Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Raiders Preview: Fringe Groups and Pseudo-Archeology!

How can a campaign be great without great adversaries to contend against? We didn't have to go far to find real historical factions, fanatics, sinister forces, deluded fringe groups, and pseudo-archeologists to fit the bill! The early 20th century was filled with all kinds of shady characters and shadowy coteries and cabals to contend against and thwart the player's characters at every opportunity.

This section of the game provides the game master with a wide variety of intensely dedicated and fanatic organizations that are determined to acquire The Mesopotamian Tablets of Destiny before you do! Except they want to use its extraordinary power to further their own ends or even take over the world, and you want to put it in a museum where serious scholars and people can study it to increase their understanding of history.

I've already covered Nazi Archeology in a previous post, but these are some other, but no less adverse, groups to contend against:

Schools of Pseudo-Archeology
Not all relic hunters are mere tomb raiders; many are scientists who have particular theories - albeit non-mainstream theories - as to the true nature of the ancient past and how the existence of super-powered artifacts may fit into the scope of history. Attempts to prove the existence of these theories can drive archeological investigations! (Referees may also think of this as a sort of alignment system for archeologists...) Here are some examples of such schools of thought:

Ancient Astronauts School
This school would not gain widespread attention until the 1960s works of Swiss author Erich von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods, et al) but there may be proponents of it in the 1930s. The idea is that legends of ancient gods and their powerful artifacts are not magical or divine, but rather represent the super-technological relics left behind by nonhuman extraterrestrials who visited Earth and were mistakenly worshipped as deities by early civilizations. Thus, artifacts with “magical” powers are actually technologies so advanced that are indistinguishable from magic (e.g., psionic focusing machines), while monsters, immortal humans, demi-gods, and hybrid creatures are the result of biological experiments or interbreeding between humans and these alien beings.

Lost Super Civilization School
These artifact raiders also explain away ancient objects of power as not magic but technology, but do not subscribe to the idea of ancient astronauts. Instead they believe that a past technological civilization existed, perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 years ago. They may call it Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, or Thule; regardless, it was a great civilization of men, perhaps a human master race with more-than-human mental abilities; however, they feel there is no need to invoke gods, angels, and the supernatural. Even when confronted with divine power, they explain it with scientific terminology: it’s a radio for talking to god!” This theory is obviously most palatable to gadgeteer characters (and mad scientists).

Comparative Mythologists
These archeologists believe that a core of truth exists behind ancient myths but like to attempt to explain them as fairly historical events. The more mundane amongst them conflate multiple myths together, e.g., suggesting that the figures in the various “Ark” stories (Noah, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, etc.) were all versions of the same original, tale. Their basic theory is that tales of miracles or ancient gods are explainable as exaggerated stories of real events. The Flood was a period of really bad weather. The Trojan War was just a political-economic struggle between Mycenae and Asia Minor; gods like Odin or Horus or Apollo or Isis were dim folk-memories of powerful ancient chieftains and priestesses at the dawn of history fictionalized by their descendents into divine myths. Where they differ from mainstream archeology is that they think it is quite possible a diligent archeologist really will stumble upon the “Tomb of Zeus” or discover astronomical records that prove the Star of Bethlehem was a super nova or some such. But they will usually be shocked if confronted with “real” supernatural powers!

Other Nationalist Archeologists
Archeologists working for the  intensely-nationalistic fascist Italy and Empire of Japan will, like Nazi Germany, be interested in anything that promotes their leader’s power. Italian archeologists seek to dig up Roman relics. Japanese archeologists are often interested in ancient Shinto relics in Japan, and in Buddhist relics (found anywhere across Asia and India). In the USSR archeologists working for state-controlled agencies such as Moscow University are interested in early Slavic civilizations, or simply in finding anything valuable that will increase Soviet power. (However, Russians who promote the wrong theories risk being purged by Stalin and so must carefully interpret artifacts in light of atheist communist theory which denies the existence of gods, believes that history progresses forward, and is skeptical of magic but not necessarily psychic powers. There are likely secret NKVD spies hidden amongst any group of Soviet archeologists who will not hesitate to denounce anyone who deviates from the present party line. Of course, anything with military significance will be valued regardless of its explanation.

Religious-Inspired Archeologists
The best-funded of these are Christian archeologists who are interested in proving the historical truth of the Bible’s miracles by recovering Biblical artifacts of power like the Sword of King David or the Rod of Moses, or of finding physical evidence of events or places from the Bible like the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Garden of Eden, or the Parting of the Red Sea. They often receive their funding from the Vatican (see the description of the Pontifical Commission on Sacred Archeology) or from American protestant churches. Some of the latter are interested in theories that prove the infallibility of the Bible over mainstream science, e.g., “young earth creationism” (that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old). There are other groups such as Mormon archeologists who attempt to find evidence supporting the Book of Mormon such as the idea that Israelites traveled to America.

One-Issue Fringe-Theorists
These are usually trying to use archeology to prove one particular fringe theory  such as the reality of a Tibetan Super-Civilization, the existence of Atlantis or Lemuria, or Vikings in the New World, or proof of a great witch-cult that stretched across Europe, or that monsters such as the Minotaur are real. One popular example is the Lovecraftian School, a hybrid of religious-inspired and ancient astronauts, these believe in the existence of elder non-human gods who ruled earth before man (and may still sleep in obscure places). They seek out ruins whose strange geometries and bizarre structures are suggestive of non-human construction, and often fund expeditions to locations where no cities are supposed to exist, such as lost plateaus of Antarctica. Occasionally they are backed by obscure cults that secretly worship the beings they are studying, and hope to recover relics that could summon or awaken them. They have a high mortality rate.


  1. this is really good

    i frequently find lots of these beliefs online and even many so called archaeology mags and sites support some of these

    i might mention druidism/celtism which i studied has hundreds of years of bad science. Everything we know about druids comes from a few pages in tacitus yet whole books and a freemason like cult and new agers will tell you otherwise. Even the idea of celt and how to pronounce it are commonly false. I guess this fits into nationalist trend with germanic or slavic history. Interestingly some governments today deny celts existed and seize artifacts discovered - they fear will be used asa pretext for invasion or territorial claims. Israel has issues with ppl on palestinian and Jewish side claiming each other tampered and planted evidence for nationalism.

    There is a crackpot in Balkans claiming to have found worlds biggest pyramid that accumulates cosmic energy and has friends in government but no formal training.

    Sitchin is pretty horrible for the legacy of his crackpot fans who dont even realize he is the sun source of their ideas

    well done

  2. also i had argument with guy about alien mummies in museum in latin america. I managed to demonstrate all theories came from single guy connected to tourism and museum so profit motive for bad archaeology is common too.

    Crypto zoology trying to prove we are bigfoot hybrids - the same nuts pushing this have helped other crackpots date and do bad dna studies. Even piltdown man type frauds worth a mention - in it for fame

  3. Unfortunately, nowadays technologies and internet give a lot of opportunities for Pseudo-Archeology. Almost everyone may write an article about "his discovering" and we will believe. So be careful. Please keep it good posting, especially when professionals at may check all your new posts and make them brilliant.

  4. Crackpot theories and pseudo-science are fun imaginative material for games and fiction. But are terrible in the ways they mislead people, usually for monetary gain. Then, every once a great while, some crazy thing turns out to be true. Like panda bears.