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The Great Game and the Mysteries of Life Messages in this topic - RSS

Anne Auclair
Anne Auclair
Posts: 2221

7/21/2017
I recently remembered a section of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in which she presents a collective psychological portrait of the secret agents who made up the essential players of the Great Game.

Said section also paints a pretty uncanny portrait of the many spies and secret agents who play the Great Game in Fallen London. Especially the hardened, fulltime players, like that Tireless Agent on the Whispers from the Surface card who you can accompany on stakeouts to earn Great Game favor. Here we have the essential people who devote themselves body and soul to the Game, who spend every possible moment working at it, who serve as Midnighters, and who have forgotten more secrets in Saint Joshua’s irrigo than most people can remember in a lifetime. They are the people who work decades on an assignment, who are willing to sacrifice everything should the mission require it, and who completely surrender their individuality in order to maintain their covers. In short, these are the people who never stop pretending to be Jebediah Crop.

If you’ve ever wondered why they would do all of this, what could they possibly hope to gain from being an expendable pawn in an endless Game played for the benefit of the Great Powers, then Hannah Ardent has perhaps the best explanation.

So I’ve copied the passage out for everyone below. I hope you all find it interesting.

************************************************************************************************

The Origins of Totalitarianism
Part Two: Imperialism
Chapter Seven: Race and Bureaucracy
Section III: The Imperialist Character
Pages 216-221

[The members of the British Secret Service] are of illustrious origin – what the dragon-slayer was to the bureaucrat, the adventurer is to the secret agent – and they too can rightly lay claim to a foundation legend, the legend of the Great Game as told by Rudyard Kipling in Kim.

Of course every adventurer knows what Kipling means when he praises Kim because “what he loved was the game for its own sake.” Every person still able to wonder at “this great and wonderful world” knows that it is hardly an argument against the game when “missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see the beauty of it.” Still less, it seems, have those a right to speak who think it “a sin to kiss a white girl’s mouth and a virtue to kiss a black man’s shoe.” Since life itself ultimately has to be lived and loved for its own sake, adventure and love of the game for its own sake easily appear to be a most intimately human symbol of life. It is this underlying passionate humanity that makes Kim the only novel of the imperialist era in which a genuine brotherhood links together “higher and lower breeds,” in which Kim, “a Shabib and the son of a Shabib,” can rightly talk of “us” when he talks of the “chain-men,” “all on one lead rope.” There is more to this “we” – strange in the mouth of a believer in imperialism – than the all-enveloping anonymity of men who are proud to have “no name, but only a number and a letter,” more than the common pride of having “a price upon [one’s] head.” What makes them comrades is the common experience of being – through danger, fear, constant surprise, utter lack of habits, constant preparedness to change their identities – symbols of life itself, symbols, for instance, of happenings all over India, immediately sharing the life of it all as “it runs like a shuttle throughout all Hind,” and therefore no longer “alone, one person, in the middle of it all,” trapped, as it were, by the limitations of one’s own individuality or nationality. Playing the Great Game, a man may feel as though he lives the only life worthwhile because he has been stripped of everything which may still be considered to be accessory. Life itself seems to be left, in a fantastically intensified purity, when man has cut himself off from all ordinary social ties, family, regular occupation, a definite goal, ambitions, and the guarded place in a community to which he belongs by birth. “When everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before.” When one is dead, life is finished, not before, not when one happens to achieve whatever he may have wanted. That the game has no ultimate purpose makes it so dangerously similar to life itself.

Purposelessness is the very charm of Kim’s existence. Not for the sake of England did he accept his strange duties, nor for the sake of India, nor for any other worthy or unworthy cause. Imperialist notions like expansion for expansion’s or power for power’s sake might have suited him, but he would not have cared particularly and certainly would not have constructed any such formula. He stepped into his peculiar way of “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” without even asking the first question. He was tempted only by the basic endlessness of the game and by secrecy as such. And secrecy again seems like a symbol of the basic mysteriousness of life.

Somehow, it was not the fault of the born adventurers, of those who by their very nature dwelt outside society and outside all political bodies, that they found in imperialism a political game that was endless by definition; they were not supposed to know that in politics an endless game can end only in catastrophe and that political secrecy hardly ever ends in anything nobler than the vulgar duplicity of the spy. The joke on these players of the Great Game was that their employers knew what they wanted and used their passion for anonymity for ordinary spying. But this triumph of the profit-hungry investors was temporary, and they were duly cheated when a few decades later they met the players of the game of totalitarianism, a game played without ulterior motives like profit and therefore played with such murderous efficiency that it devoured even those who financed it.

Before this happened, however, the imperialists had destroyed the best man who ever turned from an adventurer (with a strong mixture of dragon-slayer) into a secret agent, Lawrence of Arabia. Never again was the experiment of secret politics made more purely by a more decent man. Lawrence experimented fearlessly upon himself, and then came back and believed that he belonged to the “lost generation.” He thought this was because “the old man came out again and took from us our victory” in order to “re-make [the world] in the likeness of the former world they knew.” Actually the old men were quite inefficient even in this, and handed their victory, together with their power, down to other men of the same “lost generation,” who were neither older nor so dissimilar to Lawrence. The only difference was that Lawrence still clung fast to a morality which, however, had already lost all objective bases and consisted only of a kind of private and necessarily quixotic attitude of chivalry.

Lawrence was seduced into becoming a secret agent in Arabia because of his strong desire to leave the world of dull respectability whose continuity had become simply meaningless, because of his disgust with the world as well as with himself. What attracted him most to Arab civilization was its “gospel of bareness…[which] involves apparently a sort of moral bareness too,” which “has refined itself clear of household gods.” What he tried to avoid most of all after he had returned to English civilization was living a life of his own, so that he ended with an apparently incomprehensible enlistment as a private in the British army, which obviously was the only institution in which a man’s honor could be identified with the loss of his individual personality.

When the outbreak of the first World War sent T.E. Lawrence to the Arabs of the Near East with the assignment to rouse them into a rebellion against their Turkish masters and make them fight on the British side, he came into the very midst of the Great Game. He could achieve his purpose only if a national movement was stirred up among Arab tribes, a national movement that ultimately was to serve British imperialism. Lawrence had to behave as though the Arab national movement were his prime interest, and he did it so well that he came to believe in it himself. But then again he did not belong, he was ultimately unable “to think their thought” and to “assume their character.” Pretending to be an Arab, he could only lose his “English self” and was fascinated by the complete secrecy of self-effacement rather than fooled by the obvious justifications of benevolent rule over backward peoples that Lord Cromer might have used. One generation older and sadder than Cromer, he took great delight in a role that demanded a reconditioning of his whole personality until he fitted into the Great Game, until he became the incarnation of the force of the Arab nationalism movement, until he lost all natural vanity in his mysterious alliance with forces necessarily bigger than himself, no matter how big he could have been, until he acquired a deadly “contempt, not for other men, but for all they do” on their own initiative and not in alliance with the forces of history.

When, at the end of the war, Lawrence had to abandon the pretenses of a secret agent and somehow recover his “English self,” he “looked at the West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me.” From the Great Game of incalculable bigness, which no publicity had glorified or limited and which had elevated him, in his twenties, above kings and prime ministers because he had “made ‘em and played with them,” Lawrence came home with an obsessive desire for anonymity and the deep conviction that nothing he could possibly still do with his life would ever satisfy him. This conclusion he drew from his perfect knowledge that it was not he who had been big, but only the role he had aptly assumed, that his bigness had been the result of the Game and not a product of himself. Now he did not “want to be big any more” and, determined that he was not “going to be respectable again,” he thus was indeed “cured…of any desire ever to do anything for myself.” He had been the phantom of a force, and he became a phantom among the living when the force, the function, was taken away from him. What he was frantically looking for was another role to play, and this incidentally was the “game” about which George Bernard Shaw inquired so kindly but uncomprehendingly, as though he spoke from another century, not understanding why a man of such great achievements should not own up to them. Only another role, another function would be strong enough to prevent himself and the world from identifying him with his deeds in Arabia, from replacing his old self with a new personality. He did not want to become “Lawrence of Arabia,” since, fundamentally, he did not want to regain a new self after having lost the old. His greatness was that he was passionate enough to refuse cheap compromises and easy roads into reality and respectability, that he never lost his awareness that he had been only a function and had played a role and therefore “must not benefit in any way from what he had done in Arabia. The honors which he had won were refused. The jobs offered on account of his reputation had to be declined nor would he allow himself to exploit his success by profiting from writing a single paid piece of journalism under the name of Lawrence.”

The story of T.E. Lawrence in all its moving bitterness and greatness was not simply the story of a paid official or a hired spy, but precisely the story of a real agent or functionary, of somebody who actually believed he had entered – or been driven into – the stream of historical necessity and become a functionary or agent of the secret forces which rule the world. “I had pushed my go-cart into the eternal stream, and so it went faster than the ones that are pushed cross-stream or up-stream. I did not believe initially in the Arab movement: but thought it necessary in its time and place.” Just as Cromer had ruled Egypt for the sake of India, or Rhodes South Africa for the sake of further expansion, Lawrence had acted for some ulterior unpredictable purpose. The only satisfaction he could get out of this, lacking the calm good conscience of some limited achievement, came from the sense of functioning itself, from being embraced and driven by some big movement. Back in London and in despair, he would try and find some substitute for this kind of “self-satisfaction” and would “only get it out of hot speed on a motor-bike.” Although Lawrence had not yet been seized by the fanaticism of an ideology of movement, probably because he was too well educated for the superstitions of his time, he had already experienced that fascination, based on despair of all possible human responsibility, which the eternal stream and its eternal movement exert. He drowned himself in it and nothing was left of him but some inexplicable decency and a pride in having “pushed the right way.” “I am still puzzled as to how far the individual counts: a lot, I fancy, if he pushes the right way.” This, then, is the end of the real pride of Western man who no longer counts as an end in himself, no longer does “a thing of himself nor a thing so clean as to be his own” by giving laws to the world, but has a chance only “if he pushes the right way,” in alliance with the secret forces and necessity – of which he is but a function.


.
edited by Anne Auclair on 7/21/2017

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http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Anne%20Auclair
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Vexpont
Vexpont
Posts: 137

7/23/2017
Teaspoon wrote:
I think that the Surface nation motive can be explained perfectly adequately by "they have ACTUAL IMMORTALITY" down there.

Why the Masters wanna let this get around, I am curious.

The Masters steal whole cities by Faustian con-artistry, at intervals infrequent enough to hopefully persuade humans that previous reports of city-snatching were folktales. They don't advertise the salubrious benefits of the Neath, then set up a permanent turnstile near Lake Avernus.

It must be common knowledge by now (even if Londoners don't care to talk about it, with tourists or each other) that dawdling in the Neath doesn’t make you impervious to death, and that immortality - if it truly exists - is for the super-rich. Avoiding death down here is more like being a tax-dodger, and once you’re exposed to sunlight, your debts are called in. Disease still kills people in the Neath – even pneumonia, let alone exotic maladies like Animescence. People still either die of old age, or become Tomb-Colonists, and you need a real lust for life to exist for very long as a Colonist. If you anticipate getting instantly murdered, moving to Fallen London will extend your probable lifespan (unless your assassin decides to use a rare, expensive weapon like Cantigaster venom. Or...fiendishly...a blunderbuss.)

slickriptide wrote:
What do the Surface nations hope to control by infiltrating and fighting over London?

I suspect they want to harness Neath magitech to defend themselves (this is not my answer to 'What is the Great Game played for?' in Mysteries, which must have a more specific answer, just what I personally find plausible in-game). Earlier Surface civilisations may not have been able to make head or tail of the Sufficiently Advanced Magic used by the Bazaar, and the Masters could have appeared to be mages or demigods to them. But since the programme of stealing cities has encountered some unexpected hitches, human technology has advanced, and the same bluff is unlikely to work on the people of the late C19.

On hearing about the Correspondence, the Discordance, the Red Science and whatnot, the first question of some folk on the Surface will be ‘How horrifying. And can any of this be weaponised to attack a Surface city from below?’. And it seems that effectively, it can. This can't be good news.

--
Dangerous to my enemies; loyal to my friends. Not too handy at telling the difference.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Vexpont
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Lady Sapho Byron
Lady Sapho Byron
Posts: 809

7/24/2017
Teaspoon wrote:
There's another reason that the Bazaar and the Masters might not have wanted anyone to know what they were doing down there. What if it makes contract negotiations for a Sixth City harder? Or indeed impossible?

I don't think there's a backup plan for not being able to buy *any* city...


It could happen!

Or the Masters might have to settle for, say, Fallen Buford.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PhinDeli_Town_Buford,_Wyoming
edited by Lady Sapho Byron on 7/24/2017

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http://fallenlondon.com/Profile/Lady%20Sapho%20L%20Byron
Fighting the Menace of Corsetry Since 1892.
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Optimatum
Optimatum
Posts: 3768

7/24/2017
Amélie Vaincœur wrote:
Vexpont wrote:
Avoiding death down here is more like being a tax-dodger, and once you’re exposed to sunlight, your debts are called in.
Now that's a great metaphor! Love it, especially as it paints the Judgements as a sort of merciless revenue agency wink

The one certainty: death and taxes.

--
Optimatum, a ruthless and merciful gentleman. No plant battles, Affluent Photographer requests, or healing offers; all other social actions welcome.

Want a sip of Cider? Just say hi!

PM me for information enigmatic or Fated. Though the forum please, not FL itself.
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Vexpont
Vexpont
Posts: 137

7/23/2017
Despite the later setting - and minus the immortality and eldritch sigils - Somerset Maugham’s WWI-era ‘Ashenden’ tales are quite close in atmosphere to FL’s Great Game. Ashenden himself can fairly claim to be the first fictional spy who engages in somewhat-realistic espionage, and the book also features ‘R’, AFAIK the earliest fictional spymaster who uses a one-letter codename (inspired by a real person), and who gives our protagonist the handler’s classic warning: “If you do well you'll get no thanks and if you get into trouble you'll get no help”.

Ashenden sometimes frankly doubts his own side is any better than his opponents’, and although not a violent man, there's at least one story in which he does something cold enough to effectively make him the villain of the piece. His knowledge of what’s going on is patchy – “a tiny rivet in a vast and complicated machine, he never had the advantage of seeing a completed action” – and the stories whiplash between ridiculous predicaments, bureaucratic tedium, and harrowing realisations.

It’s online here:

https://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/maughamws-ashenden/maughamws-ashenden-00-h.html

‘The Hairless Mexican’ is an anthologised classic, with cracking dialogue, and a ludicrous situation which is nonetheless being played for keeps. But basically, it’s all good.

--
Dangerous to my enemies; loyal to my friends. Not too handy at telling the difference.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Vexpont
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Teaspoon
Teaspoon
Posts: 866

7/23/2017
I think that the Surface nation motive can be explained perfectly adequately by "they have ACTUAL IMMORTALITY" down there.

Why the Masters wanna let this get around, I am curious.

--
Truth lies at the bottom of a well.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Alt%20Ern
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The Soft-Hearted Revolutionary
The Soft-Hearted Revolutionary
Posts: 26

7/23/2017
The Great Game can serve as a backdrop to romance, so it's no wonder the Masters would want it centered in the Neath
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The Soft-Hearted Revolutionary
The Soft-Hearted Revolutionary
Posts: 26

7/23/2017
Actually,in The Surface, or at least in Naples, people don't believe a word of what a zee captain says about what happens down in the Neath, so it's likely that people don't even know immortality is purchasable in the Neath, much less belive it
edited by The Soft-Hearted Revolutionary on 7/23/2017
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Estelle Knoht
Estelle Knoht
Posts: 1751

7/24/2017
Lady Sapho Byron wrote:
Teaspoon wrote:
There's another reason that the Bazaar and the Masters might not have wanted anyone to know what they were doing down there. What if it makes contract negotiations for a Sixth City harder? Or indeed impossible?

I don't think there's a backup plan for not being able to buy *any* city...


It could happen!

Or the Masters might have to settle for, say, Fallen Buford.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PhinDeli_Town_Buford,_Wyoming


I'd rather have Fallen Monowi, who has a mayor that grants herself a liquor license and pay herself taxes. Feducci's a joke compared to her!

--
Estelle Knoht, a juvenile, unreliable and respectable lady.
I currently do not accept any catbox, cider, suppers, calling cards or proteges.
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gronostaj
gronostaj
Posts: 403

7/24/2017
Fallen Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch when?

--
Gronostaj (pl. Ermine), a decadent duellist of mysterious and indistinct gender. Seeker. Willing to die- but not of boredom. Open to all social actions, including the harmful ones.
Soft-Spoken Surgeon, a doctor who owes an onerous debt. Professor of medicine at the University by day, at criminal employ by night. Open to all non-harmful social actions.
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Amsfield
Amsfield
Posts: 176

7/23/2017
I would think the tendency of those who return to spontaneously combust would make a lot of people skeptical of Neathy immortality. Between Zee monsters, Jacks, certain things in cellars and The Vake I'm sure as many people consider travel to London a death sentence as hope for immortality. And if someone were to think before setting off, even the half-immortality that may be available could seem a double edged sword; being a drownie or eternity or spending centuries as a decaying mummy are not what people think of when they seek out immortality. If your religious, you're also gambling a sort of immortality by hanging out with literal devils.
Still, despite this I'm sure London does see its fair share of naive newcomers hoping to get their hands on a cup of cidre.

--
Amsfield: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Amsfield
A devotee of pleasures intellectual and fleshy. Always fabulously masked.
Honoria Kastern: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Honoria%20Kastern
A hunter, a shooter and a fisher. Also a patriotic busy body. Mildly corrupted.
Maiser: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Maiser
A young firebrand of obviously criminal intent.
Venshik: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Venshik
Not a nice person.
Asmeria: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Asmeria
Quiet, thoughtful and possibly mad. Excellent listener though. Favours grey.
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Frederick Metzengerstein
Frederick Metzengerstein
Posts: 69

7/22/2017
A great excerpt.

It reminds me of one of the more memorable little insights into the character of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, an intriguingly well-written spy (at least in the first couple of books):


Ian Fleming, Dr No wrote:
‘Your gun got stuck, if I recall. This Baretta of yours with the silencer. Something wrong there, 007. Can’t afford that sort of mistake if you’re to carry an 00 number. Would you prefer to drop it and go back to normal duties?’Bond stiffened. His eyes looked resentfully into M.’s. The licence to kill for the Secret Service, the double-o prefix, was a great honour. It had been earned hardly. It brought Bond the only assignments he enjoyed, the dangerous ones.


Now Bond, I submit, is far from a patriot. Occasionally, he makes a loyal comment about the superiority of Britain, but his heart is never really in it. He lacks the common British virtues. He baffles true Brits, as when the grilled Dover sole and ripe Stilton luncheoning M. raises an eyebrow at Bond’s habit of taking vodka with a pinch of pepper.

Bond’s not really motivated by love for King and Country. He’s motivated by peril, by deadliness. He is alive only when every decision is life or death. He is an ascetic who has death for breakfast. The Game is all that matters to him.
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Teaspoon
Teaspoon
Posts: 866

7/24/2017
There's another reason that the Bazaar and the Masters might not have wanted anyone to know what they were doing down there. What if it makes contract negotiations for a Sixth City harder? Or indeed impossible?

I don't think there's a backup plan for not being able to buy *any* city...

--
Truth lies at the bottom of a well.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Alt%20Ern
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Amsfield
Amsfield
Posts: 176

7/24/2017
PSGarak wrote:
With the presence of Irrigo and the loss of self, history, etc., that a crafty handler can give a new identity and a new allegiance to anyone who finds themselves without one.



I love the idea of an agent setting off an elaborate scheme, confessing and forgetting, then uncovering and attempting to dismantle said scheme. It is entirly possible for a London spy to be their own bitter rival and never find out.

Unrelated but Anne Auclair wrote:


“When everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before.” When one is dead, life is finished, not before, not when one happens to achieve whatever he may have wanted. That the game has no ultimate purpose makes it so dangerously similar to life itself.



Equality in Death?

--
Amsfield: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Amsfield
A devotee of pleasures intellectual and fleshy. Always fabulously masked.
Honoria Kastern: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Honoria%20Kastern
A hunter, a shooter and a fisher. Also a patriotic busy body. Mildly corrupted.
Maiser: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Maiser
A young firebrand of obviously criminal intent.
Venshik: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Venshik
Not a nice person.
Asmeria: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Asmeria
Quiet, thoughtful and possibly mad. Excellent listener though. Favours grey.
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slickriptide
slickriptide
Posts: 97

7/24/2017
Vexpont wrote:
I have problems with the given explanation for spy tattoos. Why would you do something that not only marks you as a spy, but makes it potentially worthwhile for someone to collect your hide? Would the relentless Special Constables really balk at making you strip? And the tattoos are not generally messages. They're symbols and implied to be intricate, skilled work.



Like all things in the Neath, it may not be that simple. Serendipitously, I've been running through some of the Clathermont content today and there's this passage in one of the storylets, where one of Clathermont's "daughters" is talking to another:


"The Singer is the hardest one I know. The hatching has to be perfect or it won't work. And it has to be done by someone with blue eyes. Your eyes were always brown."


A tattoo that requires the artist to have a particular eye color, let alone an artist whose eyes might *change* colors, isn't the sort of illustration that we commonly associate with the word "tattoo". There's also the peculiar word "hatching" which one might assume to refer to cross-hatching but which might potentially refer to something else entirely unrelated to the simple act of injecting ink into someone's epidermis.

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Yeah
Yeah
Posts: 67

7/29/2017
Teaspoon wrote:
There's another reason that the Bazaar and the Masters might not have wanted anyone to know what they were doing down there. What if it makes contract negotiations for a Sixth City harder? Or indeed impossible?

I don't think there's a backup plan for not being able to buy *any* city...


While this likely played into their choice to keep the Neath hidden for so long, it seems the revealing it has had the side-effect of other cities wishing to take London's spot. Off the top of my head, The Empress' Shadow wishes to sell Berlin, to spite her mother. Also Paris wishes to be sold, is something I've heard a lot.

--
Yeah Man - A Bleeding-heart hoarder of curiosities.
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Amélie Vaincœur
Amélie Vaincœur
Posts: 93

7/23/2017
Vexpont wrote:
Avoiding death down here is more like being a tax-dodger, and once you’re exposed to sunlight, your debts are called in.
Now that's a great metaphor! Love it, especially as it paints the Judgements as a sort of merciless revenue agency wink
edited by Amélie Vaincœur on 7/23/2017

--
Enchantée.
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slickriptide
slickriptide
Posts: 97

7/24/2017
One thing about a deep cover assignment in London - The Neath changes a person, and past a certain, not precisely knowable time, that cover becomes a lifetime commitment.

Long term agents in London would be among the most committed in the world.

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Anne Auclair
Anne Auclair
Posts: 2221

7/24/2017
slickriptide wrote:
This is all great atmosphere for the playing of the Game.

Thanks ^_^

And thank you Vexpont and Metzengerstein!

slickriptide wrote:
What I'm most interested in, though, is the goals of the game in the Neath.

What do the Surface nations hope to control by infiltrating and fighting over London?

I think these are two very different questions.

Concerning the ultimate goals of the Game, I'm pretty sure Cthonius has it completely right - the Great Game of the Surface Powers is a mirroring of the Great Game of the Judgments. Before the Fall this mirroring was unconscious, but post-Fall it has definitely become a lot more self-aware and deliberate. For instance, Kaiser Wilhelm II is obsessed with astronomy rather than battleships. And just as the Judgments are very interested in what is going on in London, so are the Surface Powers. As the Great Game is an emanation of the Judgments, they have naturally taken to using its various human players as their tools in order to gather intelligence on that dark place beneath the Earth which is hidden from them. The Old Man in Vienna, for instance, is a servant of both the Hapsburg Emperor and "the Great Powers" in the heavens. So, to the degree the Great Game in the Neath has an overall purpose, it's to keep an eye on things.

Concerning the more immediate hopes of the Surface Powers, they no doubt desire to gain whatever tangible advantages they can from their Neathy operations. For example, one unnamed Surface Nation has made a deal with Hell in preparation for the coming wars and is importing quite a bit of Neverold Brass to use in its currency. This might dramatically change the balance of power! Or it might result in pocket change being pleasingly warm during the winter months. But whatever the end result, their agents beat their rivals to the deal.

slickriptide wrote:
Why did the Masters facilitate communication and travel between the Surface and the Fifth City? One might conclude that the Masters and the Bazaar WANT the Great Game to be centered in the Neath.

That is the question, isn't it? The Fifth City was a major break from how the Masters did things. When the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Cities were each taken into the Neath, Surface contact was cut off completely and the cities essentially vanished from human knowledge and history. And this isn’t all that surprising; given the very illegal nature of the Masters’ project, the less attention from the Powers on high, the better. Also, it’s probably for the best that the ultimate fate of each stolen city remains a mystery on the Surface, as the truth getting out would make acquiring future cities all the more difficult. So why did the Masters suddenly open up the Neath to the Surface?

I’m inclined to think that the Empress and her court insisted on continued and regular contact with the Surface when they negotiated the Fifth City’s contract of sale. The Masters did not want to do this, but they had no choice as they were really desperate to move things along. The Empress had family scattered across Europe and her court was very internationally minded, they no doubt would have hated the idea of being shut up in a cave with no connection to or influence on the larger world.

Personally, I'd date the coming of the Great Game to London with the building of the Spiral and the Cumaean Canal, the Canal in particular being a major joint venture of the various Surface Powers and the Masters:

Travel to the Surface wrote:
The engineers of the Canal took advantage of existing caves and passages where they could. In ancient times this was a passage to the Underworld, they say. But still, the labour must have been staggering. The story goes that the Masters of the Bazaar lent their arts and allies to the task, but the Surface nations play down the fact. Certainly, some of the tunnels look blasted or tunneled, others look... dissolved? "Stone pigs," a stoker whispers. "Stone pigs."

Since the Fall the Masters have of course adopted the Great Game to their own purposes, but I don’t think it was their original intention to do so. I think it was rather something they had to roll with when they bought London.

slickriptide wrote:
Are the Masters in league with the Liberation of Night and facilitating the disruption of the Surface governments for their own agenda?

The events of Lost in Reflections suggests that the Masters and the Liberation are fundamentally opposed when it comes to the acquisition of future cities.

Teaspoon wrote:
I, for one, enjoyed that.

Hannah Arendt is a fantastic writer ^_^

Anchovies wrote:
Ooh, that's some good stuff. To play the Game for its own sake, then, is to eschew personal gain or glory and seek to play a role in history without particular regard for what that role exactly is. To climb a mountain not to see what is at the summit, but simply because it is there.

That's the reason the Great Game is also an explicit mystery religion, with its own priesthood, relics and rituals. It's not the destination that really matters, it's the journey.

.
edited by Anne Auclair on 7/24/2017

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Vexpont
Vexpont
Posts: 137

7/24/2017
gronostaj wrote:
Fallen Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch when?


The answer to this is Fallen Swindon.

Teaspoon wrote:
There's another reason that the Bazaar and the Masters might not have wanted anyone to know what they were doing down there. What if it makes contract negotiations for a Sixth City harder? Or indeed impossible?

I don't think there's a backup plan for not being able to buy *any* city...


The simplest backup - which has been mentioned in-game - would be a serious illness that providentially strikes someone a city-owner loves (were there any negotiations before the Fall of London? It seems unlikely, especially as Victoria is styled 'the Traitor Empress'). But there certainly are wheels turning on the Surface now, which is suggestive. Some nations seem understandably keen that the answer to ‘whose Capital is next for this honour?’ is ‘not ours’. Others might even get desperate and ruthless enough to offer up their own cities for access to the treasure-house of knowledge that’s in the Neath...or attempt a bait-and-switch. I really doubt it’s possible to fool the Masters twice, though. Or wise to try.

Here's what I don't get about the Great Game: what's the real reason why Neath spies are tattooed?

All exaggerated Victorian prudery admitted – and we’re not here for the historical realism – I have problems with the given explanation for spy tattoos. Why would you do something that not only marks you as a spy, but makes it potentially worthwhile for someone to collect your hide? Would the relentless Special Constables really balk at making you strip? And the tattoos are not generally messages. They're symbols and implied to be intricate, skilled work.

But Neath espionage does have two unique problems: Snuffers, who are natural spies, and face-tailoring, which must be every agent’s nightmare. Faced (or not) with this, you might resort to uniquely marking your body so that you at least could prove who you were and where your allegiances lay, and expect the same of your contacts. At least, that's the best I can come up with.

All the same, whenever I try to imagine how any of this works in practice, the results degenerate into that scene in The Man With the Golden Gun where Bond is earnestly pretending to be a three-nippled assassin, and Roger Moore can barely keep his act together.

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Dangerous to my enemies; loyal to my friends. Not too handy at telling the difference.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Vexpont
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Curious Foreigner
Curious Foreigner
Posts: 210

7/23/2017
I have no doubt that there are scores of people coming down the Cumaean Canal every day hoping to postpone the inevitable. Just because they aren't mentioned much doesn't mean they don't exist.

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Cochimetl went North, and beyond. No poems, only candlelight now. (Well, maybe one poem.)
The Gun-Toting Gallivanter, after an extended absence, is back in London again.
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Cthonius
Cthonius
Posts: 362

7/23/2017
For the question of immigration we must consider: who knows about the Neath? Yes London above is gone, but who actually knows the details, that it is underground? Certainly the players in the Game, certainly relevant nobility and world leaders, but that's to be expected. Is the Neath a sort of legend, Shangri-La under the earth? A city goes missing and rumors flood of it's mythical new home.
Of course, there is enough evidence that the Neath is, at least nowadays, known about. The Inconvenient Aunt storyline and the old ways of inviting other players to sign up for the game, as well as a few Ambition backstories, but even they don't fully assume the Neath is well known on the surface. Perhaps those involved in the Game above keep it that way.

As for the goals of the Game, I will still insist that it's not immortality, but the mere playing of the game itself. In fact, being that it mirrors the Game of the Judgements, I am more certain it has no further true motive (after all, the Judgements are eternal, they are law. When you have eternity, you need something to divert your attention, something to do, hence their own Great Game).
The Masters? Their motives are rarely as secret as they seem. They keep communications open and 'accessible' for potentially two reasons: 1. So they can scout new cities when needed. 2. To further introduce anything to potentially create more love stories. They'll go to great lengths, often horrific or nonsensical ones (or both) to do this, such as with the Jack storyline or Light Fingers, so it's no stretch to assume that's the case here as well.

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Cthonius, gone North. Gone.

Oneiropompus, a Scarlet Saint, eager to help make your dreams realities. Accepting all social requests for now.
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slickriptide
slickriptide
Posts: 97

7/23/2017
This is all great atmosphere for the playing of the Game.

What I'm most interested in, though, is the goals of the game in the Neath.

What do the Surface nations hope to control by infiltrating and fighting over London? Why did the Masters facilitate communication and travel between the Surface and the Fifth City? One might conclude that the Masters and the Bazaar WANT the Great Game to be centered in the Neath.

Are the Masters in league with the Liberation of Night and facilitating the disruption of the Surface governments for their own agenda?
edited by slickriptide on 7/23/2017

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Teaspoon
Teaspoon
Posts: 866

7/21/2017
I, for one, enjoyed that.

--
Truth lies at the bottom of a well.

https://www.fallenlondon.com/profile/Alt%20Ern
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Anchovies
Anchovies
Posts: 421

7/21/2017
Ooh, that's some good stuff. To play the Game for its own sake, then, is to eschew personal gain or glory and seek to play a role in history without particular regard for what that role exactly is. To climb a mountain not to see what is at the summit, but simply because it is there.

--
Perhaps our role on this planet is not to worship God — but to create Him.
—Sir Arthur C Clarke

Lionel Anchovies. Character on indefinite hiatus.
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