Saturday Seed ~ 175 (Broken Rooms)

This Saturday Seed returns, after too long away, to the amazingly rich game, Broken Rooms. This is a very, very short one, but it has legs… long, disjointed ones which are fit to carry you where you may not have expected to go, and will not, without sacrifice, carry you back.

The seed
As noted by Regency golden-boy, Dr. Neil Ellington, broken rooms leading to Earth13 appear without warning. This seed is planted in such a premise and grows as it will.

Planting the seed
This seed can be placed before experienced and inexperienced Nearsiders alike, although consideration should be given to the dangers characters may face if it is not your intent to challenge them to the point of life and death. Not everyone is ready for or interested in playing without pads and rails. To plant the seed is as simple as the group coming across a broken room in the course of their lives and using it – intentionally or not.

The details

Last night, the group dreamed and woke up disoriented and feeling unrested. It is obvious to all that no one slept well, and obvious to some that bad dreams were had by more than a few. Discussion, if any will reveal the dreams were different in substance, but the same in experience. A choice of direction had to be made, such as at a crossroads, a junction of hallways, routes on a map, a flight of stairs up and down, and so on. It was important to choose because someone needed help, but the dreamer had no idea in which direction they were… only hints, vague and unreachable memories, plus the fear of making the wrong choice. Who can make much of dreams?

Later, as they go about their business they find the room.

The room in question will of course be in a spot convenient for you and your campaign, but it might be in the departures section of an airport, or the final stop on a bus route or subway line. In that spot where the decision is made to go or stay, where luggage seems to weigh the most, and doubts about leaving, loving, and losing cling most strongly, the Nearsiders may find themselves aware that a hint of salt in the air and the grit of sand beneath their feet precedes any glimmer they might have that cycling is imminent.

As the group enters the area their eyes might first land on a faded red spray of graffiti from some long ago traveler wanting to know ‘Who killed Mr. Moonlight?”  Past custodians have tried to scrub it away, but the question remains – unanswered, as always.

When the room cycles, if the group cycles with it, they will find themselves not far from the Reef, with the noise of rolling steel on rails in the distance. They are surrounded in a semblance of Stonehenge built from discarded and damaged lockers common to mass transit stations. Standing in among the lockers, some with open doors swinging idly in the soft breeze, it is not apparent if this was built by man, or abandoned by chance by the sea.

Looking around, the group will come to see that they are in the landward shadow of a giant reef seemingly composed of steamer trunks, baggage, hiking boots, water bottles, coolers and canteens, saddles and bedrolls. The pounding of the surf on the other side of the reef is rhythmic and familiar. Not far is the faint track of an old road which fades forgotten out onto the huge salt flat on this side of the reef. A small shack, traffic lights and crossing gate complete the scene. Inside the shack are signs of someone moving about, and the very faint whistle of a kettle. In the distance, far across the flat, is the dark smudge of what could be a forest.

Once the group gets their bearings, the Iron Train comes into view in the distance not slowing to stop at this crossroads, but beginning to slow for a shanty-town community whose white plumes of smoke from cooking fires and what passes for industry stand out against the haze of the tired sky.

Should they speak to the rail agent in the shack, his conversation while civil is simply to ensure his own peace and quiet by suggesting they go on to town. The train, he informs them, does not stop here, “…and usually does not stop for the likes of you. You have your own ways of getting about.”

The broken room will not cycle again for at least 4 days.

What is going on

There are many things going on but of prime concern to many in the town at the moment is the disturbing realization that something from the distant forest has slipped into their midst to stalk and hunt the minds of the young, stealing their dreams and identities. The community has gathered together to try to rouse the slack-jawed and vacant-eyed children to no avail. Their minds are empty. 

No one wants to enter the forest for fear of suffering the same fate, and no one can choose to do nothing. The community is frozen in inaction, doubt, and fear; circling the problem again and again, but resolving nothing.

Players may connect the children with their dreams and feel like it is expected that they do something, but they would be wrong. Their dreams were not about helping these children. There is no help for these children that they do not provide for themselves. What these dreams represent is what may befall the characters when the fate of the children starts to hunt them.

Dark Hounds (Challenging alone or in pairs, Daunting as a pack) will be coming at nightfall to find them. Prowling the salt flats, often starving and mad with it, they are able to scent the faintest traces of imagination and experience which pours off Nearsiders like thick perfume in a small room. Drawn to these rich memories and motives , the Hounds seek to glut themselves on stolen experience and dreams. In the passage of their feeding one finds an empty, ruined mind in a slowly dying body.

For the person consumed, the experience does not end with the feast of the Hound, it continues in an unending nightmare sequence of running through a maze-like forest of tangled roots and twisted vales, always in shadow, always pursued, never able to rest…. unless they can get their bearings, marshal their resources, and fight their way free of fear to turn and face the phantom hounds on their trail, defeat them and earn their way back to life.

The window for this escape is short as the body cannot live without the brain and soon passes in a few days or a week at most. Should the victim fight their way free after that, they in turn become a hound.

On the first night in the area, the howls of the pack of Hounds will be heard in the distance, and a few will stalk the streets after midnight. The second night, the whole pack will arrive and bold as brass, press their way into homes and hovels looking to sate themselves on even the dullest minds and memories. They will come back again and again night after night, until they find the Nearsiders, find their trail to hound them further, or are destroyed.

If the characters stand against the Hounds and defeat them they will be hailed as heroes, but reminded strongly that they cannot stay or they will draw more hounds to the town. If they fight and are consumed, the struggle to get free will take on enormous significance.

Imagine fighting to regain your sense of self, your mind, and memories, and make a long journey back from a dark, hellish maze of fear into your own body. Imagine then, when it is time to leave the Reef, being required to pay the price of travel.

To leave the Reef is to surrender one of your memories. It is the sacrifice that all must pay to leave. Imagine surrendering one of those memories for which you just fought so long and so hard…


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