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[WIR] Suppressed Transmissions - Vol. 2



It seems my RPGNet readings of the Suppressed Transmissions have attracted attention from the Secret Masters - both Phil Reed and Steve Jackson himself comment on the posts and state that they will seriously consider publishing more if the sales of the existing volumes increase sufficiently.

And on that account, there is some progress - sales of the first PDF volume have increased by 38 sales, and of the second volume have increased by thirty (and the first printed collection is now "low on stock", although I am unsure when precisely this happened). However, these sales still aren't nowhere near enough to make a difference, so spread the word - and if you have read them, comment on the RPGNet thread to keep it active (giving it good ratings with the "Rate Thread" function probably couldn't hurt, either...).

Anyway, here is the second collection of my ongoing readings, starting from this page:


11. Chess

"As late as 1860 chess historian Duncan Forbes announced, based on no discernible evidence whatsoever, that chess was 5,000 years old and derived from ancient Sanskrit wisdom. That's the kind of thinking we need more of in our roleplaying gameif you ask me..."

This time, we delve into the past and symbology of chess, one of the world's oldest and most popular games. Along the way, we learn of variants like "Living Chess" where the pieces are played by humans (bloody gladiatorial battles when one piece takes another are optional) and "Enochian Chess", which was invented by the founders of the Golden Dawn. Also discussed are chess as metaphor and ciphers for secret conspirational struggles, and as magically potent symbls which can shape ley lines and mana flows.

This transmission is certainly fairly specialized and won't be of use for everyone, but if you are prone to using lots of symbols in your campaign you should be able to make use of it.


12. Le Comte de Saint-Germain

"You need an artist, a spy, a magus, a linguist, an immortal, an industrial chemist, a con man, an alchemist, a peace activist, a vampire, a raconteur, a conspirator, a lover, a violinist, a mystic, an admiral, a lost heir, a forger, a pathological liar, a general, and a poet. [...] You need the Count de Saint-Germain."

This is the first autobiography in the series, and appropriately it is dedicated to history's most notorious alleged immortal: The Count de Saint-Germain (who, I am pleased to report, already has a fairly decent Arcana Wiki entry). Given how often he has been mentioned in RPGs (starting with Unknown Armies and going around the block), it is only just that Kenneth Hite gives us the straight dope on him here - starting with the usual "boring old historical fact", and then progressing to the rumors, half-truths, myths, and outright lies that other people have come up with over the following centuries. Finally, the Count is bisociated a couple of times (based on the secret societies of the old Illuminati: New World Order card game by Steve Jackson Games) so that we can use him as a Secret Master in our campaigns without putting any further effort into it.

This is very useful for any "occult conspiracy" games set on Earth - after all, the Count is sure to be involved with the major occult groups in your campaign. Or at least, that's what he would tell you, and he should know...


13. In Honor of Technomancer:: Five More Magical Revolutions

"Fortunately, John Dee has a plan to save England; if a galleon could reach the moon, it could mine lunar matter directly and break the Spanish-Venetian monopoly on flying ships. All he needs are a few brave men to steal a Spanish flying galleon - perhaps an accomplished swordsman or two, a clever thief, and a student of magic..."

Another first: This is the first transmission that splits into a number of subsections, each of which details a different Alternate History scenario centered around a common theme. This one was inspired by the (then) newly released GURPS Technomancer which introduced magic to the world when the first nuclear bomb exploded at Trinity in 1945. The scenarios described here involve Alexander the Great uncovering the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistos in 331 B.C., Roger Bacon discovering the science of magic in 1268, the unlocking of Azoth (the "universal solvent") in 1488 by Bernard of Treves, the summoning of the ghost of Apollonius of Tyana by Eliphas Levi in 1854, and the opening of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter in 1922. In each, Kenneth Hite gives an overview of the large-scale political ramifications, the possible magics, and why this setting is a good place for adventures.

And it works. While none of them are very detailed, all of them sound like tons of fun, and something I could see myself playing in. This sets the tome for the future Alternate History columns, most of which are equally fun to read...


14. Up, Up, and Away (In My Beautiful Airship)

"The best UFO story of all is the story of the Fabulous Airship of 1897. It's got everything: contactees, cattle mutilation, sonorous pronouncements, mysterious lights, the planet Venus, alien bodies, crash wreckage, Men in Black, politics, and sex. Well, it doesn't have much sex. It was 1897, after all..."

With these words, Kenneth Hite dives into an UFO phenomenon that was widely observed (or not) long before the word "UFO" was coined - a strange airship haunting the skies above Texas and the American Midwest in the fading years of the 19th century. Along the way he gives us the usual vast array of rumors, possible connections, symbolic interpretations and campaign uses (government conspiracies? Early alien invaders? the Wild Hunt?).

The use for this transmission for any games set around this period should be obvious - airships are cool, and mysterious airships with unknown crews and purposes even more so. As it happens, this was demonstrated vividly to me two days ago in the old "Batman: The Animated Series" episode "Showdown" where Jonah Hex battles Ra's Al Ghul on another cool airship in the American West (too bad that the year was wrong - 1883 instead of 1897 - but possibly Ra's Al Ghul made another attempt 14 years later...).


15. The Sky Is Falling

"Crazy people, of course, are not required to do any math at all, which is why their theories are far more fun to read..."

This time, Kenneth Hite takes a look at the Tunguska Event of 1908. Half the transmission is dedicated to the usual mixture of facts and weird stuff that other people claimed about it, the other half is used to build a Cliffhangers Alternate History scenario around the idea that whatever it was that hit Earth didn't hit Siberia, but the city of St. Petersburg (at the same latitude). After a few years of chaos, the world manages to avoid WWI and Hitler, and eventually gets into a space race to the other (habitable) planets between the various nations (with Robert A. Heinlein as Commander of the U.S.N.S.F., and Herman Goering as an ace space pilot on the German side)...

This scenario is a lot of fun, like most of Hite's Alternate Histories are, and highly recommended for those who want to take the flavor of the pulps to a larger scale.


16. Secrets Of The Elvis Invisibility Diet And Miracle Scenario Generator

"More a handy tip than anything else, the News mentions that "university experts" in Brasov, Romania, have studied 300 case histories of vampire attacks between 1975 and 1995 and found that sleepwalking was the No. 1 risk factor; sleepwalkers are twice as likely to be attacked..."

Another transmission not found in the collections, this time Kenneth Hite uses an issue of a supermarket tabloid (the Weekly World News, to be precise - which now can be found online) as an adventure generator - and the lurid headlines lend themselves well to this, ranging from rogue monkey attacks to vanished U.S. Navy submarines, giant swarms of gnats forcing down planes, and proof that Napoleon was half man, half woman.

This transmission highlights a common theme in the series, and in Hite's writings in general - inspiration can be found everywhere you look, as long as you look hard enough and from the right angle. Personally, I took this advice to heart when I started to add News articles to the Arcana Wiki - collecting news of the strange and the bizarre and showing how to spin adventure material from them...


17. Make Your Game A Disaster Area

"The late unpleasantness with Hurricane Georges was the topic of conversation on a recent train ride to a library sale. As sensitive, mature individuals, my friend and I were discussing how extremely cool it would be for roleplaying purposes if Georges did, in fact, destroy New Orleans much as Hurricane Camille almost did on August 17, 1969. But how to use it? How to treat the bursting of the Mississippi from its Army Corps of Engineers-created bonds, the flooding of Bourbon Street, Paul Morphy's grave blown into a million chess-board shards, trees ancient with moss that saw De Soto land flung into the box seats of the Superdome? Besides make excellent scenery, what would such a big disaster do for a game?"

Well, that was awkward.

And I can certainly understand why Steve Jackson Games did not see it fit to include this transmission in their first collection.

Except... that collection was published on February 14, 2000 - more than five years before Hurricane Katrina! Was the real reason this transmission was suppressed that the Secret Masters running Steve Jackson Games were not keen on revealing their future plans? Is it a coincidence that Pyramid Editor Scott Haring was replaced four days (by the presumably more pliable Steven Marsh, who holds this position to this day) before the first collection went on sale? Did the Secret Masters stumble across this lapse during the editing process for the collection? And just why does Kenneth Hite cravenly exclaim on page 4 of the same volume that "it's all Scott Haring's fault"? Did he merely wish to save his own neck?

The clues are out there.

Though as far as gaming is concerned (but you have to wonder what else might have slipped past the Secret Masters in the other transmissions...), this transmission makes it point well - disasters can "liven up" any campaign setting, and two noteworthy ones are listed along with gaming applications: The Port Royal Earthquake of 1692 the Peshtigo Fire (which I am pleased to say already has its own Arcana Wiki entry). It concludes with suggestions for really big, apocalyptic disasters and the idea that "natural" disasters might be caused by conspiracies, which again makes me worry about that first paragraph.

Personally, I am glad that for all his forays into WWII, Kenneth Hite has never written about major disasters befalling modern-day Germany. As far as I know.


18. Mirror, rorriM

"Haven't you wondered what the people in the mirror do when you're not looking at them?"

This time, we learn about mirrors and what we can do with them - starting with their history, moving on to the legends and myths surrounding them (ranging from the ancient Greek Narcissus to the modern Bloody Mary), continuing with speculation what the myths and stories might mean, and culminating with a campaign frame that involves a whole invasion of mirror spirits in our own world, involving a multitude of prominent mythological entities - and the mirror doppelgangers of real people.

Another good, solid column. While you won't learn everything you want to know about mirrors, you will learn enough to get you started, and as usual there are numerous references listed for further research.


19. A Lie Agreed Upon: Hollow History

"...Illig's basic thesis is that, in order to buttress his claim to be the Final Emperor (predicted, among other places, in the Book of Daniel), Otto III connived with the Pope Sylvester (his old tutor) and the Byzantines (his mother was a Byzantine princess) to add 300 years to the calendar date so that he could be Emperor in the year 1000..."

Another fun one. This time, we discuss the hypothesis - held by Real People, if not necessarily by Real Trustworthy People - that whole stretches of history, possibly entire centuries, were simply "fake" - they didn't really happen due to minunderstandings of the archaeological record or actual forgeries, and we are not living in the year we thought we were. This ranges from the almost-plausible Greek Dark Ages and several variants revolving around Egypt and finishing with the claim that 300 years of the Early Dark Ages were invented by a German Emperor - which would make Charlemagne fictional, among other things...

The main use for this will likely be in time travel games (where the PCs will have to figure out their real current year, since their chronometers will disagree with the locals), but it also works for conspiracy games - what forces are powerful enough to obscure entire centuries of history itself? And as Kenneth Hite points out, it needn't be just mundane forgery - perhaps malevolent aliens or supernatural entities have implanted false memories into us? Echoes of this can be seen in his excellent "Madness Dossier" campaign frame found in the third edition of GURPS Horror.


20. On the Whole, I'd Rather Be Invisible: The Philadelphia Experiment

"...Von Neumann continued his work at a secret base near Montauk, Long Island, where he added Tantric sex-magick (taken from Aleister Crowley via either Crowley's friend Dennis Wheatley in British Intelligence or from Caltech rocket scientist/Satanist John Whiteside Parsons) and psionics to Tesla-beamed mind control and dimensional rifting..."

This time, we delve into one of the great classics of conspiracy theories - the Philadelphia Experiment. Explaining the basic myths, fictions, and actual facts of the story as usual (and I really appreciate that he shows what is and what isn't fact, when discussing such subjects!), speculates on its possible deeper truths, and then gives suggestions on using the U.S.S. Eldridge as the centerpiece of a campaign - perhaps even as a time- and dimension-traveling home base from which the PCs can fight similarly mobile aliens or Nazis. To top it off, a lengthy footnote gives us an absolutely delightful story of a black magic lodge involving Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and the founder of Scientology.

As usual, this transmission is bursting with ideas for using the topic in question in games, and it provides enough reference material to enable readers to do further research if warranted. In addition to the books listed there, I strongly recommend picking up Delta Green: Eyes Only, which has an entire chapter (plus an adventure) dedicated to Project Rainbow and its aftereffects.

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