Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-27-2020, 01:38 PM   #51
johndallman
Night Watchman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Conculting Astronomers for Investigating the Occult

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
  • A historical reference to an occult ritual allegedly performed in the past mentions, in cryptic notation, the need for the stars to be right, complete with various astrological and decanic lore. The reference isn't dated, but there are clues in the text that point to the exact location and the approximate time period. What kind of academic can not only decode which astronomical phenomena the various esoteric names refer to, but also determine the exact date of the ritual from the historical position of the stars mentioned?
This is the science of Astronomical chronology, and it tends to involve collaborations between historians, who find things in old records that might be descriptions of astronomical events, and astronomers who do the relevant calculations to see if there's a match. The results get published in either astronomical or historical journals, probably at the whim of the researchers.

Phenomena that are useful for this include:
  • Total solar eclipses: very useful, because they're only total in a restricted area (a long curved line across the Earth) and are rare and very spectacular.
  • Lunar eclipses: visible over a large part of the planet, much more common, and less spectacular.
  • Spectacular comets: Not predictable, so only useful if they were recorded elsewhere on the planet. Long-lasting (weeks or months) and visible over much of the planet. Fairly rare.
  • Planetary conjunctions: Several planets gather in a small area of sky. Like spectacular comets for our purposes, but predictable. Unspectacular, so only of interest to astronomers and astrologers. Fairly rare.
  • Supernovas: extremely rare, spectacular, and unpredictable.
Quote:
from the historical position of the stars mentioned?
Well, stars move extremely slowly across the sky. The movement was first proven to happen in 1718 by Halley. Their movement is not periodic, and while it's predictable, the motions are so small that they aren't considered in traditional magic: I think Lovecraft coined the phrase "The Stars Are Right" and its actual meaning is not obvious. Given the timescales of his history, it's possible he meant particular positions being reached via proper motion, since the timescale for that is only hundreds of thousands of years for the visible stars to be in quite different positions.
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2020, 04:45 PM   #52
Icelander
 
Icelander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Re: Conculting Astronomers for Investigating the Occult

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
This is the science of Astronomical chronology, and it tends to involve collaborations between historians, who find things in old records that might be descriptions of astronomical events, and astronomers who do the relevant calculations to see if there's a match. The results get published in either astronomical or historical journals, probably at the whim of the researchers.

Phenomena that are useful for this include:
  • Total solar eclipses: very useful, because they're only total in a restricted area (a long curved line across the Earth) and are rare and very spectacular.
  • Lunar eclipses: visible over a large part of the planet, much more common, and less spectacular.
  • Spectacular comets: Not predictable, so only useful if they were recorded elsewhere on the planet. Long-lasting (weeks or months) and visible over much of the planet. Fairly rare.
  • Planetary conjunctions: Several planets gather in a small area of sky. Like spectacular comets for our purposes, but predictable. Unspectacular, so only of interest to astronomers and astrologers. Fairly rare.
  • Supernovas: extremely rare, spectacular, and unpredictable.

Well, stars move extremely slowly across the sky. The movement was first proven to happen in 1718 by Halley. Their movement is not periodic, and while it's predictable, the motions are so small that they aren't considered in traditional magic: I think Lovecraft coined the phrase "The Stars Are Right" and its actual meaning is not obvious. Given the timescales of his history, it's possible he meant particular positions being reached via proper motion, since the timescale for that is only hundreds of thousands of years for the visible stars to be in quite different positions.
Well, numerous magical traditions rely on specific magical dates and planetary conjunctions are also a widespread conceit of esoteric traditions.

And Kessler has, in established backstory, some pretty strong reasons to be curious about any correlation between the heliacal and acronychal rising of specific celestial objects at given points of the Earth and paranormal phenomena, both in the period from the 1980s to the current time, but also in tales, legends or written sources covering earlier history, back when he (and other occultists) theorize that the supernatural was more accessible and influential.

By the early 1990s, it was possible for some of of the vanishingly rare individuals in the world who had both the innate gifts and the esoteric knowledge to obtain information about the past beyond what mundane sources could grant. Divination, dream visions, prophetic trances, psychometry, spiritualism, medium trances, even what may or may not be necromancy.

But prophecy tends to be cryptic, spirits lie and even those who seem plausible may have a fuzzy grasp of time and space. So it's actually pretty possibly to get a fairly detailed vision, dream, prophecy or spirit communication about a religious ceremony held when the Star of the Water Twins was visible from the Grove of the Ancestors, between the twin peaks of the Buffalo Horns, as the Red Sun sank into the Lake of the Moon Maiden; but only know the approximate decade or even century when this took place, as well as a rough geographical region.

If you're going to find the grave where the Death Mask was interred with its last wearer, I presume you need an academic or two to untangle the correspondance of religious symbolism to actual celestial or geographic objects, geographers or geologists to create models of the area in the past and an astronomer to calculate suitable times for any hypothezised stars to be visible from plausible locations within the time range.
__________________
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!
Icelander is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2020, 09:33 PM   #53
a humble lich
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default Re: Physics

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Right.

If Kessler wanted to know more about the mechanics behind such interference, what kind of physicists would he look to cultivate and recruit?
Unfortunately I think the kind of person he would want to cultivate would be a "para-physicist." Unless Egon, Ray, and Vankman are available, finding such a person who is not a laughing stock and/or crank would be very hard. Otherwise, I'd say most any physicist would do because one of the things that person would have to do is basically start a new field. There might be some specializations that might be more useful, but knowing what those would be before going would be really hard.

I might also argue against needing an astronomer. While that could be useful if the island is truly on another planet (or time, or dimension), a lot of what an astronomer could do could also be done back on the ship or as a stage two guy. You could also pack a telescope and have some other expedition members take some pictures of the sky. Especially because I think most Astronomical Chronology work would involve looking up a lot of stellar/planetary positions in reference books.

Ultimately, given the short time frame, I think a lot of who would be on the team is who would be available/willing to drop everything and sail into a hurricane with only a day or two notice.

(P.S. When Lovecraft wrote "the stars are right," I always figured he was more talking about planetary conjunctions rather than stellar motions, which "stars" being taken metaphorically to mean all of the heavens.)
a humble lich is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2020, 09:49 PM   #54
lwcamp
 
lwcamp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: The plutonium rich regions of Washington State
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
I suggest that a botanist is the most glaring omission, followed by an entomologist and and ornithologist. Rolle may be good enough a prehistorian and archaeologist.

One of the oil-exploration types can collect soil cores to send to a palaeobotanical lab when the party returns.
It is remarkable what the lizards of the genus Anolis can tell about the biological history of the Caribbean. They paint all kinds of interesting maps about how life got to the island, when, and from where. I would definitely suggest a herpetologist.

I whole-heartedly second the suggestions of the entomologist and botanist. Ornithology will be interesting, but since birds tend to be able to fly, they might tell you less about the isolation, novelty, or lack of, of the island.

Luke
lwcamp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2020, 10:07 PM   #55
lwcamp
 
lwcamp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: The plutonium rich regions of Washington State
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
For example, wouldn't Professor Wehmeyer, a geophysicist with an M.Eng in petroleum engineering, be able to perform all of these?
He should be quite familiar with gravity measurements, petroleum geologists often use gravity maps to locate oil fields. I imagine it would not be difficult for a non-expert to collect air samples to be later analyzed in a lab. Detecting altered physics might require a significantly longer lead time, to design experiments and apparatuses that can measure changes in fundamental constants to high accuracy in the field (you need high accuracy, because for most of them if they could be detected at low accuracy, they will impact biochemistry enough to kill everyone from our universe in short order. Although a few like the weak mixing angle would only be apparent through exotic radioactive decays that would not have an immediate impact on life).

Luke
lwcamp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2020, 10:57 PM   #56
Daigoro
 
Daigoro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Meifumado
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Are there any other kinds of physicists, engineers or other academics or scientists whom Kessler's network might have consulted with to find out why supernatural phenomena seemed to disrupt such disparate technological devices as phones, radios, televisions, radar, medical imagining devices (of many kinds), video cameras, microchips of various sorts, LED bulbs, electrical wiring, fuses and a range of other things?
Electrical engineers, or communications engineers, would be the obvious answer (though they'd be better at measuring the problem than understanding it, I guess), but...
Quote:
Originally Posted by lwcamp View Post
Detecting altered physics might require a significantly longer lead time, to design experiments and apparatuses that can measure changes in fundamental constants to high accuracy in the field (you need high accuracy, because for most of them if they could be detected at low accuracy, they will impact biochemistry enough to kill everyone from our universe in short order. ...)
... it occurs to me that an important member would be an instrument maker. Off-the-shelf instruments would all be based on electronics, with a USB (common in the 90s?) or just parallel port interface for a PC. To mimic the same effects and accuracy without electronics, and at a portable scale, would take a fair bit of talent and ingenuity.

For the bubble chamber, as an example, you could rig some mechanical camera triggers to expose film or a photographic plate with the right time and exposure, linked to triggering the bubble chamber detection period.

A lot of physics can be done accurately with purely mechanical and optical instruments, but making many of them would be a lost art.
__________________
Collaborative Settings:
Cyberpunk: Duopoly Nation
Space Opera: Behind the King's Eclipse
And heaps of forum collabs, 30+ and counting!
Daigoro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-28-2020, 01:34 AM   #57
Icelander
 
Icelander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Re: Physics

Quote:
Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
Unfortunately I think the kind of person he would want to cultivate would be a "para-physicist." Unless Egon, Ray, and Vankman are available, finding such a person who is not a laughing stock and/or crank would be very hard. Otherwise, I'd say most any physicist would do because one of the things that person would have to do is basically start a new field. There might be some specializations that might be more useful, but knowing what those would be before going would be really hard.
Fair enough.

Note that for all intents and purposes, Professor Harlan P. Wehmeyer, mundanely educated as a petroleum engineer and geophysicist, has spent the past decade or so studying 'para-physics', i.e. thaumatology and tellurgy. Professor Wehmeyer has had no success at actually performing ritual magic (unlike, for example, Reverend Francis Coughlin, S.J.), but Wehmeyer is an intelligent and well educated man who has had eight years to study the subject with plentiful resources and the ability to consult any kind of expert he considered necessary (as long as he could be reasonably certain that the consultant was trustworthy and would respect an NDA).

Quote:
Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
I might also argue against needing an astronomer. While that could be useful if the island is truly on another planet (or time, or dimension), a lot of what an astronomer could do could also be done back on the ship or as a stage two guy. You could also pack a telescope and have some other expedition members take some pictures of the sky. Especially because I think most Astronomical Chronology work would involve looking up a lot of stellar/planetary positions in reference books.
Very good.

I'll assume that any astronomers involved were not among the people on the amphibious aircraft that was the first to reach the island or the ca 60' to 70' fast and seaworthy boat swiftly repurposed into plane tender and expedition vessel.

Obviously, Kessler would have been planning to also bring a larger and more dedicated research vessel, with proper support facilities for a helicopter, mobile docking facilities and the ability to carry enough fuel and equipment to allow a seaplane to be operated for quite some time. This would be loaded with scientific equipment and carrying more academics and scientists.

Unfortunately, while Kessler no doubt owned a stake in companies with access to such a vessel, that sort of ship was probably located around Houston and not kept in a constant state of expedition readiness. Given that it would sail much slower than the faster and smaller craft based on Dominica, the distances involved mean that the properly equipped vessel hadn't yet arrived when Hurricane Luis hit the island.

Quote:
Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
Ultimately, given the short time frame, I think a lot of who would be on the team is who would be available/willing to drop everything and sail into a hurricane with only a day or two notice.
Exactly so, which is why I've been trying to determine whether, e.g. astronomers or physicists are likely to be among the ca 100 academics in a variety of fields that people around Kessler have consulted with in the period between 1987-1995, i.e. the time Kessler has been investigating the occult with significant resources and a sense of purpose.

Basically, those who are among the first 8-10 academics and scientists to reach the island are those whom Kessler considered to be both sufficiently trustworthy and in possession of a skill set vital to his purposes, and who were prepared to do a crazy and imprudent thing for some reason, probably some combination of scientific curiosity, sense of adventure, a belief that failure to investigate risked some supernatural catastrophe, loyalty to a munificent and charismatic employer and/or desire for filthy lucre (Kessler would pay unreasonable amounts for anyone he considered truly vital).

Being born in 1918 and having any number of eccentricities, Kessler also imposed other requirements for expedition members. They had to be reasonably fit, willing and able to survive unspecified dangers in the wilds, willing to be accompanied by armed security and expected to conduct themselves as part of an expedition run in a quite paramilitary fashion. They also had to be male, because while Kessler does not hesitate to employ female executives, attorneys or other professionals, he views this expedition as 'combat duty' and is reluctant to send women into so much danger.*

There would be female scientists and other personnel supporting the expedition, from Houston, Florida, the Bahamas, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and a forward base on either the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, but none of them would be expected or allowed to sail or fly into what was certainly dangerous in terms of the weather and might expose them to otherwordly supernatural terrors.

*In 2018, this attitude has moderated somewhat, but in 1995, not only Kessler, but most members of his security teams and certainly those planning the expedition, believed that women should not be exposed to front-line combat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
(P.S. When Lovecraft wrote "the stars are right," I always figured he was more talking about planetary conjunctions rather than stellar motions, which "stars" being taken metaphorically to mean all of the heavens.)
So I have always assumed.
__________________
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 01-28-2020 at 03:54 PM.
Icelander is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-28-2020, 02:14 PM   #58
Christopher R. Rice
 
Christopher R. Rice's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Portsmouth, VA, USA
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Well, Kessler couldn't cover up the disappearance of twenty two people, almost half of whom were respected academics or scientists. However, their boat was literally and evidently caught in the path of Hurricane Luis and so their disappearance was more tragic than truly mysterious.

The offshore oil company registered as their contractual employer as freelance consultants (or salaried employers in a few cases) went bankrupt as a consequence of law suits resulting from the presumed deaths, but the holding company through which Kessler's ownership share was handled elected to compensate the families anyway, with fairly generous settlements, which, however, were contingent on the terms of the NDAs signed by the decedents being honored by their families.

The return of Professor Hehmeyer, Mr. Smith, Mr. van der Berg and Mr. Tembo Banda in 2018 required far more effort to prevent inconvenient attention, but fortunately they drifted ashore on Dominica, where Kessler has been a citizen for decades, where the local economy depends heavily on business he brings in and where his influence is considerably more than that of any elected official.

Of the four, only Professor Hehmeyer is in any sense known in the world, and he is not available for comment, being confined to a mental institution, as indeed Mr. van der Berg and Mr. Tembo Banda are. Mr. Smith, also a citizen of Dominica, was technically never declared dead and, indeed, never actually confirmed as having been on board the boat which sank in Hurricane Luis.

Mr. Smith's reappearance is therefore not a matter of official concern for anyone, especially as he continued to draw a salary for all the years he was missing and a firm of accountants duly paid all necessary fees and taxes. It is true that no one knows where he's been the last twenty three years, but he's not actually obliged to discuss that subject with anyone. It would be different if he'd been listed on any documents as present at the accident, but he wasn't. As far as anyone is legally concerned, Mr. Smith has spent the last two decades or so living on Dominica.
Hmmm. Interesting. So where were they during their time away then if they weren't declared dead officially? That's a hole someone is going to poke at.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
The island was located smack dab within one of the 'Vile Vortices' which Kessler, Commander Shackleford and Professor Wehmeyer believed represented focal areas of supernatural influence and nexus points from which ley lines throughout the world flowed.

This particular 'Vile Vortex' is popularly, if wrongly, known as the 'Bermuda Triangle'.
What I'm curious about is has the island been found before? You could do a lot saying explorers from the 16th or 17th century found the place and explored it a bit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Ironically, no.

Although there were some ancient ruins there and some decidedly unusual fauna.

The surrounding waters, however, were very much inhabited, by intelligent acquatic /amphibious beings that Teddy Smith, because of his interests and background, dubbed the 'Nommo'. They were fearsome, savage, ruthless and worshipped some pretty scary things, but they were also decidedly preferable to many other things found in the depths, not to mention other things capable of reaching the island for nefarious purposes.

Teddy Smith only remembers about two years of the twenty three years he was supposedly missing, but whether that's caused by time flowing differently or him having lost most of his memories from that strange sidereal world of eternal twilight is not entirely clear. In any case, the tale he tells is that he heard some similarities in the speech of the inhuman 'Nommo' to the language of the Dogon people of Mali, whose language he happened to know.

So Teddy was able to communicate with the 'Nommo' and eventually learned their language, their ways and their methods of survival. He also learned the magic and alchemy they used in place of technology (they were TL0, but had potent magic that allowed them to do many things that humans would use technology for).

While Teddy is unclear on how he escaped the twilight realm, what is clear that in the time of the actual campaign, Teddy has been altered in important ways by his ordeal. For one thing, he spends hours every day swimming in the ocean and is uneasy at the thought of travelling far from it. For another, in areas of strong supernatural influences, Teddy appears to have gills.
What if the Nommo were originally land dwellers and they used magic or something similiar to leave the land because there was something in the temple complex that was trying to awaken/attract worshippers?
__________________
My w23 Stuff
My Blog
GURPS Discord
My Discord

Latest GURPS Book: Meta-Tech
Latest TFT: Vile Vines

Become a Patron!
Christopher R. Rice is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-28-2020, 02:22 PM   #59
Icelander
 
Icelander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by lwcamp View Post
It is remarkable what the lizards of the genus Anolis can tell about the biological history of the Caribbean. They paint all kinds of interesting maps about how life got to the island, when, and from where. I would definitely suggest a herpetologist.

I whole-heartedly second the suggestions of the entomologist and botanist. Ornithology will be interesting, but since birds tend to be able to fly, they might tell you less about the isolation, novelty, or lack of, of the island.

Luke
So, if I'm dropping two security personnel to increase the spots for scientists in the first boat from eight to ten, the two additional specialities I add should absolutely be botanist and entomologist?

Any ideas what universities or research institutions such specialists might come from, if they are mostly focused on the Caribbean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lwcamp View Post
He should be quite familiar with gravity measurements, petroleum geologists often use gravity maps to locate oil fields. I imagine it would not be difficult for a non-expert to collect air samples to be later analyzed in a lab. Detecting altered physics might require a significantly longer lead time, to design experiments and apparatuses that can measure changes in fundamental constants to high accuracy in the field (you need high accuracy, because for most of them if they could be detected at low accuracy, they will impact biochemistry enough to kill everyone from our universe in short order. Although a few like the weak mixing angle would only be apparent through exotic radioactive decays that would not have an immediate impact on life).

Luke
Could data for appropriately specialized physicists to analyze at a university or a research institution elsewhere be collected by specialists in different field; e.g. by Professor Wehmeyer or by an oceanographer with experience in naval surveying as well as working for offshore oil companies, like the expedition leader CDR Shackleford?

What about technicians or generally mechanically savvy people who might be used to assisting scientists, like a long-time marine engineer of Kessler's expedition vessel or a capable mechanic from the securitty team, both of whom have taken part in dozens of scientific expeditions to various Caribbean locations in the last eight years, and been asked to assist scientists in a variety of fields setting up gear and performing measurements?
__________________
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 01-28-2020 at 03:02 PM.
Icelander is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-28-2020, 02:44 PM   #60
(E)
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

While not critical by any stretch of the imagination an academic with a knowledge of history, especially local history might be put higher on the list.

A naval or structural engineer, depending on specialization might have both useful knowledge to help with analysing structural discoveries and practical skills to help the rest of the group.
__________________
Waiting for inspiration to strike......
And spending too much time thinking about farming for RPGs
Contributor to Citadel at Nordvörn
(E) is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
caribbean, monster hunters, paranormal, vile vortices

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:59 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2024, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.