Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #19: Dead Men Tell All

The old saw that dead men tell no tales takes on a sense of irony in a world with ghosts, mediums, and necromancers. For people that can communicate with those beyond the grave there is almost nothing that cannot be learned. The only catch is in finding a source of information, and convincing it to help. The type of information needed from the dead can be anything from book-style knowledge to more know-how knowledge depending upon at least three factors. The first question the author needs to ask is how much the setting and mood is going to allow. The second is about the scope, especially in the sense of how far back can information be gained, how old are the oldest ghosts? The third is a little more mechanical, how can the information be passed on to the living?

From the standpoint of being just another source of information spirits and those no longer amongst the living can negatively impact the horrific mood. Unlike other sources though they can also keep or strengthen the mood in other ways. For starters the knowledge can come at a price. It can even be a high price. There are a number of examples. A spirit may need to be found in a place that is guarded or otherwise patrolled. The timing of the visit can be an added difficulty. Ghostly manifestations can be harrowing and escalate up to violent even without interference from a psychic. A medium may have to turn over some control of their body to an otherworldly entity even just to have it speak. Such an endeavour has its own inherent dangers.

Finding the keeper of a required bit of information can run the gamut from tracking down a name and asking around in the spiritual or astral realm, to finding a resting place, to dealing with forces best not meddled with. That is if there is someone or something left to know it. How long can a spirit hang around? How long does a ghostly echo last for? Some things may be lost to antiquity no matter how powerful the seeker. That is unless the dictated setting allows otherwise. That begs a few questions. How do the non-living sustain themselves? Do they change and grow, becoming more powerful, frightening, and dangerous? Is there a point where they no longer truck with mortals or just give up on the living and refuse to speak to them?

Then there are the mechanical concerns of such beings from beyond imparting their knowledge. Some ghosts may be able to speak to anyone. Some may not be able to speak but can intimate things by repeating a scene over and over or by psychic means such as empathic transmission. Others yet may be able to speak through a medium, or control such a psychic like a puppet due to the link they create. Those with that ability may be able to pass on more than words. They could complete tasks to which the host is unaccustomed. Even more than moving up to training they could enhance the host, or otherwise act symbiotically. Then there are those things that can take control of anyone they wish unchecked by anything but an exorcism.

Mood: verbose.
Music: Stay With Me Tonight by Quiet Riot and Borley Rectory by Llewellyn.

Quiet Riot: Quiet Riot
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Llewellyn: Ghosts

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