Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Bakuriel

Dark Carnival

Recommended Posts

 Greetings all! 

I am currently attempting to create a one shot module for ttb following the story outlined in Wyrd Chronicles issue 18, Dark Carnival, about mister Cooper and the dark motivations of his troupe of entertainers. I have a general idea of how to line the game up with the story, but need a little help deciding on the challenges that work best during the game, what TNs to assign, how to break the scenes up, etc. Any help at all is appreciated, and I'm willing up update this first post with the module setup as it reaches completion so that others can try it out for themselves. 

---------------

Module thus far

---------------

PROLOGUE

Strange consensus reports in the northern territories bordering Ridley have led to a Guild investigation in the general area. Word is that there have been a number of mysterious disappearances, but no direct reports have been made. It was only after a clerk noticed small discrepancies in the population reports of the local mining towns that foul play was suspected and an investigation launched to determine the cause. Currently the Guild suspects either a Resurrectionist incursion or localized attacks by Neverborn, and is searching for enough evidence to justify increasing their presence in Ridley.

The Fated should have no trouble finding plenty of reasons to look into the investigation. If they have Guild standings, their assistance is as simple as locating the local investigator and offering help, but plenty of other factions don't like the idea of seeing more Guild lackeys hanging around, particularly the Arcanists, Resurrectionists, and Ten Thunders. Any of these groups could easily pass a few scrip around to find out what's going on and potentially hinder the investigation, while handling whatever threat may or may not be out there lurking in the shadows.

Once the Fated have been involved in the investigation, read the following text:

---------------

It isn't difficult to locate the investigator, who appears to be flashing her badge at every local who passes within ten feet of her. Many of the local Union miners have gotten quite fed up with her imperious behavior, and are happy to point out the last place they saw the woman sticking her nose, along with muttering a few suggestions about what to do once they locate her. Before long they're directed to the center of a local boomtown where the investigator, a stern looking woman by the name of Syliva Nesler, is seen staring down her nose at a disgruntled Union supervisor on his way to a local tavern. As the Fated approach, they catch the tail end of their 'conversation.'

"You wouldn't even have this town if not for a Guild commission, so I don't care what supposed rights the Union thinks I'm violating, if I find out you or any of your employees are to blame for this, there will be hell to pay, do you understand me?"

A small, unintelligible grunt is all that can be heard in response, followed by a short cry of frustration as Sylvia turns up her nose and strides off in a huff.

---------------

Neither Sylvia or the Union supervisor notice the Fated until after the apparent argument is concluded. If the Fated have strong ties to the Guild, presenting their orders to Sylvia will allow them to question her, while Fated with Union ties may question the supervisor, who gives his name only as Colin.

After some simple questioning, the Fated learn that some erroneous data showed up when the Guild was updating the population totals for several boomtowns in the area, showing numbers that indicate an unexpected decrease, or the sudden removal of names without any listings of funerals or missing persons reports for any of the names in question. Both Sylvia and Colin are wary of speaking too much about the matter, but on a TN 10 Convince Challenge (TN 8 for Fated with Guild or Union ties respectively), they'll eventually admit that this isn't the only reason the Guild is snooping about. The disappearances appear to be following a pattern, hinting that the disappearances might be something more deliberate and sinister.

---------------

Scene 1: Three makes a pattern

---------------

One way or another, the Fated will need to figure out more details about the so called disappearances before starting their investigation. Up until now most of the information provided has been vague and unspecific, aside from pointing to a vague area to the north of Ridley. Questioning the locals will likely be the best way to gather up enough intelligence to figure out where to begin.

If the Fated successfully questioned either Sylvia or Colin, they have the option to skip the Ongoing Challenge, as both the Guild and Union have enough information to establish a pattern in the disappearances, even if they haven't noticed it yet themselves.

What's been goin' on 'round here?

  • Skills Allowed: Bewitch, Carouse, Scrutiny
  • Target Number: 10
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Success Requirement: 2 per Fated
  • Failure Requirement: 1 per Fated

At the end of each Duration, the Fated learn one piece of Information from the list below for every success they achieve. For each failure, they instead learn one False Lead. The Fatemaster is encouraged to announce this information in no particular order, so that the Fated are never quite sure which parts are accurate and which parts are not.

If the Fated successfully complete the Ongoing Challenge, they learn the Breakthrough, which tells them the most recent town with mysterious disappearances, as well as establishing a pattern pointing to the most likely location to be hit next, a boomtown about 3 days' ride to the Northeast of Ridley. If they catastrophically fail, however, they instead learn the Red Herring, which leads them to an abandoned town with a nasty surprise waiting for them, though it is still possible to establish a pattern based on their information.

Information (in no specific order):

  • Most of the "missing persons" data seems to involve small families, occasionally with only a single parent, but one name in the list of the family not being there at a later date isn't uncommon out in the Northern Territories.
  • None of the missing persons seem to have been particularly important or relevant. The families in question don't seem to remember much happening out of the ordinary, and haven't reported any losses because of it.
  • Every target area thus far has been a town with a high workload. While this might seem like "all of them" to most people, these towns were working particularly hard to keep themselves afloat, even by local standards.
  • Bandit activity has been very low, making it unlikely that the towns have been raided. None have asked for any extra supplies or food, and some have even asked for less, adding weight to the idea that people are disappearing in mysterious ways.
  • Though rations for food and other amenities has dropped, requests for alcohol and various other "distractions", indicating that the unreported losses are still taking a heavy toll.

False Leads (in no specific order):

  • The towns have been hushed up about the missing persons because of mysterious figures seen darting in the shadows at night, leading people to fear greater repercussions if they try to speak out.
  • Disappearances only happen every couple of weeks, typically during nights with little to no moonlight available.
  • Dense patches of fog seem to roll through town following one of these events. While fog itself isn't particularly uncommon, the regularity following a disappearance has locals suspecting a link.

Breakthrough: 

The Fated, after reviewing some minor details listed by those they've questioned, figure out that the most likely candidates to be missing are children, as many of the items no longer being requested involve toys and small tailored clothing.

Red Herring:

The Fated, after speaking to enough folks around town, hear the ravings of a wild-eyed man striding through town, yelling at the top of his lungs. Before he's grabbed by the authorities and carted off, the Fated overhear some specific details; namely moving, creepy shadows, folks fleeing in terror, and the name of a town to the north that seems to be populated, but not by the people that are supposed to be there. Upon learning this, the Fated travel to the town and begin searching.  See: Echoes in the Night

---------------

The pitter-patter of missing feet

After completing the Ongoing Challenge, the Fated may bring their suspicions to Sylvia or Colin, who allow them to tag along as they double check their records. Disturbingly, the Fated are correct, and are able to confirm that all disappearances thus far have involved families listing one or more children during one survey only to list none in a later survey. Using this revelation, the Fated are able to predict the next likely target, following the line of affected towns and locating the next one on the path with a high population of children. With this information, they are free to set off for their next destination. Proceed to Scene 2.

---------------

Echoes in the Night

Rumors and false trails run rampant and, without any other evidence to go by, the Fated find themselves traveling to a ramshackle ghost town, one of many failed Guild Contracts in the Northern Territories. While it is up to the Fatemaster to decide what time of day the Fated arrive, no amount of searching or investigation will turn up any clues during the day. It isn't until night falls that things in the town begin to grow suspicious. First a dense, cloying fog will roll into the area, obscuring everything in the town and reducing visibility severely in areas without a strong source of light. Next, half an hour after the fog rolls in, the Fated will begin to hear strange whispers in the distance, sometimes near, sometimes far, but never from a visible source. The Fatemaster might decide at this point to have several of the Fated targeted by specific whispers, in an attempt to draw the party out into the ruined town in separate groups. Once it has been decided whether or not the party will split to investigate or not, read the following text:

---------------

No matter where you look, shadows dart through the edges of your vision, hanging for a moment at the edge of your periphery, as if wanting you to turn and look directly at them. And yet, despite all your efforts, nothing is ever there, only the faint impression of being watched and the empty, cloying darkness of the night air. This continues for long enough that you begin to lose track of time, unable to see the moon or the stars above. The constant whispering is maddening, digging into the back of your mind with promises relief from some unexplained torment, the incessant noise almost as terrible as the deep silences in between.

Just when you feel you can't stand anymore, a figure appears in the mist, only barely more defined than the surrounding shadows. Layers of greasy, ill-fitted clothing hang from a short, gaunt looking child standing just within the ring of visible light around you, staring at you with wide, hollow eyes. The child seems unafraid of you, standing quite still as it fiddles with something between thin, emaciated fingertips, almost as if it is waiting for something...

---------------

Though they don't know it yet, the Fated have been surrounded by a pack of Crooligans (core rulebook page 354) numbering approximately 5, assuming an average sized group of Fated. The initial encounter is merely a distraction, as a second Crooligan attempts to outflank and attack the distracted group. This happens regardless of the size of the group, all parties are engaged the same way regardless of their number. Resolve an attack against a random Fated, with the Crooligan receiving a + to the attack flip to account for the surprise nature of it. Fated may negate this boost with a successful TN10 Notice Challenge. Note the target does not have to be the one to succeed.

After the initial encounter, resolve combat with the Crooligans attempting to surround and surprise the Fated whenever possible, favoring mob tactics against isolated individuals over direct combat.

This group of Crooligans is not wild, and are controlled by a Resurrectionist (core rulebook page 356) who is hidden within the town somewhere. Fated who make any attempts to locate the Resurrectionist may do so on a successful TN12 Notice Challenge if done during the fight, or TN10 if they wait until after. If found, the Ressurectionist fights until incapacitated or killed.

---------------

Congratulations and Consequences

The Fated, victorious or otherwise, are able to return to their contact and notify them that there is Resurrectionist activity in the area. Presenting this information to either Colin or Sylvia results in a small thank you and a few colorful words, mostly involving the inability of the Fated to solve the issues in front of them. Commendations are offered if the Fated can bring in the Resurrectionist, alive or dead, but stern words will still be had, as another set of disappearances were noted during the time wasted fighting the undead. Once they are free, the Fated are sent off to the most recently victimized town, but do not make it all the way there before encountering something suspicious. Proceed directly to Scene 3.

If the Fated manage to subdue or kill the Resurrectionist, this may serve to catch the attention of the Death Marshals, as the Investigator will report back to the Guild immediately with this information.

---------------

Scene 2: Run Away to the Circus

---------------

The Carnival Arrives

This scene involves the Fated as they enter the town with the highest chance of being hit and begin to investigate what might be causing these unusual events. Much of the later half of this scene will play out in cinematic call boxes, with the occasional Challenge to allow the Fated to grasp what's going on around them. How they react as these events unfold could drastically alter the results of this scene.

For some reason the town seems to be buzzing with quiet excitement, though it's fairly easy to grasp why. Many of the townsfolk are gathered around a tavern at the center of town, staring at something posted to the front wall. With a little elbowing and a polite shove here and there, the Fated are able to make their way close enough to see a series of posters advertising Mr. Cooper's Dark Carnival. Many of the children squeal with excitement, shouting words like "elephant" and "strongman." Evidently most, if not all, of the citizens of the town have never seen a carnival before, and are quite eager to attend, staring at the wonders advertised on the posters as if entranced.  If the Fated succeed on a TN10 Notice Challenge, one man looks to be as if he's quite literally entranced. Should he be noticed, read the following:

Among the excited throng, one man stares at the posters with a hollow, penetrating gaze, his expression empty of the excitement of those around him. Though his lips remain pressed shut, his jaw moves every so often, as if chewing on a word that he can't quite seem to remember. His shoulders are slumped, and his skin appears to be sunken and sallow, as if he's lost many hours of sleep across a very long period of time. He doesn't seem to acknowledge anything or anyone around him, not even if spoken to directly.

The Fated may choose to try and catch this man's attention, which is simple enough. Obstructing his view to the poster in some fashion seems to shake him awake, causing his eyes to refocus and his posture to straighten up slightly.

Once his attention has been caught, the man introduces himself as Clancy, and is open to some general questioning. Hailing from a nearby town called Plantagenet, Clancy has seen Mr. Cooper's carnival perform once before, and seems to recall enjoying himself quite thoroughly, but feeling quite drained after it had left. If questioned about the contents of the show, Clancy remembers very little, simply stating over and over again how entertaining and refreshing the show was.

The Fated will, however, recognize Plantagenet as one of the towns under investigation by the Guild. If they decide to ask Clancy about missing children, or if he ever had any of his own, he immediately begins to act strangely, either dodging the subject entirely or struggling to remember anything specific about kids from the town. A TN12 Scrutiny Challenge will reveal that Clancy's memory has been affected by something that happened to him in the past, and that his mind is blocking out the details. Any Fated with Counterspelling, or who pass the Scrutiny Challenge with at least on Margin of Success, may determine that the source of Clancy's memory issues is magical. While it is possible to dispel the effect, doing so requires a whopping TN21 Counterspelling Challenge, as the source of the spell is quite potent. Should the Fated succeed, Clancy will immediately go white in the face, then red, balling his fists up and storming off in anger, muttering all manner of foul things he plans to do to Mr. Cooper. If left in place, Clancy will mention that he'll be attending the show, hoping that whatever is missing from his life will feel complete if he sees it again.

Further questioning is immediately halted as the carnival procession appears at the outskirts of town and begins to make its way through. Read the following text:

---------------

The procession appears out of the afternoon heat haze, winding its way across the badlands and unmistakably heading for town. At first, all you can make out are wagons, at least a dozen of them, all bulging like mushrooms with brightly colored loads, hints of shrill pipe music carrying on the air. As the hazy figures approach, the first thing that comes into view is the massive, rumbling shape of an elephant, adorned with all manner of silks and embellishments. All at once, the carnival is upon you, and the train of wagons was rumbling along the street while figures unseen a moment earlier suddenly fan out on either side, the pre-show hooks beginning to sink in.

An elegant figure pirouettes by, unnaturally thin and angular. At first you appear to be looking at an emaciated man in brown garb, until you realize that the figure is made from wood. Some sort of mannequin, yet motorized and mobile, and wearing a tragic mask. It spins past, trailing a long gaily colored sash like a comet trail, chased a second later by a squealing child.

Someone in the crowd shouts the word "Mercury," and sure enough, along came the man himself, even larger in the flesh than his poster suggested. He's wearing a tight-fitting one-piece uniform and carrying a cast iron barbell the way a normal man might carry a broom. On his opposite shoulder is perched a slender woman in a dusty figure-hugging dress, the lower half of her face covered in a veil. As Mercury draws abreast of you, you realize with a start that the woman’s veil is a thick lustrous beard and moustache, combed and oiled as meticulously as her hair. Her eyes meet yours and
crinkled with amusement at your expression.

 

The wagons roll past, one after another, each more mysterious than the last as dust from the dry street begins to mask them. An agile shape leaps from one wagon to the next and spreads shining
limbs. It takes a moment to process what it is – a monkey with metal wings. Finally the largest wagon yet rumbles past, and atop it sits a circular platform like a huge drum in candy stripe colors. Standing on it and apparently immune to the swaying and rocking of the vehicle is Mr. Cooper, the Ring Master. He's unmistakable, dressed identically to his poster in a deep maroon coat and tails, striped pants, waistcoat and scarf.

He looks into the crowd and performs a deep theatrical bow, sweeping off a glistening top hat and touching his heart with long fingers. The shadows under his eyebrows are very deep, but you can see a shining intelligence within.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!” His voice, scratchy and gravelly, carries easily over the crazed piping and thunder of wagons. “Tonight shall be an experience beyond your understanding! You shall see marvels that defy explanation! Feats that defy reason!”

As the wagon rumbles pats it becomes clear that it is the last in the procession, the predecessors already fading into the distance ahead. The Ring Master swivels expertly on his precarious podium, turning to face the watching crowd as the wagons vanish one by one into the dust. “I cordially invite you, one and all,” he cries. “Join us at sunset, where you shall be witnesses and honored guests…of the Dark Carnival!”

---------------

The crowd disperses into excited whispers, all eagerly awaiting the arrival of sunset. No further clues make themselves apparent, the supposed source of the disappearances has arrived.

While it is possible for the Fated to investigate the carnival site before sundown, they will be intercepted by Mr. Cooper, who is willing to give a vague tour of the area, but apologizes as the carnival is still being set up. The main tent is being erected as they arrive on scene, and there are no clues available to suggest that this is anything other than a carnival being unpacked and prepared for opening night. The presence of the Fated will, however, leave Cooper relatively suspicious of their motives, and will cause increased security measures to appear during Scene 3 following the performance.

Only What is Freely Given...

Once sunset arrives, the Fated will make their way to the carnival, a very obvious glow out in the fading light. Despite the short time since their arrival, the carnival has been set up, a large half circle of wagons framing a large, high topped tent made from silk, striped in red, white, and purple. Performers dance and twirl here and there, beckoning the eager audience to the main entrance, where the bearded lady sits from earlier. She smiles at those who approach, but answers cryptically when asked about admission, stating that they shall only take what is freely given to them. Her brow raises slightly as the Fated pass by, but she makes no comment about them. They narrow almost imperceptibly, though, as Clancy arrives, shortly behind the Fated, and takes up a position in the queue behind them.

The line moves fairly quickly, admitting the large crowd with surprising efficiency as every seat is filled almost to capacity. Harsh but sturdy bleachers stand on one side of the tend, framing the center ring in a half-moon shape as lights flare to life, and the wild, trilling pipe music starts up once again.

The Greatest show in Malifaux!

  • Skills Allowed: Centering
  • Target Number: 10*
  • Duration: Special: One check per call out box
  • Success Requirement: At least one per call out box
  • Failure Requirement: Once every Fated has failed

The above Ongoing Challenge represents the Fated attempting to resist the allure and illusions of the show before them. Only one Fated needs to succeed during each check, but failure causes the TN for that Fated's next check to increase by 1 until the Challenge is over. If at least one Fated succeeds, read the text from the initial call out box, then read the contents of the Success call out box. Otherwise simply read initial box and move on to the next.  Fated with Counterspelling receive + to this duel.

---------------

“The Mummerettes, ladies and gentlemen!” cried Mr. Cooper as the figures flickered past, almost too fast for the eye to follow. “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll exclaim!” One of the Mummerettes pauses long enough for you to see it holds a pair of glittering swords in its hands, before it launches itself through the air, spinning end over end and actually leaving a trail through the thick smoke that swims overhead.

It lands lightly on one foot, blades poised, as a second Mummerette races directly for it, then leaps over its colleague, trailing a bright yellow sash that flaps madly. The blades whir, there's a gasp from the crowd – and the second Mummerette lands, untouched, in a snowstorm of yellow confetti. Before the applause can break out, they dance away, spinning like tops.

More Mummerette antics follow, this time with some sort of brief tragedy where two of the mannequins act out a forbidden tryst while Mr. Cooper narrates their doomed love. It ends so fast that it's hard to follow the story, making it hard to tell why the lovers had to thrust swords through one another’s breasts before the jealous third Mummerette smashed their heads to kindling with a mallet.

Success: While most of the act is performed with mannequins, the tragedy has actual actors appear, dressed in dark garb with occasional bits of wooden costumes imitating the appearance of the Mummerettes. When the grisly scene plays out, it proves fatal for the "lovers", who are summarily smashed into unidentifiable gore. 

---------------

Despite the gruesome scene, the audience seems to remain completely oblivious to the events transpiring before them, though with close observation it becomes apparent that the performers are more than aware what they are doing. Calling too much attention to the situation will earn the ire of Mr. Cooper, and could very well result in a fight that turns into a bloodbath, as there is no telling how many people are currently under the Ring Master's sway. Care should be taken in how to proceed if the Fated wish to depart or otherwise interrupt the show at this point.

Next Mr. Cooper introduces Atro and Pheobe, the two entering from the hole in the center of the tent’s roof, sliding down long coiled stripes of silk, using their intertwined limbs and the fabric to spin and slide their way down to the ground. As impressive as the display is, they soon work their way back up the silk ribbons, affixing thin sickle blades to the fabric as they go, winding themselves up tighter and tighter until they reach the ceiling like a pink fly in a spider’s cocoon, their limbs tangled and only their heads sticking out, as much one being now as two.

The pipes blare louder and they drop, spinning incredibly fast as the silk unwinds like a yoyo; the sickle blades flash and a tumble of disorganized body parts hit the floor of the ring with a splatter. A huge surge of screams and laughter and shouting and applause and horror wash over the tent. The audience stares unbelieving at the twitching chunks of meat until Mr. Cooper sweeps onto the scene and throws a black silk cape over the wreckage.

The braziers flash, clouds of smoke surging into the air as the black silk cape is thrown aside – and two Mummerettes spring to their feet, poised and whole, and the crowd cheers and whistles with all their might.

Success: The floor at the center of the ring is still wet with the blood of the poor fools who just died amidst the chaos and carnage of the macabre show. But that isn't what shakes you the most. Though introduced as Atro and Phoebe, the male performer had been very familiar, his face blank and his eyes distant as he swirled about the stage like a puppet gone mad beneath the watchful eyes of its master. You didn't know Clancy very well, but he deserved a much better end than that.

---------------

Once again, for those Fated who have succeeded at the Challenge, all is not as it appears with this performance. Dark hands, stained with more than their fair share of blood, conduct the show behind the thin veil of a Ring Master. Whatever Mr. Cooper is up to, he has to be stopped, but the show is not over yet. As the performances begin to wind down, Mr. Peanuts, the elephant, is brought out for one more show as he parades around the center ring...

---------------

During the final acts, Mr. Cooper calls all the children down into the ring to join Mr. Peanuts’ procession. The kids march gleefully around the ring while the piping music soars and the braziers belch, before the elephant leads them out through the curtain as the show continues. While the children disappear to parts unknown, the stage is marked by the return of Mercury wrestling a lion. The animal snarls and tears his back to the bone as they grapple, but Mercury is unperturbed, getting the snarling beast into a headlock and twisting, twisting, until the crack of its spine can be heard in the furthest bleacher. Mercury brandishes his defeated foe overhead, turning in a complete circle while he accepts the townsfolk’s adulation. Ribs glint through the strongman’s rent flesh as he turns around, but that only makes the victory all the sweeter.

And yet more followed. The Mummerettes return to the stage, emerging like wraiths from the smoke, and lance a number of volunteers from the audience through the chest. The blades slide from
their backs red, yet somehow they return to their seats, laughing with all the rest. The laughter is almost constant now, washing over every act, even washing over Mr. Cooper’s narration.

And then, all very suddenly, it's over.

The braziers sputter and die out, plunging the tent into darkness. Only the torches outside the entrance and the faintest blue-white finger of starlight through the roof of the tent are visible, and in that starlight is the shape of Mr. Cooper. He seems to be breathing heavily, his face pale and sweating, and his voice isn’t much more than a whisper as he produces his polished top hat from the darkness
behind him.

“And now our show is at an end, good people. There is no more. We poor souls leave you in good faith, paid in full.”

And with that, he places his hat atop his head and vanishes in the shadow beneath it.

Success: Fated that succeed on this final act obviously remember that the children marched out with the elephant, but never returned, while Fated who fail seem to forget the children were in the audience before the show began. The mystery of who is responsible for the disappearances is solved, but the question of why and where they are going still remains.

---------------

Gone in a Flash

Following the end of the act, the audience shuffles out as quickly as they entered, many seeming listless or distant if spoken to. The Fated can attempt to resist, but the massive throng of people causes them to be pushed clear of the tent and a few dozen feet away despite their efforts.

If the Fated failed every duration in the Ongoing Challenge, then they have failed catastrophically. Mr. Cooper gets away and the Fated report back to their superior, noting only that a carnival had shown up and little else. If at least one Fated succeeded on any duration, there is at least enough suspicion to investigate Mr. Cooper, though the remaining Fated may have to be convinced that the investigation is worthwhile.

Regardless, if the Fated try to head back to the Big Top, they will find it gone, along with all of the wagons. While it is too dark to see where they are, the faint rumble of the carnival still carries through the night air, and a set of tracks leading back to the South can be seen. If the Fated wish to find out the truth, they will have to give chase. Proceed to Scene 3.

---------------

Scene 3: A Hasty Wrap-Up

---------------

Running equals Guilty

One way or another, the Fated will find themselves running across Mr. Cooper's Dark Carnival as it makes its way south along an abandoned road. If they found him after the encounter with the Crooligans in Scene 1, then they will have plenty of reason to assume some manner of guilt, or at least knowledge of the disappearances, given the pace at which Cooper's caravan is traveling away from the affected area. Given where they will encounter the Caravan, the Fated will have little time to prepare or approach the caravan, and will suffer - to the Challenge to catch up, unless one of the Fated possesses and uses the Husbandry skill. Fated who are pursuing Cooper directly after his performance have much more time to complete the Challenge, and suffer no penalties.

Catch that Carney!

  • Skills Allowed: Track, Wilderness, Husbandry
  • Target Number: 10
  • Duration: One hour per success
  • Success Requirement: One per Fated
  • Failure Requirement: Two per Fated if proceeding from Scene 2, 1 Per Fated if proceeding from Scene 1

The results of this Challenge are simple. On a success, the Fated catch up to the caravan while it is still fleeing the scene, and are able to investigate, to some limited degree, the wagons as they attempt to keep up with Cooper. On a catastrophic failure, they simply do not catch up to the caravan before it reaches its destination and must track Cooper down, and arrive to witness the beginning of the Dark Bargain section, skipping everything in between.

Wagons South

After tracking down Cooper and his caravan, the Fated are able to make their way to the rearmost of the wagons and begin searching for the stolen children. While this might seem difficult to do from horseback, even the fastest wagon has to travel at a relatively slow pace, or risk damaging itself. That said, adjust the TN of any Challenge during this section for what feels appropriate to the scene, such as lowering them slightly if the Fated caught up without a single failure on the previous Challenge or raising them if they barely squeaked by, to account for how much time they have to search.

As before, Cooper's wagon is the last in the procession, and must be given extra caution, as there are several flying monkeys and Mummerettes hanging about the perimeter, watching the surrounding area. A TN10 Stealth Challenge is sufficient to bypass the wagon entirely, but suffers a - if Cooper has any reason to suspect the Fated followed him. Alternatively, a Wilderness or Husbandry Challenge of TN11 can be used to skirt wide around the wagon and cut off an earlier part of the procession.

Once the Fated have made it past Cooper's wagon, the caravan itself consists of three distinct sections; the animal pens in the back, performer lodging in the middle, and the tents and large equipment being carried up front. The Fated may search these areas in any order they choose, but must take care not to make any loud noises in the animal pens or risk alerting Cooper to their presence.

Animal Pens

The wagons holding the animals used in the show are shoddy at best, barely held up to any standard of decency and sure to set off any animal rights activist who catches sight of them. This area is relatively dark, affording a + to any Stealth Challenges made to pass unseen between cages while looking for the captured children. This becomes especially necessary around the cage of some massive, snarling monstrosity hiding in the shadows of a specially-reinforced cage near the center. Particularly brave Fated can try to sneak closer if they like, but it becomes very obvious that there are no children inside, or if there were, there aren't anymore, as the beast thrashes wildly at its prison. Unwise as it may be, a TN14 Lockpicking Challenge is sufficient to open the cage, but an equally high TN14 Stealth Challenge will be required right after to avoid being set upon by the beast inside. Once free, if it does not catch whoever released it, flip a card off the top of the deck to determine where the beast goes:

On a Ram: The beast rushes to the front of the caravan and begins to smash bleachers and tear through tents, ripping horses in half and bringing the whole procession to a screeching halt.

On a Tome: The beast surges up to the performer lodgings and begins to track down and assault the performers, starting with Baritone Lola and working its way through. The caravan will still halt, but much more slowly, as word will have to spread around before all the wagons cease their movement.

On a Mask: The beast remains in the animal pen area, sniffing the air until it smashes its way into the lion's pen and begins to eat the already festering corpse of the lion slain during the act. The caravan remains in motion.

On a Crow: The beast drops back and attempts to make its way into Cooper's wagon, immediately alerting him that something is wrong. Cooper quickly subdues the beast and resumes his control, and begins sweeping the caravan from back to front, looking for the intruders.

Black Joker: The beast runs off into the wastes, after some alien goal, but otherwise is gone for the current session. It is, however, still out there and terrorizing the Northern Territories, and will have to be hunted down eventually...

Red Joker: In a turn of surprising fortune, the beast rampages its way up the caravan, smacking open doors and punching holes in the side of transport vehicles left and right. Chaos ensues as the performers try to reassert their control, but in the chaos, the beast frees all the captive children, and the Fated can make good their escape while the creature does their work for them.

Assuming that the beast is left alone, the Fated will need to pass a TN10 Notice Challenge to locate the children in this section. Three of them are held inside the old lion pen, with the rotting corpse of the dead lion from Mercury's act still inside, possibly to deter investigation. The children appear to be entranced, and will move readily when prompted, making no noise and no attempt to escape otherwise.

Performer Lodging

This area is more brightly lit than the pens, and hosts a much larger number of Mummerettes and monkeys, making pure stealth much harder between wagons. In the center is the largest, most heavily guarded wagon, looking very much like the armored variants used by the Guild to transport soulstones and scrip around Malifaux proper. Mercury himself stands at the door to the rear, glancing around the area behind the wagon for any signs of approach, and a flying monkey sits upon each of the four corners of the roof like gargoyles. If the Fated attempt to approach from behind, they will be noticed almost immediately, and have to fight their way past Mercury and monkeys alike, and unless all 4 are incapacitated quickly, they will raise the alarm to the rest of the caravan. Should they succeed, however, a TN12 Lockpicking Challenge will open the door to reveal a dozen Mummerettes, all dressed like children, standing in orderly lines inside. This cart is a ruse, though it is up to the Fatemaster's discretion if the mannequins attack or simply stand idly by as the Fated leave elsewhere.

The true cart can be found with either a TN10 Notice Challenge or a TN10 Scrutiny Challenge. Riding near to the back of this section and slightly off to the side, this cart only has two monkeys, one in front and one in the rear, and two performers, Thin Lizzy guarding the door, and Baritone Lola sitting up front, guiding the horses. Lizzy will have to be dealt with to enter the cart, but the door is, surprisingly, unlocked. Inside sit the largest number of captive children at nearly a dozen, all standing around staring at nothing, much like those in the animal pens. Getting them out will require several stealth challenges, as only a few can be rescued at a time, generally one or two per Fated working to free them. However, should the Fated manage to incapacitate Lola, Lizzy, and both monkeys without raising an alarm, then a simple TN8 Husbandry Challenge will allow them to take the entire wagon out of the caravan as well as provide them with a convenient way to transport the children back home.

Equipment Carts

Unsurprisingly, this area is the least heavily guarded. Only a small handful of flying monkeys are in the area, moving around at random patrols. A TN8 Stealth Challenge is more than sufficient to avoid them completely. Most of this section of the caravan is deserted, aside from the Mummerettes driving the horses. Only two children are in this area, but they are quite easily obtained, as none of the equipment carts are locked.

Dark Bargain

After attempting to catch up and search the caravan, one of two things will happen. Either the Fated will take whatever children they've freed and be on their way, or if they failed to rescue any, catch up at all, or simply choose to stay behind to learn more, the caravan will eventually slow to a stop and Cooper will emerge from his wagon and begin rounding up the children. If any of the children are missing, Cooper will look upset, but composes himself quickly and marshals them off towards a nearby outcropping of trees. If all of them are missing, Cooper pales in the face, yells to his performers to begin looking, then sets off alone. If the Fated wish to know more, they may follow. Read from one of the following call out boxes depending on which statement is true:

---------------

If Cooper has any children to present

Mr. Cooper stands at the edge of the dark woods, frowning. He appears weak from the show, his demeanor almost sad.

You sense the presence before you see it, emerging from among the trees with a grace and stealth that is wholly unnatural. Tall and lean as a whip, the creature’s blue flesh is decorated with intricate thread-like tattoos. It stalks out from under the canopy on cloven hooves, a shining bald cranium sporting two long spiral horns, with two dark eyes as distant and alien as the stars overhead.


“Ah, the Ring Master returns,” the Neverborn says with malevolent glee. Cooper motions with a hand and the small procession begins to shuffle up the hill behind him. He watches them as they pass, marching with faces almost as blank as his own.

The creature’s black eyes dance over the little figures as they parade by, flashing small black needle teeth in a rapacious smile.


“Oh yes,” it said gently. “I do so enjoy your visits, Cooper. You always bring me such lovely gifts.”


Cooper grinds his teeth, but says nothing, glowering up at the thing. However evident his deep hatred and loathing, it gives no sign of caring. When the last of them had vanished into the inky
shadows of the wood, the creature nods in absent satisfaction and turns to leave.


“How many more?” Cooper snaps. “Surely the debt is paid.”


The Neverborn stops at the edge of the trees, seeming to consider.


“How many more?” Cooper asks again, his voice cracking. “Please.”

The creature makes a maddeningly vague gesture and smiles at him, six layers of razor teeth gleaming in the night air.


“Soon enough,” it says.

“And after?” Cooper presses, taking a step forward, his face contorted with venom and desperation.


The Neverborn giggles, letting him hang a long time before nodding, the consummate sadist.


“When the debt is repaid, we shall return what we took,” it says.

And then it's gone, vanished back into the trees, leaving Cooper to stand there, seething with rage and torment.

---------------

If Cooper has no children to present

Mr. Cooper stands at the edge of the dark woods, frowning. He appears weak from the show, his demeanor almost sad.

You sense the presence before you see it, emerging from among the trees with a grace and stealth that is wholly unnatural. Tall and lean as a whip, the creature’s blue flesh is decorated with intricate thread-like tattoos. It stalks out from under the canopy on cloven hooves, a shining bald cranium sporting two long spiral horns, with two dark eyes as distant and alien as the stars overhead.


“Ah, the Ring Master returns,” the Neverborn says with malevolent glee, then pauses, narrowing its eyes when Cooper remains motionless before it. "Where is your tribute, human?"

Cooper flinches visibly at the hints of anger in the creature's voice, and almost immediately prostrates himself before it. "Please, it's not my fault. Something, or someone, must have assaulted my caravan and taken them. I can get more, I swear it! Just please give me another chance!"

The Nephilim snort as Cooper begs, as bemused by the display as it is angered. With a massive shrug of its shoulders, it spreads its wings out and raises one clawed hand high into the air, flexing its claws into a wide, dagger-filled arc...

---------------

If the Fated do not intervene, the Nephilim strikes Cooper's head clean off his shoulders, and leaves the beheaded corpse on the ground as it returns to the woods behind it. If the Fated attempt to stop the creature from attacking, they face a long and arduous battle with a Mature Nephilim, though Cooper will quickly recover from his shock and assist the Fated in their battle, knowing his deal with the Neverborn is already finished. Should they be victorious, Cooper will explain to the Fated that the Nephilim kidnapped his daughter some years back as retribution for damages he caused to their numbers in his youth. He has a hard time believing that his daughter is still alive, but has been working for the Nephilim ever since, abducting children and turning them over in the vague hope of getting her back. What the Fated do with Cooper is up to them, but the option still remains to follow the Nephilim into the woods and find out what it's up to.

One Last Chance

Investigating the grove leads the Fated to a small, roughly hewn stone temple surrounded by dense foliage. A large cistern sits at the base of a long trough, inside which appears to be a large pool of blood. Through gaps and holes in the stone walls, the Fated can see the children being led to join a larger group, and as they approach, a withered, spindly looking Nephilim draws a knife across one of the children in a series of intricate patterns, spilling much of his blood into the trough below. As they watch, the child's blood starts to turn black, and his skin changes to a pale, bluish purple tone. His fingers elongate into claws, and his teeth grow sharp and ragged. The newly formed Bloodwretch sniffs the air around it, then howls and points in the direction of the Fated.

The ensuing combat involves three Bloodwretches, a single Black Blood Shaman, and one Mature Nephilim, all of whom fight until they are dead. With the children entranced, none of them bother to stand watch as the fight ensues, as there are few, if any, ways to sneak the children out during the heavy melee, though some of them might be injured or killed, especially if the Mature Nephilim decides to threaten them to get the Fated to back down. (Note that if the Mature Nephilim is killed during the confrontation with Cooper, it does not appear here) If the Fated are victorious, they are free to take the remaining children with them, as well as looting the area for anything important at the Fatemaster's discretion.

---------------

Conclusion

---------------

If the Fated manage to complete every challenge and return all the children to their families, they are commended highly by their superiors, and gain a large amount of notoriety among the denizens of Malifaux and the surrounding areas, as well as receiving a reward of 15 scrip each for returning so many of the missing children at once. As an added bonus if they successfully take down the Nephilim, from this point forward the Fated will have a + to any Social Duel involving the Ortega family, as word of their battle against a horde of Nephilim spreads quickly. Once they are reunited with their families, the memories of their previous lives return to their parents and a blissful reunion begins. Mercifully those whose children do not return seem to remain compelled to forget they ever had any.

It is up to the Fatemaster to decide if Cooper's daughter is still alive, but odds are she was turned into a bloodwretch long ago, and swears vengeance upon the Neverborn regardless, if he is still alive.

Should only some of the children be saved, the Fated will receive only 5 scrip each for managing to save some of those that were lost, leaving most of the affected families drifting on in their blissful ignorance.

If none of the children are saved or returned, either Sylvia or Colin will berate the Fated for their incompetence, refusing to pay them any sort of reward and demanding that they leave the area lest a handful of "suspicious individuals" suddenly turn up in their investigation, while Cooper continues to snatch children from unwitting parents in a desperate attempt to maintain his bargain.

---------------

(Breaking again, will upload stats for FMC's periodically)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I design a session to share with others I found it best to start with one that has been published, so one from the chronicles works well. These are good to get the timings right in your head, as they are all designed as single sessions. 

firstly, break the original article down into it's rough layout, the number of scenes, number of colour test sections, amount of challenges and what type they are (combat, ongoing, one off etc)(i do this on post it notes) 

Now write the session you want to run in full, everything you want the fated to go through from the start to finish. 

once you have the whole adventure planned out, allocate the post it notes from the first part to each session (so this is an ongoing challenge, this is combat) and break it down into the same no of chapters. 

you'll probably find you won't have exactly the same number of scenes/sections/challenges as the original, so you'll either run out of post it notes or need more. this is ok- now you can start to edit the adventure. 

If you have run out of post it notes look back through the adventure and start questioning all the scenes, story and challenges in order. Do they add to the players experience? Do they progress the story? Do they create quality  roleplaying opportunities? If the answer to all those questions is no, time to prune them out and re-write. If the answer is yes, you'll need to seriously consider the time you have available and whether or not it's viable. 

If you didn't use all the post it notes, then look through it again and see if you need to add more. how long will encounters take? are you pumping too much into one scene? can a scene be split and create more opportunities? If you think there isn't enough going on then look at the NPC's you currently have flying around and think of their motivations- can you use one of them for another scene (do they send in the heavies, or try to seduce a fated, or ask for help etc) If you've thoroughly mined that source, my last resort is to flip open one of the nearest sourcebooks into the bestiary area and stick a finger in. then work whatever is there into the story (this has produced random guild inspections, stitched together in the fields and many other odd moments of surprise so far) 

Once you are happy with this run it through in your head, tweak the script to match the changes and bear in mind that you may have to add/change anyway as figuring out what the fated will get stuck on is impossible (mine literally once spent 15 minutes going through a window...) 

and then (If you are me) tear the whole thing up because Bert will probably just cap the first NPC he meets and mess everything up anyway...

hope this helps anyway:)  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This definitely helps, as the structured approach you use will be very helpful in making the conversions I'm looking at. Mostly what's been happening to me is a clog in the so-called production pipeline because I haven't had a good idea on how to approach the process in the first place. This should give me a solid framework, and I'm definitely going to try out that bestiary trick in the future.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bestiary trick is one that I've used to very good effect with DnD. It can lead to some really memorable encounters just by getting you to think outside the box when it comes to monster combinations and themes.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Minor observation about @Ampers&nd's (excellent) advice: it's very similar to the process of a short story writing exercise that you might use when refining your ability to write a short story. Use an existing, working framework as a launching point, and flesh it out with the story you want to tell, then prune it.

The bestiary trick is definitely helpful if you're looking for something to be the central theme--even if you land on something that is relatively weak (rats in the basement module, anyone?) or overwhelmingly powerful (I don't think this group could handle a Balor) it can be the launch point of a brainstorming session. In either extreme you might look at using them as a why focus instead of a what focus. Why is the [Bestiary threat] landing in the players' laps? For things that are weaker than the Fated crew, the investigation goes in the direction of how those rats ended up in the basement (sabotage, driven by a predator, Plague extending his influence); stronger things end up leaning in the direction Call of Cthulhu would go: you stand no chance against the main bad guy, but there's a lot of flunkies and there's a specific goal said bad guy is aiming for that you can disrupt without ever actually engaging the main bad guy directly.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First part of Scene 1 is up

Edit: Help with the Information/rumor section would be appreciated, feel like they should be a bit more detailed

Edited by Bakuriel
Amendment

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The false leads feel a bit obvious. The other leads are vague, while the others are obvious. Perhaps on a small margin of failure they hear the obvious false lead (they give large and concise information rather than cryptic clues that must be pieced together), while in larger margin of error you hear something more plausibly strange, like how the disappearances only occur on a weekly basis, or how the weather is acting off, or how some bodies have been found eaten by animals that don't live in this part of Malifaux. Another option would be giving the players concise information on a large margin of success. 

Still, great job so far.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Xavian and Deathgrip said:

The false leads feel a bit obvious. The other leads are vague, while the others are obvious. Perhaps on a small margin of failure they hear the obvious false lead (they give large and concise information rather than cryptic clues that must be pieced together), while in larger margin of error you hear something more plausibly strange, like how the disappearances only occur on a weekly basis, or how the weather is acting off, or how some bodies have been found eaten by animals that don't live in this part of Malifaux. Another option would be giving the players concise information on a large margin of success. 

Still, great job so far.

Thanks for the input. I did have clearer ideas on the facts than the rumours. That input will definitely help me reformat when I get back to writing this up. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the only thing I may suggest is that there's a chance the dates will attempt to investigate the carnival before the show, so potentially another call out box with the results of this (perhaps they see nothing awry, though they were spotted by lookout monkeys, or perhaps they do get in but are distracted by cooper giving them a 'tour') 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Changes made, Scene 3 and Conclusion have been added

Edit: Help with FMC stats will be particularly appreciated as that part gets really arduous after a while

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ran the module this past Tuesday, this is the result: 

Session ran almost exactly 2 and a half hours, accounting for delays, which was the desired run time. 

Party had guild ties, so questioned Sylvia and moved on, bypassing the false lead and the revelation about kids. Didn't slow the party down, but they were surprised to find out who was being abducted later. 

Almost everyone failed the centering challenges, save one character who had to convince the rest of the party he wasn't crazy. Hilarity ensued, but he succeeded. 

Party managed to chase the caravan without issue, and split up to search. 

First party member decided to open the beast cage, sent it into the performer area, scared the bejeezus out of the two in that area. 

After the beast started assaulting Lola, someone had the bright idea to unhitch the cart after they saw the kids, allowed it because it was clever. 

Once the caravan scene wrapped up we hit time for the session (player with a tight schedule) but everyone enjoyed themselves, so it was a success. Still open to suggestions and tweaks, and interested in hearing stories if anyone runs it themselves. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not trying to be overly critical, but while the story goes really, really well for the first few acts, I feel like the reveal at the end doesn't really live up to everything we have seen so far. Here is a man who has an entire caravan of freaks and horrors, and  who controls the minds of his audience, forcing them to watch entranced as he murders people live on stage and then steals their children from right in front of their eyes. 

The reason? His child has kidnapped by neverborn and he has been desperately trying to get her back. 

It's not a bad motivation, but it doesn't fit the scale or the needlessly grotesque performance, why would be go through all the trouble to form a group of carny's and learn mind control magic when he could simply kidnap children? It also doesn't explain why he murders people live on stage. 

A dark pact is certainly the right way to go with this story, but I don't think this one really fits. I am genuinely am sorry to write this, you put a lot of hard work into it, and I am definitely impressed. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Xavian and Deathgrip said:

Not trying to be overly critical, but while the story goes really, really well for the first few acts, I feel like the reveal at the end doesn't really live up to everything we have seen so far. Here is a man who has an entire caravan of freaks and horrors, and  who controls the minds of his audience, forcing them to watch entranced as he murders people live on stage and then steals their children from right in front of their eyes. 

The reason? His child has kidnapped by neverborn and he has been desperately trying to get her back. 

It's not a bad motivation, but it doesn't fit the scale or the needlessly grotesque performance, why would be go through all the trouble to form a group of carny's and learn mind control magic when he could simply kidnap children? It also doesn't explain why he murders people live on stage. 

A dark pact is certainly the right way to go with this story, but I don't think this one really fits. I am genuinely am sorry to write this, you put a lot of hard work into it, and I am definitely impressed. 

No offense taken, I asked for constructive criticism. It's largely left out of the main story, since the chronicles like their open ended themes. And I did copy the later text boxes from the chronicle itself, can't take direct credit for that. 

 That said, I'm more than willing to entertain ideas about his actual motivation. When I ran the game I had it that he was murdering some of the more mind control resistant parents who followed him around, but honestly it didn't really come into play much. However, I know other groups will dig much deeper into the rationale, and I very much want to improve upon what's been drawn up here so far.

Edit: Thinking about it, the missing daughter angle gives me an idea. Rather than her simply being gone, perhaps she's been hidden in plain sight. Hunting for opinions again here. 

Mercury and thin Lizzy are his son and daughter, and baritone Lola is what used to be his wife. The Nephilim, or at least the Neverborn, control the curse that can change them back, and are holding his family hostage for some slight against them from the past. Or just because he's a powerful human, could be any number of reasons there. 

It doesn't yet solve their murdering sprees, but it does give strong control to the Nephilim and potential complications if the Fated kill any of Cooper's subordinates. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, I didn't realize that delivering the children to the neverborn was something that came from a Wyrd chronicles, I had thought you had come up with it yourself. With that in mind, you may want to focus on when the "debt" occurred, whether Cooper formed the carnival in response to the whole event, or if it was already in existence and simply became murderous later on. I would maybe suggest that the carnival existed before everything went wrong, perhaps in a different area of Malifaux. Maybe Cooper had some Nephilem or other neverborn in a sort of freak-show with the other performers, and the enraged neverborn tried to avenge themselves by kidnapping someone close to him. A child or lover definitely works. 

Some of the criticism stems from how I dislike how the nephilim often seem to be portrayed as being "always chaotic evil" in a sense, which is not on you. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Xavian and Deathgrip said:

Oh, I didn't realize that delivering the children to the neverborn was something that came from a Wyrd chronicles, I had thought you had come up with it yourself. With that in mind, you may want to focus on when the "debt" occurred, whether Cooper formed the carnival in response to the whole event, or if it was already in existence and simply became murderous later on. I would maybe suggest that the carnival existed before everything went wrong, perhaps in a different area of Malifaux. Maybe Cooper had some Nephilem or other neverborn in a sort of freak-show with the other performers, and the enraged neverborn tried to avenge themselves by kidnapping someone close to him. A child or lover definitely works. 

Some of the criticism stems from how I dislike how the nephilim often seem to be portrayed as being "always chaotic evil" in a sense, which is not on you. 

Yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of how the Neverborn get the short end of the story stick, but given that I made references to Bloodwretches, it seems that I can spin the group of Neverborn enslaving Cooper as being subservient to Nekima, which works because she's a bit of a nutjob even by Nephilim standards. Definitely need to work on some backstory for Cooper to really get this going, which is lucky for me, since his history is left mostly up to imagination as is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×