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Old 01-01-2019, 06:30 AM   #11
Icelander
 
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
Looking at the list of Vile Vortices it occurs to me that with a little thought stretching the sites fit lost continents. Atlantis in the Atlantic and West African(Mountains of Atlas anyone), Lemuria in the Indian Ocean, and Mu in the Pacific.

Try this idea. These were never continents. They're parallel realities parasitic on our own.

Any use to you?
Oh, certainly.

This goes without saying. :-)

Well, I suppose someone needed to say it, if only to determine which Vile Vortex to associate with which Lost Continent. Note, however, that two or more physical areas on Earth can correspond with the same otherwordly location, and vice versa.

For example, the Vile Vortex centered on Loyalty Islands corresponds exactly with the location of the society of Kanak/Deep One hybrids visited by Captain Obed Marsh and reported in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, but this should not be read to preclude the Vile Vortices in Algiers, Mali and the western Mediterranean; Zimbabwe and the East African coastline, nor indeed the Bermuda Triangle, from linking to that same Land of the Nommo.

For that matter, the fact that there is an island of forbidding highlands in the Krakatoa Archipelago named Lang has always seemed suspicious to me, in light of the infamous Plateau of Leng. The combination of Lovecratian-sounding 'Krakatoa' with this Plateau of Lang seems to me highly suspicious. And, of course, there is a Lang Island at Antartica, which of course is another of the Vile Vortices. No doubt there is yet another way to the Plateau of Leng at the other pole, most likely at the Mountains of Madness, existing at both poles simultaneously. Tekeli-li indeed.
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Old 01-01-2019, 07:11 AM   #12
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Call of Chthulu was set in New Orleans, after all.
That reminds me ... what forces are the Army Corps of Engineers and the city fathers of New Orleans really trying to hold back when they keep the Mississippi in its current channel? Perhaps they learned something relevant in Iraq at Ur of the Chaldees which also died when its river went away? And what powers has someone invoked to help them do this? What went wrong in the presidency of Bush Minor to let the city flood, and what THINGS BEST LEFT UNDISTURBED awoke when water slopped into their above-ground crypts which are bigger within than without?

Similarly, the University of Texas at Galveston medical school is experimenting on implanting vat-grown lungs in pigs.
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Old 01-01-2019, 03:01 PM   #13
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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That reminds me ... what forces are the Army Corps of Engineers and the city fathers of New Orleans really trying to hold back when they keep the Mississippi in its current channel? Perhaps they learned something relevant in Iraq at Ur of the Chaldees which also died when its river went away? And what powers has someone invoked to help them do this?
Hmmm... it's hard for me to propose any occult explanations for events that occured after 1890 or before 1980 or so, as during that time, the history of the game world is supposed to have been so near to identical our own world that there are not detectable differences (to save me from having to come up with an entirely new world).

Magic and the supernatural simply didn't work and was only of interest to the superstitious, religious, anthropologically inclined or resolutely stubborn old occultists, who'd not accept that their source of power had been fading since the Scientific Revolution and was now apparently gone for good.

There was a last paroxysm of oddness around the 1880s and, obviously, a lot of people continued to believe in the supernatural, but performing esoteric rituals and occult workings was no more efficacious than it is for us.

So it's pretty far outside the established parameters for history in the setting to postulate an occult reason behind something done in the 60s. Granted, some number of people still did things for occult reasons in the 60s, but as their occult workings didn't actually work, we tend to think of them as cooks and cranks, harmless (most hippies and New Age enthusiasts) or otherwise (Manson family). And while Jack Parsons was both a crank and important to secret government projects, I don't think this was all that common and generally, the Army Corps of Engineers would tend to be populated mostly by hard-headed materialists.

That being said, I note that the involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers in the course of the Mississippi River started in the 19th century, solidly within the time period when the supernatural could still impinge on our reality. And, I'll admit that it's very tempting to make use of this in some way, given that one PC, 'Nonc' Morel, is a Cajun swamp 'druid' who claims to be the chosen Wilderness Guardian of a large swathe of the Atchafalaya Basin, having formed a pact with 'Papa Mangrove', allegedly a genius loci of the area.

Ah, yes. Googling around your excellent suggestion, I've come across the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. I would be remiss indeed if that were not significant in my campaign, and to both 'Nonc' Morel and 'Papa Mangrove'.

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What went wrong in the presidency of Bush Minor to let the city flood, and what THINGS BEST LEFT UNDISTURBED awoke when water slopped into their above-ground crypts which are bigger within than without?
I almost never worry about the perceived sensitivity of having secret occult explanations for historical events. On the other hand, Katrina is so very recent and so many people who might actually read these forums have lost family, that I cannot help but wonder if it would be insensitive to the point of actively hurting people's feelings to cast it as a conscious act of evil, with someone set up as secretly responsible, rather than an impersonal act of nature.

None of my uncle, aunt, cousins or other family on the East Coast was affected by Katrina or Rita, Isaac, Nate, etc., beyond a couple of days of inconvenience and nervousness, but I'm aware that not everyone was so lucky.

In my campaign, I think I'll make a point that random natural disasters still exist and can still cause untold damage, entirely aside from witches, werewolves, vampires, ghost, guppies and Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. However, I can certainly have the catastrophic effects of such natural disasters stir up unnatural things and forces, with flooded tombs and crypts being a particularly good example.

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Similarly, the University of Texas at Galveston medical school is experimenting on implanting vat-grown lungs in pigs.
In real world terms, that's pretty neat.*

In occult terms, how do you suggest I use it?

In my setting metaphysics, the local mana of scientific laboratories full of scientists and high-tech equipment generally ranges from No Mana to maybe the occasional Very Low Mana spot of -10. It would take a very powerful ley line or Place of Power to overcome all the TL penalties to local mana.

Also, within higher Mana Zones, it is possible for cryptids to come across from other realities, for humans using magic or afflicted by phenomena from other worlds to change shape and for all sorts of impossibilities to happen, what generally happens when a blatantly unnatural creature is killed or captured and brought into a lower mana zone is that the ectoplasm or other Out Of Place material that made it into a supernatural monster starts fading away and the end result is usually just a human or animal carcass.

This makes it frustratingly difficult to scientifically study various exotic monsters, as it's almost impossible to have a properly set up laboratory without reducing the local mana to almost nothing and even if you could, perhaps using ley lines and Sacred Architecture, you'd have a laboratory where high-tech equipment kept malfunctioning.

Of course, I am casting Galveston as a place where several ley lines intersect and Places of Power are more common. It has always been that way, in my campaign, but whereas it was apparently just a general location of elevated magical importance in the late 19th century**, with perhaps a preference for Path of Chance and Path of Crossroads effects, it is now a death-aspected location where Path of Spirit magic and various ghostly phenomena are unusually strong. After all, it was the site of the most deadly natural disaster in US history in 1900 and every single street served as a makeshift graveyard in that terrible year.

I wonder whether the University of Texas at Galveston was built at any terribly significant location?

It would be neat if there was a particular lab there where equipment kept failing, but it was not moved to a different location because Kessler, a huge donor, made it a condition that it be located there (and underwrote all the damage caused by the inexplicable electrical failures).

*After my grandfather got a heart valve from a calf, he makes it a point to moo a lot and claim that he prefers pork and lamb to cannibalism, but I've not actually noticed him turning down any steaks.
**J.R. Kessler, the PCs' Patron, is in possession of some pretty extensive notes written by esoteric students and occult practitioners from Galveston. While some do record ghostly visitations after the year 1900, no one was apparently able to work ritual magic in Galveston (nor anywhere else), for most of the 20th century. According to Kessler, this changed at the start of the 1980s, with his first experiments succeeding in 1982.
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Old 01-01-2019, 04:21 PM   #14
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Similarly, the University of Texas at Galveston medical school is experimenting on implanting vat-grown lungs in pigs.
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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
In real world terms, that's pretty neat.*

In occult terms, how do you suggest I use it?
It's preparation for giving pigs gills. Which is preparation for giving humans gills. So it's either a Deep One project, or a project aimed against the Deep ones.
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Old 01-01-2019, 05:15 PM   #15
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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It's preparation for giving pigs gills. Which is preparation for giving humans gills. So it's either a Deep One project, or a project aimed against the Deep ones.
Who told you about Edward Alvin Smith's gills!?

They're not even visible except in strong magical fields. Well, not so that you can't cover them with make-up and concealer, anyway, and not even a close physical examination can reveal them within No Mana Zones, as they seem not to be present at all unless there is some mana around.

In any case, he doesn't like to be asked about them. It's not polite. It's not like he chose to somehow assume the metaphysical essence of the Nommo in order to be able to better survive in the otherworldly realm he found himself. At least, not as an informed choice, anyway.
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Old 01-02-2019, 04:51 AM   #16
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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I almost never worry about the perceived sensitivity of having secret occult explanations for historical events. On the other hand, Katrina is so very recent and so many people who might actually read these forums have lost family, that I cannot help but wonder if it would be insensitive to the point of actively hurting people's feelings to cast it as a conscious act of evil, with someone set up as secretly responsible, rather than an impersonal act of nature.

None of my uncle, aunt, cousins or other family on the East Coast was affected by Katrina or Rita, Isaac, Nate, etc., beyond a couple of days of inconvenience and nervousness, but I'm aware that not everyone was so lucky.

In my campaign, I think I'll make a point that random natural disasters still exist and can still cause untold damage, entirely aside from witches, werewolves, vampires, ghost, guppies and Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. However, I can certainly have the catastrophic effects of such natural disasters stir up unnatural things and forces, with flooded tombs and crypts being a particularly good example.
I am sympathetic with the view that it is bad taste to find some secret occult reason for the holocaust, because the true horror of the holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide is the utter irrationality. Any game set in New Orleans today will have to interact with the effects of hurricane Katrina though.

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In real world terms, that's pretty neat.*

In occult terms, how do you suggest I use it?
- Excuse for cinematic medicine when one of the monster hunters gets too badly mangled
- maybe nature spirits, the loa of pigs, or a radical animal-rights group cum neopagan cult do not approve of these experiments?
- maybe a patron of the research has a cryptid with damaged lungs (or lungs which don't react well with our reality) and they are hoping to provide new lungs because feeding it the unspeakable diet it needs to continually regenerate is getting hard to hide? Or create superhuman beings with increased oxygen capacity?
- I like John Dalman's gills idea
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Old 01-02-2019, 09:39 AM   #17
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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I am sympathetic with the view that it is bad taste to find some secret occult reason for the holocaust, because the true horror of the holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide is the utter irrationality. Any game set in New Orleans today will have to interact with the effects of hurricane Katrina though.
Indeed so. And hurricanes in general, past and future ones, for many places around the Gulf Coast.

The effects of such hurricanes include, of course, their effects on the supernatural world. Storms and floods may coincide with fluctations in mana levels. Flooding may fill monster lairs in tombs and crypts, trapping what lives there, or it might cause their inhabitants to seek new living quarters. Wards and seals may be disrupted. Curses ended or activated.

And as True Detective chillingly noted, times of disaster, refugee crises and a multitude of dead or missing people are times when the predations of monsters, human or otherwise, are easiest for the erstwhile guardians of society to miss. Anything that hunts humans can feast without fear of reprisal during natural disasters and their aftermath, secure in the knowledge that any missing people will be counted as victims of the natural tragedy.

Metaphorically, the otherwordly incursions out of the Vile Vortex represent an oncoming storm. Perhaps some such threats may literally bring with them storms, hurricanes of otherwordly power. That would, at the very least, be a potent fear for an occultist from Galveston and a prophetic vision he would do much to prevent coming to pass.

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- Excuse for cinematic medicine when one of the monster hunters gets too badly mangled
That's when we break out the grimoire of Al-Risalah al-Mawt, the occult medical researches of Zahid al-Talib and the principle of supernatural healing in a setting where the supernatural has a sinister bent and very real costs: "Only Death can pay for Life".

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- maybe nature spirits, the loa of pigs, or a radical animal-rights group cum neopagan cult do not approve of these experiments?
I've only just started my Afro-Caribbean and African-American folk religion studies. Which loas would be particularly concerned with the welfare of swine, or, conversely, mortally offended at the idea of sullying their pigly pure forms with blasphemous science?

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- maybe a patron of the research has a cryptid with damaged lungs (or lungs which don't react well with our reality) and they are hoping to provide new lungs because feeding it the unspeakable diet it needs to continually regenerate is getting hard to hide? Or create superhuman beings with increased oxygen capacity?
- I like John Dalman's gills idea
Look, the player of Edward Alvin Smith wants me to reiterate that he is a person, not a cryptid, despite the gills. And that a diet rich in seafood is perfectly natural for the regional cuisine, hardly 'unspeakable', and the essential Nommo oils he requires can be synthesized perfectly well with Alchemy.

As for the creation of more superhuman beings with increased oxygen capacity, he is intrigued by your ideas and wishes to subscribe to your newsletter, provided you are willing to supply physical copies that are tolerant of occasional splashes of seawater.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:07 AM   #18
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Default Suggestions for Occult Organizations in the World

As my campaign world was substantially supernatural-free for the majority of the 20th century, there really aren't any ancient and esoteric orders secretly ruling the world behind the scenes. That is, the odd ancient and esoteric order might survive to the present day, but between the 1900s and the 1980s, they were likely be have more in common with real world Freemasons, Oddfellows and Benevolent Lodges of one or the other than the Cabals, Lodges, Conspiracies and Secret Societies of Ken Hite's writings.

Besides, I want to avoid rubber psychology and sociology, even as I have areas of elevated mana cheerfully take physics, biology and any other scientific disciplines that interfere with preternatural predators quietly behind the woodshed. So, no conspiracies with unrealistic competence and perfect track records. Even the small 'c' conspiracies of my campaign world that have only been active since the 1980s or 1990s, once people with the proper gifts began to notice preternatural phenomena, have in their short histories experienced plenty of failures, defectors, whistleblowers and turncoats. Which is why the larger ones tend to be well aware of at least the existence of each other, even when the public position of most governments is that nothing is happening, there are no monsters, magic is superstition and the rapidly increased crime rate and deteriorating international situation is empathetically the fault of someone else, probably their predecessors in office.

In other campaigns set in the same setting, I've featured the obligatory British conspiracy, dubbed with tongue in cheek the Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II and the inevitable Vatican-based counterweight, supernatural-savvy Catholic clergy backed up by at least one strike team recruited from the Knights of Malta and the Swiss Guard, as the players in my Boston Mystic game found out. As far as any earlier PCs who have encountered members of these organisations in play can tell, both of them seem to have altruistic motives in investigating and combating the supernatural, seeking to protect Great Britain and to a lesser degree the Commonwealth nations on one hand and the Catholic Church and its adherents on the other hand.

I'm looking for suggestions on other organisations, whether altruistic or less so. I am, of course, particularly interested in any organisation that might become the allies, rivals, antagonists or enemies of the PCs. What organisations exist that accept the existence of the Vile Vortices? And what kind of organisations might there be that reject the theories of Ivan T. Sanderson, and, by extension, the thaumatological hypotheses of J.R. Kessler about a symmetrical system of twelve Vile Vortices around the world, prefering instead to categorize and classify supernatural stuff through the prism of an entirely different worldview?

Does anyone have suggestions for regional organisations, analogous to Kessler's private network, but focused on a different Vile Vortex? They might be secret government agencies, international NGOs or simply fellowships of like-minded individuals, but one way or another, they'd be defined through a preoccupation with the concentration of anomalous occurances in their environment. Perhaps they, like Kessler, claim to have no motives beyond the protection of humanity and the defense of our way of life, a sort of Volunteer Fire Department, and perhaps their goals are more mercenary, real-politikal or guided by the professional paranoia of intelligence and security agencies.

A Cabal Without Ancient and Esoteric Origins?

In fact, I really need to detail one part of a loose network that might be described as a Cabal-precursor. It basically consists of personal relationships, research collaborations and allegiances between various private scholars, occultists and mystical talents who independently discovered the supernatural at some point after 1980 and the present day, and instead of trying to convince the public of its existence or set up an organisation to combat supernatural threats in secret, simply try to use it for their own selfish ends.

I'm featuring a black magician in the game. He started out as part of a some variety of New Age/Satanic cult at UC Berkley, consisting mostly of the kind of people who get involved in cults in the real world, as well as a charismatic leader who somehow was in contact with a genuine supernatural entity (though not necessarily one that corresponded in any specific way to the ridiculous faux-doctrine of that particular cult). Our anti-hero left UC Berkley to finish his PhD somewhere else and it was there that he came into contact with someone, one or more people, who were truly knowledgeable about the supernatural and able to teach him the dark arts he is practicing now.

The only thing I have established about him is that he relies on the services of demonic entities whom he has summoned to inhabit 'bodies' made of black mud mixed with blood and other exotic ingredients. A ghostly spirit referred to these entities as 'the Cold Ones', but the significance, if any, has not yet been revealed to my players or their characters. The ritual to bind the spirits to the created bodies made use of a rich variety of occult symbols and mystical objects, as well as blocks of ice and the aforementioned blood, as well as requiring, apparently, a human sacrifice.

Now, where did he learn to do this?

In what language is he speaking with these things?

Who is his master and tutor in dark magic?

When the PCs start investigating reports of his movements, the contents of his hastily vacated hotel room and any other clues they might find, what connections to various Vile Vortices will they find?

What adumbral hints will they discover pointing at the unhealthy company he was keeping and what unearthly esoterica and secrets he was seeking?

Et cetera ad nauseum.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:14 AM   #19
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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...the Vile Vortices he postulates are lozenge shaped, not triangular, and that each of them might be as large as the Bermuda Triangle extended into a lozenge.

...I can twist and turn the lozenge as needed...
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Yes, but is there any proposed definition of the Bermuda Triangle that can stretch it far enough north to actually explain the disappearance of the colony?
If the colony must be inside the Vortex, as opposed to something coming out of the Triangle and travelling up to destroy the colony, then just make it the Bermuda Lozenge, reflecting the second half across the usual Miami-Bermuda line. That should cover the island. The Bermuda Triangle proponents are right. It's just that they're only looking at half the true area since they're overly focused on ships and a few aircraft.
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Old 01-02-2019, 11:24 AM   #20
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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If the colony must be inside the Vortex, as opposed to something coming out of the Triangle and travelling up to destroy the colony, then just make it the Bermuda Lozenge, reflecting the second half across the usual Miami-Bermuda line. That should cover the island. The Bermuda Triangle proponents are right. It's just that they're only looking at half the true area since they're overly focused on ships and a few aircraft.
By the source material of Ivan T. Sanderson, it clearly is the Bermuda Lozenge. On the other hand, the center and widest point of the lozenge would have to lie somewhere between Miami and Puerto Rico, at least if I want to fit Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean into it as well.

I had thought that the additional triangle which makes it a lozenge should probably have its southern, narrow end somewhere just off the coast of one of the Central American countries. Well, maybe even cover some of the coasts, no sense in skimping.

For example, look at the absolutely huge area covered by the lozenge of the 'Bermuda Triangle' in this map of the Vile Vortices. Granted, this doesn't seem to reach far enough north for Roanoke shenanigans, but maybe that was a ley line anomaly or something. Alternatively, look at the extended darkened area in the first map here. Play around with that and get it into a lozenge shape and it ought to get me a Bermuda Lozenge which covers everything I like from South Carolina to Aruba.
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