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Old 06-02-2011, 09:58 AM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

“Do you think it was road agents?”

“Look like knife work to you?”

“It was some animal, then. Mountain lion or maybe a bear.”

“Not unless your animal can think and plan and bear a grudge. Whatever did this; it drew their fire and only attacked when their guns were empty. Killed them slow and deliberate. Like a torturer with claws and fangs.”

“... Who did you say you were?”

“United States Postal Service. Special Agent of the Division of Mail Predations.”

This is the rational 19th century. The theory of evolution, electricity, the telegraph and even the electric light bulb are all understood, at least by leading scientists. Nevertheless, there are those who prefer to cling to medieval superstitions. A group of such men, armed with questionable evidence and bolstered by the assistance of various politicians willing to credit their theories at least enough to pester their political allies, has insisted for years that the Federal government needed to investigate various ‘anomalous phenomena‘. In 1879, after years of bureaucratic infighting, the Postmaster General David M. Keys is finally pressurised by Senator Roscoe Conklin (R-NY) to consent to administratively own this ticklish problem.

He agrees to employ these men in the Division of Special Agents and Mail Predations. They will have badges, salaries and even $1,000 per month in operational funds that can be wired to them wherever they may find themselves. Employees of the post offices around the country shall be briefed to provide assistance, within reason, and ask no questions when presented with their badges. But Postmaster General Keys warns them that he will deny any stories that they publicly tell about being employed by him to seek out bugaboos, Big Foot or ghosts. In fact, he makes it very clear that his only concern is that they do not embarrass him or indeed impinge further upon his awareness. Having employed them, his service to Senator Conklin is rendered and he washes his hands of the matter. Their immediate superior will be Chief Special Agent Parker and be it on his own head if he chooses to pay any heed to tall tales of the supernatural.

The players will take on the role of these men. At least one of the PCs will be a credible person who has for years lobbied the government to take action in the field of supernatural phenomena. The others will either be persons that he has contacted and share his belief or they will be others who have spoken out about the supernatural in some way that has come to the attention of the government. Other plausible reasons for being involved are also welcome. Potential players will please explain why their character is interested in the supernatural and what his experience of it is before we start play.

The rule system is GURPS and in general, the harshest, starkest, most realistic rules will be in play. On occasion, there will even be houses rules, generally small changes too fiddly for official publications. I’ll respond to questions about them, but in general, fiddly rule stuff will be handled by the GM exclusively and players won’t have to worry too much about rules. Just assume that what would work in real life ought to have a chance of working. You know, if real life had cryptids, monsters, secret magic and supremely skilled and courageous men who faced all these things.

The Wild West featured in this game will be the Wild West of Deadwood or Unforgiven. It is dirty, foul-mouthed, rough and sometimes lawless, but it features more murders than shootouts and more brawls than anything else. Obviously, the vast majority of the American West during even the ‘Wildest’ period in its history was a low-crime area filled with peaceful homesteaders or ranchers. These, however, are not the areas that we are interested in. I guarantee that if play ever visits such places, it is because something is lurking behind that peace.

I shall not commit to a weekly schedule, instead aiming to look frequently at the thread and keep play moving at some pace that suits everyone. If, for some reason, it is necessary to coordinate schedules for some parts, this OOC thread will do fine for that purpose.

I will select players entirely arbitrarily and without revealing my reasons. I want around four, but I’d rather have fewer than I’d accept someone just to make up numbers. Posting reasons of why you should be selected in the OOC thread is fine, as is posting potential ideas for characters. Getting attached to a character concept before the players who are chosen have thrashed out between themselves how to divide functional and dramatic roles in the group is not fine.

I’ll post a list of what functional roles I’ll want filled and welcome further discussion of it. As for dramatic roles, I expect that potential players will have their own ideas and look forward to them coming up with some. At the minimum, PCs will have backgrounds that differ enough to bring each character into sharp contrast. It would also be good if they had different outlooks toward some important issues that could come up, such as morality (endless possibilities), the supernatural and even politics and their erstwhile superiors. That being said, the PCs will have plausible reasons for starting together and staying together.

It is possible that PCs may have some supernatural talents. If so, these are subtle enough so that they can’t prove them to others, unless such people are already willing to believe. All PCs should be able to handle a wide variety of challenges, ranging from mysteries to solve, complex social situations, outdoors adventures, manhunts to brawls and deadly shootouts. They ought to be plausible as real people, but may all be outstanding examples of real people, intelligent, hearty, successful and lucky.

My preferred method of generating characters, once players have been selected, is to arrive at the dramatic niches and specialities within the team in consultation with the players. The players will then describe their characters, as they would any fictional person, and I use GURPS rules to build stats for them. I’ll then send the stats to each player for comment and revision.

Finally, I am the GM. I wear the Viking Hat. Discussion is welcome. Errors may be pointed out. Criticism is encouraged. Lack of appropriate genuflection to the authority of the Hat, however, as this imperils the fun of everyone, will be dealt with by ceremonial humping. No homo. Nobody is enjoying it. But furious humping.
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:05 AM   #2
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First, there are several vital functional roles that pretty much have to be covered in the team. If no player wants one of them, it would most likely be necessary to have an NPC accompany the PCs to cover that niche. If someone is so inclined and the other players agree, it would be fine to combine some of these into one character.

Occult investigator
The man whose work has convinced the Federal government that they need to pay attention to 'anomalous phenomena'. This could be one PC who in the course of his investigations has come across the others and enlisted them somehow to aid his researches or more than one PC could independently have had experience of the supernatural and attempted to convince the goverment of its veracity.
At least one of the PCs trying to flog his evidence of the supernatural needs to have reached politicians, someone who is connected to Senator Roscoe Conklin (R-NY). This could be, for example, Horatio Seymor, his Democrat brother-in-law (and Presidental candidate in 1868), or it could be former (Union) Gen. George. H. Sharpe, deeply involved in military intelligence, or Alonzo B. Cornell, former VP of Western Union and Republican politician. Or it could be Conklin protegé Chester A. Arthur. Or, indeed, nearly anyone connected to the Republican party in NY state or on a national level. It is not necessary that you know any of these men well (though you may), only that you could somehow have convinced them to lend their assistance to the quest of getting the Federal government to listen.

Scientist/MD
A man of science is necessary, if only to rule out natural causes. The kind of science that would be most useful to the PCs would probably be practical medicine, combined with biology, psysiology, anatomy and perhaps a little naturalism. A far ranging knowledge of flora and fauna would be nice, as well, but could always be left to a more practical outdoors type. All in all, tailor-made for an intelligent medical doctor with an inquiring disposition. Obviously, the doctor could also be a student of occult phenomena and would have the social standing necessary to be believed if he testified about some supernatural experience of his own.

Indian expert
One of the PCs must know how to survive on the great plains and palaver with Indians. He'll have to speak several of their languages and preferably have Cultural Familiarity with them. If not, he'd need extensive learning about their ways. This could be an Indian scout for the Army, a 'tame' Indian who did the same job, a half-breed or even a 'civilised' Indian from a mission school. It seems natural to combine this role with survival expert, plains rider, scout and tracker, but it is not necessary, of course.

Social Engineer
At least one PC must be comfortable with a wide variety of social situations. He may be out of place in some of them, but needs to be clever enough or charming enough to overcome being a stranger and manage to make friends and influence people. Possible former careers for this role include confidence trickster, gambler, gold mine investor, railroad executive, mercantile agent, lawman or any other role where one might have to deal with a lot of people who might initially be wary or even hostile.

Smith/Armourer
If the PCs mean to kill supernatural menaces, they might need exotic weaponry. Someone needs to be able to melt down sterling silver for shot shells, but more than that, someone probably needs to be able to improvise far more complex and specialised weaponry. It is possible that only by melting down a certain relic and making a sword out of it can the menace be laid to rest. Or that what is really needed is someone who can repair the broken Nordenfelt gun and turn out a supply of jacketed hawthorne slivers for it. Or anything in between or something even more exotic. This character could be an engineer and inventor from back East or he could be a resourceful smith who can shoe a horse as well as tinker with guns. He could have learned in the Union Army, the Confederate army, from his pappy or from the railroads.

Then there are the other areas of expertise, which would be good if one or more PCs were versed in:

Wilderness survival
Subspecialities are tracking, navigation, hunting, care of horses.

Town survival
Subspecialities familiarity with various unsavoury aspects of the less legal parts of towns. Lying, detecting lies, intimidating folks, brawling, knowing when someone is a murderer and when he's posturing, etc.

Political survival
Knowing how to deal with the Postal Service buraucracy, how to go about if you want to get evidence out, what to tell a Governor's aide when you have to see him, etc. Not necessarily a vital speciality, but a rewarding one if someone chooses to go that way.

There are many subcultures that could be encountered on adventures and the more of them that are represented in the party, the more varied and interesting the adventures. I don't expect we'll ever have all of them (and that's okay too, because sometimes not being familiar with the culture is more interesting), but it would be nice to have some of them.

Frontier culture
Sub-divided into an endless variety, of course, such as ranchers/cattlemen, prospectors and miners, buffalo hunters, shootists/lawmen/badmen and more. At least one PC must be able to act at home in a rough and tumble frontier town or camp.

Exodusters
Obviously, many black men were cowboys, farmers, smiths and other vital jobs in the frontier culture. All the same, at the time, they are very much a minority and discrimination is the rule. Many will be former slaves and more likely to associate with others of they feel kinship with. A black PC could more easily gain the trust of black NPCs, which could well be useful.

Vaqueros
People of Hispanic origin, mostly Mexican, are very common in certain areas of the West. In New Mexico and Texas, the culture of the Americans is very shaped by their neighbours to the South and a lot of the words that became part of the lexicon of the West were Spanish. Not to mention all the legends of the border. A Spanish-speaking PC could be useful.

Celestials
Not uncommon in certain areas of the West and very insular. Could be interesting having an Asian PC or at least someone with connections into that culture. For one thing, if the supernatural exists, the study and practice of it will be commonplace among them.

Then there's areas of expertise in combat. I think that all PCs should know how to shoot, at least be able to ride and should be capable of using some weapon in hand-to-hand, as well as being able to handle themselves in a brawl. All the same, there will be specialists and people who prefer certain weapons. More than one speciality per PC is fine, as long as the other players are satified with the division. By the same token, nothing prevents us from doubling up on some of these expertises, as long as the PCs are individually distinct enough.

The hand-to-hand expert.
Either big and strong, or just very skilled. Could be a knife-fighter, a cavalry trooper adept with his sword, a former soldier who's deadly with bayonet and rifle wielded as a blunt instrument or it could even be someone trained in Celestial fighting arts.

Shootist/Gunfighter.
The fast-draw artist. The pistolero. The master of swiftly ending a violent confrontation almost before it begins.

Shotgunner.
His weapon of choice is a shotgun, either lever-action or, more likely, a double. Very good at short ranges. One good option might be to have a big and strong man carry an eight-gauge shotgun, which would certainly have some impact on anything that has a physical body.

Rider
Born in the saddle and able to shoot his carbine or pistol while riding as well as other men do standing on the ground.

Lever-action rifleman
The king of the medium range, wielding a Winchester lever-action in a respectable caliber.

Sharpshooter
The master of picking off foes at very long range. Uses a more powerful caliber than those available in period lever-actions, most likely a .45-70 Government or heavier. Might have a scoped rifle.
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:07 AM   #3
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

What sort of specialties are likely? A soldier, an occultist, a scientist, and a doctor?
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Old 06-02-2011, 11:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

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What sort of specialties are likely? A soldier, an occultist, a scientist, and a doctor?
Military experience would be good for all of them, but I don't think 'soldier', on its own, will be enough. Anyone in his thirties and older may have served in the Civil War and younger people may have experience from the Indian Wars.

I'll put up a better list in the placeholder soon, but the four roles I've tentatively identified are:

Scientist/MD. I had thought that the most plausible sciency-type, as well as the most useful, would be a doctor. If, however, someone wishes to play a genuine experimental scientist/engineer with an occult bent, I suppose that would also be okay. But I think that a doctor is needed as well.

Anthropologist. Rather than a scholar, I had thought that an Indian scout who knew a lot about Indians from hands-on experience or perhaps a half-breed or 'tame' Indian would be good for this role. The PCs would, at the very least, need someone who spoke several Indian languages and knew something about their culture.

Gunsmith. On the assumption that it may sometimes be necessary to improvise exotic weapons in order to kill the creatures they face, at least of of the PCs needs to be a competent smith, armourer and all-around handyman.

Face. One of the PCs, at the very least, needs to be be able to function in a variety of social situations. He might be a lawman, already experienced at riding into frontier towns and enlisting locals to help him search for his man. He might be a confidence trickster or gambler. Or he could be a rich investor whose people skills mostly relate to getting people on his payroll. Method optional, that is.

Obviously, one or more of them will be 'occultists' in the sense that they have more knowledge of the supernatural than most people. Whoever takes on the role of the character who has spent years pressuring the government will most likely have some skills relating to that, possibly including Occultist. I guess it would fit best for it to have been the Scientist/Doctor, but it might have been the Face. Or someone more surprising, casting against type. An educated Indian scout. A steam engineer who can fix most anything who struck it rich in a gold rush and uses his money to get people to listen to him about experiences he's had in the dark of the mines. Or something else.
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Old 06-03-2011, 05:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

I would like ot announce my interest in this game. It sounds like a great setting. Horror and Old West is a great combination

I am thinking of a a couple concepts:

First one is of a smith/armorer, the big and strong type who uses a shotgun and is an amatuer boxer. He could be a veteran of the civil war or just learned his skills from his father or grandfather.

Or perhaps an eccentric tinker with a compulsion to invent strange devices. more of a cerebral type.

Or a Mountain man from the north who has skills in tracking and survival and a couple indian cultures. Would be the elder of the group. Could have knowledge of Native American myths (occultism).
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Old 06-03-2011, 05:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

I'd like to play the occult investigator.

My thoughts:

Germans were particularly religious at that time, so a German immigrant would do nicely. He could be an ex-Pinkerton who went too deep down the rabbit hole, if I can use an expression from a recent literary work.
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Old 06-03-2011, 06:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

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Originally Posted by Skullcrusher View Post
First one is of a smith/armorer, the big and strong type who uses a shotgun and is an amatuer boxer. He could be a veteran of the civil war or just learned his skills from his father or grandfather.
Sounds like it would fit.

Indeed, when I first ruminated upon the campaign setting, I saw in my mind's eye Mose Jefferson, a tall, strong black man wielding an 8-gauge shotgun of his own make. Born a slave in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1841, Mose worked as a blacksmith's assistant. He was a quick learner, an amiable fellow and his master had no sons. On his 18th birthday, he was freed and became a journeyman working with John Jefferson, his former master.

When the South began arming itself, he started building cannon, muskets and rifles. After hostiles started, John Jefferson, despite being well over fifty, joined the 5th Mississippi Regiment of the Confederate Army. Mose followed him to war, as a blacksmith and armourer with the Army of Mississippi. After John Jefferson fell at Perryville, Mose contrived to carry an Enfield musket for the rest of the war.

After the war, he did odd jobs around Jackson, trying to raise the stakes to start his own foundry and livery. Having little success, he stuck out to Montana, hoping to find gold at Confederate Gulch. He didn't find gold, but he did discover that an accomplish smith could earn good money there and quickly saved up enough to go into business for himself. The gold yield was already declining, so he took his pile and tried his luck elsewhere. Drifting West, he found himself in Bodie in late 1870. Too late to prospect, but not too late to found a successful smithy. In Bodie, he had his supernatural experience.

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Or perhaps an eccentric tinker with a compulsion to invent strange devices. more of a cerebral type.
Would need to be carefully constructed so that he had enough to contribute to the group. They could not carry much heavy luggage, so his workshop would usually be what they could rent in frontier towns. For that reason, I think that the armourer of the group had best be used to working in such conditions.

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Or a Mountain man from the north who has skills in tracking and survival and a couple indian cultures. Would be the elder of the group.
Certainly that should work.
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Old 06-03-2011, 06:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skullcrusher http://forums.sjgames.com/images/buttons/viewpost.gif
First one is of a smith/armorer, the big and strong type who uses a shotgun and is an amatuer boxer. He could be a veteran of the civil war or just learned his skills from his father or grandfather.
Sounds like it would fit.
Indeed, when I first ruminated upon the campaign setting, I saw in my mind's eye Mose Jefferson, a tall, strong black man wielding an 8-gauge shotgun of his own make. Born a slave in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1841, Mose worked as a blacksmith's assistant. He was a quick learner, an amiable fellow and his master had no sons. On his 18th birthday, he was freed and became a journeyman working with John Jefferson, his former master.

When the South began arming itself, he started building cannon, muskets and rifles. After hostiles started, John Jefferson, despite being well over fifty, joined the 5th Mississippi Regiment of the Confederate Army. Mose followed him to war, as a blacksmith and armourer with the Army of Mississippi. After John Jefferson fell at Perryville, Mose contrived to carry an Enfield musket for the rest of the war.

After the war, he did odd jobs around Jackson, trying to raise the stakes to start his own foundry and livery. Having little success, he stuck out to Montana, hoping to find gold at Confederate Gulch. He didn't find gold, but he did discover that an accomplish smith could earn good money there and quickly saved up enough to go into business for himself. The gold yield was already declining, so he took his pile and tried his luck elsewhere. Drifting West, he found himself in Bodie in late 1870. Too late to prospect, but not too late to found a successful smithy. In Bodie, he had his supernatural experience.
I was thinking more of a second Generation Scotsman who had a natural talent for metal working and was taught smithing buy his father. He would've been recruited as an armorer for the Union army. After the war he would've travel West to seek his fortune as a smith or Armorer for the US cavalry in thier skirmishes with the Plains indians.


Quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skullcrusher http://forums.sjgames.com/images/buttons/viewpost.gif
Or perhaps an eccentric tinker with a compulsion to invent strange devices. more of a cerebral type.
Would need to be carefully constructed so that he had enough to contribute to the group. They could not carry much heavy luggage, so his workshop would usually be what they could rent in frontier towns. For that reason, I think that the armourer of the group had best be used to working in such conditions.
I could see him with a wagon or Stage coach workshop. But that might get in the way. so I would agree with your conclusion about the armourer being better suited. This architype would be best suited as an Ally or patron for a character.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:18 AM   #10
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Default Re: [OOC] The Silent Service, Very Special Agents

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Originally Posted by ErhnamDJ View Post
I'd like to play the occult investigator.

My thoughts:

Germans were particularly religious at that time, so a German immigrant would do nicely. He could be an ex-Pinkerton who went too deep down the rabbit hole, if I can use an expression from a recent literary work.
Very good.

So, your first idea for a concept is an ex-Pinkerton agent, of German roots (or a first-generation immigrant). What else is he? Look over the suggestions for functional roles and see what catches your fancy. Also, pitch some ideas about what his dramatic role in the party would be. Is he the leader? The stout-hearted second? The rebellious, but ultimately loyal loose cannon? The heart of the group? The comedian? A spiritual inspiration? Something else?

Was he the one who reached out to powerful politicians to get this group created? An ex-Pinkerton might know former Union General Sharpe or at least know men who knew him, so that could be. But he'd need convincing testimony and at least partial evidence. Not enough so that any politician was comfortable about going public with it. But enough so that some supported quiet action.

In case it was unclear, 'occult investigator' might be the job description of all the characters. At least now. However, one or more of them will also have been instrumental in bringing the existence of the occult to the attention of authorities. They have been partially successful, in that they now have badges and some authority to continue their research.

Obviously, no one has been approved yet, but concepts can well be discussed. Just let no one get attached to one or even be certain that he'll be taking part. Apart from three who have expressed interest in this thread, there are three others contacted by other means, so only those who mesh well with other players and impress me with collaborating in creating an interesting group of characters will be playing.

Players must be interested in playing their character, yes, but their character will also serve to high-light aspects of other PCs. Without a straight man, there is no wise-cracking comic. Without a sympathetic, warm-hearted companion, we do not notice the callousness of the hardened lawman. So on and so forth.

So, when pitching concepts, think about how they will mesh with the concepts of other characters. Think about dividing responsibility by saying things like: "I'd like to be a chatty, friendly sort of fellow. Is anyone going to be a taciturn, laconic character?"
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