In Asylum you live in a world that has adapted to the subtle presence of the supernatural. That adaptation has taken on many forms. Magical detectives investigate Outsider crimes, human ambassadors meet with demigods and fey royalty, helpful gnomes run appartment buildings and mermaids dream of becoming Broadway stars. The world teems with strange innovations and points of view. All beings, Insider and Outsider alike, combine their efforts to succeed. . .
Asylum is a modern day urban fantasy setting that combines hard boiled crime and spy action with magical realism. The name of the game comes from a new movement among the various supernatural beings of the world. The players are members of or affiliated with Asylum, which is dedicated to a world where supernatural creatures (Outsiders) and regular earthlings (Insiders) can live together in harmony. Their struggle to create this world usually results in supernaturally powered intrigues and adventures.
Including Asylum, there are eight international clandestine organizations. Like the NSA, freemasons, templars, communists, or mafias, these organizations have reasons for operating in secret. Those reasons have a lot to do with the fact that their agendas, methods and cultures quite often clash. Before you sign up, ask yourself what really motivates you:
Wealth and Power
The Red Market is the place to buy and sell everything imaginable. Find this legendary bazaar, and the treasures of all the worlds can be yours for the right price. Whether working in a prestigious firm or as a free agent, the Red Market agenda is profit. Their methods are trading in and smuggling dangerous magic. Their flaw is that they’re amoral and suspected in unethical practices. Working for the Red Market you could be a go-between, bagman, acquisition expert, thief, bodyguard, smuggler, salesman, enchanter, or antiquarian. Your character could be the head of her own Firm, or work for a larger one. Multiple PCs can be from the same Firm, or represent a single Firm. If PCs from multiple Firms cooperate, they usually have a formal partnership or consulting relationship.
Also known as "The Committee," K-13 is a former secret government agency that went rogue after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Committee established itself with powerful Outsiders and the country’s new billionaire Oligarchs to gain more power than it ever knew before. And even that isn’t enough. They operate around the world, involved in illicit vices, but also legitimate investment and power brokering. Their overall agenda is power for its own sake. Their methods are corruption and power brokering. But that same corruption is often their greatest flaw. Working for the Committee, you could be an enforcer, a power broker, a protection racketeer, an investor, a bagman, a money launderer, a smuggler, a fixer, an asset handler, a hit man, or a spy.
King and Country
The United States Bureau of Outsider Affairs is responsible for regulating all Outsider activity such as immigration and business practices as well as establishing US identity and power in the wider universe Outside. Their agenda is protecting the interests of the United States and the rest of Inside (as long as it's in America's best interests). Their methods are investigation and tradecraft. Their flaw is hegemony – they see themselves as policing the world, assuming authority everywhere even where they don’t have it. Working for the Bureau, you could be an investigator, a counter-intelligence expert, a station agent, a computer technician, a counter-terrorism officer, a linguist, an undercover specialist, a human terrain analyst or a Special Forces soldier.
In the European Union Outside and Inside cultures have already been mixing for centuries. The need to handle these hybrid cultures with a more open and diplomatic hand created Cirque. Cirque acts as a peace-keeping and refugee service for Outsiders in Europe. They also work for Interpol in an extended capacity, liaising with other organizations and governments on international police investigations. Their agenda is containment and assimilation. Their methods are integration and surveillance. Their flaw is bureaucracy – they’re mired in internal politics and regulations.
For a game set outside of Europe, a Cirque agent could be working as a liaison, assisting the other characters as they attempt to investigate international criminals. Their ability to liaise with other nations’ police forces adds great value to an international investigation. Working for Cirque, you could be a rehabilitation specialist, an Interpol officer, a surveillance expert, a case manager, an asset handler, or an investigator.
Wonder and Magic
The Mission began as a Catholic order dedicated to hunting Outsider threats. As times changed and the church’s power waned, they began reaching out to the Earth’s other major faiths. The Mission is now a multi-faith coalition whose agenda is to seek a better understanding of the world and of what the Outsiders mean to religion. The centuries have not been kind to The Mission -- their studies of Outsiders and integration of other faiths and even the rare righteous non-believer has gotten them excommunicated from the church. Their methods are exploration and concealment. Their flaw is that they interpret the Outside through the lens of mainstream modern religion, and as a result distrust and misunderstand most outsiders. As a member of The Mission you could be a scholar, researcher, philosopher or explorer. They also have some degree of tradecraft, so you could also be a safehouse operative, counterespionage expert, or money launderer.
The Pantheons are the great nations, empires and kingdoms of the worlds Outside. From their perches in Olympus, Fata, Svarga, Amenomihashira, and a hundred others the old gods watch and listen. For the first time in centuries, they feel their influence taking fragile root in the world of Black Iron, what they call Earth. The pantheons’ agendas tend to be worship and nature. Their methods are generally conversion and contract, but they’re all different: Old gods might be still focused on their old roles, or may have adapted to modern times. Their flaw is that their representatives on Earth are disparate, and often out of their league – a priest of Ra in New York could have a cult of sun-god followers, but he’s pretty cut off and isolated. What a PC does for a Pantheon depends on your character’s origin. For example, an Outsider that hasn't really assimilated to life on Earth may be keeping a lot of ties back to the “old country.” Human insiders can work for pantheons, too: You could be a high priest, contract negotiator, myrmidon, power broker, missionary or archaeologist.
An outsider tends to be an integrated member of the pantheon’s mystic structure: You could play spriggan bagman for the Winter Queen of the Unseelie Court (spriggans guard treasure in faerie legends, so having one run illicit cash for evil faeries is no stretch), a winged sky elf enforcer for the Ljos Alfar (like a valkyrie), a hawk spirit serving as a bounty hunter for Horus (what if Horus, god of the hunt, has opened a worldwide bounty hunting business?), or an ancestor spirit serving as a liaison to the Ministry for the Celestial Bureaucracy (tying together two factions for a complex character).
The Ministry of Exceptional Citizens is a powerful organization in China that once served as a regulatory force for spirits and ghosts. In the modern era, they were adapted into the Chinese government’s internal security agency, but still act as scholars, priests and mediums for dealing with haunting. Their agenda is control. Their methods are containment and consulting. Their flaw is oppression – they are oppressors and oppressed by the Party and their government's power structure. Swift, harsh, dire consequences await Ministry agents who go rogue or betray national ideals.
Experts on ghosts and haunting are recruited to act as Ministry consultants across the world, trained in Ministry policies and techniques, and contracted to assist other organizations in dealing with spirits and the undead. They are experts in murder investigations for obvious reasons. Working for the Ministry, you could be an alchemist, an ancestor shaman, a paranormal investigator, a medium, a holistic healer, a spy, a propaganda expert, or an exorcist.
Saving the World
Asylum is a movement within the supernatural community dedicated to the idea that Insiders and Outsiders can live together on Earth in peace and harmony. While others fear or oppose the Outside, Asylum reaches out with open arms. Consequently, Asylum is popular among Contractors and Outsiders that like humanity or human society. Asylum has an Inner Circle of secret leaders – secret because some groups are dangerously hostile to their ideas. The Inner Circle recruits secret Agents, who are often also members of other organizations. A character’s association with Asylum varies:
• Acceptance and alignment: The character likes the ideas of Asylum and promotes them. She might describe herself as pro-Asylum, but not committed to their ideals. Any PC of any other group can claim this level if they believe in Asylum's message of peace and goodwill.
• Promotion and politics: The character actively promotes Asylum’s ideas and considers herself an adherent of the philosophy: An Asylum member. She may be recruited to be an Agent of Asylum if the Inner Circle deems her valuable. Some PCs, especially Outsiders, may not be actual Agents of Asylum, but strong allies of those agents.
• Agent of Asylum: There is an inner circle of Asylum proponents, and it employs agents in a secretive cell structure, protected from their many enemies. Asylum Agents get information, equipment, and missions from the Inner Circle. PCs are usually Agents of Asylum.
The PCs are assumed to be proponents of Asylum, actual operatives working for the Inner Circle of the Asylum movement, or allies of Agents of the Inner Circle of the movement. Asylum’s agenda is peaceful integration. Their methods are covert investigation and clandestine operations. Their flaw is secrecy and vulnerability – in public, Asylum's activists scramble to put coalitions and programs together, in secret Asylum's agents don’t know any other official Agents other than their handler, and must keep their affiliation hidden. Asylum agents can be any character capable of covert investigation and clandestine operations – basically a modern fantasy adventurer.