Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Occult Influence (An Iron Larper Challenge)

I don't know if this will shake out into a full-on series or not. Goddess knows my track record for STARTING such things is great, but my ability to actually keep going with them is kind of erratic.

But the idea occurred to me to start coming up with some Challenges for people with certain kinds of influences and since there are a few of them, i figure an actual series is not entirely out of the question.

Certain types of influence are easy. Or at least they seem that way to me. Underworld influence has a LOT of utility, and so does Police influence. Odds are good these are the first couple you might throw some points towards.

But being a sneaky bastard, I also like it when the Influences come back and create problems. Not only for the people who have them but also those that don't. If nothing else, it occurs to me that it's easier to involve players with storylines if they've got an Influence that occasionally makes demands of them too.

One of the more abstruse influences to deal with is Occult influence. There are a few reasons for this. Not every one is exactly clued into how Occult subculture works and in a lot of ways, occult influence is sharply curtailed in it's basic utility to a player. This is not to say that you can't get some mileage out of it as a backdrop to larger action. Also, you can show off the larger mosiac of a cities culture.

You might consider dusting of some Google-fu and Wikipedia for an in-depth look into the weirdness of your home town. While we can't all live in New Orleans or Savannah, Georgia. I think you'll find interesting weirdness.

My own Hometown boasts Transylvania University and it's extremely haunted environs. The oldest Masonic lodge west of the Alleghenies, and about 20 wiccan groups, none of them older than the 80's. You'll be surprised at what you dig up.

But beyond that, it's a good idea to have a few gambits to play when you want to highlight the basic weirdness quotient of your city.

Widget Comes to Town:
The local university has a set of stone tablets written in Aramaic brought in at the behest of the linguistics department. Perhaps the Star of Shamballah is on exhibition at the local museum. A copy of De Vermiis turns up in an estate sale. it may not be the key to the mystery you're dealing with, but it will certainly get tongues wagging. And the tales get taller on down the line of course.
I've even, on occasion, run what i've called the Traveling Salesman Storyline. A person comes to town with merchandise of an "Occult Nature" and arranges an Auction. Such things can get heated. Some people expressing a desire to acquire, others expressing a desire to keep potentially dangerous articles out of the hands of others. "Are you out of your mind? This is a Burundi wand! This is like leaving the gun out for the baby to play with!"
I even usually have the articles in the auction, more or less do exactly what they are supposed to. With some notable exceptions of course.
I once made the the Kindred population of a city nervous for several months, An article fell into the hands of a ghoul. It was useless to kindred, but in humans, it tended to stimulate them with psychic powers or a raw boost in magickal power if they were already mystical practitioners. The ghoul in question was gifted with precognition.
Only problem was, his sire got murdered, and he decided to take out his grief on the other vampires of the city. How do you catch a Precognitive Ghoul? Took them months to figure out how.

Specialist comes to town:
There's a lot of ways you could go with this one. Perhaps its just the world's foremost authority on tibetan funerary rites comes to town for a symposium. Perhaps one of those crews of ghostbusters that turn up on the Sci-Fi channel rolls through getting underfoot for everyone. Perhaps a notorious satanist retires to a country manse, and only comes out to the corner grocery, looking pasty and bewildered.
Maybe it's a bit more serious like a gathering of the lodge grandmasters. Maybe someone hears a rumour that the occult hit-man from up near jersey way is in town, and some of the people in town have been feeling some FIERCE evil eye action.
Either way, someone is in town and some people are a little stirred up by it.

Turf war:
Now, i'm not saying that Occult types are prone to drive-bys or anything like that. You might find the occasional Pentacostal ruckus at the Wiccan bake sale.
You might find differing rites of Masonry scrambling for influence and dominance. You might even find different factions of the occult world chasing after the same magickal dingus from time to time.
But the way that Turf wars in the Occult usually unfold is because of cults of personality. It's amusing to read about the various occult wars that Aleister Crowley was involved in with various other members of the occult community with character assasination and curses hurled back and forth. Sometimes these arguments have no teeth in them. Other times...Well. It gets ugly.
It's easy enough to see. People aren't really all that different from wolves and wolves are prone to arranging themselves in packs. Trouble always arises when an alpha proves himself weak. Or two strong alpha's contend with one another. Or less often, when a pack bothers a lone wolf. Some lone wolves are quite powerful.
In any case, in a world where cults of personality are built out of raw power, or the reputation of same, It can get ugly very fast when dominance issue rear their heads.And usually when that happens.... Someone has to go.

Turned off:
Communities go through cycles. Just as they go through cycles of expansion, they also go through cycles where they lose members. Some might call this a distillation. Some get married and have kids and leave aside some things. Some have bad experiences and leave the occult life. Some get sick of the persecution. Some get eaten.
In any case, it may be that your Occult community is undergoing a period of drawing back.

Recruitment drive:
Just the opposite of course, For one reason or another, the various groups in the Occult Communities are on the prod to grab as many people as they can. Not everyone is liable to stick of course. Some don't have the right attitude. Some can't handle the scholarship. Some will get one look at something beyond their ordinary life and run screaming back to sanity and normalcy. Some will get eaten. But at least for a while, the occult world will have larger posses than usual. They'll roll deep and might even get into a little trouble as a result of it.

Big holiday coming up:
You know, not everyone around here was raised baptist. So not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Some might venerate St Brigid, others might make a yearly sacrifice to Kali. Others might hold an annual grand convocation and dinner/dance. Different strokes and all. Certain holidays see a bit more traffic than others. The Wiccan high holy days of course. Hallow's Eve. Walpurgisnacht. You know. the big ones. And most occult types stay in on the Equinoxes.
Granted, it's not like the traffic you run into right after Thankgiving, but still, close around the holidays can be a jammed up time for occultists.

These are the bulk of the ideas that i came up with for grist for the story mill. You folks got any more?


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