I just wrapped up my first development pass for WITCH: North America written by Alex Roberts. It’s been an amazing ride – terrifying (WITCH set a high bar to clear) and wonderful both. Liz showed me her work for WITCH: Europe (the text is finished ya’all!) and then …. Just let me tinker with North America. I copied Liz’ headings, re-arranged the North America text to match, and began to fill in the gaps. Did I mention I also poked Liz a lot? She never butted in unasked though, or told me to do it her way. Which is good – diving in is a great way to learn (for me) and it gave me plenty of freedom to create my own vision for the book. I love the result – I’m sure it needs another pass, as this is my first development effort – and can’t wait to share it with all of you.
So with that in mind, I wanted to talk a little about the book’s themes and offer a monster sneak peak.
North America is a place of opposites. Both in the continent as a whole – compare the US’ wealth to the poverty in Honduras – and in every individual country. Life in Canada and the US, for example, is wildly different based on the colour of your skin. At the same time, the continent is driven by hunger. The need for the next best thing waiting right around the corner, the desire to be richer than you were yesterday, the drive to give your children a better education than you had. So those are our themes: division and hunger.
I structured the book with these themes in mind – not as a stringent rule, because North America isn’t a two-trick pony, but rather as a guideline. When I wasn’t sure where North America’s WITCH story should turn next, I asked myself: where would separation and need take it? The result is a continent where Fated stand separated of each other, while its monsters personify hunger.
The hunger of an empty heart
Now, for a preview of my favourite monster in the North America book: the Qalupalik.
Our Qalupalik is a spirit of dark water and endless ice. It feeds on love – by devouring the subject of said love – because it has none of its own, and its empty heart is so very cold. It’s also an actual Inuit myth and that matters.
The original Qalupalik preys on children – either eating them outright, or keeping them alive while it feeds on their life energy. Its function in Inuit society is as a boogeyman – much like Westerners use Santa to keep their kids on their best behaviour, the Inuit used the Qalupalik to scare kids from straying too far. To stay close to the original intent, and because Fated change everything they encounter, I’ve done a bit of both.
The Qalupalik made a pact with a Fated warden of the Arctic ice which requires them to scare still-living children back to their villages, but which also lets them guide the ones that didn’t make it to the Underworld – an act that gives them the love they so desperately need. I feel it’s important to stay true to the tone and intent of the source materials – this is a cultural heritage we’re borrowing! – while making it unique to WITCH, and I think our Qalupalik does both. It also opens the door to a tie-in to our Afterlife: Fated Souls setting, which is always nice if we decide to go there later.
So without further ado, here’s a first look at the Qalupalik (subject to change).
Qalupalik hunt the arctic tundras of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. A spirit of depthless waters and frozen darkness, it appears human-like with a bloated body, tangled black hair, clammy greenish skin, and talon-like fingernails. Its teeth are razor-sharp, and eyes hollow white orbs holding neither light nor life. The Qalupalik guards the dwellings of Inuit people, scaring wayward children back to their homes, or guiding them to the Afterlife if they fall prey to the ice. Every Qalupalik wears an amauti so dead children may rest against its back as it carries them into the afterlife. Whenever a Qalupalik brings a child to the Afterlife, it hums a soft lullaby that warns living mortals of its passing. The Qalupalik’s hunger makes it dangerous to all other creatures – a Qalupalik can lie in wait under the frozen ice for years, waiting for a creature beloved by others. The creature’s bite and claws inflict a terrible cold, which never truly leaves the victim. Survivors of a Qalupalik attack often wear sweaters even in the warmest summers.
Attributes: INT 3, WIS 1, PER 3, CHA 0, MAN 2, DEX 2, STR 3, STA 3
Skills: Athletics 2 (swimming 5), Brawl 2, Dodge 3, Empathy 4, Intimidation 4, Spot 2, Stealth 2, Survival 3
Talents: Sense 2, Gauze 1
Claw attack: 2d10 +4 Damage: 1d4 +3, damage inflicts Cold
Special: Cold – The Qalupalik inflicts extreme cold when it draws blood, instilling +2 difficulty on all its victim’s dice rolls as their limbs shiver uncontrollably. The mechanical effect ends when the damage is healed, though even a recovered victim never feels truly warm again.
Special: Aquatic – The Qalupalik gains -2 difficulty on combat, perception, and rolls to remain hidden while underwater. It also needn’t come up for air.
Special: All the Little Children – The Qalupalik is moved by the plight of children, and abandons its current pursuits to bring them back to safety (or watch over their bodies). If a Qalupalik is tricked into harming a child, its body dissolves into seawater. Other Qalupalik immediately recognize a human who tricked one of their own, and stop at nothing to drag the offender down under the frozen waters. The harmed child, if it survives, is forever safe from the Qalupalik.
CD: 14 Armour: – HP: 14, 14, 8, 3
Let me know what you think in the comments.