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ID: 3516


May 29, 2007, 2:22 pm

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Institute for Studies of Environmental Trends


”...but bad news sells much better than good news. And no one can deliver the bad news as we can, senator.”

Mainly for a Modern Campaign; can be adapted to other genres and settings, especially featuring conspiracy, espionage, and horror.

The Institute is a think-tank based in a city with plenty of political opportunities, Washington or Brussels would do just fine. As many others, it concentrates on information-gathering and a little creative work on the top of it. It’s customers are mainly political parties, then some companies, and quite a few non-governmental organizations. There is even a sect or two suspected of employing them - but the customer list is a well-treasured secret.

Agenda and Philosophy
These are the doomsayers by body and heart.

There is something inherently fascinating in visions of the apocalyptic for the common man. The prophets that foretell doom are listened to with awe, those who see great times ahead are ignored.

There are a few people who feel unworthy, or inadequate, and expect punishment from above - many more see the very humanity as depraved and spoiled, with terrible justice finally looming on the horizon. Some hate or fear a facet of other people’s lives, and translate it in this way. Others in turn, love to appear as the heroes who will save the world, the only ones who embrace the truth, while all others are blinded by ignorance or low interests.

Sad thing is, it is rare that truth enters these ideas, deformed and carefully selected most often.


In addition to the most obsessed by the End Of All Things (and let’s face it, most of us find such ideas appealing to some degree), there is an opposite side, who also likes dark omens.

There are children who just love to scare others, make ugly jokes, and invent stories to shock and alarm. Many grow up of this, some do not.

Some, not necessarily evil, not necessarily cruel, simply like to spook the common man, to ‘awake him’ from the slumber of daily routine, or merely to have a genuine feeling of schadenfreude. Often an innocent hobby, some go too far and end up in jail or scorned by others. It is not an easy life annoying people.


The Institute offers the services of information gathering, with a special area of interest: doom.

Far from concentrating on the Apocalypse, there is much more to research about - asteroid impacts, diseases of man and animal, climate change and ecological disasters, even economical threats and wars: a threat real or imagined, doesn’t matter.

Is it scary enough for your purposes? Then you are the right customer here. For a decent price, they will provide you with detailed instructions on what to say, how to argument, what to conveniently forget, and how to dismiss, confuse or ridicule likely opponents. References to reliable-sounding experts or institutions are provided as well. The Institute itself is never quoted as a source of all the tables, charts and researches, that is a rule of the contract.

The Institute stays always in the background, provides the arguments, stays informed on the development, and warns clients if necessary.

As another rule, the client and all his data are strictly private.

Personnel and Work

In a typical work day, assignments like ‘Find the proof for XY’ are given, to which end is used the Institute’s extensive library, and further study in any resources available, the more respected the better.

Other employees are asked to locate the counterarguments to a claim, along with their weaknesses; all the results are finally compiled together to produce a solid product. (It happened at least once, that two customers wielded opposing views, with the Institute supplying intellectual ammunition for both; the current insight is that such a situation is too straining in the end, however lucrative.)

There are also several companies owned by the Institute (a publishing house, a few internet startups, some prank inventory supplier and more). They are used for recruiting of new employees, but also for receiving payments from clients that wish to stay really private.

The recruiting is probably the hardest part. The talent is not rare, but few have the stomach to stay, once they find out what they do. Therefore, much of their work is separated into smaller parts, performed by different employees. Individuals with twisted qualities are sought strongly after, but sadly make for a complicated human resources management.

The Internet has changed this dramatically. In its uncharted waters, many gifted potentials can be found, frequently with the right information-seeking skills even. It is easy to find people persuaded of one issue or another, and let them speak their full about their truth. Also easy is to find someone willing to write on a topic for payment; many forums and social networking websites are monitored for the desired behavior (some are maintained by Institute directly). Often it is enough to throw out a few catch question in the right places, and half of the research is done, possibly with a new prospect found.

As a result, some very disturbed folk can be found in the cubicles, staring at their screens. Most of them are basically harmless, it is their concentration in one place, and the professional approach, that makes them dangerous in the larger scheme of things.

Finally, the current heads of the enterprise are of the type that enjoys their job immensely, and has a good sleep at night. They are not doing anything wrong, are they? They have success, and that counts.


The Institute is a distant child of a tiny publishing house back from the wild sixties. A group of ‘contrarian thinkers’, as they called themselves, reveled in showing the unknowing public the causes of their actions; and what could easily happen if things went the wrong way; and how fragile and intricate is their existence they deem so safe and dull.

Some books were sold, some weren’t. And as some of the works have struck a chord in the mind of the common man, their production has been expanded, and the right people attracted… and so the whole movement grew and changed, beyond the intents of its original founders. Eventually, most of them were pushed aside.

Today, the organization is firmly lodged in the political arena, and fancies to have a great impact on the “public debate”. In private conversations with potential customers, they may hint that they have in fact started the current global warming debate, or other hotly contested topics - whether this is true is another matter.

Plot Hooks:
- researching for an obscure topic, say, the effects a villains last new Toy Of Doom(tm) will have on the world, may easily lead to this place as the best source of information.

- need to know what certain a politician is going to make his campaign about? They have all the notes, go get them. (The Shadowrun option.)

- panic is spreading, as an improbable doomsday scenario seems to be coming true after all. Who is behind this all, and how comes people are so easily fooled (yet again)?

- an employee with a nagging conscience approaches the characters. It has been great fun in the firma - until now, when he has gone too far… as the results of his work border on the criminal, he can’t approach the authorities. He may have exxagerated a particular danger, or made up something dramatic, overshadowing a real danger and it’s coming right now.

- a suitably wicked character may be approached by a talent seeker. Would he like to work for such people?

- should superheroes found themselves on the opposing side of the Institute (or say its customer), terrible side effects of their activities may be suddenly found, much to the displeasure of the public. Watch out for the PR campaign.

- and lastly, if there is an evil, manipulative mastermind, this may be the perfect lair for him.

“The whole aim of practical politics, is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H.L.Mencken

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Comments ( 14 )
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Voted Cheka Man
February 4, 2007, 20:17
Governments might like to use this to help scare the public.
Voted Scrasamax
February 5, 2007, 0:53
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring while in his jail cell during the Nuremberg Trials.
Voted Murometz
February 5, 2007, 19:56
Often an innocent hobby, some go too far and end up in jail or scorned by others

I would assume they have some Ron Kuby type lawyers to get the fringe jailbirds out of the tank? If not, they need one..a good lawyer :)

Love it! Its not a revolutionary group (ha!) but you provide the necessary overview, enabling a GM, to stop-drop-and-go with it.

And since we're dropping quotes,

“If you're bearish and right, people hate you. If you're bearish and wrong, people laugh at you. You can't win." -- Metz
February 6, 2007, 4:04
Recruiting straight from jail is a time-honored tradition in the Institute. The assumption is
a) the candidate has proven he can go quite far
b) he is humbled by the experience, and surely thankful for the bailing out

Both of them can combine into a good employee, that won't get publicly visible again, but work hard for the cause instead. Of course, assumptions are always checked, and psychological tests are a basic part of the recruitment process.

In other words: yes, they will have good lawyers. :)
Voted MoonHunter
February 6, 2007, 1:21
More modern than pulp I would think. In the pulp era there was always hope (except with Lovecraft). In the modern and post modern era, with the threats of "modern life" and "even greater wars", appocolyptic thinking took on a greater appeal.

As written, this isn't specifically a supers kind of thing. It is more for conspiracy, espionage, and horror campaigns. This is the shadowy group that provides "motion in the dark".

And there is more than doomsday here. I am sure they provide research on any number of "other projects". They might pay the bills. Or they might be "motivations" to provide other forms of "doom". (IF you don't have nanites, you can't scare people with "grey goo" stories.)

This group controls the data. They are now able to manipulate the arguments to their own ends. (What ever that end might be...) Want a given agenda to be forwarded, give the opposition the "killer app" to crush the people who bought the first set of data. Thus you can set up the "winners and losers" of the process. And with good research, you know who might be "receptive" to the idea of getting the data. With a little more research, you can even figure out how to manipulate them into buying the data. Thus with enough time, you can make the world dance on your marrionette's strings.

And what shadowy force is here to direct them? Who really runs this place now? It smacks of a demon in the background, creating disharmony in the choir and distracting the masses, so its own agenda of fear can be forwarded.
February 6, 2007, 4:42
Updated genre notice to reflect your insight. There are options for a supers game, but right, this is not specifically designed for one.


Other projects - yes, there will be some. But sure they can scare people with what is only to come. If the technology is available, the very possibility fuels discussions. (Cloning, anyone? Or genetic engineering?) Actual advances help of course more.

As for the true forces in the background, they can be chosen at will - is there indeed a mastervillain behind the scene... or a demon, in fact? Or are they really only businessmen? (Which can be scary as well... they're just ordinary people, doing their job, not realizing the power they have, and what they cause.)

Once again, you see the logical end of what I form as a beginning, the possible impact on the world of what seems to be another group with a somewhat dubious agenda. Thanks for the comment, it has brought the submission further.
February 6, 2007, 14:07
Hmmm, I am getting a few ideas for some follow up posts, touching on the institute. I may write up the "force" behind the Institute piece, with manfred's permission.
February 6, 2007, 14:11
Aaaaaand... permission granted. :)
Voted dark_dragon
February 7, 2007, 8:26
I think this is a great submission Manfred!!!

I strongly disagree that this type of institution has to be used in a mostly modern setting. Fear is a basic human emotion, and its affect on people has not changed within the last few thousands of years. Crucifiction, public drawing/quartering, beheadings... are all a form of terrorism on your own populace. And since time immemorial have all been used to harness power.

However, fear comes in many different flavors, and this institution simply takes the subtle approach at conquering the will of the 'common man'. They simply promote ideas that create fear, rather than terrorizing the people themselves

The fact that they sell their services is, in my opinion, secondary to the way they achieve success. I can definitely see this working in roman times, or even before that in Egypt.

Look at all the example of their work: Christian persecution in roman and egyptian times, The inquisition, Witch hunts in America, antisemitism in nazi germany. The list is practically endless and carries on today.

The internet references are clearly set in this day and age, however, recruitment procedures have always happened too. Freemasons, for example (not the conspiracy theory guys, but the real order) have a history of recruiting members, if not secretly, then at least quietly.

Pulp can deal with it by using an evil maniac (instead of a Depresso-Ray, the maniac uses the institue), while fantasy games a demon, and western games a corrupt governor. Technophobia is the fear of technology, but often, fear comes from anything new and mis-understood. New ideas, new people, new religion, etc... And all can be used to take control by the unscrupulous, and ironically enough, 'new' ideas are not a 'new' phenomenon!
February 7, 2007, 9:38
Well, there is no "has to be used in ... only". :)

The Institute is made for modern times, but the most basic mode of work - manipulating with fear - is timeless. It can work in any Age, as you have noted (but note that it may not be an indepedent company then, but rather a propagaganda department of the government, or simply a priestly trick to manipulate the masses).

So the Institute can be adapted to a variety of settings, while the idea used in many more. Use at your own risk though. ;)
February 8, 2007, 13:17
While fear is a weapon used to manipulate the masses in any time, the nature of this organization is completely modern in tone and access. There is no way in pre modern times to generate what they generate to make an impact. It needs its "cover" identity to work. As just a think tank for research information, it functions without generating fear (of the organization), raising suspicions, and causing espionage groups to investigate it. And without mass distribution, they would have to have sooo many agents in place to push their agenda.

In other times, these people would have to be advisors to various nobles, various clergymen, and various other persons of importance. They might follow the agenda. There might be a central site, sending out shadowy messengers, to their various mouthpieces. However the time in travel, the chance of messages lost, suspicion of such agents and their goals, makes the proposition really less effective. Now if magic was used in a generally unmagical world.. then this would become a powerful and effective organization (appropriate to be an illuminated group). However if magic is generally known or practice (and looked for and warded against ) the effectiveness of the organization declines again, as they can be monitored or noticed.

Now such an Illuminati class group might exist. Its write up would be very different. Though if there is an immortal/ demonic chief it might be the linking of the two groups.
February 8, 2007, 2:08
On True Power is a work related to your last comment. Follow some of the links there.
February 8, 2007, 5:45
Thats a good item, Maybe we should link them? It would make sense that this organisation would have similar tomes.
Voted valadaar
March 19, 2014, 12:22
This is a pretty nifty group - I like the idea of these doom-mongers.

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Anti -Depressent Pills

       By: Cheka Man

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