The Collectors of the Long Vaults

Categories: Items of Mutual Interest

In the year 5000 AD, a terrible empire known as Tsan-Chan will rule over much of what is now Asia, and possibly beyond. This will be a time when the awkward and energy-intensive practice of mechanical science has been abandoned in lieu of a rediscovery of sorcery and magic (not to mention human labor). Tsan-Chan is ruled by a caste of immortal Kuen-yuin high priests, some of whom are old enough to remember the strange old days of the 21st century when gods slumbered and billions of humans crawled like ants across the face of the planet. Though humanity has survived in a sense and retained its sanity, there are portions of the world where humanity has been driven back by older Earth inhabitants. The empire of Tsan-Chan has enemies in its time, both human and otherwise. Much of what was North America has been subsumed by a new rising of the ancient underground empire of K’n-yan. K’n-yan has an advantage over the Tsan-Chan in terms of its genetic heritage, which allows them access to a range of psychic powers that far outweigh those of Tsan-Chan (where the majority of the serfs are powerless, docile and live lives that are best characterized as violent, brutal and short). The Deathless rulers fear the expansion of the K’n-yani and their designs on the outer territories of Tsan Chan, as well as the  fact that the underground territories of K’n-yan may extend under the Pacific Ocean to mainland Asia itself.

Luckily, thanks to temporal causality they had a plan. Contact was achieved by a high official of Tsan-Chan and his younger self living in 21st century China via means of the Glass of Leng. The two versions of the Deathless Kuen-yuin were able to communicate across the void of time. What Tsan-Chan needed was humans of psychic talent. The human population of the 21st century being that much higher, there was much greater chance of finding such people in numbers. The younger Deathless was instructed to find such Talented individuals and secure them for Tsan-Chan use. The only issue was transport across time. Due to temporal dangers such as the Hounds of Tindalos and meddling Yithians, neither Deathless was particularly keen to attract undue attention to themselves or their time periods. A solution presented itself. Kidnapped psychics could simply be killed (in a non-disfiguring manner, preferably), and reduced to their essential salts. These salts could then be suitably stored in deep chambers in distant locations for later recovery and resurrection by the Tsan-Chan.

The Collectors of the Long Vaults are an offshoot of the cults in China and elsewhere that ultimately answer to the Deathless Kuen-yuin. Their sole objective is to locate and kidnap individuals who possess psychic talents or abilities, while maintaining the secrecy of the locations of the long vaults. These vaults are mostly located in continental Asia, areas deep within the future territory of the Empire of Tsan-Chan. Most of these vaults are in isolated or secure locations far from present or potential future human habitation, and have largely been dug via magical means. They are tight drops into the earth leading to caverns, and access to these caverns is typically done with conventional mechanical pulley and elevator systems. Within the caverns are recesses in which titanium cases containing the essential salts of Long Vault victims are stored. When a cavern reaches capacity, it is filled with concrete and the entrance drop is filled in with earth so as to appear untouched. The geographical location is then transmitted to the Tsan-Chan Deathless through the Leng Glass, who then locate the vault and excavate it using slave labor.

Collection is largely done via crude and brutal means, with a black bag thrown over the head in a dark street or a simple home invasion. There have been attempts to develop greater sophistication, running seminars for psychics and leaving ads on the internet or newspapers, but these have so far been judged too risky for wider deployment. Detection is more difficult, and the Collectors are forced to keep their eyes and ears open for reports of psychic powers. They operate worldwide, and keep a particularly interest in organizations that have a public interest in psychic phenomena, such as the recruiting fronts for PISCES: the Psychic Research Association in London, Paragon Foundation in Toronto and ESPer Tech Corporation in Sydney. They use cult-infiltrated Chinese underworld networks to smuggle captured psychics against their will to grim docklands on the southern Chinese coast for processing and storage in the long vaults. They own a number of cargo vessels registered in either Macau or flying flags of convenience from countries that ask few questions, such as North Korea, Cambodia, Liberia or Tonga, on which kidnapped Talents are kept in cells below decks. Most of the crew are either affiliated with underground cults or trusted enough to keep their mouths shut and ignore any strange sounds echoing from the hold.

The Collectors pose a threat to any individual who possesses psychic powers and seems vulnerable to sudden disappearance. Collection involves a long journey trapped in the hold of a cargo vessel for several weeks before transport via truck to the Kuen-yuin strongholds in the interior where they are killed and reduced. Upon awakening in the 51st century, the Talents are harshly tested for their abilities. Those with appreciable talents are used, both as psychic slave warriors in the cold war with K’n-yan and as breeding fodder for new generations of talents trained from birth by the Deathless themselves. Those whose talents prove unworthy are enslaved as common or extraordinary labor depending on their talents, or alternatively simply sacrificed. A number of psychic charlatans such as mind readers and fortune tellers have met this fate after being falsely identified by the Collectors. But it is not just psychics that find themselves in the Long Vaults. Investigators who stray too close to the Collectors operations may be taken themselves, and may wake up under the harsh 6th millennium sun as a sacrificial victim of the cruel empire of Tsan-Chan.

The Empire of Tsan-Chan

While there have been attempts to develop Tsan-Chan, for the most part the Lovecraftian canon is vague and specific: in 3000 years there will be a Tsan-Chan empire, it will be human, it will be cruel. Most details are best left alluded to or deliberately vague, and mostly left up to the Keeper. The material standard of living for much of the population has regressed to ancient levels, and technology has mostly been reduced to scrap metal or sedimentary levels of polymer, however there is scope for amazing and horrifying magical devices in the hands of the ruling class. Ideas can be mined from the histories of Hyperborea and Mu in Earth’s past (what goes around comes around), or perhaps from other games such as Tekumel. While Tsan-Chan presumably will derive itself from Chinese culture, do not let this limit your imagination as a lot can change in three millennia and the Tsan-Chan may have as much similarity with the ancient Chinese as modern Europeans have with the pre-Roman Celtic tribes. There should be little trace of the modern day world left (see “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman for information on how quickly our technological civilization would decay). Regardless, for most DG characters there would be only indirect contact with Tsan-Chan, unless they possessed some means of time travel (dangerous in itself). The majority of those unlucky enough to find themselves in Tsan-Chan will identify it with hard labor under the lash of spider-silk whips, with harems for hideous immortal sorcerers, and with sacrifices performed atop pagoda-cum-ziggurats before a baying crowd, with the stench of burning meat and incense in the air.

Scenario Seed

A person of interest to the players (perhaps a Talented DG Friendly, or Talent associated with one of PISCES research facilities) runs afoul of the Collectors, and the Investigators are called in to investigate. They soon discover a number of other mysterious disappearances in the area, some of phone psychics and the like, and others of seemingly ordinary if somewhat unusually successful individuals. Some CCTV evidence shows victims kidnapped by men in ski masks, but the leads dry up. While surveillance of potential future targets is possible, perhaps the best way to get the Collectors out in the open would be leaving bait equipped with a tracking device. This would allow the investigators to find the dock warehouse that the Collectors are running operations from. The Collectors do have some unconventional tactics under their sleeve, though, including heavy weapons and magic. If they manage to escape by sea, the investigators will need to find some way of stopping the vessel before it escapes or transfers its human cargo to another ship. Otherwise, the luckless Talent or fake Talent used as bait will find themselves shanghaied to the far future.

Breaking this group on its home turf would be difficult indeed, being largely located in mainland China. Operations there by DG would be dangerous, difficult and completely off the official record in order to avoid an international incident. It would be easier to disrupt its networks in North America to prevent them being used as a hunting ground, and potentially relaying information on the group to Chinese law enforcement or friendly elements within the Chinese government itself.

David Tormsen is an Australian living in South Korea. He has many half-planned campaigns and half-baked ideas.