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  • A small town with a dark secret...

    I’m thinking of running a game in which a group of (human) PCs come to a town with a dark secret to investigate, Twin Peaks/Gravity Falls/X-Files style. Over time they’ll come to know the place, and a cast of NPCs, and pick away at the central mystery. I plan to provide them with a corkboard to let them embrace their inner conspiracy theorists.

    It’s incredibly unlikely they’ll be looking here, but just in case… if you’re in the Central Birmingham (UK) RPG club, please stop reading.

    So what’s happening?

    The town is run by a demon Tempter ruling the town as a pocket kingdom and shaping it into their personal hell. The demon utilises several Covers as well as allies (human, Stigmatic, cultist and possibly even cryptid) to survey and control their little fiefdom. I’m thinking they have three Covers from different social circles/strata; the Mayor (seldom seen, too busy/important and obviously a part of the conspiracy), a prominent citizen players regularly interact with (and hopefully come to trust) and someone quite innocuous (but a well-placed spy) like a homeless person or child.
    The PC investigators are, unknowingly, working for the Machine. Their investigation is for Its benefit and has a real chance of shredding the Tempter’s Covers and destroying their life and the little Hell they’ve built for themselves. They may actually be reporting to an angel.
    This setup allows for lots of reveals and nested truths that all lead to the biggest reveal of all; the God-Machine.

    I quite like the central idea but it naturally needs some flesh on its bones. I’m thinking of having weird cryptid/cryptoflora stuff in the woods around the town and lots more God-Machine flavoured weirdness leaking out over the course of the investigation. I also want to flesh out the demon’s human servants/cult. Are they dupes who serve the demon for power or protection? Somewhat aware of the supernatural world? A deeply religious cult devoted to a mythology the demon has built (or co-opted)?

    I’m open to any ideas, but especially looking for different setups/motivations for the cult and general God-Machine weirdness to throw into the mix.


    Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
    Storyteller's Guide Extra Material
    After the Fall: Bonus Material

  • #2
    As usual when presented with multiple options, I ask: why not all of them? Either layered, in a Mystery Cult, or multiple "competing" organizations? If the Demon wants to maintain their control, why not own both the establishment and the opposition, the better to keep an eye on upstarts and using one to clean the other?

    Cryptoflora-wise, definitely have some Aether blocking type, and maybe a false positive emitter. The fun thing with distinctive Cryptoflora is that one the investigators figure out it's purpose, spotting it elsewhere bring all kinds of implications.

    Are you keeping this Demon/God-Machine only, or including other material as side notes?
    Last edited by Vent0; 12-10-2017, 12:56 PM.


    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Vent0 View Post
      As usual when presented with multiple options, I ask: why not all of them? Either layered, in a Mystery Cult, or multiple "competing" organizations? If the Demon wants to maintain their control, why not own both the establishment and the opposition, the better to keep an eye on upstarts and using one to clean the other?

      Cryptoflora-wise, definitely have some Aether blocking type, and maybe a false positive emitter. The fun thing with distinctive Cryptoflora is that one the investigators figure out it's purpose, spotting it elsewhere bring all kinds of implications.

      Are you keeping this Demon/God-Machine only, or including other material as side notes?
      I was planning to keep it fairly pure, though if you've got an awesome idea by all means throw it out there.


      Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
      Storyteller's Guide Extra Material
      After the Fall: Bonus Material

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Eremite View Post

        I was planning to keep it fairly pure, though if you've got an awesome idea by all means throw it out there.
        Nothing yet, though it does help to know what the options are when developing other plot hooks.

        Any key actors, scenes, plots, rumors, or locations decided yet?


        Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
        Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

          Nothing yet, though it does help to know what the options are when developing other plot hooks.

          Any key actors, scenes, plots, rumors, or locations decided yet?
          Actors - Besides the demon (and its Covers), nope. I think I'm more looking for hooks and factions over individuals, as I can conjure them pretty easily. I need locals who are actively part of the conspiracy (cults, individuals etc) but I want most residents to be either entirely unaware or the CofD 'unaware' (people who they know but recognise, possibly subconsciously, that the supernatural is best ignored.avoided and refuse to face up to it).

          Location could be isolated/rural, by the sea, an island (likely Scottish,as the game would be set in the UK).


          Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
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          After the Fall: Bonus Material

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          • #6
            My first cult idea - the core of the cult are people helped, personally, by the demon. Through Pacts and other abilities, it took away their illnesses, their debts, their problems... They're indebted to it but also grateful. There's a genuine loyalty to the demon. This feeds nicely into the 'you're working for the real villain' reveal, though I do want to make the Tempter a bit more morally ambiguous.


            Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
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            After the Fall: Bonus Material

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            • #7
              A classic cult idea for this sort of setting is the one that defends the place from an outside threat. The sort of threat that can be kept at bay by following a set of rules, agreeing to accept sacrifices and pacts and keep an eye on those who are not part of it. You can personalize how much of the cult's mythology is a lie made up from the Demon and how much is based on standard CoD/GM's weirdness, past or present. It has not to be strictly supernatural, but even a mundane treat like a flood or generalized ruin might work.

              It's a tool of control, to make people both afraid and proud (perhaps a little self-righteous). The demon might pose as the "inheritor of the secret knowledge that has protected the town for years" that has the burden of making tough requests from time to time. Plenty of potential for various shenanigans, including the GM actually exploiting the cult beliefs to twist them against the demon (with the players as major tool for it to become possible)

              Some weirdness:
              - a hole in the ground, perfectly circular and whose walls are made of metal, can be found in the countryside, hidden under rocks/leaves/roots. Hot air and strange screeches sometimes comes out of it, but there's no end in sight.
              - Appearing at regular intervals and in different locations, what is essentially a holographic projection can be spotted around the place. It seems like a disturbed recording of people talking glossolalia and arguing. The characters are apparently naked, but they're featureless, androgynous blanks. They wield tools and weapons who seem at the same time ancient and futuristic. The recordings are many and each one is different, but still limited in amount. Sometimes the characters flicker for a second and it seems as if they can see those watching them.
              - Every morning, at 4:44 AM, a frog drops from the sky and hits the ground. The fall does not hurt it.
              - Bring a old radio to the top of a nearby hill, hit the right frequence and you'll be able to hear a radio host speaking in stereotypical 50s tone making a brief prediction of the way you're gonna die. There's a little urban legend about this, with people daring each other to try. Most just don't find the frequence, but some do.
              - For a maritime setting: a little boat is sailing away from the coast. Seems like an ordinary one, except for its crab-like legs made of rusted iron, steel and glass which can only be spotted from nearby while underwater. Sometimes, at night, the boat comes to land and hunts.

              Can make up some more, if you think you could use those. I always have fun writing this sort of weird tidbits, but I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for
              Last edited by Cinder; 12-10-2017, 07:22 PM.


              Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

              I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

              This is what I'm working on

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Cinder View Post
                A classic cult idea for this sort of setting is the one that defends the place from an outside threat. The sort of threat that can be kept at bay by following a set of rules, agreeing to accept sacrifices and pacts and keep an eye on those who are not part of it. You can personalize how much of the cult's mythology is a lie made up from the Demon and how much is based on standard CoD/GM's weirdness, past or present. It has not to be strictly supernatural, but even a mundane treat like a flood or generalized ruin might work.

                It's a tool of control, to make people both afraid and proud (perhaps a little self-righteous). The demon might pose as the "inheritor of the secret knowledge that has protected the town for years" that has the burden of making tough requests from time to time. Plenty of potential for various shenanigans, including the GM actually exploiting the cult beliefs to twist them against the demon (with the players as major tool for it to become possible)
                I quite like this... as it can easily be combined with suborned Infrastructure ( once operated/protected/attended/etc by human cultists). This town was built around some Infrastructure. Perhaps this fell into disuse at some point and the demon moved to reactivate it (or just took it over), creating/subverting a cult and using the Infrastructure as an Aether supply.

                Now the Machine wants to reactivate it, or has just noticed something hacked Its dormant Infrastructure and wants to move back in....

                I could even have the Machine's ultimate aim actively destructive for the town and centered on said Infrastructure... The weird rituals to keep disaster at bay? Entirely necessary. But that might be a bit too cheap.

                Some good quality weirdness there too. Feel free to add more.

                This is already going well. Thank you both.



                Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
                Storyteller's Guide Extra Material
                After the Fall: Bonus Material

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Eremite View Post

                  This is already going well. Thank you both.
                  Don't mention it. It is my favorite kind of setting so helping comes easier for me this time around. Glad to be useful.

                  I'll think about some more weird phenomena and creatures as well


                  Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                  I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                  This is what I'm working on

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cryptid ideas:
                    Mermaids (human base, Aquatic Form Ability, various Vocal Embeds optional)
                    Loch Ness Monster (time displaced plesiosaur?). For some fun, make it a good conversationalist.
                    Bogle (small mischievous troublemakers with Cacophonic Embeds and a Ban/Glitch that prevents them from harming those who obey their parents).

                    Rumors
                    The Milkman delivers fresh milk every 4th day of the week... despite the dairy having gone under decades ago. The milk is always fresh (*always* even if left open for days it never spoils). The bottles always vanish before the next delivery, always whenever no one is looking.


                    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So I've given some thoughts to the location and, building on the idea that the town is built around some piece of Infrastructure that could destroy it, I thought of Centralia (Pennsylvania) and the fire raging underground. For those unaware, the fire raged for years and life on the surface was mostly unchanged (besides the occasional plume of toxic gas, cracking pavements, sinkholes and subsidence). Britain has a coal mining history and many former mining towns (mostly in the Midlands, North and Wales), many of which have suffered decline since coal mining stopped after the Thatcher government.

                      Perhaps our town is a rare exception, a town that is blossoming (somehow), but beneath the town there is a network of tunnels and mines, some hiding ancient Infrastructure and some aflame, the fires held back by suborned Infrastructure, the demon's influence and the refusal of townspeople to accept the truth. One of the first mysteries, and the most mundane, is that many townspeople are fully aware of the underground fire and keep it secret (perhaps it threatens a tourist industry... or something...)

                      This adds some pretty fun locations; the mines themselves, for one. I also can't help but think of a real pub (The Crooked House) I've been to in a heavily mined area which has partly subsided, with the floors of different rooms tilting in different directions.

                      EDIT: I'm wondering about an oracle at Delphi style oracular tradition based around toxic gas, but that might be a bit too odd...
                      Last edited by Eremite; 12-11-2017, 09:34 AM.


                      Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
                      Storyteller's Guide Extra Material
                      After the Fall: Bonus Material

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What about instead of toxic gas, it is ground-based magnetic currents? Scotland is lousy with various divination methods, so you have your pick.

                        This is more a plug-in-play idea, since it doesn't really tie into anything necessarily, but what about a place/ritual/circumstance that send people on a nice Astral voyage? Nothing quite like a psychedelic dream journey to kadath for a non-sequiteur to eat time or drop hints.

                        Is there anyone in town who "knows" (they know stuff is going on, but who they think is responsible and why may be of varying accuracy) but isn't G-M backed or allied with the Demon? Knowledgeable librarian, crazy hermit, cab driver?

                        So, mining town, eh? Molemen Cryptids? Delving Too Deep? Hmm, throw in an Earthbound (Idigam, or Descent take on the Fallen concept)?
                        Last edited by Vent0; 12-11-2017, 04:22 PM.


                        Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                        Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I’m presently looking into various local superstitions in the different mining areas to, uh, mine for ideas for cryptids and things. Knockers/imps are an obvious one (and feel like Imperatives to me), but as much of the game won’t be underground I’m looking for more terrestrial things. I’m also considering that the Aether comes from the ground in ‘vents’ creating a bizarre cryptid ecosystem almost like the geothermic vents in the abyss…

                          Currently I’m considering splitting the cult in two.

                          The local cult – Primarily devoted to the appeasing of the (suborned) Infrastructure and hiding the truth, though they have strange rituals (some of them holdovers from mining traditions/superstitions). The demon joined and essentially took over this cult, twisting its practises to suit their Aether harvesting and their idea of the town as their fiefdom.

                          The demon’s cult – In truth, these are not a cult. They are not organised and many are unaware of each other. They consider of cadre of people personally helped by the demon through Pacts and other supernatural abilities. The demon took away their pain, removed their debts and other problems. Some are part of the town’s cult but most are not. They are the demon’s eyes, ears and (if need be) catspaws.

                          Vent0. There will be a few potential clue sources and allies who know bits and pieces. I’m half tempted to have a former cultist of the old town cult who never signed on to the new cult or essentially retired from the cult (probably an old miner). Depending on what set off the investigation (which I’ll talk about shortly) there will be locals with information willing or even desperate to help. One clue will be local people complaining about potholes (despite the fact investigators can see they’re constantly being repaired), the most British clue imaginable.

                          Currently I’m considering where local cult needs agents to pull off the cover-up. The council, the people who fix the potholes, local emergency services, local press… Any other obvious places I’ve missed?

                          Just as important… What set off the investigation? Deaths? Disappearances? Tax irregularities? The cover story doesn’t need to be true, as the investigation is the Machine’s tool. I am tempted by the classic mysterious deaths/disappearances (shades of the Wicker Man creeping in…) but perhaps that’s too cliché. I do want the local cult and demon a bit more morally ambiguous as currently the demon is holding back the destruction of the town and served by people it has personally helped. It needs a little bit of a dark side (without going fully evil).

                          I’m also wondering about the function of the Infrastructure, though to be fair that probably doesn’t ever need to be explained. Is it coal powered and the mine partly existed just to fuel it? Did the deaths of miners turns Its gears, perhaps?
                          Last edited by Eremite; 12-12-2017, 06:39 AM.


                          Onyx Path Freelancer: Demon Storyteller's Guide, Dark Eras, Night Horrors: Enemy Action
                          Storyteller's Guide Extra Material
                          After the Fall: Bonus Material

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            So I've given some thoughts to the location and, building on the idea that the town is built around some piece of Infrastructure that could destroy it, I thought of Centralia (Pennsylvania) and the fire raging underground. For those unaware, the fire raged for years and life on the surface was mostly unchanged (besides the occasional plume of toxic gas, cracking pavements, sinkholes and subsidence). Britain has a coal mining history and many former mining towns (mostly in the Midlands, North and Wales), many of which have suffered decline since coal mining stopped after the Thatcher government.
                            Cool. You can have things like walls of flames being kept at bay by invisible forces, bizarre structures and stuff like that.

                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            EDIT: I'm wondering about an oracle at Delphi style oracular tradition based around toxic gas, but that might be a bit too odd...
                            Depends. If you feel that way, you can always reframe it as something less ancient and respected. The casual, kinda sketchy, answer to Delphi: a crazy man/woman living on the outskirts of town who inhales gas and is said to predict the future. I'm thinking less of temple, attendants, holy cave and offerings to Apollo and more of shack, flea-ridden dog, hole in the ground covered by a plate of iron and beer and cigarettes.


                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            I’m presently looking into various local superstitions in the different mining areas to, uh, mine for ideas for cryptids and things. Knockers/imps are an obvious one (and feel like Imperatives to me), but as much of the game won’t be underground I’m looking for more terrestrial things. I’m also considering that the Aether comes from the ground in ‘vents’ creating a bizarre cryptid ecosystem almost like the geothermic vents in the abyss…
                            Nice. I know a couple of mining legends from my country, but overall they tend to have the same theme all around the world: you get down there and you never know what you can unearth, plus there's always the chance for a door to Underworld/Hell to open. Also, that those who die into mines without proper burial don't rest and that their families and sons are bad luck, to the point they're basically doomed to end the same way if they work in the mines as well. Speaking of other things, I've always been a fan of banshees, so I humbly suggest a GM take on those. The ecosystem aspect sounds really cool to me.


                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            Currently I’m considering where local cult needs agents to pull off the cover-up. The council, the people who fix the potholes, local emergency services, local press… Any other obvious places I’ve missed?
                            I think you're good. If the town is isolated from the world, you got it covered.

                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            Just as important… What set off the investigation? Deaths? Disappearances? Tax irregularities? The cover story doesn’t need to be true, as the investigation is the Machine’s tool. I am tempted by the classic mysterious deaths/disappearances (shades of the Wicker Man creeping in…) but perhaps that’s too cliché. I do want the local cult and demon a bit more morally ambiguous as currently the demon is holding back the destruction of the town and served by people it has personally helped. It needs a little bit of a dark side (without going fully evil).
                            I'll throw in the "insurance/speculation" option. Either someone saws potential gain in the town and wants to acquire lands and permits to begin the works and sends the players to check everything is in order and persuade the locals to sign, or someone does not want to spend money and asks the players to find a good reasons not to. After all, the town is little and distant: a scam is far too easy to pull off and deserves further investigation.

                            Originally posted by Eremite View Post
                            I’m also wondering about the function of the Infrastructure, though to be fair that probably doesn’t ever need to be explained. Is it coal powered and the mine partly existed just to fuel it? Did the deaths of miners turns Its gears, perhaps?
                            Sure, why not? Another one is that there was something to be found down there which needed other kinds of Infrastructure to be sent away and, whether because the resource became rarer or the complementary Infrastructure had issues, the GM did not allocate further forces to keep the operation going or rework it into something different. Until now, of course
                            Last edited by Cinder; 12-12-2017, 09:37 AM.


                            Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                            I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                            This is what I'm working on

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well, for a "dark side" to the Demon, they could have done dramatic and potentially disproportionate actions in pursuit of keeping their Cover or the town secure. I've found that the interests of security can easily push Unchained into desperate actions. Possible understandable, considering what they are hiding from, but that's hard to sell to the people adversely affected.

                              Want them "bad"? Accentuate what they've done. Want them sympathetic? Accentuate why they felt they had to.


                              Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                              Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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