The Scars section of Artifacts (p.24-41) provides tools for building cohesive player character groups. It also describes how player characters of the same Cult can come together as a group. Taking Scars as a start point, this and other Cult Campaign Seeds posts explore ideas for campaigns built around a single Cult.
The aim is to provide gamemasters with ideas that can be expanded, grafted into other campaign seeds, or otherwise altered as needed. With that in mind, here are some ideas for Spitalian groups.
No More Heroes
We’d taken the wrong road. It was obvious for two reasons: first, Perez was on map duty, which usually led to disaster; and second, because we were heading west and down toward the river when we were supposed to be ascending toward the foothills.
The day was also hot and the air still. Which of course went very well with neoprene suits. It was all quite annoying. “Dammit, Perez!” I griped.
As was our custom, Ulmann and Motti joined in with “Dammit, Perez!” in unison.
“Alright, alright. Look, I mean, this map is crap. So don’t blame me.” She was ahead of us, kicking up dust as we crested a low, shrub-covered rise and looked down at a ramshackle village. We were perhaps fifty paces from the outermost shack when she stopped.
“Hmm, that’s weird. Look,” she pointed, “there are some Spitalian horses hitched out in front of the roadhouse, but I didn’t see any mention in the morning briefing of any patrols being anywhere near this area today. Did you all?”
Motti whistled low. “Hey, I recognize that horse! It belongs to Preservist Ferdon.”
As if on cue, from inside the roadhouse we all heard the unmistakeable bellow of Preservist Ferdon. “I’ve heard enough of this horse shit! Kill them all!”
It could have been instinct. I’d like to think it was. But it was probably just fear. We all wordlessly dropped flat on the dry, hard path.
We heard shouts from inside that roadhouse, and screams. Cries. Some of them sounded too high-pitched to be coming from men, and some, well, some sounded awfully young. It all probably lasted no more than thirty seconds, but if that’s the case it was the longest thirty seconds I’ll ever live through.
The front door of the roadhouse swung open. Preservist Ferdon strode out to his horse, his black Preservalis sword painted in blood. He sheathed the sword angrily and swung onto his horse with a fury. “Come on. Now!” he yelled back at the roadhouse.
A trio of Famulancers rushed out, the blades of their splayers dripping blood. They looked afraid and confused as they fumbled to mount their horses. “We’ll clean up on the road,” the Preservist barked as he galloped north through the village, their backs to us.
The Famulancers followed in a cloud of hooves and dust, and after a few moments we all stood up. Ulmann walked down toward the roadhouse and we followed wordlessly. The wooden walls were blood-soaked. At least two dozen lifeless bodies of children, women, and men – the true number was impossible to discern – were strewn about in a disgusting carnage of maimed limbs and slashed torsos.
There were no weapons anywhere. These people had obviously been rounded up and butchered in cold blood. Like livestock. Actually no, livestock would have received more dignified deaths than this.
Everyone but Motti had to run outside and retch. Thankfully we didn’t find anyone else, dead or alive, in the village. But the horrors we saw in that roadhouse were enough for all of us.
The Preservists of the Old School, unanswerable to any but their own, were supposedly a thing of the past. Yet here we were, witnesses to brutality visited upon innocents by the most powerful Spitalian for three days’ ride in any direction.
Finally Perez broke the silence. “What do we do now?”
Characters with the Concepts of Mentor, Protector, Martyr, and Healer have Affinity with this Loyalty-driven group, while Aversion greets those with Abomination and Ruler Concepts.
The stead was too small to even have a name. It sat on a little hill in the midst of an endless expanse of snow-covered fields. Three stone huts stuck out like little white-capped mushrooms arranged in a circle.
Donner peered through her spyglass. “Yyyep,” she drawled. “Nobody seems to be outside. They’re all tucked in like ticks in their hovels. If we just wait until night like we planned, it should be easy to round ‘em all up and take a look at the children.”
We stood in a broad swath of pine trees, tucked behind trunks, hidden by the dark shadows cast by their massive limbs.
Bormann coughed his, “I don’t agree with you but I don’t have the balls to say so” cough. “Uh, I know this sounds easy, but if the intel is right, there may be as many as three juvenile Psychonauts in that stead.”
He looked at us nervously. “Doesn’t it say something about that family that they’re willing to keep that many of ’em in their midst?”
“Well, you have a point,” murmured Donner. “I’ve heard stories back at the Spital of families that view their little monsters as signs of divine favor or the like. We should be extra careful when…”
An arrow suddenly appeared, sticking up out of the back of Donner’s neck as if it had grown from her spine straight and tall. She fell over.
“In the trees! In the trees!” Bormann shouted as we all ran back toward our horses. Tzarni took two in his back and went down. As we approached the horses we saw they’d been cut down, and Martens with them.
Our ambushers whooped and hollered after us, dropping down to pursue us as we thrashed through the snow as fast as we could. With most of our squad dead, a half an hour until nightfall, no horses, and fifteen clicks to our outpost, the odds of us surviving were long indeed.
What had started as a simple Inspect & Detain mission was now a run for our lives.
Characters with the Concepts of Adventurer, Travel, Disciple, and Mediator have Affinity with this Chance-driven group, while Aversion greets those with Hermit and Destroyer Concepts.
Men in Black
The monitor showed an empty morgue, from the view of a ceiling camera. Two black-cloaked figures entered. They swiftly opened a storage pod and hauled a stiff, pale corpse by arms and legs to the examination slab. One grabbed a huge bone saw from the tool table and unceremoniously began cutting the cold corpse in half just above the hips.
In under a minute the corpse was in two pieces, and one at a time, the figures stuffed the halves into a nondescript insulated supply crate, closing and locking it swiftly. They closed the storage pod, slid it back into the wall, and lifted the supply crate, each grabbing a handled end. They opened the door and exited the morgue. Then the footage froze.
Surgeon Fischer issued a drawn-out sigh and tugged at the waddle under his chin absently. His flabby bulk was wedged behind the massive steel desk he used to project importance. “Scherr, this is not good. This is very bad. We need to tread carefully.”
He looked up at you. “I don’t need to tell you it’s bad enough that a Hippocrat died of unknown causes. Or that some already suspect the Chroniclers had something to do with it. He’d tangled with them before of course. Because the man had no tact!” His little apricot ears reddened.
“Now someone has stolen the Hippocrat’s damned corpse before Surgeon DeGriz could get here to conduct the autopsy. This is bad.”
He tugged at the wattle again, more vigorously now, as if trying to tear it off. “Someone might draw the conclusion that I had something to do with this, that I didn’t want DeGriz to conduct an autopsy for some reason.” He sputtered, wild-eyed.
“This is just bad. And what if it’s the damned Apocalyptics? I mean, it’s known that he, uh, had incurred some debts at their house of ill repute.”
Finally he pulled his hand from his neck and put it on the desk, as if by force of will. “Look, I want you to conduct an investigation. Get to the bottom of this. You and the other Famulancers have a reputation for getting on well with members of other Cults.”
He nodded to himself in anticipation. “Yes, yes. Maybe you have some contacts or something, contacts that could help get to the bottom of this.” He was getting wound up until he caught the look in your eye.
With visible effort, he collected his breath. “But please be careful. Nobody can know that the body has been taken. And time is critical. Surgeon DeGriz is due to arrive day after tomorrow.”
You saluted and turned to leave Fischer’s office, when he remembered to put a little sweetener in the shit sandwich he’d just given you. “Umm, Scherr, if you and your crew get to the bottom of this, I’ll see to it that you all get assigned to Toulon. I have ears, you know. That’s where you all want to be stationed, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir. Yes it is.” That was all you said. The clock was ticking and you had much to do.
Characters with the Concepts of Creator, Conqueror, Visionary, and Ruler have Affinity with this Ambition-driven group, while Aversion greets those with Defiler and Traditionalist Concepts.