Tracking Cults, Secret Societies, and other Mysteries’ goals

I have a weakness for any setting that contains one or more of the following, cults, secret societies, or pervasive mysteries. This is why I like so many of the Savage Worlds settings. Most have some combination of the above items. Be it in Deadlands with its Pinkertons, Texas Rangers and Twilight Legion and their struggles against the “Reckoners”, Rippers with the Cabal, or the Weird War series with its Twilight Legion.

In fact Weird War I, and its occult societies, the Twilight Legion, and the various organizations that investigate the paranormal events going on during the war is probably my favorite setting even though I am not big on military set pieces.

The only problem that with having such a large number of these groups potentially with conflicting goals, is how to track the ways that these groups plans interact with each other. And the best answer for this that I have found for this is the concept of a “Front” from the Apocalypse World or “Arc” from Monster of the Week (I prefer the term “Front” personally, but they are basically the same thing). The basic idea of these is that you group a set of related threats together, and build a countdown clock to track their progress towards achieving their goal. If the characters or some other group do not interfere, before the countdown is completed, then the group achieves its goals. You would do this for each group that you want to feature in the upcoming sessions though this doesn’t need to be and probably shouldn’t all be done upfront. In fact, I would only do one or two to start, and after the first couple of sessions, I might add one more every other session or so until I had as many as I wanted which would probably be less than ten and removing them when their threat has been dealt with.

An example of this would be something like:
The Front: A cult group in your setting wants to summon the being that they worship to Earth.
The Threats: Members of the cult, the leader of the cult, the beings that they can summon.
Countdown Clock:

Day The cult group summons a beast to rampage on the outskirts of town to attract attention while a group of members rob a jewelry store for specific items needed in the summoning
Shadows Members of the cult go on a retreat as part of the ritual purification that is needed as part of the summoning
Dusk The cult works on fortifying the ritual location so that once they begin, it will be harder to interfere with them.
Sunset The cult group summons a monster to kidnap the sacrificial victim for the rite. (Preferably one that the party has an emotional attachment to.)
Nightfall The cult begins the ritual to summon the being that they worship to Earth.
Midnight The climax of the ritual is at midnight, if the characters don’t stop it now, the cult achieves its goals, and now the characters have a new set of issues to deal with.

Now, one last thought to leave you with, all of this could be done recursively, meaning that each step in the countdown clock above could be its own “Font” with its own threats and countdown, depending on how granular you want to break things down.

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Author: Hours without Sleep

I am a professional software tester, who has an interest in programming, computers, role-playing games, history, and reading in general. This is my third attempt at keeping a blog, and I am going to try putting all of my thoughts in one place, and see how it goes.

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