Disquiet and the Wasteland: Everything and Everyone Hates You [Promethean: The Created]

Open Development, Promethean: The Created


Screencap from the original ending of Army of Darkness, dir. Sam Raimi

Every Promethean burns with an inner fire so intense, it scorches the land around them. It makes people uncomfortable, even if they can’t figure out why. The Divine Fire, the energy that ultimately allows the alchemy of the Great Work, also sets Prometheans apart from the world they want to join.

In 2nd Edition, we’re moving away from Disquiet and the Wasteland being products of the Prometheans being “things that should not be.” Part of that is because the semantics always bugged me; who says they shouldn’t be? They’re here, so there’s really no “should” about it, and I’m not into punishing characters on a moral level for their very existence, thanks. Instead, the reasons for the Wasteland and for Disquiet have more to do with the world not being able to handle the intensity of the Divine Fire. It burns too hot, and people sense that during interactions with the Promethean. They respond with spite, possessiveness, jealousy, or paranoia. The blanket term for these responses is Disquiet.

Likewise, Prometheans have to be careful how they interact with the world around them. If they let too much of their inner Fire out at once, they can scorch the land, beginning an inexorable process of creating a Wasteland. As Wastelands grow more extreme, it can cause weird elemental effects – thunderstorms rage, water thickens and sours, the veil between spirit and flesh grows thin. It depends on the humours of the Promethean in question (which also means that Prometheans of the same Lineage, sharing as they do the same humours, can make the effect worse).

Disquiet, by itself, doesn’t progress beyond a certain point. People feel suspicious, fascinated, or just disdainful with regards to the Promethean, and might go out of their way to cause minor inconveniences, but it doesn’t rise to the level of physical violence. Within a Wasteland, though, Disquiet festers. The human mind responds not only to the intensity of the Divine Fire within the Promethean, but to the changes she is wreaking on the environment. Left unchecked, Disquiet becomes contagious, and ends with the victims trying to purge the corrosive element from their midst (this is colloquially known as the “torches and pitchforks” stage of Disquiet).

So what causes a Wasteland? Prometheans don’t cause them just by existing; the Divine Fire isn’t that intense. But the following actions or events can start or worsen the process. Once a Wasteland has begun, the only way to reverse it to remove the Divine Fire (i.e., the Promethean) from the area.

  • A single Promethean spends a great deal of Pyros in a scene. The amount required depends on the Promethean’s Azoth dots. Greater Azoth burns brighter and hotter than the Pyros of a less potent Created. The amount required is (11 – Azoth). The most powerful Prometheans cause a Wasteland with even the slightest usage of Pyros.
  • Prometheans can return to life when destroyed (once). This causes an enormous rush of Pyros, not dissimilar to a new Promethean’s creation.
  • When a greater qashmal manifests, a Wasteland can occur.
  • When a character attempts to create a Promethean — successful or not — the coalescence of Pyros that accompanies the practice creates or exacerbates Wastelands.
  • When a Promethean attains a universal milestone, the influx of Pyros can cause Wasteland.
  • If a Promethean goes too long without a Refinement shift, or without a milestone, the buildup of excess Pyros can taint the area around her. At lower levels of Azoth (1-2), this occurs after six months in an area. At mid levels (3-5), this occurs after a single month. At higher levels (6-7), only a week must pass. The greatest Created (8-10) must evolve quickly — indeed, daily — move along, or cause a Wasteland.
  • When Pandorans awake, they can shake an area into a Wasteland. When Pandorans whose Ranks total 4 or more awaken in a single scene, they create a Wasteland.
  •  Any suitably dramatic event culminating in a massive influx of Pyros can spawn or grow a Wasteland, at Storyteller discretion.

What do these effects look like? Again, it depends on Lineage. Let’s take a few examples.

A Frankenstein, whose humour is yellow bile, finds that his presence instills a Disquiet of simmering restlessness and anger in the people around him. People become easily agitated and quick to fly off the handle, and while this may initially be directed to anyone in their path, eventually it is always directed back to the Wretched. When he creates a Wasteland, the land and weather seem angry, as storms and lightning bathe the sky, thorny bushes overrun the landscape and animals, including humans, become increasingly aggressive.

An Ulgan, who draws power from ectoplasm, engenders a Disquiet of paranoia and the sense of being hunted. Perhaps this is a valid emotion, triggered by the spirits that a Riven attracts and that invariably attach themselves to the people around him. Regardless of the presence of spirits though, humans always come to see the Promethean as the one that haunts and stalks them. When an Ulgan creates a Wasteland, the mortals’ fears are proven right as the veil between the flesh world and the Twilight thins, calling out to spirits and creating hauntings.

An Unfleshed, enriched by the humour of oil, finds that his Disquiet somehow encourages people to treat him as even less than other Prometheans. Taken for granted, he is seen as hired help at best, or a slave at worst. And woe unto the Manufactured who does not cater to people’s every whim. An Unfleshed Wasteland also sees a sharp dichotomy between dominant and subservient creatures; a new hierarchy might emerge amongst humans, whilst predatory animals completely wipe out prey and stronger plants overrun weaker ones.

  35 comments for “Disquiet and the Wasteland: Everything and Everyone Hates You [Promethean: The Created]

  1. Ben Quo
    October 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Wasteland not being a thing that happens automatically makes me very happy.
    Also nice stealth-spoiler on “Universal Milestones.” Having some non-specific goals will really help the Milestone system to function.

  2. iceblade44
    October 28, 2014 at 11:48 am

    nice, so a couple of questions

    what is a Universal Milestone? is it Just a normal milestone or is it different?

    As i see that the Unfleshed take some elements from the Tammuz, so is the Tammuz disquiet and wasteland different and if so what is it?

    • SunlessNick
      November 2, 2014 at 9:10 am

      At a guess, something that’s a milestone for all Prometheans.

  3. October 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    awesome, I agree, makes the game much better.

    Will other Prometheans still basically be pushed away from each other (IIRC in 1e, there’s some comment about them not really liking each other either, and only rarely coming together as groups, making throngs temporary at best)?

    Prometheans destroyed can return to life once. I recall this being a power of the Osiran’s, is their power enhanced (they can do it more)? is “once” within a period of time? or is it once ever.

    • MugaSofer
      October 30, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Prometheans can return to life once, after which they lose this ability.

      Some Osirans can return to life a second time, after which they lose *that* ability – the Revivification Bestowment. However, *they* can buy it back with XP, like any other Bestowment.

      This has always been the case.

      However, it’s been implied that it may now be difficult or impossible for non-Osirans to buy Revivification; whereas before it was relatively easy. This is just speculation based on some developer comments, though, I don’t think it’s been explicitly confirmed.

      • October 30, 2014 at 8:05 pm

        Then permit to confirm it.

        Non-Osirans get one “come back from death.” It’s actually kind of a big deal, going to the River.

        Osirans can do it more than once, but they need to sacrifice something to make the trip.

        • Eric Crabtree
          October 31, 2014 at 4:22 pm

          Could they sacrifice a milestone accomplishment for this?

        • SunlessNick
          November 2, 2014 at 9:13 am

          The fiction where someone is killed for a bit by Dr Brine always interested me, because they ended up floating down a river, which is a weird twist on the view of the Rivers in Geist.

  4. October 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I’m a little iffy on the way Wastelands are handled now. I actually really felt they were something that had a strong “Ludonarrative resonance”, to co-opt a term from video games and turn it on it’s head. It forced Prometheans to move around, and never stay in one place. It strengthened the ’30s hobo style themes, made the Pilgrimage into an actual movement “towards” something, and made Promethean into a game that forced a road trip style journey of enlightenment.

    Now a careful (and admittedly lazy) Promethean who doesn’t live around other Prometheans can stay in an area more or less indefinitely so long as they don’t spend a lot of Pyros or go after milestones, and change their Refinements often.

    I’m also not sure I like that they aren’t abominations. I always felt that was more of an in setting view of it, and whether or not there’s some text on a page saying they’re abominations that Should Not Be, my characters at least are still going to probably think of themselves that way, due to the effects of their Disquiet and Wasteland.

    That said, it also still feels really good, so I’m not miffed or anything.

    • PenDragon
      October 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      As I read it the longest a Promethean can remain static in one location is half a year, after which they trigger a wasteland from not having achieved a milestone. Shifting refinements might stretch that, but refinement shifting is more than a decision, it’s a whole change in outlook and should require more impetus.

      • Dave Brookshaw
        October 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        There’s also the possibility of a kick up the arse from a Qashmal to get them moving again, should you wish it.

    • The Cowardly Scion
      October 28, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      That would represent a static Promethean, one that has left the Pilgrimage for a time. This is technically a valid state but not a permanent one. I listened to the G+ chat and when given the example of end of the book Frankenstein’s monster who rejects humanity and embraces Lucifer, Matt’s response was that eventually he would find his way back to the Pilgrimage or was fulfilling it even while fighting it. So a Prommy can come off the road for a while but physically and metaphorically, they must move eventually. The Pilgrimage isn’t as much of a choice as it is an instinct is what my reading of it is. Vampires gotta drink blood, the Wolf must hunt and the Promethean has to move towards the New Dawn. They can take breaks and get sidetracked but its like a biological imperative now.

    • Allan53
      October 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Entirely possible, except changing Refinements isn’t a simple matter of “OK, I’m an Aurum now”, it’s a whole process in itself

    • October 29, 2014 at 8:36 am

      So, in practice, this change allows a Promethean chronicle to remain in one place for a long(er) period of time without everything going all squiffy. I’m actually in agreement; I think PtC works best as a nomadic game, but that shouldn’t be the only option.

      • IanW
        October 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

        Especially in a chat-based environment, which are usually focused around a specific city, it’d be awkward to either have to cater to Promethean players and give their a new different city every few months or tell them their characters are no longer viable because they’ve left.

  5. Wolfgar
    October 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Still sems like Wastelands will be popping up anywhere game actually happens though, so I’m not sure if it’s mostly a cosmetic change, effectively.

    • Arcane
      October 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Well, it is one of the two engines that drive the game-of course it’s going to pop up anywhere the game takes place.

      But this helps put the reins in the players hands by a lot more, making it an aspect of the world they can wrestle with, which increases narrative tension.

    • SunlessNick
      November 2, 2014 at 9:15 am

      It’s still what’s naturally going to happen, just that there are more means by which a Promethean may avoid or mitigate it. (In the first edition, choosing two points more than a mile apart and visiting both each day would effectively prevent a Wasteland forming, but missing one day would blow it – now it’s a bit easier).

  6. Nathan Henderson
    October 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    “People feel suspicious, fascinated, or just disdainful with regards to the Promethean, and might go out of their way to cause minor inconveniences, but it doesn’t rise to the level of physical violence.”

    That has to presumably interplay with other factors. Lets say a black Promethean in the Jim Crow era in the American South – even without “aggressive” actions by the Promethean, even minor Disquiet is likely to attract the socially normative violence of the era, right?

  7. Leliel
    October 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    “An Unfleshed Wasteland also sees a sharp dichotomy between dominant and subservient creatures; a new hierarchy might emerge amongst humans, whilst predatory animals completely wipe out prey and stronger plants overrun weaker ones.”

    At extremely acute levels, some have reported hearing snippets of a song:


  8. Tori
    October 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I am so happy the Unfleshed are basically just like any of the others as a standard character type!

  9. atamajakki
    October 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Huh. That Unfleshed description pretty neatly steals the Tammuz’s old niche.

    • Theeds
      October 28, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      Yeah, I was just thinking that. Does make me wonder me wonder what Tammuz disquiet will look like now. Maybe something more melancholic to go with the humour? Ah well, we shall see.

  10. Felipe
    October 28, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Very nice! The changes make it so that you can stay in one place as long as you are careful, it makes “pitchforking” very much a consequency to players actions.
    I’m just curious about that bit about changing Refinements, are Prometheans expected to change between a lot of them to achieve New Dawn? Guess what I will vote for next!

  11. Andrew Thomas
    October 28, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Ok, Wastelands seem less harsh now. I like it.

  12. Verge
    October 29, 2014 at 3:18 am

    How do Firestorms feed into Wastelands and Disquiet, and vice versa? They seem like a natural fit for the “Storyteller’s discretion” criterion, but they could also make for a means of dissipating the forces at work, the way an earthquake relieves faultline tensions.

  13. reseru
    October 29, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Whenever I did Promethean I just found Wasteland to be a hassle. I don’t necessarily like tying it to elemental humors but I get it, at least, but ambient environment effects are annoying to keep track of in a game that isn’t D&D.

    Was there ever any debate over their necessity in the game?

  14. Darkfool
    October 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Are Conditions going to be used with Disquiet and Wastelands?

    • October 30, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Yes. We’re actually playing with a system for Disquiet that rewards players when Disquiet makes things hard for the characters. I’m looking forward to playtesting it.

  15. MugaSofer
    October 30, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Has there been any word on Transmutations for dealing with or mitigating Wastelands?

    Actually, do some of the old Disquietism powers now work on Wastelands as well? They were always supposed to be the same effect, metaphysically, but it never really came across in play.

    (I’m torn on the new metaphysics – they seem good, but overly specific. I liked playing Disquiet as closer to “uncanny valley”; will it now seem more supernatural?)

    • October 30, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Not necessarily. Disquiet is always supposed to vary from character to character, and if you want to play it more like uncanny valley, that’s really a presentation thing more than anything.

  16. SunlessNick
    November 2, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Instead, the reasons for the Wasteland and for Disquiet have more to do with the world not being able to handle the intensity of the Divine Fire. It burns too hot, and people sense that during interactions with the Promethean.

    For what it’s worth, that’s the impression the first edition gave me anyway.

    An Ulgan, who draws power from ectoplasm, engenders a Disquiet of paranoia and the sense of being hunted.

    That’s neat.

    Like others, I’m wondering what the Tammuz’s is in view of the Unfleshed. Given the language angle, I’m going to guess it affects communication: people more prone to misunderstanding each other, and/or making (or assuming someone else is making) snide word-play insults.

  17. Verge
    November 3, 2014 at 1:39 am

    I can’t believe no one has asked, including myself: are we looking at comparable rates of progression to 1e? More importantly, are we going to be asked to make Disquiet rolls for every personal encounter?

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