Here is a “fill in the blanks” style exercise you can use to start a Demon City campaign. Long-time readers may recognize it from before it's mutation into its current form...
Characters and Set Up
1. Look through the library and choose a mastermind horror: a witch, a vampire, a cult leader, a demon, whatever—the only requirement is they need minions. We’ll call this the Villain. Who are they? Write it down.
2. Think of something the Villain would demand: sacrifices, food, information, money, etc and something their minions can continuously do to help the Villain get it—something that isn’t a major crime in itself, but that’s suspicious: buying up rare manuscripts or gems of a given type, aggressively proselytizing a new faith to children, obsessively photographing activity on certain street corners, running something that’s probably a drug front—and a reason the Villain wants them to do it. These are the Minions and their Task. Write down what the task is and name at least 5 Minions, in order of importance: Lowest Minion, Minion, Trigger-Puller Minion, Trigger-Puller Minion 2, Lieutenant Minion. Choose cards to describe them if you like.
3. There’s a murder or suspicious death. It’s one of these Minions. It was while they were in the process of their Task. Or a witness to the Minions going to extreme (perhaps criminal) lengths to perform the Task. This is the Murder. Write down who got killed, where and what they were doing when it happened.
4. The police didn’t realize the Minion involved in the murder was a Minion. They assumed the murder was random. They are aggressively uninterested in pursuing it further. But someone near the Task or the Murder victim—a rare book dealer, a city council member, someone who lives in the neighborhood, a victim’s family member—wants to know who is ultimately behind it all. Not who pulled the trigger, but who ordered it—maybe even evidence they can bring to the authorities. They have some status in the community. This is the Patron. Write down their name and occupation.
5. Unbeknownst to anyone else, the Villain has influence over officials in Demon City, who in turn have influence over the police. These are the Corrupted. Write down at least two names and some city job titles for them.
6. There is a fortune teller. Her demands are elaborate (Like: cut off your foes' bottom lips, thread these lips onto a wire, douse the lip-wire in oil and set it alight.) These rituals will produce accurate, useful information (she will read the cards)—but only once. Thereafter the rituals will produce accurate, useless information that the party already knows. This is the Oracle. Write down her name and method of divination.
7. There is a cop. This was his/her case, it’s down and s/he doesn’t want it back up again. This is the Detective. Write down their name.
8. The party will have to meet Contacts, tail suspects and people of interest, find bodies, and may eventually confront the Villain. These things should happen in interesting places. Write down 6 interesting places for these kinds of things to happen. Give the Villain a headquarters.
These things happen unless the party does something to make them not happen.
Day 1: Patron calls up the party and tells them there was a Murder of someone they know was connected to a lot of people all performing the Task. Connect the Patron’s desire for justice to the PCs various motives. If there’s an Investigator, tell them they’ll get paid.
The day after the PCs begin their investigation: Unless they are extremely low-profile the Detective approaches at least one of the party to tell them to stop nosing around the case, especially since s/he’s put it to bed—murder is dangerous and a lot of paperwork and s/he doesn’t want another body to write up. On the other hand, if they already have any information, s/he demands they give it up.
The day after that: The Oracle approaches the Party and tells them she can help.
These events happen at a rate of one per day, starting the day after the Oracle approaches the party, unless the party does something to make them impossible…
1. If the party have interacted with any NPC since they began other than Minions or NPCs named here (that is random bureaucrats, shopkeepers, etc) one of these people (whichever one who would have heard the most about the PCs' activities by now) is a spy for The Corrupted. S/he will shadow the PCs with Stealth 3 and report all of their activities to The Corrupted. If no such NPC has been met, keep this event in your pocket until one is met.
2. Another person connected to the Task has been murdered. If the means of death can be discovered, the party will find out it was the same as the first Murder, with the same Trigger-Puller Minion (1). This was a former intimate of the Villain who threatened to leave and tell people, and had to be silenced.
3. Another person connected to the Task has been murdered. A rival trying to outdo the Villain at the Task, and so interfering. A Minion reported it (likely via phone or email) to the Lieutenant Minion, who then assigned the murder to Trigger-Puller Minion 2.
4. The PC of the highest social standing (or Appeal, if their social standing is equal) is invited to a party attended by Demon City mid-elite (s/he may bring guests). The Patron and The Corrupted are present as well as a (perhaps disguised) Minion who seems to, in passing, know one of the Corrupted. This Minion has no idea who the Party are and is drunk enough to let slip information in casual conversation.
5. The Minions are nowhere to be found today. Astrological investigation (Intensity 3 Occult or asking the right people) reveals it’s an auspicious day for a ceremony of the kind most plausibly associated with the Villain. It will be either at night in a public place fit for the ritual or at a Minion’s home.
6. Trigger-Puller Minion 2 kills the Lowest Minion (or any other Minion who has had contact with the PCs) on orders from the Villain. They know too much and have outlived their usefulness.
7. A Minion offers to sell the party information about the Villain. They know very little (they have only been spoken to indirectly) but offer to collect information in exchange for protection. Depending on the nature of the Villain, s/he is either an honest defector or setting the party up for a double cross (the Minion may even pretend the Villain they are “informing” on is a regular criminal of some kind). If the defection is real, the Villain will know and one of the Trigger-Pullers will try to kill them before they can do any harm.
8. The Patron reports they’ve been visited by one of The Corrupted. The Patron has been told to stop investigating and is scared.
9. The Detective turns up a suicide. The police (influenced by the Corrupted) don’t seem to care. The Detective’s home and/or car are full of new clues to the nature of the villain.
10. (Write your own event here.)
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