For those of you in the States, hope you had a Happy Labor Day weekend! For everyone else… uhh… happy Tuesday! This week we’ll be previewing a central organization in Terrors and Tommyguns: The Collective. Between recruiting new members, keeping the existence of the supernatural out of the public eye, and trying to keep some balance between any number of warring factions seeking their own version of the end of the world, the Collective is a busy, mysterious, and often dangerous organization of which to be a part. We’ll open with the vignette that begins the chapter entitled “King in The Castle”, and follow that with a high level view of The Collective, how it operates in the game world, and what it can offer the Player Characters. Enjoy!
King in the Castle
I’ve had the dreams for as long as I can remember. The way that other people discuss dreams never made any sense to me. Good dreams. Bad dreams. Nightmares. I’ve always had all three at once. And they’ve always led me to the same place. It looks like the dungeon of an old castle, but there’s electricity. There are monsters. They chase after me in the streets and don’t stop chasing me until I get to the Castle. They can’t get me there. I don’t know why. They follow me into the Castle, then they just… stop. And listen to jazz. And drink beer. They still watch me, and they still want to hurt me, but they don’t. I think it’s because of the King. He’s a huge, imposing, door frame of a man. I’m not sure if he’s a great hero, or the greatest monster of them all. He rules over the Castle, and everyone is either in awe of him or afraid of him. Maybe both. He calls out to me, and then I wake up. It’s always been that way. But the voices don’t go away when I wake up. I can’t see them anymore, but the monsters are still there. They always have been.
“Lily”, the King calls out to me, just like always. Except he’s not in my dreams anymore. He’s right in front of me. And I’m awake. Maybe more awake than I’ve ever been. “Lily, are you there? Come back to us.” He smiles at me, but not with his eyes. Truth be told, I can’t read anything behind his eyes. Since the dreams started when I was a kid, I was always able to discern peoples’ intentions. To read their eyes. To read their minds. To read their souls. But this man in front of me is completely inscrutable. Despite the smile, he sends a chill down my spine. If he has a soul, I sure can’t see it. “Lily, do you understand what I’ve told you?” I look him square in his dead, reptilian eyes, trying to pierce through them. It doesn’t work. They pierce through me instead. I nod passively, trying to keep my composure. I feel as though I can’t cry. Not in front of the King.
“I’m in a place called the Halls of the Collective,” I say, reciting what the King has just told me. “Your name is Lux Hammersmith. You’re in charge of the Collective, which is a secret society like the Masons or the Knights of Columbus or something. Except your secret order controls powerful monsters. And chaos magic. And planes of existence. And keeps the world from being destroyed by them.” The King nods. “Very good,” he says. “And now you’re going to be part of that balance of order and chaos that keeps the fabric of this world from tearing at the seams. I pull back in my chair. “No,” I say, trying to keep my upper lip as stiff as possible. “I can’t. I’ve spent my whole life being chased by your monsters. I can’t stay here with them. I can’t become one of them.” He says nothing at first, but I can tell he’s heard this before.
“If you truly don’t wish to join, I can’t make you. You’re free to get up and leave. The dreams will stop.” He leans forward now as if he’s got a secret to tell me. “Unfortunately, once the dreams stop, so too will your memory of them. So too will the powers they grant you. The ability you have to read people. The abilities you have not yet realized that you have. I–we– can help you become who you’ve always been. Who you’re meant to be. If you wish to be normal, you will finally have your chance. But is that really what you want?” He says normal like he’s choking on it. He’s trying to reassure me, but I want to scream. I want to run out the door. I want to ask him what will happen if I run away and hide from them. If I leave New Babylon and fly halfway across the world to get away from him. But I already know the answer. I can’t run from them. I can’t hide from them. My dreams won’t let me. My whole life I’ve felt powerful but in this moment I feel very, very small.
“I’m not a monster like you,” I say, my facade cracking. Tears roll down my face. He says nothing. He doesn’t have to.
“…Am I?” He says nothing. He doesn’t have to.
We sit there in silence. I’m not sure for how long. Then he opens his giant suit jacket and pulls a flask and two glasses out. He places the glasses on the table in front of me and pours a dark liquid into both. It smells like bourbon but it’s inky black and bubbly like the sodas at the pharmacists’ bar. He pushes one in front of me and picks up the other. “Whenever you’re ready,” he says in that same impassive voice. I know he’s not forcing me to do anything. He’s giving me a choice: either the dreams can end, or they can get louder, because I guess they were never really dreams at all. The monsters have terrified me my entire life, but is it better to face your fears or run from them? I don’t have a universal answer for that, but I drink down the drink all the same. The King does the same. I hear voices. They sound like singing. A terrible, maniacal choir. The King, and the entire room, begin to swirl and shake around me. I think, for a moment, that I can see behind his eyes. That I can see everything. For just a moment, my dreams make sense. Everything makes sense. I am enlightened, and now I understand that the King is no King at all.
He’s a God.
Everything swirls out of control. I see the entirety of the cosmos. Every plane of existence. Beings made of pure energy that I can define with only one word: power. Voices scream into the depths of my soul. The inky black of the great maw of reality envelopes me and I begin falling. I know if I fall too deep into this, I’ll never come back. For a moment, I consider letting go. Letting the voices win. Letting the dreams die, and letting myself die with it. There have been so many days in my life where felt was easier to just swim down then try to keep treading water. I never did. But I’m so tired.
I look up, and the King stands over me. He reaches out for me through the chaos. His eyes are now black, dead spheres, like on a child’s doll. In the middle of his forehead burns a bright, fiery third eye. It’s all I can focus on as the voices scream around me and the cosmos threaten to swallow me whole. But this isn’t where my story ends. It can’t be. All I’ve been through can’t be for nothing. I reach out for the King, and the voices grow quieter. He nods solemnly and takes my hand, pulling me from the brink. Our hands seem to fuse together. The swirling maelstrom calms, just a little, in time for me to see him slam his other hand against my forehead. I feel an intense burning, and the burning and pain intensify until everything goes black.
I awaken in the Castle from my dreams. My forehead burns, but not the way it normally does after I drink. It burns like it was just on fire. I run my hand across my forehead and find no burn or mark. It’s like another bad dream. Around me, a band plays loud, fast music. People mingle around, but when I blink I see flashes of their true selves; they’re not people at all, are they? I begin to panic in my booth, and a waiter comes over. Is he actually a person? Is he real? “Welcome to Euclid’s Corner,” the waiter says calmly. He hands me a glass of expensive smelling brown liquor. “Courtesy of Mr. Hammersmith.” He points to the corner where the King sits by himself on a rickety wooden chair of a throne. He smiles that same fake smile and raises his glass to me. I drink the entire glass in one gulp. It’s stronger than I expected. I gag on it and my eyes close. It is then that the eye burned into my forehead opens. I can see it. I can see myself. I see everyone in the bar as they really are. Some of them are people. Some of them are monsters. Some of them are both. I don’t know how I know this, but I do. I look over to the King. I want to see what he really is. But I don’t see him. I open my eyes back up and see the King. He’s right where he was. He shakes his head calmly at me, and, with one final, fake smile, stands up and leaves.
Sensing my distress, the waiter clears his throat. “This social club has a number of rules I’ll be happy to review with you when you’re ready, but do take your time adjusting. Transitions can be difficult. If you need anything before that, please don’t hesitate to let me know, and…” he looks down at me and I see the first genuine kindness I’ve seen in this place,
Welcome to the Collective.”
That Which is Unseen
There is a place at the nexus of chaos and order. Of reality and delusion. Of hope and despair. That place is The Collective. The Collective exists outside of an individual morality; indeed, it is because of a lack of a specific morality that it can exist at all. The Collective is an organization that operates as a cosmic balance of the various planes of existence and the beings that live there. It is a society to which every Player Character belongs, or will belong in very short order. And none of it could exist without Lux Hammersmith.
Lux Hammersmith is the proprietor of the Hammersmith Hotel and the de facto head of the Collective. Little is known about him: his age, his wealth, his origins and his actual powers are all shrouded in mystery. What is not up for debate is the loyalty he inspires among the staff of the Collective. For all the intrigue and backstabbing and bounties placed on members by other members, none have dared speak an ill word publicly about Mr. Hammersmith. He appears to be an older man, with an inscrutable demeanor. Lux is almost pathologically calm, his eyes and body language betraying nothing, and is never seen in public without a beautifully tailored suit and his cane, which is a deep black bearing the gold, metal head of a lion.
Hammersmith Hotel/The Basement
It’s strange walking into the front door of the Hammersmith Hotel compared to walking into the Basement. Brightly lit twenty four hours a day, the gold plating on the lobby furniture and the marble floors inlaid with lapis lazuli seem, if not overly garish, at the least a striking display of wealth. Visiting dignitaries, celebrities and businesspeople stay at the Hammersmith Hotel with their attendants and make a show of being seen in the lobby.
There are two publicly accessible bars in the Hammersmith Hotel. The first, near the front desk, is a lively jazz club with music playing most hours of the day (and night). The second, known colloquially as “The Basement”, is available either from a nondescript door from the lobby level of Hammersmith Hotel or from an unmarked door in the alleyway out back near the loading dock. It is here that many of New Babylon’s cops, gangsters, private detectives and mad scientists meet. It is from here that The Collective is accessed.
The Basement is considered Collective property, meaning that as soon as you walk through the doors, you’re under their protection. It makes for an interesting vibe as you see sworn enemies unable to raise a hand toward each other. No outside drinks are allowed, and while weapons are not specifically banned, it’s understood that whoever starts trouble in The Basement will be leaving in a dumpster. There are a number of bartenders in The Basement, but Serena King runs the show. A take-no-nonsense woman with striking hazel eyes and a powerful frame, she has no problem staring down (and throwing out) anyone from harmless drunks to the Capo of one of the Four Families. The Basement is her territory, and everyone who knows anything knows it. Backing Serena up is an impressive security force of bouncers who blend almost perfectly into the background of the sprawling dive bar unless they are needed, at which point they seem to appear out of nowhere, ready to take out the trash. Word to the wise: Don’t be the trash.
Entry into the halls of The Collective is cloak-and-dagger enough, but it’s certainly not glorious. Each of the bathrooms in The Basement contains a bathroom attendant. Upon entering, request “the last stall on the left” and reveal your Third Eye to the Attendant. Pressing the plunger on the toilet will not cause it to flush– rather, it will turn the wall around almost soundlessly, depositing you in a dark corridor. From there, you will take a long elevator (with overly friendly elevator attendants) down into the halls of The Collective. It’s almost certain that there are other entrances into The Halls of the Collective via the Hammersmith Hotel, but for most members, this is the only way in and out.
The Halls of the Collective
Euclid’s Corner: Upon reaching the bottom of the elevator, Members will enter into what can be best described as a “medieval jazz club”. The walls are rough-hewn stone, and the architecture Gothic, but otherwise the place is a huge, lively nightclub with live music twenty four hours a day. Being subterranean, it’s impossible to tell exactly what time it is there. Members of all walks of life assemble there. It is here, in the safety of the Halls of the Collective, that deals are brokered, truces are declared (and broken), contracts made, and intelligence gathered. No one knows what defenses exist within Euclid’s Corner (or the remainder of the Halls) because beyond whispered rumors and Legend, no one dares find out.
Every part of the Halls of the Collective outside of Euclid’s Corner is rough-hewn and ancient. Non Euclidean Geometry means that there are dozens of doors and passageways branching off from the initial point of entry, if you have eyes to see them or a guide. Once leaving Euclid’s Corner, there is no electricity: all passageways are rough-hewn rock of indeterminate age lit by braziers, oil lamps and torches. It is here that the inner works of the Collective are performed. It is here that the characters will receive their supernatural training. It is here that the secrets of the Collective, such as they are, and such as they have been for millennia, remain.
Florins are small, glowing purple coins that act as the currency of the Collective. Florins are used among members to pay for jobs, settle debts, and receive Supernatural Services within the Halls of the Collective. Within the game, Florins are an additional form of currency within Terrors and Tommyguns granting the players access to strange, powerful, dangerous powers and items.
Supernatural Services: What The Collective Can Do For You
The Collective serves many functions within the game: as a means of access to forbidden knowledge, a way to get jobs and progress adventures, and a source of intrigue, danger and, if the players are lucky and capable, powerful rewards. The Collective offers a number of services in exchange for Florins, including but not limited to:
Safe Harbor (4 Florins per person per night): You are granted a room deep within the Halls of the Collective and are subject to its rules of safe passage. Wealthy and highly wanted patrons are rumored to be long-term residents.
Scrying (3 Florins): A form of Ritual Magic in which the Collective acolyte will show the location and current activities of any individual that the requester has met and has a personal effect of. Cannot, due to rules of the Collective, be cast with a Collective member as a target.
The Realm Where Shadows Lie (10 Florins per person). Can be used to remove up to 2 Scars per character. This should take the form of its own adventure in which the characters must come face to face with, and overcome, their internal demons either alone or as a group.
Cleaners (cost varies, 5-50 Florins): Secrecy is tantamount to The Collective, and where secrecy is broken, The Cleaners come in. Granted special permission by Lux Hammersmith to do whatever is needed to maintain the secrecy of the Collective, even if it means breaking other rules. The Cleaners are dispatched to destroy evidence and, if necessary, erase the memories of anyone who saw something they shouldn’t have (if not erase the person themselves). At the discretion of the Cleaners, someone may be recruited into the Collective after witnessing supernatural phenomena rather than having their memory erased or being killed. The circumstances surrounding this decision are a closely held secret.
Additionally, the Collective can help you with Incantations and Rites.
Incantations act as a powerful, single use magical effect, similar to the function of Runes within Sagas of Midgard. Upon successful casting of the Incantation, a mark is inscribed upon you. This mark remains until you get it removed, and fades further from your body with each use. Your Director will decide where on your body and how large/noticeable the Inscription is. When using them, resolve them as written. However, if you wish to bend the fabric of spacetime further, you can augment your Incantations in the following ways:
- Reuse: The first time you use an Incantation, you may do so freely so long as you have it inscribed onto you. However, the magicks become more difficult to summon each time you attempt to use them. Make a Reality Check to reuse your Incantation with a +5 rollover per each time you attempt to use it: so your second use would be your normal Reality Check Rollover plus 5, second plus ten, etc. On a success, the effect resolves again as normal. On a failure, the spell is not cast and you gain a Scar.
- Hit On All Sixes: Sometimes you may need to dig a little deeper and utilize the power of the Elder Gods in a more meaningful way. Make an Attribute Check based on the Incarnation you are attempting to cast with a Rollover of 20. On a success, you receive the Hit On All Sixes effect: on a failure, you are unable to control the magic. Receive no effect and make a Reality Check as the reality of spacetime bends and swirls around you.
A few of the Incantations within the Terrors and Tommyguns Corebook:
Invigorating Spirit (Vigor or Moxie): A flood of power rushes over you filling you with extra endurance. Gain 10 temporary EP. These are the first to be used when using Talents or taking damage. These EPs last until used or until the end of the Episode.
Hit On All Sixes: to allow the spirit to flow to up to 3 allies as well, bestowing everyone with 15 temporary EP.
Spectral Weapon (Vim or Vigor): Pure eldritch energy flows from your fingertips, allowing you pinpoint accuracy to strike your foes with magical force. Is it a spectral Tommygun with magic bullets? Are you imbuing your baseball bat with special “Knock ‘em out of the park” power? Regardless of what you choose, select three targets you can see. They are struck by your spectral weapon and take 5 Mortal damage.
Hit On All Sixes: Choose one of the following effects:
- Hit those three targets for ten Mortal damage each.
- Choose up to the six targets and deal 5 Mortal Damage.
Ears of the Bat (Wits): You are able to hone in on and perfectly hear sounds of your choice. Choose a target you can see. For the next ten minutes, in addition to your own hearing you can hear everything your target hears. If you lose sight on your target, the effect ends.
Hit On All Sixes: You can reach out and hear a target that you cannot see so long as they are on this plane of existence. This effect now lasts for thirty minutes.
Brain Drain (Wits): Choose a target. That target’s memory is erased for the previous half hour. The Incantation itself is disorientating to the target but not overtly painful or traumatizing.
Hit On All Sixes: Choose one of the following effects.
- You may use this Incantation on three targets instead of one.
- You may choose to wipe the target’s memory for a day instead of a half hour.
- You may implant a simple memory in the target to help them “remember” what they were doing instead.
You will notice that Incantations are obviously magical and produce pretty obvious, sometimes explosive, effects. Characters will do well to remember that while they have powerful tools at their disposal, the Cleaners don’t come cheap (should they make a mess of things). Also, no matter how strong you think you are, someone is always stronger. And if you’re using Incantations all over town, that stronger being probably has one of their many eyes fixed on you.
But Incantations are small potatoes compared to Rites. Rites are immensely powerful, difficult to achieve rituals that can alter the course of a campaign and quite literally change the world. They are closely guarded secrets that the Characters will need to research, and labor, and give of themselves, often literally, to pull off. We will be discussing Rites, as well as powerful Artifacts that can be found within the world…
In a few weeks.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak preview into the Collective, how it operates within the world of New Babylon, and what it can offer (as well as what it expects) from the Characters in Terrors and Tommyguns. Next week we’ll be discussing monster design and our combat loop. The week after that you can finally learn about Rites and Artifacts, and the week after THAT… the Kickstarter will be launching!
As always, let us know any questions and thanks for reading!