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Old 01-12-2020, 07:35 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Yucca Valley, CA
Default Need ideas: secret magic goes public

I’ve made 3 attempts at a secret weirdness campaign and they all fail when the secret breaks, because however much sense the idea may have made historically, the modern world’s at a critical mass (or density) of population, especially smartphone-equipped population. The Magic Vegas setting is an attempt to deal with the problem, but I never got to run it. What I got instead is a campaign based on The Everlasting.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a 90’s game by a White Wolf alumnus that’s a lot like World of Darkness with even more races, but it has one great idea: All the magic takes place in a parallel dimension called the Reverie. The fun part is that Reverie has layers, the deeper ones increasingly bizarre, but the shallowest overlaps mundane reality, so as a GM, you get to describe the same scene the way illuminated people see it and the way mundane people see it. The secret is kept because while the normie might see people behaving strangely, he’ll never see anything magic.

Except when someone assembles enough wizards to force the Reverie into the mundane layer, and worse, combines that with the dream world, so that anything vividly imagined comes to life. I had a great time describing this sequence, but it changed the campaign world in ways I can’t extrapolate by myself.

So the background is various human magicians and eldritch races like fairies and genies and assorted undead all exist and that they claim dominion over various territories with autocratic authority that predates modern notions of human rights. They mostly lair in the reverie, with the implication that the amount of available real estate in the world is several times what exists in mundane reality, and a vampire for instance could have a whole herd of human cattle enslaved on a ranch that no mundane person could find.

Most modern governments without a state religion know little to nothing about the supernatural, but they are riddled with the empowered minions of supernatural beings. (This is not a detail explicit in published material, but my inference.) If there were an FBI department created to study weirdness, the guy assigned to the desk would be an ingenue, but every eldritch would want a minion looking over his reports. That’s how it worked before, anyway.

When faced with evidence, sufficiently creative people become illuminated, and the amount of evidence that got out before anyone could intervene was way more than enough, including a couple thousand people staying at the Venetian who were permanently and longitudinally compressed, basically a race of hobbits. That means that on the fateful day, illumination happened to about 7% of the population of Las Vegas and a percentage or two of the people who saw the tweets. As more people saw the still-mounting evidence, or met illuminated people, or went to Vegas to see for themselves, this spread like an infection until it stabilized a few months later at 33% worldwide and 50% at ground zero. Tourists awakened in Vegas will return home to find the Reverie exists where they live, too.

Arguably, somebody should have had a plan for this, but nobody did. Illuminated people have psychic potential, which means they can learn magic, so formerly-secretive academies are recruiting big-time, rival traditions trying to stay ahead in a new arms race. Any eldritch at the bottom of his group’s ladder is looking for a shortcut in the chaos, meaning that there are a lot of tell-alls being published with wild claims like famous people from history still being alive (plus a hasty misinformation campaign to drown embarrassing truths in the noise). And random people are wandering into the reverie to get completely lost, or crash the wrong party, or wander back out on the other side of a locked door.

So, I actually have lots of ideas about what starts happening, but I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything big. But I also need ideas on how to manage the chaos, as a GM. This is what I’ve got so far, in very broad strokes:

***Human governments had nothing that could challenge the supernatural – all I have to do is step into the Reverie and even your nuke won’t hurt me. But if they now have illuminated pilots who can fly a bomber into the rev, they’re a force to be reckoned with. That said, they have no familiarity with the reverie and no infrastructure there, except echoes of their own history: WWII aces who think the modern interloper is some kind of some kind of Nazi or space alien. (You can land at an echo of an airport, tell ‘em your friendly and impress them with your tech, but the next time you need to land, they won’t remember.)

***It isn’t clear if the territorial claims of human governments extend into the adjacent reverie. It is clear that if they make such a claim, they’ll have no initial means of enforcing it, and making the claim may be seen as a declaration of war by parties whose power level they can’t assess. It’s also clear that failing to secure the adjacent reverie is a huge security risk.

***Pursuant to the question of territory is one of citizenship, especially when it’s defined by the territory of birth. Many supernatural beings live essentially mundane lives; are they now foreign spies? Some of them are the actual heroes from your culture’s mythology; are you going to declare them citizens and hence outlaws because they follow practices that have been banned in modern times? Can the legally dead or clearly nonhuman even be citizens? Many of the supernatural, especially human wizards, have ties to the mundane world, some with mundane identities and jobs. Their citizenship isn’t in question, but they may have been consorting with the enemy, or just aiding and abetting criminals or terrorists depending on how the legal interpretations shake out.

***Human courts disallow spectral evidence, but when a crime is commited by magic means, spectral may be the only kind you can get. The prohibition might be the first casualty after a state of emergency is declared. On the other hand, spectral evidence will show that many of the current reigning elite gained or secured their positions with the aid of supernatural means, in some cases foul supernatural means, that weren’t illegal only because legislatures didn’t know they existed. There’ll be outlaws who were hanged but came back from the dead; do they deserve to die again? My point is that the courts could well be paralyzed by cases that have no precedent.

***The law by which supernatural society works says that if someone invades your territory in the reverie, you can treat them as wish, even kill ‘em. Now usually eldritch don’t do this, and they’d be wise enough to know they should exercise forebearance. Except some fraction will be less wise than the rest, and lookie-loos who want to see an echo of Woodstock or the Twin Towers will try anyone’s patience. Plus there’ll be well-armed and organized gangs who think ripping off a dragon’s horde would be a glorious and enriching adventure.

***Senior supernatural beings have agents in government, basically asking for a look at the files in exchange for life everlasting. Many of these supernatural beings are in fact heroic historical figures, and their stated reasons are to protect the state from supernatural threats of which it has been unaware. Unfortunately there are several factions of would-be protectors all working at cross-purposes, but at certain levels and in certain agencies. If you say that all these empowered agents need to be fired (or jailed) for violating the public trust, you’ll lose a lot of key personnel including all the ones who have any experience with the weird stuff. How far will the purge go?

***There's no world-wide authority to coordinate the response of human nations. There are some nominal eldritch authorities, but their power stems from a balance of power which is now up for grabs.

So, comments? How would you proceed to spin a tale out of this chaos?



Last edited by Gef; 01-12-2020 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:32 PM   #2
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Yucca Valley, CA
Default Re: Need iseas: secret magic goes public

The two basic approaches that occur to me are the Good Guy and the Bad Guy. The campaign setting has multiple big bads, like the dragon hordes returning to wipe out all humanity including human immortals. Yeah, folks might set aside differences to face the apocalypse. The Good Guy is functionally the same as a bad guy who wins so fast and overwhelmingly that nobody has time to go broke before they surrender, and the new overlord lays down a law that's practical and fair. Frankly, both of these ideas sound like cop-outs, so let's call 'em plans B and C, with plan A as yet to be determined.
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Old 01-13-2020, 11:20 PM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2006
Default Re: Need iseas: secret magic goes public

Originally Posted by Gef View Post
...when the secret breaks...How would you proceed to spin a tale out of this chaos?
The question, "How would humanity react if aliens actually showed up on the Earth," has been asked countless times. The general consensus would be - a certain percentage do A, a certain percentage do B, C, D, etc. The variables are usually - suicide, worship them, kill them, etc.

I would imagine similar reactions among humans if "fantasy beings" and "magic" suddenly appeared. Few humans could cope, few governments could cope, and you're essentially looking at the beginning of The End in an After The End situation, assuming the stabilization isn't really permanent, because I don't see how it could be in this setup - if illumination spread via evidence once before, it should continue spreading. So, the getting from The End to The After is where any game lies here.

From the viewpoint of the Norm, a massive percentage of the population has contracted some sort of "mass hysteria virus," and would likely treat Abnorms like plague victims - because who knows if this is catching? And who wants to be around so many (obviously) crazy people? Governments would attempt to round up the Abnorms and segregate them from the Norms to make them feel safe again. Governments also seek to secretly take advantage of the Abnorms, if any actual power can be proven across that barrier (but the way you describe it, that seems impossible without then creating a new Abnorm.)

From the viewpoint of the Abnorms, you get the "aliens" scenario described above - certain percentages react in certain ways, however, you also then get the element of being treated as insane and undesirable from your fellow human beings.
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