Video Games Features
Unearthing a Real Secret Society And the Associated Conspiracies With It

Randy Smith | 23 Sep 2015 19:00
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Editor's Note: Randy Smith is co-owner and creative director of Tiger Style, which recently released Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon. In researching secret societies for the game, Smith uncovered the Knights of the Buried Chamber, a group hidden in mystery and conspiracy. Here is a look into his findings.

When the Brooks Library was demolished by wrecking balls in 1971, not even a century after its erection, patrons wept and wrote poetic epitaphs. Stately, structurally sound, and designed by a celebrated architect, the building had been an emblem of pride for the bustling colonial town of Brattleboro. In modern currency its value would have been in the millions.

Why, then, was the library destroyed?

To make room for a larger parking lot for the Post Office, so the official version goes. A mysterious secret society called The Knights of the Buried Chambers insinuated a different tale, one of a conspiracy against them. The library, they said, had been theirs. The philanthropist who donated the library to the town was their leader. His death, they claimed, was no accident.

They left behind a tattered story I've been reconstructing. I have searched for stone ruins in the wooded mountains, scanned the faces of graves for clues, and decrypted centuries old manuscripts. I am now so conversant in their secret handshakes and mystical rituals I could probably pass as an initiate. But I am stuck on the Brooks Library and its suspicious disappearance.

* * * * *

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"Library"
"1886"

These words, inscribed in broken terra cotta panels, are all that's left. I'm standing on Main Street in Brattleboro, an inconvenient four-hour drive from where I grew up in the opposite corner of Vermont. The panels which once adorned the Brooks Library are mounted today at eye level on the replacement library, architected from unfeeling brick and concrete slabs in the brutalist 70's style.

Reviewing my terse and enigmatic instructions, I turn right in search of "a row of Triangles," a shape venerated for its symbolic significance by The Knights of the Buried Chambers, and find them in the form of gables atop another old building, a town landmark that presently serves as the municipal center and police station, although experience has taught me I should research its earlier functions. At this point my instructions terminate in a string of seemingly random numbers.

I approach the building uncertainly.  Dry leaves scurry across the immense lawn in the cold fall breeze.  Marble trim adorns a fieldstone foundation. Something there catches my eye. The entire building is circumscribed in a specific pattern. I glance down at the list in my hand and begin to compare.

At this point I have little doubt that The Knights of the Buried Chambers are the right secret society to serve as the model for the one that appears in Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon.  There isn't much written about them, but that's perfect, since otherwise I wouldn't know what aspects of their history Spider's players could become exposed to, which would make it impossible to construct puzzles to which everyone will find the same answers.  What little they left behind is suspect and hard to verify, which is exactly in alignment with my goals to create ambiguity about what is real and what is not, an art form mastered long ago by secret societies throughout history but forgotten in our post-Wikipedia world in which we erroneously believe that every fact is at our fingertips and every debate can be silenced by our smartphones. 

And lastly, they or someone pretending to be them for unclear reasons have created these instructions, propelling me on this adventure, an experience I hope to share with the most devoted players of Shrouded Moon.

* * * * *

What does a forgotten secret society in a small corner of the world have to do with a video game about being a spider, an eight-legged protagonist who explicitly cares nothing for the human drama unfolding in the abandoned mansion it leaves covered in cobwebs?

It's a more natural fit than it might seem. Spider has always been about layers. On the surface you are a spider who spins webs, traps insects, and does nothing a normal spider would not do. One layer deeper you are a human player looking over the spider's shoulder, drawn into a story told without words. Your spider builds its webs off the elements of this tale: a locket tossed down a well, a hidden compartment containing hastily-stashed secrets, portraits of families, trails of footprints, all adding up to a fuzzy picture of what happened here. Yet another layer deeper, you come to the realization that the former occupants left behind a puzzle, one that can be solved if you figure out how.

Or you ignore all of this and just catch bugs like a normal spider. That's allowed too.

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