will regain his status as Master Mage, and probably attempt to banish or kill the PCs.