Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building a Scenario Using Sandy Petersen's Lazy Man's Guide (Part II)

Part I
Part III

Sandy Says
"Step Four - Finalize the Plot
(He jumps right into describing his own "plot," so I'm not going to replicate it here).

My Notes
Step 4
A little over a month ago, International Antarctic Research Station (InARS) finished drilling through a large ice-wall over what they believed to be a massive cave system.  Inside, they found a large well made of polished basalt and topped with a heavy stone lid.  The well has about a 50’ radius, and the lid was far too heavy to be moved by muscle power.  It also was covered with strange glyphs that none of the researchers recognized (the language of the Yithians). 

They sent out a request for an Anthropologist to come in the next research rotation.  In the meantime, they assigned the geologist, who was used to using 3d imaging software to predict where to drill in the Antarctic ice, the task of turning the photographs they had taken of the well into a flat image, and making the glyphs more clearly visible.  Doing so opened his mind to the influence of the Great Race.  While not actually possessed, he was driven mad and compelled to stop them from opening the well – which contains a Flying Polyp – at any cost. 

He initially did only small things, such as sabotaging equipment or deleting files, but once the research team settled on opening it with a large crane, he took drastic action.  He used dynamite to blow up the crane while they were lifting the seal, killing four of the twelve researchers outright and trapping two more in the well itself.  Those two were quickly slain by the polyp.

Overcome with fear, the geologist returned to the basecamp and slew the five remaining researchers and technicians.  Fully mad at this point, he contemplated suicide but the Yithians knew by probing his mind that a relief team would show up within the week and have compelled him to stay alive so that he can sabotage any of their efforts.  He has already cut out several of the systems powering various experiments.  He hopes that taking the time to get these back online will delay them long enough to keep them from going to the well.  This is the situation when the PCs arrive.

The polyp gives off low levels of a cosmic radiation, one that will eventually poison the whole station if the well isn’t sealed permanently or blown to bits or something.  This will take a while to do.  The most immediate evidence of this is the decline in the quality of radio transitions which happened at almost the exact same time they found the well.  It’s been getting worse ever since, with an immense spike around the time well was broken in the explosion.  However, the most immediate threat the polyp poses is that it might wake up.  Starting on the first night after the PCs arrive, there is a 20% chance that the polyp will awaken.  Each night thereafter, the chance increases by 5%. This continues every night thereafter until the creature either awakens or is sealed. 

You'll notice I established what happened before the investigators arrived and added a little timeline at the end.  This is not a plot so much as a setup and that's the way I like it.  Unfortunately the cosmic radiation thing - which I described as an odd tone that came over all of their radio equipment and even their Geiger counter - made them not want to go to the site.  That was a mistake on my part.

Sandy Says
"Step Five - Create the Characters

Work out personalities and "trademark" features for the main villains and good guys. In our case we have five villains, and we may as well as work out the basics for all five of them. Naming characters can be a pain. I have three techniques for getting character names for my adventures.

1) I use names of childhood friends that my players won't know.

2) I get them out of a phone book opened at random. (Only good for locals.)

3) I get them from a movie filmed in the character's nation of origin." 

My Notes
Step 5
Dennis Bullock is the geologist turned madman.  He is under the influence of Yithians, but not directly possessed by them.  His psychosis manifests as an intensely strong, even murderous desire, to keep people from releasing the flying polyp – though he is not quite sure what is even in the well.  He murdered his comrades with his hands and improvised weapons.  As such, he bears a number of scars that could easily be mistaken as the result of defending himself.  He’ll attempt to play this up and claim it was one of the researchers who died when he blew up the crane that committed the murders.  However, he isn’t a very good liar, especially given his mental state.

Graham Stark is the leader of the relief team. He’s a geologist also, but his main concern will be finding out what’s inside the well.  He’s a likeable enough fellow, but he’s a bit over-serious at times.

Fred Williams is one of the other researchers.  He’s a biologist who specializes in a type of primitive cypress tree that once inhabited Australia and Antarctica.  He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t get a lot of pop culture references.

Mary Miller is a geologist.  He is practical and tight liped.

West Andrews is a biologist.  Kinda spacy.  Oldish.

Omar Bradley is a biologist.  Grumpy, but has a good work ethic.  Prone to making jokes about other people in a rather assholish way.

Gene Turner is a helicopter pilot.  He is gruff but loveable.  Loves a good drink.

Dead researchers: Jeff Krempa (Team Leader)X, Stan Hower (Technician)X, Amy Milne (Geologist)X, Wayne Morris (Geologist)X, Robert Cunningham (Doctor)X, Patrick Lamb (Biologist)X, Eric Lutz (Technician)X

The Xs mean that I've placed their body somewhere in the facility or at the dig site.  You'll notice a lot of these are very skimpy, mostly because I made up a lot of them about five seconds before the game started.  At first I was a bit worried about the number of NPCs that the group was carting around with them because I was having difficulty manifesting their personalities; however later in the session some of the NPCs started to mutiny against the fact that the PCs were making decisions locked in other rooms so that nobody who might be possessed could hear, and that was pretty cool.  HÜTH joined late and took over West Andrews, who had not really been defined at that point.

Oh, I used method 1 more or less, but I slightly changed the names.  Most of them were taken from people I went to High School with or college professors I've had.

Only one more step to go, and tomorrow has maps!  I also hope to have a write up from a player's prospective before this is all over.


  1. Do you ever pay attention to the full production credits of movies? I occassionally skim them as they zip past for weird standouts - there's always a few that stretch my idea of what names could possibly be.

    The setup sounds fantastic: at first glance it looks really fragile - the PCs could kill the one crazy/possessed guy without learning anything from him - but then you have all these other people to get possessed: brilliant idea.

  2. Hehe, and here I thought Omar Bradley was a general...

    1. He was. I had a professor that this NPC was based on who was named after another WWII general, and I thought it was funny.