Fill In The Gap
Indiscretionsby Matt Turnbull
Fill In The Gap
Indiscretionsby Matt Turnbull
Welcome to Fill in The Gap, a column devoted to individual, "one-off" scenarios, that any GM can run for his/her group.
Well... Amnesia's trite. So that's where we're headed next! In this month's one off, we explore the lovely and disturbing world that is memory loss.
If you need to know more about the FITG(Fill in The Gap) system/column, please check out the first (and second) of these monthly columns. Without further ado, I bring you today's scenario:
As always, if you're going to play in this scenario (run by your favorite GM) then please read no further, for fear of spoilage. Alan, Dave, Kristo + Sarah, that means you!
Indiscretions is a scenario for 4 players.
In Indiscretions, the characters are four individuals who have lost their memories and wake up locked in a room together. I know what you're thinking, you've heard this one before. Maybe you have, and maybe you haven't, either way it's a great kickoff point for numerous stories. I highly doubt that throughout the run of this column I'll be able to avoid the classic staples and contrivances, but there's a reason that they're classic. Run the rest of the game with enough style, and no one will care how tragically mundane the opening.
for a story like this, there are three major elements. Who are the characters? How do they get this information, and what do they do with it? These three fundamental questions alone are enough to generate any number of possible tales, this is just one of them. There's also one big rule. The players don't get to know any of this stuff in advance! Keep it all a secret. Just spring it on them. Let them grab their character sheets for whatever system you're running the game in, plunk themselves down in front of you, and play this with them!
To start out, let's give an overview of who they are (more pertinent individual details can be found in the characters section below.) All four of the characters are convicted killers, taken from Death Row to participate in an experiment. One's innocent, one's very very guilty, one's a plant (who actually retains his memories, and is observing the other characters - and needless to say isn't a killer convicted or otherwise) and one's been convicted of killing in self-defense.
Now, why are they locked in a room together? The answer: They've been "selected" by the government to be test subjects in memory erasure studies, to see how useful this type of procedure can be in dissuading homicidal tendencies. That is to say, they want to resolve the battle between nature vs. nurture, gladiatorial style. A series of behavioral tests will commence from the point the game begins that will test their willingness to reform their actions devoid of the memories of how they were raised (or whatever caused them to be homicidal.) The theory being tested is that people are born good, and that behavioral defects are entirely a result of environment. More details on the room can be found in the Setting section.
Where does this scenario go? The one-off progresses through the series of tests. At several points they'll have some options which can abruptly end the experience, and with it, the game session. At those points (most of them closer to the later experiments,) they'll either be released with an explanation and told to make their way in the world, they'll escape with or without their memories restored, they'll have their memories restored and be placed back on death row, or they'll be placed back on Death Row without their memories.
Quick note: Before jumping right into the character section, remember that the players have access to NONE of the pre-memory loss information. That is to say, don't let them know who they are, let them try to figure out based on that person's abilities and the information provided who they think they are. Each of the characters retains their skills and abilities despite not knowing how or why they're good at what they're good at, they're aware of their own personal capabilities.
Jeff, pre-memory loss, was an outspoken drunk. He was a mean-tempered individual with a past that held a lot more promise than his future. Born into an affluent family, he was spoiled as a child until he turned 18. Kicked out by his parents and With no appreciable skills and having dropped out of high school, his prospects didn't look great. Having always had everything handed to him on a silver platter, he had trouble making ends meet, until he turned to a life of crime. Having killed three times in various assaults and robberies, and having broken out of two prisons where he was serving life-sentences, he was finally sentenced to Death Row. Jeff was chosen for this project because of his background. He came from a familial and social background that normally would lend an individual to success, but somehow managed to fail at life anyways, which makes him a great test-subject for this experiment. He's tall, with black hair tied into a messy pony-tail. Jeffrey now, is whatever the player makes of him in the situation. His stats are about average (5) except he's exceptionally strong spending most of his time working out (7). He has an above average (6) ability with firearms, and is capable in a fist fight (7). He's also a skilled lockpick (7).
Lindsey is a beautiful 19 year old girl, with deep green eyes and dark auburn hair. Her past is a series of tragic coincidences, leading up to her being sentenced to death for a crime she's arguably innocent of. Her sentencing has seen a lot of controversy in the media, but has standed firm despite a number of appeals. Before she lost her memory, Lindsey was convicted of premeditated murder. She'd shot her brother at point blank range with a revolver, the motive being her revenge for his theft of their inheritance when their parents died and she was still a minor (16) while he was legally an adult (18). He'd run off with the money, and the prosecution showed that she'd tried numerous times to track him down, and indeed had both a motive and the frame of mind to kill him in cold-blood. She claimed she was being robbed by an anonymous masked-gunman in her home, and acted in self defense. Her defense was the truth, his targeting of her home being only a remarkable coincidence. However the prosecutors managed to convince the jury that due to her relationship with the assailant, the coincidence of her firing at him and killing him would be too high. Her lack of an alibi for the time prior to the "robbery" as well as the fact that an individual of her description was seen arguing in his home with him earlier that day were proof enough to convict her of planning and executing the murder of her brother, than attempting to pass it off as robbery. Lindsey was chosen for this procedure specifically due to the controversy around her sentencing, as a good way to not have the negative PR of killing her. Her Stats are around average (5) but she's very intelligent (7), and also quite fast - agility (6). She also knows a bit about computers (6).
Dr. Michael Kelly
Dr. Michael is the plant. His job is to interact with the test subjects, as well as secretly record their reactions. He does this by pretending to have amnesia also. He's aware of all of the other three character's entire history. He is to be the final judge as to which of the characters is now fit to reenter society. He's a stocky 35 years old, and is balding. His physical attributes are all at a about a (4). His Mental are all at around a (6), with Medicine and Science at a (7).
Taron is the innocent of the group. Before Taron's memory was wiped, he remembered being falsely convicted of conspiring with others to murder his wife. It's true there was a conspiracy to murder Taron's wife, but he wasn't a part of it, nor does he have the details. Various things spilled out in court about his wife's murder, such as both of their interest and dabbling in the occult, and a variety of other circumstantial evidence latched onto. Suffice it to say, he didn't do it, and no one else in this room did either. Taron's stats are dead average, and despite a working knowledge of the occult (8), his abilities are also quite average.
The theme of this scenario is that of memory, and how that effects a person. Specifically, most of the experiments put onto the characters in this scenario involve convincing each of the individuals that they have certain character traits and history (all false), then seeing how much they live up to that role. It's truly impossible to explore what one would do in the situation detailed above. A similar situation however, is seeing what the player does with their character, once they develop some pre-conceived notions about them based on false memories iterated to the characters.
Only one meaningful setting for this scenario, for all intents and purposes further referred to only as "The Box."
The Box is a single room with 4 beds. It has a table and three chairs, a deck of playing cards, a length of 30' of silk rope, a "food dispenser" on the wall, toilet facilities (in no way private), and a computerized locking terminal. The walls are all sleek metal, the lighting is recessed fluorescents in the ceiling (which is relatively high up.) It's large enough to mill around in, but not large enough to be out of anyone's earshot.
The experiments of this scenario can be performed in any order, and are mostly just outlines. However the general order provided is proven to allow for the most tension and build up before the finale (whatever that ends up being.) Handle them as you'd like, and make adjustments as you see fit with your group as always, just keep in mind that you're not the only one supposed to have fun with this scenario. The point of this whole scenario is the character's interaction in this enclosed environment, if it's interesting to them, drawn it out! Add experiments of your own devising. If it's proving difficult for the individuals to get into it, then throw them a bone. Use one of the more ellucidating or final experiments to jumpstart them.
1. The ID Folders. Each bed that the characters wakes up on has an ID folder underneath it. Inside is a series of documents with a picture of one of the others, and some information about them. Whether or not the characters share this information, force the others to share theirs, or compare and contrast means this portion of the game can go very differently for each group. If you want to really confuse the players, take each of them aside and read the folder's information to them separately, or if you're really going for it, fill out actual folders worth of information and pass these out to the players.
Under Taron's bed is a folder with Lindsey's picture in it. It states that her name is Tina, and that she's a smoldering temptress, and a skilled assassin. She's a famed black widow who seduces important men and then murders them, making it look like an accident. Her target is one of the other three individuals in this room. She was placed in here with them due to all of them being exposed to some kind of neural disease which erases memories, but the decontamination team believed the men should be warned of her deadly prowess.
Under Lindsey's bed is a folder with Dr. Michael's picture in it. It states about him that he was placed in this confinement due to his telekinetic abilities, and that this is in fact a holding area for those with special or unique powers.
Under Dr. Michael's bed is a folder with a picture of Taron in it. It states that Taron's one of the aliens that kidnapped this group of Earth individuals and removed their memories, and he is in fact a spy who is watching the "captured human subjects".
Under Jeff's bed is a folder with his own picture in it. It states that he's a scientist who's volunteered to watch over this group of individuals (all convicted murderers) whose memories have been erased, and record their reactions secretly without their knowledge.
2. The food situation. A Food dispenser periodically drops just enough food for three people to eat. As this scenario can take several days of in game time to resolve itself, remind the characters that there isn't enough food to go around. If you're particularly sadistic, let the game start out with each of them already extremely hungry. Apply physical penalties to those who go without food for a long time, and keep track of who is eating and when.
3. Have to potty! Remind the characters of some of their natural functions. The toilet system works, but it affords NO privacy. Don't let them get away with not dealing with this fact, but if their all pretty unabashed about it, hey good for them!
4. The gun and the note. Sometime a ways into the scenario, (if the characters aren't obsessed with role-playing every second of their confinement, let some time (read as: several days) pass before this happens, otherwise let it come at whenever you feel is the most applicable tense moment) the food dispenser on schedule drops instead of food, a loaded handgun (with two bullets) and a note pinned to it. The note reads: "Kill them and I'll let you go." What happens after this is up to you, but my suggestion is to send the shooter's ass right back to prison if he/she kills the other three players, particularly since the third has to be strangled or beaten to death.
5. Voices. Hidden speakers (behind the metal wall panels) begin to quietly whisper voices, with the noise slowly getting louder as time progresses. This prevents the characters from sleeping. Any attempts to interpret what the voices are saying yields only gibberish. These voices can stop, and start at the GM's discretion.
6. Returned memories. One of the characters at this point can remember some true fact about their past. This can be a useful tool for engaging a player who's frustrated easily by lack of control over a situation. Maybe Taron remembers he had a wife who was murdered, or Lindsey remembers killing her brother. But maybe not why? Obviously this does not occur for Dr. Michael's player.
7. The Walkie Talkie.A 2-way Walkie Talkie falls down the Food Dispenser. An individual from another of these rooms is on the other side! (Not really, but that's what the man on the other end of the walkie talkie says.) He also tells them he's been there for (1 day longer than the players have been there) and that he's the only one left alive. He continues to let the players know that "They" took the rest of them, and he heard their screams as they died. Then he screams as he's "dragged off" and the walkie talkie goes dead.
8. The doctor's judgment. If the characters survived to this point, and you're done with any or all of the other experiments that you've wanted to run, then this is the final ending point. Armed government agents storm into the room, and take the Doctor with them. He issues his judgments, and the decision is made what to do with the characters. This is a good point to collect the character's sheets and let them know what happens to them, as well as who they really were.
X. Other possible Events. What if the characters...? Good question! If they play with the computer panel, reward any of them other than Lindsey (or Tina, if that's what she's going by) a shock for their efforts. For her, reward her with triggering the food dispenser to release a copious amount of food. If anyone plays with the food dispenser, have it stop working for a few days. The items in the room can also be used in a number of creative ways, and if they figure out some amazing escape plan, let them have it! Also, if they convince the doctor to tell them what's really going on, or if he ends up having pity for them, sure! Let them jump the guards that come in to take him when the time comes, and escape together! However you want to run it, just remember it's your job to facilitate their fun, no matter how torturous and mean this scenario can be.
Let me know what you thought of this scenario by E-mailing me at Msturnbull@comcast.net
See you next month!