Saturday Seed ~ 71 (Unhallowed Metropolis)

This week’s seed is for Unhallowed Metropolis partly because I wanted to have a gas mask this week during some aromatic street repairs around my neighborhood, and partly because a more appropriate tagline for Seoul is hard to imagine.

The seed presented here has been repurposed from a Beyond the Supernatural story I ran a few thousand years ago, which was later revamped (pardon the pun) for a V:tM Chronicle slightly more recently.

The Seed

This seed is one of entrapment and evaluation. In play it should combine elements of claustrophobic paranoia, and creeping body horror. Run correctly, it should spark curiosity and apprehension, and motivate the players to become proactive agents rooting out corruption in their midst. The fruit grown from this seed is doubt… who among the characters’ contacts, associates, and family talked…?

Planting the Seed

I find this works best when it interrupts something very important to the characters, such as when it is sprung on them in the middle of a chase scene, or when it occurs while they are hot on a trail of clues, or just about to meet up with a key witness or informant. When the players are hot and heavy, panting to get their hooks into the next meaty part of a story, drop this seed into the mix and stir with gusto.

In a narrow, winding alley between where they have been and where they desperately need to go, the world will literally drop out from under them, depositing them in a trapped, twisting, wet, moldering, series of tunnels, switchbacks, and dead-ends; convinced someone is watching them, pursued by unspeakable horrors, and perhaps only figuratively dying to get out.

What’s Going On

In essence an elaborate test of the characters’ physical and mental fortitude has been set up to evaluate them as a threat. This can be early in their lives (and so it will be quite creepy), or after they have had some experience, ruffled a few feathers, and buried a few bodies (and so it will be ripe with possibility and emotion).

The villain behind the scenes will not appear in this outing, and will need to be wholly inferred by the characters, but a distinct sense that this villain has some amount of knowledge about their personal lives must be transmitted to the players by the trials they face.

When they escape (or when most of them escape) they should be left wondering if they were allowed to do so, or if they earned a respite from torment by dint of their unique blend of skill and wit.

The Details

As the characters move through the alley, the stones will give way beneath their feet, dropping them into dank and dirty tunnels. Worse, the characters will be separated over several levels as some will plummet through weakened sections of tunnel flooring to deeper sections of the labyrinth beneath the city.

While stunned, the opening overhead through which the characters fell, will be covered over with metal plates, blocking easy escape.

As the characters adjust to their new and precarious surroundings, it is important to hit them with many problems all at once and get them moving through the maze prepared for them. As an initial factor, they will likely want to focus on getting everyone on the same level of the maze. This will be both aided and blocked by the crumbling nature of the flooring around the holes. Trying to pull someone up to your level of the maze will hasten the fracturing of the existing lip of the hole in the tunnel, threatening to spill the characters down to a lower level. Trying to lower yourself down will have similar results, and jumping seems very likely to induce a further plunge to greater depths – perhaps at risk of injury.

As these facts are digested, the first of several attacks by post-cadaverous automata (prometheans) will take place, possibly requiring the characters to leave the area of their entry points into the tunnels. These attacks, while dangerous, should be more about getting people in motion than about hacking them to pieces. The automata have been surgically enhanced with blunted club hands, and bulging, bumpily knotted shield arms and attack by shrieking in child-like, territorial fury while charging and pushing at the characters, perhaps babbling words like “Mine!” and “NoNoNo!”

The rest of the labyrinth will be comprised of a variety of tests and trials of physical ability, combat ability, and mental ability. Goals include uniting the group, obtaining gear which makes the trials easier (light, flame, weapons, ambiguous maps, a whistle which some of the creatures will cower from when blown, etc). During this, pay special attention to the things which the characters would find challenging, such as filth, bugs, rodents, enclosed and dark spaces, contagion, and so on. Be certain to include known triggers for the characters and players and make these sections of the maze more difficult than any other sections. Include things which suggest real knowledge of the characters such as images suggesting the faces loved ones, partial names scratched in walls, trinkets that resemble… or perhaps are those of friends and family.

When the tension has been built to a high enough level, the characters are near dead on their feet, and the players are just as mad to tear into the architect of this madness as they were to get on with the adventure you interrupted to drop them down here, present them with the final choice – the leap of faith.

With human characters I have preferred to use long, narrow tunnels filled with vile, oily water which precluded vision and turning back. Entering meant holding your breath and trusting that you can make it out the other side. When breathing can be avoided, I have found myself using fire here instead, giving the characters the choice of remaining trapped in the maze with the horrors therein, and lord knows what further escalation of madness still to face, or braving the flames and smoke in a desperate run for hoped-for freedom.

Who is behind it? What do they want?

These are the questions the characters should be asking as they emerge from this trial battered, bruised, and shaken to the core by the mental and physical violations they have been made to endure.

Who, is up to you. In Unhallowed Metropolis, I might first point the finger at a Legacy of vampires, but then have this be a false trail.. with a darker – more evil villain at the root of things… closer than anyone would be willing to think.

Enjoy!

As always, let me know if you use one of these seeds, and how it worked out for you and your group~

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