Do your Agents take their kids to soccer? Do they remember to pick up grapes at the grocery store? Or remember to pay their cell phone bill? Do your Agents go to funerals? Do they visit psychiatric facilities?
I’ve played in many games where the repercussions of daily life never approach the Agents. This is a huge mistake. The glimpses of the horrors beyond are only thrown into stark relief when there is something to lose. Something to measure it against. Family. Down time. Everyday tasks. These are the backdrop to the DG universe. They are what the Agents are fighting for..
An Agent named GARRET once returned home to his house in REDACTED to find Stephen Alzis squatting in the back yard with his five year old son, playing trucks. As far as the Agent knew, no one knew his address or true identity, though Alzis called him by it. This meeting ran in secret from the rest of the group, and put this player on edge. Finally, when the call came, the player knew what he had to do: he stole and handed over the recovered artifact without a word of protest. The life of his family was on the line.
What happens when Agents fall? Insanity, or just another disappearance, it happens all the time.
Let me tell you a story about a DG friendly named Thomas. Thomas was an expert on astrophysics and was brought in on an operation dealing with the end of the world. He and his compatriots survived a half dozen operations, working as a team, only losing one of their number (who vanished along with a monstrous, glowing, hairless ape, never to be seen again). Thomas was solid. He worked at REDACTED University. He was a trusted member of the conspiracy.
That’s when the children started disappearing.
By the time the cell tracked the source of the missing children down, Thomas had killed four and chopping them up, kept them in a freezer in his basement. A basement the cell had met in many, many times. Thomas would cook and eat the remains. He had done so for a long, long time. Too long for some of the other Agents to handle.
But was Thomas gone from the game? No, Thomas was committed. His ranting about government agencies and immortality and dead children was chalked up to insanity and, from time to time, one of the cell would visit him for advice. Thomas was a player character, and the last few sessions of gameplay, he had 0 SAN. The player and I planned Thomas’ obsession and demise, and did so with amazing effect on the other players. They were…devastated. After that, Thomas became a tool for me, the Keeper, to heighten the horror.
Let me tell you another story. Once, a group of Agents conspired to build a bomb to remotely deal with a paranormal threat. Errors were made. The bomb detonated early, taking the arm of an Agent off in the process. This Agent was far from his jurisdiction and would no doubt be identified as a Federal Agent. A-Cell issued instructions for the cell to “take care of it”.
Cut to a lake. The cell wrapped their dead compatriot in a polyurethane sheet, bound him with rocks and tried to sink him, but the body would not go. Finally, one Agent, suffering severe SAN loss, STABBED the corpse in the chest several times to let the air out, finally causing it to sink. The cell watched, horrified as they committed a series of crimes and grotesque disfigurements. The group never spoke of it again, but all knew they were complicit, and that someday, the body might be found.
What is the moral of this story? Make every decision cost. Make every choice have repercussions. Illustrate the depth of the Agents fear and danger from both paranormal and bureaucratic sources.
Every choice counts. Every action comes back to haunt you. Even at the end of the world.