Sunday, 13 November 2011

World of Darkness and the Science of Evil

World of Darkness and the Science of Evil

World of Darkness (WoD), both new and classic settings, has a primary focus on supernatural horror. Monsters are things from myths, from our past, Biblical or from our folklore. They are urban legends and ghosts of old, or quite simply men driven mad and have become something new.
But horror and terror are not just born from magic and the arcane arts and powers of forgotten gods. Horror can be born from science.

In classic WoD (CWoD) a war exists between science and magic, fought by the Technocracy and the Tradition mages. It is a war of belief and absolute truths and control. And so magic and science are different simply by definition and categorization. They come from the same source. The difference is the lens through which the truth is viewed. Spirits, ghosts, aliens, vampires etc, are just entities for which the science is not fully defined.
This view of science and the supernatural is also within new World of Darkness (NWoD), but the presentation is more fuzzy. There is no war between magic and science. Without that analogue in Mage the Awakening, science and magic bleed over into each other in many different ways. It is the interface between the two which can be exciting and lead to different horrors.

So what am I getting at?

The supernatural and scientific can blend together to give birth to new horrors. In CWoD  we saw this with the Hitmarks of the Technocracy. They are cyborgs powered and designed using hyperscience, Enlightened Science, which is simply magic manifesting as technology. In NWoD there similar concepts in Promethean the Created. Each Promethean lineage is aligned to an element (earth, air, fire, water, spirit). But the also present the concept of Prometheans born of nuclear energy and radiation. There are also those Promethean which are cybernetic. Essentially androids, but made human like by the Divine Fire. In Hunter the Vigil there are groups that turn to science to fight the supernatural, making use of advanced weapons to fight the things in the dark.

So can science give birth to things that in fact mimic or tap into supernatural powers, or can the reverse  happen? Why not. Can science modify the supernatural, and the reverse? Well yeah.

Some of may favourite story seeds look at things like this. For example, in the Chicago book for NWoD, they talk about Bell Laboratories and the particle accelerator there. Because of the cutting edge science being used the suggest the idea that such machines tear open the skin of reality and allow in strange energies, material and entities. These entities could easily fit the definitions of spirits, or even aliens, or the Fae. In Night Horrors: Wolfsbane, this idea is further expanded upon when detailing the Idigam. These banished spirits consumed the powers of spirits that rode to the moon from other worlds. This along with the book Summoners for Mage the Awakening, and of course the concepts in Changeling the Lost, allow you to play on the question, ‘Just what are spirits?’ Are some spirits really just inter dimensional beings? Can you clone from them? What about demons and angels? Are they just other forms of aliens? Are those were creatures just some sort of cryptid? Perhaps just a mutation? We know there are ghosts, but what about ghosts from alien worlds brought to earth on a comet? What does vampirism mean in light of blood research and stem cell science?

So my advice for games? If you want to through your gaming group a curve ball add a bit of science. There are things in the world that science has yet to explain but can be used to fight. But there are things not understood that science has created.

So some random story seeds to use:

    • An organ transplant from a werewolf leads to something strange and murderous.
    • Cloning of a changeling leads to something more like a fetch.
    • Quantum teleportation allows for a exponential spread of a spirit.
    • From the depth of space comes a signal that follows Atlantean magic, but sent by a race from another world.
    • A supernova sends energy, in the form of flux, to earth, and awakens Pandorans.

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