The PHOBOS leak was a complete fabrication. In turn 3, the Fleet had taken the decision to remain in GX-870 for the turn - an entirely sensible decision given what the players knew at the time, but something which allowed us to step up the apparition attacks as the Fears moved closer. At the start of the turn, GX-870 was influenced by Paranoia, so we released a “leaked” document designed to cast doubt on the wisdom of seeking the Salvation Fleet, stoke the growing distrust in UCCNZFJ officials, and send some of the scientists on routes which would prove fruitless (but poke some parts of the metaphysic). There was a single sentence in the document which was both new information and correct - where the different “strains” are listed, each corresponds to one of the Fears.
Contrarywise, URSULA was entirely legitimate and gave the best government-secret details on what was known about apparitions!
Laurie had a Deepest, Darkest Fear of combat. Put simply, she was an excellent head librarian, but not suitable as captain of one of the ships in the Fleet. This meant that when an apparition attack occurred on her ship, she snapped, overreacted, and went as defensive as possible.
Danny Baker was an old friend of Woden's, back when Woden was a smuggler1). Danny was dodgy as anything, and seeing if he could turn a profit from his new command, but was not actually an apparition, as several people believed. This wasn't helped by us introducing a new NPC into a position of power mid way through the game, but with Laurie having stepped down, and Woden missing, there wasn't much in the way of other options for us at the time2).
Corresponding to our metaphysic, Apparitions had no fixed physical forms - indeed, they did not even need spaceships to travel on, although Dominance and Body Horror certainly enjoyed doing so. When in the process of Appearing near humans, an Apparition would naturally seek to take the form of the most horrifying thing possible - this, as established by the Tinfoil Hats project, would create a small spike of fear in the brain of the subject before the Apparition was actually first seen. Unfortunately for the Tinfoil Hats, that fear spike was a side-effect of the Apparition making metaphysical contact with the person's soul and establishing a shape for itself based on their worst fears: nothing to do with electromagnetic signals to or from the brain itself. The hats were therefore inherently limited to acting only as detection, never as prevention.
Once you were actually faced with your Deepest, Darkest Fear, several factors contributed to your likely survival (or not). The first of these was whether your fear directly tied in to the Fears which currently had some presence in the system you were in - if it did not, then a generic 'monster' of some other kind would appear, which would be less difficult to deal with. The second was whether you were alone - or whether an effect of your fear could make you think you were alone, and cause the Apparition's effects to be visible only to you. Generally speaking, groups stood a better chance of survival than solo people, although they would often also have a tougher fight due to the Apparitions showing up as hybrids of several people's fears, or waves of different ones. Additional considerations were whether other negative quirks would make the problem worse, and whether your character was being foolhardy in knowingly poking something that they were terrified of. Characters died to Apparition attacks in many and various ways, but the general rule was that an Apparition that appeared as your Deepest Darkest Fear had a significantly better chance of killing you than any others you happened to bump into.
So the incident in Session 1 where Valerie Hadyn on the Last Train Home was killed by apparitions was a combination of our plan to always have such a ship go back and get destroyed (to illustrate the impending threat), and Freya looking for an NPC for one session. The timing was beautiful, and so we sent in Freya with the mission to pretend to be a PC, go after apparition-created distress signals and be nommed by the apparitions. It went better than we could have hoped, creating paranoia across the entire playerbase that persisted for most of the game.
So yes, the Last Train Home was entirely a plant – we are incredibly grateful to Freya for pulling it off so well!
Charmaine Lockhart? She was entirely legit. Didn't say a word of a lie ever.
Yep. Still didn't lie.
At this point, Paranoia manifestations were so rooted throughout the Fleet that they were in the systems. As such, they were literally messing with the conference in order to enhance paranoia across the Fleet, to great effect.
Here's a few that were definitely defined:
Run through the following checklist:
Yeah, there we go.
Darwin Verrill was the four-point Enemy(-) of the Centennial Chicken group, and this whole plot spun out of that. But let's start from the (IC) beginning…
The Dreamers of Humanity were a secret society / religious cult on Earth, consisting of a small number of elite, influential individuals. They believed in the power of humanity coming together as one, but in a more literal than figurative sense - great power could be harnessed from the merging of the minds and souls of many, if only one could work out how. This was bolstered by there being some evidence that this actually worked: various ancient societies and cultures had, throughout history, come across various similar mystic properties, and the Dreamers were devoted to uncovering these, in order to put the whole puzzle together. Of course, such power needed to be in the right hands, so the group was strictly invitation-only, and kept highly secret. After all, who better to wield untold cosmic power than the super rich?
Darwin Verrill, a rising businessman with a lot of connections, alongside the parents of Lara and Escher Stryer, the owners of technology company MidoTech, were three members of the group, and became good friends through it. Through their various connections, particular Darwin's, they organised and financed an expedition that led to the recovery of a strange Orb from an ancient tomb. This discovery cemented their position within the Dreamers, for it was believed that this might have been a long sought-after artefact capable of permanently merging the souls of willing participants in a known ritual.
The continued operation of the Orb required a sacrifice of blood (souls could only be transferred through biological matter), though the Dreamers thought that the sacrifice bound a specific person to be the ultimate host for the ritual. The mother of the Stryers was the one who gave their blood for this task. However, as preparations for the first, small trial run of the ritual were underway, the Stryers had a change of heart - they were unsure that merging all of humanity into a single entity was a wise or even ethical plan, and fled in opposition with Escher (though Lara was left behind on Earth).
Angered by their betrayal, Darwin Verrill gave chase. When it became clear that the Stryers were not going to return, Verrill rationalised that if the Orb was bound by blood, all he needed was someone of the Stryer bloodline, rather than them themselves, and blew them out of the sky. With the Apparitions looming, the Dreamers were desperate to perform their ritual, certain it would provide the power needed to drive the Apparitions back. Darwin went on to eventually track down and kidnap Lara Stryer to use in the ritual, under cover of corporate manoeuvring, and watched carefully by the leadership of the Dreamers throughout. However, Escher, Tai, and Ari rescued Lara from his clutches, leading to Darwin Verrill's public outing as a dangerous individual.
Sensing defeat, and unable to proceed for fear of arrest, Verrill leveraged his considerable resources to surgically change his physical appearance, adopted the name Garland Bora, and fled to the Slipstream with the Orb, as a favour from his friend Ivanka. With Earth and the Dreamers gone, and humanity's days numbered, he set about establishing himself a small base of power in terms of people and control on the Slipstream, but resigned himself to never completing the Dreamers' work.
Until, that is, he discovered that Lara and Escher Stryer had also escaped Earth, and were within the Fleet. Perhaps there was still a chance! Garland reestablished the Dreamers amongst his followers on the Slipstream, and soon spread it onto the St Nikolaos through various means. The meditation rituals practised at the sessions a section of the populace attended brought people spiritually closer, making people calmer and more appreciative of one-another, while fostering a greater appreciation of what the Dreamers provided. (While this calmness did have the side-effect of people noticing less stressful dreams - since everyone was making a big deal of dreams at the time - the Dreamers were otherwise unrelated to what was going on with dreams.)
Eventually, Garland was able to persuade Lara Stryer to visit the Dreamers properly under false pretences of using her fame to boost the Dreamers' image even further, whereupon she was kidnapped. Garland planned to sacrifice (willingly) his acolytes on the Slipstream to merge their souls with Lara's using the Orb, as a first test of its power, before moving on to the hundreds of people on the St Nikolaos later. However, a large strike force was organised by Escher to rescue his sister, which was almost complete successful - however, thanks to the meddling of Sal Vasse (unbeknownst to Garland), Tai Pullman ended up being on the receiving end of the ritual instead.
Metaphysically, Tai's soul was made to be 37 souls (including her own) merged together, though with Tai's consciousness being the overriding one. The accumulated chaos of the acolytes was also merged as part of this, so while they appeared dead, they weren't technically 'passed on' for the purpose of Apparitions being summoned. While still absolutely nowhere near the power of the Order being that gave rise to the Universe, this left Tai with an enhanced appreciation of the deterministic Order of things, and a deep-seated revulsion of Chaos. With only 37 souls, there were limits to what she could achieve with this - had Tai chosen to absorb more souls, her power may well have grown more.
Ultimately, humanity as a whole was only one of many, many ensouled races in the Universe, and most of humanity was killed on Earth, so the Dreamers' plan was not really feasible as a means to leverage a force of Order that could truly match the Apparitions. Nonetheless, Tai was the only 'metaphysically-altered' player character who truly stood in opposition to the Apparitions, and could have been leveraged as a useful weapon had she chosen further power over silly considerations such as ethics… ;)
This was another four-point Enemy(-), this time belonging to the Hussar (with the exception of Luxe Rosenberg). Andi Ferrion, AKA Helena van Sachs, was the smuggler captain that Mari, Barnaby and Sunny had left on an asteroid to die in their backstory, and that had then attempted to reform, become a legitimate trader, and hired Marco Stikk who then got her ship destroyed by not guarding it very well. She was also married to Mari Martinez. She really didn't like any of them.
We designed the Fire Escape to be a perfect pirates'/smugglers' ship, with enhanced short-range scanners to help you look through ships and see what was worth stealing on them. Fortunately/unfortunately, this meant it was a really useful ship to have around during Quarantines to look for any Apparitions on board other ships, and Andi Ferrion spent a lot of the first few turns just being legitimately helpful (as aforementioned: still trying to reform…albeit on a ship she stole before leaving Earth). Her avatar in the Conferences did not look like her, and she mostly stayed on the Fire Escape because too many people would recognise her in person. She did her best to warn Luxe of the terrible people she had on her crew, but was ignored. She was eventually killed by Darwin Dexter, who had discovered the backstory, when he decided to do Luxe a favour.
Her Deepest Darkest Fear was, of course, betrayal.