Matthew Dawkins here once again! In the first episode of the Onyx Pathcast we discussed the Contagion Chronicle. That discussion included coverage of the Cryptocracy: one of the “splats” in that upcoming book. The splats in Contagion are classified as the Sworn and the False, with the Cryptocrats as a proud member of the former.
Meghan Fitzgerald wrote all the player options for this game, due to my desiring consistency and connectivity across the Sworn, as well as knowing how Meghan excels at this kind of writing. We took a different approach to writing this book, with my assigning Meghan the task of writing the splats before any of the other writers were hired on. I wanted the Sworn detailed so every writer who came on later had a firm base from which to work for the remainder of the book. I think it’s worked out pretty well.
Today is not the day I unveil all the Contagion Chronicle’s secrets, but as we discussed part of the Cryptocracy in the podcast, here is the full splat in written form for your reading pleasure and speculation! Continue to listen to the podcast and check on this blog for previews and discussion of our upcoming games.
Contagion as Social Entropy
There’s nothing insignificant about mere mortals. And that isn’t a compliment. It’s a warning.
They always look surprised to find someone like me schmoozing with the street performers and neighborhood graffiti crews, in my $600 suit and Chanel perfume. But who better to let sample my blood than those to whom society turns a blind eye? They’re the perfect carriers for the preventive cure — the key to immunizing the population against their own brutal instincts is a virus of our own. Pacification through hijacking the grassroots message, spread through our very own song of silence. Look, if the Cacophony works for us, surely it’ll work for a bunch of gullible kine.
What Is Contagion?
Look around you. World leaders hold each other hostage, poised to rain nuclear death down on all of us — human or not — in a fit of pique. People wear their hatred for each other on their sleeves, proud to be selfish warmongers as they close their borders, arm their citizens, and wave their dicks around. They watch the planet tear itself apart and pretend everything is fine. Sometimes we get self-absorbed, too, and we stop paying much attention to what the mortals are doing. That bites us in the ass, every time. The Contagion is what happens when humanity slides too far down the spiral into atrocity and unrest.
It’s only logical. Blood spills, society breaks down, the world gets sick. Then the effects make everything worse and throw us all into this maddening feedback loop that threatens to dismantle civilization altogether. Once humanity gets its collective shit back together, the outbreak subsides and we can all get back to our nightly bloodsucking, or obsessing over esoterica, or whatever it is we normally do — at least, until it all happens again.
What we stand to lose: Stability. Comfort. All the progress we’ve made since the first human being woke up in a cave in the middle of the night, terrified of the dark. Some say things were better for us then, when the shadows were deeper and harder to banish, but that’s just nostalgia talking. Make no mistake: Anarchy hurts us as much as it hurts them.
What we stand to gain: Control. A safety net. Moving beyond “good enough” so that maybe, someday, humanity doesn’t need handholding to keep a civilization going for more than a few years without killing each other en masse. I mean, we won’t pretend to be Mother Theresa, here. But at least we’ve got some perspective.
Where We Came From
The first time a Cryptocracy convened to rein in humanity’s worst impulses was during the outbreak that occurred in the flaming wreckage of Carthage, in 146 BC. The Contagion spread out from that final slaughter, all across the Roman Republic and the lands of its allies, and then even to those of its foes as they continued their conquest. A small faction within the vampiric Camarilla made tentative alliances with demons, sorcerers, and other shadow sects to curb the rampant human brutality and the illness’ symptoms. They kept a close eye on the Machine’s activity in the centuries that followed. Even after the vampires’ grand covenant collapsed, this faction monitored signs of the Contagion’s return and maneuvered behind the scenes to keep mortals from regressing too far into barbaric behavior.
We have persisted since then, growing to span the globe. Not every outbreak we’ve seen coincides neatly with a period of widespread chaos, but that’s to be expected — the factors that govern reality falling ill as a reflection of human folly are impossibly complex, and even we still don’t understand them all. Our numbers have swelled over the last century or so; between nuclear anxiety, global terrorism, biological warfare, and increasingly polarized populations, a lot of us worry about what comes next. What do you think will happen to the laws of physics and magic after World War III? Let’s not find out.
What We Do
The health of reality is in humanity’s hands, but let’s face it: They need our help. They can’t even tell what’s happening, much less tame their own instincts for solipsism and mob mentality. We nudge them in the right direction from the shadows, where we’ve always operated so well.
We wield the broadest influence possible without discovery. To that end, we accumulate worldly wealth and power, subtly controlling human institutions to steer them away from infected Infrastructure and unwise decisions. We protect the innocent from the Contagion’s ravages no matter what, autonomy be damned. What’s more important, the free will of a few human beings or the survival of civilization as we know it? No contest. We can’t be too obvious, though; we’ve seen how they react to us without the Contagion. Revealing ourselves would be counterproductive at best, so direct mind control and intervention are last resorts.
Some of us encourage cooperative behaviors and circumstances that foster harmony among humans, and others get rid of threats to stability by any means necessary. Between us, we quietly remove troublesome elements before they get out of hand. We have mystical avenues as well as mundane ones, always on the lookout for new ways to monitor and sway groups without their knowledge. We recruit experts in dreamwalking, astral travel, and hijacking healthy parts of the God-Machine for our own use. We study entropy, fate, causality, consequence, and patterns of ruination so we can halt or redirect those forces as we see fit. Humans generate them through their heinous acts, causing their own insidious cycles of societal breakdown. By manipulating these forces directly, we can interrupt those cycles long enough to take control.
Some accuse us of hypocrisy. We, a bunch of inhuman, flawed, struggling, violent shadow-dwellers, are supposed to know better than all of humanity? Pot calling the kettle black, much? Who are we to place ourselves in positions of power and judgment? But we know we’re no heroes. We’re not morally offended; we have no high horse to sit on. We just see and know so much more. We’re obviously not immune to greed and corruption either, but we’re a couple hundred supernatural beings in a city’s underbelly. There are billions of them. Frankly, it’s only natural for us to guide humanity in these matters.
How we organize: Our secret network of surveillance and communications connects us globally and keeps us in the know. We call it Caliber, a play on ECHELON, the massive intel program the Five Eyes nations use. Whether or not ours taps into theirs is nobody’s business but ours.
Despite Caliber, our hierarchies — called bureaus — are regional and local, for now. A given bureau might organize itself like a Freemason Lodge, an intelligence agency, or a corporation.
We value our diversity because each of us has fingers in different kinds of pies, and varied ways to interact with all the manifold levels of human society. We need that to make sure no stray terrorist or troublemaker escapes our notice.
Among the Sworn: The other Sworn look to us when humans get in their way, or they need information about the mundane world only we can learn. Sometimes we come into conflict with the Ship of Theseus, but nothing’s wrong with progress — we like progress! It’s only when they take it too far that we have to rein them in, too.
We get ourselves in trouble when: we get too heavy-handed, hide too many secrets from each other, or argue among ourselves about what’s best for everyone. We may not be morally offended on the whole, but we do have strong opinions — along with curses, magical limitations, and mystical behavioral urges — and they often conflict. If we let that compromise us, or we nudge humanity too blatantly, we tip our hand. We deal harshly with anyone who exposes us.
When the Contagion is in remission: We continue lurking behind the scenes, taking precautionary measures to keep humanity’s natural entropic urges in line. We explore new ways to spread our influence, plant the seeds of philosophies we want to encourage in the population’s subconscious and dreams, and insert ourselves into human institutions as fixtures they can’t easily dislodge in times of crisis.
Who We Are
- The Invictus tycoon who donates large sums to handpicked politicians, and tanks companies with dangerous agendas through leverage and an army of ghouls
- The Guardian of the Veil who maintains and monitors Caliber with magic, and knows how to disseminate the right information to the right people at the right times
- The Ugallu who manipulates the media to remove troublemakers and rival conspiracies by exposing their transgressions to the world — with a few original tweaks, if necessary
- The Winter Courtier who walks in dreams to convince the right people that doing what we want was all their idea in the first place, through oneiromancy
- The Maa-Kep Internal Affairs officer who can always find evidence to convict those who don’t follow the rules…or those who make them, if they’re rules we don’t like
Nicknames: Cryptocrats, agents, the Majestic, Men in Black (derogatory)