Tag Archives: Plot-a-Day

Plot-a-Day: Satanic Machinations

I’m an atheist, but I still enjoy a good satanic conspiracy. There’s just something about Lucifer’s fall and the whole idea of a secret organization devoted to spreading evil that’s very powerful – archetypical, you might say, and Satanists make for good villains – probably because they are, by definition, devious and capable of great evil in pursuit of their goals.

Satan – Dantes Inferno, by Gustave Doré

Since Halloween is once more upon us, let us look at some fun we can have with these minions of the dark prince.

Second Coming

The Satanists are usually keeping themselves busy preparing for the second coming by spreading chaos and destruction – take the current fad of Islamic terror and put Anti-Christians at its core.

The protagonists are small, well-funded mercenary unit in the pay of the Vatican (perhaps supported by a faction of the US government) and are trying to fight the encroaching evil – as time is of the essence they can not work within the law. As their enemies gain power, the dangers increase, until they have to fight demons in urban areas. (I am sure someone wrote this book already.)

Gates to Hell

Another obvious idea is a search for a magic book or satanic tome which opens the gates to hell (if you’re running a high-supernatural game or novel), allowing some of the Devil’s minions slip through and aid in the preparation for Satan’s return. In a more realistic setting, the Satanists are deluded – there’s no hell and of course the “magic spell” won’t work – but the heinous crimes committed by them are quite real.

The Devil Made Me Do It

In a less advanced society, “satanists” and witches (really anybody the locals decided they didn’t like very much) were blamed for everything from diseases to accident to bad weather. Such accusations usually ended in the painful death of the accused; your protagonists may need to clear their names (if there is enough time for rational discourse) or run for their lives. And in some settings, the accusations might actually be true – or the accuser might themselves be working for the devil.

Just a Bunch of Deluded Fools

A satanist (or other cultuist) based plot doesn’t have to do with the “real deal”. Religion, in any shape or form, is a great motivator to a great many people, on all ends of the spectrum. If the guys in the black robes brandishing daggers made from meteoric iron want to kill you, does it really matter if they want to use your blood to summon a demon or not?

Even if there’s no truth behind it all, Satanists (or any other cultists) can make a great red herring, or you can bait-and-switch your players (the cult is really a money-making scheme, for example). Maybe the satanists are employed by someone who lies to them, and employs them to do their dirty work to achieve some other goal. For example, a politician could use them as thugs to ensure his own election to office.

Star-Spawn of Satan

In a science-fiction setting, satanists might set up their own colony – far away from the usual trade routes. Such a society would be very dysfunctional; just take a look at the various sects that run afoul of the law almost every other year.

In the best case, members are just exploited for cheap labor; but usually, there’s rampant sexual abuse of both adults and children, violence, murder… The colony could support itself by piracy, and pirates that are unusually ruthless and ritualistically murder the crews of the ships they rob may be what brings the protagonists in as investigators.

Good Guy Lucifer

I usually assume that it’s best to play with the audience’s expectations. Keep them guessing. If your players assume that Satanists are “the real deal” then it turns out they aren’t, or maybe they are but the devil is really different from what everybody thinks. You could even make Lucifer the good guy – after all, the victor writes the history book – or in this case determines dogma.

Happy Halloween, folks.

Poll Results and a New Poll

Thanks to everybody who has voted in the poll where I asked what topics I should cover. In total, I received 116 votes.  The results were not that much of a surprise; you guys voted mostly for what I have been posting about anyway:

pollresults

It’s easy to explain that – if a certain type of post is common, the people who are attracted by that will vote for more of the same type. Still, it’s good to know my readership.

As a consequence of this poll, I will retire the plot-a-day series – it’s been mostly plot-a-quarter anyway, and I haven’t quite been happy with them anyway. They’ll stay in the archives, but don’t expect any more of them.

The one true surprise is that Game Design received so many votes, considering I have not posted much about it, especially lately. I have heard you, and I will pick up my efforts to design a game system again. Just give me a little while to get some other stuff out of the way.

As for genres, science fiction was the clear winner over fantasy, but again, I have been posting a lot of science fiction stuff. I won’t alienate those of you who enjoy it that way, so no worries, but I will provide more fantasy posts as well because I believe it’s underrepresented. The site, after all, is called Enderra.com after my fantasy world, and it’s a shame that there is so little material on, well, Enderra here.

The New Poll

The new poll is even more blatant: With this I wish to find out which of my settings are actually interesting to you guys! Let me know – and I will give you what you want… 😉

Plot-a-Day: Not As Advertised

I’ve been victim to an employment bait-and-switch twice now although I guess one of these was without the employer’s intent. In the normal world, this means that you end up with a job you might not particularly like. In the context of a story, a role-playing game or other “fantastic” setting, the old switcheroo could have far more diverse – and more interesting – results.

  • The company is a front for aliens who are either exploiting our planet comercially – or preparing an invasion.
  • The board and most of the upper management are Cthulhu cultists or Satanists (see “The Nine Gates” for an example).
  • A restaurant secretly mixes unsavory ingredients into the food – Monster parts, mind control drugs, expired meat. And remember: Soylent green is people.
  • A pizza delivery service also delivers blood to local vampires.
  • A lab accident frees monsters from another dimension, ancient terrors, nanobot clouds, or killer robots that you didn’t even know existed.
  • Your employer is a shell company working on a secret government project to evacuate “worthy” citizens to another planet once the world ends due to the 2012 apoclypse / global warming / peak oil / alien invasion.
  • By day, you may work at the tech support for your local ISP. But at night you and your colleagues are expected to hunt down werewolves.
  • You are hired to work on a new fantasy movie, only to discover that it is being filmed on location and that the orc aren’t CGI.
  • Off-world colonists are promised a new earth, a paradise among the stars, but end up as indentured workers in the hellish Uranium mines on Niffelheim.
  • The search for a famous sunken ship you were asked to join is a cover for finding a lost nuclear submarine (this actually happened) or to check on Atlantis or the Deep Ones living off the coast of New England.

In fact, an employer could hide any kind of nasty truth from new employers. The stranger, the more effective the switch is, but you need to actually make it hard (not impossible) for the players/readers to guess. You will probably also want to throw out red herrings left and right.

Plot-a-Day: RMS Titanic

The Titanic probably needs no introduction. It sank on April 15th, 1912 – one hundred years ago. Since its story is featured in so many stories, movies and so on, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post a list of plot ideas involving the Titanic.

Continue reading “Plot-a-Day: RMS Titanic” »

Not Courbefy

Plot-a-Day: Buy Your Own Village

Just stumbled across a video reporting about a French village that wants to sell itself for 300,000 Euro.

Not Courbefy, by Peter Whelerton, cc-attribution
Not Courbefy, by Peter Whelerton, cc-attribution

It looks like the people of Courbefy have tried this stunt three times already, and all attempts to develop the village have failed. Quite honestly it’s not hard to see why, the place is out in the middle of nowhere and your 300 grand buy you less than a dozen run-down crappy buildings. No offense, Courbefy, but that’s just the way it is.

However, it occurs to me that buying or inheriting an entire village may actually be an awesome hook for a campaign, or a piece of fiction. Hollywood, I am sure, will turn this into a chick-flick: The village is bought by the rich city-slicker, ideally a foreigner, who is tired of the hectic life. The villagers are at first resentful of the new owner, because he’s so different, but after they sabotage his efforts to renovate the village at first they learn to accept him as one of their own and together they can turn around the fortunes of the village. The rich foreign city-slicker, naturally, falls in love with the only pretty local young girl, and aren’t you getting the feeling that you’ve already watched this movie?

Anyway, we can do better than that.

  • The city’s inhabitants are secretly occultists worshiping Great Cthulhu or some other dark god.
  • If the village is by the sea, the Deep Ones come out at night.
  • There could be any kind of criminal activity – smuggling of firearms, drugs, or alcohol. The later works especially well for a Prohibition era story or game. Depending on the setting, the smugglers could be the heroes.
  • Space aliens have been using the village for their cruel experiments, which is why so many people fled in terror. The whole sale may even be a plot to attract new people – though why the aliens would need that instead of just abducting people from the neighboring village will be hard to explain.
  • If this were an Enid Blyton universe, the characters are children of the village’s new owner, and will stumble across a treasure hidden in some old ruins.
  • Two words: Zombie Apocalypse.
  • It’s 1940. A few weeks after the protagonists start working on their village, the Germans move in and take over. They decide to use the village for a small garrison, or perhaps for a prisoners’ camp. Our heroes my even be seen as collaborators at first, and must win the trust of the villagers to organize a resistance force. A similar plot should work extremely well for a Twilight: 2000 campaign.
  • Old Dungeons & Dragons even included setting up a small barony as a major element of a character’s life. Possible complications include all the above (even Germans, though that may be pushing it a bit) as well as Orcs, Dragons, and vengeful Gods.
  • Nuclear war or asteroid apocalypse destroys civilization while the protagonists are in their village; it survives due to its isolation and the players need to survive and then kick-start a new civilization while dealing with the hungry mob that’s left over from the previous one.
  • And you can also turn the tables around; the players are locals who have to sell out of desperation, but the buyer has some nefarious plan for his new village.

A village is, of course, a good default setting for this kind of adventure. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t spice it up:

  • Location makes a lot of difference – It could be a small village in Colonial USA (especially for something Lovecraftian), in the Old West, an Oasis town in a desert somewhere, or perhaps even a small island in the Caribbean
  • The settlement could be in space: The Ceres colony, a waystation orbiting some gas giant, or a small and forgotten out-of-the-way colony world.
  • An abandoned fort out in the wilderness or undersea city may also do the trick

For any of these ideas to work, you’ll want to spend enough time to prepare the settlement and its environs, as well as all characters. Since the players will spend a lot of time in a small area you can’t gloss over detail easily.

Update, 2012-05-23: Henry River Mill Village, in North Carolina, is up for sale at a 1.2 million US$ price tag. It probably has a better chance of getting sold, considering it was featured in the movie “Hunger Games“. The movie angle could be used as a red herring o distract from the actual plot at first.

Plot-a-Day: Power of the Atom

Nuclear power is the stuff of our dreams. It promises clean and safe energy – no greenhouse emissions, no dependency on foreign oil sources. At the same time it was devised as an ultimate weapon, and thus has become the stuff of our nightmares. The iconic picture of a mushroom cloud is firmly burned into our collective cultural consciousness. Nuclear accidents, nuclear terrorism, nuclear war – each has the potential to keep you awake at night, if you are prone to worry about such things at all.

As a consequence, all things nuclear have crept into our pop culture wherever you look. Indeed, it stands to argue that nuclear war created post-apocalypse as a genre. Nuclear power can be a powerful element of a story, whether for a game or for fiction.

Nuclear War

Nuclear war, the prevention and consequences of it, are basically their own sub-genre of science fiction. It’s pretty much beyond the scope of a Plot-A-Day post to tackle it in its entirety. Some ideas, though:

  • Nuclear wars do not have to be global in scope; a regional exchange and its devastating effects can make for an interesting setting, since you will be able to highlight the damage and the suffering better as foreign journalists arrive among the wreckage.
  • Nuclear war can also occur on other planets, whether alien home worlds or human colonies, with our intrepid heroes having to prevent the catastrophe from happening. Likewise, a spaceship crew could stumble across a devastated world and attempt to piece together what happened. If the war is recent, interaction with the survivors is a source for endless topics and a neat way to run some temporary “post apocalyptic” stories.
  • One trope is to follow up the nuclear war with either the development of mutants, who may be very zany depending on your setting, or with a war of machines against the surviving humans. Think Terminator. This might be especially interesting if the war was regional – in this case, it becomes a sort of “alien invasion” setting. The rest of the world will quickly send in troops to contain the rogue AIs.
  • The prevention of nuclear war or nuclear strikes is another common idea. Think Crimson Tide. Works in any genre, really.
  • And if your character can not prevent nuclear war, in the right setting having foreknowledge of a nuclear strike may make for an excellent “race against the clock” type adventure. Perhaps the character are psychic, and nobody will believe them, or perhaps they are Space Federation agents charged with recovering an important item before a planet gets nukes.

Nuclear Accidents

  • Thanks to the Japanese, the specter of nuclear accidents is once again on people’s minds. One possible (classic) plot idea is a cover-up at a nuclear power plant after an accident – you can’t really keep a large scale disaster a secret, but perhaps some of the employees were irradiated and turned into Zombies, superheroes, or simply dead goo. Weird events at a powerplant could easily involve Cthulhu.
  • A “broken arrow” is a situation where a warhead was lost. Recovering it could be a lengthy adventure.

Other Nuclear Ideas

  • Suitcase nukes existed, though it is not known publicly how many of these were built, how many may yet exist, and if any of them “got lost”. Suitcase nukes are an excellent topic for an espionage-centered story, no matter whether it is “realistic” or James Bond over the top. If the suitcase nuke has been deployed, finding and disarming it may be more of a special forces scenario.
  • A nuclear explosion rips a hole in the space-time continuum and lets… something through. This could be anything fantastic, from aliens to monsters to magic pixies.
  • An espionage story could also attempt to keep the secret of making nukes from falling into the wrong hands. These could be Nazis (World War II or Alternate History), Communists (Post-World-War-II), Rogue nations (21st Century), terrorists (War on Terror), or even aliens (see H. Beam Piper’s “Uller Uprising” as an example)
  • A missile silo has been occupied by terrorists, and the protagonists have to go in and remove them before they launch the missile or take the warheads for later use.
  • There was a natural nuclear reactor in Gabon 1.7 billion years ago. Perhaps in a space opera setting this could be pushed to the extreme, creating a deadly natural environment. It’s probably too much of a stretch to posit natural nuclear bombs, but even if one of these extreme natural reactors sits on top of a volcano, any eruption may be a “dirty” bomb. The characters have to recover important documents or alien technology from a ship that crashed right into that hell..

Plot-a-Day: The Forbidden City

China was recently hit by a scandal: It turned out that the rich & powerful of the People’s Republic had a “rich man’s club” going – and used one of the most famous of China’s sites as their club house: The Forbidden City. This came to light after artifacts – on loan from Hong Kong – were stolen.

The Forbidden City used to be the palace of the Emperor of China. As such, it is one of those iconic sites with a lot of history that just lend themselves to all kinds of adventures.

Forbidden City, by Saad Akhtar
Forbidden City, by Saad Akhtar

The Club could aim to…

  • …set up a new political system in China, and the PCs are there to spy on the conspirators or to even stop them by assassinating their leader. Of course the PCs could be members of the conspiracy, too, and find out who the government infiltrator is before he signals for the start of a raid by special forces.
  • …ensure Cthulhu or another Old God rises when the stars are right. The Forbidden City is an ancient Site Of Power, so the dark rituals performed there are magnified a thousand times in potency. The PCs need to stop the ritual from being completed, which is made more difficult by the fact that all these rich guys enjoy strong government protection.
  • …enjoy themselves in all kinds of carnal and evil ways. For example, they could be doing illegal drugs and employ the services of girls kidnapped all over China – or even the World – and forced to work as prostitutes. The PCs were hired to shut the whole thing down – or at least rescue the pretty, young daughter of their patron.
  • …bring about an end to the world financial system, creating a neo-communist utopia. Only James Bond can stop them – and since he has been cancelled, that task falls on the shoulders of the PCs.

ForbiddenCity's Location in Beijing
ForbiddenCity's Location in Beijing

Naturally, no matter what you decide, China is rich in interesting locations that you could add to your adventure. Some quick ideas off the top of my head:

  • The Great Wall
  • Qingdao is an interesting mix of European and Chinese city, and its super-modern high-rise buildings are home to many rich Chinese.
  • Tibet with its monasteries
  • Xian – home of the Terracotta Army
  • The Gobi desert

Enjoy.

Plot-a-Day: Lizard People under Los Angeles

In an Article in the Los Angeles Times, dated January 29, 1934,  reporters tell of G. Warren Shufelt, an engineer who was attempting to penetrate secret tunnels under the city in which Lizard People were supposed to live. The tunnels, supposedly located by “X-Ray” (which is just a word they threw in the article I guess), were said to be one of three lost cities on the pacific coast in which the lizards lived after a “great catastrophe” some five thousand years ago.

Lizard People Tunnels Under Los Angeles

Naturally, the story isn’t actually plausible. Skeptoid.com pulls it apart quite nicely. Of course we are not interested in the cold, boring reality; we are interested in how this could be turned into an exciting story. And that’s just very easy.

  • The basic plot here is that the characters are hired to expose Shufelt’s attempt to defraud investors in the lizard man treasure hunt.
  • The lizard man caves could be literally real; the lizards could hide treasures there or there could just be natural riches (gold or other precious metals). The characters could attempt to do what Shufelt did, or if you set the story in 1934, they could join forces with him or work against him in trying to secure the treasure.
  • The lizards could actually have evil intentions, and are perhaps behind a series of missing people in Los Angeles. In the course of the investigation, the players come across these tunnels. It’s very Lovecraftian, and may be an ideal first adventure that pulls the characters into investigating Mythos activities in the first place.
  • In a more modern approach, the secret tunnels could be an alien outpost; after all reptilian aliens are a staple of the UFO myth.
  • The tunnels could be part of a greater underworld realm. This could lead to the Hollow Earth, there could be Atlantean refugees or ruins down there, and so on. Cave exploration has captivated audiences in role-playing games and adventure stories for ages.
  • The city project to build Los Angeles’ subway hits these tunnels and the characters are called in to investigate them.
  • Do a bait-and-switch. The monsters turn out not to be real, but the tunnels are used by Pirates, the Mafia and smugglers, revolutionaries against the American Theocracy, illegal immigrants, or other outcasts from society.
  • One word: Morlocks.

(Via Strange Maps: Secret Caves of the Lizard People.)

Plot-a-Day: "Alien" Squid sighted at deep-sea platform

The Shell oil company has filmed an alien-looking Bigfin squid at one of its oil development sites. These creatures are a stark reminder of what strange animals live in the depths of our Earth’s oceans. When I watched the shaky video in the National Geographic article, I kept thinking that alien life on Europa could not possibly look weirder – or more spooky!

The plot ideas here are obvious.

  • The sighting is an actual alien, or a monster – a Deep One, Godzilla or the Cloverfield monster, or some other strange creature. The creature could be scouting out the oil rig for a later attack.
  • The oil drilling site could be located on an alien planet, thought to be devoid of native life – the presence of these creatures could undermine plans to exploit the planet.
  • The creature is actually a genetically engineered being released by a competitor or eco-terrorists.

Watch The Abyss or any other deep sea monster drama movie for inspiration, and read lots of H. P. Lovecraft.