See P. XX

A column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

With Kevin Kulp’s TimeWatch RPG blasting through Kickstarter as only a chronoton can, you may be asking yourself if you can put time travel in other GUMSHOE games. We at Pelgrane are not in the business of telling you not what not to do with GUMSHOE. (Unless you want to use it to light your Hibachi indoors. In which case, don’t do that.)

That caveated, here’s how you might do it in the various existing GUMSHOE settings.

The Esoterrorists/Fear Itself/Trail of Cthulhu

One of my favorite treatments of time travel comes, of all places, from an old Batman comic. And not during a cool Batman phase, but from the kooky silver age. In that story, the details of which my memory is doubtless mangling, Batman and Robin go back in time hypnotically. (In fact, now Googling “Batman time travel”, I find that I like this idea because I’m remembering it wrong.) In my memory’s mistaken version of how this works, they possess the bodies of their ancestors, who happen to be conveniently located and remarkably similar in appearance in ancient Rome, the old west, the Viking era and so on.

Lovecraft likewise treats time travel as a mental journey, making it the specialty of the Great Race of Yith. In a Trail game you need go no further than to have a series of weird murders committed by a victim of Yithian possession. When the investigators capture the first suspect, the Yithian simply jumps to someone else—perhaps a PC whose player is absent that session—and forges ahead with the mayhem. To really shut down the Yithian menace, the group must figure out what the entity is trying to accomplish, and then take action to ensure that it is no longer possible. Otherwise the body-hopping from the ancient past continues.

Scrubbing the Mythos detail from this idea for The Esoterrorists or Fear Itself allows you to reverse the direction of travel. Outer Dark Entities come from the future, when they have already breached the membrane, to create the conditions that will later allow them to breach the membrane. They can’t travel directly into this time, but possess those emotionally destabilized by Esoterror provocations. Again the problem is that stopping one meat-form merely slows them down, requiring them to find a suitably vulnerable replacement. The definitive solution depends on rendering what changes they’re trying to wreak in the timestream impossible. After the Veil-Out, the Ordo Veritatis might take temporary relief in the thought that they’ve prevented a future in which their demonic foes win. But plenty of additional ways for them to do it remain, as a fresh manifestation quickly demonstrates.

Mutant City Blues

The conceit in this mutant-powered police procedural is that all weird abilities are already well explicated by science. If you do want to invent a mutant time travel ability you have to find a spot for on the Quade Diagram. Somewhere out near sector F00, where the weirdo dream manipulation appears, might fit the bill. You also want to establish the effects of time manipulation as already measurable, if not fully understood. So perhaps a time distortion field might emit some sort of radiation that enters the bloodstream, or induce over-production of a particular preexisting hormone. As members of the Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit you can perform tests on tissue samples to determine whether victims, alive or on a morgue examination table, were exposed to time altering energies. Finding out who committed the time crime would then be a matter of finding out which local mutant miscreant has the mutation in question. That said, given the down-and-gritty reality level of Mutant City Blues superheroics I would be inclined to make time travel something that tantalizingly almost seems to exist, until the detectives get to the real truth of the matter. Perhaps false rumors of time travel could be connected to the alien beings some people in the world credit with the Sudden Mutant Event that created all weird powers.

Ashen Stars

The space opera setting of Ashen Stars seems tailor-made for timey-wimey activities. Like several sources of its inspiration, it includes godlike aliens. Or at least there used to be godlike aliens, the Vas Kra, who have devolved into the all-too-moral vas mal. And with those in the mix, even if only in the setting’s past, anything can happen. That allows you to nod to this key genre element without introducing brain-cracking paradoxes that rightly belong in TimeWatch territory. Needless to say the shift from universe with time travel to universe without would be an outcome of the Mohilar War. We might take a cue here from the current, degraded morphologies of the Vas Mal, the former godlike aliens. Now they look like classic UFO grays, which hook up to the motif of missing time. Perhaps in the Ashen Stars universe, missing time derives not from hypnosis or erased memories but from proximity to time travel and its contradictions in minds not capable of handling it. Back in the 20th century, when the Vas Kra came to earth to meddle with the human mind, those taken up into their vessels suffered gaps in understanding because they brushed too close with their transtemporal natures. This leads to the theory, oft-mooted by residents of the Bleed, that the Vas Kra ended the Mohilar War by interfering massively in the past of those forgotten beings. It explains how the war ended, how the Vas Kra lost so much energy that they had to devolve, and why no one remembers that this happened. The fear that this is so leads at least one powerful movement to oppose all efforts by the vas mal to reconstitute themselves, lest time travel come back, unleashing chaos throughout the cosmos—maybe bringing back the Mohilar, too.

Night’s Black Agents

What if the vampires are time travelers? They’re humans who, sometime in the future, discovered how to move through time. Problem: doing so warped their bodies. They became vulnerable to sunlight and had to drink the blood of humans uncontaminated by chrono-energy to survive. Their added strength and resistance to damage (except to the brain or heart) hardly counts as a fair trade. So they send agents back to the past, to prevent the chain of events that leads to their own development of time technology. Stopping those events requires a grand upsetting of the geopolitical power structure. To achieve this they must penetrate and destroy the world’s intelligence agencies. The PCs know too much about this, even if they don’t believe the truth, and hence find themselves on the run from somewhat sympathetic vampires from the future. Who still want to pulp them and take nourishment from their juices.


Sixty Winters Cover_reduced

Worm of Sixty Winters is a full-length campaign for The Esoterrorists. It works as a stand alone adventure, or as the conclusion of Albion’s Ransom: Little Girl Lost.

An Esoterrorist weather control ritual has brought sudden blizzards and extreme temperatures to an unsuspecting England. This they hope will be the first stage of the Fimbulvetr of Norse mythology – a dreadful winter that lasts three full years and heralds Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse.

You are the American team – brought in as experts in your field – that failed to stop that ritual.

Now only you can prevent the Esoterrorists from causing irreparable damage to the Membrane. In a hazardous chase across a snow-covered Britain, facing sinister cultists, terrifying bikers and ordinary people taking desperate measures to survive the extraordinary circumstances, you must use all your resourcefulness just to carry on.

Featuring additional adventure seeds by Matthew Sanderson which focus on individual tales of horror to personalise the impact of Britain under snow, Worms of Sixty Winters allows your players to fully experience the breakdown of society in the Esoterrorists’ greatest threat to the Membrane.

Given one final chance to make things right, can you prevent the Esoterrorist plot to unleash Fimbulvetr?

Stock #: PELG013 Author: Ian Sturrock with Matthew Sanderson
Artist: Claude Bernier-Tremblay & Jérôme Huguenin Pages: 80pg Perfect Bound

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See P. XX

A column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

SRD or SDD?

logogumshoe

Cover_Final_TitlesWith editorial for Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow completed, it’s time to take a break from DramaSystem to work on another of the obligations arising from our November Kickstarter. That would be the System Reference Document for Open GUMSHOE.

On one level, this seems like an exercise in cutting and pasting, taking the basic iteration of the rules as found in the upcoming Esoterrorists Enhanced Edition (the text of which you can grab now as a preorder benefit), cutting out the setting-specific bits and then adding in elements from the other GUMSHOE games. It does however require some thought on what an SRD ought to be doing.

When you decide to throw a game system open to all comers, you naturally give up control over what happens to it as others present it for their own creative purposes. This is a concern because GUMSHOE departs from some standard assumptions and becomes a better play experience when GMs and players understand where, how and why it does this.

For example, rating points in abilities mostly don’t represent a simulated resource in the fictional world. Instead they function as a sort of narrative conceit, measuring the characters’ spotlight time and how they grab it. (A few abilities, like Health and Stability, can be regarded as measurable resources in the game reality—although of course they’re still an abstraction. When you break your leg, you can’t consult a numbered meter to see how many points you’ve lost.) GUMSHOE seems confusing to some players until they grasp this. This explanation, though not a rule, strictly speaking, serves as a key tool to enhance play. So while you might categorize it as GM advice or a player note, it’s really a pivotal component of the game. As such, the explanatory text should be available to anyone publishing their own GUMSHOE adaptation. We can’t require adopters of the license to use it—as indeed, we can’t force them to make any particular choice. We call this Open GUMSHOE, not Passive Aggressively Controlling GUMSHOE. Still, we can encourage people to include it by making it part of the standard boilerplate text in the document.

This reflects a broader priority. We’ve chosen to make GUMSHOE available to other designers. Yet we remain its foremost custodians. If we’re going to let it out of the nest like this, we’d better provide excellent care and feeding instructions. We want others not only to produce GUMSHOE games, but to design great GUMSHOE games. It should therefore contain at least some guidance on how to do this.

The GUMSHOE SRD differs from the most famous versions of its breed, the D20 and its descendant, the Pathfinder document, in that it won’t also comprise a playable game unto itself. It’s not The Esoterrorists with the IP elements scrubbed out, but rather the set of components you need to build your new game on the GUMSHOE chassis.

If you’re designing a GUMSHOE game, we want you to be able to do it well. So it has to contain at least some signposting showing you how to adapt it to your needs.nba cover

For example, the build point totals for purchasing investigative ratings vary with each iteration of the game, depending on how many of those abilities the game includes. So the SRD can’t just give you the flat numbers as they appear in The Esoterrorists or Ashen Stars or whatever, because you might include a different number of investigative abilities in your GUMSHOE game. The document has to break from the text as third-party publishers might incorporate it into their rulebooks to provide the formula to calculate what the build point totals should be.

At least in these passages, the System Reference Document becomes something else—a System Design Document. We’ve gone from SRD to SDD.

 

Extensive passages on how to design GUMSHOE games go beyond the scope of the project. That sort of thing is better saved for occasional columns like this one. But the SRD does have to provide designers with the basic tools to construct GUMSHOE games without having to reverse engineer from the existing books. A balance must be struck here. If the document contains too much advice, it might create preconceptions that might lead other designers away from what would otherwise be brilliant leaps away from the game’s current assumptions. Too little, and it doesn’t give them enough to simply reproduce what we’ve already established in another setting.

GUMSHOE is not a generic system, but a chassis on which you can construct an emulation of any investigative Trail Covergenre. For a classic example, see the grenade. Grenades in the real world work the same regardless of the context in which they’re exploded. In fiction, they can work quite differently, depending on the reality level of the genre at hand. So in the Tom Clancy-meets-postmodernism-meets-visceral horror mix of The Esoterrorists, grenades are pretty deadly. Mutant City Blues treats them as less effective than the super powers at the heart of that setting. If you for some inexplicable reason decided to fuse high energy action movies with investigation, you might make yet a third choice, depicting them as wildly damaging to property and inanimate objects, while allowing people to escape harm from them simply by jumping and being carried away by the massive fiery explosions they generate.

So again the SRD can’t just pick one grenade rule and make that the default for all genres. It has to provide a quick design note about genre emulation and point you toward the solution that works for your design goals.

Likewise we won’t be providing a complete list of mutant powers from MCB or virology implants from Ashen Stars. But we will give you examples of each special rule structure so you can then kitbash it for your own purposes.

In the process I might even learn something new about my own game, as I figure out what is and isn’t essential to it.

The GUMSHOE system by Robin D. Laws revolutionized the investigative roleplaying game, and is the basis for RPGs that will appeal to fans of many genres: space opera, spy thriller, Lovecraftian horror and two-fisted pulp adventure — with more to come.

Its central premise, though, can be challenging for newcomers to wrap their heads around. What do you mean investigative skills automatically work? If we don’t roll dice to find clues, what do we do?

One of the best ways to introduce new players to GUMSHOE is to run one of our 20-minute GUMSHOE demo adventures for them. These scenarios have been tested through convention play, and provide a solid intro to the rules as well as to individual games based on the system. If you are running something else with your game group, 20 minutes isn’t a hard sell to run at the beginning of a session.

Currently you can download three short GUMSHOE demos:

20-minute demos for Esoterrorists, Fear Itself and Mutant City Blues will be up next. Give these scenarios a try, and let us know how your session went in the forum.

Halloween is drawing near, and you might be looking for appropriately spooky games to run for your players. Here’s a quick roundup of seven Pelgrane Press games and adventures that might fit the bill:

  • Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite - The designer of this mashup of the spy thriller and horror genres describes it as “The Bourne Identity, if Treadstone were vampires.” The Zalozhniy Quartet by Gareth Hanrahan is a Bourne-style Night’s Black Agents run-and-gun adventure in four parts that can be played in any order.
  • Ashen Stars by Robin D. Laws  - An ENnie Award-winning science fiction game where the players are freelance troubleshooters and law enforcers in a rough sector called the Bleed. Tartarus is an adventure with a setup that strongly resembles a sequel to a recent SF/horror blockbuster movie: an interstellar corporation hires the players to investigate the disappearance of a survey team  on the notorious Bad Planet of Tartarus.
  • The Book of the Smoke: The Investigator’s Guide to Occult London by Paula Dempsey - 2012 Gold ENnie award winner for Best Writing, this supplement to the horror RPG Trail of Cthulhu takes the form of a guidebook to the actual (if somewhat fictionalized) occult landscape of 1930s London. In addition to being a rich source of horror adventure hooks, the book itself gives readers an opportunity to unravel the mysterious death of its fictional author — though nobody’s succeeded yet.
  • Fear Itself -  A game of psychological horror, where ordinary people face the terrors of the Outer Black.
  • The Esoterrorists - Elite investigators take on occult terrorists bent on tearing open the fabric of reality.
  • The Book of Unremitting Horror  - A supplement for Fear Itself and Esoterrorists that’s so unsettling a reviewer on RPG.net deducted a star from his rating because it crossed too many boundaries. Not for the faint of heart.
  • Invasive Procedures – 2012 ENnie nominee for Best Adventure. In this adventure for Fear Itself and Trail of Cthulhu, players are patients in a hospital where something horrible is happening. There’s no chance to stop it — all they can do is try to get out alive. Listen to an Actual Play session on Role Playing Public Radio in which everyone who played the game died of terror. (Possibly. I haven’t listened to the whole thing, yet.)

Have fun rolling the bones…

Steve Dempsey has done it again! Kill Them and Take Their Stuff is a 15 minute Esoterrorists demo perfect for conventions and to give your players a taste of horror, GUMSHOE style.

Esoterrorists Demo

You can download the PDF here.

Esoterror_summoning_cover_350The Esoterror threat is growing. The membrane is thinning. Eradicating the threat did not work. Surpressing the threat is failing. The next step is Containment. We will have to create quarantine zones of areas of high supernatural presence and designate safe zones for habitation. Using force against the Esoterrorists has not worked. We must understand them and their methods in order to defeat them. We must know what they know. Then we can defeat them.

This document is the first step toward that. It discusses the wall between our reality and the Outer Dark, how it is measured, how it can be injured and repaired, and speculates about its nature and purpose. The summoning techniques the Esoterrorists use and how we, the Ordo Veritatis, can counter these actions. There is also a section on how to deal with Outer Dark Entities after they have manifested. Direct contact with ODE’s is not recommended if any other options exist.

The Esoterror Summoning Guide by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is a supplement for The Esoterrorists. It also includes a short adventure based upon the material presented.

Stock #: PELG014D Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artist: Phil Reeves, Jeff Porter Pages: 44 page PDF

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By Matthew Sanderson

In the Aftermath of an Esoterrorist Generated Catastrophe

Introduction

The Ordo Veritatis would like to believe they continue to have the upper hand in their struggle against the Esoterrorist movement. However, in the upper echelon of the organization, there exists the seed of doubt.

What would happen if the tables were turned and the Esoterrorists grew too powerful? What would happen if the Membrane finally broke down completely and objective and subjective reality collide head on? Control has been generating scenarios and contingency planning for years. Without knowing the nature of how the catastrophe develops, all the end results are also uncertain. The only hard fact that they can agree on though is that the Ordo Veritatis will have failed.

When the Membrane Shatters details just one of the potential ways the catastrophe could occur and what happens in the aftermath. The Ordo Veritatis hopes it will never happen, but they have to be ready in the event that failure becomes a very real possibility.

Setting the Stage

Ultimately, with the vast resources the Ordo Veritatis has at its disposal, there is very little chance that they would be able to miss the event that brings about the beginning of the end. Events would play out right in front of their eyes, for them and the rest of the world to watch, rather than taking place hidden away behind closed doors. What would ultimately seal their fate though is overwhelming opposition that even they can not stand up against or a plan so airtight that the Ordo Veritatis have no move left open to them that they can use to thwart their adversaries with.

The Esoterrorists, and the Ordo Veritatis for that matter, have long been of the opinion that if the Great Project is to be realized, a global unified strike at the very fabric of the Membrane has to be made. Potentially, it could be something that takes place over numerous locations across the globe, performed in such a way that the surrounding and overwhelming influence of objective reality doesn’t seal these minor breaches quickly as would normally happen. However, this is of a low probability in the Ordo Veritatis’s projections, due the fact that no single Esoterrorist cell would have the resources to pull something like that off. Likewise, the number of cells that would need to work together to perform something of this scale is something that goes against normal autonomy of each cell.

More likely, given current projections, is that an event that takes place at one location and then has global reaching consequences. In the last few decades, the ever-present eye of the media makes analysts believe this will be the medium by which the spread of the Membrane damage is carried worldwide. Thus, large televised events always worry Control now. The post 9/11 changes in the media influenced by the movement could well just have been the first step in a larger plan to bring this about.

Rather than cause an event that would have global news coverage, it is more likely that the Esoterrorist movement would try to jump on known proceedings to then get the chance to broadcast their activities through the watching media. It’s little surprise then that the Ordo Veritatis always becomes a little more on edge around the time the Olympics come around and dispatch multiple teams to keep an eye on proceedings.

Exactly what nature their broadcast might take is also a matter of speculation. A mass ritual hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s something that would take a great deal of time and setup amidst the proceeding events so would be incredibly hard (but not impossible) to perform without interruption. Many analysts suspect that the movement may employ the services of a being they call forth from the Outer Dark that could use their power to affect all those watching the broadcast, and thus create the resonance of the event globally. Thankfully, there have been reported examples of such a creature being made manifest that could perform such a task.

Reality Unravels

Without the Membrane to stop objective and subjective reality colliding, chaos would reign on Earth. The Esoterrorists may well have achieved their ultimate goal, but it would be at tremendous cost, bordering on omnicide. Projections as to what could happen range from anything between the complete destruction of both realities, akin to an anti-matter and matter collision, to a complete subjugation of one more powerful reality over the other. The following presents an option somewhere in the middle of the threat assessment, a merging of both dominions that would ultimately lead to a large part of civilization as we know it being wiped off the face of the Earth.

Subjective reality’s inhabitants and surroundings are defined by those around it. When it breaks through into the objective realm, the beings there (us) would be unconsciously changing everything around us to our own perceptions. One person in an isolated environment would create little damage to their surroundings, unless they were perhaps an Esoterrorist, at which point they could use it to whatever ends they so wished. However, as the number of people increases, the strain on reality being pulled in so many different directions also increases.

Theory has is it that there is a critical mass before the very fabric of reality finally gives way and begins to unravel completely. Thus, the most likely places for this to happen would be the major centers of population. Damage in each city would increase almost exponentially as local inhabitants witness the changes happening around them, only to have their fear and panic create even greater changes on an instinctive and unconsciously level. Like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, this progressively becomes larger and larger, that combined with the overall population of the area then hits critical mass.

Estimations of how long it takes after the Membrane shatters before reality breaks down completely in these locations vary from minutes to hours, but consensus has it that within 24 hours of the initial breakthrough the majority of the damage will have been caused. Major cities worldwide will become cyclones of raw chaos, as what it left there is constantly being torn apart and changed, assuming that they don’t just vanish entirely or leave a break in the world similar to a black hole that swallows everything following critical mass being reached. The ‘surface tension’ of what is left of subjective reality would ensure that these areas don’t extend beyond a certain point, as long as they are devoid of any external influencing presence to cause them to extend any further.

As a result, the theory is that only smaller pockets of society would remain. As these groups of survivors slowly start to band together, a certain percentage may well reach critical mass again and bring about further damage to their surroundings. This second wave disasters should make the reason for these events obvious rather than people presuming initially (as is expected) that cities have perhaps been deliberately targeted, such as in the scenario of a nuclear attack.

As to what percentage of the surviving population is eliminated in this second wave would depend on the number or population density required to hit critical mass. There is a definite likelihood though that a great many of those that remain would also be destroyed by the denizens of the subjective realm that come through once the Membrane has shattered. These creatures of unremitting horror in their ‘natural’ environment (or as close as the merging of the two realities would permit) would still likely be as hostile, if not more so, to those of us they encountered that survived. For a number of reasons, from instinct to the desire of destroying the invader, analysts see no reason why they would react in any way other than with hostile intent.

With the world constantly shifting around them, the survivors would be besieged on all fronts by creatures of their worst nightmares (not to mention the fear that seeing these beings would generate, and the changes that it would then cascade into making around them, etc.). They would walk a fine line between holding onto the memory of the world they knew, which they use to define their surroundings, and falling into primal, ever-changing chaos.

Esoterrorist Survivors and their Reactions

The Esoterrorist movement, following the shattering of the Membrane will be a very different entity than the Ordo Veritatis currently knows it. Projections estimate that the vast majority of the movement currently operates within major population centers. Thus, since these areas are quickly destroyed as per the above hypothesis, world-wide numbers would be cut dramatically. However, those that are left behind would be considerably more dangerous than ever before.

Whilst the mundane ‘grunts’, the small cogs in the operation of the movement, would be guaranteed casualties if caught in the major cities, a small percentage of the movement might be able to pull themselves through towards safety. These would most likely be the most gifted summoners and practitioners of the movement, individuals with the will to shape reality around them so that it is completely under their control. These, like the members of the movement outside of the cities who would soon come to realize their new-found power, would command a power previously reserved for the likes of God. These few would be the ones to reap the rewards of the Great Project.

Exactly how these individuals will act once they have obtained such power is a matter of debate. Given how Esoterrorist cells have been known to work at odds up until now, there’s no reason why such ideological differences will remain once the Membrane shatters.  As such, surviving members of the movement may take the chance to wipe out rivals.

Other likely responses are that those who seek to obtain power do so in order to be able to use it over others. They may well attempt to take control of a given pocket of civilian survivors, establishing their own little empire as a God King at the pinnacle of their society. In such groups, great efforts will probably be taken to minimize the chance of adept subjects being able to grasp the secret to controlling the world around them. Any individual showing the potential to consciously change the world would be a threat to the Esoterrorist and thus be eliminated. These are not people that willingly want to share power, so removing it secures their own monopoly and serves to rule the remaining ‘subjects’ in a state of fear.

At the other end of the scale, Psychiatric Metrics have proposed what the impact of the world-changing events of the Membrane shattering would have upon the typical survivors psyche, whether members of the movement or not. One of the major lures to the Esoterrorist cause is the thought of being able to command unlimited power, but people picture this power being in the context of the world they know. They picture it being able to command the people, the places that they see every day, walking as a God amongst men. However, take that world away and they do they actually want this power anymore? They might be akin to a God, but they still reign in Hell.

By this time though, there’s no going back. They can’t undo what they’ve done. The fear is that some of these members of the movement who feel that fate has cheated them of their reward would opt for total annihilation. Some might well decide to quietly take their own lives, if they are in isolated enough locales to believe they are all that is left of the world. Others might well seek to bring about the end of what is left of the world with their power.

If they were successful in this endeavor (either as individuals or as a group that came to work together towards the same goal), projections suggest a number of possible outcomes. At the low end of the scale, representing the least favorable outcome is the complete unraveling of reality. What would previously have been confined to major population areas becomes the norm throughout the rest of the world. Like a wave of chaos that would wash over the land, every last shred of existence would be reduced to raw, ever-changing chaos forever.

At the high end of the scale, representing a more hopeful (albeit still bleak outcome for the survivors) is the theory that as the last of the influence of objective reality gives way to the subjective, it triggers a universal reset, built into the fabric of reality. As has been described in many papers on the nature of the Membrane, the universe is modeled in a way resembling the Yin and Yang. When the merger between both black and white is complete, and all that remains is gray, the hope is that something akin to the reaction of matter colliding with anti-matter occurs. The two, in complete contact, cancel each other out or repel from each other again.

It’s universally agreed that no-one would be likely to survive such an event. However the more philosophically minded members of the Ordo Veritatis wonder if such an event, if it is actually what happens should events lead to this point, would be an explanation of what the Big Bang really was. Many nights have been spent wondering if that’s the case, how many times has this happened before, with the world being made, destroyed and remade in a cycle lasting billions of years at a time. Likewise, if it has happened before, is it only a matter of time before it happens again, one way or another?

Civilian Survivors and their Reactions

Psychiatric Metrics have run a series of projections in the attempt to predict what the outcome of the catastrophe would be upon the surviving civilian population. Unlike the normal psychological impact of a natural disaster, where the survivors have lost their homes, all their worldly possessions, those that survive the Membrane’s destruction will have lost their entire world. Nothing will be as it used to be. There’s no hope of running away to their favourite holiday spot to hold on to a distant memory of better times, there’s very chance that running away to their relatives (especially if they lived in the cities) will provide them with the reinforcement of memory they are looking for. Everything has changed, and that will have a pronounced psychological impact on many of the survivors.

At best, people would become hardened to events around them when they believe that they don’t have the ability to control their situation. The vast majority of the civilian population doesn’t accept the fact that “magic”, as they put it, is possible. They won’t make a conscious effort to change it, because either they don’t believe it is possible, or those who suspect they might know how it works might not dare to given what they would have heard of happening in the major cities, and perhaps when larger groups of survivors came together. Their collective fear and acceptance of the situation around them puts them all in a single frame of reference and their subconscious manipulation of subjective reality acts in harmony with those around them to create the impression of a stable world around them. However, compare it to another survivor camp elsewhere, who’s perceptions are somewhat slightly different and witnesses will be able to see that there’s still changes at work.

Without knowing the critical mass needed to breakdown the fabric of reality in a given location, the exact numbers in which survivors will gather is unlikely. Many would initially try to head to the cities for help, being the centers for major resources and government. Finding these options removed, they might head towards major towns, leading to the second wave of breakdowns as describes above. From there, it’s guessed that people would retreat to isolated locations, small villages and very small towns. Each individual settlement would have to become self-reliant and provide for it’s own, so likely to become very territorial and promote a certain degree of hostility towards outsiders after a certain population number have been reached. The thought of adding one more person to the pot, putting more strain on already limited resources, might not be one that people are willing to accept. In a way, it would become a very feudal-esque society, comprised of a smaller version of individual city-states, but instead on a town-sized level.

Communication with other settlements will likely be minimal at best. If any form of technological communications remain working, it’s most likely going to be by radio. Phones with their lines and exchanges being wiped out in so many areas would be unlikely to work, so radio is the only other viable option left. Those with access to wind-up sets would be able to solve the problem of finding power to run such equipment, but such sets typically only receive rather than transmit. In the case of normal equipment being at hand, the need for electricity is going to be readily apparent.

Electricity would have to be generated from local sources, unless power plants that normally would have provided given locations remain intact. It’s only estimated these stations would remain online for a day or so at best following the initial catastrophe before they shut themselves down due to the lack of human attendance to oversee them and fail-safes activate to prevent problems. Generators are the only other viable option, which then in turn puts an even higher premium on fuel used to run them. Fuel and food would, as a result, become the two most precious resources left within a community.

Another concern that Psychiatric Metrics have risen to Control is that people in such a scenario are likely to be looking for people to blame for the catastrophe. Something like this should have been prevented by the authorities, they should have seen it coming… who knows, it might even be the result of some secret conspiracy that the government have been hiding for years. As such, the civilian population is likely to hold a distinct level of distrust and antagonism towards what is left of any former authority figure. Government officials, military, intelligence operatives… anyone that they can feasible argue as being responsible for the catastrophe being allowed to happen will become targets.

If any members of the Esoterrorist movement decided to jump on this bandwagon, and direct the hate anywhere, they might try to pin the blame squarely on the remains of the Ordo Veritatis itself. The organization dedicated to protecting their interests would be branded those that directly failed and allowed this to happen. For the surviving Esoterrorists, it gives them a direction to channel the civilian’s hatred towards, giving them a lever by which to control the masses, and removes any of the last real opposition that would stand in their way of total control.

This means that Ordo Veritatis agents are going to have to walk a very careful line in their actions with civilian survivors, should this tactic be deployed, given many of the operatives come from fields that would also be targeted with blame normally anyway (government, law enforcement, etc.).

Operative Protocols

If this given scenario did in fact take place, and with the threat potential identified above, a series of standing orders would be left with Ordo Veritatis operatives world-wide. The destruction of the cities would decimate the organization as much as the civilian world and the Esoterrorists alike. Stations or cells working in small or isolated locations would considerably safer from the immediate fallout.

Safe houses and field operations centers would become designated meeting points, where in the event of the catastrophe the operatives would fall back to in order to regroup, gather resources and plan the next course of action.

Once the operatives are secure, getting an idea of the lay of the land is next on the priority list. In order to function to the best of their abilities, they need to know what’s happening in the immediate vicinity. This means: intelligence gathering to find pockets of civilian survivors; assessing the damage to the area if any large settlements are nearby; locating large concentrations of creatures that have come through from subjective reality.

Once this is complete, defenses need to be established to protect against creatures of unremitting horror that wander the land. Whereas in their raw form, in subjective reality, these beings would have been purely conceptual, in the objective world, with the barriers removed, they will be forced to take at least a partial physical form. As such, they will be clearly identifiable for human survivors. Standing orders have it that any such being encountered should be terminated with extreme prejudice to ensure the safety of the population as a whole. Given the lack of the Membrane at this point, any previous damage that such acts would have caused should be fairly minimal (i.e. no more than what changes could normally be provoked by normal action in the world after the catastrophe at least).

Hopefully after cleansing the area of immediate threats, the last remaining order of business would be to remove the last traces of the Esoterrorist threat. These individuals represent a threat of an order magnitude many times higher than previously faced. As such, extreme caution as well as extreme prejudice is instructed. With the power of Gods potentially at their command, mundane methods of dispatch will almost certainly not be enough any more. Observation, intelligence gathering and establishing any known weakness of these threats is critical to success.

Dispatching the remaining Esoterrorist threat, especially if they have gained control of a substantial number of civilian survivors, could well cause a backlash from any that find out about it. Think what would logically happen if someone stands up and accuses the organization as being responsible for the catastrophe, then they end up dead at the hands of someone who is later found to have worked for the government or the organization itself. It’s not a pretty picture that would be painted for the culprit.

Ongoing Operations

If this final chapter in the struggle against the movement is successful, admitted on a local level, but replicated across the world in other pockets where the Ordo Veritatis remains, then the longest job of all begins: survival and rebuilding society as best they can. Amidst the ashes of what it left of society, there must still be hope, so setting about rebuilding what the survivors knew as the world is paramount.

The Ordo Veritatis can’t allow the human race to slide back into the Dark Ages as a result of the catastrophe. With their guidance, helping humanity to rebuild, one step at a time, they might be able to keep the human spirit alive. It may well be a terrifying, bleak place to live for generations, but with the hope that the human race might eventually regain what will have lost, it doesn’t have to be the end.

As a final closing thought, there is a hope amongst the analysts that after a given period of time, when humanity finally develops and understands the world that they now inhabit, that their collective subconscious might help to create a new Membrane to part the realities once more. If in these dark days, if all hope seems lost, clinging onto this thought might well be the difference between carrying on and falling into chaos.

Until then, Control simply hopes that this is just a potential of what could happen, and not what will happen. Nothing more.

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News of an Esoterror bioscience expedition sends the investigators on a jaunt to the Brazilian rain forest, where they encounter the usual horrors of nature at its most fecund and ferocious.

After a red-herring encounter with corporate forces intent on leveling the rainforest for beef production, they catch up with their quarry and find them studying fungal infections that turn ants into zombies. They discover a fungal formulation, manipulated by an Outer Dark Entity able to change organisms on the DNA, that will launch a human zombie plague. It can’t induce a global extinction event, but it can certainly spawn enough panic to thin the membrane between realities worldwide.

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