Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #11: Psychics and Social Engineering

There are two types of what is called social engineering that are similar but not as much as some would apparently like. One is considered real social engineering; the other is a pale comparison, supposedly. The "real one", defined by political science, involves the influencing of popular behaviour, like using propaganda. The other is just a fact of life where security scams are involved. It appears more that the security version is just a smaller scale, where only an individual need be influenced. The one sticking point of just considering them at different scales is that the security driven social engineers are about stealing information, whereas the political science version is about making change. They give different results, but at the same time they share similar methodologies.

Either kind of social engineering is certainly an avenue for a psychic to explore for their gain, whether that gain is for evil, selfish, or good reasons. A psychic might trigger spikes of change in behaviour and opinion on a scale that is temporary, or more long lasting, differentiated only by the level of subtlety and effort put into finding and affecting the right people. A psychic who wants to make people more accepting of him as a psychic might use hypnotic suggestion or empathic transmission to force an individual to treat the psychic as if he were normal. If there were people who were involved in a law making effort to afford certain rights to psychics he might manipulate the critics of that effort to change their attitude and support the effort.

The security style of social engineering is exemplified on the Internet. Phishing in particular stands out. A message that appears to be from a bank for instance says if the account isn't updated it will be closed. A provided link leads to a fake website requiring the account number and the password. The psychic phisher need only come into contact with someone. All they need to do is scam the subject into thinking about the desired information then they take it from the surface thoughts of the person. Also a psychic might enhance a regular scam further than a normal conman. Consider the trick where someone claims the person is entitled to an inheritance but must pay a transferral fee. The psychic can be assured the bait will be taken, and that the people not feel cheated later, either.

Mood: relieved.
Music: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen and Burn by Apocalyptica.

Queen: Greatest Hits - We Will Rock You
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Apocalyptica: Worlds Collide

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #10: Paranoia and the Fugitive Mind

Am I paranoid enough with all of these psychics around? If this were a Tweet then this would be the entire message. Or is that just an easy lie? Is it known that such a brief yet illuminating single line is powerful enough to sum up everything that needs to be said on this topic? Or is this an attempt to make believe that it could be enough. Yet, on the other hand, this could be the start of a conspiracy because some people know that other people know this could be untrue, but those other people know what the first group knows so that could make it true. A knows that B knows that A knows what B knows so B pretends not to know what A knows to force A to not know that B knows. Of course this all assumes that B isn't too paranoid, because, of course, some paranoia is good.

Paranoia is chaotic and confusing enough when the paranoid person can only guess that the people out to get them know about certain things. When psychics who can read minds, see emotions, and bring to bear other similar abilities are a reality then just about anyone who wants to know your business can know it. The key to being paranoid--when it is not due to a psychological defect--is knowing something worth someone else's time and trouble to finding out. What that something is, that the person knows, can be many things. It can be a newly discovered fact. It can be that the person witnessed a crime. It can be an association between multiple ideas or multiple people. In all cases though, that knowledge is something someone else either wants, or needs suppressed.

The right psychic can suppress knowledge literally. The ability to remove memories is powerful in some contexts. The existence of such a power also adds another type of paranoia, the kind where something has been done to the "subject" already. Certain memories could have been taken already. This leads to the paranoid idea of having been implanting with things. What those things are range from tracking devices, to biological weapons, to thoughts. Psychic surgery would allow the implantation of objects without scarring, anaesthetics, or excessive time. The memory of the implantation being removed in addition to an incubation time makes for a greater spread of a bio-agent. The implantation of a thought can be false knowledge, a hypnotic suggestion, or a persistent voice.

Mood: cleansed.
Music: Witch-Hunt by Stratovarius and The Rift by Vince Neil.

Stratovarius: Fright Night
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Vince Neil: Carved in Stone

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #9: Waking Nightmares

For the psychic that wants to torment someone in a long-standing manner there are a number of avenues to be explored. The subjects to be tortured can be evil people who deserves everything they get, either because of the severity of their crimes, or because of the inability of conventional law efforts to deal with them safely, securely, and long term enough to cover their sentenced disciplinary action--without them breaking free--ensuring that justice is met. Likewise, the subjects of these indignities can be regular and good people who are actually the victim of a psychic, whether for sport, out of anger, or for blackmail purposes. Either way the methodologies are the same, as are the psychic abilities used to impose these afflictions. There are two classes into which these miseries fall.

The first class of these infirmities--a perfect word for these torments--is physical. This category's lesser method is to cause the loss of one or more senses; sight is the most common, the next is hearing. The sense could be altered instead of blocked as well; such as everything the victim eats tastes like ashes. The loss of a sense is a loss of freedom. Taking this further the psychic can induce a permanent paralysis of a limb or the entire body, including the ability to move the head and speak. Full paralysis caused by a psychic might preclude breathing trouble. This means the timeframe of the punishment won't be shortened due to that complication. This makes for an effective affliction because the subject is fully aware of every thing around them but unable to interact in any way.

The second class of waking nightmares is of a mental kind. These afflictions can be purely psychological or physiologically rooted. Primary to this category are hallucinations of different types. They can be transitory such as persistent suddenly appearing apparitions and monsters, or a constant phantom figure that nags, mocks and cajoles, as well as makes lewd or self-destructive suggestions. This figure need only be a voice, not a full-blown visual hallucination. The victim could also see everyone around them appearing as if they were dead, usually of gruesome demises. Or they may see shadows moving everywhere as if alive. These unreal visions can lead to insanity, or the psychic may just begin with implanting insane states like schizophrenia, phobias, or acute paranoia.

Mood: antsy.
Music: Bleak by Opeth and Coma by Guns 'N' Roses.

Opeth: Blackwater Park
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Guns 'N' Roses: Use Your Illusion I

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #8: Psychic Crime and Villainy

Hello, and welcome to the 200th posting of R.G. Male's Dark Corners.

Up until now these discussions have looked more or less at the large impersonal scale or at society's defenders and champions. The real fun characters of these psychic settings are the villains. They are most fun for the writer, the game designer, and the game master who runs the completed game. Crime and the doing of evil are easier for a psychic than for a normal wrongdoer. This much is a given. The ways to put psychic powers to use in criminal acts range all across the spectrum from petty crime, to white-collar crime, to the most heinous acts some of which are unique to psychics. The one different thing about psychic evil is that amongst all of the kinds of evil out there psychic evil has a common theme. That theme is violation. Except for psychic crimes using only machines, or prognostication, the psychic violates someone.

A truncated list of petty crimes tailored to the use of psychic powers, most notably telekinesis, involves things like petty theft, simple assault, trespassing, and vandalism. A woman's bank machine withdrawal is yanked from the machine before she can grab it. A man beats another man without using foot, fist, or any weapon that witnesses could see. A psychic temporarily disables an electronic lock to enter an office building. White-collar crimes include fraud, bribery, and insider trading each of which can be perpetrated by the use of mind reading or prognostication. Then there are computer crimes committed by technopaths. These psychic manipulators of machines and technology are only one path to the duplication of currently mundane cyber-crime and fraud.

The other path of fraud slips into the realm of the more undesirable psychic form of collecting information, mind reading. At the most harmless level purposely plucking thoughts out of someone is violating them in a molestation kind of sense. Taking this idea further we come to forms of mental manipulation upon a person that anyone would consider seriously violating the victim such as psychic possession. Then there are the ways to use psychic powers to kill such as pain manipulation, crushing hearts, exploding heads, and spontaneous bleeding. Beyond the terrible deaths are the fates worse than death such as induced insanity, being trapped in nightmare filled comas, constant horrific hallucinations, and permanent paralysis for no physical reason at all.

Mood: celebratory.
Music: Tales Of Another Broken Home by Green Day and Kill Devil Hill by Bruce Dickinson.

Green Day: American Idiot
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Bruce Dickinson: Tyranny of Souls

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #7: Psychic Interrogation Techniques

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Horror on Hump Day of 2008.

Back in part #5 the topic of a psychic as a lie detector came up. There is more to be said on this topic, but also there are other ways that psychic powers can be used in the interrogation of a subject. As with regular interrogating there are questions, and determining the truth from the lies, which carries on up to more questionable methods of information extraction like torture and the myriad forms that that can take, even by conventional methods. Since this is a horror setting it may be more pertinent to focus on the possible torturous applications of psychic abilities. Of course torture comes in two distinct and encompassing formats--physical and psychological. Each of these formats will require the use of different powers as well as a different mental skill set.

The mental skill set required for physical torture is fairly low for the psychic interrogator due to the limited array of applicable powers. The conventional torturer works with different instruments and styles of which money and imagination are the only obstacles. Likewise a psychic cannot design new drugs unless they possess that knowledge. A psychic can use pyrokinesis for the application of fire. A psychic can inflict pain directly or instead of cutting, beating, and pulling out things like teeth and fingernails or can do those via telekinesis. The best, most horrific tortures stem from permanent, unforgettable damages that are only a glance away for the rest of their lives. The downfall of physical torture though is that it affects the heart and can lead to accidental death.

A psychic with powers used for psychological torture techniques can require much more skill and imagination in their interrogations. The options available to such psychics are very open ended. Techniques can include phantom pain--less stressful on the heart--false memories of torments visited upon them, and being trapped in long drawn out nightmare scenarios. There are also subtle, gentler methods, which are not torture and may be just as successful. Beyond straight mind probing for answers there are dreams and hallucinations that make the subject think they are passing the information onto trusted comrades or people who need the data for good purposes. As with all torture and falsity there are moral implications, for those with morals, which leads us to next week's topic.

Mood: refreshed.
Music: Wildest Dreams by Iron Maiden and Prophet of the Last Eclipse by Luca Turilli.

Iron Maiden: Dance of Death
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Luca Turilli: Prophet of the Last Eclipse

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