Advent of Carcosa

Language in Advent of Carcosa

I’m still working on rules set for AOC – here’s a section I recently wrote on the use of language in the game.

The Corporate Unity has its own language that, when fully accessed, is weighted toward accurately expressing scientific and other technical knowledge in the most concise way possible. A citizen’s access to the language, however, is defined by their profession, with full linguistic use available only to a few (many of whom belong to MJ-12). The language very rapidly evolves, updated constantly via an individual’s Ginsert by the Unification Ministry of Culture and Science. This makes the language nearly impossible to learn by foreigners except on the most basic levels. When traveling or otherwise representing the CU, citizens will simply upload the languages of the places they are visiting into their cortical stack.

The CU would like their linguistic method to be the universal standard for humanity, but of course this is far from the case. AGs promoting nationalism and other forms of cultural, religious and racial supremacy will often insist that their traditional language be the only one spoken inside their borders. Travelers should make sure that the most up-to-date dialect is uploaded into their cortical stacks to prevent incidents.

Each Uplift species also has its own unique language – software is available for understanding the vocal intonations and body language necessary for comprehension.  Speaking an Uplift language requires simple modifications to one’s Morph involving an interior or exterior voice modulator for species closely resembling humanity (Apes, Chimps) with optional cues for body language, with more complex mods being necessary for Corvid speech (prehensile feathers being required to alter the meaning and/or context of certain phrases and to provide nuance – it is very easy to get into a lot of trouble very quickly without them). It is nearly impossible to communicate with other species (dolphins, porpoises, octopi) without the use of AR interface to simulate the correct combinations of sounds, gestures, expressions, coloration, etc. Uplifts will rarely engage any sort of communication with Homo Sapiens, however, as it was for the most part only possible through the irreversible alteration of their synaptic structures, which was not done with their consent.

Finally, there are the forbidden languages – Enochian and Aklo. Use of either of these languages is outlawed in most of the places inhabited by humanity. In the CU, use of these languages in the line of duty is always submitted to a board of inquiry for the purpose of determining if such use was justified.  MJ-12 has sole access to Enochian and Aklo language software, which is to be uploaded only to a mirrored aspect of an individual’s consciousness which after use is immediately destroyed.

Use of these languages is most prevalent among Outsiders, with even physically constant but more cognitively robust species like the Deep Ones and Mi-Go using it to add an extra layer of context to exchanges of information that involves hyperreal mathematics, movement of energy from one dimension to another (magic), or non-Euclidean geometry, architecture and geography.

These languages are also used by cultists in rituals, with Enochian being favored by most and Aklo being used almost solely by the followers of the King in Yellow. There are even collectors of words of the Aklo language who aren’t affiliated with any cult, appreciating it for its consciousness altering properties. Single words fetch a high price, while books written in the language are considered priceless.

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa – Designer’s Notes

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for reading along this far – I hope you’ve been enjoying the world I’ve been creating. Now come the big questions – does it sound like something you’d be interested in playing? Is it scary? What parts seem fun and which less so? Please feel free to comment on any aspect of the game design, especially if something really works for you or is a deal breaker.

As I mentioned before, I’ll continue to post occasional updates on aspects of the design that I think may be of interest as I move ahead with it. It’ll be a long road, though – it might be several months before I’m done 🙂 In the interim, I’ll post game reviews and other topics of interest – look for the first of these next week.

For now, here’s a few words about why I did things the way I did them, as well as some thoughts as to how the game should be played.

I suppose the first question to answer is: Why Carcosa? After all, the usual path to unspeakable horror lies down the road to R’yleh where Cthulhu dwells. It’s partly for this reason that I chose the King in Yellow as my focus in that so little material has been dedicated to this particular landscape. Also, while the monsters that inhabit the Cthulhu mythos tend to be almost immediately catastrophic once discovered, The King in Yellow tends to be more subtle and baroque, seeking not death for those who find him but a sort of loyalty and kinship which is realized by the seeker’s slow but inevitable corruption. This will lead to a game with much more foreboding, filled with omens and clues that will give shape to the investigator’s personal apocalypse.  There will of course be those who want to use Cthulhu in their campaigns, so he, his Star Spawn and their lost city of R’yleh are also present in the weird chorus that seeks to drown humanity in its otherworldly noise.

One aspect of the game that met with some controversy with reviewers is humanity’s failed attempt at interplanetary colonization. This was a conscious decision on my part, as I find the idea of pristine, silent planets dotted with abandoned settlements more compelling than worlds that have been tamed by humanity and covered with maglev rails and strip malls so much that they can scarcely be differentiated from Earth anymore. It’s also spookier. Indeed, I’ve tried to make all the locations I’ve included in AOC’s write-up have an aspect of horror around them: the partially finished ring that surrounds the Earth, full of abandoned and forgotten locations forever lost in the installation’s immensity, the hazardous spirals of the Helio Array, the lonely aerostat poised above the endless toxic Venusian clouds.

The inclusion of humor in a horror game may also strike some as odd. While rare, this idea isn’t new for the genre of otherworldly horror, as readers of Charles Stross’s  ‘Laundry Files’ can attest. It was these books (as well as the RPG inspired by them) that led to the desire to incorporate something like their ethos into the game. The bureaucratic maze that is the Corporate Unity and MJ-12 is a marriage of the Byzantine office politics of the ‘Laundry Files’ and the absurdity of the RPG ‘Paranoia’ (but without the slapstick element of the latter, as this would make things less frightening). Dark humor can add to the atmosphere of a horror RPG if done correctly and still illicit a graveyard laugh as well.

At first glance, it would seem that adding layers of bureaucratic complexity to an RPG would be antithetical to fun, but it can lead to a great deal of added enjoyment for the players and the GM. For example, if the players are running an MJ-12 team, each one of them will be from a different governmental department as well, which will give them objectives in addition to the ones that they are officially assigned – any AGs that they belong to may also do the same (an especially sadistic GM may make the objectives contradict each other). This maze of divided loyalties will inspire a flurry of rapidly scribbled notes to the GM from players anxious to hide their activities from their comrades, which in turn inspires suspicion as everyone wonders what their fellow players are getting up to. . .all this during a dangerous mission where team cooperation is essential.  It’ll be fun, trust me.

With all of these conflicting agendas running amok, it’s probably a good thing that the players cannot be permanently killed (at least not without filling out several forms first).  I originally liked this idea because it allowed for all of the drama of player character death with few of the consequences. It could also give the player new role playing opportunities as they may be assigned a radically different new morph after being reintegrated, or, lacking access to a medical facility, existing as a mobile cortical stack or even uploaded into another character’s memory and sharing their headspace with them.

If the idea of playing bureaucratic commandos doesn’t sound appealing, the game will have character options for an urban mercenary campaign a la Shadowrun, interplanetary and interdimensional explorers, deep sea habitation on Earth or Europa and many others. If you have your own idea for a setting, the simple game mechanics could easily be modified to suit it.

Finally, there’s my choice of the Savage Worlds rules set as the medium through which the game will be played. Savage Worlds has been my go-to gaming system for several years now, and I’ve done some informal adaptations of other gaming universes, including Star Trek and Shadowrun.

Why Savage Worlds? In short, it has a good balance between the narrative and tactical aspects of gaming while not taking itself too seriously. Player actions are quickly resolved by rolling a couple of dice, and if the player isn’t satisfied with the result, they have a limited ability to alter the outcome to their satisfaction by spending ‘Bennies’ that will allow a re-roll. Players start out each gaming session with only two of these, but more can be earned over the course of the game through good roleplaying.

Combat is also quickly resolved thanks to an intuitive combat system that can resolve most conflicts in matter of minutes, allowing everyone to jump back into the narrative again quickly. While the tactical system might lack some of the nuances of Shadowrun’s, I’ve found that most players don’t really care about the finer points of tactics, preferring a more cinematic style that delivers action without taking all evening.

Everything about the game from character creation to leveling up emphasizes getting and keeping the players involved and having fun with no needless complexity that only serves to slow down play and give fodder to rules lawyers, min maxers and other assorted Munchkins.

Because of its simplicity, it’s easy to mod and makes designing your own gaming world simpler by providing a framework on which you can hang your ideas. I hope you find my attempt at doing so enjoyable and fun.

‘Advent of Carcosa’ is a combination of several ideas gleaned from sci-fi novels, other RPGs and my own imagination. I hope you find the result to be both entertaining and scary – sweet dreams!

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa – Counter-Memes Part 2

Here are the last of the major groups that oppose the CU and its agenda. This is also the last installment of the introduction to the game, although my designer’s notes will follow next week.

I’m continuing work on the rest of the game, and will post updates on aspects of its design that I feel might be of interest. I currently have a workable character creation process in hand – a slightly modified version of the one used in the Savage Worlds system that I’ve play tested over the last couple of days to determine if it’s workable. It seems fine, if a bit more involved that the ingeniously simple process put forward in Savage Worlds. The payoff is a more in depth character, with a past as part of their creation as well as loyalties to the various institutions that make up such an important part of the Carcosian landscape.

But for now, here’s the conclusion . . .

Uplifts

Uplifts were first created by Adaptive Inc. as a means of countering the global backlash against their radical SMM. With their communities shrinking due to societal pressure, legal action and outright violence, Adaptive took the drastic step of manipulating the genetic design of several animal species to give them sapience. At first, their gamble seemed to succeed brilliantly – their creations had a fierce, agile intelligence that wasn’t cluttered with the psychological baggage that so often hindered homo sapiens. This intelligence combined with their innate physical abilities allowed them to assist their benefactors in turning the tide against the opposition. As Adaptive transformed into the CU, many of the Uplifts integrated into the communities as full citizens.

All was not well, however – many of the Uplifts that left and even some that remained in the emerging CU resented humanity for its centuries of ecosphere destruction and for its elimination of countless different species. The majority of those that left the CU continued waging war on SMMs and corporations that persisted in environmental destruction – even some that remained citizens in the CU used their access to advanced nanotech to aid the struggle of their brethren. Some of the more radical cells even attack the CU itself, using every means at their disposal – including forming alliances with Outsiders and the use of forbidden artifacts.

While not as organized as Temple, the diversity and determination of the Uplifts and their sympathizers makes them dangerous not only to the CU, but to the rest of humanity as well.

 

Ex-Humans

Ex-humans are sapients that operate either singly or in groups as large as several hundred. Their aims are diverse (motives ranging from apex predator/serial killer in individuals to a hive/assimilation model in some of the larger groups), as are their modes of existence, affect and expression. The trait they have in common is a complete disregard for the rest of humanity, the Earth, or any other consideration in the single-minded pursuit of their goal. Many, but not all of these groups incorporate extreme mind/body alteration and/or Outsider contact in order to achieve their ends.

 

Nationalists

Groups that seek to maintain a cultural identity outside of the one provided by the CU, most often within a territory that has ancestral significance.

 

Fundamentalists

An organization whose cultural identity includes a strongly belief that their SMM, unlike others, has divine sanction – often combined with nationalism.

 

Cultists

A collective that seeks the favor of a God-like/Near God-like Outsider Intelligence. The cultists may or may not be the Outsider’s human representatives, but they always strongly believe this to be the case. Cultists tend to be less bio-conservative than fundamentalists, being open to any and all means of furthering their agenda.

 

Church of Azrael

At first the AI Azrael did not acknowledge the homage of this church, which began worshiping it after it provided aid against the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of the CU. Later, it found that biological agents were useful in furthering its agenda, so it began encouraging the devotion of its followers, rewarding them and occasionally directly accessing their nervous systems with a copy of itself as a means of interacting with the outside world.

Advent of Carcosa

Counter-Memes – Opposing Unity

You say Utopia, I say Dystopia, Utopia, Dystopia, let’s call the whole thing oooooff.

Unity’s main opposition is Temple, but there are plenty more which will be covered in next week’s post.

The AGs opposing the CU have their work cut out for them. Humanity’s most powerful society already controls over 70% of the sapient population and this number is growing. Unlike many of the counter-memes, the CU has ability to rapidly scale its infrastructure to its population, moving much of it to exo-global locations even after its colonization initiatives in the inner solar system failed. Habitats mimicking perfect environments of different types are scattered throughout the lagrange points, with more being constructed as well an ambitious project to finish building a habitable ring around Earth’s equator.

It would seem that any AG opposing the CU would be doomed to failure. It’s certainly what the CU leadership thinks, but this hubris could prove to be its undoing. The AGs opposing it run the gamut of low tech/religious fundamentalist to high tech/posthuman libertarian. While these groups often despise each other just as much as they oppose Unity, they realize that only by defeating the globalist super-state can any of them hope to survive – this causes some very unlikely (and sometimes very temporary) alliances to occur, all with the object of destroying Unity and exposing the monstrosities of its inner workings.

This list of counter AGs is not exhaustive, but does contain the ones that are at present the most effective at capturing the loyalty and aid of capable, numerous and determined sapients.

Temple

Uplifts

Ex-humans

Nationalists

Fundamentalists

Cultists

Church of Azrael

 

Temple

“We are standing over the Abyss, and you fools are ripping up the floor so you can strengthen the walls!” Ezra Bane, heretic of Temple

“You still have a choice – the conditioning just makes it easier to make the correct one.” Simon Magus, chief elder and statesman of Temple.

The CU’s chief rival is Temple, a well-organized alliance of different faiths and techno and bio-conservatives. Founded by the charismatic Simon Magus, Temple was founded when many of the world’s faiths were facing extinction due to increasingly effective secular memetic campaigns. By emphasizing their common traits, Magus was able to unite many of the world’s faithful under a philosophy called ‘The Many Names of God’. This philosophy focused on the religions’ commonalities and taught that each faith should maintain its own unique character, but all should demonstrate their belief by lending their fellow spiritualists mutual tolerance and aid.

While Temple doesn’t fully prohibit advanced technologies like 3D printing and genefixing, such tools are used sparingly and are tightly controlled by its leaders. The real draw of the AG, though, is that all members are guaranteed free food, education, housing, medical care and meaningful work – the last being both a privilege and a requirement. Religious life and spirituality are encouraged, but not officially required (although people who do not follow the faith of their communities are sometimes viewed with suspicion and often face discrimination). Sectarianism is discouraged and any inter-faith violence is swiftly dealt with.

Higher education in Temple focuses on knowledge of practical value, emphasizing advanced infrastructure creation, agriculture and bio-engineering. Each faith is allowed religious schools, but these are kept separate from the secular universities.

Temple knows of the Outsiders and is responding to their presence in the only way they’ve found to be effective given their limited technical resources – knowledge gleaned from ancient texts is inserted into media feeds, resulting in aural/visual neurolinguistic programming. Continual exposure makes it nearly impossible for an individual to live or think outside the dictates of the religion in which they were raised. This regimented thinking makes it extremely difficult for Outsiders to gain access to a sentient consciousness while leaving much of the person’s intelligence and creativity intact. The changes in individual behavior were gradual and nearly universal – to this day, most people think the utopian perfection of Temple is solely due to the spiritual discipline of its followers.

Physical manifestations of outsiders are dealt with using a ritual found in a text unearthed in Pergamum titled Al Kitab Malaika. The ritual fuses the physical form and psyche of a volunteer with that of an Outsider. If successful, the merged entity gains extraordinary abilities while keeping the personality of the one who offered themselves up for the honor of being one of the elite defenders of Temple.

The entities, called Mala, can usually pass as a typical person, albeit one of unusual size, grace and/or intensity. They also generate a subtle aura of fear that most creatures can gradually sense, even if they can’t locate the particular cause. If a Mala enters a coffee shop it will be empty in a few minutes, the people there suddenly having thought of other places they needed to be.

Mala also have a monstrous form which they can change into at will. It increases their abilities while also making them extremely difficult to kill, at the cost of turning them into something so loathsome that the uninitiated would think they were witnessing a living nightmare. MJ-12 has managed to acquire a copy of the Al Kitab Malaika via covert means, using it to enhance the abilities of several of their own agents.

For even greater threats, another, more powerful ritual from this ancient work is used to summon a being tremendous size and hideous aspect. Called Children of Lilith, these creatures are kept in a dormant state, awakening only when a human pilot is absorbed like a key into a cavity in their central nervous system. The two form a symbiotic relationship, with the Child becoming an extension of the pilot’s thoughts and reflexes.

To cover their appearance as well as extend their combat abilities, the Children are covered in armor and conventional weaponry that enhances their own considerable natural protective capabilities and arsenal.

The CU sees many of Temple’s methods of confronting the Outsiders as being extraordinarily dangerous, but is many times at a loss as to how to effectively respond. The current nightmare scenario is an Outsider of sufficient power gaining simultaneous control of the entire AG, possible due to the similar nature of the individual members’ synaptic maps caused by the neurolinguistic programming.

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa: The Corporate Unity, Part 2

Minolta DSC

Welcome to Part 2! In addition to written content, I’ll also sometimes include some original artwork that I think complements the narrative – hope you enjoy!

Fortunately for the embattled corporation, the memetic warfare (marketing) and bio-sciences divisions already had a breakthrough concept in the works. After a close vote by the upper echelon of leadership, the decision was made. Adaptive Inc. was no more. It was to be replaced by a global and exo-global techno-socialist super-state with the goal of uniting all of humanity under its banner. Anyone could become a member, and anyone who joined would receive a gift that was also the price of admission: immortality – and not just immortality – eternal youth, beauty and health. A new medium for human intelligence, digitized consciousness, and a vehicle for that medium, the biomorph, had been invented. Digitized consciousness not only meant that people now had complete control over their cognitive processes, but a person who had died from any cause could be restored – they only had to be uploaded into a new biomorph.   Many of the remaining nation-states disintegrated as people who had never known anything but sickness, hunger and despair left their bodies behind and uploaded their consciousness into a digital matrix, joining the brave new experiment in human existence.* Adaptive Inc. was dead, re-invented as the Corporate Unity.

With newfound confidence, the CU began the construction of a space elevator and expeditions were launched as point groups for colonization efforts to Luna, Mars, the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter. It looked as if the dream of techno-socialism could be achieved.

Sadly, this is where things began to go wrong. The Helio Array, a vast collection of solar panels and transmitting power stations placed in distant orbit around the sun proved to be something of a technological overreach. The project was first envisioned as being the only solution to the CU’s massive appetite for energy. Unforeseen complications with construction in such a hazardous environment lead to delays and tremendous loss of life among the construction crews. Even after it was completed, maintenance of such a complex and remote mechanism proved to be nearly impossible. Until these difficulties are resolved, the CU will not be fully energy independent and will rely on Deep Green Inc. and other toxic sources to meet any shortfalls.

Acquisition of rare elements (particularly of the type that can’t be created in this universe) has also proven elusive. Expeditions and probes have been sent through gates to investigate possible sources but have rarely survived more than a few seconds after returning, or most often, simply could not be recovered at all. Many of these elements are needed for the creation of higher end base blocks for Makers needed for the creation of some of the CU’s more exotic technologies.

These two realities led to the creation of a strong memetic campaign in the CU for simplicity and conservation. While this is mostly expressed through minimalism on the part of the population at large, it also affects the CUs many bureaucracies, including MJ-12. This leads to competition for resources and to something of a siege mentality when it comes to issuing anything from housing to suits of powered armor. In order to justify larger allocations, many civil service agencies have resorted to everything from making themselves as large as possible to launching memetic campaigns to increase people’s perception that the service they provide is vital to their continued happiness and safety.

While these problems were perilous enough, they were just the beginning. With the collapse of so many governments, massive amounts of classified data were left unguarded, most of which was gathered and studied by CU AI researchers who passed on what was deemed valuable information for further analysis.  Intrigued by a growing body of data cataloged as ‘vital’, ‘unintelligible’ and ‘potentially hazardous’, followed by a couple of AIs going permanently offline, a team of researchers compiled a complete overview of all information gathered with at least two of the three markers.

Disbelief set in as pieces of a bizarre puzzle began falling into place. The most logical explanation seemed to be that the governments of the world had been infected by a collective psychosis. Not only were dozens of alien species cataloged, many of them were claimed to cohabit Earth with humanity. Deep Ones, Dholes, Cthonians, Mi-Go, Star Spawn and an alternate dimension that sometimes overlapped the Earth physically in some locations called The Dreamlands.

It seemed like nonsense that could be dismissed as fantasy except for its ubiquity – every nation had some sort of record of this phenomenon – even artifacts in deep storage. As research continued, several members of the team suffered from complete breakdowns and had to be eliminated and restored from back-up copies. The information was sealed in a secure file, with physical artifacts tracked down and seized – many, however, had already gone missing.

It also surfaced that many countries had organizations specifically created to deal with this phenomenon. The members of these organizations were now unemployed, but many of them were still trying to continue their work. These people were approached by the CU and offered any resources they required to keep these threats from harming humanity with the eventual goal of eliminating them altogether.

Most agreed, forming the organization now called MJ-12. Unfortunately, the one thing all them agreed on was that it was already too late. The stars were almost right again, and soon humanity would be faced with a fate worse than extinction.

Unity didn’t agree – having access to the digitized consciousness of most of humanity gave it the potential ability to control how that consciousness was shaped by an outside force – it just needed to figure out which levers to pull. It also began devoting a considerable part of its vast collective intelligence to figuring out how to destroy these alien intellects, or find a way to destroy the very dimensions in which they lived. Unity just needed time – and MJ-12 could be used – sacrificed, if need be – to purchase that time. Until then, the existence of these horrors needed to be kept a closely guarded secret. While the CU couldn’t hide secrets of this magnitude with complete certainty, control of its population’s memories and emotional state came close.

Since these discoveries were made all of the CU’s interplanetary colonization initiatives have failed, seemingly due to the ancient horrors Earth’s newest government is just beginning to understand. There are fears that certain prominent AI and perhaps even The Law itself have been corrupted by Outsider influence. Investigating these possibilities make up some of MJ-12’s most dangerous missions. So far no evidence has been found for corruption – even if it hasn’t happened yet (and many of MJ-12’s finest are convinced that it has), it’s probably only a matter of time before the unthinkable occurs.

To maintain secrecy and maximize its operational flexibility, MJ-12 exists embedded in a larger bureaucracy called The Inspectorate, an organization created to ensure that all of the many aspects of the CU’s society function at maximum efficiency and in harmony with one another. This allows MJ-12’s agents to move about freely anywhere and engage in enigmatic behavior without raising suspicion. In addition to The Inspectorate, MJ-12 has infiltrated all of the CU’s other government branches and many of the larger and more popular (along with some of the smaller and more dangerous) AGs both foreign and domestic. This gives them the ability to have knowledgeable agents on-call for nearly any situation that might arise.

 

* An unintended side-effect of this was that people were no longer allowed to die when they wished. Requests to die are handled on a case-by-case basis by The Law, and can be granted or denied depending on the individual’s worth to the CU. It is a long, arduous process with many interviews and uncomfortable invasive scans that many feel isn’t worth the effort. For those whose applications are denied or simply don’t want to wait, a simulated death is available on most major entertainment channels.

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa: Existential Threats

Here we find a list of organizations and entities, some of whom are more than capable of bringing about the end of humanity – in all fairness, the corporations would only do so if it meant an increase in shareholder value.

Corporations

Event Horizon Entertainment (Techno-Socialist/Transhumanist/Exo-Global): Having socialized most of its infrastructure, the CU has few named companies under its control, Event Horizon being one of the exceptions in order to facilitate memetic warfare operations in territory not under its direct control.  This corp is the driving force behind much of the CU’s popular culture, often launching protective memetic campaigns in defense of its benefactor. Its entertainment products are available in a variety of formats and their penetration outside of the CU’s sphere of influence is considerable, even though forbidden by many pre-transitional governments and largely considered irrelevant by post-scarcity groups. Event Horizon marketing is continually working on the latter problems while their innovative fulfillment division continuously finds ways to get their products to places they’re not allowed and receive payment for them. A few products approach the subject of outsiders and other dimensions (including documentaries and a dramatization of MJ-12) but these are all false fronts that are full of misdirection.

 

Schwarzhaus Mining (Capitalist/Polish Nationalist/Silesian Free State): A pre-transitional corp that is remarkably the most successful at extraction of rare elements, able to obtain usable quantities of trans-uranic samples that are extremely difficult if not impossible to replicate. They sell to everyone, including the post-scarcity AGs, but their source of these materials remains a mystery. MJ-12 has taken notice and is quietly investigating, but no one wants the source of these rare elements to dry up (the CU swaps use of their space elevator for access to them). Schwarzhaus is possibly a subversicorp, but unlike others, this one actually provides a benefit.

 

Deep Green (Capitalist/Transhuman/American nationalist): Amoral and ruthless, Deep Green commands a large portion of the global power economy – in command of diverse resources, they can tailor energy solutions for individuals or nations. Energy from solar satellites, wind turbines, geo-thermal, nuclear (fusion and fission) and fossil fuels are all on their product list, and they’ll set an AG up with power plants and infrastructure if they can meet their price (service contract extra).

Since environmental preservation doesn’t improve their bottom line (unless it’s what the customer wants), they often clash with the CU, with clandestine operations sometimes escalating into open warfare. The CU can’t afford to push them too hard, however, as it often needs to buy power from them during Helio Array brown-outs. Deep Green sabotage is suspected, but yet to be proven.

Deep Green is currently under investigation by MJ-12 due to a mysterious lack of Deep One interest in their deep sea geo-thermal facilities.

 

Exodyne Ship Builders (Capitalist/Libertarian – main construction facility in Lunar orbit): Spacecraft/habitat design and construction. They are notorious for being willing to build for anyone, as well as being open to a variety of forms of compensation.

 

Blue Horizon (Capitalist/Chinese nationalist/Shanghai): Marine construction/design – surface effect vehicles, warships, luxury liners, submarines, deep sea habitats.

 

Oculus Solutions: (Libertarian/Global/Exo-Global): Security, surveillance, special ops, professional military intervention. Oculus has naval, ground, air and space based assets and can be very flexible in deploying them to meet their customer’s needs. Since they always honor a contract, they are very careful never to be on both sides of the same conflict.

 

Somatec: (Libertarian/Global/Exo-Global) Somatec is a cutting edge pharmaceutical company that creates molecular templates for a variety of drugs – medical, recreational, psychiatric, psychotropic. They are also rumored to dabble in chemical and biological weapons (micro and macro).

These programs are currently under investigation by MJ-12 along with other more conventional enforcement agencies run by the CU. MJ-12 involvement spiked when they destroyed several Somatec research expeditions in forbidden areas of the Tibetan plateau, as well as one returning to Earth after landing on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

 

Black Mirror Defensive Systems (Capitalist/Russian Nationalist/Moscow): Munitions, weapon systems, drones, offensive/defensive software. Experimentation in biomechanical technologies has led to an ongoing investigation my MJ-12.

 

Arcana Biosys (Posthuman/Libertarian/Seattle): Builds modules that improve different aspects of Biomorph function – many of the improvements they offer would be illegal or viewed with suspicion in CU controlled areas. It is rumored that they continue to experiment with uplifts.

 

Imago (Posthuman/Techno-Socialist/Los Angeles): Creator of artificial personas – if the purchaser wishes, these can be legally grafted onto any bioform or artificial lifeform that doesn’t have a pre-existing consciousness. A person’s own consciousness can also be altered in any form they choose.

 

The Threat

One of the chief obstacles humanity faces is the lack of comprehension it has regarding the forces arrayed against it. Are the known threats working individually or in concert? What threats have yet to be discovered? If humanity is aware of a particular threat, many things about it might be obscure, such as its motives, point of origin and psychology, assuming these terms could be said to apply to the threat at all in ways we could understand.

Operating against such threats with this level of ignorance is extremely dangerous, as it can never be known if any actions taken are simply making things worse. On the other hand, how can anything be learned when study of the phenomenon results in corruption?

Known Threats:

Carcosa

The Dreamlands

The Migou

The Deep Ones

Cthulhu/Star Spawn

Dholes

The Great Race

Nyarlathotep

 

This list contains only those elements that that present a clear and present danger to the existence of humanity and the reality we inhabit. Threats of a non-existential nature abound, and will be listed afterward.

 

Carcosa: A Room of One’s Own

 

Carcosa was not seen as a major threat at first. While it transformed the internal/external realities of individuals and (rarely) small locales, the transformations were in and of themselves harmless, being mostly cosmetic projections of the strange obsessions and alienation of a person or group. These projections were sometimes not even noticeable except by the most detailed observation, and even if uncanny, were a threat to no one.

What started out as a minor incursion has since turned into a global outbreak, threatening to drive every aspect of manifested intelligence into stark, isolated worlds of anxiety and despair.

The outbreak began when the subconscious of affected individuals began to seek each other out via the GIN. A virtual Carcosa was formed (although theories persist that this is not a copy, but in fact a gateway into the ageless phenomenon itself), creating an environment that others could access and experience, often leading to that person’s incorporation after several visits.

Now, instead of single rooms or buildings, entire neighborhoods, towns and habitats have been transformed, with changes sometimes so subtle that one may have to spend hours or days there before consciously noticing.

The transformation can encompass anything people interact with day to day: their clothing, the AR environment and the interior and exterior of buildings and habitats. Manifestations of other artifacts are certainly possible, either appearing on their own for no discernable reason or created by a visual artist or writer. AR is affected in such a way as to read into the darker areas of a subject’s unconscious and project it back to them in a variety of subtle ways.

A shared trait of all of these manifestations is the presence of the King in Yellow. There are no consistencies in the behavior of this apparition, but his appearance is always the same in most respects – an ancient man wearing a stained yellow mask, pale yellow tattered robes and a crown whose design will vary depending on the individual observing him. He rarely speaks or directly interacts in any way with those around him, and is sometimes only glimpsed wandering aimlessly through a distant crowd or peering briefly through a window.

Ironically, the suppression of individual innate intelligence on a large scale by Unity and many other AGs has accelerated the expansion of Carcosa, driving this unexpressed potential to manifest itself and seek expression subconsciously.

 

Cthulhu/Starspawn: Since the discovery of ruins associated with these creatures on Mars, this crisis has been the chief cause of concern in regards to the survival of humanity and the source of many of the counter-measures that have been put into place. It is clear from even the avatars of the incursion that these will be useless once the driving intelligence of Cthulhu itself manifests – humanity’s digitized consciousnesses and arsenal are but another form of energy/thought combination that can be manipulated at will.

Cthulhu and the Starspawn have no form that the human mind can comprehend – the descriptions of these creatures that exist are merely the human mind trying to make sense of what it’s perceiving as best it can.

 

Deep Ones: An immortal, sub-aquatic species whose intelligence is only matched by their technological achievement, which includes local/interstellar trans-d gates. Their intellects are sophisticated enough that they’ve never needed to develop computers and are immune to dimensional incursions. Their contact with humanity is limited, with most exchanges taking place with hybrids that they create for carrying out their business on the surface. The Deep Ones view humanity as a temporary infestation, but for the most part leave us in peace. If a conflict occurs, expendable hybrids and cultists are used whenever possible.

It’s possible that the Deep Ones could challenge Cthulhu, but it’s clear they view such a confrontation as pointless and filled with potential risk.

 

The Dreamlands: Theorized as an adjacent pocket dimension, its location (if it in fact has one in the conventional sense) and origin remain unknown. It can be reached by rare individuals via REM sleep – others can go there using trans-d gates or other artifacts. The Plateau of Leng is another possible point of entry, but it is difficult to find as its position is non-constant, but can often be found in the Taklamakan Desert. Dangers to humanity include entities that cross over from the Dreamlands via Leng and toxic artifacts brought back by travelers.

The Dreamlands have been extensively mapped by those who have traveled there, the terrain being very similar to Earth. Dangerous, alien creatures and societies also exist here – as far as it is known, these strange species and civilizations exist nowhere else.

 

Migo: To the Migo, humanity is a ticking bomb. The humans are not only the harbingers of Cthulhu’s return, their AI technology poses a threat to the Migo’s continued habitation of this solar system and its environs.

In the face of these threats, the Migo’s options are limited. While the destruction of humanity and its civilization is possible, the energy released by such a mass extinction of sapient life would only speed up the process of Cthulhu’s return.

Covert sabotage of humanity’s AI programs has slowed down but not stopped the creation of more and increasingly sophisticated intelligences. Although there are no signs of this at present, to the Migo it is only a matter of time before AIs supplant the organic branch of humanity and colonize the solar system.

 

Dholes: A polymorphic species that is known to inhabit the upper mantle of Earth, although it’s possible that its subterranean range is far greater. They are telepathic, but all known attempts at contact have ended in insanity and death. They have been recorded as moving through rock at speeds as high as 60 kph.

Only one video exists of a Dhole on the surface – it resembles a segmented worm of mottled yellow coloration with a mass of tentacles at the fore end of the body. The length of this particular specimen was approximately 15 meters.

Very little is known about the Dholes since human contact with them tends to be brief and catastrophic. What Dhole technology that has been discovered is psionic in nature, tremendously advanced and highly dangerous.

 

The Great Race of Yith: A species composed of non-corporeal intellects capable of moving through time. In order to survive, they must inhabit a mind of sufficient complexity – when they do so, the native intelligence is driven out and sent back to the body the Yithian vacated. Using this method, the Great Race has explored not only the history of humanity, but of other intelligent species on this world and others. When an extinction event threatens they flee en masse, switching places with some unfortunate species that are left to suffer the fate they escaped.

The only time MJ-12 is aware of the Great Race existing is a period of 200 million years, starting a little over a billion years ago. During this time, they inhabited the region that is now known as Australia, although it’s very likely they have existed in many other eras and places.

The Yithians housed the knowledge they gleaned from their explorations in the city of Pnakosis, located somewhere in Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. The information of the library is stored in books of nearly indestructible metal – a few are known to exist, with perhaps many more waiting to be found.

 

Nyarlathotep: References to Nyarlathotep date back to the very beginnings of human civilization. While he is often mentioned in some of the more esoteric religious texts that span many different cultures, the only fact all of these references point to is that no one seems to be sure exactly what he is or whose agenda he is following. He’s definitely the most approachable of the Old Ones, most often appearing as an ordinary human being. The most common theme in these references portrays him as being the arbiter of faustian bargains, a harbinger of madness and dissolution and possessed of an almost irresistible charisma.

Unlike others of his kind, his worship can bring tangible rewards – his gifts, however, almost always lead the receiver closer to the Outer Gods, and he seems to delight in his role of dark Prometheus. Due to this personal magnetism and charm he seldom has to resort to violence, but some texts refer to him laying waste to cities in his more monstrous forms and even causing the demise of a pre-human civilization.

Some of the existing scholarship regards him as a manifestation of the will of one or more of the Outer Gods – perhaps even Azathoth itself, while other sources say he is an individual intelligence with his own unfathomable agenda. That being said, Nyarlathotep has had dealings with many institutions throughout history, MJ-12 included.

Acting as Nyarlathotep’s agents are the Chotgor. These beings are similar to the Mala of Temple, but unlike the Mala, Chotgor can only be created by Nyarlathotep. Chotgor have the ability to change into one of Nyarlathotep’s many forms, a favor he bestows to those few followers who gain his favor and trust. Chotgor can be found acting directly in Nyarlathotep’s interests, or can be lent as aid to whatever cause the Dark God finds worthy.

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa: Life During the Incursion (cont.)

More about our favorite dystopian society! After we finish with this brief examination, we’ll get to the really spooky stuff – the corporations! Oh yeah, and Hastur and Cthulhu as well 😉

Barter and Reputation:

Liquid capital is a scarce and sometimes not altogether useful commodity. The expendable worker in a capitalist society doesn’t earn enough for the essentials of living, and while the trans-economy worker gets the essentials for free, many find that being alive and enjoying it requires more than this. Even someone living the post-scarcity dream will come across a problem or want that can’t be solved or fulfilled by something that can be forged in a Maker, such as access to a unique item or prohibited information.

Barter is the most common way for obtaining items that exist above one’s means, or even things not normally for sale. In a world where nearly everything is created from a template, beautifully made, handcrafted items are in high demand – especially if they are made from exotic (and/or illegal) materials. If one doesn’t have a valuable item or information to exchange, skills are also in demand.

A good reputation in one’s community or AG can also pay dividends. Being a well-known and valued member can get one access to things that would normally be unobtainable (there are several social media aps that track reputation scores across a variety of communities). Indeed, refusing to help someone with a high ranking is almost a guaranteed way to lower your score.

Of course, a high rep score to one person will be a negative one to another, depending on how they feel about that community or AG – walking into the wrong bar with a rep score in an opposing AG could lead to a confrontation that could easily escalate into violence.

 

Law Enforcement:

Each AG and CU administrative region has its own social mores – some of these are backed up with legal sanctions, while others rely on social pressure. The CU claims to have a final say on all legal matters everywhere humanity exists, but this isn’t how it always works in practice since many AGs don’t recognize the CU’s authority.

The Law:

The CU maintains a network of drones that have access to a dynamic gestalt AI. These drones are empowered to investigate crimes, pass sentence and take any legal action called for.  Equipped with a Maker and unlimited access to templates, they can create whatever tool or weapon that would be most appropriate for a given investigation or tactical situation. They have access to the location of every CU issued biomorph, whose digital memories can be accessed without cause or warrant. Non-standardized morphs are hacked to get any information not given up willingly – not giving up information when requested can lead to legal sanction (any damage caused to the CU’s agents by defensive software during the hack is the responsibility of witness).

Penalties can include confiscation of higher end morphs, with the intelligence in possession of the morph regulated to a more baseline model or sentenced to temporary or permanent non-corporeality if their continued physical existence is considered a threat to society. Any penalty will also include a slight adjustment of the digitized consciousness to rid the morph of the undesirable behavior, along with continued monitoring to ensure that it doesn’t resurface. Digital identities that can’t be repaired are permanently uploaded and placed into secure storage where they can be further studied.

The Law constitutes humanity’s only socialized law enforcement. Capitalistic societies tend to sub-contract it out to professional organizations, while each individual in a post-scarcity AG handles their own.

 

The Law and MJ-12:

MJ-12 is an extra-legal CU organization that specializes in handling any threat that lies outside the jurisdiction/comprehension of The Law. When certain conditions are met The Law summons MJ-12 to handle the crisis, turning a blind eye to the means as long as the desired ends are achieved (the desired ends being determined by MJ-12). MJ-12’s involvement in these cases also protects The Law from being tainted by threats of an extra-dimensional nature. Human or AI MJ-12 agents that are psychologically or informationally compromised can be eliminated and restored from their last back-up – The Law is far too dynamic and complex to withstand this sort of procedure and remain viable.

 

The Global Information Network (GIN)

This massive database provides each individual suitably equipped with instant access to all forms of past and current media – in the latter case, often within moments of its creation. Access to the network is free to all citizens of the CU who possess an approved morph.

Each morph comes equipped with a GINsert to access the wireless data network and a familiar to process it. Familiars are necessary since even an enhanced intelligence would be overwhelmed by the influx of data – one of a familiar’s main tasks is to determine what information is relevant and then incorporate it into their owner’s consciousness, or make them aware of its existence and catalog it so it can be experienced at a later time.

Once a familiar has worked with an individual long enough, they begin to anticipate their cognitive needs, performing background processing even during real time conversation, incorporating the best words, phrasing, facts and quotes to enhance whatever is being said. With a functioning GINsert and familiar, even a normally dull person can make their everyday communication sparkle with wit. Conversely, someone without one sounds slow and plodding in comparison.

A person’s GINsert and familiar are installed at the same time, usually at age two. This way the artificial intelligence that will become that person’s life-long companion will be with them as they develop and get to know them intimately – and given their objectivity, usually better than the person knows themselves. Given access to their owner’s accounts, maker and household computer, a familiar will eventually develop from a teacher, companion and confidant to a shopping assistant, valet, advisor, cook and housekeeper.

Loss of one’s familiar is one of the most psychologically traumatic events a person can go through – even modification of a person’s familiar without their consent is considered a form of physical assault. The more affluent keep at least one copy on standby, updating it and the recording of their consciousness at the same time.