World of Darkness - The Harvesters.pdf

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The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary;
men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
– Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
An adventure for the World of Darkness
Written by Stephen Michael DiPesa Developed by Eddy Webb Edited by Genevieve Podleski
Layout by Jessica Mullins Art: Sam Araya, Jim Pavelec, Brian Leblanc, Justin Norman, Costas
Harritas, Mark Poole, Cyril Van Der Haegen, Jim Cole, Andy Trabbold, Jason Manley
stOrytelling adventure systeM
Mental OOOOO
Physical OOOOO
sOcial OOOOO
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The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary;
men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
– Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
An adventure for World of Darkness
using the Storytelling Adventure System
Written by Stephen Michael DiPesa Developed by Eddy Webb Edited by Genevieve Podleski
Layout by Jessica Mullins Art: Sam Araya, Jim Pavelec, Brian Leblanc, Justin Norman, Costas Har-
ritas, Mark Poole, Cyril Van Der Haegen, Jim Cole, Andy Trabbold, Jason Manley
stOrytelling adventure systeM
Mental OOOOO
Physical OOOOO
sOcial OOOOO
XP level
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World of Darkness are registered trademarks of CCP hf. All rights reserved. Vampire the Requiem, Werewolf the Forsaken, Mage the Awakening, Promethean the Created, Storytelling System and Parlor Games are trademarks of CCP hf. All rights reserved.
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The stink of stale sweat and human waste is saturated into the walls,
and the only light she can make out leaks through the tiny space be-
tween the reinforced steel door and the cold concrete floor. She flexes
her fingers and toes to try to get some feeling back into them, but her
pallid flesh remains numb with the pervasive chill. Her hair was caked
in blood and filth, but all she could do was stare at the door and that
thin ray of light.
She’d start crying, but that didn’t solve anything the last ten times. She’d
scream, but there’s no one to hear. She’d struggle in her shackles, but the
bruises already circling her wrists and ankles prove how futile that is. If she
had a way to kill herself, she’d probably have used it days ago. She heard a
conversation between two of the men, awhile back, somewhere far down the
hallway. They talked about “moving the product,” which she assumed meant
her, but it didn’t sound like where she was going would be anywhere better
than this.
It won’t help anything, but she starts crying again anyway.
Everyone just knows that the roads aren’t safe these days. Psycho
killers stand along the edge of obscure routes, searching for prey
as they thumb for a ride, while carjackers stalk the back roads in
fake cruisers and stolen uniforms, more than willing to part honest
folks from their vehicles. It’s a sick, convoluted tapestry, woven
out of countless miles of asphalt; as dark, strange and twisted
as anything that happens among the labyrinthine alleys of any
crumbling metropolis, or within the walled palatial estates of the
jaded rich.
Along certain stretches of road, people occasionally go missing.
Often they’re the sorts whom no one misses: runaways and prostitutes,
transients and criminals. Perhaps the monsters that infest the shadows
take them, whether to drink their blood or to feed on their souls, or
perhaps some alien consciousness seeping up out of the land itself
desires them. Most of the time, though, it’s just mundane human evil
that makes people disappear.
This scenario presents that human evil, infected by a touch of the
paranormal. The story can be readily worked into the events of an
existing World of Darkness chronicle, or it can serve as the launching
point for a new chronicle detailing the characters’ explorations of the
world behind the curtain.
What’s Inside
This scenario is broken down into three sections:
In this Introduction you’ll get the background of the story to come, the
full write-ups of the Storyteller characters and some other general notes.
The Scenes of the story are the heart of the action. Because of the
way in which storytelling games can flow, these scenes are modular and
provide you with a framework upon which you can improvise, rather
than locking you into rigid patterns.
The Scene Cards at the end of the scenario are a quick-reference
resource for you to use as the Storyteller. If you don’t have the option
of printing up the entirety of The Harvesters , you can just print up the
scene cards instead and use those to get the overall gist of the story.
A b o u t the S torytelling A dventure S yStem
If this is your irst Storytelling Adventure System (SAS)
product, you’ve chosen a ine place to start. To keep this
story kit lean and focused, though, we haven’t included a
lot of the core premises and Storyteller suggestions that are
at the heart of the SAS. Whether you’re a new Storyteller
or an old hand, be sure to read the free SAS Guide , found
at the SAS website:
In The Harvesters , the characters are pitted against a group of kid-
nappers: monsters who torment their prey before selling them off to
the highest bidder. But what at first appears to be a perfectly normal
(if monstrous) crime begins to show the involvement of something
unnatural, revealing to the characters a glimpse of the strange and
terrifying things that lurk in the shadows.
The story begins with the characters needing something ; something
indispensable, without which their journey cannot continue. What
this object is, precisely, is immaterial, so long as it’s difficult to obtain
while in the middle of nowhere. By doing a little bit of digging, the
characters learn of a contact in the area that’s willing and able to sup-
ply them with whatever it is that they need, but who wants to meet
with before handing over the item.
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After this initial meeting, the contact agrees to arrange for a time and
a place where commodities will be exchanged, but shortly before the
appointed hour, the characters instead receive a cryptic text message
pleading for their help. The fixer has been set up and believes that
she’s in immediate danger. The characters are left with only a nebulous
lead, pointing to a certain stretch of forlorn road, with a cheap motel
on one side and a rest stop on the other.
From there, the characters must do some digging, first to learn the nature
of what’s going on here and then to trace these acts back to their source.
Along the way, the characters realize that they’re in hostile territory
and that even the law is against them. Worse, something unnatural may
be moving subtly behind the scenes, perhaps motivating this evil or
perhaps merely inspired and sustained by it. As the characters search,
con, investigate, and fight their way through the kidnappers’ operation,
it begins crumbling under the weight of scrutiny, and the characters
have to make some heavy decisions about how they intend to deal with
these criminals. A light hand isn’t likely to produce anything but scorn
and will leave the enemy’s numbers strong for a final confrontation, but
the alternatives could be extreme. Are the characters willing to murder
these monstrous men in order to end the threat, or do they believe
that doing so lowers them to the kidnappers’ level? The question of
morality versus expediency will prove difficult to answer.
Moving from location to location as the bigger picture finally comes
into focus, the characters come to understand the scope of the cor-
ruption. It’s not disorganization that’s opened this operation to their
inquiries, but rather the kidnappers’ bad luck in choosing the wrong
victim. These men are organized and utterly amoral, and they have no
hesitation about doing what needs to be done to preserve their profits
and save their own skins. In the end, no matter how they choose, the
characters will have to face the architect of this nightmarish idea and
a restless ghost who wants both to aid him and to destroy him.
The scenes of The Harvesters are arranged to take place in a pro-
logue, three rough “acts,” and a short epilogue, but your story may
move in directions other than anticipated. You shouldn’t hesitate to
do whatever produces the best possible story for your troupe. These
scenes are basically “snapshots” that impact one another, dependent
upon the order they’re pursued and what the characters choose to do
within them, so a number of very flexible variables come into several
of them (Did the characters kill the sheriff when he confronted them?
If so, then he obviously won’t be at the encounter at the rest stop).
A Chapter in Your Chronicle
The events of this scenario can easily be woven into the
ongoing story of a chronicle taking place on the road. In fact,
The Harvesters is written specifically to provide a jumping-off
point for a chronicle inspired by the nomadic setting presented
in World of Darkness: Midnight Roads . It can also be inserted
into just about any nomadic chronicle, given the “vignette
friendly” nature of chronicles that take place on the long road
(though you might want to scale up the threat level for more
experienced characters).
If you choose to expand upon the events of The Harvesters and
make them an ongoing part of your chronicle, you may end up want-
ing to give a more in-depth treatment to some of its characters and
other elements. If all you’re looking for is a vignette, then you don’t
need to worry too much about where the story is set; if the characters
are heading from east to west roughly along I-90 in a chronicle with
a continuous plot, however, you’ll need to give a bit more thought to
where the scenario is set.
Acts and Scenes
The action of The Harvesters specifically builds from a relatively
mundane task (acquire a needed commodity) into events that compel
the characters to wander into the shadows of the World of Darkness.
Because it’s impossible to predict the needs of each individual
troupe, the scenes encapsulate Storytelling agendas and tools com-
prising the framework upon which the scenario as a whole hangs.
It’s up to you, as the Storyteller, to keep the action moving and to
keep each scene interesting for the players. If things slow down,
introduce a complication or bring the scene to a head and the move
on to the next phase of the story. Don’t hesitate to do whatever
keeps the game exciting, so long as you can keep things plausible
and transition smoothly from one part of the story to the next. If
you make a mistake, don’t worry too much. Take a break if you need
to and figure out a few quick ideas for putting things back on track
if you end up straying into territory with which you’re unhappy. If
the players seem to be enjoying themselves, though, consider just
running with whatever you’ve got going. Having fun with the stories
that you tell is far more important than making sure that every little
detail is perfect.
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Everything that happens, however, should keep the story moving. If
events seem to be stagnating, then characters won’t have much to do
and the players will get bored. Remember that anything you throw at
the characters could potentially be important and can spark thought
and roleplay, which keeps the game interesting. While you might know
that there’s nothing particularly important about the cleaning lady
dropping by at midnight to see if she left her purse at the motel, the
players (and, thus, the characters) have to wonder if her appearance is
in some way significant. And who knows? If the players come up with a
sound theory that you feel could advance the scenario in a meaningful
way, you can always incorporate their speculations into the story.
Pacing and Dramatic Tension
The acts of The Harvesters are not broken up in the usual linear fash-
ion that you might find in a play at the theater. Many of the scenes in
the story may be performed entirely “out of order,” following the series of
events that works best for your game, rather than the sequence in which
they’re presented here. If the characters confront Garrett MacGruder
before they ever go anywhere near Sheriff Ostler, that’s just fine. The
biggest impact will be upon the type and amount of information that
they possess at any given juncture, as well as the resources that they (and
their enemies) will be able to bring to bear: If Burt Vick is killed at the
rest stop, for instance, then he can’t possibly show up in a later conflict,
while talking to Fredrick Walker before meeting Adam Chen allows the
characters to go into that meeting knowing Chen’s name.
Rather than breaking down the acts into a set progression through time
and events, they’re better understood as three overarching phases: Discovery
and initial investigation, pursuing knowledge and resources, and the final
confrontation. These categories are somewhat flexible: the characters might
take Adam Chen out of the picture early on, or they might fight with Cole and
Vick after encountering Laura Pritchard’s ghost, but the overall direction of
the action conforms to this structure. No matter which scene you’re running,
though, remember that the later it transpires in the course of the scenario,
the more dramatic tension should be attached to it. If the characters talk to
the sheriff early in the evening, it’s not likely to be as inherently anxious an
encounter as it would be if the meeting with him comes later in the night.
You’ll also notice that the scenes are more or less presented as en-
capsulated encounters, rather than progressions that neatly lead from
one scene to the next. Because the characters have the freedom to
go wherever they like within the story, there’s no way to predict how
they’ll move from one objective to the next. In many cases, the transi-
tions between scenes can be handled with short descriptions (“Having
destroyed the ghost’s physical remains, you climb into the hotwired
car and make your way toward the place where Christie is supposedly
locked up…”), though you’re certainly encouraged to throw complica-
tions in the characters’ way if doing so enriches the troupe’s experience
with the scenario. Thus, you might have the characters run across a
few local teenaged stoners hanging out on the back of a pickup truck or
stumble upon a car accident on a back road. These “extra” encounters
don’t even necessarily need to directly advance the adventure, so long
as they provide compelling story for the players.
Keep in mind that time and circumstance are both against the char-
acters in The Harvesters . The story starts out on a low simmer and
the pressure continues to mount throughout. While the occasional lull
period is good (allowing the characters to regroup and consider their
options), the players should continually feel that a sense of urgency is
building even when everything around them is still and silent. In a rare
quiet moment, the ticking of a character’s watch may be the only audible
sound, or the cry of a wild animal in the distance sounds remarkably like
a human scream. Don’t push things so hard, though, that you go beyond
your ability to sustain the fever pitch, or beyond either the characters’ or
players’ ability to cope with the frantic pace. After a certain point, people
go numb and you lose the impact of a buildup of dramatic tension.
You want to keep the characters on-edge, sharp, and focused, the
players invested in the action and the story progressing. Remember
that action isn’t strictly necessary to achieve this. Serious conversations
about what to do next are still advancing the story, and so are heated
arguments about the ethics of the course of action. It’s only when the
majority of characters are out of the loop in the roleplay that the story
starts to grind to a halt for their players. At that time, you might want
to move the characters to the next scene, throw a curveball at them,
or do something else to get everyone involved in the game again.
If you find yourself ramping up the tension too much, you can always
throttle back and adjust. The players will be happier with little tweaks than
with trying to keep up with a game that seems to have jumped off of the
tracks. The trick when things inevitably do get a little bit out of hand, to
recognize the signs, keep your head and take steps to get things back to a
manageable tempo. As you find your own style and your own voice as a Sto-
ryteller, this will gradually become easier and you’ll learn how to improvise
skillfully when the players throw something at you that you don’t expect.
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