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How about just having information technology strengthen the masquerade?

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  • How about just having information technology strengthen the masquerade?

    How about just having the internet and information technology strengthen the masquerade instead of weakening it?
    -

    So a central problem of urban fantasy in the modern age is that keeping the masquerade is far less believable today then thirty years ago. Especially in settings such as WoD that was never built to handle information technology and global internet communication.

    V5 tries to handle the issue by stating that the masquerade is broken kinda sorta but also not, which I dunno. It just feels like it pushes it off a bit into the future and even then not so distant.

    So my thinking is, instead of having information technologies threaten the masquerade just have it do the opposite.

    1. Allow the internet to be as much a supernatural place as the offline world.
    2. Allow the shadowy organisations of WoD to exert roughly the same amount of influence over information technologies as they can over other areas such as politics, media, and commerce.
    3. Implement an indoctrination effect for people using the more common information technologies out there. (If you have seen They Live, something like that).

    The metaplot would be that either the Camarilla or the Technocratic Union (if they exist in the setting) have implemented various mind whammies into most common technology, if both exist maybe they cooperated, or otherwise the Cammies themselves have done it trough experimentation and development, merging modern technology with various experimental pieces of occultism.

    Veil Indoctrination - Any person using common social media platforms, search engines, or browsers (facebook, google, youtube, reddit, twitter, internet explorer, etcetera), or standard smart phones get subject to weak yet constant subliminal messaging. This messaging seeks to blind them to the supernatural, get them to ignore it or make them incapable of seeing it. This indoctrination can even apply to supernatural creatures, though it is weaker and doesn't stop them from knowing about themselves.

    This effect has been termed as "The Veil" by people in the know and is seen as separate from the masquerade. No one knows where the Veil Indoctrination comes from, though most Vampires assume the Camarilla. Not even the Camarilla claims to know its limits. It has caused many kindred to take the masquerade less seriously, much to the constipation of more veteran vampires.

    It has a standard 1-5 rating:
    1. (Default for supernatural creatures suffering from Veil Indoctrination)A diminished capacity to notice the supernatural. The person is less likely to take rumours about the supernatural seriously, and will avoid looking up further information about supernatural stuff or miss details about the supernatural. For supernaturals this mostly applies to other types of supernaturals.
    2.The person is lethargic to the concept of the supernatural and will dismiss most indirect evidence(videos, testimonies, impossible stuff such as an impossible murder). Only if he himself sees a blatant supernatural effect will it get trough, or if he wades trough a lot of indirect evidence will this effect diminish
    3. (Default for normal mortals)The person is blinded to the supernatural. They will rationalize supernatural events to make them mundane. Memories of supernatural events will self edit to come off as fake or something more mundane. Repeated exposures to the supernatural or something extremely drastic can still break trough the indoctrination and lower this value. Dramatic evidence related to things he cares about can also diminish it.
    4. No indirect evidence or even repeated exposure will break the individual out of his stupor. Only a truly dramatic event (your son dying in a hail of plasma because of a hit mark, being turned into an undead, meeting the ghost of your wife) will diminish the indoctrination.
    5. The person will not accept the existence of the supernatural. Only trough powerful mind altering effects such as domination or Awakened Mind Magic can this indoctrination be diminished or undone.

    The Veil Indoctrination would work similar to a background/advantage. There's no distinct mechanical way to raise or lower it, it would be up to the st.

    Ways to avoid or diminish it would be to avoid using common social media platforms and search engines, avoid using standard smartphones, use security measures. It wouldn't be complicated but it'd be inconvenient. A paranoid mortal might do so. Ie, you'd have conspiracy theory nut using something like a Tor browser or a WoD equivalent (the others are infected! They are infected by the evil shadow organisations!), frequenting mostly obscure forums and smaller online communities, or as mentioned repeated or dramatic exposure to the supernatural.

    Ways to increase it would be repeated exposure to social media, standard smartphones (the black market could have hacked smartphones cleaned up to filter out the indoctrination), or just being rather easy going and not questioning stuff.

    The intended ooc effects would be:

    1. You can be more open about supernatural stuff, even if you still can't go completely hog wild.
    2. You can include mortal npcs in the campaign without having to brainwash them, mindwipe them, or kill them. Ie, your touchstones can have a Veil Indoctrination 1, hang with you, and even if they where to betray you other people wouldn't take them seriously. You have more options for what mortals can be in your campaign.
    3. It would make sense that the Anarch sect would be lighter on the masquerade than the Camarilla even if they don't break it completely.
    4. The Masquerade could break locally without breaking globally. You could have a subfaction within the Anarch for example living openly in a small community or neighbourhood, mostly trying to hide from hunters or the Camarilla. Even the rest of the anarchs consider them extreme, but noone moves in openly, yet.
    5. By modifying how effective the Veil Indoctrination is you can modify how strong the masquerade is.
    6. You could still have the Second Inquisition be a thing in the setting, but you wouldn't have to.
    7. You could still have the Camarilla put up an edict of 'Don't use the internet' cause they are hardasses about the masquerade and doesn't trust that The Veil will hold. In the middle or upper levels of the organization they are still doing lots of manipulation and research and expending resources towards information technologies, but on the street or as a default members are expected to control themselves and keep well away.

    Aside from the Veil Indoctrination:
    The internet is explicitly supernatural. Ghosts haunt it, demons possess parts of it, kindred fills it with experimental sorceries, parts of it doesn't make sense, occasionally people find strange sites that should not exist, homepages sometimes disappear into nothingness, lots of crazy shit goes on in it. if you are unlucky you go to ebay and you find shit that really shouldn't be there(and that's gone the next day). Even the parts of it that aren't supernatural are more crazy and byzantine than in our real world.

    Shadowy organizations influence both the internet and communication technologies in general. The Syndicate or the Camarilla owns large shares in most companies in silicon valley. They've also recruited people over the past thirty years relevant to this new domain of power. The camarilla approach it the same way they approach business and politics. Embrace some of the older people who made the backbone of the more common operating systems, the internet infrastructure, or designed smartphones with a large market share. Or ghoul or dominate, or just outright bribe them with money, pleasure or whatever they wan't. You know, some good old fashioned high level manipulation of important shit.

    Other stuff
    The Camarilla tries to develop new disciplines to affect technological systems. There are no official rules for creating new bloodlines or disciplines but we know it is possible so the Camarilla have started an official cross clan top secret research effort to knock something out. Select kindred from specific clans decent at mental manipulation are given vast resources to cook up useful occult shit.
    Have the Camarilla cooperate with the Syndicate in a limited fashion.

    Summary:
    There is a supernatural effect called the Veil which indoctrinates people into ignoring the supernatural. Created either by the Camarilla or the Technocratic Union.It is powerful but have limits.It affects the internet, smartphones, possible other things as well.
    The Internet is explicitly as full of supernatural stuff as any other place in the World of Darkness. It's not obvious, but it's always present under the surface. Half the creepy pastas are true or mostly true.
    Supernatural organizations influence information technologies like they influence politics, the media, and business. Ie, they may not totally control them, but they're a major player.
    Supernatural organization does a lot of R&D to get supernatural ways to influence information technologies.

    The drawback of all this is that it's still a pretty metagamey way to try and rationalize why the masquerade hasn't broken.
    Last edited by CoriolisEffect; 10-04-2019, 09:06 PM.

  • #2
    I've spilled a lot of digital ink on the topic in these parts in the past, but my opinion with regards to the Masquerade and contemporary technology is that it requires a more nuanced analysis than previous, and current, published works support. Fifth is almost-kinda-sorta there, but not really, and sacrifices much in terms of parsimony and plausibility to achieve a predetermined end goal of constructed conflict (i.e. the Second Inquisition).

    I'll preface all of this by saying I'm a hardcore anti-crossover person. So, I don't really handle discussion of fatsplats interacting with one another, especially when it comes to MtAs versus VtM due to the sheer differences in scale and scope of power and the fundamental contradictions that arise when discussion how sects would interact in a crossover setting.

    Realistically, the Masquerade needs to be examined as a dual-level phenomenon, possessing a macro and micro level. The macro level represents public awareness and maintaining social order; keeping knowledge of the supernatural publicly inaccessible, shaping the zeitgeist to exclude the possibility of the supernatural, and effecting social pressure to discredit and marginalize those with knowledge and belief. On this level, simply due to cultural momentum and the basic desire of people to preserve social order, the Masquerade is all but inviolable and self-sustaining, and contemporary technology has been a force for its perpetuation. And even in Fifth edition, the "Second Inquisition" seems to have no desire or will to endanger the Masquerade on this level even if it somehow were to marshal the capability, and weaponizes this fact to wage its shadow war.

    For example, let's assume some dipshit Tzimisce decides to go parading down a busy street in Zulo form, flipping cars, dread gazing bystanders, fleshcrafting victims and feeding in public, blowing up shit with koldunic sorcery, and generally making a jackass of themselves in every way conceivable. Somebody whips out a smartphone, records video of it, and uploads that shit to Youtube where it goes viral and gets millions of views. The average viewer isn't going to look at that and think, "oh my god, vampires are real!", they're going to look at it and think "cool special effects" or "great, more viral marketing".

    Canonically, if I remember right, Daniel Webster (a famous American politician, attorney, and orator) was embraced as a Ventrue. He was specifically mentioned in GttC if I remember right. He died in 1852, and there are photographs and a large number of painted portraits of him. Video of Undead Daniel Webster giving a speech on Youtube shows up, people are going to think how scary deepfake technology is getting that it can accurately represent dead people, not "oh my god vampires are real!". Occam's razor almost always wins, and for the overwhelming majority of the populace "vampires!" is just not a rational conclusion, even if vampires are indeed real.

    The micro level is actually the problematic one. Because while most are going to casually disregard even blatant, otherwise undeniable, proof of the existence of the supernatural, not everyone will. Of the "I want to believe" crowd, a significant enough portion to pose a threat to vampires will be disposed to "kill it with fire". So, keeping vampires from doing stupid shit that will attract the "kill it with fire" crowd is pretty important, even if in the big picture the Masquerade is here to stay.

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    • #3
      There is another aspect to the Internet being a thing than just video/media sharing. There is the aspect of information and goods availability on an unparalleled level compared to 30+ years ago.

      Consider the move The Lost Boys, which is a main inspiration for street level V:tM. If that same movie played out in the modern world the kids would use bitcoin to purchase military grade weapons or just hire actual mercenaries to deal with the vampire problem. Thermal cameras are a bit more expensive but are available to civilians so getting proof of a room temp vampire walking around a "hot" crowd of normal humans is just an amazon order away. In the Fright Night remake with Collin Farrell even the professional vampire hunter uses ebay for some of his gear or just accumulating lore and relics.

      I remember back in the 80's and 90's you had to go to specialty stores or use sketchy catalogs to order books that had weapons and tactics information. The Anarchists Cookbook and the Poor Mans James Bond books are just a couple examples, but now most of those designs and formulas are a single google search away. This also means that even a high school kid can access tactical manuals on how to secure a house against intrusion, turn it into a death trap, or just remind them to have an escape route preplanned.

      Essentially the more advanced technology becomes, the more vampires will have to go underground in first world countries. After a certain point the only vampires that will be able to realistically do "street level" games are nosferatu. Everyone else will more or less be stuck becoming vampiric Hikikomori and hiding from the public. If a vampire wanted to be more of a public figure they would have to go to a third world country and set up either vampiric government or pull a Pablo Escobar and run the country from his private estate deep in the wilderness.

      A potential alternative is to just create underground cities which were designed with vampire needs in mind from the beginning. The Nosferatu move into existing sewers and modify them to better suit their needs. I am talking about having company town built in the middle of a desert or other hostile environment with a massive underground city complex that is exclusively for vampires underneath the mortal town.

      Of course this whole line of thinking becomes a lot more complicated when you consider the fact that Satellite and Drone technology have come almost as far as the internet in terms of capabilities and civilian accessibility. Archeologists are using crowdsourced mapping technology to identify lost cities and buildings using satellite imagery, so hiding vampire cities will be tough. Further more both drones and satellites can be equipped with thermal sensors so once again if you are outside, you can be spotted as not human. Then as per the recent news stories hunters can just use a few waves of drones to attack a vampire's Haven.

      If the V:tM setting is going to remain as a hidden world sort of thing, rather than Anita Blake or True Blood settings with vampires coming out of the coffin, then the focus of the game will need to change drastically to realistically hide from technology and the changes to society enabled by that same technology.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thoth
        Most of the tech you are describing still requires one important factor: People need to be aware that they actually need it. In our world, people who turn their houses into death traps are usually regarded as paranoid, as are people who use thermal cameras on random people. All this technology makes vampire hunters more dangerous, but not regular people. The result for the Camarilla: Make sure regular people don't turn into vampire hunters. The most certain way to do that is to protect the Masquerade because people don't go vampire hunting if they don't know that vampires are around and if the idea of vampires existing is seen as absurd, even actual proof may well get dismissed.

        CoriolisEffect
        While it's definitely an interesting approach that may work at your table, I personally think it doesn't fit the feeling of Masquerade. In a game where supernatural power is almost always close and personal unless it's wielded by Methusalehs and sci-fi technology is limited to things that are close to reality, mass hypnosis effects appear out-of-genre for me. It may work for Mage or other settings though.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Cifer View Post
          Thoth
          Most of the tech you are describing still requires one important factor: People need to be aware that they actually need it. In our world, people who turn their houses into death traps are usually regarded as paranoid, as are people who use thermal cameras on random people. All this technology makes vampire hunters more dangerous, but not regular people. The result for the Camarilla: Make sure regular people don't turn into vampire hunters. The most certain way to do that is to protect the Masquerade because people don't go vampire hunting if they don't know that vampires are around and if the idea of vampires existing is seen as absurd, even actual proof may well get dismissed.
          Going along with my theorizing, that's still a "micro-Masquerade" concern since it deals with the availability of technology to end users. And indeed it would represent an enormous problem for vampires, since in the modern age individual hunters and groups of hunters have access to unprecedented levels of weaponry, strategies, logistics chains, and communication methods that allow them to organize, mobilize, and strike in ways not easily countered. About the only way to achieve that, is to double down on the phenomenon that poses the "bigger" threat -- the contemporary surveillance state.

          The contradiction in terms, is that much discussion about the Masquerade in the contemporary world necessarily revolves around the surveillance state. Look no further than the SI's framing in 5th for proof positive of this -- the SI itself is a deep state the chief weapon of which is mass surveillance technologies. The "failing" of this with regards to the Masquerade, is the developed world is at a major low point in governmental transparency and accountability, unfortunate if not downright outrageous levels of collusion with the tech and media sectors, and therefore corruption. The needle isn't going to move, when the instruments that could expose the Masquerade in the big picture have a "Masquerade" of their own.

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          • #6
            When I first saw your topic title, my reaction was, "Nope. I don't buy it. It's like fighting fire with gasoline."

            You see, I have long believed that it was only a matter of time before the Masquerade was broken wide open. The modern surveillance state, personal video recording capabilities, and big data must conspire to reveal vampires, if not to the general public immediately, then at least the powers that be.

            In my games, vampires are "known" to exist about as much as UFOs or Big Foot. A solid majority of people believe in the possibility of such things existing, but also believe that they probably don't exist. It's also held that the small number of people who claim to have had direct contact are mistaken, deluded, or lying. Some people firmly believe in vampires, either because they have had an experience, or just because they "want to believe". They constitute no more than 10% of the population, and everyone else thinks they are cranks.

            Reading your post, though, I am persuaded to have more sympathy for the "the secret is safe" view than I have ever had. Provisionally.

            I feel like you are right on the edge of making your case, but need to develop it a little more. I still have a few questions.

            I need more than "somebody somewhere does something" to the internet. Piggy backing this sort of thing onto the highly decentralized internet is a vast, vast project. Who is charged with maintaining the effect? How did they first develop the technology? How are they funded? Who decides how much public knowledge is too much public knowledge? (Bonus points for not referencing other gamelines at all. Like Theodrim I am not a fan of crossovers. Mechanics tend to break, and genres tend to get muddled.)

            On a technical level, what does the effect look like to the masses, and what breadcrumbs does it leave behind? I have a few ideas, but, frankly, this is your idea, and it deserves something more specific than "mind whammy", and "because a wizard did it." If you want to introduce some unexplained, vague weirdness censor, fine, but why bring modern tech into it at all? Just skip to "it's magic", and leave the technobabble out of it.

            Let's assume you make a convincing case for a tech-based mind whammy making the Masquerade highly resistant to breakage, doesn't that remove one of the major areas of conflict in the game? How seriously will anyone take the rules against revealing yourself if the human population are all conditioned to just shrug it off? If there is that extra layer of protection, why not just operate more-or-less openly?

            Has whoever created this effect considered how bad it will be if the secret gets out anyway? I mean, "vampires are real, my cousin Cindy is a Gangrel" is one thing. "Vampires are real, and they've been mind whammying us for years" makes for quite a different coming-out story.

            What safeguards are in place against the effect being hijacked? Couldn't this be used by big companies or governments to mind control the public? If I were a player and this game element were introduced, my first thought would be to hack it for my own benefit.

            I share Cifer's concern with breaking genre. It all seems a little cyberpunk to me. Or, maybe, it's just that the real world became a cyberpunk world while I wasn't watching.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
              I need more than "somebody somewhere does something" to the internet. Piggy backing this sort of thing onto the highly decentralized internet is a vast, vast project. Who is charged with maintaining the effect? How did they first develop the technology? How are they funded? Who decides how much public knowledge is too much public knowledge? (Bonus points for not referencing other gamelines at all. Like Theodrim I am not a fan of crossovers. Mechanics tend to break, and genres tend to get muddled.)
              Dude, not to sound like a douche about this, but after Edward Snowden what "more" could you possibly need? There are only two fictions in this conversation, one is that vampires exist and the other is the technology needed to do this is itself fictitious.
              Last edited by Theodrim; 10-05-2019, 02:22 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                I share Cifer's concern with breaking genre. It all seems a little cyberpunk to me. Or, maybe, it's just that the real world became a cyberpunk world while I wasn't watching.
                We live in a world where prosthetic limbs are getting more practical, deep fakes can be used to startling effect, increasingly more of the economy is in an entirely digital currency, and we've got working prototypes for flying cars. All while corporations exert more and more control over people's lives, while rising economic inequality leads to societal misery and political unrest.

                We ARE living in a cyberpunk dystopia. And it's the lamest one possible.


                Comment


                • #9
                  And yet the modern ways of influencing people mostly work by micro-targeting the right message to the right person, or, alternatively, stunning them into apathy by sheer overload, not via subliminal quasi-hypnotic reprogramming.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Theodrim View Post
                    Dude, not to sound like a douche about this, but after Edward Snowden what "more" could you possibly need? There are only two fictions in this conversation, one is that vampires exist and the other is the technology needed to do this is itself fictitious.
                    Dude, PRISM is an evil data collation system, which combs through private corporations' servers to identify information of interest and combine it into usable form at a central site.

                    It is not, however, a magical electronic spell which causes people to edit their own perception of reality to remove whole chunks of their life experience. Mind control is a difficult and time consuming task, as the message needs to be carefully targeted to remove topics you want ignored, while allowing full functionality otherwise. All this needs to be done while not leaving any electronic breadcrumbs behind to be stumbled across and publicized. It also needs to be done so the individual victim adapts the edited memory to match the individual situation in which it occurs, no matter how many inconsistencies or paradoxes this creates. This needs to operate it in every language at once, to boot.

                    That is much, much more complicated and invasive than what the surveillance state does.

                    The sort of system the original poster describes would require something beyond the resources of all but a few state actors, and well beyond today's neural and computer science. The NSA, which operates PRISM, has an annual budget of $8 Billion dollars, and between 35,000 and 55,000 employees. The very fact that we are discussing PRISM, shows how difficult it is to keep such a big secret.

                    If we want to say, "It works because a wizard did it", okay. Fair play in an urban fantasy game. But, this plan is not what a mage player might call coincidental.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cifer View Post
                      And yet the modern ways of influencing people mostly work by...subliminal quasi-hypnotic reprogramming.
                      I mean, let's be honest. The amount of money that goes into sales and marketing analysis and methodology, ad design, search engine and CTR optimization, and meta-analysis of all of the above, and the application of that data...we're not too far off.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                        Dude, PRISM is an evil data collation system...this plan is not what a mage player might call coincidental.
                        You misinterpret where I was going with that. My point's that complicated and lavish plans such as that outlaid by the OP simply aren't necessary in the first place.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Theodrim View Post
                          Dude, not to sound like a douche about this, but after Edward Snowden what "more" could you possibly need? There are only two fictions in this conversation, one is that vampires exist and the other is the technology needed to do this is itself fictitious.
                          I took this to mean you were saying the mind-control technology proposed in the original post was reality.

                          You misinterpret where I was going with that. My point's that complicated and lavish plans such as that outlaid by the OP simply aren't necessary in the first place.
                          Oh. Okay, then I have no idea what it is you're saying.

                          Sometimes, I can be a little dense.

                          Maybe, try explaining it again a different way?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I think part of whether this works or not will depend on how you perceive the Masquerade to work. Originally it's just information control and secrecy, but if you added a supernatural element to it (magic, say via the Tremere) it becomes a little bit easier. Some sort of perpetual 'forget me' field (like the Delirium minus the fear in WtA). Or maybe its an extension of vampiric nature (something like the 'Arcane' background in MtA maybe?)

                            Elements of technology can still help to play into that/reinforce 'rationalization' efforts that the magic might rely on (Theogrim mentioned 'deepfake' technology as one example, really good CGI is another, although I might be delving more into 'coincidental' vs 'vulgar' in MtA with that analogy.)

                            There's obviously the wealth and technology and connections that Vampires have that can also play into it. Obviously no one factor (alone) likely will provide all the answers, but Vampires could put together enough temporal, technological, and supernatural factors into play.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                              -snip-
                              I think you are overstating how complicated it needs to be.

                              How many people use google? If you could put a secret command people on the google front page to "Ignore the supernatural." How many people would it effect? How many people with what, auspex 5, auspex 6 or equivalent could even notice it was there? What if it also affected some other things, like internet explorer, or hell why not Windows?

                              We are so dependent on the products of huge megacorporations, using them as a vector for mass influencing not only makes a lot of sense, but is a classic theme in semi dystopian stories like yes cyberpunk or WoDs originally gritty 90s world.

                              There are already similar effects in the settings. Mages have the Arcane rating that literally makes people forget them or not even notice they are there. The Technocracy indoctrinates people as a standard practice. Werewolf automatically puts people into a cataconic state, specifically so that they don't understand what's happening. There are established effects that already do exactly this, just on a local scale instead of a global one. And even if you are only interested in vampires, and ignore other splats, you're left with vampires having some of the weakest intrinsic means to maintain secrecy, cause they where the first and earliest splat to be released.

                              Also it should be up to each individual storyteller how strong or weak it is. If you want to run a campaign where the masquerade is inevitable going to break? It's a patch job barely holding things together. Want to run a very open game where you're known as the 'local heroic vampires' but the setting is otherwise intact? It's almost ironclad to people not in the know. Want something in between? It helps cover your ass but it has limits. It should be up to the group.

                              I figured it would be impossible to hijack, but you could probably turn it into an adventure or whatnot. "Oh, I'm gonna spend half a decade targeting social media site x trying to understand and gain control of the Veil on that site" sounds like an ok long term project. Even just "I'll try to subvert it, not on the entire site, but on this smaller subreddit/youtubechannel/individual facebook page, so people that see it are slightly more likely to do something I want them to do" could work as a quicker goal.

                              But yeah you might need to explain it in more detail because VtM tend to be setting focused, except that would also probably kill it since how the Camarilla actually upholds the masquerade is never really dwelt on in detail exactly to avoid people poking holes in it. It's all just vague "oh they have people in the media" and stuff like that.

                              But I still like it more than like... the Second Inquisition and "yeah we're all fucked." I mean the natural actual thing that should happen is the masquerade broke during the week of nightmare when the end of the world almost occurred, so in like 2004, but that also kills the setting.

                              Originally posted by Cifer View Post
                              And yet the modern ways of influencing people mostly work by micro-targeting the right message to the right person, or, alternatively, stunning them into apathy by sheer overload, not via subliminal quasi-hypnotic reprogramming.
                              There's no functional difference between these things. You could add a supernatural tinge to either of them and it'd be exactly the same.

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