The round hills of Vermont roll across the landscape. Their raiment changes with the season: summer green, autumn red, winter white and springtime drab, but the hills themselves are as constant as anything seems to one possessed of a human lifespan. They are as close-mouthed and inscrutable as their inhabitants, not prone to sharing their secrets with just anyone who happens by.
But dotted here and there in the hills are oddities, stone chambers built into hillsides and hidden from casual view by foliage. Typically rectangular, they are lined with flat blocks of limestone or shale, the chambers give no indication of their function. Tradition holds these chambers were here when the first Europeans arrived, but they hardly fit with what is known about native Abenaki practices. In fact, surviving Abenaki oral traditions are conspicuously silent on the topic of the stone chambers.
Modern scholars maintain the chambers are surviving traces of long gone, unrecorded dwellings, probably storage rooms meant for keeping goods cool. Any instances of a chamber doorway aligning with sunrise or sunset on an astronomically significant date like a solstice or equinox is pure coincidence or wishful thinking on the part of the observer.
Shows what they know.
The Door to Otheryear
A realityquake is a quantum event. The raw stuff of space and time rips asunder. One section of reality drops below another as one tectonic plate subducts below another in an earthquake. And, as may happen, elements of that submerged strata may find their way to the top of the covering layer, incongruously out of place.
Saturday afternoon of Carnage, I ran Highway to Niflheim, an adventure in the campaign setting Infinite Worlds, where a near-future society explores and exploits parallel worlds for knowledge, art and resources. The players took the roles of I-Cops assigned to investigate the failure of a research station on a low tech world to check in with Homeline Control on schedule.
The session got off on the wrong foot for me because I forgot to print out one of the six character sheets for the players. Usually I keep backups of character sheets, notes and such on a thumb drive just in case of such forgetfulness. However, this time, as I pulled all my gear together the day before, I thought to myself, “Oh, there won’t be a printer or a laptop available for you to use, so there’s no point in bringing digital backups.” Fortunately, the last player to get to the table gracefully volunteered to bow out, so that worked out okay, if not ideally.
There was an initial misunderstanding about the kind of game I was running versus what some players thought they were in for. A couple took tactics better suited to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 while I had envisioned something more like Stargate: SG-1 with disguises. But we all seemed to get on the same page readily enough. Some of that was me rolling with what they wanted and some was the players stretching out a bit when they realized it was meant to be a cinematic game I think.
I have to confess that I have fallen behind on the Highway to Niflheim adventure. My original plan was to have the characters and adventure notes together in time for a playtest session in early October. A confluence of factors, including my day job kicking back into gear and a desire to spend my time elsewhere than bent over a keyboard at home or at Muddy Waters, put a drain on my energy to move this project forward.
The last week of September, I tried to force the issue by setting a date and getting people on board to play. I allowed inertia and poor time management to make that impractical. Last night, October 14th, was the first time I made any real progress on Highway to Niflheim and that was just flipping through my notebook and adding one idea to the list. Then I let myself get distracted learning rules to a card game.
If it sounds like I’m flagellating myself gratuitously, I’m not trying to, honest. I’d rather be upfront about my choices and processes in journaling this project’s development than pretend otherwise. So, because I like lists, here’s one showing what left I have to do before Carnage, which is the first weekend of November:
- Write the sixth player character background. This is where I got stumped at my last big writing session mid-September.
- Finish statting out the player characters. I’ve only got two or three sheets made up. This should be the easy part, because there are so many templates available in GURPS Infinite Worlds, but I find myself second-guessing how similar all the PCs will seem. It makes sense, because the Infinity Patrol accepts people who fit a type, but my method as an adventure writer is to work toward a disparate but interlocking group of characters.
- Flesh out NPCs. Over these weeks of dormancy, I’ve had a few good flashes of inspiration to fill out the adventure and make the St. Lawrence River valley of Midgard seem more populated. One in particular is the thought I had last night, which I’m not sure is awesome or just distracting.
- Develop locations and the default sequence of events. This is that time line I wrote about while working on the Ghostbusters adventure. It’ll never unfold the way it’s written once the PCs start doing things, but it gives me a reference point from which to kick off and react to their choices.
It’s totally do-able before Carnage. I just gotta get through this weekend and then down to business.