Johann (who calls himself John) was born in Germany, and was smuggled out with his mother in 1938, his father Erich joining them in 1940. Eirch was eventually decorated by various groups, such as the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) for his work in aiding Jews to escape from Germany. After the war ended, Eirch's holdings in Switzerland became accessible, and the Rohmers were among the more striking and interesting members of the New York social scene. Leila's grandfather was a successful merchant who managed to get his children to live the life he himself wanted; thus, by the 1940s, Leila's parents were members of the Philadelphia social scene.
Leila and John met at the Cotillion in Philadelphia in 1952, where he was invited as an escort. Considered one of the more eligible bachelors around, being wealthy both by inheritance and by his successful legal practice, there was some small satisfied delight when the two fell happily in love, had a whirlwind (but very proper) romance, and finally got married at a well-attended Society wedding in 1953.
Karl Rohmer (named Erich Anders after his two grandfathers) is the third of four children, having two older brothers and a younger sister. His eldest brother, John Jr., born in 1954, followed in his father's footsteps and became a successful lawyer, and is currently one of the partners in the firm of Rohmer, Goldman, Sachs, and Rohmer. His second brother Mark, a year younger than John Jr., died tragically in a drunk-driving accident in 1981; he was finishing up his residency in general surgery, and left behind a grieving wife, Patricia (Trish), who has since entered private practice as a vascular surgeon. She has not remarried, and they had no children. Christina Rohmer, the youngest, was born about ten minutes after Karl/Erich (they're twins, idiot); she is now a second violinist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and lives in somewhat excessively happy sin with a Russian who's second cello in the NYPO.
Erich Rohmer (the character, not his grandfather) had a reasonably idyllic childhood, with supportive parents, lots of money and privileges, and good sibling relations. His elder brothers were too distant in age for much competition, and he has always been extremely close to his sister, who is anyway far too sweet to be a problem for anyone but herself. He went to the best schools, where he quickly demonstrated that he was something of a prodigy, if not a genius. He could and did memorize everything, skipping three grades in Latin because he skimmed through the textbooks over the summer. His abilities with mathematics were almost equally stunning, and his teachers were hard-pressed to find anything he couldn't figure out at once. All of this may have been his downfall, however. Never finding anything difficult, he never learned the virtues of hard work, and it took until he was in college before anyone figured this out.
He went to MIT, where he ran into some people who were as bright as he, and even some who were quite a bit brighter. MIT professors are also fairly familiar with the problems of teaching mathematical prodigies, and Erich soon found himself challenged to the point that he would have to work very hard to get the A's he had come to think normal. In some young men, this situation is stimulating, and brings out their very best. In Erich, it made him a dillettante. He skipped from subject to subject, doing brilliantly because he never took the really advanced classes which would have forced him to study hard.
At this time, right around 1980, the hot thing for young mathematicians with a less abstract turn of mind was computers. The field had just begun its exponential growth, and there were lots of really weird and exciting things to do. Erich, typically, did a bit of all of them. In his spare time, he and a couple of friends tried "phone phreaking," "black-boxing," and all the various forms of hacking which had thus far been invented; they even invented a few themselves.
In his third year of college, Erich's advisor sat him down and had a long talk with him, saying that he really had to make up his mind, get to work, and all of that. Erich ignored this and took up cryptography as his latest hobby. His professor was stunned. Although he had dealt with prodigies before, he hadn't dealt with one who had both linguistic and mathematical talent, at least not to this degree. Luckily for Erich (and for his advisor's peace of mind), Professor Haldane was, in some ways, considerably cleverer than Erich. He began to manipulate the challenges and projects he set Erich, paying very close attention to the young man's progress. After one semester of a basic (but high-level) cryptography class, Haldane offered Erich a tutorial class. The grade would be based merely on Erich's approaches to various problems. They would meet every other week, for an hour or so. Haldane would suggest projects, interesting readings, and so forth, and Erich could just work on what he liked and see how it went. Erich, of course, saw this as a golden opportunity to dick around, sling the bullshit a bit, and get an A for it.
Haldane's choices of projects and readings, however, were carefully thought out. He never gave his protege problems too closely related to others he'd set before, thus encouraging dillettantism, but also challenging Erich with what were essentially increasingly complex and difficult games and puzzles. After a semester of this, Erich was hooked. He did it again in the summer, then in the Autumn and Spring, giving him enough credits to graduate with a B.S. in applied mathematics. Then he did an M.S. in the same subject, still working with Haldane.
By that point (1982-83), the problems were getting extremely weird. Erich was inventing ways of solving them by computer, because he couldn't find pre-invented ones. Of course, he also began rifling through his mentor's files, seeking solutions (and a bit of fun). Haldane pretended to discover this in 1983 (he'd known about it from the beginning, since he was watching for it), and suggested that Erich could more profitably spend his time trying to crack a code Haldane himself had designed. Haldane said that he'd set up the system for testing for industrial use, and wanted Erich's help ironing out the encryption. Erich got to work. And got stuck, but good. In point of fact, this system was one which the NSA had stumbled upon in Israeli communications, and had a lot of difficulty cracking. They'd passed it on to Haldane, who did occasional work for them, and they had approved Erich's work on it.
As a distinguished mathematician specializing in cryptography, you sort of have to work with the NSA or despite them. If you work with them, you get access to some really great equipment; on the other hand, some people have moral problems with working for government espionage agencies. Haldane had no such qualms, and had early started training Erich with the specific intention of repaying the NSA's grants and support with an extraordinary new cryptographer. One with no particular record of anything, with an excellent (i.e. unremarkable) background, with no extreme mental quirks (obsession is fine, but psychosis or manic-depressiveness is not). So, at last, he set Erich to work on a really serious NSA problem.
It took six months. Haldane told Erich that the plaintext might be in Hebrew, so Erich swotted up a bit of Hebrew. Then Arabic. He tried everything. And eventually, he found a solution, and the garble became a plaintext: "Pretty good. Ever considered working for the NSA, Mr. Rohmer?" (1/2 Arabic, 1/2 English).
You see, the NSA had, eventually, cracked the code. It had taken 2 months, a team, and some of the most sophisticated equipment available. Then they tried the bastard on Erich, figuring that if he could break it at all, he was pretty hot shit. Besides, he'd have proven that he could work diligently on something.
Erich, of course, was livid, but Haldane talked him down and got him to go interview with the NSA. They already knew they wanted him, and had checked his background, so they just enticed him. They showed him their hot equipment, their teams, the stuff they worked on, offered him heaps of money, and promised to put him on some experimental projects. It was really the first and the last of these that convinced Erich, and he took the job. His parents were supportive, and since all they knew was that he was going to work "doing computers" for "the government" and being well paid for it, they figured it was okay.
At the NSA, Erich quickly established himself as an excellent cryptographer and data analyst. He had an unfortunate tendency to see connections between everything, but there are worse peccadilloes in the NSA's business. He received a couple of minor promotions, mainly to allow him access to extremely secure material, and was making very good money by the way. He took the required courses in gun handling and combat driving, and found the latter rather fun.
Then, in 1987, he was transferred to a top secret project, called Trithemius, after the 16th-century magician and founder of modern cryptography. The intention was to consider paranormal phenomena from a mathematical and cryptographic standpoint, using a quite genuine paranormal subject (in game terms, a Talent/Adept with some TK abilities). They tried every possible way of getting at the problem. Erich, of course, had to try a different method, and spent an enormous amount of time reading up on Renaissance magic. With his linguistic abilities, he could rapidly tear through large tracts of this stuff in whatever language, assimilate it, and start coming up with theories. Since his colleagues thought the whole approach even madder than usual for Erich, he couldn't hash out his theories with them. Consequently, he came up with his own grand theory for the whole problem, decided it was correct (based on rather scant data), and set to work proving it.
The theory was that the Neoplatonic magical notions of rays and spirits was essentially correct, and continued down to the subatomic level. Spirits were sentient, though rarely intelligent, and could be convinced to do things. Such manipulations were done by force of will, focused through a perfectly clear understanding of all the ray-connections involved (or as many as possible). Now, some people do this semi-naturally, because they have some intuitive understanding of particular processes, viz. the paranormal subject of the project. Other people can learn to do it, if they can come to a solid understanding of the connections, which understanding comes entirely through study and practice.
To demonstrate the theory, Erich started practicing the Renaissance Art of Memory. He got to be decent at it, because of his native brilliance, but it was far too much hard work to do consistently, and he never mastered it. Instead, he decided to create such a system artificially, through the use of computers and computer graphics. Once the system had become powerful enough (he was using up incredible amounts of NSA computer memory, but that's a resource they don't worry about much), he decided to try recreating a small TK effect "magically." He did it many times, and many ways, and finally, on January 12, 1991, he got the matchstick to wobble. Bucked up by this, he did it again, and this time the stick bounced quite a lot. (From the standpoint of the game, it was at this point that he knew that he was right, whereas before he had just been quite convinced of it, if you see the difference.)
The people on the project, initially skeptical, were soon astounded. As Erich's powers increased by leaps and bounds, there was simply no way to explain away the effects he created; indeed, they were soon stronger and much more flexible than those which their subject had produced. Several of the others tried Erich's system, but it never worked at all. Despite the fact that Erich was clearly on to something, the NSA official in charge of this end of the project closed it down in early 1992, because the obvious conclusion was that Erich's success was anomalous, since no one else could use it. They stored all the data carefully, and shifted everybody back to other things.
Erich, of course, was by now trying to use his home computer to work magic. He could get some small effects, but the processing power was insufficient for anything impressive, so he began slyly "borrowing" equipment from the NSA. He continued reading widely in Renaissance magic, improving the system's structure and flexibility. He bought the most powerful graphics software available, ripped open the code, and took what he needed.
Meanwhile, at work, he was once again analyzing data traffic, this time looking for computer systems which might be connected to paranormals. He sorted through files on supergroups, paranormal criminals, sensational crimes, everything. And then he stumbled on the Enclave. He'd been looking for someone who might be doing the same thing he was. The Enclave wasn't that, but it was the conspiracy he'd been looking for for 10 years, and what's more, it was an occult group. He reported his data to his superiors, who ignored it. He found more data. And more. And more.
Finally, his superiors decided they'd had enough. They "let him go," citing his obsessional behavior and petty theft as reasons, and suggested that he think about coming back in a couple of years if he felt better.
Of course, they knew perfectly well that Erich was hardly the type to "cool off." Using his closest friend at the NSA, Jeff King, they kept close tabs on his analyses, feeling that he was (1) brilliant, (2) able to find all sorts of data about the rather dangerour Enclave, which they certainly were aware of, (3) completely deniable should he get himself in real trouble, and (4) well on his way to being stark, staring, bonkers.
So, in April of 1993, Erich moved back to Boston, which he'd loved. He got in touch with Haldane, who helped him find a lovely house in Cambridge (after all, Dad's stinking rich, and so is his older brother, and his sister's working on it--do you realize what performers in major orchestras make these days? Yikes!). He spent every cent he could get from his father and his siblings (plus his own savings) buying some impressive computer equipment, although he did wisely invest a bunch with a broker friend of Dad's. Extremely financially secure, with the resources of Widener Library a short walk away (okay, so he broke into Harvard's system and made himself a permanent floating grad. student), and with the most powerful and up-to-date computers that money (and his NSA pal Jeff) could buy, he began scouring for the Enclave and practicing magic in his basement.
A note about that basement, by the way. He chose Cambridge because its sewer system connects with the Boston sewer system. I'm not talking about modern steel pipe, either, but about the system laid down in the 17th century, now disused. He's mapped it out, and uses it as the ultimate access system for tapping into phone lines and so forth, as well as a great place to practice magical effects where they won't be noticed.
Other background material, such as connections to other PCs and so forth, will be hashed out with the players in question, and will be forwarded if they don't appear in play.
On the road, he uses a stripped-down version of this, but one which actually involves a bit of essentially prototype equipment. The components are as follows: (1) CPU+HDD, total size about like an old Beta videotape or a thickish paperback; (2) one-handed keyboard; (3) heavily cushioned CD-ROM drive, reworked from a CD player intended for joggers; (4) extra flash memory boards, about the size of a pack of cigarettes; (5) modem with cable for jacking into things; (6) eyeglass projector system. This is the really expensive and fancy piece. It's essentially a pair of thick eyeglasses with the lenses polarized at a funny angle, plus a pair of twin projectors, which are kind of like tall cigarette packs resting just in front of his ears (like weird sideburns which come to his cheekbones). These projectors have three laser spots each, which project the images onto the glass of the lenses, allowing Erich to see the "screen" as though it were a couple of feet away, hanging in space a bit above or below normal vision. The glasses are actually clipped on to the projectors, and the projectors are connected by a thing sort of like fancy headphones with a band around the back, so that he can jog or run without the screen bouncing too badly. He usually wears a hideous Australian bush hat (with ear flaps) to cover up the blocky projectors.
Beyond that, Erich has little worth mentioning. His occult library is significant, but he gets a lot on microfilm and from Widener, so it's not as enormous as it might be. He does own a pistol, a Glock 9mm (17 shots), but doesn't like it much. He owns a nifty BMW, one of their sporty models, which is eminently reliable, very fast and maneuverable, and quite resistant to damage in case of emergency. It has a car phone, which he often uses for modem transmissions when he doesn't have time to go home. Nothing secret goes out that way, of course: he knows perfectly well that this stuff can be tapped and read by, well, by people like him.
The vulnerability to electrical stuff is (so far as Erich is concerned) simply an upshot of being "wired for sound," as it were. He gets shot with electricity, it seems to zap him good around the head, where the projectors are. What he doesn't know is that it will happen regardless of whether he's wearing the headgear, and is really related to the fact that he believes that his magic works through computers.
Jeff King: NSA contact, helping out Erich on lots of things, smuggling him the odd bit of equipment, but secretly monitoring him for the NSA and reporting everything he gets.
Christina Rohmer: Erich is very close to his sister. They talk on the phone all the time, they visit with some regularity. She's an absolute sweetheart, and he'd go to great lengths for her. If (of the two) Erich got the brains, she got all the looks and personality. Not that she's dumb, but she's a bit spacey and vague at times. I figure INT 10, COM 18. Her boyfriend of 6 years, Sergei Rassomiliev, is tall, dark, handsome, semi-bright, very talented, and dotes on her. They're actually deliriously happy, and probably haven't gotten married because it's never really occurred to them. Sickenin', ain't it? But, you know, if something were to happen to Chrissy (yeah, Chrissy, wanna make something of it?), well, Erich would get REAL upset.... She lives in Greenwich Village, and has shitloads of money (between them, they're making around $250,000 a year--I know what these people make!).
John Rohmer, Jr.: Nice guy, a bit intense. Fond of his little brother, and doesn't mind helping him out. That usually means money, but he'd certainly help him with other things if the need arose. Lives in a beautiful condo in Manhattan.
John (Johann) Rohmer: A real tough old nut. Nice and all, and quite dashing in his day, but not a guy you want to cross. If Erich should get into legal trouble, Dad would get him out by hook or by crook. And then Erich would get a talking to that would probably have him in 10 years of terror. But where money is concerned, hell, we've got heaps of it.... John and Leila have a house in the Berkshires and a brownstone on Central Park West (when he bought it, it wasn't impossibly expensive yet, and these days he's only paying taxes on it); the office is in the financial district (they do corporate law).
Leila Rohmer: You can really see where Christina gets it. Leila's much smarter, and rules certain sections of the New York social scene with an iron fist, but no one ever holds it against her, because she's such a sweetie. She's really the tempering influence for her occasionally hardnosed husband, and since he absolutely dotes on her, she always gets her way.
In case you haven't guessed, I've painted Erich's family as (1) very important to him, (2) storybook perfect in most respects. This is so that, if you decrease the value of some of my disads, I'll make the points up with DNPC/psychlim stuff about the family. It's also intended to hand you plot hooks on a plate.
Here are the spells I need pretty much right away, and I'll work on other stuff on my own time (although I'd like your help...). Limitations for the group would be mainly a question of Extra Time (full phase at least, perhaps a bracket up from that); Concentration (to turn them on, and in some cases to keep them going); Requires the computer stuff; Spells can't be made up on the fly (must be preprogrammed, which takes a couple of days at least, and is dependent on skill rolls in relevant skills); Spells can only be switched if I have the right disks and CDs; the Pool of spells is significantly smaller in a combat-type situation, since the CD player is probably not happy when I'm in a firefight; and anything else you think is relevant and not really a limitation (but is worth points). (ha ha)