Class Notes: Archaeology of Words

-January 16th, 2013

Having recently celebrated my birthday, I’ve had cause to muse over the peculiar benefits of growing older. I was reminded of one such benefit a couple days ago while flipping through some game books that I’d nearly forgotten buying. Tucked within the pages were some some post-its with hand-written notes for Degrees of Horror.

Like the thrill of finding money in the pocket of a jacket you hadn’t worn since last year, writers get to enjoy the “found money” of old stories and notes from years gone by. Sometimes we say “I wrote that?!” and other times “I wrote THAT?” Either way, it’s usually entertaining. The notes I found this week were a mixture of plot point notes and ideas for Savage Tales. I wrote a LOT of notes about the plot points, mainly because that’s what demanded 80% of my creative energy. Those notes ended up on all sorts of paper scraps over the years. One day it might be fun to scan them in for “director’s commentary” but in the meantime those notes are seeeeeekrit.

I can, however, share the Savage Tale ideas I’d jotted down then lost between the pages of that book. I suspect these particular ideas were ones that Ed and I came up with together because some of the elements seem like the kind of twists he would introduce.

Cram: A student is selling a drug he claims help memory retention. Unfortunately, it makes people either violent, psychic, or dead. It also works.

Cry Baby: During a party on the Red Bridge, an NPC is found floating in the river. Clutched in her hand is a child’s toy.

“Have you seen my mommy?”

Twins – good/bad

Mother’s ashes?

– Break into time capsule

Practical Joke: Time capsule being opened tomorrow and a new time capsule buried. A group of frat guys/dorm guys decide to see what’s there first. It’s a chain letter. They find someone else on site trying to get there first– the son of someone who hid evidence to a murder in the original capsule.

I like these ideas, but obviously the notes just caught the essence of the idea so that I could go back later and flesh them out. Here’s how I’d treat them today:

Cram: The gang is pulled into a mystery when a dorm-mate goes on a violent, destructive spree through the dorm– ending at the heroes. Once subdued, the character begins reciting his physics textbook in an uncontrollable flood of words. If the gang asks around, the NPC’s friends note an abrupt academic improvement, bouncing from being on academic probation to breezing through his classes. Near the time of the change he also took a job and perpetually claimed to be broke. A search of his dorm room turns up a handful of pills on the floor, apparently spilled from their hiding place in a candy wrapper. As the heroes search the room, the NPC’s dealer arrives to clean up any evidence, leading to a confrontation. Will they take his offer to buy “Cram” themselves, or turn him in?

 Cry Baby: During a rave on a remote, dilapidated bridge in the Big Thicket, the heroes discover an unconscious NPC floating in the stream below. She clutches a child’s toy in her hand, and upon being awakened asks “Where is my mommy?.” The NPC has been possessed by the ghost a child who was murdered 17 years ago. She and her mother were killed by her stepfather and their bodies dumped in the stream. They came to rest against the bridge’s pilings and their bones are scattered beneath the silt. The spirits are restless and took the opportunity to briefly possess a passed out party-goer to spread clues about their murder.

Practical Joke: The demolition of an old building on campus revealed a hidden time capsule, leaving many on campus excited to learn its contents. From the photo in the campus newspaper, the gang recognize a symbol etched into the lock-box as a occult rune of demon-binding. With the box’s public grand opening scheduled for the next day, the gang’s only shot at stopping a disaster is to get their hands on it tonight. Unfortunately, a group of practical jokers have the same idea, only they plan on replacing the box’s contents with a live frog. It’s a race to a potentially deadly prize!

From these brief ideas you can see that Degrees of Horror offers plenty of opportunity for adventure outside the classroom and even off campus. It also offers adventures involving the occult, demonic foes, and restless spirits, and even intoxicated practical jokers. What more could you want in a game?

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