Monday, March 9, 2020

The American Powers

Season 5 is nearly here! Time for some preparatory Magnus Archives content, created with the help of Michael Kennedy.

My intent here was to create a set of Powers that was more culturally keyed to America, just to see what sort of differences would spawn from a different cultural tableau.They're not meant as a replacement for the Core 14, more of supplement / tranformation / what-if, adding the mixing or specificity that comes with time and place.
  1. The Wilderness / Far-Away-From-Home - The terrible distance between you and safety. Being at the mercy of men, beasts, and the elements. The revelation that human mastery of the world is a dangerous falsehood.
  2. Conspiracy / They-Are-Controlling-Us - The knowledge that parties outside of your reach and sight are organizing events around you. Being the only one aware to a great danger. To make warnings that go ignored.
  3. The Left Behind / There-Once-Was-Something-Here - The absense of something that was once great and good. To watch it decay and be forgotten, with the knowledge that something better was once there.
  4. Oppression / Stamping-Down-Forever - Organized violence, directed towards you and yours.
  5. Repression / Hidden-Thing-Gone-Rotten - The hidden horror, the decay that writhes and squirms beneath what is presented as good or holy or upright or clean.
  6. Exploitation / We-Will-Be-Ground-Into-Dust - The awareness that one's suffering profits a power beyond one's influence. The clear lack of escape. Grindstone despair.
  7. The Stars / I-Cannot-Explain-This - An Outside Context Problem. That which violates all logic. The break in the facade. The intrusion upon the perception of a peaceful life.
  8. Waste / It-Has-No-Value / What-Has-Been-Discarded - Everything has been thrown away. Not even destroyed or altered, just abandoned. To witness the evaporation of worth. Ultimate apathy. Idolization of usefulness.
  9. Judgement / I-Am-Found-Wanting - The dissection of a life to make moral judgement. The unpleasable powers. Exposure of shame that can't be forgotten or covered up. Never being enough.
  10. Apocalypse / We-End-The-World - The recognition that the violent change that has assaulted the world is in some way your doing. The death-instinct inculcated by years of propaganda. To know that it cannot be stopped nor put back in the box.
  11. Glamour / It-Is-Dressed-In-Lies - What you are seeing is not the truth. What you are hearing is not the truth.You know this, but you want to believe it. You want to share in the lie. You want to worship the image of the lie.
  12. Stagnation / Death-Before-Change - The instinct to remain still. Resistance to all change. Submission to status quo. The part of you that will watch a crime, a disaster, a horror occur and do nothing, that will hunker down and scream that the only possible option is to do nothing.
  13. The Neighbor / They-Are-Not-Like-Us - Fear of those closest to you for differences you neither recognize nor understand.
  14. Drifting / I-Don't-Know-Me - Loss of the sense of self, of noticing changes that you can't counter, unable to trace the path of how you became like this.


  1. Since my reviews are cursed, here, have this one.

  2. God...this is just, depressingly accurate

  3. There's actually two fanpodcasts out right now that can basically be billed as "TMA but American."

    There's the Underwood Collection, which is more polished and releases a little more often, and Source Not Disclosed, that I work on. I'm biased when it comes to SND obviously, but TUC is worth checking out for a slightly more Americanized take on some of the powers. (Both are only a few episodes in though)

    1. Also, more relevant to the post directly: One thing I find interesting is that the bad cops in England are associated with the Hunt, but it'd feel much more plausible for the bad cops in the US to be associated with Slaughter- messy and unpredictable violence for no real reason on people who don't deserve.

    2. Oh, neat, I will have to check those out.

  4. Haha yes twas I that helped in the making of this post! I feel like Repression could be: It-Rots-in-Secret. I've also just had a vision for Conspiracy: smiling men with clipboards show up at your house. You assume they are with the damned HOA. Barging past you to your shock, they begin to take notes of your house, lifting up cushions and opening drawers. They respond to most conversation with gentle tuts or shaking of heads or "You know what They say." They emphasize the They strangely. Once they have done all of this, they leave as quickly as they came. Nothing is missing. Nothing has been taken. They just say as they leave: "They will be watching. They know." The idea of Them, whoever They are watching fills your every hour with dread. You can't sleep. You feel watched every hour. They know. They are watching. What do They want from you? You don't know. And it kills you.

    1. Oh, this is fantastic. You can't remember any specific detail about any of the men, either, other than the vague certainty that none of them were noticeably POC.

      Shades of 'Adjustment Bureau' and 'Yesterday was Monday.'

  5. I really like The Neighbor. I imagine it like this:

    You really hate the Clarks. You didn't start hating them at first. You thought they were perfectly pleasant, nice people. Then you began to notice things. How they didn't eat the same food you did, or go to the local football games. They didn't support local chains, only the big corporate ones; the ones without a soul. That would have made them annoying, but tolerable. If only. But then, it got worse. You noticed how their son was always seen with local girls who had bruises and strange marks on their bodies, or how that one day you saw Mr. Clark leave the garden shed with a blood-stained apron. And a few of the stray cats nearby have gone missing. But surely, no...Then again, perhaps. You really have no idea what that family is capable of.

  6. Grim and exactly correct. Powerlessness, failure, and complicity are the three main flavors. Making monsters from these (without using real people; there's a lot of low-hanging fruit on one side of the aisle) would be interesting. I think Stagnation would manifest as the Empty Suit, a philosophical zombie interested in nothing beyond its own re-election and willing to sacrifice any good to that end. There was an episode of Parks and Recreation that played such an Uncanny Valley monster for laughs, but it was deeply chilling.

    This post reminds me a lot of the Aramchek tarot New Arcana in a lot of ways. A lot of Philip K. Dick in the mix, too.

    Instead of tomes, I submit that the memetic vectors/incantations of the American Powers be vinyl recordings of various songs. Peter Seeger's 'Garbage' is a perfect Leitneresque summation of Waste, for example. Or C.W. McCall's 'There Won't Be No Country Music' for the Left-Behind (or possibly Apocalypse). Fun fact: there was a midcentury country song titled 'You Better Pray to the Lord When You See Those Flying Saucers,' and I think there can be no better encapsulation of the American suite of fears.

    1. The Neighbor recording is definitely Waits' 'What's He Building?'
      I don't know what's perfect for Judgement, but it's probably by Johnny Cash.
      Can't say if Cave's 'Red Right Hand' would be spot-on for any of them, but the Crossroads Man in it is definitely what happens when Conspiracy and Drifting bleed into one another.

      The recording for Glamour is hard to pin down; it changes with each pop sensation to come down the pike.

  7. Here's another potential addition:
    The New/You-Will-Be-Left-Behind: Your livelihood being replaced by mechanization. A freshly cleared forest. Gentrification erasing the city's history. Machine-learning programs growing unsettlingly clever. Opposite of the Stagnation.

  8. i cant be the only one who thinks that the milkman conspiracy is a conspiracy domain. or at least of the conspiracy.