The Campaign Builders' Guild

Campaign Creation => Homebrews => Topic started by: Steerpike on March 27, 2014, 11:46:05 PM



Title: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 27, 2014, 11:46:05 PM
Witiko Falls

A remote community hidden in the depths of the Rocky Mountains somewhere near the convergence of the Idaho, Montana, Canadian borders, Witiko Falls was established as a scenic health resort in the 1880s.  Over the last few decades of the nineteenth-century the town became a popular destination for the rich and sickly, resulting in the founding of numerous sanitaria, insane asylums, spas, and other health facilities, a number of them making use of the local hot springs and caves nearby.  The town enjoyed a period of prosperity and growth until 1920s, when it went into a slow decline and began to garner an unsavoury reputation after a series of bizarre incidents and disappearances.  The Great Depression catalysed the closure of many sanitaria during the early 1930s, including the famous “Crow Castle” in 1933.  With these closures, many left the town, and its population dwindled till only a few eccentrics called the place home and the forest began reclaiming the old facilities.  Witiko Falls was well on its way to becoming a true ghost town when members of a U.S. Federal Government agency (which agency, exactly, remains uncertain) arrived shortly after the end of WWII and refurnished the Castle for purposes they have never disclosed to the public.  The little-known town is now home to a few thousand souls, a friendly but somewhat secretive folk who largely ignore the brooding presence of Crow Castle, its mysterious occupants, and the unmarked vehicles that periodically pull into its wrought-iron gates.  Few come to the town, now, save the very occasional tourist, lost travellers looking for the road to Coeur d’Alene, gamblers heading to the Beavertail Casino, spelunkers hoping to explore the caves, and members of a small cabal of ghost-chasers and conspiracy theorists who believe the town is “the Roswell of the Northwest”; all but the lattermost are shyly welcomed by the hospitable (if inscrutable) locals.

Overview

The following comprises campaign information and scenarios for a sandbox-style surreal horror game set in the superficially normal town of Witiko Falls.  The campaign format is intended to combine elements of a horror one-shot with the openness of a sandbox game in a kind of “small town horror anthology.”  The idea here is that each session or two the players will pursue one of the many plot threads within the town.  Their characters are very likely to die in any given session, but new characters will appear in the next session; only the town remains constant.  The players assume the role of outsiders entering Witiko Falls for the first time.  They might be conspiracy enthusiasts, lost travellers, drifters, private investigators, bumbling tourists, campers, touring musicians, or even a family moving into town.

GUMSHOE (especially Fear Itself or Esoterrorists), BRP, Fate, d20 Modern, and similar systems are all viable candidates for running a game set in Witiko Falls.  Personally I’m going to run games using the GUMSHOE system as represented in Fear Itself, so I will assume that system is being used, but this assumption won’t often intrude on setting details.


Tone


Witiko Falls seems normal, but this appearance is but a layer of banality sitting atop a vast reservoir of roiling eldritch horror like the skin on a glass of old milk.  Something squirms beneath the flesh of the town – some old unpleasantness, always lingering at the edge of vision, embedded deep in the place’s tissues like a tick. It makes you itch, makes the hairs on your arms stand on end.  It gives you a knot in your stomach.

The ideal tone to cultivate is one of subtle but definite wrongness.  Little, seemingly innocuous (but still unsettling) details should conspire to create an atmosphere of paranoia and queasily mounting dread.  The players should always feel that something is just a little bit off, without being able to point, exactly, to the source of all the ambient oddness.  Each adventure should consist of a series of glimpses, whiffs, intimations of some colossal and nameless ugliness, some elemental strangeness at the heart of the town – culminating, ultimately, in a brief but spectacular explosion of visceral horror of immense power, hitting players like a punch to the stomach.  Be restrained, but then really let loose…

Influences

Outlast, Silent Hill, Fringe, Twin Peaks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gormenghast, House of Leaves, Welcome to Night Vale, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Books of Blood, Slithdale Hollow.

Soundtrack

Twin Peaks Soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVA04yD2ln8&list=PL413F2BBFBCDD6C43)
Fire Walk With Me Soundtrack (http://www.listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=tqg-vJFLtts)
The Fog Soundtrack (http://www.listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=zKGzUxH9GyQ)
Fringe Soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UZAL8_w_uc&list=PL4C51CC7D61499217&index=2)
The Shining Soundtrack (http://www.listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=WWbI19Pt_nU&list=PLE7595E823D5A19E0)
Nightbreed Soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NjBB4FS4Ik&list=PL7xWyrfRCGcIzqk1X-b-Gcz3GXAn86S8g)
Hellraiser Soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPlcytbtzWQ&list=PL9E5AFB18F6672586&index=2)
Red Dragon Soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcQZHX032_U&index=2&list=PL1FB17758A40A4C11)


Phenomena

The town of Witiko Falls may seem relatively normal on the surface, but those who linger begin to notice a number of unsettling phenomena.

Anisocoria

Everyone native to Witiko Falls is afflicted with anisocoria – they possess differently sized pupils.  All those born in the town, regardless of ethnicity or background, suffer from this (harmless) condition.  It seems to become more severe with each passing generation: a second-generation resident of the Falls, for example, has a greater disparity in pupil size than a first-generation native.  The affliction is known as the “Eyes of the Witiko.”

Parasomnia

Visitors to Witiko Falls often seem unable to obtain a good night’s sleep.  Many of those who first arrive in the town immediately begin suffering from some form of parasomnia, even when they have no prior history of sleeping disorder.  The most common include night terrors, sleep paralysis, somnambulism, and somniloquy; sexsomnia and sleep-eating have also been known to manifest.  Even those who avoid such symptoms tend to suffer from nightmares and especially vivid dreams on first arriving in town.  In particular, new visitors tend to dream of happy childhood memories, memories horrifically marred by the presence of shadowy “things” watching from just outside of the dreamer’s peripheral vision; sleepers will inevitably wake moments before finally properly glimpsing those watching them in their dreams.  This condition persists for a variable amount of time, sometimes never fully dissipating, although natives of the town seem to sleep soundly enough.

Batteries


For unknown reasons, batteries only last half as long in Witiko Falls.  This phenomenon is one of the few associated with the town that can be consistently and quantifiably documented.  Laptops, cellphones, flashlights, and other battery-operated devices all drain their batteries at double the normal rate.  All other electronic devices perform completely normally, unless one counts the television program The Ritualist.

The Ritualist

A television program that seems to be exclusively broadcast in Witiko Falls.  The extremely campy show features an occult detective similar to literary figures like John Silence, Thomas Carnacki, Simon Iff, Steve Harrison, Harry Dresden, and other supernatural investigators, and is comparable to similar programs such as Baffled! and The Night Stalker.  The program seems to have been made in the 1970s, although some episodes make references to events that occurred in the 80s or even later.  The eponymous Ritualist is Felix Mortimer, a hardboiled American detective who deals with supernatural crimes.  Most of Mortimer’s cases take place in a fictitious east-coast city named St. Lazarus, though episodes also take place in a range of other locales including London, Cairo, Istanbul, and Shanghai.  Extremely episodic and formulaic, The Ritualist is never broadcast in order, although it would be difficult to discern the correct order in any event.  The program is (apparently) syndicated and appears on multiple channels in lieu of regularly scheduled content.  TV guides do not mention the program, but it is available through on-demand and subscription services accessed within the town.  As far as can be ascertained, the program has not been broadcast outside of Witiko Falls, no record of its production or broadcast has been found, and none of the actors have been located.  Those few DVDs and videotapes of the show taken out of Witiko Falls eventually fail to play properly once they have left the town limits.

Roads


It is unclear whether the roads around Witiko Falls constitute a manifestation of its peculiar nature or not.  The area around the town is a mass of logging roads and disused back-country roads, and finding the town can be difficult even for those who have made the trip multiple times.  Locals can usually give coherent suggestions on how to leave the town, but periodic flooding, downed trees, broken bridges, and other obstacles can complicate travel to and from Witiko Falls.  Gravity hills and other optical illusions also pervade the roads, complicating navigation.  Not every trip is difficult; it has been observed that those who aren’t looking for the town seem the most likely to find it.  Satellite photography of the area is often curiously obstructed by atmospheric interference and technical malfunctions, and most maps of the roads are outdated and unreliable.  Some conspiracy theorists maintain that the roads move around to “protect the town.”  When asked about this phenomenon, some residents will chuckle and concede half-jokingly that the roads “have a will of their own,” but always do so with an ambiguous wink or a sly smile.  Some truckers have reputedly collected certain “tricks” to reach the town, which they sometimes use as a rest stop.

Animals

Non-human mammalian animals do not fare well in Witiko Falls.  Dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures have been known to exhibit behavioural changes, anxiety, aggression, and bouts of illness in the town.  Most blame such symptoms on altitude sickness.  Non-mammalian animals seem unaffected.  There is a pet store in Witiko Falls, but it only carries birds, fish, and reptiles.

Instructions

Periodically, residents and sometimes even visitors in Witiko Falls will receive anonymous instructions, usually in the form of letters, cryptic voicemail messages with disguised voices, text messages, or emails.  Such notes always insist that their contents and even existence should be concealed from others.  The instructions vary wildly in character but usually ask the recipient to perform some innocuous or trivial task, such as going to a certain cafe and ordering a particular drink, leaving a cold tap running in a public bathroom, turning a picture so that it’s askew in a hotel lobby, taking out a certain book from the library, or leaving a doughnut in a paper bag on a specific park bench.  The writer addresses the notes to “Agent X,” X being the surname of the recipient.  The tone is always one of intense urgency and secrecy, and the writer never reveals anything about the greater context or consequences of such activities.  Very rarely, the messages will not be mundane at all; recipients will instead be instructed to perform some hideous, unwholesome, or even violent act.  The space of time between instructions is unpredictable, ranging from hours to years.  Most residents of Witiko Falls never acknowledge the existence of such instructions and will plead ignorance if confronted with them.

Locations

Here are but a few of the many interesting locations to be found within the town.  This is just an overview; each location (and whatever secret strangeness it might conceal) will be detailed much more exhaustively later.

The Falls

The Witiko Falls themselves are reputed to have powerful healing properties, properties which initially drew the sickly to the town to bathe in or drink from the Falls’ waters to cure their ailments.  Indeed, the original form of the town was little more than a cluster of tents erected around the Falls.  Spilling out of the mountains not far from Crow Castle, the Falls feed the Green Lady River and joins the Kootenai River, itself one of the uppermost tributaries of the Columbia.  The Falls also serve as a kind of hidden entrance to the cave-system that runs beneath and around the town; though there are many other entrances as well, this is the best known.  Sleepwalkers plagued by the parasomnias that frequently afflict newcomers to the town often find themselves curiously drawn to the Falls themselves and are often discovered standing stock-still (sometimes having waded out into the river) apparently staring at the Falls in silent contemplation.

Crow Castle

First constructed by Sebastian Corvus, a wealthy but eccentric mystic and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crow Castle is a massive, rambling mansion built in the hills overlooking Witiko Falls.  Corvus – a somewhat decadent British occultist – journeyed to the Falls after hearing legends of their healing properties, hoping to cure himself of an unknown illness (almost certainly syphilis).  Financing construction of the huge, variegated house in 1886 using his family fortune, Corvus appeared to recover from his sickness but later contracted tuberculosis.  After undergoing a deathbed conversion he willed the entire estate to the Sisters of Penitence, the so-called Red Nuns or Red Sisters.  Following Sebastian’s death the Sisters converted the house into a lavish sanitarium for consumptives.  It remained a popular destination for sufferers of the disease until its closure in 1933.  The Sisters continued to operate a small portion of the house as a school for girls for another six years before the house was condemned by inspectors as unsafe.  Unable to pay for repairs, the Sisters quietly sold the land to the federal government.  Crow Castle itself is an enormous, curiously variegated building exhibiting features from dozens of different architectural styles.  Broadly speaking the place resembles the Gothic follies and Romanesque Revival mock-castles more commonly found in Europe during the nineteenth-century, but parts of the Castle exhibit radically different styles – notably the sphinx-encrusted Egyptian Wing, the Arabesque Rooms, and the Byzantine Tower.  Extensive cellars, basements, and tunnels can be found beneath the Castle, some of them reputed to connect to the caves that riddle the area.  As for the shadowy government officials that have operated Crow Castle since 1946, little is known.  They’ve repaired and reinforced most of the Castle – or, at least, most of its exterior – and keep a heavy watch, though their actual agents are only rarely glimpsed.  Apart from the unmarked trucks and helicopters that periodically make stops at the Castle the only signs of activity are the glimmer of lights from its windows and, very rarely, indescribable noises that awaken the townsfolk in the dead of night.  The locals themselves prefer not to speak of the Castle or its dark-suited occupants.

The Swiner

An all-night diner built in 1924, the Swiner is a novelty diner in the shape of a gigantic piebald pig, with windows for eyes, a gaping mouth for a front door, and more windows along the pig’s long body, as well as a rudely positioned back door.  The diner, naturally, specializes in pork products, particularly bacon-based meals; its signature dish is the bacon-wrapped meatloaf called the Crispy Piglet, although their pork sandwich, the Slaughterhouse Five, containing pulled pork shoulder, bacon strips, spareribs, smoked ham, and a pork sausage, is also legendary.  Less extreme dishes include ham hocks, pig’s ears, crackling, pork belly, and tenderloin, though they also have a small selection of beef and chicken dishes and a single vegetarian option, a grilled cheese sandwich.  The place is owned and operated by a pair of twins, Daphne and Gertrude; the two are identical tall, solidly built woman (the term “brick house” has been thrown around) who change their hair colour on a regular basis.  They are distinguished by their tattoos: Daphne sports the head of a Rottweiler on her left shoulder, Gertrude an English Bulldog on her right.  The diner has been in continuous operation since it was built, one of the few businesses to survive the Depression and the mid-century slump in Witiko Falls’ fortunes, and the Swiner Twins claim to still use the original recipes created by their German great-grandmother, a first generation immigrant.  Forming something of a community gathering-place, the Swiner is a popular hangout for adolescents attending Witiko Falls High School, as well as truckers and locals.

The Burning Bush Gentleman’s Club

Witiko Falls’ only remaining night-spot apart from the Beavertail Casino is the Burning Bush Gentleman’s Club, a seedy roadside strip-joint with a gimmick – all the dancers are natural redheads, or so they claim.  Why this is so no one knows, although most suggest it’s due to the predilections of the cruel-eyed but jovial proprietor, Rakish Jack, a suave, pencil-moustached, oily-but-handsome man who favours black sharkskin suits.  The dancers all sport stage names that likewise pertain to the colour red in some way: there’s Scarlet, Strawberry, Rose, Carmine, Ember, Inferno, Autumn, Ginger, and Cherry (plus usually a few more).  The place has a series of back-rooms at least nominally for lap-dances, as well as a number of offices and other “Employees Only” rooms.  The joint hovers somewhere between sleazy and classy, its kitschy retro charm tarnished by the layer of grease and nicotine that seems to coat every surface.  Though most of the patrons are locals or truckers, the Burning Bush is also a frequent hangout for the Moonbrood (or Moonchildren), a gang of bikers whose clubhouse can be found further down the road.  They’re a raucous and somewhat unnerving bunch, but they actually tend to keep order more than cause trouble, kicking out those making a disturbance or bothering the girls.  Apart from the Casino and the all-night diner known as the Swiner, the Burning Bush is the only place open past midnight in Witiko Falls.

The Beavertail Casino

Built on a small scrap of Blackfoot land inhabited principally by members of the Kainai Nation (the “Blood Tribe”), the Beavertail Casino is one of the few businesses in Witiko Falls that can be legitimately described as thriving.  Grandfathered gambling laws have allowed the Native American operators to set up a proper casino here: sports betting, poker, blackjack, bingo, and slot machines can be found within, and in-the-know gamblers frustrated with the limited gambling options in Montana flock to the casino in search of a big win.  Along with conspiracy nuts and truckers gamblers make up a significant portion of the Falls’ visitors.  The Casino forms the lifeblood of the tiny Kainai Reserve, little more than a small village of fewer than a hundred souls that clings to the edge of Witiko Falls.  The Reserve itself was larger in the days of Witiko Falls’ prosperity.  During the height of the “Age of the White Plague” – Witiko Falls’ most prosperous period – the Reserve’s inhabitants traded extensively with the inhabitants of the tent city that sprawled around Crow Castle and the other early sanitaria.  Since their closure the place has dwindled, and now almost all of its inhabitants work at the Casino, save for Byron Black Plume, a cheerful old man who runs the Coffee Wigwam, a kitschy roadside coffee stand at the edge of the Reserve.  The sign of the Beavertail Casino depicts a beaver whose tail is the shape of a spade from a deck of playing cards.

The Clubhouse

The biker gang known as the Moonchildren or Moonbrood maintain a clubhouse outside of Witiko Falls, accessible down a rough dirt road well-rutted with tire-marks.  Heavy gates and a fence topped with barbed wire protect the clubhouse from intruders.  Reputedly a one-percenter outlaw gang, the Moonchildren have a few chapters scattered across the Pacific Northwest, but Witiko Falls is their original charter.  They took up residence in the town in the late 1950s and have been a fixture ever since.  The Club has a strict hierarchy signified by a series of patches portraying different phases of the moon, beginning with New Moon members, followed by Crescents, Quarters, Gibbous, and Full Moon members.  Like most outlaw motorcycle clubs they are almost exclusively male, but there are a few female members who sport a Red Moon patch.  A few members also sport a Blue Moon patch, marking them as members of the Cub’s leadership.  Mostly the Moonchildren (or “Mooners” as some locals call them – though never in earshot) deal weed to local kids and perform other petty crimes in the Falls and in neighbouring towns, though they may be involved in more serious crimes as well.  The majority of members have day-jobs elsewhere in the town.  The interior contents of the clubhouse itself are unknown to outsiders, but the Moonchildren have been observed assembling there at particular dates, especially during eclipses.  At any given time, however, half a dozen motorcycles can usually be spotted inside the clubhouse gates.  Out behind the clubhouse is a mysterious hole, called the Crater, which popular legend has it was created when a “piece of moon-rock” fell from the sky and landed in the forests.

Witiko Falls High School

The only secondary school in town, Witiko Falls High School has just under five hundred students, where once it had several thousand; consequently the entire north wing of the school has been permanently closed down.  In most respects the school seems like a perfectly normal American high school.  It has a football team, the Witiko Falls Kelpies; regular teachers teaching regular classes; a library, a field, a metal shop.  There are hints, though, of certain peculiarities.  There are several school clubs such as the Left-Handers, the Young Rosicrucians, the Pareidolia Club, and the Lucid Dreaming Club that seem somewhat unusual.  In lieu of a Homecoming Court or a Prom Court the students hold elections for figures such as the Satyr and the Nymph and representations of the Seven Virtues.  The library seems fairly normal until one begins to investigate the titles and discovers the complete works of the Marquis de Sade and an incredibly extensive collection of German fairy-tales.  Such strangenesses are dismissed by staff as nothing more than quirks of local custom and school tradition.

The Scarecrow Cinema

Formerly an opera house built in 1895 and known as the Cricket Street Theatre, the Scarecrow Cinema was reopened in the late 1970s after some vestige of life had returned to Witiko Falls.  Specializing in exploitation films, the Scarecrow is run by Mordecai Clay, a middle-aged albino film buff with a taste for the macabre.  The place is a huge, ill-maintained structure of incredible opulence, funded by the wealthy afflicted who once flocked to Witiko Falls for medical treatment.  Now the baroque foyer and halls are stained and dingy, as the cinema barely manages to cover its operating costs; word about town is that Clay is deeply in debt and in danger of bankruptcy, but remains stubbornly intent on keeping the Scarecrow operational.  These days it mostly shows old movies, second-run horror flicks, and even adult films, the latter sometimes patronized by drunken clientele of the Burning Bush who’ve been kicked out by the Moonchildren.  During Halloween the theatre is redecorated as a haunted house and local children are invited to explore dusty old rooms and halls, fake cobwebs blending with the real.  In recent years Mordecai has simply left the decorations up for most of the year, and so patrons lingering in the concession area may be surprised by animatronic ghouls and skeletons.

Whispering Cedars Hospital and Asylum for the Insane

Apart from the consumption sanitaria, Witiko Falls also played host to a number of insane asylums and psychiatric hospitals, the largest of which was the Whispering Cedars Hospital and Asylum for the Insane.  The asylum closed its doors in 1953, a few years after the government assumed possession of Crow Castle, although the circumstances of its closure are somewhat mysterious; rumours swirl of unethical psychosurgery and experimentation, and of the intervention of the shadowy government agents that occupy the Castle.  Since its abandonment the asylum has become overgrown and dilapidated.  Vandals, drifters, squatters, and necking teenagers have since taken to lingering about the asylum’s fungus-eaten corridors.  Students at Witiko Falls High often dare one another to enter the old asylum, usually on Walpurgis Night or Halloween; consequently the asylum has walls covered with graffiti and carvings.  Old surgical tools, beds, and other medical equipment litter the forsaken operating theatres and wards, and adolescents dared to enter the place are usually charged with removing a scalpel, leather restraint, syringe, straightjacket, or similar object from Whispering Cedars as a trophy.  Known treatments practised in Whispering Cedars include hydrotherapy, thermotherapy, electroshock therapy, lobotomy and leucotomy, and similar treatments.  A number of suicides and disappearances have been associated with the asylum, only feeding the folkloric reputation the place has accrued over the years.  Whispering Cedars is also sometimes used by the Moonchildren as a meeting-place for drug deals.

The Compound


The headquarters of the splinter religious sect known as the Church of Christ, Cambion, the Compound, as it is usually referred to by those outside the cult-like group, can be found on the outskirts of Witiko Falls, built in and around the remnants of the St. Cyprian Lodge, a health resort and sanitarium that closed down shortly after the closure of Crow Castle.  The Compound is a heavily fortified structure complete with watch-towers, chain-link fences, and regular patrols.  The group are secretive about the specific goings-on within the Compound – which they refer to as the Fold – but actively proselytize and leave pamphlets about town, often in places of business and especially in the Burning Bush Gentleman’s Club, which they are reputed to own or have some other stake in.  Their beliefs are unique, incorporating aspects of Gnosticism, Theosophy, and Judeo-Christian Apocrypha, especially the Book of Enoch and its tales of the angels that fell in love with the “daughters of men.”  One of their chief claims is that Christ was sired not by the Holy Ghost but by the fallen angel Azazel in disguise; they believe that the angelic Grigori or Watchers who left Heaven are the true saviours of mankind, in contrast with God (“the Demiurge,” a cruel and uncaring tyrant) and Satan (“the Adversary,” who wishes to corrupt and destroy humanity).  As such they revere the Grigori as Promethean figures and their kindred – the Nephilim, or Cambions – as Saint-like figures and Christ in particular as a messianic hybrid.  Most of their materials, however, relate to the importance of love and emphasize that carnal love is never sinful, claiming books like Leviticus and other dogmas against fornication and deviance are nothing more than the Demiurge’s propaganda.  There are hints in their reading materials that their particular interpretation of the apocalypse will result in the creation of something they call the Land of Love.  The locals mostly dismiss the cultists as a bunch of slightly kooky but otherwise harmless nuts, and refer to the Compound as a “Hippy Love-Nest.”  Those passing by the road at night can confirm that the believers seem to be having a good time.  Members of the Church of Christ, Cambion have converted many of the old buildings into residences, shrines, and chapels, and also grow their own food inside.  The innermost structures of the Compound serve an unknown purpose.

The Cottage

An old log-cabin built deep in the woods north of Witiko Falls, the dilapidated lodge known as Fairbairn Cottage or simply “the Cottage” was the dwelling-place of a trapper and woodsman, Andrew Fairbairn, and his wife, Judith.  The full story of the pair can be read below (see Local Legends).  These days, the Cottage is a shunned and desolate place, uninhabited for many years.  Due to its extreme isolation it is sometimes used by teenage couples as a location for secret trysts.  Adolescents have been known to dare their peers to spend a night in the Cottage and carve their names in the old logs within, much as they urge one another to enter the Whispering Cedars Asylum.  Physically, the place is unremarkable – a simple two-room cabin with some rotten furnishings and animal pelts, a small root cellar, and the overgrown remnants of a garden (filled principally with hemlock plants).  No sign of Andrew Fairburn’s legendary black-wood chest or the scold’s bridle of legend can be found within, although a notched stump out behind the cabin does bear what look like axe-marks.

The Mountain Shadow Cemetery

The Mountain Shadow Cemetery is curiously free of the vague eeriness that pervades the rest of Witiko Falls, instead inspiring feelings of tranquil sorrow and melancholy.  Though rather ill-tended the place is unspeakably beautiful, with a scenic view of the nearby hills and river.  Most of the graves are plain stone slabs, but there are some older tombs and mausoleums belonging to residents from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the crypt of Sebastian Corvus.  Rumours persist of tunnels and passages leading from the tombs into the caves beneath the town.

The Caves

An extensive system of caves stretches far beneath Witiko Falls.  The tunnels are labyrinthine and include some very large caverns, but instabilities, collapses, and other hazards have prevented anyone from fully mapping the caves.  Sections have been mapped, and a few “in-the-know” spelunkers have been known to go caving in them, but many return claiming that maps of the caves are unreliable and incomplete.  There are at least three commonly known entrances – one at the Falls themselves, another in the woods on a back-country road not far from the Burning Bush, and a third beneath Crow Castle, though obviously this lattermost entrance has not been used in some time, at least not by the locals.  Petroglyphs have been discovered in the caves, suggesting they were known to Native American inhabitants of the region, although some of the figures depicted in the carvings have no known cognates in Native American mythology.  In the early days of the town the caves were used by consumptives too poor to afford the spas and sanitaria of the town above, and so whole communities of the afflicted dwelt in the upper caverns for a time, hoping that the air of the caves would help to cure their disease.  Legends tell of a group of such tubercular men and women who became lost wandering the tunnels and never found their way back to the surface.  Rumour has that one can still hear the echoes of their coughing, trapped forever under the earth; some claim that their spirits haunt the caves (see Local Legends, below).

Local Legends


These snippets of folklore may or may not have a grain of truth to them.  Some may be nothing more than rumours and hoaxes; others might be horrifyingly real.

The Coyote Child

Persistent local legend tell of the Coyote Child, reputedly raised by coyotes in the woods around Witiko Falls.  There are contradictory accounts of this figure’s origins, but most believe him to be the son of an escaped inmate from Whispering Cedars, the psychiatric hospital in town, usually identified as Patricia Brantlinger or Theresa Beville, depending on the teller.  The story goes that the pregnant inmate wandered away into the woods and gave birth in the wilderness, dying in child-birth.  The coyotes smelled the woman’s body and the blood from the birth and came sniffing around the corpse.  They consumed the dead mother but, for reasons unknown, spared her infant child and raised him as one of their own.  This all took place in the middle of the twentieth century, somewhere in the late thirties or early forties (again, details vary).  Sightings of the boy were common through the mid-twentieth century, usually hunting with coyotes, crouched on all fours.  He has never been seen inside the town itself, and none have spoken to him.  Police searches have turned up nothing.  Occasional sightings continued, and the Coyote Child is still sometimes seen; though by now he should be an old man in his seventies or eighties, he is still described as resembling a young boy of perhaps ten or twelve.  Native Americans on the nearby Reserve believe he is a skin-walker and an evil spirit.   He has often been interpreted as an omen, his appearance foreshadowing violence to come.

The Spooks

The government employees stationed at Crow Castle are rarely seen in uniform, but common belief holds that they live undercover within the town, mingling with the locals, hiding in plain sight.  Many theories proliferate as to the identities and motivations of the Spooks, though such theories are more often discussed by conspiracy theorists than they are by locals.  Some believe the Spooks are members of some “rogue agency” or classified intelligence service within the U.S. Government, others that the Spooks aren’t federal agents at all but extraterrestrial shapeshifters masquerading as humans.  Whatever the case, the belief that the Spooks live amongst regular townsfolk in Witiko Falls is widespread and half-jokingly acknowledged by the locals, who often cheerily chastise those spouting “wild talk,” warning them that the “walls have ears” and insinuating that government agents are always listening in.  Naturally, local legend holds that the Spooks have the ability to erase or otherwise modify the memories of those who might have “made” them.

The Scold

While Witiko Falls wasn’t truly settled until the early 1880s, the area did play host to a few settlers before that time, generally trappers and fur-traders, followed by gold miners in subsequent years.  One such individual was the woodsman, Andrew Fairbairn, and his wife, Judith Fairbairn, who settled in the region in 1864 in the cabin which is now known as Fairbairn Cottage or simply “the Cottage.”  Scottish of blood, Andrew was known to carry with him a number of heirlooms, which he kept in a chest of black wood in the cabin.  A trapper and hunter, Andrew strove to make ends meet as best he could, but often the pair found themselves hovering near destitution.  Judith would become agitated at such times and pressured her husband to move back east, which would enrage Andrew.  He took to employing a cruel method of punishment for his wife’s “shrewish” tongue, using one of the heirlooms taken from his ancestral chest: a scold’s bridle, used in Scotland well into the eighteenth-century as a punishment for “scolds,” or women who spoke out of turn.  He placed the macabre iron contraption over his wife’s head and would force her to wear it for hours at a time.  The muzzle was extremely painful, as spikes in the bridle would hurt the wearer’s tongue if they moved it or tried to speak.  Reputedly, during a particularly long spell of wearing the bridle, Judith decided to enact a plan of revenge.  Using hemlock she’d painstakingly grown in the Cottage’s garden she poisoned her husband’s dinner, paralyzing him but keeping him alert and awake.  She then calmly cut off his tongue and stuffed it down his throat, then sewed his lips shut, permanently silencing him; he choked on his own tongue and died.  Rumour has that the murder would have gone undiscovered had a lost traveller not come across Judith chopping up the body for burial with her husband’s own axe.  The traveller carried a revolver, to be used against wild beasts or others who might menace him; Judith, discovered, came at him with the axe but was shot and killed.  According to the traveller her mind had snapped and she was still wearing the scold’s bridle at the time of her death.  To this day, sightings of Judith’s ghost have been reported by those walking the woods near Fairbairn Cottage.  Her apparition, known as the Scold, has since become a local bogeywoman, said to prey exclusively on men who abuse their wives or girlfriends; such individuals are said to turn up dead, sometimes in the woods but often in their own beds, with their tongues cut out and their lips stitched shut, killed in the same manner as Andrew Fairbairn.

There are several variations of the Scold legend.  In some Andrew uses a regular dog muzzle to silence his wife, tying her up like a beast.  In others, Judith Fairbairn is also a witch.

The Coughers

Also called the Coughing Ghosts, the Coughers are supposedly the descendants or spirits of tuberculosis sufferers who lived in the caves beneath Witiko Falls and became lost or cut off from those in the main grotto.  Supposedly, spelunkers have heard the Coughers wandering about the dark caverns, and occasionally found signs of their presence, such as clothing, gnawed bones, tools, or carven marks.  What, exactly, the Coughers are supposed to have eaten over the long decades between their disappearance and the present day has never been adequately explained, although cryptozoological enthusiasts point out that several entrances to the caves have been found, suggesting that the Coughers emerge from the depths to hunt wild animals – although why, then, they didn’t rejoin civilization remains equally unclear.  Paranormal theorists prefer to posit that the Coughers became ghosts haunting the caves, preying on those who explore too deeply into the tunnels.  Whether troglodytic degenerates or disembodied phantoms, the Coughers are said to be heralded by the sound of their rasping, consumptive hacking and spluttering.

The Grey Devil


The creature known as the Grey Devil is a gigantic North American opossum, possibly a mutant, that lurks in the woods around Witiko Falls, at least according to cryptozoologists and some conspiracy theorists.  Though native to the eastern half of the continent, opossums are not unknown along the Pacific west coast and can be found as far north as British Columbia, but are rarely seen in Montana or Idaho, leading theorists to suggest that the Grey Devil is an escaped pet, a prehistoric creature that has survived the long centuries against all odds, or perhaps a government experiment gone wrong.  The Native American inhabitants of the nearby reserve believe it to be a trickster spirit.  Whatever its origins, the Grey Devil – and, occasionally, its supposed young – has been glimpsed by a number of hikers and wilderness enthusiasts, often hanging from the upper boughs of a particularly thick-branched tree.  Reports vary as to the beast’s size: some claim it’s about the size of a large dog, while others insist it’s bear-sized.  Most accounts suggest the creature is interested primarily in scavenging; it has been sighted digging through trash and also attempting to exhume recently buried bodies at the Mountain Shadow Cemetery, though some also claim that the Grey Devil ate their pets.  Some theorists speculate that the smell of the giant opossum is the reason for erratic animal activity within Witiko Falls.  Its lair is popularly believed to be found somewhere within the caves below the town.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Nomadic on March 28, 2014, 12:02:16 AM
I love it. Yet again you've created a setting that tugs at my curiosity. I'm really curious to see anything else you have regarding this setting or if you plan on running any games in it.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 28, 2014, 01:18:19 AM
Thanks, Nomadic!  There will be lots more, especially some detailed write-ups of NPCs and more local folktales, plus some additional locations (next up is a charming-but-creepy hotel and a church).

What's written above is mostly just the surface of things.  Most of the locations, for example, have soime pretty serious secrets, and there are webs of occult/criminal/political connection in my head linking some of the people and factions.

I do plan on running some games with this - most likely beginning with my face-to-face group but I may run some online stuff, possibly.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 28, 2014, 10:28:21 AM
Cool setting. Although I prefer games with preternatural vs mundane PCs, I really like the setting. The writing, as usual, is evocative and mystery-laden. The scope of the sites and supernatural elements (and thus opportunities for different kinds of 'horror-adventures') is really impressive. The Ritualist is an interesting inclusion; it seems like it could press heavily on the fourth wall, for good or ill depending on its execution.

Although I know nothing about GUMSHOE, I heartily look forward to reading more and hearing of any games run in this setting.

I'm curious though, what prompted developing this new setting? Compared to, say, further developing St. Lazarus and the Tenebrous setting or the earlier horror setting you wrote with the 10 D&D monsters (both of which featured the Casket River, IIRC)?  

EDIT: Nice choice on the font as well.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 28, 2014, 10:50:15 AM

Rose-of-Vellum

I'm curious though, what prompted developing this new setting?

Binge-watching Twin Peaks and replaying Outlast.

Also, I wanted to run something using GUMSHOE as represented in Fear Itself, so I started writing up some notes; thought I'd share.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 28, 2014, 01:41:02 PM
Ah, so Witiko Falls is the bulimic spawn of your binging. Regardless of its origins, the setting is great. I really like the names as well. About how many people populate the town?

As for GUMSHOE, care to give a quick rundown on its rules, or a link that does so?  





Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 28, 2014, 01:56:01 PM
I was actually debating that.  I just reduced the number of kids at the high school, and I'm thinking the town has maybe 6,000 people or so, maybe a wee bit more.  I've lived in towns of 5,000-8,000 people and that's the feel I want.  Big enough that there are still anonymous people you don't know passing you in the street but far shy of proper city size.

GUMSHOE is an investigative system  - you can find an SRD here (http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=13319).  It has a number of versions for different sorts of games - Night's Black Agents (vampire conspiracy theory), Esoterrorists (X-Files style forensics), Trail of Cthulhu (30s Lovecraftian horror), Fear Itself (contemporary horror with regular people).  There's also a hybrid Pathfinder/GUMSHOE variant called Lorefinder.

The gimmick of the system is the way clues are gathered - in essence, it's designed so that players should never really miss a clue due to a bad roll (like a failed Perception check, or whatnot).  It's a fairly simple system, all in all, but it has some nice mechanics to help facilitate investigation-based gameplay.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Weave on March 28, 2014, 03:32:38 PM
This is really cool and I want to play in it now. I'd definitely be some slobbery tech guy/huge conspiracy enthusiast looking to debunk/confirm some of the many oddities at Witiko. You know, the neck-bearded, chubby cheeto-binging, slightly balding geek who's a little too excited at getting a shot of something crazy with his high tech camera set up. He'd probably die horribly, but it would be well worth the fun of playing him.

He'd probably know all there is to know about The Ritualist and would want to set up cameras to see what all these cryptic commands lead to. Or delve into the labyrinthine caves...

Anyways, this sounds really fun. Please keep us posted if you decide to start something on here.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 29, 2014, 01:26:17 AM
Thanks, Weave!  I've been brainstorming ways of getting a mid-to-large-ish group of characters and I think a group of "ghost documentarians" would be perfect - a camera-guy, a director, a "psychic," a paranormal geek, eye-candy, etc.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 29, 2014, 09:35:00 AM
Will you be pursuing a West Marches' format with Witiko Falls?  I realize the tone and genre are completely different, but your "Overview" section seems to follow that model. If so, are you planning on incorporating a 'table' mechanic (i.e., will there be some IG method whereby past/alternate PCs inform new PCs of their discoveries, or lack thereof)? Or will session logs serve that purpose, informing players while keeping PCs nominally ignorant? Or perhaps some combination of the two (e.g., a session log gets reinterpreted as a found video or journal entry recorded by a past PC)?


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 29, 2014, 10:48:03 AM
I won't be running anything online at the moment, and I'll probably start with a tentative session or two for my group, but yes - the idea of the setting is basically to run a horror sandbox similar to West Marches, where any group of players and/or the survivors from last time can jump into a game.  I think any information between dead/escaped PCs and new ones would have to be passed "through the game world," i.e. scrawled notes, found footage, a psychic PC speaking to the spirit of a dead former PC, that kind of thing.  Those in the know might also have some info on the activities of past groups. Inevitably a degree of dramatic irony would arise, though, where new PCs would be ignorant of certain things that dead/fled PCs played by the same players had found out.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 29, 2014, 11:34:46 AM
Sounds good.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Numinous on March 29, 2014, 02:55:15 PM
I haven't finished reading what you've got up so far, just finished as far as locations.  Still, I love love love what you've done with the place.  I'm a huge fan of Twin Peaks, even going so far as to use influences of it in my Smoking Hills setting, but you can really feel the vibes in what you've put together hear.  Well done.

As for the West Marches type game, all I can think of is a cassette recorder addressed to Diane.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 29, 2014, 03:03:47 PM
Thanks, Numinous!  I'm glad the feel comes through.  I don't want it to be a straight homage to Twin Peaks, but I definitely want it to capture some of the same feel.

Numinous

As for the West Marches type game, all I can think of is a cassette recorder addressed to Diane.

I was thinking of that as well!  If I do end up running this for my players I may even make a tape (or at least a recording) as a player-handout for them to find.

EDIT: Have you heard the complete tapes? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boFYrCbjSyU&list=PLD798B197C2657750)  It's a little bit like listening to Welcome to Night Vale.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LD on March 29, 2014, 08:02:32 PM
>>I was thinking of that as well!  If I do end up running this for my players I may even make a tape (or at least a recording) as a player-handout for them to find.

Ah, good idea. Feel free to ask here if you'd like voice actors for short bits and bobs of dialogue... like for Bioshockesque voice recorders left hither and tither.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 29, 2014, 08:27:06 PM

Light Dragon

Ah, good idea. Feel free to ask here if you'd like voice actors for short bits and bobs of dialogue... like for Bioshockesque voice recorders left hither and tither.

Holy crap, that would be amazing.  Would people be interested in volunteering their voices?  I can't really afford to pay anyone, but that is an amazing idea.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 29, 2014, 08:58:48 PM
Count me in.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LordVreeg on March 29, 2014, 09:57:40 PM
i would be happy to lend my sarcastic tenor/baritone....


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: SA on March 29, 2014, 10:27:17 PM
Hells yeah.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: HippopotamusDundee on March 29, 2014, 10:28:42 PM
I'm in.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Numinous on March 30, 2014, 11:05:26 AM
I'd help.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Nomadic on March 30, 2014, 12:10:46 PM
Yes I'd love to do this. Incidentally I have a pretty high quality microphone so this would finally give me a chance to use it properly.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 30, 2014, 12:56:49 PM
Wow, more responses than I thought!  Could be pretty fun.

I'm debating how I want to open the first game.  Any thoughts on these scenarios?

(1) A documentary film crew in the town to shoot a film.  Very Blair Witch.

(2) A group of prisoners on the lamb, heading to the Canadian border, who decide to lie low in the town.

(3) A group of strangers on a Greyhound Bus that breaks down, temporarily stranding them in the town.

(4) A group of mountaineers who get lost on their way to or from their destination (or perhaps one of the group falls ill).


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Ghostman on March 30, 2014, 01:37:45 PM
Most of those setups could make it potentially complicated for PCs to stick around for future scenarios. The prisoners one especially might be hard to justify for a long while without pulling the railroady (albeit in this case amusingly ironic) "the town won't let you leave" card. Rather than outright forcing characters to stay, though, it'd be better to provide some reasons why they would do so out of their own will.

(4) Would be the least problematic case because then the PCs might actually be residents of Witiko Falls.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 30, 2014, 01:56:25 PM
Good point, Ghostman.  For the first scenario I run I'm aiming more for strictly one-shot territory, but still, it might be nice to have the potential for characters to stick around.  A family moving to the town is another possibility.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LD on March 30, 2014, 02:38:53 PM

Quote

(2) A group of prisoners on the lamb, heading to the Canadian border, who decide to lie low in the town.
As much as I'd like to see a group of prisoners on the lam, riding lambs, across the Canadian border, while lying low and using the bleats as cover, Ghostman makes a good point.

But perhaps you could change it a bit- these people are fugitives, but they're not prisoners. Or rather, they're jumping bail, not prison. They may have bounty hunters and servers of process come after them, but they've crossed state lines, so there's not a huge push to  follow them--so they're lying low here, in the middle of nowhere- four states away, each for their own particular reasons. Perhaps a 'fixer' set them us with this location as being a secluded one (as was set up for Walter in Breaking Bad). This would allow for dark pasts, easy replacements- more people get sent there to "disappear" from the law (to replace dead PCs), and a justification to work together both against the shadowy city and against the shadowy 'fixer.'

(6) option: People transferred to the town as part of their company's move of corporate headquarters (I think this is similar to the Erie, Indiana series' justification?? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101088/)


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on March 30, 2014, 02:46:05 PM
#1 could assume PCs (and thus players) know a good bit about the town, so I would save that setup for a later game (when the players will know more, and their PCs might be drawn by rumors of the mysterious demise of the first group).

#2 is a cool concept. Whether it should be first or not might depend on your players' preference.

#3 doesn't necessarily set up a reason why the PCs would start 'exploring' unless you throw a plot at them (which seems to be contrary to the whole sandbox-goal). However, you could combine this concept with any of the others. For instance, a film crew en route to another place makes the most of their time by doing a documentary. Fugitives could be on the bus when it breaks down.

#4 works well, especially if their tour guide has an accident or falls ill. Consequently, they would have an incentive to stay together, but also spend their time exploring while they wait.

EDIT: I really like LD's suggestions.

#5 would be interesting, but a family imposes certain inter-PC dynamics -which some players might love while others loathe.

Another concept could be a group of speculative surveyors or estate prospectors hired by a corporation or private individual. By deciding what site they are meant to survey, you give them immediate reason to explore the desired adventure spot while also allowing them to still wander in their 'free time'.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Nomadic on March 30, 2014, 02:58:01 PM
I like the idea of the PCs using the town as a place to lay low for an extended period of time. There are all sorts of character possibilities there...

- A wife hiding from her abusive stalker ex-husband
- An escaped convict hiding from the law
- The target of a hit trying to hide from the hitmen
- A spy agency whistle blower evading his vengeful employer
- A kid on the run from a horrible foster family
- etc etc


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LD on March 30, 2014, 03:08:26 PM
Nice elaboration of reasons for hiding in the town, Nomadic.

Some possible catchphrases and dialogue-strings I just brainstormed:

"Witikio Falls... the place to just... disappear."

"Who is... the Fixer..."
'We just hear his, or someone who claims that it's his, voice on the phone. We've never met him."
"I thought the Fixer was a woman?"

-
As an aside- I also like the idea of surveyors/ geologic survey/engineering survey, or construction workers at a job site (workers range from foreman, electricians, skilled workers, unskilled workers, to manager, etc.) heck, if you make it an oil well, you can expand the potential PCs to roughnecks, toolpushers, company man, geologists, surveyors, title examiners, attorneys, etc. each of which are getting set up in different housing: some are in portable trailers, a few are in shady houses by themselves, others are in bed/breakfast like places, living over a garage while a local family lives in the regular house... because of the oil boom, there's too many people in town. The problem with an oil boom though is that it doesn't make the place as isolated as it would seem you desire... but possibly it's only a faux oil boom.... some crazy billionaire industrialist decided to wildcat a well in the region and sent a bunch of people there with orders to find oil or else- (because his psychic told him that there would be oil there, etc.)


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on March 30, 2014, 04:42:37 PM
Yeah, I don't think I'd do an oil boom, but an archaeological team could be perfect - after all there are bound to be weird carvings and artefacts they can investigate.

The more I think about the "escaped prisoners" angle the more I don't like it, but I do like the idea of a group of criminals lying low, especially since it gives the characters a good reason to be carrying weapons and to have a few special skills.  Perhaps they're fleeing a botched heist, as in Resevoir Dogs?  There might even be a contact waiting for them in town, a contact that goes mysteriously missing...

Also a wonderful way to incite some paranoia, players worried they might be double-crossed etc.

Also, love the "Witikio Falls... the place to just... disappear." tagline.

And I hadn't heard of Eerie before!  Thanks for the link, LD.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Ghostman on March 31, 2014, 09:33:01 AM
I'll pitch in with an idea, too:

Distant relatives of an eccentric billionnaire that recently passed away and penned their names in his will... with the caveat that they'll only get a share of the inheritance if they move to his mansion and see the weird pet project he'd been working on to it's completion.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LordVreeg on March 31, 2014, 09:48:40 AM
Scooby Doo would be proud.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rhamnousia on April 01, 2014, 07:54:07 AM
I'm all about at least some of the PCs being criminals fleeing a botched job because, in addition to the obvious source of inspiration, it seems Coenesque scenario and something about Witiko Falls just evokes the Coen Brothers for me: Fargo, The Ladykillers, and that masterpiece of slow-burning existential horror, No Country For Old Men in particular.

I'd also question the use of Fear Itself instead of, say, a reworked Trail of Cthulhu, but that's entirely because it's the one Gumshoe iteration I've never touched and I've heard it's a finicky beast. Then again, you're one of the people I'd trust most to run a good horror game, so maybe I shouldn't be so cynical.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on April 01, 2014, 09:43:01 AM

Superbright

I'm all about at least some of the PCs being criminals fleeing a botched job because, in addition to the obvious source of inspiration, it seems Coenesque scenario and something about Witiko Falls just evokes the Coen Brothers for me: Fargo, The Ladykillers, and that masterpiece of slow-burning existential horror, No Country For Old Men in particular.

Yes, absolutely; as soon as I started thinking about criminals on the run I started thinking about suitcases full of money, Fargo, and ambiguously preternatural hitmen with bizarre favored weapons (gotta love that bolt pistol) and/or taste in beverages.

I think part of the charm of stuff like Twin Peaks and even a lot of Lovecraft's work is that it's not clear whether something "supernatural" is happening for quite some time, and even when we get a peak behind the curtain there's no real revelation, just a deeper set of ambiguities.  I think that fits well with the sort of neo-noir stuff the Coen Brothers and Tarantino dabble in.

The "band of criminals" approach has the added advantage that everyone has a set of unique skills (driving, shooting, infiltration, smooth-talking, cracking heads, etc) which is always helpful in any roleplaying game.

Superbright

I'd also question the use of Fear Itself instead of, say, a reworked Trail of Cthulhu, but that's entirely because it's the one Gumshoe iteration I've never touched and I've heard it's a finicky beast. Then again, you're one of the people I'd trust most to run a good horror game, so maybe I shouldn't be so cynical.

From what I've seen the GUMSHOE variants are fairly close.  I was under the impression that Trail of Cthulhu - which I do not own/have not played - was more old-timey i.e. 1930s oriented?  Is that accurate or is it more generic?

My guess as to what people find finnicky are the Risk Factors, which remind me a little bit of Fate compels and do strike me as potentially fiddly, but hopefully I can weave them in organically.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rhamnousia on April 01, 2014, 11:38:36 AM
With GUMSHOE, era is largely a function of what sort of investigative and general skills you have access to and what you can do with them. Trail of Cthulhu is definitely oriented towards a Depression-era setting, but Pelgrane has published adventures set everywhere from the Great War to the Cold War. My personal opinion when it comes to GUMSHOE is that if you're planning on using it for modern games (and especially if the characters are going to be criminals with defined group roles), go with Night's Black Agents: it's the most thoroughly-developed iteration of my system so far, extremely flexible, and designed so that you can easily pare down the more "cinematic" elements if you want to run a tense, gritty game. Then again, even as I'm typing this, I looked at the SRD you posted and it does a reasonable job of synthesizing a good, generic form of the system.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on April 01, 2014, 11:44:55 AM
I figured Night's Black Agents might encourage PCs of a slightly higher power level than the one I was envisioning, but I could be wrong.  Mostly I'm interested in GUMSHOE as a system, and the rest is just frills.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rhamnousia on April 01, 2014, 11:53:43 AM
At its lowest setting, characters start with 55 build points and a Health cap of 10, so combat can get remarkably grim remarkably quickly. Now that I've read it through all the way, that SRD is pretty fantastic and I can't believe I didn't realize they'd released one.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on April 01, 2014, 04:25:58 PM
Yeah, the SRD will be super-useful at my gaming table, where everyone has a phone/tablet/laptop handy already (this is one of the reasons I primarily run Pathfinder).

On the subject of voice recordings: I'm planning on including a series of audio-tapes constituting the dream journal of a fence and smuggler, "Mr. Fox."  He's an experienced, streetwise, hardened criminal, but also kind of eccentric... he might be doing the recordings for the benefit of his therapist, or possibly he's convinced he can determine mystic secrets from them or something, I haven't decided.  I got so many generous volunteers to do voice stuff - does anyone particularly like the sound of this guy?


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on April 01, 2014, 04:37:33 PM
Any particular voice you looking for? Nasal, deep, gravelly, raspy?


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on April 01, 2014, 05:35:17 PM
I'm not picky, to be honest, and I'd feel bad about asking for a certain type of voice.  Some of the best gangsters don't sound much like gangsters.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LD on April 01, 2014, 10:22:32 PM
I'd like to hear about who else you'd like voiced before choosing one. That being said, my voice is a bit goofy and light, so I can probably cover the eccentric part of the above fellow.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 28, 2016, 07:30:04 PM
Did you ever run a game in this setting?


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on May 28, 2016, 08:12:20 PM
My reach exceeded my grasp with this one, although I like the idea of writing more about the Falls.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LoA on May 28, 2016, 08:19:25 PM

Steerpike

My reach exceeded my grasp with this one, although I like the idea of writing more about the Falls.

This breaks my heart. I would love to play in this. Still this happens to me all the time.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 28, 2016, 08:39:57 PM

Steerpike

Although I like the idea of writing more about the Falls.

I'll certainly not complain. :)


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LoA on May 28, 2016, 10:03:46 PM

Rose-of-Vellum

Steerpike

Although I like the idea of writing more about the Falls.

I'll certainly not complain. :)


I didn't want to be rude, but I second this.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 31, 2016, 02:33:09 PM
With Steerpike's graciously given permission, I'm starting an online campaign using an adapted version of Witiko Falls (i.e., I'm adapting it to fit into the WoD setting with the intention of running a hybrid "blue-book", VtM/VtR game). I'm hosting the game via Obsidian Portal on the WIP wiki: https://witikofalls.obsidianportal.com/wikis/home-page

I thought I'd share in case anyone wants to take a gander.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on May 31, 2016, 04:09:56 PM
My god that's such an awesome series of pages! I'm really just incredibly flattered. It looks incredible.

Thanks so much for crediting me! Honestly, this is so cool I wouldn't mind having my real name (Jonathan Newell) and twitter handle (@Edweirdian) attached to it in the credits.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 31, 2016, 04:32:22 PM
Shucks. Glad you like the pages thus far. As requested, I added your name and linked twitter account.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Steerpike on May 31, 2016, 04:33:15 PM
Cheers!

 BTW, I caught a reference to Crow Castle, which I now believe is called ROSEWATER, in The Spooks section.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 31, 2016, 04:35:14 PM
Thanks for the catch!


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LoA on May 31, 2016, 06:23:00 PM

Steerpike

My god that's such an awesome series of pages! I'm really just incredibly flattered. It looks incredible.

Thanks so much for crediting me! Honestly, this is so cool I wouldn't mind having my real name (Jonathan Newell) and twitter handle (@Edweirdian) attached to it in the credits.

Reading that was the first time I ever got chills reading something. I think it's the pictures. They are spot on in terms of atmosphere. Also Edweirdian is an incredible name.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on May 31, 2016, 06:27:09 PM
Thanks, LoA. I have a bunch more for intended future pages, so hopefully the chills will continue. :) 



Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: LoA on June 02, 2016, 06:22:34 PM
So where do I sign up for the game?


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on June 02, 2016, 06:24:26 PM
That's quite flattering, LoA. I'm in the process of drafting up a character creation page. If you're still interested after it's posted and read, sign up for OP (if you haven't already) and send me a PM.


Title: Re: Witiko Falls
Post by: Rose-of-Vellum on June 05, 2016, 01:22:36 AM
Okay, LoA & Co., the meta-posts are done -or done enough for interested parties to create characters and get the low-down.