As part of my weekly tabletop game (bit of a misnomer, considering we do it online, but whatever) I decided to not only do a Halloween Game, but a whole series over the entire month of October! I also decided to give a new system a try, called Little Fears. This is the Nightmare Edition; you can find all the game’s relevant info here(http://www.littlefears.com/). Below is the first game we played last week: The Tithe! It’s about a group of Faeries, denied their yearly share of crops in a small 80s farming community, who decide to cause a little trouble in retaliation. That is, until one takes it too far….
Little Fears Episode 1: The Tithe
Time: Saturday, September 26, 1987
Premise: A typical weekend at the end of this years harvest season takes a strange turn as mysterious things begin to happen: unlikely accidents, things going missing, and increasingly vicious pranks spreading across town are set to upend the sleepy town of Pine Crest.
Inciting Incident: Spruce Street Cul-De-Sac (Meet the Characters)
It’s Saturday, here in Pine Crest, the weather bright and crisp as you head into the last week of September. You’re all up and about, getting ready to head over to Plaza Pizza; you and the other guys have been waiting for weeks for the new arcade cabinet to arrive, ever since the owner, Mike Bradley, put up a flyer reading “New Game coming soon!” Beneath that was taped a cutout of a chinese dragon; every kid in town has been wondering what it meant, and today is the day you find out.
This is a Spotlight scene, giving everybody an opportunity to introduce their characters as they rush out the house, meet up, and head over to Plaza Pizza. As they walk or bike over to Plaza Pizza, they’ll pass several other kids heading the same way. The big, sleek harvesting combines from Allied Agricultural that have been heading down west Elm Street have starting coming back the other way, trailed by big shipping trucks stuffed with this years crops. The logo for Allied Agricultural is emblazoned on the side of every one.
Across the street, the Town Plaza is lined with folding tables and pop-up awnings for the weekly farmer’s market.
Scene 1: Plaza Pizza
Plaza Pizza is Packed! You guys aren’t the only kids eager to check out the new cabinet, and a pretty big crowd has clustered around the far end of the restaurant. Over the excited cheers of the other kids, you can hear the electronic sounds of music and digitized grunts and punches. Over their heads, you spot the marquee: two brawny Karate guys with sweet dragon tats and the legend “Double Dragon” emblazoned across the top.
This is an Dramatic scene; let the PCs hang around: wait to play the new cabinet, maybe score some pinball, chow some pizza. Among the other kids waiting for their turns, talk will inevitably turn to carious pranks, accidents, and bizarre happenings around town. Roman Bowe dumped a whole saltshaker on his fries at lunch yesterday (“that was hilarious!”); Katherine Graham found all her nail polish poured out on her desk at home (“My little sister won’t admit it but I know she did it!”); Carrie Gaines’ dog had a big stripe shaved off his back, and her parents are blaming her (“I would never do something like that to Mitsy!”); Mr. Cauthon, the sixth grade math teacher, couldn’t find his shoes for two hours yesterday and had to teach in just his socks; it looks like Jimmie Hudson’s dog Roscoe must’ve chewed up at least half of Jimmie’s Superman comics (“and boy was he mad!”) Everything comes to an abrupt halt as the kids crowded around the cabinets yell out in fear and anger.
The Machines suddenly go haywire, lights flashing, punctuated by quick bursts of crackling static before the screen goes dark with a small fountain of sparks and several loud ‘popping’ noises from the srear of the machine, which has begun to stream a thin, acrid smoke.
Mike comes rushing over at the hew and cry of the kids.
“WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO?!”
Scene 2: Game Over
If someone other than the PCs are playing the cabinet, they’ll sincerely deny doing anything, and the crowd will back them up. The same is true if the PCs were the ones on the machine. Mike can see pretty quickly that the machine is borked; he’ll clear everyone away to pull it away from the wall and examine the back. After a quick inspection, he’ll head for the phone, tell everyone not to touch anything, and call the company. Anyone who cares to eavesdrop will hear him talking angrily, things like “Do you know how much I paid for that thing?!” and “Damn skippy it’s under warranty!”
This is an investigative scene, with the goal of finding out what happened to the machine. If anyone who knows about electronics can get into the rear panel of the machine(Difficult without the right tools), they can notice (TN 12 Think) that several wires and switches have been tampered with. Sharp-eyed or -eared kids might also catch a glance of a faerie as it scrambles away beneath the other cabinets (though they may just think it’s a rat or some other small animal-they only catch a glimpse of some small, dark figure before it disappears under Mrs. Pac-man).
The scene ends when Mike finishes his phone call, then comes back to tape an “Out of Order” sign on the now-defunct upright.
Scene 3: Shakes and Ladders
With the new game out of commission, the afternoon the guys have planned is shot. So the question becomes, what now? They can loiter around the pizza place if they want, but eventually it’s gonna get old. Most of the other kids head out immediately. Whenever the Players leave, the following happens:
Across the street, the farmer’s market is in full swing. Even from here, you catch the buzzing of conversation. Lewis Jones, the hotel caretaker, is up on a ladder a few feet down the block, touching up the sign for the Pine Crest Hotel. He’s a stooped older man of about sixty, dressed in blue coveralls, an oily handkerchief shoved into a rear pocket, wispy white hair tucked beneath a battered Red Sox cap. He greets you and gives you a friendly wave.
“Hey there, kids. Why the long faces?”
As he talks, the ladder he’s standing on suddenly pitches violently to the left; Lewis lets out a yelp of surprise an is only just barely able to keep himself from taking a nasty fall. Shakily climbing down, he glances dubiously to the base of the ladder and mutters “That was a close one…”
This is another opportunity to catch a glimpse of a faerie, this time as it scampers into a nearby bush. If the characters spot it, and bring it to Lewis’ attention, he’ll say “Probably that damn cat’s been hanging around; oughtta tell Shirley (owner of the Salon) that’s what happens when she keeps feeding those damn strays…”
Anyone who cares to investigate the bushes finds a small pair of bolt cutters lying in the flower bed.
At that moment, there’s a sudden commotion towards the Town Plaza.
Scene 4: A Bad apple
Over at the Farmer’s Market, a terrific argument has sprung up and is threatening to turn into a fight. Angelo Wilken and Daniel Garcia are at each other’s throats, with Angelo (a local apple farmer) accusing Daniel (a 17-year old employee at the auto shop) of stealing. Daniel is fully fluent in English, but since his family mostly speaks Spanish at home, his accent is fairly thick, and it only gets worse the angrier he gets. He violently denies it, and by the time the players arrive on the scene, the older man is getting physical, shoving the teen and trying to grab him while Daniel shoves back. A small crowd has gathered around, some of the other men trying to hold the two apart. Several other vendors are grumbling, however; it seems a lot of them have had things go missing.
Soon after the players arrive, the sheriff shows up too, demanding to know what’s going on. As the story is explained, Danny denies, and Angelo points and says “Oh yeah? Then what’s that in your pockets?” (to which Danny replies with a healthy “Screw you!”) The sheriff tells Daniel to empty his pockets (he’s wearing cargo pants) and-much to Daniels shock (Care, TN 6 to tell), he pulls out a big apple just like the ones from Angelo’s stall. Daniel is obviously stunned, flabbergasted, and weakly protests that he has no idea how it got there. As well he should; a faerie slipped it into his pocket as he was passing by the stall.
Angelo takes this moment to gloat, but when he does, he inadvertantly kicks over one of his apple buckets, spilling apples all over the ground-as well as several wallets, including Daniels. Angelo is as stunned as Daniel, and the crowd falls to a short hush before exploding in a riot of shouting.
The sheriff works frantically to calm everyone down, ordering the crowd to disperse, and radios for a squad car to take both Daniel and Angelo to the police station for questioning.
Characters on the edge of the crowd can hear a low giggling coming from underneath a nearby, skirted table. If they investigate, the faerie will wait until the character peeks underneath, before basically going “BOO!” and running away, laughing (he thought it was funny as hell). This can be treated as a Fear test, though the Faerie will just run away, giggling, whether the PCs pass or not.
The following scenes can happen in any order, and are triggered by proximity:
Scene 5: Spilled milk (Cedar Street, Cliff’s Cafe)
Cliff (Of Cliff’s Cafe and Catering) will be carting out a whole packing crate of milk cartons out to his dumpster, face twisted in disgust (the whole batch is spoiled, and smells terrible; Cliff is miffed about it-someone left the fridge open all night-but can’t get too mad since he’s halfway convinced he did it himself). As he goes back inside, an open bag of flour somehow tumbles from above and coats Cliff head to toe; while he sputters and swears, attentive players can spot two small figures running away, giggling, before they disappear up a drain pipe.
Scene 6: Bad Hair Day (Cedar Street, residential)
One pair of siblings (Caroline and Bobby Jones, aged 6 and 8) they pass will be engaged in a bitter argument, Caroline accusing Bobby of tangling her hair into knots while she slept and he adamantly denying it. In the course of their argument, Caroline will shout “Well if YOU didn’t who DID? Faeries?”
If the players ask her about that comment, Caroline (while trying to comb out the snarls in her hair) will say that her Granma always tells stories about faeries causing mischief an making trouble for folks, like spoiling milk, tangling hair, stealing small items, getting folks lost, or hassling livestock. Even stealing kids.
Caroline’s a bit of a know-it-all, and can also tell the players that Granma says that leaving them some milk and cream, or a portion of your crops, can keep them placated.
Faeries have green eyes, and bite or pinch, and can’t lie. They hate iron, and can be kept at bay with a circle of salt or by wearing your clothes inside out.
The live in hollow hills and faerie rings (mushrooms), and it’s wise to stay away from them, especially at night. Anyone who looks will find Faerie rings scattered around town, tucked into out-of the way places where they avoid obvious notice. Hillside Cemetary sits on top of the largest hill in town, and can act as a portal into Faerieland (aka Closetland).
The player could also learn this info from Granma herself, if they can convince Caroline and Bobby to take them (some candy would do it real easy). She lives on Elm Street.
Granma can also reference “the Tithe,” a tradition that started way back before the town was even started. Farmer’s would leave a portion of their crops for the faeries to ensure a good yield next year, and to keep them from causing mischief. This year is the first she can remember where it hasn’t been done, “Thanks to that Dyson fella.” But the Tithe also refers to a long time ago, when faeries would steal human babies, sometimes replacing them with changelings.
All of this information is also readily available at the local library.
Scene 7: Quit Yanking my Chain (1st time the kids ride bikes after leaving Plaza Pizza)
If the players are on bikes, once they mount up and take off, one of them will quickly notice that his bike is messed up: the chain snaps and his brakes seize up, sending him over the handlebars if he can’t catch himself. This is only a minor tumble, with a TN 10 (move). (damage= # of failed grades). Anyone who inspects the bike can tell that the chain didn’t just snap; it was cut! If the players found the dbolt cutters in Scene 3, they can automatically connect the two.
Scene 8: Getting pushy
By now, the kids should have some inkling of what’s going on, especially if they’ve talked to Caroline or her granma. The local faeries are pissed, and acting out. But now, one of them takes things too far by causing some real bloodshed. Wherever the players are, an ambulance suddenly speeds by with its sirens blaring, heading towards a nearby house or street, where a 7-year old girl by the name of Betty Silva has just fallen out of a second story window…or so it seems.
If the players go check it out, they’ll arrive just as the paramedics are loading Betty into the ambulance, blood standing out visibly against the gurney and the bandages pressed to her head. Her parents, distraught, follow behind, riding to the hospital with her.
This is an investigation scene.
Betty fell out of a second story balcony, which is ringed by a wooden railing; apparently, a section gave away while she was leaning on it. A shallow puddle of blood about a handspan across marks where she landed on the front steps.
A small group of worried neighbors has gathered, fretting over the young girl. Among them is Hattie Kuhn, a wide-eyed four year old who’s clutching her dolly in a death grip and tugging on her mom’s skirt to leave because she “doesn’t wanna meet the Little Man.” If the players can ask what she saw, she’ll say that she saw the railing give way, and saw Betty catch her balance-until the Little Man pushed her. If asked to describe the Little Man, she’ll say that he was short and scrawny, with really long arms, but it was too far away to tell anything else.
Scene 9: Corn and Grain
As the ambulance departs, the neighbors quickly follow, and before they know it, the players are alone. Well, not quite. They can notice (more like sense) a figure behind him, either spotting it out of the corner of their eyes or hearing it drinking. At first it appears to be a cat lapping at the blood stain, but turns out to be more like cat-shape; It’s a Faerie. His body is thin and scrawny, with overlong arms and long, pointed fingers. He has a short, upturned nose, and long, pointed ears, and he has somehow folded himself to vaguely resemble a cat, or at least, a cat’s silhouette. He looks up at the players with wide, tilted eyes of brilliant green, blood on his chin, and then, grinning sticks out a pointed tongue and takes another long lap at the blood (this definitely counts as a Scary Thing). As the players watch, he noticeably increases in size.
This can either be a dramatic Scene, or a Combat scene, depending on how the players react. Either way the Faerie (now a Boggart, and having a taste for blood) will toy with them for a bit. At some point, have him latch on to Jeffrey and take a big whiff, before he laughs and darts away, taunting them by singing:
"Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that falls shall rise again.
A tithe denied,
by blood supplied,
through tender infant vein!”
If the players run away, he’ll also taunt them with this song; he’s basically told them he plans to eat/harm/or steal a baby…or at least a toddler. And guess who has one at home?
That’s right, it’s Jeffrey!
(NOTE: Jeffrey was one of my players with a baby brother)
Scene 10: The Montage scene
This is a Dramatic Scene.
By now, it’s getting close to supper time, and if the players haven’t realized Jeffrey’s brother is in danger, things pick up again later that night. If they have, they can rush over to his house; things there are fine for the moment, but who knows when that freak will show up? The PCs can take this opportunity to plan and prepare. Of course, there are still Jeffrey’s parents to work around….
Scene 11: The End…?
Latter that night, the Boggart will sneak into the baby’s room after everyone is asleep or busy; he won’t try to nab the kid until there’s no one awake in there with him.
If the players surprise the Boggart: it’s time to fight!
If the Players fall asleep, or leave the kid unguarded, when they wake up/return, they’ll find a changeling in his place, a small, twisted faerie that looks like an old man, and that their parents can only see as normal.
If the Boggart gets away with him, he’ll take him to the Hollow Hill Cemetary, to a small unconsecrated patch near the rear, where he takes the kid into Faerieland through an open grave with no marker. Players can try to chase him down and follow him, in a desperate bid to save Jeffrey’s brother; otherwise, he’s lost to Closetland.
The Boggart does not want to make this a ‘final’ confrontation, however; he’d rather run than suffer too much damage, and can be driven off without too much effort…though he’ll be back.
As for the other faeries, most can be placated easily enough with a simple offering of bread and milk, or food of some sort, and will dial back their mischief. Those not satisfied will be rounded up by the Boggart, who is already plotting his next move….he needs blood, and the fair is coming to town….
The Faerie is a Regular Monster
It’s scary when it flashes its teeth and hisses.
It wants to cause mischief.
It is a small, mischievous troublemaker
It can hide almost anywhere.
It can’t stand iron.
Pointy little teeth (1)
-That’ll leave a mark! (damage +1)
Scrawny body (2)
-slippery little fella (chase +2)
-Yours, not mine! (Move -2)
Magic powers (1)
-Can move stuff around
Knack for trouble (1)
-Always knows how to annoy you best.
The Boggart is a Scary Monster
It’s Scary when it Smiles
It wants to become stronger (by hurting people)
It is a vicious, cruel prankster
It can move really fast
It can change shape…sorta
Teeth like a cat (2)
-Hurst like Crazy! (Damage +2)
-all the better to grab and snatch! (Grab+2)
-Too many teeth! (Scare+1)
Shape Changer (1)
-If you don’t look too close…
-Can climb up walls!(1)
-look wicked sharp (Fight +1)