Visiting the Beyond

In our current season of Eldritch Sigils the investigators finally made a premeditated choice to breach the Veil and step to another dimension. We have been playing this campaign since 2011 (or 2010?) and this was the first time the players weren’t forced to do it. And that got me thinking about different dimensions and how to present them.

I have discussed travelling through time in an earlier post from 2015 and while time is a dimension itself and many of those same ideas could have been used I wanted something different.

Backstory in summary was that the characters were searching for a missing girl and found her doppelgänger. Apparently they had switched places and now the original girl they were searching for was in another dimension. By talking to the doppelgänger they learnt that this dimension was very much like theirs and they decided that it would be best to return this Girl 2.0 in hope for being able to switch her to her “original” from their dimension.

Fumbling along the path a bit they finally found a place where the Veil between the dimensions was already coming apart, defeated the guardian and step to the alien dimension.

Luckily we were able to end the session to that. We went home and I began to make notes about how to make the upcoming session memorable.

Since other dimensions were already an established fact in the narrative of our campaign I had a lot to go with. I knew there were different countries in that dimension, that their progress on the technology was a bit more advanced, and that after all of this it should also feel like home.

Having watched the tv-show Fringe I had a clear idea about what I wanted. In fact the core ideas of Fringe have always been in the centre of this campaign. I also wanted something along the lines of Stephen King‘s Dark Tower, as well as Twin Peaks.

When I was happy with my ideas I went to Facebook to mine more. Brainstorming with players outside your own gaming group almost always lead into interesting ideas and the community didn’t fail me this time either.

I got about 60 responses to my question about how to alienate the players from the world in minor ways. Some of them were quite grand, others were too humorous, and then there were the same ideas I already had. But one simple thing stuck. A world built upon the fact the most of the people living there were left-handed.

At first this seemed like a little gimmick. Precisely something I was searching for. Nothing too big or weird. But gradually the idea was fleshed out and we noticed a lot of differences it would make.

While taking notes on this fact I already knew that most of them weren’t going to come up during the session. And that was fine. It was just a mental map for me to understand how to world worked. Something a bit bizarre for the players and confusing to their characters.

That effect could have been almost anything. Mirrored text, a world without bunnies, or zeppelins on the sky. Anything concrete the players could use as an anchor point to put their characters into that world. For the trick here was to make the wonder go away.

Once the characters got to this new dimension they were puzzled by a locked door only to find out that it open by turning the door knob to the “wrong way”. They investigated the empty house they had arrived and I kept pointing out minor details. But once they had accustomed to the world (in fact I think someone even said that their character could easily grasp how everything worked for left-handed) and told them that their characters felt like home.

The longer they stayed in that dimension the more their characters were adopted by it. Their minds began to question the possibility of actually travelling between dimensions. The problems with using the everyday object melted away. The conflicted memories they had with this reality were similar to Mandela Effect. And I could tell that this wasn’t what the players had expected.

In horror games strange realities are a common phenomenon. But most of the time they want to kill you. But not here. This dimension wanted to make them feel like home.

It might have been a twist like M. Night Shyamalan at worst but in the end I think it worked. This kind of trick might not work for all groups or all games. For me it was an interesting twist and it told us all a lot about the multiverse our campaign is taking place.

We are getting back to that dimension tonight and I hope I can build up the suspense to a satisfying end.

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