Friday, December 18, 2020

(Trinity 1e)Darkness Revealed 2: Passage Through Shadow

 This adventure is not about institutional accountability. It should be. If you're running it in 2020, you're probably going to want to make it be. There are events and characters that evoke the now-familiar ways that corporations, governments, and powerful individuals avoid answering for their wrongdoing, but they aren't what the adventure is about. The adventure is a manhunt followed by a chase followed by a brawl, and it works, but it also has lines like:

"I understand that some of you take the  rumored - I repeat rumored - improprieties at Beaulac as fact. Whatever the true circumstances that took place on Luna, there is no cause to mistreat the former Lunar personnel who now work here; allegations against them have yet to be proven"
And you wind up with the sense that the real bad guys are going to get away with it. Zweidler here is talking about remaining open-minded and forgiving of people who were credibly accused of abetting kidnapping, torturous medical experiments, and mass murder. Maybe some of the low-level people are innocent, but the Aesculapian Order has absolutely not done the due diligence necessary to make that call.

Part one is full of that sort of guilty behavior - closing ranks against outsiders and the outright denialism that comes from believing a noble mission is enough to prevent a slide into corruption. It's a frustrating environment to search for a fugitive, but a convenient one for an organization that wants to escape a major scandal without doing any meaningful introspection.

Also, Alexander Cassel knew about Huang-Marr the whole time and dispatched assassins ahead of the PCs' investigation to eliminate any conspirators before they can compromise the reputation of Orgotek . . . and maybe leave a few alive, with edited memories, if their involvement can be concealed and Cassel finds them useful.

I guess the claim is that Cassel knew the Huang-Marr project would be unethical, but he didn't know it would be that unethical, and thus his murderous coverup is somehow forgivable because all he cares about is the safety of humanity (less the specific humans that get in his way, obviously). It's honestly a quite chilling characterization, made doubly frustrating because he is too powerful to confront and in the end makes away with all the sweet loot the PCs take from the aliens.

Oh yes, there are aliens. That's the biggest takeaway. First explicit mention of the Doyen in canon (assuming you don't have the updated core), and they dispatched the Chromatics to recover some of their spy technology. It's a whole thing, and the book doesn't offer nearly enough guidance on how to keep the scenario balanced, but a pretty cool set-piece to end the middle entry of a trilogy. I was a little surprised to learn that the Doyen still use tools. I thought their psionic powers had grown to the point where they were beyond such things. Also, the Chromatics are treated pretty sympathetically, which means they began getting redeemed almost as soon as they were introduced. So, overall, this was a pretty fun book for setting information.

It's just a little depressing that the PCs are "urged by Aeon to tie up the Huang-Marr conspiracy quickly, so that public-relations damage is minimal." Justice would have been better.

Ukss Contribution: The Aberrant Wycoff exploded in the middle of the USA's farm belt, creating an area of dangerous comic-book radiation called "The Blight." The fascist FSA government is encouraging corporations to move into the outskirts of the Blight by allowing them to pollute all they want.

A horrible practice, to be sure, but I kind of love how cynical it is. A supernatural event has screwed up the land, fuck it, that means anything goes from now on. I think Ukss could use a place like that - a magical atrocity exploited by capitalism.


  1. I am intrigued by the implication that UKSS has environmental law most places.

    1. That implication had not occurred to me. I'll have to carefully think this through.

    2. It is very much on my mind. As a kid, I was always baffled by stories of the clever woodcutter who, like, gets a fairy to cut down the entire forest for them or something. And my thought was always "so, their heirs and entire community are fucked, then?" but the generations worth of storytellers clearly had never thought of that. It was just such a clear encapsulation of how, for almost all of history, people saw it as just unthinkable that natural resources were limited by anything save logistics.

      It's also why I always scratch my head when druids or what have you start acting like modern-day environmentalists. The idea that nature could ever NEED protecting from humanity is very, very recent. Like, less than 200 years old.

      Now, UKSS has space ships. It doesn't need to map to any point in history. But I did think it worth noting the implications.

      To be fair, there is one type of "environmental" law which is many centuries old: laws of nuisance, which regulate smells and the like you can subject your neighbors for. So maybe there's a city where they make all the tanners and dye-makers or something live inside the nearby hell portal so that nobody has to put up with the stench?

    3. I love this line of thought.


    4. The tech level I was thinking of was - roughly 1900, but magnets are anti-magic, and thus anything that uses them lags behind - so they know how to make electric lights, but they don't have anyone like Michael Faraday, and thus there is no civic electrical infrastructure. Telegraphs powered by chemical batteries, but not telephones. It's not precisely worked out, and I hesitate to even say my assumptions explicitly, but that's the ballpark I'm working in.