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Old 03-03-2020, 03:34 PM   #16
Icelander
 
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Occult Underworld in New Orleans

The New Orleans in my campaign is supposed to be identical to the real one until the 1980s and functionally identical until at least 1995. After that, the differences should be as subtle as possible, but by 2005, someone with Streetwise would discern vast differences from the real New Orleans and by 2015, no one could truly be knowledgeable about the criminal underworld of New Orleans without knowing at least something about the occult.

Supernatural phenomena gradually started appearing in the campaign world from the 1980s onward, but in the 20th century, anything that happened was most likely undetectable without special inborn gifts (Detect, Medium, See Invisible (Spirits), etc.) and even if not, it was astronomically unlikely to happen anywhere except at night around one or two people who already believed in the occult.

Even in the modern era (the game is moving into early 2019), overt supernatural events mostly take place at specific times and places where few people other than those who already believe tend to be and the vast majority of effects can be explained by skeptics as coincidences or psychosomatic. Even the presence of numerous skeptics, rooms full of modern technology and high-tech measuring devices is usually enough to reduce the local Mana down to No Mana (from Very Low Mana) and make any repeatable displays of power under controlled circumstances impossible.

All the same, despite the lack of scientific proof, belief in the supernatural has since the mid-90s or so been climbing steadily among the kind of people who are most likely to be exposed to it. The homeless, criminals, cops, emergency workers, social workers, night shift staff, clergy, psychological health workers, etc. What might be termed 'streetlight people', i.e. the marginalized, dispossessed, fringe and simply out of rhythm with others. Anyone likely to be alone or around few credible witnesses outside their homes during nighttime and/or to spend time around such people.

Certain areas of the world feature more concentrations of supernatural phenomena, which has caused them to be dubbed 'Vile Vortices' by the PCs' Patron and his organization. There are twelve or more such areas in the world, including both Poles, the 'Bermuda Triangle' and the 'Devil's Sea', as well as other locations. In fact, the present model of the 'Vile Vortices' might be criticized on the grounds that it entirely fails to account for the apparent concentration of occult energies around the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East and neighboring regions where early human civilizations flourished.

Regardless of the exact details of the macro-scale 'Vile Vortices', it is accepted by the few knowledgeable occultists in a position to make judgments that other, smaller regions may also have higher Mana, while being much smaller than these 'Vile Vortices'. That might be individual groves, creeks or even houses, which might be dubbed Places of Power, but in rare cases, it might also stretch into a small town, neighborhood or even city. This might be caused by intersecting ley lines or other factors.

By most accounts, New Orleans is one of these higher Mana areas. Mind you, that means that instead of being No Mana during the day (as most cities in secular, Western countries tend to be) and Very Low Mana (-9 to -10) during the night, it tends toward Very Low Mana most of the time and might average -9 to -10 in the daytime and -7 to -8 in the nighttime.

This is low enough so that even people who believe in the supernatural are generally unable to perform any supernatural tricks, even with training, especially given that those born without Magery receive a further -5 and those trying to use common, living languages to work magic receive yet another a penalty of up to -5 (living languages that are still used for liturgical purposes as part of older magical traditions tend to be better than English, though).

In fact, it pretty much forces any occultists trying to perform functional magic to either be extremely knowledgeable and adept in working Mandatory and Significant Modifiers from Thaumatology for some slow, subtle tricks that amass massive bonuses for preparation... or accept help from spirits or other otherworldly intelligences (which can grant Magery and oh, so much more).

From the early 2010s, gangs and criminal organizations in places where the supernatural is especially active have more and more fallen under the control or at least influence of various spiritual forces and supernatural beings. Mostly, these are humans with supernatural gifts, though they may have these gifts through Pacts with otherworldly powers.

Whereas previously, any occult lore was limited enough to make it unlikely that anyone who could terrorize those who believed in it could back up their threats in any way, in the last 10-15 years, there have been increasing number of emerging gang leaders who have been able to curse foes, kill them in supernatural ways or otherwise use occult powers to claw their way to temporal power in the underworld.

Can people who know anything at all about New Orleans give me some thoughts on how this background might affect the modern city, crime there, existing gangs, potential powerful criminal forces and the like?
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