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That Other Place (wall-o-text)
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:22 pm    Post subject: That Other Place (wall-o-text) Reply with quote

I apologize for the wall of text. I've got a rough idea, but I need some help brainstorming some additional elements.

In the Cthulhu/Silent Hill inspired game I'm running I want to highlight for my players the nature of insanity. My goal is to make them question if the world they're experiencing is the real world. To do this I’ve got the basic plan of introducing experiences that will make the players wonder if what their characters are delusions or real. Things like:

You get a letter from someone asking you to take on a mission. To discuss details he asks you to meet him somewhere. You go and accept the “case” but later you are unable to find the letter. When you ask around about the man, no one seems to know him. You remember him distinctly and you are now neck deep in an investigation… but if he didn’t give it to you, who did?

You go into a building to root out the evil cult. You find on the blue prints a sub-basement. You go and investigate and find clues that lead you forward in the case. But when you return to the building, there is no sub-basement. And neither is there on the blueprints…

And the real over-arching piece is this. All of these elements that shift in and out of reality all link to a coherent place, some sort of alternate dimension. You can’t confirm it exists in the “real world’ but when you fail a sanity check you slide there against your will. You may find parts of a building that never existed before, strange books in libraries, even run from/fight monsters.

The idea is that That Other Place will actually be a location with events, characters, monsters, ecology. I want insanity to become a sandbox/dungeon like that will interconnect all of the weird events the players encounter.

To this end I plan starting things with a dream sequence where one of the players finds himself lost in a desert:

http://www.1up.com/media/03/8/2/3/lg/656.jpg
http://www.1up.com/media/03/8/2/3/lg/657.jpg
http://www.1up.com/media/03/8/2/3/lg/654.jpg

To represent this I’ve made a series of tiles (left over from an incomplete board game design)



These I can print out and deal out randomly to make a maze that he must navigate. As he moves thought the maze, searching for the exit, he is pursued by something.

He'll have a tendency to slip into that other place whenever the pressure is on. And while they are there that something will be following them trying to find a way back into the “real” world…

Every night he will dream this dream. Every day he will have to fight harder and harder not to slide across the border. As his sanity starts to slip, or if he comunicates what he's experiencing to the others really well, they'll start seeing things his way and they'll end up in That Other Place as well.

I guess I would ask you all for some ideas on events that I can make them suffer that will enforce the experience of going crazy and for thoughts on how better to make insanity a place.
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mundane things framed differently can be rather frightening. Seeing people talk but hearing screeching, lapses and relapses of time, prominent objects not being in the same place, etc. Persistent optical illusions like a ball going up stairs or water running in a strange pattern.

I've always felt that insanity is a subtle creeping thing. It causes discomfort. It starts with small mental errors, then slowdown, then system crashes, then total meltdown. No matter how much discomfort it may cause though, people will try to adapt. If you landed in a magical place where animals talked, you'd eventually get over the shock and start asking the animals for help with getting home. The less consistent the rules of reality are, the more difficult it is to adapt.

For plot stuff finding evidence that implicates yourself in the crime, visual parallels between the dream and reality "I saw a rose petal", inconsistent information (the guy you talked to yesterday has been dead for a year), imagining that people are saying things that they aren't, and any other clever twist on the regular horror tropes. Just telling someone they feel like they're being watched can get a lot of mileage when used correctly.

Man, I love horror.
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My plan is to try and center the "episodes" around the occultist character. Since none of my players have much backstory I have lots of wiggle room into which I can cram all sorts of delicious maybe true history. A few pivotal events have happened. Firstly the players were unable to rescue a baby who was heard crying down a dark tunnel that led into an underground realm of the serpent people. Secondly my occultist almost died by rattlesnake bite.

Now I’m taking over this campaign from the old GM who’s burned out. And under my rule I’m hopping to introduce a little more psychological horror for the players and make them question if all of the pulpy adventures they’ve had thus far were real, without blatantly contradicting anything that’s happened thus far.

To this end I’m planning on having the occultist suffer from a nightmare sequence in which he hears a baby crying down the hall in the hotel. If he investigates he will wander the lightless/dimly lit halls (represented by the tiles above)… He’ll either find the door and wake up or get caught by a long limbed faceless figure and awake in horror.

I’m going to steal the concept of the slender man (google it) and hybridize him with the serpent people (whom I find quite silly). Long boneless arms, living just beyond the periphery, stealing children. These things ought to be enough to make the serpent people less cartoony and wed them nicely with the characters experiences making them more personal.

From that point on he’ll perceive things differently. When descriptions are given, if he’s under stress (or if it’s narratively appropriate) he’ll get separate descriptions for locations and such that pertain to That Other Place. He’ll occasionally see a gaunt faceless figure out of the corner of his eye.

And if he sleeps he’ll find himself awaking to hear a baby cry…

But I'd like him to be able to find more in That Other Place than the same sequence over and over. I'd like to make That Other Place actually a place. A bizzare bazzar. A spider haunted tower of mystery. These are some of the things he might find there but I'm having trouble fleshing out the ideas. I've got some tid-bits and inklings... but I don't know where to take them from here.
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Snate56
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This all sounds very interesting, but it's new ground to me, and I can't make heads or tails out of your tiles above.

Otherwise it sounds like a helluva idea, kinda reminds me of that old Stephen King story where the kid was bouncing between worlds. (the Talisman?)

It would kinda detract from the horror of insanity, making it instead something to aquire?


SteveN
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of course... too much interior context. I'm not very good at explaining. I should have elaborated the ideas for the tiles better instead of just throwing this out there.

The tiles will be printed out onto cardstock and cut out so that I have plenty of them. I should the be able to deal them out randomly to make hallways or a maze by arranging them like this:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7944283/Demo.JPG

The players will be represented by pawns (or mini's if you prefer) would start at the bottom. Players can move from tile to tile in the directions indicated by the little black diamonds. After the players get into the maze a tile or two I'll place a large black pawn back on the starting place. This will slowly follow the players keeping them moving, searching for an exit.

Movement from tile to tile will be limited. Perhaps by checks, perhaps by movement points. Moving through the maze is more of a mental than a physical act, so it really isn't about how fast you can run.

Hypothetically, any time a player snaps we'll whip out some tiles and make them run the maze. But that will get real boring real fast, so I'd like to populate this realm with interesting semi-random encounters. Eventually That Other Place will become a location the players will want to visit because it will hold the answers to the mysteries they are unraveling.

Ideas I’ve got floating around:

Certain patterns of movement might always lead to certain locations. North, West, South, West might always lead to the shrine of the western saints, for instance. Learning which patterns yield which results would be part of the fun of wandering That Other Place.

I'd mentioned an older version of this idea in another thread:

The Deserted Streets: Players are regular folks who find themselves experiencing extreme bouts of insomnia. As exhaustion sets in they begin finding parts of their city they've never found before. Street lead into stranger and stranger parts of town until the players find themselves amid a forest of abandoned hexagonal sky scrapers and abandoned streets covered in fine blowing black sand. Doorways with myriad locks of different makes cover the walls and at the bizarre bazaar keys are the currency of choice (though strange triangular coins are required for the most exotic items) As the players explore this sand-box world of modular tiles they find that certain patterns (North, East, South, East) can be used to take them to specific locations. The Shrines of the four directions, wandering parties on pilgrimage, empty husks of buildings, and veiled traders are just some of the random encounters. Sleep brings you back to the "real world." Are you crazy? Delusional? if so why do you have so many, many keys under your bed...

Influences: The music of Eric Zahn (Lovecraft), Don’t Rest Your Head (RPG), Persona 3&4 (video games)
This thread is rapidly becoming bloglike…
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, in some dreams, people are observers. Each dream gets more detailed, soon to the point that the players themselves forget that a dream sequence is taking place. The dreams could be intermittent with real situations. Much like the talisman ( <3'd that book), the real world could be impacted by the dream world and vice-versa.

I guess the question regarding this world is how crazy you want it to look. Will it be stark and empty? Will it be a fantasy world like pan's labrynth or mirrormask? In my eye, it doesn't even have to be that weird of a place. The fact that the players can't determine between one reality and another would be enough. Did you actually want dialogue and interaction in this other world? Or did you want something much more surrealistic? dark?
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Well, in some dreams, people are observers. Each dream gets more detailed, soon to the point that the players themselves forget that a dream sequence is taking place. The dreams could be intermittent with real situations. Much like the talisman ( <3'd that book), the real world could be impacted by the dream world and vice-versa.


I've not read Talisman, could you go into this a little more?

Quote:
I guess the question regarding this world is how crazy you want it to look. Will it be stark and empty? Will it be a fantasy world like pan's labrynth or mirrormask? In my eye, it doesn't even have to be that weird of a place. The fact that the players can't determine between one reality and another would be enough. Did you actually want dialogue and interaction in this other world? Or did you want something much more surrealistic? dark?


I think I've got two warring images in my head. One is the first sort of sub-level of reality. That is barely recgonizable as not the normal world. The builings are the same, but more decrepit. There may be thick fog or heavy shadows. This is the Silent Hill image. The other image is more of a Mirror Mask dream realm with geography and culture that are alien and surreal.

The first allows for delcious psycological horror. The second allows for a unique location that is interesting to explore and cool in it's own right...

Are these things compatable? Perhaps I've bitten off more than I can chew...
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Snate56
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Talisman, co-written by Stephen King and Peter Straub is about a boy named Jack, who must travel on his own, across country to retreive a "talisman" to save his dying mother. He is able to flip-flop between the real world of technology to a mystical world of magic. The other world is populated by Twinners; otherworld versions of the real people here in this world, and he is able to shift because he, himself, is unique and has no twinner. The other world was very dangerous, but distances were radically different; he could run for an hour in the other world, come back and have covered two hundred miles in this one. Most things seemed to have an alternate, if there was a house in this world, it became a hut or castle in the other. He befriends a werewolf in the other world who is represented in this world by a very hairy (and smelly!) homeless man.

'phew!'
It was a good book, might make a good reference.

One thing that might be gameworthy, if you look at someone and they seemed suspicious, you could pop into the other world and see what they are (an ogre, perhaps?). Of course, while there, you would be subject to attack by the ogre!

I personally, prefer the world that is identical (almost) to this one, just a little darker, dirtier and more sinister.

SteveN
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, this is either a dream or an alternate reality that manifests as a dream. Since fog might seem cliche, maybe some simpler interpretive view. No lights beyond your moderate field of vision, described as "a darkness so complete that one wouldn't know anything existed in it."

Overdoing strange imagery might turn your game into a dark fantasy. The alternate reality can be stark, frightening, and fantastic. It's just a matter of balance. You seem to want either a reality to subject the players to or a world for them to interact with. Ever played the old PC game darkseed? It had a guy in it that went from the real world to an alternate world. The setting and npcs were very alien, but the interesting part is how the dream world made the real world seem much more sinister.

As far as details, whichever direction you take it. I'd say less is more. You don't have to have a room with bodies on meathooks where a table of tools with bloody tools would work as well. Whispers, scratchmarks, glares, shivers, subtle stuff.

Honestly, I'd love to know any other concrete details you have since I feel like I could go in a dozen different directions with this.
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Over lunch I was tinkering with the dichotomy between these two images and trying to figure out how I can reconcile them.

I imagined a scene in which my players will be investigating a stolen child. They are in the nursery searching for clues into how the child was taken from the room (the window latch is unbroken. The door was locked. The flowers outside the window are trampled. The kidnappers had inside help.)

The Occultist can see the other world. He can feel the magical protections on this room, but he doesn't realize that is what he's feeling. As the others search, he slides...

He sees the room exactly as it was before, but darker, empty, his companions gone. The room seems larger, though everything is much more worn than he remembered it before...

He hears it down the hall. He doesn't know what it is, but he knows it's comming and that it is dangerous, unfolding razor thin limbs and hands and eyes, cuiricts of light scrawled across it's dark surface.

He has to go. He exits through the western door, towards the greenhouse(?)...

In the "real world" he stares off into space, looks around himslef and grabs the inkwell from the desk. Dipping his fingers into it he draws a rough rectangle on the wall, slams the heel of his hand into it and screaming about why won't it open.

Back in That Other Place the hallway does not lead where he remembered it. This part of the house is strange, it's angles wrong. He can hear it in the library behind him. It's tittering laughter as it picks up the shiny things on the desk, examines them and puts them away somewhere inside itself where it keeps all the baubles it finds interesting. He's out of keys and coins and bits of mirror to distract it. He must push onward. There is an exit around here somewhere...

Back in the "real world" his companions restrain him. Hold him down. He cries out that they have to get away. That it's comming. And that's when one of them notices the room is much darker than it was before...

...

Really that started as an attempt to give you something specific. I don't know where that came from. I haven't edited it or anything it just sorta spilt out...

Erm...

I'll try again later....
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HawaiianBrian
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, where did you get the amazing desert images in your original post? It almost reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus.
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I guess the only question left is what happens to the person when they're in the other place. Will they always be in a trance, mimicking movements they percieve in the other place? Would they eventually phase out of reality? A way you could reconcile it would be if the visions were instantaneous, but in real time(real time as in really happening in the other place).

If the scene you described was your opening, it seems that there won't be much buildup before the wackiness starts to happen. I'd personally prefer more buildup, like the character finding a clawmark on the wall, touching it, then seeing an image flash in his eyes.

On a side note, writing in stream of conciousness can create some very interesting ideas. You get more mental mileage when you're not worried about your own opinion. An idea written is one that can't be as easily forgotten.
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
By the way, where did you get the amazing desert images in your original post? It almost reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus.


The game is called Journey. It's an upcoming game for PS3 by ThatGameCompany who also did Flow and Flower.

AtomicTeaspoon:

You recommend a lighter hand huh? That is something I wrestle with. I'm always chomping at the bit to get to the "good" stuff. I have a tendency to skip over the fore-play...

I don't think they will ever phase out entirely. Ultimately they need to not ever be entirely sure if they are simply going crazy. Everything they experience on the other side has real world parallels. Something like wandering hallways that aren't there is mirrored by wandering real world hallways and having your companions finding it strangely difficult to keep up with you. Fighting and defeating a monster you might suddenly "awake" to find a dead hobo at your feet.

How do you think it's best to represent the companions under such circumstances? In the above writing sample they disappear to the main character, but that sorta offers hard evidence that something is up...
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That would create some extremely dangerous situations. I mean I know you'd control it, but I can't see visions having a sense of good timing, like while driving. Then again, that may make for some nicely controllable scares.

As far as companions go, will there just be one PC in this game?
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry I've been away. Grown up life gets in the way...

The game is on Saturday and I'll be converting on the fly from one system to another. Tonight I'll be studying the adventure again, going through with a highlighter, ball point and sticky notes to make sure I know what I'm up against.

As for the nature of insanity, delusions, and manifesting them as a separate location I still have mixed feelings. I think I'll move into the random tile dungeon thing slowly rather than all at once. I'm still struggling with the image I have for That Other Place and I'd like it to be coherent and engaging.

The tiles won't come out this adventure. Instead I'm going to run the dream sequence and then try to make allusions to the dream sequence in the adventure.

To that end I'm going to start with the slender man and build him into the serpent people.

The delusional episodes the players will experience still need to be built into the world around them. I'll be searching the adventure for good places to put them.

As for when the manifest (like driving) I'm torn between scripting them (placing them at specific points for best effect ) and trusting to the oracular powers of dice and letting them happen whenever a 6 is rolled on any roll (we're using BRP so the odds of that are as good as the odds of any other number)...

No they (the delusions) wouldn't "play nice" and only show up when it's convenient. That's what makes being crazy so scary. You can't trust that anything around you is real or solid. Only that it is dangerous....
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EMBRACE THE BLOG-LIKE NATURE OF THIS THREAD (until the admins tell me to stop)

The idea with the tiles and the concept of making insanity a coherent location is one I’ve decided to build up to in the CoC/Silent Hill game I’m running. I don’t have the idea fully fleshed out yet, and so I’m going to try and do that here, with your help. That right you. The one reading right now.

There are two warring images I have for this sort of delusional experience. One of those is described in the above posts. That is the “it’s all going on in your head” version. The Silent Hill “dark world” version. In this image the players will start to perceive a different plane of existence just below the one they inhabit every day. That plane will be dangerous and strange, but it’s geography largely mirrors the “real world’ and is populated by the characters internal quandaries. These manifest as monsters (usually) and people they know who are strangely altered (sometimes).

The other image I have is of this location as being a coherent reality, not simply an expression of your internal angst (a sort of waking dream that can kill you). The question I want the players to wrestle with is, is this place real or am I imagining it?

To that end I’m planning on slowly populating That Other Place with elements that are not strictly elements of the characters internal nature, but rather are elements that belong to it. So what belongs to it? Here we get to the crux of my conundrum and the reason this thread exists. I want help fleshing out a dream world that can exist in parallel with the Silent Hill style psychosis/reality.

Ideas I have lying around:

The Bizarre Bazaar: This is lifted lock stock and barrel from Don’t Rest Your Head. The idea is that there is a market where the strange goods of this weird world are bought and sold. What are those goods? I don’t rightly know.

But I have 3 ideas for currency: (1) keys. Since there are millions of locked doors that lead to mysterious places keys are valuable. Who knows what doors they might open? Is the power in the keys? In the locks? Who built the locks? Who cut the keys? What about locksmiths? Can the locks be picked? (2) Strange triangular coins. These are left behind by those who built this place. Extremely rare. (3) Emotions. Love, Joy, Anger, Sorrow are the four key emotions, each tied to a direction of the compass (East, North, West, and South respectively). These are represented by odds and ends from peoples lives. A teddy bear, a photograph, a movie stub. In That Other Place you can easily tell which emotion is attached to which piece of junk. In the “real world” they just look like junk.

The Shrines of the Four Directions:
Each direction is treated with its own cult or subset of the religion of this place. Because space is mutable here, and certain patterns of movement through the streets (North, West, South, West) lead to different locations (The Western Shrine) people have come to worship the maze as a sacred space. It is obvious that it is supernatural, but it has rules. Learning those rules is a science. Following those rules is a religion.

The streets: Wandering the streets trying to get from one place to another might be a little like wandering the wilderness of a sandbox fantasy game. There would be random encounters with monsters (your own internal demons) fallen statuary, abandoned temples, hollowed out banks, occasionally you would encounter other people, traders, pilgrims, ghosts. But the wasteland of decaying buildings is packed with strange things to explore. This element makes That Other Place more like a dungeon you can delve into to various depths and come back with treasures and story bits that move the game forward.
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AtomicTeaspoon
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lot of fun things you can do with literally interpretive dreams. Keys and/or mementos seem like an excellent idea for occasional currency, but I'd imagine that the alternate world won't quite be a place you can really hang out in. The other place should have minimal material items, if at all possible. This could create even further doubt of sanity.

You don't really have to have a bazaar though. That may be too social. Maybe some nightmare version of carnival barkers coercing people into their store, or their little table, like a busy city street. The stores themselves could be something twisted literally. Toy stores that sell dangerous weapons, restaurants that sell industrial waste soup.

Mundane places like libraries or apartment highrises could be made a lot more sinister. I see some gelatinous creature consuming books. I mean, I'm sure you get the vibe of caricituristic horror from DRYH.

Tiles would generally work, but how reliable will the players senses be? Will they go into a room only to turn around and see that there isn't a door there? Will they step into a small house only to find themselves in a giant warehouse? The desciption of smells and sounds could be misleading as well.

Of course, the other idea you mentioned could certainly work too, lliteral representations of bad memories. There could still be caricituristic people and places within it though. However, it seems more like you're going in the direction of an alternate world.
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Jackhalfaprayer
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well with the first incident of this having been played last weekend I thought I would give a quick report.
I took it slow and worked quite hard to keep myself reined in and I think it went over very well.
The player whom I've decided to make suffer all of this delusion stuff was not the occultist as I had originally planned, but the doctor. This character was originally invited to become a member of a certain fraternal order who turned out to be, of course, evil cultists.
I started the adventure with him waking in the night to a child crying. The sound was almost mechanical. Looping. He went to wake another player and they could hear the sound coming from the floor below them. Going to investigate, they discovered it was the floor below that. Hallways getting darker and darker and the sound leading them ever downward eventually they continued to the next floor. Through a window they spied an incredibly tall lean limbed figure standing still at the door of the hotel. His head was cocked and he seemed to be listening to something. Then he moved and opened the door to the hotel and came in. The crying escalated and the character awoke in his bed.
Other characters experienced minor distortions of time and space. 30 year old news papers were found in like new condition. Finally when investigating a scene they manage to stir up some trouble and the gun-bunny guarding the car gets into a minor shoot out. As the doctor player runs down the stairs to help he finds the world getting darker and darker, and he knows with a certainty, like the way you know things in dreams, that there is a tall, faceless, long limbed figure coming down the stairs behind him while from below the sound of a child crying can be heard. That’s where we ended the session.
In the past week I’ve been rolling around what I’d like to do when we pick things up again. And I’ve been toying with this idea of insanity as a location. I’ve been trying to hybridize the Silent Hill and Mirror Mask images into something that might work and I think I’ve come upon something.
That Other Place needs to be built on the characters specific fears and concerns if it is to give that “Silent Hill” vibe. Just as Pyramid Head was an expression of the main characters guilty conscience and sexual frustration/violence so too my parallel world needs to be populated with entities that are an expression of a characters interior nature projected outward.
With that in mind I’ve been thinking about not having That Other Place be a city, but a building. Particularly the orphanage that the doctor character grew up in (he didn’t write any back story, so I’m going to have a little fun). When he goes there he will, in some ways, be regressing into traumatic memories from his childhood in an orphanage. Instead of bazaars and merchant districts he will have dining halls and dormitories.
I’ve got to make it personal…
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When Jack was here we had half a prayer.
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AtomicTeaspoon
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Joined: 11 Jan 2010
Posts: 132
Location: Bakersfield, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I approve. Hope they're enjoying it. My group is lacking in their love of horror *tear*
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Snate56
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Joined: 11 Jun 2006
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Location: Monroe, Washington

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

....and at the end of a grueling day, let him relax on the couch with a soothing beverage...





Twisted Evil
SteveN
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"We've got a blind date with destiny... and it looks like she's ordered the lobster." <The Shoveller>
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