‘Better Angels’ Story Seed: When the Levee Breaks

Better-Angels-cover-v4-front-612pxWritten by Greg Stolze, © 2013

A sinister story seed lays the groundwork—genesis, exodus, and a shocking revelation—for an evening of fun and corruption in Better Angels. The GM should draw up stats for one or two crucial NPCs as needed based on the abilities and attitudes of the player characters. Put the Hellbinders and their Screwtapes into the mix and watch what happens.

When the Levee Breaks

Catastrophe looms. What will the Hellbinders do about it?

Genesis

It seems like every city has its signature natural-disaster risk. Tokyo’s always half-waiting for the next tsunami (or Godzilla attack), Honolulu has volcanoes, anywhere on the Gulf Coast is threatened by hurricanes, L.A. has quakes and the midwest has tornadoes.

The opening act of this story is when the disaster du jour hits your town. How do the PCs respond? Can they trick their demons into helping people, possibly with the promise of ‘gathering minions’? Do they just hunker down and defend their own, or do they use the cover of the crisis to settle some scores? Are their enemies doing the same?

Exodus

The dawn of the day after the deluge, the entire landscape of the city is different. It’s not just that areas are flooded, or towers are fallen, or that whole neighborhoods are still burning: The social landscape is in tatters too. Have the PCs’ conflicts with the cops or the city government exacerbated racial or social tensions in the city? If there were seething fault-lines in the civil façade, this blows them wide open. It’s beyond gang on gang, it’s shopkeepers perched on their roofs with rifles, making the shoot-don’t-shoot decision based on racial profiling.

The first week is just chaos and civil disorder, with assorted superheroes and villains (both angelic and diabolical) turfing out private fiefdoms and protectorates. If the PCs don’t mark some territory and fight hard to keep it, they wind up pushed into the margins, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s up to the GM to set up these conflicts. Ideally, base them on previously established characters, but changed up. Enemies become allies based on geographical convenience, and allies betray for access to essential supplies.

Just as an uneasy stability settles down, with skirmishes confined to a few hot borders, the National Guard shows up, and the apple cart goes over once again.

How do the PCs play this chaos? Do they set themselves up as warlords, mouthing threats and meting out savage reprisals to satisfy their Screwtapes while broadly protecting and feeding the needy and displaced? Or do they accrue personal wealth and power with honest selfishness because, hell, they can? Is there a way to satisfy both their demon’s urges and their own humanity? If not, which do they choose?

Revelation

Naturally, the National Guard prioritizes the strongholds of people who’ve made a point of resisting the police and most vehemently rejecting the governance of the USA. Some ‘heroes’ continue to resist, if they’re crazy enough to try to maintain a personality-cult utopia in the face of overwhelming force. Some villains roll belly-up and cut deals in return for prosecution from immunity. The righteous, or angel-infused, or merely exhausted gladly hand power back to the soldiers.

This is the PCs’ final messy choice. Are they going to burn out, or fade away? Can they sacrifice their credibility in some spectacular display of futile villainy in order to give the city’s suffering an end-point, or do they just trickle away and wait for CNN to find a new horror? For all they’ve taken, can the PCs offer, in return, a sense of closure?

If they can, is that enough?

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