What follows is a brief journal of how a one-shot Holiday game became one of my group's most requested campaigns. As it consists of the group engaging in some truly inspired Xanatos Speed Chess and me utilizing a Eureka Moment to completely reverse a TPK, I thought others might be amused and entertained in hearing it. If people like it, I will gladly post the rest. What follows is the game as it happened New Year's Eve, 2011.
My gaming group consists of seven people, with occasionally an eighth. As it is, there are three regular DMs in our group focusing on D&D (2E, 3.5E 4E), nWoD and Star Wars. As such, each of the DMs tend to have a different focus. I myself am known for humor-friendly games, epic heroism campaigns and kitschy one-offs. In particular, I run all of the holiday games save for Halloween. This is about one such kitschy Holiday Game: New Years.
Coming off a successful 3-Year Christmas Game that ended in true storybook fashion, half the group was available for a small New Year's Eve party featuring a simple game. I had one decent idea: A situation in which a group is isolated from the world, sees crazy things happening to the world (almost apocalyptic, but more just terrifying and confusing) and has to make a choice about dealing with the strange supernatural events surrounding them alone, or returning to a world featuring it's own unique horrors.
So, our setting is an Antarctic Research Station. Our group consists of an Animal Conservationist with slightly fuzzy ethics in that she can't bear to see wild animals suffer, and when polar bears couldn't find food, is known to feed them. A British technician who runs the station's computers and other tech while dealing with an extreme oral fixation and no small amount of alcoholism. And last, a slightly brutal survivalist expert who handles the transportation and staying alive in the cold as well as shoots anything that looks at him funny and if it's an animal, skins it and eats it.
I always like playing fast and loose with the rules in my holiday games, and I like subverting the classic tropes whenever possible. So the enemies in this game were equal parts Puppetmaster and Angels, but more specifically, the morally questionable and somewhat grotesque Angels like those found in Bayonetta. My basic idea was aliens who looked a little like Angels had started an invasion of Earth that involved sending these little spinal parasites that took control of people a bit at a time.
To leave a lot of the random horror and bump-in-the-dark stuff by the wayside, the group ended up finding out and diagnosing how to kill the parasites. In return it also revealed that the aliens had obtained nuclear weapons that they were intending to launch at midnight. (Waha! The New Years Countdown tied into the game? What madness!)
The one thing I was absolutely fixated on was that the Angels had a base underground where they had stashed a bunch of their high-tech weapons and super-bombs and what-have-you, to give my group an awesome moment at the end where they save the world, pick up some alien blasters and go hunt down and destroy the Angels and their parasitic flunkies. A nice action-movie moment to end a holiday one-shot on.
So by the end, as the timer is approaching midnight, they manage to get the code to disarm the nukes and break into the secret antarctic missile base. At which point, the tech guy figures out how to seal the silo doors so that if the nukes launch anyway, they blow up in their silos, thus having less of an impact on causing potential thermonuclear war. Immediately, the Angels and their puppets start trying to hack the doors back open so their plan can continue, and the group realizes, that the Angels are more afraid of the nukes going off in their silos than just not going off. So they decide not to deactivate the nukes seconds before the timer ticks to zero. They enjoy one last glass of scotch as the nuke launches and the base they're sitting in turns white.
We stopped there for the usual New Years countdown, bubbly and after-midnight kisses and hugs, and that gave me time to figure out what the hell to do. They had just nuked themselves and world, and in doing so, set off the super alien high-tech stuff and damn near vaporized Antarctica and had serious global ramifications. So what? It's just a one-shot, and it's a funny story to tell, or something. But as I'm sitting there, we're joking and talking and I point out this is the second time they've done precisely the wrong thing with a nuclear weapon. (Brazil, six years ago, an erratic Japanese bike gang leader with a fetish for demolitions is set loose in a missile silo with way too much detcord...) To which my wife responds: "So what you're saying is we just caused the second impact?"
Zing. Wait a minute. My villains are Angels, a massive near-apocalyptic explosion in Antarctica, creatures that control humans by embedding themselves at the base of the skull directly into the spine, and three clashing personalities who, if they survive, have to carry the guilt of what they just did. And just like that, I knew where to go next.
"You wake up staring at the ceiling of your bedroom. It is the year 2027 (Fifteen Years Later). You are all fifteen years old in a city called Tokyo-3..."