Reversion Reconsidered

By John S. Olson.

In the "Welcome to the Secret War" section of the Feng Shui rulebook, exposure to the healing magic of the Queen of the Ice Pagoda causes a girl to revert to half-human, half-tiger. The "Leatherback" card in Flash Point shows another halfway reverted animal; a bald-headed, stocky, gray-skinned man who was unable to retain all of his human features in the face of the arcanowave emanations that saturate the world of 2056.

This partial reversion is impossible under the rules of the game. In the world of Feng Shui, as described in the rules, transformed animals have an increasing chance of reverting for each day they spend in a place where magic is known and plentiful, and when they revert, they do so all at once. Direct exposure to magic does nothing to them. In fact, transformed animals from the 69 AD juncture are not at risk of reversion at all, in any juncture, except in those places where the Sorcery modifier is even higher than +2.

In telephone conversation with Robin Laws, I learned that the reversion rules were rewritten several times during playtesting. Originally, they had something in mind that would conform to the above example, but too many playtesters were using transformed animals like were-creatures, e.g. "Now I'm a tiger, and I'll claw out this guy's guts; now I'm a human again, and I'll pick up his machine gun and shoot his comrades."

However, their solution has some problems. While it gives the Ascended incentive to keep the Sorcery modifier at zero, or even below (as a safety net), it gives them no reason to mind the existence of what sorcerers remain. And as stated above, it gives the animals of 69 AD little reason to want to found the Ascended in the first place!

Fortunately, the system can be fixed with only a little tinkering. My initial idea makes magic exposure a bit less risky, so I compensated to give it a bit more bite. First, Reversion Points are gained every play session, not every day. The character gains points equal to the Sorcery Modifier of the juncture where he spent the most time that session. Thus, a session spent mostly in 69 adds two Reversion Points.

Direct exposure to magic can also increase Reversion Points. The first time it happens in a play session, the Magic score of the spell's source is added to the character's Reversion Point total. Subsequent exposures have no effect unless the Magic score involved is greater, in which case the difference between the two Magic scores is added. This is cumulative with the juncture modifier, so a spell from a sorcerer with Magic 7 in the 1850 juncture would result in five Reversion Points at the end of the session.

Spending a play session in a juncture with a negative Sorcery Modifier reduces the Reversion Point total by the amount of the modifier. In addition, Reversion Points can be bought off with experience on a one-for-one basis (this simulates the character devoting time to meditation and spiritual discipline to strengthen his transformation). So long as the character ends a play session with no more Reversion Points than at the start, no Reversion Check is made. Of course, if you don't have enough experience, you just have to take the Points...

GMs using these rules should consider not giving transformed animals from 69 AD their special resistance to magic. If they avoid sorcerers, they can live fairly normal lives, but still have a reason for wanting to reduce the power of magic. Barring attunement to feng shui sites, they have to spend two-thirds of their experience on staying human. Now there's a reason for founding the Lodge!

Even so, these rules enable characters like Ze Botelho (from the Netherworld CCG expansion set) to survive indefinitely in the Netherworld -- just not for free. The Ascended nevertheless avoid the Netherworld, because of the risks it holds for them.

The next step in this system is that Reversion isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. It happens in stages - perhaps as many as five. Each time it happens, the current Reversion Point total drops to zero. The first stage of reversion gives the character a few subtle animalistic features; for instance, a Spider reversion would give its victim long fingers, bristly hair and a pot belly. A Tiger reversion would give its victim amber-colored eyes and several streaks of contrasting color in the hair. The second stage of reversion gives the character unmistakable animal features, the third turns him into a humanoid animal, the fourth stage worsens the animal form, and the fifth stage finally completes the reversion.

As long as the character hasn't reached fifth stage, reversion can be undone, but it's painful. In order to undo a stage of reversion, a transformed animal must sacrifice a point of Chi. That's right, sacrifice. As in you have to spend experience to get it back. Chi and all its secondary attributes that are equal or higher drop by one and the reversion process recedes by one stage. GMs should probably not allow more than one stage to be undone per play session. Make the PCs work off that problem, and make it count.

While a character is partially reverted, he will have a number of serious problems. For instance, his appearance will upset people as much as that of a Supernatural Creature. For another, the Ascended will want him to stay completely hidden. Too much strangeness can increase popular belief in occult phenomena, and the Lodge doesn't like that.

Partially reverted Lodge members will be taken away and cared for until they come back to themselves. Transformed animals who wouldn't join the Lodge don't get that sort of insurance; if they aren't Lodge assets, it's easier and cheaper to kill them. Transformed Animal PCs, take note and be careful.

Dragons are a special case. A dragon can change back from stage five reversion, but until then, he requires a positive Sorcery modifier to live. For each stage of Reversion he suffers, he needs a +1 modifier. For each point by which the Modifier falls short, he suffers one Wound Point per session. These wounds cannot heal until the dragon either returns to human form, or finds a place with a Sorcery Modifier high enough to match the dependence.

A negative Sorcery juncture modifier increases the damage a dragon suffers by the amount of the modifier, or the stage of reversion, whichever is less. Thus, a dragon in Hong Kong (modifier zero) would suffer one point for each stage he has reverted. In a place with a -1 modifier, she would suffer two points of damage at stage one, three at stage two, etc.. A -2 modifier changes those numbers to two, four, five, six, and seven. And so on...

If a GM cares to make things this complicated, she could try coming up with a set of specific effects of reversion for each animal type. A Tiger, for instance, would gain points of Body and lose Mind (except smell-based Perception), growing claws at some point. A Spider might gain Agility and eventually the ability to crawl on walls and ceilings. Individual GMs can work out their own details (that's code for "I'm too lazy to do any more work on this.").

One final thing needs to be said about the "Magic Cop" template and his True Form schtick. A transformed animal's true form is of the animal, so the schtick still has its full effect, all at once and nothing first. Since it can only be attempted once on any animal, and costs a permanent loss of a Magic point every time it's tried, this is a fair use.

If it fails, though, the Magic Cop's Magic score is still added to the animal's Reversion Point total. I guess that's before the point subtraction occurs. That's because, even though the spell itself failed, the magic was still released.

Of course, you still have a wolf, scorpion or elephant to deal with, but that can be done. Note, however, that if you cause a dragon to revert, you have a dying dragon whose strength has not yet faded, and who knows that you are the cause of its probable death. Use True Form sparingly.

Last modified: February 9, 1997; please send comments to