I seem to be crazy sick, so just a short one today.
I raised a question on Twitter, and while I also answered it, I got some very good answers as well. Good enough that I want to re-iterate it here to see what people have to add.
The question is, if your game’s setting has a secret war, what keeps it secret?
One option is that reality basically rewrites itself to make everything normal. Feng Shui’s critical shifts, as well as Scion’s shroud serve this purpose.
Another is that there are consequences to revealing the secret. Those might be metaphysical (like Paradox, in mage), personal (the crowd-effect in Witchcraft, or a system where the secret is more painful or weak the more public it is.)
Yet another is that the secret has some intrinsic quality, such as it is more powerful as fewer people know it (I really dig this one since it suggests a sort of espionage/highlander model) or there is something toxic about the knowledge (a la Esoterrorists).
The conflicts of the secret war might happen at a remove, such as in another world (The Matrix is a good example here) or a dreamscape.
It might be an active conspiracy by someone higher up the food chain – aliens, the Men in Black or the strangers from Dark City – who actively maintain normalcy. These often end up being the big bad of such a setting, but that’s not such a bad thing. As a variant, an oppressive regime could control the flow of information to keep things hidden. It might even be reasonably benign, a la the Truman Show.
It could be that everyone is already in on the secret, but playing along. This could be anything from full bore paranoia to a local thing (epitomized by Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars) or played up for comedy.
And, of course, there’s simple disbelief. I’ve always been a little skeptical of this one, but as I was doing research for The Dresden Files I discovered just how many people in America and the world genuinely believe in the supernatural (magic, angels, vampires – the works). And not just casually – they fervently believe this stuff and talk it up, and we generally just dismiss it as crazy. I still think it’s a little thin if buildings start blowing up, but the tendency to disbelieve and mock that which is different could definitely help someone looking to keep a big secret.
Anyway, I’m turning these over in my head, for reasons I won’t really be able to think about until May at the earliest, and I;m curious if there are any other models I’ve missed.
1 – This, BTW, introduced me to my favorite new word of the moment, Mokita. It means “The truth everyone knows but no one talks about” (via @WeaverChilde)