Something for Halloween..the next Tale!

Well it has been awhile but I have been slowly working on the beginnings of the next Modern Horror Tale and here is a preview of … Dean Koontz’s Phantoms!

Modern Horror: Tale Two

 

Phantoms by Dean Koontz

 

Characters

The Paiges

Jennifer Paige, M.D. (Medical Professional) – 31 years old, green eyes, auburn hair. She is the GP for Snowfield and the nearby small towns. Owns a late model Trans-Am and has a mortgage on her small 2-storey home/doctor’s practice.

Lisa Paige (Teenager) – 14 years old, green eyes, auburn hair

 

The Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Law Enforcement)

Deputy Paul Henderson (Victim) – 24 years old; staffing Snowfield Sheriff’s Detachment during the initial incident.

 

Locations

  1. Paige’s Home and Office
  2. Mountainview Restaurant
  3. Santini Home
  4. Sheriff’s Detachment
  5. Candleglow Inn

 

Objects of Importance

The Townsfolk – 150 Dead / 350 Missing

 

Chapter Breakdown

Part One – Victims

 

  1. The Town Jail

4:20-4:30PM

Dep. Henderson thinks he hears a woman’s scream off in the distance, but isn’t sure so goes back to reading a magazine. Then he hears a man’s scream closer by and stands up and walks out of the bullpen to the front of the station. He hears movement behind him, which is impossible since the back door is locked and the station is empty besides him. He turns and draws his revolver and fires, but dies almost instantly anyway.

 

  1. Coming Home

5:30-6:00PM

Jennifer is driving back from Newport Beach Airport with her sister Lisa. She is bringing her home to live with her after the sudden death of their mother. It was caused by a massive cerebral hemorrhage, which was six weeks prior. When they first arrive the town appears completely deserted. They drive across town to Jennifer’s home. When they arrive it is silent here as well. Nothing seems amiss until they arrive in the kitchen to find Hilda Beck dead on the floor.

 

  1. The Dead Woman

6:00-6:20PM

After calming Lisa down, Jennifer carefully examines the corpse.

  • 62 year old woman
  • Body swollen as if in a late stage of composition
  • Mottling and bruising over the entire surface of her skin
  • She had been preparing dinner when she suddenly collapsed. A head of cabbage, some potatoes and 2 tomatoes are on the countertop
  • Cabbage is still chill to the touch, death happened within the last hour

Jennifer decides to call the County Seat/Coroner’s Office in Santa Mira. She finds the phone line dead.

 

  1. The House Next Door

6:20-6:35PM

Song: 3rd Symphony, Eroica by Beethoven

Jennifer decides to go next door to try their phone since she believes that the line to her home could have been cut. The Santini home is a stone and redwood house. They own a ski shop and gift store in town.

They find the front door ajar and lights on in the study and the dining room. Beethoven is playing on the stereo; the piece ends a couple of minutes after they arrive. Both of them feel alone in the house and yet watched. The dining table is set for an early dinner (one plate already had salad served on it). A full ham and a bowl of mash potatoes were already sitting in the middle of the table (both still warm). There are also 2 drinking glasses filled (one with water the other with apple juice) and still contain partially melted ice. There is a single chair toppled on the floor and a salt shaker is overturned. The serving spoon and fork are on the floor next to the upright chair at the end of the table.

After seeing this scene, Lisa recalls the legend of the Mary Celeste. Jennifer tries the phone to find the line open but no dial tone. She feels like there is someone on the other end of the line listening to her.

Lisa suggests they go to the Sheriff’s Station, Jennifer agrees despite her need to check for survivors because if there is someone in the house as she suspects then her first duty is to the safety of her sister.

Night has fallen when they exit the house. Temperatures can drop to 40-45 degrees at night at this time of year.

Light sensors have turned on the streetlights and some storefronts.

Fellowship of Fear – An Introduction

I have been slowly …oh so slowly…working on a story that I hope to eventually expand to book length. Since updating The Magic Earth Campaign is more complex than I at first envisioned I have decided to present the beginnings of an epic saga set in that world. I present The Fellowship of Fear! (Comments are very welcome)

Well actually just one of the Fellowship for now, but you get the idea….

Chapter 1 : Denzred

Scene 1 : The Bonfire

He stood before the fire, the smoke midnight black, burning meat stench hanging thick in the air. The knight in the soot-covered armour held his sword point down in a numb-fingered grip. His helm lay on the ground a few paces behind him, forgotten. He stared at the sizzling pile of corpses with tear streaks etched into the ash that covered his creased face. The Duke of Kent had requested assistance from the King and he, Sir Denzred the Landless had been summoned to take up his sword one more time… for God, for Country. The memory of the battle was fresh in his mind. These elves had been the last bastion of Evil within the borders of England and fought like they were possessed by Satan Himself. As he gazed upon the blackened corpses of their women and children he now knew why. The silvered crosses around their necks glittered in the flames as they began to warp and twist from the heat.
For two decades Sir Denzred had fought the minions of Satan at the behest of the King and the Church. He had never failed them and was viewed with awe and a touch of fear by all the other Knights and Lords. He had fought with honour and with grace, no man had sent more spawn back to the Pits of Hell than Sir Denzred, no man had greater faith in King and the Almighty. Now that faith was shattered, his renown tasted of the ash that floated up from the bonfire.
He took a deep shuddering breathe as he turned from the carnage, the sound of approaching hoofbeats having broken through the fugue. A figure in a white tabard with a gold dragon rampant and bright silvered chainmail astride a stallion stopped before him with a wide grin upon his face as he dismounted. Duke Alfrid had arrived to admire his triumph and his handiwork. He had a saddlebag in one hand and white and gold painted shield in the other. Kneeling down to open the satchel near the fire he spoke.
“This has been a glorious day of victory Sir Denzred!  Raise your spirits, you have finally rooted the last of Satan’s minions from this land. The King shall look kindly on both of us.”
“I need nothing from the King, I was only doing the duty that was granted to me by Our Lord and Saviour.” Denzred muttered the words he had intoned countless times before without the relish that he once had.
“Oh come now, Sir Denzred! You may finally retire to a hold somewhere quiet and calm to farm the land as vigorously as you sowed it with the blood of God’s enemies in the past. I have it on good authority you will no longer be known as the Landless.”
Alfrid finally pulled the object from the saddlebag, a dead elven babe. He tossed it upon the blaze as he spoke. Denzred felt the world recede and the Duke’s words came as if from the end of a long tunnel. His vision filled with crimson as he let loose a bestial growl.
“God and King can fuck each other for all I care! I was not put on this Earth to kill women and children! I will never make amends for my sins but I can at least try…starting ..with..you”
Denzred raised his sword as he spoke this blasphemy and took three steps. By the time the third step was taken the Duke’s shocked expression and his face were removed from his skull. The corpse unceremoniously fell on its belly before the bonfire as Denzred turned around and stumbled back to pick up his helm. He coughed then gagged then choked as he vomited up what little was inside him upon the ground, hot tears of rage and despair joined the previous ones upon his grey cheeks. He took a couple deep gulps of air before straightening and steeling himself. His back straight he approached the Duke’s horse and heaved himself up into the saddle. The world beginning to come back into focus as he finally realized what he had done and that he had not been alone. Luckily the shock and violence of the events of the past minute had frozen the five or six men-at-arms nearby that had been throwing the remaining corpses and bits onto the bonfire.
Denzred looked around at the few men and saw them cower as he met their eyes. He did not know then that they thought they saw the Devil within that firey glare…only time would tell if that was Truth. He wheeled the horse around and with a flick of the reins the horse galloped off into the early morning gloom towards the nearby treeline.

 

It’s been awhile…

Hello everybody!

Sorry about the long delay but I wanted to do a full playtest of the Tale and the Modern Horror rules to make sure it ran smoothly. Well after months of intermittent playtesting and constant tweaking it is finally ready to post.

HOW TO USE THE TALE

This is mostly a chapter by chapter synopsis of all the playable events and character interactions within the story. I found the best way to run a session is to let the players make their own decisions and then modify the story as things change, luckily for me the author wrote a bunch of intelligent characters that took the best course of action in most situations. This lead to the players generally following the storyline without ever having read the book. Having said that, it is imperative that the Game Director reads the book at least once cover-to-cover to get a feel for the tone of the work and to fill in some of the holes that I have left in the Tale.

I hope everyone enjoys the first Tale of Modern Horror!

I will post both the Tale and the Horrors of the Modern at the top of the page.

It’s been awhile…an Update!

Well, I have finally gotten to the point where we can start to play-test my game. And I have already decided to make a few changes, I want my game to have the flow of a movie or tense novel so I will be posting a few neat ideas that came up during various conversations with my play-testers. It seems to me that RPGs are too much like a game of craps and need to be more like a game of poker. I shall explain further once I have ironed out a few details. In the meantime, can anyone tell me how many times a player is required to roll a D20 during an average gaming session?

Stinger Begins… The Cast

Hello everyone, I apologize for the delay but work and family have been a priority the last few weeks. Be that as it may, I have finally gotten the cast of characters roughly completed. There may be a few additions later but this is close to complete. I would also strongly urge anyone that wishes to DM this Tale to first find a copy of the original work by Robert R. McCammon to better familiarize yourself with the story and characters. Enough stalling, everyone say hello to the denizens of Inferno and Bordertown!

Note: Ex-Cons, Ex-Cops, and War Vets in this Tale are not actually ex-anything. By the end of the story they will be though.

PS: Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! WOOP WOOP!

Characters
The Locketts
Cody Lockett – Leader of the Renegades Gang (Juvenile Delinquent). 18 years old, 6’ tall and lean with curly blonde hair cropped short on the sides and left shaggy on top, with grey eyes set below thick blond eyebrows. Has a sharp nose and chin. Distinguishing feature: Wears a silver skull pendant earring in his left earlobe. Owns a red Honda 250cc motorcycle with a maximum speed of 70mph, comes with a pair of leather aviator goggles.
Curt Lockett – Father of Cody Lockett and a drunk (Victim). 42 years old with muddy grey eyes sunken into a nest of wrinkles in a square-jawed, boney face with a narrow, chiseled nose. Has a wiry build with wide shoulders and narrow hips, his hair is dark brown, shot through with grey and thinning on top. He wears it in a stiff Vitalis-frozen pompadour. Owns an old dark brown Chevy with rusted bumpers and a bashed in passenger door.

Criminals
Mack Cade – Crime Boss of Inferno (Victim/Ex-Con). 33 years old with ice blue eyes and thinning pale blond hair. Owns a silver-blue late model Mercedes. Wears a Rolex with diamonds in the dial on the left wrist and a gold chain with “Mack” engraved on it on the right wrist, has a number of gold chains hanging around his neck as well. 2 diamond studs in his left earlobe. Always wears his gold-tinted aviator shades. Armed with a pearl-handled .45 automatic with an extra clip.
Typhoid & Lockjaw – Mack Cade’s guard Dobermans. (Typhoid Aims for the Groin, Lockjaw Aims for the Throat)

The Hammonds
Jessie Hammond – Local Veterinarian (Field Researcher / Biologist), wife of Tom and mother of Stevie and Ray. 34 years old, 5’5” tall and lithe with a farmer’s tan, short-cut dark brown hair and green eyes. Owns a sea-green Ford pickup.
Tom Hammond – High School Social Studies Teacher (Scientist / Historian), husband of Jessie and father of Stevie and Ray. 37 years old, 6’ tall and slim with a bit of paunch around his waist, thinning light brown and light brown eyes behind glasses. Worked for 11 years at W.T. Preston High School. Owns a late-model white Honda Civic.
Stevie Hammond / Daufin – 6 year old daughter of Tom and Jessie / escaped alien slave and rebel leader (see Daufin description for details). 6 years old, 3’2” tall with auburn hair and green eyes (her eyes turn blue when Daufin takes over her body).
Ray “X-Ray” Hammond – 14 year old son of Tom and Jessie (Hacker). Student in Grade 9 at W.T. Preston High School. 5’4” tall, 115lbs and scrawny, cropped light brown hair with orange-dyed spikes and light brown eyes behind coke-bottle glasses.

Inferno Authorities
Celeste Preston – Owner of Preston Ranch (Entertainer / Musician (Singer)) and widow of Wint Preston the founder of Inferno. 53 years old, 115lbs white-haired with a wiry and petite frame. Owns a lemon-yellow convertible Caddy.
Tania & Miguel – Maid and Groundskeeper of Celeste Preston (Survivalists but with no resources)
Sheriff Ed Vance – Sheriff of Inferno (Ex-Cop). 53 years old, 5’10” and over 230lbs with beady light brown eyes and a comb-over of light brown hair. He wears lizard skin cowboy boots.
Danny Chaffin – Deputy to Sheriff Vance (Ex-Cop). 22 years old
Leland Teal – Night Deputy, middle-aged and pot-bellied with a face like a weary weasel.
Keith Axelrod – Night Deputy
Johnny Brett – Mayor of Inferno as well it’s Fire Chief. 49 years old and barrel-chested. He used to be the shift foreman on the rock crusher at the copper mine before it shut down. On the take from Mack Cade.
Doris Brett – Wife of Johnny Brett (Victim)

The Jurados
Rick Jurado – Leader of the Rattlesnakes Gang (Juvenile Delinquent), brother of Miranda and grandson of La Paloma. 18 years old, 5’9” with a dark bronze muscular build and  jet-black hair and eyes. Distinguishing features : Wears a white fedora with a snakeskin hat band and carries a jade handled silver-bladed switchblade, “The Fang of Jesus”. Owns an old black Camaro.
Miranda Jurado – Sister of Rick Jurado (Entertainer / Musician (Singer)). 16 years old with jet-black hair cut to her shoulders. Tawny eyes set in a high-cheekboned, oval face. She is 5’6” and slender. Wearing a red-checked blouse and khaki trousers, black sneakers, and a small silver chain and heart that lies in the hollow of her throat.
“La Paloma” Jurado – Grandmother of Rick and Miranda Jurado (10th level Victim / Survivor). Mid-80s in age, 5’1” and very thin with long flowing white hair.

Rattlesnakes Members (All Juvenile Delinquents)
Carlos “Zarra” Alhambra – whip-wielding member of the Rattlesnakes, rail-thin.
Chico Magellan & Petey Gomez – members of the Rattlesnakes
Paco LeGrande, Juan Diegas & Ruben Hermosa – Junior members of the Rattlesnakes
Sonny Crowfield – daytime assistant at the Texaco and Rattlesnake member. (Victim). Lean build, shoulder-length black hair and deep brown eyes always with a sullen expression. Lives in a shack near the auto yard, he collects animal skeletons and has a stash of Molotov cocktails and dynamite as well.
Pedro “Pequin” Esquimelas – School senior and member of the Rattlesnakes
Chris Torrez, Diego Montana & Len Redfeather – School seniors and members of the Rattlesnakes
Maria Navarre, Tina Mulapes & “Animal” – Seniors and female members of the Rattlesnakes
Ramon Torrez – Rattler and next-door neighbour of Rick Jurado.
Joey Garracone – Rattler member from 2nd Street.
J.J. Melendez & Freddie Concepcion – Rattler members that live on 3rd Street.

Teachers & Students
Julius Rivera – Principal of Preston High School
Mrs. Geppardo – History teacher at Preston High School. She is white-haired and cockeyed.
“Sarge” Dennison – Brain damaged (plate in his skull) janitor at Preston High School (War Veteran / Army with full-blown PTSD). In his early sixties with very cross-cropped white hair, a moon-shaped face with deep lines and brown age spots. He has an unmistakable indentation at his left temple. His right leg folds up at the knee joint like an accordion. Has an imaginary dog named Scooter.
Mr. Odeale – Shop teacher at Preston High School
Robby Falkner & Mike Ledbetter – Freshman nerds (Hackers)
Billy Thellman – Student

Military Personnel
Colonel Matt Rhodes – Webb Air Force Base commander (War Veteran / Air Force). With a hawk-like profile he is tall and lean with grey eyes and a black crewcut going grey at the temples, he is tanned and fit. Wearing aviators, well-worn blue jeans and a beige knit shirt. Has worked for 6 years with the Bluebook Project. Investigated a UFO crash 3 years ago in Vermont and another one in Georgia last year. He and the military have theorized that Earth is near to a galactic “super-highway”.
Captain David Gunniston – Aide to Col. Matt Rhodes (War Veteran / Air Force). Tall, lean and pale-skinned with close-cropped light brown hair and matching eye colour. Freckles across nose and cheeks. Wearing a blue Air Force uniform and cap.
Jim Taggart – Helicopter pilot for Col. Rhodes (Victim)

Renegades Members (All Juvenile Delinquents)
Nancy “Nasty” Slattery – punk rocker and senior at Preston High School and member of the Renegades (Juvenile Delinquent). 5’10” with a lithe figure and a tall platinum blonde Mohawk.
Joe “Tank” Taylor – Senior and member of the Renegades. Always wears a beat up football helmet painted in camo. 6’ tall, 200 lbs with a craggy face and deep-set black eyes. His brother, Mitch, died 2 years ago when he ran his Mustang head-on into a train while high on coke. 2 girls and Mayor Brett’s son also died that night. Owns a camo-painted 4×4 pickup truck.
Will Latham, Mike Frackner, Bobby Clay Clemmons & Davy Summers – Seniors and members of the Renegades
Jack Doss – Senior and member of the Renegades

Residents of Inferno
Bess & Tyler Lucas – Owners of Sweetpea and the Lucas Ranch (Victims). Bess is 58 years old and wiry with grey hair and bright blue eyes set in a pretty heart-shaped face. Tyler is in his early sixties, big-boned, leathery skinned with a mane of white hair. He is retired from Texas Power and is a semi-successful writer of western novels. Sweetpea is a 8 year old golden palomino.
Vic & Arleen Chaffin – Parents of Deputy Danny Chaffin (Victims). Vic is the owner/operator of the Ice House.
Dodge Creech – Insurance salesman (Victim). Owns a faded red Buick. Has horrible taste in clothes and a mouthful of bright white capped teeth. Rotund with a round face. Big fleshy man in his early 40s with a broad, ruddy-cheeked face with baby blue eyes and thinning red hair.
Ginger Creech – wife of Dodge Creech
Red Hinton – Resident of Inferno, owns a pickup truck.
Mavis Lockridge – Owner/Operator of the Boots N’ Plenty shoe store.
Cecil Thorsby – Owner/Cook of the Brandin’ Iron Café. Balloon-bellied.
Sue Mullinax – Waitress at the Brandin’ Iron Café, dating Danny Chaffin. Big-hipped, big-boned blonde woman that wears too much makeup and has gentle, childlike brown eyes. (Entertainer / Musician (Singer))
Dr. Earl Lee “Early” McNeil – Town doctor (Ex-Doctor / Surgeon). Red faced, shoulder-length white hair but bald and age-spotted on top, a white beard and bright blue eyes. A big-boned and big-bellied man wearing an over-sized green scrub shirt and jeans with patches on the knees. Owns a bright red dune buggy.
Mrs. Santos – Nurse at the clinic.
Mrs. Murdock – Nurse at the clinic.
Mrs. Bonner – Nurse at the clinic.
Mrs. Stellenberg “The Cat Lady” – widow living across the street from the Locketts. (Victim)
Stan Frazier – Neighbour of the Locketts. Big-bellied Texan.
Mr. Nolan – Owner of the bakery
Jimmy Rice – Old-timer
Ida Younger – Owner of the House of Beauty
Tammy Bryant & May Davis – Busybodies, Tammy has mouse-brown hair.
Noah Twilley – Owner of the Inferno Funeral Home (Field Researcher / Coroner OR Victim). Slender and pale with straight black hair lank and going grey.
Ruth Twilley – Mother of Noah Twilley (Victim)
Mr. Kennishaw – Manager of the Warp Room Arcade
Jack Blair – Bartender at the Bob Wire Club
Harlan Nugent & Pete Griffin – Regulars at the Bob Wire Club (Victims)
Hal Clutching & Burl Keene – Regulars at the Bob Wire Club (Victims)
Laurie Rainey – Clerk at the Paperback Kastle (Victim)
Mr. Luttrell – Owner of Inferno Hardware Store
Mr. Diaz – Owner of  Inferno Shoe Repair (Victim)

Bordertown Residents
Xavier Mendoza – Owner of the Texaco Gas Station and a bright blue tow-truck. Husky, white-haired man in his mid-50s with a large white mustache.
Lazaro Mendoza – Uncle of Xavier Mendoza

Religious Leaders
Father Manual LaPrado – Priest at Sacrifice of Christ Catholic Church (Holy Man / Catholic Priest)
Father Domingo Ortega – Assistant Priest (Holy Man / Catholic Priest)
Reverend Hale Jennings – Reverent at Inferno Baptist Church (Holy Man)

Why Modern Horror?

Update: I am slowly but surely plodding through the adaptation and yes it will eventually be finished but in the mean time….

Something I realized I should explain is why? why Modern Horror? Well, internet straw-man let me tell you why. All horror-based games can be split pretty much into 2 categories; either you play as the monster (Vampire: The Masquerade and all its many spin-offs) or you are the member of a secret society / privy to secret knowledge (The Secret World MMO, Call of Cthulhu and its numerous imitators). I’m not counting Zombie RPGs since they are technically post-apocalyptic. There has never really been a game dedicated to the normal John Q. Publics that populate the vast majority of horror fiction whether it be TV, Movies or Books. That has always amazed me since the feeling of vulnerability that comes with playing as a normal human being would increase the dramatic tension of any Tale you run through.

Even in Tales where there are many super-competent types around the audience identification character is always pretty normal (Aliens is the prime example of this). So I wrote this game to fill a niche that I believe was begging for it. This even opens it up to run end-of-the-world scenarios such as Cabin In The Woods, The Bridge by Skipp & Spector, or The Mist (book not movie) for examples. I am still torn on whether I would run those sorts of Tales myself since it obviously means rebooting the campaign if the End does come.

Hopefully, next time I shall finally have the map of Inferno & Bordertown up on the blog.

Victims & Survivors : The 2 Types of Tales

If you watch or read any modern horror story you will find that you can split the environment of these stories into two broad categories; Open or Isolated. Examples of Isolated environments are easy to find; The Thing, Phantoms, Evil Dead series, the Alien series, Splinter, The Mist, Predator, etc. An Isolated environment enhances the fear of both the characters and the audience since no help is forthcoming once everything inevitably heads south. It is also much easier to keep a story tight and free of continuity or plot problems when there are less variable story elements to deal with. The Open environment type of modern horror tale is uncommon in comparison but offers much more fertile territory for Modern Horror gameplay. Examples of Open Tales would be Predator 2, Stinger, Hellraiser 3, The Nightmare on Elm Street series (yes the characters were isolated in their dreams but they lived in a large town and thus Open), The Fly (1986), Mimic, The Strain trilogy, They Thirst and any Stephen King story set in a small Maine town (most of them). There is the rare exception that operates as a hybrid of these types, Jaws being the classic example.

Another difference between these two environments are the number of survivors at the end of the Tale. In Isolated Tales there is never more than 2 survivors (sometimes none). In an Open environment the only characters in danger from the Horrors are the characters directly involved in the plot. For example, the vast majority of the population of London survived American Werewolf in London. The difference in survival rate means that if the DMs wishes to play many Isolated Tales he should never have more than 2 characters that aren’t Victims. There should also be a stable of characters a bit larger than the number of Victim players so that people can keep playing rather than finding themselves sidelined (though a low character population can prove to be great motivation for wise play and not just throwing a life away) until the next Tale starts.

As a reversal from Isolated Tales, Open Tales offer the Victim players the option to be involved in every scene. If the DM wishes he may allow the Victim players to take on the roles of any secondary characters in scenes involving the Survivor PCs. For example, one player could be playing the a sidekick-victim that is off doing research and during a scene where the other Survivor Protagonists are sweeping a sewer for Horrors he takes on the role of the City Employee guiding them through the tunnels.  Another example, would be playing the first victim that always gets offed early in the proceedings (see any Friday the 13th movie) as a means to get the story started and then the player jumps to the role of his main Victim character.

Of course, if a player intends to play 90 year old Granny Smith he isn’t going to be allowed to pump skill points into Climb and feats in Combat Martial Arts. The DM must make sure to list the Skills and Feats available to any playable NPCs. It goes without saying that XPs can be earned when playing any secondary roles (of course I did just say it…).