-March 21st, 2012
I’ll be honest. I kinda assumed I was whistling in the dark with these updates. After all, we hadn’t posted anything new in over a year. Other than those who hadn’t dropped it from their RSS feed, who would bother to keep coming back? Apparently Jeremy does, and I wanted to give him a shout-out for sending us a word of encouragement. It really means a lot, Jeremy.
Today I’m going to talk about how so many people seem ignorant of the supernatural activity in and around Pinebox. Before I do that though, let’s dispense with the weekly status report.
Plot Points Completed: 3 of 12
Pages: 20 of 38
You’ll notice I finished the new draft of plot point 3, although actually that was no great feat since I was much of the way through it last week. The next one will be a total rewrite. The original had the potential to be a fun adventure, but as I was revising the outline I realized that it was weak in delivering supernatural action. The new plot point is going to be a lot more fun for players while driving the plot arc forward, but since it’s a brand new adventure I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to knock out. I have a basic outline, but the devil’s in the details.
But enough excuses. Let’s talk about Pinebox and ETU. Since the setting is supposed to reflect the real world, how is it that characters (both PCs and NPCs) seem to encounter ghosts and monsters on a regular basis without the greater world seeming to take notice? In the age of cell phone cameras, how can anyone deny the evidence? Different modern horror settings have different ways of explaining it away, including magical veils, mass amnesia, and so on. Here’s how it works in Pinebox.
Look Away, Baby
One of the big reasons the citizens of Pinebox don’t seem to recognize the danger around them boils down to willful ignorance. But don’t judge them too harshly. There’s a measure of safety in choosing not to notice the supernatural. Often, when you take note of the spirits and creatures just beyond our periphery, they take notice of you in return. Consequently, deflecting evidence of the supernatural becomes a self defense mechanism, and it is one that generations of locals have honed to perfection. Those who refuse to look away either rise to become unacknowledged guardians of their friends and family or they become an object lesson in the wisdom of just fitting in.
It has been said that we use our logic to justify what our emotions have already decided. Guided by an undercurrent of fear at being “noticed”, witnesses in Pinebox commonly convince themselves of more “logical” explanations such as an elaborate hoax, visions brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning, poor lighting, alcohol, or any number of other excuses.
You’d think that a single picture would blow the lid right off Pinebox’s many dirty little secrets. Yet, a side effect of the Internet has been to sharpen our skepticism to a fine point– as well it should. All too frequently the quality of photo manipulation leaves only our common sense with “proof” that an image is faked.
In Pinebox, those who face the darkness stand alone. When presented with a photo of a ghost, bigfoot, or chupacabra, isn’t your very first instinct to think “hoax”? The Internet and Photoshop has ensured that no photo or video, no matter how realistic, will convince a normal, rational person of the supernatural. The heroes might even keep a blog documenting–with photo and video–all the weird happenings in Pinebox, but at best such a site would receive notoriety mainly among paranoid conspiracy theorists and hipsters playing along for irony.
When all else fails, in swoop the Men in Black. If you’ve played Pinebox adventures such as [redacted to prevent spoilers] then you might have encountered these individuals. While they don’t follow the traditional physical descriptions of the MIBs, these teams have been known to swoop in and erase evidence of a paranormal event. We’ve never spelled out who they are, who they work for, or their ultimate motives. This was intentional on our part because we wanted to keep things as open and flexible for the GM. Once you start defining something then you limit it.
That being said, in Degrees of Horror book we do crack open the door a bit wider and give you a look at certain human agencies that seek to influence paranormal events. Some operate for their own gain while others are more benevolent. Many operate at an entirely different level than the everyman-turned-heroes who make up the PCs in a typical Pinebox campaign. As such, what sometimes appears as an inscrutable monolithic organization to the players are actually multiple groups with shifting allegiances and conflicting goals each jockeying for the upper hand.
In fact, just about the only thing these groups each have in common is a deep, abiding desire for secrecy. Secrecy allows them to continue pursuing their goals, so the less the public (and their rivals) know, the better. Most groups actively cover up evidence of the paranormal, although their methods vary as widely as their motives.
So there you have it. Even in the modern world, it’s nice to know there’s still room for the unexplained. Though, you’d better consider the ramifications the next time you try to get someone to believe you about your run-in with a ghost in Mom’s Diner.