Thursday, November 03, 2011

In Which The Warlock Contemplates the Worst...

As I've mentioned in my effusive praise for Play Dirty, I take great pride in being a "Wickian" GM.    My players appreciate a bit of sadism on my part, as I do my best to continually challenge their intellects, their characters' morality, and their own ability to cope with trying circumstances.  And, I've got to say, there's a ton of enjoyment in making my players rack their brains on a situation that really pushes their comfort zone as players.

Mary Ellen, perhaps?
This cosplayer did a fantastic job!
A few weeks ago, my Friday night Deadlands group was on the receiving end of such a 'rude awakening', as they've found themselves in the crossfire between rival Chinese-immigrant gangs in The Flood.  Taking up the the mantle of Big Ears Tam's champion in an underground martial arts tournament, ChaoticFred's "scrapper" mowed her way through the competition--literally!  As in, with a bionic buzz-saw arm!  But, as Mary Ellen Hardigan ripped her way through her final opponent, her traveling companions were aghast--that kung-fu fighter was the very leader of the 37th Chamber, with whom the posse wrangled a peace treaty several sessions earlier!

While the posse's new doctor companion was able to save the martial artist's life, he neglected to realize exactly what Big Ears Tam would do to someone who attempted to take out his prize-fighter...and that's even worse!  Needless to say, things didn't exactly end well for that fighter!

A great resource for more
"Dread Possibilities!
What really gets my attention, though, is when gamebooks facilitate this sort of GMing, providing possibilities to really challenge players, pushing even the most experienced, jaded gamer into action.  In 3.5e D&D's heyday, the Ravenloft books (by White Wolf-subsidiary Sword and Sorcery Publishing) did a spectaculary job of this.  In their setting material, the authors included several sidebars noted as the "Dread Possibility," each of which detailed the worst possible result for whatever plot element was being discussed. 

The "Dread Possibilities" ranged from noted monster hunters going mad from lycanthropy, to patrons being allied with shadowy cults, to a noted wizard falling in love with a noted (and thoroughly evil) noblewoman.  In all cases, though, these ideas push players to their utmost and, used in moderation, make for stories that no player will ever forget.

So, long story short, I 'appropriated' the idea.  As I've begun making my way through the final stretch of Cold Steel Wardens, the majority of my time has been focused on my setting--an amalgam of Iron Age cities that I'm tentatively calling Greensburg.  And, sure enough, I've included my own sidebars:  "The Lights Go Out..."

Here's a sample section, from my information on Greensburg University Medical System, the area's premier medical provider...

The Lights Go Out…--Greensburg University Medical

So, the rumors are true.  An underground union has emerged at Greensburg University Medical, and a massive walkout is in the works.  The union is being led by an angry young janitor named Mark Holp, who has worked at Miatanka Hospital for 6 years.  If the walkout and strike go as planned, GUM will be crippled, as nearly 1/3 to ½ of their workforce simply leaves.

What no one knows—not even Mark Holp himself—is that the would-be union leader is a metahuman, with a latent genetic anomaly allowing him to control light.  Holp has been present at several “unexplained incidents” that were a product of his untrained, uncontrolled mutant ability.  Triggered by intense emotions, these incidents have grown in frequency over the past few months, as Holp’s frustrations with GUM have reached a boiling point.

As such, the Heroes could face not one but two meltdowns—the utter disassembly of Greensburg’s premier health network, but also the emergence of a powerful metahuman with a grudge to pick against his employers.  And, the longer it takes to get the fledgling union to the table with the GUM executives, the more lives are lost as Holp attempts to gain control of his out of control powers.


  1. Anonymous10:15 PM

    Such a situation could add further complications if medical equipment starts malfunctioning or someone in the middle of an operation suddenly cannot see. Depending on how Mark Holp is played, that could lead to some interesting drama as he tries to cope with the fact that he has inadvertently killed individuals in need of medical help.

  2. Always a plus, that! Anything to make life a little harder on those meddling PCs! :D

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