From WoD Gotham
Note that the layers of the Umbra are mutable. It’s possible to go directly to the Deep Umbra from the Penumbra, skipping the Near Umbra entirely. The Dark Umbra, meanwhile, has its own reflection of Earth that exists parallel to the Penumbra, but its outer reaches are mostly separate from the ‘living’ Umbrae.
By far the easiest realm to understand, the Penumbra is a reflection of the Earth as most people know it. As the closest realm to the mundane world, it’s also the easiest to access. Garou players should refer to the article on Urban Umbral Systems for modified rules on stepping sideways.
The most important thing to remember about the Penumbra is it reflects the spiritual health of its real world counterpart. The city is not just one big, stagnating Weaver web. In some places it may appear so, particularly in areas where Technocratic influence is strongest. In more avant-garde neighborhoods, where artists and free thinkers thrive, the Wyld is surprisingly strong. The Wyrm, tied to destruction and decay as it is, isn’t just found in pollution, it’s also powerful in areas rife with human suffering. The funny thing is, people who feel oppressed often rise up to do great things, to create great things, and so the cycle continues.
The most prevalent aspect in any given area may make it difficult to feel the presence of the other aspects of the Triat, but they’re always there, always doing their thing. Artists may fall prey to self-destructive tendencies, and seemingly stagnant office drones may begin to yearn for something new. All in all, New York’s reflection varies just as wildly as its inhabitants, so what you see on the other side depends largely on the neighborhood and the forces that dominate it.
Ephemera & You
Given its close proximity to Earth, time and space in the Penumbra work much the same way. An hour there is still an hour in the real world, and a mile is still a mile. Certain abilities can change this, of course, but for the most part it’s a lot like walking around the real New York.
The key differences are in the ephemera, the spiritual essence that makes up the physical reflection of things seen in the Penumbra. Most living creatures don’t cast reflections on the other side, they’re either too short lived or too self involved to leave any impression. Because of that, the Penumbral city can seem desolate compared its bustling real world counterpart. The ghostly images of cars can be seen moving through the streets—like many man-made objects present, they’re given form thanks to the significance people place upon them—but the occupants themselves are missing.
Mages and Garou - Mages being Awakened beings, and Garou being part spirit themselves - both leave an impression on the Penumbra, though their vague shadows give no real indication of their true natures. It’s possible, if unlikely, for particularly enlightened mortals to leave impressions as well, so there’s no concluding anything just because someone has a shadow in the Penumbra. Vampires generally don’t show up at all, given their ties are to the Dark Umbra. There are rare exceptions, particularly if the vampire in question is an extraordinary individual who’s had a severe impact on their surroundings. An elder or exceedingly depraved vampire may show up as an ominous black shape in the Penumbra, but the average neonate won’t register in the slightest. In any case, attacking a person’s shadow in the Penumbra will do nothing more than give them chills in the real world.
How solid a structure appears in the Penumbra depends on the spiritual significance of its real world counterpart. A beloved and centuries old church would naturally appear as strong as the real thing, while the walls of any other building might appear only partially solid. The vast webs encasing the tower housing a multi-billion dollar corporation may be incredibly thick by themselves, but the structure beneath isn’t anywhere near as solid as a truly significant building. It’s possible to bash through those webs, just as it’s possible to step through a partially solid wall.For Garou, passing through partially solid walls requires a Gnosis roll (difficulty 6), while brute force is required to smash through more solid structures. Note that tearing a hole in the wall of a building in the Penumbra has no effect on its real world counterpart. Destroying a bunch of pattern spiders also won’t do much to the technology firm they’re crawling all over. To have any real impact on the appearance of the Penumbra, one must work from the outside.
Coming Soon: List of New York City neighborhoods as they appear in the Penumbra
The Near Umbra
Compared to the rest of the Umbra, the Penumbra is as boring, mundane, and safe as dry toast. Of course, you can still choke to death on dry toast, so it’s not entirely safe. To anyone who has progressed beyond a basic understanding of cosmology, the Near Umbra is the Umbra. Unlike the Penumbra, battles fought in the realms of the Near Umbra can potentially have great impact on the world. By the same token, significant events in the real world can echo far into the Umbra.
The Near Umbra is, for the most part, a formless mass containing realms that drift like bubbles around the earth. They’re not really bubbles, but that analogy works well enough for the average sane mind. Within the shapeless morass of the Near Umbra, concepts like ‘up’ and ‘down’ become a matter of perception.
Traversing the Near Umbra
The raw ephemera of the Umbra shifts to fit whatever realms are nearby. With no way to map the shifting expanse, the best way to find any given Near Realm is to search for signs of its influence. Glowing pathways of light flow like an illuminated circuit board toward the CyberRealm, while the sound of agonized screams grow increasingly louder as one nears the Atrocity Realm. There are a number of direct pathways, shortcuts, and spirit guides to many of the major Near Realms. They make travel easier, not to mention safer, but they’re not strictly necessary to get wherever you’re going.
Every realm is governed more by instinct and the subconscious than by the usual perceptions of reality. Something that makes no sense in the real world may make perfect sense within a Near Realm. Why? Because that’s just the way things are. Every Near Realm has its own laws, and it’s quite possible to become trapped simply by accepting them as the norm. What’s more, ever major realm could have any number of sub realms, called zones, surrounding it. The possibilities are endless, but unlike the Deep Umbra, there are still rules.
Major Near Realms: Abyss, Aetherial Realm. Arcadia Gateway, Atrocity Realm, Battleground, CyberRealm, Erebus, Flux, Legendary Realm, Malfeas, Pangaea, Scar, Summer Country, Wolfhome
For more information on each Near Realm, either try going there, or ask a character with the appropriate knowledge.
See Also: Near Umbra Chart
The Deep Umbra
The Deep Umbra is the ultimate destination of anyone who seeks to plumb the mysteries of the planes beyond our own. Absolutely anything goes in the Deep Umbra, thus it’s a bit difficult to aptly describe the sea of chaos. The Deep Umbra is always shifting, always changing, and what’s true today may not be true tomorrow.
The laws of reality are a polite suggestion at best in the Deep Umbra. Only the most intrepid, experienced, or downright foolhardy explorers attempt to venture this far. Even a master of cosmology could vanish in the Deep Umbra, never to be seen or heard from again. To some, the prospect of a realm of infinite possibility is terrifying, to others it’s exhilarating.
Escape Velocity: Reaching the Deep Umbra
Getting to the Deep Umbra requires a bit of ingenuity and sheer daring, as one must first move beyond the outer limits of the Penumbra. That usually means traveling upwards through the air, but going down can sometimes work just as well. The methods of breaking through, whatever they are, would no doubt seem impossible to anyone anchored firmly in the real world. The weirder the means of entry are, the more likely they are to succeed. For Garou, it could be as easy as running through the clouds, or leaping off the Penumbral Empire State Building. For Mages, it takes highly sophisticated rituals, or machinery, to propel oneself beyond the Penumbra’s atmosphere. However you get there, tread lightly.See Also: Horizons Chart
The Dark Umbra
While the other Umbrae, even the Deep Umbra, are at least loosely tied to the living world, the Dark Umbra contains the myriad lands of the dead. Floating within its vast, dark sea are islands that host dozens, if not hundreds, of ghost kingdoms. Whatever culture these kingdoms originate from, most would consider them a sort of purgatory for spirits of the dead. Heaven and Hell, if they exist, are located somewhere else entirely.
Terrible storms tear across the Dark Umbra from time to time. It’s still possible, if inadvisable, for the living the venture through its realms*, but the dead generally don’t like the living trespassing on their turf. Living creatures shine like a beacon in the Dark Umbra, and most of the dead don’t take kindly to them trespassing on their turf. Vampires draw considerably less attention, but they’re equally unpopular for having cheated death. It’s much safer for both the living and the undead to just stick close to Earth.
*The great maelstrom of 1999 never happened here. If anything, it was just another storm that came, messed up the spectral landscape, and went. Because of this, explorers won’t be knocked off their feet or savagely wounded just by stepping into the Dark Umbra. Other forces or entities may harm them, and it’s possible they might get caught in a passing storm, but the maelstrom is not constantly raging in Gotham’s universe.
The Shadowlands (The Dark Penumbra)
Just as the Earth casts a shadow in the Near Umbra, it also has a shadow in the Dark Umbra. The Dark Penumbra, known to some as the Shadowlands, is the grim reflection of the living world. Like the Penumbra, buildings and objects cast a shadow in the Dark Penumbra, sometimes even lingering long after their real world counterpart is demolished. Unlike the Penumbra, the landscape of the Dark Penumbra invariably bleak. Everything appears dark and decayed in the Shadowlands. This is where the spirits of the restless dead dwell, haunting the people and places that were once important to them.
Mages and other necromancers have their ways of interacting with the Dark Umbra. For Garou, it takes a bit of effort. Their ties are to the living Umbrae, thus when they step sideways they end up in the living Penumbra instead of the Shadowlands. Even when they die, their spirits return to the ‘Light’ Umbra in order to be reborn. The Dark Umbra is foreign to them, but they could still be drawn there for any number of reasons.
Pages in category "Umbra"
This category contains only the following page.