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Old 02-08-2020, 05:59 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

In my campaign, Caribbean by Night (despite the name, currently set in Galveston, Texas), I need to make up around thirty or so cultists who belong to the Keepers of the Last Hearth, an apocalyptic cult devoted to the Lords of the Last Waste, vast, cool, unsympathetic intelligences that devour all life, light, heat, love, hope and possibilities.

There will be about five leaders, each with their own group of assistants, students, followers and hangers-on. Most of the people involved in the ritual in question come from South America, with previous NPCs associated with this cult having come from such South American countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There are also North American members, however, and the cult seems to be worldwide.

I'm looking for two South American leaders, one from the United States and one from somewhere else in the world. Random dice determination tell me that the American one is female, young and attractive and that she has eight followers (none of whom amount to much).

We know that she was born with an aptitude for magic and that she was somehow recruited into the wing of the Keepers of the Last Hearth that is led by a mysterious Hidden Master in South America.

What kind of person would join an apocalyptic cult?

Is she an academic (a lot of the capable ritual magicians tend to be, because magic tends to require languages not in common use and actual functioning written rituals are always older than a century)?

What's her connection to South America?

Should she be a native Texan or from somewhere else in the US?

Edit: The dice tell me she is some kind of Asian-American, comes from California, is college educated and of high Status and Wealth.

What does that tell us?

---

Any ideas at all?

What about the other leaders, any thoughts?

Where in the world should the non-Americas one come from?

Edit: Unless I get better ideas, I'm going with a man from China, a man from Arica, Chile and a woman from Bogota, Colombia.

For a title for the Chinese magician, I'm looking for the Western transliteration of 'Father Dragon', 'Black Dragon Father' or something similar. The kind of title that a Chinese organized crime boss might have, one that controls an organization that is known as 'Red Dragon' in Latin America.
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Old 02-09-2020, 06:59 AM   #2
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

Ok, so I've got maybe about an hour and a half to finish up a list. Edit: The PCs succeeded awesomely last session, which led to them defeating He Who Hungers in the Deep and saving the lives of hundreds of people. However, because they did not have to chase Him Who Hungers down all the way down the coast to Indianola, but defeated him in Galveston Bay, they did not stumble onto these cultists during the session. Hence, I've got until next game session to detail the cultists, their harebrained scheme to take over Indianola for their sacrifice and how things might go wrong for them and alert the authorities, the PCs' Patron or both.
---

I'd really like some suggestions for names, refinements and anything else about these cultists.

They belong to the Keepers of the Last Hearth and are planning a ritual in Texas that would have catastrophic consequences if successful, unleashing the Harbinger of the Lords of the Last Waste into this world.

There are five leaders of the cult present in total, four human and one less so. These leaders are the most important for the ritual and each of them is a ritual magician of some power.

The four human leaders have twenty assistants, aides, bodyguards and other followers, most of them devoted cultists themselves. Then there are six pishtaco (fat-sucking vampire-like horrors in human shape) under the command of the sorcerous serial killer Pedro López, a pishtaco himself. Total 32 people-adjacent entities.

There were more associates involved in the logistics of this thing, including a transnational criminal organization of some sort referred to as 'The Consortium', but only the inner circle of the cult and their closest followers are meant to participate in the ceremony. Also, the local cadre of logistical supporters are thoroughly blown to the authorities and nowhere near loyal enough to be trusted with information about the new ritual location of Indianola. So, it's just these twenty-five cultists and seven human-shaped monsters.

I'll need names, background, notes, comments, suggestions and anything else someone feels like giving me. Here's what I've decided so far:

1) Hermana María Teresa Romero Borja (October 31, 1963; Bogotá, Colombia), a Roman-Catholic nun who has evidently lost her faith and gotten into some decidedly un-Christian stuff. Comes with a few personal followers who are actually competent and dangerous; three magicians and a former FARC guerilla and professional kidnapper turned ritual assistant and sacrifice procurer. Here is what I have on her so far and some questions.

2) [Need to firm up her background and need a name. Suggestions from forumites?]. An Asian-American in her early thirties from California, the leader of a small New Age cult that has turned pretty dark. Comes with eight followers of the sort that might end up in a typical California cult, i.e. not necessarily the most capable or sensible people. Details and questions so far.

3) [Still need a Chinese name; nicknamed 'Father Dragon' or 'Black Dragon Father', something of that sort, in either Mandarin or Cantonese, depending on where he's from] ([b. February 26, 1953; [need a birthplace]). A senior figure from the 'Red Dragon' criminal organization in Latin America and four of his associates. The most powerful boss on the western coast of South America and around the Andes. In his sixties and Chinese in ethnicity, but might be from Hong Kong or some other Pacific location with a Chinese ethnic community, rather than mainland China. What I have so far and questions.

4) Pedro Alonso López, the Colombian serial killer whom Wikipedia puts second as the worst serial killer of all time. After his (mundane) horrific career as a serial killer, López attracted the attention of plenty of dark spirits as the world became ever more supernatural in the 2000s and eventually learned ritual magic from a variety of sources (mostly spirits, but also some rogue magicians involved in criminal milieus).

Recently, Lopéz has gotten involved with some people that may be even worse than he is and ended up submitting to a ritual he might not have fully understood, which has made him a pishtaco. Leads six other pishtaco, who function as the muscle for these cultists, and who crossed illegally over the border from Mexico, after a long and tedious journey over Central America.

5) Fernando 'Nando' Acevedo Allende (b. December 14, 1978; Arica, Chile), a professional criminal, drug importer and human trafficker. Started out as a lawyer working for the cover business of an organized crime syndicate concerned with importing drug precursor chemicals from Asia, but discovered about a decade ago that he had a talent for ritual magic.* More of a crooked business executive than Tony Montana in Scarface, but has a few more violent assistants along, such as his driver/bodyguard, two of his top lieutenants (both minor ritual magicians themselves, as well as career criminals) and two enforcer types.

*In my campaign, underworld subcultures are even more superstitious than in our world and within the last decade or so, many traditional organized crime groups have been taken over by supernaturally-influenced people or beings.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

My first thought was a motivation like a form of 'what ever that extreme green movement to depopulate the earth of humans (or most humans)'

The belief that this power could be controlled/cajoled/give rewards allowing a select portion of Humanity to inherit the remainder of the planet after all the undesirables are sacrificed.

Whether the Cold Ones will abide by that is for you to decide.
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:41 AM   #4
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

The Path of Nonexistence does not necessarily lend itself to apocalyptic cults, as it makes impossible things possible and possible things impossible. So, practitioners could use Lesser Destroy Nonexistence to preempt the physical laws that prevented an impossible entity from existing from this point on (effectively allowing it to come into existence) or Greater Destroy Nonexistence to preempt the physical laws retroactively that prevented an impossible entity from ever existing (effectively always allowing it to exist). For example, a practitioner could use Lesser Destroy Nonexistence to bring a nymph into existence in the present and Greater Destroy Nonexistence to have a nymph who assisted the Native Americans of New Jersey against the European invaders from the 16th century on.

The question becomes then, what impossible things would a cultist want to bring into existence (or what possible things do they want to remove)? For example, a businessman might want to use Lesser Create Nonexistence to remove one of their coworkers from consideration for a promotion or a victim of childhood abuse may want to use a Greater Create Nonexistence to remove their abuser from existence before they were abused (be careful of paradoxes). I imagine that everyone has something that impossible that they want possible or something possible that they want impossible, so anyone may find the cult attractive (even if they do not support the end goal of making the Lords of the Last Waste possible).

In fact, such a cult could actually be quite sympathetic, as its members may be trying to reverse the injustices of their past, though such attempts may start unraveling local existence. Such a cult would likely start off with small effects of nonexistence, perhaps creating a cryptid, but they would likely start messing with large effects after a while. The first indication of that happening would be the PCs hearing a radio advertisement for the new Bigfoot exhibit at the local zoo.
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Old 02-09-2020, 04:31 PM   #5
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
My first thought was a motivation like a form of 'what ever that extreme green movement to depopulate the earth of humans (or most humans)'

The belief that this power could be controlled/cajoled/give rewards allowing a select portion of Humanity to inherit the remainder of the planet after all the undesirables are sacrificed.
The PCs have encountered both types, as well as one who was motivated by self-loathing and depression and just wanted humanity to walk hand-in-hand toward extinction.

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Whether the Cold Ones will abide by that is for you to decide.
They won't, but cultists are generally not the most mentally healthy people.
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Old 02-09-2020, 05:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
The Path of Nonexistence does not necessarily lend itself to apocalyptic cults, as it makes impossible things possible and possible things impossible. So, practitioners could use Lesser Destroy Nonexistence to preempt the physical laws that prevented an impossible entity from existing from this point on (effectively allowing it to come into existence) or Greater Destroy Nonexistence to preempt the physical laws retroactively that prevented an impossible entity from ever existing (effectively always allowing it to exist). For example, a practitioner could use Lesser Destroy Nonexistence to bring a nymph into existence in the present and Greater Destroy Nonexistence to have a nymph who assisted the Native Americans of New Jersey against the European invaders from the 16th century on.

The question becomes then, what impossible things would a cultist want to bring into existence (or what possible things do they want to remove)? For example, a businessman might want to use Lesser Create Nonexistence to remove one of their coworkers from consideration for a promotion or a victim of childhood abuse may want to use a Greater Create Nonexistence to remove their abuser from existence before they were abused (be careful of paradoxes). I imagine that everyone has something that impossible that they want possible or something possible that they want impossible, so anyone may find the cult attractive (even if they do not support the end goal of making the Lords of the Last Waste possible).

In fact, such a cult could actually be quite sympathetic, as its members may be trying to reverse the injustices of their past, though such attempts may start unraveling local existence. Such a cult would likely start off with small effects of nonexistence, perhaps creating a cryptid, but they would likely start messing with large effects after a while. The first indication of that happening would be the PCs hearing a radio advertisement for the new Bigfoot exhibit at the local zoo.
This cult is only concerned with magic that drains energy, destroys matter or otherwise causes loss, physical, psychological or metaphysical.

About the most benign examples of their magic are Charms and ritual that end consciousness or light and sound, largely because the ones encountered so far were only temporary.
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Old 02-10-2020, 01:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
In my campaign, Caribbean by Night (despite the name, currently set in Galveston, Texas), I need to make up around thirty or so cultists who belong to the Keepers of the Last Hearth, an apocalyptic cult devoted to the Lords of the Last Waste, vast, cool, unsympathetic intelligences that devour all life, light, heat, love, hope and possibilities.

There will be about five leaders, each with their own group of assistants, students, followers and hangers-on. Most of the people involved in the ritual in question come from South America, with previous NPCs associated with this cult having come from such South American countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There are also North American members, however, and the cult seems to be worldwide.

I'm looking for two South American leaders, one from the United States and one from somewhere else in the world. Random dice determination tell me that the American one is female, young and attractive and that she has eight followers (none of whom amount to much).

We know that she was born with an aptitude for magic and that she was somehow recruited into the wing of the Keepers of the Last Hearth that is led by a mysterious Hidden Master in South America.

What kind of person would join an apocalyptic cult?
That depends on a couple of things.

What does 'apocalyptic' mean in context? And does she understand that actual meaning?

That'll have a heavy effect on what sort of person would be drawn to this. It depends in much on what she thinks she's doing, as opposed to what's actually going on.

She might:

1. Think of it as a cold-eyed trade-off. 'I help the Cold Ones wipe out most of humanity, in exchange they give me 'x'. 'X' could be wealth, power, immortality, a hunky lover or 10, whatever appeals to her. It doesn't matter if these benefits will actually materialize, as long as she thinks they will.

Option 1 might tend to appeal to a classic sociopath.

2. Raised to it. Her parents might have been cultists too, and she might have been quite literally raised to take part. Whether she really understands what's involved or not would depend on the details.

3. Totally misinformed. She really has no idea what's actually going on, she thinks the goal is something totally other. She might have been led to believe that the cult is a blind or a distraction for whatever she thinks is really going on. She might have been misled by others or her own wishful thinking. She could be at once intellectually brilliant and clueless about practicalities.

4. Curious. Her academic thirst for knowledge is so great she'll risk global destruction to satisfy it. This is another 'sociopath' type.

5. Bitter/angry about Whatever. It could be something big, she might have been a victim of child abuse, slavers, tortured by the drug cartels, suffered any number of horrific things. It might be relatively minor, maybe her lover betrayed her and she's prepared to destroy the world to get even. Either way she might be said to at least a little insane.

6. A lot insane. Totally bat-excrement crazy. This could be compatible with brilliant, she wants to destroy the world because it's Thursday or because her neighbor is growing sunflowers. Her motives would defy rational analysis because they are irrational.

Note that the sixth option makes her potentially a liability to the cultists, too, because her actions are inherently unpredictable.
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Old 02-10-2020, 04:52 AM   #8
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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That depends on a couple of things.

What does 'apocalyptic' mean in context? And does she understand that actual meaning?

That'll have a heavy effect on what sort of person would be drawn to this. It depends in much on what she thinks she's doing, as opposed to what's actually going on.
Apocalyptic is my term, not an in-setting selling point to new recruits.

It's a cult, so recruits will tend to have a very skewed idea of the reality behind what they are doing, and most of the recruits will be vulnerable, at-risk people lacking a support network. Many will be addicts or recovering addicts, runaways, people getting out of abusive relationships and, yes, the mentally ill and psychologically disturbed. Because of the message and the communities where recruitment is focused, I expect a heavy concentration of people struggling with depression, self-harm, feelings of low self-worth and an array of other psychological issues.

Only the upper echelons of the cult know anything of what they are really doing and only the Hidden Masters know the full truth. That being said, the five leaders behind this ritual belong to the highest level of the Keepers of the Last Hearth, below only the Hidden Masters, and so will be fully cogniscant of the fact that the ritual is intended to bring about a profound and fundamental change on Earth, one incompatible with human life as we know it. There is, however, ample room for even these senior figures in the cult to be deluded about the consequences of so doing and they will have different motivations.

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She might:

1. Think of it as a cold-eyed trade-off. 'I help the Cold Ones wipe out most of humanity, in exchange they give me 'x'. 'X' could be wealth, power, immortality, a hunky lover or 10, whatever appeals to her. It doesn't matter if these benefits will actually materialize, as long as she thinks they will.

Option 1 might tend to appeal to a classic sociopath.
This is fairly classic for mid-level cultists and, perhaps especially, criminal associates of the cult, that the PCs have encountered. Of course, from what the criminals say, they have no idea of the ultimate goals of the cultists, just that they are too scary to refuse, pay well and perform magical rituals (complete with human sacrifices) that actually work, so they are terrified any disloyalty will be discovered and punished by awful curses. So the 'ordinary decent criminals' actually claim to be a little from this column, a little from column 3.

At least a few cultists with self-serving motivations appear to be ritual magicians, who must to some degree be initiated into greater secrets of the cult. Of course, it's difficult to disentangle motives of self-interest from bitterness and psychological illness when the person in question speaks, apparently sincerely, about the beauty of oblivion and the coming End of Days, but also uses Path of Nonexistence rituals that cause unconsciousness and memory loss as date rape drugs.

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2. Raised to it. Her parents might have been cultists too, and she might have been quite literally raised to take part. Whether she really understands what's involved or not would depend on the details.
The Girl with the Kaleidoscope Eyes, who was apparently supposed to initiate the ritual, seems raised in this cult.

There is reason to believe she's exceptional (and not only because not that many children are born in Antarctica), however, as the PCs cannot find any evidence of the cult existing before the year 2000 or so. If it was founded earlier, it would have been very small, maybe just a couple of people. At any rate, the supernatural hasn't been present in the setting very long, with the first reports that the PCs know about dating back to the 1980s and while paranormal phenomena have been appearing at increasing rates after 2000, reports of it are still officially disbelieved and the history of the world is pretty much identical to ours until the mid-90s.*

So it's unlikely that there are many others raised to the cult and even if there are, they'll tend to be young. I imagine that the five leaders concerned with this particular ritual are all old enough so that they were adults (or at least teenagers) when they learned about the existence of the supernatural, although I suppose that the youngest of them, our hypothetical Asian-American from California, could be born in 1987 or so, which would make her young enough so that she might have discovered magic as a child.

And, of course, even before the campaign world diverged from reality, children in our world can be raised in cults and strange subcultures of all sorts, albeit ones without functioning magic, and maybe that kind of upbringing makes people more likely to join a ritual magic using cult later on.

*The main differences between the campaign world and ours, aside from the existence of hidden supernatural threats, is that in the campaign world, instead of the rise in crime rates seen in the US and many other countries during the 80s and early 90s peaking and then receding since then as happened in our world, in the campaign, crime rates have risen steadily from the 1980s onward and at the end of 2018, rates of violence in the world are about four times what they are in reality.

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3. Totally misinformed. She really has no idea what's actually going on, she thinks the goal is something totally other. She might have been led to believe that the cult is a blind or a distraction for whatever she thinks is really going on. She might have been misled by others or her own wishful thinking. She could be at once intellectually brilliant and clueless about practicalities.
Totally misinformed will be confined to lower-levels of the cult, associates and other useful idiots, but wishful thinking and self-delusion are entirely valid.

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4. Curious. Her academic thirst for knowledge is so great she'll risk global destruction to satisfy it. This is another 'sociopath' type.
That's an interesting motivation. What would make someone who was capable of performing ritual magic so curious about the ideal of oblivion, nonexistence and the End, rather than investigating magic in itself, learning from spirits or exploring some other aspect of the paranormal world opened up by their gifts?

Perhaps at first, someone might be unaware of the existence of anyone else who knows about magic and have no other way to learn it, of course. But at a certain point, at least if they reach a leadership role and can create powerful rituals, they'd learn enough to be able to contact different spirits, if they really wanted. So someone would have to be really curious about the Lords of the Last Waste specifically, or about something which distinguishes them from all other extranormal entities reachable with the right rituals.

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5. Bitter/angry about Whatever. It could be something big, she might have been a victim of child abuse, slavers, tortured by the drug cartels, suffered any number of horrific things. It might be relatively minor, maybe her lover betrayed her and she's prepared to destroy the world to get even. Either way she might be said to at least a little insane.
Ah, yes, always a classic. One fairly feckless cultic assistant was a depressed teenage boy who frequented Internet forums dedicated to incels and discussing suicide, which led him to nihilistic websites devoted to an aspiration toward the suicide of the human race as the only ethical choice. The sort who idealizes Rusty Cohle in True Detective and doesn't realize Cohle is trying to convince himself of the philosophy of nihilism, because the alternative hurts too much.

Bitterness could also be said to be the motivation of Sister María Teresa, the strongest personality among the five leaders who've come to Texas to perform this ritual. A nun from Colombia who dedicated her life to helping the weak and the poor, she gradually lost her faith through working with the less fortunate in the Candelaria district of Bogotá through the drug war and civil wars of her home country and the continuing cycle of violence that in this world seems unending. When she discovered the existence of the supernatural, she came to the conclusion that the existence of demons, ghosts and spirits must necessarily torpedo any rationalist, materialist explanation for the world, so that the God of her childhood must exist in some form.

And He must be either incompetent or evil, to allow so much suffering. So as He was clearly not ready for the responsibility, the only moral thing to do was to take His toys away, for good. Oblivion was better than the alternative, an eternity of man's inhumanity to man.

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6. A lot insane. Totally bat-excrement crazy. This could be compatible with brilliant, she wants to destroy the world because it's Thursday or because her neighbor is growing sunflowers. Her motives would defy rational analysis because they are irrational.

Note that the sixth option makes her potentially a liability to the cultists, too, because her actions are inherently unpredictable.
There is evidence in the campaign world that people who practice magic rarely exhibit perfect sanity and prolonged use might actively cause alienation and psychic trauma. Certainly, most people that the PCs know about who've studied the occult to any extent are deeply eccentric, at best, and confined to instutitons as dangers to themselves and others, at worst.
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Old 02-10-2020, 02:53 PM   #9
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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There is reason to believe she's exceptional (and not only because not that many children are born in Antarctica), however, as the PCs cannot find any evidence of the cult existing before the year 2000 or so. If it was founded earlier, it would have been very small, maybe just a couple of people. At any rate, the supernatural hasn't been present in the setting very long, with the first reports that the PCs know about dating back to the 1980s and while paranormal phenomena have been appearing at increasing rates after 2000, reports of it are still officially disbelieved and the history of the world is pretty much identical to ours until the mid-90s.*
Hmm...does that mean that there wasn't any magic at all before about 2000 A.D., or was there supernatural activity a long time ago and it stopped and now it's started again?
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Old 02-10-2020, 03:03 PM   #10
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Default Re: [RPM] Cultists of the Cold Ones (Apocalyptic Cult of the Path of Nonexistence)

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Hmm...does that mean that there wasn't any magic at all before about 2000 A.D., or was there supernatural activity a long time ago and it stopped and now it's started again?
While true certainty about the past is impossible, all the evidence suggests that at some point in human history, the supernatural world and our world were more closely intertwined. One PC at least believes that there were societies of powerful magical beings living among humans before the start of recorded history and while his specific theories are outré, the idea that, for example, fey folk and humans might have coexisted at some point is not considered implausible by the most learned occultists the PCs know.

However, most theorists aware of the occult believe that as human cicilization grew more complex and technology advanced, the connection with occult forces decline. By the 19th century, the supernatural was mostly superstition, as in our world, perhaps with very occasional exceptions in Places of Power and/or in relation with truly special individuals or times. Few, if any credible reports of the supernatural exist between 1901-1990 and the PCs believe that there might have been no events at all from 1889 to 1980. And before the year 2000, supernatural phenomena was so rare in most of the Western world that the US might see only a few incidents in the entire decade from 1990-2000. Only in the 2010s has the pace of incidents accelerated to the point that it seems incredible that no uncontroversible evidence has been publicised.

That means no real continuity with any ancient and esoteric organization of the past. There are religious orders older than this, yes, and even various fraternal organizations, but even while magic might have been theoretically possible in the 18th and 19th century, the vast majority of people involved in the occult even then were not practising effective magic. And a century is enough so that all the people in authoeity have grown up during times when magic was purely supersitition and been taught by others who knew the same, so even rituals that could have once had power were being performed by people who probably didn't expect any effects.

And aside from religious practices, most occult traditions and organizations in the Western world have grown irrelevant, except as social clubs, over the 19th and 20th century. So any cults and occult conspiracies in my campaign are new, though some of them might have roots in a conscious revival of various older traditions.
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