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Old 01-15-2013, 08:33 PM   #41
Icelander
 
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Default Re: The Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
I can't help much (wrong nationality, wrong specialty)
I make no demands that all commentary be from informed specialists. In any case, this is modern day Earth, knowledge about which is more Current Affairs and less academic speciality. And if you are the wrong nationality; so are me and my players. We try not to let it get in the way. ;)

I welcome any speculation; informed or otherwise.

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but you might be interested in this link to resources on ancient estoeric traditions: http://rogueclassicism.com/2013/01/1...-in-antiquity/
I am, thanks. I'll look it over.

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What aren't they saying, and what happens when some learned materialist posts a photo of exactly the wrong papyrus on their Academia.edu page asking if anyone can help him interpret this binding spell?
Judging by previous games set in a similar world... adventure happens. ;)

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Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
The date 2005 comes up a lot in your posts.
While the first stirrings of the return of the supernatural were probably fairly near the beginning of the 1980s, it was extremely subtle and low-key at that time. Not until ca 1991 did some far-seeing people among the Queen's confidants began to worry enough about the potential security implications of the discovery to risk a media furor (at best) and legal consequences (at worst) to turn a loose band of confidantes and intellectually curious researchers into a real conspiracy.

The first steps involved collating the relevant data and assessing the threat, which demanded violations of several security Acts. Then some loyal advisors of HM, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and HM the Queen Mother started preparing plans in the event of hostile paranormal action by criminals, terrorists, monsters or even agents of nation-states which have accepted the reality of the supernatural. By the year 1995, several violent incidents which had the appearance, at least to those in the know, of being violent crimes caused by the supernatural, or at least using such powers, had come to the attention of people around HM.

The present and future dangers of the paranormal were by then obvious enough so that the majority of the Shadow Court accepted the need for some kind of emergency plan. The prefered course among most of them at that point would have been quietly convincing the PM and his Cabinet of the need for new policies to deal with the paranormal, but informal approaches by a few of the more courageous conspiracy members to senior Whitehall people revealed that HM's government was nowhere near prepared to believe in any such thing.

Reading behind the lines of crime statistics, police reports and various odd reports from the military; intelligence and security services as well as other government agencies; the Shadow Court observed a constant rise in supernatural incidents. By 1998-2000, the violent crimes caused by the supernatural were so numerous that taken together on a yearly basis, they far outnumbered the harm done by any known criminal group or terrorist organisation in the UK.

Some of the Queen's informal and illegal councilors believed very strongly that something had to be done and the lawful government was not able to do it. In fact, as far as benign works of paranormal defence went, a selected few among those in the know were already taking action and had been since the mid-80s. They served their fellow Britons by performing rituals designed to protect from harm, by placing wards against hostile spirits and even acting to calm or drive out dangerous spirits that sought to harm people. These were things that they could do without subverting the written and unwritten law of the land. After all, there could be no law against blessing people, places or even a whole realm.

Others among the Queen's confidants believed that while they may have already stepped over the boundaries of legality by such actions as collecting data, making plans, doing field research and establishing an informal group of experts which could form a training cadre once the government accepted the evidence of the supernatural, that didn't mean they had to go further. As yet, their crimes were mostly ones of omission, if crimes at all, and at least could be said to be very much in the way of venal ones.

Once everything was revealed, any infractions of the law and of established custom of government would be judged necessary, judicious and restrained. As their actions were in the best interest of the nation, all would be forgiven. Or so they hoped. By contrast, if the group took action in the defence of the realm, as the prefered euphemism would have it, it would amount to acts of violent crime, murder, terrorism, even treason. Nothing could excuse that.

On the 1st of June, 2001, a lot of the opposition to the Shadow Court arming intself and taking an active role in countering the supernatural melted away. Anyone protected only by mundane security, unaware of the paranormal, was potentially in grave danger. Over the next few years, HRH Duke of Edinburgh, aided by a band of loyal Police Protection Officers, former and current military officers and a few other people brought into the know, acted to secure HM and, without their knowledge, the government in Whitehall.

The ever increasing risk posed by the supernatural to 'normal' people, oblivious to the risks and unable to defend themselves, remained a source of intense personal pain for many of those in the know. With their contacts with spirits, the prophetic gifts of some in the conspiracy and the growing mastery of ritual magic of others, the Shadow Court found themselves with advance knowledge of many serious supernatural events, events that resulted in death, agony and heartbreak.

Finally, unable to bear the thought that they stayed their hand when they could have saved some of HM's subjects, some of the people who had been trained and armed to protect the Queen from supernatural dangers were dispatched to handle a threat that the mundane police could neither spot in time nor defeat if they encountered it. This happened in 2005 and it is from that point that the beginning of the Queen's Paranormal Rangers is dated.

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Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
Someone came out with a new Italian translation of the Corpus Hermeticum with some supplimentary Coptic texts in that year.
Did they indeed?

For the most part, the Shadow Court opposes the publication of specific rituals, at least those potentially dangerous. Opinions on that subject, however, differ greatly among the people in the know. Not being a formal agency or organisation of any kind, there is no mechanism to ensure that everyone has the same view about methods, or even goals. The Queen is universally respected, but the knowledge, on both sides, that she can't actually enforce her will against people with different views through any means, legal or otherwise, tends to encourage independence of thought.
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:23 PM   #42
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Default Re: The Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
I make no demands that all commentary be from informed specialists. In any case, this is modern day Earth, knowledge about which is more Current Affairs and less academic speciality. And if you are the wrong nationality; so are me and my players. We try not to let it get in the way. ;)

I welcome any speculation; informed or otherwise.
The trouble is that I try to ignore our royalty, so I can't help much with their lives and contacts. Following Canadian, US, and academic politics is dizzying enough :)

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Did they indeed?
Yes, its down the hall in the department library. I don't read Italian yet, and I don't study ancient magic so it isn't much help to me.

The Brywn Mawr Classical Review is a good place to search for recent books on ancient history. The one on that translation is here.

I have seen it suggested that the seventeen-document Corpus is the result of medieval editors purging out the more actively magical texts on theological grounds. I am told that a lot of continental libraries work on the “have I had dinner with him?” method of access control, at least for anything mis-filed or obscure (although right now the French and some German libraries are trying to digitize everything in their collections). And there are a lot of miscellaneous manuscripts that have been ignored since a cataloguer flipped through them a century ago. You would have to stretch to find anything much older than 300 CE that way (the people who classified those manuscripts were very eager to find ancient texts) but there is plenty of room for a cache of medieval texts to turn up.

One more tidbit: OCR software hates scholarly editions of complicated ancient documents like papyri or lead tablets. The combination of different scripts, different languages, and all sorts of specialized markup such as dots under the letters tends to produce gibberish.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:47 AM   #43
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Default Re: The Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II

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The trouble is that I try to ignore our royalty, so I can't help much with their lives and contacts. Following Canadian, US, and academic politics is dizzying enough :)
I knew next to nothing about the Windsors when I got this idea. Now I can't help but feel quite fond of the old girl and the idea of royalty as a whole.

Even if we count the Crown Estate as 'morally' the rightful possession of the citizenry, the cost of the monarchy still comes out as only 70p per Briton* a year; while the revenues of the Crown Estate that George III willingly passed into the control of his ministers really mean that far from costing the taxpayers anything, the Royal Family has been subsidising the cost of government by quite a bit for the past couple of centuries.

Compare this to the cost per person for having a symbolic head of state in a democracy, like our (formerly) powerless President, and I'd say that Her Majesty is an unadulterated bargain as a greeter of foreign dignitaries and tireless cheerleader for charity, schools, hospitals, etc. Not to mention that unlike a failing political infighter, like the usual run of Presidents in countries where his job is to be a symbolic head of state, many people actually enjoy meeting a living link with Great Britain's past.

Archaic and quaint survival, yes. But that doesn't make it a bad thing.

*The rest of you Commonwealth people get them entirely for free.

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The Brywn Mawr Classical Review is a good place to search for recent books on ancient history. The one on that translation is here.
Thanks.

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I have seen it suggested that the seventeen-document Corpus is the result of medieval editors purging out the more actively magical texts on theological grounds.
Hence the need for specialist scholars and academics to research the original sources before you can recover any kind of functioning magical system.* In-setting, most of what has been written on the subject and certainly nearly everything easily available in print form, is simply wrong. The real rituals are found on manuscripts that aren't widely available.

Many scholars among the Shadow Court, in fact, theorise that the act of printing many copies of a ritual serves to contaminate the specific magical pathways it relies on, in a similar fashion as employing modern technology to prepare ritual artifacts reduces their efficiency.

Others go so far as to claim that wide knowledge of a given ritual serves to disperse the focused act of will necessary to enact it with success. In a similar fashion as with languages, the conflicting thoughts and beliefs of large numbers of people, when applied to magic words or specific of ritual, appear to render them harder to use, perhaps because too many people are unconsciously half-triggering them for varying and contradictionary purposes.

In general, the scholars among the Shadow Court think that the supernatural is shaped by the beliefs of humanity, but it's not just a simple matter of reality changing to match the majority views. If too many people have contradictory beliefs about something or use a given word or gesture too much for differing purposes, the result is somewhat unpredictable. It certainly seems that the ways to manipulate the paranormal rely partially on their uniqueness, becoming less reliable if they appear in the daily lives of too many people.

*In a magical world, original sources can get a lot more interesting than parchment or calfskin. Some spirits will claim to remember historical events, even unimaginably ancient ones, and at least a part of those who do really did have useful information to contribute about the proper ways to perform magical rituals. Of course, a slightly higher proportion of those spirits who made such claims were trying to trick the researchers into wasting their time, performing rituals that were dangerous to humans or rituals that empowered the spirit in question somehow. Spirit-assisted paranormal and historical research is something like a combination of interrogating congenial criminals, sifting truth from the drunken ramblings of senile braggarts and doing research into WMDs using the learning-by-doing method.

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I am told that a lot of continental libraries work on the “have I had dinner with him?” method of access control, at least for anything mis-filed or obscure (although right now the French and some German libraries are trying to digitize everything in their collections).
This method of of access control is one of the reasons why the Shadow Court recruits academic members not only based on their GURPS skills, but their prestige, status and connections. It helps, of course, that those academics known to the close circle of people around HM the Queen will tend to be one or more of well-born, tenured professors at prestigious universities or world-renowned for some reason.

If only I could find more academics who had been honoured by the Queen personally, i.e. with those honours that are in her private gift and not just formally granted by her while actually controlled by her ministers.

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And there are a lot of miscellaneous manuscripts that have been ignored since a cataloguer flipped through them a century ago. You would have to stretch to find anything much older than 300 CE that way (the people who classified those manuscripts were very eager to find ancient texts) but there is plenty of room for a cache of medieval texts to turn up.
And looking for such caches is an important job for many of the academic recruits to the conspiracy. Even if the official government is unwilling to credit the existence of magic, the Shadow Court means to ensure that when it does, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries have a corpus of paranormal lore that is second to none, just waiting to be taught to carefully selected people who will form the new public magical services.

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One more tidbit: OCR software hates scholarly editions of complicated ancient documents like papyri or lead tablets. The combination of different scripts, different languages, and all sorts of specialized markup such as dots under the letters tends to produce gibberish.
Good, good. It gives me a plausible reason for the Shadow Court academics to have to make physical visits to places where certain old manuscripts are stored, instead of just checking them through their laptops.
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:57 PM   #44
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Default Items of Power

In the setting, items used for magical purposes acquire a patina. Enchanting an item is also easier if it has a history relevant to the purposes to which it is being put and/or a historic connection to the magician or intended user. Finally, the symbolic value of the item for the effect it is meant to have is vital.

Through these factors, and especially a connection to the user's or magician's family or past, items may overcome negative modifiers for being technological or made with advanced methods. Old family heirlooms are generally excellent subjects for enchantment, especially if the effect relates to protecting or aiding members of that family.

With that being said, does anyone know of any particularly apt items with a connection to the British Royal Family that either could have been magical before the paranormal stopped working* or could have been enchanted by one of the conspiracy's own ritual magicians after it returned?

*The paranormal appears to have been fairly active during the Elizabethan age and for a century after that, when it started to decline somewhat. The last recorded instance of a verified supernatural event is believed within the Shadow Court to have occured in 1888, but at that time, most of the industrialised world had already been in a long decline from a paranormal point of view. Events of disputed verifiability occured up to 1914. From 1914 to 1979, the Shadow Court has found little evidence of anything paranormal and only a small minority of its scholars believe that the paranormal was active in that time. At all times, the mana level of the world fluctated, both spatially and temporally.
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Old 01-26-2013, 09:07 PM   #45
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One of the goals has to be to get the real Security Service up to speed, at least eventually. Does the Shadow Court prefer to find someone who has seen and knows and contrive his transfer into the Security Service (and to promote his brilliant career there), or does it prefer to find promising people already in the Service and contrive that they shall see and know (and subsequently enjoy brilliant careers)?

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Old 01-26-2013, 09:54 PM   #46
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One of the goals has to be to get the real Security Service up to speed, at least eventually. Does the Shadow Court prefer to find someone who has seen and knows and contrive his transfer into the Security Service (and to promote his brilliant career there), or does it prefer to find promising people already in the Service and contrive that they shall see and know (and subsequently enjoy brilliant careers)?
(Then) The Hon. Eliza Manningham-Buller was the first MI5 chief to buy the goods of sale entirely, being convinced by Commander Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorist Command. Other senior officials vary in their views. Some rebel againt the very idea of unprovable evidence, but others are prepared to listen to the explanation that most tidily covered the inexplicable files on their table.

Sir Jonathan Evans, the Rt. Hon. Baroness' successor, is prepared to accept her explanations of the supernatural, but is more focused on the threat of mundane terrorism than he is on the paranormal and generally prefers to look for a non-magical explanation. The estimates he privately makes about the extent of supernatural crime in the UK are notably almost an order of magnitude smaller than estimates prefered by Baroness and other 'hawks' within the Shadow Court.

All in all, the Security Service is probably the branch of the governmental which is most sympathetic to the views of the Shadow Court. There are elements within the police and armed services aware of the supernatural as well, but there is a lot of resistance toward acknowledging this within the senior ranks.
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Old 01-27-2013, 05:57 AM   #47
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According to this this wikipedia article, there is not MI18, despite there being an MI19. That there is no 13 is easily explained away by superstition, but the idea of a secret organization that should exist but doesn't, is somethat tantalizing. What if they did exist at some point in time (preferably before 1941, since that was when MI19 was created) but later, all evidence was removed.

The question is why, and since magic was dead at that point in time, that could potentially be an explanation. I know I've read somewhere that Churchill consulted a fortune teller quite a few times during WW2, so what if there was a secret occult cadre to match the Nazis? They may have gathered legendary artifacts and such things, and were then dispersed when it was obvious that such things were more or less useless during that era.

That would give the Shadow Court quite a lot of enchantment material, and, considering that Britain was dominant in the Middle East, some really significant relics. It's entirely possible the bodies of several Saints were removed by the MI18 to stop them from being used by the Nazis, for instance, an even some Middle Eastern artifacts rumoured to have magical powers could have been liberated and brought to England. Since it would be very difficult to explain how those artifacts were gathered up without implicating the Churchill administration in some very questionable business, those artifacts probably still gather dust somewhere... where a seer in the Court most certainly would be able to find them after all that latent energy would lead her to search the source out.
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Old 01-27-2013, 06:21 AM   #48
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According to this this wikipedia article, there is not MI18, despite there being an MI19. ... the idea of a secret organization that should exist but doesn't, is somewhat tantalizing
MI19 has not existed for many years. The plausible mundane explanations for the lack of an MI18 include it having been in a plan at some stage, but never created - it's entirely plausible that MI19 would not be renamed, since that would be hard work in an all-paper administrative system - or it being a deliberate gap to confuse people. Icelander does seem to be trying to keep the 20th century history of his campaign world very close to reality.

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so what if there was a secret occult cadre to match the Nazis?
An occult study group to try to predict the effects that occultism would have on Nazi policy and strategy is plausible*, and doesn't require that the organisation doing it believes in the occult. (I play in a WWII secret-magic campaign that has used this as a cover story a few times.) But it doesn't sound plausible as an MI department in its own right, since that would require it having more official structure and paper trail; it would be easier to keep it secret as an internal branch of MI6.

* For the definitive account of how Germanic occultism did influence the Nazi worldview, see The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890-1935, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.

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Old 01-27-2013, 06:38 AM   #49
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MI19 has not existed for many years. The plausible mundane explanations for the lack of an MI18 include it having been in a plan at some stage, but never created - it's entirely plausible that MI19 would not be renamed, since that would be hard work in an all-paper administrative system - or it being a deliberate gap to confuse people. Icelander does seem to be trying to keep the 20th century history of his campaign world very close to reality.
Oh, naturally, there are plenty of mundane explanations. That doesn't mean it can't be true - most of Icelander's fictionalizations are based in an assumption that the mundane explanation simply wasn't it, as opposed to anything else.

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An occult study group to try to predict the effects that occultism would have on Nazi policy and strategy is plausible*, and doesn't require that the organisation doing it believes in the occult. (I play in a WWII secret-magic campaign that has used this as a cover story a few times.) But it doesn't sound plausible as an MI department in its own right, since that would require it having more official structure and paper trail; it would be easier to keep it secret as an internal branch of MI6.

* For the definitive account of how Germanic occultism did influence the Nazi worldview, see The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890-1935, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.
No, that's probably true, but a potential department that dealt with, say, anthropological and religious aspects of the Commonwealth, and how to use them as anti-Nazi propaganda isn't all that implausible, and if Churchill was a true believer, he could very well instruct them to gather artifacts and relics while they were at it. It could very well, because of these clandestine activities, be closed down and then more or less wiped from official records, especially since so many countries were relinquished from the Empire, and would, if they knew of MI18's existence, actually inquire as to if they had had a hand in the robbing of cultural heritage and why. It's not the most plausible explanation, but still far from impossible, if there were enough believers who worried about Nazi occult supremacy.
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Old 01-27-2013, 04:52 PM   #50
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The former commander of Protection Command, Peter Clarke, is probably the most senior policeman within the Shadow Court, having retired as an Assistant Comissioner of the London Met in 2008. From 2002, he served as the head of the Counter Terrorism Command within the Metropolitan Police Service.

As deputy director of personnel, he unofficially condoned unorthodox actions by certain detectives of the Flying Squad who had become aware of supernatural crimes. Other policemen suspected them of editing their testimony and even manufacturing evidence, as the case that saw the inside of the courtroom often had little resemblence to the events that had occured. They escaped all official censure for their actions, with the official explanation being that no wrongdoing was proved against them.

In the modern day, these detectives form the nucleus of a supernaturally-savvy group of policemen within the Flying Squad. Even many of their less credulous companions may accept their assistance in cases where something doesn't quite add up, but they have an unfavourable reputation even after the whitewash overseen by Clarke.

It was not long after becoming the head of Counter Terrorism Command in 2002, that Peter Clarke laid out the data he collected on paranormal threats to the Hon. Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of the Security Service. Where he had not been notably successful in convincing his fellow policemen, he found Manningham-Buller more receptive.
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