Saturday, April 30, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: Z is for Zecharia Sitchin

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories Z
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: Z is for Zecharia Sitchin

Here we are at the end, which is back at the beginning for me and the topic of my A to Z for this April 2022.

Before I begin I do want to say this one went much better than I expected. I'll get to all of that in the Reflections post coming up.

So Zecharia Sitchin.  

Sitchin was the author of many books on the topic of Ancient Aliens and the Anunnaki of the Sumerians. He was also the creator of the idea of the planet of Nibiru where the Anunnaki supposedly come from. He called this the "12th Planet."  

Much like Margaret Murray, Sitchin took the archaeological record as well as astronomical history.  Also, like Murray, he completely botched his research including some of the translations. 

The conspiracy comes from, as expected, the Government, the Church, and NASA are all hiding the truth. Sitchin's theories remake the history of humanity and of course, everyone is going to hide all of that.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Sitchin's work is not science.  BUT it could make for good science fiction.  

For NIGHT SHIFT I would like to REally go deep on this. Have aliens come Nibriu and try to start some crazy-ass religion or something.  OR maybe it is just people saying they are. 

Sitchin, among other things, is indirectly responsible for a number of UFO Cults.  Bringing a couple of these (or a made-up one) would make for an interesting game I think.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).


And there we go.  Another April A to Z for the history books.  Join me next month for Sci-Fi month!

Friday, April 29, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: Y is for Yeti

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories Y
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: Y is for Yeti

Not just yetis, but bigfoot too!  Now Yetis and Bigfoots fall under the heading of cryptids and not so much conspiracy theories.  The conspiracy part comes in later.

Let's be honest here. I love writing about Bigfoot.  Maybe it was growing up in the 1970s when there was a surge in the popularity of Bigfoot sightings.  But in any case, I have talked about them a lot here.  

My introduction to RPGs was via monsters of myth and legend in the AD&D Monster Manual and while the Sasquatch was not originally there, the Yeti was.  

With all these posts (and these are just the ones on the subject) you would think I have had said everything I can and...that is accurate. But I have not talked about the conspiracies surrounding these cryptids.

Conspiracy #1: The various governments are hiding the evidence of Bigfoot/Yetis for ... reasons.  
I have seen this one in various books and websites and the one thing they all have in common is that there are no good reasons given for why the government would want to go through the efforts to hide it.  The reason given is usually "to protect the population."  But how this is supposed to happen is never very clear.

Conspiracy #2: All the bigfoot sightings are faked by a small group of fakers. This I am likely to believe except that I doubt they are organized in any way.

For NIGHT SHIFT

I do use Sasquatches, Bigfoots, and Yetis in my games.  They might even outnumber regular animals in my games! Well not really. But close.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Thursday, April 28, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: X is for The X-Files

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories X
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: X is for Planet X

This one is a last-minute switch.  I might find some use for my "Planet X" post at a future date.  But today I want to talk about the X-Files.  You can't talk about Conspiracy Theories and ignore the X-Files.

This also gives me a chance to go back to the very beginning of my A to Z journey. Not April 1st, but April 2011.

Here is what I said about the X-Files then (with edits to update).

X is for X-Files (2011)

In the 90s everything was conspiracy theories, don't trust the government and the Truth was Out There.

On TV we had the X-Files.

There was a paranoia in the 90s.  Today it has boiled over into disgust about our government (believe I know, I live in Illinois, we have one ex-Governor in prison and another headed there two Ex-Governors that are also Ex-Cons.  But back then it was a general low hum of paranoia, suspicion, and doubt.  It started with Iran-Contra and moved on to movies like "JFK".  It was the climate that allowed the X-Files to grow.

It began on a start-up network called Fox, long before they became synonymous for killing shows, good or bad, too early or shitty news.  X-Files was their hit, their main show outside of the Simpsons really, and they kept it on for 9 years and then again for 2 more in 2016 and 2018.

Let's be honest here, the X-Files did more for genre TV than anything else. It was a cultural phenomenon and most television shows that we enjoyed in the 2000s and on are a result of this little show by Chris Carter.   People go on and on about Whedon, but Carter and the X-files has been nominated for more Emmys and the show had won more collective awards.  Even in its "worst" season X-files still had 3 times the views of Buffy. Plus there is not an episode of Supernatural that doesn't in some way or another recall the X-files.  The Winchesters are Mulder and Scully for the 2000s.

I came to the show late.  I was working on my thesis at the time and I rarely watched TV.  Once I graduated I became a fast convert.  It became my Friday night ritual (I was watching them with my then-girlfriend, so that is ok).  It was also one of the shows I did not invest in any fandom merchandise.  I have an X-files soundtrack CD and Mulder and Scully action figures, but I got them as gifts.  But I really got into the show all the same.  One of the first desktop "themes" I had for my brand spanking new copy of Windows 95 was an X-files one.

I loved the season-long and multi-season-long story arcs, I loved the characters, and I didn't even care when my then girlfriend (and now wife) would go on about how hot Mulder or Skinner were.  That was fine with me.  I got to see Scully, and she was hot and super smart.

The Godfather of the X-files is "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and Darrin McGavin even made some guest spots on the show.  X-Files, while the "mythos arc" is lauded, sometimes worked the best on the "monster of the week" episodes.  Sure the aliens were great and those were the ones I got excited about, but the ones I recall the best, Flukeman, "Theef", the freaky weird family, the hallucinogenic fungus, the chupacabra.  Like Kolchak, X-files did it's best job when it dealt with "small stories"; episodes that dealt with a local myth, legend, or monster and came at it with Mulder the one ready to believe anything, and Scully looking for the reasoned explanation.  I also liked the "spin-offs" of Millennium and the Lone Gunmen.

One day I am going to go back to the world of the X-Files.  Back when Clinton was still president, freaky half-worm/half-man things lived in chemical toilets, cigarette-smoking men and well-manicured men sat in dark rooms with darker purposes, aliens kidnapped little girls and the Truth Was Out There.


For NIGHT SHIFT

The trouble with X-Files is it was doomed from the start.  You can't keep the characters or the audience in the dark all the time and have a good show, and the more secrets you reveal the less the characters have to uncover.  They kept it up though for a good long run.

The same is true for any conspiracy game.  Conspiracy X, by Eden Studios, is a great example.  You can totally run an "X-Files" game with it, but how often can you keep the players in the dark when they are looking for secrets?  The same is true for the RPG The Unexplained (which was my "U" for 2012).

This is something Game Masters need to keep in mind when running any sort of Conspiracy based RPG. 

For NIGHT SHIFT in particular I tried to capture all of this, via the lens of Kolchak: The Night Stalker in my "Weirdly World News" Night World. But here I only scratched the surface and if this month has shown me anything there is so much more to talk about.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: W is for Witch Cult Hypothesis

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories W
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: W is for Witch Cult Hypothesis

This is a conspiracy theory / modern myth that is more or less implicit in all of my games.  And something a little different than what I have been doing this month.

The hypothesis (and I could argue it is a testable one) is that there has been a more or less unbroken line of pagan magic practitioners and nature worshipers that has existed in Europe and elsewhere since pre-history dating back to at least a time of Goddess worship.  The witch-trails of Europe were an attempt to irradicate these "Witches" in favor of...well, let's look into that.

Ok, that is a lot of variables for a proper hypothesis.  Let's see what we are talking about here.

This idea was put forth by a number of different scholars over the years. The biggest "name" in this was  Margaret Murray, who gave us The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921).  It built off of the popularity of James George Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion (1917) which was also a study in European and before Pagan practices and Charles Godfrey Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899).

Murray's central thesis was that these witches have existed for centuries and were a vital part of the pagan community.   With the rise of monotheism and proliferation of just one god (and a Male God at that) these witches were hunted down by members of the Church and State or at the very least with their implicit, if not tacit, approval.   That would be Conspiracy #1.

The trouble it Murray's work is not very good.  She makes a lot of fundamental errors in her book including pointing out that the lack of evidence is evidence that they had been wiped out.

I will admit I was even taken it by the idea when I first read it so many years ago. I have since re-read it after several years of grad school and designing research that I can only see the errors, missteps and sadly outright fabrications.  It is a fun read, but has about as much to do with witches as the Wizard of Oz.  

The second wave of the Witch Cult Hypothesis came in the 20th Century.  Typically post-WWII/1950s thinking.  Building on Murray's work there were those that wanted to see what a witch cult, ala Murray, would have been like if it had survived into the 20th Century.   

Taking this in with other works you folks like Gerald Gardner who invented Wicca and claimed to have these roots. Other writers, like Raymond Buckland, were a bit more honest about what they were doing, but you still had a number of others taking Murray not only at face value but also the "gospel truth."

This brings us to Conspiracy #2.  Not only were these witch cults wiped out, but it continues to this day with the discrediting of anything that might show it to be true.  A stretch maybe, but really no more strange than what any other religion believes about their origins. 

I have also read theories that the witch trials (often called the Burning Times) were the result of the growing professional medical professions (ie. Doctors) trying to get rid of their competition, the local herb woman, healer, and midwife.  A variant on Conspiracy #1. 

The truth is that Murray, not just through her own works but the works of others, has been so deeply embedded in this notion of a pre-Christian witch cult that is difficult to tease out her effects.   Her ideas, wrong or not (no, they were wrong, sorry) are with us now forever.

Maybe that is ok.  Just don't base an intellectual career on it.

young Celtic witch with read hair

For NIGHT SHIFT

Well. Basically. In NIGHT SHIFT everything Murray ever said was true. Yup. The whole lot of it. Whether she meant it to be true or not doesn't really matter here. In the world(s) of NIGHT SHIFT it is.

Again, this largely follows most of the work I do with witches in all my games. Gygax even did the same with his Druids imagining the Celtic priestly caste surviving to the Middle Ages (500 to 1,000 years later).   I do the same with witches.  Here I have a collection of pre-Christian, largely European (but there are other influences), pagan witch cults that have existed in secret for thousands of years.

Intellectually I have let Murray go, but in my games, not so much.

Witches are a big part of NIGHT SHIFT, regardless of where they come from.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: V is for Vril

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories V
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: V is for Vril

Vril is an energy or the species that uses this energy depending on who you ask.  They would be as about as relevant as the Mahars of Pellucidar (the species, not the book) if it were not for the later involvement of Nazis and UFOs.

Vril comes from the book "Vril, the Power of the Coming Race" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and was published anonymously in 1871. It deals, as was common to many "Science Romances" of the time with an unnamed but wealthy first-person narrator.  This narrator finds himself in an underground world occupied by these majestic angel-like begins, the Vril-ya who have advanced psychic abilities, but of course, need a proper Englishman to teach them how to speak English.  He also finds his lost wife, two sons, and daughter.   He learns that these beings also known as the Ana, used to live on the surface but came here sometime before the Great Flood.  He learns of their energy, the Vril, which is like an "all-permeating fluid."  

It was pretty much pre-Pulp, Victorian Science Romance (the precursor to Science Fiction). While not great, it has some interesting ideas that men and women were 100% equal in society and the notion of wireless communication and the potential of electricity.  It was, I do note, popular in its time.

It would have been a semi-forgotten bit of science fiction had it not been for various theosophists,  most notably Helena Blavatsky, who took it for Occult Truth (yes. with capital letters).  It seems that in addition to his work on Vril, Edward Bulwer-Lytton also wrote books about Rosicrucians and other occult matters.   Blavatsky took this bit of fiction and ran with it.  Ran so hard in fact that when I first encountered it years ago I was a little surprised to learn it had not been her idea.  As learned more and saw she was a con artist who stole ideas and claimed them as her own I became less and less surprised. 

As I said the book had some popularity with Vril becoming synonymous for a bit with "life given exlirs." There was even what amounted to a Sci-Fi convention at Royal Albert Hall in 1891 called the Vril-Ya Bazaar.  It all has the feel of a Star Trek Convention.  I like other sci-fi properties, there were those who really wished it was real.

But what makes this part of a Conspiracy Theory?

The book and the notions of Vril were taken up by various occultists, in particular theosophists, as truth.  They began to ascribe all sorts of properties to it and to Edward Bulwer-Lytton (who they felt was telling a first hand account in some cases).  Blavatsky used Vril and the idea of "The Common Race" (and "Race" in general, but I am getting to that) in her books Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888).  Likewise, theosophist William Scott-Elliot used "Vril-energy" in his The Story of Atlantis & The Lost Lemuria (first ed., 1896).  

Likely because of Blavatsky, Vril and the Comming Race became wrapped up in the fertile land of German paganism and pseudoscience that lead to the rise of Nazism.   As noted by Willy Ley, a German rocket engineer who came to the US in 1937, pre-Nazi Germany saw the popularity and widespread proliferation of many irrational ideas including Vril. He published "Pseudoscience in Naziland" in the magazine Astounding Science.  There is far more in that article than I can discuss in one post. But suffice to say that it is a gold mine of ideas.  One of the results of this was the belief in the "Vril Society" existing in Berlin prior to the rise of the Nazis.

After WWII the Vril Society supposedly went on to continue the works of Nazi Occultism which gave us ideas like the Black Sun and various UFOs.  That is another rabbit hole I don't feel like going down today.

For NIGHT SHIFT

I have spoken about various underground races already, the Derro and the Ophidians. The Derro share some commonalities with the Vril.  The Vril was published as science-fiction and others took them to be real.  The Derro was also published as science-fiction but their author claimed they were in fact real. Both featured anonymous first-person narrators. Both featured an underground lost civilization with advanced technology and energies.  But the Derro are invariably described as insane and stunted humans.  The Vril are "angel-like."  So it is not likely they are the same sort of folk.

There is some similarity between the Vril and the Nordics of UFOolgy.  Throw in some of the ideas of Ultima Thule and the "benevolent" Nordics start looking less benevolent. Sure they want the best for humanity, but only the humanity that looks like them. 

Vril of course is the common thread. It is the energy that both the Derro and the Nordics use.  Hmm...is there an association there that the characters need to tease out?  What are the Derro to the Nordics? Is there more here?  I think there is!

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Monday, April 25, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: U is for Unmarked Helicopters

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories U
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: U is for Unmarked Helicopters

Few things say "New World Order" or "Military Industrial Complex" quite as nicely as an unmarked military helicopter.

Sightings of unmarked helicopters began in 1970s, often in conjunction with or near cattle mutilations (which I have not even touched yet).  They were even spoken about in  Hal Lindsey's book "The Late, Great Planet Earth" (which I have talked about before).

 More recently Unmarked Helicopters have been the center of growing concerns about the military arming of local police and the extensive powers used by the US government to keep tabs on the American citizens.  Like what Homeland Security does.

There is also some evidence (though nothing I could easily verify) that the CIA was using a black Vietnam-era helicopter to put in phone taps.  

My first experience with Unmarked or Black Helicopters was from the movie Capricorn One. A movie about a conspiracy to fake the first manned mission to Mars.

The UFO Connection

Many sightings of black or unmarked helicopters will occur after a purported UFO sighting.  The most commonly held belief is that these helicopters are from the government and looking to either investigate or cover up the sighting details.  I even read one where the helicopters are in fact the same people/aliens/group that were responsible for the UFO.

Cattle Mutilations

We never hear much about this anymore, but in the 1970s this was newsworthy stuff.  Typically a rancher or someone would find dead cattle that had organs or body parts removed such as an eye, ear or sexual organs. The wounds would clean and sometimes even cauterized.  There would be a complete lack of blood found in the area leading some to believe that the cattle had lifted up and out where the mutilations would occur and then deposited back.  No mean feat when you consider your average cow weighs around 1,600 lbs and a bull over 1 ton.   Since the helicopters were usually spotted in the area it lead many to believe that they were the cause of it.  Obviously, these people never took my stats courses where I make sure my students know that "correlation is not causation."

The rumors that the military was testing some sort of new "death ray" (these conspiracy types really want a death ray) mounted on silent unmarked helicopters were the most popular. 

For NIGHT SHIFT

I have learned that if I want a crazy conspiracy theory in my games there is nothing I can create that will outdo the theories created by my players.  When I am putting ones together I try to keep a certain level of game logic in place. That way when things come up I have a reason for it.  My players are not burdened by such.  So sometimes I throw something out there just to get them spinning.

Unmarked helicopters are great for this.

Have a scene where the characters are investigating something?  Doesn't really matter what. A murder, a UFO sighing, a kitten stuck in a tree?  All of these things are now suddenly more sinister and involve the "Deep State" by putting an unmarked helicopter in the sky above it.

I got to see this demonstrated in real life at work a few years ago.  We were all sitting in our office on the 5th floor just having a normal day when someone spotted a helicopter hovering over the building across I80 from us.  Now seeing a helicopter over the interstate or expressway in Chicago is not a big deal, there are traffic and new helicopters in the sky all the time.  But this one was just hoovering there in the middle of the afternoon.  Well after the morning rush and well before the evening rush.  We all had to stop and watch it.  To see what it was doing.   Turns out it was changing the light fixtures over the interstate. It was hoovering because we could not see the ground crew affixing the new light fixture to it.  Normally this would have been done by crane, but the light was situated in such a way that a crane was not easily maneuverable in that area. 

So next time I need to shamelessly turn up the tension I'll put an unmarked helicopter in the sky and have it fly off before any of the characters can capture any details about it. 

And I have play this song as well.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Saturday, April 23, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: T is for Tunguska (and Tesla)

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories T
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: T is for Tunguska (and some Tesla)

On the morning of June 30, 1908 near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate (now Krasnoyarsk Krai), Russia an explosion of roughly 12 megatons occurred.  This is not in doubt and was well documented at the time.

What is in doubt is why it happened and what caused it.

Since then there have been over 1,000 scholarly papers and countless more less reputable inquiries as to what happened.  The best guess so far is it was some sort of meteor that hit the Earth with a glancing blow. 

Others have speculated that it was a comet, a small asteroid, or even more fanciful ideas like a bit of "dark matter" or even anti-matter.  Though in those last two cases we would need to figure out what dark matter actually is first and for it to be anti-matter where did it come from because it would not last long in space and not at all in any part of the Earth's atmosphere.   Going on the even more fringe it was a black hole, alien spacecraft, or Tesla's Death Ray.  More on those in a bit.

Tunguska has fascinated me for years.  I wish I could recall when I first heard about it.  It have to have been Carl Sagan's Cosmos ('Heaven and Hell') since I can't recall anything talking about it before that.  I found it so strange and yet so cool.  It would later be a throwaway line from Dan Aykroyd's Ray Stanz in Ghostbusters.  It would come again as a major plot point in the X-Files.

Let's look into the two big fringe theories, one of which is a conspiracy theory.

Nikola Tesla and the Death Rays

This is one that has received the most ink in my library.  It is also a proper Conspiracy Theory.  In the late 1890s, early 1900s, Nikola Tesla was working on the means to transfer large amounts of electricity through the air.  His experiments were failures for the most part.  But there is the claim that while working on this he sent a blast from Colorado to the North, over the North Pole, and hitting Sibera causing the Tunguska blast.  The government then came in to hush it all up to keep the Russians and Czar from knowing.  The US Government then kept pressuring Tesla to repeat the experiment for a long range "death ray."

We do know that when Tesla died FBI officals rushed into his New York hotel and confescated all his belongings.  Among these were supposedly plans for his death ray.

UFOs Over Russia

Another popular idea (it's not a theory) is that the blast happened due to a crashing or exploding UFO.  This might help with the question of where did the anti-matter come from if it were an anti-matter explosion.   Of course there is no evidence for this.  It was 1908 in the remotest part of Russia.  Even if good records had been keept in a little more than 10 years the Communists would have control and anything like records or evidence could have been lost.

These notions all come from more recent scientific forays into Siberia. One as recently as 2004. So not quite a 100 years after the fact.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Look. You can't mention Tesla and not get my ideas generating!  He is the epitome of the mad scientist.  If you have a game that has an inventor or weird science then at some point you are going to need to talk about Tesla.

So what was Tunguska in the worlds of NIGHT SHIFT?  Easy. It was e.) All the above.

There were UFOs over Siberia.  The US government had found about them and Tesla blew them up with his death ray.  Something he felt terrible about ever after.  The aliens would then later investigate again only to crash in Roswell, NM.  That's USA 2, Aliens 0!

A possible adventure idea is that someone has found Tesla's notes and now has their own death ray! 

Tesla books

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF)

Friday, April 22, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: S is for Satanic Panic

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories S
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: S is for Satanic Panic

This one might get a little meta.  But the Satanic Panic is something that all gamers of a certain age know all about. But if you think this particular corn-filled nugget was left behind in the 1980s then I have some news for you all.

A satanic panic is a form of moral panic that also has an element of a conspiracy theory behind in.

The notion is that there is a worldwide conspiracy of Satanists out there stealing babies and trafficking in children.  

Which of course is insane.

80s Satanic Panic

In the 1980s we went through a period of Satanic Panic that kept bubbling up. There were allegations of ritualistic abuse and that some daycare centers were fronts for sex trafficking and cannibalism.  Some children even came forward to talk about it.  The people that bought into this panic claimed there was a conspiracy of Satanists and it went on even persecute and jail innocent people.

The agreed start of the Satanic Panic scare, was Michelle Remembers, a book about recovered memory of ritualistic abuse. Though I claim it is a backlash of the 70s Occult Revival that has it's ceremonial start with the 1972 Time magazine cover of "The Occult Revival. Satan Returns."  Once both of these publications had hit the public consciousness the Wee Care Nursery School and McMartin preschool incidents and trials began.  Millions of dollars were spent, thousands of hours, and several lives of those accused destroyed.  The very few convictions were voided, but not before some people spent time behind bars.  The testimony of the children interviewed was later looked back on and many errors and outright miscarriages of justice were found.

All in the fear of Satan.

We even felt it in my small town in Central Illinois. Someone "found" a "satanic altar" in a cornfield south of our high school.  People were losing their damn minds.  I thought it was so fascinating that everyone at the school was so freaked out over what I considered nothing. I had been a pretty strong atheist at this point so I did not even remotely think there were any Satanists here, at least not the type that could do the things some of my peers thought.   This was an isolated situation, but not really a conspiracy. 

Here are some links to help you with the right feel of the 80s Satanic Panic.  This is nowhere near as long as it could be. But to put up everything would be pages of links. 

Pizzagate

Speaking of people losing their damn minds. You would think that the Satanic Panic would have stopped by the mid-90s.  After all, this is the 21st Century, the 3rd Millenium, we are obviously too smart for this sort of fairy tale nonsense.

Yeah, you know where I am going next.

So back during the 2016 Presidential election when new bars were being set for stupidity every day the latest rumor from QAnon connected a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong Pizza, to a supposed ring of Satanic pedophiles. Things only got worse, or stupider, from there. 

I don't want to go into the whole Pizzagate saga or even into QAnon. They don't deserve my mental energy and especially no place on my blog.  You can read all about Pizzagate online if you wish. I mean seriously, these idiots claimed there were underground areas in a building with no basement.  Suffice to say this: There are still plenty of people that believe, like Hal Lindsay once proclaimed, Satan is alive and well.  

Are there Satanists? Yes. There is the legally recognized Church of Satan and other Satanic and Luciferian religionists.  There is no worldwide Satanic conspiracy. There is no worldwide anything for Satanists in fact. They rather famously don't see eye to eye on many things after Anton LeVey's death. 

Does child trafficking happen?  Sadly yes it does.  But there is no evidence that there is any connection to Satanists. 

We are not done with Satanic Panics.  Who knows what shape the next one will take.

TIME The Occult Revival

For NIGHT SHIFT

So in the real world, there is no Satan and most Satanists are fairly harmless.  But NIGHT SHIFT is a different story. There are really demons and devils and evil spirits.  But there is no conspiracy here.  Demons, historically in games, are "Chaotic Evil" and they rarely work with each other. Their followers never do. 

I have used demons and trafficking in a game before. It was my "Vacation in Vancouver" campaign. Everyone in the game agreed it was going to be NC17 and very dark. But it is not something I would recommend for most groups but for the most serious and trusting players.  

All of this being said here is what I would do.  The characters catch wind of a possible Satanic Conspiracy.  Being big bad monster hunters they seek to investigate and possibly kick some demonic ass.  Instead, they find not demons and devils, but just garden variety humans being evil little fucks.

Why this? Two reasons. First I like to show that most often the evilest things we encounter are other humans.  Humans have a capacity for evil unmatched.  Secondly, it is a nod to the personal history I and many gamers have with Satanic Panics.  Many of us were on the receiving end of this just for being gamers.   So instead of it being Satanists, it is members of the local community doing this to get rid of the "undesirables" in their community.  If they look like the local PTA or HOA that is a mere coincidence. 

Yes, I know this is also essentially the same plot of the comic and TV series "Runaways" and the rather terrible Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks "Dragnet" movie. Though not as bad as Tom Hanks' other starring role in "Mazes & Monsters."

Given the nature of these work in real life, I would these sparingly, maybe only once per RPG title ever. 

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: R is for Radio Conspiracies

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories R
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: R is for Radio Conspiracies

There is something about many modern conspiracy theories and their connection with radios.  I think it is because, like the Internet, conspiracy theories were often shared in less than reputable papers and tabloids but also via ham radios and various pirate radio stations.

So today I thought I'd look into a couple of these.

The War of the Worlds

The first is the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. It seems that people missed the repeated remarks on this being the fictional broadcast.  But as Orson Welles was broadcasting wide-spread panic sat in by people believing that the US was really being attacked by Martians.  Why am I including this here?  It shows that people were taken in rather convincingly by what they heard on the state-of-the-art technology of the time.  So really, can we be surprised that people are taken in by stuff they see on the Internet?

Numbers Stations

These are weird.  I mentioned them back in October and I have looked into them a little more since then.  These are short-wave radio broadcasts believed to be coded messages to intelligence officers in the field.  If you can find them they are actually a little creepy to listen to.  While some, a minority, have been found out this leaves a majority who have not been discovered. Where uncertainty leaves a gap it is usually filled with a conspiracy theory. 

Some of the best I have heard/read is that these codes are for programming people that hear them.  Someone hears these numbers and they are pre-programmed to do some activities that they will not remember later.  Others claim they are alien broadcasts, either to or from aliens.

I can't recall if "The X-Files" ever covered Numbers Stations, but the recent History series "Project Blue Book" (not to be confused with the older, similar series on NBC "Project U.F.O.") featured them.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Taking a page from Banshee Chapter, the characters can discover a new Numbers Station; or be given a story by their editor in a Weirdly World News.  The station is not communicating with anyone human but the extra-dimensional aliens.  What are they doing? What do they want?  Maybe these numbers are not a coded message, but rather the frequencies are for opening up a portal to let in even more aliens.

Story or not, these aliens should probably be stopped. 

Oh. Looking for what I have said about another R word, Roswell? I have a whole entry in the latest NIGHT SHIFT book Night Companion: A Sourcebook for Night Shift: VSW.

Given all this talk about Radio, I thought this was a good choice. 

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: Q is for Queen is a Lizard

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories Q
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: Q is for Queen is a Lizard

One of the strangest conspiracy theories I have ever encountered was that the Queen of England, and presumably the entire Royal Family, are in fact shape-shifting lizard people.

I first heard about this during the 1986 Illinois gubernatorial election.  There is a lot to it, but briefly A couple of candidates, called "LaRouchies" by my dad, had run on the National Democratic ticket and won some major primary wins.  Because the people were confusing them with the Illinois Democratic Party (the one that would later back future President Barrack Obama). Anyway, it caused a lot of confusion, not that it mattered, Thompson won for like the 300th time.   But it did introduce me to National Democratic founder Lydon LaRouche.    

LaRouche was, as we used to say, bat-shit crazy.  Among his other ideas (including fascism, antisemitism, and racism) he believed that the Queen of England was not just a lizard person, she was in charge of an international drug ring along with the USSR. She also had put a hit out on him.  LaRouche was a constant bogeyman in Illinois politics until his death.  I remember one time they were on the campus at UIC (the University of Illinois at Chicago) and I asked them as I walked by on my way home from work if they still thought the Queen was after them.  They got mad but I didn't stick around to talk to them. 

I later found out that this whole Queen is a shape-shift lizard person comes from professional crazy person David Icke.  Icke really is the architect of this whole Lizard person/Reptiloid/Reptilians idea so maybe I do owe him some slack. After all, I have gotten a few hits this month from his ideas. Just a quick glance I have grabbed ideas related to this for A (Ancient Aliens), E (Extraterrestrials on Earth), I (Illuminati), N (New World Order), and  O (Outer Space).

Icke might not be picking on the Queen in particular, he seems to think that anyone in power is actually a lizard person. It should be noted he is also a Holocaust denier. 

There are others that share these ideas, but they seem to stem from Icke.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Again going with the obvious choice here, but finding out local government officials are shapeshifting aliens.  The trick for Game Masters is how deep does this conspiracy go?  Is it all of them or just a fringe group of weirdoes?  Given the history I have, I am likely to go with the whack-a-doodle fringe group is really the lizard people.

Lizard People

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Want to learn more about  NIGHT SHIFT and our plans for the game?  Check out this post from my co-creator Jason Vey on Powered by O.G.R.E.S.: A Multiverse of Systems.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: P is for Paul is Dead

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories P
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: P is for Paul is Dead

Ok. This one is VERY different from my other conspiracy theories posted here this month, but maybe one of the most important ones to me.  Why?  Because this is the conspiracy theory that introduced me to all the others.

Back in the 80s my dad (or maybe it was my mom, both were voracious readers) had a book about conspiracy theories and urban legends.  One grabbed my attention because my older brother Mike had gotten me into the Beatle recently and I was tuned in to anything Beatles.

The rumor was that Paul McCartney was dead and the clues had been scattered across all their albums if you knew what to look for.   And the list was a tantalizing one.

The rumor began in 1967 that Paul, singer, songwriter, and bass player for the Beatles was killed in a car crash.  The rumor was denied later, but it caught on and fans began to look for clues.  Here are some of the things they found.

Paul is Dead

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

  • On Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, the album cover had a hand over Paul's head, which many people claimed (with no evidence) was an ancient sign of someone about to die.  
  • Paul's uniform had a patch on the shoulder with the initials "O.P.D." on it which fans took as "Officially Pronounced Dead."  It was, according to McCartney from the "Ontario Police Department." This can be seen on the cover and the gatefold.
  • The lyrics page of Sgt. Pepper's had all of the band, except for Paul, facing the camera.  
  • The lyrics page also had George Harrison pointing to a lyric from "She's Leaving Home."  The line says "Wednesday at 5 o'clock."   This was not just when Paul died, but also to signify George Harrison's disappointment that Paul was replaced.
  • The flowers on the cover represented a left-handed bass or a P, both for Paul. 
Sgt. Peppers gatefold

The Beatles, aka The White Album (1968)

  • Ringo's song "Don't Pass Me By" features the lyrics, "You were in a car crash, And you lost your hair."  
  • John Lennon's song "I'm So Tired" has some mumbling in the recording that when played backward says "Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him."
  • If you play the end of "Revolution 9" backward (the "Number 9. Number 9" bit) you can hear John saying "Turn me on Deadman."   Producer Alan Parsons confirms that this is true, but only because John liked the sound of it. 
  • The song "Glass Onion" has the line "the Walrus was Paul."   People decide that the walrus was the "Viking animal of death" or whatever that means.  

Abbey Road (1969)

One of the most famous covers of Beatles' albums is also full of clues.

  • Each Beatle is crossing the road in step with the other, except for Paul.
  • Paul is barefoot (as a corpse, so it is claimed) and smoking his "last cigarette."
  • Each Beatle represents a different person in a funeral.  John is the priest in all white, Ringo the undertaker, Paul the corpse, and George in work clothes the srave digger.
  • There is a Volkwagon (also known as a "Beetle") in the background with the license plate "28IF." Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived. Though in truth he was only 27 at the time.
Abbey Road

And there are more, some going back to the Beatles catalog to find more clues.  Some even going back to "Revolver", released in 1966 BEFORE Paul "died."

The idea, which I clearly knew was false, fascinated me that people could be so caught up in it.  I would later see the same sort of behavior when the Satanic Panic happened.

Of course, this happened all by word of mouth and rumor and shoddy reporting and less than critical DJs on FM and college radios.  Certainly, something like this would never happen in the days of the Internet and fact-checking websites? 

WRONG.

Avril Está Morta / Avril is Dead

The newest version of this rumor is that Canadian singer Avril Lavigne died in 2003.  She was replaced by someone named Melissa Vandella (oh I have to use that name sometime) and was used to support their perception that Avril's style, both musically and personally, had changed from 2003 on.

What must they think of Lady Gaga then?

Both of these though bring up an interesting point in contrast.

Avril is Dead is a rumor or urban legend.  Paul is Dead is a conspiracy theory.

What is the difference?  Well, the key here is twofold.  Both seem to have grown from fans reactions to their artists and rumor getting out of hand.  While that seems to be the beginning and the end for Avril's supposed death, there is some evidence that Paul is Dead was embraced by at least John Lennon, and clues were seeded.  These are largely in the backward masking of songs from The White Album.  

Intentional involvement to hide the truth (or a lie) is the key element here.

For NIGHT SHIFT

This is the harder bit.  Despite my enjoyment of this particular bit of Beatles trivia, I have not found a good way to use it in a game except for the obvious.  Doppelgängers.  Someone famous has been replaced by a doppelgänger, or maybe a shape-shifted Reptoid, and the characters are the only ones who have noticed.  OR better yet.  Someone else has noticed and collected all this data but is then later killed.  It is up to the characters to discover the truth. Is the person a doppelgänger? Victim of a false rumor? Or did they cook the whole idea up to sell more whatever, albums, books, hits on YouTube.

Up to the characters to find out.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF)

Monday, April 18, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: O is for Outer Space

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories O
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: O is for Outer Space

This is a catch-all for various things I wanted to talk about but didn't have enough on their own.

They do all have at least one thing in common.  A serious distrust of NASA.

Moon Landings Faked

This is a big one really. There are some people out there who think the moon landings were faked.  We have a word for these people.

Idiots.

But it does give me a chance to use one of my favorite movie jokes.  

"NASA went to Stanely Kubrick to convince him to film their fake moon landing, but Kubrick was such a perfectionist he demanded the film it on location."

It is the same distrust of NASA that gives us the Flat Earthers

The Planet Nibriu 

Nibriu has tried to kill us not just once, but twice. There has been some version of this for decades.

Some questionable literature

Face on Mars / Pyramids on Mars

Back in 1979 the Viking I mission to Mars took orbital photos of what appeared to be a face on the planet Mars.  Later the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Global Surveyor in 1998 and 2001 took better pictures and showed that the "Face" was a trick of the light and pareidolia.  Humans are programmed to recognize faces.  Great when you are a newborn baby looking to get fed, bad when trying to separate signal from noise.  

Mars in general has fascinated us since we started looking up to the skies and noticed this one reddish-looking point of light was a bit different than the others.   I suppose it is hard to let go of some ideas after they have been ingrained for so long, even with the best data out there.

Of course, all the data in the solar system won't change the minds of those that feel that NASA is lying to them. 

Area 51

I talked a bit about this in "Night Companion: A Sourcebook for Night Shift: VSW" in my "Weirdly World News."  Area 51 is neat and all, but it is likely nothing there save for advanced aircraft. Advanced, sure, but not alien.   Besides, I have my own ideas for Area 51.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Nothing in particular that I have not mentioned already.  Save I want to do some more sci-fi style games with NIGHT SHIFT.  Come back in two week when May starts off Sci-Fi month here at the Other Side!

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Saturday, April 16, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: N is for New World Order

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories N
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: N is for New World Order

The New World Order is a conspiracy theory that gets rolled out once every few years. We are about due for it to come back up.

The idea behind it is that some great disaster, usually a false flag one, will cause all the countries in the world to cede control to some World Government, usually the UN, so there is a one-world government.

The term seems to come from early 20th Century political figures Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill.  It was much later popularized again by the first President George Bush.   

There are SO MANY conspiracy theories about the New World Order. More than I could even pretend to cover here.  But here are a few.

The first big one centers around the "End Times" of the New Testament.  Some readings of Revelation led people to people that the time of the Anti-Christ would coincide with the rise of a One World government.  This one got a lot of press back in the time when the European Union was founded (1993).  I remember having a conversation with a woman I worked with at a head injury clinic.  Like me she was a Qualified Mental Health Professional so not a dumb person by any measure, in fact very bright and very good at her job. Yet she told me she was not making any plans for the future.  She took the formation of the EU as a sign of the Beast returning. She even pointed out to me that the number of countries was the same as the number of horns of the great beast.  I don't think she was right, but she was convinced.  She even told me she expected the world to be over by 1999.  I kinda wish I had kept in contact with her.

There is a New Age philosophy that takes the NWO into a positive light with the arrival of the Age of Aquarius.  This will be a new age of peace and love.  I have used these ideas before with my witches and Sisters of the Aquarian Order.

There are plenty more involving the Illuminati and the Masons (of course).

David Icke, in particular Icke fashion, claims this is the time when we will be invaded by aliens.

And there are more, but you get the idea.

There are so many problems with any sort of New World Order.  I am not saying that we won't get to a One World Government, but it won't be any time soon.

Stacey Abrams as Earth's President on Star Trek Discovery
Capt. Burnham and Earth's President in the 32nd Century

Honestly, look at Brexit.  Not even Europe can hold itself together even when there are solid financial reasons to do so.  

Plus there is no single body of government that can even make the claim of being able to gather everyone together even through force.  

New World Order conspiracy theorists have a remarkable faith in humanity that I simply do not share. 

For NIGHT SHIFT

If anything the world of NIGHT SHIFT is even more chaotic than our real world.  Getting humans together is hard enough.  Add a bunch of supernatural creatures on one side and now a bunch of extraterrestrials on the other side, the notion of a New World Order is laughable.  Unless...

There is fear of a New Word Order, and the ones that are feared are normal humans.  This works well with my Ordinary World setting. Here the supernatural creatures are worried that humans will discover all about them and wipe them out.  As we know, scared groups tend to panic, and panicked groups tend to lash out violently.  

The situation would play out with various groups of supernatural creatures working together that normally hate each other joining forces to fight what they consider the bigger threat, united humanity. 

A bit like this.  

The Pandorica Opens

And like the Doctor Who episode, The Pandorica Opens, they gather together based on a faulty premise. The Doctor wasn't destroying the universe and the humans are not gathering together to destroy all the supernatural. Well...no more than usual. And certainly not a coordinated effort. 

So no New World Order here. 

--

Of course, this song was the first thing I thought about. 


The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Friday, April 15, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventure! Romance! Chaos! Horror!

Lots of new Kickstarters out there.  So many in fact. Let's have a look!

Mini-Adventure #1: Shadow of the Necromancer 1E/5E & Box Set

Shadow of the Necromancer


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/mini-adventure-1-shadow-of-the-necromancer-1e-5e-and-box-set

Mark Taormino and Dark Wizard Games has another gonzo adventure for us, this time for both 1st Ed and 5th Ed D&D. As always it looks like great fun.

Swords & Chaos

Swords & Chaos

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackspirefantasy/swords-and-chaos

Swords & Chaos is powered by the SIEGE Engine, the same system in Castles & Crusades. Looks like it is cut from the same cloth as AS&SH or Barbarians of Lemuria.

Tome of Adventure Design

Tome of Adventure Design

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventuredesigntome/tome-of-adventure-design

A revised and updated Tome of Adventure design for 2022.  I have the original and it is really useful to whip up something in a pinch.

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/midnight-tower/an-unexpected-wedding-invitation

A bit of change here is a Jane Austin-ish-inspired wedding mystery for 5e. Looks like a lot of fun.

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1990654819/shield-maidens-a-new-viking-cyberpunk-tabletop-rpg

Ok, this one sounds interesting.  Mixing cyberpunk, pre-apocalypse, and Norse myth.  There is also a free preview to get your first shield maiden built.  It is its own system, but it still looks fun.

The Art of Ménage à 3

The Art of Ménage à 3

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pixietrixcomix/the-art-of-menage-a-3

Now for something completely different.  Ménage à 3 was a fantastic webcomic about three roommates hopelessly in love with each other.  But that did not mean things worked out! It also launched the career of  Gisèle Lagacé.  This has art from the comic and new pieces.

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/old-gods-of-appalachia-roleplaying-game

Dark weird folk horror from Monte Cook? YEAH! Sign me the hell up! It is the Cypher system and you know the production values will be high.

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/563681582/fast-core-rulebook-multi-genre-rpg-system

A new multi-genre system that looks like it has a LOT of potential.  I like multi-genre systems since I tend to mix a lot of things together in one game. 


Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/swords-of-cthulhu

Another cool one from Joseph Bloch who has a stellar Kickstarter track record.  This one brings the Lovecraftian mythos back (or back again) to AD&D/OSRIC.


Lots of choices!