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Old 01-10-2019, 11:34 AM   #61
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

Vortexes 20 and 41 overlap French speaking parts of Africa. France will still intervene if asked in areas of Africa that were under it's control. Given that, the expendability of the FFL and feedback from Kessler's involvement with the Legion I'd expect they have a at least a unofficial supernatural unit.
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Old 01-10-2019, 12:32 PM   #62
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Vortexes 20 and 41 overlap French speaking parts of Africa. France will still intervene if asked in areas of Africa that were under it's control. Given that, the expendability of the FFL and feedback from Kessler's involvement with the Legion I'd expect they have a at least a unofficial supernatural unit.
Oh, indeed so. I expect to feature a Private Military Contractor / Private Security Contractor staffed with Frenchmen and former Legionnaires, who have an allegiance with Kessler of long standing. I'll have to name them something in French that recalls St. Michael the Archangel, without actually usurping the name of the real order of chivalry.

I was wondering whether these men were the outlaw protectors of an unknowing France or if they had some degree of official tolerance, perhaps even support. And if there were significant numbers of occult-savvy French intelligence around in the Caribbean, or not.

I already know that in my campaign, the modern French Foreign Legion has been engaged with otherwordly forces more often than the official military forces of any other Western nation. What I haven't made up my mind on is whether the French government believes those clashes to be whatever plausible explanation their minds will accept, like terrorism, secterarian violence, civil wars and the like, with only some of the military commanders (and the Poor Bloody Infantry) aware of the awful truth, or whether key figures of the government of France are perhaps more in the know than the governments of most other nations.

Even if I do decide that, it doesn't mean that recent French Presidents, Prime Ministers or other elected officials need know anything. Even in a non-magical world without cinematic conspiracies, elected officials usually have theoretical power, but lack the intimate knowledge of the bureaucracy of which they are in charge to do much, without the consent of the entrenched bureaucrats. Nor do the elected officials truly have much choice other than to accept what they are told by the professional bureaucrats, as the level of complexity within even a fairly modest government agency makes it impossible for them to check everything themselves.
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Old 01-10-2019, 12:38 PM   #63
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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If you are using the murder of Francesca Matus and Drew DeVoursney for inspiration, in our world the prime minister of Canada spent part of the Christmas and New Year's break 2016/2017 at the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas. The Aga Khan also sponsors academics and museums. A place called Bell Island at one corner of the Bermuda Triangle could not have any supernatural significance could it ...
Yes, indeed! Good spot.

I haven't actually discovered if Francesca Matus had any kind of background suitable for casting her as adventuring scholar, monster hunting spellcaster or investigative occultist, but I was struck by the similarity of the background of Drew DeVoursney and his friend to that of the PCs and their NPC allies, to the point to more than one character in the PCs' team even has the same birth year and the several have the same former (Marine) and current (Deputy Sheriff, in case of his friend) professions.

Aga Khan's private island sounds delightful.

Wait, the Aga Khan owns an island at the Bermuda Triangle and when it came time to endow the most important educational institute of his career, he placed it in Karachi, right in the Pakistani Vile Vortex!?

This guy is so the Muslim version of Queen Elizabeth II in my setting. Not to mention an ally of Kessler and an intermediary between various occult-aware factions, including the Shadow Court, various Commonwealth governments or factions, the French, Kessler's mob and no doubt many factions in Muslim nations and the Vile Vortex areas where his Aga Khan Development Network operates.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:16 PM   #64
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Default An East Coast Law Firm

Does a law firm named Avery, Berith & Lawson seem oddly named or implausible to anyone?

They're founded in Boston in 2013, currently with offices in Boston, New York and Washington DC.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:24 PM   #65
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Default A GURPS Cabal Without an Ancient Conspiracy

If I were to feature a Cabal in my setting, they'd be a modern organisation of occultists and ritual magicians, no more than say thirty years old and more probably somewhere around 10-20 years.

Traveling the Astral or any other planes would be theoretically possible, but about as safe as space travel would be for an Iron Age culture that had somehow come into possession of several spacecraft crewed with knowledgeable, but deeply dishonest astronauts, and had a decade or two to try to work out how spacecraft worked and the science behind them.

Basically, the Cabal would be just a placeholder name to represent some sort of fraternity, loose or otherwise, of occultists who are primarily concerned with using magic for their own goals, whatever they might be, and who have (for whatever reasons) agreed to keep the existence of the Supernatural secret.

What thoughts do you have on integrating such an organisation into the real world, more or less?

What organisations do they use to cover their meetings?

If they move money around, how do they go about it?

What allegiances and rivalries do they have with any other hypothetical organisations related to one or more of the Vile Vortices?

And anything else that occurs to forumites.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:45 PM   #66
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Default Re: An East Coast Law Firm

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Does a law firm named Avery, Berith & Lawson seem oddly named or implausible to anyone?

They're founded in Boston in 2013, currently with offices in Boston, New York and Washington DC.
I lived in a town that had a law firm named "Frink, Foy, Gainy, and Yount." If your lawyers aren't named "Wee, Cheatem, and Howe" you're okay.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:49 PM   #67
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Default Re: An East Coast Law Firm

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I lived in a town that had a law firm named "Frink, Foy, Gainy, and Yount." If your lawyers aren't named "Wee, Cheatem, and Howe" you're okay.
What have you done with Mr. Do, Esq.? Did you buy him out? Was he forced out? Was it a #metoo thing?
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Old 01-12-2019, 06:13 AM   #68
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Default One Theory on The History of the Supernatural on Earth

This proposed historical background may or may not be true, but it is the more or less accepted theory among those in the Vatican who know about magic (and believe in it).

At some time back in the unimaginably ancient past, things we would regard as supernatural were present in the physical world. Monsters, spirits, fey and other beings appear to have coexisted with humanity. Most of this happened before recorded history and there is even a school of thought that maintains that once a culture became complex enough for its own written language that records daily events (as opposed to runes, pictographs or hieroglyphs with mostly a ritual purpose), such beings were less likely to interact with it.

The theory goes that the various magical traditions in the world were learned from supernatural beings or developed in cooperation with them.

In the land of Sumer and Akkad, humanity consorted with what the Catholic Church considers demons*. They learned to bind these creatures into their service and command them to use their powers on their behalf. These demon-spirits or ekimmu were hungry for sacrifices and are drawn to strong negative emotions, such as fear, anger, shame and disgust. Blood and various bodily fluids solidify their connection to the world and may even allow them to take physical form in the world. Adepts in this style of magic have been called diabolists, necromancers, blood mages or conjurers.

Egypt is theorized to have been colonized by ultraterrestials, who may even have interbred with the population. Alchemy and much of the ritual magic the Church has documented ultimately appears to derive from such ultraterrestial interactions. The study of ultraterrestial archaeology before recorded human history and philological reconstructions of their ritual languages (in Egypt and elsewhere) are fields with much promise. Those who use magic derived from Egyptian roots may be dubbed alchemists, sorcerers, magi or magicians.

The Church regards ultraterrestials as physical beings and has at points during its history viewed them as without souls or free will. The progressive view, espoused by Pope John Paul II, was that they were simply pagans who had the same opportunities as human beings for good and evil and with faith could also be saved.

Ultraterrestials appear to fall into several groups. In Egypt and in other places around the Mediterranean, they lived in human society as rulers and were worshiped as gods. These groups of ultraterrestials may have had a different origin than the more reclusive groups who lived in magical places that appeared to straddle the boundaries between the physical world and some other place where Nature** reigned supreme. That world was dubbed Faerie by many and the beings from it the fey.

The fey are conjectured to be the origin for Celtic magic as well as Nordic rune magic. Those who study Ogham or Rune magic are convinced that fey are beings entirely separate from the ultraterrestials of Egypt, pointing to the very different magical traditions, but others claim that cultural differences among the fey account for these and that all 'human-like' ultraterrestials ultimately come from one place, which is Faerie, merely at different times in its history and with different attitudes towards humanity.

In any event, the beings who were called the fey, faeries, Hidden People, Lords and Ladies and many other things had direct contact with humanity after it developed writing. As a result, far more is known about them. It is known, for example, that some of them preferred to live on Earth over Faerie, but that nearly all of them wanted nothing to do with human society. Over time, the fey retreated from human expansion on Earth. Some were content to go back to Faerie, others lived in Hidden Places where humans did not wander and still others attempted to find areas on Earth where the wilderness was beautiful to them and no humans lived.

Some faeries, however, felt that meek acceptance of human supremacy on Earth was vile and unacceptable. They wanted to slay humans and carve out their own kingdoms there. The fey races*** were bitterly divided. Those who were cautious and feared the consequences of a war with the humans were more numerous and more powerful, but in their caution, they failed to see the danger of disunity among their own people. Centuries of civil strife took place, among those humanity would dub Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the 'friendly' or neutral fey against those who would destroy all humans.

The precise start date of this conflict is hard to ascertain. The Catholic Church can trace Unseelie sentiment, in attacks against humans, back to the earliest records of interaction with the fey, but most scholars believe that large-scale warfare between fey didn't start under well after the year 1000 and probably not until after 1100. What is known that Seelie nobles came to leading human adepts in secrecy and asked for their assistance if the conflict should spread to Earth. As a consequence of this, the Unseelie were put on the defensive**** and mostly forced to stage their war from their fastnesses in Faerie.

Most scholars believe that the eventual closing of the way between Faerie and Earth was related to the war. The theories of precisely why it happened are legion, but as no fey appear to be left on Earth, there are none to confirm or refute them.

Scholars of magic note that supernatural occurrences appear to have been waning on Earth for all of recorded history. Yes, it is true that many of the magical traditions were preserved throughout the ages, but the effectiveness of the rituals, when experimented with by these scholars, was always much less than in the ancient sources they had access to.

Finally, at some point after the Industrial Revolution and before the First World War, all supernatural charms, rituals and spells ceased to work. No confirmed and proven working of magic or sighting of supernatural phenomena exists in the Vatican after the date of 1901 (there is dispute among some even about those events).

As a result, even with the wealth of occult materials in the vaults of the Vatican, most people born after this time ceased to believe in the supernatural. Those who had access to the secret files usually believed that it had once existed, but if so, it was irrelevant now. Where there had once been a strong organisation of Christian priests educated in the occult and dedicated to eradicating all magic that conflicted with their faith, there were now only a few scholars who theorized endlessly about a subject no longer relevant to the world.

The story among other adepts, less centralized and with access to less information, was similar. Rituals were passed on down as part of religions or culture, but most people did not remember a time when they truly worked. Ever since scientific study of magic began, with the rebirth of science in the Renaissance, even the smallest magical effects required the flawless knowledge of truly ancient languages and a complex working where nothing could go wrong. Folk magic was mostly superstition, even during times when magic did work*****.

The game is set at the end of 2018 (it's the 28th of December, 2018). At some point past 1980, or at any rate before 1990, credible reports of supernatural phenomena again began to surface. In 1989, the Catholic Church took official (albeit secret) steps to investigate and confirm these reports. In the modern day, the Jesuits and the Knights of Malta oppose supernatural evil in the world, but despite the desire of Pope John Paul II and the early plans of Pope Benedict XVI to go public with what the Church knows, it remains official Vatican policy to act only in secret.

*Some more secularly-minded Jesuits theorise that these beings only appear demonic to our sensibilities, but are natural creatures who fit into God's creation in a way that is not currently understood. Theories include a race of pure physic energy from another plane (ultraterrestials), spirits of fierce animals and angry ghosts of humans who fail to find their way to the afterlife or simply mental projections of the worst things about humanity.
**In all senses, that is, breathtaking beauty, serenity, wholesomeness and oneness with all living things and the Nature that is red in tooth and claw.
***For the inhabitants of Faerie are not all alike, with some being small and sprite-like, others being tall and majestic humanoids and still others having stranger forms.
****Well, over a period of some centuries. Time in Faerie probably passes at a very different rate than it does on Earth, as recorded interviews with named fey take place with centuries between them and the fey appears to have changed little and is still engaged in much the same events on his home plane.
*****This is due to the massive penalties to magic in the setting. At no point in recorded history has the Earth as a whole been more than Low Magic and non-mages (the vast majority of people) have a further -5 penalty to work magic. Trying to cast spells in 'common' languages, as most people did, is a further -5. So, only scholar-mages with encyclopedic knowledge of the theory of magic as well as the ancient cultures from whence it sprang have a realistic chance of using it safely and effectively (or so the scholar-mages of the Vatican believe). It does not help that working magic in the presence of skeptics is at a penalty as well.
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Old 01-12-2019, 06:29 AM   #69
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Default Other Occult Players on a Worldwide Scale

In previous campaigns set earlier in this setting (2010-2011 and 2013), I've assumed that among the people who became aware of the supernatural, there were three basic types.

The first and most likely to be a PC in early campaigns, are people who through their lifestyle or profession come into contact with a lot of supernatural crime, victims and other evidence. These are your first responders, detectives, doctors, pathologists and the like. It also includes clergy, psychologists and other counseling or mental health professionals. It also covers forensic accountants, tax investigators, reporters, conspiracy theorists and even fiction writers or game designers. Finally, it includes criminals, the homeless and the various inhabitants of the street and the night.

Anyone might start out as only accidentally aware that something is not right and develop into a player in the supernatural world, but as a general rule, people who simply accidentally encounter the uncanny or its effects did not usually become occultists or ritual magic users, let alone monster hunters or supernatural apocalypse cultists. Unless they were PCs or their ilk.

The second and more likely to be actively involved in the supernatural scene, not just outside observers, were those who had practiced a magical tradition all along, but their rituals were only efficacious at some point after 1980, with anything more than stuff that could easily be dismissed as coincidence probably happening after 1990 and maybe not until the 2000s.

As performing personally-directed, ritual magic in modern, common, widely known languages is extremely difficult, but at the same time, preternatural phenomena often taking forms that fit into people's belief structures, New Age dilettantes in heavily secular, technologically advanced and urbanized countries, who tend to use any of the most common languages in the world to try to perform magic, were at a distinct disadvantages compared to practitioners of traditions that remain the living religion of speakers of less common, more mystically powerful languages.

So shamans, witch doctors or other intermediaries between the mundane and the unseen, of various indigenous traditions, such as houngans, bokor, bruja and the like, were much more likely to discover that there was true supernatural power out there than were dabblers from the Western countries. Any tradition where a liturgical language or an otherwise mostly defunct language was used for rituals and chants was also at a massive advantage. As were those who studied and practiced magic in a language that, while perhaps their native one, was very rare, because they belonged to a small ethno-linguistic group.

Of course, anyone practicing in or near a Vile Vortex, perhaps even near a historic Place of Power, would certainly notice more dramatic effects than someone doing so in a modern city far from any ley lines, Places of Power or other mystically significant location. I'll need to pay particular attention to which real-life magical traditions are particularly significant in the world, simply from proximity to a Vile Vortex. I've already noticed that Afro-Caribbean religions and magical traditions, as well as other Afro-American and various syncretic traditions in Latin America, will be crucial, as will native African traditions in or near the two Vile Vortices on that continent. As for other Vile Vortex proximate magical traditions, I haven't quite gotten that far, but I'd welcome suggestions.

Revitalized religions* and surviving mystical traditions of various origin are then one part of those who are aware of the supernatural. Some are insular and focus on their own concerns, perhaps even unaware that there are other groups practicing different magics, while others have become aware that not only their own traditional beliefs seem to have been true all along, but people practicing completely different traditional magic also get results.

Such discoveries might easily prompt a person who started out as a narrowly focused ritual worker, within a certain worldview, to investigate the occult more broadly. This applies especially to those who are raised in one particular tradition which passed on useful magical knowledge, but also have wide experience of other cultures and/or an academic understanding of anthropology or religious studies. Many traditional magic workers who have discovered basically secular magic workers might have done a lot of thinking about metaphysics and be quite knowledgeable about thaumatology.

This brings me to my last group. These are academics and scholars in fields such as various Ancient (or Obscure) Languages, Anthropology, Archaeology, Classical Studies, Criminology, History, Sociology, Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Celtic Studies, Germanic Studies, Nordic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Oriental Studies, Egyptology, Assyriology, Mesoamerican Studies, Indigenous American Studies, Caribbean Studies, African-American Studies, Subaltern Studies, Art History, Near Eastern Archaeology, Mesoamerican Archaeology, History of Religions, Comparative Religion, Sociology of Religion, Philology, Historical Linguistics, Semiotic Studies, Ethnopharmacology and Ethnomedicine and many other fields.

Basically, fields where they could have come across evidence of the supernatural and most particularly, where their education would be useful in working out how ritual magic and thaumatological principles work.

The British conspiracy, the 'Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II', is especially notorious for having spread their tentacles through universities that teach relevant subjects to the study of magic and in the modern era, many Commonwealth universities have strong ties with the (apparently) benevolent network of British occultists who seek to protect the UK and its allies, as well as investigate the supernatural, as they prepare for the inevitable moment that the Secret comes crashing down.

Aside from the Vatican and the British, I need some more important players on the world stage of the occult underground.

What occult organisations, established at some point between 1980 and the modern day, might exist in my setting?

What real world academic organisations or fraternal organisations are covers for study of the occult?

*Generally only those that attribute a magical power to certain rituals and incorporate belief in unseen forces that can be manipulated.
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Old 01-12-2019, 07:36 AM   #70
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Default Re: An East Coast Law Firm

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What have you done with Mr. Do, Esq.? Did you buy him out? Was he forced out? Was it a #metoo thing?
Nah, he's in Rio with somebody else's money and his young secretary. He's not all bad, he brought his wife and her pool boy along. As he put it, she's my wife, I want her to be happy too.
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