Character: Samantha Patchowski
OC Type: Closer to 'MMO OC' than anything else, being created for the tabletop game Unknown Armies.
Point Taken: February 14, 2014.
World Building: Walt Disney built an entertainment empire, all the dodos are dead, human feet have marked the moon, and convicts were cast onto Australia by the British… as far as anybody knows. Sam's world is very like the real world, but it's complicated by the presence of 'postmodern magics' and unnatural entities, both known and known of in the occult underground. Though the Underground is little more than a loose (and extremely informal) network of people who’ve stumbled across secrets tied to the working of the world, the people in it have tapped some true power.
In a way, the power humming through the occult underground is the power of rumour and reputation; it’s also the power of the written word, of the dollar, of the strength in a city and the hammer of a heartbeat. In every instance it is a very personal power, and that is only as it ought to be---magic, like most power, is driven by desire, and flavoured by the frame of mind of the person who holds it.
Most of the people capable of using magic (without relying on a ritual to do so) can be categorized as ‘adepts’ or ‘avatars.’ Adepts alter reality through the focus of their own obsessions---they fuel their magic by making behavioural concessions buttressing the worldviews in which their magic must work, while avatars play a part to exploit the expectations of the collective unconsciousness, the shared sense of how a story should end. An urban adept fascinated by the city in which he lives can watch its people or study its maps for hours, and find every door in it is open to him. A fleshworker can break a few of her fingers for the power it takes to heal something more serious, like a bullethole she would’ve bled out with. An avatar of The Mother really is unstoppable in defending a child, if her connection to the archetype is strong enough, and harm rarely finds an avatar of the Fool, though the Fool will never notice.
Both adepts and avatars continually struggle for clout in the occult underground, but despite the differences between adept schools, avatar paths, and the two types of magic, everyone in the underground agrees they can’t afford to be open about it. The wider world won’t understand what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, or why they would try to, and what’s more,the wider world would tear the underground apart. (There's no spatial separation, no 'wizarding world,' just the population of the occult underground living and working alongside everyone else.) Adepts and avatars---and the people who are neither but nevertheless are active in the underground---regard the threat of broad exposure as something of a sleeping tiger: a strong motivator to settle scores with each other as quietly as possible, noise resulting in an impartial and unpredictable disaster. Despite this strange social contract, the occult underground is by no means a calm and peaceful place; turf wars between cabals occur frequently, as do raids for rituals, ritual components, and enchanted items. The game's nicknamed Cosmic Bum Fights for a reason---or several, one strong contender being the fact that an adept is just as likely to throw a chair as a spell in a fight.
Backstory: Born as the region’s diamond rush began in earnest, Sam grew up in the Northwest Territories and enjoyed a relatively normal childhood. Though she's always been able to see auras, it hasn’t had a huge impact on anything outside her worldview. People tend to “yes, dear” young children, and so Sam grew out of sharing her observations; by the time she was old enough to realize her ability wasn't actually unremarkable, she was also old enough to realize keeping it to herself was a very practical course of action.
She broke her right leg at sixteen. The accident occurred in the January of ’07---her second year of high school---and created the limp she walks with today. Able to stand and to hobble, she initially underestimated the damage; it was only the following day that she began to suspect the leg might actually be broken, and the next day---due to the distance, and to traveling conditions---that she saw actual medical attention. (There were alternatives to being driven in, but all of them were expensive; having a high pain tolerance, Sam opted to tough out a regular ride.) By the time x-rays were actually taken, processed, and assessed, she was set for a rush job; the Patchowskis received an almost cursory consultation when the bone should have been better-set. When it became clear that Sam’s leg hadn’t healed quite right, the conclusion was that the bone had to be rebroken and reset. Sam begged off, since it was almost summer---a terrible time to be with a (re)broken leg!---and she wanted to find a different doctor. It’s been six years since, and with three major moves (to Yellowknife, NTW, to Edmonton, AB, to Porcupine River, MB) school, and work, the prospect of a (re)broken leg remains unappealing. (Additionally, after being put off and put off and put off, a rebroken leg became less and less of an option; odds are if she had the set corrected now, she'd still limp.)
Not a whole lot happened for the next few years. Following her graduation, Sam moved south to study at the University of Alberta. Initially majoring in English, she soon switched to Sociology and returned home for the summer break, and the winter holidays.
December 31st, 2010, Sam got stuck while out skidooing. Since it had been a remarkably mild day for the last of the year, and she’d only been tooling around on the property of some family friends, it wasn’t worrisome---just a long and wearying walk back to a building. Since it was so nice out, Sam carried her helmet and wore her coat half open to avoid overheating while she walked. She made it in without incident, explained what had happened, helped retrieve the skidoo, and decided she should nap before resigning herself to an entire Eve of elbowing.
When she woke up, she couldn’t see.
Snow-blindness takes several hours to become noticeable, and is characterized by a loss of vision, tearing, eyelid twitches, light sensitivity, constricted pupils, and pain. The pain was bearable but the panic was worse, and until the how hit her, Sam was on the edge of an actual attack. Realizing that she was snowblind from walking back with her eyes uncovered allowed Sam to reign herself in, since snowblindness is (normally) a temporary condition which requires little to no treatment. Calling for whoever was within earshot, she was startled to see others enter the room because she could see them---their auras appeared as they always had, though everything else was indistinct. It took the better part of a week to recover her vision, but by January 2nd, she hit a low for feeling and being isolated in a way she'd never been before. That low could've become some sort of breakdown... but it became an epiphany, instead, and Sam emerged an adept. (Having only encountered a few other adepts through to the present, Sam hasn't heard the term 'trigger event'---referring to an event which kickstarts someone's magical career through some paradigm-cementing stress---but that's what her blindness became.)
She developed a feel for the abilities accompanying her new insight over the following few months, but didn’t use them to any great extent until June of 2011, when the Stanley Cup Finals concluded, culminating in the Vancouver Riot. Having traveled to the city to watch the game from the fan zone event organizers had arranged, Sam had felt fortunate to be in attendance… until the Bruins claimed the cup, and the crowd started to lose its collective shit. Aware that she was at ground zero and without a quick or easy escape, Sam decided to hell with it---she’d do what she could for the duration. She had certain advantages; she could hopefully help somebody. She succeeded in assisting a few people, but she burned through all the charges she’d accumulated for the first time, and did indulge in a little light looting. (The whole haul consisted of a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and a vintage goalie mask tempting for its practical protection, and as a sort of souvenir.) All in all, it was wild from open to end.
Late August of that same summer, Sam actually spoke with another adept for the first time.
Able to see that a burn the guy had sustained during the U of A's Welcome Week had healed impossibly fast (overnight! overnight, and there was nothing left but a shiny pink patch!) she towed the him aside, asked point-blank, got an explanation---homemade salve---and pulled the blemish off his arm with an ad hoc spell. Surprised but not shocked to find only uniform skin where the mark once was, the dude---Felix---sat down with Sam and explained it really was a homemade salve; his whole family could coax incredible effects out of anything involving honey. The two leveled with each other, and what began as an exchange of information quickly grew into a familial friendship. Felix is sympathetic to Sam’s inexperience regarding the occult underground, and being both the youngest child and sole son in his family, isn’t inclined to tease--- if anything, he’s happy to have a clued-in ally who isn’t/isn’t an associate of one of his sisters. Sam’s happy to have found someone sort of like herself, and appreciates the information Felix and his family provide as much as she appreciates knowing she has a household in addition to her own that she can turn to in times of trouble. She may be on the outskirts of the occult underground, but knowing other (and, importantly, established) adepts, can at least hear about its happenings.
For the year that the two could make the most of it, their friendship proved fruitful. In addition to the benefits of friendship itself and a few favours, the two found that pooling their resources enabled many savings-supplementing bake sales, which meant Sam could afford to travel for February Break and so see some Maple Spring protests in person. Completing her program the March of the Maple Spring, Sam remained in Alberta until the end of August. She moved to Manitoba much as she’d planned to since she’d first arrived in Edmonton, assuring Felix and his family she’d be back by 2015. She visits on the way to visit her own family, calling in from time to time with news of what’s happened since she reached Porcupine River. She’s so-far stayed in the city a year and a half, and will be arriving from February 14th, having just finished a celebratory supper with coworkers happy to have survived their shops’ holiday sales.
Personality:Straightforward, easygoing, and an optimist, Sam shares a lot with the ‘average’ Sagittarius (if there is such a thing). Her approach to almost everything is pretty relaxed, and though it may contribute to a tendency to treat acquaintances in a too-familiar fashion, her informal attitude is an asset in most social situations---the air of ‘casual Friday’ usually helps her come off as open and approachable.
Sam isn’t as chill as she is in most of her interactions with others because she’s content to go with the flow, whatever occurs; she's a 'don't sweat the small stuff' sort most of the time, but that isn't the sole factor. She’s as chill as she is because she sees almost every situation as having a natural next step---some way to move forward, towards an agreeable state of affairs, even if it means moving forward against an obstacle. (This isn’t Pollyanna optimism; obstacles are expected.) If you’re pushed, you push back at least as hard; that’s the natural next step. Sam’s as frank about this as she is about anything else, expressing her opinion and emotions openly. If you’ve upset her, you’ll know; if you’ve secured her admiration, you’ll know. If she's properly motivated, she can spin some BS (and indeed, she has no qualms about a small or short-term deception greasing the skids if it means everyone can go home happy, though she's got no interest in putting up a front that needs to be maintained) but she's not stoic.
Others sometimes underestimate her willingness to commit, to a person or path of action, since there just isn’t always cause for a conspicuous gesture. For the former? Once Sam’s decided she’ll throw her lot in with another person, she’s in---and only learning that that person is really not at all who she’d believed them to be could cause her to withdraw her support. For the latter? What Sam chooses to do isn’t always perfectly practical (as adepts are weird, especially about their priorities) but her approach will usually prove pragmatic and she’ll work at any undertaking until it comes to some kind of conclusion. She's stubborn like that. ...and stubborn in general. She can be convinced to compromise on the means to an end, since the end is more important, but the end will stay a sticking point unless there's some dramatic change in circumstances, or it's going to spark a really awful row with one of the people she's close to---and maybe even then, though “for the sake of [someone]” is the best bet. Sam's a protective friend! Despite her easy approach to others, she feels a great appreciation for the people who have moved past 'friendly acquaintance' to 'trusted circle.' Other people will have her help if they ask, or are in obvious need, sure---what goes around comes around and all---but friends have more than that 'well, it's what you do,' and fondness going for them. Reciprocity is very important to Sam, which is why she explained herself in full to Felix, after explaining enough to convince him to explain how he'd healed inhumanly fast. Trying to look for for the friends who look out for you is a given, right? Right. That's buttressed not only by affection and general decency, but by Sam's concern with the next step; she tries to take possible problems of the near/not-too-distant future into account, sometimes to the point of preoccupation. Her concern is low-key in the absence of any clear and present threat, but it still contributes to every “call me when you get there,” and following a handful of luck superstitions on the off-chance.
To sort of summarize, Sam is laid-back, friendly, and helpful, with a stubborn streak which sometimes surfaces. She tries to hope for the best while preparing for the worst, and meet most every situation in between with “well, since we're in it, we're in it, and we might as well work with that.” She is protective of, and honestly grateful for friends she can trust, though her own bullheadedness may occasionally put them at odds. She's not too proud to apologize, sometimes insincerely; while she'll usually tell it as she sees it, she'll spin a whole snowjob if there's a great enough gain---and if the odds are good it's a one-off incident which will need no sustained attention.
Abilities:As an adept, Sam's able to implement what she sees as something between sympathetic and blood magic. This magic works with superficial aspects and impressions---what surfaces make accessible, including surfaces themselves. Of surfaces, skin is the most significant, and so Sam pays for her power in blood and ink; every couple of inches of skin she has etched up earns her a little oomph. Like other adepts, Sam has developed a small set of formula spells to supplement the random magic her magical focus allows.
- “Badge of Membership” has others assume she’s a part of the same group, organization, or social scene they are, though it lasts a limited time---ten to twenty minutes---and won’t work unless she has some inked skin showing.
- “Bulletproof Ink” treats tattooed skin as if it’s beneath (or itself is) body armour, capable of stopping a blade or bullet, though it will stop only a single shot before it must be recast.
- “Octopus Ruse” renders her impossible to recognize, though blood relatives and sensitives have a chance of seeing through the spell.
- “Shed Skin” allows her to heal a small amount of damage to her own or another person by peeling a piece of skin off from under/around the injury, the way a person could peel a strip from a sunburn. While this spell can be used to heal all visible damage, it can’t heal anything completely---the spot will still be at least a little sore---and it doesn’t go deep; a stab wound or a bad burn will continue to exist under intact skin. (The spell can be used to ‘lift’ contaminants, though, with what’s peeled away looking like a latex make-up effects item.)
- “Label” allows her to label herself or another person with a one-word descriptor and have others believe it to be accurate. The word must be written on that person in a highly visible place, though what it’s written with doesn’t matter. The spell times out in two days, though it can be ended before then by rendering the word unreadable. Though the duration of the spell is important, its aftermath is as important---whatever the descriptor was, people will get the opposite impression. This backlash effect lasts twice as long as the spell itself.
- Another is a 'blast' spell: a magical attack. Since Sam’s only capable of acquiring minor charges, her blasts can do damage equivalent to one good whack with a melee weapon. The injury always manifests as a mass of densely-packed pinholes which form a large blotch, bleeding profusely. It’s worth noting that this blast style can’t do real damage to most mechanoids, as it would probably translate to a mass of tiny brittle blisters erupting across a patch of paint.
‘Random magic’ allows an adept to create an effect formula spells can’t, if that effect ties into that person’s paradigm. (A fleshworker, for example, could make a broken bone knit or an old scar open, but wouldn’t be able to restore a broken flower stalk or a damaged leather chair; Sam couldn’t stick the pieces of a broken teacup back together without glue, but she could make the seams impossible to see after the glue set, change a gemstone's colour, or slap someone to create a red mark lasting for days.) Random magic allows the creative adept to open opportunities, but it isn’t the can of worms it could be---random magic effects require more raw power, because there’s no practiced ‘path’ to the desired result, and the scope is more specific. (An adept knows that they are capable of their formula spells, which makes it easier to stretch the boundaries of power and possibility, but even if one believes they can do what they intend to with random magic, it’s unproven---and so they need to be closer to the key point of their paradigm.) So far, Sam’s used random magic to improve her resistance to cold. It isn’t much, but it means she can bear bare arms a bit below, and frostbite is less likely.
Sam also knows a couple of low-level rituals. They aren't for anything especially impressive (one's for getting a vending machine to shake itself empty and then apart; one's for sending a message to a single recipient; one's for confirming whether or not the person you think has cursed you has cursed you) and they require components which might take weeks to acquire.
There's also Sam's aura sight, addressed here.
Alignment: Daimonia: grief and joy. This seems to be the most appropriate alignment for Sam because it's this continuum creating the majority of peaks and valleys in her emotional life. Large changes have been happening in Sam's life relatively regularly (many engineered, and some others accidental) and each change has had some grief, with things ended and things missed, alongside the joys of discovery. In addition, Sam's friendships feed into this continuum more than any other; her tendency to prioritize reciprocity feeds into a sort of secondhand grief when she can't help someone important to her.
Other: Every variety of adept does things to generate 'charges,' which are best described as packets of magical energy. Charges are categorized as minor, significant, or major, with significant and major charges both being markedly more difficult/dangerous to create than minors and significant, respectively. (For example, a chaos mage will risk serious injury or several months' wages for a significant charge, but a major charge requires risking one's life as well as the life of a loved one.) 'Minor adepts' are adepts who cannot ordinarily access significant or major charges because their charge-generating activity cannot be sufficiently scaled up, and has no scale-able approximations. Sam is a minor adept, and gains one minor charge with every tattoo she acquires. (These tattoos must be a minimum of two square inches; you can't cheat magic adding one freckle at a time.)
One charge powers one spell, though improvised spells may cost more, and additional effects (such as booby-trapping something with a blast spell) will certainly cost more.
It's also worth noting that every variety of adept has a taboo, an action which violates the paradigm their variety of magic hinges on. For a chaos mage, this would be asking someone else to take a risk they are unwilling to take theirself; for Sam, it's having a non-decorative needle puncture her skin, or having a tattoo removed/defaced (say with a particularly bad scrape or gash across the design).