Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The October Country: The Ghost Machine

I'm still banging away on projects and preparing for GaryCon (14 and a wake-up!) so the consolidation of blogs continues. Today's post is all about a strange device that appeared in my dreams.

I mentioned at the end of last year that the October Country material has taken on a sometimes uncomfortable life of its own, making it difficult for me to escape its powerful allure. It is indeed heady stuff to my mind and the autumnal land and its parts have invaded my dreams more than once…or maybe I’m merely travelling there more often in my sleep. The following came from a dream I had two nights ago. I was exploring the attic of a decaying hotel and found this bizarre, unwieldy-looking, antique typewriter there. After blowing the dust off of it and figuring out how it worked, I began having a two-way conversation with the ghost of a murderer. The typewriter model cited in the post below is a different one from my dream, but of all the antique typewriters I could find, it comes closest to the strange device I found in that attic.

The device known in certain circles as the Ghost Machine is unusual in appearance, but not abnormally so. It tends to draw stares not because of the function it can perform, but rather because it is rare to encounter a typewriter in the 21st century—especially one that is more than 100 years old.

Those few individuals knowledgeable of the history of these obsolete business machines recognize the Ghost Machine as being a North’s number 1592, manufactured in London in 1892. The machine (and the company that manufactured it) gets its name from the obscure English lord who financed it. Individuals with more than a passing knowledge of Victorian Era spiritualism know that Lord North held a deep interest in the afterlife, so it comes as no surprise that the Ghost Machine serves as a conduit for the dead.

The Ghost Machine allows for conversation between the living and the dead—even with those who have never demonstrated the slightest talent for mediumship. When using the Ghost Machine to communicate with the dead, PCs with the skill of Medium add a +20% bonus to their percentage. Those without the skill can utilize the device with a base 20% chance of success, modified by other conditions as normal.

The Ghost Machine is simple to use. When a clean sheet of paper is inserted into the typewriter’s “holding basket”, the machine is ready to function. The typewriter’s operator need only type a question onto the paper and wait for a reply. If the Medium skill roll (or the base 20% chance) is successful, and there is a cognizant spirit within a half-mile of the device, that ghost will become aware of the Machine and likely be drawn to its location. Spirits with a POW of 13 or less are compelled to seek out the Machine and its operator; those with POWs of 14 or better will be intrigued but cautious, and may or may not approach the location of the Machine depending on their personalities and goals.

Once present, the spirit can communicate with the living by means of typing out a reply via supernatural manipulation of the Ghost Machine. The Machine seems to operate on its own as the keys strike and the reply appears on the page. Although the typewritten reply is typically in the same ink as the original query, there have been cases where the reply seems to be typed in blood, ectoplasm, or even ordinary water. The ghost must spend one MP for each full minute spent in typewritten correspondence, and once it does, is compelled to answer any question typed during that period. After the minute expires, it can choose to spend another MP or cease conversation. If during the minute period, the Machine’s operator ever types a question the spirit wishes not to respond to, it and the operator must engage in an POW Opposition Test. If the spirit is successful, it can obfuscate the truth or simply not reply.

For unknown reasons, the Ghost Machine tends to attract angry or harmful spirits. If there is more than one spirit within the area affected by an operating Ghost Machine, the most dangerous of the ghosts present will always be the one to make contact. It is for this reason that would-be mediums lacking proper talent and training are cautioned against using the Ghost Machine without proper precautions and supervision.


Pat said...

That is pretty cool right there. The TV show "Fringe" did something similar, although they were going for oddball-high-tech rather than straight-up horror.

Anonymous said...

Give me a Clark Nova any day.