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Author Topic: The Commission (Black Chamber Reimagining)  (Read 12300 times)
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« Reply #45 on: March 08, 2013, 01:52:49 AM »

Just want to chime in that I love this setting's feeling. It's written with a gallows humor that comes across as being played complete straight.

I want to know what the hell TELEPHONE ZIGGURAT is more than anything else.
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« Reply #46 on: March 08, 2013, 02:02:01 AM »

I'm sure time travel is possible in this setting, so a crazy Black Chamber/Commission crossover is possible.  Operation LICENTIOUS HOURGLASS perhaps?  WRISTWATCH SEPSIS?  HAIRSPRING SUPPURATION?  GRANDFATHER CASTRATION?  SUNDIAL ABATTOIR?  CLEPSYDRA OBSCENITY?  PENDULUM PATHOGEN?  HOROLOGIST INFLAMMATION?  FRISKY OUROBOROS?
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 02:09:01 AM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #47 on: March 08, 2013, 02:20:03 AM »

I've actually gone back and forth on time travel. While the recurring presence of entities like the BLACK VIKING ALTERNATIVE certainly indicate that it's possible, it's also wholly beyond the Commission's capabilities to do so regularly or with any great degree of success. I'm batting around the idea that most time travel involves jumping into the past or future of other, neighboring timelines: a common practice during the height of the Cold War was abducting individuals from alternate futures and then attempting to back-extrapolate as much useful intelligence as possible from their accounts.

Of course, that means that in all likelihood, alternate versions of the Commission are doing the exact same thing at this very moment.

ALSO. Glad ya'll like it. I speed-read the entire Laundry series about a week ago, so my dial is currently set to "Strangelovecraftian."
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 02:23:32 AM by Superbright » Logged


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« Reply #48 on: March 08, 2013, 02:29:40 AM »

Which was your favourite?  Of the Laundry books, that is?
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« Reply #49 on: March 08, 2013, 02:39:43 AM »

The titular Atrocity Archives are definitely one of my favorite scenes in the whole series, but I'd have to give it to The Apocalypse Codex. Incidentally, Golden Promise Ministry is the exact sort of freakshow that all the Commission's work towards THIMBLE VINEYARD has inadvertently helped to spread and fester.

One of the reasons I changed the name from the Black Chamber was between The Apocalypse Codex and the companion rulebook, Game_God_Black, there's a growing picture of what Stross' Black Chamber is like that's very different from what I'm aiming for, so I'm tying to put in a bit of distance between the two. It is one hell of a name, though.
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« Reply #50 on: March 08, 2013, 02:48:54 AM »

Out of Character

My schedule being what it is, these'll be coming piecemeal as the spirit moves me. But not the Spirit. They got that one.

Keep one thing in mind: the Commission does not exist. Being an agent of the Commission in no way verifies the existence of the Commission. The Commission is not an agency, bureau, branch, department, office, service, ministry, or chamber of the United States or any other government. The Commission has never been accounted for on budget or organizational chart, because it doesn't exist. The Commission has never been acknowledged by any head of state or government, because it doesn't exist. The Commission is not accountable to any sort of regulatory or judicial body, because it does not exist. For the purposes of a purely-hypothetical thought experiment, if the Commission did exist, it would be most not-unlike an intergovernmental task force headed by a nameless, faceless fifteen-member Committee, its byzantine organizational structure so thoroughly occulted that nobody who hasn't had their birth certificate redacted could truthfully admit to knowing where it starts and where it ends, and funded out of bottomless black budgets’ bottomless black budgets. But of course, it doesn't, it isn't, and it’s not, because it doesn't exist.

To tell the truth, the Commission isn't doing quite as well as it used to. It went through a nasty succession of purges after Operation THIMBLE VINEYARD imploded and most of the higher-ups who weren't assassinated during the dozen or so power struggles had significant blocks of their memories sterilized. Though now just a shell of the great lumbering monstrosity that it once was, many of the seeds sown during the Cold War have begun to bear poisonous fruit and the new fear is that if left unchecked, the end result will be an occult singularity that will shatter the carefully-constructed façade of normality, which could in turn trigger other singularities that could shatter a great deal more.

If there’s any rhyme or reason to how the Commission goes about recruiting its agents, its utterly obfuscated from those it comes calling on. Witnessing (or actively participating) in some occult phenomena is an effective way to attract its swift and immediate attention, but plenty of recruits live seemingly mundane-lives before the serious-looking men in dark suits start following them everywhere they go. Being a governmental body in much the same way as an Armillaria solidipes is technically a pizza topping, the higher-ups at the Commission have a certain, shall we say, sympathy for government agents, but never from the old guard: it likes them fresh and inexperienced, often the promising sort with at most a year or two under their belts. The same goes for the armed forces: soldiers and servicemen on their first tour, who've just begun to crack from the stress of what they've seen. It recruits from the Special Forces as well, but they disappear into the mysterious BISHOP units and rarely emerge recognizably human. Hackers who manage to decrypt classified documents without triggering the memetic-kill securities usually earn themselves a hard knock and a one-sided question, as do university students who demonstrate aptitude in one of the fields the Commission would rather remain poorly-understood by the general public. Convicted criminals with the potential to make themselves useful are offered pardons in exchange for their service, regardless of whether they’re approached on death row in Georgia or on a black flight to Anchorage.

But the Commission also finds its people through more…unorthodox means. It conducts systematic sweeps, looking for individuals with abnormal blood types or psychological profiles that might predispose them to the sort of insanities the organization likes to cultivate. It keeps an eye on the children and grandchildren of its attempts to crossbreed humans with entities like GOLDSMITH, MANHATTAN CANINE, and DENMARK RED, as well as survivors of programs like MONSTER CRECHE, ready to snap them up the moment they show some potential. Commission necromancers dredge up ghosts from various afterlives, especially the more hellish ones, or bind the souls of the newly-departed to their own stiffening cadavers.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2013, 04:16:54 PM by Superbright » Logged


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« Reply #51 on: March 24, 2013, 05:37:10 AM »

I don't have much to say that's constructive except that holy shit this is awesome. The new title works really well and feels (to me, anyway) far more evocative and akin to the mood you're trying to create.

There's a really good sense of place and theme here but I can't help but wonder - what kind of games do you envisage being run in this setting?
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« Reply #52 on: July 28, 2013, 08:16:42 PM »

Ooh, I missed all these developments. And now I miss them. You've taken the capitalisation gimmick and transformed it into paragraph after unrelenting paragraph of gravelly intimated THREAT. moar, yes?

ALSO: this should be, like, ten thousand novels.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2013, 08:19:41 PM by Theopteryx » Logged

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« Reply #53 on: September 09, 2013, 03:54:44 PM »

The fundamental aims of the Commission have changed dramatically since the height of the Cold War and the complete implosion of Operation THIMBLE VINEYARD. Whereas their chief concern had been the complete obliteration of their opposite numbers in the Moscow Hotel (and by extension the entirety of the Soviet Bloc), they must now contend with the fragmented nature of the occult threats that their predecessor’s innumerable excesses during the Regan Years helped to spawn: for all the forms of metaphysical obliteration it portended, the greatest sin committed by THIMBLE VINEYARD was how drastically it altered the rules that govern the game of occult intelligence. Throughout history, the groups of wise men and women who sought the secrets of the terrifying unknown may have struggled ruthlessly in the shadows, but they had always observed certain codes of conduct that kept them from turning occult knowledge into an instrument of warfare. It was this sense of ethics that kept the mute scholars of Baghdad from unleashing HUNGRY SIROCCO even as the Mongols butchered the city, kept John Dee from awakening the Ogre of Lancashire to destroy the Spanish Armada, kept the unspeakable monstrosities that have been caged in dungeons below halls of power since the days of Akkad from ever being turned loose on the battlefield, and it was this sense of ethics that the dark minds who formulated THIMBLE VINEYARD so enthusiastically spat upon. It turned a game originally played by gentlemen, albeit for apocalyptic stakes, into a game played by monsters wearing the skin of gentlemen. The occult proliferation that came with the fall of the Moscow Hotel was a coup for old-school Illuminati networks like the House of Roche and the Argentinian Expats, but it also empowered countless minor groups that hadn’t previously warranted a spot on the Commission’s radar, turning terrorist cells and ethnic syndicates into potential doomsday scenarios. When one also considers how the ill-understood occult intelligence agencies of China and Israel have been moving to fill the vacuum, it’s almost enough to warrant a pang of nostalgia for the grim certainty of the Cold War.

Commission agents receive precious little information about the shadowy supra-governmental agency they have agreed to spend the remainder of their existences serving. No sooner have they signed contracts in their own vital humors than they are put on a direct flight to a secret training facility, most often Camp Pyramid in Upstate New York. What transpires once the new recruit has arrived is a grueling regimen of physical, psychological, and spiritual torture seemingly tailor-made to induce horrifying existential crises in the prospective agents. It is only once they have retreated into the darkest depths of human despair, convinced that they will die alone and unloved in forgotten oubliette in a secret government prison that they are prepared to face the raw, reptilian terror that is a daily reality of being a Commission agent. As one of their rare mercies, the Committee allows new recruits to have their memories pharmacologically scrubbed of the more nightmarish imagery before they begin their training proper. The exhausting crash course is typically only a few weeks long as the trainees have the necessary tradecraft and combat skills (sometimes literally) drilled into their skulls; with the staggeringly-high death tolls of the late 80’s, the organization became very good at turning fresh recruits into halfway-competent agents very quickly, though the processes involved can cause a host of minor psychological problem down the line. As fieldwork tends to cause major psychological problems down the line, this concerned nobody. Once they are cleared for active duty, the new agents are given a small ceremony and then immediately assigned to a cell.

An individual cell is kept largely ignorant of its position within the labyrinthine hierarchy of the Commission, generally knowing only their immediate superiors and any other cells with whom they frequently interact. Security clearance levels and specializations have ominous-sounding titles that give very little indication of what they actually mean: INVICTUS, DEVILFISH, LABRYS, INVISIBLE, HORSEMAN, DREADNOUGHT, etc. While most field agents are aware of a larger organizational support structure, it is highly probably that whatever they interact with is only the tip of the iceberg.

It is an open secret within the Commission that being a field agent means that at some point, sooner rather than later, you will be subjected to some manner of experimental operation, conducted without your knowledge or consent, which will leave you slightly less human than you were when you started. The most dangerous procedures are first performed on the federal inmates tithed to the organization by the Burnham Act until the glaring flaws can be worked out, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe or pleasant experiences. Exotic chemical or radiation treatments. Organ transplants. Skeletal inscriptions. Mechanical implants. Fluid transfusions. Alchemical regimens. Psychological reprogramming. The bug-eyed, spidery-limbed DWARF STAR MENGELE entities that perform most surgeries do impeccable work, but there are certain unpleasant repercussions that simply cannot be avoided when having one of your eyes replaced by the optical organ of a fourth-dimensional demon. Despite the side effects, however, field agents often come to appreciate their enhancements, as they give them a much-needed edge against entities that have the average human outmatched by several orders of magnitude.

Apart from these experimental enhancements, Commission agents are equipped in the same manner as most clandestine operatives. While the official dress code of night-black business wear (standard-issue is known as “fuliginous”) and dark sunglasses are unquestionably intimidating, conjuring up fears of the Men in Black and the darker clauses of the Patriot Act, the realities of fieldwork are such that most agents dress in practical, inconspicuous street clothes. In addition to an arsenal of military and covert gear siphoned from the intelligence apparatuses of NATO governments, there are the many hybrids of cutting-edge technology and captured occult that the Commission’s research divisions have produced: while majority of them are too unstable or too specialized to be made standard-issue, a handful have proven broadly-useful enough to warrant mass-production. Agents can get their hands on adhesive protective wards, 9mm banisher rounds, and cantrip apps for their iPhones with little to no effort, but getting issued with a BOREAL ANEMONE-derived energy weapon would require significantly more clout and likely place the agent under official scrutiny until the device was returned in one piece.

Apart from these experimental enhancements, Commission agents are equipped in the same manner as most clandestine operatives. While the official dress code of night-black business wear (standard-issue is known as “fuliginous”) and dark sunglasses are unquestionably intimidating, conjuring up fears of the Men in Black and the darker clauses of the Patriot Act, the realities of fieldwork are such that most agents dress in practical, inconspicuous street clothes. In addition to an arsenal of military and covert gear siphoned from the intelligence apparatuses of NATO governments, there are the many hybrids of cutting-edge technology and captured occult that the Commission’s research divisions have produced: while majority of them are too unstable or too specialized to be made standard-issue, a handful have proven broadly-useful enough to warrant mass-production. Agents can get their hands on adhesive protective wards, 9mm banisher rounds, and cantrip apps for their iPhones with little to no effort, but getting issued with a BOREAL ANEMONE-derived energy weapon would require significantly more clout and likely place the agent under official scrutiny until the device was returned in one piece.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2013, 04:14:32 PM by Superbright » Logged


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« Reply #54 on: September 09, 2013, 06:02:21 PM »

Quote

DWARF STAR MENGELE
Well that just says it all.

Less pithy: this might be the most compelling single post I've ever read on this board. Bravo.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2013, 06:17:15 PM by Theopteryx » Logged

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« Reply #55 on: September 09, 2013, 08:53:06 PM »

Damn, really? I was worried I was phoning it.
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« Reply #56 on: September 09, 2013, 09:15:26 PM »

Not mutually exclusive.
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« Reply #57 on: October 07, 2013, 03:33:11 PM »

The taxonomy by which the Commission categorizes occult phenomena is mystery to all but the nameless analysts and researchers charged with the daunting, thankless job of classifying things that by definition are inimical to conventional human reason, but after a few months of reading case reports most rookie agents develop a rudimentary understanding of the methods to the madness. At the most general level, every occult phenomenon is classified either supernatural (SUPER), paranormal (PARA), or extraterrestrial (EXTRA). SUPER operates according to principles that are completely irreconcilable with established physical laws; PARA defies easy understanding by mainstream science without being wholly beyond its purview; and EXTRA encompasses any phenomena originating from a source beyond the Earth itself. The distinctions are largely academic, mostly differentiating entities that appear superficially similar but act according to completely different sets of principles.

DENMARK describes the wide spectrum of unliving or quasi-living entities that must sustain themselves by feeding on the living; i.e. vampires. They are among the most widespread and varied entity the Commission is aware of, indigenous to every continent and found anywhere humans congregate in large enough numbers, ranging from feral id-driven savages to superintelligent apex predators. While there are few true universals, most are subject to various deadly banes (sunlight and fire being most common), can infect humans though their bite and/or bodily fluids, and possess a variety of abilities befitting their particularly predatory lifestyle. The Commission has historically maintained a working relationship with several of the more sociable strains, but their tendency to infiltrate and subvert mortal institutions to serve their own agendas means that they must be kept under constant vigilance; the bloody catastrophe of SPIDER QUEEN DENMARK and the resulting purges serves as an example of how swiftly they can exploit any perceived weaknesses.

BISHOP is the codename for any form of “willworker”, an otherwise-mundane human able to reshape reality around them through sheer force of will and imagination: in unofficial parlance, they are called witches, mages, necromancers, etc., though these terms can also refer to similar individuals with much more limited abilities. Though many practitioners specialize in a specific form of magic, BISHOPS are limited more in scale than in scope: an observer effect makes it exponentially more strenuous for them to superimpose their own idealized will on the world while under observation, most require the use of ritual trappings in order to focus their willpower, and attempting too dramatic an effect risks stroke, seizure, or other backlash. The more powerful ARCHBISHOP is also subject to of these limitations, but to a drastically-reduced degree and can overcome the observer bias with much less effort; the even more potent CARDINALS have unmatched control over their local reality and are considered serious enough threats that those who have not signed binding contracts with the Commission are the targets of highly-specialized wetwork teams.

Dwellers in the dark recesses of the benthic zone, GOLDSMITH are not the only inhuman civilization in the world’s oceans, but they are one of the largest and certainly the one most likely to interact with humans. Short, hunched piscine humanoids with slick, membranous skin and bulging eyes, their codename comes from the fact that the only garments they have ever been observed wearing are pieces of incredibly ornate jewelry crafted from a gold-like alloy whose exact composition has eluded scientists for decades. Throughout human history, there are substantiated reports of GOLDSMITH delegations offering similar artifacts to coastal communities in exchange for healthy tissue samples. What exactly they did with these samples was a mystery until the late 1950s, when it was discovered that they were used to engineer hybrid biological automata codenamed GOLDSMITH IMAGO: in addition to their role disseminating GOLDSMITH genetic markers into the human population, they act as covert operatives and assassins, presumably acting on orders from whatever polity governs their creators. The offspring of a human and IMAGO is always an IMAGO itself, but will imprint as a human if not returned to its benthic handlers, a fact discovered by a Moscow Hotel research team. During the height of the Cold War, both sides experimented with breeding their own IMAGOS for deep-sea operations, but it was discovered that their genetic memories are automatically triggered at sufficient depths, rendering unprepared hybrids psychotic. The existence of the GOLDSMITH IMAGO entities, along with their apparent bemusement at human attempts to duplicate their creations, seems to indicate that GOLDSMITH civilization had mastered the science of genetic engineering by at least the first century BCE. Currently, emissaries have been reported offering Commission field agents valuable (largely naval) intelligence, artifact weaponry, even the service of IMAGO operatives, in exchange for tissue samples from other occult entities. The assumption of most analysts is their goal is to develop more powerful hybrid agents, though it is unknown what is prompting this recent development. IMAGO have also been seen cooperating with multiple Illuminati groups, indicating that either GOLDSMITH is not discriminating with its offers or said groups have the ability to breed their own hybrids. Neither scenario is ideal.
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« Reply #58 on: October 07, 2013, 03:54:29 PM »

Just wanted to say I adore this setting.  It is so over-the-top in exactly the right way that it just puts me in the perfect mood to read about it before the first sentence has passed.
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« Reply #59 on: November 28, 2015, 07:52:26 PM »

So I'd forgotten that people actually liked this idea and with the comparisons drawn between the Commission and Illuminati Mambo, I figured now would be as good a time as any to come back and add some more recent ideas that might help to better distinguish the two concepts thematically.

The main change to the Commission itself is that it and the architects of Project THIMBLE VINEYARD are no longer one and the same. Rather, the Commission is an international and staggeringly-illegal task force formed once military and intelligence leaders realized what the actual implementation of the plan would’ve entailed and decided that someone needed to answer for it. And for about a decade, the Commission had their enemies (who I’m tentatively calling the Architects or the Vintners) running scared, until billions of dollars in unrestricted post-9/11 funding began pouring down the wrong channels of America’s labyrinthine military-intelligence-industrial complex and fed the monsters hiding within. The remnants of THIMBLE VINEYARD are spread across a distributed, multicellular conspiracy that has used the chaos of the Global War on Terror burrow even deeper into the underworld, its surviving component parts all the more dangerous for being deprived any sort of unifying purpose, like a single hydra hacked into a hundred venomous serpents.

Both the Commission and the Vintners were entangled in the enormous collective bed-shitting that capped off the orgy of poor decisions that was the US occupation of Iraq and the related Syrian Civil War. ISIS forces have managed to get their hands on THIMBLE VINEYARD components originally placed in the region during the Saddam era. Isolated units are believed to have already deployed THIRD RACE and TOWER BUILDER-derived weaponry against both Syrian Army and FSA forces; their success almost certainly implicates Vintner involvement in some capacity. Cypress has been pinpointed as the likeliest starting point for the smuggling pipeline that is funneling occult weapons and personnel into the region. With foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War escalating, it is crucial that this pipeline be cut before ISIS is given the proper motivation to deploy the occult WMDs in their possession.

The dismantling of the TEQUILA SUNSPOT program was entrusted to various elite Latin American special forces units; unfortunately, members of many of those same units have since been recruited by the drug cartels that have become a dominant force in the region. In particular, the kidnapping and gruesome execution of several foreign nationals by the Los Zetas cartel suggest that they are in possession of a HUNGRY MICHIGAN death-engine and are powering it via human sacrifice. While there is little reason to suspect apocalyptic intentions on the part of the cartels, the idea of them having the capacity to create and deploy CARNIVORE GREEN-class operatives represents too great a risk to not take action.

What we know: Putin has been made aware of the STALINIST GOTHIC assets and according to former Moscow Hotel personnel that have since been reabsorbed into the GRU, he is favorably inclined towards their redeployment. Individuals believed to be vectors for FURNACE BIRD and DEATHLESS were spotted being escorted into the newly-annexed Crimea by masked Russian troops. Not all aware of their presence are in favor of it, but it has long been suspected that STALINIST GOTHIC vectors have some sort of Dead Hand-style trigger built into them, so elimination is not a viable option.

There is a plane, a modified Lockheed C-5 Super Galaxy cargo aircraft, which is impossible to track. Without fail, shortly after takeoff, it climbs to sixty thousand feet and disappears without a trace. Sometime later, whether a matter of hours or days, it reappears somewhere completely different. Wherever it lands, occult horrors the likes of which few have ever imagined flood the black market. Those who know of the planes existence call it “the Nightmare Merchant” and based off of the account of the one and only source who glimpsed the inside while it was taxiing in Istanbul, Vintner scientists are utilizing it as both a laboratory and bazaar, entering an alternate dimension to conduct their experiments and trade notes with monstrous intelligences, before landing to sell their creations off to the highest bidders.
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