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Old 01-08-2013, 11:32 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default The Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Foreword

An earlier thread by yours truly on these very forums was originally designed to be about what kind of martial arts would be used by the active field agents of a British secret society in the Modern World with Secret (Emerging) Magic.

Concealed by the clever subterfuge of a martial arts themed thread, the discussion has thus been poorly accessible to anyone with an interest merely in conspiracies, the Royal Family or secret magic in the modern world, assuming said person was not also a fan of martial arts. Consequently, when eluciation of elements specific to the campaign world in which this society is to be found, not to mention speculation and useful brainstorming about the society itself, began to creep into the conversation, this was cause for alarm.

I am concerned that a thread titled 'British Combatives...' is not the right place for such subjects and therefore hereby create a new thread more suitable for discussion of the organisation as a whole, as opposed to just the precise form of the combatives style used by its people. I'll try to keep the other thread more closely on topic henceforth.

Setting


The world is our modern world, at first glance. The differences are subtle, in that they appear to be caused by the supernatural returning to the world after an absence of more than a century. In fact, the evidence suggests that the supernatural waxes and wanes according to some not-yet-understood laws, but it seems fairly clear that ever since the Industrial Revolution, it has been much less relevant to the course of history and the daily life of citizens in the richest economies.

The return of magic seems to have started in the early 1980s, become obvious to those who knew what to look for (or were already experiencing strange things caused by innate gifts of which they were unaware) by the 1990s and been far enough advanced by 1995 or so that in the right circumstances, people who had caught on early and had been studying a legimate system of magic for enough years could use it to accomplish impressive and undeniable feats of magic, as long as they had time for substantial preparation and could afford expensive paraphernalia.

By 1998-2000, the evidence of supernatural powers in the world started to become far more unsettling. Hostile spirits, deluded dabblers or even strange and mysterious creatures briefly appearing from Elsewhere started to turn up and leave behind more than just an interesting story. People got hurt and killed. While the people who studied magic in a formalised way also found that their powers were much more reliable and able to affect the physical world in ways they hadn't been able to before, this was little consolation when weighed against the new threats.

By 2002, it was clear to Her Majesty and most of her close advisors on the subject that the supernatural posed a dire threat to the British people. The rate of violent supernatural events was rising steadily and at this rate of increase, even the imperfect statistical analysis possible with the limited data could forecast that by 2020 at the latest, non-supernatural human-on-human violent crime would be eclipsed by injuries, deaths and other harm caused by paranormal factors. In the current day, 2010-2012, supernatural murders are already outnumbering 'ordinary' ones in areas of storied connections with the paranormal, most notably and seriously, in London.

That is, in the setting, the rate of violent crimes everywhere in the world is higher than it is in our world today, with the divergence starting in 1990 or so and becoming marked by 2000. This means that numerous people outside the conspiracy of the Queen's Shadow Court had become aware that something was very, very wrong in the world. And by the late 1990s, the Queen and some of her advisors started to feel compelled forced to consider stronger measures than merely study of the supernatural in preparation for the eventual discovery (and initial controversy and mockery in the press) made by someone else.

This post goes into some detail about the workings of magic the setting in relation to rules found in GURPS Thaumatology. A note on magical languages in the setting and what all this means for the adventuring use of magic is to be found here. While a sufficiently powerful magician might in 2002 (and certainly by 2005 or so) be able to perform acts of magic that affect the physical world in concrete ways impossible to rationalise away, they could not do so in front of too many skeptical witnesses or within the most advanced scientific laboratories, the majority of which remain effectively No Mana Zones once the modifier for technological factors is figured into the local mana level.

Publication of the secret was a realistic possibility by 2005 at the latest and would not be all that difficult by 2010 or so. What has so far stopped the Shadow Court is a combination of a delicacy of feeling about the Queen taking an active political role in the public eye, a lack of personal rapport between the Queen and recent Prime Ministers and the reasonable assumption that the media, political and law-enforcement furor that would follow such an announcement by them would have unpredictable negative repercussions for the future. Not only would it effectively freeze their operations for months at least, possibly forever, thereby placing responsibilty for what they do in the hands of an unprepared government, it might also serve to poison the well when it came to the validity of their data, analysis and scholarship.

Thus the perception among the Shadow Court is that going public amind a media firestorm focused on their existence as much as on the news about the supernatural, would almost certainly also damage their ability to influence the transition period in British politics by quietly making various suggestions that senior people involved with the Court have been planning for new legislation, organisations and methods of supernatural law-enforcement and national security.

There are other power groups and a few individuals in the world who are not aligned with any group but possess sufficient power to perform undeniable supernatural feats in a public setting. It is not always clear what prevents them all from going public. Many among the Shadow Court are hoping that someone else will blow the lid off and thus save them from the need to draw such public atttention to what is essentially an illegal conspiracy to subvert the elected government of the United Kingdom (and to a lesser extent many Commonwealth nations). Some may even be planning such a revelation by manipulating other power groups or unaligned magicians or spirits.

What is the Shadow Court?


The Shadow Court of HM the Queen is one of the many terms used to refer to an informal secret society dedicated to the investigation of the paranormal and, starting in 2005, active, but covert defence against supernatural threats, both on the behalf of HM the Queen Elizabeth II. Other terms that have sometimes been used include the Dee Club, the Bacon Appreciation Society and the Symposium on Newtonian Concepts. The senior people are sometimes refered to as Wardens, Rhodes Scholars, Custodians or just Courtiers.

Academics associated with the society are variously (and with tongue in various degrees of cheek) refered to as Walsingham Fellows/Readers, Marlowe Fellows, Readers in Invisible Writings or Librarians of Time and Space. There are also legitimate trusts and charities that do fund them, in which case any discussion of them in even a quasi-public setting will usually confine itself to using the mundane names of those organiastions. Doctors involved with the Court are generally called Blacklock Residents, Witch-Doctors Junior or Hemlocks. The active chaps who go looking for things that go bump in the night are starting to organise into quick-reaction teams usually called either QPR or the Rangers, short for the Queen's Paranormal Rangers.

While the first members of the organisation formed an informal network of people in the know, without any central meeting place or chain-of-command, a lot of the activity took place at Birkhall and Balmoral. Eventually, the organisation needed some permanent place of its own that was out of the way of all press and even the rest of the Royal Household. The solution would be for the Queen to acquire a castle somewhere out of the way and renovate and decorate to taste. Here are some posts with ideas for what kind of castle, where, what it would cost and how it could be done.

Please post any further discussion of the setting or the organisation in general in this thread.

To be continued with more detail on the history of the society and ideas for what real-world people would be important players in it.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:44 PM   #2
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Default Ardtornish Castle

Continued from the other thread:

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Here's an article about the costs of buying and restoring castles and the values of the results: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...817825976.html.

I read a bit about a conference about making income out of estates like Ardtornish. It seems to be hard to get any return other than by subdividing and selling real estate. In other words, the people who have millions of pounds aren't going to spend them on remote estates.
I don't see any harm in assuming that the real estate can be had without having to actually pay Hugh Raven for it, instead compensating him by allowing him the use of some more conveniently locatated real estate that currently belongs to the Crown as well as providing him with assistance in finding charitable foundations, research grants and remarkably patient investors for his pet project of a sustainable energy village.*

Of course, this assumes that Hugh Raven is among those in the know, which I also don't see any harm in doing. It would not be implausible to propose that one of the people on the financial side of the Queen's household** had worked with him while installing windmills on land owned by the Royal Family and was aware of his fascination for Pythagorean sacred architecture as applied to sustainable and natural-seeming landscaping, not to mention the huge and isolated estate his family owned, complete with crumbling castles. So when the Queen began looking for headquarters, she might have had him approached.

*With only the minor catch that it has to serve as housing for a bunch of dubious people there to do strange things, while being publicly claimed to be some form of resort.
**As soon as anyone in the know requires a source of funds to do something secret, it would become necessary to subvert accountants. Therefore, as early as 1990, the first people recruited for skill set instead of purely for personal relationships would have been some people working for the Keeper of the Privy Purse or Treasurer to the Queen.
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:14 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Crakkerjakk View Post
Building a ~10000 square foot room in a modern factory nowadays (without any production equipment, but including actually installing it and utilities) using all the modern tools available and prefab construction materials runs you about 2.5 million USD.

I'd say extrapolate that to only hand/ye olde timey tools and refurbing ruined ancient architecture, you're looking at least at two orders of magnitude increase. 250 million USD, conservatively, per 1000 m^2.
New Parliament House in Canberra was built in extravagant haste between 1984 and 1988, by digging up a large sandstone hill, building a palace in the hole, and landscaping over the roof. It is panelled with rare hardwoods and marquetry, and lined with rare marble, and is really quite lavish and, well, palatial. It cost A$1.1 billion and has a floor area of 250,000 square metres. That's $4,400 per square metre, one sixtieth what you suggest. Adjust the price up for inflation. Adjust it down for not fast-tracking construction in the most wasteful way. Adjust it down again for not cladding the columns in rare green marble quarried in Queensland, exported to Italy, and re-imported to Australia, not laying parquetry floors, etc.

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Old 01-09-2013, 05:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Shadow Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II

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New Parliament House in Canberra was built in extravagant haste between 1984 and 1988, by digging up a large sandstone hill, building a palace in the hole, and landscaping over the roof. It is panelled with rare hardwoods and marquetry, and lined with rare marble, and is really quite lavish and, well, palatial. It cost A$1.1 billion and has a floor area of 250,000 square metres. That's $4,400 per square metre, one sixtieth what you suggest. Adjust the price up for inflation. Adjust it down for not fast-tracking construction in the most wasteful way. Adjust it down again for not cladding the columns in rare green marble quarried in Queensland, exported to Italy, and re-imported to Australia, not laying parquetry floors, etc.
I think that Crakkerjack is increasing the final cost extravagantly for having to do the renovations on the castle itself (or at least a wing of it) without making any major use of any technology originating after the Industrial Revolution.

Personally, I think that would increase the time the labour portion took, by some huge factor, which in turn would increase the labour costs. It would also affect materials cost, a lot, but I have no idea how much. You'd need to log trees with low-tech methods, make use of the rock that was already there and quarry what new rock you needed using sweat instead of diesel for fuel, etc.

Ridiculously expensive, if you needed a lot of new materials, but perhaps not much of a factor if most of the renovations consisted of clearing away stuff, not adding to it, and you didn't need to add any large slabs of stone. It would matter least to small-scale improvements and most to gigantic scale projects.

I have no idea how much these things would cost, as I don't know about anyone who wants to do such a perfectly ridiculous thing as what amounts to archeological reconstructions of a whole castle (or at least a wing).

Fortunately, though, for that part of it supposed to function as a sanctum, it doesn't have to look new. It just has to be inhabitable. It's perfectly okay if that part of it still has a bit of a ruin-ish aspect.

For everywhere else than the sanctum, it's okay to use normal construction techniques, possibly taking care to keep any large-scale machinery away from the vicinity of the sanctum.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:44 AM   #5
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Default Ideas for real-world people belonging to the inner circle

Do any forumites know about real-world Anglican priests with connections to the British Royal Family?

Did the Queen Mother of sainted memory have any clerical friends? A church she'd attend for other than public occasions? What about Queen Elizabeth II? I'm particularly interested in ministers who might have been personally acquinted with either or both of them in the early 1980s, ideally a long-standing relationship between minister and a member of his congretation.

And what about Oxford and Cambridge* Dons? Are any of them friends or acquintances of members of the Royal Family, either now or in the 1980s? Here I'm searching for scholars with specialities that could relate to occult matters, which in this setting includes professors of Anglo-Saxon studies, Celtic studies, Nordic studies, linguists, philosophers, anthropologists (esp. folklorists), archeologists, historians, theologists (esp. comparative theologists or students of mythography), classicists and even some literature professors**.

*Or other British universities with formidable academic reputations, of course. This is a new Britain, after all. There are other good schools.
**Assuming they have an interest in classic literature, i.e. before 1880s and ideally before the Industrial Revolution. Specialists in authors with mystical pedigrees prefered, obviously.
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ideas for real-world people belonging to the inner circle

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Do any forumites know about real-world Anglican priests with connections to the British Royal Family? And what about Oxford and Cambridge* Dons? Are any of them friends or acquaintances of members of the Royal Family, either now or in the 1980s?
These people unquestionably exist, but who they are is somewhat obscure. People who know the royals personally tend to keep quiet about it, and don't participate in the modern trend for self-publicity, at least on this front. So I'd suggest that you research likely institutions and invent individuals.

Something to understand about the way royals are treated is that while they don't have much direct authority, people are very polite to them. This extends to granting their wishes in a great many matters that aren't of huge practical importance.*

Some sources of people that may be useful. Westminster Abbey and a few other churches are "Royal Peculiars", which are directly under the monarch's control, rather than the general CofE administration. The Queen knows Cambridge University rather better than Oxford, because Prince Phillip was until quite recently Cambridge's Chancellor (ceremonial head). They visited quite regularly, in part because Phillip liked being in the only place where he took precedence over his wife.

The Master of Trinity College is also a direct royal appointment; Trinity is weird because it's both a pillar of the Establishment, and an academic powerhouse, with about as many Nobel Prizes as France. It seems like a good place to use, and the level of applied eccentricity amongst its students and Fellows will cover up a good deal. The buildings are ancient, but have been modernised. Cambridge also has a whole department devoted to Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic studies, which looks like another good place to use.

*For example, George VI caused the rules for naming Royal Navy ships to be broken. The first "major" warship built during a reign is named after the monarch; this tradition goes back centuries, but Elizabeth II hasn't had hers yet - it is building now. However, George VI asked that "his" be named after his father instead, for personal reasons. This happened, not as a matter of authority, but of politeness.

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Old 01-09-2013, 02:44 PM   #7
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Did the Queen Mother of sainted memory have any clerical friends? A church she'd attend for other than public occasions?
Well, she routinely attended services at St. George's Chapel (which is the church serving Windsor Castle), Craithe Kirk (the parish church nearest to Balmoral Castle), and St. Mary Magdalene Church (the church the Family attend when they are staying at Sandringham). There is also the Royal Chapel in Windsor Great Park, but it has no incumbent—services are performed by one of the canons of St. George's.

The Reverend Anthony Hall Harrison Harbottle, LVO is sometimes mentioned has having been her chaplain. He was a canon of St. Georges and chaplain to HM the Q from 31 May 1968. He resigned in 1981, though, and died in 2009, aged 84.

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Old 01-09-2013, 09:56 AM   #8
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You'd need to log trees with low-tech methods... quarry what new rock you needed using sweat instead of diesel for fuel
Does that assumption match the setting? That is, Crackerjakk is right as far as the need to remain low-tech throughout the entire production chain, and not just for the on-site work?

Another complicating factor there is even finding people that have the low-tech skills to do such work. It might not be a bad idea to hide the recreation of such techniques and training as an academic research project -- or the filming of documentaries like "This Old Pyramid" and the other Secrets of Lost Empires shows that Nova did.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:24 AM   #9
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Does that assumption match the setting? That is, Crackerjakk is right as far as the need to remain low-tech throughout the entire production chain, and not just for the on-site work?
Well, for perfect magical compatibility, you would need to do it, yes. In practice, though, as long as the results appear more or less similar to low-tech materials, it would not be enough for more than a -1 penalty at most to do some of the early work with more modern methods.

The location, the history of the site, the symbolic signifance of a castle for defence of a realm and a final product that is not high-tech all matter more than whether some of the materials may be been subjected to high-tech manufacturing methods. As long as some care is taken in trying to match the historical decor, the methods used off-site probably amount to less than is needed to give even a -1. Of course, in combination with a few gadgets accidentally carried by visitors or merely proximity to other high-technology, factors that individual are worth little might cumulatively amount to -1 or even more.

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Another complicating factor there is even finding people that have the low-tech skills to do such work. It might not be a bad idea to hide the recreation of such techniques and training as an academic research project -- or the filming of documentaries like "This Old Pyramid" and the other Secrets of Lost Empires shows that Nova did.
It's possible, yes. On the other hand, as long as the work is done with unpowered hand tools and using natural light, it doesn't seem all that harmful that the workers learned their trade at higher TLs.
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