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Why is it called "Unknown Armies"?


New member
It's part of a scheme to bring down the RPG industry by making it impossible to know if someone's talking about the game of post-modern horror and furious action and D&D's "Unearthed Arcana", the sourcebook of powergaming munchkinism and broken rules tweaks!


First of the Gang to Die
****Spoiler Alert****

I'm pretty sure its because the game concerns itself with "armies" of occultists all fighting for control..well, its more than control of reality, its who gets to determine reality in the next incarnation of the World. I don't actually own the game yet, but thats the impression I received from the reviews on RPG.net.


Repairer of Reputations
I always figured it was also a partial reference to this poem, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold:

"The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægæan, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."

The last three lines:

"And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."

Sum up the mood of the game beautifully for me.


Frog of Paradise
Validated User
The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
We who still labour by the cromlec on the shore,
The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

- W. B. Yeats, 'The Valley of the Black Pig'

It's quoted in the opening pages of the first edition rulebook, I believe, either just after or just before the quotation from 'We are the Music Makers'.

Now, what the poem has to do with the game is another matter. Yeats was up to his eyeballs in occultism, and Tynes is obviously a fan of Modernist poetry - his work is scattered with Eliot references. Maybe the phrase just stuck. Or maybe it's a reference to the whole shadow-world of the Occult Underground, fighting its own little wars out of sight of the rest of the world.


Looking for witty tagline
Validated User
It was a compromise name (the authors actually debated quite a few names). Yes, it's from the Yeats poem.

It indicates that there are organized groups of magicians (like "Armies") that are competing for power and such.

But the world, by and large, doesn't know about this occult conflict-- it is "Unknown".


New member
I was re-reading John Tynes' Hastur Mythos chapter in Delta Green: Countdown recently when I noticed that an NPC was described as being "...dressed in some sort of ceremonial military uniform belonging to an unknown army."

I can't decide if it's a fluke or a delightfully low-key reference. ;)


First of the Gang to Die
cappadocius said:
No need for this, since what you're saying is pretty much what you can get from the back cover of the book. :)
Ya never know:D

(this probably stems from my wish to have no knowledge whatsoever of CoC or UA or any good horror/conspiracy game so I could discover it all over again...)

Flower of December

Because John wanted his gritty occult game's name to be abbreviated as "S&M" so he began working under the title Smoke and Mirrors. Upon discovering that name was in use by a Neil Gaima book he tabbed Greg to name the damn thing, and the Stolze cribbed a phrase from a Yeats poem.
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