Esoterrorists 2 cover_reduced

A stand-alone roleplaying game by Robin D Laws

You are elite investigators combating the plots of the Esoterrorists, a loose affiliation of occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world. The Esoterrorists introduces the GUMSHOE rules system, which revolutionizes investigative scenarios by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward.

Upgrades, Improvements and New Content for the 2nd Edition.

This new edition of The Esoterrorists is 4 times longer and allows you to:

  • Equip your characters with fine-grained investigative abilities, ranging from Interrogation and Data Retrieval to the ever-popular Forensic Entomology and always useful Bullshit Detector.
  • Round them out with 13 crucial action abilities, which help you fight, run away, and retain your mental stability when the horrors come knocking.
  • Absorb the latest, in-depth intelligence data on the terrifying world of the Esoterrorists.
  • Learn the never-before-revealed inner workings of the Ordo Veritatis, the secret international agency that sends you out to smash the foe.
  • Recoil at raw reports detailing all-new creatures of unremitting horror.
  • Root yourself in a site of small town menace with the new Station Duty campaign frame and scenario.
  • Confront fever dreams of the apocalypse in a brand new introductory scenario, OPERATION: PROPHET BUNCO!

Also included, for gamemasters:

  • Data on the terrifying world of the Esoterrorists, and the Ordo Veritatis, the benevolent global conspiracy that fights them
  • Creatures of unremitting horror.
  • Detailed instructions on structuring investigative scenarios for the innovative GUMSHOE system
  • Advice on bringing those scenarios to life in play
  • Operation Slaughterhouse, an advanced example scenario of geopolitical horror

The Esoterrorists is easy to learn, easy to play and replayable by design.

Incorporating years of advice, actual play experience, and design evolution, The Esoterrorists Enhanced Edition includes all the rules you need to play the game that revolutionized investigative roleplaying. Dripping with ichor and jammed with content, this is the heftier, meatier, definitive tome gamers have been crying out for ever since they laid their paws on the original.

Reviews of The Esoterrorists:

… the game does deliver on its promise. You could easily explain the rules to someone in 15 minutes enough so that they could play. You can also learn them enough to run the game in about an hour.

I was apprehensive about the system but I was wrong – it worked really well for me.

The rules are incredible – I honestly think this is the best investigation-based RPG ever printed.

Related Material

Stock #: PELG012 Author: Robin D. Laws with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artist: Phil Reeves, Kyle Strahm Pages: 160 page perfect bound

Buy

An Esoterrorists mini-scenario

Scene 1: House Call

It’s October 30th. Mr. Verity passes on a hot tip from the Ordo – there’s an Esoterrorist cell operating out of a house in Brighton, England. Proceeding to the house, the team discover it’s recently abandoned, save for a nasty trap left behind by the Esoterrorists – a Torture Dog.

After dealing with that, a search of the house discovers:

  • Data Retrieval: There’s a computer, but the Esoterrorists have trashed it as they evacuated. However, through Ordo Veritas internet-monitoring software and some backdoors, they can confirm that the cell was monitoring twitter activity closely.
  • Photography: There are some surveillance photos, printed out and stuck on a wall, showing the entrance to some sort of compound with high walls and what look like cages. Trivia/Architecture identifies it as a nearby private zoo, Jungle Adventure.
  • Evidence Collection: In the recycling bin out back, there’s the box for a commercially available toy drone.
  • Chemistry: In a bathroom, the investigators find a horribly stained bathtub. In the plughole are scraps of meat – raw beef – coloured a lurid bluish-purple by whatever chemicals were mixed in the tub. Analysis with Chemistry or Pathology is worrisome and inconclusive – there are compounds in there that shouldn’t exist, suggesting the Esoterrorists either had the aid of an Outer Dark Entity or – more likely – were using some substance extracted from such an ODE for the purposes of dark magic.

Scene 2: Jungle Adventure

The zoo is closed and there’s a police car outside.

  • Cop Talk: Someone stole a tiger from the zoo. The police are baffled as to how or why the tiger was stolen, and are speculating it might have escaped. The owner – in an outburst of nominative determinism, he’s called Gerard Jungle – insists that the cage was secure and the animal didn’t escape.
  • Evidence Collection: On the floor of the tiger cage is a bluish stain, matching the stain from the bathtub.
  • Interrogation: Under questioning, Gerard remembers some odd visitors the day before; awkward, intense men wearing black. They spent a lot of time in front of the tiger cage. He recalls one of them kept checking his phone and cursing.
  • Electronic Surveillance: There’s a security camera watching the tiger enclosure; checking the footage reveals:
    • The gang of intense young men – presumably, the Esoterrorist cell.
    • A 1-point Electronic Surveillance spend lets the investigators zoom in on the phone screen, and discover that the Esoterrorist keeps checking a particular twitter account – cavalorn. See Scene 4, I Never Thought Tigers Would Eat My Phase.
    • Later that night, a drone flies in over the zoo and drops a package through the bars of the tiger cage. It lands wetly and bursts open – it’s full of meat.
    • The tiger eats the meat – and vanishes in a flare of blue light.

While the investigators are at the zoo (or if they’re monitoring police radio bands), they get an alert of a nearby sighting. The tiger’s loose on the streets of Brighton! Go to Scene 3, The Thinning Veil.

Scene 3. The Thinning Veil

About two miles away from Jungle Adventure, the investigators come upon the scene of a curious traffic accident. A car’s driven into a tree. The driver, Karen Glossop, is unhurt but shaken; a small crowd of locals surround her with supportive cups of tea. Reassurance gets her account of what happened: she was driving along when a “glowing blue ghost tiger” appeared right in front of her in the middle of the road. She swerved and crashed; the tiger smashed her side window open, stuck its head in, sniffed her face – and then vanished.

  • Some Outer Dark Entities can slip between our reality and theirs, phasing in and out of reality. At a guess, the Esoterrorists have managed to… infect the tiger with that ability. It’s almost certainly unstable; our form of life can’t survive for long in the Outer Dark.

The police officers on the scene are singularly unconvinced by the account, and are busy searching Glossop’s car for traces of hallucinogens.

  • Reassurance or Streetwise: None of the locals saw anything. One of them, however, is loudly talking about how this is Halloween, when the veil between worlds grows thin. It was probably an Anomalous Black Cat, he reckons, that phased in from a Celtic otherworld. That happens this time of year.
  • Occult Studies: The whole ‘Halloween is when the veils grow thin’ thing is nonsense; the first occurrence of the concept is in the 1970s. In fact, it’s nonsense that aligns perfectly with the goals of the Esoterrorists – manipulating human belief to weaken the real veil between our world and the Outer Dark sounds like a long-term Esoterror plan.
  • Data Retrieval/Trivia: There’s this one guy online who’s very, very insistent on telling everyone about the modern-day origin of the Halloween-is-when-the-veil-is-thin meme. In fact, he’s probably painted a target on himself through his internet activity… and he lives in Sussex. Go to Scene 4.

Scene 4: I Never Thought Tigers Would Eat My Phase

By this point in the scenario, the investigators know the target of the Esoterrorist plot – they’re going after Adrian Bott, aka Cavalorn, to silence his unwitting demolition of their ongoing psychological operation. Data Retrieval or Streetwise can locate Bott’s home; alternatively, the team can track sightings of the glowing blue tiger as it blips across Sussex, phasing in and out of the Outer Dark. The animal grows more misshapen and monstrous with each interval.

To thwart the Esoterrorists, the team need to take down the monstrous tiger before it phases in and devours its target.

Phase-Eating Tiger

Abilities: Athletics 10, Health 12, Scuffling 10

Hit Threshold: 5

Alertness Modifier: +1

Stealth Modifier: +0

Weapon: +1 (claws)

Armour: +1 fur

Scene 5: Veil-Out

The first problem is to dispose of the glowing blue tiger corpse; after that, it’s mostly paperwork and lies. The Esoterrorist cell who created the tiger have fled; the investigators might be able to track them down by backtracing the drone from the zoo, but if that fails, they can set a trap for them at Easter – as Mr. Bott is equally outspoken on the topic of the Easter Bunny

With thanks to Adrian Bott of this parish, who was very sporting when I DMed him and said “I’ve got an idea for a really awful pun, but it requires murdering you in an adventure…”


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.

A derelict superyacht hides a deadly secret in this adventure seed for The Esoterrorists

By Adam Gauntlett

Background

In 2004, Ukrainian billionaire Andrej Teresenko (oil exports) commissioned the superyacht Starfire from AS Knutsson shipyards in Florø, Norway. Over 130 ft long, with helicopter landing pad, gym facilities, a large bar (complete with Steinway piano), private movie theatre and luxury VIP as well as ordinary guest suites, this was to be Teresenko’s crowning achievement. He died before he could enjoy it. The media says it was natural causes; Ukraine’s government suspects assassination, probably by the Russians. Whoever did it saved Ordo Veritatis the trouble, as Teresenko was a person of interest in a Dollarmen investigation. With Teresenko out of the way the trail went cold, though operation BLUNDERHEAD was never officially wound up.

However, the research division discovered the yacht as part of its ongoing trawl of the internet, looking for anything that might indicate Esoterror involvement. They found YouTube footage of the yacht, now just a rusty hull in a Norwegian shipping yard. Records indicate it was part-furnished before all work stopped, but nobody’s bought it, moved it or removed any of the contents since Terensenko’s death in 2006. Nor has anyone offered it for sale; the shipyard seems content to let it sit there and rust itself to death. Operation BLUNDERHEAD has been reactivated, and the agents are tasked with infiltrating the shipyard, getting aboard Starfire, and ensuring that there’s nothing more sinister than a ruined Steinway in that decayed hulk.

Preliminary Investigation

The agents may look over the records of operation BLUNDERHEAD or study architect’s plans of Starfire. The plans are still kept on the architect’s servers, so they can be had with Data Retrieval (0 point).

With this, the agents can get a good idea of the layout (as designed) of Starfire, and what to expect. This grants a 2-point pool to Infiltration or Evidence Collection (or both) while aboard Starfire.

If the agents go one step further and spend 1 point Research, Forensic Accounting or similar, they notice that among the many invoices that went out as part of the build were some significant spends on medical equipment. Except there’s no indication on the ship plans that a state-of-the-art medical bay was part of the ship’s design. It’s not uncommon for a superyacht to have a sophisticated surgery ward, particularly if the owner has health issues. However, Starfire’s design doesn’t allow for one.

Heading to Florø

Florø is a pleasant-bordering-on-quaint island town, the most western town in Norway. It has a coastal museum, lighthouse, deer center and brewery. The agents can get there by car, ferry or plane.

Founded in 1860 when fishing was much more of an industry than it is today, Florø gets much of its living from North Sea Oil, though fishing is still important. It was one of the most prominent towns in the area when transport by sea was still vital, but as highways became predominant Florø’s importance slipped. These days it’s the kind of small-ish town with little serious crime and not much to do.

The Knutsson shipyard is well-regarded by anyone who bothers to think about it, which isn’t saying much, since most folk in Florø have little to do with it. A family-run business since 1873, the shipyard’s been moribund since the late 1990s, when old man Knuttson died and left the business to his sons Jostein and Martin, neither of whom have the go-getting spirit their father had.

Reassurance or similar (0 point) finds out that for the last four years large cars with tinted windows visit the shipyard two or three times a year. Locals gossip that the shipyard’s involved in organized crime, perhaps narcotics smuggling. Cop Talk (1 point) pours cold water on this theory. When it started happening the local cops sent word to the authorities in Oslo and there was a brief inquiry, but it turned out there was nothing to the rumor. The cars are just wealthy clients making enquiries about new ship builds. Though it is odd; for all these inquiries, no ships get built. It’s never the same client, either, always someone different, though the cars are always the same. They belong to the law office of Advokat Erik Helgesson, Oslo; checking reveals this to be a Dollarman front, though Helgesson will die before he gives up any useful intel.

A.S. Knutsson Shipyard

Though neat and efficient, the shipyard is clearly (Architecture 0 point) an outdated relic trying to get by on equipment that should have been replaced years ago. There’s plenty of safety code violations and a case could be made for illegal dumping of petrochemicals, but nobody in Florø cares that much. They feel too sympathetic to the Knutsson brothers, two local lads struggling to get by.

The Starfire is berthed in one of the furthest corners of the shipyard, out of direct sightline of the main offices. Almost as if the brothers didn’t want to see it if they could help it.

The shipyard has a dozen permanent employees, mostly skilled trades, perhaps a score or more temp-hires when there’s a big job on, and there are a couple dogs on site, but they aren’t security-trained; they’re just big and noisy. Infiltration difficulty 3 to get into the site, falling to 2 at night when there aren’t as many people. The Knuttson brothers sleep at the shipyard, but nobody else does. In the event of trouble, they call the cops.

One employee, Geir Blomhagen, has an unusual sideline. Every so often, always a week before one of the cars arrive, he picks up a package from the post office and takes it aboard Starfire, where he leaves it below decks. He’s never looked inside any of the packages, though he knows from the return address that they come from medical suppliers. He’s scared to talk about this, but he drinks heavily ever since his boyfriend left him, so he sometimes lets things slip. Reassurance (1 point) gets him to open up.

Getting Aboard Starfire

If the agents get into the shipyard without trouble, they don’t need to make another Infiltration check to sneak onto Starfire. She’s unmanned and unwatched.

She would have been impressive had she ever launched, but now she’s a rusty orange hull. The swimming pool on the upper deck is empty, save for a shallow puddle of rainwater. She has four decks above the waterline and two below, and for the most part she’s exactly what she appears to be: an abandoned superyacht, part-furnished. The Steinway rots in the bar, alongside leather bar seats and walnut fixtures that have long since perished. The en-suite VIP cabins with their luxury furnishings are ruined. Even the flatscreens, never connected, were left here, though at the time it would have been easy enough to remove and sell them to some deserving Florø household, no questions asked. It’s as if the workers were too frightened to touch anything after the commission fell through.

Evidence Collection (0 point) finds Blomhagen’s trail. He always goes to the same place – the bar – and leaves the package on the Steinway. This can easily be told by the marks in the rust and dust. What’s not so easily told is what happens after that. Whoever removes the package leaves no trail.

Evidence Collection (1 point) notices that although the ship ought to have two below-waterline decks, there’s no obvious way to access the second deck. Architecture (1 point) or another point spend Evidence Collection finds a concealed access hatch that leads to the second below-waterline deck.

It is immediately clear, on entering the second below-waterline deck, where all that medical equipment ended up, back when Starfire was built. This equipment wouldn’t shame a top-rated surgical facility. None of it is in good repair and blood and viscera are liberally scattered over every surface. The entire deck stinks like a midden and is slick with greasy fluids. The medical packages Blomhagen brought aboard are here, torn open, their contents presumably used – everything from plasma to harvested organs from China.

Also here is what’s left of Andrej Teresenko, impossibly, necromantically, still alive.

He’s just a torso , his eyeless head endlessly twitching, but he still has a tongue, so he can speak. Intimidation means nothing to him now, but Reassurance might work, if the agents promise they will kill him. He has no combat stats or relevant abilities, Health 3. If the agents try to rescue him to interrogate him later about Esoterrorism or the Dollarmen, the GM should decide what happens next. He probably won’t survive long without the Nurse’s constant attentions, or really specialized medical care.

Back in 2004, Teresenko was already aware that the authorities were coming for him. He wanted a way out, so he could enjoy his wealth somewhere sunny and peaceful. For that, he needed the best plastic surgery money could buy, and he spent a full year looking for someone to suit his exacting needs. That’s how he found the one he calls The Cutter, and The Cutter was his way into the Dollarmen. He promised the Dollarmen access to The Cutter, so their own people could enjoy new identities. In exchange, the Dollarmen would help him hide the loot. Teresenko built Starfire so The Cutter would have a safe haven, then faked his own death and delivered himself into The Cutter’s hands.

‘I didn’t know,’ he weeps with ruined eyes. ‘I didn’t know …’

What Really Happened

Teresenko found The Practice. Specifically, he found a Surgeon-Nurse husband-wife team, Ilya Litvin and his wife Yana, medics in the 1914-18 war fighting with the Austro-Hungarian army, shot by their own side in 1916 for reasons unspecified in the historical record – though as is so often the case, history lies. The Litvins made the transfer to the other side of the Membrane, and for decades afterward made hospitals in Kiev a living nightmare.

Teresenko offered them what he thought was safe haven, but the Litvins didn’t care much about that. However, the Practice wanted new victims and Teresenko offered a steady supply, without all the fuss and bother of having to look for them. So Teresenko got his Cutter, and the Litvins moved to Norway. The Dollarmen soon learned their tame plastic surgeons were nothing but. The Dollarmen decided to make lemonade from their lemons and now use the Practice as impromptu interrogation experts.

‘Tell us everything you know, or we will leave you here …’

The Litvins soon got bored of sitting aboard ship and have been making regular trips first to local medical facilities, then further abroad. They always return to Starfire. It’s their comfort zone.

Ilya and Yana Litvin

Stats as per Unremitting Horror, p. 81-90. The team has no Mortician, so nobody cleans up, which is why the surgery is in such a state. Both still wear military uniforms under their medical gowns, and Ilya has all his campaign medals. He’s also tagged on medals from every other military campaign he’s ever witnessed since 1916, not caring very much which army the medals came from. His skull is over-stuffed with brains, so his Alertness modifier is +3. He’s also grafted new, better hands onto Yana, so her Scuffling is 13. They treat Teresenko like a pet, but he’s also a useful guard dog. They don’t keep his eyes in his head, but in a handy liquor-filled jar so they can see the concealed entrance point. Anything those eyes can see, Yana can see. Infilitration Difficulty 8 somehow gets through that door without being spotted. Otherwise the Litvins know how many agents there are, what weapons they carry, and when best to ambush them.

This scenario seed was inspired by this YouTube video.

 


Adam writes, and writes, and writes. Among his credits are Pelgrane’s Soldiers of Pen and Ink, Dulce et Decorum Est, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby, and Silver Ennie Award winner The Long Con. You can find him on Twitter at @ag_Karloff, and online at http://karloff-shelf.blogspot.com/.


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.

 

“Nobody wants to see that, smell that…”

When a news story starts with the phrase “In what sounds like a scene from a horror film,” the media monitors at the Ordo Veritatis sit up and take notice.

When a basement floods with gore and bone, as happened in Bagley, Iowa in mid-October, they send a team of investigators, alert to possible Esoterrorist activity.

It might just be that the neighboring meat locker shares a drain with the unfortunate homeowner’s basement. That will certainly be the story the agents spread when they later conduct their Veil-Out.

Or it could be a blutkeller, an Outer Dark manifestation that forms around abattoirs and meat-packing facilities. A spell propagated by Esoterror operatives conjures it into this reality. The working requires the dumping of a human corpse amid animal waste products at the facility. An entity enters the mixture of blood and flesh, either remaining in the facility or slurping down the nearest drain or sluice. It then periodically surfaces to opportunistically attack lone victims, pulling them down into itself and devouring them, ooze-style. When it disappears into a partially clogged drain after an attack, it leaves a portion of itself behind. The blutkeller can come up through any connected pipe, or through demonic multilocation, phase into another nearby underground room. It can only phase into buildings visited by persons who have come into skin contact with its liquid residue. During the mission briefing, the team’s Mr. Verity strongly advises the use of hazmat suits when examining any potential blutkeller effluvia.

The demonic entity lacks solid substance and cannot be fought by normal means. An ingenious team might manage to contain or slow its rampage by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. To permanently banish it from the world, they must place the person who summoned it in its presence. Compelled to attack and devour its benefactor, it shrieks with thwarted rage before a red vortex sucks it back into the Outer Dark.

Until that happens, the summoner gains an infusion of psychic energy each time the blutkeller kills. This attracts luck, positive attention, and physical vitality. Agents may concentrate their search on local individuals gaining sudden wealth, popularity, or fame. To prove their case, they seek evidence that the target researched the ritual and had its corresponding, distinct sigil tattooed somewhere on the body.

It is not possible to cast the spell without expecting an ensuing series of horrible deaths. While agents may regret the necessity of feeding the summoner to the entity, they can assure themselves that the target made its bargain with the Outer Dark knowingly and

[sunglasses off]

…in cold blood.


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.

Agents battling The Esoterrorists at the behest of the Ordo Veritatis receive their cases from a rotating roster of briefers, all of whom refer to each other under the same codename: Mr. Verity. Typically they meet their teams on site, near the eruption of Outer Dark activity at the heart of the present case. Mr. Verity never overtly reveals personal details about him, her or themself, but from accent, manner and attire investigators may infer a rich and unknowable life outside the horror-hunting business.

A case requiring extensive local logistical support work features a Mr. Verity from the local area. Unlike other briefers he may appear in subsequent scenes to translate, make introductions, and otherwise handle mundane arrangements.

The default Mr. Verity looks and acts like a mid-career FBI or NCA administrator. Others display a perhaps unexpected individuality.

Grab an unconventional Mr. Verity for your scenarios from this list,

  • A curly-haired, angular trans woman who wears a purple shawl over a black sweater and tweed skirt. Photorealistic stickers of fruits and vegetables cover her laptop.

  • A haunted-looking man of South Asian extraction with intense eyes and extensive burn scars. He unconsciously clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth when pausing to think.

  • A smiling, heavy-set man with Mediterranean features, shaved head, and large waxed mustache. He wears a Blackpool FC jersey. If asked about it, he says he actually prefers baseball.

  • A tall, frowning man whose accent identifies him as having grown up in Cameroon and then lived for perhaps a couple of decades in the present location. He sports a corduroy jacket and horn-rimmed spectacles. A buzzing fly, to which he directs angry glances, distracts him from his spiel.

  • A woman with close-cropped hair. She wears a suit jacket and a bolo tie shaped like the state of Texas. From her shaded glasses and white cane, agents can tell that she is blind. A glance at her hands reveals a fresh manicure.

  • A young, well-muscled man in a tight My Little Pony T-shirt. Acne scars spot his cheek. He wears a Rolex. Trivia clocks it as a fake.

  • The standard FBI-seeming Mr. Verity, except she has a long-haired tabby in a cat carrier.

  • The server at the diner where the team has been instructed to gather opens a manila envelope containing a partially unspooled cassette tape. He didn’t see the person who left it, but it came with a sticky note describing the agents, and a $50 tip for him.

  • The same Mr. Verity from a previous case, with long white hair, liver spots and other signs of advanced age. The team last met this briefer six months ago, looking decades younger.


A combination of forensic examination and interrogation results have revealed a chilling new modus operandi of an Esoterror cell. This cell, known to us as the Murphy-Hanson-Crawford organization (MHCO), and to its participants as the Gee-Gnomes, has been using genetic testing as a screening device for the recruitment of new members.

Under the guise of a biotech start-up principals Ella Murphy, Rhonda Hanson and Deanna Crawford attracted curious young entrepreneurs, coders and scientific researchers. Using social media and word of mouth, they spread rumors of a paradigm-breaking new technology offering lucrative opportunities for those willing to penetrate their secrecy and offer themselves up as early sweat equity hires.

Their firm’s doorbell, with the whimsical message “Insert Finger Here For Assistance” employed an as-yet inexplicable transfer technology to record the DNA of any person who pressed it.

Servers inside the firm’s offices then automatically sequenced the entire genome of each would-be applicant—along with couriers, delivery drivers and curious neighborhood kids. Naturally no permission was sought for this egregious privacy invasion.

Those whose so-called “junk DNA” contained a particular property were then approached with offers of employment. In all eleven persons were recruited into the cell, eventually becoming fully complicit Esoterror operatives.

Under interrogation Hanson referred to this property only as The Potential. Throughout the process she remained frustratingly vague on the details—while fully cooperating in the provision of much more directly incriminating testimony.

Chief interrogator AGENT TRIBUNE has come to believe that none of the group fully understood what The Potential meant. Her tentative conclusion: it searched for ancient inhuman ancestry. This forces us to explore the hypothesis that individuals bearing trace elements of outer-dimensional DNA might have the latent ability to achieve the goal the Esoterrorists have so long hungered after: to perform acts of ritual magic with an efficacy beyond the mere summoning of uncontrollable quasi-demons.

Although the MHCO acted independently of other cells and does not appear to have shared technology outside its own tight circle, it would be unwise to assume that no other such group will follow in its footsteps. For one thing, key techniques in the DNA screening process appear to have been transmitted to Hanson psychically, from entities of the Outer Dark.

We recommend a tasking of SIGINT to detect telltale keywords related to The Potential emanating from biotech labs worldwide. It is only a matter of time before someone else seeks to continue what the Gee-Gnomes started.

Needless to say, we must also keep a close watch on each and every individual their sequencers identified as having The Potential. Including those they failed to recruit.


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.


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.

A creature for The Esoterrorists

The Outer Dark Entities known as sheeple slip through thin spots in the membrane caused by the belief that a dangerous contaminant or source of disease exists nearby. They enter our reality only in rural areas where domestic livestock roam. Sheeple feed on the fatal terror of farm animals. Cows, pigs, sheep and horses all instinctively fear these quadrupedal, pseudo-mammalian creatures. When a sheeple fixes its terrible gaze on its animal target, the poor dumb beast suffers an immediate, fatal heart attack. The psychic energy released by this sudden death nourishes a sheeple for weeks.

Though sheeple vary in appearance, investigating agents of the Ordo Veritatis can generally expect a demonic entity with the body of a sheep and the distorted face of a bat, snapping turtle, or ogre-like human.

Sheeple exude a psychic residue exerting a mind-control effect on humans exposed to it over a period of months or years. They employ this to command locals to defend against external threats. With glassy eyes, upturned pitchforks and outraged cries against outsiders messing in their affairs, these peasants, farmers and shepherds chase away anyone getting too close to a sheeple lair. Those who don’t take the hint get stabbed or shot.

Mostly interested in feeding and with no great boons to offer Esoterrorists, sheeple rarely take part in overarching conspiracies. When they do, they’re forced into it by more powerful ODEs. They hate to be rousted from a fruitful earthly habitat. Hikers, real estate developers and property surveyors stumbling into a sheeple lair may be killed by the entities or their human defenders. This can trigger a wider search, another influx of visitors, more killings, and a monstrous cycle of bloodletting that eventually leads to a briefing from Mr. Verity.

One area recently overrun by sheeple surrounds a US-sponsored disease research facility near Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. Efforts of Russian propagandists to use the installation to fan anti-American sentiment are certainly paying off for the sheeple, who find it easier to come through the membrane with each passing month.

Abilities: Athletics 6, Health 7, Scuffling 8

Hit Threshold: 3

Alertness Modifier: 0

Stealth Modifier: +2

Weapon: +1 (Jaws)

Armor: +1 vs. Scuffling

When the cold war sputtered to a close, Esoterrorists let the stoking of nuclear anxiety recede into the background in favor of newer and fresher means of increasing ambient panic. These days Esoterror operatives, eagerly scanning the news for fresh inspiration, suffer from a glut of possibility. So many causes of psychic disequilibrium, so little time to fully exploit them!

The recent terrifying false alarm in Hawaii has them dusting off playbooks pioneered by their 80s predecessors. Even more tantalizing than the initial stories was a less-seen follow-up report laying blame for the false alarm on more than a badly designed user interface. The issuer of the alarm turns out to have been a confused employee, already considered a liability by co-workers, who thought that an attack really was underway. State authorities waited a while to let that detail get out, after the always-accelerating news cycle had already moved on.

Somewhere in America, an Esoterrorist group is already researching other states whose alert protocols match the laxity of Hawaii’s. They’ll find an employee vulnerable to Outer Dark influence. They could recruit this person as a knowing conspirator. More likely, they’ll summon an ODE capable of altering human perceptions. A microscopic Outer Dark parasite might do the trick. While the infected worker is on duty, the entity triggers a hallucination of an actual attack underway and voila.

When the alert goes out, public panic eats away at the Membrane, creating gaps through which another crop of more powerful demons from beyond can crawl.

That’s where your player characters come in. Alerted by Ordo Veritatis analysts to the likelihood of an Esoterror copycat event, Mr. Verity scrambles the team to the affected state to investigate, disperse any summoned entities, then track and neutralize the human Esoterrorists behind the plot.

When they conduct their Veil-Out, they may well decide to put out a story similar to the first version circulated by Hawaii officials. This time it really was a poorly designed interface that led to the false alarm. Gosh, this sure does underscore the need to update those old programs, doesn’t it?

Yep, that’s all it was. Simple human error.

Nothing to worry about.

Won’t happen again.


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.

Carnivals have always exuded a faint fetor of menace. Itinerant strangers come to town, some of them dressed as clowns, and try to trick you or exploit the basest depths of your curiosity. They exist to break down boundaries, give you permission to indulge, and then move on, leaving you, the seemingly innocent townsfolk, to reckon with what you got up to under the garish light of the midway.

When you set a scene in a Fear Itself, Trail of Cthulhu, or Esoterrorists scenario at a sideshow or circus, the players know to expect creepiness.

You know what the real story is. But what are the rumors the investigators encounter before parting the wrong curtain and finally beholding that terrible truth?

Here are 7 rumors for townsfolk and carnies to spout at the PCs before the real horror surfaces.

  1. “They did a test on the corn dogs and found that 1% of the contents were human flesh.”
  2. “Last year when the carnival came by Mamie Jones just up and vanished. The sheriffs caught up with them down in Dixville but they said they’d never laid eyes on her.”
  3. “Before the authorities clamped down on the freak show, they had an alligator man who was a little too real, if you know what I mean.”
  4. “Some of the most prominent people in our town worship the devil. And their high priest and priestess are the owners of this carnival, who travel from place to place renewing the vows of apparently ordinary folk to Satan himself.”
  5. “They stopped using their old Ferris wheel. Ten years one of the cars came loose and a girl fell to her death. That old ride was haunted. People who rode by themselves would sometimes look over and see her, weeping gluey tears from her faceless head. I don’t suppose a ghost could transfer from an old Ferris wheel to a new one, could it?”
  6. “Last year one of the roustabouts lost an eye in a bar fight. Guys from the local mill started it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some bloody revenge broke out later tonight.”
  7. “A friend of my cousin’s went into that hall of mirrors back in the 90s. He stepped outside and he coulda sworn he was in the 1890s! He turned around and ran back in and says he can’t even look at a mirror nowadays.”

And as always, if the players care more about a tall tale than they do about the main plot line, why maybe it’s not so untrue after all…

Confronting the mind-eating minions of the Outer Dark can prove mentally, physically, and morally exhausting for even the most hardened agent of the Ordo Veritatis. To grant momentary respite to its investigators in mid-mission, the organization maintains a string of safe houses. These are marked by a common emblem: the anchor, symbolizing the need to remain anchored to consensus reality. Because the symbol is ubiquitous, especially around marinas and shorelines, the trained agent checks other criteria before entering an establishment and uttering the day’s codeword. These include the use of particular fonts in signage, a sidewalk spray paint mark one might otherwise mistake for those used by construction crews, and a custom model brass door knob. Any player character can distinguish a true Anchor from an innocuous place of business.

Anchors frequently take the guise of tattoo parlors or barbers. These businesses actually turn a small profit for the Ordo. They are operated by former agents as a means of providing employment for personnel too shattered to continue in the field—or in the ordinary lives they used to lead.

Having given the correct greeting, the agent in need is handed a key, which opens a door to a back room, basement, or upper floor. Therein you find a sleep pod, headphones allowing you to listen to soothing binaural beats keyed to a range of psych profiles, and a plant and water feature. The fully stocked liquor cabinet also purveys a selection of sedatives. Behind a beaded curtain lies an alcove containing such key consumables as bullets, SIM cards, bandages, and that investigative staple, duct tape. Feel free to take that adrenaline syringe, hunting knife, or stick of anti-ritual incense. Just be sure to mark off what you take on the sign-out sheet, which you will find hanging on a clipboard from a nail at eye level on the alcove wall.

After a two hour power nap, the agent emerges from the pod with a 3-point Stability, 1-point Health, and 2-point Preparedness refresh.

Look for anchors in densely populated urban areas, or in spots where the membrane is notoriously thin and Outer Dark activity rife.


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.

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