It is the year 2050. After the discovery of holomatter, a mysterious new state of matter with wondrous properties, holotronic technology has become ubiquitous in all sectors of society. Cityscapes are bathed in psychedelic holograms, the virtual reality holonet is a world unto itself, and the megacorporation HoloSys Inc. holds immense influence over mass media and governments. And in the underbelly of society, illegal holotech and programs mingle with rumors of the paranormal conspiratorial into a dizzying web of half-lies.
You are a hacker, one adept with holotech in ways that don't always play by society's rules. Recent times have been relatively calm for you until one day, as you log into the holonet, instead of arriving at your intended destination, you are surrounded by thick, impenetrable holo-fog, the sign of extreme data corruption. From the fog it emerges, a shadowy figure with an uncanny resemblance to yourself, surrounded by an ominous aura that you find unsettling on some primal, instinctual level that you cannot quite explain.
"I am the Shadow, the true self..." The shadowy figure speaks, its voice a horrible distortion of your own, before letting loose the deepest, darkest secrets that you have admitted to no one, not even yourself. But just as you cry out to reject this gratuitous affront to your very identity, the shadowy figure contorts in grotesque defiance of human anatomy, before exploding into a monstrosity from your worst nightmares.
But then you hear another voice, this one unfamiliar and mechanical. "Arcana Code installation confirmed. Initializing..." Suddenly, streams of softly glowing holotrons swirl around you, coalescing into a floating card that resembles stylized holochips. Desperately, you reach out to grasp the card in your hand, and...
This is an RP based on the Persona franchise. However, it is an entirely self-contained alternate universe, so no canon characters or organizations will appear. Some mechanics are similar to those in Persona games, but some are different. They will all be explained in this section, so prior knowledge of Persona games is not required.
Also, this is a fictional version of Earth where history and physics resemble real life only on the surface level. Plot-relevant secret conspiracies aside, the laws of physics themselves are not the same at the subatomic level. This may affect some well-known pieces of popular science and history, e.g. there is no longer time dilation in Einstein's relativity. This should have no effect on most characters, but please consult me first if you want to make references to real life theoretical physics concepts. There are also some unintuitive quirks in this new physics that I had to add for the sake of consistency, but I’ll only bring them up when necessary.
A Brief History
The holotronic age began in 2021 with the discovery of the holotron, a mysterious new particle outside of the standard models of physics. It was named such because of its incredible ease of use in making detailed 3D holograms, which quickly saw widespread use in the information and entertainment industries. But it was later discovered that holotrons could be "solidified" when made to vibrate at specific combinations of frequencies. The physical and chemical properties of thusly-created holomatter could be fine-tuned with ease that engineers could only dream of, and permanent conversion between holomatter and normal matter was possible. Some forms of holomatter can even extract energy from seemingly the vacuum of space itself, solving a significant portion of the world's energy problems. Then holotronic microchips were invented, and the holotronic age swung into full gear.
Nowadays, holotech is everywhere. Everyday life is filled with holograms of all shapes and sizes, resembling the neon cyberpunk aesthetics of many sci-fi stories. Personal holo-projectors are used for both fashion and function. Augmented reality has practically become reality itself.
Virtual Reality and the Holonet
Naturally, holography saw immediate usage in VR, aided by the increased computational power of holochips. VR became increasingly integrated with the internet until the two became nearly one and the same, all websites eventually adding interactive VR support. Due to the ease of customizing one's VR avatar, even compared to personal holograms in the physical world, many people came to prefer VR over real life. It doesn't help that many jobs and gatherings are held remotely via VR, and that "deep VR" invented in the past decade allows transferring all of one's senses into a simulated world via neural implants. The holonet is now a full-fledged second reality, the solace of many who find the "real" world unsatisfactory.
HoloSys Inc. is the company that initially discovered and made use of holotrons. Merely a startup in 2021, it has grown into a megacorporation of truly titanic proportions. Through clever legal maneuvering and rumored worse methods, it secured exclusive rights to develop and produce state-of-the-art holotech, which allowed its tendrils to root deep into every sector of industry and society. None would deny that HoloSys is a bona fide superpower, and many would argue that it has assimilated the government itself. With society's vital dependence on holotech, all the data harvested from said holotech, and its control over holographic mass media, HoloSys has power over the world like no other. But political debates aside, at least the products and services provided by HoloSys are well-liked for the most part, for what it's worth.
Holotronic Human Augmentation
After the success of deep VR holochip implants, HoloSys began working on more radical forms of human augmentation via holotech. Due to the high adaptability of holomatter, various holo-aug implants and prosthetics were developed in the past decade, mostly for everyday utility and bodily restoration. Nevertheless, there is a push for "holorgs" with superhuman capabilities, which are already being used in certain elite military forces.
Four years ago, HoloSys unveiled Sophia Neumann, a designer baby imbued with bleeding-edge holotech from the embryonic stage. Almost more machine than human, Sophia grew from infancy to adulthood within a span of three years, learning at an unprecedented rate and easily becoming the technically youngest to obtain a doctorate. Though her inhumanly stoic mannerisms, and her very nature itself, are deeply unsettling to many people, she is marketed as the pinnacle of HoloSys's achievements, and seen by many as one of the chief representatives of everything HoloSys stands for. With Sophia's success, there is no doubt that further advancements in holo-augs will be made.
Of course, not all is what it seems, and much lies beneath the surface. HoloSys is large but fragmented, its propaganda fraught with holes and its law enforcement far from all-reaching. As what the original dark web was to the internet, the shadownet is composed of the hidden parts of the holonet outside of HoloSys's control or knowledge. As a place where information is almost completely unregulated, there exists a dizzying swirl of rumors and conspiracy theories in the shadownet, mixed with genuine criminal activity and leaked corporate secrets, so much so that its reliability can be even worse than HoloSys-controlled mass media. Some of the most prominent practices and rumors in the shadownet are listed below.
Holohacking: Holohacking refers to the illegal production and modification, in either hardware or software, of holotech. Since only HoloSys is legally permitted to produce and modify holotech, doing so without being a HoloSys employee automatically makes one a hacker. In the dark depths of the shadownet, bootleg holotech is modified and traded, with wildly varying levels of safety and quality; some can rival even secret internal HoloSys technologies, while others can outright get the user killed.
Holofaking: With the ubiquity of holography, it's natural that it can be used to mimic the likeness of pre-existing individuals; identity verification has become far more elaborate in response. Holofaking is technically legal as long as it is not used to impersonate or deceive, but corporations like HoloSys tend to be highly protective of their imagery, launching aggressive legal assaults against high-profile holofaking cases, which mostly limits the activity to the shadownet. The most well-known holofake is the underground virtual idol Utasaki Aria, whose face and bodily proportions are copies of those of Sophia Neumann herself; a significant portion of the shadownet sees her as a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive control of HoloSys.
Holomancy: The biggest rumor in the shadownet is the existence of holomancy, the ability to manipulate holomatter with nothing but one's mind, akin to superpowers or magic. It actually exists but is rare and very poorly understood. Holomantic potential depends on the person, and may be inborn or awakened after certain significant experiences. Footage of public demonstrations of supposed holomancy circulate widely, but much of it is faked through a combination of holofakes and holo-augs; HoloSys denies its existence using that as an excuse.
Saklas Syndrome: A rumor that began circulating a few years ago, referring to rare and inexplicable cases of coma, catatonia, or psychosis following prolonged VR use; it's unclear where the name originated. The safety of VR holotech has long since been thoroughly demonstrated; even if a victim's deep VR implant is completely taken over by a hacker, significant physiological distress still causes it to disconnect, preventing the hacker from trapping the victim in VR. As a result, attempted explanations of the syndrome are speculative at best.
Other Notable Conspiracy Theories: - Holomatter is of extraterrestrial or extradimensional origin, and there exist other worlds composed entirely of holomatter. - Other paranormal occurrences are related to holomatter, including major historical events. - Secret underground organizations are behind HoloSys, or HoloSys itself is nothing but a front to such an organization.
I call it the "magic" system, but it really covers everything that grants capabilities beyond real life modern technology. Some of these are available to theoretically anyone, while others are only available to Persona users.
In general, every magical effect has an associated "power level", which determines the energy density of the effect, the rate at which the effect extracts vacuum energy, and how resistant the effect is to disruption when clashing against an opposing effect. Circumstantial factors like good tactics and weakness exploitation can tilt things in your favor, but there is often not much you can do if your opponent's power level is overwhelmingly stronger than yours. For Personas users and similar entities, their power levels can often be increased by practice, experience, and certain significant events.
Independently of power level, sustained exertion builds up strain at a rate inversely proportional to the user's skill and efficiency, which requires rest to recover from. Player characters can expect to regain full strength after one night of rest, though overexertion can lengthen the process. Exceptionally efficient entities can keep working indefinitely without rest at a moderate level of exertion.
There are some more specific instances of the power level rule. - No effect can be unblockable, undodgeable, irresistible, immune, or absolute in any other way. Again, has to obey power levels. - All effects must originate from the user and travel to their targets, even if invisibly. Otherwise the effect would have infinite speed, which implies infinite power level. For example, to manipulate a rock, you have to send out your geomantic magic to permeate that rock first. - No magical effect can work in terms of abstract concepts or semantics. Everything must be based on physics and power levels. - Every entity has generic magic resistance proportional to power level, in addition to specific elemental resistances. As a result, you can't directly manipulate the matter that makes up another entity's body unless your power level is overwhelmingly stronger than the target's.
There are some categories of abilities and effects that are notoriously hard to balance. You must consult me first if you want to have any abilities in any of the following categories. - Any mind-altering effect more specific than inducing hallucinations or approximate emotions in the target. - Space manipulation, portals, teleportation, and intangibility. - Time manipulation, precognition, postcognition, and time travel. This category in particular is banned in all but the most extreme and specific plot circumstances, so don't get your hopes up. - Anything that deals with the soul.
Lastly, a common type of entity is the amorphous entity made of some homogeneous substance, seemingly lacking vital organs. Such entities are held together by internal circuits of holomatter, so anything that disrupts said circuits or destroys the substance can damage the amorphous being. Strong physical blows can cause stress to said circuits as well, which takes energy to recover from, meaning amorphous beings are not immune to physical attacks.
The most common holomantic ability is holo-sense, an extrasensory ability to detect holomatter around oneself; it can also be obtained via holo-augs. Accuracy and range improves with skill, and the most skilled can replace their mundane senses entirely with holo-sense. Most holotronic objects have specific "auras" that register to the holo-sense as synesthesia, conveying appropriate feelings of images and concepts. Certain effects can mask objects from holo-sense or block it out, which can in turn be defeated by more skilled sensors.
Holo-weapons are futuristic weapons, melee or ranged, composed of holomatter, though the term can also encompass armor and other equipment. Many of them are conjured on the spot via schematics. The energy used to conjure a holo-weapon can be reclaimed by breaking the weapon down into holomatter and reabsorbing it, though the energy is lost if the weapon is destroyed. Ammunition and explosives are almost always destroyed on use, so they cost energy, and most other holo-weapons also cost energy to maintain their powers.
Holo-scripts are specific effects composed of holomatter spontaneously projected into the world, akin to magic spells. Skilled users can modify and combine them in various ways. They almost always cost energy to use.
Both holo-weapons and holo-scripts can be conjured through specific holotronic devices, potentially implanted in the user's body. A holomancer can conjure both through his mind, though the types of weapons, scripts, and modifications he can use depend on his personal aptitudes and skills; some are generalists and others specialists.
Most holo-scripts are roughly categorized by elements and combinations thereof. Every element has a good degree of variety within itself, and someone may have aptitude for only a subset of an element, e.g. an earth user who specializes in metal. The general fighting style of each element is given, though a user with very high skill level or unusual aptitude may be able to subvert these styles (e.g. a defensive wind user with walls of compressed air). Also, note that due to the power level rule earlier, there is no elemental immunity, absorption, or reflection, only resistance.
Fire: - Physical: Conjures explosions. Very high burst damage, but lacks defensive power. - Magical: Conjures heat, flames, and explosions. Has both high burst and sustained damage, but relatively lacking in utility. Can cleanse and strongly buff offensive power.
Water: - Physical: Conjures liquid with adjustable viscosity and pressure. Versatile and fluid in form. - Magical: Conjures ice, snow, and cold. Can defend the user, and slow down or trap enemies. Can heal, cleanse, and preserve.
Air: - Physical: Conjures wind and compressed gas. Very fast, but lacks defensive power. - Magical: Conjures electricity and magnetic fields. Very fast, and can paralyze or disrupt enemies. Can buff agility and speed.
Earth - Physical: Conjures earth and plant matter. Strong and durable, but relatively slow. - Magical: Conjures toxic and corrosive chemicals. High damage over time, and can inflict a variety of physical ailments. Can heal, cleanse, and buff defense.
Light: - Physical: Conjures solid light. Strong and versatile but lacks permanence, dissipating when disrupted. Resists natural elements but weak to dark. - Magical: Conjures radiant holy energy. Good at disrupting, restraining, and pacifying enemies. Can heal, cleanse, and buff defense.
Dark: - Physical: Conjures solid darkness. Strong and versatile but lacks permanence, dissipating when disrupted. Resists natural elements but weak to light. - Magical: Conjures shadowy demonic energy. Good at cursing, debilitating, and weakening enemies. Can drain life and strongly buff offensive power.
Psychic: - Physical: Conjures telekinetic force fields. Strong and versatile but lacks permanence, dissipating when disrupted. Resists natural elements but mildly weak to supernatural elements. - Magical: Conjures illusions and mind-disrupting psychic waves. Bypasses many types of physical defense and inflicts mental ailments. Very good at psychic defense and cleansing mental ailments.
Nuclear: - Physical: Conjures gravitational waves and spatial distortions. Lacking in direct damage, but can shift the battle with large pushing and pulling fields. - Magical: Conjures nuclear plasma and chaotic energies. Weakens the structural integrity of irradiated targets and reacts violently with other energies. Can enhance magic in unpredictable ways.
Almighty: - Physical: Conjures unidentifiable exotic matter. Powerful, versatile, and has no weaknesses, but very rare and hard to use. - Magical: Conjures mysterious otherworldly energy. Very powerful, and nothing has resistance against it, but very rare and hard to use.
These are the actual supernatural elements of the setting. Very few people know of their existence, and they are poorly understood in general. More about them will be revealed as the story progresses.
The Abyss is an otherworldly realm that exists in parallel to the physical world, full of a mysterious form of supernatural dark energy called "miasma" by the few who know of its existence. It is something different from holomatter, capable of similar feats on its own, yet resonates with holomatter easily, resulting in the shallower layers of the Abyss becoming akin to physical manifestations of the deeper layers of the shadownet. Travelling through the Abyss's miasmal currents can thus take someone to a corresponding site in the shadownet and vice versa.
The shadow archetype, a concept from Jungian psychology, represents a person's suppressed subconscious desires and aspects of himself that he does not want to accept. When a person is exposed to high levels of miasma, most likely from an Abyss-linked part of the shadownet, the buried dark side of his psyche may physically manifest as a Shadow, a spiritual entity composed of miasma initially resembling a dark reflection of its host. The mental state of a Shadow ranges from animalistic to having a fully cognizant alternate personality, and its attitude toward the host can vary wildly, depending on the specifics of the host's personality. But in the most likely case where the host attempts to reject his Shadow, the psychological duress causes the Shadow to shift into a monstrous form symbolizing its nature and go out of control, wielding miasma-based supernatural powers, where it is highly likely to kill its host. The trauma of its host's death then causes the Shadow to lose the last vestiges of its humanity, resulting in rapid psychological distortion into a full-fledged monster. These Shadows are then doomed to wander the Abyss, where they may mutate, split, merge, and breed. Other forms of Shadow production also exist, such as spontaneous generation from the aggregate of mass emotions and desires, or arising from a recently dead person like a ghost.
The Abyss is typically filled with holo-fog, the result of holotronic data degradation, with vague structures resembling shadownet sites. But a very strong-willed Shadow can cause the fog to coalesce into a Shadow Palace, a concrete locale of varying size and danger, reflecting its nature much like its appearance. A Palace can further change as its inhabitants do.
The Shadow does not necessarily represent negative qualities, simply ones that have been denied and suppressed and now gone out of control. The healthiest solution is almost always for the host to accept his Shadow and reintegrate it into his psyche, transforming the Shadow's negatives into positives and becoming a step closer to psychological completion. Such a thing is easier said than done, however, and the Shadow's miasma is a power not many humans can tame.
Helping with the task greatly are Arcana Codes, mysterious holo-scripts of unknown origin and incredible complexity. An Arcana Code can permanently fuse with a compatible host to grant holomancy if the host doesn't already have it, and its presence allows the host to temper his Shadow into a Persona, a spiritual projection of his inner self. Manifesting the Persona can be taxing, but its powers are undeniable, greatly complementing and bolstering the host's. It will grow with its host and may even undergo a significant metamorphosis, but it is also impacted by the host's thoughts and feelings. If the host succumbs to major psychological trauma, it is possible for the Persona to go berserk or even regress back into the host's Shadow.
The Persona is usually named after a mythological or historical figure whose story resonates with the host's personality, though this association is only thematic, and does not imply the actual existence of mythological beings. As a result, Persona names are not unique, and multiple people can have Personae named after the same mythological figure, each presenting a different interpretation of said figure. Moreover, the power level of a Persona solely depends on the power level of the host, and has no correlation with the power level of the mythological figure the Persona is named after within its own story.
The Arcana Code manifests as a glowing holotronic circuit-like Tarot card, depicting one of the Major Arcana that suits the host; its color scheme and pattern on the back of the card depend on the host's personality. When manifesting his Persona, a shadowy figure rises out of the host, then the card materializes, before dissolving into streams of glowing holotrons that wrap around the shadowy figure and transform it into the Persona. Arcana Codes are not unique, nor is each mythological figure's association with any Arcana, due to the different interpretations of said figure that different people can have.
A list of Major Arcana and their usual meanings are listed below. I know that there are many different and complex Tarot interpretations out there, but these are the ones I've chosen to use. If this summary isn't enough, you can look at this guide. Nonstandard Arcana from nonstandard Tarot decks, such as the Thoth deck or Minchiate, are not allowed, for plot reasons.
0 - Fool: [NOT AVAILABLE TO PLAYERS.]
I - Magician: Creativity, resourcefulness, cunning, focus.
II - High Priestess: Intuition, mystery, subconsciousness, emotion.
III - Empress: Fertility, life, nourishment, healing.
IV - Emperor: Authority, stability, order, tradition.
V - Hierophant: Spirituality, faith, wisdom, insight.
VI - Lovers: Harmony, sharing, connections, trust.
VII - Chariot: Ambition, victory, persistence, purpose.
VIII - Justice: Fairness, balance, honesty, morality.
IX - Hermit: Solitude, meditation, guidance, searching.
X - Fortune: Evolution, destiny, opportunity, luck.
XI - Strength: Willpower, courage, patience, self-control.
XII - Hanged Man: Sacrifice, altruism, acceptance, surrender.
XIII - Death: Termination, rebirth, change, cyclicity.
XIV - Temperance: Moderation, compromise, synthesis, duality.
XV - Devil: Amorality, freedom, domination, materialism.
XVI - Tower: Turmoil, upheaval, awakening, resolution.
XVII - Star: Hope, inspiration, peace, protection.
XVIII - Moon: Instinct, dream, imagination, trickery.
XIX - Sun: Optimism, joy, confidence, satisfaction.
XX - Judgement: [NOT AVAILABLE TO PLAYERS.]
XXI - World: [NOT AVAILABLE TO PLAYERS.]
Name: Can include full name, nicknames, pseudonyms, titles, epithets, and the like.
Age: Remember that the year is 2050. Human augmentation only became big in the past decade, so it's unlikely that your character would be outside the normal human age span.
Gender: Sex change surgeries and LGBTQ rights have gotten more robust, so non-binary gender identities are somewhat more widely accepted than they are in real life; holotech also makes it easier than ever to disguise one’s biological sex. But remember, you don't need to focus on gender issues unless it makes sense for your character and would make a good story.
Appearance: Holotech allows fashion to be considerably more elaborate and outlandish than in real life, so flashy anime-esque appearances are likely okay. If you're not sure, ask me first.
Personality: You don't have to give an extensive psychoanalysis of your character, but a general summary is helpful. Think about your character's preferences, principles, aspirations, fears, etc.. These are going to be important to the character's Arcana, Shadow, and Persona. If you want a character with split personalities or similar unusual mental features, ask me first and we'll work out how this affects the Shadow and Persona.
Backstory: Again, only a general summary will suffice, though you'll need to have my permission first if you want to have any secret parts of your character's backstory that are not revealed to the public. As the introduction suggests, the standard plot hook is that your character is a hacker of some sort, who has been exposed to miasma from some unknown channel in the shadownet and thus gets attacked by his Shadow. Your character is then rescued by the mysterious virtual idol Utasaki Aria, who grants your character an Arcana Code and helps your character transfigure his Shadow into a Persona. She'll then try to recruit your character into her hacker group focused on investigating the Saklas syndrome, where she acts as the navigator. This is expected to play out in your first few posts where your character is introduced, though if you want, you can have your character not gain his Persona right away, and instead get rescued by the other characters early on in the game. If you don't want to take this plot hook, you'll have to talk to me so we can work out something to properly involve your character.
Skills: Your character's mundane skills without the aid of holotech or supernatural powers, though this line can be blurry if your character is heavily augmented. Ask me if you're unsure.
Abilities and Equipment: Your character's holomantic abilities and holotronic equipment and augmentations that do not involve the use of his Persona. Ask me if you want to know whether a particular piece of technology is feasible in the setting. Your character is exceedingly unlikely to have any special powers not derived from holotronics or the Persona, though it's not entirely off the table if you can convince me it's a good idea.
Arcana Code: Include the card's color scheme, pattern on its back, and any unusual features it has. Keep in mind that the card's appearance cannot deviate too far from the norm due to plot reasons.
Shadow: Summarize the repressed qualities represented by your character's Shadow, as well as its human and monstrous appearances. Note that unlike canon Persona games, your Shadow's human form does not have to have yellow eyes. Make note of it if the Shadow has any abilities not shared with your character's Persona.
Persona: Summarize the thematic connections between your Persona and the mythological or historical figure it's named after, and its appearance. A general summary of the Persona's elements, abilities, and fighting style is needed, though you don't need to list every single thing your Persona can do. If you're unsure whether a specific action fits your Persona's moveset, ask me, and I'll call you out if I feel that it's an asspull. You can have a few minor elemental resistances for free, but major resistances need to be balanced out by vulnerabilities. Lastly, a three-stat system will be used to approximately gauge your character's Persona's strengths and weaknesses. You have 15 points to distribute freely among these stats, though some Personae may have multiple forms that have different stat spreads. - Might: How effective the Persona is at using brute force in offensive and supportive moves. Does not differentiate between physical and magical. - Endurance: The Persona's defense, sustain, and recovery. Includes capability to survive long drawn-out fights and supporting the durability of teammates. - Finesse: The Persona's mobility, agility, precision, and ability to analyze and exploit weaknesses, in both offense and support.
A blank character sheet can be found below and copied for your convenience.
[b]Abilities and Equipment[/b]:
All guild rules apply. In addition, there are a few points that I want to clarify and emphasize.
- Each player is not limited to one character. Feel free to make multiple characters if you think you can handle it, within reason. You can make minor characters that are more akin to NPCs, and potentially turn them into major characters later if you want.
- I am someone who takes internal consistency and verisimilitude very seriously. Therefore, if I see something in your post that I believe to be a plot hole, I'm almost always going to ask you to fix it. If you don't, I may have to gratuitously retcon some things, or even declare your post invalid.
- Don't godmod. When interacting with another character, work together with that character's owner to ensure everyone's actions, reactions, and consequences remain consistent. That includes NPCs controlled by the GM and co-GM.
- I'll try to give player characters a moderate amount of plot armor and good luck. But actions have consequences, and the suspension of disbelief only stretches so far. Keep that in mind before you try to make a dangerously reckless character.
- Mature topics involving corruption on both personal and societal levels will be discussed in the plot. As per forum rules, there won't be anything explicit, nor will I make things pointlessly grimdark, but just be aware that this isn't an innocent kids' show.
- If you want to leave the game, I'll try to retcon out your character's existence. If that's not feasible, I'll try to remove your character from the plot as painlessly as possible.
@Krayzikk@DJAtomika Please join the Discord server if you're interested. There are a few people there that haven't posted on this thread yet. We could talk about character concepts and see what would make interesting team dynamics.