By Garrie Hall, © 1994
[This was the first Tale of Terror in the Oath written by anyone other than Steve Hatherley. Garrie Hall is one of Steve's cohorts, and the two have worked together on other projects for Pagan in the years since. —John Scott Tynes, 1994]
One day, each of the investigators gets a knock at the front door. Standing before them are two men, each dressed identically in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, and polished black shoes. The investigator doesn’t even have time to read the I.D. card that is pushed under his or her nose before the men barge in and ask the investigator to take a seat.
The men themselves appear strange to the investigator. They are constantly looking around as if expecting someone to be standing behind them, and they only appear to be able to walk in straight lines and turn in right angles. Normally this would seem to be ridiculous, but it only serves to add to the menace of these unwelcome visitors. As they speak, they pick up objects close at hand and study them in great detail, as though they had never seen an ashtray or a cigarette or whatever before. When they do speak the investigator, they never seem to be looking directly at them, more as if they are looking at some point beyond.
The conversation is definitely not two-way. The men in black simply do not listen to questions. At first, they talk about the investigator – their life, their background, their family and friends. They know everything from high school grades to the license plate of a relative’s car, and even some information that is so personal only one or two other people could know about it.
Then comes the punch line. The investigator must cease his or her efforts in stopping the forces of the occult, or the consequences for the investigator, their friends, and their family will be severe. The threat is not specific, nor does it imply violence, but the manner in which it is expressed is enough to cause great concern.
Should the investigator get violent at any point the men in black will simply leave, giving the threat as they do so. The men will get into a large black car and drive away. Any attempt to follow them will end in failure – often due to mundane events such as a car that won’t start, a traffic jam at just the wrong time, etc. In any event, the car driven by the men in black will soon disappear.
The amount of information available for investigators and the nature of its source will vary greatly depending on when the campaign is set. Men In Black are encountered throughout history, though their appearance varies depending on the location and time in which they show up. Their clothes and vehicles will be appropriate to the setting. There are of course some common factors: they always appear to someone who has witnessed a strange (perhaps Mythos) phenomenon, and then make veiled threats as to what would happen to the person if they told of the experience or looked into it. The dominant color of their attire will usually be black. Gaslight-era M.I.B.’s would likely be upper-class sorts who make veiled allusions towards membership in the Freemasons or the Rosicrucians.
In a setting prior to the 1950′s, finding accounts of visitations by these strange individuals will be very difficult, as reports of them were not widely circulated. The fifties, however, saw the U.F.O. boom and community paranoia reach new heights, sightings of strange objects and weird happenings skyrocketed, and the result was seemingly increased activity by the M.I.B.’s (as they came to be known). This increase did not go unnoticed, and soon reports of M.I.B. encounters were collected and published in the fringe media. The net result, however, is the same no matter what the setting – appearances by the Men In Black always raise more questions than answers.
The Men In Black are McCarthyite paranoia incarnate. Are they the enemy within? Or the threat from without? As such, they can be used to great effect in your campaign. You can turn your players into raving paranoids by introducing M.I.B.’s into the fringes of your campaign early on and introducing the above encounter at a much later stage. Don’t overuse them – in one scenario, a single M.I.B. could be standing on a street corner near an important site, or a carful of them could sit down the street from an investigator’s house. Witnesses who are reached by the M.I.B.’s may suddenly turn hostile and uncooperative to investigators.
The players should get the feeling that they are being watched, and that something sinister is happening that goes beyond their current investigations that could affect their lives somehow… they just don’t know how, when, and by whom.
1. The Men In Black are a secret government department and they know much about the Mythos. So why don’t they intervene? What are their objectives? In whose best interests are they acting? Whose side are they really on?
2. The Men In Black are an age old cult or group of anti-cultists. Their prime concern is keeping knowledge of the Mythos down to a minimum in order for their own activities to be hindered as little as possible. If you decide that the M.I.B.’s are anti-cultists, then it is unlikely that their threats will come to anything, and the investigators may even receive aid or information from them if the M.I.B.’s think that it is in their own interest to do so. Of course, the source of this aid may not be known. If the M.I.B.’s are cultists, then the investigators could find themselves in real trouble.
3. The Men In Black are a Lesser Servitor Race aligned to Nyarlathotep. Of all the Old Ones he has the most freedom of movement and is the only one who has commingled freely with mankind. The Men In Black are aliens with no real concept of humanity. They merely respond to the will of their master. Their appearance is consistent but unimportant – nothing more than misdirection. Once their mission is complete they teleport back to their master’s domain. The investigators may never be troubled again by them, or they may find a Hunting Horror waiting to greet them the next time they open the door. After all, who can fathom the workings of the mind of a Great Old One?