Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
THE DARKSIDE IN STLN
You stink of it, and you know others can smell it too. You stand too close to people and they edge away without realizing why. Monsters know you on sight, and their lips peel back with a tiger smile.
Anyone can become spiritually calloused, inured to horror if exposed to enough of it, or guilty of enough of it. When a person stops being revolted by the horrors of her existence, the Darkside consumes her. That disgust, terror, and anguish is the cage that locks away the Dark Side, and when once the sage is open, it is nearly impossible to lock the Darkside away again.
The Darkside is a powerful corrupting force. Even the most pious Jedi may remain entirely virtuous in her actions and even her thoughts, only to have her body and soul erode through long years of struggle against the forces of the Darkside. True heroes refuse to allow the blight of the Darkside to spread, warding it off through action or penance. Sometimes, however, even the most well-intentioned individual ends up embracing the Darkside within them, using it to increase their physical or mental power.
A frenzied murder, vicious beating, ruining a marriage out of spite, or a blowtorch in your hand and an enemy’s cohort tied to a chair with wire, covered in weeping burns. Darkside offends the humanity you cling to, mocks your presumptions and your pretenses. Having it makes you feel on edge, foul tempered, just wrong. The more you have, the worse this feeling of gets, and the more you’ll inadvertently act upon it. Worse, the more you have, the stronger the Darkside becomes.
You can gain as many as Six Darkside points in a single scene, depending on how horribly you act. The Narrator and your fellow players judge your actions, and based on these questions, determine whether you get Darkside for it. Questions of judgment might include:
Did your actions hurt someone else?
If yes, then proceed to the next questions. This is the real key – causing pain and misery in others. Being miserable and even hurting yourself rarely gives you Darkside unless its especially heinous or imaginative [and usually then, there’s something else at work]. Likewise, hurting others to defend yourself or others in the heat of the moment usually doesn’t rise to the level of Dark Side, unless you take it further than self defense.
For example, after wounding an attacker and causing him to fall down, you walk up and shoot him in the face. That’s Darkside.
If I walk up to a man, and without any obvious provocation, shoot him, then the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.
Is the harm grievous?
Stealing a ship would rarely qualify as Darkside. Stealing the ship from a man who wanted to pilot his ailing father to the nearet medical station would likely qualify. It is easier to assess harm when it’s physical and delivered immediately in the scene. Beating back an attacker isn’t horrific, but shooting him in the back as he tries to flee is. Leaving someone permanently reduced by the harm you do is also often an aspect of the Darkside – maiming a victim, destroying a treasured relationship out of spite, ruining them financially, spoiling a promising career and blackening a reputation. These might all qualify.
If the knife wound leaves him slowly dieing from a severed aorta, then the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.
Did you hurt more than one person?
Beyond a certain point, inflicting misery becomes a pure statistic, divorced from the realities of human suffering, but on a personal level there’s certainly a difference in hurting one person, and hurting many. Causing the breakup of a family, or worse, murdering one. Destroying a company, and leaving all the employees suddenly jobless. Running another car off the road, and then watching as driver and passengers all burn to death. There must be some kind of immediacy to this. In the company example, you would not gain Darkside points for shutting down the company unless you encountered the employees whose livelihood you ruined, and got to see what you’d done. How would this happen, you ask? That’s what the Narrator is there for.
If he falls backwards into the arms of his wife, and his blood sprays across the face of his horrified children, then the answer is ‘Yes’.
Did you like it?
This one is fairly simple. Did you feel powerful and terrible? Did it give you a savage satisfaction? This one is mostly for you to answer. Will you own how you felt about it the bad things you did, or were you driven by necessity to do something you hated?
If killing him felt good, if seeing the faces of his family twist around screams brought a thrill of power, then the answer is ‘Yes’.
Each ‘Yes’ answer on the last three of these questions means you gain a Darkside point at the close of the scene. Added cool points if you work this into a quick closing narration – the drip of blood from your fingers, your laughter at a destroyed enemy, the quiet weeping of the man with no more fingers who told you exactly what you wanted to hear.
Three Darkside points for this cruel murder. You could have found another way to settle your dispute or seek recompense from this man, but you didn’t. You could have done it quietly, at his office, or one dark night in the street and spared his family this horror, but you didn’t. You could have had the decency to feel conflicted about it, disgusted with yourself even as you pulled the trigger, but you didn’t.
You stick a knife in his gut, and watched him die. You smiled as his children froze in terror, as his wife tried to stop the blood which just would not stop. You did it, and you liked doing it, and you left a man dead and a family broken, his wife and children scared for life.
But this isn’t necessarily the end of it. Here is one more question you can ask yourself:
Can I justify it?
Did they have it coming? Was it for national security? Can you dehumanize them in your mind, making the killings less hideous in your memory? Say how you justify your character’s actions out loud to the other players and Director, and spend one Courage point for each Darkside point you’re justifying, and you don’t have to take it – provided nobody disagrees. You only get this one shot at denial – if you take the Darkside point, you’re stuck with it until you find another way to get rid of it.
And why did you do it? And why did you do it this way? Well, you killed him just like he tried to killed you. But hell, you were more merciful than he was, because at least you let his kids live. Before coming here to do this thing, you visited their grave, and even though you knew your wife would be as horrified by this violence as your victim’s, and your kids are just as terrified as his, you remind yourself that they don’t have the chance to feel those things, because they’re dead.
Did I use a Power while committing this act?
If you use a Force Skill, Psi Skill, or a Magical Skill when performing an act that qualifies for Darkside points, you double the point gain for each question. The darkness notices powers and this notice brings about a quicker path to corruption.
Frak that guy. Frak his family.
Permanent Darkside Points
If you get 10 Darkside points, then in a massive frenzied catharsis scene these collapse and become a single permanent Darkside die you can never be rid of. A part of you has been calloused and scarred to the point where it’s completely dead, and a gap forms from the rot in your soul. Through this rent, the Darkside peeks, gnawing at the ragged edges forever. Even if you play safe, do charity work, and do no lasting harm to anyone, this awful thing colors everything you do, think, and say and you’ll never be free of it.
One thing that only the demented realize is that the Darkside pushes you to greater and greater levels of depravity while protecting you from itself. Each Perminent Darkside Die gained reduces all future Darkside Point gains by one. The further you go down the path of darkness the more evil you can perform without penalty. Someone like Darth Vader who has 4 Darkside Dice can do nearly any action without penalty. The Emporer who has 6 is so far gone that no action will give him any more darkkside points.
Occasionally a sociopath makes an interesting character, and so if everyone at the table is cool with it, this optional Merit can be purchased at character generation or with experience to represent becoming inured to certain kinds of Darkside:
Calloused Soul reduces the Darkside points you would acquire for a given scene by one for certain kinds of actions. For example, torture, murder, rape, character assassination, betrayal, or inflicting economic ruin. Choose one type. Calloused Soul must be taken at character generation. It may be taken multiple times, but each time it is taken a new “crime” must be chosen.
Vader’s fear and guilt over Amedila fuels his battle prowess as he savagely attacked a defenseless Mace Windu.
Calling on the Darkside
Every person hits that point when they have lost. They know they are about to die. They know their lover is about to have her brains splattered on the hull of the ship. They have nothing left to lose. It is at these moments that they often give into the beast and allow it to guide thier actions. This is called Calling on the Darkside. When a person does this he immediately gains 1 permanent Darkside Die.
Tu’Sutok sees Captain Archer being savagely beaten by the diminutive Jedi and screams his rage at the top of his lungs. Realizing he is about to die himself he calls on the Darkside for aid as he flees the scene for help. He runs like he has never run before and manages to escape the savage Jedi assassins only to face the accusing stares of his friends.
Darkside Dice behave like drama dice, and generate successes just like ordinary drama dice. However the success offered by the Darkside die can make one more tainted. It means the horror you’re trying to deal with – and the Darkside that feeds upon it – finds its way into your action. It gives your action a nasty cast or a hint of unhealthiness.
While intimidating the customs official into approving your customs delcaration, you let out a low, almost inaudible growl that leaves him shaking. When seducing a potential bedmate, there’s a predatory aggression to the flirtation that leaves her both entranced and frightened. In a fight, you hit harder, and find yourself smiling when the blood comes.
The better you roll with this success, the stronger the hold of the Darkside is on the action being taken. This means you get an extra exploding die, which is good. But it means that no matter how clean you keep your soul, there’s always a chance that it’ll come out, and you’ll leave some damage or some pain behind you even if you never intended any harm. Accepting the Darkside on any attack adds +1 damage per point of special attribute and edge you possess. If you possess more than one special attibute then add them together.
Pau’Paub knows that Malak is a spy but he can’t prove it. Try and try again he fails to uncover the evidence. He decides to set a trap for Malak. He attempts to override security to gain access to Malak’s communicator in order to monitor Malak’s conversations. He makes his skill check but with his Darkside giving him a total of 14, a Dramatic success. While he gains access to Malak’s conversation the Darkside infuses the circuitry and silently transmits Malak’s commbadge location on an open frequency. A nearby Imperial Star Destroyer takes notice and within the hour the Vanguard and all of her crew are running for their lives.
Getting rid of Darkside points means doing something to atone for the sins that earned them. There’s no god or priest to forgive you. You have to mean it, and take action to somehow make it better. You can’t lie to yourself here, and what penance you do must be hard, and it must hurt, and you have to be sincere about it. Ask the Narrator for the opportunity to atone, and suggest how you might do so. The more dramatic and cool this is, the better it’ll play. Then, during the scene you spend one permanent Courage point per Darkside die you remove to demonstrate the atonement is genuine, and then suffer whatever consequences arise in the story.
The weeks after the killing are torture. You felt so righteous, and so sure of yourself, but you spun out of control, you enjoyed the killing too much and you killed some more. Caused more pain. And now, its threatening to eat you alive. Despairing, you go to the wife of the man who’s murder started you down this path, and you douse yourself with gasoline, and put a lighter in her hand. You kneel before her. You look her in the eye. You apologize. You mean it. She puts her thumb on the lighter, her knuckle whitens.
Banes: The Cost of the Fall
Banes manifests as physical symptoms: muscular degeneration, illness, frailty, and the like. As corruption increases, these symptoms may become more severe. The ultimate result of unchecked and untreated physical corruption is death or potentially the damnation of becoming a Darkside Spirit.
Other Banes manifests as mental symptoms: growing paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and other problems that could be described as madness. As depravity increases in an individual, these symptoms become more severe. The ultimate result of unchecked and untreated depravity is complete madness.
While it is important to recognize symptoms of falling to the Darkside quickly, it is preferable and easier to treat potential exposure before the Darkside manifests in the first place. However, the wise should remember that such symptoms may also arise from more mundane maladies and should not rush to judgment or action based solely on the presence of such symptoms. The truly wise treat the cause, not the effect.
Chracters gain temporary banes everytime they accept the roll of the Darkside Die during a scene. Most of the time the temporary bane manifests for only a round or two ussually in the form of fear, anger, hate, etc. At the end of the scene the character who accepts the darkside’s aid gains 1 darkside point for each acceptance of aide or 1 point of negative trait that will last until the character spends a bennie to defeat it. If he does not spend the bennie by the start of the next episode the trait or traits become permanent. As an option the character may accept aging, loss of attributes, or some other penalty at the director’s discression.
The Aura: Peaple who have Darkside dice are evil or at least have made a serious step down the path of being evil. Good people sense this perversion of the soul. As such, when making social skill tests with people who do not have any Darkside Dice, the tainted person suffers a +1 TN/per DS Die, for the skill test. This will not apply all the time as some people are attracted to the dark but will apply whenever the Director feels it is appropriate. Also any negative trait that requires a Stat roll to gain control suffers the same penalty. The Dark Side feeds passions. A character may spend a courage point to negate this penalty for one skill/attribute test.
The Passion: People who possess at least one Dark Side die, suffer from stronger passions than other people. They feel love, hate, anger, fear, etc. much more strongly. As such the Director may spend a Disaster die at any point and require the character the make a Passion test. Roll Pressence + Will Power vs a TN of 3 + 1 per darkside die. No darkside dice are added to this test. If successful the character maintains control of his emotions. A failure means that the character’s emotions are amplified and the director has the option to take over the character’s actions for one round. The Player may give up a bennie to automatically gain control when this happens. Often time tainted people kill those they love in fits of rage and then suffer extreme remorse and guilt, many times they act without thinking and then suffer extreme depression over the horrors they have unleashed. The Darkside is not to be taken lightly.