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Full Moon Intro

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Beneath a Full Moon: Dread RPG Intro Adventure
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  Beneath the Full Moon  You wanted to do something a bit more adventurous for Spring Break. The trip was great until last night, when something mauled your guide and stole your food. Can you make it back to civilization?  Premise The characters are a collection of college students taking an adventure camping trip in the Grand Canyon for Spring Break. They’ve only known each other for this trip, and don’t necessarily get along. When their guide is badly mauled in the night, they are forced to fend for themselves. Unbeknownst to the characters, the creature that attacked the guide is a werewolf. He stopped before utterly destroy-ing the guide because of the guide’s silver pendant. The werewolf, however, will continue to stalk the group, but will only attack with the element of surprise, and only at night.Prior to filling out the character questionnaires, the players should be filled in on the current situation. Game play will start moments after the characters have found the guide’s badly-mauled body, so any information up to that point is germane. The trip started out (on Saturday) with a half-day journey down the Canyon to a ranch near the river. There, they spent a day (Sunday) getting to know each other and learning basic hiking, camping, and rafting skills. The trip proper started out with two days of hiking along the river, primitive camping as they went. At the end of the second day (Tuesday), they reached the a landing where two river rafts had been left for them, and camped there. They then rafted downriver for a day and a half, and beached the rafts well above the river. Most of yesterday (Thursday) was spent in a day hike up one of the side canyons, to see some different biomes. The day ended by making camp about an hour’s hike from the river. This is where they are when the attack occurs.The itinerary for the rest of the trip was to have been two more days of rafting, including some rapids, which they haven’t previously dealt with, except during the crash course in rafting, and those were fairly tame. The end goal is another ranch/resort near the floor of the canyon, where they are expected Saturday night, but no one will worry about them until the middle of Sunday morning.Actual mileages don’t matter, but figure that a day of rafting downriver is equal to five days’ hiking, and that rafting upriver is no faster than hiking. So they are ten days’ hike from the pull-out point, and about eight days’ hike from where they started. Where they are, hiking up out of the canyon would be nearly impossible—more climbing than hiking—and would, at best, take three days, if they had all the right gear and no guide to transport. Also, if any of them check the maps, they will be able to clearly see that the canyon narrows between where they are and the pull-out point, so that hiking there won’t be possible without climbing. If the Tower Tumbles Given both the subgenre and the lethality of the situation, a character that is removed from the game will almost cer-tainly be killed in some manner. Beneath the Full Moon  Dread   <http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net> p. 1  Themes This scenario is dependent on 3 primary themes:ã Lack of wilderness/survival skills and equipmentã Caring for the guideã Fear of the pursuing beastIsolation is paramount for this story to work—all three of the core themes are dependent on it. The characters must not have access to easily communicate with the outside world, nor an easy way to physically escape. Moreover, it should be clear that they can count on no one to come to them in sufficient time. “Sufficient time” can be delimited by running out of supplies, the guide needing medical attention, and/or how long they feel they can evade the beast. Lack of Wilderness/Survival Skills and Equipment A balance must be struck in order to maximize tension. If you take away too much of their equipment, or limit their survival skills too greatly, the players may reasonably decide that they have no chance of making it, and simply stay put—which makes it very hard to plausibly keep them alive long enough for a good game. If you give them too much equipment, or accept too much wilderness knowledge, the trip won’t be difficult enough to be exciting. Worse, you might find yourself making fairly arbitrary calls in order to force pulls. Ultimately, how much equipment they have, and how under-prepared they are, will be dependent mostly on your players—the more they know about such matters, the tougher you’ll need to make it on their characters to compen-sate. As a good baseline, in the absence of detailed knowledge of your players:ã 2 whitewater rafts—which are not large enough to fit all of them in one safely/comfortablyã 1 fewer tents than is comfortable (because guide’s tent was shredded)ã 2-way radioã flashlights (no more than 2)ã emergency flares (generally 2)ã hatchetã plenty of water, and water purifiersã a limited food supply—plenty if they head for civilization, but only one day more than their trip was scheduled for, so they’ll run out one day after people start  looking for themã first aid kit, possibly including morphine, and definitely including a snakebite kitã matchesã backpacks and camp knives all aroundFurther supplies (such as spare oars or rain ponchos) should require pulls, unless they’ve already been established as not being there. The trip is an “adventure camping” trip, so technological devices, except for basic safety or as emer-gency back-ups, are forbidden. That means no GPS, no computers or PDAs, no lighters, no cell phones, no firearms, etc. Also, no drugs/booze. Consider the ramifications before you allow any character to have any of these items due to questionnaire answers.The goal of limiting wilderness survival skills and equipment is not necessarily to make nature a deadly threat in its own right, but simply to prevent them taking even basic survival for granted. They should already be tired and stressed and maybe a bit irritable or uncomfortable when the real challenges show up. Other than possession of equipment, most pulls related to the environment should be to avoid complications, not injuries. The players should want to make the pulls not because of the immediate personal consequences, but because of the fear of the situation they might end up in further down the line if they don’t. Beneath the Full Moon  Dread   <http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net> p. 2  Caring for the Guide This is perhaps the trickiest theme to get right. It is important to incapaci-tate the guide, so as to facilitate the survival theme, but there are several pitfalls to avoid. The obvious one is making him too useful—if he is con-scious and lucid, he can solve too many of the problems, despite being a burden due to his physical condition. Less obviously, it is possible for the guide to be too badly injured. He should not be comatose: a semi-con-scious guide can be a source of all sorts of frustratingly-incoherent infor-mation, as he passes in and out of lucidity. On a more practical note, he can provide the host a perfect conduit for dropping the players some hints or direction, if the game gets really frustrating or too much tension dis-sipates for other reasons. Finally, if the guide is in too rough of shape, one of the players may decide that euthanasia is the most ethical solution: the guide is going to die anyway, because they don’t have the skills or equip-ment, and caring for the guide is likely to get one or more of them killed, too. (If this happens anyway, see the appropriate scene, below.) There are two ways to use the guide: as a burden, and as an ethical dilem-ma. The ethical dilemma basically boils down to considering euthanasia, and should not be easy—euthanasia should be, in the short run, the costly choice (i.e., more pulls). Though, it probably will save them pulls in the long run -- but don’t let the players know that. Again, see the appropriate scene, below, if this occurs.The other, better way to use the guide is as an ongoing burden. Basically, the guide can turn almost any situation into one that requires pulls, and can make mildly-tricky situations into downright troublesome ones. And, unlike pulls for their own characters, players will very rarely forgo a pull on the guide’s behalf. With the guide’s help, you should be able to guaran-tee the tower is ready to tumble by the time the climax arrives. Fear of the Pursuing Beast It is important to imply the beast strongly enough to make the players ner-vous, without making its presence so strong that the characters can be sure of what is going on. You want to provide enough clues that the players  are all but sure there is a werewolf involved. But you want to do it in such a way that any “normal” rational person would dismiss the possibility. Use all the standard monster-horror tricks:ã At first, only evidence of the monster is found. Make this evidence sus-picious, but not outright amazing/supernatural. It is, of course, the night before the full moon when the guide is attacked.ã Early on, any looks they get at the monster are from a distance, fleeting, and/or obscured, so that it’s hard to judge size and other important quali-ties. Beneath the Full Moon  Dread   <http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net> p. 3 The Characters Character 1 (a philosophy major) has a phobia, and may have issues due to a hazing incident and/or their pet’s death. They believe they should be in charge in the guide’s absence, and should be encouraged to play this up.Character 2 (a freshman) has a bit of a death obsession, and believes that they are due for a deadly karmic backlash.Character 3 (an English major) has a forbidden item along, and did some-thing bad to a loved one sometime in their past. They have a problem with a common animal in the area. They are convinced that they should be in charge, but won’t say so, and know something that makes them very pes-simistic about their chances.Character 4 (an economics major) grew up with a controlling father, and doesn’t trust one of the others. Char-acter 4 is physically limited in some way, but has been entrusted with the maps and compass. They got in trou-ble for bringing beer. Their parents are dead. They believe that they must receive absolution for something be-fore they die.Character 5 (a fashion design major) was the first to the guide’s tent, and knows something they’re not telling. They have a young child back home. The others apparently don’t think much of character 5’s capabilities, but character 5 thinks they are the most valuable member of the group, and believes they should be the new leader. Character 6 (an ngineering major) used to camp, but doesn’t any more, and believes in werewolves. They have a bad history while drunk, and an abusive father. They, too, are trying to become the leader of the group.The guide starts out the game badly mauled, and is only as aware as the host needs him to be.The werewolf, who is really more of a plot element than a character—see the section on the theme “Fear of the Pursuing Beast” for more about this.Keep in mind that there is much more to the players’ characters than  just the above summaries. When reviewing the completed character questionnaires, be on the lookout for more elements to tie into the story, particularly fears and worries, hopes and desires.  ã Use decoys. Some other creature that fits the evidence turns up. In this case, they might deal with a coyote, or even a normal wolf (which would be out of place here). It might be particularly vicious and bold—less afraid of humans than is normal. They could even kill it, leading them to think that they’ve dealt with the beast.ã Use red herrings. Provide evidence to mislead. All the wounds can be accounted for by a wolf, for starters. Feel free to imply that the werewolf is discouraged or stopped by the river, too. It is equally useful to drop hints that make the players doubt their assumptions—if they start to wonder that maybe it’s some other sort of beast, the climactic encounter will be that much more surprising. ã The werewolf is as much a plot device, as a literal creature. Therefore, it can show up wherever the plot demands it—such as clinging to sheer cliff faces or swimming comfortably.Of course, ultimately, it should all hold together. Once they do find out what is going on, there shouldn’t be any ear-lier clues that don’t make sense. Be careful in your use of red herrings, especially, so that the players don’t feel cheated at the end.The climax of this theme is, of course, the climax of the whole scenario. It should occur when the tension is at its climax. Your goal is for the tower to already be rickety by the time the fight starts—you want every pull to feel life-threatening, regardless of how minor an action it is. Once the final fight starts, the players need to be convinced that they are all about to die—and, ideally, at least one person will perish before the werewolf is vanquished. Because it is a supernatural beast, it is likely that even if the tower has to be restacked after a death, another person could die— ev-ery  action involving the werewolf will require a pull, and once they’ve suffered a death in the group, the psychologi-cal impact should make even such actions as running away pull-worthy. It should take very  clever planning, or a heroic sacrifice, to actually defeat the werewolf.And if, for some reason, the werewolf is defeated while the night is still young, you are likely to have the option of continuing the story by turning the guide into a werewolf. If this catches them off guard, it will basically be a recap of the latter half of the first werewolf stalking. If they know what’s going on, it becomes a very different sort of story, more suspense than horror, as they try to out-think or out-fight the beast.Conversely, you may find yourself needing to tone down the werewolf a bit, making it less intelligent or less power-ful, in order to stretch out early encounters or make the final battle something the characters have a chance at. First, consider very carefully before you do this. For horror in general, and supernatural-monster-with-undertones-of-the-ruthlessness-of-nature horror in particular, pulling punches is often not a good idea. Much of the point is the uncar-ingness of nature (and doubly so for the beast, as metaphor), and the high price of underestimating nature. In most situations, it would actually be better to turn the danger up  a notch, hastening a character’s removal, so that the tower can be restacked and properly rickety by the time the climax comes around. If they behave stupidly or carelessly, it  just means that many more won’t make it through the week. It’s a werewolf story, after all.That said, you may be in a situation where killing off a character very early in the game—or even half-way through a game—just isn’t a good option. Perhaps your group just wouldn’t accept one player having to essentially sit it out for half the game. Maybe you’re at a convention, and it just doesn’t seem fair for someone who took the time and money to play the game to be eliminated too early. In those situations, you may need to tone down the deadliness of the werewolf, especially if they foolishly decide to stay put and wait for help. To do this without undermining the threat of the werewolf, you’ll need to keep it more off-screen at first. You can also justify the werewolf more easily being driven off early in the story, because it’s just had a big meal, so it’s not as bloodthirsty. Finally, it’s perfectly in genre for the creature to be uncharacteristically shy early in the story, and bold to the point of recklessness at the end, so most players won’t even notice if it behaves inconsistently in that particular manner. Also, if they stay put, they will have avoided a lot of pulls by not being on the river, etc., so the extra threat of the werewolf might merely balance that out. Beneath the Full Moon  Dread   <http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net> p. 4

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