I'm running an Iberian saga, and have decided to use the canonical "Shadow Flambeau" from the 3rd ed. tribunal book as a B or C story in my Saga. For those unfamiliar with the story hook, Jafiraya, a flambeau-only covenant has been caught trafficking with demons during one of the tribunals, and the members flee. This allows a running storyline of raiding infernalist magi, etc, throughout the saga.
In my version, the Magi fled their covenant, taking what they could carry, then loosed the demon with a last order to kill everyone inside and burn the covenant to the ground. As a result of this horrific rampage, there are now infernal spirits ranging the countryside: the ghosts of men, women, and children who died amidst such horror that they roam from town to town, seeking only to spread their pain to the unsuspecting pastoral villagers.
The player characters are currently in Galicia, training with some Hoplites, when a report comes in of "another demonling" (one of these infernal hauntings), and the characters are sent to deal with it, as a chance to try out what they've learned. Before I go much further in developing the story, I like to turn to the forum for thoughts and ideas, because you guys are fantastically creative.
I wonder what you'd do with this seed?
I'm interested in running a bit of a horror story for this adventure, if I can. I've never done one, but want to try. I was thinking that maybe the spirit is that of a tortured child who possesses other children, then sets fire to the home. Putting the players through the choice of whether to attack a possessed child is a nice moral dilemna that could be interesting.
I invite your thoughts. Thanks.
That is an interesting take, and I like the fresh approach. it is a challenge to recycle old material that people may be familiar with and to do it justice. One can represent an old hat or one may craft something new resembling the old and/or using parts of it. What I did is present things as having already happened. My originality was dealing with the consequences. What I like about this approach is that it explores the other things that are happening. Sometimes the main narrative works bettwer as a background for different and original stories.
And the horror movie approach is genius!
Personnally, i'd look towards some games that specifically calls upon the horror (like call of chtuluh depending who's playing it). The only reason to do this would be to find some scenarii to see how they deal with the horrific part.
I'd also take some things from the broken covenant of Calebais, because they deal with spirits who have been betrayed, i really liked how the mundane in the covenant where represented as ghosts, this can be a good source of RP seeds for your "demonlings".
I like the approach
A note: the stronger the players, the more removed and clever the opponent will need to be.
Otherwise, IIRC, they'll just need a season to invent a variant of DEO to target the possessing demons (like room target), or bring it near a relic, and it's done.
One thing you may do is bring the idea that despair brings despair, death brings death, tragedy brings tragedy, and it's very difficult to break this circle
So not only did the demon's rampage create infernal spirits, those are, in turn, creating more havoc, turmoil and suffering. And desperate times make people desperate, so you could have all kind of ransacking, thievery, murders... Brings out the worst in some.
There's a reason the 4 riders of the apocalypse always follow each other. When there's war, peasants can't toil their fields, thus famine, thus sickness. And you can turn that any way you like. And in the end, death. You can use this. Play misery as a plague, which attracts more demons, meaning more misery.
So your fire spirit sets fire to homes. Some homeless children become beggars and prostitutes. Some parents are driven mad by the loss, and steal children to get a family back. Some lose everything, and become bandits. And don't forget that some of the dead people turn up as ghost too, yeah!
If you want to bring horror into the table and you aren't used to it, there was a nice article on Gnome Stew called Fear Itself which may be of some help. Anyway in Ars Magica it's hard to frighten the players: they are powerful magi of the Order of Hermes and it's hard to find weakness in them. The usual beast of a terror film wouldn't last long against the average magus, behind his parma and with some handy spells ready. Most horror games put a lot of pressure in the fact that the players are fragile against a thread... but it's magi we are talking about. They are the ones who go in the wrong direction when everyone is fleeing from a monster or a demon, screaming 'free vis, yehaaa!' Fixer just said it and put the Hermetic point of view here: a demon? Let me work one season in the lab or grab a relic and problem solved.
So you need to find something that puts them against the wall, making them feel vulnerable. The best choice, I guess, is to put them in situations when the winning move involves a loss, a sacrifice or something that makes the players unconfortable and that doesn't feel right. And the obvious danger, then, is how to make that and also make the game rewarding.
And if you are going to play in Galicia you should know that there is a long tradition of witches all over that region, divided in two branches, the Meigas, which are evil and to harm people and animals through demonic powers, and the bruxas, who are supossed to be good witches who try to undo the evils that Meigas do. Maybe the Meigas can help, or hide the possesed child, or to change him for another innocent boy that the players can slay by mistake.
Also there actually is a long story of wild fires in Galicia: every summer they have a handful of them, mostly provoked. I always thought that these were just about getting spaces to build houses once the forest is gone, but maybe you are right and are of infernal nature.
Thank you all for the responses.
Marko -- I know you ran the Shadow Flambeau story, and would love to hear any advice on what worked and what didn't with that storyline. Did you have the SF do raids on covenants, the way the sourcebook suggests? I can see this as a nice way to add threat to the background, and get the characters to bone up on defensive spells. I wonder if you have any pitfalls to avoid, or nice tasty details that worked well in your saga.
The misery brings misery throughline is really nice, and the 4 horsemen allegory really brings the idea home. Thanks for the suggestions. This is very helpful.
My one big concern is that I introduced this plotline to be something that goes on in the background, that the characters will react to occasionally. However, I chose to have the Tribunal react to the Infernal corruption of one of it's covenants in a more nuanced way. Much the same way that the US congress is a mess, full of backbiting and allegiances that are... less than pious... I have the Tribunal reacting in various ways. There are seeds of doubt that Jafiraya really was dealing with demons. Some allies to that covenant claim they were framed. The Muslim covenants are demanding they be hunted. The Guernici are spending their time trying to find out the truth, while the Hoplites are trying to hunt down the missing Magi. It's all chaos and confusion. Meanwhile the players reacted with a firmness I wasn't expecting. "Something needs to be done! If the Tribunal doesn't act, this is going to bring in the Normans!" So now the PCs are getting more involved. ... They'll probably start hunting I guess. But when the trail runs cold, maybe we'll get back to the main storyline....
Regarding Calabais -- we just finished running that. One of the characters is a Necromancer, so it was a perfect adventure. The idea for these infernal "demonling" ghosts was to bring a bit more horror to the game than what we just ran.
Ouroboros -- Thanks for the interesting idea on the wildfires!
Thanks again everyone.
When I played it, we were just hippies in the Mythic 90s, getting stoned and playing cards or thowing dice.
By cards I mean MTG. By dice I mean whatever RPG was hot at the moment.
Then as now, my greatest inspiration was and is Stan Lee. I threw bad guys at the heroes, we get to make witty comments and in jokes on tropes, and more fun.