Too much science? Is that possible?


With Halloween right around the corner it seems like the perfect time to talk about bringing some terror into your players’ lives. It’s only fair, since if your players are anything like mine they make you shudder with fear and loathing every time they show up for a session. You need some pay back, and I’m here to help.

The fact that my campaign takes place in the World of Darkness makes it somewhat obligatory to have an element of horror, but you don’t want the horror to become too “one note”. You can only hold suspense for so long before the players simply get used to it. Additionally, it can be difficult to sustain a feeling of dread when you have to pause and pick things up next session. A feeling of panic on the other hand… now that’s the gift that keeps on giving! That’s why I always enjoy hitting the players with some bad news right at the end of a session. If you can manage to time something urgent for the end of a session they will spend the time between sessions worrying about it, while you spend the time between sessions posting winky faces at them on Facebook and Twitter alongside vague assurances that everything is Fine![tm]

I am absolutely a fan of hitting the PCs where they live quite literally. When I came up with a glorious plan that might cause their  sanctum to explode I didn’t lead off the session with that fact. Oh no, that would give them time to deal with it before the session ends. Where’s the fun in that I ask you? Instead I slowly made them realize that something might be just a bit… off. When we last left off Aenaiyah was ready to kill Argus for humiliating her at a Starbucks. I don’t know about you, but I laughed.

Anyway, as it turns out one of my players (Neils) moved to Boston, and as such he can’t always make it to NY for sessions. This kinda sucks because Neils is a crazy science guy who dreams of finding the point where Science meets Awakened Magic so that all Paradox will end and Mages will live happily ever after… right next to those annoying shiny, happy folks at the side of the road holding hands. How revolting! This is a dream that needs to be squashed.

I started my War On Hope with an email to Neils’s player prior to his arrival in New York telling him the results of his most recent experiments: some of his equipment is working better than ever before! Some of his equipment works a bit sporadically, and other equipment is really not working at all.

At the start of the session the rest of the cabal is arriving home from Starbucks to find Neils, surprise surprise, tinkering with some pretty odd looking stuff in the basement. They might have been paying more attention to this if Aenaiyah wasn’t trying to convince her Familiar Noel (hereafter: Death Kitteh) to scratch Argus’s eyes out. While they are rolling this out (Aenaiyah rolls to persuade Noel to claw Argus in the face, Noel gets bonuses to resist because Argus has secretly been bribing Noel with tuna and catnip for months, you know… the usual) I tell everyone else that when when they see Neils in his workshop (they have retreated downstairs to escape the ensuing domestic violence), he appears to be moving very slowly at some times, and far too rapidly at others. “Come to think of it”, I tell them “sometimes it looks like he simply stares off into space for hours without moving.” The players downstairs take a vote and decide (unanimously) that this is clearly Aenaiyah’s fault, which is a perfectly reasonable assumption if you ask me. So they call upstairs to ask her and Argus to quit “foolin’ around” and come downstairs.

“His face Noel, just jump on his face and claw it off like a good kitty.”

Next they will devise some experiments designed to see if this really is the Time Mage’s fault, because really… what could possibly go wrong? Pretty soon they’re waving their hands inside the door while they are standing outside, at which point I take great care to explain to them in breathtaking detail how their arms appear to warp and twist at the point where they enter the room. They don’t feel like anything is wrong at all, but what they are seeing is just plain wrong. Arms are really not meant to look like that. At first it seems as though the part of the arm that’s outside of the room is moving faster than the part inside, then the inside part catches up and kinda… warps. The idea that parts of their own bodies are being twisted and deformed by whatever is happening here has the desired morbid and creepifyin’ effect.

While the folks at the laboratory door pull their arms back out and count their fingers, I make everyone ELSE in the basement roll WITS+COMPOSURE to see if they note the reactions of the spirit-ridden stop motion puppets they recently acquired. The puppets can’t actually talk, but they can wave their hands frantically while backing away from Neils’s lab. As a matter of fact, I actually give the table my best “Not the face. NOT THE FACE!!!” pantomime while not saying anything at all. They know what I’m getting at.

Of course, important to any horror story is the promise of rich rewards for those daring and courageous enough to harness what is happening here. In this case our resident scientist feels like Awesome-Man whenever he enters this room. As a game mechanic, every point of Mana that he has is suddenly twice as potent. Now the players have a good reason to not necessarily want to stop whatever this is, because maybe they can control it! In fact, maybe they can even do it (they can if they try), but there must be risk involved. (Oh yes, there will be risk.)

At some point, hopefully near the end of the session, your resident Acanthus will cast a spell to see what will happen if they do nothing about this situation in their basement. If you are a particularly evil GM (and I assure you I am) you will separate the Acanthus from the rest of the group and tell her that she sees a mushroom cloud forming over their city centered on their sanctum, and make a loud rumbly noise like an explosion. If you are even more evil than most (rest assured, I am) you will be sure to tell her that she feels certain that this is not going to happen tomorrow or anything, but eventually it could happen if they do absolutely nothing. If you’ve played your cards right your favorite Acanthus will run outside and cause a panic at the end of your session that will keep them all freaked out about what has been unleashed in the basement and how to fix it until next session.

Mages Make Me Cry

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Posted on October 26, 2012, in Campaign Summary, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, Uncategorized, WoD, World of Darkness and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. For Science!
    I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?

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