GM Notes: Dancers in an Evening Fog

My gaming group and I have now completed the first scenario of Horror on the Orient Express, “Dancers in an Evening Fog.” If you’d like to catch up, feel free to click on these finely-crafted links to the appropriate Roll to Dodge episodes!

One of the interesting things going in to HotOE with a group of investigators who have not investigated before is the intrinsic skepticism. This is a result of my players portraying solid, reasonable people who have not ever encountered the supernatural before. The primary consequence of this skepticism is that their investigators don’t deliberately sniff around some of the stranger things in active search of trouble.

This will change. [Insert evil GM laugh here.]

A group of investigators more seasoned (specifically, seasoned by ichor, blood, and adrenaline) in the ways of the uncaring cosmos would have leapt at the chance to chase down the various oddities taking place around London. What this presented, as a GM, was the opportunity to bring the story to the characters.

This is, like many things in tabletop RPGs, something that’s quite relevant to writing as well. Very rarely do you have characters who are immediately, willingly, one hundred percent caught up in the thick of things right off the bat. Luke Skywalker has to buy some janky-ass droids off a bunch of Jawas. Frodo needs Gandalf to ask him if it’s secret, if it’s safe. Commander Shepard must get the contents of a Prothean beacon jackhammered into her brain on Eden Prime. Likewise, the investigators in HotOE had to be unwillingly, unknowingly drawn into the madness.

Amanda accidentally made it easy by creating Ms. Sally Donahue, INTREPID (cub) REPORTER. Basically any time I wanted to draw a PC’s attention to something, I just needed Ms. Bennett to haul Sally out of her bedsit at an ungodly hour to go see, say, a partially-flayed corpse.

(Incidentally, it has been brought to my attention that there is no such thing as a one-pound note. It would have been a coin. I apologize for any immersion that was lost.)

The scenario itself also makes it relatively simple to draw the investigators in as a group. The predetermined (or quickly-formed) relationships that the investigators have with Professor Smith allow ol’ Arthur to be a harbinger of the plot proper, which is the hunt for the fragments of the sinister Sedefkar Simulacrum. The only downside to this scenario is the fact that most of “Dancers” is occupied with establishing Smith and his links to the investigators, along with a liberal smattering of exposition. Some of my players were rather curious as to when things were going to get scary.

I will say that there are certain advantages to having the first scenario be a slow boil. It allows the GM to ease investigators who haven’t experienced the supernatural into the main plot without fear of them fleeing for their godforsaken lives from the main story because the Fungi from Yuggoth or some shit just dropped into their lap.

Of course, with the investigators now well on their way to Paris, there are only more horrors (and dick jokes) to come!

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