Saturday Seed 126 (Brass & Steel)
With October upon us, and dreams of Halloween One-Shots in the air, the Seeds for this month will focus on horror, but we will try to make them our normal style of slightly unusual. This week’s seed is for Brass & Steel and provides the characters with a brush with death.
This seed is intended to serve as a single scenario of play in a regular or seasonally revisited campaign. It should work best with new characters designed for the event, but with a little tweaking can work equally well with experienced characters. The scenario brings the characters back together with a figure from the past to whom they have importance, but of whom they have no recollection.
Planting the seed
Planting this seed will require the characters to have a shared history. It will work best if they all went to school together, or served in the military together, all had the Victorian equivalent of teen jobs at McDonald’s together, or something along those lines. Have the group build some shared dark secrets from this period which they should under no circumstance want to come out. Have each player think of some personal sins as well.
The game will start with the GM deliberately and without explanation, laying three major arcana on the table: first the Tower, then Justice, and finally the Moon.
Everything will described as normal for the characters. A war is brewing somewhere. A political scandal is breaking quietly but devastatingly somewhere else. Later in the day, an engagement party for a mutual friend will be held. Nothing is upsetting the course of life for the characters… Everyone will know that that is about to change.
Let the story have its head until the engagement party. Even if the group blows it off, they will hear about it afterward due to the strangeness of the events which took place there. If they go to the party, all the better.
Someone, abrupt, obviously highly cultured and well-educated, lacking the appropriate social graces in ways which have an enticing flair, crashes the party and begins telling tales out of school. The tales, of course, concern the dirty secrets of a number of people at the party, not the least of whom are the characters. Reputations are the target, and implications are the weapon.
How does this person know such things, and how does he manage to say things which wound so effectively and so obviously – even when they are wide of the mark? As mysteriously as he crashed the party, let him slip or be escorted away. Build expectation among the players that they have an adept social opponent, and let them expect a very convoluted shoe to drop at the next party, set for two days away.
Instead, give them a brutal surprise when they get home. Their houses have been trashed, private papers strewn about, and walls smeared with bloody writing suggesting darker secrets yet to be revealed… many of which are actually true, but none of which are the big secrets. Does their new enemy know those dreadful secrets as well?
Wherever they gather to deal with this invasion of privacy, have the next shock come. Drop the characters into cold darkness, windows slamming open, horrific screaming from all corners, and physical assault from unnatural angles. The characters are under the attack of some form of spirit or vengeful ghost…?
With horror fully upon them, and virtually nothing they can do about it, the characters must seek out an end to their torment, while risking the revelation of their deepest secrets.
What’s going on
The attacks are motivated by a former acquaintance who was, sadly for him, quite beneath the notice of the characters, but who desperately wished he could be like them. He lived his whole life never knowing or believing that he could be special or of any worth whatsoever.
Plant seeds that suggest they are targeted by a ghostly force, but be prepared to back those up with a hint that it is really a malevolent arcanist. It will be neither. In an ongoing game, this sort of plot is a way to guide the players through the expansion of their social circle and the extension of their contacts. As they come to terms with their problem and seek expert advice on resolving it, they will push the boundaries of stories with which they are prepared to wrestle in the future.
Playing with possibility just a bit, remember that a mystery unsolved is far more terrifying than one whose layers of obfuscation and misdirection have been peeled away from the flesh beneath.
If it were my game, I might have the villain be an insignificant little nothing whose pathetic dreams of idol worship concerning the characters all came to an end when he was struck in the head and entered an unbroken coma. Deep in the coma, his unrealized dreaming skills began to develop, fueled by the unchained desires of the unconscious mind. I might take things one step further – so deep in the dream does he go that he taps into darker realms of arcanism and the untapped human potential for mystical manipulation. It is from there, possibly with the alchemical help of someone hoping to develop and exploit these talents, that he strikes out at everything he wanted, but knows he can never have…