The Brass Fraternity (Part 3)
Last time, I put together the basic skeleton of the adventure structure, shown below:
A: The PCs are invited to a convention with local media coverage by agents of the founder. As they arrive, agents of the Brass Fraternity stage a Crime targeting the founder’s agents.
B: A game room at the university.
E-> A clue with obfuscated meaning
C: A library at the university.
E-> A clue with obfuscated meaning
D: A secluded location where a local specialist (who is actually the founder in disguise) can be found.
E-> The founder clarifies the meanings of the clues from B and C.
E: The location for the ritual to release the leopard-simulacrum from the painting.
This time, I’ll work out some more details about the Brass Fraternity in order to flesh out more of the links and start pulling it all together. However, before I even start doing any random table rolls, it would be worthwhile to collect my thoughts and musings on them.
The Fraternity is a relatively new order but old enough that the university has some history, likely established in the last 50-100 years. Their general goal is the pursuit of hidden knowledge, particularly knowledge related to the true nature of the cosmos/universe. They have a general belief that the Sinister Pits painting will allow them to commune with the true gods, but they do not yet have all the details of the ritual needed to open that connection.
There is mythological precedent for leopards being used as symbols for conduits between the mortal world and the gods, whether as a mount for Dionysus in Greece or as one of Set’s agents in Egypt, to name two examples. More broadly, they are often associated with aspects of night, femininity, and ferocity, which can all fit together rather nicely for this adventure’s needs.
Also, since I want a more specific name for the leopard-simulacrum, I’ll call it Vhonyc’Huiunglbh-Agbith (Pantera fans with top-shelf cryptology skills might be able to figure that out). Aside from noting that it should be very difficult to face in direct combat, its actual capabilities can be sorted out later.
Where does the brass in the Brass Fraternity come from? My gut instinct is that they wear bindings of blackened brass to protect their bodies, minds, and spirits against the dangers of their research, but the exact details can be tailored to how much mutilation by scorched metal bonds a given group of players would find enjoyable to hear about.
For the founder, a few rolls on the table of Russian names from Stars Without Number gives me Aleksandra Volokh. I like the idea that she was actually killed in the past, and although her spirit was brought back from whatever afterlife, she was so altered by those experiences that she’s gone from wanting knowledge about cosmic truths to something else (possibly wanting to spread destruction, possibly wanting to destroy her past research). She can now inhabit her descendants, but unfortunately for her, the bindings of the Brass Fraternity ward off complete possession, hence why she is working through a third party now rather than just taking control of the cult outright.
Since the whole “small college town” setting makes me think of places in Canada and USA, rolling on the table of English names reveals that the possessed victim is Georgia Turner. Going back to Silent Legions for the one-roll Actor creation tables gives the following details about her:
Age: Aged or mature in their position
Social standing: An unproven person or untrusted newcomer
Profession: Day laborer, fry cook, landscaper, or low-status blue collar
Memorable quirks: Always talking and thinking about their family
(Note: I skipped rolling her relation to the situation, the problem that drives her, or her advantage in the situation since those seem like they’d all tie back into being possessed by Aleksandra)
The social standing seems a little awkward to connect with her age and profession at first glance, but I could see it as a case of her having changed from typical employment to starting her own business. Perhaps she was a waitress at a diner that shut down recently, so now she’s starting up a food truck business, where she’s struggling because her skills didn’t quite transfer over as well as she’d anticipated. In fact, maybe she received some financing from the Brass Fraternity because of a blood relation to one of the professors involved, which is how Aleksandra was able to get close enough to jump into her flesh. Now, Aleksandra is using Georgia’s frequent interactions with students to manipulate them into undermining the Fraternity’s work for her own purposes.
I have some initial ideas for how that could tie into contacting the PCs, but before I get too far ahead of myself, I think this would be a good time to roll on the one-roll Crime creation tables as well:
It was discovered by: It was reported to the police by bystanders or survivors
Gossip or news about it is: Very quiet, with few people having heard of it
The seeming type of crime is: Extortion, probably kept semi-secret by the victim
The police attitude is: Restrained; someone important wants this hushed up
The witnesses were: Conflicting; reports differ on crucial points
The crime scene investigation is: Lost; the report has been stolen, destroyed or hidden
A clue about the crime is: The victim talked about a troubling hint with others
It really is remarkable how a good random generation table can seem to fit so well with preexisting details. In my previous post for this series, I’d thought about the opening scene being some sort of convention with local media coverage that the PCs were invited to by an agent of Aleksandra. That explains why there’s so little gossip and conflicting witness testimonies (the media are trying to cover it up on behalf of the Fraternity). The police being in on the cover-up answers part of the question from the first post on how much influence the Fraternity has over local authorities. Georgia giving hints about her problems with repaying the Fraternity’s loan goes well with her current background. It’s almost like it was all planned as a package from the beginning.
For the ritual to release/control/re-bind Vhonyc’Huiunglbh-Agbith, I can use the random dark sorcery tables as a starting point:
Words for creating a spell’s name: Canon, Esoteric, Masters
It was first devised by means of: Retrieval from a Kelipah
How powerful is the spell: Grand, 5 needed things, 9 days to cast
To cast it, the sorcerer needs: Two particular types of locations, a particular type of object, a particular type of participant, and a recent kind of action
Types of location: the ruin of a human habitation, the heart of a city
Type of object: an entire sanctified building
Type of participant: an exotic animal
Recent act: initiation of a new believer
Once again, very fitting results. The Canonical Beckoning of Esoteric Masters is a spell that can summon an outer entity to a matching mortal vessel. It requires a lengthy ritual in an edifice that sees frequent uses by hundreds of people and that is sanctified for a purpose matching its public front, as the psychological gestalt built up from the resonance of its users’ thoughts is a critical component in enacting the ritual. At its climax, a new believer must be stripped of their blindness, which is then consumed to unify an animal vessel with the essence of its otherworldly counterpart. For the next six hours, the residual energy can be harnessed to imprint commands on the entity, to banish the entity, or to summon further entities from the same Kelipah to other available vessels; beyond that time, a complete repetition of the ritual is required to enact the effects.
That all covers my main objectives for this post, but before wrapping it up, it might be a good idea to take a roll on the Ambush, Conflict, Escape, Respite, and Challenge tables, to see if they stir up any engaging ideas.
Ambush: The most competent available minion of the Enemy is sent to deal with the PCs in a drive-by attack or sniping attempt. They won’t bother to fire a control shot into downed PCs, so even the mortally wounded might survive, and they won’t hang around long enough to invite concerted response.
Conflict: The thugs of the Enemy seek out the heroes to intimidate or thrash them into breaking off their investigations. The intended violence is unlikely to be lethal unless the Enemy is confident they can get away with it without stirring up yet more trouble.
Escape: A Friend or ally is captured and kept at a well-guarded Place, from which the PCs must successfully extract them.
Respite: Some hostile action against the Enemy, either by a Friend or a random foe, distracts them from the PCs for a brief time.
Challenge – Infiltrating a Place: The interior is unexpectedly tightly-sealed.
Challenge – Finding an Important Object: It’s been disguised as a less significant object.
Challenge – Information to Obtain: A USB drive containing cryptic documents.
Challenge – Hidden Fact or Needed Skill: Recollect an old atrocity related to the current event.
Challenge – People Who Want Something: They want help, to thwart some sort of rival.
Challenge – People Who Fear Something: They fear an important city official’s displeasure.
Challenge – Hostile Opposition: A victim of occult powers transformed into a monster.
Challenge – Environmental Dangers: Toxic fumes from industrial processes or chemicals in use.
Honestly, none of those are jumping out at me nearly as much as the crime and ritual results did. Nonetheless, the Ambush and Conflict scenes can work as ideas for how the Fraternity responds to PC interference, while the Escape and Respite scenes can be levered by Aleksandra to build trust. The place Challenge could apply to node E (either with sentient guards or mystical/automated defenses). The object, information, and hidden fact Challenges could apply to the clues that Aleksandra (or a sufficiently-skilled PC) can decrypt. The person-based Challenges could apply to both Aleksandra and Georgia. The opposition Challenge is certainly Vhonyc’Huiunglbh-Agbith, and the environmental Challenge could apply to the Kalipah beyond the painting. All in all, nothing remarkable, but I leave them for my subconscious to dig at for now.
Putting all of that together starts filling in more of the adventure’s details:
A: The PCs are invited to a convention with local media coverage by agents of Aleksandra. As they arrive, agents of the Brass Fraternity approach Georgia to make threats about repaying her loan.
B-> Students at the convention recognize the agents as having been around the game room to look for students struggling to get financial aid.
C-> One of the agents has a book from the library about the origins and symbolic meanings of various occult incantations.
D-> Georgia’s address can be found on the registration and permit records for her food truck.
B: A game room at the university.
E-> A USB drive in the lost-and-found has plan drawings for the art gallery, but the title blocks have been redacted.
C: A library at the university.
E-> The agent with the book in node A also has overdue books on the use of artistry to transcend the limitations of reality and on the study of stories about tulpas and other thought-manifestations.
D: Georgia’s hovel on the outskirts of town.
E-> Aleksandra can clarify the meanings of the clues to node E from nodes B and C.
E: An art gallery where the Brass Fraternity is working the Canonical Beckoning of Esoteric Masters to summon Vhonyc’Huiunglbh-Agbith. The hidden rooms with the Sinister Pits painting are guarded by electronic locks and CCTV cameras.
Next time, I’ll focus on filling in the remaining clues, putting together general plans for the Fraternity, and smoothing out the rough spots. This is shaping up into something intriguing!