The God-Machine Chronicle introduced the concept of Infrastructure, which it was my pleasure to write the explanation for. One of the features of Infrastructure in the World of Darkness is that it should have some features or qualities that make it stand out to those who know what to look for. I described the concept in the books (GMC and Demon) but never gave it an actual name. However, one of the regulars on the Onyx Path forums recently dubbed it the Infrastructure’s “tell,” which I think is a fitting name for it. In short, the tell gives Infrastructure a flavor of the bizarre in-world so that the players’ characters can be creeped out enough to investigate further. Outside of the game fiction, the tell allows the Storyteller to, well, tell the players what their characters should investigate. If you have tells without Infrastructure, players are going to get frustrated when they check out the weird noises coming from the warehouse and find out that it’s just an air conditioner that’s at the end of its mechanical lifespan. If you have Infrastructure without tells, the players’ characters end up wandering around the setting with absolutely no way to find the plot. You see similar devices in horror movies all the time, where they serve to increase the audience’s dread of the bad things that must inevitably happen to characters in scary movies.
I have written hundreds of thousands of words for various World of Darkness games, so it isn’t so surprising that it has come to color my perception of the world around me in some way. It’s not that I believe any of it is real, but every aberration I see in my day-to-day life tends to inspire thoughts about what it would be if this were the World of Darkness. My work on Demon: The Descent has left a particularly strong impression on me, such that I can see potential Infrastructure of the God-Machine in just about anything that has a hint of the bizarre.
I’ve lived in Northeast Minneapolis for more than six years. Mine is a quirky neighborhood along the Mississippi River. Factories and warehouses rub shoulders enthusiastically with a wide variety of popular (and frequently strange) bars and restaurants. Local artists maintain studios next door to luxury apartment buildings. Some of the shops have been operating here for decades, while others just opened this year, but there’s a strange shortage of chains of any kind within walking distance. A major food hub a mile from my house has several microbrewery/taprooms, probably a dozen different kinds of ethnic food options, and somehow it’s the Subway that looks out of place.
Moreover, there are a couple sights around my house that have always struck me as truly bizarre. These inexplicable artifacts must have some mundane purpose, but I’m at a loss to guess it (without doing something as tedious and unnecessary as researching them). Many times as I drove by them I thought I should take a pictures and share them with the Internet at large and World of Darkness enthusiasts in particular. But the lighting was always wrong, or I was in a hurry, or parking was too difficult to find.
I decided that today would be the day I drove around my neighborhood and documented some of its weirder objects. I’ve posted them below with brief captions explaining why they strike me as the tells of Infrastructure. I’d love to see others come up with creepypasta (short horror stories) using them as prompts. Use or ignore the captions as you prefer. I’d also love to see photos of the Infrastructure in your neighborhood, too.
A bowling supply store (those still exist?), a Mercado, and a Masonic lodge (loudly announcing its presence with a huge sign?). Either this is the worst Concealment Infrastructure ever, or the Guardians of the Veil are trolling us.
I drive by these every day – sometimes multiple times a day. I walked by them multiple times while taking William to the playground. They are clearly visible from less than a block away from my house. I didn’t notice them until I had lived here for three years, which still sort of weirds me out. Someone has spray-painted the letters UFO on the side. Somehow this only makes it even stranger that I didn’t notice them before.
I’m not sure whether this served a practical function at some point (the building behind it used to be a train station and is now a library) or whether it’s someone’s art project (this is at the heart of the art district). What makes it strange is that you can’t see it from the street from any point within my neighborhood. It is only when you are standing across the river just beyond the border of the neighborhood that it is visible.
A year ago there was a car wash here. It serves Tex Mex food but is decorated like an over-the-top country club. It has a Ferris wheel and a miniature golf course. A little odd, sure, but did you know that they didn’t demolish the car wash? They actually built the restaurant around it.
This picture is a bit fuzzy. It’s a drum store with an anti-theft steel grid inside its doors and windows. This isn’t interesting in itself, but the history of the site makes it a bit more remarkable. In the first three years that we lived here, this building was a graveyard for small businesses. Whenever a new shop would open here, you could be sure it would go out of business within three months. The location was absolute poison for no discernible reason (most of the other businesses in the area appear to be thriving). Then this drum store set up shop, and it has mysteriously survived the last three years. I’m not sure whether the owners are just plain more competent than the previous tenants or whether they just found a good exorcist soon after they moved in. Sorry the picture is upside-down, but I spent thirty minutes trying to get it to display properly, and it keeps showing up flipped the wrong way up. Make of that what you will.
This is Little Jack’s. Longtime residents of the area tell me it was once one of the oldest restaurants in Minneapolis – an old school supper club that fell into its current sorry state after its original owners died. It has remained an island of blight in a sea of vibrant small businesses for decades. Soon after we moved here, a grand announcement went out to the neighborhood that a new owner had purchased the property and intended to develop it into a commercial and residential center. You can see they even put up a sign to show what it will look like once it’s finished. It has been several years, and the building hasn’t even been demolished yet, much less transformed into a new retail center. I’m not sure what the hold-up is, but it’s almost as if something or someone doesn’t want anyone to tear down the Little Jack’s building.
Alright, your turn. Tell me what these landmarks “really” are. Or post your own pictures of weird stuff around town.
(Hat tip to Matt McFarland of Growling Door Games. His call for creepy pictures to promote a supplement for Chill 3rd Ed. ultimately tipped the scales so that rather than driving by these landmarks I actually bothered to take pictures of them as I’ve been meaning to do for years.)