Behind the Lines: Instigation

Not long after the initial scenario pitch requirements for Parallel Lines were given to us, I found myself latching on to a set which would put the Agents against a backdrop of what they might at first see as someone else’s war. I hoped that I could provide a framework for the GM to work with to personalize the Disruptor threat while putting the nature of their role as Valhalla Agents into context.

Parallel Lines: The Campaign

If run as a throughline to an Arkwright campaign, Parallel lines offers 8 scenarios which loosely connect to each other. While the same Agents might not need to be involved in every one of the scenarios, each scenario either contributes something to the greater Arkwright setting, or to the background of this campaign.

There is some freedom to the order in which the scenarios could be included in a larger campaign of the GM’s devising, with some exceptions. The suggested order is what is presented in the supplement:

  1. Mattanit
  2. This Corrosion
  3. Hot Metal and Methadrine
  4. One Way or Another
  5. Silver Pictures Move So Slow
  6. Nu-Atlantis
  7. Bridge Over Troubled Parallels
  8. Hanging on the Telephone 

Built-in links which blend one scenario into the next exist between Mattanit and This Corrosion, and between One Way or Another and Silver Pictures Move So Slow. Many subtle, hidden, and not-so-hidden elements which permeate the entire set of scenarios are brought into focus for Hanging on the Telephone, so no matter what adjustment or rearrangement happens with the other scenarios, the biggest payoff will be achieved by running it last.

This gives three scenarios which could conceivably be run in any order inside the framework. The connection between Mattanit and This Corrosion is easily removed so those could also be run separately, or in different order if desired. One Way or Another and Silver Pictures Move So Slow are more strongly tied together in terms of NPC cast and chronology. As a final note on chronology, the stakes are so high in Bridge Over Troubled Parallels a GM with a new Arkwright group might not want to open with it, although its physical challenges are suitable for entry-level Agents.

This Corrosion

At its heart, my scenario pits some perceptions against each other. On the surface it is a race through terrifying opposition toward the means to return home which could, by its end become a desire to stay and see things through against impossible odds.

Inspired by a host of things from Blondie songs from my childhood to Alien and the devastated world of Hawkmoon, the thing that got me writing was the Sisters of Mercy. The opening verse of Lucretia, my Reflection, put me in mind of the attitude I wanted to come across from the ‘friendly’ NPC cast the characters would encounter.

I hear the roar of a big machine

Two worlds and in between

Hot metal and methedrine

I hear empire down

It was This Corrosion, crossed with a healthy dose of Blondie’s 11:59 that kept me writing after that initial flash of inspiration, however.

On days like this
In times like these
I feel an animal deep inside
Heel to haunch on bended knees
Living on if and if I tried
Somebody send me… please…
Dream wars and a ticket to seem
Giving out and in
Selling the don’t belong
Well, what do you say
D’you have a word for Giving Away?
Got a song for me?

A little ultraviolence…

When it came time for me to put pen to paper as it were, some things had become very clear. First was that the scenario needed moments of ultraviolence, and it needed moments which showed downtrodden individuals just trying to get by. It needed opportunities to aid the lost, sick, and hungry, but also the threat of seeing those people snatched away. Throughout, it needed to show the desperation of people needing to flee through the fire to get away from the frying pan. Ultimately, it needed a sense of ongoing continuity in its cycles of destruction that not only needed to be stopped in its own right, but that showed in microcosm what the Disruptors do across the span of parallel universes, and so reveal how they came by their name.

In a deep sense, I felt this scenario had the potential to make the characters sick. It had the potential to awaken a response of revulsion and rejection in them for what the presence of  which might serve as a sort of backbone for them for future missions and adventures across the parallels. To do that though, would rely very heavily on the GM to want to bring out and personalize those things. Recognizing that not everyone would want to do that,  I started to watch the original Kung Fu series from the 60s and think about the film Circle of Iron. I tossed in some James Bond for good measure, but mostly to remember that even in the heat of battle there is time to flirt.

In parallel with the vision of a brutalized and cruel environment, then, I saw an opportunity for the Agents to be those bright and slightly larger than life heroes we see in film, be they men with no name, a certain secret agent, or a team wanted for a crime they did not commit, there was a chance for their vivid energy and daring to counteract the downward spin into despair that this scenario would absolutely be without them.

Arkwright Elements:

Ultraviolence

Colorful NPCs

Pop culture/SF references

Sex with strangers as a humanizing element in a dehumanizing situation

It’s all about the people

The scenario, This Corrosion, is about the plight of the people. It’s also a nightmare ride through Hell. The Agents might at first believe that they are cast in the role of the stranded, of the lost – and in a real sense they are – but they are simultaneously cast in the role of the wandering hero, or the helpful stranger. They are Zorro to the oppressed. They are the Lone Ranger. They are Roland, the Gunslinger. They are Luther Arkwright.

In helping, they themselves may be helped.

What form that help takes is ultimately up to you.

 

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