Allegiance: The Theseus Club [Trinity Continuum]
Many of you who read the Monday Meeting blog may have noticed that the Trinity Continuum core rules is now in the First Draft stage. I’m delighted to announce that the TC variant of the Storypath rules was finalized this past weekend and sent on to the writers on the 14th.
The Storypath system has a mechanic called Paths, which can cover many background elements such as your character’s origin (“Street Rat,” “Trust Fund Baby,” etc.) or role in the group (“Face,” “Mastermind,” “Muscle,” etc.). Characters are encouraged to have multiple Paths, whose values may ebb and flow over the course of a series. Allegiances are a fairly specific type of Path, but are arguably the most important Path for Inspired characters like the Talented.
Here’s another entry from Jack Norris, who brought us 9 a couple of weeks ago. I was thrilled when I got into the History section and realized the origins of the group (and their nemeses, The Society of Minos). I’ll spoil it at the end.
The Theseus Club
Venatores Venamur (“We Hunt the Hunters”)
Manhunters, investigators, and survivors who track and eliminate those who would stalk, hunt, and kill others. From bored depraved aristocrats to serial killers, the Theseus Club has brought down numerous would-be huntsmen and proved than the most dangerous game is the person who fights back. Though originally founded as a counterpoint to the Society of Minos, they have since moved beyond opposing this organization and expanded to dealing with a variety of threats.
Formed by a survivor of a crazed count’s attempt to hunt and butcher him, the Club has existed since the 1920s, growing from a handful of members to a worldwide society devoted to a single cause. They can be criticized for focusing more on their hunts than the victims of such activities, but in doing so they’ve saved countless lives.
In 1924, World War I veteran and avid sportsman Sanger Rainsford was shipwrecked on a remote island owned by General Zaroff, a Russian aristocrat. After an exchange of social pleasantries, Zaroff proposed a challenge to Rainsford; he would hunt and attempt to kill the castaway to prove which of them was the greater hunter. Zaroff rigged the contest, using hunting dogs, his hulking assistant Ivan, and various weapons. By contrast Rainsford was released with nothing but the clothes on his back and a short head start. Despite these handicaps, Rainsford eventually triumphed, killing Zaroff.
As he recuperated at the nobleman’s island estate and sought rescue, he discovered Zaroff’s journal. In this book he found evidence that Zaroff was a member of the Society of Minos, a secret society of aristocrats, wealthy businessmen, and others of excessive privilege devoted to proving their superiority by the hunting and killing of human beings. Angered and appalled by this revelation, upon returning to civilization Rainsford founded the Theseus Club, a gathering of hunters, sportsman, soldiers of fortune, and like individuals sworn to destroy the Minoans and others like them. Beginning with only six members, the group grew over the decades and now numbers in the hundreds with allies worldwide numbering in the thousands.
While initially the group only engaged in operations against non-Minoans as targets of opportunity, the increased awareness of serial killers, the rise of fascism in Europe, and other factors resulted in the Theseus Club soon widening its focus. While they would never abandon their mission to identify and eliminate every last member of the Society of Minos, Rainsford and his organization soon realized that group was only one of many such threats. How could the Theseus Club consider themselves true hunters of sadists and victimizers if they ignored obvious threats simply because they didn’t fit into Rainsford’s original vendetta? After Rainsford retired and passed on leadership of the Club to the board, this focus widened even more as other members’ agendas, perspectives, and outlooks caused them to focus outside their founder’s experiences and discover a myriad of new and dangerous game to hunt.
Since its founding the Theseus Club has operated around the world, identifying and eliminating any who would prey on the innocent and unaware. Its members have hunted renegade Nazis in South America, tracked serial killers across the Siberian tundra, and eliminated slavers and human traffickers in everywhere from Africa to the United States. Many unsolved serial killers who ceased killing abruptly ended their careers at the hands of a Theseus Club member and more than a few “accidents” that befell various wealthy and famous individuals were actually the organization eliminating a Minoan or similar threat.
The Theseus Club gets its members from two main sources; survivors of murderous attempt to stalk and kill them and individuals who otherwise have made catching and ending these such threats. Most of the latter are cops, investigative journalists, criminal psychologists, and similar professionals but can be anyone. From teenagers kidnapped to participate in twisted bloodsports in remote corners of the world to homeless veterans nearly lured to their deaths by promises of money or shelter, this second category of recruits gives the group an alarming diversity.
Members of the Club are selected for basic physical and mental fitness, but these criteria vary wildly. A disabled woman with a keen mind and technical expertise might be recruited to provide support to an experienced big game hunter who works in the field. Training is provided when necessary, usually by an informal apprentice program. Thus a former FBI profiler might take the survivor of a serial killer on to show him the ins and outs of tracking and predicting aberrant behavior, or a former special forces operative might train a runaway aristocrat who has discovered her family’s leisure activities lean towards hunting down orphans with hounds. Mentors determine when their apprentices have learned all they need. There is no requirement for a member to train others or accept unnecessary training; some of the Club’s most successful members came to the organization will all the skills they need to be an asset to the group.
Individuality is encouraged among members, though mentors and fellow Thesians reinforce to new recruits how important focus and cooperation is to success. While exact methods vary, core to recruitment and orientation is the development of a “Hunter’s Code”, tenets that the recruit accepts, internalizes, and embraces so that they won’t abandon their mission and can avoid becoming as twisted and sadistic as those they fight.
Organization and Structure
Outside the aforementioned mentor and apprentice program, the Theseus Club is structured extremely informally. Members are ranked in terms of successful manhunts and seniority, but the whole framework is left intentionally fuzzy to encourage individualism and independence. To aid in identifying each other, various hand signs, secret phrases, and symbols are used, chief among them an item made of or in the shape of a bull’s horn. This is a reminder of the group’s continuing enmity with the Society of Minos, a group who embodies all the Theseus Club opposes and whose depravity led to the Club’s founding.
In addition to normal members, the Theseus Club operates an associates program. These are servants, allies, and contacts of club members who assist with information gathering, surveillance, and other task. In many cases associates are survivors of various atrocities who are unwilling or unable to join the organization full time but still wish to assist the group in their mission. Associates are often identified by a simple piece of string wrapped around a finger, wrist, or object. This identification was devised by the Rainsford and still sees use today, though in electronic or remote communications associates will often work a similar image into an electronic signature or profile picture.
The Club is run by a board of six of its most prominent members, one member for every original founder. When a founder dies, retires, or is unable to continue as an active member they nominate their own replacement and the board votes to accept. The board sets basic club rules and policies, manages budgets for various operations, and prioritizes Club resources. They are usually attended by at least one apprentice, who is often but not always among their chosen successors.
The current board consists of the following individuals: Lady Eleanor St. John-Smythe, a bona fide English noble, explorer, and adventurer who was shipwrecked and nearly killed by crazed pirates and criminals as a youth; Nezir Mirjana, whose whole family was slaughtered by anti-Muslim extremists during the Bosnia conflict; Katherine Pine, a young woman who narrowly survived the Minoan’s Labyrinth as a teen; Will Myers, a former top FBI profiler whose obsession with certain cases drove him from the Bureau; Ojore Kitumba, a former Ugandan child soldier rescued by Lady St. John-Smythe while on an operation nearly twenty years ago; Yoshida Ito, a former low-Yakuza who joined after a gang of vigilante cops brutally murdered several of his fellow gangsters; and finally Ellen Rainsford, great-granddaughter of the Theseus Club’s founder, Sanger Rainsford.
Goals and Methods
The Theseus Club is driven by two goals: one general and the other specific. First they are devoted to stopping any who prey upon the underprivileged, disenfranchised, and victimized. They are predators of the predatory, focusing their efforts on protecting others by taking down threats. They aren’t generally concerned with charity or elevating the social status or quality of life of others, favoring dealing with those who harm others so that people can help themselves. This outlook causes many members to develop a mix of callous disregard and pragmatic avoidance when dealing with victims of their targets. They want to bring down the killers, human traffickers, pirates, and similar threats, not nurture and protect those who suffer at the hands of such people. They justify this approach by pointing to the countless lives they save by focusing on those spreading suffering and death, but this also sometimes causes them to run afoul with law enforcement and groups with aligned by different goals such as the Saviors.
Second, the Theseus Club seeks the destruction of the Society of Minos. This is an old grudge, going back to the founding of the group, and vast resources are spent tracking, identifying, and eliminating any Minoans whose activities put them on the Club’s radar. If a Club operation requires the group to choose between a general predatory threat and the Minoans, they will usually choose to let other parties handle the former so they can focus on the latter. This isn’t universal: some Theseus Club members have personal codes and motivations that will cause them to break this methodology, but they’re an exception rather than the rule.
The group employs any methods required to accomplish their goals that still allow them to feel some sliver of righteousness in their cause. They might endanger or use innocents as bait to lure their prey out into the open, but they won’t wantonly slaughter or needlessly torment. Legal procedures and civil rights are a secondary concern to most members; they are hunting monsters and recognize sometimes hard choices are necessary.
Despite favoring a knife in the dark to due process, the Theseus Club makes active use of various legitimate resources to accomplish their goals. If alerting the authorities to a target’s illegal activities aids in their neutralization, they’ll do it. However, many members prefer a hands-on methods of dealing with threats and some Club members have even helped their quarry evade prosecution so they can deal with them personally later. Many members have signature methods they employ whenever possible, such as board member Katherine Pine’s use of a bow to bring down targets or members with exceptional technical expertise who prefer to socially and financially ruin a target utterly but leave them still breathing. The Theseus Club encourages these personal touches as long as they don’t get in the way of the group’s overall mission.
The main advantages of the Theseus Club are its contacts and skills of its membership. Despite it being at best a secondary focus, the organization has saved the lives of countless individuals by eliminating would-be predators, serial killers, and other menaces. If a victim has useful skills or influence, they are often contacted later and made aware of the Club’s involvement in their salvation. Though not all of these contacts become members or even allies, many do. These efforts over the decades have created a network to assist and protect the organization. As the world gets ever stranger and more dangerous, the Theseus Club has gained new connections among those who encounter strange beasts, eccentric madmen, secret cults, and the like. While the organization has never turned its back on such problems, they are gaining expertise and experience in such matters every day.
In addition to their contacts, the membership itself is its greatest asset. Many Thesians possess amazing aptitudes for combat, pursuit, surveillance, and stealth. Some are full blown Talents, nigh-superhuman in their abilities. Others are simply incredibly skilled but essentially normal people save for their drive and perspective. The group fosters support and cooperation among all members, reinforcing the idea that the only people who truly understand what is necessary to hunt and destroy the evils they face are others who do the same.
Between their contacts and members, there is little support or assistance that can’t be provided given time and necessity. From special weapons to professional psychological analysis of potential targets, somewhere in the web of members and associates is usually someone who can help. Of course, favors and support are expected to be repaid in kind, and those who seek such assistance need to be ready to provide the same when requested.
Why the Theseus Club?
Hunt the hunters, using their tools against them to show they can’t kill and torment others at their whim. The Society of Minos’ existence means you always have a default and formidable enemy, but you have room to grow and focus beyond their actions. Become the blade in the dark, the shadow stalking merciless killers, and show the world that you cannot prey on others without inviting your own downfall. Also, as one of the older Allegiances they carry a bit of interesting history with them.
Character Concepts: Final Girl Who Survives the Slasher/Serial Killer, Bounty Hunter, Serial Crimes Expert, Generational Club Member, Big Game Hunter, Vengeful Hunter
Both the Theseus Club and the Society of Minos are inspired by Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, or The Hounds of Zaroff. It’s a short story, so I recommend you go read it. I told the Continuum crew numerous times that I wanted to basically make the Trinity Continuum my own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with characters from all sorts of media thrown into a single setting. Jack really nailed that by taking advantage of a public domain work, and I couldn’t be more delighted.