Monday, June 23, 2014

Mining Firebirds: Grimjack 01 - The Setup

The inaugural issue of Grimjack was not the first Grimjack story. He'd already appeared as a backup feature in Starslayer, and quickly proved that he could stand on his own. But I start here for several reasons: because it's issue number 01, and that carries some weight with me; because it's a solid story, and made an impression on me in terms of the writing by Ostrander and the visual storytelling by Tim Truman; and because it's one of my fave Grimjack stories.

Now, let's get on with mining some plot, character, and setting elements from this issue for use in Fading Suns! I hope it goes without saying: SPOILERS galore for those who've not read this 30 year old story.

Here's part 01 of Grimjack #1: A Shade of Truth -- the adventure setup.

We start with a suicide. A young girl plummets to her death in a place that is clearly not Earth (note the satellites or planets above the building). That's because Grimjack's default setting is on Cynosure -- a place where dimensions meet, and where ultimately, every dimension or bit of the multiverse will intersect eventually.

Firebird 01: This kind of matches the Fading Suns setting, with its mix of low tech and high tech, psychic abilities and theurgical rites, and other hidden secrets of magic and science.

A bit mysterious at the beginning, but deaths and suicides are possible in the Fading Suns universe. In the Known Worlds, there are limits to healing, limits to technological regeneration -- and if the suicide was very thorough despite access to miraculous healing tech, that says something too about the desperation or the purpose of the death.

Of course, in the tradition of many great RPG adventures, someone wants to find out why the victim took her own life and drags the PCs into it.

In the case of the late Marcie, her mother (Mrs. Sondra Grant) wants to find out the truth about her daughter's suicide. She wants it bad enough to go into one of the roughest parts of Cynosure -- the Pit -- and seek out one of the oldest and toughest guys with a rep for solving difficult problems: John Gaunt a.k.a Grimjack.

I like the line "She looked like an angel slumming." It really drives home the disparity between the quality of her clothing, the care of her skin and hair, and the breeding that must show in her body language, in her poise, and in her speech.

Of course, that's to be expected. The ex-wife of Cynosure's Finance Minister would certainly be of excellent stock and upbringing.

Firebird 02: Of prime importance is this type of character -- one that the PCs are unlikely to ignore out of principle, or curiosity, or profit, or personal interest. She becomes the embodiment of the problem they're trying to solve, the one who helps facilitate things that may be out of reach, and the one who pushes them when they're stuck.

Also, she has ties to very powerful people that are somewhat blunted by the implied severance (or perhaps weakening) of those ties. And she's motivated by very strong emotions to keep close to the PCs to find out the truth.

Of particular interest is this bit: the ghost of Marcie. Her mother, Sondra, went to her former room to look for clues to her suicide.

There, she finds an apparition of her deceased daughter scribbling furiously before taking a step out into the open air. It keeps repeating until dawn.

Now while this may seem tragic and *ahem* haunting, Sondra is also a sharp and practical woman. She searches for the note, paper, or diary that her daughter must have been writing on, but she cannot find it.

Someone must have taken it: why?

Firebird #03: this is the McGuffin that the PCs will be after. Sure, in the process of investigation they'll probably get a lot of additional information from witnesses and antagonists. But the diary will be the words of Marcie -- a deathbed confession of sorts -- to give her own version of events that led up to her extreme actions.

Firebird #4: In the Fading Suns universe, given the religious themes and elements, engaging in activities that will lay a soul to rest would be of critical importance to many. However, this may be balanced against the secrets that some one like to keep. And perhaps some would argue that some souls do not deserve peace -- but that won't sit well with her mother, and probably not with the PCs as well.

NEXT: Grimjack 01 -- The Investigation. Wherein we see how the progress in this case introduces us to different corners and players in the setting of Cynosure, and how such a framework might be used for Fading Suns adventures as well.

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