Saturday Seed ~ 111 (Hollow Earth Expedition)

This week’s seed is for HEX, but can easily be repurposed for many types of ‘modern’ settings that include a strong journalistic tradition.

The seed
After attracting a certain amount of notice in private circles, making both friends and enemies in their own fields and in fields in which they have cause and opportunity to come into conflict, the characters suddenly find themselves receiving scrutiny in the press.

Planting the seed
This seed can not be run as a one-off, as represents an evolution and ongoing change in the lives of the characters. It could be compressed into a story within the scope of a campaign, or used as part of the arc of development during the campaign itself. I think it works best as the latter, but you are encouraged to assess your own mileage.

The Details

Starting small, and growing unpredictably and inconsistently, local and then national news agencies will begin paying attention to some of the exploits of some of the characters some of the time. At times, their interest will be stifling and interfere with routine affairs, while at others truly important events, achievements, and discoveries will be utterly ignored. Those who are most responsible for these deeds may be repeatedly overlooked while more photogenic or ‘interesting’ associates are given the lion’s share of the limelight. Facts may be distorted, glossed over, accidentally or intentionally changed, or simply exaggerated. This may or may not be to the characters’ benefit, nor will this effect be any more consistent than anything else.

The public, and the journalists who feed their growing appetite for thrills, illicit insights, and salacious details, is a fickle beast that must be kept enthralled at all times, lest it go outside to play.

What is going on

What can be fun about this is that there never, ever needs to be anything at all “going on.” Characters are given something trivial yet important to discuss, disagree on, and even argue about, their connection to the world around them expands and deepens, and NPC encounters can grow to include winning lines such as, “You look taller in your photos for the Evening Post.”

What is also fun, is that obviously, this newfound borderline fame can be alternatingly helpful or damaging as the events of the campaign grow, and as such may attract the attention of villains, enemies, supporters, and sycophants alike. A greater awareness of and more proactive involvement with the press in the game world can allow an increase in the hooks and twists any given story may generate over its course, and if fleshed out with sufficient life, may even come to lead otherwise noble characters astray.

An example of how an enemy might use the press against the characters might be in a classic investigation. The villain, concerned about how close the characters might be getting, uses influence to bury interest in them in some papers and radio broadcasts,while using that same influence to lead others to suggest wrongdoing on their part.  As pressure from the weight of the judging public eye mounts, the characters may be coerced into giving an interview with a tool of the villain and be manipulated or tricked into revealing more than they ought.

Alternately, well-meaning supporters may inadvertently feed the weaknesses of the characters, such as those who attract or otherwise seek out danger, or those who crave attention and affirmation. As the stakes mount, and the cameras roll to catch it all, sooner or later, someone will wind up in over their heads in a very public and humiliating failure. The effort required to socially recover from this may spark truly inventive, player-driven escapades you won’t believe!


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