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Working on an introductory game for players new to CofD, and taking ideas/suggestions

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  • Working on an introductory game for players new to CofD, and taking ideas/suggestions

    Recently, some friends of mine have started playing D&D, and when I bring it up they seem interested in Chronicles of Darkness as well. Some of them are experienced roleplayers who dimply haven't tried the game yet, but others are completely new to tabletop roleplaying altogether. So I want to put together a game that could be fun for both groups, function well as a one-shot game, and also offer room to expand if they decide they want to continue with the same group of characters.

    Here's my short pitch:

    The rural town of [pending, I'm bad at naming places] has attracted a lot of national attention. The reason for this, unfortunately, is due to a recent pattern of unsolved missing persons cases. Over the past six months, twelve people have gone missing without a trace, all exactly two weeks apart from the last. Nobody knows how or why this is happening, but like clockwork the town wakes up every other Wednesday to find another resident gone.

    At this point, there are as many theories about these disappearances as there are disappearances themselves. Aliens are abducting the townspeople; a human trafficking ring has targeted this location; America's next great serial killer calls the town home. Outsiders from all over have started flooding in to solve the mystery. Law enforcement agencies send their agents, amateur hobbyists looking for evidence of aliens or ghosts, dumbass "tourists" vacationing in the tragedy-stricken town for a sick thrill. Even a hunter cell or two has moved in after catching the scent that something might not be right, suspecting the work of vampires, fey, or other creatures most people can't fathom.

    Are any of the established theories correct? Or is this mystery something deeper and more sinister?


    What I'm hoping is that this game will not only give the players plenty of options for character concepts, including town residents and outsiders. I also hope that the underlying mystery provides plenty of sources for conflict, drama, and horror -- maybe some of the more selfish residents of the town don't want the mystery solved, viewing the flood of people as a source of precious revenue to be taken advantage of.

    The Behind-The Scenes Truth

    The truth of what's happening in this town is that the God-Machine is at it again. A few miles outside of the town's limits, there's an old coal mine that was intentionally collapsed in the 1980s after a natural gas vein was struck, making the mine unsafe to work and unfortunately costing the lives of seven men. It's in this mine that a part of the Machine was built, tended to by an angel who draws a chosen resident to be sacrificed every two weeks as "fuel". It accomplishes this via mental compulsion and matter transportation; the victim suddenly becomes obsessed with heading for a specific point outside of town, at which point the angel brings them deep into the mine in a brilliant flash of green light.

    As the angel is tasked exclusively with maintaining the machine and obtaining the fuel it demands (the angel doesn't choose the biweekly targets; the machine itself decides who it wants), it never leaves the mine. If the players become a bit too interested in the mine itself, or if they witness one of the flashes of light that accompany a transportation, the angel will move against them in the form of the deceased miners, who serve as zombielike minions. Should the angel run out of miners to utilize, it will speak to the players directly, attempting to trick them into entering the mine unprepared and succumb to the deadly gas inside.

    Regardless of the circumstances, when the players do encounter the angel and machine face-to-face, the angel's Ban prevents it from attacking right away. It's not exactly designed for assassination or combat, and cannot take aggressive action against anybody who doesn't directly attack first. The angel's Bane, fittingly, is the sound of a canary singing -- whether natural or a recording, this sound will severely weaken the angel. As such, the angel prefers to resort to trickery or its dead miners to eliminate threats.

    But of course, it's not as simple as just defeating the angel -- it it was resolved with one final combat, it wouldn't be Chronicles of Darkness. Instead, the angel explains to the players that the sacrifices are only a temporary arrangement, and it will stop once it meets the required quota, which will take five years and over 100 sacrifices. Whether this is true or simply another attempt at deception on the angel's part is unclear, but the alternative would be to shut down or destroy the machine, which would result in the gas leaking out of the mine and into the town itself, rendering it unsafe to inhabit and disrupting (or outright destroying) the lives and livelihoods of everybody in it. This puts the players in a dilemma; allow these people to die to preserve the town as a whole, or effectively destroy the town itself to save them. In a situation like this, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

    What I Hope to Accomplish

    Obviously, I want the players to enjoy the game! If successful, I'd love for this to be a jumping-off point to either further games using the same group of characters (however many survive to the end, anyway -- I'm not going to hide the lethality of direct combat), or even introducing them into other game lines.

    I also want to offer up a game that relies primarily on mystery-solving and social gameplay, rather than dungeon diving and combat. There are, of course, going to be violent situations; the miners are an obvious point here, but some of the townspeople themselves might not take kindly to the outsiders for various reasons. The hunter cells referenced in the pitch could also serve as a source of direct conflict, or a way to pique the players' interests into the more supernatural elements of the setting.

    What I Don't Want to Do

    I don't want the players to ever feel bored or at a standstill. I need to make sure I can include enough leads to point them in the right direction without outright railroading them or holding their hands. I don't want it to be either too complex to solve, or too obvious that it doesn't feel like they're actually solving anything. So dropping the right bread crumbs in the right places is essential.

    And despite the possible presence of a hunter cell for the players to interact with, I don't want to overwhelm them or add too many obviously false leads. Things like the True Fae or the Hedge, or a coterie of vampires, or anything else tied directly to a different game line would be fun references to make, but I don't want them to be chasing a wild goose that doesn't even exist in this town. The mystery of the game is about the angel and the mine, and I want to make sure that every clue they get points them closer to that conclusion, not too far away from it. As every player in this game is new to CofD, the other game lines are something that I'd like to drip-feed if we continue past this first game, not pile on all at once.



    With all that said, I'd love some suggestions or critiques of the concept from anybody who has such input to share. I do have some key NPCs and locations in mind, but I'm going to refrain from sharing them in this opening post, as it's already getting a bit long. I'll likely write up descriptions of them later on in a follow-up post if there's any interest in that.

  • #2
    My take, natural gas alone doesn't work, it doesn't do anything that would require the presence of an Angel to mitigate. Instead mix something new in with the natural gas, some new and potentially very harmful gas that is unknown to modern science. It has been building up all of these years until it is now a threat worthy of an Angel's presence.
    In fact the only mortal that even knows about it is the local high school chemistry teacher who has made a bit of a laughing stock among the locals with crackpot theories. He/she was actually the first to disappear only no one knows because they weren't yet faced with that possibility and with school out of session everyone just thinks he/she is off in the woods chasing ghosts. Realizing the teacher is one of and possibly the first victim, then searching their in home office might be the final bread crumb that leads the characters to the mine.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by RuNoMai View Post
      But of course, it's not as simple as just defeating the angel -- it it was resolved with one final combat, it wouldn't be Chronicles of Darkness.
      I agree that Chronicles of Darkness is not D&D, but if necessary, defeating the angel might still be a viable conclusion for the scenario.
      In my experience with one-shot introductory scenarios, the mystery investigation took longer than expected, and by the time the pcs confronted the main antagonist it was already time to wrap-up the game session. Even though it wasn't my initial intention, having a "boss fight" was a quick and simple way to provide a satisfying conclusion to the story.

      So if you want to avoid that kind of resolution make sure to keep the right pace. Also, make sure that the players don't feel like they can only choose between bad endings: in CofD victory comes at a price, but should feel a victory nonetheless, especially for new players used to D&D.

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      • #4
        You might look at some of the existing introductory adventures, like Nightmare on Hill Manor, or Silver Springs, or Ashes of Memory, the Radford Estate. Even the new Time is Come Round.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by nofather View Post
          You might look at some of the existing introductory adventures, like Nightmare on Hill Manor, or Silver Springs, or Ashes of Memory, the Radford Estate. Even the new Time is Come Round.
          Actually, one of the one-shot scenarios I mentioned was The Hunger Within from Darker Days, found on Storyteller Vault.

          As for other advices:

          Originally posted by RuNoMai View Post
          I don't want the players to ever feel bored or at a standstill. I need to make sure I can include enough leads to point them in the right direction without outright railroading them or holding their hands. I don't want it to be either too complex to solve, or too obvious that it doesn't feel like they're actually solving anything. So dropping the right bread crumbs in the right places is essential.
          What I usually try to keep in mind when running introductory scenarios is roughly a "three-act structure":
          1. An "ominous" phase
          2. A "there's definitely something supernatural" phase
          3. The climax
          So no matter what your players do, you'll drop some clues, more or less explicit depending on which phase you're on. You might start thinking about possible "ominous" clues or scenes and possible "explicit" ones. If your characters go straight to the mines, you may risk skipping the first act and go straight "supernatural in your face" (which is not necessarily bad, but usually you want to build up tension). Maybe the angel's call is a slow process, and the next victim is starting to hear voices? People are sleep-walking, but don't go to the mines yet? Avoid clear-cut effects. Dilute the supernatural effects, so that you can choose to have them more or less subtle. If the angel is too "efficient", you don't have many clues to leave to your players.
          Also think about indirect, less explicit consequences that the mines have on the town's population, like collateral effects etc.

          You may want to think about possible clues and where to find them, but of course you'll likely move clues from one place or source to another depending on what your players do. What I usually do is divide the overall picture of "what's going on" into several smaller Facts. While Clues are flexible, Facts are the pieces of information the players should end up knowing no matter how they got it.
          Also, the amount of knowledge gained by clues is only dependent on the timing. No matter what they do, first clue will only be a rumor or legend, etc.

          I would suggest to give your players a straightforward goal. Even if you're not using pregenerated characters, I would make one of the missing persons closely related to at least some of your pcs. (e.g. one pc is the person's sibling and one is the person's spouse/relationship etc.). This increases the stakes, especially for people totally new to tabletop RPG who may ask themselves "why am I not running away from this horrible place?".



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          • #6
            Originally posted by 2ptTakrill View Post
            My take, natural gas alone doesn't work, it doesn't do anything that would require the presence of an Angel to mitigate. Instead mix something new in with the natural gas, some new and potentially very harmful gas that is unknown to modern science. It has been building up all of these years until it is now a threat worthy of an Angel's presence.
            I really like this idea. My initial thought was that the machine in the mine refines the gas in some way (hence why disabling it would cause said gas to leak into town), so adding something extra to its makeup would justify the God-Machine's interest and need for that gas, and its presence in the town. It could also allow for a follow-up game if the players should decide (and are able to) take a sample of the gas and either test it themselves or have it tested, and they discover the presence of something unknown.

            Originally posted by moonwhisper View Post
            I agree that Chronicles of Darkness is not D&D, but if necessary, defeating the angel might still be a viable conclusion for the scenario.
            In my experience with one-shot introductory scenarios, the mystery investigation took longer than expected, and by the time the pcs confronted the main antagonist it was already time to wrap-up the game session. Even though it wasn't my initial intention, having a "boss fight" was a quick and simple way to provide a satisfying conclusion to the story.

            So if you want to avoid that kind of resolution make sure to keep the right pace. Also, make sure that the players don't feel like they can only choose between bad endings: in CofD victory comes at a price, but should feel a victory nonetheless, especially for new players used to D&D.
            Excellent point. I'll come up with a third outcome; perhaps destroying or banishing the angel but allowing the machine to just power down naturally without human fuel would allow the gas to at least seep out at a manageable level, or more mechanically-gifted members of the group could figure out a way to alter the machine or properly block the mine so there's no seepage at all once the angel and machine are both destroyed.

            Originally posted by nofather View Post
            You might look at some of the existing introductory adventures, like Nightmare on Hill Manor, or Silver Springs, or Ashes of Memory, the Radford Estate. Even the new Time is Come Round.
            Thanks for the suggestions, I'll look into those!

            Originally posted by moonwhisper View Post
            I would suggest to give your players a straightforward goal. Even if you're not using pregenerated characters, I would make one of the missing persons closely related to at least some of your pcs. (e.g. one pc is the person's sibling and one is the person's spouse/relationship etc.). This increases the stakes, especially for people totally new to tabletop RPG who may ask themselves "why am I not running away from this horrible place?".
            I was already planning to guide the players towards creating characters who have a real interest in solving the mystery of the disappearances; friends and family of those who have disappeared are definitely high on that list. But I also have a contingency plan that if they find themselves really liking one of the town's NPCs, then if their investigation goes on long enough either that NPC will disappear or somebody who has a real, noticeable impact on that NPC -- something to drive home just how much these events are affecting people, and give them a personal connection where there wasn't one before. Somebody who was hired by a relative outside of town to find somebody who went missing will feel even more motivated if a person they befriended during their investigation also vanishes.

            That said, if a player decides that it simply doesn't make sense for their character to remain in town rather than give up and flee, I don't want to force them into continuing to play as a character who just feels railroaded into staying. At that point I would just let them bring in a new character with more of a connection, or take over an already-established NPC to join the team again, whichever they prefer.

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            • #7
              You might add layers... Possibilities of betrayal,,,

              There could be a Demon who is eager to stop the murders, but only because it will interfere with the GodMachine's plans. They start as an ally until they learn that seven concurrent sacrifices will overload the Infrastructure and cause it to explode. So they decide to arrange for a multiple sacrifice.

              A serial killer comes to town to hide his activities in the abundance of murders.

              The police chief who just wants to pin this on somebody.

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