RPG Blog Carnival – October 2013: Spooky Spots – THE MIST AT THE END OF THE WORLD

The RPG Blog Carnival is an idea to get groups of bloggers to all writing about a monthly topic, the aim being to build a dialogue across many different blogs, providing different viewpoints and ideas to the viewer. The way it works is that a blog discussing a monthly topic will post the RPG Carnival Logo and will link back to the ‘hosters’ post.
This month the topic is Spooky Spots; this actually the third one of these i’ve done – links to the others are given below:

The Mist at the End of the World
This entry is inspired by a facebook post made by Lorraine McKee prompted by the very foggy mornings we are experiencing at present in the United Kingdom and the following photo that accompanied the post (used with permission).
What if one morning you looked out of your window and all you could see was a hazy mass of dull grey vapour hanging in the air? A thick fog, the thickest you’ve seen in a while, veils almost all of the rest of the world from sight, muffling sounds and lending the air a biting chill. Normally the comforting outlines of buildings and larger man-made structures can be seen, providing you with at least some assurance that you are still part of the world that you know, and that out there, behind the shroud of the fog, life continues as normal, as it always has.
However this morning the fog is so thick that not even nearby buildings can be glimpsed and the shapes that can be dimly glimpsed through the haze appear strange and provide little comfort, the noise of pedestrians and passing traffic is completely absent and an eerie silence, like you were the only one alive in the world, hangs over the scene. Occasionally the quiet is broken everso briefly by a strange echo, an odd clicking or strange roar like that of a strong wing, but the sounds are alien and provide only brief respite as the silence washes in after them, becoming all the more noticable for their passing. Normally at about this time the refuse collectors or street cleaners would be busying themselves, chugging up and down the street in their vehicles, their clanking and bustling mixing with the huffing and puffing of the newspaper delivery man on his rounds as the first sounds that wait you from sleep; however, this morning none of these sounds comfort you and your alarm doesn’t seem to have woken you either. Glancing across at your bedside table you grab hold of your alarm, but the LCD display is blank and unexpressive, feeling isolated and alone you shout out just to reassure yourself that you still have a voice and your shout sounds ragged, all too quickly fading away and being engulfed by the silence and the mist.
Running through the house you try first the television and the lights, none of them seem to work, the rational part of your brain tells you that it is no doubt just a power cut, but deep down inside you feels as though another connection between yourself and the outside world has been cut, isolating your once comfortable home and making it a lonely island amidst the sea of swirling grey outside; then, as you peer out of the window, straining to catch a glimpse of another human in the fog, one of the large, strange, cyclopean shapes begins to move.

So how did I end up actually representing the warp entity in my 28/07/13 Rogue Trader session?

I did some more thinking about mechanics and how to represent the warp entity (as described in my previous blog entry here) prior to the session; I didn’t to start off with just a rampaging manifest demon that the players could just thump into submission, chalk it up as a generic opponent dealt with and move. There was already plenty of potential for RP going on in the session, with the Admiral and Enginseer teleporting over to one of the enemy ships to repair and save the vessel from destruction in the depths of a gravity well, dealing with the enemy crew and all manner of other hi-jinks that would be occurring; against the background of this I wanted the entity/phenomenon to be more of a puzzle or something for the players to figure out and interact with rather than just an enemy to smash aside on their way to their destination, it needed (IMO) to be more of an event.
Thinking of it as an event helped me divorce the entity/phenemonon from a lot of the normal baggage and stereotypes that go along with the ‘demon’ label, I decided that rather than being a ‘demon’ in the traditional sense (although the mechanics discussed in the previous post would work fine for that) the entity would be more of a phenomenon; appearing as a low-lying mist to those who could view the warp the entity feed on fear and could create quasi-illusion manifestations, all with the aim of creating more fear and feeding itself. This was represented by the entity starting with 3 skill ranks, each of these ranks could be used to create a manifestation; if the manifestation was intereacted with in a way that required a test then its skill level would be equal to the number of ranks used in its creation. If the entity had already used all of the ranks it had and wished to create an additional manifestation then it would have to transfer levels, either weakening an existing manifestation or dispersing one altogether.
The creature fed on fear and anger (due to it’s affiliation with Khorne the blood god), I represented this by giving it an additional skill rank after any scene where fear or anger was demonstrated; if it was on a very large scale then I gave it an additional rank or two. I worked on the idea that this entity was some form of advanced guard, initially very weak and able to infiltrate our reality through far smaller warp intrusions that a bodily manifest demon, but once in our world it was capable of garnering fear and anger in order to strengthen itself and eventually, once it had fed enough, it could use this energy to bring an actual (more traditional WH40K) demon into the world. The way this way represented in game is that, once the entity had accumulated 10 skill ranks, it could spend them to bring a manifest lesser demon into the world, however this would reduce the entity back to a single skill rank and it would have to start accumulating fear and anger again; this would generally result in a dangerous cycle where the creature would summon a demon, feed on the fear and anger created by the demon and the bring forth another demon to sow more fear and anger, etc, etc.
In the game session (more detailed write-up to follow when i’ve had chance to review my recordings of the session and write them up) the creature stoked the natural xenophobia of the ships Confessor to great heights leading to him eventually dividing the crew by trying to start a mutiny when the Captain allowed what he saw as blasphemous primitive blood magic to be used in an attempt to purge the demonic influence; this ship wide event and the heightened emotions caused by it, allowed the creature to get enough energy to bring fourth a bloodletter of Khorne in the centre of the ship, and that’s where we finished the game.
What else did the characters discover about the demon?
Through careful investigation the characters were able to work out roughly what the entity was and discover the following additional facts about it:
  • The mist seemed thicker in areas with more people or areas of heightened emotion.
  • Areas that were deserted or that were only occupied by machinery, servitors and/or tech-priests had little or no mist.

How did it go?
Overall the session worked very well and the mist entity seemed to function as I wanted it to, leading the players to speculate how they had picked it up or whether it had been onboard since they had recovered the Venerus from the Sycorax warp-storm; numerous methods were suggested as a means of dealing with it, but unfortunately the mutiny occurred before they could put any of the less outré suggestions into practice.