Thursday, 4 May 2017

Twilight of the Gods

or, You Can't Teach an Old God New Tricks

What follows is a very special playset for Blood & Water: the rules stay the same, but the setting and assumptions are different. This playset is based on an idea by Scott Dorward, adapted from his notes.

Shade Orchard

What happens to the Gods when their believers dwindle and their powers fade? The Gods can never truly die, as long as someone in the world still believes in them, so they find ways to pass the quiet millennia. Shade Orchard is a nursing home with some very special residents, though the staff remain largely unaware of this; a significant number of the people living here are in actual fact the Gods of various pantheons who have settled in for the long haul. Though individually weak, collectively they have enough power to cast a haze about their home that prevents the mortal staff from asking too many inconvenient questions.

With this basic set-up, some parts of the Resident's Book for Blood & Water are already taken care of or can be skipped over, i.e:

  • I crossed over when... None of the residents have 'crossed over' as such: they have always been Gods and technically they still are, but they have chosen to reside here while the world quietly forgets about them.
  • I cannot be with mortals... The Gods aren't avoiding mortals (most of the staff at Shade Orchard are mortal), they just find it inconvenient to have mortals disturbing their retirement. They are still Gods and enjoy all the privileges that go with that, but their powers are weak and their mortal forms decrepit, so they prefer to keep their relationships with mortals on a personal, one-to-one level rather than trying to command legions of followers.
  • I cannot be with my own kind... The Gods have always mixed with their own kind and, apart from a few petty squabbles, get along quite well with each other; in their retirement, even the boundaries between pantheons have blurred and the various Gods rub shoulders with only minor rivalries.
The following list of residents is not exhaustive, merely a suggested group with some built-in dynamics to drive play forward; you are free to create your own residents using these examples as guidelines.

Ms. Horrocks
You are... a feisty, fresh old lady with the heart of a seductress, who dresses like a femme fatale from the 1930s.
But you were... Aphrodite, known as Venus to the Romans, the Goddess of love, beauty, desire and pleasure.

Your Supernatural...
Strengths are... You can heighten any mortal's attraction to anyone or anything; when you kiss a mortal, they must do precisely what you say; you can appear to any mortal as the one they love the most.
Weaknesses are... You cannot resist praise or flattery; you are irresistibly drawn to handsome young men; you have a tantrum when you are denied or rejected.

What do you want that you don't have? Adoring fans: you act like a fading movie star and have convinced many mortals of your past fame, but you secretly yearn to be a true star.
What's stopping you from getting it? You can't abide sharing the spotlight with anyone else and insist on having the first, last and only word in any endeavour, therefore no-one will work with you.
What do you have that you don't want? A chequered past: your long life is littered with ex-lovers, both mortal and mythological. Some of them are bitter, some remorseful and some are still obsessed with winning you back.
What's stopping you from losing it? You can can always call upon your ex-lovers for favours, so best to keep them sweet.

To Do... persuade the management of Shade Orchard to allow it to be used for location filming for a little project you've inveigled your way into; the promise of a cheap set was what got you a part in the film.

Mr. Ireland
You are... a stuffy, crusty, Old English Gentleman, with the manners and prejudices of an upper class that is now sadly out-of-touch with reality.
But you were... Herne the Hunter, a Pagan Deity associated with the woods and forests of England.

Your Supernatural...
Strengths are... You can track anything or anyone that leaves a trail of any sort; you can transform into an assortment of wild animals; you can talk to the trees.
Weaknesses are... You can only eat raw meat, never cooked and never vegetables, grain or dairy; you have an overpoweringly musky, earthy odour; you trigger the 'fight or flight' reflex in all animals you come near.

What do you want that you don't have? The Reformation of the Wild Hunt: with fox hunting and other blood sports banned in the UK, the ancient pack has broken up and gone their separate ways.
What's stopping you from getting it? The Wild Hunt have dropped out and become travellers: not only do you have to find them, but you have to persuade them to go back to the old ways.
What do you have that you don't want? A strict diet: the staff at Shade Orchard keep trying to feed you healthy, balanced meals, so you are forced to desperate and cunning measures to avoid eating the damned stuff.
What's stopping you from losing it? Mrs. Leech, the Kitchen Manager and resident nutritionist, a charming mature women who shares many of your politically incorrect views; you hate to get on her bad side.

To Do... stir up interest in a Countryside Alliance march to lift the ban on fox hunting; write letters to the papers, call on people you know and do what it takes to raise public interest in the matter.

Mrs. Oterma
You are... a slender, dark-skinned woman with a tendency to gossip and pass judgement upon others with little to no provocation.
But you were... Kaali, the Divine Mother and the Destroyer of Evil in Hindu mythology.

Your Supernatural...
Strengths are... You can afflict any mortal with morbid terror; you are unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat; you can move instantly from one shadow to any other shadow.
Weaknesses are... You cannot keep what you know to yourself; your preferred method of dealing with troublesome mortals is to kill them; you are compelled to face evil whenever you come across it.

What do you want that you don't have? A victory over Mrs. Johnson in the Thursday Night 'Pub Quiz' the staff at Shade Orchard run: despite being a mortal, she knows much more about the world than you do.
What's stopping you from getting it? Try as you might, you never seem to win the quiz (because unbeknownst to you, she's cheating by bribing the quiz setter for the answers every week!)
What do you have that you don't want? A belt of human skulls, a trophy of your past glories kept in a suitcase under your bed; the whispering, chattering voices of the skulls keep you awake at night.
What's stopping you from losing it? You've tried on several occasions, such as by leaving the suitcase on the bus, but some well-meaning do-gooder always brings it back to the nice little old lady who forgot her case. On some occasions, a mortal has peeked inside the case and you've had to slaughter them, adding another skull to the belt...

To Do... you're convinced that all the staff at Shade Orchard are thieves & slave traders: investigate what goes on at the retirement home by spying, prying and poking.

Mr. Tyndale
You are... a very old man with wild, unkempt white hair and beard, who seems out of touch with the modern day and spends his time dreaming of past glories.
But you were... Jehovah of the Elohim, the God of the Old Testament.

Your Supernatural...
Strengths are... You can see all things that are occurring on Earth at all times; you can transform anything into anything else; you can bring the dead back to life.
Weaknesses are... You get confused by concepts like 'past', 'present' and 'future'; you become a silent, invisible, intangible presence when atheists are about; you sometimes manifest as pure, golden fire and set light to things accidentally.

What do you want that you don't have? More time with your son: he inherited the family business and has made quite a big name for himself, with millions more followers worldwide than you ever achieved.
What's stopping you from getting it? He's very busy and will only visit if it's an emergency, so you keep engineering reasons for him to visit, hoping that he won't realise what you're doing.
What do you have that you don't want? A creeping sense of shame: you can't help but feel responsible for all the ills of mankind, which is a most un-Godlike feeling.
What's stopping you from losing it? You've tried to make amends by 'fixing' what's wrong in the lives of staff at Shade Orchard, but it never seems to help; you keep trying though, hoping to assuage your guilt.

To Do... Mary, one of the carers at the retirement home, wants to be a success as a singer; maybe if you help her achieve her dream, it will be one less thing to feel guilty about? Plus you always had a soft spot for women called 'Mary.'

Guest Characters
In addition to the main cast of characters suggested above, there are also some NPCs who can meddle in the residents' lives.

Elder Knox: a neat and handsome young man, wearing the short sleeved white shirt and smartly pressed black trousers of his Evangelical Christian sect at all times; he adds to this a pair of skin tight black leather gloves, because he is also the Angel of Death and one touch of his finger will kill any mortal. He visits the retirement home frequently on business... that is, both kinds of business, as he also volunteers there, talking to the mortal residents about the afterlife as well as occasionally helping one of them into it. He has a respectful but difficult relationship with Mr. Tyndale who is always pressing him for news of his son.

Cecilia DeMille: a film student whose great aunt is a resident in Shade Orchard, she has fallen into the orbit of Ms. Horrocks and somehow ended up with a commitment to cast the elderly love goddess in her next short film, on the condition that they can use the building for location filming. As the film is a short horror piece about Death, not only do the management think this is inappropriate, but many of the residents will be only to happy to point out what she's got wrong.

Mr. Manzano: a new resident has arrived recently at Shade Orchard and he is in fact Anansi, the trickster and story-teller of African mythology. Somewhat younger appearing and more sprightly than the other residents, he has stirred up a lot of jealousy and passion with his fabulous and enchanting tales; he also likes to make bets with the other residents, which he inevitably wins by some form of trick.

Mary Calvin: a carer at the retirement home, this young woman still has ambitions to make something of her life and aspires to be a world-famous singer; at the moment though, she's just gigging in night clubs and other venues. Mr. Tyndale has taken it upon himself to meddle in her life in order to make her dreams come true; a plot point to work on could involve Mary meeting Mr. Tyndale's son, them hitting it off, then next thing you know there's a Son of the Son of God on his way! Time for a New Improved Testament?

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