Another Freebie today. Initially conceived as an Abyssal plague, feel free to adapt this to your game as you see fit.
The Tick Tock Men are, in themselves, the remnants of human beings transformed into clockwork automata via an injury sustained from contact with another Tick Tock Man. Trapped within their bodies as they slowly change, mind and soul slowly go insane. The soul weakens, losing its grasp until it has but the slenderest hold on its final, unfeeling form. Trapped and unable to move on, drawn on to sustain the Tick Tock Man’s existence, the soul withers and atrophies over the next decade or so until, finally, it becomes hollow – nothing more than a means for filtering and drawing down Essence, Mana, or whatever other kind of esoteric power it can.
The mind tends to be unable to weather this kind of treatment. Fixed first in the horror of a body slowly becoming inhuman, then in an impossible, clockwork form with no biological imperatives, no sensation or vocal chords, sooner or later every single one goes insane. Sleeper minds simply can’t take it, and even the minds of the Awakened can eventually fold under such conditions.
The Tick Tock Men cannot speak. Once the transformation is complete they are voiceless, and the only senses left to them are sight and sound. They cannot eat. They cannot feel. They have, initially, a burning need to find help, to make others understand their situation, but over time this becomes simply a need to be understood (or, at least, feel understood) on some level. They are thus prone to the command of anyone who displays some kind of sympathy for their condition. And, of course, as so few have a clue that the Tick Tock Men even exist, let alone the nature of their suffering, it’s rare they find such sympathy.
All Tick Tock Men in the final stage are to all purposes identical. They have the appearance of the body they infect, and retain a modicum of the mind’s knowledge, but in physical and supernatural abilities they don’t deviate one iota from each other.
Virtue: Hope, Vice: Wrath
Willpower: 3, Humanity: 1, Essence: 10
Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2
Strength 4, Dexterity 2, Stamina 5
Presence 1, Manipulation 1, Composure 1
Athletics 5, Brawl 3, Stealth 4, Weaponry 3
*If a Tick-Tock Man retains any Mental or Social Skill from its human existence, it may not be higher than 1.
Size: 5, Speed: 9
Initiative Mod: 3, Defence: 2, Armour: 2
Ambidextrous: A Tick Tock Man’s brain no longer prioritises one side of the body.
Clasp: A Tick Tock Man’s mechanical grasp is so tight that it inflicts Lethal rather than Bashing damage. Str + Brawl.
Drain: Tick Tock Men can only refuel by taking power from other beings or locations which have it. They can steal Essence, Willpower and Mana. All gets converted to Essence on a 1-for-1 basis. Intelligence + Resolve vs. target’s Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance (e.g. Gnosis). Requires physical contact.
Infect: Should a Tick Tock Man break an opponent’s skin with its nails or teeth, it will infect the wound. This is a reflexive action, not one under the Tick Tock Man’s control. Roll Essence + 3 (for Savant) vs. Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance.
Savant: +3 dice to Infect.
Today, a freebie for you: Six player characters for the one-shot of your choosing. The characters are all interwoven, and have a variety of secrets which are open-ended enough for a wily GM to slot into any modern supernatural or horror system. I have used them as pre-generated characters for World of Darkness one-shots, where they have served well, but they would fit equally neatly into a modern Call of Cthulhu game, Supernatural, d20 Modern, Unknown Armies, Sorcerer, or The Whispering Vault.
They are designed to be on the cusp of discovering the supernatural world, and in the scenario I have involved them in they have been trapped on the Eurostar between London and Paris, heading to Disneyland for a Stag Weekend. Feel free to move them to another country to fit your own intentions.
N.B. In the UK, 16 is the Age of Consent. If you wish to change the country this is set in, be aware of this and alter Diana’s age accordingly.
Without further ado, then, here they are:
Twin brother: Gary, Fireman.
Younger sister: Diana Monahan, student who wants to be a model. 16 years old.
Fiancée: Fiona Samson, Trevor’s sister.
BA in Journalism from the University of Leicester.
Left university with a 2:1 and got a job as a researcher at XYZ Magazine. Has been there since, first promoted to staff writer, then to sub-editor.
Started hanging out with a few of the guys after work, down the pub, then a regular airsofting posse got together, consisting of Trevor (the IT guy), Gary, Phil (met at airsoft), Tom (XYZ Magazine’s resident photographer) and Ian (also met at airsoft).
Personality: Darren can vary from riotous bloke’s bloke to charmer to ladies’ man to aloof all in a day. At his core he’s very passionate, but his passions change on a whim. He can go from loving a film to hating it in a week, or from one girl to another in the same amount of time. That he’s stuck with Fiona for two years must be a sign!
Part of the rush to get married, though – and Darren would never admit this – is to have his brother as his best man before Gary’s testicular cancer kills him.
He knows a lot of really minor crap. Stuff he’s picked up from reading, watching TV, browsing the net, researching for assignments. He’s a consumer of knowledge, and sometimes that sets him apart from his mates. Sometimes he just knows the oddest shit that nobody else has heard of. But that’s OK. He just has to keep a lid on it when down the pub, unless they’re bashing away at one of the quiz machines.
Dirty little secret: Nobody but Darren and Gary’s boss knows Darren’s brother is dying. He’s kept it even from the rest of the family, and asked Darren do the same. Darren’s been able to see the signs, because he knows what he’s looking for, and he knows it’s metastasised to Gary’s liver now. But today… Today Gary looks healthy. Here’s hoping he stays that way until the wedding’s done.
Twin brother: Darren, sub-editor for XYZ Magazine.
Younger sister: Diana Monahan, student who wants to be a model. 16 years old.
Left school at 18 with a couple of A-levels and went straight into the Fire Brigade. Met most of the other guys either because they work with Darren or were at airsoft.
Personality: Gary’s a Man, with a capital M. He’s masculine, he’s proud of his physique, he’s proud of his ability to drink everyone else under the table, he’s proud that he’s self-sufficient, he’s proud that people depend on him. Deep down he genuinely believes in the goodness of people’s hearts, but that’s not exactly something you tell your mates unless you’re really, really bladdered.
Confidence took a real smash when he discovered the lump on his balls last year. It took months for him to bother seeing a doctor about it, by which time it was too late. It had metastasised to his liver. Three months ago he was given one year to live.
He didn’t tell anyone other than his brother and his boss. Putting on a brave face, laughing loud, dying on the inside.
Dirty little secret : Last week, in the oncology department, Gary was talking to another patient. Didn’t catch the guy’s name. Didn’t really catch much, actually. They got chatting about cancer and death, about being so young and helpless, about all their wasted opportunities. And the guy offered him a deal. A cure.
Gary laughed it off, as you do. Sure, he said. Cure me. Go on.
So the stranger did. And sooner or later there will be a price to pay.
GNVQ in motorcycle maintenance from Bournemouth College.
Met Darren and the others at an airsoft game a year or so ago, and have become good mates since.
Phil’s fairly well-known on the semi-pro superbike circuit. He yearns to go fully pro, but that means convincing one of the big teams to take him on, and after last week’s wipeout that may never happen.
Personality: Deep down, Phil wants to go too fast. He’ll push everything aside to go faster, faster, faster. He’s tried cocaine, speed, amphetamines, but nothing does it for him like riding a bike. If only it would go faster.
He can take a little pause now and then, slow down to the rest of the world, but sooner or later he’s got to get going again, get the blood pumping, get the wind pushing at his chest.
He’s a staunch, solid bloke though. A guy you can depend on. Just so long as you’re not asking him to stay off the bike for a few days. In fact, this stag do might be the longest Phil will go without a bike for years…
Dirty little secret: Last week, Phil came off his bike. Badly. Really, really badly. He pushed it too hard, too fast, on a bend. The bike was wrecked, and Phil should’ve been too, but he walked away from a 210Mph slam into the race track’s tirewall without a scratch. There’s only one possible explanation: incredible good luck. Right?
Sister: Fiona, Darren’s Fiancée.
BSc in Computer Science from the University of Hertfordshire
Trevor left uni and returned home to Bournemouth, landing a tech support role at XYZ Magazine. When Barry Johnson, the previous IT guy, left, Trevor was promoted. The downside, though, is they haven’t the money to get a replacement tech support guy, so Trevor now does everything, from managing the servers to fixing Luser problems.
After meeting Darren, one thing led to another, and the guy is now getting hitched to your sister. Obviously there was the initial need to protect her from this journo hack, but he’s a decent bloke, and you’re almost comfortable that he’s had your sister. But only ‘cause he’s marrying her.
Personality: Trevor is a gadget freak. If it’s new, he’s gotta have it. If it’s expensive, he’s gotta have it. He earns a phenomenal disposable income (and lives with his mum still) for a man his age, and he pisses it away on iPhones and SatNavs and PDAs and iPods and Blackberrys. He has a £10,000 stereo system that he can’t turn up loud because he lives in a terraced house. He’s £25,000 in debt after his student loan, but he just keeps buying more and more cool things because he has to have them.
He’s got a strong sense of right and wrong, and a feeling of power when it comes to his servers, Facebook, MySpace, Beebo, Twitter, and the vast number of internet forums he plugs away at, most of which he’s the number one poster on. He will come down hard on those who wrong him or his friends. He will punish hackers and noobs alike.
In the real world, of course… Bah, who’re we kidding? He’s just as opinionated and passionate. He’d just never put his mouth up against a fist. He’ll heckle and denounce from a safe distance. He’d ensure he was safe before condemning someone to their face.
BA in Photography from Southampton Solent University.
After finishing his degree, Tom went freelancing while working in a supermarket to pull in a little cash. After hiring models for portfolio glamour shoots he landed a full-time job at XYZ Magazine, and is more than happy there. He gets access to girls, he gets to put lenses and other gear on expenses, and he’s fallen in with a good bunch of mates.
Personality: Tom is quite frankly a lad’s lad. He spends his days taking photos of the hottest girls around while they’re in the nude, and getting paid for it. Wherever there’s a party he’ll be there. Whereever a girl is a little down and vulnerable, he’ll be there. He’s not a great drinker, preferring a little sobriety to keep control of himself and the and the situation, to make the best out of any opportunities that might come up. All to better to make sure he gets his pick of the ladies. Beyond the ladies he’s quite a loyal friend. He’d never think of hitting on a mate’s girl, that’s against the lads’ code. Family’s out. He tends to get the first round in. Tends to be the one that makes sure everyone gets home safely in the end. All in all probably the most popular of the guys.
Dirty little secret: Like all good glamour photographers he likes to introduce the new models to the real world. Offering to lay a few words in the right ear to help their career along, if of course they’re going to lay in his bed. Yesterday sadly this caused a little bit of a hiccup. He knew that Darren had mentioned the fact that his sister would be around the office. But he hadn’t quite realised who she was until… well one thing led to another and it’s a little awkward. 16’s legal and all, but Diana’s his best mate’s sister; of course Darren doesn’t want to hear about it on his stag do does he? Or… on the honeymoon. Or ever. It’s probably just something to keep to yourself.
Left school at 16 and immediately apprenticed himself with an independent Butcher’s shop in town. It’s a true art, a man in perfect synchronicity with his job. These days, of course, he’s no apprentice.
He met Darren at the others at an airsoft game a year or so back.
Personality: Ian is probably best described as troubled. It started when he was young, like all kids he had imaginary friends, but his were a little more verbose. A little more pushy, making him do things that perhaps weren’t quite right. Play with matches… look in widows where people were doing things a little too adult… skinning the neighbour’s cat. Through it all he kept a measure of sense about him a feeling that it wasn’t quite… right. As he grew up he started to forget such things but there was always a kernel of that influence left, his desire to become a butcher, and not a supermarket kind. The proper kind, the ones that have to feel the life draining from the animals they kill. The need to learn how to defend himself, the Russian martial arts, the love of the feel of a cool blade in his hand. It wasn’t about wanting to hurt others. It was about the knowledge that there were things… Things that would want to hurt him, and that sensation’s been growing stronger again. Try and he might to hide it it’s getting harder and harder to pretend he doesn’t feel those little tingles. The shudder that accompanies some people’s proximity.
Still he’s found some friends at least, true he’s not as close as he might like, everyone keeps him at just a little distance, but that’s okay. It’s better than being alone all the time, his Airsoft games with the guys. Giving them a little extra meat when they come shopping. It’s the little gestures that remind him of his humanity.
Dirty little secret: Ian’s feelings that something’s not right have been getting worse again. It’s like when he was a kid. Little urges to do things he’s not comfortable with. But this time he’s older. Wiser a Territorial Army soldier he can handle anything. Especially with that knife he’s started carrying. He won’t need it, but well it’s just a reassurance, a solidity of purpose that comes with the training.
Worse, though, in spite of having known them for a year or so, something’s suddenly not right with Gary and Phil. They look the same, they act the same, but they just… give off that vibe, the feeling that they’re not right…
We’ve had this in the house for a while, but Christmas can get in the way of getting enough people together to roleplay. Finally, thanks to our FLGS opening a regular gaming club, we found both time and players.
The game comes packaged in a box with everything you will need to play: A rulebook; a pre-written adventure; maps for that adventure’s key locations; four pre-generated character folios; and the dice.
Character folios? Not sheets? Yes indeed. You see, the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game is – as stated on the box – an introduction to roleplaying, not an introduction for roleplayers to one particular game. This box is singlehandedly doing what roleplaying has neglected for well over a decade: attracting new players to the whole hobby.
The character folios then, aren’t just a sheet with a myriad of confusing stats: They contain progressing versions of the same character, helping new players learn about Experience Points and character advancement. They contain a note on each double-page spread explaining how the dice work. There is a sidebar outlining your key skills, and on later spreads how advancement in different directions will shape your character. In short, there’s everything you need to adopt a pre-generated character and make them entirely your own.
These characters are so carefully created, and so thoroughly ideal a match for the beginning adventure, that it’s next to impossible to have a bad time. The group has a powerfully strong motive to work together, and an equally strong reason to get the heck offworld. The adventure is very gently railroaded but manages to feel as though you have multiple choices: our group managed to evade and persuade rather than go toe-to-toe in combat in a couple of situations. The characters also don’t overlap one-another’s niches, and every one has a part to play in the included adventure: Pash seriously came into his own when it came to flying a ship; Vex was invaluable for both slicing and obtaining items we might have otherwise had to pay for; Oskara has some seriously mad carbine skills; and Lowhhrick is the close-combat specialist.
Fantasy Flight’s support is so good, though, that there are an additional two character folios available to download from their website: Sasha the Explorer; and Mathus the Technician. We had Sasha in play in our game, and she was superb at stealth and perception, frequently acting as our spotter. There’s also a second adventure, following on from the events in the Beginner Game. All this? Free.
They’ve released a dice roller app so that you don’t have to carry bags of dice to every game, and your players don’t have to start buying these very specific dice just to join in. It’s available for iOS and Android, and covers dice for both Edge of the Empire and the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Either version is only about $5 / £3.20.
It’s a great game, but more importantly it’s an ideal introduction to roleplaying. Looking for a way to bring your children into the hobby? Buy this. Looking for your first roleplaying game to try between yourself and a few friends? Buy this. Looking for an ideal game to help new members of your local games club learn to roleplay? Buy this. Star Wars fan who’s never tried roleplaying before? Buy this.
At about $30 / £25, it’s the ideal start to a lifetime’s enjoyment of one of the most enjoyable hobbies available. It isn’t a full copy of Edge of the Empire, and does exactly what it says on the box.