This was actually played months ago, but it went so horribly wrong, I didn’t really feel like writing about it. I guess partly to get me to write more RPG-stuff and for the sake of completeness, I’ll put this up.
So, for those who don’t know, this is a sort of tremulus campaign, but more like a recurring setting. Certain characters and places reappear, but many things are left to the players and the GM. You can find the earlier frameworks in the Resources page (as well as this one, but here’s a direct link), but you can also read up reports on these by following the bell-end tag.
I think I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but there’s a French movie from the early 1940’s called Le Corbeau. Its about a little town where “poison pen” letters begin to appear, accusing people in a very crude way for various sins and misdeeds. This leads to all sorts of paranoia and unrest among the natives. I thought I’d make a framework out of that.
Also, I wanted to continue the Bell End storyline, and I felt I had the perfect villain for the piece: The girl, who had been accused of the murders in the first one, who was later found in the mental institution in the third one, where she had been tortured by the demon and his (lets call them) pets. Despite having been quite normal back in the day, she was now pretty much a monster in her own right. Pretty sympathetic villain because of all the shit she had been put through, but still an effective villain.
Also, it had been set up in the first one that the town itself and its inhabitants were not very welcoming, so I decided I’d use that too. And finally, I inserted the ghost of the little girl from the first one as a sort of failsafe I could use if the other stuff went nowhere. I’m glad I did, because despite being a bit awkward addition to the whole, I ended up using that.
Now, the reason I wasn’t eager to write about this was that it didn’t go too well. I wouldn’t like to point any fingers on my guild brothers and sisters this openly, but on the other hand, I’m not naming anyone.
So, the hook was that each of the player characters (actually only four of five, but enough of them) received a letter accusing them of something “horrible”, but mostly to small town sensibilities. I was trying to hook them in this way, but it simply didn’t work. Perhaps the players weren’t too familiar with playing in oneshots, or they were possibly under the influence, but it just didn’t go anywhere. Although Lauri did an admirable job in trying to get them to be more active, and I did my best to jump over all the boring parts, the majority of the players just weren’t biting. On anything.
One of them sat in her home imbiding on tea, another one sat in his home office doing paperwork, another one enclosed himself in academic work, and another one just tried to stay out of everyone’s way… and there wasn’t a way to stand in.
This became worse, as the players were becoming less and less attentive, and I had to explain many things a number of times to get them to be on the same page (and it still didn’t work), which of course completely destroyed any semblance of immersion.
Basically it was a story in three acts (like most stories are):
In the first act, nothing happened. One character went around trying to convince others to react to the clearly malicious letters they were all receiving, but none of the cared about the hook.
In the second act, a little happened. Each of the passive characters at least got together for a short while in order to try to do some investigation, but that was less than enthusiastic.
In the third act, they simply dies, because they weren’t paying any attention at all. Actually, three of the five died, because one of the players had dropped out at this point, and one of them was behind the death of the others.
So there. I don’t know if there is a GM out there who could have saved this wreck, but I don’t see any way out. I could have probably made it a little better, but I didn’t get much to work with, even with Lauri doing his part in trying to herd cats, so to say.
Still, the framework is fine and I’m glad to get that published here.
One more note: I can’t really put the blame on the players, either. From what I can tell from their reactions, they weren’t very used to being proactive, and apparently cooperation in a oneshot format was alien to them.