QAnon is essentially a conspiracy street sausage: scrap and leftovers of past conspiracies wrapped in the intestines of an apocalyptic cult and served up to people not very particular about what gets into their mind. But it is also a fascinating bit of story design that mirrors some classic techniques of horror adventurers and tales.
Put a bit simply, QAnon is a conspiracy theory alleging that there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping (possibly cannibal) pedophiles operating a sex-trafficking ring. Since these are criminal activities universally condemned as morally horrific, the story of QAnon should be in the police procedural genre: if the evidence QAnon claims existed, then there should be worldwide arrests with great public support. While there have been arrests and investigations featuring the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, there is no evidence of activity against this alleged cabal. This is not surprising—the authors of the conspiracy seem to be using a classic technique used in horror adventures, that of negating the authorities to make room for the heroes.
In horror role-playing games such as Call of Cthulhu, one takes on the role of a hero attempting to thwart or at least delay the machinations of evil. One obvious practical concern is providing a rational explanation as to why the heroes are the ones who must save the day. The heroes are usually just a random collection of people thrown into the horror—they are almost never in positions of meaningful power or authority—as such, they are not the ones to do the job because they have an army or police force to back them up. They are the ones to do the job because they are the heroes. There must also be a rational explanation that explains why the authorities are not the ones solving the problem—otherwise there would be no need for the heroes. There are a variety of ways to handle this negation of authority.
One classic is isolation—the heroes are someplace where there are no authorities who can save the day. They might, for example, be at a cabin deep in the Maine woods with no phone service or working transportation. They might, as another example, be on a damaged ship with no power and no working radio. QAnon does not use this approach.
A second approach is that the authorities are unwilling or unable to help. They might be too afraid to act, they might be too weak to take action, they might not know what is occurring, or the heroes might not have the evidence needed to convince the authorities to act. In some cases, the heroes intentionally avoid involving the authorities when they believe that the authorities simply cannot handle the situation and they do not want to get people needlessly killed.
In the case of QAnon, there are probably some people in power who are not part of the cabal but are also not among the heroes supposedly fighting it.
A third classic approach is that the authorities are part of the conspiracy: they are not solving the problem because they are part of the problem. One practical concern here is that the authorities cannot be too powerful—otherwise the heroes would not stand a chance against them. QAnon does put forth the claim that at least some of those in power are part of the conspiracy. They address the power concern by making Donald Trump their main hero: he can fight against the pillars of the community because he is the President and has the military and executive branch at his disposal. This does create another sort of problem: since Trump has such overwhelming force the adventure of QAnon should have ended almost immediately with Trump having the FBI round them all up in the United States and getting other countries to do the same within their borders. As a game, it should have gone down like this:
Game Master: “Okay, you are the President of the United States and have overwhelming evidence of a cabal of pedophile sex-traffickers.”
Player: “I give the FBI director a call and send him all the evidence.”
Game Master: “Great! The cabal members are arrested, and your approval rating skyrockets!”
Player: “How much XP is that?”
Game Master: “This is Cthulhu; you just get some skill improvement rolls.”
As such, QAnon must explain why their hero has not used his overwhelming power to solve the problem. This requires another technique, the delayed resolution. In a story or horror adventure, an immediate and easy solution is not satisfying—so the resolution must be delayed. To steal from Aristotle, the resolution cannot come too quickly—this makes the story too short and it will fail to satisfy. It cannot also take too long since dragging the problem out can become tedious and strain plausibility. As such, the ideal is to be neither too short nor too long—but to be just right.
QAnon has attempted to delay the resolution by explaining that Trump needs time to plan and organize what they call the “Storm.” On this day Trump will spring into action and the cabal members will be arrested. In a horror adventure, the game master delays resolution in various ways, such as having minor villains that must be vanquished, investigations that must be conducted and red herrings that distract the heroes. In the case of QAnon, the delayed resolution seems rather too delayed: Trump is reaching the end of his term and there has not been a drop of rain, let alone a Storm. It seems that the Storm is tomorrow. And always will be.
QAnon has, of course, a long list of failed predictions and has persisted (as such cults do) through these failures; but the Storm is critical to Trump remaining the hero. A good analogy is what happens to apocalyptic groups when the date of their apocalypse comes and goes without an apocalypse: they tend to collapse. QAnon can, of course, shift to a new hero: perhaps the new narrative will be that Trump was really part of the cabal all along. Or they turned him. Or perhaps they will say that he has left office to continue his secret war and that the Storm is still on its way. When one is not concerned with logic or evidence, then there is no limit.