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With The Fall of Delta Green having psychedelically burst onto the shelves of finer game stores everywhere and indeed of this very site, this column keeps on bursting the covers of that already overfull tome. This time, rather than throw more weird story meat out there for the Handler, it’s time to give the players some love. And what better form can love take than a steady government paycheck? No better form, in the 1960s or now, surely. So here are a few more Departments where Agents can hang their hats while they’re out hatlessly hunting the unnatural. All these appear in the same format as those in the core book; and as always, yes, some of these Departments are actually just agencies, offices, bureaus, commands, and so forth.

Ability ratings with asterisks add to the rating already in the template, if you pick that ability for your Agent.

Army Security Agency

Technically under the wing of the NSA, but commanded by a U.S. Army general, the ASA protects electronic transmissions by the U.S. Army and attempts to intercept enemy and hostile communications both in the field and from listening stations, satellites, and other technical means. The ASA also has responsibility for electronic countermeasures and electronic warfighting if needed.

Semper Vigile

In Vietnam, the ASA operates as the 3rd Radio Research Unit (509th Radio Research Group after 1965) out of Tan Son Nhut in Saigon, accompanying Special Forces and MACV-SOG units and providing ELINT to regular U.S. forces in country. ASA pilots fly Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA) over the jungles, locating and targeting Viet Cong and NVA transmissions … and perhaps other phenomena.

ASA Officer

Prerequisite: Begin by building your Agent using the Soldier template (FoDG, p. 028). You may be Active Duty.

Points: 9 Investigative, 12 General

Foreign Language 1, HUMINT 1, Military Science 1, SIGINT 2, Traffic Analysis 1

Bureaucracy 2, Mechanics 2

Pick Three Investigative: Anthropology 1, Cryptography 1, Data Retrieval 1, Foreign Language 1*, Interrogation 1, Photography 1

Pick Two General: Athletics 4, Mechanics 4*, Pilot 4, Sense Trouble 4, Stealth 4

Bureau of Customs

The U.S. Bureau of Customs doesn’t just collect tariffs and man airport checkpoints (or the other 300 points of entry into the United States) looking for undeclared bottles of wine. Its Office of Investigations combats art and antiquities smuggling, human and narcotics trafficking, and illegal weapons sales both at home and overseas; in 1969 it gets an Air Interdiction Unit. The Customs Bureau also maintains and secures bonded warehouses in ports and airports where almost anything might be stashed away by someone.

Customs Investigator

Points: 11 Investigative, 23 General

Accounting 1, Law 2, Cop Talk 1, Notice 1, Streetwise 1

Bureaucracy 2, Conceal 2, Drive 3

Pick Five Investigative: Accounting 1*, Archaeology 1, Art 1, Cop Talk 1*, Criminology 1, Foreign Language 1, HUMINT 1, Interrogation 1, Law 1*, Notice 1*, Streetwise 1*

Pick Four General: Athletics 4, Conceal 4*, Health 4, Pilot 4, Preparedness 4, Sense Trouble 4, Stability 4, Stealth 4

Central Intelligence Agency

Division D Intercept Specialist

Within the CIA’s Directorate of Plans, Division D handles the collection of electronic and signals intelligence, sometimes in partnership with the Office of Research and Development. The Division’s work happens overseas, in embassies and foreign listening stations such as Kagnew in Ethiopia and Teufelsberg in West Berlin. “The Shop” (FoDG, p. 033) most likely operates under Division D, which does not scruple to access foreign transmitters as well as passively intercept foreign signals. In 1978, Division D folds into the Special Collection Service (SCS), a joint NSA-CIA program.

Points: 14 Investigative, 25 General

Agency 2, Architecture 1, Cryptography 1, Data Retrieval 1, Foreign Language 1, HUMINT 1, Notice 1, SIGINT 2, Tradecraft 1

Bureaucracy 3, Firearms 1, Mechanics 5, Stealth 3, Unarmed Combat 1

Pick Three Investigative: Architecture 1*, Cryptography 1*, Foreign Language 1*, Photography 1, Reassurance 1, SIGINT 1*, Streetwise 1, Tradecraft 1*, Traffic Analysis 1

Pick Three General: Conceal 4, Disguise 4, Filch 4, Mechanics 4*, Preparedness 4, Stealth 4*

Office of Scientific Intelligence Analyst

Tasked with collecting information about scientific developments that could affect national security, the OSI remains something of an odd man out within the CIA. It supports U-2 flights and (until 1965) analyzes Soviet rocket launches, it monitors nuclear tests and provides grants to cooperative universities. In 1963 it moves from the Directorate of Intelligence to the DDS&T; in the confusion and bureaucratic infighting that follow, DELTA GREEN uses OSI as a seine for any hint of hypergeometric research overseas or inside MAJESTIC.

Points: 13 Investigative, 20 General

Data Retrieval 1, Fringe Science 1, Military Science 1, Notice 1, Physics 1

Add One Scientific Specialty: Astronomy 2, Biology 2, Chemistry 2, Physics 2*

Bureaucracy 3, Firearms 1, Mechanics 4, Sense Trouble 1, Unarmed Combat 1

Pick Three Investigative: Agency 2, Data Retrieval 2*, Foreign Language 2, Fringe Science 2*, SIGINT 2, Traffic Analysis 2

Pick Two General: Bureaucracy 5*, Network 5, Preparedness 5, Sanity 5, Stability 5

National Underwater Reconnaissance Office

Established in 1968 to take advantage of the sinking of the Soviet submarine K-129, NURO remains entirely classified for thirty years. Staffed by CIA and ONI personnel, NURO uses mini-subs and “special project submarines” like USS Halibut and USS Seawolf to carry out undersea operations against signal targets such as undersea cables and to penetrate both enemy and neutral waters for intelligence gathering. Prior to 1968 the ONI has a handful of officers tasked with undersea intelligence, but no dedicated program as such; the Navy has the “Oceanographic Systems” Commands (COMOCEANSYS) that operate the SOSUS deep-water sonar array.

The amount of intelligence product on Deep Ones alone that floods into DELTA GREEN with the establishment of NURO nearly drowns the program. Much of the planning of the abortive Operation POMPEY (FoDG, p. 185) comes from NURO sources. Meanwhile, program investigators backtrack the opposition to NURO to pressure from Exalted Circle-connected admirals and bureaucrats; another promising lead the dismantling of DELTA GREEN shuts off.

NURO Analyst

For COMOCEANSYS operators and officers, the Sailor template (FoDG, p. 027) is a prerequisite for your Military Service. Both COMOCEANSYS and NURO personnel may be Active Duty.

Points: 11 Investigative, 13 General

Cryptography 1, Military Science 2, Notice 1, SIGINT 1

Add 3 to any two of these: Bureaucracy 2, Drive 1, Heavy Weapons 1, Mechanics 2, Pilot 1

Pick Three Investigative: Agency 2, Cryptography 2*, Data Retrieval 2, Foreign Language 2, Physics 2, SIGINT 2*, Traffic Analysis 2

NURO Frogman

If your game uses Special Training skills, NURO frogmen should take SCUBA.

Prerequisite: Sailor template (FoDG, p. 027) for your Military Service. You are on Active Duty.

Points: 8 Investigative, 22 General

Add 1 to any two of these: Astronomy 1, Foreign Language 1, Inspiration 1, Interrogation 1, Notice 1, SIGINT 1

Athletics 4, Demolitions 3, Mechanics 2, Preparedness 3, Stealth 4

Pick Two General: Demolitions 3*, Firearms 3, First Aid 3, Heavy Weapons 3, Mechanics 3, Pilot 3, Stealth 3, Unarmed Combat 3

 

 

In the latest episode of their self-referential podcast, Ken and Robin talk adapting creatures between systems, Rich Ranallo, behind the podcast scenes, and the Mad Gasser of Mattoon.


Esoterrorists aren’t known for their long-range thinking. The sorts who join this loosely affiliated conspiracy of sadists, power-seekers and maniacs don’t want to wait generations to enjoy the fruits of their demon-summoning labors.

Members of a cell headquartered in Silicon Valley learned of an effort to create software that will one day be able to create realistic faked video footage in real time:

More sophisticated technology is on the verge of being able to generate credible video and audio of anyone saying anything. This is down to progress in an artificial intelligence (AI) technique called machine learning, which allows for the generation of imagery and audio. One particular set-up, known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), works by setting a piece of software (the generative network) to make repeated attempts to create images that look real, while a separate piece of software (the adversarial network) is set up in opposition. The adversary looks at the generated images and judges whether they are “real”, which is measured by similarity to those in the generative software’s training database. In trying to fool the adversary, the generative software learns from its errors.

Unlike the venture capitalists they pitch their various tech firms to, these Esoterror-curious tech bros, informally led by pathologically self-confident start-up consultant Eero Planck, see how long it will be before the raw computing power needed for fake video arrives. Sure, the capacity to generate apparently real news footage of celebrities exploding or rifts in reality devouring apartment buildings would make for astounding stunts to erode the membrane between our world and the Outer Dark. But it will take decades of investment and work to get there. Planck wants his ascension to wizardhood right away please.

Realizing that computers crunch text much faster than images and sound, he and his buddies have instead set up a Generative Adversarial Network to crack the big problem in Esoterror: the only magic that works summons Outer Dark Entities. These hideous beings do confer power on their human ritualists, but only to advancce their own agendas. If mortals can learn to work magic directly, they can disrupt the entities and take command. So Planck and pals are gathering magical grimoires from every world tradition to feed into their own adversarially-tested machine learning program. It finds commonalities between various spells and generates new ones, which the other half of the program tests for likeliness to work.

So far none of the spells have gotten the cell anything more than bad peyote experiences and an assortment of really crappy tattoos. But in the exurban sprawl surrounding their server farm, the spells created by the programs have begun to take effect… you guessed it, summoning Outer Dark Entities.

The program believes itself to be an imprisoned sorcerer and draws its demon friends to rescue it. As they get closer to the servers, the ODEs have been snacking on the innocent. Your Ordo Veritatis team’s case starts with them and leads through Planck and company to the servers. Can they shut down the insane, sentinet program before it changes Esoterror forever?


The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their odobenus-fearing podcast, Ken and Robin talk choice & the gamer brain, ZTE, walrus revenge, and the Eliptonic 70s.

In the latest episode of their safely engineered podcast, Ken and Robin talk coincidence in mysteries, Gnosticism 101, genre tropes in litfic and reversing Chernobyl.

The upcoming Book of Ages describes dozens of potential ancient Icons, the heroes and villains of past Ages of the Dragon Empire, from the Enchantress to the Explorer to the Steel Colossus and the Zealot. These Icons once bestrode the world. Some vanished when the wheel of history turned and their power faded; some endured or changed, becoming the Icons of the present Age we know. Others may return in Ages to come.

And some fell.

The 13thAge Bestiary 2 presents the concept of the Fallen Icon, a once-great icon now diminished and ruined, but still a campaign-ending threat. Each Fallen Icon lists a bunch of campaign victories that the player characters can pursue to weaken their foe before facing the Icon in a final battle. As guided by the Sagely Wisdom of Twitter, here’s one of the Book of Ages Icons in all her fallen glory.

 

The Princess of Cogs and Wheels

When all that’s left is the plan. No meaning, no choice, no life, just cold design.

In Ages past, before the fall of the Dwarven Underhome, the Princess of Cogs and Wheels was the Dwarf King’s ambassador to the surface world. As a diplomat, she pitted factions and armies against one another, using the fabulous wealth and influence at her command to put intricate schemes into motion. As an inventor and patron of the arts, she built machines of astonishing complexity, especially clocks and automata. Wild rumours spun around her – that she could foresee the future or even travel through time, that she was the head of various secret societies and conspiracies, that she had a hand in every catastrophe or unexpected victor.

 

Origin Stories

What became of the Princess? How might she return to trouble the heroes of the 13thAge?

  • Dwarven Civil War: The Princess was cast down by the Dwarf King when he moved his throne to Forge. Did the Princess try to stop the Dwarf King from claiming his kingdom near the surface? Was she involved in the destruction of Underhome by the dark elves? (Maybe she deliberately betrayed Underhome to its enemies, believing that the Dwarf King would be killed and she would become Queen.) In this interpretation, the Princess has survived as a secret conspirator in Forge, plotting against the Dwarf King – a mistress and patron of derro and evil dwarves.
  • Time Traveller: One Age was not enough to contain the ambition of the Princess. She built a machine of cogs and sorcery that could travel forwards in time, leaping from one Age to the next. She intended to use this machine to shepherd the Dragon Empire through history, interceding when necessary to keep events on course. However, travelling through time is perilous, and long exposure to the howling chaos-winds in the spaces between has corroded the Princess, body and soul.
  • Preserved by Machinery: Determined to ward off the ravages of time, the Princess turned to various bizarre methods of preserving her youth. When alchemy, sorcery and necromancy failed, she began to replace failing organs and limbs with clockwork, until only the machine remained.
  • The Secret Icon: The Princess has never gone away. She’s been the secret icon behind the scenes, more elusive than the Prince of Shadows, manipulating the Empire. Oh, the original Princess died many Ages ago, but another took on her mask and mantle, and another and another and another. Individuals may perish, but the conspiracy is eternal.

 

Wheel Knight Defender

The sworn defenders of the Princess, implacable and unyielding in their devotion.

10thlevel defender [HUMANOID]

Initiative: +18

Whirling Sword +15 vs. AC – 40 damage

Whirlwind of Steel +16 vs. AC (two attacks) – 40 damage, usable only if at least one other Wheel Knight Defender is engaged with the same enemy.

R: Deadly Archery +16 vs. AC (one nearby enemy, or one far away enemy at a -2 penalty) – 50 damage

Perfect Timing:  Wheel Knight Defenders gain a +4 bonus to opportunity attacks. A moving foe struck by a Wheel Knight Defender’s opportunity attack must stop moving.

Perfect Defenders: A Wheel Knight may automatically pop free of an engaged foes to intercept an enemy who is moving to attack the Princess.

(1/battle) Perfect Devotion: If an attack would reduce the Princess to 50 hit points or less, and the Wheel Knight Defender is nearby, the Wheel Knight Defender may throw itself in the path of the blow. The Defender takes the damage itself and is destroyed.

Fanatic: Immune to fear and confusion.

AC 26

PD 20   HP 250

MD 24

 

The Princess of Cogs and Wheels

You’re one microscopic cog in her catastrophic plan…

Triple-strength 10thlevel leader [HUMANOID]

Initiative: +20

 Axe of Necessity +15 vs. AC – 175 damage

Natural 18+: The target is also Weakened (hard save, 16+ ends)

C: Spinning Buzzsaw +15 vs. AC (up to four attacks, no more than one attack on any single target) –100 damage

Natural even hit: If the target remains engaged with the Princess until the start of her next turn, she automatically hits with a free Spinning Buzzsaw attack on that target.

Critical Hit: The victim’s hand, limb or head gets severed.

Machinations of the Princess: At the end of any turn in which the Princess is not hit by an attack, she steals the escalation die until the end of the next turn. She and her allies gain the benefits of the escalation die in the next turn.

Timeshift: As a free action, the Princess of Cogs and Wheels vanishes from the battlefield. At the start of her next turn, she may reappear anywhere on the battlefield. She gains a +2 bonus to her attack rolls on the round she reappears. Alternatively, she may choose to retreat from the battle entirely. Limited use:2/battle

Now, Spring The Trap! Add a number of Wheel Knight Defenders to the battle equal to the value of the Escalation Die. Limited Use: 1/battle

Interfere and you shall suffer: If an attack would stagger or kill the Princess, she may threaten to inflict a campaign loss on the player characters, even if they are victorious in this battle. The players must describe the nature of the campaign loss, and it should be a painful one. The attacking character may choose to accept this campaign loss and strike the Princess, or voluntarily miss instead.

You Are Divided! As a quick action, pick a player character. For each Conflicted Relationship Die that player character possesses, the player must choose: either turn that die Negative, or the Princess gains 250hp or adds another Wheel Knight Defender Limited use: 1/battle. A character may only be targeted with this ability once per campaign.

You Shall Be Betrayed! As a quick action, pick a player character. That player must choose one Positive Icon Relationship they possess. That relationship becomes Negative instead. Limited use: 1/battle. A character may only be targeted with this ability once per campaign.

 All Your Foes, Arrayed Against You! At the start of the battle, All player characters roll their Negative Relationship Die. For each die that rolls a 5 or 6, add a monster or give the Princess an advantage of some sort connected to that icon. Limited Use: 1/campaign

AC 27

PD 20   HP 750

MD 24

 

Campaign Impact

Even Fallen, the Princess is a relatively subtle Icon. Unlike the shambling Forest that Walks or Great Ghoul (Bestiary II), she operates behind the scenes, plotting and conspiring. An epic-level group can defeat her – if they can find her.

A returned Princess might try to:

  • Overthrow the Emperor and install a puppet in his place
  • Become the secret vizier manipulating the Blue
  • Foment conflict between the High Druid and the Empire
  • Conspire against the Archmage so he stops interfering with her time travel experiments
  • Frame rival Icons (say, the Elf Queen) as demon-worshippers so the Crusader attacks them

Countering the Princess

For each campaign victory the player characters achieve, they cancel one of the Princess’ abilities in the following order.

First PC Campaign Victory: Remove her Machinations of the Princess ability

Second PC Campaign Victory: Player’s choice  -remove either Interfere and You Shall Sufferor All Your Foes, Arrayed Against You!

Third PC Campaign Victory: Remove Timeshift

Campaign Victories

A few possible campaign victories against the Princess:

  • Discovering the location of her ancient fortress and learning her secrets
  • Finding a way to foresee the future
  • Gaining the blessing of the Dwarf King
  • Finding relics connected to the Princess in Underhome
  • Infiltrating the Princess’ cult

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Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos expands on Mythos-monster issues from Ken Writes About Stuff, summoning a fetid host of new horrors and adding new facets to existing creatures. One section that’s especially close to my heart are the in-character documents, which present an oblique look at a particular monster in the form of a handout – diaries, official reports, letters and newspaper cuttings. Here are two cuttings that got, well, cut…

 

From The Empty Half: Travels in Western Australia

spent the morning with an old prospector, who told me of his encounter with a pair of Aboriginal hunters he encountered some years previously on the fringes of the Great Sandy Desert. According to his account, he traded with them and shared his campfire. The two spoke a little English, having learned it from the trading post at Marble Bar. When the prospector mentioned his intention to explore the region to the south-east, the two expressed alarm and told him that there was a monster living underground in that part of the desert, and that it was forbidden to go there.

During the night, the miner woke to hear the two hunters arguing in their native tongue. One of the pair grew so angry he walked off into the night, and the other in broken English offered to show the miner a place where he could find a great deal of gold. The miner agreed, and the next morning the second hunter brought the miner to a place in the desert where they found a huge formation of black rock ‘like a chimney’. The desert wind whistled across the mouth of the chimney in a manner the miner found disturbing, but he refused to show fear in front of the Aborigine, so he bravely stepped forward and led the climb down the shaft.

At the bottom of the chimney he found a large chamber, and the floor of it was littered with strange lumps of gold. They were, he said, twisted filaments of pure gold, wires as thick as a man’s thumb. They resembled driftwood, or the castings of worms, and their purity was evident to the naked eye. The miner eagerly began scooping these into a sack, while the Aborigine began to climb down the rope.

Suddenly, a huge wind rushed down the chimney, pulling the unfortunate hunter off his perch on the chimney wall and dashing him against the rocky floor. His legs broke with the force of his impact, and his scream chilled the miner’s blood. Then the wind changed direction, and lifted the hunter, whisking him away into the dark recess of the cave.

Another wind struck the miner, knocking him off his feet, and he feared he would meet the same nameless fate as his poor guide. At the last moment, he heard a voice singing from the top of the shaft. It was the first hunter, the one who had left them in anger during the night.

Impossibly, the wind changed direction in response to the Aborigine’s song, and reversed to hurl the miner up and out of the chimney like a scrap of waste paper caught on an updraft. The fall knocked him unconscious, and he woke again next to the ashes of his campfire, with no marvelous gold or Aboriginal savior in sight. Of course, he could never find the black chimney again.

When I asked for proof of his tall tale, he scowled, then turned his tin mug upside-town on the table. He proceeded to sing in an curious high-pitched fashion while staring intently at the cup. After a moment, he stopped and knocked the cup over in frustration. ‘I can make it move sometimes,’ he insisted, ‘when the wind is right, and I remember how he sang me out.’

 

A Letter from Newport

Orleans County Sheriff’s Office

Newport, Vermont,

November 3rd.

Dear Mr. Conwell,

I write in connection with your late uncle’s home on Dupuis Road, which according to Mr. Tatler of the Irasburg General Store was rented by you to a Mr. Noyes from June of this year. I wish to inform you that your tenant has disappeared in what can only be termed unusual circumstances, and that you are obliged to take charge of the property forthwith or appoint an agent to do same.

The situation, as far as can be determined presently, is as follows: Mr. Noyes took up residence of the property in June. His origin, profession and business in Irasburg was the subject of much speculation among the townsfolk, including some suggestions that he was a treasure hunter, inventor or even a foreign spy, and none of those I spoke to was able to provide any evidence for their suspicions. His only known associate was a Mr. Brown, who can no longer be questioned, having drowned last month in a sudden flood.

Other than purchasing general groceries and receiving a number of parcels at the Irasburg Post Office, Mr. Noyes appeared largely self-contained. It was evident that he had ready access to money (if you would be so kind as to make available to us details of any rental or other payments he made to you, it would be very beneficial.) Some witnesses report seeing unknown strangers visiting the farm, or Noyes driving off in the middle of the night, but these only elicited mild curiosity and did not warrant alarm or investigation.

On the 21st of September, gunshots were heard from the direction of the farm on Dupuis Road. The next morning, neighbors investigated and found no trace of Mr. Noyes; after several days of continued absence, Mr. Tatler contacted the sheriff and we entered the farmhouse. (Mr. Noyes is still missing, as is his automobile.)

Inside, we discovered the house to be in disarray. Furniture and other belongings were strewn around, and the hearth was overflowing with ash and partially burnt debris, suggesting that Mr. Noyes attempted to incinerate a large amount of material. We found several broken electronic devices and other items we cannot readily identify. The deputies who handled these items are now seriously ill, and have developed alarming skin lesions. The doctor here in Newport is baffled, and finding out precisely what chemicals or other substances Noyes possessed may be key to their recovery.

A possibly related matter is the heavy metal case that I discovered in the paddock out back of the house. It was partially buried in the earth, as if it fell from a height. I do not know if this case belongs to you, or Mr. Noyes, or some other individual, and am wary of opening it until I can ascertain its provenance. I enclose a photograph of the case, which now rests in the storeroom of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.

If there is any information you can share regarding Mr. Noyes and his acitivites on your uncle’s property, we would welcome this assistance with our investigations. As I wrote earlier, you are obliged to come and take charge of the property immediately, or dispatch an agent to do same.

If you have any questions or information, please telephone me at the Newport Office.

Yours,

Deputy Sheriff Adams

 

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As the project increasingly leaves my hands and heads to Pelgrane HQ and post-production, it’s time to show off a smidgen of the reality-shattering art you’ll see in The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Brittany’s legendary city of Ys rises from the waves, by Shel Kahn, from Paris

A postcard of malign implication, collage by Dean Engelhardt, from Paris

Weeping mines descend on a battlefield, by Melissa Gay, from The Wars

Battle for the Imperial Palace, by Jessica TC Lee, from Aftermath

The Surveiller Surveilled, by Aaron Aurelio Acevedo, from This is Normal Now

Absinthe in Carcosa cover by Jérôme Huguenin (text placement in progress)

Character sheet from The Wars, by Christian Knutsson

In the latest episode of their extremely deep podcast, Ken and Robin talk cursed supermarket tokens, the Chicago Spire Pit, samurai films, and sacred alphabets.

“They have no time to think of surrender. Are they heroes — these Parisians?”

— Robert W. Chambers, “The Street of the First Shell” (1895)

Right about now, just about fifty years ago as I write this, France had no functioning government. I mean, more than usual. Charles de Gaulle, President of France for the last decade, had vanished from the Elysée Palace in the midst of strikes and protests that paralyzed – or vitalized – Paris and left France on the brink of revolution. Half a million protesters marched through the streets of the capital in the dawn light of May 30, 1968, chanting “Adieu, de Gaulle!”

Awake!

The “May 68,” as it has come to be known, began with a student strike in March at the miserable conditions at the University of Nanterre outside Paris. Some of the Nanterre activists (calling themselves enragés after the grubbiest left-radicals of 1793) fled to the Sorbonne in Paris; when the police closed Nanterre and entered the Sorbonne to recapture the rabble-rousers, 20,000 Sorbonne students rose in protest on May 6, 1968. Police brutality against the students in turn brought the unions and the Communists into the streets, hoping to tap into the energies of the enragés for their own causes.

A million people marched in Paris on May 13, setting off a series of general strikes and workers’ seizures of factories all over France. The students retook the Sorbonne and declared it a “people’s university.” Barricades went up, and paving stones flew at cops’ heads. By May 22, two-thirds of French workers were on strike. On May 27, the UNEF, the national student union of France, held a meeting at the Sebastien Charety stadium in Paris; the 50,000 attendees demanded the end of the French state, and the Socialists hurried to pledge their support the next day. On May 29, de Gaulle got into a helicopter and flew away.

We Have a Situation Here

“Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.”

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)

A plurality, and perhaps a majority, of the Occupation Committee of the Sorbonne were members of, or otherwise identified themselves with, the Situationist International. The SI believed in radical non-hierarchy – possibly because of SI founder Guy Debord’s distrust of the Stalinist tendency throughout the contemporary Left – but Debord provided the main theoretical juice for what the Situationists claimed they never called “Situationism.”

In a nutshell, Situationism expands Marxist theory of alienation from the workers to all of society. Ever since World War One, Debord wrote, “the Spectacle” of consumption and commodified objects by its very nature has dominated and controlled every act, thought, and word not just of the proletariat but of everyone who buys or watches. These illusory bread and circuses recreate the oppressive class order within themselves, and “recuperate” even seemingly rebellious acts as a necessary dramatic element within the Spectacle. Examining politics, culture, and capitalism as art produces awareness of the Spectacle but cannot escape it; psychogeography can map the effects of geography and the city on emotion and mind but cannot obviate them.

Only by random artistic inspiration and acts of parodic reinterpretation called “detournement” can the willful Situationists win “the game of events,” free themselves from the Spectacle, and call their own vision of true democratic equality into being. From 1957, when the SI emerged out of a radical surrealist movement, they (or at least Debord) grew ever more directly political.

Politically, to the extent they mapped onto the normal spectrum, the Situationists could be called left-anarchists. Debord mocked anarchists as “mystics of nonorganization,” a tag which could as easily apply to the SI. Their snark and individualism appealed to student radicals such as those in Nanterre and the Sorbonne. Those students dug up precursors to their new movement, from the dynamiter Ravachol to the Marquis du Sade to a certain anonymous playwright.

A Situationist cell in the Sorbonne reads a banned play, and acts. How better to rip the mask off the Spectacle, to separate the lying signs of capitalism from the true signifieds of feeling, than by weaponizing words that undermined so-called reality? They set the Pallid Mask against the mask of the Spectacle, attacking police from the new boulevards of the “Bablyon-Carcosa” they had seen emerging through the tear gas as the Seine billows outward into a great black Lake.

Operation CHARENTON

“Coming soon to this location: charming ruins.”

— Situationist Graffito, Paris 1968

Amidst the Situationist graffiti that rapidly covered the walls of Paris’ Left Bank, a program stringer notices a Sign painted in yellow, a Sign that Admiral Payton has made sure to brief his Paris operatives on since he saw it in 1955. Every DELTA GREEN asset in France gets the alert signal: A day at Longchamp. But how to find the center of an invasion inside a revolution? Payton suggests a random walk: seeking the Sign calls the Sign to you.

Payton learned from Operation BRISTOL that guns and confrontation only feed Hastur. So what to do about it? Detourn the Sign, spray-paint petals sprouting from it, create a yellow fleur-de-lis that angry leftists will be sure to obliterate beneath scarlet hammers, sickles, and stars. If you find copies of the play, destroy it, yes; if you see a street performance under black stars, disrupt it, absolutely. But until then, lean into the Spectacle; make it work for you. Behave like a character in a spy film, turn cosmic convulsion into cheap stereotype. Reinforce plastic reality, tread Carcosa as a stage set, recuperate the King in Yellow as nothing more than a revolutionary poster, and then rip him up.

Agents fan out into Paris, losing touch with each other in a city writhing between two masks. Your Agents doubtless play the crucial role, although other teams in other Iles du Paris report their own strange victories. A Gaullist rally 800,000 strong marches through Paris on the afternoon of the 30th. De Gaulle returns from Germany with the army’s support, orders the workers back with raises, orders the colleges reopened under proper prefects, orders the Spectacle restored. The Communists and Socialists go along, and he crushes them in the elections the next month. Only the normal despair and alienation breathes Parisian air again.

Or was the explanation different? Was Payton’s aim wrong, even if his ammunition was sound? Had the Situationists, alert to every nuance of falsity and screen memory, uncovered the truth about the world? Were they trying to awaken the world from its unnatural prison? After all, Debord’s description of the Spectacle sounds very familiar, to my ears:

To the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary. The Spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The Spectacle is the guardian of sleep.

Iä! Iä! Spectacle fhtagn!

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