Recursion Notes

I know in my last post I promised a campaign setting…I’m still working on some of the basics before I settle in and start building. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a first (and somewhat incomplete) draft of a recursion I’ve been working on for The Strange.

There of course is a reason I’m posting it today. While it’s not set in Punxsutawney or in February it is based on the same basic trope as the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day…which is of course today.

So in case you have somehow missed this modern comedy classic Bill Murray is a weatherman reporting on Punxsutawney Phil and becomes trapped in a recurring loop where everyday is exactly the same as the one before. That’s the basic premise of this recursion: Everyday is Saturday August 8, 1998. Now the PCs can make changes and discoveries but, for good or ill, ultimately every new day erases any changes.

So without further ado…

Saturday, August 8, 1998

Level: 4

Laws: Standard Physics, Exotic

Playable Races: Human

Foci: [earth foci]

Skills: none

Connection to the Strange: No direct connection to The Strange.

Connection to Earth: A few gates

Size: Developed Recursion

Spark: 0%

Trait: Tough

What a Recursor Knows About Saturday, August 8, 1998

  • Saturday, August 8, 1998 seems to operate under the law of Standard Physics.
  • The geography of Saturday, August 8, 1998 aligns with a small portion of Millscroft, a small town in the American Midwest.
  • Despite the bright and cheerful summer day, a recursor visiting Saturday immediately senses something is off and can see menacing, smoky shapes lurking in the shadows.
  • The Fireman’s Festival began last night and runs through the end of the weekend.
  • Mabel’s Diner has been in business for 75 years and still serves the best pie in the county. Everybody says so.
  • You are checked into room [xx] at the Gables.

The bright, warm sun shines over the quaint antique stores and restaurants lining the Norman Rockwell-esque town square that is the center of life in Millscroft. People bustle about the business of the day. Children can be seen biking and playing in the tree-lined green space between Main Street and Lincoln Avenue. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks and a horn honks.

The town is abuzz with excitement for the evening’s festivities, most notably the softball game at Wilshire Field between the teams of High School Faculty and Emergency Services. Even as residents jostle past one another, warm smiles and friendly wagers are exchanged.

Despite the nostalgic glow of better times, for some, a menacing presence can be felt on the fringes. In the too-dark shadows, one can almost catch a glimpse of too-tall humanoid creatures made of oily smoke watching and waiting.

Every Day is the Same

By and large, the recursion follows the laws of standard physics except in one significant manner: Every day is Saturday, August 8. The events of the day endlessly loop with no lasting repercussions from the day prior, for good or ill. No one dies (permanently), new wounds vanish and old injuries that needed tending upon arrival will require fresh attention with each reset.

A PC who arrives in Saturday, August 9, 1998 with reduced pools should note the reduced values somewhere so that each of the pools can be returned to that state during the recursion’s reset.

This doesn’t mean time passes differently here. Every repeated day is still a day passing elsewhere. It just means that something or someone is setting the recursion each day.

The Town

MIllscroft is appears to be the stereotypical small, midwestern community with a kitschy mainstreet full of antique shops, a small post office and the locally famous Mabel’s Family Restaurant.

  • Filigree: An upscale restaurant near the Gables.
  • The Gables: Two blocks south of Main Street, within easy walking distance of the antique shops, sits the grand old Victorian house that now functions as Millscroft’s foremost bed and breakfast. Run by a lovely couple of recent retirees (Chris and Abigail Pope) who have joyfully discovered just how much work even a small hotel is. Most recursors translating into Saturday discover they have a room here.
  • Glen’s Barbershop: Located on Lincoln Avenue. Glen’s has four chairs and a 45 minute wait for most of the day. Ten dollar haircuts and lively discussions on movies, sports, politics and local gossip occur all day until 5pm when the doors close.
  • Mabel’s Family Restaurant: At the eastern end of Main is Mabel’s Family Restaurant. It’s warm, inviting atmosphere and delicious from-scratch taste make this local eatery a hub of activity in town.
  • O’Malley’s Pub: Ostensibly an authentic Irish pub, this bar is about as Irish as baseball.  Nevertheless, it is a favorite off-duty hangout for the local fire and police. O’Malley’s can be found on Willshire Avenue near the baseball diamonds.
  • Peachy Keen: This beauty parlor off Willshire has seven stylists who work by appointment only so waiting is kept to a minimum. Today the shop closes at 2 p.m., but until then several of the local women can be found chatting inside while the owner Annie and her other three on-duty stylists work.
  • The Village Ice Cream Parlor: Squeezed between two large shops on a side street just off Lincoln sits the Village Ice Cream Parlor, an old-style soda shop. A long line stretches out onto the sidewalk, an indication of how good the homestyle ice cream and craft fudge inside are.
  • Vinyl Addiction: As the name implies, this seedy looking music store specializes in actual vinyl records rather than CD’s or cassettes, although it does sell all of those formats, including a sizable rack of 8-track cassettes.
  • Wilshire Field: This small park has two baseball diamonds, but most of the remaining space has been given over to a host of festival game tents, beer stands, and rented carnival rides, all a part of the annual fire department’s fundraising festival. Parking is tight; most people walk in or park at the nearby elementary school.

Other locations: Awesome Comics, Greene’s Corner Pharmacy, Millscroft Fire House, Millscroft High School, the public library, the town hall, Wilshire Elementary

Timeline

Since every day in the recursion is exactly the same unless someone with the spark interacts the residents, here is a timeline of several of the day’s significant events.

6:06 a.m. Day begins. Jesse Charleston Mabel’s morning cook wakes up late for work.

7:00 a.m. Mabel’s opens on time for breakfast but the kitchen isn’t quite ready for guests. Luckily, the early morning crowd is sparse.

10:15 a.m. A crew of movers drops an antique player piano trying to lift it into a second-story apartment over the Red Barn. Most likely no one was injured (see GM Intrusions below.) Very few of the creepy, smoky-shadow creatures seem to be about.

8:00 p.m. Fletcher Brooks is mugged at knifepoint crossing through an alley to get to the festival. He attempts to resist his assailant and receives a nasty cut, but still manages to lose his wallet. Characters with the spark may notice a large number of the smoky-shadow creatures hovering close by.

9:02 p.m. Fireworks begin down at Wilshire Field.

1:15 a.m. Despite not seeming to be affected by the Reset, the smoky-shadow creatures always head towards the circle highway about this time.

1:30 a.m.  Emergency helicopter roars overhead towards the highway.

1:36 a.m. Day ends. 4 ½ hours until Reset completes.

The Reset

Despite every day being the same, time still flows in this recursion. Each day begins at 6:06 a.m. Saturday morning, and continues until 1:36 a.m. on Sunday with a reset period of about four and a half hours in which everyone in the recursion is unconscious.

It is theorized that if a recursor could remain conscious past 1:36 a.m. (a difficulty 8 task) they would actually witness the recursion reset itself. People and all moving matter would simply stop in place until such a time as they were relocated to whatever location and condition they were in prior. The theory continues to suppose that a recursor who was active during this period would not only not be reset but could also be killed. There are no reported occurrences of recursors attempting this successfully and so the theories remain purely conjecture.

A Note on Cyphers: The reset affects most things but it cannot touch cyphers. Once a cypher is used it is expended and any new cyphers gained are retained with a new reset.

Bestiary Note

The smoky-shadow creatures are a variant of Boogeymen (The Strange Bestiary) who feed on pain and death and are drawn towards certain events in this recursion. Unless one of these creatures chooses to be seen only characters with the spark can see them at all. PCs who pay attention will likely notice these creatures (unlike the other denizens) do not seem to follow the rules of the Reset or a pre-ordained path.

Using this Recursion

It is important to remember that unlike most iterations of the “every day is the same” trope PC’s are not trapped in this recursion and there is probably no way to “fix” the loop. So your stories here should use the format as a backdrop not the primary conflict. Maybe they must find a particular cypher or artifact believed to be hidden in one of Millscroft’s many antique shops. Or perhaps, an agent of the estate with an inoperable tumor has retired to Millscroft to add a few years of life but hasn’t checked in for sometime.

GM Tip: Mood Music. Make a medium to long playlist of music of from 1997-1998 and play it during your game. Don’t put it on shuffle. Whenever the recursion resets restart the playlist.

GM Intrusions Suggestions:

  • (Arrival) Two characters who either don’t get along or are experiencing friction right now discover they are roommates at the Gables.
  • (First Reset) The character in question resets awkwardly: Falling out of bed, or stumbling down the bed and breakfast’s stairs. Whatever the inconvenience, it repeats at every reset.
  • (Anytime after the first reset) Untimely death. A fluke accident like the falling piano (above) or an out of control car kills a PC. If you are running a time-sensitive adventure and want to award an XP to each PC, you can narrate a jump to a fresh reset.
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