Thursday, May 3, 2018

Game Pitch Outline: Night Train



Game Pitch Outline:  Night Train

High Concept:  Ravenloft modern with undertones of Kult’s Metropolis meets Mission Impossible


The Pitch
What if Ravenloft’s Masque of the Red Death setting was modernized and mixed with Kult’s concept of Metropolis? Dark Lords dwell in a shadowy world connected to ours via places of ancient power, extreme emotion distress, and centuries of manipulation. From these domains of dread, they send their tendrils into our world to corrupt the innocent, murder the hearty, and grow their powerbase.

Into these shadows walk the heroes (or anti-heroes) of the game.




Overview
Our world intertwines with that of the Dark Lords. Whether this is due to a membrane between Earth and the Outer Dark or the Mists of Ravenloft, terrible places of extreme horror exist, fueled by the power of their Dark Lords. These places also interconnect to each other, along a membrane of sorts that is outside the space/time of Earth. Perhaps it is the Twilight of Nochnoy Dozor or the Umbra of Mage.

The Dark Lords control concepts and ideals related to their character. They can exist in the real world, but are far safer, more powerful, and much more comfortable in their shadow world. The Dark Lords fight for power in the real world, sometimes sending their armies to fight each other.

Crossing from Earth to the Dark Universe is not a task most can accomplish. Certain books and websites discuss spells and rituals which transfer one’s body from this realm to the other. However, those readings are hard to find and the components needed to complete the tasks are even harder to locate. Along the same line as using a magical ritual to transfer from here to there, gates exist which open directly to and from the other world. There are train stations where if one is there at the right time on the right day, a train will arrive from the Dark Universe, drop off riders, and pick up new riders. Lastly, the domains creep into the Earth and a person can slip between the two worlds without realizing it until it is too late.

The characters begin without foreknowledge of the Dark Universe. However, this changes in the first adventure as they gain at least a knowing glance into the shadow world. Low power-level characters are not ideal for this game. The characters should be experts in their field and preferably all part of the same organization. Members of a counter-intelligence unit or mercenaries for hire are good choices.

Depending on the scope of the game, the story will involve one Dark Lord or several.





First Arc
While on the first mission of the game, the characters come face to face with low-level minions of a Dark Lord. There is no indication the minions answer to a “dark lord,” but clues exist hinting at a larger organization.

There are two directions from this point. The characters can return to their “day job” world, unsure of what just happened and continue with their lives. Alternatively, they can be burned, left out in the cold for an unknown reason. All of their contacts in their organization refuse to have anything to do with them. If they try to contact family, the family tries to avoid the characters, as if warned off. If the characters still have a “day job” after the first adventure, the second adventure results in being burned. From here, the characters have no choice but to chase shadows. If they do not, the shadows come for them.




Second Arc
As the characters work through mooks and minions, they climb the ladder of the conspiracy, learning more as they climb higher and higher. Eventually, they learn about the Dark Lord/s and their domain/s. As they work to gain access to the Dark Lord, or as they run in fear, they experience more of the Dark Universe. The closer to the Dark Lord they travel, the more reality seems to change. Not only are monsters real, so are magic and demonic entities. Reality takes on a different appearance the further into the shadows they travel. The only way to stop the Dark Lord/s is to take the battle to them in their realm/s.

The game becomes a series of conspyramids, interconnecting at different intervals, wrapping around the characters. The characters leap from one conspyramid to another and then back again to go up levels of the conspyramid. This is Night’s Black Agents at its fullest, most expansive level, combined with every other GUMSHOE line.




Third Act
Is the Dark Lord defeated or did they escape to fight another day? What about the Dread Power which binds them to their realm?

What costs have the players paid in order to set back the Dark Lord? Have they sacrificed family or close friends? Have they become one of the monsters of the Dark Universe? Are their souls lost to the Abyss? Did any of them die? If so, is there someone effected who could take up the fight in their behalf?





Additional Considerations
§  Bare bones, the enemies are dark reflections of the heroes
§  Things man was not mean to know is a major element; actions of a person attempting to learn things that, we are told, no one should understand, such as Dr. Frankenstein or Jekyll/Hyde; potentially an ally working towards a worthy goal that ends in a tragedy
o   Trying to open a “Stargate” and it unexpectedly lets in Outer Dark beings
o   Drug that accelerates hearing, but creates super soldiers who go on to do bad things
o   Dr. Morbius, the living vampire, was attempting to create a healing drug, took the drug to see if it would work and turned himself into a “living” vampire
o   Assistant steals notes and samples to supply technology to the Dark Lord’s minions, because they have something the assistant desperately needs/wants
§  Common technology has its uses for the enemy; cellphones, means and speed of travel, knowledge available via the Internet
o   Evil can use the same technology against the heroes
o   If the heroes lose access to the technology, are they still strong or will they falter in battle as the enemy now has the upper hand?
o   False, planted, or incorrect information/knowledge due to a wide availability of knowledge source (re:  Wikipedia)
§  Traditions of Terror
o   Spellcasting has consequences for the caster and may change the users, physically or mentally, a price must be paid
o   Fear, horror, and madness checks and trackers
o   Curses
o   Wandering gypsies and fortune telling

The rising in power levels, the world-spanning campaign, and the amount of combat needed to stop the Dark Lord/s in this game are not meant to make it a light-hearted campaign. In fact, the opposite is more true. Sacrifices are made to gain power levels (sanity, perhaps?). World-spanning adds a level of excitement to the game, adding flavors from James Bond, Impossible Mission Force or Man from U.N.C.L.E. In a world without the Dark Lords, these characters could be stopping drug lords and corrupt politicians. Instead, they are fighting an unseen force in shadows and alley ways.



The Dark Universe
Some places on Earth are one-and-the same with the membrane or twilight of the Dark Universe. In these places, the Dark Lords make their lairs. These places connect to each other along the membrane, via a train system. The borders between the Dark Lords’ realms function similar to the Mists of Ravenloft. Those who wander into them are unlikely to make it out alive and unchanged. Only the engineers of the trains know the way and the way is to follow the tracks. The tracks have been there for as long as anyone can remember.

The train/s takes on an appropriate appearance for the realm in which it currently resides. Passengers will not notice a change take place while onboard the train, when it passes from one realm to another. However, they will notice the change the moment they step foot on the ground of the next realm.

The types of trains include steam locomotives, subways, Els, steampunk, dieselpunk, bullet, and more.



Dark Lord Realm Examples

Santa Muerte
She is served by the Mexican Cartels. Her domains include Mexico City, barren wastelands inhabited by cartel soldiers, and the US-Mexico border. The walls surrounding this realm are fence lines and military/police who kill those who cross the border. Her power comes from human trafficking, drug running, murder, and extortion.


Castle Wolfstone
An overly structured city filled with concrete buildings and run by fascists. The inhabitants of the castle on the highest hill in the capital control the land. Outsiders are discouraged from visiting and often targeted for attacks by the brown coats serving the fascist leaders. The Dark Lord of the realm gains power from fear, terror, and executing outsiders. The domain consists of a perfectly functioning city, the highway around it, and the castle on the hill. Even though there are vehicles moving on the highway, it is impossible to find an entry or exit ramp onto the highway.


Dracula
Dracula resides in an Eastern European Socialist State. A corrupt government that operates via a system of bribes controls the lands. The common people struggle to survive and will not help the characters, unless the characters have something to offer them (bribe?) in return. Bribes include clean water not laced with uranium, food of high quality, money in the local denomination to pay bribes for a better life, or help getting out of the country.

No matter what, the citizens cannot leave the country. The land will do what it must to stop them from leaving. Whether a military death squad arrives to kill them and take their children for trafficking, train engineers reject their paperwork, or the Dark Lord’s gypsies kill them in the night.

Somewhere, Dracula sits in his castle, brooding over his situation. His alliance with the socialists keeps the Turks at bay, but the socialists treat his people nearly as bad as the Turks would. He rarely ventures outside his castle and when he does, he often travels with his gypsies. Dracula uses the military when he does not use the gypsies.




Further Possible Dread Lords and Realms
Columbian Drug Lords

Voodoo, zombie lords, zombies, and Haiti, New Orleans, or Beaver City

European university develops super soldier serum

Middle East wars mixed with Mad Max fury

Biker Werewolves who travel the highways between realms freely (their domain is wherever they are, they are not tied to one place)
Dark technology (university or private company; Dark Conspiracy)
Misused or abused magics [Arkham, Salem, North Berwick (Scotland), Warboys (England)]
Wicked City demons
Sin City crime lords and politicians
The Purge and NFFA in L.A.
Detroit’s Devil’s Night
North American forests and the Native American monsters lurking in them





Monday, June 19, 2017

AFMBE Morsel - The Community College

What follows is a morsel of a setting for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten roleplaying game. 

Neighborhood:  Beaverton Community College

The Beaverton Community College is on one edge of town, nestled between a shopping plaza, a wooded neighborhood, and a small apartment complex. The college has seven buildings, all brick. The properly is surrounded by a ten foot tall, gothic, wrought iron fence. There are two gates as points of egress. The buildings include the original Lutheran church, an administrative building, a mixed-sex dormitory used mostly by foreign students, a performing arts building, a science building, a business school building, and a general studies building.

This community college has a student population near 2,000 and most of its funding comes from the high cost of tuition. However, several of the college’s students are philanthropists who have bequeathed money to the college.


Sights
Person:  The Professor
1.        The professor is not an actual professor. The professor is actually a local who hung around the college discussing philosophy and other arts topics at the local coffee shops with students. He smells equally of body odor and marijuana.
2.        The professor is a local drug dealer who sold junk to the students at the university. The students provided the nickname to avoid suspicion by the real staff and professors on campus.
3.        The professor is a former instructor who was dismissed for unethical teaching. There are many rumors surrounding the professor’s dismal. They include creating drugs and selling them to students, teaching students how to make said drugs, inappropriate relationships with students, conducting scientific research against the college’s religious organization’s wishes, conducting scientific research deemed unethical by a scientific review board, and creating the drug that created zombie patient zero.

Place:  The Church
1.        The church has a basement. The basement has a door that leads to hallways under the college. At one time, the tunnel system connected all of the buildings. However, after a highly publicized rape occurred in the tunnels, they bricked over the doors in the other buildings. Various supplies are scattered throughout the hallways. There is a rumor one of the manhole covers on campus leads to the hallways.
2.        The church is on holy ground and the zombies will not go near the property. No one knows who originated this tail, as the gates and fence are intact and have been since everyone on site arrived.
3.        The priests of the church were heavily involved with helping the local food pantry. They would stockpile supplies at the church and make donations once a month. The goods gathered the month prior to the rise of the zombies are still in the church. Food, water, clothing, and toiletries are there for the taking.


Thing:  Medicine
1.        The science department had several grants from major pharmaceutical companies. They were working on several miracle drugs when the outbreak started. The different types of drugs in development included cures for cancer, cures for liver and kidney disease, and help recover from diarrhea and vomiting.
2.        The college offered a pharmaceutical degree. One of the professors taught an elective course on early medicinal practices and one aspect to the class included learning how to make the drugs used by early cultures and apothecaries. Those same drugs are still available on campus and so are the class notes on how to make the drugs.
3.        The infirmary is in the basement of the dormitory. It was rarely used and is fully stocked with first aid medical supplies, as well as, several prescription drugs of potential interest to the player characters (painkillers, antibiotics, antihistamines, and antidepressants).

Threats
1.        Rumors about the availability of drugs on the campus have many people interested in the community college. Which drugs are available does not matter; use any of the above storylines for this threat. If the drugs are of illicit nature, then that crowd is attracted to the college. Conversely, if using the infirmary or pharmaceutical angle, then a group of people arrives who have need of an important drug. Perhaps a young man broke his leg and needs painkillers. Someone with severe allergies and no source of antihistamines will desire those within the gated community.
2.        There is a small group of survivors living on campus. There is no discernable leader and the group tends to decide major decisions by committee. There are various cliques and alliances on campus and it is impossible to determine who really is on whose side.
3.        The ROTC unit attached to the college is in charge of the community. They fancy themselves a tough bunch and are actually bullies and thugs. They set fire to the nearby apartment complex when the people living there refused to give them tribute in the form of food. They raided the shopping plaza and left behind traps for unwitting scavengers. They take in people looking for a home, taking their things, and then offering them slavery or leaving without their things. This group is trouble and may have heard the right rumors about the player characters to consider the player characters their enemies.

Specific Locations
The Administrative Building
The Admin Building is a maze of cubicles, desks, and tables. Ingenious players may realize the cubicle walls, desks, tables, and filing cabinets make great barriers for zombies. Lining them against the fence to blocks the view of the campus. Affixing them across doors and windows creates a further barrier against anyone trying to gain entrance to the buildings. The admin building is also filled with boxes of copier paper, reports, ledgers, and other paper products to help with starting fires, creating documentation on experiments, and researching the college itself.

The Dormitory
Most of the students tried to take all of their belongings with them, when they fled. Very few succeeded in that endeavor. There are beds, sofas, chairs, desks, refrigerators still closed since the fall of man, clothing, boxes and cans of dried foods, toiletries, and drugs. Going through the entire six-story building will take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

The Gardens
The gardens were once a beautiful flower garden. Soon after the fall of man, the professor organized the residents to convert it into a vegetable garden. It is not producing much yet. However, they are working on a plan to bring in more water to help the plants grow. There are hoses running from the gardens into the arts building.

Connectivity
Travel times and difficulties to nearby, known communities

Place
Travel Time by Foot
Notes
Airport
1D6 (3) hours
Surrounded by zombies
High Rise Apartment Complex
1D4+2 (3) hours
Surrounded by zombies and connected to a parking garage with crashed vehicles blocking egress points
Big Box Store / Supermarket
1D4+2 (3) hours
Aggressive group currently controls this location
Hospital
1D6 (3) hours
Some floors are safe, some are not, surrounding by roving bands of zombies
Hotel
1D6 (3) hours
Defenses are not the great, but the residents are nice enough
Office Park
1D8 (4) hours
Poorly organized community with a Lord of the Flies feel to it
Police Station
1D8 (4) hours
Less than ten people here, none are police and all of the weapons were looted days ago



Friday, June 16, 2017

AFMBE Morsel - The Apartment Building



AFMBE Morsels

My living document on how I plan to create "morsels" is here:  http://derekas.blogspot.com/2017/06/villages-of-living-dead.html

The Apartment Building
These apartments were once a high class hotel. After the war, business dried up and the owners eventually closed it. Sixty years later, an investor purchased the properly and remodeled it into urban apartments. The décor is exposed wood and steel.

The building is eight levels tall with sixteen apartments on floors 2-8. The first level is a small grocer, drug store, conference rooms for rent and the apartment sales office. The basement serves as the home to all things maintenance and property management.

Sights
Person:  Miles
1.        Miles is Miles Rose, the investor who purchased the old hotel and turned it into the apartment complex
2.        Miles ransacked all of the apartments, collecting all of the alcohol he could find, prior to securing his hideout
3.        Mile is not from the area, but instead from where the vector originates
Place:  The Roof
1.        The only survivors in the building are on the roof
2.        A military crate missed its drop location; instead, it landed on the roof of a building where all the residents are zombies
3.        Prior to the fall, residents set up a mini-farm on the roof, complete with vegetable gardens and a chicken coup
Thing:  Water
1.        A water main broken somewhere in the building and water is free flowing inside the building
2.        The former survivors who lived here left behind a roof full of buckets and barrels to collect water
3.        There is an access point to the sewers in the basement; it was originally an access to coal tunnels, until those tunnels were converted

Threats
1.        The disease vector swept through the building very quickly and 85% of the residents are dead inside
2.        The handful of survivors in the building are all together (on the roof or in an apartment). They are not getting along and a major blowout will happen soon. They are not opposed to using the player characters to do the dirty work in a fight.
3.        During the rise, the inside of the building suffered a large amount of damage:  fires broken out, faucets were left in the on position, windows were left open allowing animals and the environment into the building, and residents broke through walls and floors in efforts to escape the zombies or the disasters.

Specific Locations within the Community
The Roof
Prior to the rise the roof was used by the buildings younger residents as a hangout. There is an old dinner table, moldy couch, 1D10 (5) buckets to collect rain, and 1D8 (4) Norm level archetypes on the roof. There is an access door to the stairs into the building. These are not the fire escape stairs to the ground floor. The door is held shut by boards shoved under the threshold. The fire escape is accessible from the roof.

Elevator Shaft
The elevator shaft does not contain a ladder. However, the support structure inside the shaft is such that ascent and descent is possible with several climbing rolls. The elevator shaft descends past the basement level by four feet. This area is filled with mechanical parts, machinery, and a century of trash. The elevator car is currently at the third floor. The top of the elevator car is latched shut and is opened with an easy strength check. The elevator car doors are open due to a mess of bodies in the way.

Two Bedroom Apartment 
This apartment was the residence of Peter and Emily Mclane. The couple retired from teaching a decade ago and decided to travel the USA and Canada. Their apartment is overrun with souveniers, chotchkees, oddities, no water, very little in the way of boxed or canned food, and no weapons. Native American masks line one wall in the living room and American Literature books that only a college professor could love line the other. According the calendar hanging in the hallway, they are in San Francisco until the 12th of next month.

The Basement
The basement contains everything the maintenance crew would use, including spare motors and tools. The elevator engine room is also located here in the basement. A sewer manhole provides access to old steam tunnels. A partially bricked up door leads to the old coal tunnels, which now provide access to the sewer system. There is no food or drink down here.

Connectivity
Travel times and difficulties to nearby, known communities

Place
Travel Time by Foot
Notes
Airport
1D10 (5) hours
Surrounded by zombies
Big Box Store / Supermarket
1D4+2 (3) hours
Aggressive group currently controls this location
Community College
2D6 (3) hours
Weak defenses versus zombies, little to no defenses versus humans
Hospital
1D4 (2) hours
Some floors are safe, some are not, surrounding by roving bands of zombies
Hotel
1D4 (2) hours
Defenses are not the great, but the residents are nice enough
Office Complex
1D6 (3) hours
Poorly organized community with a Lord of the Flies feel to it
Police Station
1D4 (2) hours
Less than ten people here, none are police and all of the weapons were looted days ago


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Morsels - Villages of the Living Dead

This article is to serve as a host for my outline for creating communities and adventures for All Flesh Must Be Eaten games. It is a living document and will be updated as I develop material.

Last updated:  06.16.2017



Morsels are quick write-ups about different communities, neighborhoods, and villages where the living still live and the dead walk the Earth. They can be expanded into meal courses by adding notes regarding Before the Fall, During the Rise, and After the Fall to the 30 second elevator pitch section and if desired, an archetype or zombie stats at the end. Detailing the entire location would make it a full-on meal. 

The Sights represent rumours (or truths) the player characters have heard about the location. You will notice they will contradict each other. The Zombie Master will need to decide which is the truth for their setting.

Threats are three optional threats to the community the Zombie Master can weave into the story. 

Connectivity is not yet finalized. I am imagining something similar to my subway rules, but I need to revisit it. This may be something that becomes its own minigame and not part of the morsel write ups. 

Goals are a separate structure, but operate similar to Morsels. Each goal will have three potential rumours to go with it. These can form the jumping off point for adventures. I will move these to their own post, eventually. However, until I work up their creation process, these are staying here.

Neighborhood Name
30 second elevator pitch about the location and community

Sights
Person
1.        Xxx
2.        Xxx
3.        Xxx
Place
1.        Xxx
2.        Xxx
3.        Xxx
Thing
1.        Xxx
2.        Xxx
3.        Xxx

Threats
1.        Xxx
2.        Xxx
3.        Xxx

Specific Locations within the Community
Up to ten

Connectivity
Distance and/or difficulty to other local neighborhoods or landmarks


Goals
Water
1.        Person
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        xxx
2.        Place
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        xxx
3.        Thing
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        xxx
Food
1.        Person
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
2.        Place
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
3.        Thing
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        xxx
Protection from the elements
1.        Person
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
2.        Place
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
3.        Thing
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
Military strength / Defenses
1.        Person
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
2.        Place
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        Xxx
3.        Thing
a.        Xxx
b.        Xxx
c.        xxx