#RPGaDay2020 – Day 14: Forest

Sometimes, writing about a forest is the cure for what ails you. Sometimes listening to the Cure perform a forest is the cure for what ails you. Sometimes, if you play it loud enough, it is the ailment for someone else. Sometimes, the opening for an #RPGaDay post is just thick enough with metaphorical trees that you cannot see the metaphorical forest for them.

Today’s detour prompt here on the Casting Shadows blog is forest. I trust after that opener that no one is surprised and is now firmly on the lookout for lions, tigers, and bears – or their Ghostbusters equivalent, which in this case will be possessed and carnivorous vines. While others are enjoying today’s prompt ‘banner,’ here we are going for a walk on the wild side. We hope that will make at least a little difference.

“Dunhill, I need you to tell me everything that you saw on your fun excursion away from the rest of the class, but first, we have to do some pruning before it’s too late. My calculations of the growth rate of the plants is terrifying!” Diego, urges excitedly. He has been looking over the handouts of evidence and looking at is notes – even going back to Gray’s Session 0 notes, and something has grabbed his attention.

I love it.

“You should give up. Inter yourselves as food for greatness and give up your futile and meaty struggle for meaning in a world meant only for photosynthesis and decay,” I say, somewhat wistfully, as Diego.

“Don’t listen to him!” shouts Diego, which cracks Lemmon’s player up.

“Oh don’t worry, we don’t… I mean, we won’t” Lemmon chuckles.

“We have to keep moving and destroy any infestations of the vines we can. if the map is still right, that hall (to Area 6) leads to the tangle of vines that attacked us when we tried to access the computer.”

“You are right to run to the vines, but wrong to fight them. Entangle with them and fertilize them with your blood!” I enthuse inDiego’s tones with zeal. (not Zuul).

“Then what?’ asks Gray.

“I will tell you if we live,” says Diego and presses onward one step at a time, sometimes taking those steps back. Diego’s player is brilliant enough to stand to pantomime how the warring consciousnesses inside his character are taking control of specific limbs to undue the motions made by their opponent, while Lemmon and Diego hum the hokey-pokey.

“My proton pack, Gray!” he yells, dropping the stick.

“Good thinking!” responds Gray and turns the unit off before the possessing entity can mulch them with it. Replacing the stick in its clip on the side of the pack.

“I wasn’t going to kill them, just blow their roots off!” I protest.

“Shut up, you!” growls Lemmon with a wink to Gray.

Dunhill and Lemmon step in to lift and frog march Diego down the hall, on the heels of Gray. As Diego, I start to babble in fear, begging them not to destroy the plants but to join them.

At this point, I also let them know how this possession thing is really going to work, as I do not want even a shadow of worry to cross the group’s mind about how effective Diego will be in that state. The possession is to have entertainment value, and possibly be the sort of disadvantage that cleverness can convert into an advantage later, not turn Diego’s player into a tourist.

So, I remind them that in Ghostbusters, a turn is the unit of time needed for a character to do something cool. Meaning, if Diego is described as running down a hall, he does so. If the entity wants him to run back, he will have to wait his turn. I also note that the entity seems to be acting after Diego. The sequence of play in Ghostbusters doesn’t have to be explained to the players, but for the folks reading along, it goes like this:

  • The Ghostmaster sets the scene including intentions of NPCs and Spooks
  • Declarations go clockwise around the table from the GM’s right, so in our case that is Diego, Lemmon, Dunhill, Grey
  • The Ghostmaster guides resolution of the actions and interactions in the turn sensibly.

That means, I will be making it clear that the entity is going to try to do something, and Diego will be able to declare what he wants to do. As Diego is the host and the entity is an unwelcome guest, it makes sense that Diego’s actions will have priority – unless the entity can seize that priority somehow and set up the possibility to ‘go first.’

The ghostbusters run down the short hall linking the vine room (Area 6) to the seed room (Area 8) via the damnable closet of possession (Area 7) where Diego was invaded by his unwelcome spiritual guest.

As they run, Dunhill pants, “Do you feel yourself transforming into a mantis at all?”

“Linda was blessed by the Gardener!” I intone ecstatically, and with a trace of jealousy shifting to judgement as I note, “but if you keep on with this plan to burn the vines with your filthy proton packs, there is no way the Gardener will bless you as he did her! He will prune you!”

“Sign me up for the Gardener’s displeasure then,” says Diego as he is carried into the dim room filled with writhing vines. I describe the room briefly, going for a return to worry but without intent to drench the levity. The number of vines is mind-numbing, all coiling in and around each other, all aware and each very, very, carnivorously hungry.

Lemmon’s player jots a few notes and I can tell that he is already thinking toward the final confrontation. If what I am describing here, a forest of vines occupying this large room in the research center, is just a part of the experimental phase of this diabolical project, what is the implementation phase like?

Part of it they have seen, for the entire building is entombed in writhing vines and they saw this as they came in, but those vines now seem to them to be less menacing and more like they are waiting for something… which on second thought is more menacing.

Combat ensues, and the vines give a good fight, but are not able to withstand the concentrated blasts of the proton packs. They are able to batter and squeeze Lemmon and Dunhill for some Brownie Points, though, and that cements the mood. Even better, as the guys press on into the undergrowth and find themselves having to blast in all directions as vines come from everywhere, they discover that some of the vines have rows of fanged and sticky leaves adapted to work like mouths – not unlike a venus flytrap, but human-sized!

By the end of 5-10 minutes of fast-paced dice rolling for unspeakable violence, Brownie Points for Dunhill are getting low, and Lemmon has taken several more injuries than the 0 he likes to take. Lemmon hates to be down even a few Brownie Points, for whatever reason, and so he is growing even more keen to take out this threat once and for all – or at least until it returns for Sweeps Week.

The ghostbusters stand in roiling clouds of smoke as flaming bits of vine sizzle all around them. Soot-smeared, and battered, clothes ripped, blood dripping from scratches and other injuries, they look at each other with grim, if pained, satisfaction.

“I want to check the computer again,” says Diego suddenly, as the ashes rain down around them coating them in more soot and fried leaves.

“Don’t do that!” I say in with fear in my imitation of his manner.

“Then, we go into the shaft! I need to see what’s going on in there!” he says grimly. (Area 22)

“I really wish you wouldn’t!” I cower as a much less cocky entity, as it uses Diego’s eyes to survey the devastation of this once lush forest of death.

“Lay on, MacDuff!” says Gray.

“No Shakespeare,” say the others, including the entity, automatically.

Questions: Coming off a moment of easier carnage tinged with a significant setback, what method of setting up and playing this more violent encounter is suggested here. The forest is a long-standing symbol of peril, what can entering it do to the mood? How about overcoming it?

What do you expect the group to do next, bowed but undaunted?

Video: Later today, as usual, there will be a video added to the bottom of this post~

4 Responses to “#RPGaDay2020 – Day 14: Forest”
  1. >>”That means, I will be making it clear that the entity is going to try to do something, and Diego will be able to declare what he wants to do. As Diego is the host and the entity is an unwelcome guest, it makes sense that Diego’s actions will have priority – unless the entity can seize that priority somehow and set up the possibility to ‘go first.’”

    Now that is a clever game mechanic!

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  1. […] and with a discernable logic, yet with that refreshing hint of discovery as sometimes we take a route less-travelled. Each day a post is written for this blog, on the day. It is followed up by a commentary video […]

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