Saturday Seed ~ 91 (Desolation)

This week’s seed is for Desolation, and is built around the idea of the growing paranoia and caution of survivors in a shattered wasteland that seems to be looking to destroy them too.

The seed

The PCs come across a healthy baby in the middle of nowhere.

Planting the seed

This is appropriate for any long journey toward a far off goal – preferably near the middle, when resources, patience, and endurance are all frayed. It can occur in any sort of wilderness, but the least hospitable the better.

The Details

This seed is really an exercise in capitalizing on the terror of small details. In a nutshell, the characters find a baby lying on the ground as they travel. There is nothing around the baby to indicate where it came from, who left it there, how long it has been there, or how it has survived the dangers of… everything.

The players need to come on the scene battered and bloody from narrow escapes, deadly terrain, fierce predators, bad cases of the runs, a nasty infection or two – perhaps an annoying head cold. They can see that the next stretch of territory is just as hard was what they have just overcome, and there is absolutely no sign of a settlement or band of other survivors anywhere in sight. In the midst of this, a perfectly unharmed, very healthy baby is just lying on the ground doing whatever it is that babies do when left happily to their own devices.

Imply whatever you need to imply to make this mysterious, but don’t rope yourself into a box of definite answers until you absolutely have to. Encourage players to that the average for their characters so that you can divorce this situation from mechanics as much as possible. Get them talking about the details, get them speculating about every little thing – in character, and in reference to both its sheer impossibility, the probability of a trap or other deadly encounter flying out of this baby’s butt, or worse… the effect that toting the baby along will have on the journey at hand.

Bent blades of razor-sharp grass could be a trail. A snapped limb on a Grappling Tree could be a sign of passage…. There might be the faint hint of leather in the air… or it might be poison nuts from the tangle of vines over there… 

What is going on

Your job is to make this simple situation as terrifying and nerve-wracking as possible. The method to achieve this is in the handling of the small details. Commit to nothing while implying something dreadful. Your goal is to spark a round of in-character discussion and debate, loaded with their worst fears. Engage all their senses and all their questions and focus on getting them first generating a clear image of the scene in their imaginations, then letting those imaginations run away with them.

What’s going on? That really depends on you. The baby could be part of an elaborate hunting mechanism for a Broken Beast that employs illusion and confusion to disorient and distract its prey before attacking. Similarly, it could be an effect created by a community of plant life designed to lure prey to a specific area so that they may be trapped and slowly digested. It could be a parasitic entity that changes form to sate itself on its host’s resources, or a symbiotic entity which does the same, but with some minor benefits to the connection… not unlike real children. It could be a baby and it could be that they will never, ever know how it got there or why. The choice could grow organically from how the scene plays out, but will likely work best if you plan this meticulously based on your group’s storied history in gaming.

Enjoy!

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