This week’s seed is for Hollow Earth Expedition, and involves a rare moment when the characters are at home doing nothing. We all know how the universe hates that.
The seed involves giving the characters a choice about becoming aware of forces seeking to meddle in world affairs to their own benefit behind innocuous or political guises, and once aware – acting on that knowledge.
Planting the seed
The seed is appropriate for a group of explorers, archaeologists, and other globe-trotting specialists with academic or political ties. This may serve as a very early indication or confirmation that the Hollow Earth might be real, or if the group is already on the trail of inner world knowledge, this could serve as confirmation that not only are powerful individuals seeking entry to it, organizations of less than noble character are as well.
For groups of more experienced players and characters, this seed could be reshaped into a call for them to return to the Hollow Earth, once more risking being lost there for the rest of their lives.
Like all terrible events, this starts quietly. On a peaceful Sunday afternoon the doorbell rings, and while someone is en route from comfortable chair to the front door, the man on the doorstep dies to be found crumpled, with his hand seemingly left raised in supplication, sagging down against the door frame, legs folded awkwardly beneath him and projecting pitifully from under the rumpled pool of his thick wool coat. Clutched to his chest with a tight grip even in death, is a thick leather-bound notebook with the delicate chain of a medallion wrapped around and around it.
The medallion and the cover of the book bear the same symbol which shows similarities to various modern Freemason groups, but the cover also seems to have been titled in a unique set of pictographs. Inside, the sections are written in different languages, many of them ancient, some of them like nothing the characters have ever seen before. Scattered throughout the convoluted or totally incomprehensible text are sketches of long tunnels, curious beasts, most notable for the accuracy of their depiction and their suggested scale, and geographical reference points which seem to suggest vaguely similar stone structures are to be found, not unlike the pyramids of Egypt and the pyramids of Central and South America… Could such structures or their remains have been overlooked in the Pacific, in Europe, and the expanses of North America? It seems preposterous on the surface of it… or the sign of someone taking great pains to bury certain finds…
What is going on
Of course, no such opening could be allowed to pass without someone being on the trail of the dead man and the book. While you may prefer to have this happen right on the doorstep, in my campaign I think I would go for a hint of mystery before I wheeling in the thugs. Rather than overt and violent attempts to regain the book, the group which seeks its return will first delve into the characters’ history to determine if recruitment is a better tool than murder. If the characters are people of character, then the group will turn first to theft, then to subtle violence from the shadows.
The man, one Gerald Simmons, seems to have died of natural causes. He has his ID, and no record with the police, although they are looking for him on behalf of his family. His apparent age suggests a man in his 80s. He is not from this city, but his family can be tracked down by the usual methods or through the police.
They can reveal that he was something of a nomad during his life, starting out in the Navy, then into a failed attempt in freight hauling, then into a hard job on the railways. Finally, he settled down as chief of staff for a gentleman’s club in Boston. He has worked for the club for the past 12 years. He hasn’t been in contact much over the past few months due to failing health, and has recently divested himself of most of his worldly possessions, raising a fair bit of money in the process – much of which he passed on to his descendants.
Three weeks ago, he dropped out of sight with no clue to the reason or the destination. No one knows where he has been or why, suddenly, he would appear on the doorstep of strangers, bearing this book.
If the characters push for an autopsy and insist on a thorough job, it may be reluctantly concluded that Simmons died of poison, but this would be a controversial if correct conclusion. No method of delivery can be detected and the symptoms do not match known poisons. The police determined that Simmons walked from the bus station to the character’s home, and none of the witnesses report any sign of illness or disorientation. The police would prefer a death by natural causes or at the least, misadventure. Murder, or assassination is not a welcome line of investigation at this juncture.
While the characters investigate, they should have a feeling of being watched, things in their homes should appear to have been moved slightly, subtle questioning of their references and associates may be reported or noticed, but no obvious action will be taken, unless the book is left unguarded and unhidden. Should it be possible for a reasonable competent thief to liberate it from their possession, or should they simply turn it over to the police when they come to collect Simmons’ body, the book will vanish, leaving little to suggest what it was about, and who might want it so badly.
A long game of cat and mouse with their shadows, poison mists in the dead of night, and translating the book could be woven in and around the characters’ more typical adventures until it is time to venture into the Hollow Earth.
Darken others' doors: