Society: Politics of Power

On the surface, London society is as it's always been — a teeming mass of diverse classes, cultures, and accents all living side-by-side in the heart of southeast England. In a city with over 7-million people, it's easy for just about anyone to slide in to some niche or another. Of course, in the world of London: BD&L, that simply means there's more room for supernaturals to slip under the surface and thrive.

Magic in the Modern Day

There's an old saying, "Either you got it, or you ain't." When it comes to magic, there's a certain amount of truth there. Either magic's in your blood, or it's not. Anyone can write a spell. Not everyone can cast it.

The fact is, magic comes in two forms:

  • Intrinsic magic — that innate gift born in the blood and honed through untold hours of practice and perseverance;
  • Extrinsic magic — the hard-won outcome of carefully researched and executed rites and rituals available to anyone with the will and mind to do the right homework;

In the supernatural world, intrinsic magic almost always1 trumps extrinsic magic. There's a lot to be said for instinct, after all.

Thus, the nature of intrinsic versus extrinsic magic — and whether a body possesses one or the other — has a huge influence on supernatural politics. To understand how that works, however, you need to understand the various intrinsically supernatural races and extrinsic magic practitioners, and how well they play with and against each other.

The Supernatural 101

Loosely speaking, the supernatural races, those intrinsically gifted with magic, can be divided into three categories:

  • Human Magi, Psychics, & Mutants — humans gifted with paranormal abilities;
  • Demi-Humans — offspring of a human and non-human;
  • Terrors — creatures that go far beyond normal humanity.

Each have their advantages and disadvantages, and their dispositions are as varied as their gifts and appearances.

But they are not the only supernatural forces at play. Humanity has long had a fascination with magic. There are those who, though they haven't a single shimmering shred of magic in their blood, pursue occult power with such a single-minded passion that they are rewarded by external magical entities, who permit them to borrow their might or beg a boon of them. They access this extrinsic power through study and research, the use of rites and rituals, and even worship and devotion. Thus, it often appears these Thaumaturges control magic of their own, when, in fact, they are simply allied with something more powerful than themselves.

Racial Summaries

Click on a link in the Race column to see a full, in-depth article on each race described.

Race Description
Witches Exclusively female, Witches are women intrinsically gifted with the ability to cast spells2 and control magical forces. Their gifts are inherited, bred from mother to daughter. There are no male Witches, at all. In fact, it is exceedingly rare for any Witch to give birth to a boy3. Whether solo-practitioners or part of a coven, they have a long-standing enmity with Sorcerers that stems from disputes dating back to the Dark Ages. As a result, Witches are far more scattered and less inclined to any sort of centralized authority.
Sorcerers Always male, Sorcerers are men intrinsically gifted with the ability to cast spells4 and control magical forces. Their gifts are inherited, bred from father to son. There are no female Sorcerers, at all. In fact, it is exceedingly rare for any Sorcerer to father a girl5 . Most Sorcerers exist as part of dynastic cabals — sons helping to strengthen the power bases of their fathers and forefathers. Solo-practitioners are extremely rare. Their tendency toward a strict patriarchy is at the root of their enmity with Witches.
Necromancers Among the rarest of the intrinsic magi, Necromancers are living links to the realm of the dead. Not only can they see and interact with ghosts in a manner no one else but those psychic Clairvoyants known as Ghost Whisperers can, but they can raise zombies and animate corpses as well. They are meant to be the guardians of the living, since their gifts give some measure of protection from and occasionally power over the undead. However, this isn't always the case. Many Necromancers suffer considerable mental distress due to their gifts, constantly hounded by restless spirits seeking favours or making mischief. Thus, a high percentage of them, few as they are, end up completely mad before the end.
Psychics Whether male or female, Psychics possess a paranormal ability involving some sort of extrasensory perception. They possess one of three categories of gifts: Telepathy, Psychokinesis, or Clairvoyance. Typically, their gifts are passed down through bloodlines, but there's no guarantee that a gift displayed in one generation will automatically manifest in the next.
Mutants While not possessed of any spell-casting ability, Mutants are nonetheless possessed of unique powers. There is some debate as to whether these powers are truly magic, or whether they're nothing more than extremely unusual genetic aberrations. They are not X-Men or similar such comic book characters. Known mutations are narrow in scope and always physical in nature. They include Chameleons, Folders, and Vanishers.

Interracial Politics

With such a diversity of supernatural expression, it's actually amazing the mundane world isn't more aware of the existence of the paranormal world than it is. The fact remains, however, that byword of the supernatural is secrecy. It doesn't matter who they are, to which race they belong, every Magi, Thaumaturge, Psychic, Mutant, Demi-Human, and Terror knows that their survival absolutely depends on remaining hidden, both from the mundane world and the prying eyes of other supernaturals that might wish to steal or manipulate their power.

Of course, this is more true of some races than others, but even so. It is the one principle every single one of them rely on to keep them safe from harm.

Consequently, most races keep to themselves and truly trust only other members of their own kind. There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between. (For instance, both Vampires and Sorcerers will employ members of other races to help in their operations, but it is rare for them to give such individuals access to their innermost circles.)

Recently, however, there has been some effort by certain supernatural individuals to create a sort of 'United Nations' of the supernatural world. They haven't gotten very far; many races won't participate and even those representatives that do sit on the Interracial Council can't claim to speak for everyone like them. So, at present, it's a very localized movement. It's longterm influence, however, could be huge, depending on what happens in the near future.

Alliances & Enmities

A summary of the major supernatural alliances and enmities can be found below:

You'd think, given they're essentially flipped sides of the same coin, that Witches and Sorcerers would work well together. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

The dispute between them stretches back to the Dark Ages when, thanks largely to the rise and fall of Rome, early matriarchal societies shifted to become patriarchal in nature. The greater the separation was between home and state, the deeper the divide grew. Enterprising Sorcerers, eager to protect their standing and influence in society, would hand Witches over to the mundane magistrates, blaming them for their own mistakes or any other societal ill requiring a scapegoat. This created a certain vicious circle, really, that both precipitated and then resulted because of the rise of persecution against supernaturals exemplified by uprisings such as the English Witch Hunts and Spanish Inquisition.

This, of course, forced the Witches into hiding. Their covens, when they were brave enough to form them at all, were kept small and secret; their magic became defensive and protective in nature. The solo practitioner or familial coven has become the norm. Meanwhile, Sorcerers formed cabals, cartels, and secret brotherhoods modelled after mundane guilds and lodges. Their magic became aggressive and manipulative. For them, their protection lay in building commercial (and sometimes criminal) dynasties that can now influence and potentially control whole communities, states, and nations.
Read more: The Witch/Sorcerer Civil War

Pacts & Agreements

Most of the currently known pacts and agreements out there, respected among supernaturals, are highly localized. However, the most important ones are as follows:


Where Worlds Collide

One of the reasons the supernatural world is so secretive, however, has nothing to do with their own political machinations. It has everything to do with the fact that, by-and-large, they're vastly outnumbered by the denizens of the human world, most of whom would view them as a threat. Indeed, human history is replete with examples of humanity's tendency to destroy that which is different or that it doesn't understand13.

Regardless, the human world is not entirely ignorant of the supernatural world. There are some humans, who, for one reason or another, are entirely aware that the supernatural exists. That doesn't mean, of course, that they know all there is to know about it, but they won't deny it's real, anyway. And, when confronted with it, not all of them try to reason it away.

Humans In-The-Know

For some, it's an academic fascination, for others it's a matter of life and death. Some respond quite favourably to the idea there's more out there than meets the eye, others… not so much:

From Jason the Argonaut to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, humanity has a long tradition of monster hunters and demon slayers. Though they might occasionally fall heir to occult weaponry or artefacts, contrary to what's seen in pop culture, these hunters have rarely been supernaturals, themselves14.

Most monster hunters are highly trained fighters, true. But, they're still only human. Their knowledge and training depends largely on what they're fighting, and why. Some are part of ancient orders that trace their history back hundreds of years, devoted to the eradication of their chosen foe wherever they may be found. Others are solitary hunters, out to avenge some wrong — real or imagined, personal or principled.

What they share in common, however, is the conviction that the supernatural threat they hunt must be stopped by any means necessary15.

Read more: Playing a Monster Hunter

Red Tape & Bureaucracy

Of course, where society flourishes — whether magical or not — bureaucracy follows, as does commerce and industry. Whether it's governments trying to keep tabs on the hidden denizens of society, corporations working to keep ahead of their competition, religions tending to the needs of their congregations, or activists fighting against opposing points of view, it's inevitable that organizations and factions will crop up, one vying against the other. Some of these organizations are exactly what they seem. Others are merely fronts for other purposes. Even the Good Guys hide behind screens, once in a while.

Important Agencies, Organizations, and Factions

Click on a link in the Organization column to see a full, in-depth article on each organization described.

Organization Aim Scope Status
The Department The monitoring and/or control of supernaturals. The Department is one of those clandestine government agencies that officially "don't exist". Buried so deep in the bowels of MI5 and MI6, it's virtually its own entity, effectively independent — aside from funding — from both intelligence branches. Black Ops/Top Secret
Interracial Council To promote cooperation between supernaturals, regardless of race or faction. Currently consisting of a covenless Witch, a rogue Sorcerer, a couple of Demi-Humans, and maybe a Psychic or two, the Interracial Council is more of a Grand Experiment than a Working Reality. Until they can get buy-in from either the Vampires or Werewolf Pack, and convince more of their own people that some sort of a central forum where disputes between races and overall threats to the supernatural community as a whole can be dealt with cooperatively is actually a good idea… well, let's just say it's doubtful they'll get very far. Still, miracles do happen. Secret — unknown to most people, both supernatural and human alike.


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