Monday, 22 August 2016

A Quiet Night In

File this under 'Playsets That Never Were': it's one of two rough ideas for playsets that I toyed around with as additional content for Blood & Water but just couldn't quite make the concept gel. I think Nick Reynolds had the right idea in pitching a strong, distinctive setting for the game and going from there as usual, which is the approach I use myself at conventions now and I recommend to anyone else wanting to give a taster of the game to others.

Still, there's this...


The Best Laid Plans

Morgan, Tara, Walter and Jean share a house in an unassuming part of town: they keep themselves to themselves and have undemanding jobs that pay the bills. Also, they are not human: Morgan is a banshee, who is drawn towards the dying; Tara is a succubus, who feeds upon male lust; Walter is a djinn, who just can't stop himself from granting wishes; and finally, Jeanette is host to a legion of disembodied spirits who need to be contained lest they inflict great harm upon the world.

It's best for all of them if they have as little contact with the human race as possible, but's what best is not always what's done and compromises must sometimes be made. Tonight, they are all going to get very compromised.

This playset provides the complete resident's book for each of the above four characters, plus suggestions for the mediator to weave this into an appropriate narrative for a one-shot.

Better Off Dead

Colin Morgan as Morgan O'Neill
I am...   Morgan O'Neill, a banshee.
But I was... a paramedic with stress problems.
I crossed over when... I was taking an emergency case back to the hospital when the ambulance I was in crashed and something crossed over from the patient to me.

I cannot be with mortals because... the more intimate I become with them, the more aware I become of how long they have left to live.
but I'm held back by... my old mates from the Aston Villa supporters club; I keep trying to encourage them to live a healthier lifestyle.
I cannot be with my own kind because... they operate in total secrecy and I don't know anything about them or how I came to be like this.
but I'm drawn in by... the Whisperer, a strange entity I have seen watching me from the shadows but have never been able to catch.

My supernatural...
Strengths are...  I become invisible in shadows & darkness; nothing escapes my hearing; I can tip the scales of life & death.
Weaknesses are... I get disturbing impressions of how people will die; the sight & smell of raw or cooked meat makes me sick; whenever I try to smile, it looks forced & unnatural.

Personal
What do I want that I don't have? An intimate relationship.
What's stopping me from getting it? I just can't stop trying to 'fix' the life of anyone I date.
What do I have that I don't want? A chest freezer full of steaks, burgers, chicken wings & sausages.
What's stopping me from losing it? I'm holding it all for the AVFC fan club, as they have nowhere else to put it.

To do... prepare the house for guests, as the AVFC are coming around to watch a European league match tonight.

The Centre of Attention

Antonia Thomas as Tara Effe
I am...   Tara Effe, a succubus.
But I was... a sex worker.
I crossed over when... I was stabbed by a client, but the pendant left to me by my grandmother saved my life, at a price.

I cannot be with mortals because... heterosexual men are drawn to me and keep trying to win my attention.
but I'm held back by... needing to work; at least the call centre I work in now is nearly all-women and I have a female boss.
I cannot be with my own kind because... they keep encouraging me to punish all mortals harshly for their transgressions.
but I'm drawn in by... the Goddess Isis; she protects me and keeps my heart beating.

My supernatural...
Strengths are...  I can remove a mortal's inhibitions for a time; my kiss makes people lose their short term memory; I can make any adult male who is attracted to me do exactly what I say.
Weaknesses are... I can't help attracting the attention of men who like women; my body temperature far exceeds the human norm and I always feel too hot; I am indebted to Isis for giving me my life.

Personal
What do I want that I don't have? A way to avenge myself on the man who tried to kill me.
What's stopping me from getting it? His father is a powerful local figure, with connections to the police and politicians; the whole thing has been brushed under the carpet.
What do I have that I don't want? I have been commanded by Isis to seduce a holy man, as part of her plan to regain her worshippers.
What's stopping me from losing it? When I disobey Isis, she punishes me by with-holding my life essence.

To do... prepare the house for guests, as the girls from work (including your boss Vivian) are coming around for a product party, where you can all get make-overs and try out different looks.

What You Wish For

James McAvoy as Walter Allen
I am...   Walter Allen, a painter & decorator.
But I was... a powerful djiin.
I crossed over when... A mortal tried to steal my powers for himself, but it didn't have the result he expected and I ended up possessing the empty shell of his body.

I cannot be with mortals because... I don't really understand their idiom and keep taking what they say too literally.
but I'm held back by... my fascination with their lives; this is much more liberating than being a djinn and the mortals don't know the fun they're missing out on!
I cannot be with my own kind because... they have rejected me since I was bested by a mortal sorcerer and imprisoned in this form.
but I'm drawn in by... my desire to reconnect with my great love Azrael; now that I am unbound by my djinni oaths, I can dream of us being free together.

My supernatural...
Strengths are...  I can summon forth any material or object that I can picture clearly; I can hold time still for a few moments; I can change my shape into that of anyone I have a picture of; I can create fires hot enough to burn absolutely anything.
Weaknesses are... Fires tend to get out of control when I'm around; I can't resist giving people exactly what they ask for; I can be bound or repelled by simple rituals or tokens; water burns me like acid.

Personal
What do I want that I don't have? Freedom for all my people.
What's stopping me from getting it? They're so set in their ways, they all see 'freedom' as chaos & anarchy.
What do I have that I don't want? I've taken on two clients at once, who both want a rush job on their new interior designs.
What's stopping me from losing it? If I break the contract with either of them, or let them down, my professional reputation will be in tatters.

To do... finish the two design proposals you have on your plate, with both clients e-mailing changes and revisions at every step.
Also, someone is coming around to fix a blocked pipe: everyone else in the household keeps leaving the organisation of these little jobs in your hands, as you work from home a lot anyway (and no-one ever knows which personality will be in control of Jean at any time.)

We're In This Together

Christina Ricci as Jean Bailey
I am...   Jean Bailey, a host to dispossessed spirits.
But I was... the rebellious daughter of rich parents.
I crossed over when... I got into a crowd of disaffected youth like myself; an experiment with drugs & occult rituals brought me to death's door but I came back with unwelcome guests.

I cannot be with mortals because... I never really know when one of the spirits will take control of my body and make me do something awful or embarrassing.
but I'm held back by... needing to find a way to get rid of my guests, maybe by helping them to complete their unfinished business.
I cannot be with my own kind because... there is no-one like me, but there are other ghosts who keep trying to join the crowd in my body.
but I'm drawn in by... needing to know more about the afterlife and the otherworld; maybe I can find an escape clause somehow.

My supernatural...
Strengths are...  When 'Simon' possesses me, I have x-ray vision; when 'Laughing Bag' possesses me, I can move objects with the power of my mind; when 'Baby' possesses me, I become completely insubstantial; when 'Mr. Pelt' possesses me, I am inhumanly strong & fast.
Weaknesses are... When 'Simon' possesses me, I get the urge to correct what everyone says; when 'Laughing Bag' possesses me, I get the urge to play nasty tricks; when 'Baby' possesses me, I become completely insubstantial; when 'Mr.Pelt' possesses me, I must spill blood.

Personal
What do I want that I don't have? A good night's sleep, free of nightmares.
What's stopping me from getting it? The other spirits possessing me get up to all kinds of things when I sleep.
What do I have that I don't want? Ms. Paley, a 'fixer' who works for my parents and keeps interfering in my life.
What's stopping me from losing it? The only way they'll call her off is if I go home and face the music, which could mean one of my 'guests' hurting them.

To do... have a spiritual consultation with Paul Grace, a self-proclaimed exorcist & occultist with a degree in divinity; he's coming around tonight.

Let's Get This Party Started!

Take a good look over those residents with a mediator's eye: you should already see some potentially troublesome issues cropping between them, e.g. Tara makes people lose their inhibitions and say whatever is on their minds, but Walter keeps trying to give people whatever he thinks they want; Jean has a problem with the spirits possessing her but Morgan can tips the scales of life & death. That's just the tip of the iceberg though, we haven't even got to the clash of guests coming around to the house tonight:
  • The AVFC fan club: four mates of Morgan's, all men, here to wish their team the best in the match tonight whilst necking a load of food & booze that Morgan stores here for them.
  • The girls from the call-centre: five of the women Tara works with, including Vivian her boss and Suzanne, a girl who is getting married soon.
  • The plumber: he's coming around to clear a blockage, which means finding exactly where it is for one thing. As Walter was stuck with calling for him, Walter is also stuck with showing him around the house, but Walter has work he'd rather be getting on with.
  • The exorcist: found by Jean on the internet, he's here to consult with her, but she's hoping to get an exorcism out of it too, they just need some peace & quiet.
Not enough? Here are more problems:
  • When Morgan's mates get a look at Tara, they will hardly be able to think of anything else and will keep finding excuses to bust in on the product party in the other room. Morgan will barely be able to stay in the room with them once they start tucking into their bacon butties and chicken burgers, so another housemate might have to police this.
  • The woman providing the products for the product party is actually Ms. Paley: though introduced as a friend of one of the girls, she has deliberately inserted herself here to find out more about the type of people that Jean is living with and report back to her parents.
  • The plumber and the exorcist are about to arrive at the same time, quite possibly describing why they are here in roughly the same terms to whoever opens the door, i.e. "I was called about the problem; you wanted something clearing?" Hilarious confusion may ensue.
Honestly, there are more potential threads here than you could hope to resolve in an entire day of playing and you will likely find your own story from the elements contained within the residents' books, without needing anything extra. The key aspect of play is keeping everything within the house: if any housemate tries to run out to do an errand, then complicate it by having one of the guests from the two parties accompany them, e.g. any member of the AVFC could follow Tara or attempt to find out more about her from one of the housemates, or Suzanne could come out for a breath of fresh air, looking for someone to confide her wedding nerves to, or have a last fling with!