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  • Contagion Factions Without the Contagion

    So what of the things I was somewhat disappointed from the Contagion Chronicles was, well, that it was too focused around the Contagion- while I really liked the idea of the Contagion as a thing, I would have preferred that the book would have been more focused around actual crossover attitudes and mechanics between different gamelines, like some of the awesome things we have seen in Dark Eras 2 (the Bloodless and the Miasma comes to mind as examples). Anyway, IIRC, the Player's Guide was said to contain such information, so there is that, but this is not related to the topic of the thread. What that this thread is about is musing how the Factions of the Contagion Chronicles could operate for a crossover game without the Contagion.

    Now, while the Contagion is definitely a disaster in waiting, there are many things which could cause the many monsters of the CofD to band together. A strix plague which threatens the city. A sleeping Earthbound idigam which starts shaping flesh and spirit. An abyssal entity which breaks reality apart. While each of those monstrosities is tied to a certain gameline, if the power level of the threat is big enough those who know the monsters may seek help from others to fight the enemy. Or may be asked for help from those who don't know how to deal with the enemy. Or perhaps if the threat is disastrous enough, it will draw the attentions of others whether others are interested in it or not. Think the Week of Nightmares, when the Ravnos Antediluvian woke up and started to spread ruin all across India. Who cares that the monster god is actually a part of Vampire's mythology, when it kills everything and everyone around it equally?

    As such, I've thought that we could reexamine the way the Factions operate in the CofD even if there is no immediate outbreak of a Contagion around, or even if there is no apocalypse waiting at the gate. The best way to stop a world scale supernatural disaster is to divert it before it happens, and that requires an already existent infrastructures and information network which makes sure that everyone will be aware if something starts to boil beneath the surface. Of course, the assumption is that not every person with supernatural abilities is a part of those Factions- but those organizations have enough contacts across different supernatural groups so we could assume that if the local Princes discovers that one of the Dragons in their Domain have accidentally summoned a death god from the Underworld, he would know the right guy in the Elysium which has contacts with a local Krewe due to their work in the Cryptocracy, for example.

    Anyway, here are my thoughts about the subject-

    The Cryptocracy: One of the easiest to adapt without the need for the Contagion. I mean, more than enough monsters have their reasons to make sure that humanity is kept unaware and that order is maintained. Chaos and war are bad to most supernatural beings even without them producing a new strain of the Contagion. As such, any monster which has interests in human affairs and desires to maintain an ordered society would have an interest in joining the Cryptocracy.

    The Jeremiad: monsters have their religions, too. While most would jealously to their own faith and claim it to explain it all, as monsters become aware to each others existence, world views may shift. Monsters may discuss each other about religious views, and discover that they have some thing in common. Those which have some better understanding of the divine may start philosophical arguments and debates, while those who are more zealot are more likely to claim those as blasphemies and stick to their original views. Still, those who are more tolerable may start a syncretic, esoteric faith based around salvation and faith in higher powers, whatever face they choose to wear before their faithful.

    The Rosetta Society: knowledge is important in the CofD, for while the past may be dead as a rotten corpse, the dead has the unpleasant tendency to crawl from their graves just as you least expect them to. Searching after archaeological relics, translating ancient texts and gathering the information of countless different occult societies and then trying to find the truth between the whole mess is a mission of a lifetime, if not multiple of them. Knowledge is important, and preservation of it is a common goal of the Rosetta with or without the Contagion around.

    The Ship of Theseus: the world is changing in accelerating rate. Be it ecological changes such as the global climate change or increasing pollution or the social advancement like in terms of social media and the automation of jobs, the world in which the monsters exists is far from constant, even though many of the said monsters would prefer it to not be so. Learning how to change and cope with the world is crucial to survive in the new times, and with the access the monsters have to supernatural abilities and tools, they should better means to be prepared to tomorrow. Change needs to be adopted, accepted and embraced if the occult community wish to survive.

    Zero Hour: a bit less trivial than the other Sworn factions, the Zero Hour is all about war. With the Contagion present, it is clear who their enemy is- but when there is no outbreak around who should they fight for? One option would make them into mercenaries, monsters which are focused around using their talents to kill people for price- but it doesn't sit well with their themes. Instead, I think we should keep the Zero Hour as a military, kind of a "unified coalition force" which is always kept prepared for war- and a war is always coming. While the regular training and maintenance of force could seem unneeded, many countries host a military even if they are not in an immediate threat for their existence, but to be prepared in case such threat arise or in order to deter any potential enemy from going to war. Strong peace requires strong military kind of philosophy, and while some may claim them to be redundant, once a Geryo goes on a rampage or the huntsmen invade en masses, the Zero Hour would be the first one they'll call, and they will be ready. They are always ready.

    The Crucible Initiative: as they focus around the Contagion as plague, they are very difficult to imagine without the said plague to treat. Their scorched land policy means they must try to eradicate something- but why to settle for "something" when it could be "everything"? The Initiative could very well be focused around removing any threat they see for the supernatural world and no matter what price needs to be paid. Someone threats the Masquerade? Kill them. Some cult worship a spirit for better crops? Kill them. Network Zero submits a video of Sin Eaters communing with ghosts? Kill them, and kill the Sin Eaters just in case. You can never know from where the next apocalypse is going to start, and if there is a doubt you should burn it with fire. The first priority is to remove the threat and maintain whatever is left. That's the only way to be sure that the world will not crumble.

    The Machiavelli Gambit: where the Cryptocracy tries to control mortals, the Gambit tries to control monsters. Instead of stopping or removing any dangerous powers, they collect them, keeping tabs on them and trigger them as they wish. The Gambit strongly believes that occult power is a mean for control, and are not above unleashing catastrophes in order to keep power in their hands. Search for occult means for power and hegemony and using a number of contained disasters as tools for blackmail allows the members of the Faction to keep a tight grip over the neck of local supernatural population, and when a new disaster comes to force enemies to work together- all while trying to discover the secrets for the disaster and how it could be contained in a small Pandora's Box for the Gambit's future use.

    Naglfar's Army: most factions always try to stop future disasters. The Army is waiting for them to happen. Heck, they are probably the ones to trigger most of them. A Naglfar's Army's unit gathers everything they can, making preparations before pushing the trigger and starting a ruin. Their goal is to ruin the current social structures and hierarchies, so when everything would fall apart and the storm would be over, they could come from the rabbles as the strongest Faction around and take over the ruins. Half apocalypse cult, half opportunists and scavengers, they constantly work to cause the current movers and shakers to fall in the most painful and destructive way, and then storm in and become both the saviors and rulers of whatever was left behind.

    Well, that's what I have in mind, at least. Any suggestions or thoughts about the subject?


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  • #2
    For Zero Hour, as well as mercenaries, they could also be an instance of smaller compacts around the world where various Monsters band together against another common threat. Perhaps a region becomes the target of a threat great enough that the various factions have to band together to survive. Perhaps their unique abilities have less to do with a stringent regimen, and is more an expression of the synergy of a group of individuals with widely diverse skills working together, and learning to invest in that team-work.

    -You were not sure why the Leeches kept freaking out over what they described as literal shadows, and assumed that it worst it was some form of Spirit or Claimed that you and the rest of the People could handle, or at least understand, far better. Then one day your grandmother, a caring and tender old woman with no Blood of the Wolf, to speak of, tore one of your pack-mates in half, her eyes burning yellow. Now, you too jump at the shadows, but you and the Leeches have found common ground, and a common enemy.

    -​You had a life-long friend, a soulmate, you shared every dream and sorrow, every hope and regret. The one regret you did not get to share with her in life was not to have made of your relationship, as death took you from her and you realized she meant more than the rest of your life combined. But you got a second chance, granted to you by something that looked like a walking whirl-pool, and when you came back to her she didn't even ask you to explain. The day after she surprised you again by telling you much more of where you had met your 'head-mate', and she introduced you to her wizard friends. You had almost a year together before death came again, this time in the form of another wizard, who tore your friend's, your lover's, your life's soul from her, and that beautiful light faded in her eyes forever. Nobody, neither living or otherwise, can tell you where she is, but her friends told her about the crew this other wizard runs with. They seek thrones? You have made a lot of dead friends who seek them thrown out of, from or into all manner of things, thrones included.

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    • #3
      The Cryptocracy is more or less my idea of what to replace “VALKYRIE IS RUN BY VAMPIRES!” with. The “dark secret” the VALKYRIE steering committee keeps from the field agents is that they’ve made deals with various supernatural factions that support stability and the status quo, and give agents missions and restrictions that reflect that priority, even when it means focusing on other matters that threaten order when Invictus gets to feed, or the Seers rewrite people’s entire lives, or a Maa Kep cult enslaves, etc etc.
      Last edited by glamourweaver; 01-29-2020, 10:31 PM.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post
        The Cryptocracy is more or less my idea of what to replace “VALKYRIE IS RUN BY VAMPIRES!” with. The “dark secret” the VALKYRIE steering committee keeps from the field agents is that they’ve made deals with various supernatural factions that support stability and the status quo, and give agents missions and restrictions that reflect that priority, even when it means focusing on other matters that threaten order when Invictus gets to feed, or the Seers rewrite people’s entire lives, or a Maa Kep cult enslaves, etc etc.

        This, this and this! Maybe we will get VALKYRIE rewrite as such in HtV 2E, as it just around the corner with it's Kickstarter?

        Doing my own research on Contagion Factions without Outbreak around for my Byzantium fan Dark Era, I found they mostly work on it's own. Really, all you need is starting Outbreak event for forming coalition and it's dogma - and from then, Factions cooperation onward is natural.

        'Hey, you remember John the vampire that helped us with last Contagion strain? He is cool dude, knows all this Kindred Covenants stuff - let's ask him about this murder mystery with bloodless victims.'


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        • #5
          Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post
          The Cryptocracy is more or less my idea of what to replace “VALKYRIE IS RUN BY VAMPIRES!” with. The “dark secret” the VALKYRIE steering committee keeps from the field agents is that they’ve made deals with various supernatural factions that support stability and the status quo, and give agents missions and restrictions that reflect that priority, even when it means focusing on other matters that threaten order when Invictus gets to feed, or the Seers rewrite people’s entire lives, or a Maa Kep cult enslaves, etc etc.

          I'll be honest, I'm feeling very jealous that I did not think of this first. It makes for a far more interesting plot-point that simply 'this one Splat did it', and honestly that kind of simplicity almost seems to cheapen TFV as whole. Then again, sometimes you want the simple answer for your players to make rebellion more accessible, if you're going that route.

          What of Cheiron, then? While 'The Board' is given a much less clear-cut break-down (thankfully), one of the Conspiracies could well be responsible for their antics, or even have originated from the members of The Board. My personal, and extreme, dislike for them pushes me towards the Machiavelli Gambit, but given their dependence on mortal economy and infrastructure they seem an unlikely suspect. The Cryptocracy, potentially, but potentially the Rosetta Society or, my favoured candidate, the Ship of Theseus (for the dark ironic twist) seem more apt to fill this role. All this said, TCG itself should never 'just' be run by Monsters, its own mysteries and mythology (their logo, among others) should not be sacrificed for this. I've always been partial to the notion that some organised bodies affecting its members in very real ways, their thoughts and motivations changing in time until they're little more than extensions of the company's interests. Not the CEO, not the shareholders and certainly not the employees, but the company itself. Another way in which The Ship of Theseus would be a poetic choice, for with all the different Board Members through the years, and all their different ambitions and agendas, why is it the company itself changes so little? How can it be that, no matter who is replaced and who replaces them, that the company itself seems exactly the same?

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          • #6
            On the subject of Cheiron- don't you find it interesting that Cheiron, in all of its known incarnations, has seem strong themes of medicine and healing? And that one of the potential origin for the Director Board was them being alien horrors which uphold their own Vigil against greater threats which destroyed their universe? Who knows- perhaps Cheiron's true goal is to find a way to cure the Contagion once and for all.. or, perhaps, use it for their own needs. Witch Finders does suggest that, even if it preceded the Contagion Chronicles by years.

            So they could work both as Sworn (probably in the Ship of Theseus) or False (any of the three could work, actually)


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            • #7
              You know, in my disgust it actually slipped my mind how medically advanced they are. Transplanting limbs and organs as they do (and with what I assume to be a high success-rate) is incredible, even if there are long-term (and potentially lethal) complications as a result. There are has to be a name for this trope, the healer who holds his skills hostage. And yes, the suggested origins are pretty good as well, though I think the loss of the mystery would only detract from them. I could see both the Sworn and the False struggle for domination of it and continually failing, each assuming their defeats are at the hands of their counter-part while the TCG plays them both. Perhaps it is a minor form of Contagion itself, but sentient and willing to limit itself to preserve the mortal infra-structure upon which it relies? Even to the point of, as you suggested, being willing to actively work against a larger manifestation of what it came from.

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