Trumpeting the Eighth Seal
For those not in the know, I have suffered a rather embarrassing potential concussion. I mention that this is embarrassing because of both its production and my handling of it. Suffice to say, strenuous activity while under the effects of a potential concussion are generally ill-advised least this potential injury get potentially exacerbated. So I haven’t done much of anything save finish writing a novel in a month. A full fledged novel with distinct beginning, middle and end and of appropriate length for trade fiction.
Not a bad accomplishment for being a little funny in the head. That is, regardless of the Schroedinger’s head trauma. But no one logs onto this blog to hear me natter about my health so let’s discuss… something!
My illustrious and highly industrious friend has let slip a rather terrible secret. There is this shared world we’ve created. A world of mystery and horror, and its perfect for discussing horror and players. It is a world not unlike our own but those striking similarities serve to only make its differences all the more terrible. It is a world about great eldritch monsters, the frailty of the human spirit, the boundless power of man’s imagination and the unimaginable depths of greed and self sacrifice. It is a world that has been percolating in the back of my mind since my first years of university as I wrestled with concepts underpinning the foundations of belief and faith that support our understanding of the universe.
You can already see the old horror elements beginning to weave through. I love some H.P. Lovecraft, a confession that may startle those who see me as only the ‘man who hates everything.’ I really enjoy that sense of dread for the unknown. It’s a hard emotion to invoke in our modern world with our understanding and grasp so widespread. Each day some new discovery or invention seems to bring ever more pieces of reality into greater focus. But how often have we heard this tale before? It seems that just before a great paradigm shift, our concepts and views were at their strongest. All it took was one little piece to plunge us over the edge and shatter the structures we’d created and had felt so secure within.
So, I needed that tipping point. I needed that soft crack against the glass that could widen and swallow my poor travelers in. It always has to start off small and seemingly inconsequential. The true horror is the slow peeling of all the comfortable layers of our old lives and beliefs, revealing the strange and bizarre one section at a time until the realization dawns upon us and we see that the universe we thought we knew is more alien and strange than it is familiar and safe. In this manner, I’ve always admired the White Wolf series of games. Almost all of them take place in modern times with the character’s journey starting rather mundane at first. Perhaps it is something as simple as a chance encounter late one night at that fancy new bar that’s opened down the street. You meet some enchanting woman who seems to captivate all that view her. You don’t remember seeing her before and the word on everyone’s lips is a name as inviting as it is exotic. You drink it in like a new wine. It’s a thick ambrosia that leaves you longing – no, aching – for more and you know you must have it. She beckons with a languid finger and you follow even if something at the back of your mind is scratching and screaming to escape.
Then, before you know it, BAM! You’re a vampire needing to subside on the blood and life of the people you once held dear.
I know not everyone shares this same romanticized vision but it was this starting point that I hoped to capture. Vampire the Masquerade, for me, had always been a story of resisting damnation and the eroding of one’s humanity. Most tales, however, were usually about bad ass nightstalkers able to pitch cars through the air or rip the throats of their enemies. I know the world had deadly horrors awaiting for the new converts, but in my experience those often fell to the wayside as conflicts basically remained entrenched and consumed with vampire politics and living out personal power fantasies.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that but one element I loved about Lovecraft and his brand of horror was no matter how much you knew, no matter how prepared you were, the horrors you faced always remained horrors. They were abominations that even with the correct spells and incantations learned still threatened to rip you from limb and shred your very sanity. They were creatures you constantly had to keep asking yourself why you weren’t running away and questioning whether your life and soul were worth wagering against them.
And in most cases, they were not. But what sort of story is it if the most sensible course of action was to flee? The simple solution was to make it impossible. And to accomplish that, I made the player the monster.
In a sense. Much like a vampire passing its curse, I imagined infecting the player with a disease. They could be inhabited by something not quite their own, something that was not quite themselves. What it was, they couldn’t know. All they knew was that it changed them and in ways they couldn’t understand. Suddenly, they had a greater appetite. Simple food could not satiate them. They hungered for something more and if they couldn’t feed whatever it was inside of them then the player himself was up for the menu. It was, in a sense, the Curse of Cain with a twist. The player was still struggling for their immortal soul and humanity but not in a figurative sense that they resisted some biblical beast symbolizing infidelity to the Lord but from the very literal sense that they were being eaten from the inside out. The food to fill this need became a currency far more valuable than any dollar or yuan. And in discovering this heightened need, players discovered they weren’t alone in this startling new power structure. Suddenly, an entire orchestra seemed to emerge from behind the screens dabbling in a business and trade wholly unnoticed before.
There was an energy that permeated everything and that fueled the universe from the smallest organism to the most complex machines. No one truly understood it; no one ever really does. Many people have differing beliefs but the most suspicious were the ones who claimed to have undeniable proof. Everyone had a stake in this new market, and those quickest to help the new attendees with their affliction often had the most questionable motives. The players were forcibly introduced to the world behind the mirror and shown the real mechanisms even if they didn’t understand them. The height of fidelity and faith and the worst depravity and debauchery all produced the same results and results were all that mattered. It was a world where the question of humanity could really be asked as great beings manipulated beliefs and reality to further their own goals.
But just because I wanted to involve the players in this struggle between the ‘Daemonkin’ I had my own desire to fill out the edges. I want to test and strain the concept as much as I could and see exactly where I could take it. Though the initial idea was to create this sort of ‘demon infection’ the end results were rather surprising. Suddenly, I had secret organizations of techno-magi controlling vast communicative networks and airwaves, tapping into an unknown and potentially exhaustive energy to ‘download’ their spells. I had beings born in the combined collective dreams of humanity, populating a rich and vast new plane of existence fueled by the wandering unconsciousness of the world’s asleep peoples. Even more intriguing was the vast new expanse of reality crafted from the emergence of the modern technological era – a whole new, untamed wilderness of cyber-realities taking form beneath the nose of ancient beings and rapidly cultivated by the young.
Perhaps some of that old Lovecraftian vision had been lost but an entire world with its own unique rules had come into being. Each new expansion and idea was exciting and startling as the last and truly the impossible seemed possible.
And that’s where my confession comes in. So encompassing and engrossing was this setting that I had no idea what to do with it. I had too many elements. I had too many stories. What could, for one person, be a tale of nightmare and terror could be the run of the mill daily grind for another. I was lost within my own world without a clue of how I was going to use any of it. And so it’s sat, unused and unseen in the back of my mind and across a dozen or so different word documents. I hope to one day create something from it. Perhaps, once Derek finishes ironing out the mechanics… if he ever gets around to sending me them.
Perhaps then, Plemora will see the light of day. Until then, I’ll see about posting some of my coherent ruminations and ideas in creating this world.