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The Essence is the spiritual or mystical power within an Incarna that makes him more than mortal. It is the magical element that he embodies and gives him strength. While it’s true that an Essence ‘flavors’ all the mystic actions that the Incarna performs, it can also be something that he calls on directly, in times of need.
Virtues and Aspects
Virtues: Each Essence has two or more Virtues that exemplify the ‘specialties’ or tendencies of that Essence. For instance, the Virtues of Celestial Incarnae are Dominating and Expressive. Not every Celestial Incarna has to exemplify those traits all the time, but it’s a safe bet that at least one of those two virtues will bit noticeable in the character’s personality, if not both. Virtues don’t limit the character, a Celestial who wishes to be quiet or accomodating isn’t penalized. Acting in accordance with one’s Virtues tends to grant a small benefit, especially when using Powers. These Virtues can be thought of as part of the mystic ‘flavor’ of the Incarna in question, and can be used as a guide to help decide what the character’s magical effects look like.
Most Incarnae will focus more on one of their Virtues than the other, though it’s perfectly fine to embrace both or all of one’s Virtues.
Aspects: Each of the Essence categories is fairly broad. No Incarna embodies every possible facet of their Essence. That would leave the character a muddled mess, instead of a mystic being that embodies something. Aspects are ways to further define how the character embodies his Essence. An Incubus could be cold and grasping like a Vampire, or whimsical and inspirational like a Muse. Wild Incarnae might be furious and primal like a Werewolf, or inscrutable and chaotic like a spirit of the forest.
Along with Virtues, Aspects provide greater definition for the character, and help refine the idea of what the Incarna’s mystic side is like.
Calling on one’s Essence
Using one’s Essence to make a greater than normal effort has a variety of effects. From a game perspective, it gives the character a boost to whatever attribute he’s using to make that effort, improving his performance and even allowing him to beat opponents who are only slightly better than he is.
From a story perspective, the Incarna unmistakably manifests himself as something more than merely human, generating an Aurora of power around himself. The exact appearance of that Aurora depends on the specific Essence of the Incarna.
All Incarnae can tap into their Essence to make a greater effort, but it’s not something that can be done continuously. Without some training to connect to her Essence more strongly, an Incarna can only make such an effort once per game session, or once every 3 in-game days, whichever is more restrictive.
The ‘natural’ level of calling on one’s Essence doesn’t produce an amazingly dramatic Aurora. This can be a boon, as it calls less attention to the Incarna. The untrained Incarna who calls on her essence doesn’t completely change appearance. Rather, subtle visual effects combine to make her stand out, and give a strong sense of what her Essence is like. It remains subtle enough that mortals would do a double-take, unsure if what they’re seeing is real.
A Deeper Connection
Should the Incarna put effort into learning how to access this ability, the rewards are greater. Not only does the Aurora effect grant greater benefits, but some minor power is learned that relates to the character’s Essence. The Aurora itself also becomes substantially stronger, no longer subtle and potentially mistaken for something else, but a clear indication of a powerful supernatural being.
The exact effects of calling on one’s Essence, other than the boost to the current effort, are detailed in the pages for each Essence type, as are the minor powers gained from training a better connection to one’s Essence.
Not actually as stealthy as it sounds, a Cover Aurora is a display of power that appears the same as the character’s regular Aurora, but can only be seen by a select few. The Covert Aurora is generally created by less potent or more precise uses of power than simply tapping directly into one’s Essence. Only Incarnae and other magically aware creatures can see the Covert Aurora, mortals and animals and the like will remain oblivious.