We’re back! It’s time for another preview from The Paranet Papers, our in-development “catch up” project on a few of the more recent books plus tour of the world for the Dresden Files RPG. As we’ve said before, we don’t have a publication date yet! This one’s going to take as long as it takes.
Today, thanks to hitting a magnificent 1800+ “likes” over on facebook, we’re taking a trip along the open roads of the mortal world and the Nevernever, the place that’s never a place: The Ways Between.
This will be our last preview for a long while as we tighten our Dresden focus to getting the Paranet Papers text into final shape. Enjoy!
The Ways Between – Example Episode
Think of an episode as a miniaturized version of city creation, but focused only on one particular situation or problem. Instead of a broad swath of faces and locations, you’re going to create only what you need in order to present your players with a session full of drama and tension.
Theme: Work, If You Don’t Mind Danger
On a railroad bridge just north of town there’s a collection of scrawled hobo signs. Most of them are worn with the decades, illegible, but there’s one that’s clear as day, brand new. It tells you to go find a man named Morris if you’re looking for work and fair pay, and that’s exactly what Morris provides.
Dale Morris runs the Aberforth Coal Mine, and he’s the most recent in a long line of people to do so. Every few years a new manager comes in because, I’ll tell you, the Pit will chew you up and spit you out. That’s what the locals call the mine: “The Pit.” Sounds ominous, don’t it.
Doesn’t seem like much on the surface. It’s a coal mine owned by some energy company or other, tasked with the job of keeping profits high and costs low. Morris handles this by keeping a close eye on the books and by hiring day laborers that don’t come anywhere near those books. He pays you cash money, under the table, and he’ll pay a fair wage. Day laborers being what they are, though, that fair wage is considerably less than what he’d pay if he were hiring on the books.
Guilt-ridden Mine Manager
Motivation: Keep the demon appeased.
Face of: The Pit
I’ve worked for Morris a time or two. He’s a harried man, always rushing from place to place, and he moves as if he’s struggling under a weight. Smells sort of orange-yellow, like a mixture of panic and guilt. He pays well, treats his workers well (for the most part), but tolerates no drunkenness or disorderliness; if you’re there, you’re there to work.
Morris rarely comes into town; seems like a bit of a loner. As I understand it, every manager of the Pit has been the same way, keeping to themselves and not socializing with the locals. I suspect I know why. See, the last time I worked at the Pit I found out what Dale’s secret was, what the secret every manager of the Pit has kept for God only knows how long.
There’s a demon in the bowels of the Pit.
Some time, long ago I’d wager, some poor fool broke a seal or incanted a ritual or some nonsense and released a demon into the world. The demon’s bound to the Pit, it can’t get out, but it can make a huge amount of trouble for anyone who wants to mine the Pit if they don’t keep it appeased. I’ll bet you’re asking the question now, “Why do people still try to mine the Pit?”
Greed, that’s why. See, the Pit is a profitable mine, far more profitable than any other coal mine in the region. The coal’s always easy to get to, the mine never collapses, and it reports record profits year after year. I’d imagine its demonic inhabitant has something to do with that.
Motivation: Escape the Pit.
That’s what they call the demon, “Bright Eyes.” At least, those who know about it and are still alive, which is a small number. It’s a name that’s been handed down from manager to manager according to Morris, and he thinks it’s because all you remember about it after you talk to it are those two points of light, boring into your soul.
BUTTERS: Turn around, Bright Eyes.
MURPHY: Thanks. Now that song will be in my head for days.
Bright Eyes has a bargain with the managers of the Pit, and that gets passed down from manager to manager. I don’t know the particulars of the bargain, but based on what I’ve learned about the goings-on at the Pit, my guess is that Bright Eyes keeps the mine profitable and safe and the manager has to feed it a worker or two every couple of weeks. Since these workers are mostly transients, nobody notices the disappearances.
MURPHY: This is…this needs to stop NOW.
BUTTERS: Agreed, but we’re not exactly overflowing with people to send down there to do battle with demons.
MURPHY: Yeah, I know. But this place is going on the List.
BILLY: Um…just how long is that List at this point?
MURPHY: Really, Will? You’re going to get snarky with me about this?
As far as powers go, I’ve heard a few things but none of it’s substantiated. I’ve heard the thing has the strength of ten men, that it can blend into the shadows, that it can creep into your mind and root around in there, and that it can burn a man from the inside out in a matter of seconds (though it likes to take longer). Proceed with caution.
Threat: The Shackles Are Weakening
This arrangement isn’t ideal but, all things considered, it could be a lot worse, right? Well, if it ain’t worse, it’s gonna be really soon.
Here’s what Morris and his predecessors didn’t know—they’ve been helping Bright Eyes escape this entire time. It’s not like a demon has to eat on a regular basis in order to stay alive; those souls it’s consuming are a source of power. It’s been building that power up, growing it slowly for some purpose that can’t possibly be good. I did some digging with the hobo crowd and it seems like this thing’s getting more powerful over time. Not only that, it’s getting hungrier; it’s asking for more and more souls and paying more and more for them.
I think Bright Eyes is gearing up for a prison break, probably sooner rather than later. At one point this was a problem that could wait, but that time is getting further and further behind us. Sometime very soon, someone’s going to have to stop the flow of souls and maybe enact some kind of binding or banishment to get rid of this thing, and that ain’t gonna be easy.