Monday, July 31, 2017

On Scandshar, Pt. II

One of the guys on the Unknown Armies Fan Club posted about this Surrealist Ball in 1972.  Although posted because it's pretty clearly somebody's Illuminati conspiracy fantasy, and full of weird pictures, this is a perfect visual reference for the decadent nobility of Scandshar.  I posted an image post about Scandshar a while back (and since Photobucket just changed their policies, all the links are broken, so that's fun), and this is a good addendum to it.  Images are shamelessly ripped from the above article:

Friday, July 28, 2017

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all

Life is busy and full of existential dread, so all's been quiet on the hobby blog front.  I've been playing far more than I've been running, and so don't have much to share.

I've been playing a sequel to the Deadlands game (a government-backed group in the 1930s trying to put the pieces back together after the first game), Rushputin's Erebus-Salzenmund Boogaloo (Earthmen stranded on a strange fantasy world for DCC), and Arashi's 7th Sea game (a very, very political game because the player characters have strong opinions about social justice and consequently have a habit of starting revolutions in our wake).

If you want to know what I'm doing running-wise, I'm largely running Tip the World Over on Its Side for Unknown Armies and helping moderate the Unknown Armies Fan Club.  Occasionally, I'm still running Crux of Eternity for D&D 5e (six years running!).  Very occasionally, I'm running Isle of Anhak for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and What Luck Betide Us for D&D 4e.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Carcosan Algorithm

Author's Note: I'm sure this post is due in equal parts to the classic World of Darkness plot about Clan Tremere infiltrating the Mormons to compile humanity's True Name out of their genealogy records, as well as Watch Dogs' plot about the Bellwether behavioral prediction algorithm.  And maybe a little Ex Machina for flavor.  So, uh, apologies.  Also, despite being written for Call of Cthulhu, you could probably adapt it to another modern occult system with a little tweaking.

Magic in the Cthulhu Mythos is ultimately revealed to be not the product of symbolic interactions, as suggested in other occult traditions, but high-level theoretical physics and hypermathematics far beyond human comprehension.  A symbol like the Elder Sign doesn't symbolically bar the transit of nonterrene entities — it physically bars them by interacting with subatomic particles to create four dimensional barriers through which nonterrene entities cannot pass.

In this way, the principle of sympathy still applies, but is more like balancing an equation than trying to trick the universe into identifying one thing as another.  (Your average occultist probably can't tell the difference, though, and some philosophers would say this distinction is irrelevant, basically amounting to navel-gazing.)

The modern world generates lots of data, and requires several ingenious solutions to compile and interpret this data, lest it lie useless on hard drives..  (Some believe our ability to generate data will soon outstrip our ability to store it.)  Whatever the case, data is big business, as modern data-crunching methods can use this to generate targeted advertisements, as well as enable espionage by compiling information about someone's networked habits.  (If you're buying medicine at the local CVS and looking up symptoms on WebMD, you're probably ill.  If you're buying unhealthy food, you're a health risk to your insurance company.  If you're making the same credit card purchase at a local deli around 12:30 PM every weekday, you probably work nearby and are getting lunch there.)  There's a lot of concern that someone — the government, hackers, or private corporations — could use this information to insidious ends.

You don't know the half of it.

In certain occult circles, there's a known rivalry between the Brothers of the Yellow Sign and the Fungi from Yuggoth.  Tales about the two vary, but some have theorized that the fungi were instrumental in manipulating human evolution to create modern human thought.  The Brothers oppose them, because modern human thought acts as a hyperspace grid binding their god, Hastur, and this entity can penetrate in regions where human thought has been corrupted by the Carcosa-mind.

As such, a group of hackers have appeared, evidently affiliated with the Brothers of the Yellow Sign.  (Occultists in-the-know often call them by the cheeky name "yellow hat hackers.")  While they engage in same sorts of espionage and sabotage that other hacking groups do, their true purpose is quite sinister.  They are attempting to gain unfettered access to the global datastream, specifically search engines and social media platforms, as well as the processes that collate these disparate data.  Once they have co-opted the processes that compile and analyze personal data, they can use these pieces of information as variables in a complex hypermathematical equation attempting to correlate human civilization with Carcosa.  When the equation is solved, theoretically, Earth will become coterminous with Carcosa, and "the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

Looks like you'd better stop those hackers before they get that far; rumor has it that they broke into Google's servers last week, and who knows how long it'll take for them to finish their calculations?

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