This week’s Saturday Seed is for Greymalkin Designs’ moody and apocalyptic summer 2012 release, Broken Rooms.
This small seed, set in 2012, is intended to help bolster the characters’ vague sense of urgency, feed healthy paranoia, and answer a few questions the players and their characters might not have needed to address yet. It can be run for any number of players, and can be used with groups of various levels of experience in the game world.
Planting the seed
The easiest way to bring this seed into play would be to have a large-scale triggering event, such as a natural disaster weakening the walls between worlds, inciting first falls, and displacement. In the aftermath, the lure of all these Nearsiders will work its normal charm, coaxing and pulling these wandering souls together.
For ease of brief communication of ideas, this seed will be written from the point of view of Nearsiders travelling from Earth1 to Earth3 in 2012. In terms of locations, homes, and destinations, whatever you have in mind will do. For years, options are fewer. A reasonable earlier point could be 2009, but the only later point could be 2015 – and that is a bit too final. The key point is that a large number of Nearsiders will intentionally and accidentally find themselves congregating in the same place, and some among them will start to talk while waiting for the nearby Broken Room to cycle.
In a relatively intact bus terminal in a ruined downtown core, the flickering light of trash barrel fires and the smell of wood smoke and food cooperate with the normal pull of one Nearsider to another to generate strong compulsions to get in out of the cold.
Inside the terminal a group of people unsure of whether to be wary or wild-eyed mingle with those too jaded or tired to give a damn about what happens next. In their midst, the experienced and still sociable, attempt to keep things civil, keep the fires burning, and feed those who need it with safe scraps of what they have been able to scavenge.
Paint the scene to build the atmosphere you require then indicate that with the arrival of the characters, there are now 12 Nearsiders in the terminal. Eyes visibly count heads and flick to the doors. At the far end of the building, a large window frame brackets the frosty looking full moon in a night sky thinly dusted with predatory stars. The orange warmth of the barrel fires contrasts strongly with the ice-blue of the moonlight and this can provide a conversation starter if nothing else does.
A road-worn, but fit fellow tending sizzling strips of meat on skewers over the fires nods his head backward at the moon and shares, “A bad year in a bad set of years to get a blue moon.” If the characters or their players would have no reason to know what that is the man will be happy to explain in a direct and clear fashion that the lunar cycle lends itself to 12 full moons per year, but every few there is a 13th.
If the players are into natural discussions arising from roleplay, then introducing some mean-spirited debate about whether this moon in particular was the blue moon can help disseminate all the information you may want to about the personalities huddled around the fire. Complainers, stoic travelers, the exhausted, and the energized… all ages, genders, and levels of experience. One piece of information will out: 2012 has 13 moons and no one here likes that. More eyes go to the door and count heads.
Those who open up will be into sharing information about the immediate area, willing to discuss locations of broken rooms and who and what has been set up around them, and other items of interest in your campaign continuity. Two of the ruder, dirtier, and less forthcoming in the group will get antsy and choose to leave. As they do so, they pass a group of three making their way in through the battered doors. One of them is injured, and they are clearly in need of assistance.
From this point on, the clock is ticking.
What is going on
In this seed it is not so much what is going on, but what is being taken advantage of. A group of Nearsiders that cooperate for their own advantage, an amoral and militaristic group under the leadership of a forceful woman by the name of Cora Hardin, has noticed the large number of lost and disoriented Nearsiders drifting through the streets and has decided to use this large gathering of fellow travelers to conduct some hard and fast research on what rumors are and are not true about their kind. Most important: is it true that death is just another way to travel?
One of the ‘soldiers’ under Cora’s command lost her twin in a firefight recently and has been both useless and annoying as a result. Cora doesn’t buy into all of this new age crap that some Nearsiders spout, but if she can get both members of her team back in action, she doesn’t really care how many people she has to torture and execute to make that happen. From Earth3, Cora has a very loose hold on morality, and feels that the asteroids were a sign from a Godless universe to “Do what you want.”
With the arrival of the three Nearsiders the group’s number will have risen to 13 individuals. Not long after that point, Cora will arrive with her band of 5 to try to force a surrender and begin her experiments. It is her intention to interview the people she catches in this place to see what they remember about how they got here. If they cannot supply her with all the answers she needs or wants, it will be time to start photographing and executing people. After that, she and her crew will mount a search for ‘familiar faces’ throughout the known worlds.
Cora’s band was trying to subdue the last group of three to arrive, but a band of crazed waste scavengers attacked them before she could intervene. She tracked them here after dealing with the scavengers and to her amazement, finds thirteen unlucky people to help her do her ‘research.’
The interviews, particularly the way Cora conducts them, soon turn from simple topics to The Four Doors (namely Death), and Convergence. She is fixated on both topics and if conversation and information exchange is engaging enough, she will talk all night.
This can play out in many ways, from purely social to purely violent, or anywhere in between. If nothing else, it can introduce new theories, speculation, hints, and clues into the players’ hands, establish new contacts, and create new demarcation lines with new groups of “us” and “them.”
As an added layer, having the meat-on-a-stick cook be in cahoots with an organization of your own that is trying to do something like capture villains like Cora, bag and tag all Nearsiders, harvest information, prevent a worsening apocalypse, or any one of a hundred little things can help you cycle from threat to threat to threat in interesting and disorienting ways. Throwing in more established threats and organizations on this day of unexpected travel could ice the cake if done right.
Darken others' doors: