Monday, March 6, 2023

Operation Blackwatch - A Savage Worlds Supers/Horror Mashup

 I ran this in the older edition of Savage Worlds a few years ago, it was a lot of fun and I am thinking of revisiting this campaign again soon:

Operation Blackwatch Campaign

A Savage Worlds Horror/Supers Mashup (but would work with GURPS, Hero System, Cypher, etc. just fine) inspired by the likes of Hellboy, Creature Commandos, X-Files and all those faddish Zombie/Superhero What If Tales)


A top-secret international covert ops organization named Operation Blackwatch is founded in 1946 after it is discovered that atomic bomb testing has resulted in a weakening of the fabric of reality’s walls….the “universe’s skin” has been damaged and something from somewhere else has begun to bleed through in to the physical world.

Initial encounters with the phenomenon proved deadly, and reports were enigmatic….the first appearance of “aliens” in Roswell, the appearance of enigmatic, Aryan figures in “sky chariots” to hapless drivers in the night, all seemed to have some connection to the opening phenomenon which materialized in the New Mexico desert a year after the initial tests were successful….a night which left dozens dead and three ghost towns in its wake. Demons in one location, aliens in another, and angels or gods of old in a third, all appearing within months of one another.

While the government instituted smokescreens such as Project Sign and Bluebook to disguise what was really going on, A covert team of specialists were assigned to study the aftermath of the “Old Organ” incident, especially specimens which had been recovered in the battle. The first team called these things demons, but settled on a more familiar term to the locals: skin walkers. The reason was simple: each creature appeared to have ripped its way out of the skin of the humans they seemed to inhabit, transforming them into brutal monsters.

Over several decades Blackwatch worked behind the scenes with other organizations, including Majestic-12 which was established by the US to coordinate negotiations with non-hostile “outsiders” as the term came to be for these beings which spontaneously appeared. Of the few who were willing to work with groups such as MJ-12 and Blackwatch, the so-called Vegans (three entities who suggested they were divine angels from the planet Vega) and the “little green men” of Roswell who never admitted to being aliens or otherwise, but would attempt to dominate human minds with psionic control at any turn if they weren’t kept unconscious with an oxygen rich formula, left the investigative teams suspect as to the intentions and contradictory stories of these beings. In 1951 in Korea a being called a Gunung manifested at the October 1950 incursion allegedly aided by the Chinese. The Gunung was so called because local Korean soldiers on both sides saw it as a manifestation of a brutal war god of old mythology, and it turned the tide against South Korean forces aided by the US.

The Gunung was the first concrete evidence of powerful manifestations outside the US. In a secret charter the Blackwatch Covert Operations Teams were reappointed as a agency under international UN jurisdiction to investigate any supernatural manifestations that happened worldwide. Within five years a dozen major manifestations had been reported. The most notable of these was recorded in The Soviet Union of all places, when a disturbance in Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin) revealed what appeared to be Grigori Rasputin, reanimated and undead, brought back by the supernatural energies. Aiding him was a manifestation straight out of mythic Russian nightmares: the fowl-legged hut of the legendary witch Baba Yaga, who had materialized in the flesh. The stories go that it took Soviet forces, including tanks and hundreds of men to drive the witch and her hut back into the woods with Rasputin, where they lost all trace of them….for a time. The two continued to haunt the Soviet Union for decades to come, as they appeared to take great umbrage at the Communist regime in charge of their country.

The Soviets allegedly formed their own group to study the supernatural phenomenon manifesting in the hinterlands of their country as well. Called the Night Watch (the Nochnoy Dozor), it would have multiple run-ins and conflicts with the UN’s own top secret Blackwatch over the coming decades. The Nochnoy Dozor continues to function in a modified role right to the present, and holds as many as one hundred supernaturally enhanced agents.

The practice of recruiting the “enhanced” began in the late fifties when the first humans who appeared to manifest unusual abilities as a result of an encounter with or exposure to supernatural elements first appeared. Some projects (such as MK Ultra) tried to exploit these enhanced for their own purposes to mixed results, but Blackwatch was uniquely qualified to recruit, train, and deploy these agents in to the field, using their own experience and abilities to counter and contain dangerous supernatural phenomenon.

Over the decades the incursions of the supernatural have grown. There were several hundred reported incidents from 1946-1960, but by 1990 there were another one thousand documented incidents world-wide, and by 2000 the number of cases had doubled. News stories were out of control, and it was only luck that prevented the public from being directly exposed to these manifestations in a manner that could lead to panic social unrest. By 2019 it is believed that there are over 5,000 humans and entities masquerading as human documented on record, and as many as 15,000 cases worldwide that have been records; Blackwatch can no longer keep up. A social engineering program in the early 00’s aimed at normalizing the concept of superhumans to the public and through film and other media this has had mixed success. Blackwatch remains an unknown operation, but a public group named Operation Skywatch ( a tribute to the days when most phenomena were perceived as UFO events) now seeks to identify and contain or train certain selected enhanced manifestations as part of a public program, and the operation openly implies that the powers of these individuals come from aliens.

In 2019, Blackwatch continues to fight from the shadows seeking containment of dangerous threats, while Skywatch seeks to create a public face to the increasingly hard to disguise presence of supernatural beings and humans who have been enhanced by this presence. Behind the scenes though the fight is getting more desperate, and Blackwatch realizes it may have overlooked a powerful hidden movement behind the scenes; the malignant and dangerous beings, the ones labeled demons and monsters, appear to have been forging their own alliances and working on their own agendas.

Threats and Secrets:

Blackwatch knows that there are hidden sources of order among some of the foes they have encountered. Study of these creatures, when captured, has revealed that they have formed “cabals” and “coteries” working to share knowledge and resources. Some of these groups are larger and more well organized; lots of evidence from Russia suggests that Rasputin and his patron saint of evil, Baba Yaga, are working behind the scenes to influence the heart of Russian politics and power, for example.

One recurring thread however is that the beings are growing more complicated, more insidious and manipulative. Most of the beings seem to manifest as identifiable creatures ripped from folklore, film, nightmare and myth. However, they all share the following hierarchy of traits:

1.      First Stage or “Primal” manifestations are beings which appeared the year following the atomic testing, and which appeared with consistency, usually a year or so later after additional atomic tests. It wasn’t until 1963 that Blackwatch, working through the UN, convinced the major world powers to agree to a test ban when they confirmed conclusively that the atomic testing was the actual source and cause of the manifestations.

The Primal First Stage Manifestations are the most terrifying and other-worldly. They seem to take on the most distinct and unrecognizable forms, as if they had not yet assimilated the appearance of horrors known to their first victims, though some rapidly changed and shifted, either into parodies or precise copies of those same victims. To this day Blackwatch has found less than ten of the estimated three hundred beings that appeared in 1946. These creatures, when found, are considered the most dangerous. It is believed that Baba Yaga is one of them, though it is suspected her power is what brought Rasputin back to life.

2.      Second Stage Possessors or “Inhabited” manifestations are more common, and start with a supernatural event manifesting in the region of a likely host subject. The individuals exposed to the “radiation” of supernatural energy from the bleed in the wall or reality rapidly degenerate and either mutate or become transformed by entities who seek a host organism in which to reside. These beings usually twist and mutate the host human in horrible ways, and sometimes are not successful in making the host viable. They seem able to abandon a host form to attempt to gain control of another body at times, though if this happens they seem unable to return to the old host form. Survivors of this sort of possession almost always manifest enhanced gifts….if they survive.

3.      Third Stage manifestations are known more commonly as Incursions as they seem to be creatures who claim to have come from some source of mythology, religion, fiction or nightmare in our world and seem to appear whole cloth. They are regarded as dangerous as their behavior seems to be dictated more by what people expect them to do as the beings they appear as rather than hold fast to any more common-sense agenda. Some early manifestations such as the Korean Gunung and the Vegans fit this description. These are often considered the most dangerous manifestations, but they can be hard to distinguish from Primal Manifestations or Possessors who have had time to shape their form and take on an identify unless you catch them at the moment they appear. The Vegans, for example, attempted to demonstrate their origin from a distant star by sending several agents to that location….their bodies were later discovered in orbit by observant sources.

One common agreement with study of the Incursions is this: they seem to need to take on forms chosen by the humans they intend to manipulate, terrorize or kill and feed off of. They are unable to survive without this “fear contact.” Certain classified experiments with captured Incursions have demonstrated that they seem to come apart and go insane, eventually killing themselves or dying when kept in isolation.

4.      Fourth Stage manifestations are identified by a Tibetan term and are called Tulpas. These entities are unique as it appears they are formed from others….including talented humans who have learned how, and are effectively simulacra of people. Tulpas can be complex or simple depending on the effort and energy invested in their creation, and some tulpas forged by powerful manifestations have enhanced powers and shapeshifting skills. The tulpa has become a significant danger in the spycraft of the modern era, as it is possible for a talented agent to kill and replace a target with a perfect duplicate, sometimes fooling the enemy for years. Tulpas almost never seem to manifest without being coaxed; but there are few exceptions to every rule and Blackwatch keeps a file on known tulpas for whom no creator as ever identified.

Blackwatch’s most dangerous foe in this game is the entity known simply as The Cabal, though it often has local titles going by whatever vernacular the creatures see fit to use. In the United States the Cabal is believed to be fairly strong and have infiltrated a portion of the government, with an unknown number of prominent organizers behind it, possibly all either hidden manifestations, enhanced humans sympathetic to the monsters, or tulpas in their service. The faceless leader of the Cabal is a being called the Tempest, and it is considered a great failing that no one in Blackwatch has gotten close to identifying who or what Tempest is.

In 1987 the Cabal forged a force of its own and thanks to some good luck and critical mistakes by certain agents the Cabal learned of a Blackwatch Operations Center and infiltrated then destroyed it in a raid, killing over one hundred agents and personnel in the process. Since this day Blackwatch moved to a more distributed operations network of cells spread throughout the world to avoid any one compromised Control Center from impacting the others. From 1988 to 2010 there were only four identified attacks on these cells. From 2011 to the present that tripled to 13 known attacks, and it is believed that the Cabal is getting better at infiltrating.

On occasion agents of the Cabal have been captured and interrogated. The most successful interrogation was with a Primal Manifestation which called itself the Grimjack, a gray, ghost-like being that had been working as a serial killer in the backwoods of Montana for decades. The Grimjack initially appeared incapable of speech beyond small mimicry, but when given paper and pen began to write furiously, producing a mixture of apocalyptic prophecy and occasional moments of lucidity. It was through this writing that the researchers learned that the Cabal’s leader could be a Primal Manifestation, one with strong influence over its kind. It was clear too from the writing that the apocalyptic descriptions of the Grimjack were not of our world’s future…yet….but of another world entirely, possibly one he had come from through the Bleed between universes.

Then, one day, the Grimjack spoke. “This is not the first time we’ve been here,” he told the stunned interrogators. “But this will be the last.” It was moments later that the Grimjack broke free and killed most of the researchers in the complex before disappearing. Rumors today suggest he is somewhere in South Texas, but local cells have yet to pin him down.

The Defectors

Almost all of the so-called Defectors are either Incursions which, though the adoption or their forms and “minds” have appeared as beings empathetic to humanity’s survival, or as victims of Possessors who have managed to survive the experience with enhancements. Defectors are unique in that they are by definition creatures of “the other side” or have been touched by them, but appear to have the best interests of humanity at heart. Angelic beings, demonic beings and other more disturbing entities who somehow found themselves with an undeniable soft spot for humanity have cushioned out the ranks of the Blackwatch. Long before they are considered for field duty as operators these beings undergo rigorous examination and testing to confirm they are not plants of the Cabal. So far, about one hundred such beings have made agent status.

Of interesting note about these defectors: each tends to firmly believe it is a correct and true manifestation of whatever supernatural element it presents itself as. However, in each case these beings seem to have strange “blank spots” in their memory that seem oddly to not bother them, but which constitute the rift in any memories that might lead to confusion about their natures. An angelic incursion, for example, might not remember its appearance on earth and instead think it descended from Heaven, but claim in its mortal form to have little more than feelings or impressions of what Heaven was like. Such beings, if interrogated too closely about their true natures, sometimes seem to go mad and may spontaneously change at that time to more hostile forms. Blackwatch’s interrogators have perfected a method by which they can attempt to force such reactions out of Defectors; if the defector resists and does not succumb to madness, or acknowledges it recognizes its existence as a manifestation of human creation then it has passed the test.

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