The infernal mage order of the Circle of Red may be the most successful and best-organized group of mortal diabolists. Financially supported by a merchant guild, the Circle of Red has the resources available to locate and purchase arcane texts and artifacts, expediting extensive research projects that might otherwise take months or even years. Entire cells of Veneficti devote themselves solely to reading, translating and interpreting infernal literature, while others study and catalog demonic relics. The Circle’s carefully regimented class system allows the order to expand in many social and economic directions while still maintaining the secrecy necessary for diabolism.
Though the society of the Circle is largely mercantile, merchant members occupy the lowest of the order’s three classes. Merchants provide a law-abiding front for the organization, as well as a steady stream of income, access to trade and means of escape for the diabolist members of the Circle. This seeming reliance upon mercantilism may give the false impression that the sorcerers exist to protect the mercantile interests, while the reverse is actually true. The merchants serve as messengers and servants to the Circle’s infernal mages, providing access to money and social connections, much as a thrall provides these services for his demon master.
The next class, called Facilitators, is comprised largely of spies and hired killers. Ranging from cheap thugs to highly skilled poisoners and assassins, the Facilitators provide the Circle’s security force. They accompany the Veneficti on missions of intimidation or kidnap the victims necessary for the Circle’s infernal rites. Facilitators also provided the muscle during raids on outlying Bavarian villages that have recently brought the Circle of Red to the attention of the shadow Inquisition. These raids serve two purposes. Primarily, the Circle of Red intends to wipe out any demonic cults lingering in the area. Cultists hide or destroy manuscripts key to designing the necessary rituals of binding, interfering with the Circle’s attempts to summon and control the cults’ demon masters. A fresh, convenient source of sacrificial victims provides an added bonus.
The Veneficti are the infernal upper echelon of the Circle of Red, mages devoted to mastery of sin through defamation of God’s natural order. Their magic often centers around blood and flesh, even human sacrifice. As noted earlier, demons do not require blood sacrifice, but many derive pleasure from it. Veneficti do not consider their diabolic practices evil because they believe they exist beyond the scope of God’s power, and therefore believe themselves beyond such narrow concepts as good and evil. Membership in the Circle requires adherence to a strictly regimented lifestyle, where even moments of extreme debauchery are carefully planned into the routine. Veneficti believe that calculated indulgence in sin gives mortals mastery over their minds, bodies and spirits. Deliberate sin removes the power of temptation.
These mages are distant and cold, even within their own order. The ability to bind and control the denizens of Hell has left the Circle arrogant and jaded. In such control of their own urges, they look contemptibly upon weaker mortals. Despite the considerable contributions of the merchant class, Veneficti rarely deign to communicate directly with their subordinates in the Circle, relying on the Facilitators to instruct the mercantilists and enforce rules. For more information on the Circle of Red, including Foundation and Pillars, see the Appendix.
Using the Circle of Red
The Circle of Red represents everything about diabolists that demons loathe. The Veneficti not only know too many secrets for the fallen’s comfort, but they also devote an entire Pillar to the ultimate goal of enslaving demons. Because of this, the members of the Circle of Red make excellent antagonists for Storytellers running chronicles involving thrall or demon characters. The Veneficti are interesting protagonists in a diabolist-centric story, with powerful demons as the enemy seeking to destroy this disrespectful order of mages.
• The Master’s Vengeance: When the Circle of Red raided the small villages in Bavaria, they nearly wiped out an entire cell of a local demonic cult, stealing several important infernal texts and almost absconding with the Earthbound demon’s reliquary. Luckily, one of the demon’s thralls killed the Facilitator carrying the statue and brought it to the safety of another cult cell. If the destruction of the cultists and theft of the texts were not enough to invoke the fury of the Earthbound, the audacity of touching its reliquary has sparked its thirst for blood and vengeance. Thralls acting under the orders of the Earthbound will stop at nothing to retrieve the stolen items and eliminate the Veneficti who pose an insistent threat. Storytellers can provide ample challenge for players, who must overcome the magical abilities of the Veneficti, if they even manage to navigate the complex organization of the Circle of Red. How can the players find powerful mages who do not wish to be found?
• Origins: How did the Veneficti become such skilled diabolists? Storytellers running a chronicle using diabolist protagonists might find ways to explain the source of the Circle of Red’s power. Perhaps early members of the order made deals with demons for these arcane secrets, bartering their own souls so that their descendents might learn control. Are the Circle’s beliefs about their own superiority to God’s plan rooted in early Veneficti’s attempts to explain the new sensations of Torment and Resolve? Would these mages be satisfied with any truth that portrays them as slaves rather than masters of their own will?
• Lost Caerns: The wizards of the Circle of Red make excellent adversaries for Dark Ages: Werewolf. The Circle of Red has attacked several caerns throughout Europe, destroying the Garou inhabitants and sometimes infesting the caerns with Wyrm-taint. Some Circle of Red rotes use Garou blood and flesh as foci, and Veneficti have even used their infernal magic to twist and deform werewolves’ bodies and spirits. Veneficti are not above hunting Garou who interfere with the Circle’s attempts to taint a caern. The players’ pack comes across a dying werewolf with horribly malformed limbs who tells the characters of the Veneficti’s attack on the caern. With her dying breath, she gasps out the chilling news that her attackers have also poisoned her caern, begging the pack to help reclaim it from the grip of the Wyrm. The pack must decide if they will attempt to contend with the diabolists, and how they will cleanse the caern if they succeed in driving the infernal mages out.
Please see the Modern Nights Veneficti page for information on this infernal order in the Final Nights.
Circle of Red
The Circle of Red is an order of demonologists and diabolists. They are the antithesis of the Messianic Voices, building a foundation in the corruption and subversion of Judeo-Christian concepts like sin. The Veneficti, as these mages call themselves, believe that no knowledge should be forbidden, no matter what its nature or purpose. Practitioners of this art do not consider themselves or their order evil, justifying their actions through claims that deliberate indulgence in sin removes temptation’s ability to exert passive control, thus placing the mage outside the restrictions of the natural order. Just as God exists beyond sin by infallible will, members of this order seek the freedom and power of divinity by ascending beyond the control of sin.
The members of the Circle of Red alternate between periods of self-denial and carefully calculated indulgence. Their Auras reflect the exacting Control that members of this order impose upon themselves at all times. Veneficti receive their modifier to any roll that would be affected by resisting temptation or exhibiting self-control. This Aura manifests as an uncomfortable sense of confinement or minor claustrophobia.
- Denial of Obligation
- Defiling of Creation
- Defilement of Knowledge
- Defilement of Faith
- Defilement of Truth
- Sample Rotes
By denying the power of the Judeo-Christian concept of right and wrong, the Circle of Red performs calculated acts of Sin with the ultimate goal of complete control over body, mind and spirit. Sinning deliberately weakens the temptation that leads to spontaneous indulgence. Sinning repeatedly removes the power sin holds as a tainted pleasure or forbidden vice. Sin itself loses the power to gratify or instill guilt, and so becomes meaningless. Without sin, there is only choice and consequence, the fundamental essence of control. Absent any obligation to virtue or vice, Veneficti may work without the constraints of natural, or divine, order.
• Novice Veneficti learn the nature of sin, exploring the primal forces that drive mortals to defy God’s commands. The diabolist becomes aware of the inherent flaws in the divine plan, though she is not yet ready to exploit these flaws and improve upon them. She understands the steep road towards perfect self-control that stretches ahead of her. She gains preliminary knowledge of the Abyss.
•• The mage begins to balance self-denial and debauchery. She develops a sense of the necessity of conquering sin and the weakness in relying upon God or others. Relationships with individuals outside of the Circle of Red are largely eliminated.
••• At this state the mage has mastery over the rhythms of her body, able to ignore hunger, fatigue and other physical strains. The mage can overcome the weaknesses of flesh, adding one die per success to Stamina rolls against hunger, disease, poison, etc. Most indulgences in sin are a conscious choice. She rarely forms lasting emotional connections to others, because love and friendship are seen as additional proof of the weakness of allowing emotional needs to influence behavior.
•••• The inferiority of God’s design produces an inevitable feeling of superiority in the mage towards those who rely upon external sources, such as God, for comfort and direction. This can manifest as extreme coldness and detachment towards others. The mage thinks nothing of inflicting harm on others with the purpose of furthering her own path towards control.
••••• Now a paragon of the Circle of Red, the mage exhibits perfect self-control. Her spiritual corruption is obvious to the faithful. She can no longer be compelled to sin, and is immune to external temptation. Her permanent Willpower rating is considered 10 when resisting both passive temptation and active attempts to make her sin, though her normal Willpower rating applies in all other situations.
Specialties: Diabolism, Demonology, Corruption of the weak
Pillars: Subversions of Divine Will
The Circle of Red believes God’s design serves only to limit and enslave humanity, promoting weakness in individuals who rely on faith and virtue to decide a course of action for them. The Pillars of the Circle of Red represent Subversions of Divine Will, deliberate defilements of the Creator’s divine plans for both the tangible and intangible worlds. From aspects of the physical realm to fine nuances of truth, members of the Circle of Red seek to warp and distort the manifestations of divinity.