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Old 01-16-2019, 01:14 PM   #101
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Mormons have some odd basis for their form of Christianity, like the Golden Plates that Joseph Smith used a crystal to read.
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Not a crystal, a seer-stone, but moving on.
My Apologies.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:25 PM   #102
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

Italy could be a good source for unaligned* actors given the difficulty of organizing (organizing?) Italians to care about the nation ("you mean Pisa? And not those fascisti on the other side of town."). I am sure that the Pissani-Dosi family is not the only one with important tomes and the family jewels locked up in a vault which can only be opened when representatives of every branch of a large, wealthy, and not-so-loving family are present. There is an eminent Assyriolgist who owns a palazzo in Venice (for several generations one son has chosen "professore" as their hobby-job).

There is a subculture of ritual magicians in the historical European martial arts scene in the USA, because of course there is. This woman and this group give the flavour.

The Neo-Nazis in Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands are gathering mild-mannered descendants of figures like Otto von Wächter to torchlit ceremonies in reproduction uniforms. They are not all aligned with the same state even if some governments use them to break some heads.

* In the "not aligned with a state/military alliance" sense American journalists use.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:53 PM   #103
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Default Re: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an Occult Threat

ericthered, it actually sounds to me like the LDS would be likely to be one of the more coherent and influential power groups aware of the occult in the USA of the setting.

The way I interpret it, Church members in positions of authority in government agencies, military posts, police departments and Utah state organs will have a much better chance of believing in the occult, even without personal experience, if they are told about it by LDS leadership, than most Americans have of resisting the Facade.

And after that, even if there is no secret society in any formal sense, government agencies with LDS members in positions of authority will respond to supernatural threats with more purpose, knowledge and coordination with others who are also aware than any other force in the US.

Indeed, it almost sounds like I should consider whether the Utah state government, even if they are not able to convince the federal government, are quietly working to mitigate the worst effects and trying to avoid having the police and courts punish innocents made to look bad by the Facade, all by request of the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You'll have to tell me whether you'd regard this as working legally within the system or not. After all, all that they are asking for from the Utah state authorities is that they enforce the law against murder, assault and kidnapping even when a mysterious force is covering them up and that they act to prevent the police and courts from wrongly convicting people who defend themselves and others, but find that the evidence left behind absolutely doesn't support their true stories.

A case could be made that by refusing to believe the truth and respond appropriately, the federal government is abrogating its responsibilities and even acting illegally. Of course, that is probably not by design, but rather due to an external influence, in the form of the Facade. Even so, an honest and decent person could easily argue that legality isn't necessarily what authorities and courts who are being actively misled say it is, but rather what reasonable authorities or a jury of peers in possession of all the facts should determine.

This isn't merely a difference of political opinion. The authorities who do not accept the existence of the supernatural are, arguably, either indirectly or directly acting under duress or external control. Convincing a smaller subset of the authorities, like various Utah authorities and various individual departments in agencies elsewhere, where LDS members are influential, might be a less morally offensive choice than doing nothing at all.

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How this goes down is up to how your setting works. Does religion have real mystic power? does the facade actively "fuzz" the mind of those told about it? (that will be interpreted by most members as a no).
Religion might have real mystic power, but if so, there are no uncontroversial signs in the setting that are clearer than in our world. Problematically, however, there exist spirits and other beings whose supernatural gifts allows them to mimic most divine manifestation, at least in any way that secular thaumatologists can imagine the divine appearing.

It may well be that true believers can tell the difference between a deceiving spirit and a true sign from God, of course. But if so, that difference is apparent to them alone.

The Facade does actively fuzz the minds of those who see the 'impossible' and somehow the vast majority of people who ought to have seen pretty convincing evidence manage to retain only memories of some superficially similar events that does not contradict their worldview, where magic and supernatural events don't happen in the modern world.

Even a lot of religious people don't really expect to see miracles or demonic forces in the modern world, let alone supernatural phenomena that doesn't seem to fit neatly into the expectations for their particular faith. If the typical member of the LDS actually expects to live the End of Times and witness things that violate natural laws that have held true until now... well, there will be a lot more of them that prove able to resist the Facade than there will be people of many other faiths, let alone secular people with strongly materialistic beliefs.

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Perhaps I misspoke. The church leadership (not members) is likely to saddle the authorities with the task. The church looks over the membership of high placed officers and officials, and then have two general authorities tell them about what's going on, and ask them to have their department take it seriously. A personal request from church headquarters goes a LONG way.
This is essentially how I've imagined that most of the informal pockets of occult-aware people in the US have formed, with 'people they trust' generically being inserted in place of the more specific 'church leadership' for people who aren't members of the LDS.

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Legality is extremely important to the church. We will steadfastly try to work within the system. The trick is if the General Authorities decide something needs to be done, the government of Utah is going to play along. The church rarely uses that power, but they've always had it. Most recently it was used to change the states stance on immigration (particularly religious refuges).
So you can see a Utah where both public servants and elected officials have done their best to convince the federal authorities of the existence of the problem, and after years of failing, have decided to at least do their best to mitigate the threat to people inside Utah?

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The church has a strong sub-community that are big on self-defense. Enough that I've seen Leadership ask them to tone it down a bit in some very specific contexts. I could see that group taking action, no problem, but they'd try to stay legal... as in not breaking any laws.
Which is more important to a typical member of LDS, that they themselves know that their actions are legal by US and Utah laws, or that police and courts under the influence of the Facade would agree with them?

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The thing is, we believe the second coming is near, and while we're going to try and mitigate the worst effects, we don't think it can be stopped. You also have phrases like "the preaching of the word had more effect, even than the sword".
That is an excellent thing to keep in mind for me. I really welcome a US-based group, however informal, where the goal is not stopping the apocalypse, but simply mitigating the worst effects.

The PCs, by contrast, are supposed to focus nearly exclusively on stopping what their Patron expects to be the end of the world as they know it, and only as a secondary objective spend their time on individual instances of people under threat and not protected adequately by the authorities.

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They're going to find jobs where they can make a difference and then do those jobs to the best of their ability. They'll file reports as close to the truth as their superiors can stomach. They'll try to be gentle and subtle about the whole thing. You can do a lot with "I saw person X attack person Y in a wild frenzy, despite X being armed". What is unlikely to happen is a registry of names, or a designated way to identify others who are in on things. Emphasis will be on personal relationships and references.

Of course, I could be reading that wrong. It could be that an open membership roll satisfies the "not a secret society" requirement. Or it could just be common knowledge in a different group focused around profession. but the emphasis will be on official law keepers or other sanctioned rolls.
That sounds pretty much like I imagined it. And if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an official policy for the supernatural which society in general rejects the existence of, I can't see it becoming a secret society simply because they avoid discussing things which will result in society in general ridiculing them or even causing them legal problems.
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:38 PM   #104
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Default Re: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an Occult Threat

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So you can see a Utah where both public servants and elected officials have done their best to convince the federal authorities of the existence of the problem, and after years of failing, have decided to at least do their best to mitigate the threat to people inside Utah?
Yep. Enforce the law as they read it.


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Which is more important to a typical member of LDS, that they themselves know that their actions are legal by US and Utah laws, or that police and courts under the influence of the Facade would agree with them?
Its more important to follow the law than to win in court.


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The way I interpret it, Church members in positions of authority in government agencies, military posts, police departments and Utah state organs will have a much better chance of believing in the occult, even without personal experience, if they are told about it by LDS leadership, than most Americans have of resisting the Facade.
That is how I would run it.

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Even a lot of religious people don't really expect to see miracles or demonic forces in the modern world, let alone supernatural phenomena that doesn't seem to fit neatly into the expectations for their particular faith. If the typical member of the LDS actually expects to live the End of Times and witness things that violate natural laws that have held true until now... well, there will be a lot more of them that prove able to resist the Facade than there will be people of many other faiths, let alone secular people with strongly materialistic beliefs.
This part is a little weird. We have been around almost 200 years, so whether or not your generation will see the end is a matter of speculation. Its kind of like fusion power: it could happen in the next 40 years, but it also could not. The church explicitly believes in modern miracles, though we tend to be private about them. I don't know how many honestly expect to see something like that in their lifetime. But you will have a core that do.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:00 PM   #105
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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Italy could be a good source for unaligned* actors given the difficulty of organizing (organizing?) Italians to care about the nation ("you mean Pisa? And not those fascisti on the other side of town."). I am sure that the Pissani-Dosi family is not the only one with important tomes and the family jewels locked up in a vault which can only be opened when representatives of every branch of a large, wealthy, and not-so-loving family are present. There is an eminent Assyriolgist who owns a palazzo in Venice (for several generations one son has chosen "professore" as their hobby-job).
Wonderful!

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There is a subculture of ritual magicians in the historical European martial arts scene in the USA, because of course there is. This woman and this group give the flavour.
Mary/Thorn Mooney is actually kind of adorably cooky. She also sounds like an amateur monster hunter.

I'll probably make another thread about it, but I had been wondering how the various factions of people who fight monsters learn to decapitate resisting foes and chop up monsters that really only get annoyed at piercing damage.

Not to mention that the Knights of Malta and the various Catholic warriors who defend humanity under the direction of the Vatican somehow had to learn to use all the old swords and other weapons they had access to which turned out to have useful supernatural qualities.

That means that some trustworthy Catholic enthusiasts involved in HEMA would have gotten extremely confidential jobs teaching hard-bitten Swiss Guards and Catholic former SOF military personnel from a variety of countries to fight with axes, maces, swords and polearms.

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The Neo-Nazis in Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands are gathering mild-mannered descendants of figures like Otto von Wächter to torchlit ceremonies in reproduction uniforms. They are not all aligned with the same state even if some governments use them to break some heads.
Wow, that was a really good read. The Atlantic article, that is.

There is actually a fringe theory in occult circles in my setting about the Nazis (and a lot of other things). It goes that there wasn't really a period in the 20th century where no magic worked. That's just how it looks in the aftermath of what happened, which was some sort of world-shattering manaclysm at the end of WWII. The world that now exist is an alternate universe that came into exist as the 'real' one ended, with the area of history around the manaclysm being hollow history, lacking the reality of mana which pervades the entire world.

Which would make this the same setting as my Weird War II campaign of Götterdämmerung on Walpurgisnacht was set in, albeit one set after the Götterdämmerung.

I said it was a fringe theory.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:28 PM   #106
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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One last thought from me on the influence of conservative ulama and Wahhabi thought in Saudi Arabia.

This group has sponsored a lot of Madrases, Mosques, hospitals etc. in Pakistan, Indonesia, and North Africa. If they spot unusual activity in several of these areas, and convince the right Royal that there is a problem, they will have access to a lot of oil money to suddenly become a player overnight. If they are willing to access the archeological record in Iraq* they could gain a lot of information rather quickly.


Of course they will likely be the "Kill them all, Allah will know his own" types. When they show up, it will be a race to collect what you can and get out, before they burn it all to the ground.

*That information that survived the U.S. invasion, and subsequent civil war, and Isil invasion.
All good points.

As for the archaeological record in Iraq, in my setting, other power groups explicitly got a head start on them for that. Which is probably the reason why there are more rival spellcasters per capita in modern Iraq in my campaign than in any known place outside of a Vile Vortex.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:55 PM   #107
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

There is definite scope for the British and Vatican conspiracies to become aware of each other. It's certainly the case that some leaders of the Church of England will be part of the Shadow Court.

There's also an "Anglo-Catholic" wing of the CofE that is very much in favour of closer ties with the Vatican. At some point, somebody will realise that the other team has somebody aware of the problem. This may even explain Justin Welby's sudden elevation to Archbishop of Canterbury, after only having been a bishop for 11 months.
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:06 PM   #108
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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There is definite scope for the British and Vatican conspiracies to become aware of each other. It's certainly the case that some leaders of the Church of England will be part of the Shadow Court.

There's also an "Anglo-Catholic" wing of the CofE that is very much in favour of closer ties with the Vatican. At some point, somebody will realise that the other team has somebody aware of the problem. This may even explain Justin Welby's sudden elevation to Archbishop of Canterbury, after only having been a bishop for 11 months.
Father Leonard Boyle, Prefect of the Vatican Library during the years the Holy See was in the process of discovering the existence of the supernatural, was never completely on board with the secrecy. Some of his academic contacts in Canada and Ireland definitely exist in the same milieu as Shadow Court academics and it's hard to imagine that there was never any information passed around, at least at second and third hand.

For an even closer connection, look at Field Marshal Charles Ronald Llewelyn Guthrie, Baron Guthrie of Craigiebank, GCB, LVO, OBE, DL.

A Catholic convert and member of the Knights of Malta, the organisation that provides the cover for the Vatican's more active anti-supernatural activities, and to all appearances a very senior member of the Shadow Court, probably not only aware of the Rangers, but actually one of the people who make sure that the mostly unaware official government and the behind-the-scenes Shadow Court response do not get in each other's way.

He almost has to be involved in both conspiracies, at least on some level.
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Old 01-16-2019, 08:48 PM   #109
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Default Re: [MH] Vile Vortices and Supernatural Threats

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It would indeed.

How would you envision that working?

Is the organisation itself under the control or influence of individuals aware of the occult, either formally (but secretly) like the Vatican, or more informally and perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, like the various intelligence and security services of Great Britain, France or Israel?

Or would there exist a network of people who've served with the Peace Corps, seen something they could not reconcile with reality as they believed it to be and reached out to others who might have similar experiences?

Would that network be formal, if secret in purpose, or completely informal?

Or would Peace Corps volunteer alumni simply be more likely to have seen something odd and be more heavily represented among other secret power groups or factions of those who are aware of the occult?
If you want another primary source, I am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Ghana 2006-2008).

I would think that an informal group makes more sense. In the real world, the Peace Corps is very concerned about not being seen conducting covert operations. Volunteers are not allowed to have ever had any involvement with an intelligence agency. Also while the training was good, it was notably lacking in combat skills, magical knowledge, and general monster hunting skills. Finally, firearms were strictly prohibited, although there were some provisions about being allowed access to certain firearms for hunting.

However, an informal network of volunteers and returned volunteers involved in occult activities does make a lot a sense. There is already a fairly close community of returned volunteers in the real world. Volunteers are taught a number of obscure languages which could conceivably be used for magical purposes. Also, they often live in small isolated villages for an extended period. This could give them exposure to various rituals and potentially puts them at ground zero for witnessing monster attacks. And volunteers are generally fairly open minded and curious, which are perfect monster hunting traits. There was pressure to fit into the local culture, and if that local includes rituals to contact She-Who-Sleeps-Beneath, then so be it.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:49 AM   #110
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Default Peace Corps and the Supernatural

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If you want another primary source, I am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Ghana 2006-2008).
Excellent.

Now, from what I can tell, the Peace Corps often operates within societies where belief in the supernatural as an active force in daily life is common. For example, in many sub-Saharan countries, over half the population believes in witchcraft and in countries like Angola, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and many others, accusations of witchcraft may lead to legal trials or extrajudicial punishment. As far as I know, this has even been a problem in Ghana, so you might have more information than I can find in United Nations reports. More benignly, daily rituals or the carrying of talismans may be intended to protect from hostile witchcraft or other supernatural forces.

This applies on other continents than Africa, of course, with places as diverse as Papua New Guinea and Iraq having the majority of their population believe in witchcraft, the evil eye or similar things. I merely focus on Africa in the examples because you were in Ghana and because two of the Vile Vortices cover a lot of territory in Africa, whereas aside from the Pakistani Vortex, most of the other Vile Vortices are mostly over ocean (or at least mostly uninhabited areas), not land where many people live.

The 'Zimbabwe' Vile Vortex (also covers areas in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, perhaps even Gambia and Tanzania, etc.) coincides pretty closely with areas where belief in the supernatural is extremely strong and witchcraft may be an official crime on the books, with prosecutions being common.

How open-minded are Peace Corps volunteers when it comes to local beliefs in witchcraft or other supernatural causes for misfortune or apparently accidental deaths? Would many of them accept witchcraft or a local legend of some monster as the explanation for the disappearance or death of someone?

The Facade is strongest in modern cities full of advanced technology and people with secular, materialistic values. It is much weaker in rural areas and isolated communities of people who do not have the same trouble believing in supernatural explanations. Even so, I imagine that many modern, secular Western people would look for alternative explanations over that of witchcraft or monsters, no matter what the locals believed.

While from the outside, looking in on the setting, we can attribute a lot of deaths and disappearances to supernatural events, within the setting, it is not as if these were blatant or beyond interpretation until very recently. Only within the Vile Vortices themselves could one have seen something physically impossible, at least unless one were extremely unfortunate. Even then, it probably would have been at night, with no other witnesses and no evidence would have been left behind.

Until the 2010s, even someone watching it happen might well believe that a murder which was caused by an evil spirit was, while perfectly horrible, simply one person killing another. Not just because of the Facade, but because there really are no external signs to many causes of what in the setting are nevertheless cases of supernatural possession, curses, etc. Even in the 2010s, the Facade may cause someone who witnesses an impossible monstrous figure killing a person perceive it as a normal animal, perhaps rabid, or another human in the grip of a rage, drugs or some other mundane explanation.

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I would think that an informal group makes more sense. In the real world, the Peace Corps is very concerned about not being seen conducting covert operations. Volunteers are not allowed to have ever had any involvement with an intelligence agency. Also while the training was good, it was notably lacking in combat skills, magical knowledge, and general monster hunting skills. Finally, firearms were strictly prohibited, although there were some provisions about being allowed access to certain firearms for hunting.
Very good, so it is extremely unlikely that any Monster Hunting goes on under the actual auspices of the Peace Corps.

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However, an informal network of volunteers and returned volunteers involved in occult activities does make a lot a sense. There is already a fairly close community of returned volunteers in the real world. Volunteers are taught a number of obscure languages which could conceivably be used for magical purposes. Also, they often live in small isolated villages for an extended period. This could give them exposure to various rituals and potentially puts them at ground zero for witnessing monster attacks. And volunteers are generally fairly open minded and curious, which are perfect monster hunting traits. There was pressure to fit into the local culture, and if that local includes rituals to contact She-Who-Sleeps-Beneath, then so be it.
Obscure languages are, indeed, one of the prerequisites for being able to work magic. Magical traditions which survive from before the 20th century and rituals are conducted in obscure languages which are not used by tens of millions of secular, skeptical, materialistic people for day to day living, are orders of magnitude more likely to have actual supernatural effects.

I imagine that volunteers who witnessed what they were convinced was actual incontrovertible evidence of the supernatural, and managed to resist the (weaker) Facade where they were, would indeed look for other volunteers with similar experiences and look for validation of their experience and advice on what to do. And that the international media or scientific community was not inclined to place much credence in a report of witchcraft in a small African community, for example, when no evidence that can be collected afterward proves anything but that the local people believe in it.

The media and scientific community already know, in our real world, that over 50% of people in sub-Saharan Africa believe in witchcraft as a force that affects their daily lives, according to most studies I've found. Only personal experience of the truth of these beliefs would seem to have much chance of changing how most Western people view such traditional beliefs.
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