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Summoner's Men in Black, Angels of the God-Machine, and True Paradox

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  • Summoner's Men in Black, Angels of the God-Machine, and True Paradox

    I was just reading through Mage: The Awakening: Summoners, and I came across the entry for "The Men in Black." I read on how they tend to show up after a supernatural event, and then try to get witnesses to admit what they saw was a hoax, via torture if necessary. With more recalcitrant individuals, they just lobotomize them.

    In Summoners, it is suggested that they are agents of "true" Paradox, a realm where the laws of reality are so stringent that it is hostile to human life. The book suggests that "true" Paradox is distinguished from Abyssal Paradox, that Abyssal Paradox is a corruption of "True Paradox". The book suggests that True Paradox aims to protect the tapestry and keep reality whole. However, because of the Abyss, the "powers" of True Paradox enter the human world filtered through the Abyss, resulting in the Abyssal Paradox that actually threatens reality instead of repairing it. Based on this theory, the Men in Black are thus spirits of True Paradox that try to repair reality (albeit in their own inhuman way).

    I noticed some parallels with an entry in Demon: The Descent, where it mentions how several Agents hunted down an outbreak of Mothmen, helping give rise to the urban stories of the "Men in Black." Does that suggest that the God-Machine is synonymous with, or similar to, the powers of True Paradox? Are the Men in Black some kind of angels? Or are they separate entities.

    The reason was that I was thinking of using this to create an entirely new cosmology and set of conspiracies based on this notion of True Paradox. Perhaps some hunter conspiracies or cells are being funded and supported by some Men in Black. Something like the SCP Foundation or the Video Game Control, where the mysterious "Board" supports the Federal Bureau of Control. Summoners states that the Men in Black have some powers in the Space Arcanum, but are vulnerable to the Time Arcanum. I was wondering if I could give some hunter conspiracy and Endowment based on that idea.

    Any suggestions or ideas would be helpful, thanks.
    Last edited by Corybance; 06-13-2021, 05:22 PM.

  • #2
    I've not yet read any Demon material, but I understand that a given possibility for the God-Machine's agenda would be that it works to maintain the status quo of supernatural secrecy in the world, so it would not be entirely contradictory. But it wouldn't need to be comprehensive. For one thing, Demon is going to invoke the Men in Black concept primarily for the relevance it has to its own themes and imagery, and if the writer in question was aware of a similar thing in a somewhat marginal Mage supplement I doubt they would have been strongly motivated to make it cross-applicable.

    After all, the Men in Black urban legend is predicated on the idea of sinister figures resembling government agents who keep the paranormal under wraps, it would make sense as a recurring motif in the Chronicles of Darkness. The Hunter Conspiracy Task Force: Valkyrie partakes in it. Heck, even within the confines of Mage, not only are there references to Guardians of the Veil thinking that Men in Black cryptids might somehow have originated in emulation of their use of the motif, the Seers of the Throne also get in on that game with their Orphean Ministry, serving the Nemesis by adopting the image of agents of a secret conspiracy who intimidate witnesses into silence.

    Even without Demon Men in Black being identical to Summoners ones, a unified Chronicles of Darkness world is already brimming with multiple sources of Men in Black.

    In any case, I do think there's something to the setup in Mage that there could be a strange dimension that represents a more pure take on what could be called Paradox than something that carries the baggage of Abyssal twisting of spells. The core book does after all refer to the idea of strange worlds that defy categorization by the Awakened, not even seeming to have the traits of Lower Depths. It would be fitting for one of them to have entities that relate to supernatural happenings in such a strangely hostile manner.


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    • #3
      Yeah, Summoner does suggest that their version fo the "Men in Black" could be a kind of "Paradox elemental", distinct from Abyssal entities.

      I was interested in the idea of distinguishing the idea of the "Abyssal Paradox" and "True Paradox." My own idea is that "True Paradox" was a realm that first emerged as a benign (or at least neutral) method for non-Mages to defend themselves from all forms of Supernatural. Then came the Fall and the emergence of the Abyss. Like Supernal Magic, Paradox became somewhat tainted, leading to the emergence of the Abyssal Paradox.


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      • #4
        I'll be honest, the whole "Paradox elemental" background for the Men in Black is a very Mage: the Ascension way of looking at the cosmology. "A place where sanity holds the laws so dearly in its grip that it’s actually, well, insane" isn't being filtered by the Abyss, that is a description of the Abyss (or, well, one way it can manifest). Paradoxes do not care about "magical indiscretions" or whether sleepers believe supernatural events happened. They're events, not a force.

        But okay, it's not helpful just to come in and say the premise is bad.

        Demon: the Men in Black are so easily slotted into a God-Machine context that it's almost kind of boring to do so. They're archetypal angel covers. They appear human, but sometimes get things unnervingly wrong in both their behavior and physiology. They wish to silence the truth of the existence of supernatural forces so as to keep sleepers manipulable, ignorant and compliant. They go about this in cold and callous ways, without emotion or compassion. They defy causality specifically when unperceived or out of sight. They enter the world for specific, sectioned-off missions, and disappear from the world when their mission is accomplished or failed. When they use names, they're simple nouns, clear aliases.

        They're not a perfect fit, and authorial intent is definitely not that they are God-Machine angels. Angels would not have difficulty with tools, are better at mimicking humanity than the at-times childish facade of the Men in Black, and their missions aren't strictly time-limited. Incidentally, the Chronicles of Darkness second edition rulebook includes Black-Eyed Kids as sample horrors and directly ties them into the Men in Black from Summoners, describing them as their "juvenile form." As for cosmology, the God-Machine is unlikely to care about some "true physics" to enforce. Its motives to suppress knowledge of the supernatural are simply to keep the human population powerless, easily manipulated, and unaware of the God-Machine's workings. The nature of those workings and projects is such that if what the God-Machine is doing is "repairing" reality, all of humanity would probably prefer for reality to continue malfunctioning.

        Hunter: Now, Hunter plays fast and loose with the cosmology as presented in other games, and after all, there are many kinds of witches, and those who Awaken to the Supernal Realms are just one variety. So if Paradox was a living force which did care about "magical indiscretions," you know what established hunters would know some things about that? The Knights of Saint George, the religious order harboring secret heresies and beliefs in faceless angels representing inhuman cosmic forces which hate sorcery. Neither the faceless angels of the Knights' lore nor the praxis of the Knights themselves particularly cares that much about witnesses of or belief in sorcery, except insofar as people who believe witchcraft exists are more likely to seek it out and become witches themselves. They sure as hell care a lot about making sure witches stop doing witchcraft, though, and do not hesitate to use deadly force to ensure it.

        Men in Black running a conspiracy? They seem unlikely to do so. They don't seem to have the human social skills to organize people on that level; they don't even know how to drink a cup of tea or that you're not supposed to take your nose off. Even the Knights of Saint George would regard lesser heralds of the faceless angels as terrifying omens to get out of the way of, rather than allies or teachers. The faceless angels are to be appeased so that they will go away, not worshipped to beckon them forth. More interesting, though, might be a conspiracy which has been infiltrated by Men in Black somehow, where Men in Black come and go within the halls. Does the conspiracy know that one in ten of its members don't actually exist? Do they benefit somehow from the association? Are they dangerous to the hunters, or just to those outside the conspiracy? Is it possible that your coworker Mister Bell is a real person one week and a clay facsimile the next?

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        • #5
          They could be a bunch of Guardians (of the Veil) that went off the deep end and gone Raptured or even Scelesti, in the manner of Threat Null from Ascension.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
            They could be a bunch of Guardians (of the Veil) that went off the deep end and gone Raptured or even Scelesti, in the manner of Threat Null from Ascension.
            Keep in mind that the Men in Black from Summoners are statted up as clearly inhuman creatures. It's not totally implausible that some Guardians would end up transforming themselves into such a state in pursuit of maintaining the Veil, comparable to the Austere or (legion), but it's more akin to liches than the Rapt.

            Mind, even then I'd think it would come as a result of encountering some weird dimension and being changed by it. I don't think we should be too quick to make parts of the chapter of things meant to be really weird and fringe into familiar categories.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

              Keep in mind that the Men in Black from Summoners are statted up as clearly inhuman creatures. It's not totally implausible that some Guardians would end up transforming themselves into such a state in pursuit of maintaining the Veil, comparable to the Austere or (legion), but it's more akin to liches than the Rapt.
              Indeed. I admit, I was thinking more of the Qlippoth when I wrote that.

              Mind, even then I'd think it would come as a result of encountering some weird dimension and being changed by it.
              Ooh, then maybe they’re something like those things whose name I forgot, those former mages ruined by the Hedge/Gentry back in 1E. I mean—

              I don't think we should be too quick to make parts of the chapter of things meant to be really weird and fringe into familiar categories.
              Hmm, good point. Especially with 2E tending to shying away from trying to explain every Fallen phenomena through the Supernal.


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              • #8
                I would just like to add that the Black Eyed Children from the core are described as the "larva" form of the Men in Black, and that there is a reference for those in one of the Beast settings, iirc (I think Serpent's Tooth)


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