#RPGaDay2020 – Day 12: Shade

Very often, stories describe the characters rising from struggles in darkness into the light of a thankful but not terribly welcoming world. Life models art and art models life and the whole big wheel keeps on turning with us hanging on obliviously, but quite willing to sell seats in lit classes.

Heroism is a decision and it happens in the light, the dark, and in between. The stories chop it up and encode it for easy consumption for kids. It’s on us to move beyond the pablum stage to chew our food – slowly, like Dr. Venkman advises.

Our #RPGaDay2020 prompt for today is shade. For most other respondents it will be message, but here on the Casting Shadows blog we have charted a different course upon which to march to a different drum – if only to prove the point.

In this tale, the heroes descended into light to uncover horror.

Gray, Diego, and Dieter, armed with knowledge that people knowingly act in a corrupt and corrupting fashion, had discovered that pattern in this place through computer print-outs, expense reports, tangible and implied evidence, and a trail of disappearances left by the authorities as ‘unsolved crimes.’ Armed with their wit, humor, and unlicensed nuclear accelerators, they continued mostly unflinchingly – well, generally with some flinching to delve deeper into the problem to root it out wherever it took root. They did this not just for the paycheck they hoped would not bounce. They did this not just to rescue their abducted coworker and friend. They did this not just for their reputations or from a screwball desire to damage those reputations in the halls of power. They did it because heroism is a decision, evil is afoot, and they answered the call.

See the source image
Are you a god?

Anyone could have answered the call, but these yahoos are the ones who showed up and into whose hands the fate of this community have fallen. Of course, this is a fictional retirement community. What’s your excuse?

The locked door in the room, stood for more than just an obstacle now.

Dieter crowed as he collated his list of names. It was short, so it wasn’t all that confusing. The shift supervisor signing off on most of the purchases and scheduling was someone called Linda Rockatansky. The name attached to the experiment protocols and who counter-signed the expense reports with Linda was a scribble with only the first name being legible: Wally. The signature had a very self-aggrandizing W that descended into childlike wiggles thereafter.

“I’ll get the door,” Gray says, feeling the need to see what is behind it.

“Hold on, Gray. I just need to make some minor adjustments to the sticks to shift the bands of visible light that bleed off into a more lethal range for these possessed plants. We will need to wear the Ecto-Visors,” Diego’s player extemporizes, “and tune them to protect our eyes. Like many of your other activities, Lemmon, firing the beams might now cause blindness.”

“So… you’re saying that ghostbusting is a sport,” says Lemmon dryly.

“Yes, Lemmon. the fun and games are over,” Diego says, trying not to smile.

The locked door stood before them. Still locked. Still waiting. No one had done anything, so nothing had gotten done.

“I’ll get the door,” Gray says, still feeling the need to see what is behind it.

No one answers. They go on with their own things.

Lemmon’s player sorts through the prop paperwork I have handed him, and Diego’s gathers up his plethora of Brains dice to roll for the proton pack modification. He puts a few Brownie Points in. I tell the table that that a ghost on this roll will make the chance of blindness that Diego described a very real possibility for any ghosts rolled on Attack rolls thereafter.

They go for it.

It’s that simple.

With nothing left to dawdle over, gear modified, and minds made up, the three remaining ghostbusters are about to signal Gray to open the door when I suddenly turn to Dunhill to let him know he has almost caught up with the others. He can feel confident about that as he sees the trail of destruction wrought by their escape from the vines (between Areas 5 and 6).

He ignores the Computer, but it doesn’t ignore him.

“Guys?!” he stage whispers, but then has to blast a mess of vines that come shooting out of a suddenly-opened automatic door ahead of him (Area 6). We know the proton packs can blow these things to splinters, and we have good motion building toward decisive action, so we just narrate past that attack and instead ask for a less-certain Brains roll to see if Dunhill can notice anything about the vines when they are blasted apart.

He doesn’t hesitate, he tosses in two Brownie Points from his dwindling stack and rolls, whispering, “No ghosts…”

His prayer was answered, and he just made the Difficulty so I let him know that now that he isn’t concerned with getting out of the building alive and in fact has bravely walked back through it to find the guys, and because he doesn’t have to run through a burning gauntlet of vines, he is in a good position to notice that when the vines get blasted, there is a discharge of purplish light and what might have been a purplish gas.

“Great…” he says and confirms that he can go ahead into the vine room, left, or right. “I guess I will go…”

The others, responding to the commotion, gather him up and there is a faux-tearful reunion which we blow past in favor of standing in front of the locked door again.

‘My calculations, and that large sign on the door about light protocols lead me to believe that we will be operating in darkness on the other side. Any light will be harmful to the seeds and their possessing entities in that initial potting and growth area before they are strong enough to take exposure to it.”

I smile and nod. Diego’s player can work with clues like no one else.

“But we have to make sure we destroy the possessing entities.”

I nod again.

“Or else we will risk being possessed ourselves.”

I nod again.

Going to war with evil gets a person dirty. Dirt washes off, unless you let it get inside you.

If it gets inside you, it is you.

What was the point of the struggle, if that is how you let it end up?

“How much are we charging for this gig?” Lemmon’s player pipes up, always ready to balance out dread with a little levity to let us even out at the fun kind of worry.

There are blank looks around the table for a second as no one can recall that detail from our Session 0 the week before. Gray’s player surreptitiously scans his notes then snaps his fingers wrapping one fact in a glorious bit of fabrication.

“Free pizza on Thursday nights at Lou’s Considerably More Authentic Pizza!” he yells, triumphantly, forgetting all about the mortgages in a simple love of carbs. “His daughter, New Lou’s, that is, Old Lou retired to Florida last year, went missing with her S.O. who worked here freelance as a font rights manager.”

“He was trying to free the fonts? Like… Spartacus?” Lemmon, always willing to play the straightman in a pinch, asked straight faced.

“He was making sure the fonts were already free.”

“Gotcha! So… pizza on Lou if we live! I like this plan!”

The Heroes’ Reward!

Gray pops the hinges and they let the door fall to the floor in front of them with an echoing crash. There is another door behind it and a narrow space just large enough to let a person enter, close the outer door and open the inner door.

“Kick it down, Gray! The ghostbusters are here!” say Dunhill and Lemmon, mostly in unison.

Gray nods and reaches for the dice, but I nod and tell him that he has no trouble and the door is no safer than the last one he kicked in from his big boot.

Inside, thin screams of inhuman pain rise up to meet the mingling of external light with internal darkness. The room begins to fill with a thin purple fog.

“Hold your breath, keep your goggles up, and… throw it!” Diego barks.

“Roll the bones, gents,” I tell them, “No ghosts or things are going to get really dark from here~

Dice clatter, numbers are added and compared to the normal difficulty, and destruction ensues, but…

Questions: What behaviors are common in play of more mainstream, long-form games? How can violence and the threat of violence affect the mood of play?

How does the notion of shade as being ‘what you take into your hand you also take into your heart’ sit with you?

How about the idea that shade is the blending of light and darkness, and we cannot know which of the two is the problem, or if indeed it is just one?

Link: Later today, I will add a video below to dig into the ideas of shade, corruption, and the calls to and away from action.

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