Monday, March 22, 2010

From mist there will come monsters

This post is inspired by movie The Mist what is based on Stephen King's novel.

So, if you haven't read the book or seen the movie before, this post will contain spoilers.


Okay, now that I got the warning out of the way, let's go to the serious business.


Story told short: there is a mist. In mist people dies. In mist there are monsters. Mist aint' goin' away. You gotta survive.

So, basically this is survival horror, where you are trapped in only safe place - grocery store - where mist cannot get in. In the mist lurks monsters, what will eat you. Few try to get out, but after a while you just hear them screaming in agony and never see them before. After you see actual tentacles attacking the store, you start to believe. There is something outside. First night, and you actually start to see them creepers. And bad luck, they get even inside, but you can deal with them (with only minor losses of lives).

Mist is not going off, so you need to get a solution. One needs medical help, so you forge a crew to obtain meds from the apotechary next door. You get the meds, but find out, that there's no one alive. And you loose some people. And hear dying military police saying, that "it's their fault".

Back to the shop, and planning starts. The captured people divide in two groups. Those, who want to survive and those who go religiously nuts. Religiously nuts become dangerous and demand human sacrifice while you just wanna take few good people, your Land Cruiser and drive your gas tank to empty to... get out and hopefully find help.

You get out, you drive your tank empty. You make radical decision just to find out, that there is help marching out of the mist. Army with tanks and stuff. They even got saved people aboard. But you did the choise and now you cry in agony, even if you were saved.

In rpg?

This is the easiest scenario to use in rpg. Best working in one shot or few nights mini-campaign. I quess you can take some ideas from this post, but best result is, if you watch the movie yourself (reading the novel ain't bad either, but wild quess is, that by watching the movie you get faster the idea).
There are few points following to make this scenario experience great:

1. If possible, it would be best if none of the players know the story before. If they know, it might even be that they don't recognise it if you twist the storyline abit. You don't have to make it happen in a store, but almost anywhere. Hotel, family gathering at old farmhouse, hospital, even military base (if you want more action packed).
2. Make player characters to be normal people. No secret agents, military commandos and psychic wizards. Just ordinary people. There could be guns, but as in the movie, only one or two and third in really hard to obtain place. Shooting stuff doesn't make a difference against the mist, but it will be more horrifying when you're only weapon is a broomstick. No weapons = desperation = mood.
3. There is a couple of ways to handle deaths. No one wants his player character to be first to die and watch others play the rest of the evening. Still, making player characters untoutched eats the mood. Players will figure this out, as npc's die around but they don't even get a scratch.
Try to make things look, like pc's are just as invurnelabily (<- wtf word lol) as npc's. You might even give dead character's player a new character from the npc's. Try to balance in not killing pc's at all and slaugthering them without remorse. If everyone is dead in 10 minutes, it's hard to tell the story you planned, isn't it. And if one of the characters is the poor bastard who dies first, the game is ruined for him. 4. Make things desperate. Try to give the impression, there is no way out, but there is no point of waiting for help. Characters shouldn't run to dangers mindlessly, but they shouldn't avoid risks. They should know, there is danger, but they should even try to do things what are dangerous. There is no other way to survive than risking it. How does it end?

In movie things end quite bad. Well, main character survives, but others die. How will your game end? Does everyone die? Does someone or all surivive? How do they survive, if at all?

What kind of monsters are in the mist?

  • Tentacles. You don't see what's in the other end, but there are many of them. Tentacles have little spikes what they use to grab and mouth like gap, what bites you. They can slash open wounds, bite and grasp to pull. Very nasty, but with few chops can be separated with an axe.
  • Bugs. Flying bugs, size of a crow with a scorpion stinger. They seem to be harmless and are food for bigger creatures. They seem to be quite harmless, but when they sting you, it's nasty. In the movie one sting to the neck made whole throat to swallow with chins. Death by suffocation (and possible poison). Can be killed with few hits.
  • Flying creeps. Bigger than bugs. Size of a dog these nasty monsters have four wings, long beak and sharp claws. Fast and quite agile to fly. Can be killed with a shot or a couple, beating. Few was set on fire, but the fire actually didn't seem to do that much harm but to slow them.
  • Spiders. Size of a cat or small dog, these nasty critters shoot web what corrode through clothing and flesh. Could be also poisonous, as one got web around his thie but was dead not long time after. They aren't tough to kill, but quite fast to run. Their web spurts slowly and is easy to avoid. They lay their eggs in human bodies. When the eggs burst, the body collapses and little critter spiders run all over the place, eatign corpses. I bet, if they get hold of you, they might eat you alive.
  • Gigas. Don't know name or description for this. Walks on four legs, but after hips it has a torso ending in possible four long clawed arms. Size of a three store building. It's reach is long, and it graps people from quite long distance to rip them apart and eat. Doesn't seem to be really fast (well, it doesn't need to run), but it's claws are quite hasty and accurate.
  • Elephantic. 6-8 legged, huge, looks a bit like an elephant with upper body of wiggly short tentacles or appendages. Seems to be harmless, but getting step by it's feet may feel kinda bad. Size of a 8 store building. Slow.
Where did they come from?

In the Movie, army had this special operation and the monsters and the mist came from another dimension. That is a good plot for nearly every game. Some variations especially for fantasy setting could be magical port.

What games to use?

Franly, I think you can run this scenario in any game. There is no restrictions to the system. In non-horror games this could be more a surprise factor than when you tell players to do norms in this horror game you just got an idea.

But, here I list few suggestions:

Call of Cthulhu. Isn't this obvious? In modern Cthulhu you can use the military and it's top secret research that opened gate to another dimension. In 1920 Cthlulhu remote village can be under the mist after crazy professor did his research in his mansion laboratory.

Kult. Quite easy. The curtain that divides this illusion from reality is shattered.

World of Darkness. Especially mortals. Use the military research gone wrong. In other WoD settings (like Vampire, Werewolf etc.) you could also use this, but I think supernatural event is not as efficient when your characters are also supernatural.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten. AFMBE has character creation rules for norms, what will do well. Also AFMBE has rules to create zombie. You can also use those rules to create monsters, not just zombies. Use your imagination.

Science fiction. Military research gone wrong in some planet. Also can used in space ship or space station, where dimensional portal has opened and the creepy monsters come through.

Fantasy. Dimensional portal and fantasy go hand to hand. Wizard's research gone wrong, evil wizard's research gone right. Angry gods... what ever, but it will work.

Basically, with minor adjustments you can use this adventure nearly in any game. You just need to make minor backstory adjustments to fit the setting in question. Main point is, that characters aren't necessarily the hero types, but mere commoners. That will make things more interesting. Some games have rules for mentality like Call of Cthulhu, but I quess you go just fine without them.

How to stat the monsters? Well, in Cthulhu you could use several monsters stats to fit, just alter the description. Also in many game monsters are easy to make yourself. But main point is, these aren't necessarily player characters to kill but to fear and avoid contact with. Bugs, spiders and maybe flying creeps can be killed and tentacles chopped, but others should be big and scary enough to avoid in any cost. Will, player characters will avoid them if they see how npc's die in a blink of the eye in front of them. You don't kill these bigger monsters. You try not to be killed. Bigger monsters doesn't even need stats at all.

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