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The Purifiers

September 05, 2015

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May 05, 2015

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September 05, 2015

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Beyond Adventures: The Watering Hole

 

New Water

A woman stands outside with her microphone in hand as she talks into the camera. There's water with some ducks swimming in it to her right, and a house covered by some trees in the distance behind her. With the sky a soft red the scene is truly breathtaking. No doubt done for visual flare. The woman's skin is a nice tanned complexion with nice smooth features and natural brown hair and eyes. Subtle slants at the corner of her eyes suggest she may have some Asian heritage in her blood, but short of that and a few other hard to notice features that bloodline seems to be recessive. Parts of her hair are out of place due to the breeze coming in off the water.

"Hi, I'm standing here in New Water. Behind me you may see a small rural town: beautiful, peaceful, quiet, serene, simple. But how simple is it really? As of late, not very simple at all, and not that serene either. A local farmer, Jacob Wheaton, has been the victim of acts of terror. Every night for the past week, one or more of his livestock has been brutally butchered. Meat ripped as if by some savage animal, blood and intestines strewn about. I've been told that the sights make a butchering plant look humane in comparison. The act of some wild animal you may say? The strangest part of all of this is that none of the meat was eaten, no parts taken, no theft of property. Everything seems to still be there, just in multiple pieces.

"But who would do such a thing? And why would they? Police continue to investigate, but we may have a clue already. It seems that whoever did this also left behind a sort of calling card. Every night of an attack, we also found one of these." An aerial view of a crop circle is shown on the screen, but Lily's voice continues to sound, "Seven nights of animal attacks, and seven crop circles left behind on Mr. Wheaton's property." The screen switches back to Lily. "Is this someone's desperate attempt for attention, or could it be ... we're not alone?" She says the last part with a smile on her face and the hint of amusement in her tone, displaying she meant it as a light-hearted comment and yet said respectfully not to offend those who really believe in aliens. "This has been Lily Beauchamp, from New Water. Now back to Dvonn and our studio."

Most people that pass through the town of New Water see a typical, nice, small rural town. The town rests on the edge of a lake. Some argue it should be more appropriately named a pond, but the locals take offense to such comments. Visitors are uncommon to New Water, except the occasional couple wanting to vacation in a homey cabin or someone just passing through and stopping in for the night. The type of town where nothing very interesting happens, until something like the savage butchering of livestock shows up on the local news station.

Now this normally quiet town is beginning to see an increase in visitors. There are almost always two or three strangers in town, sometimes more, coming just to see what all the fuss is about. While numbers like that may be small in comparison to a big city, to a town like New Water it's enough to be noticed and, if word continues to spread, those numbers may only increase all the more. This is a fact that seems to trouble many of the New Water residents. While they're not rude, strangers in town do appear to make some uncomfortable and suspicious.

 

Enter the Player Characters

The group of player characters enter town after the news report. There are several reasons the group may now be in New Water. They've arrived to follow up the story of strange cow mutilations, happen to just be passing through, heard some ghost hunter lives in the area who they need to answer some questions, clairvoyant dreams, or several other possibilities is up to the G.M. and players. The important thing is that the players are there now. Note: New Water is located in a non-specific state. This makes it easy to fit into a local area the G.M. is knowledgeable on and feels comfortable with or to easily fit into a nearby location of a pre-existing campaign.

Even if the player character didn't know of the cow mutilations before entering town, they'll learn soon enough. The topic is still fresh in the town, and there's even a small make shift booth selling t-shirts. One t-shirt that's easily visible from the road depicts a cow on an operating table with its legs and hooves up in the air. A bunch of saws and other cutting tools attached to some alien device looming precariously over it with a Roswell Grey (alien) at the controls. Over the head of the Roswell Grey is a thought balloon that reads: "I know a left my spare keys in one of these things."

Asking around can bring the characters quickly up to speed as well as provide some rumors going around to what could be the cause. Whether they ask some curious visitors in town or the locals (who have at least heard some of the theories from the strangers in their town as well), or if researched online, doesn't matter. The G.M. can pick a fitting rumor depending on who they ask, roll randomly, or create his/her own. When rolling randomly, the G.M. should roll a 1D4 if asking visitors in town and a 1D6 if asking the locals.

 

General Rumors

1: Aliens. One of the most obvious rumors going around is that aliens have visited the town. This fits along well with the crop circles found. Why they're butchering cows is unknown, but there are a few theories to that as well. 1a: Probably some type of weird experiment. 1b: Maybe they're studying our anatomy for an invasion! 1c: They're dissecting livestock the same way high school students dissect frogs in school. The crop circles may actually be the student's name, or maybe their grade.

2: Hoax. If it's not aliens doing it then it stands to reason this is all just some elaborate hoax, someone just trying to get attention and their name in the paper. Maybe it's Jacob Wheaton, or maybe the whole town is in on it. The recent news report has been bringing in new visitors, so maybe they've planned this just to drum up some new sales.

3: Disease. What's happening to the livestock isn't some intelligent thought out act, but the result of some new type of disease. Everyone is so busy focusing on the crop circles that they're missing some of the evidence. Right now it's limited to just one farm, but if the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) doesn't do something about this soon it may spread ... maybe even start to spread to people! The cows weren't ripped apart from the outside, but from the inside out. That's at least what the forensics reports say: from the inside out. Doesn't that sound like a disease to you? Okay, maybe some type of new parasite, but either way it should be quarantined before it's too late. "How did I get a look at the forensics report? Um ... don't ask. You know what, on second thought, I didn't look at them at all. I don't know what I'm talking about. Just forget the whole thing man."

4: Government. The government is behind it. Either they're running some type of experiments on the animals, or maybe this is just a test on the population to see how they react. The government is always up to something!

 

Local Rumors

5: Cursed. This is mostly a local belief, but some of the townsfolk believe the town is cursed. A strange man showed up in town, and ever since then strange things happen now and again. There is a fairly strong belief that he cursed the town.

6: Mad Scientist. Another local belief is that the Stratus boy who always keeps to himself has something to do with this. Little is known about Kent Stratus, but he always seems so dark and mysterious. He stays locked up in his house most of the time, but when he does walk around town people tend to leave him a wide berth. They think he's up to something though no one quite knows what, and no one wants to be the one to find out.

 

Where Next?

How the player characters decide to proceed will be up to them. As with any group, player characters can often be very unpredictable and think of things that no amount of planning can prepare for. To help, details for some suggestions and possibilities follow. If the players decide to take a route not included here, try to stay flexible and accommodate them. Use the following concepts as a guideline and adapt to suit their needs.

 

The Farm

One of the most obvious avenues of investigation is to start off at the source. This means visiting the farm of Jacob Wheaton. His home is on the edge of town and not really next to anything else, as if somehow isolated even in the small town of New Water. From the outside the house looks older and like it could use a paint job. Not that the house is in disrepair, just that it's showing some of its age. Behind the house are the crop fields, most notably stalks of corn.

When entering into his house players should roll a D20 (save vs. magic, 12 or higher), but don't tell them what it's for. In fact, it may even be a good idea to just have them roll a D20 throughout the game (before and after) for random and mundane things, just to keep them paranoid and guessing. This also helps keep them from knowing when a roll is important and using out of character knowledge to study otherwise unsuspecting clues.

Inside the house is a rather plan home. There is a slight creak to a few of the floorboards and the pipes rattle for a moment before water comes out of the facets. However the home appears mostly in good shape, even if a little old. This is the home of a bachelor. While not filthy, the place looks like it could use a cleaning. In the living room there's a reupholstered recliner faces the TV, though the cushions look a bit worn. Next to that is a worn couch that could use some new cushions. Drab curtains hang from the windows. The only sign of color or flare comes from the flowers on the coffee table. They rest in an otherwise plain glass vase bottle. Those who failed their saving throw earlier have a certain appreciation for his bad taste in décor and the bottle vase seems to just fit right in. Note: The note about the vase should be worked seamlessly into the description of the rest of the room. This helps to have the bad rolls (failed saving throws) dismissed more as an appreciation for bad taste for added flavor instead of a plot element.

The kitchen is rather empty, with very little in the fridge. There are some dirty dishes in the sink that still need to be washed. Looking at his cupboards shows only three glasses and a few plates, as if this is not a man who entertains often. The small kitchen table has four seats around it, but close observation will show that only one seat shows any real signs of regular use.

 

Jacob Wheaton (NPC)

More commonly called "Jay" (or "J.") by the locals, some of the town may not even know who "Jacob" is at first. Jay had always been a quiet guy and never had many friends or enemies. In many ways people considered him a fixture in the town more than a person: Something you kind of see, but never really notice. This leads to no one in town having really anything interesting to say about the guy, good or bad.  Now with the livestock butchering, crop circles, and news report, everyone in town knows who he is. Still, popularity isn't always a good thing.

New Water is a quiet town who keep to themselves. While the livestock issue is a serious problem, it should have been handled quietly. Most people suspect he leaked the information to the news on purpose just to get noticed (he didn't) and blame him for recent traffic of strangers. To make matters worse, some believe that he really did stage this as a hoax and just using the curse to free himself from the blame. The visitors who come always seem to just want to talk about the livestock and crop circles, never asking about him. This has left him feeling more dejected now than ever.

To relax and unwind Jay likes to go fishing on the lake, which can be considered odd since there are said to be no fish in the lake. He finds it peaceful and enjoys the solitude. With that said, he still feels a base desire to be accepted and liked by people, even if he really doesn't want to be with them often. For this reason he'll anxiously answer any questions about the events on his farm as best he can, aiming to please. Unfortunately, he doesn't know much. Then after all the people leave and they displayed interest only in the events and not him, he only feels emptier inside each time.

 

Medical Report

Following the information from Rumor 3, or maybe just due to player inspiration, the characters may attempt to get their hands on a copy of the medical report detailing the cow mutilations. This can prove a difficult challenge on the other hand as the records have been sealed. The characters may be able to use computer hacking to break into the medical examiner's computer files, perhaps have authorization due to profession or contacts (related to character background or prior campaign experiences), have the individual who mentioned it in Rumor 3 help them (left to G.M. discretion), or some other creative method to read the reports.

For those who can gain access to the records, as suggested by one of the rumors above the livestock are reported as having been destroyed from the inside out. The livestock bodies suffered from internal pressures that caused their bodies to burst, no known catalyst has yet to be discovered. All the body parts were found in the immediate area, as if they just dropped to the ground. Careful examination of the body parts reveals that no body parts are missing, and there are no signs of feeding or animal bites. There is concern that if this information ever became public it may only increase fear and paranoia. To avoid starting a panic, these findings have been kept quiet, or as quiet as they can be in a small town.

 

The Castaway

The local bar is the named The Castaway. Sooner or later most player characters will find their way to a bar, either to ask for local rumors or just to get a drink. This is a classic gamer trope and should not be overlooked (though not guaranteed). In this particular case, they may also come here looking for Jacob Wheaton., and they may meet him here instead of at his home/farm if they come at night. Ever since the news report he's been coming here. This is in part to get drunk due to depression, but also in the hopes of being surrounded by people and getting some attention.

While there are a few boating elements such as ropes and a life preserver hanging over the bar to help with the theme of the place, when all is said and done this is just another dimly lit bar. The bartender's name is Jessica Holt, but more commonly just called "Jess." Many of the men here come just for her. She's in her late thirties to early forties. Her P.B. is only 8, but the lighting and her reputation help give her a perceived P.B. of 11 while in the bar. Jess acts very available and isn't afraid to flirt to get better tips.

While the bar has little information on the cow mutilations, while here the player characters may learn about Tomáš Rosa, a regular at the bar, and his wife, Natalie. A little over a week ago, Natalie Rosa was found dead in her bath tub. Death was confirmed as drowning. Bruising around the neck suggests she was held down, indicating murder and not some fluke accident. Forensics showed no signs of a struggle until after she was submerged in the water, which suggests she knew and trusted her killer. The two were known to be having marital problems and evidence found at the scene all pointed to Tomáš as the killer.

Murder in itself isn't unheard of, even in a small town like this, but many do find it unusual. Despite his claims he didn't do it and having a friend as an alibi, the evidence against Tomáš is overwhelming enough that he's being held in custody. The residents are split on his guilt. Everyone agrees Tomáš was a scumbag, but a fair bit of the town has trouble believing he's a murderer and remains convinced he couldn't have done it, despite the evidence.

 

Tomáš Rosa (NPC)

Everyone in town says his name as Thomas. Tomáš wasn't born in this country, but actually a foreigner from overseas. He originally came over during his high school years and stayed after. A love or hate type of personality, he's very direct and bold. Some find his willingness to say and do anything endearing, while those same words and actions often irritate others and get him into trouble. There's a rumor he only married Natalie to help get a green card, though Tomáš denies that remark. He says that he really thought he loved her once, but that was before he discovered how much he truly hated her. Of course, he takes the vow "to death do us part" seriously, meaning he doesn't believe in divorce. This helps serve as motive, because it means if he ever wanted to leave her that one of them would have to die.

In his downtime Tomáš has been known to swim in the lake. This is not for exercise or recreation however. He swims to the bottom of the lake to look for anything valuable in the old and flooded buildings, kind of like treasure hunting. The local inhabitants find this disrespectful, but there's no actual law against this act either. He works in the local factory doing physical labor. Co-workers will speak for what a good worker he was, but he also had a way of getting on some people's nerves with the way he'd talk which caused conflicts and hostility.

Just about everyone in the factory knows that he actually punched one of his co-workers multiple times and a separate incident of him choking a co-worker before letting go, either of which is normally an action that results in immediate termination. But because he's such a good worker, the incident was kind of brushed under the rug. This incident does not help in his murder case, as it shows a history of violent behavior. Though Tomáš insists that beating someone up is one thing, but he wouldn't kill someone.

 

The Next Day

If the players talk to Tomáš the same day they arrive in town, then they'll be able to talk to him and ask questions. He's not afraid to speak his mind and willing to answer questions, but won't necessarily be very polite. However, if they come the day after, he'll either be in interrogation or they'll already be too late. The day after they arrive, his heart will stop and he dies in prison. During the interrogation he became depressed and started to break down. His last words: "I'm sorry. It's my fault. I didn't do it, but it's all my fault. I shouldn't have ... I just wish I could make it all stop now." Then the stress became too much for him and he collapsed. Medical attention was provided, but it was already too late and there was nothing anyone could do.

 

Town History

A great way to establish patterns, look into local lore, and discover potential causes is to look into a town's history. Some players may attempt this first thing in town, others may consider it only after hearing about Tomáš Rosa and realizing there may be more going on than just cow mutilations, and some may need more encouragement or never think of it at all. If the players don't investigate the town's history, that is fine. This information can come up if they ever meet "the stranger," at the Castaway bar, in conversation or hushed whispers around town with the locals, or just ignored all together. How the players decide to investigate will be entirely up to them.

Investigating into the town's history will turn up some interesting facts. New Water has only existed for the last 14 years. 15 years ago it was part of another, much larger, town. A large portion of the town was flooded and there was considerable loss of life. Hearing about the incident may remind people about seeing the tragedy on the news. This is not something erased from their memories, but with so many bad things reported on the news people can have short memories. With the change of the town's name and some rebuilding, it's even harder to put the two together.

The parts of the town that survived the flood were the sections built on the high ground. This flood is actually what created the lake that New Water now rests besides At the bottom of the lake there still remain unseen buildings submerged beneath the water's surface, and stairways can still be seen leading into the water. Even though the town flood and the lake formed 15 years ago, the town did not officially rename itself until 14 years ago, a full year after the events. This information can be easily found while researching the town's history. All this information is open to public record for any who think to look.

Further investigation on these events can only be done in person and require the townsfolk cooperation as there are no official records on the following events. Left out of official reports is that some witnesses to the flooding spoke of seeing a "hole" in the water like water going down a drain. This was generally dismissed as an active imagination or optical illusion. If the hole had been like a drain, then the water levels would have dropped instead of continuing to rise. Others say it was the government taking action to try and stop the flooding, but they were unsuccessful so they covered it up.

In that year between the flooding and renaming the city, there was more going on than just rebuilding. A flood submerging half the town and creating a lake overnight is a miracle in itself, but the town would not yet know peace. During that year the town was riddled with one bad occurrence after another, such as people and entire boats going missing on the lake. The survivors of the town saw their numbers dwindle all the more, and may believe that their town had been cursed.

During this time, a stranger showed up in town. Residents often spotted him in the area when something odd would happen, and they strongly suspected he caused it. However, legally they could prove nothing. Eventually the stranger left, and when he did all the problems went away as well. Many locals are convinced he was into black magic and cursed them and their whole town. In an attempt to break any residual affects of the curse left behind, the town decided to change their name. This led to them renaming the town New Water and a continued distrust in strangers, particularly those who linger too long or ask too many questions.

Now that "the curse" is back many believe this stranger has returned as well, though none have yet to see him. Many are clearly nervous and scared when the thought of his return is mentioned, and scared people can be very dangerous. If this stranger ever is found in town again, the town may not wait around for him to leave this time and take matters into their own hands.

 

Samuel Marsten (NPC)

If the characters need help researching, someone in the town can direct them to "Old Sam." He knows the town's history better than anyone. The locals will also warn them that he's not quite all there anymore and that they should be careful. At 83 years of age, Mr. Marsten is the oldest living resident of New Water. These days he doesn't get out of his house much. Those who approach his home will first be met with suspicion, convinced that someone wants to take all of his stuff.

Despite the minor paranoia, convincing him that the player group doesn't want to take his stuff shouldn't be too hard. Their word should be enough (as long as they don't act like thieves). Once passed a potentially rough first encounter, he's a rather courteous old man willing to invite them in and let them take a look at his stuff. He doesn't have much to offer, but guests can have water (always in mismatching cups).

Old Sam is a bit of a packrat. Within his cluttered house there's a maze of items and stacks of newspapers, a collection of newspapers that date back over 50 years. While the player characters may sit in the same room, they won't be able to sit next to each other. Sitting will involve taking a seat next to a pile of newspapers or other trinkets that fill up half the seats in the house. His newspaper collection includes articles discussing the various oddities that have plagued this town. This includes the flooding of the town, the disappearances at the lake, murders in rooms with every door and window locked and sealed (with no way in or out), and go all the way up to recent events.

As long as the player characters don't damage or steal anything he'll be happy to let them take a look. He's also useful for helping the group find any related articles, as he still knows where to find everything. If they ask, he can even help them find a picture of the stranger that cursed the town 15 years ago (see Alex Bannister below). Beyond his collection of information and help with research, he can't provide any other help. His mind is excellent as a card catalog, but not very useful at solving mysteries or further investigation, not even with rumors or theories.

If asked directly about the flooding and if he ever saw it, he'll mention what many referred to as a sinkhole. But when he got a look at it he could swear he saw the water rising up from the hole, as if it was the cause of the flooding and not a solution.

 

Meat & Potatoes

There are certain bodily functions that no one can escape (not even player characters), eating is one of them. Unless the characters go to the supermarket and cook their own food, this can be a good chance to introduce the local diner. While this isn't fine cuisine or a type of place that will attract people from out of town to visit just for the food, for what it is the food is quite good and won't make the player's sick. Eugene Baker is the cook. Some like to comment the fact his last name is Baker and he's a cook, but his response is that he's not some "muffin stuffer." Despite the odd term, what he means is that he doesn't work in some bakery cooking pastries so he doesn't accept the connection between them.

The player characters will be waited on by Emily Shaw, though her name tag only reads: Emily. If the characters (or NPC at another table) discuss the recent events while at the table she'll mention how she thinks the stranger is behind all of them, and she's not shy about her opinion on the matter (or any other topic for that matter).

 

Morgan Eccles (NPC)

Morgan's a 23 year old bus boy at the Meat & Potatoes and currently enrolled in college classes online. He wears a name tag with his first name on it, cleans up tables after people leave, and helps with little things like pouring water or getting silverware if there's none on the table or when a spoon's dirty. He performs his duties with a bit of awkwardness, like it's his first day on the job or he's perpetually nervous.

Whenever anyone in his presence mentions the stranger (see Alex Bannister below) might be behind the recent events his awkwardness only increases, sometimes spilling the water he's pouring or fumbling a cup or plate. If the player group discusses the matter at the diner, the odds of this happening increase as the diner waitress, Emily, is likely to mention the theory, though the player characters may mention it even without her presence. Those who notice may think Morgan is up to something or involved in some way. Asking him about it will result in denial, but asking him in private or with continued badgering will yield the truth.

 The truth is that Morgan hates the theory that Alex is the cause. He doesn't believe it, not for a second. Morgan firmly believes that Alex was trying to help, but doesn't voice his opinion because he's afraid the townspeople will think he's been corrupted in some way. While Morgan doesn't know the whole story, he knows that Alex saved his life when he was a boy (only 8 years old at the time). Ever since then Morgan has idolized Alex. As a young boy he tried to follow Alex around and learn more, but Alex had none of that and always kept his distance. Still, even with limited contact Morgan was closer to Alex than anyone else in town.

This reason is why Morgan is the only person in town to have a contact number for the mysterious stranger. Before he left town, Alex provided Morgan with a number to reach him in case anything ever went wrong and he needed help. When things started up again in town, Morgan called the number, but only got a voice mail has yet to receive any type of response.

 

Stranger and Stranger

15 years ago, while New Water suffered the greatest turmoil in its history, a strange man was often seen around time. Wherever he was seen, trouble and death seemed to follow. Many of the townsfolk suspect him of being into dark magic, a witch or warlock, who put a curse on their town. He spent less than a year in New Water; and in that year the town had more strange occurrences and deaths than in any other period of the town's history (before or after the renaming). The exact date of his arrival isn't recorded, but it's generally believed he showed up just before the flood that formed New Water's lake. Then when he left, all the strangeness went away with him.

Since the return of New Water's "curse" of strangeness and death, many of the townsfolk believe that this stranger has returned to plague them again or that he's left some lingering curse that's become active. If the player characters decide to investigate his potential involvement, they can find a picture of him in old newspaper articles through research. These articles can be found by researching old newspaper articles at the town records or microfilm at the local library (or talking to Samuel Marsten, see above).

While most of the locals only know him as the "the stranger," some (such as Samuel Marsten, see above) will remember his name, Alex Bannister (like the football player). Extensive research with the name and using his picture, or by talking with Morgan (see above) and tracing the phone number, will turn up the fact that the townsfolk may be right! Mr. Bannister is indeed in the area, living in a nearby town an hour's drive away (less if they drive faster than the speed limit). Whether or not he's actually behind recent (or past) events remains to be determined, but he's close enough that it's possible.

 

The House

If the players decide to look into Mr. Bannister, then that will involve them leaving town. Since the trip is only an hour drive away they can be there and back within a day, depending on how things go for them. When pulling up to the address they'll see windows with shutters closed, durable locks on the doors, and other signs of the place having been fortified. There's the feel of someone highly paranoid or maybe paramilitary. Some groups may just walk up to the door and knock, but others may decide to sneak in and see what they can learn about him before a direct confrontation.

Sneaking into his house will uncover cupboards and pantry filled with canned foods and bottles of water, as if prepared to hold out for long periods of time if necessary. There are also bottles of scotch. They won't find much regarding the town other than newspaper clippings of recent events at New Water, but that suggests he's watching the town. Those with the skill to locate secret compartments can also find several books on the occult and demons hidden away, as well as a variety of weapons and false I.D.

 

Alex Bannister (NPC)

Meeting Alex face to face will show a man that looks in his sixties, even though he should only be in his early forties. Talking to him will reveal that he's a retired Night Hunter (Ghost Hunter). Asking about his age will only get a response along the lines of: "This is what the job will do to you." Whether this is due to the stress from the job or a result of something he fought remains unclear, nor is he likely to say. He wants to discourage others from living a similar type of life, and he hopes to do so by letting them see what the job has done to him.

Alex is the name the locals know him by. His true name is Alistair (the Scottish spelling is Alasdair, the Gaelic form of Alexander), but this is not a name he gives out easily. In his line of work he learned the dangers of giving out a person's true name, so he always goes by an alias. 15 years ago he came to New Water to investigate the supernatural occurrences going on. For a year the town seemed to be a beacon for supernatural activity, including a lake monster that ate swimmers and even swallowed small fishing boats in the lake. Then one day everything just stopped. Though he never understood why the supernatural activity suddenly stopped, he moved on since there was no more work to be done.

He always suspected there was something more going on though. Even though he had no proof, his gut told him that this wasn't the end. This is why he settled down near the town, because the job always felt unfinished. Now he's too old to finish things. Unable to help, he hasn't returned Morgan's call. His mind is still as sharp as ever though, and he can help out with some investigation even if he can't fight anymore.

Alistair suspects that the supernatural activity was somehow connected to a boy at the time, Kent Stratus. He didn't suspect the boy personally, but definitely felt the boy was at the eye of the storm. Though he's too far removed to piece together more recent events, if he had to suggest a place to start an investigation, it would be with Kent.

 

The Stratus Home

Investigating the lead in Rumor 6, following the lead of Alex Bannister (see above), or other possible leads may sooner or later bring the player characters to Kent Stratus. He lives alone in a house by the lake (the house seen in the background of Lily Beauchamp's report) and keeps mostly to himself. The house seems to be surrounded by dead trees which gives the place an even creepier feel. Regardless of the season or conditions, nothing seems to grow in the land surrounding the house. Locals will tell how the place has always given them an eerie vibe.

If player's covertly search his house (such as breaking and entering), a search of the place will turn up several books on magic, many of which deal with curses. In his room there are violent pictures scribbled on the walls depicting various deaths. One of pictures depicts a town under water with rain coming down from the sky and some type of monsters swimming in the water. Another depicts drowning someone in a bathtub. There's also a notebook with words: "I wish ..." written over and over and over again. Sometimes there are wishes attached, and sometimes it's just the same two words written across an entire page in frantic handwriting. The first wish in the book is: "I wish it would just wash all my troubles away." The last two in the book are: "I wish she'd just die" and "I wish everyone knew who I was."

Note: If an archanist or parapsychologist is in the group, they'll be able to determine that books on magic are not spell books. They're merely research materials. Should the search the home the day after they arrive (after Tomáš Rosa dies) there is a picture of a heart on the wall with a hand around it, strangling it, and the last passage in the notebook reads: "I just wish I could make it all stop."

 

Kent Stratus (NPC)

A boy sits at the top of the stairs on a hill looking down at the town below. His face tucked down into his knees crying. From behind him a man's voice says, "Aw, poor little baby. What happened? The girl you liked rejected you? Or maybe you have a new baby brother so mommy and daddy are spending all their time with him now. Boohoo!" Sarcasm fills every word.

The kid turns to look at the man. Glare of the sun makes it hard to see anything but shadow and silhouette, smoke rising up from what looks like a lit cigarette. Not someone he recognizes. The boy is much easier to see though, his eyes are red from crying and tears still running down his face. His cheek is so swollen it looks like he's carrying a tennis ball in his mouth. The cheek is new, but the busted lip is old. Both are on the same side of the face, possibly same attacker. Avoiding the kid's gaze, the man turns his head. As he does he notices the bruised arm that's mostly concealed by the boy's t-shirt. $#!+.Now there's silence.

Finally the man recollects his sarcastic demeanor. He's spent his entire life looking down on everyone, why should this kid be any different? "Yeah," the man says. "Well, sitting here crying about it's not going to fix anything." With his head on his knees the boy mumbles something. The man asks, "What was that?"

Speaking louder and clearer now the boy says, "I said: I wish it could." His voice lowers as he continues, "I wish it would just wash all my troubles so I never have to cry again."

There's another silent pause in the conversation. "Yeah, well too bad," replies the man. "Crying's not gonna fix anything. If you want to stop crying, then you have to learn to stand up and fix your problems."

 

An orphan whose family died in the flood that created the lake, there is little else known about Kent other than a lot of tragedy tends to follow him. After he lost his family he was taken in by the mother of his best friend. Both of them died as well, and many of the strange occurrences in the past seemed to circle around him. The boy only grew more introverted as time went on. Now in his mid-twenties, he lives alone in a house that suffered from one of the many strange events 15 years ago. As a result of those events plants may grow around the house, but they'll never flourish and die soon after giving it a feel of death.

While things may look bad for Kent Stratus, he's innocent of any crimes. The truth is that he's a "tainted" soul, a person who's come into contact with a supernatural evil so powerful and the incident so traumatic that he's been changed forever (see the Tainted template below for more details). He's mentally linked to the true culprit behind all these events, able to see it in his mind as clearly as if he was the one there killing people, and it's slowly been driving him insane over the years.

At first he thought these were just old memories haunting him, but recent events have showed him that this evil is still out there. He's discovering that the visions he's having have either happened recently (before he even knew about them), or have happened shortly after he's had the dreams (prophecies). While he had hoped he'd been free of this evil when he was a child, he now knows that it has returned and must be stopped. However, he has yet to figure out how to do so.

 

The Truth of Evil

Through research, talking to people, clever use of psionics and skills, as well as other methods the player characters will discover the true culprit behind all the events in New Water. This isn't some lurking stranger or a magical curse, but a white jinn.

 

White Jinn (NPC)

In ancient Northwestern Arabia, a man challenged a jinn to a contest. The rules of the contest were simple: the man had three chances to find a task that the jinn could not accomplish. If the jinn failed, the main earned the right to keep whatever boons the jinn accomplished. If the jinn won, then all the boons would be taken away, and the man would serve as the jinn's slave for the rest of his days. Accepting the terms, the jinn began the competition. He completed the first two challenges with great difficulty. For his third task, the man boasted how the jinn could never fit into a glass bottle. The jinn laughed, for this would be his easiest challenge yet.

Transforming into mist, the jinn entered into the bottle. Once inside the man put the top on the bottle on activated a magical seal, trapping the jinn inside. Had the man freed the jinn, the curse of the jinn would have obligated the jinn to grant the man three wishes. However this man did not care for more material possessions. The first to tasks provided the man with all he could ever ask for, but more than that he truly despised the chaos that jinn bring into the world. His greatest reward was to rid the world of such a troublesome spirit. So instead of freeing the jinn, he simply buried the bottle away in the hopes it would never be found again.

Eventually found and freed by some unsuspecting stranger, the jinn granted his new "master" three wishes as per his curse. Once free of the curse, the jinn left this dimension. However, he found he was still connected to Earth. While the exact date of his imprisonment isn't known (immortal beings don't look at time the same way), the jinn spent well over 1,000 years imprisoned within that bottle. In those thousand years a bond formed between him and the bottle. Now whenever someone speaks near the bottle, the jinn can hear their words as if he was standing right next to them, even when he's in another dimension.

Any time he wishes the jinn can use the bottle as a gateway into this world, but it also serves as his anchor. As long as the jinn remains on Earth, he must remain near the bottle. The term near is relative, and in this case limits the jinn to the same town or city as the bottle. This gives him free access to New Water, but limits him to that area and anyone in a different town or city is beyond his current reach, unless the bottle is moved to the new location first.

Now that he's free, the jinn does not need to call any of the bottle's holders "master." He is free to act as he pleases. With that said, he still prefers to follow around whoever possesses the bottle currently, lurking invisible. When someone uses the words "I wish ..." he thinks up how he can twist those words to cause the most pain and misery. This is not out of obligation and not required to grant any wish he doesn't want to, but he finds twisting people's words against them fun. His favorite is to twist someone's casual usage of the term into reality, because humans have a way of using that phrase often, even when they really don't mean it.

The bottle eventually found its way into the hands of Kent Stratus as a young boy. His wish for his tears to wash away all his problems intrigued the jinn. So the jinn opened up a rift on the ground. The rift opened into a water dimension, the water flowing upward and out of the rift until it flooded the city. This is but the first of many torments the jinn inflicted upon the boy. These torments did not stop until he literally broke the boy's spirits. With the overwhelming power of the supernatural presence plaguing the boy, Kent's spirit became "tainted" and parts of the demon spirit seeped in, transforming the spirit forever.

Aware of the jinn's presence and connection on some intuitive level that a kid could not yet understand, Kent threw the bottle as far as he could into the lake. With the bottle at the bottom of the lake and his connection to this world too far away from others, the jinn left this world once again. That is until Jacob Wheaton unsuspectingly hooked the bottle on one of his fishing trips. With a new holder possessing the bottle, the white jinn continued his work of tormenting people and causing general mayhem. He's only been returned for just over a week, and he's already making up for lost time. There is little chance he'll stop, unless someone can find a way to stop him.

This particular jinn is a white jinn, which makes him a water element. He prefers using water to grant wishes when possible, such as flooding the city or drowning Natalie Rosa in the bathtub. His motivation is little more than enjoyment in tormenting people by twisting their words and making them responsible for their own misery.

 

The Bottle

The jinn's bottle is nothing particularly fancy in design. With a jinn's natural weakness, a jinn cannot break the bottle from inside or even from the outside. This places the bottle outside of the jinn's touch, unable to even move it. The power to imprison a jinn still remains, but tricking the jinn back into the bottle can be near impossible. While overconfident the first time, the jinn is no fool and has learned from his mistakes. Even if the bottle helps serve as his anchor to Earth, he keeps his distance from it and knows his limits.

Once freed from the bottle, he found that finding a new mortal to hold the bottle proved difficult. Such a plain bottle holds little value to most. So to solve this problem the jinn had the bottle enchanted with a low level variation of the Charm spell. Those who see the bottle must make a save vs. magic (12 or higher). Anyone who fails will find the bottle interesting. Even influenced victims will find the bottle nothing particularly special, just something that catches the eye and appealing. The affect is subtle and will not cause possessiveness, theft, or brawls over who gets to have it, just an interesting trinket that people will notice and might want to take home if it's for sale or doesn't have an owner.

Currently the bottle is in the home of Jacob Wheaton, on his table filled with some water and flowers. Should the player characters visit Jacob Wheaton at his home, they might take notice (if they fail their saving throw) of the bottle and be more likely to remember it and its location should they learn of its existence at a later time. Another previous owner was Kent Stratus, who held it for almost a year before finally throwing it into the lake. He is sure to recognize it again if he sees it.

Tomáš Rosa also held the bottle for a short time. During one of his treasure hunting dives he came across the bottle. However he also discarded it, finding little value in such a plain bottle (made his saving throw). He's not likely to remember the bottle if asked, but a picture may refresh his memory. Even if he does remember, he's not likely to ever realize the significance it played in his life. Just because Tomáš doesn't remember, someone else still does. The jinn became aware of his presence when he picked up the bottle, and decided to take it personally when his bottle was discarded. When Jacob Wheaton found the bottle, the jinn still remembered Tomáš and decided to take his revenge on that man first.

There are three main ways to use the bottle against the jinn. The first is to imprison the jinn within the bottle again. This is easier said than done, and the jinn is not likely to fall for such a trap. Overconfident once, the jinn is intelligent being and has no intention of repeating that mistake. Trapping the jinn also creates the problem of what to do with him after. As history has proven, sooner or later someone is bound to let the jinn out again, and once free he will no doubt return to his previous ways. Still, this can be a beneficial tactic to, at least, rid the town of the jinn (for now).

If trapping the jinn proves too difficult, or no one tries, the second way is to break the bottle. Thick glass makes the bottle strong and hard to shatter from simply dropping it, but not indestructible. A determined individual can still break this bottle, especially with a tool or weapon in hand. While this won't hurt the jinn, his anchor to this world will be broken. Without an anchor the jinn will be forced to leave this dimension. One day the jinn may find his way back to Earth, and when he does there won't even be the bottle to use against him this time. Still, that day is likely far away.

Having lived within the bottle for over a thousand years and formed such a bond with the bottle, unknown to even the jinn the bottle now counts as a piece of home. If the jinn is slain within close proximity (within the same room or closer) the jinn will die just as permanently as dying in Hades. Slaying a supernatural being that can utilize water magic, naturally invisible, can turn into mist and a swarm of insects, and other natural abilities is not an easy task; learning that the bottle may be used in this way even harder.

Psychometry (Object Read) may provide some clues, and the help of Kent Stratus can be helpful as well. With the taint of the jinn still a part of him Kent understands many things about his nemesis on an intuitive level, but he'll still need to be taught enough about the jinn and supernatural beings to learn how to put this information to good use. Remember, Kent is an ordinary person who doesn't know anything about the supernatural beyond what he's learned from his link to the white jinn.

 

Order of Events

1: Jinn captured in the bottle and left imprisoned in ancient Northwestern Arabia.

2: Eventually the jinn is freed from his prison, and obeys the first three wishes of his freer as per his curse.

3: Now free, the jinn learns he holds a connection to the bottle after having lived in it so long. The bottle serves as a permanent connection for him to Earth (as long as he remains within proximity to it).

4: The jinn enchants the bottle with a low level Charm spell to help find new holders.

5: Through a series of other holders the bottle finds its way to Kent Stratus.

6: Kent wishes all his troubles could be washed away.

7: The jinn opens a rift to a water dimension to flood the city. The water comes up through the rift and floods the city.

8: While the portal is open, a sea monster from the other dimension also comes through (a bonus for the jinn).

9: Every time Kent says the words "I wish" the jinn uses it to cause some new grief in the boy's life.

10: Realizing something strange is going on, Alistair "Alex" Bannister comes to town to find and kill whatever it is.

11: People start to go missing in the lake.

12: Alex manages to hunt down and slay the lake monster.

13: During his investigation (and while slaying random monsters), Alex is often seen at or near the sites of these jinn's deeds.

14: People start to become very scared of Alex and believe he's the source of their problems.

15: After prolonged exposure to the jinn's presence, Kent's spirit becomes "tainted."

16: With his new found connection to the jinn, Kent throws the bottle into the water (though he doesn't fully understand why) causing the jinn to lose his connection to the people again.

17: Though Alex suspects something more was going on, with nothing left in the area he moves on.

18: With all the problems now stopping (because Alex fixed them), the townspeople are more convinced than ever that he was the cause.

19: Tomáš Rosa finds the bottle while swimming in the old ruins, but ignores the bottle in favor of something else.

20: During a fishing trip, Jacob Wheaton catches the bottle on his fishing hook. Falling under its spell, he decides to keep the bottle.

21: The jinn still remembers Tomáš from before, and holds a grudge that this human ignored him.

22: Tomáš (who doesn't believe in divorce meaning one of them would have to die to move on), in idle passing, says: "(Sometimes) I wish she'd just die (so I could be free of her already)."

23: The jinn, while invisible, murders Natalie Rosa. He also "helps" by leaving evidence implicating Tomáš.

24: Jacob Wheaton wishes everyone in town knows who he is.

25: The jinn decides to mutilate some of his livestock by turning into mist, flying into the mouths and stomachs of the livestock, then turning solid again.

26: The jinn leaves the crop circles as an added personal touch as part of his sense of humor.

27: (Next Day) Tomáš says "I just wish I could make it all stop (now)."

28: (Next Day) Hearing this, the jinn stops his heart.

 

Future Plans

Just because the player characters have arrived in the area doesn't mean the jinn is going to stop tormenting the town. The death of Tomáš Rosa is one of the upcoming tricks the jinn will play (the day after the player characters arrive). In addition the jinn may continue some cow mutilations and crop circles if things are slow (or the player characters decide to stake out the farm at night), though he is getting bored with this gag and unlikely to continue. The jinn does not like repeating the same tricks over and prefers to keep things new and inventive.

He'll continue lurking around the town, primarily following around Jacob Wheaton but not limited to, waiting for people to use the words "I wish ..." Then he'll think up the most twisted way to grant that wish. Remember, he doesn't have to grant the wish and, when he does grant wishes, doesn't have to grant them immediately. Time can pass between the wish and when the wish is granted, though usually within 48 hours.

If the player characters use the term "I wish ..." while talking to Jacob Wheaton this can be a great opportunity to unleash the jinn upon them. This can help serve as a clue to what's really going on. Of course, the players remembering they said those words and realizing how they've been twisted (because what you wish for and what you get is not always the same thing) can be an entirely different challenge. Using the player character's words can be a great way to have them unintentionally shape upcoming events and provide for excellent role-playing when they discover they played a part in the suffering of the town.

The history of the town gives some good examples of how this particular jinn likes to twist the wishes of unsuspecting victims. If the player characters don't solve the situation fast enough, need more events to follow, the G.M. just wants to include more events, etc. some additional ideas include: "I wish I was somewhere else." The victim is then shoved through a rift into the pits of Hades or maybe to Rifts Earth. Should some monster from the other dimension comes through the other way, then all the better. "I wish you'd stop talking." Then the target of the wish has their tongue ripped out. In hot weather someone says the words "I wish it would cool down" and later find themselves encased in ice. The most important thing is to have fun, be creative, and be evil.

 

Tainted O.C.C.

Template Class

 

Supernatural beings and creatures of magic possess powerful auras. Some classes, such as the Psychic Sensitive (and Dog Boys in Rifts), are naturally attuned to these energies. They live their lives in the presence of these forces, even learn to sense and track their energies. Not all are so fortunate though. When two forces meet, the stronger force prevails. For the average person, the power and intense sensation of these auras can be overwhelming. In most cases, this results in a Horror Factor (or Awe Factor) that freezes most people where they stand. When the presence leaves, this suppressing feeling goes with them. Then there are the tainted.

The tainted are ordinary men and women who've had a traumatic experience involving these strange and powerful forces. After an encounter with such a powerful force and their auras overwhelmed for so long, even after the supernatural being (or creature of magic) leaves the victim doesn't fully recover. The stronger aura overpowers the weaker one. To avoid becoming forever broken, the victim's aura submits to this force and allows the more powerful aura to seep into it. Even after the supernatural being (or creature of magic) leaves, a piece of that aura remains on the victim, a taint of their aura.

This taint is most common among children, during their early years before they've directed their interest into one area and spent most of their P.P.E. Though rare, this taint has been known to manifest itself in people who have spent their whole lives hunting and dealing with the supernatural that the evil they've fought for so long becomes a part of them. In the latter case the taint is rarely noticed and doesn't truly manifest itself until the character tries to settle down to live a peaceful life. Once they try to settle down they find the taint surfacing and making it difficult to ever relax.

Tainted have a strong connection to the supernatural, a byproduct of the aberration in their aura (registers as an "unusual aberration" for those with See Aura). Whenever there's a supernatural (or creature of magic) presence in the area, especially when that presence is up to no good, the tainted pick up on this on an intuitive level. Bad dreams plague the tainted until the danger passes. These nightmares often include glimpses of what the presence is up to currently or a flash of things to come, Even if they'd rather live in peace, the tainted are spurred into action by these visions.

 

The Path: Good and Evil

Good characters (and even some selfish) find themselves driven to try and stop this horror. While ignorance may be easier, these individuals don't have the option to turn a blind eye. Their connection to the supernatural makes this impossible. Even selfish people have trouble ignoring a situation when there is no room for doubt that people will be hurt and die if they fail to act. These are ordinary men and women without any special training, forced to become reluctant heroes. Most tainted fall into this category.

Tragic and far rarer, the second type of tainted are those who have become corrupted by this aberration. Constant dreams of the horror and death these beings wreak tortures their psyche until their minds snap! While the character may appear normal most of the time, when a supernatural presence is in the area these nightmares awaken a terrible darkness within the person's soul. When they sleep and these visions take over their dreams, the person arises from bed a psychotic killer who needs to enact the horrors seen in his/her mind. This is effectively a second personality that forces the person to sleep walk.

Most supernatural beings (and creatures of magic) act on natural instinct, and during these nights so too does the tainted. By day this character is a normal human, but at night this person closer to a demonic serial killer. The next morning these individuals don't remember a thing about their nightly exploits, but they may find their hands and clothes soaked in blood.  Some tainted may suspect the work of the lycanthrope curse, but the attacks don't bear any resemblance to an animal attack, often don't coincide with a full moon, and the ability to remove curse can never remove their taint.

 

The Warriors

While the typical tainted is an ordinary man or woman who's been forced into action, this is not the case of all. Some victims have simply had so much contact with the supernatural that part of that supernatural aura has become a part of them. This is most common in classes that make a living from fighting supernatural, such as Palladins. Typically these individuals can carry on with their normal activities without ever noticing, not until they try to settle down and live a life of peace. When they do they find that they've fought evil for so long that it's seeped into their very being and they cannot escape it.

 

Special Abilities of the Tainted

1. Link to the Supernatural: Whenever a supernatural monster (or powerful creature of magic such as a dragon) is in the area, the tainted will begin to have troubling dreams.

Evil Intent: Most supernatural beings (and some creatures of magic) are evil by their very nature. When such a being is in the area, a tainted will begin to have nightmares. Within those nightmares there are snippets of the being's current actions, and possibly future plans. This ability is similar to Clairvoyance and Psychometry (Object Read), but a natural ability that activates by the presence of a powerful and evil aura. The ability is automatic, and cannot be stopped no matter how badly the tainted wishes to turn off these images. These random flashes aren't much, but all that the character has to go on to figure out the monster's location, plans, and true form. Range: One mile (1.6 km) per level of experience. Any supernatural beings (or creatures of magic) that are evil and/or intend harm will set off this ability.

Good aligned: If the supernatural being (or creature of magic) is of a good alignment or just happens to be in the area with no evil intent or plans, the tainted will just have trouble sleeping. While he/she may suspect something isn't right and there's something in the area, it won't be anything more than a feeling. The character is likely to be on edge and paranoid until the presence leaves the area. Range: One quarter mile/0.4 km (1320 feet/402 m) per level of experience.

2. Unusual Aberration: Even though they're human, the aura of the tainted has changed. Psychics and practitioners of magic who can See Aura will notice an unusual aberration in this character's aura, but they won't know the cause. No matter how they live their lives, this "taint" will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

3. Arch Nemesis (optional): Tainted become what they are due to a traumatic experience with a particular supernatural being (or creature of magic). Even though that presence left the character alive, the two are forever linked. Regardless of distance the tainted will often have nightmares regarding that beings actions and plans. As long as that force lives they will be haunted by that being's actions. This causes many tainted to attempt to hunt down this presence and put an end to it, if for no other reason than to have some level of peace.

This connection works both ways though. While the tainted can sense the supernatural being (or creature of magic) that being can also sense the tainted. Unless the tainted hurries, the being will sense that the tainted is near and have time to prepare or flee. Worse, many supernatural beings (or creatures of magic) will despise the thought of being connected to a mortal. Not only are mortals lesser beings, but a mortal that can sense their location and plans is a threat.  A connected mortal may be ignored for a time, but when launching a delicate and important plan, or if the mortal proves a threat, the tainted will be hunted down and eliminated.

4. Select O.C.C.: The tainted template is an add-on to another O.C.C. That means this character gets to select a traditional O.C.C. as normal (racial and class restrictions still apply). This grants all the skills, abilities, and other bonuses of that O.C.C., then add the abilities of the Tainted template on top of that. Note: Psychic O.C.C. (P.C.C.) cannot be selected. While psychics run just as much risk from being overwhelmed by a supernatural aura, psychics have a natural defense mechanism that helps direct the potential taint into the development of their abilities instead (such as the powers of a Psychic Sensitive).

 

Experience Point Table: Use the normal experience point table for the second O.C.C. selected. The Tainted Template increases the experience points required to level by 10%.

Example: Tainted Palladin (Palladium Fantasy)

1: 0,000 – 2,400 (+10%[240] = 2,640)

2: 2,401 – 4,800 (+10%[480] = 5,280)

3: 4,801 – 9,600 (+10%[960] = 10,560)

 

Designer Note: This is recommended as an add-on for Ordinary People. These characters are not super powered heroes with a bunch of cool abilities. They are ordinary men and women who've been cursed with this taint. Their situation compels them to do what they can against forces bigger than them, and they need to learn fast if they want to live. The tainted may never have fame or fortune and their names may never be heard in some bar song about epic heroes, but these are the unsung champions of the world.

Though as an individual I like the idea of the powerless hero being drawn into things bigger than him, I feel it's important to provide options and left it open to other classes. This is why there's not a flat experience point table, but an experience table modification. Increasing the experience needed to level by 10% is a simple math (i.e. just remove the last 0 of the number), and creates a price to pay for the added potential.

While this price is small at early levels, as the character advances it becomes more costly. This helps encourage the weaker classes (with a small experience point table), while not forcing it. Example: A Tainted Peasant will still level faster than a normal Palladin (or most other O.C.C.). Meanwhile a Palladin (Palladium Fantasy) starts off advancing slower than any other classes, and will advance even slower with this add-on. Both still remain options.