Saturday, June 4, 2016

Experimental RPGing: Help, opinions, and insights needed! Part II

A continuation of an experimental piece I began in an earlier post. Thanks to those (especially of the G+ gaming community) that have offered encouragement and thanks to those who supplied me with a list of directors whose work might fit in this "ouvre". For those who were not privy to that initial conversation, I asked people to complete the following list with directors whose works closely match those already in the list:


  1. Brothers Quay
  2. Jan Svankmajer
  3. David Lynch
  4. ????
One obvious one I missed (and shouldn't have) is Guy Maddin. Two of the entries in this segment are stolen from influenced by his movies. Oh, and there's an item shanghaied wholesale from inspired by one of Don Hertzfeldt's brilliant short films, as well (see if you can spot it. Hint: it's red). Again, I am hoping to put together a system-agnostic, stats-free campaign . . . thingy . . . that DMs can use for their own dark purposes. I might throw it together into a loosely-organized world-book, I might not. Tempting. Sorely tempting. But I have other projects pressing right now.

At some point, I should name this thing, this project, book, whatever; though I've already determined that the world in which this is set will only be known as "This Place" by its inhabitants. But that seems like an awfully generic title for an RPG supplement.

Anyway, here we go again:

The Lurker in the Bell-tower (Denizen):

We all know it is there, but no one talks about it. No one even looks up, let alone raises hopes so high as to think we will ever escape. It will smother us with its bumpy, slick mass, rubbery buboes oozing a cold, acidic slime that sloughs skin from muscle, meat from bone. There is no escape. it sees all beneath it from the laced needle-spire of the bell-tower, a black dagger stabbing the sky. It will find us, smother us, consume us. Maybe it already has. 

Scale Mail (Item):

What little protection it does offer - the bony skull, the thin scales as proof against lesser weapons, the spined dorsal over shoulders and neck - is offset by the stench of fish. Still, the immense pale eyes, each the size of a dinner plate, have been known to dissuade would be attackers . . . or perhaps it was the army of cats that trailed behind the wearer.

The Blazing Chrome Sickle-Mantis Scorpion, aka "Scipio" (NPC):

She emerged from the sloughed-off frame of the now-ruined Flower Queen, slicing her way out in an explosion of petticoats and skirt hoops. She has not stopped cutting since. Yet there is no method to her madness. She is without motive, casually wandering, sickle-clawed arms and scything tail waving, flailing at . . . nothing in particular, but whatever may be in the way. Once, she spent five years scoring her way through a castle wall, night and day, battering herself against the stones, never thinking to turn to the left or to the right or to give up altogether. She is relentless, but completely without purpose, Most just avoid her. Thus, there is always a void around her.

The Heart of the World (Location):

You cannot imagine The Heart of the World as it pulsates beneath the skin of the Earth. It is bigger than you can possibly comprehend. Capillaries are mountain ranges, the aorta a continent. If the world was stripped of its skin and viewed from afar, The Heart of the World would appear smooth and glistening. But come in close and you'll see folds the size of entire countries, creases more vast than borders, caves bigger than the largest craters of the moon. But the fiercely-pumping heart is not alone. It crawls with phosphorescent life, of a sort, an infection of blind crawlers, climbers, and spelunkers that skitter across the pulsating bulbs and creases of The Heart of the World. Serpent-limbed moles, venomous glowing yellow sentient slimes, and armies of misshapen and inappropriately-named "star people" plague the ever-changing landscape. ?They are not overly fond of the residual photons carried in, however inadvertently, by outsiders.

Billy's Balloon (Item):

A red helium balloon possessed by an inimical spirit that delights in enticing young children to hold its string, then viciously attacking the child, buffeting the youngling's face with a a rubber staccato assault, trying to strangle the child with its string, then hoisting the hapless youth into the sky by an arm or leg, then dropping it to the ground. It often drops the child one to six times from ten to forty feat in the air, each time, then grows bored and flies off to find another plaything.

The Whispering Grove, the Screaming Oak(Location):

SILENCE! you that enter the Whispering Grove. Here, even the trees make no sound, save one. Their branches silently strain, leaves wave in the unheard breeze, letting mottled patches of milky skylight through, but all is dead quiet. You move your mouth to speak, but cannot. You rap your lantern with your knuckles, but no response. Then you shout at the top of your lungs . .  . and hear a whisper. Listen intently: there are others. You scream until your throat is raw and hear your words trail away, barely audible. 

You feel a hand on your shoulder and turn to see a stranger, also screaming, by her strained expression, her furrowed brows, her jaw agape. But her voice comes across a whispered sussuration, the sound that the trees' leaves should be making, but are not. In time, you both realize that it is your focused thoughts, not your physical voice, which whispers. Shouting forces singleness of thought. Thought here is sound. Any distraction strangles the thought, silences the words.

Then you hear more whispers, like wind through a wheat-field or the fading, dying wishes of the wounded in a blood-spattered sanatorium. There, a large clearing, and in the midst the thick trunk of a gargantuan gnarled oak, limbs as thick as a mammoth and acorns as large as a fist blocking out any hope of skylight. Around the base, figures lay prone, face-down in the crisp, stunted grass or sitting with their backs against the trunk, staring out at the Whispering Grove beyond the clearing.

Voices whisper, thousands-strong, far more than the score or so people present. They are coming from the tree itself.

You touch the tree and instantly recoil, clasping your hands over your now nearly-deafened ears. ?The howling, screeching of thousands in emotional agony echoes in your head. your hearing slowly returns and you recognize the whispered voices as those that invaded your quiet skull box when you touched the tree.

Do you dare touch it again?

And why, why are those others reaching out, yearning for, even resting against, intentionally touching the Screaming Oak's rough and scratchy bark, clinging to its roots?

Do you really want to know their secret desires?

Electra Chair (NPC):

Shockingly beautiful, short blond curls over navy-blue eyes under a wire-coiled metal cap above the face of innocence itself. She was pronounced dead so long ago that her crimes have all been forgotten, her death certificate worn to illegibility by time. Hers is a face to die for, the martyr's price too cheap to honor such transcendent beauty. Many men would die (and have died) for her. But they would not be blessed with her supernatural stamina. Something in that execution left her better, stronger. She was also shot-through with ambition and she works tirelessly (she has already awoken from the eternal sleep) to increase her influence in the criminal underworld, where she is a legend in her own (borrowed) time. She is possessed of a wicked intelligence, belied by the quirky expressions that suddenly seize her face, along with the sparks that shoot from her eyes and ears when she is seized by a stroke of genius. She still wears the burnt coverall and manacles (wrist, ankle, and neck) that she wore to her own execution. No one is quite sure why. It goes without saying that she possesses a sparkling personality, with which she lures in her lovers and directs her minions (all of whom can be readily identified by the lightning-bolt-shaped brand on their left wrist). One would surmise that she is electrifying behind closed doors, though none of her erstwhile lovers could tell you.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure what help I could be to you, Forrest. I had to Google the people on your list and the only two movies any of them made that I have ever seen are Svankmager's Jabberwocky and Lynch's Dune. I've never seen any of the other films and so couldn't really make a comparison for you. Sorry.

    My only reason for replying now is so that you don't think I was ignoring you; I wasn't.

    ReplyDelete