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Old 01-04-2019, 01:26 PM   #41
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Yes, excellent.

The Girl With the Kaleidoscope Eyes is Chilean, rather than from the Andes, but it's possible that South America, being a huge continent, will furnish other recruits, or, that for some other reason, there is a connection.

I'll see if something occurs to me or if someone suggests something.
Both the Aztecs and the Greeks give us undead to be/serve the Cold Ones. I book I referred to before made the case that the Nymphs of Greek myth were originally the spirits of young women who died unwed. In archaic Greek terms, they hadn't fulfilled the purpose of their lives. A typical condition for becoming a ghost.

In Aztec lore women who died in childbirth became Cihuateteo deadly malevolent beings. Like the nymphs, beautiful and mystically powerful. La Llorna could be a Cold One assassin working for Santa Muerte.

Following this link should help you with the Cold Ones in Latin America.
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Old 01-04-2019, 02:20 PM   #42
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

Looking at the Ghosts in Mexico link I suggest that "La Planchada" could be a Pishtaco who is smart enough to build a positive reputation for herself. By healing some people she gets the love/respect of key staff members. This lets her persuade her allies to give her dead flesh to power her "miracles."
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Old 01-04-2019, 09:10 PM   #43
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Default The Supernatural in My Setting

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Both the Aztecs and the Greeks give us undead to be/serve the Cold Ones. I book I referred to before made the case that the Nymphs of Greek myth were originally the spirits of young women who died unwed. In archaic Greek terms, they hadn't fulfilled the purpose of their lives. A typical condition for becoming a ghost.

In Aztec lore women who died in childbirth became Cihuateteo deadly malevolent beings. Like the nymphs, beautiful and mystically powerful. La Llorna could be a Cold One assassin working for Santa Muerte.

Following this link should help you with the Cold Ones in Latin America.
Something I should probably note is that my campaign setting is agnostic on the subject of souls, afterlives, gods and demons.

There are spirits and supernatural entities who may claim to be gods, demons or angels, and may wield powers way beyond mortal magicians, but there is no way to determine whether they are lying, themselves delusional or actually right. Everything they do might actually be the same magic that ritual magicians can access, just more powerful, better manipulated and not limited by the lack of systematic thaumatological science that modern magicians are bound by.

No human currently living has been able to use any supernatural abilities longer than for ca 35-38 years and very few have been aware of magic as a truly real force for even that long. The 'average' human caster is self-taught, relying on unsystematic and inaccurate superstitions as much as any true thaumatological lore, and most rituals are learned by rote from old books, with experimentation almost completely ineffective in the first years, simply due to how slowly mana levels rose.

In game terms, the RPM rules didn't apply for most mortal spellcasters in any meaningful way until the nineties, more than ten years after the first hints of returning magic (even then, probably less than a thousand people knew anything about the truth, with less than a hundred having any points in Thaumatology, and of those, most believed they were among the only ones to know), and even now, at the end of 2018 (New Year's hasn't happened yet in my game), most of Earth outside the Vile Vortices is Very Low Mana (-8 to -10).

The most powerful magicians in the world have pretty much all been mentored by spirits or supernaturral beings in the early days of magic, or learned from someone who has. This has the side-effect that there are a lot more crazed cultists who cast potent spells than there are rational, educated ritual magicians of comparable power.

In terms of percentages, probably 80% of those human beings who can use any kind of supernatural ability learned that as part of an established religious or spiritual tradition with elements dating back to prior eras, before the 20th century, when it seems magic also worked. Another 15% belong to cults established by powerful supernatural beings or are otherwise taught by such a being. Only 5% are truly thaumatological scholars who understand magic as a force independent of religious traditions and aren't bound by either rote learning or some form of pact. There are a lot more traditional shamans, bokors, mambas, brujas or the like in the world than there are Hermetic ritual magicians.

Outside sub-cultures which exist also in the real world, e.g. Afro-Caribbean religious and magical traditions, there wasn't really any true 'occult underworld', let alone organised cabals of mages, until the last decade or so, with what existed before that being just like the real world, i.e. people studying the occult and esoteric, but not actually able to do any magic and might not actually be learning anything terribly relevant to RPM and Path skills (though having been an occultist before discovering real, working magic actually tends to be a good background to start learning Thaumatology, and, of course, any supporting skills remain useful).

In 2018, magic and the supernatural are still secret and not officially acknowledged, but the secrecy is fading. In real reality, there are plenty of places where the majority of people claim to believe in ghosts, witches, curses or other supernatural things. In my setting, the percentage of people who believe in something supernatural has trended upward from the 1990s, along with violent crime figures, and in 2018, pretty much everywhere is suffering from historic levels of violent crime.

Average first responders, crime reporters, ER nurses, priests or similar people have seen too much to completely swallow official denials, though most simply have unanswered questions and doubts about imperfect rationalisations they've come up with as part of the Facade, not true knowledge. A lot of criminals and street people know well enough that there are scarier things than cartel sicarios and serial killers out there, but there is much more inaccurate superstition being talked than valuable information.

Few places where people live permanently are higher than Low Mana (-7 to -3), with any place where rituals can be cast at unmodified skill likely to be also the epicenter of covert conflict, constant danger and otherwordly incursions. No sane occultist wants to live in a Place of Power inside the most magical areas of a Vile Vortex, that's how you end up insane, dead or suffering a fate worse than death before you ever manage to learn something truly momentous. I guess the cutting edge thaumatological research is mostly being performed by those whose curiosity or lust for power outweighs all other considerations, or by those not burdened with sanity or self-preservation. In other words, PCs, their peers and kindred spirits, and their foes.

So even if mortals can't yet match the powers and abilities that spirits and other supernatural beings from other worlds can wield, that doesn't mean they are necessarily ineffable mysteries. It just means that in the less than forty years after humans started to be able to wield magic again, no one has yet managed to learn enough to figure out how to do the things the most powerful spirits and other beings can do. At least, no one who is willing to share his discoveries...

By the same token, spirits that resemble ghosts exist in the setting, but whether they are bodiless souls of the formerly living, spirits of an incorporeal species of extraterrestials never alive, but simply given shape and semblence of personality by the belief or expectations of the living, or something else, like astral remnants or lingering echoes of the once living, any personality or volition the result of some external influence, is hotly disputed, in setting, by occultists.

Questions of the afterlife, religion and the nature of reality in the setting may or may not be answered in the course of play, but are meant to be central motivations for characters. And it's important that nothing about the way supernatural powers and beings work serves to prematurely answer any ultimate questions.

What that means for ghostly foes, for example, is that the GM and players have to be able to bisociate. Every power 'ghosts' exhibit can be explained either by traditional religio-spiritual reasoning, or, by rationalising the effects human belief has on the realm of the preternatural in terms of philosophical analogues to the Observer Effect, quantum mumble-bumble-something, and scientifically defining ghosts as incorporeal parasitic mimics that require belief to survive and who, consciously or unconsciously, conform to human supsrstitions and cultural expectations about the supernatural.

So, using these excellent Latin American legends and myths as the basis, the creature responsible might be a witch, spirit or ultraterrestial powering their preternatural powers through manipulation of cultural iconography (which might or might not eventually result in becoming the mask). It might be an aspect, a tiny tendril, of the Lords of the Last Waste, discovering a preternatural ecological niche, through which it can siphon life, warmth, possibilities and potentialities out of this reality, into its barren void. The resemblence to a real world myth could then, perhaps, result from the summoner perceiving the alien in familiar terms and with such perception, defining the boundaries of existance the aspect has in this reality.

Not to mention that several magical traditions in my campaign world have a concept similar to the tulpa, thought form, and these generally take on shapes and abilities defined by various myths and legends, because collective belief is in many ways the most vast reserve of energy that can be accessed through preternatural means. It takes a lot more energy and will to make a thought form that only you can conceptualise instead of relying on the dreams and unconscious beliefs of crowds to handle most of the work. Creating from scratch vs. building on established code.
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Old 01-05-2019, 05:19 AM   #44
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Another form of the Cold One could be the Pishtaco a Latin American bogeyman that is a sort of body fat vampire. Clearly, a metaphor for wasting disease but these pale greedy hungry monsters would fit nicely in this setting. The constant greed of the Pishtaco could be about gaining money to buy diamonds. Since the Cold Ones need diamonds. An undead monster obsessed with stealing flesh (to make more shells/bodies) and money (to buy diamonds) fits the narrative.

Any use to you?
Working backwards from the ways and means needed for the antagonists to be in country at all for the PCs to encounter them, I needed connections with orgnised crime somewhere.

Thanks to your excellent suggestion, that will be with a criminal organisation originally from Peru or Bolivia, in Pishtaco-country.
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Old 01-06-2019, 01:33 PM   #45
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Default Spanish Name for 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

If there are any Spanish-speakers reading, what would you use as the Spanish title of an organization whose name ought to translate into something like 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

The connotations should be those of a small campfire in the wilderness, being kept alive against the encroaching darkness all around. The last refuge of warmth and light in an ocean of blackness.

The name and the general sense ought to evoke the phrase from Dylan Thoma's poem and the title of the G.R.R. Martin story, 'The Dying of the Light'. A sense of melancholy inevitability, of cosmological finality, made bitterweet by the contrast between the outer darkness and the warm, homely refuge, where the comfort and camraderie are, however, by the nature of things, doomed to fade away in the end.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:44 AM   #46
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Default Re: Spanish Name for 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

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If there are any Spanish-speakers reading, what would you use as the Spanish title of an organization whose name ought to translate into something like 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

The connotations should be those of a small campfire in the wilderness, being kept alive against the encroaching darkness all around. The last refuge of warmth and light in an ocean of blackness.

The name and the general sense ought to evoke the phrase from Dylan Thoma's poem and the title of the G.R.R. Martin story, 'The Dying of the Light'. A sense of melancholy inevitability, of cosmological finality, made bitterweet by the contrast between the outer darkness and the warm, homely refuge, where the comfort and camraderie are, however, by the nature of things, doomed to fade away in the end.
Google Translate suggests something like "Guardianes de la última llama", which my decades-forgotten high school Spanish says sounds plausible, but I don't know if it's the exact name that I want. I want a word for 'fire' or 'flame' that evokes images of warmth, comfort and safety, as opposed to a fire that burns and destroys. And maybe a more exotic and ambiguous word for 'Keepers', one that might be interpreted to mean 'Guardians' but might also be translated as 'controllers' or 'holders', i.e. someone who not only guards the campfire, but controls who might have access to it.

If the exact dialect matters, this name should have emerged from a social group containing speakers of Chilean Spanish in respected leadership roles, but with the majority in terms of numbers consisting of speakers of Andean Spanish. Some among the leadership would have some connections to the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, but that might not include having been born there and technically, they might have almost any Chilean or even Argentinian accent.

And yes, there would be people involved who are not native Spanish speakers at all, but at the moment, I'm concerned with what a specific group of people who are Spanish speakers would call their movement.

Actually, I'd also welcome suggestions for a Brazilian Portuguese variation of the name, one applied by Paulistano speakers of mostly low economic and social standing, and, crucially, who knew the organisation only from the outside, as a terrifying partner and ally, but had only heard the Spanish-speakers refer to their organisation at all in oblique snippets and mysterious code. They'd very likely refer to them as something connected to flame, hearth or embers, though, ironically, another possibility is a name connected to frost and ice, though it's also possible that they'd dub them something from South American mythology.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:49 AM   #47
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Default Re: Spanish Name for 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

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Google Translate suggests something like "Guardianes de la última llama",
So flame and llama are homonyms in Spanish? That could lead to some amusing confusion.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:53 AM   #48
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Default Re: Spanish Name for 'Keepers of the Last Flame'?

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So flame and llama are homonyms in Spanish? That could lead to some amusing confusion.
Indeed so.

I'm not sure I want that, however. Or maybe I do. In any case, sounding mellifluous and pretty is an important goal for the name, at least for me. I actually quite like the flow of 'llama', I suppose, though 'fuego' is also good. I interpret 'fuego' as rather more energetic and violent than the sense I want here, but it's possible that with the right modifier, it works.

Given how many near synonyms most languages have for flames, I ought to be able to find words that imply, in Spanish, exactly the sense I want, i.e. the life-giving warmth and the soft light of a campfire, that keeps the darkness of the world outside at bay.
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:19 AM   #49
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Default Short Blurb on the International Situation in My Campaign

The supernatural and monsters, as well as the very existence of the Vile Vortices, in my campaigns world are officially a secret and not acknowledged by governments. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, there was nothing to acknowledge, research, deny or suppress, as the supernatural was a non-factor in the history of my world between about 1890 to 1980. And between 1890 and 2000 or so, not much happened in the campaign world at large that didn't happen in our world.

A very few people became aware of the supernatural during the subtle times between 1980-2000, when RPM magic didn't even exist for the first decade (use highly limited Path/Book) and any paranormal effects were very limited, but most of those who learned about magic and monsters didn't do so until after 2001 or so, at which time even someone who didn't live within the highest magic area of a Vile Vortex might experience something he could not rationalize away. Still, magic remained a secret that very few people knew about.

Until about 2011, it would have taken a professional historian considerable research to determine the difference between the world of my setting and the real world. After that year, however, the cumulative effects of higher and ever rising crime rates, combined with a more volatile international situation, means that the world of my setting is getting subtly worse every year.

Of course, there are those who would say that this does not substantially differentiate it from the real world, but it is nevertheless a fact that violent death in the campaign world, both from criminal causes, civil wars and sectarian conflicts, and a variety of small wars in Africa, Asia and the Americas, has become about an order of magnitude more common in the setting than it is in the real world. Basically, wars and conflicts that in our world had started slowing down, became worse and less comprehensible in the setting.

The many African civil wars that have flared up in the 21st century now increasingly resemble the Angolan and Congolese crises, with innumerable factions, many of whom have strange cultic practices and make bold supernatural claims, like the Lord's Resistance Army and other such combatants in our world. Syria and Iraq are at the center of what seems to be becoming Hell on Earth, with new factions emerging every day and every new rebel leader making new apocalyptic proclamations or claiming terrible supernatural powers for his followers.

Reports from Venezuela indicate that despite public proclamations denying violence, there is a full-scale civil war in progress, with an unclear number of combatant factions. Officially, India and Pakistan are at peace, but apparent sectarian violence and frequent terrorist massacres in the Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's Sindh province and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, are threatening that peace.

About the only saving grace is that the United States and most of their strongest allies have been kept out of the worst conflicts, having managed to leave Iraq before it started its long, drawn out collapse after 2012-2013, and not being involved in Syria on any significant scale. The autonomous tribal areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan remain intractable problems, but with the death of bin Laden, the focus of US efforts in Afghanistan tends to be away from these centers of internecine violence.

Magic is still a secret and considered rank superstition by most governments, but instead of just a few dozen or even a few hundred people having learned about it, there are now thousands of people who are aware of its reemergence and hundreds of thousands and even millions, mostly living at the edges of society or in places near Vile Vortexes, who are affected by it on a daily basis, for all that they might not know very much about it.

The denials increasingly ring hollow and it is, quite frankly, incredible that something has not shattered the Secret even before now. By all logic and rationality, this ought to have happened by 2012 or so, and at the very least, within a year or two of that date. There simply are too many paranormal occurrences for such a secret to endure.

Occultists, of course, argue incessantly about the metaphysical implications of the Facade and the way human minds rationalize everything supernatural away. If magic and the supernatural existed in human history before the modern era and the various legends and myths that exist about it are true, then this Facade obviously didn't exist back then. Or, at least, worked very differently. If it is a new effect or one that has changed dramatically, might it have a cause?

Questions?

Comments?

Desires for explanations or things I should have mentioned, but didn't?
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Old 01-08-2019, 05:29 AM   #50
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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From the map, those lozenges seem to cover 15-degree squares of lat/long. They're lozenge-shaped because of the funky map projection.

Puerto Rico to Roanoke is 18 degrees of latitude, so it's not that far off. It would easily fit in a lozenge not aligned with lat/long lines if you rotated it. But if it also has to include the Yucatan, it gets harder, mostly because of the east-west distance. (Bermuda 32.3 N 67.8 W; Yucatan 18.8 N 89 W; Roanoke 35.9 N 75.7 W)
I guess I hadn't even considered the Yucatan.

I know I want most of the East Coast to be (mostly) safely outside, so even if parts of the lozenge stretch up almost to Roanoke, the area should run mostly along the coastline, not reaching inland much, if at all, in Florida or the Carolinas.

Canonically (i.e. something I've officially established in play), the islands of St. Lucia and Domincia, in the Caribbean, are also outside of the Vile Vortex, though fairly close. This is a major factor in Kessler using them as safe refuges and bases to operate in the southern part of the Vile Vortex. The local mana levels are about as high as you'll find outside a Vile Vortex, but the risks of supernatural invasions appear comparatively low. In addition, there are some Places of Power there, especially on Domincia, where the mana is aspected toward nature, life and some benevolent protective force.

The island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Domincian Republic, might not occupy the exact geographic center of the Vile Vortex, but it's certainly a focal point of some sort for patanormal activity. Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas are also solidly within the affected area, though it wouldn't break anything for only part of Cuba to technically fit into the Vile Vortex. Other Caribbean islands may or may not fit within the Vile Vortex itself, we'll see how it comes out if we try for a posiition based on my goals at the ends.

I plan to have plenty of weirdness in the coastal parts of Central America that lie close to the Caribbean and in areas of Colombia, Venezuela and Gyuana, but these might be linked the Vile Vortex by ley line or otherwise have effects caused by proximity and mana flows between Vile Vortices, it's not necessary that they fit within the lozenge.

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It would be a bizarre coincidence for the Vortices to happen to coincide with pentaphilic round numbers in an arbitrary coordinate system. So clearly that's not arbitrary. The Babylonians were on to something fundamental with their base 60 math, and equally it is not just an arbitrary or self-interested choice of Greenwich by overweening Englishmen that that longitude is the zero point. (It runs through Algeria and Mali, for instance; Timbuktu is 3 W. But then, scientists that have forgotten the real purpose of the lines have moved them a bit from their original placement.)
Ah, excellent.
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