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So You Want to Play a Mortal

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Note: This is a TSW-based write up and may need to be edited once SWL goes into Open Beta.

By 'mortal', I mean a baseline, unaltered, non-magical human. Of course, there are other 'mortal' creatures -- any creature that ages, dies, and stays dead. Werewolves are mortal. Demons are, presumably, mortal. Some of this might be applicable to those, too, but this is focused on Ye Olde Standard Humans.

So You Want To Play a Mortal...

Playing a mortal in The Secret World is both interesting and challenging. Back "in the day" (when I joined TSW Vanilla in 2013), I was one of only two mortal characters that I was aware of. Nowadays we're not such a rare breed. I'd like to think that's in part because the pioneers of playing mortals did a good job at showing that playing a "normal human" within a world of superheroes can be engaging, interesting, and rewarding.

I've had several people ask me for advice for playing a mortal or non-magical character, and so.... I thought I'd write something up. So here you go. Spellsmith's tips on playing a mortal.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Technical writer, webmaster, and doer of many things.

Characters: Sandrijn DeJaegher
Posted Apr 25, 17 · OP · Last edited Apr 25, 17
Roleplaying Considerations

1. You will be massively underpowered.

Before you decide to play a mortal, you need to understand some of the ramifications of what your decision means in an environment like The Secret World. One of those is that you are massively non-awesome. If you a magic-using mortal (a wizard or witch of some persuasion) you can handwave some of this, but basically, broadly speaking: everyone is better than you at almost everything.

Bees (Gaia-chosen humans -- the assumed state of the game PCs) have a variety of powers that you don't have. They can channel anima and do awesome things (like shoot anima-bullets, use Blood Magic, or perform telekinesis). They can die and come back at an anima well like nothing ever happened. They can teleport or 'anima leap' from well to well within the same region.

You can't do any of this.

The Bees can use Agartha with no special help or thought. Normal mortals can't. Bees are generally accepted to have extraordinary healing powers, endurance, strength, and/or speed depending on how the player believes their anima manifests.

You don't.

Some players aren't Bees. Some are other types of immortals: vampires, werewolves, fae, or just very-long-lived people for whatever reason. Perhaps they're cursed/blessed with immortality. Maybe they sold their soul for it. Who knows. They still get the benefit of generations of life experience. They've had hundreds of years to master not only playing piano, but also advanced chemistry, and also blacksmithing, and also speaking 10 different languages fluently.

You probably did good to get your Bachelor's degree.

They've had generations to amass wealth by buying land back when this "America" thing was a new fad, and they bought some cheap paintings from struggling artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo back in the day -- now those are worth millions.

You might be solidly lower class and struggling.

In short: if you want to play a mortal because you want to be awesome and uber and elite... you're probably going to be really unhappy playing a mortal, and you'll probably do what many mortal characters have done: find a way to stop being so mortal. More on this later, too.

2. You will be effectively restricted from many areas in-game (including, possibly, Agartha).

If you're mortal, you really shouldn't be on Solomon Island. Remember I warned you about spoilers? There's one coming. We learn in the Tyler Freeborn mission that the Filth on Solomon Island is airborne, and anyone who breathes it in without protection is already infected. So if your mortal spent some time in Solomon Island, be prepared to deal with that.

This means, potentially, limited or no in-character questing on Solomon Island, or missing out on in-character events that take place there. That's up to each individual player, of course, but it's something you should consider.

If you're mortal, you can't use Agartha with the mindless ease that Bees can. There was, for years, extensive debate on whether mortals could even go in Agartha, at all, because the Lore has many instances where it talks about non-Bees growing ill, dying, or going insane from attempting to do so. However, the TSW official writers have confirmed that "the initiated" can use Agartha -- including "initiated" mortals. (But we don't know what "initiated" means, exactly, or how it happens. So if you want your mortal using Agartha, you need to work that out.)

Mortals probably can't go into the Hell dungeons in-character either. The environment is so toxic that even Bees suffer as their "blood turns into iron" in their veins or whatnot. Wicker's lore is a good example of what happens even to advanced and prepared mages who go into Hell. You probably can't quest in-character in the Ankh dungeon (and why the Hell would you want to?). This is all stuff to consider.

3. All your friends and loved ones will die horribly, more than once.

If your mortal character is friends with someone who is a Bee, you will likely at some point have to suffer through that person's death. And just because your character realizes "yes, they come back because they're Gaia-blessed" doesn't necessarily mean that this is an easy process for your character. Mortality and death are perhaps THE fundamental fear of all humankind: we have a huge survival instinct, and death and the unknown are terrifying. Seeing your best friend, your spouse, whatever, get ripped limb from limb by a pack of zombies? How is that NOT traumatic? Seeing them shot? Seeing their throat cut by an Atenist blade and they slowly and painfully bleed out?

Your character will experience this, and will be affected by it. It is part of their humanity.

4. ...and they will all probably outlive you.

You're mortal. When you die, you are dead. Permadead. The end of your character (unless you become non-mortal and somehow get resurrected). The pack of zombies, the stray bullet -- Hell, the over-aggressive bar fight or mugging-gone-wrong. These are all potentially fatal to you.

People who play Bees have a habit of assuming that everyone plays Bees. This means that they tend to play more inclined to random violence than might be the case in real life. Which makes sense, if you're a Bee. When you know that the jackass in the bar will just resurrect at an anima well perfectly fine an hour later, is there really a reason NOT to just shoot him in the head when he won't stop harassing you? It's more like a "time out" than a death. Until you, the mortal, happen to be the one who gets shot.

There's also the issue of aging. I'm not sure it's determined in the lore anywhere whether Bees actually age or not. Are they immortal as far as violent death, but still age normally and die of old age in the end? Or are they eternally frozen at 20-something or 30-something, when they swallowed the Bee, and will be forever young?

If the latter, your mortal character will be aware (or will become aware) that year by year, they get a few more grey hairs, a few more wrinkles, a few more aches and pains. Their friends and lovers don't. And while that is not a big deal when you're all 20-something, what happens when you're 40, 50, 60, and they're still 20 something? What about when you're 70 or 80, and they're still 20 something? How will that knowledge affect your character?
Technical writer, webmaster, and doer of many things.

Characters: Sandrijn DeJaegher
Posted Apr 25, 17 · OP · Last edited Apr 25, 17
Practical Considerations

1. How did you get into the Secret World/War?

Bee characters, if they're recruited the "in-game" way, are recruited because they have magical powers that caught the attention of the Faction handlers, and hey! let's throw this guy/girl into that Solomon Island mess.

Obviously that's not everyone, and obviously it's not YOU.

So how'd you get into the Secret World? What made you special enough to join the Dragon, or the Templar, or the Illuminati?

Mortals can -- and do -- make up the vast majority of all the factions. Bees were a rarity, until recently. Kirsten Geary is, presumably, mortal, as are Sonnac and Bong Cha. But they're there because they has some talent or specialness or background that made them suitable.

Maybe your family was in the Mafia, and when they butted heads with the Illuminati, they lost. The "Family Business" isn't Italian anymore, it's Enlightened.

Maybe you were a soldier who, after many deployments, was so disillusioned by all the suffering and destruction and never-ending wars that you were ready to give up... until your superior quietly handed you a card, and suggested you were meant for a fight that could really make a difference in the world.

Maybe you were an archaeologist doing a dig in China, when you found an artifact you weren't supposed to find. But good job on finding it; they were sure no one ever would. You passed the test. You're given fully-funded expeditions -- if you dedicate yourself to finding the other pieces in the set.

Everyone has a story, and the faction don't recruit people "just because". So what makes your mortal worthy of being in your faction?

And, importantly: why did you end up in Ealdwic with all the immortals? Who loves you (or hates) you enough to send you there, and why?

2. Can you use Agartha? How?

As mentioned, it is "writer-confirmed" that non-Bees can use Agartha, if they are "initiated". Of course, they didn't tell us what "initiated" means or how you get initiated to begin with.

So -- is your mortal "initiated"? How did they get initiated? Can they use Agartha? Is so, how and how long/easily? For instance, if your character is a mage, perhaps they can "attune" themselves with a spell or ritual. Maybe you have a talisman that was given to you that shields you from the ill-effects.

I know many of the "older" mortal characters have played that they have no special attunement to Agartha, and can only be present in Agartha for very limited amounts of time, and always with draw-backs. For instance, suffering anima-burns (similar to radiation burns/sickness) after exposure, or nausea and disorientation. My own character, Sandrijn, could originally only stay in Agartha for about 5-10 minute before she would start feeling ill; after about 15-20, she would be so sick she needed assistance to keep walking straight and keep her balance; after 20-30 she was essentially incapacitated, and after 30-40, she'd die.

Know your time limits and requirements. Be aware that the practically considerations may limit your RP. (If you can't use Agartha, how will you get to Solomon Island, since air-travel to/from is grounded? If you CAN use Agartha, but you need your Lucky Talisman, what are you going to do after it's lost during the Climatic Battle and you need 2 months to replace it?

It might seem annoying, but this is all great RP flavor when it comes up!

3. What's your attitude and aptitude in magic/the supernatural?

Related to the Agartha bit. The Secret World is full of magic, everything from massive portal-opening awesomeness to people lighting their cigarettes with their elementalism. Are you used to it, as a mortal, or does it make you uncomfortable? Are you practicing and learning a bit yourself, or are you hopelessly mundane? Does it scare you, knowing that the person you bumped into at the coffee shop, was a Blood Mage who could literally stop your heart just by looking at you?

What about Darkside? How does your character feel seeing an honest-to-goodness Ghoul selling tacos in Darkside? Or the vampires and Greenwardens in the Crusades? How do you feel/react to people wandering around Ealdwic in public with Ak'ab pets or tiny pet succubi?

(Ealdwic: Where even people's pets can perma-kill you.)

4. How will you RP out injury and healing?

Sooner or later you WILL get hurt/injured. And yes, you can always run to a Blood Mage or Fist Healer (IC) and get healed up, but that's not always plausible. If you break a leg, or get a concussion, or suffer major burns, you can't just speed-heal like Bees seem to do, or die and get a free "Fix-It-All" trip through the anima well. Are you prepared to RP out potential major injuries, and the healing time associated with them? This basically means sitting out RP, or accepting even more limited mobility, during the healing time. (Meaning, for example, you won't be realistically attending an radio show event and dancing the night away, a week after a fall that broke your leg.)

5. How are you going to defend yourself? Are you going to have a "Get Out of Jail Free Card"?

One dilemma I ran into with Sanneke was the fact that one careless shot can permakill her, since she's mortal, and some GMs didn't always take that into account. After a few times of not being warned in advanced that San was going to get dragged into a machine-gun-spraying fire-fight in another dimension, I decided to give her a "get out of jail free card": a small bit of magical ability specifically meant to serve as a shield against random one-shot kills.

Is that something you'd want for your character? How do you plan on defending your mortal again such situations, when not everyone is aware that your character is so fragile? Are you just going to tough it out and roll with the punches and hope for the best? Will you always wear a bullet-proof vest? Will you have some sort of spell that can absord a limited amount of hostile magical energy? It's something to think about.

Be careful about power creep. One of the appeals of mortals is that they don't have the ability to just shrug it off and go on like nothing happened, and they can't just wave their in-character equivalent of epeen and say "well I'm a bigger and badder Blood Magus than you are". They're vulnerable, and they have to think smart and act smart to avoid certain death. They have to be supremely invested the consequences of their actions, and if you give them said Lucy Talisman that makes them immune to ALL magic... that kind of takes the fun out it. Your goal isn't to become a badass, necessary (if it was, you probably wouldn't be playing a mortal) -- your goal is to avoid senseless death and maiming.
Technical writer, webmaster, and doer of many things.

Characters: Sandrijn DeJaegher
Posted Apr 25, 17 · OP
Addendum A: "I'm Batman."

1. Technology

Hey, you might be mortal, but that doesn't mean that you can't use awesome stuff that other people invent! We already have things in real life that seem magical on many levels. Who needs scrying when you have Satellite GPS? Who needs obscure tomes when you have the Internet?

We have bionic hands, exoskeletons, night-vision and infrared goggles, unmanned drones, "invisible cloaks", and gods only knows what else. Some mortals who can't do magic might turn to technology to fill in the gaps. Maybe you aren't a Blood Mage who can sense and modify vital signs with your powers, but maybe you have a Star-Trek style tricorder that can do the same thing.

Again, I would heavily warn against the temptation of power creep. At a certain point it's true that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", and at a certain point, you're just being Batman or Iron Man: a superhero fueled by tech instead of mutation. You'll still have some mortal failings (like the permadeath thing), but.... again, in Spell's personal opinion, most of the fun of playing mortal is learning to live with and breathe life into the limitations and playing a normal person in an extraordinary world. If you want to take that away with tech, you certainly can! I just wouldn't personally recommend it.

2. AEGIS & Third Age Tech

An exception to the "mortals using tech": the AEGIS. We have it confirmed with in-game lore that baseline mortals cannot use the stock AEGIS weapons -- these AEGIS controllers are anima-powered, and normal mortals do not have enough steady flow of excess anima to power them without quickly suffering extreme fatigue and exhaustion. The AEGIS shields work the same way. So if you're mortal, be prepared to fiddle-faddle some excuses with the AEGIS or to not use it at all, in-character.

We aren't sure about Third Age tech. We don't have very many examples, and I'm not sure we have any knowledge on how it works, if mortals can use it, etc. That's a whole big ball of unknown.
Technical writer, webmaster, and doer of many things.

Characters: Sandrijn DeJaegher
Posted Apr 25, 17 · OP