Plain Readers

The Plain are an urban movement born out of the online blog written by a small group of ex-Amish young adults in Philadelphia. Born “plain” and raised with ideals like humility and nonviolence, a group of adventurous friends took advantage of their teenage years of “freedom” to explore the big city outside of their rural home in Pennsylvania. At 18, they decided against joining their Church, feeling that sharing their beliefs with the urban world of “the English” was more important than their simple lives. Seven hard-working youths strong, the Plain shared an apartment and worked odd jobs while exploring the city and deciding what parts of their upbringing held up to their new life, and what needed to be discarded. They came quickly to one simple idea. To be not conformed to this world, the urban one, the Plain had to resist the systemic violence poisoning the urban landscape. Their discussion groups, a sort of god-less church held in their apartment, caught the attention of a few other young men and women looking for another way to live. Soon, someone started blogging the group’s ideas, and branches have popped up in a few major cities. It’s entirely possible that the group won’t survive more than a few years based on its ideals, but for now, it’s having an impact.

Above all, the Plain believe in Radical Pacifism. It is not enough to believe violence is wrong. It is not enough to abstain from militarization. It is not enough to not be violent themselves: They must put their bodies and safety in the way of violence to make radical statements of proactive nonviolence. Today, membership draws from idealists, iconoclasts of a certain bent, those raised in a shallow religious upbringing, or youths from cultures that have never condoned violence who could not, as a result, naturalize well to urban environments where violence is normalized. They have no organization, having small “churches” or lone radicals observing based on teachings from the blog or other Plain.

Being Plain

Being radically pacifist is a difficult prospect. The Plain believe that their message, and their bodies, have to be on the line whenever possible in order to make their statements. At its most mild, this involves peaceful sit-ins or hunger strikes only loosely organized. More frequently, the Plain simply go about their lives watching for signs that violence might break out. When an over-heated sports bar seems about to burst, or a stressed-out cop is harassing young men who have had enough, this is where the Plain try to intervene. Sometimes that means talking it out or trying to act as a voice of reason. Sometimes simply picking up a cell phone to record the scene and announcing the act can help. (These videos are very popular, shared throughout the budding community.) But when it comes to it, the Plain do not hesitate to put their own selves in harm’s way. To make their message loud and clear, the Plain will take brutal beatings, keeping the ire on themselves, to deflect the rage away from others and make their message at the same time. Violence is wrong. See what it looks like when it is actively resisted. See what you are doing when you are violent. I will not fight back.

And somehow, somewhere between mental preparedness and a fool’s blessing, the Plain survive these encounters. Stories come out of Paris of a Plain who took three bullets to the chest and managed to survive, while his assailant was hospitalized for stress-based exhaustion. Or the Plain girl
fleeing Serbia who stood up to, and pushed back, a group of thugs intent on robbing her family as they fled across the Romanian border. The video circulating of her shows a girl walking forward, with no gestures of violence, and the thugs stepping back, recoiling as if forced back by an invisible wall.

It may be staged or altered, but it’s a damn good-looking fake if it isn’t real. If the Plain have a secret behind their successes, they don’t know it as anything but the strength of their beliefs.

The Look and the Lifestyle

Despite their roots, the Plain’s focus has moved away from avoiding worldliness. To be plain in an urban environment means blending well with the
local culture. Whatever community the Plain live among, they try to dress the part. From hipsters with scarves to neighborhood boys in saggy jeans and hoodies, whatever will make them stand out the least. Because they have changed their definitions of community, however, there are no rules of uniformity. A group meeting at “church” might be a rather eclectic group as many walks of life are drawn to the message.

Likewise, the Amish culture of gendered obeisance has been shrugged aside in favor of obedience only to antiviolence. As the movement grows and matures, the idea of anti-violence is maturing and growing in sophistication as some members question if physical violence is the only thing they must stand up to, or if resistance to corruption and emotional violence is also necessary to change the world.

Merits

You get the Plain Reader merit for free.

Plain Reader

Prerequisites: Mortal

Your character reads the Plain Blog and has been deeply inspired by its preaching. Your character has decided to try to devote her life to radical nonviolence, no matter what harm it might mean to her body. This is about what good it’ll do her soul. Plain Reader gives your character access to all other Plain Merits.

Additionally, with this Merit, acts of violence are always Integrity breaking points for your character. This statement is ambiguous on purpose, as what violence is can vary from abusive words to throwing punches to participating in capitalism depending, on the character’s worldview. By default, assume this means causing direct harm to another person the character is aware is being harmed. The player should volunteer further nuanced readings of violence and fault.

However, win or lose, a Plain character is revitalized by tests of her beliefs. As a result, when she suffers an Integrity breaking point for violence, the character is empowered to try harder, or at least fail harder, in the future. Pass or fail this Integrity test, the character regains one Willpower point. Not every Plain is especially good at the philosophy, but they’re trying. Always trying.


1 Dot

I'm Bleeding On You

Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader

It’s difficult to punch a guy who is in your face telling you he won’t fight back. Plain use a series of demands and accusations to force an actor to see and be aware of the violence they’re committing. “You are breaking the nose of another human being. That crack you heard was my nose. I am bleeding. You did this to me.” The Plain’s unflinching observations of violence against him are chilling to say the least.

Characters acting violently against a Plain naturally hold back the worse the fight gets. For every point of damage a Plain takes, any attackers who witnessed the brutality lose –1 die to any further attacks made for the scene.


Over Before It Started

Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader

Sometimes, it’s not the act of violence that matters so much as the consequences. Once per session, a Plain with this Merit can focus the narrative away from inflicting violence and onto dealing with it. In a violent encounter with a Storyteller character intent on causing harm to others, the Plain can intervene. Instead of rolling out the violence, blow by blow, the Plain declares that all violence is inflicted on him, instead. Players may refuse this martyrdom; this negates the Merit’s effect. If not, the Storyteller rolls one die for each combatant who would attack the Plain. The total successes rolled is how many lethal damage the Plain has to contend with. He may mitigate this damage with other Merits, but there is no Defense allowed. He will be harmed, possibly killed, but no one else is harmed and his point is made. Violence is awful. Other Merits that the Plain has which affect the aftermath of violence can still be used.

If the Plain survives the encounter, all of his temporary Willpower is restored.


Phantom Pain

Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader, I’m Bleeding on You

Facing the reality of human abuse can have devastating effects, especially when it is a Plain you are harming, and she is laying out for you in clear language what you’ve
done.

A Plain with this Merit can inflict phantom damage on an assailant on a point for point basis. The damage is technically lethal, but appears within the narrative as exhaustion or stress. The assailant does not bleed, rupture, or hemorrhage as the Plain does. She just feels like she is. The injuries suffered are psychological, and they fade after the scene. If she takes enough “damage” to suffer a wound penalty, she gains the Beaten Down Tilt (see the Chronicles of Darkness Rulebook, p. 280). If the “damage” would be enough to render her unconscious, she must also resist unconsciousness.

If she falls unconscious, she’ll receive a Condition reflecting mental trauma. A common example is Guilty. If she killed the Plain, she receives a Persistent Condition that tends to be a life-changing event for her.


You Are Being Recorded

Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader

When acts of violence might break out, sometimes the best way to deescalate is accountability. A Plain character with this Merit can take out a cell phone, video camera, or other live recording device and announce loudly “You are being recorded,” or something similar, reminding the participants there are consequences for their actions. Roll Presence + Expression. At that point, anyone in the scene can act with violence, but only after a successful Resolve + Composure roll, which requires more successes than the Plain achieved. This counts for any violent action that could be made so long as the Plain is still holding a camera. Repeat attempts can be made to overcome this reticence.

This effect is cumulative. For any other cell phones or cameras that come out to record after the Plain initiates this Merit, rolling Resolve + Composure to act violently suffers an additional –1 penalty. Other participants don’t have to have the Merit to participate after the Plain initiates the recording. This counts up to a maximum penalty of –5 dice to the roll. Storytellers should consider the fact that random people on the streets are frequently inspired to participate in this sort of citizen activism when they see it.


2 Dot

Most Infected Thing I've Ever Seen

Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader

Because of their willingness to put their lives on the line, Plain sometimes suffer from the very real and lingering effects of violence. Some wounds will never really heal. But on the other hand, they seem to manage carrying on when others would be hospitalized or dead. How do they do it? They don’t even know.

At any point, a Plain with this Merit can swap out Health boxes of damage for a Tilt reflecting the damage they’ve taken. This Tilt then becomes a Condition the character suffers from instead of the acute injury. Death is shrugged off in favor of lingering, lasting issues. Four or fewer Health boxes creates a Condition that may be satisfied with extensive medical care. Five or more Health boxes must be traded for a Persistent Condition that should be correctable only by a major story event. Tilts selected for Conditions via this Merit should be contextual. If the character had her eye put out, the Condition should reflect that, not simply be a random trade for points.


Variable

The Push

Cost: • to •••••
Prerequisites: Mortal, Plain Reader

The Push is only a rumor among the Plain right now, a gossiped-about myth. Most of the Plain don’t know they might eventually be able to pull it off. They’ve seen the videos from Serbia, but no one is quite sure what to make of it. But they want to believe it. So it’s only a matter of time before more try it, and succeed at it.

Simply put, a Plain acting to protect others steps forward, and with each step, her would-be attackers are driven backward, away from those the Plain would protect. She needs to say no words, no threats, simply step forward and drive them back. If the Plain is actively protecting someone else, there is no roll necessary. The assailants step back for every step forward she takes. With each step, assailants may try to attack the Plain (and the Plain only), but they have to succeed at Resolve + Composure rolls first, requiring successes equal to the Plain’s Push dots. If they are driven back more than five steps without attempting to or successfully managing to attack the Plain, they must disperse, fleeing the scene.


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