Gone Forever - What Does It Take to Really Disappear?
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August 13, 2009: Every year, thousands of people try to disappear and start over new lives elsewhere. The article discusses the motivations of such people and various possible strategies used to disappear - as well as the strategies used to find them again.

To stop other people - such as the police - from looking for them, it is advisable to fake death. One of the better strategies is to fake drowning near a large body of water, such as a lake or the ocean, as it is more plausible that the body of such a person is not recovered by the authorities. Careful planning is needed to successfully start a new life elsewhere without leaving traces after that, but it is also vital that no hints for such planning are left behind. Most people eventually make mistakes which cause their past to catch up with them - they contact former friends or family members, use old identification, create new a new persona which is too similar to the old one, or pursue the same hobbies they had in their old life.

If it can be managed certificates of death and cremation are also quite effective … this may be as simple as corrupting a medical practitioner, or might be more complicated and involve getting your ID swapped for that of a genuine corpse.

Setting up a new identity requires work - particularly if the new identity is going to stand scrutiny by professional investigators. Ideally you want the backing of someone with access to official records - a cinematic hacker or an intelligence agency are good allies for this kind of work.



Game and Story Use

  • The PCs may be the ones who have to track such a person down. Perhaps they are doing it for a bounty, or perhaps that person has some really vital knowledge they desperately need.
  • In a fantasy campaign, someone who is body hopping - using a soul jar perhaps - could give themselves away by some of the same signs as an ordinary false-ID skip.
  • Or the PCs are the ones who want to disappear - usually because they are criminals who wish to escape justice.
    • Though maybe they have just made some really powerful enemies - in that case, running away and hiding can form the basis for an entire campaign until they are powerful enough to stop running.
  • Stealing the identity of a genuine corpse might lead to adventures of its own - unless you pick your corpse very carefully (which will generally involve some kind of homicide based activity), there are liable to be loose ends popping up all over the place. Swapping identity with someone involved in a major disaster - or adding your name to the list of those lost - might work, but is more likely to be the handiwork of a government agency than a private individual. Either way, it might get you caught up in someone's conspiracy theory.
  • Major wars and riots are also good places to go missing - if you can overcome the inherent dangers of the process, and the fact that people may well spend quite a lot of time looking for you.
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