The Empty Men, Part 1

katbphotographyAt the end of last game the Inspector had gone missing, having been possessed by the alien Roach. I knew I wanted to take advantage of this, a quest to find the Inspector would make for some great tension. At the same time I didn’t want the Inspector’s player to have nothing to do.

There was also the issue of Croatoan, loose after the player characters had unwittingly allowed him to escape his pocket dimension. I decided that he would have started a sequence of events that threatened the entire universe.

Such was the scale of crisis that the Time Lords would recall the TARDIS, with Phillipa on board, hoping to use the Inspector as an agent. Upon finding that he was missing they’d provide Phillipa with a hologram of the Inspector, his memories downloaded from the Matrix.

The hologram of the Inspector would allow his player to observe events, use his mental attributes and provide advice for Phillipa. The only thing he couldn’t do was physically touch things.

Using the information from the TARDIS logs since it left Phillipa in 1933, the Time Lords would program it to seek out the Inspector. At the same time it would be up to Phillipa to identify the source of the problems that had the Time Lords so worried.

For the first mission for Phillpa and the holographic Inspector I wanted a threat that was linked to Croatoan in a subtle way. My first thought were human black holes. I pictured a robed man removing his mask to reveal nothing was there.

This would be an Empty Man. The Empty Men sounded like some strange support group so I decided that’s what they would be, a cult. After the comments from last game about not having enough science fiction I knew this would be set on a human colony in the future.

The Empty Men would abandon their individuality, giving up everything that made them who they were. In doing so they would give Croatoan the opportunity to transform them, since on a mental level they’d decided they were hollow.

Having a group who concealed their identity was the perfect place to looking for the Inspector. Phillipa only had to see a photo of her companion with the Empty Men to encourage her to join them herself. Anyone she met might be the Inspector beneath their mask.

With this basic idea, the big question became what would motivate the Empty Men to think they were hollow in the first place? Many cults have an interview stage, where they delve into the psyche of new recruits and wondered what would happen if they discovered a terrible secret.

What if when they questioned people about their past, their inner thoughts and desires, they got the same pre-programmed response? What if the Empty Men found that the entire colony was just a facade.

The obvious reason for this was that the population were clones. The minerals the colony minded caused infertility, ensuring that no one would want to work there. Instead clones would be created, pre-programmed to believe they’d come from Earth and work without question at the factories. The emptiness that people felt, and the reason that people joined the group, was the sub-conscious suspicion they weren’t real.

To maintain the ruse doctors would tell couples there was no medical reason they couldn’t have children and robotic children would be ferried around the city on school buses. All the clones would believe they’d come to the colony from Earth, never encountering people who were natives. They’d only hear about them or see them on the television programs or in the expensive restaurants they couldn’t afford to go to.

In attempting to expose the truth to the public, the Empty Men would seem like a dangerous cult and at worst terrorists. Worse still, if they succeeded in revealing to the population that they were clones it would cause a mass transformation.

Like one of Moffat’s jigsaw plots I felt this plot outline had three strong elements; clones, robot children and human black holes. Discovering each part of the puzzle would raise further questions but ultimately link together.

Having established what the threat was I needed to know how the player characters could avert disaster. The key would be that the transformation was only triggered when individuality was surrendered.

Ironically the leader of the cult, Ulla, would still be mostly human, only his torso being replaced by a void. As founder and figurehead of the organisation he was still required to be an individual and so retained part of his humanity.

There would be other examples of this, including other members of the group who clung o to who they were. If the player character investigated the government they’d learn that the formation of the Empty Men was completely unexpected showing that however artificial their origins they were just as unique as any human.

All the player characters had to do was reveal this to the Empty Men and the colony at large, counter-acting the nihilism of finding out they were clones. This could even undo the black hole transformations, reminding people they weren’t empty at all.

I also sketched out some sub-plots, giving the colony more substance. This would include a couple, Kat & Pryce, who had joined the group after finding out they couldn’t have children. They would represent the infertility aspect of the plot and show how real relationships developed between the clones.

A subplot I wrote that didn’t end up finding a place in the game itself was an old man encountering a clone of his dead wife, as she appeared 30 years ago. The clone stock was limited and had cycled back to using the same genetic stock as the dead wife.

This would have been another mystery for the players to investigate as they got caught up in the agony of an old man seeing the woman he loved again but find out she was a different person. It would have been another avenue to reveal the cloned nature of the population and how their personalities were unique.

In the end the player characters didn’t spend enough time in the colony to allow them to encounter the old man. A shame since I thought it would have added a nice tragic air to the story.

What then of the Inspector? He wouldn’t be on the colony, although I planned to tease them with the possibility. Although he’d begun to get involved with the Empty Men his attention had been drawn by the announcement of Dark Sun travels, which promised instant travel around the universe.

I’d foreshadow Dark Sun Travels at the beginning of the adventure and book end the adventure by revealing that the Inspector had travelled to find out how the company planned to prove their claims. This would lead us nicely into the next adventure.

That is if Phillipa succeed in filling the Inspector’s shoes.

To be Continued…

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