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Old 05-04-2006, 06:59 AM   #1
Max Schreck
 
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Default Horror in the TS universe

What role does horror have to play in TS, if any? The first (and only) adventure published in paper for TS was a B-movie horror story about nanovirus pseudo-zombies in space (you all know what I'm talking about), and ever since that first unholy coupling of late-night show horror and TS, I have been wondering if it is a viable option in a TS campaign.

Is it possible to run a Horror campaign in the hard SF, biotech milieu of Transhuman Space?

What do you say? Have any of you had any experiences with this? Any you care to share?

Maybe some of you even have some adventure ideas for the rest of us? *hint, hint*

Later,

Max
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Old 05-04-2006, 07:15 AM   #2
Jürgen Hubert
 
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

For horror, it is a good idea to center on the themes of Future Shock. I recommend relatively normal humans as PCs for this (though ghosts are okay, too). People from Third Wave nations, really old people with a 20th century mindset, or (best of all) people who have been cyrogenically frozen for much of the century work best.

Read up on all the really disturbing things that a lot of people are doing these days. For money. For kicks. Or just because they can. There are some really weird people out there who would be regarded as insane by the rest of society.

Then imagine what these people could do with TS-era technology. Pleasant nightmares.

Other good themes are doubts about self-identity (how much are you trusting the input you get from the world? Especially if you are a ghost?), or the replaceability of beliefs. What happens if you are discovering that a new religion with thousands of adherents, which gives them a sense of meaning and peace in this world, was just invented by a rich and bored parahuman kid with the latest Meme Generation Software?

And then there are all those transhumanists who are willing to transform themselves utterly into... into something inhuman. What happens to old-timers when they discover that they have nothing more in common with their descendants - not even their humanity?
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Old 05-04-2006, 08:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert
Other good themes are doubts about self-identity (how much are you trusting the input you get from the world? Especially if you are a ghost?), or the replaceability of beliefs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert
And then there are all those transhumanists who are willing to transform themselves utterly into... into something inhuman. What happens to old-timers when they discover that they have nothing more in common with their descendants - not even their humanity?
Out of curiosity, has anyone ever run this sort of existential horror campaign? It sounds really interesting, but I don't know how it work in a nitty-gritty sort of way.
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Old 05-04-2006, 09:13 AM   #4
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert
For horror, it is a good idea to center on the themes of Future Shock. I recommend relatively normal humans as PCs for this (though ghosts are okay, too). People from Third Wave nations, really old people with a 20th century mindset, or (best of all) people who have been cyrogenically frozen for much of the century work best.

Read up on all the really disturbing things that a lot of people are doing these days. For money. For kicks. Or just because they can. There are some really weird people out there who would be regarded as insane by the rest of society.

Then imagine what these people could do with TS-era technology. Pleasant nightmares.

Other good themes are doubts about self-identity (how much are you trusting the input you get from the world? Especially if you are a ghost?), or the replaceability of beliefs. What happens if you are discovering that a new religion with thousands of adherents, which gives them a sense of meaning and peace in this world, was just invented by a rich and bored parahuman kid with the latest Meme Generation Software?

And then there are all those transhumanists who are willing to transform themselves utterly into... into something inhuman. What happens to old-timers when they discover that they have nothing more in common with their descendants - not even their humanity?
Cool Ideas, thanks
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Old 05-04-2006, 09:28 AM   #5
Jürgen Hubert
 
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

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Originally Posted by crazytrpr
Cool Ideas, thanks
Of course, you can then add supernatural and uncanny elements into the mix. But if used, they should be thematically appropriate to the setting - they should represent humanity's desire to try out new and Forbidden things. Pushing scientific experiments beyond human understanding. Altering the human mind and body with distinctly nonhuman (possibly alien) traits. And so on.

"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy."

Still, a certain subtlety is neccessary - your horrors shouldn't be too easy to prove to the general public. It is probably a good idea to start out such campaigns slowly, with mere hints of the supernatural that don't neccessarily mean anything. Throw a few red herrings with mundane explanations at them. Establish that there are all sorts of crackpots out there who believe just about anything - and that there are other people out there who will stage fake "supernatural" events just for fun. Weeding out the Truth from the dross will require more than just asking your pocket AI to do it - it will take lengthy and painstaking research and interviews, and even then they will only have hints to go on, and the truth of the matter will elude them for a long time.

Of course, once they have their proof, they will be hunted down by a cabal of rogue AIs who have discovered the supernatural and decided that humanity cannot be trusted with it "for its own good". ;)
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Old 05-04-2006, 12:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

That Kazakstani dictator dude 'Zarubayev' has massive potential, with his mind-control obsessed Doctor friend Nikolai Verkovenskii from the 'Ministry of Mind and Body'.

Broken Dreams details how their Capitals augmented reality system is used to produce wierd situations to force people to ignore that which is not politically appropriate and assume they are under perfect, infinite surveillance.

What discoveries could you make about memes, minds and politics? What if there was an optimum, efficient way to break human will and then reprogram; not in the clumsy 'burn that part of the brain out' way, but if there was a kind of reality you could produce where the individuals would not be able to perceive alternatives? (much like the intention of 1984's NewSpeak, but more practical)

What if Zarubayev's regime starts meme campaigns against other states, and his political will is starting to spread? Imagine the resources of an entire state put to the task of making it memetically only right and reasonable that Zarubayev will eventually rule everything, and that you actually feel like a lunatic if you disagree? How would you fight such a thing, once it had gained a foothold...and everyone was disagreeing with you out of a gnawing sense of political correctness?



Someone from Kazakstan comes to (preferably a ghost PC) you for help - to escape Kazak agents who want to take them back. The escapee wants to live free. The PC is counsellor/bodyguard who specialises in this stuff. Attempts at saving this guy fail, and then start to backfire disastrously. Soon enough he is caught and you are on the run. Then one day you wake up in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar body. You learn that you are an edited personality used as a Kazak 'honey pot trap' for dissidents, and have gladly submitted to memory wipes before to continue your Noble Work for Zarubayev's Glorious Future...and now you're proven, you will be put to work in the real world. "That, what you just experienced..." your debriefing agent explains "...was a VR test. We'll run you through them from time to time to check on psychological stability..."

...how could you escape that? What's real?




Zarubayev is about creating a metaOrganism built of human cellular elements, devoid of individual ego. To make that work, perhaps he'll experiment with mechanical telepathy and puppet implants to force participation in the metaOrganism. Doubt is a cancer, your every thought is monitored and every day you receive a diet of optimised news to ensure psychological drive in the correct direction. Perhaps ego is overwritten and plugged into a metaEgo of the 'whole'.

If a conspiracy of such agents were at work in your country, how could you ID and stop them? And what might happen if they catch you?




Your life SUCKS. Everything you do fails, and each disaster makes you angrier. Botched job interviews, minor car accidents, peoples paraPets urinating on you as a joke, stuff ups in programming the home computer that puts rice-puffs out for dinner, or you accidentally invert the security system so your 3 yr old daughter is the sysadmin - and you have to coach her through resetting it with her 2" attention span. The constant irritation reaches a fever pitch and you belt the crap out of some innocent bystander.

The lawyer in your case - a fairly cut and dried case of assault and GBH - makes an interesting pitch. According a memetic analysis, this behaviour is inconsistent with your beliefs, and the psychological stress causing all the trouble is the result of conflicting memePlexes...someone has deliberately infected you in a planned manner to force you to commit crimes. Your original belief systems would have prevented this. Who's really responsible?




She's gorgeous. She's perfect. She's everything you ever wanted in your life, and she's agreed to marry you. An automated pre-nup check by the home computer turns up a tiny anomoly in her past. No big deal, you don't care, but you get the lawyer to look into it. You think perhaps it can be cleared up and that will be a gift in itself, something to surprise her with.

There is a breakthrough. She's not a 'she'. She's something else...first, it looks she's actually born male. Then she might be a bioroid. Then she might be a Rust China Triad plant, working for the Chinese intelligence agency on Earth. Then her 'parents' turn out to be ghosts in realistic shells, who look like traditional old biochauvinist sorts...none of the facts in her past add up, she's been keeping secrets ("Wedding plans! I can't tell you!") and she keeps a bottle of something wierd and blue in the fridge, biometrically sealed.

What can you do?
(This'd make a great comedy too...:D)



...that would be Hitchcock psycho-drama I would imagine. More physically :


If you can make bioroids, and alter animals, and proteus virus' exist...some crazed fan, somewhere, sometime...is going to make 'Alien'. Imagine walking into an old warehouse of collectors item alien monsters from the last 200years of movies...and they turn on.



Your executive yacht in deep space is attacked by a scavenging TSA AKV. You manage to fend off its first attempt to suck your ship's fuel tanks dry, and then put the computers offline so it can't hack in and flush you out.
The more you anger it, the more likely it is to just to railgun you and be done with it, even though it won't get to 'feed'. How are you going to avoid the 'final solution' and survive? How do you negotiate with a militarised, survivalist AI?



A militarised proteus virus has been used in a terrorist attack, and now you're locked up in an under-pressure, lethal high security, subterranean government lab-hospital. The only people you see are your co-incarcerated, and then only through plastic sheets and glass walls.
And in your cell, late at night, you can feel you are changing.
And every so often you hear screaming. Wailing. Bashing at walls. Roars that become ever less human. Fighting the impossible itch in your spine you claw at the lock on the door, and with distended and pale fingers break out into the facility. You pad across floors tarred with viscous brown slime. The tiles smell...cold...and the glowing-heat of a mounted security gun, when it fires, seems, inviting...and the bullets...don't really hurt at all...
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Old 05-04-2006, 03:06 PM   #7
Rising
 
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
"Someone from Kazakstan comes to (preferably a ghost PC) you for help - to escape Kazak agents who want to take them back. The escapee wants to live free. The PC is counsellor/bodyguard who specialises in this stuff. Attempts at saving this guy fail, and then start to backfire disastrously. Soon enough he is caught and you are on the run. Then one day you wake up in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar body. You learn that you are an edited personality used as a Kazak 'honey pot trap' for dissidents, and have gladly submitted to memory wipes before to continue your Noble Work for Zarubayev's Glorious Future...and now you're proven, you will be put to work in the real world. "That, what you just experienced..." your debriefing agent explains "...was a VR test. We'll run you through them from time to time to check on psychological stability..."

...how could you escape that? What's real?"
Now THAT is scary ... mucho scary. Do you mind if I use that in one in my campaign? *evil demonic grin*
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Old 05-04-2006, 03:14 PM   #8
Rising
 
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
A militarised proteus virus has been used in a terrorist attack, and now you're locked up in an under-pressure, lethal high security, subterranean government lab-hospital. The only people you see are your co-incarcerated, and then only through plastic sheets and glass walls.
And in your cell, late at night, you can feel you are changing.
And every so often you hear screaming. Wailing. Bashing at walls. Roars that become ever less human. Fighting the impossible itch in your spine you claw at the lock on the door, and with distended and pale fingers break out into the facility. You pad across floors tarred with viscous brown slime. The tiles smell...cold...and the glowing-heat of a mounted security gun, when it fires, seems, inviting...and the bullets...don't really hurt at all...
Even more scary. I would perhaps delete the "I have turned into a Resident Evil-monster" but I like the general idea. Very similar to when I once let a PC wake up in a 1950-style psychiatric hospital and see him try to make it back to the real world (1990s). See him try to avoid having nasty stuff done to him in the showerroom and trying to figure out why he had been send there in the first place. Who had done it to him. And how.
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Old 05-04-2006, 06:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert
For horror, it is a good idea to center on the themes of Future Shock.
As usual, Jürgen, your ideas are spot-on. However, there's one big metagame problem: they'll actually work. Horror is mainly about scaring the players, getting the players scared of transhuman elements (which they're probably unfamiliar with) will play directly into the ick-factor tactics that bioconservatives love to use. In fact, a lot of horror is based directly on xenophobia. (Since I have the Xenophilia disadvantage, I'm a bit biased here.)

If I were to run a horror campaign, I'd base the threat on Dolores Umbridge: a sadistic bigot with political power. In THS terms, this means jack-booted thugs from the GRA invading Seventh Heaven, or Exogenisis scientists enduring EDI goon squads, or being the the victims of genocide for the usual reasons (Armitage III: Poly-Matrix is a perfect example of this), or anything else based on Presavationist backlash.

Great Cthulhu deciding that San Francisco would make a good breakfast doesn't horrify me, a so-called parent threatening a child at knifepoint to not be gay does.
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Old 05-08-2006, 03:02 AM   #10
Jürgen Hubert
 
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Default Re: Horror in the TS universe

Quote:
Originally Posted by DryaUnda
As usual, Jürgen, your ideas are spot-on. However, there's one big metagame problem: they'll actually work. Horror is mainly about scaring the players, getting the players scared of transhuman elements (which they're probably unfamiliar with) will play directly into the ick-factor tactics that bioconservatives love to use. In fact, a lot of horror is based directly on xenophobia. (Since I have the Xenophilia disadvantage, I'm a bit biased here.)
Well, excesses are a part of every technological revolution, and thus provide a fine source of horror that shouldn't be ignored. That being said...

Quote:
If I were to run a horror campaign, I'd base the threat on Dolores Umbridge: a sadistic bigot with political power. In THS terms, this means jack-booted thugs from the GRA invading Seventh Heaven, or Exogenisis scientists enduring EDI goon squads, or being the the victims of genocide for the usual reasons (Armitage III: Poly-Matrix is a perfect example of this), or anything else based on Presavationist backlash.
How about a conspiracy of Evil Old Men trying to use all their resources to destroy parahumans before they can become the "norm" for humanity?

- Developing bioweapons that work specifically against certain types of parahumans.
- Sabotaging facilities that create parahumans so that the parahuman children will end up psychotic a few years down the road.
- Waging an intensive memetic campaign against anything parahuman that will wreck countless lives (which will be especially successful in Third Wave nations where most people can't afford to have parahuman children anyway).

Eventually, a group of young parahumans discovers this conspiracy and decide to fight back. Some only want a "parahuman homeland", while others begin to see non-parahumans as a threat to their very existence (you can plunder GUNDAM Seed for ideas...). The whole thing escalates, and the spirit of tolerance of the Transhuman Age vanishes as hate and bigotry begin to spread.

The point of this scenario is not about the dangers of new technology, but how humans can abuse them if they submit to hatred. One side sees the other as "less than human", and the other sees the first one as an "evolutionary dead end". Neither sees the other one as people who have any business surviving.

The themes here are the loss of innocence of the new age, the rule of hatred, and the suffering of the many innocent victims that get caught in the crossfire. And in all these themes you will find plenty of opportunities for horror...

Quote:
Great Cthulhu deciding that San Francisco would make a good breakfast doesn't horrify me, a so-called parent threatening a child at knifepoint to not be gay does.
Great Cthulhu eating San Francisco only doesn't horrify you because you haven't thought the scenario throughly enough. Cthulhu isn't just some Gozilla-like monster that will stomp on humans, gobble them up, and otherwise do large amounts of property damage. No, He is something far more terrifying.

First, psychic emanations of His impending arrival will ripple ahead in time before Him. At first, only artists, drug users, and other sensitive people will feel anything and have strange dreams. These dreams get more intense over time, and an increasingly large number of people simply goes insane - gouging their eyes out, running amok, shouting "He is coming!" from tall buildings, and so on.

Gradually, the local, then the national, and finally the international media takes notice. Many of the disturbed people form small groups and cults, dressing strangely and constantly chanting "Ia, Ia, Cthulhu fhtagn!". Some sort of terrorist memetic attack is suspected, but the police can't find the vector spreading it.

Rumors spread that fish-men have been sighted in the Bay, and there might even be a few blurry recordings of them (quickly denounced as hoaxes - and indeed, some of them will be hoaxes). Then foetuses are being deformed in their wombs into tentacled somethings - in one clinic, all children in their array of artificial wombs are thus affected, leading to the suspicion of some proteus nanovirus. Panic and violence spread - people either start stockpiling goods and barricade themselves into their apartments, or head for the hills. Then the government imposes a quarantaine and a media lockdown to quell the panic (which, of course, does not work completely in this time and age of ubiquiteous communication).

Then, one night, highly abnormal weather is reported around San Francisco. It is getting harder and harder to get a reception from the region - there is so much noise in the conncetions that only text messages have a good chance of getting through the interdiction relatively intact, and multiple bloggers report on the anomalies.

One of the last files that get through is a blurry image of some gigantic thing raising out of the waters of the Bay. Then, only static on all channels.

The next morning, the shocked world wakes up to the news that a nuclear weapon was detonated in San Francisco.



Well, does that sound scary or not?
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