Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Not Quite Review Corner: The Dracula Dossier (Night's Black Agents)

I backed this Kickstarter to physical copy level, but the copies have yet to arrive, so this review is based on the .pdfs alone.

If Ken Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan are, at this moment, incarcerated in rooms with very soft furnishings, and only given crayons to write with, the Dracula Dossier is the cause. This improvisational Night's Black Agents campaign setting, complete with the unredacted print copy of Stoker's first edition Dracula and a massive Director's Handbook, is beyond huge. It's one thing to write up Stoker's Dracula with little 'Dracula's a great big meanie' notes in the margins; after all, Stoker's done the heavy lifting there. It's something else altogether to take that text, all those marginal notes, and a hundred other things besides, turning it all into a 364-page document complete with supporting characters, locations, rival agencies, and Dracula's many possible conspyramids and plots. I'll give you my conclusion right up front: if you have any interest in the Night's Black Agents setting whatsoever, this is a must-buy.

The unredacted copy of Stoker's Dracula is as complete as any vampire aficionado could wish for. By complete, I mean it includes absolutely everything, including appearances from Kate Reed, curious journalist who some of you may recall from Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series; Inspector Cotford, unlucky official investigator into the De Ville menace; and Francis Aytown, damned artist and photographer who stumbles into horror and cannot stumble out again. All these characters were part of Stoker's original concept but, for one reason or another, were removed from the final text. An author's caprice, or the hidden machinations of a government agency determined to hide the truth?

Interspersed with the text are notes from previous owners of the book, who used it as a guide when carrying out their own vampire investigations. Some of these notes may contain vital clues, while others may be false leads, mistakes or other red herrings. Which is which? That's for you to find out, but bear in mind that every last one of those notes, no matter how trivial they may seem, has an explanation written down in the Director's Handbook. In fact, they have more than one ...

Hence my not-entirely joking quip at the beginning of this screed. Just as an exercise in collating data, never mind the purpose, this thing is a massive undertaking. If you're any kind of student of Stoker, you'll find layer upon layer of meaning here, and each layer translates to yet another node, or character, location, item, plot thread. Imagine trying to put all that together, yourself. Then be grateful someone else did it for you.

The Handbook takes all that information and runs wild with it. Sixty four different supporting characters, half a dozen detailed vampire-hunting official agencies, locations galore, sinister side plots, hideous monsters like Erzabet Bathory, Lilith and Count Orlok, Nodes glorious Nodes, side trips to Hong Kong, Argentina and elsewhere, random establishing shots, objects mystical and mundane, four detailed capstones, plus ... but you get the idea. There's a whole lot of plus going on.

What makes this unique is that each and every one of those possible locations, nodes, characters, items and so on are discussed in several different ways. First, if the thing in question has no immediate link to the Conspiracy one way or the other. Second, if it is an asset, belonging to one of the spy agencies tasked with finding and recruiting, or killing, vampires. Third, if it has fallen to Dracula, and is now part of his Conspyramid. If it's an item or a location, then the text may also discuss options, such as is it genuine, is it a major or minor item, is it a fake? Is this location Hot, as in a really important place, or Cold?

Should you go to Carfax, for example, there are several different ways the Director could play it, many different items or supporting characters you might find there, and many different consequences. What this means in play is that the characters can never be sure what they're going to discover, nor can they take anything for granted. It also means that the Director can play this several times, maybe with the same group, and it will never play out the same way twice.

Which leads me straight to my only caveat: this probably isn't suitable for neophyte Directors.

It's not that it isn't great. It so very much is, but there's so much going on here that, if you haven't got a few years under your belt, you may find it intimidating. Its improvisational nature means that it lacks the structure a new Director may need to get going.

Let me compare it, for a moment, to Horror on the Orient Express, and say why I'd recommend the latest edition of Horror to new Keepers.

Horror is huge. There's tons of things to do, a mountain of stuff to read, and at first glance it seems intimidating. However it has solid internal structure; the Keeper always knows where the campaign is, in the narrative, and can easily determine what's going to happen next. The latest edition in particular is very newbie-friendly, and while there's a lot to absorb, it's not impossible to digest. It would definitely be a challenge for a new Keeper, but it would be a challenge that could be overcome.

I'm not sure the same could be said for the Dossier. Its improvisational nature - which I endorse and enjoy very much - and the metric ton of stuff in it, means that it's very easy to get lost in its labyrinthine innards. For a Director who's had a few years of gaming, this will not be a problem. However as someone who indulges in improv theater from time to time, I can tell you that confidence is key. As an actor, even if you're playing a weak character, you need to be utterly confident in yourself and your ability to play a weak character. That's the only way to convince, and entertain, your audience.

I wonder whether a new Director would be confident enough to pull this off. Or whether one mistake - and there's really no such thing as a mistake in improv, but try telling a new actor that - will lead to two, and then more, as the Director gets more and more nervous.

That is my only caveat, and to be honest, I'd recommend a new Director buy this even if that Director never plays it as written. It's a masterclass in how the game is constructed, and how it can be played.

At the moment it's not available, but Pelgrane lists it as Printing, which means it should be on sale very soon. Meanwhile, let me offer my personal thanks, not to the authors - though they deserve every plaudit - but to my fellow Kickstarter backers. Thanks to your funding, something wonderful has been created.

Now let's make our players' lives a vampire-haunted misery!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Skulls, Nosferatu, and Film Legend: Murnau's Skull (Night's Black Agents)

By now many of you will have heard that legendary silent film director F.W. Murnau's skull has been stolen from its resting place in Stahnsdorf, Germany. 'Satanists' have been blamed, which is a convenient short form for 'half-witted jackass.'

Murnau, director of such classics as Nosferatu, Faust, The Last Laugh and The Haunted Castle, was one of the preeminent figures of the German Expressionist film movement. Though he worked until his death in a car accident in 1931, producing over twenty features, Nosferatu, made in 1922, is by far his best remembered film.

Based on Dracula, but made without seeking permission from Stoker's widow, Nosferatu achieved notoriety thanks to the eerie, and rather ghoulish portrayal of the vampire, Orlok, by Max Schreck. Schreck, an actor more familiar with comic roles, managed to create a vivid, otherworldly vampire in Orlok, one that stuck in the public imagination long after the film was burnt by the widow Stoker for copyright infringement. Though most copies went to the bonfire, a version survived, smuggled and passed on by generations of film buffs and collectors.

The company that made Nosferatu, Prana Films, did not survive Stoker's holocaust. However Murnau was made of tougher stuff. In the war, he'd fought as a pilot, surviving eight crashes; what was a mere financial setback compared to that? He went across the water to start a new career in Hollywood, becoming one of the first recipients of the then newly-created Oscars, for his 1927 film Sunrise, often hailed by critics as the greatest film of all time. His early death in 1931 robbed us of a great talent.

As far as the robbery goes, the police have yet to recover the skull. Droplets of wax at the site have led to speculation that the skull was stolen for ritual purposes. Frankly, this is rubbish. Possibly it was stolen by would-be occultists, but as a rule, skulls aren't particularly useful in ritual magic. However they make excellent set dressing, so it's entirely possible that someone with a flair for the dramatic decided that Murnau's skull would make an excellent adornment for whatever it might be they have planned. Mind you, that could apply as equally to a death metal band as to spotty teenage Satanists. Incidentally, without scientific examination one skull looks very much like another to the untrained observer; I would expect a few Murnau fakes to turn up, over time.

Regular readers will recall that this isn't the first time skulls have come up. However the missing skull in that instance was probably stolen by phrenologists hoping to learn more from the shape and bumps on the skull, and phrenology has long been exploded as a pseudoscience.

All that said, who in the Night's Black Agents world would want Murnau's skull, and to what purpose?

A collector might want it, someone with a love of early silent cinema. Owning a piece of Murnau would be like catnip for a truly deranged completist. Expect the lair of someone such as this to be full of movie memorabilia, from posters to autographs to original prints. Perhaps several of Murnau's lost films, like Four Devils, could be found in this person's vaults. This role could as easily suit a Renfield, or a mortal, as one of the Undead. As a twist, perhaps the ultimate collector is insulted that someone else stole Murnau's skull, and is out for revenge.

A necromancer might want it, to summon up the ghost of Murnau himself. This might be done to learn more about the silent film era, or about Nosferatu itself. Perhaps this person thinks that Schreck wasn't the main actor at all; it's long been rumored that Nosferatu was played by an actual vampire. A vampire hunter might see this as a means of tracking down prey he's been seeking for a very long time. An alternate version would have a necromantic film lover put the whole gang back together, all the cast and as many crew as can be unearthed.


  • Perhaps a would-be vampire hunter thinks that dust from Murnau's bones would make a great bane, for a certain kind of vampire. 
  • The Conspiracy may have found a way to resurrect the dead, and one of them thinks that Murnau would make an excellent subject. 
  • Someone hoping to please a Conspiracy asset may have dug it up as the ultimate gift for her beloved. 
  • Perhaps Murnau himself became a vampire, and his early death was a cover; if his secret's been discovered, someone might have dug down to see what really is hidden in Murnau's grave. 
  • Perhaps the ghost - or the something else - of Greta Garbo decided to unearth it, to make a companion piece with the Murnau death mask that Garbo kept with her. 
  • Ordinary would-be occultists, or kids, dug it up, and now they're the target of a very annoyed Conspiracy asset who doesn't like having his idol's grave disturbed.
That's it for now. Enjoy!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Sand and Conflict Antiquities (Night's Black Agents)

So how does the Conspiracy get its money, anyway? It takes vast sums of cold hard cash to keep those combat choppers and armies of mooks on the payroll. Not every vampire is like that ultimate trustafarian, Dracula, with stacks of gold bullion stashed away in the dusty caverns under daddy's castle. Some of them have to work for a living; but what do they do, and what kind of payout can they expect?

I'm going to discuss two possibilities here, both ripped from the headlines: sand smuggling, and conflict antiquities.

Conflict antiquities is a topic that's been in the news frequently of late, due to its links with Isis, and the conflict in Syria. Briefly, in conflict zones organized bands of looters strip antiquities sites of anything valuable and portable, sending it to the antique shops of Europe for a quick buck. The process is helped by the traditional, mercenary attitude of collectors and dealers, a characteristic that has provided fiction with many memorable antiheroes. Most dealers don't inquire too closely into the antecedents of the items they sell, and the collectors care even less than the dealers. At the moment, profits from the trade are funding terrorist groups, but in the past it's kept many a crime lord and would-be dictator for life in clover.

Incidentally, in case you were about to argue that at least the antiques are saved for posterity, rather than destroyed, it's worth bearing in mind that the profits from each 'saved' antique go to fund the activities of the same people determined to destroy those same antiquity sites.

Religious fanaticism won't be denied, but even the fanatics are willing to bend a point to keep the movement in funds. The money's too good to resist; items flow from the conflict zone to nearby intermediary markets in, say, Turkey, before making its way to the West. It's organized looting on a massive scale. "Every day we are getting calls about Syrian gold, Syrian mosaics, Syrian statues," says one antiquities dealer. "Damascus is being sold right here in Amman, piece by piece."

Arguably the Conspiracy has a slight advantage over the ordinary looter, in that some of its members may be old enough to remember where all the best antiquities sites are. In any case, wherever the Vampires fit in the chain, it's a cinch that they're making a mint. The interesting thing about a chronicle of this type is that you can set the scene nearly anywhere, from a Middle Eastern marketplace to an oh-so-exclusive antiquities dealer in, say, Rome, or Bonn, or London. You're probably talking about several Nodes worth of the Conspyramid, from the original looters out on the sharp end, to the people organizing transport, to the vendors, and possibly also one or two of the more highly-placed collectors.

Now we've talked about that, let's talk about sand.

It's big business. Everybody needs it, and there isn't enough of it. Construction, manufacturing, technological development; it all comes, ultimately, from sand dredged up from river beds and beaches. Fresh water sand is best; you don't want to be fighting salt corrosion from sand impregnated with the stuff. Desert sand's no good, as you need it to have those rough edges, allowing it to bind together.

Ecologically this is frequently a nightmare scenario.Wisconsin's sand rush is not without its cost. "Your clothes are full of it, you can’t roll your car windows down," says one Wisconsin native, living near the Oakdale sand mines. "The breathing part of it isn’t good. You can just feel it in your throat, feel it in your nose." But that's in the United States, where you can, occasionally, oppose an industrial development on environmental grounds. Places like India, on the other hand, where there are few rules and little will to enforce them, are another question entirely. There are over a dozen nations heavily involved in illicit sand mining, and again, there are indications that profits from these scams flow back to, among others, terrorist groups.

From a Conspiracy perspective, sand lacks the sexiness of antiquities smuggling, but it's a lethal trade, worth a fortune, and might appeal to technologically-proficient vampires looking for raw materials to build their sinister devices. Or who just want to build a city in the middle of nowhere. Construction materials aren't cheap, after all.

As with antiquities, the most useful element of sand smuggling is that you can set the story pretty much anywhere. Once again there's the blasted, gang-run danger zone, where life is cheap and bribes frequent. Even if there is an actual authority, you can bet that the cops and government types will not be on the characters' side. Then there's the transport arm, and finally the delivery site, where the product is then divided up and shipped off to wherever it's needed. That could be Washington DC, or it could be Dubai. Or anywhere else in between, really; the choice is yours.

That's it from me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Argh! Boat Promises Something For Everyone (Night's Black Agents)

You may have noticed that zombie hordes are about to overrun a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Pearl. It's all part of a Walking Dead theme event run by Walker Stalker Con, and the Pearl will leave Miami packed to the gills with ravening undead in January next year. Which begs a question: in a cruise liner packed with fake undead, how would you tell if real ones were on board too?

Unless you've been aboard a modern liner, you really don't know what to expect. The Pearl boasts a 'chic bowling alley, sicteen delicious dining options, thirteen bars and lounges, dazzling casino, tranquil spa, and spacious Garden Villas ... just a few things that make this Jewel Class cruise ship a destination of her own.' But really, if your expectations have been tempered by old films of the Titanic and the other luxury liners of the so-called golden age - roughly 1900 to 1945 - you wouldn't recognize ships like the Pearl as a liner at all. It's a floating entertainment complex, a Busch Gardens on the ocean. Can a bowling alley ever be considered chic? Who cares! What matters is the twenty-four-hour service, the booming soundtrack on the dance floor, the piles of glittering stuff for you to buy, or be distracted by. You never even have to get off the boat and interact with those tacky locals; heck, you never have to see the ocean, if you don't want to.

Though there have been scenarios set aboard luxury liners, they tend to be the old-school glitter palaces. I've written two, Millionaire's Special and Vaterland, and there's at least one Call of Cthulhu scenario, The Mauretania. That's not counting any of the campaigns which might, as a side adventure, have the characters travel aboard luxury ships on their way to the next scenario destination. To my knowledge nobody has ever tried to set a horror scenario aboard a modern ship. With that in mind, let's discuss the cruise liner, and its possible uses in Night's Black Agents.

Since NBA is more of a European-focus setting, and since we started this talking about NCL's liners, let's look at NCL's Epic class ships, which travel to Italy, Spain and the Med. These things are massive, capable of transporting 4,100 guests, never mind the crew, and like pretty much every other luxury liner out there, NCL tries to persuade its guests to spend time, and thus money, on its facilities. Want an adults-only private beach party? Done. Aqua Park? Done. Sake Bar? Done. Ice Bar? Done. Live theatre? Done. Luxury spa? Done and done. It's loud, it's youth-oriented, and you've got money to burn. Time to set it on fire!

Generally speaking, the crew aren't supposed to fraternize with the guests, but that rule often gets overlooked. However there's often significant staff churn; it's a hard life, without many breaks, and the staff aren't encouraged to linger in the passenger areas. There are separate recreational facilities for staff; wouldn't do to see your deck steward gambling away his paycheck in the ship's casino, after all. This means that Disguise checks for protagonists passing themselves off as crew may be easier than expected; even fellow crew can't keep track of all these new faces, coming and going at every port. So long as you're not trying to pass yourself off as the captain or senior staff, it should be simple to slip on a staff jacket and go unnoticed.

From a Digital Intrusion point of view, the ship's main systems will be reasonably well protected, but anything else will be crackable. There's just too many possible points of infiltration; nobody could hope to protect the entire system. Plus there are all those o-so-tempting security cameras, keeping watch on every corridor and public area. How could you resist them?

Chase scenes can run the gamut. You could be on deck one minute, dodging through the water park, and running through a casino in the next chase increment. Chase scenes aboard a liner favor the Athletic, and anyone who can do parkour will have a field day. However due to the number of people and things littering the landscape, most chase increments should be considered Cramped. Normal is the best you can hope for; try not to trip over someone's toddler while making your escape through the bowling alley!

Remember too that we came to all this through the Walking Dead. Suppose this is a theme cruise, based on some popular vampire TV show, or perhaps it's a Halloween voyage. The Chase scene was already pretty convoluted; now you're doing the exact same thing, except through a horde of maybe-maybe-not undead. Is that fake blood, or the real thing? Is the nosferatu you just bumped into on the dance floor the genuine article? Who can say?

High Society types, especially those with Flirting, are going to get on very well in this type of scenario. It's a target-rich environment, and you can meet anyone here, from minor celebrities on down. It's also a target-rich environment for the criminal element, so expect to meet some of the smoothest con artists and pickpockets in the trade. 

So why is the Conspiracy involved? Well, there are several options:

  1. Smuggling. The cruise lines don't like to talk about it, but smuggling is a real problem. A liner is a massive operation, traveling from port to port; very difficult to police. Smaller items, like narcotics, are the easiest to transport, particularly since, in this era of GPS, the simple solution is to dump the cargo in a watertight container, before you ever reach port, and let the locals pick it up. This works best with small packages but more substantial cargo could be offloaded, under the right circumstances.
  2. Transport. Cruise liners go from port to port under relatively lax surveillance. Nobody wants to be the one to upset the goose that's laying the golden egg, after all, and these ships are very big business. Someone who wants to skip the country without passing through those surveillance-heavy airports can do so aboard a liner without as much fear of capture.
  3. Clandestine meetings. A secret meeting held in plain sight can be very useful; who would suspect that innocent-seeming tourist is actually a bioweapons expert, trying to sell his latest product to the highest bidder?
  4. Assassination. People die on cruise liners all the time, but the line generally prefers not to advertise this fact. Most cruise crime cases go unreported, and often when you see mention of a crew member who's gone missing, that means suicide. Perhaps that Norovirus outbreak is cover for something more sinister ...
That's it for now. Enjoy!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Why Do We Own This? (Night's Black Agents)

As the Dracula Dossier nears completion, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the Conspiracy, and the assets it possesses. From the jets to the private islands, the abandoned castles and the private paramilitary force: why does the Conspiracy want these things?

Of course, the first answer is going to be, 'because it's cool,' which is perfectly acceptable. But the Director is probably going to need to know a little more than that, because the players are going to be asking questions at some point, and the Director needs to have a plausible answer. That answer could be one or more of the following:

1) Tax reasons. Yes, it's boring, but death and taxes are the two constants, and while vampires may have overcome one of those obstacles, they still have problems with the other. Whether it's a shell company that exists only to funnel money through the Caymans, or a team of forensic accountants working out of New York, there are going to be assets that exist solely to hide the Conspiracy's vast cash reserves. This doesn't have to be dull; people have bought property, art, wine cellars and other exotic assets because they hold value, or can be expected to increase in value. Possible abilities: Accounting, Art History, Bureaucracy, Criminology.

2) Citizenship. Many countries insist that, in order to do business there, you have to have local ties. China is one such country, determined to ensure that its economy is controlled by Chinese companies, and not obstreperous foreigners. Also, there may be times when it's handy to have diplomatic immunity, and for those special occasions when only the protection of the Vienna Convention will do, it's handy to have a foothold in some forgettable dictatorship. Even the Joker was once ambassador to Libya, so vampire diplomats is hardly a stretch. Possible abilities: High Society, Law

3) Plausible ownership. If your Conspiracy needs to get something done under the radar, and that something requires considerable effort, it's useful to have a front company that can get the job done. Say you need to transport delicate equipment, or coffins, from Italy to France, or to ship items from China to the US. In that case you might find it handy to already own a shipping company, an air transit service, or a meat packing plant. The ships, planes and trucks those companies own can then go wherever the Conspiracy wants, carrying whatever it wants. Given the nature of the Conspiracy, one plausible ownership asset that is likely to occur again and again is the funeral director, crematorium, cemetery, or other corpse disposal medium. After all, how else is a self-respecting vampire supposed to get hold of a bespoke, luxury coffin? Possible abilities: Traffic Analysis, Forgery (when those manifests just won't add up), Bureaucracy.

4)  Legacy item. The Conspiracy's been around for a while, and has done many things in its blood-drenched career. Who knows what it found useful to own, during the War - which war? - or before it. Forgotten caches of weapons, looted art, and terrorist groups are as likely here as drafty old castles and sinister, abandoned monasteries. Say the Conspiracy backed the Red Army Faction back in the day, when it was expedient to have a fingerhold in the far-left groups attacking the established elite. Some of those greying baby boomer bombers and assassins might still be floating about today, waiting to be reactivated. Perhaps they have some very dangerous intel locked away in their heads, or worse yet, a safety deposit box. Possible abilities: Criminology, Art History, History, Research.

5) Long Term Goal. The Conspiracy is working towards something, and in order to achieve that goal it may have its hooks in all kinds of assets. Say it intends to build a technologically advanced item, like an interstellar space ship. That means it will need technical experts, as well as copious amounts of raw materials. Those raw materials are often found in places where governments are less than stable, or there is no settled government at all. Thus a Conspiracy might find it expedient to have puppets highly placed in, say, France, so its controlled diplomats can exert political pressure through the UN and the EU, on those unstable governments. It's probably more expedient to do it that way than to control the unstable government direct, since, as the West has discovered more than once, the dictator you back today may be out on his ass tomorrow. The same Conspiracy may also find it useful to own construction companies, engineering firms, and ecological think tanks. The construction companies and engineering firms, naturally, are to extract the raw materials, but it's bound to happen that some bleeding heart save-the-fluffy-creatures protest movement will spring up when the jungle gets carved up; when that happens, it's handy to have your own ecologically minded public opinion moulder in place, to deflect criticism. Possible abilities:Bureaucracy, any of the sciences depending on the nature of the goal, Law.

6) Expediency. Sometimes you just have to break a few eggs to make that omelet, and when that unfortunate circumstance arises, it's useful to own assets that can make omelets easily. This doesn't just apply to leg breakers and gunmen, though naturally there will be plenty of those. It also applies to sneak thieves, hackers, people smugglers, narcotics dealers, forgers, and pretty much any other criminal type you can think of. It also applies to former and active terrorist groups, paramilitary organizations, and PMCs. Sandline isn't the only mercenary group which took the Wild Geese as its inspiration, after all.  Finally, it also applies to lawyers. After the dust settles, the Conspiracy will need a Kobayashi or two, to smooth over the cracks. Possible abilities: Criminology, Cop Talk, Tradecraft, Military Science.

That's it for now! Enjoy.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Buried with a Bishop (Night's Black Agents, Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu)

No doubt many of you will already have heard of the baby found in the bishop's coffin, but for those who have not, Swedish archaeologists recently made a fascinating discovery in the tomb of Bishop Peder Winstrup. Expecting only to find out more about living conditions in 17th Century Sweden, the archaeologists discovered the remains of a six to seven month old fetus, carefully hidden at Winstrup's feet, under the Bishop's vestments. It's not known how the child got there. The probability is that someone in the burial party, and therefore presumably one of the Bishop's staff, hid the child there before interment. This was probably done because the fetus could not be baptized; but in Winstrup's august company, the child's soul had at least a chance of getting to heaven.

In a horror game, what else might be found buried in someone else's coffin?

Given the sanctity of the deceased, in Night's Black Agents an event of this type is best used with a Satanic or Supernatural vampire conspiracy, but really it could apply to any of the conspiracy types. The only question is, what's in the coffin, and how did it get discovered? If it's some kind of vampire bane - perhaps it's the only thing that can kill Dracula for good and all - then presumably it was put there by vampire hunters, wanting to hide it from their enemies. If it's something else, then it might have been salted away there by the Conspiracy, perhaps centuries ago, and its untimely discovery sparks off a sudden crisis in one or more of the Conspyramid's nodes. Was its existence uncovered by archaeologists, or are tomb robbers involved? One twist could have the protagonists themselves hired to disinter the remains and find the loot, but if so, who hired them, and what role does this third party have to play in the undead's Great Game?

In a spy genre story, the burial doesn't have to be ancient. Say you were to mix this with the Spanish Civil War, and posit that one of the Bishops of Madrid - probably Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, since he lived through the entire Civil War, eventually dying in 1963 - has some extremely damaging intel, on microfilm say, buried with him in his coffin. You could have Francoist sympathizers dogging the protagonists' every move, desperate to prevent them from digging further into the mystery. In this instance it would have to be grave robbers, or something similar; archaeologists probably wouldn't be interested in so recent a burial. However, say something happened to the place Leopoldo is buried - an earthquake damages it, or a fire - and there have to be emergency repair works, which uncover something the Conspiracy would prefer remain buried forever. What would it do to ensure that the secret remains hidden? Shades of Opus Dei here, the organization so beloved of conspiracy theorists, particularly since it was founded by a Spanish priest in Madrid, back in 1922.

In Trail, there's a definite M.R. Jamesian feel to secrets buried in the coffin. In that kind of Purist setting, whatever's in the coffin does not sleep easily, and if disturbed will wreak a terrible vengeance on whoever was foolish enough to wake it. In that kind of story, the item buried in the coffin is probably the only thing that can lay the unclean spirit to rest, but in order to work out how it can be done the characters will have to resort to occult, Mythos knowledge. Something out of the Tractate Middoth, no doubt. How did the grave get disturbed? Grave robbery is, again, likely, but it could also have come about thanks to church renovations. Possibly someone was in search of clues to buried treasure, and went a little too far in their excavations.

As for Esoterrorists, all kinds of stories could result from finding something in a bishop's coffin. Say the Esoterrorists took the story of the unbaptised baby and turned it into an Antichrist legend. Perhaps it escaped from the coffin that had been its prison for hundreds of years, and now stalks the laboratory where it was discovered. Are gullible souls gathering at the lab to pray for its soul, or to conduct occult, Satanic rituals? Perhaps there's been a series of unfortunate accidents among the lab's staff. Or perhaps the lead archaeologist, long childless, is suddenly and mysteriously pregnant, with no real explanation as to how it could have happened. What strange and terrible force could result from such a birth?

That's it for now! Enjoy.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Patreon! Less of the hmmmm

Well, I bit the bullet. After musing for a while - mainly about PayPal and its relative uselessness to me - I decided to start that Patreon I've been thinking about. For more information on that topic, head over here!

In other news, the Plot Points folks posted the second half of their Pen and Ink interview, and if you haven't already found it, go over here.