There is more to the world of Poker Night at the Inferno than meets the eyes.
Players are welcome, if they desire, to play ordinary humans with no knowledge of the world’s deeper secrets; but you can also play a character, who already has ties to the world beyond the mundane.
This page has information on some of the other types of individuals who attend the Inferno, to provide inspiration on the character you choose to play.
You can assume that your character knows some, none, or all of the information on this page.
Your world is one of murky secrets in the corridors of power and the backrooms of politics.
You may not have any flashy magical secrets, but you know that at the Inferno a wallet full of cash, a handful of connections and a poker face will beat ultimate arcane power any day of the week — not to mention that there are some things modern technology can do that the occult underworld just can’t replicate. Demons might think the unholy and corrupting fires of hell are something to fear, but only those who’ve not heard of Chernobyl, and we weren’t even trying there.
And just because your conspiracy isn’t occult doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant. The Illuminati, the Knights Templar, the Hashishim… all of them have individuals claiming to be them, all of them claim to have their fingers in the world’s governments. Maybe they really are as powerful as they say. Maybe not. But if they’ve got the money, it’s as good as the next man’s.
Costuming: Maybe you’ve dressed for the occasion, and are black-tied up to the nines with a vodka martini in tow. Maybe you just want to feel comfortable, and have slouched in wearing a hoodie and jeans. You’re welcome either way. The Inferno would be hypocritical in the extreme to discriminate based on appearances.
The mysteries of the arcane are open to humans, if they have the patience to learn and the will to sacrifice any hope of living a normal life to get there. There are as many forms of magic as there are practitioners of it, but whether you’re using a candle made of human tallow or a cigarette lighter the common theme is this: all of them cost. If your obsession didn’t end up losing you your job, your friends, your family, and any hope at ever looking at the world through the same eyes again, everybody would be doing it.
The hidden underworld of the occult is currently in strife, a secret civil war between the old and the new. The old-school cling to the old ways, working from eldritch tomes and invoking and binding ancient gods and powers. Some of them have been doing it for a very long time, and they’ve gotten very good at it in the process.
But the dawn of the new millennium has brought in a new trend in magic: the modern occultists, who don’t need a bunch of dead white men to tell them how to work magic. Who know that the symbology of the modern world isn’t any less powerful just because it isn’t old. A modern occultist working a ritual for dominion is more likely to use the crown of the Burger King and the spirit of Elvis Presley than they are to invoke Arthurian legend. Why? Because nobody gives a toss about a dead Brit guy these days, but people break their bread with the King in his plastic palace every day of the week.
Costuming: Modern occultists tend to find themselves drawn towards subcultures and countercultures, since preexisting groups of freaks tend to be a little more tolerant of new freaks joining up. They’ve found a lot of philosophical overlap with the anti-authoritarianism of punks, hippies, stoners, and many radical politics movements. They’ll often adapt their mode of dress as a consequence of hanging around with like-minded souls. There’s much less overlap with pagan groups, since much of pagan symbolism is considered the province of the old-schoolers — though, as always, there are exceptions.
Classical occultists often follow the fashion of whenever they were born. Many of them are most comfortable in Victorian dress or something even older. A few even fake older fashions in an attempt to fool the credulous into thinking they’ve been around for longer than they really have. And others still put on their robe and wizard hat at the first opportunity, although it’s considered a little over-the-top for a social occasion.
Stranger Things Still
Not all intelligent life on Earth is human, but it can generally pass well enough for human to get chips without a free side order of angry mob.
Ambassadors: Humanity isn’t alone in the cosmos. It’s not even alone on Earth.
Things from beyond the stars have been sharing this planet with us since we’ve been on it, and the only reason that we haven’t been annihilated by them is that we don’t have anything they want. Really, what is our tiny shell between the mantle and the atmosphere compared to the vast expanse of the oceans, or the fiery bath of the Earth’s core?
These are home to the piscine Deep Ones and the burrowing, mineral Cthonians respectively, and while humanity doesn’t have anything that would make an invasion worth their time, that is not to say that they don’t have cause to manufacture ambassadors comfortable above ground and below. Playing poker is far from the top of their list of priorities, but keeping tabs on whatever occult business humanity is poking its nose into — and getting hold of any important artifacts that it might have somehow laid its hands on — are.
Lurkers: And some aliens are less in the business of being official ambassadors to humanity and more in the business of hiding amongst it and trying to worm their way to the top — or just home. There are the parasitic brain worms, recognisable by the characteristic bruising they leave around the eye-socket and their painfully poor understanding of what humans are actually like.
The shape-shifting reptilian Anunaki, who manage Cash4Gold schemes on behalf of their greedy draconic overlords and tend to let their disguises go a little when they know they’re among friends.
At least the Inferno has done the decent thing and enforced a blanket ban on Thetans — they’re notoriously sore losers.
Heralds: There are awful, ancient and unclean things that live outside the realms we know. They don’t turn up to the Inferno: they don’t understand games with rules more complicated than “turn one: devour all the players”.
But they do have agents — or heralds, or worshipers — within the realm of the living who suffer such indignities as limbs, language, and cause preceding effect. Some of them look passably human. Most barely deserve a C+ for effort.
But they, at least, are capable of playing by the rules of this reality, and over the years many of them have gotten surprisingly good at it.
Fae: Heralds with better PR. You might call the master you serve Ul’gonyac the Devourer of Souls, or you might call him Lord Oberon of the Summer Court, but the difference if he were ever to break into the material world is pretty academic.
Vampires: Less glamorous than in Anne Rice’s imagination, less bad-ass than in Joss Whedon’s, and less ridiculous than in Stephanie Myer’s. They do live forever, they do drink blood, and they do most certainly tangle themselves in century-long games of politics and power so subtle that most people don’t even notice they’re happening — which rather begs the question: what’s the point of them, then?
Vampires have yet to provide an answer: most barely even realise that, for all their affected titles and airs and dominance, their ancestral home is a dilapidated, ramshackle ruin and their power is a fabrication. They’re survivors, though, and have countless years of practice at cunning, scheming and intrigue.
Demons: A high-stakes poker game, you say? The possibility to win souls from gullible humans, you say? The opportunity to be ineffably smug, you say? Oh my.
It certainly would be a terrible thing if any… demons were to show up. Demons are civilised. They’re eloquent. They’re schemers. Above all, they’re smug.
And the vaults of Hell are very, very deep. Almost as deep as the trouble you’d get into for emptying them without good reason.
Angels: Angels are here as a non-entry. They’ve never shown up to the Inferno before, that’s for sure. Demons seem to believe they exist, and are most definitely afraid of them, but from what they say, two things are clear. One: if angels serve a god, it’s not any of the ones humanity has ever worshiped.
Two: the conflicting descriptions of what they’re actually like make that business in Ezekiel 1:15 with the living wheels made of eyes sound like the Vicar of Dibley. Let’s just say that if the stories demons tell are true (and yes, that’s a big ‘if’, but if it’s a lie it’s a remarkably consistent one) there’s a damn good reason why these things’ first words to humanity are always “Fear not!”.
The general rule of thumb is that your costume shouldn’t require other players’ suspension of disbelief: it should look as closely as possible like what other players actually see when they look at you. Most of the supernatural beings in the setting wear glamours that make their distinguishing features look like everyday objects: a demon’s horns might appear as tacky glitter-covered fancy dress horns, or hair that has been gelled into spikes.
In general, subtle prosthetics done well, and costume that accentuates the motifs of your character, are better than full-on latex masks. If you are playing the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, for example, then it’s better to wear a snakeskin jacket and have slit-eye pupil contact lenses than to paint yourself green and slither about on the ground.
We’ve also kept the actual descriptions of what you look like vague, so that you can dress according to the costume you have available. In general, the main motivation to play a nonhuman character should be that you have some cool costume that you want to show off: there are no in-character benefits to playing one.
Playing a special character
Do any of these grab your attention? If so, please let us at Firecat Masquerade know, so that we can plan in advance! Email us with anything from “I would like to play an ambassador from the Deep Ones” to a fifty-page novella (please don’t actually email us a fifty-page novella) and we will do our best to match the goals and bankroll your character begins with to your description.
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Beyond that, the character you choose to play with has no mechanical effect on the game. Occultists can’t cast spells, fae can’t weave charms, parasitic brain worms can’t infect other players. This is for two reasons:
One is the in-character reason that the House’s covenant with its players binds them to fair play, preventing them from using any supernatural abilities or the like.
More importantly, though, is the OC reason that this is a game about playing poker, not being superheroes. Expecting to be able to use your character’s supernatural powers over the course of the game is as silly as expecting to be able to blow up Park End in Monopoly because you’re playing the cannon.