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.

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.

Field agents of the Ordo Veritatis, take heart: the research bureau has authorized the release of a new forensic test, the ODCR. (Outer Dark Contact Residue test.)

To perform the test, gather up detritus from an investigative scene such as: dust, hair, discarded tissues, fingernail clippings, organic recycling, food crumbs, pieces of paper, writing implements, or other personal objects.

Place materials in one of the provided plastic evidence bags (NOT A COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE SANDWICH BAG.) The active compound of the ODCR test is a clear organically active liquid, which will also be provided to you, disguised as a bottle of liquid tears. Using the bottle’s dropper, dribble 4-5 drops into the detritus. In ten to twenty minutes, if the contents release a dark bilious foam, they have tested positive.

This tells you that one or more individuals present for a prolonged period in the area from which the evidence was collected has been in sustained mental or physical contact with entities of the Outer Dark.

Research Division has yet to precisely determine a minimum range for “prolonged period.”

The residue appears to be caused by occult radiation from beyond the membrane, which alters the structure of certain molecules.

Research Division has yet to perfect a test to find residue in living cells, so there is as of yet no test one can directly perform on a suspect or victim to see if they have been exposed to the Outer Dark or its malign intelligences.

The absence of residue does not rule out Outer Dark involvement. It may simply indicate that the area is cleaned regularly. Even messy environments inhabited by known Esoterrorists do not necessarily yield positive test results. Research Division hopes to pinpoint what separates a scene containing residue from one that ought to but doesn’t.

To summarize: a positive ODCR rules in Outer Dark contact, but a negative result does not rule it out.

Warning: if you use eyedrops, take special care not to mistake the disguised ODCR bottle for part of your personal grooming kit. Contact with the eye may cause minor discomfort, excruciating pain, or instantaneous and irreversible retinal damage. If this does happen to you, please contact your Mr. Verity. Lab techs will schedule an appointment for testing and measurement, adding the results of your regrettable experience to our database.

Dwellers break through the membrane separating us from the Outer Dark as solitary predators. They live in lakes and ponds in underpopulated areas. Dwellers find their most fruitful hunting grounds in or near parks and camp sites. They often select spots connected to a murder, tragic accident, or other dark urban legend. When such legends do not exist prior to the dweller’s appearance, its activities soon generate them.

Dwellers can’t be observed directly, though the water they displace as they move toward a shoreline is certainly visible. Their movements may be mistaken for those of a large fish, tortoise, or semi-aquatic mammal.

They attack when people approach the shore alone. The dweller surges onto a leg or arm, using an invisible tubule to inject a parasitic pseudo-larva into the bloodstream. This migrates into the victim’s brain, turning him into a serial killer—often with a theatrical flair for killing, each brutal slaying more elaborate than the last. Outside of the homicidal fugue states caused by the parasite, the subject retains normal consciousness and motivations. When the parasite activates and the red fog descends, the killer often affects a rudimentary mask meant as much to terrify as to conceal identity. This might be a rubber Halloween mask, a hockey mask, or the flayed, cured skin of an early victim.

Safely in a nearby body of water, the dweller receives fearful psychic energy generated by the killer’s attacks, using them to further pierce the membrane. It may go dormant for a period after authorities capture or shoot down the murderer. After a while, it injects another subject, commencing a new cycle of murders. Such recurrences may inspire rumors that the original killer has returned, somehow rendered immortal, perhaps as an eternal physical manifestation of man’s urge to slay man. Like all sources of cognitive alarm these tales also thin the membrane.

The dweller itself offers little physical threat if caught: an Ordo Veritatis agent once bludgeoned one to death with a canoe paddle. In another instance a grenade tossed into a pond did the trick. But if the parasite victim has yet to be apprehended, the murders will continue.


Use dwellers in The Esoterrorists or Fear Itself.

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.

Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the creatures of the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Though founded in Britain and with long history in the West, the Ordo Veritatis has in recent years come to regard Japan as key strategic ground in the battle against the Outer Dark. These extra-dimensional demons and their human minions, the Esoterrorists, thrive by spreading panic, anxiety and cognitive dissonance. Japan’s propensity for urban legends of curses and malign ghosts gives its homegrown Esoterrorists an automatic head start in their efforts to tear a hole in reality. Not only do tales of eerie menaces such as the Kuchisake-onna (“Slit-Mouthed Woman”) and Aka Manto (“Red Cape”) readily circulate in Japan; they trigger genuine panics. An instance of a Slit-Mouthed Woman provoking a panic in South Korea chilled OV analysts on every continent.

Local operatives try to defuse these incidents by ensuring that they rapidly wind up in movies, TV shows and manga, thus rendering them absurd. Some within the organization fear that the group places too much confidence in these Veil-Out techniques. They worry that as people around the world increasingly steep themselves in outlandish pop culture, these gambits may wind up propagating urban legends useful to Esoterror.

Workers in the Anglo OV hierarchy refer to their Japanese colleagues as J-Branch, a term not used or needed in the country itself. For geopolitical reasons the Ordo could not establish itself in Japan until after WWII. Early attempts to impose the Anglo-European structure bore mixed results, leading headquarters to back off in favor of local control under more familiar consensus-based management principles. Certain maverick agents in Tokyo or Sendai now complain of a faith in bureaucratic procedure that eclipses even that of head office.

Western OV operatives rarely conduct operations in Japan, whose agents know the territory better than they ever could. More commonly a J-Branch agent will be dispatched outside the country as an adviser to a local team when a drowned ghost or yokai-inspired ODE shows up elsewhere in the world. If they can pop up in South Korea, further manifestations in San Francisco, Vancouver or south London may not be so far behind. Especially when they have human accomplices to spread the word.

hat tip to this installment of the A.V. Club’s Wiki Wormhole


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.

Excerpt from an internal Ordo Veritatis monograph:

A polemic pamphlet describing the 1616 trial and execution of a woman for double filicide unknowingly portrays a textbook case of Outer Dark activity. (The accompanying illustration, on the other hand…)

Margaret Vincent of Acton, just outside London, murdered her two young children, aged 5 and 2, during a time of extreme tension between majority Protestants and persecuted Catholics. As is true in many such cases today, Vincent killed her children believing her deed would speed them to heaven. Vincent’s execution occurs as part of a wave sending a large number of (actual or suspected) Catholics to the gallows. The pamphleteer claims that, prompted by the devil himself, Vincent secretly converted to Catholicism, motivating her crime. One does not require a grounding in the modus operandi of Outer Dark entities to receive that claim with a grain of skepticism. Given the pressure at the time to paint Catholics as dangerous enemies, this part of the prosecution’s case may be a political embellishment, intended both to secure a conviction and to smear the targeted community. That said, the crime clearly took place in an atmosphere of social hysteria. In addition to sectarian strife, Vincent’s town of Acton was embroiled in a land rights dispute with neighboring Willesden that threatened to boil over into violence.

This emotional context strongly indicates the presence of a heavensender, an Outer Dark being that enters our world when social contention heightens. It preys on psychologically destabilized women with fervent metaphysical beliefs, inducing them to kill children in their care. As is common in such events, the shock of their crimes then reverberates through the surrounding community, creating the psychic backwash that ODEs use to feed and breed.

Unsurprisingly the pamphleteer’s account makes no reference to the neutralization of the heavensender, which according to the worldview of the time is reckoned as a Biblical demon. The accompanying woodcut, however, offers a startling indication that some proto-Ordo Veritatis investigators may have directly observed the creature. Like an actual heavensender, the so-called devil depicted appears humanoid, with scales on the torso, and a trio of appendages thrusting from the cranium. A heavensender uses the latter to exert hypnotic influence on its victims.

One wonders whether a Jacobean operative used the heavensender’s Special Means of Dispatch, a rapier dipped in placental tissue, to dispose of it. (Modern agents complain of sourcing difficulties.) Or perhaps the very same entity remains at large today, looking for another community riven by social tensions, in which to find its next victim.


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.

Giving Out Clues

xps sampleThis is an excerpt from the most recent version of GUMSHOE – The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition. It is GM-facing advice on the most central element of the game – how the characters interact with the scene in the game’s fiction, and how the players and GM use GUMSHOE to handle the delivery of information in as seamless and flexible a way as possible.

Rolling for Clues and the GUMSHOE Style

Just as in games where you roll for clues, players always have to describe a logical course of action that might lead to their getting information, directly or indirectly suggesting the ability they use to get it. In the traditional model, there’s a roll; you supply the information on a success. In GUMSHOE, this step is skipped — but it’s the only step skipped.

Traditional style:

PLAYER: I examine the body looking for a cause of death.

GM: Roll Forensic Anthropology.

PLAYER: I succeed.

GM: It’s blunt force trauma to the back of the skull. There are traces of a slimy residue.

GUMSHOE style:

PLAYER: I examine the body looking for a cause of death.

GM: [Checks worksheet and sees that the player’s character has Forensic Anthropology] It’s blunt force trauma to the back of the skull. There are traces of a slimy residue.

In neither style do you see players grabbing their character sheets as soon as they enter a new scene and shouting out, “Anthropology! Archaeology! Art History! Evidence Collection!” They don’t do this because it would be weird, boring, and stupid — and because in neither case does it fill all the requirements necessary to get information from a scene.

The only difference between GUMSHOE and those systems is the lack of a die roll. You know your group. Give out information in the same way you would usually give out information: actively, passively — GUMSHOE doesn’t care. Your players will solicit it, or you will give it out, just as you always do. There will be a strong effect on your gaming, but from a subtle change.

Giving Out Clues

The rules say “To get information, the rules say the PC needs to be in the right place, with the right ability, and use that ability.”

This section deals with each of these preconditions. In short, though, whatever you’ve done in other games, you should always err on the side of giving out information, not holding it back.

Having the Right Ability

The rules offer a number of ways to call on abilities, depending on the situation. Choosing the right way to call on an ability is crucial to the forward momentum of your investigative plot. Make this choice according to the consequences of failure.

If the consequence of failure is that a character fails to get a piece of crucial information, success should be automatic, provided that the character has the ability in question, and the player thinks to ask for it. However, any credible attempt to get information that would yield a given clue yields that clue, whether or not this is the ability you’ve specified in the scenario.

(Even at that, you may need to improvise during play if no player steps up to claim the needed clue, bending the details of the scenario so that the same information can be garnered with a different ability, possibly by another player.)

Using the Right Ability

You can give out clues both actively and passively.

By default, though, GUMSHOE assumes that the use of interpersonal abilities is active; the players have to correctly choose an appropriate ability and describe how they’re using it to open a contact up to questioning. When you see that players are hesitant, tell the player with the relevant ability that his experienced character can sense that it will work here:

  • “You get the feeling that this guy will crack if you lean on him a little.” (Intimidation)
  • “He seems kind of smitten by you.” (Flattery)
  • “The squeal of a police scanner tells you that you’ve got a wannabe cop on your hands.” (Cop Talk)

Being in the Right Place

GUMSHOE procedural series require their own conceits in order to keep the story moving in an entertaining manner. They require the audience’s complicity in looking the other way. Here GM and players handwave certain elements that break the rules of realism in order to keep the game running smoothly, just as TV scriptwriters do. For example, the conceit of primacy in shows such as Law and Order ensures that the lead characters get the juiciest cases and more action than any cop is likely to experience in a lifetime. Just as the aforementioned devices arise from the requirements of TV drama, GUMSHOE’s conceits grapple with the limitations of a roleplaying session.

The major device you’ll want to adopt, needed for all but the smallest groups, is the conceit of elastic participation:

Use the concept of elastic participation to ensure that there is always a PC in the right place.

Roleplaying is traditionally a group effort like shows which focus on small teams of investigators. When an ensemble cast tackles a big case together, they split into partnerships to split up necessary tasks. The scriptwriters make sure that obstacles are always matched to the capabilities of the characters in a given scene. In a roleplaying game, where responsibility for the obstacles lies with the GM and task splitting is determined by the players, some additional fudging is required to match the two elements.

GUMSHOE works best when you assume that everyone is kind-of sort-of along for every scene — without squinting too hard at any resulting logic or staging absurdities. That way, the group continues to enjoy collective access to all of the investigative abilities needed to gather clues. Perhaps even more importantly, the concerted minds of four to six untrained roleplayers are often needed to replicate the deductive skill of a single professional investigator. Often, the easiest method is just to specify characters are on the scene when they are needed.

Most of the time, you can just let the group sort through the clues without constantly justifying the use of the elastic participation conceit. That’s what a conceit does: it says, “Let’s not worry about this annoying bit of realism.”

You can collaborate with the group to come up with ways to conceal the breaking of the fourth wall that occurs when six people pile into an interrogation room or examine the same piece of physical evidence. Two-person teams can be dispatched to perform particular tasks while keeping seamlessly in touch with the rest of the team. Assume, for example, that suggestions given by players whose characters aren’t present in a scene represent cell-phone conversations, head-up displays, or other high-tech transmission equipment which is appropriate to the genre. A technical expert can lend his ability to another PC by watching a video feed on his laptop. When necessary, you can establish that an absent character with a specialized ability briefed the PC on the scene, telling him what to look for. In many cases, one agent can bag evidence and let the technician look at it later

Try to guide the group so that the splitting into teams trope occurs during non-investigative sequences. A stakeout that leads into a chase scene needn’t occur under the assumption that everyone is “sort of there.” By finding ways to break it every so often, you hide the conceit.

Enlist your players in maintaining it.

(Elastic participation is not unique to investigative games. Most groups playing a classic dungeon-delve campaign allow characters of absent players to be present to use minor, exotic abilities. At the same time, the characters are typically not treated as present when a big fight breaks out.)

GUMSHOE Is As Hard As You Need It To Be

Rolling above a number on a die can be immensely satisfying, because of the potential for failure and the relief of tension if you succeed. In GUMSHOE, we leave that tension for general ability tests. This has led some commentators to suggest that gathering information in GUMSHOE is “too easy,” as if rolling dice were a skill. But GUMSHOE doesn’t care how difficult your clues are once you’ve obtained them — it’s all about getting the clues. We recommend that core clues are straightforward, so that adventures don’t get bogged down, but if you want more difficult clues, even ciphers, cryptic images, or complex documents — help yourself. Certainly, if anyone in your group claims “it’s too easy,” you’ll be ready to hit them with something brain twisting.

Ordo Veritatis statisticians have shown a significant increase in Outer Dark manifestations during election campaigns. Politicians’ frequent resort to the psychology of fear to arouse passion in their constituencies increases the supply of that most demon-friendly of emotions. This syndrome most affects partisans, who during this period pay greater attention to views they vehemently disagree with, stoking anxiety and aggression. They act as vectors, pumping cortisol into the bloodstreams of friends, co-workers, and relatives.

(Spawnings of Outer Dark Entities spike at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as politically opposed family members who do not usually spend time together spill jagged cognitive dissonance into the psychic oversphere.)

Social media now allows prolific vectors of political unease an unprecedented reach. Most of these posts originate from sincere individuals terrified of a future where the other side has gained supremacy. A few however emanate from isolated Esoterror trolls planting strategic keywords into the collective discourse.

If you came to this post from a link, chances are that it was nested among posts of one or the other category.

Take a deep breath, focus on a happy memory, and keep Esoterror out of your head.

These factors pertain wherever unpredictable elections occur. However, of all the systems, the one that generates the highest wattage of membrane-thinning energy is the US primary process. With so many candidates vying for support from the most vehement supporters of a single party, the sense of uncertainty and chaos rises markedly whenever the podiums and satellite trucks swarm into town.

One Esoterror cell in an upcoming primary state has decided to piggyback on this dynamic for a planned summoning. Door-to-door canvassing offers the perfect opportunity for a kidnap and kill operation. Cell members plan to lure canvassers to their doors, subdue them, and prepare them for sacrifice. Nabbing a candidate is too much to hope for: they come with reporters and support staff in tow. But grabbing a solitary young campaign worker, especially on doorsteps obscured from outside view, poses no great challenge. It won’t take too many disappeared canvassers before national news attention creates the atmosphere of overwhelming dread that Outer Dark conjurings depend on.

With OV threat matrix computers primed for electoral hijinks, it takes only one missing canvasser incident to dispatch your team of investigators to the site of the first kidnapping. Can they find the victims before they’re turned into ODE fodder? And then veil it out with a reporter staked out at every picturesque diner?


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 Column on Roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws


Excerpt from an Ordo Veritatis threat analysis report (draft version)

Author Codename: Coastpoint

In this department we think often of ODEs (Outer Dark Entities) but too little of a parallel phenomenon, one I will, for lack of a better term, call the Outer Dark Intersection. For the rest of this paper I will use the acronym ODI, while recognizing that it has not been officially recognized by the OV style guide.

Intersections differ from entities as follows:

  • Chiefly, ODIs lack sapience, loosely defined to include such signs of intelligence as personality, individual motivation, learning, and the ability to communicate*.
  • They lack bodies, although in some cases they might be said to have, or be, structures.
  • Accordingly they lack locomotion. An ODI might wink into existence or disappear but once manifested in our reality does not visibly shift position by means other than materialization/teleportation.

In short, where an ODE reminds us of a person or animal, an ODI appears to be a place. We can talk with, or be attacked by, an ODE. We can enter an ODI and move around inside it. While inside, we might confusingly believe ourselves to be under assault, or to be encountering intelligent/autonomous beings. In fact, we are interacting with psychic projections, generated by the interaction of our minds with the irrational variant space of an ODI.

The classic ODI would be the haunted house of legend and lore. When entering a haunted structure, a top investigative priority must be to determine whether it is:

  1. an ordinary building infested by ODEs
  2. an ordinary building manipulated by Esoterror agents to create the impression of an ODE manifestation
  3. an unreal building partially present in standard physical reality, and partly present in an intermediate zone between us and the Outer Dark (see below)

In a house haunted by, say, Dementia Larva or Kooks, the structure itself, though it may be trapped or unstable, serves merely as an environment for the threat. A haunted house acting as an ODI is itself a supernatural presence. Agents entering it project their thoughts, fears and expectations regarding haunted houses into the ODI. It responds by presenting them with their dread imaginings—incorporeal spirits, eerie whispers, hurled objects, vivid visions of past crimes. Generally, in keeping with our notions about hauntings, they begin with the minor and eerie, finally escalating into the downright mind-shattering.

An ODI may locate itself in our world only long enough to trap one victim and then vanish. The Phantom Toolshed, seen in Rochester NY in the spring and summer of 2008, followed such a pattern. Various at-risk teens reported seeing this shed, where according to urban legend money or drugs might be stashed. Some witnesses recounted incidents in which they came across the shed in an alley, industrial park or backyard. Though drawn toward it, they for assorted reasons chose not to enter. At least three others did go in. They found tools inside—a hammer, a hacksaw, a nail gun—and removed them to show their friends. In three cases they later used these as weapons in savage attacks against friends and family. All three had undergone complete psychotic breaks. Our Veil-Out procedure ensured that mental health professionals labeled the detailed and similar accounts of their time inside the toolshed as hallucinatory. In fact, all three recounted a journey through a labyrinthine subterranean network where they witnessed scenes of historical torture, were imprisoned or restrained, and saw their own worst thoughts enacted before them. Each found the toolshed in a different location within the same twenty block radius. Our agents ended the Intersection by finding the buried remnants of an old graveyard ritual, performed by unknown persons sometime in the early 19th century. During that era the upstate New York area became known as the Burned Over District due to an explosion of spiritualist and psychic activity. The pre-Esoterror cult responsible for the rite has yet to be identified. Research continues, with tantalizing hints suggesting that some precursor of the OV smashed the cult and dispersed its members—regrettably leaving the seed of an Outer Dark Intersection behind for later generations to contend with.

What activated the fruits of this ancient rite in 2008 remains unclear. A likely cause would be lone wolf activity by a naïve supernaturalist. However I cannot yet discount the possibilities that fully aware Esoterrorists sometimes hunt down such traces of old magic and, by no doubt twisted means, renew their force.

An ODI can overlie a mundane structure, as occurs in classic haunted house style Intersections.

Particularly brutal murders, especially those where the remains of victims or perpetrators remain buried on site or nearby, render buildings vulnerable to these intrusions. Discovering the truth behind these old crimes and/or destroying (or properly interring) the remains has in some cases suppressed the uncanny in such places. However one cannot underestimate the certainty of razing a targeted building to the ground. Before doing this investigators must be sure that they have truly uncovered and neutralized the factors making the site a vector for Intersection. Absent such precautions, the Intersection may attach itself to them. In the unfortunate aftermath of Operation Glad Strike, agents declared a haunting case complete. Then the lead agent arrived home to find her own condominium transformed into a new host for the ODI experience.

Stepping within an ODI’s boundaries takes one into a space unlike our own. It cannot be the true Outer Dark, because:

  1. contact with it does not bring immediate madness and destruction.
  2. Outer Dark Entities cannot use it as a portal to bypass the Membrane and enter the material world.

I therefore posit an intermediate space, a fold in our reality that defies psychics while packing a destabilizing emotional charge. The Intersection displays some qualities of the Outer Dark, but they are manifesting here, not taking us there. An Intersectionalized structure may appear larger and more circuitous than measurement of its exterior could possibly allow. Note that, unlike outbreaks of the Ocean Game, the experiencer never hallucinates anything that would contradict the notion of being inside a structure, albeit a very strange one.

Inquiry into this area remains dangerously preliminary. Please find attached my proposal for the formation of a new working group. Included is a series of reports on a location in northern Saskatchewan where we might find, and study, a mine shaft infected by an ongoing Intersection.

*This is not to say that all ODEs possess all such qualities—some varieties for example display no documented propensity for communication.


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.

Thank you as always for gathering on short notice. I trust you found your travel arrangements satisfactory.

Two nights ago local police officers patrolling the city’s entertainment district found a corpse in an alleyway. Due to its condition our contacts within the force referred the case to us.

The body is that of an as yet unidentified man in his mid-twenties. Our analysts classify it an FOI [Fatality Of Interest-ed] due to two factors. One: All pigmentation has been drained from the corpse. Two: although it bears no signs of epidermal trauma, the victim’s bones, from toes to skull, have been reduced to a fine powder, as if pulverized from the inside. Assuming this victim’s demise matched others in our record bank, he died after his bones were crushed. An agonizing way to go, and naturally one we hope each of you avoids.

The loss of pigmentation and internal skeletal crushing correspond to an Outer Dark Entity known as a Night Light. It manifests as a swirling nimbus of dark energy illuminated by within by hundreds of tiny lights—usually multicolored, but sometimes monochrome.

Night Lights manifest during holiday seasons, when people hang festive lights outdoors. Here in the western world they most often come at Christmastime. The recent habit in cold weather cities of leaving lights up throughout the winter has extended their hunting season. They may also appear at Halloween, during Mardi Gras, or at secular light art festivals. Unsubstantiated reports link them to Diwali in India and, in a variant visual form, lantern festivals in China and Korea.

Manifestations link to the childhood trauma of a particular individual unwittingly serving as the creature’s psychic locus. They occur during adulthood after an incident triggering memories of the original trauma. The scourging memories always connect to the holiday in question: a fatal accident on New Year’s, a harrowing beating on Mardi Gras.

The Night Light hunts secondary victims connected to the locus, striking opportunistically at those moving about alone at night. Typically it begins with loose connections—an acquaintance met at a party, someone who sits next to the locus on public transit—then moves inward, to friends, family members, and ultimately the locus him or herself. The final killing occurs either on the actual holiday, or on the anniversary of the instigating trauma.

To destroy the Night Light, identify the locus and enable that person to come to terms with or resolve her relationship to the trauma. For example, if her mother was slain on Christmas Eve, find the killer who was never caught. Then, with an physical token related to the traumatic incident on your person, strike the Night Light with any blade, or with a stun gun.


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