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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween Party: "Module" / GM Notes for Maximum Recursion Depth

This is a follow-up to my "They Did a Mario Kart" set of play reports for the last three sessions of my Maximum Recursion Depth campaign. In this post, I'm sharing a cleaned-up version of the GM Notes for the first two of the last four sessions, which accounts for one Poltergeist Investigations. I intend for the module included in the Kickstarter-backed book to be more complete than this, I'm just trying to put this stuff out there. Next week I'll have another post like this for the next Poltergeist Investigation, which will include The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse (including the Karmamare Race) in addition to an adventure in New York City leading up to that. I think the next post is somewhat better formatted.

NPC / enemy stats are generally all at the end (in a published version, they'd be better integrated).

NOTE: I sometimes put these generic Karmic Attachment Opportunities, Save or Conflict events, or other "canned" stuff in my notes. That being said, if I'm being honest, I often see these as more like "backup". They're there for inspiration, or for if I can't think of anything better in the moment, or I need something to push things along. That being said, I usually try to defer to player action and elaborate on the spot with more interesting developments. I've retro-actively included some of those in this writeup, to varying degrees, but I'm not sure how well it really captures how things actually played out at the table. This is something I intend to pay particularly close attention to for the module that will be published in the Kickstarter-backed Book.

Any suggestions, comments, advice, general discussion, etc., would be greatly appreciated!

The Client: Rat Jack

The Investigation: Rat Jack wants the team to investigate Goblin Jack. He is as vague as possible about the truth of Polterzeitgeist / The Council of Jacks.
  • He knows that Goblin Jack had a Karmic Attachment with Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • He believes Goblin Jack also had a relationship with Pro-Fane.
  • The team can follow up lead on Doctor Lovesmenot (Coney Island) or Pro-Fane (Bushwick).
  • Karmic Attachment opportunity for one PC (on behalf of the whole team) to investigate Goblin Jack for Rat Jack.

The Court: This was the first Poltergeist Investigation I've run for Maximum Recursion Depth where I intentionally avoided the Investigation -> Court adventure structure. Instead, the "Court", or "Dungeon Crawl"-like part of the module is in Doctor Lovesmenot's swanky, extra-dimensional luxury penthouse apartment in East Village Manhattan.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Hectic Eclectic Erect-ic Freak Show (Coney Island)

  • NOTE: The Freak Show is very loosely based on a real place in Coney Island, but is not intended to reflect the real place. Despite the name and concept which may seem insensitive, they're actually very self-aware and intended to be empowering towards "freaks", and they discuss the history of Freak Shows and where they've been problematic, and where they stand today.
  • Doctor Lovesmenot: A genderqueer experimental performer, primarily in drag and burlesque, but also other forms of live theatrics and other media entirely. They look like a cross between Jareth the Goblin King and Snake Plisskin, or Ziggy Stardust and Mad Max Rockatansky. They were raised as part of The Doppler Potential and see Goblin Jack as a sibling. They are not part of the Seneca Collective per se but are associated with many of its members. 
    • There is more to them than I have currently written about, but you can play them off as mysterious and with Presence, like a folktale wizard- they may not show off a bunch of flashy superpowers, but they hold an innate and nuanced kind of power. 
  • They are throwing a Halloween Party tonight in their East Village luxury high-rise penthouse and invite the team.
    • Many people who know Goblin Jack will be there.
    • Goblin Jack himself may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Doctor Lovesmenot who is also concerned about Goblin Jack and Rat Jack.
  • Baek Yesu will be there (he’s so hot right now!).
  • Doctor Lovesmenot will be very vague if asked about Goblin Jack. They will refer to him as their brother, but not acknowledge whether they mean that literally or figuratively.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist.
    • Here or at Tiki Bar, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot does ensue, Seneca Tiger may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar (Bushwick)

  • NOTE: This is a real place, if I were to publish this, I would change the name. This is an entirely fictionalized representation and not reflective of the real place. They're a cool bar in Bushwick that sometimes hosts drag shows and other events.
  • Pro-Fane is performing.
  • She is in a TikTok feud with Moon Marine, who is claiming Pro-Fane is responsible for the “Platypussy Leak”, as a way of discrediting Pro-Fane’s claim as a sex-positive figure (Moon Marine may or may not actually believe this to be true).
  • Pro-Fane invites the team to Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Pro-Fane who is also concerned about Rat Jack, Goblin Jack, and Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • If asked about Goblin Jack, she will say that they met through Doctor Lovesmenot, that she didn’t understand their relationship and that Goblin Jack was not like the rest of that crowd, and that he seemed like a well-meaning but angry and dangerous person.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist. 
    • Here or at the Freak Show, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot ensues, Moon Marine will intervene (on everyone's behalf).
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

SIDEBAR: As an example of how things play out differently in-game vs the module writeup. I don't remember how exactly it came to happen this way, but basically, a Deseret Avenger pulled out a gun and was going to commit a mass-shooting on behalf of Moon Marine (of his own accord- not directed by her to do so, he was just an internet fanboy). It ended up playing out as a really intense scene where they talk him down from it- no joke maybe one of my favorite moments as a GM ever. I had the Devils show up at the end, basically as a way to move things forward from that point, but basically just moved past that because, after the attempted shooting, it just wasn't necessary.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party

  • Massive penthouse, exotic, full of theme rooms. A long tunnel-like hall with psychedelic lights and patterns leads to the living room where most of the party is taking place.
    • Ceiling angled, non-Euclidean-like curves and stretches in the architecture.
    • Modern, sci-fi / technological, smart home.
    • Costumed people, kinksters, nature spirits, rogue poltergeists (Polterzeitgeist).
  • The team will find somebody murdered in one of the theme rooms. The longer the team goes without resolving the murder mystery, the more guests will be murdered.
    • The victims are at first former Deseret Avengers, people who were once part of hate groups or had committed hate crimes but have reformed, or people who have infiltrated the party “undercover” from the Police (and/or The Doppler Potential) or Deseret Avengers.
    • If the team doesn't attempt to keep the murders under wraps, eventually the cops will arrive, led by Detective Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn.
    • Spoilers the killer is Goblin Jack.

SIDEBAR: I'm not great at writing mysteries, and when I ran this, the team never really had reason to suspect it was anyone besides Goblin Jack. I just leaned into that, and it became less about a murder mystery, and more about just finding him and figuring out why he's doing this, or who if anyone was working with him, but I think a better GM at mysteries could set it up better than I did. If I were to publish this, I would put in more work to create other leads ahead of time so it's more of a true murder mystery.

  • Party Guests / Suspects:
    • Doctor Lovesmenot as themself.
    • Pro-Fane as herself.
    • Baek Yesu as Mr. Nobody (Doom Patrol): Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that his political efforts are distracting from his music, and needs help finding his creative inspiration again.
    • Moon Marine as Sailor Moon (why is she here?! She's hoping to gather dirt on Pro-Fane in retaliation for The Platypussy Leak).
    • Rob Santos as Tuxedo Mask (possible victim): An Uruguayan immigrant who used to work for Mateo Silva and was himself a Deseret Avenger and Mormon, before coming to terms with his sexuality, leaving the church and Deseret Avengers, and joining this crowd.
    • Rick Barrett as Joker (Persona 5). Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that people are not taking his political efforts seriously enough because of his political work, needs help working on his image and priorities. 
    • Soft Mother as a Playboy Bunny: Although she is on "friendly" terms with Doctor Lovesmenot, it would be a mistake to consider her an ally. This may not be obvious to the team unless they talk with the NPCs.
    • Chester as himself: A drug-dealer, primarily dealing in the college/study drug Dharmafinil. Has ties with Rat Jack.
    • Udo Kier as Dracula: NOTE Udo Kier is a real actor. The fictionalized version here is not meant as a statement about the real person and would not be included if I were to publish this module. Within the setting, Udo Kier died recently, but used connections to cover-up his death, and continues to work as an actor in the Material World, as a Rogue Poltergeist. He is of Ruritanian descent (IRL he's German) and has some ties to the Deseret Avengers, but is not himself part of the DA. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help him keep his secret, or alternatively to help him come to terms with his death (this latter result would divest more Karma / be considered the more profound result).
    • Alexei Strauss as Rawhide Kid (possible victim if not "canonically" already dead in your game).
    • Clara Cocksure as Dominatrix Cop (possible victim if you're ok taking her off the table).
    • Unknown as The Monkey King (possible victim): Basically just a red-herring, but could easily be used as a future plot thread.
    • Hannah Thompson as Sexy Pirate / Catering Staff (possible victim if the murderer becomes an Ashura- see further below): Daria-like personality. Aspiring Broadway actress who sees this work as demeaning, but needs to pay the bills. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help her decide whether this is all worth it...
    • Hay Boy as himself. This is a reference to the first campaign, but I do intend to write up about Hay Boy at some point. He's not critical to this module. He will probably be added to the module in the book...
    • Your own NPCs (or random other possible victims)

SIDEBAR: In trying to do a Murder Mystery module at a party of LGBTQ+ people and POC, I inadvertently wrote myself into a corner where most of the victims / potential victims are LGBTQ+ or POC, which I don't feel great about. I don't remember exactly the order of operations when I designed this; I tried to make most of the potential victims people who were undercover or with ill intentions as a way to justify why Goblin Jack would target these people, but then, in order to make more potential Karmic Attachment Opportunities and to make the scenario more dynamic, I chose to make it so that some of the victims were reformed, but that then meant more of the victims were LGBTQ+. If I were to ever publish this module, I would definitely put some significant work into modifying this.

  • In addition to the entry hallway and main room, there are theme rooms. Randomly roll or on-the-fly assign some of the NPCs above to the rooms.
    • The Lovecraft Reading Room: Stuffy “intellectuals”, mostly men. May get a clue by winning a bad-faith argument (PRO save/conflict) against one of the “intellectuals”.
    • “The First Hipsters” Art Exhibit: Paintings on the wall like cave paintings, erotic club dancing. WIS Save to overcome the wild passions of the art and/or glean a clue, NAT Save/conflict to safely navigate through the crowd.
    • The Unseelie Court: Fantastically-themed room, smokey, drug den, dharmafinil. NAT save to avoid contact high, WIS save/conflict in psychedelia to glean a clue or fend off a threat.
    • The VIP Station: Like if the MTA system had a first-class lounge. PRO save/conflict to justify the team's place in this room and glean a clue.
    • The Twinkle Star Viewing Room: An entirely translucent room cycling between a raw view of the city and holographic projections of the future of the city overlaid on top of it.
    • The Rubber Room: A bedroom made entirely of soft and rubbery things, like a high-tech bounce house. Very very lewd.
    • "The Dungeon": An elaborate augmented reality medieval fantasy-themed “playroom”. Contains Orkas, the self-aware Orc King AI. Intellectual, contemplative.
    • The Sensorium: A spa-room of sounds, colors, smells, and textures. NAT Save to avoid fatigue. Contains ASMRelda the ASMR Guru.
    • The Zen Fascism Room: All of the furniture is people. Contains Tik Tok the Man in Moment.

  • The murderer is Goblin Jack, who has been hiding in the vents and/or as a partygoer, is at first targeting Deseret Avengers or other people who may be associated with a hate group who have infiltrated the party.
    • He is on the verge of becoming an Ashura, and if this happens before the team figures out what's happening and intervenes, he is more likely to kill an innocent person by mistake. 
    • If the team fails to find Goblin Jack / contain the problem within a reasonable amount of time, the party is raided by SWAT working for The Doppler Potential.
    • Most partygoers flee, some hide, many are killed or seriously injured.
    • Goblin Jack starts picking off SWAT and other survivors.
    • The team has to decide whether to cooperate with SWAT to stop Goblin Jack or work independently.
    • Enemies: Wire Mother, Redlight / Greenlight (two SWAT officers in experimental high-tech gear), SWAT.

NPC Stats

These are in no particular order because I didn't think this through when I was collating my notes...

Consider these "soft" numbers. I'll frequently adjust enemy stats depending on how much time we have left in the session, how powerful the team is, how many players are present, how much of an emphasis I want to put on the scenario, etc. Better that than fudging the rolls...

Wire Mother
  • 30 HP
  • Wd10 for existential trauma conflict. Nd8 for physical conflict.
  • Drips nutritious milk that can be lapped up if in close range. Recover Nd6, at risk of getting cut on a wire barb causing Wd4 of existential loneliness and learned helplessness.
  • Being in close range of Wire Mother risks accidentally lapping up the milk and/or getting barbed.

Goblin Jack
  • 30 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, increase die size each round of Conflict.
  • On taking damage, green ichor splashes out for Nd6 area damage.
  • 1d6 HP regen per turn.
SIDEBAR: If Wire Mother and Goblin Jack seem "unbalanced", that's intentional. They're supposed to be very powerful and dangerous. In MRD I encourage players to take an OSR approach of trying to solve problems with creative and lateral solutions, rather than outright Conflict or single dice roll Saves.

Redlight / Greenlight
  • 8 HP each.
  • Xd6 each, various kinds of attacks, whatever makes sense in context.
  • By high-fiving and yelling "redlight", "greenlight", or "blacklight", can induce red-phase, green-phase, or black-phase.
  • Red-phase cancels out all NAT Conflict or NAT special abilities, green-phase cancels out PRO, black-phase cancels out WIS.

Dick Smashburn / Clara Cocksure
  • 8 HP each.
  • Gun: Nd12, WIS Save required. On failure, may accidentally shoot an unintended target, an ally, or themselves, or in some other way critically misfire.
  • WIS 12 (for gun WIS Save).
SIDEBAR: The WIS Save for the Gun item is not meant to be slapstick. The implication is that guns are dangerous weapons and even supposedly trained professionals can easily fuck up under duress. This is a general rule of generic guns in MRD. I don't necessarily care if it's "unrealistic", if it's too far overbalanced in the opposite direction of guns in most games, it's more just a conceptual thing.

  • 5 HP.
  • Gun (Nd12, WIS Save req, see above).
  • WIS 8.

Raiding Devils
  • 5 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, Pd6 in intimidation/authority conflict.

Moon Marine
  • 15 HP.
  • Pd8 (charismatic conflict) or Nd8 (physical or magical conflict).
  • Once per Conflict, can cancel all Conflict Damage for one turn with her Wholesome Dance.

Doctor Lovesmenot
  • 15 HP.
  • QuinceSoft Jazz Trumpet: While being played, gives the performer and all allies +2 to NAT Saves, +2 NAT Armor, and increases NAT Damage by one size.
  • Soul Mate x2: Guarantee one Karma Roll Success.
  • Tesseract Cutter: A knife that cuts into one's mind in fourth-dimensional space for Wd6 Damage.

Seneca Tiger
  • 15 HP.
  • Nd8 physical conflict or willpower conflict.
  • For each round, the first physical attack against her will always fail.
  • Immune to any kind of intimidation (but not to the point of fearless-stupid).
  • While there is no canonical answer as to whether or not Pro-Fane is Seneca Tiger, it's fun to say you should never have the two together at the same time (unless one or the other is a fake). 

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