I’ll be running some games of The Laundry soonish and the running theme that I’m going to tap into is the informational substrata of the books. The idea of mathematics and informational structures tapping into higher and lower dimensions and bleeding through into the ‘real’ world. Magic, in The Laundryverse, is the manipulation of information to invoke effects, similar to ideas such as description theory or simulated universes.
Of great concern in The Laundryverse is the potential for information to travel quickly through the internet or for nasty things to be invoked more easily as computing tools become more powerful and more ubiquitous. People have been able to cast ‘magic’ for centuries however, using their minds, pencils and paper and various theatrical tools. As information technology has expanded, so people’s access to information has expanded. There’s another factor that has ramped things up though, there are simply more people in the world, over six billion.
Six billion human brains, capable of processing at 100 petaflops, exposed to an informational soup of books, film, television, random inspiration, lessons, fashions, perceptions. Simply by chance new information structures that press at the thinning barriers of reality are going to turn up and this is only going to be more the case the more people are exposed to information. We’re bombarded with information from all sides whenever we’re awake so, like the chemical soup that lead to self-replicating proto-cells this informational soup is going to turn up informational replicators. Supernatural Memes. Informational life that can perpetuate itself by imprinting itself on other minds.
The Laundry refers to the threat of these spontaneous Supernatural Memes as Black Dawn Eureka.
Common forms of these memes turn people into ‘zombies’, vectors for the meme to be passed on to others. This can manifest in extremely simple ways or can be more complex, manifesting as cults or nascent religions. Black Dawn Eureka incidents are extremely hard to contain and control and can threaten to spread very, very quickly.
The following stats are for a simple supernatural meme, a spontaneous idea that infects and subverts minds.
Alter the statistics of an infected person as follows:
STR +1 (Emotional context and limiters on behaviour are lessened. They are no stronger, but they don’t hold back).
CON +1 (Damage registers as information, not pain, making the infected tougher).
POW +1 (The infected are tapped into the informational dimension and are imbued with leaking energy and will).
DEX -1 (The meme is informational and not used to being physical, it is uncoordinated).
CHA -1 (The meme is simplistic and incapable of truly complex thought).
INT 1/2 (Divide by 2 and round up – the overwriting causes damage to the existing mind).
SIZ – (Unchanged)
EDU 1/2 (Divide by 2 and round up – overwritten mind causes loss of memory).
HP +50% – (See Con)
SKILLS 50% (Divide by 2 and round up, due to neural damage)
The infected attempt to pass on the meme by expressing it to others. In this instance by gibbering nonsense and repeating the key phrases and concepts over and over. This is rolled as resistance using the infected’s Cha Vs the target’s Pow or Int (Whichever is highest). Once infected the target slowly loses their individual mentality and becomes another meme vector.
It may be possible to cure the infection with electro-convulsive therapy, surgically induced amnesia or extremely high doses of psychoactive drugs that disrupt the normal processing of the mind.
For inspiration, and just because it’s brilliant, you should watch Pontypool
Meanwhile, just be careful of any ‘bright ideas’ or ‘sudden realisations’ that you have.