Artifacts, MacGuffins, & Red Herrings Part 1

Artifacts, MacGuffins, & Red Herrings Part 1

There are a ton of devices that gain their use at the table of a group of role-players.  Many such devices are derived from literature, though we certainly derive them from film as well.  On of the classic devices used at the table is the artifact.  Whether the item is good, evil, or indifferent the story is anchored to where it is, what it can do, how it is used, and who has it.  Think of obvious examples like the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings or the title item of any of the Librarian movies.  Sometimes these artifacts take the role of MacGuffins, which probably never get used but act as the ultimate goal of the characters driving them to move through the story.  Along the way though, there are red herrings, distractions from that ultimate goal.  The great thing about the table is that one can become the other, it all depends on how the game goes and what the players become interested in.

Before I get into deus ex machina or Chekov’s gun (save that for a later post), I present you with three more SCPs.  Yep, they’re back and they are not horror inspirations.  Instead I have SCPs which are artifacts themselves.  Things that could become artifacts the players have, MacGuffins, red herrings, or maybe all of the above.  These are just some of the items from the Secure, Contain, Protect site that give me some game inspiration.

SCP-1764:  This artifact is interesting in many ways.  Simply a small metal disc, polished to be highly reflective, we are only given enough information as to guess at its potential powers.  The case file gives zero information as to the capabilities of, what I will call, the mirror.  The case file itself is amazing.  It is a completely familiar style for anyone who has looked at some of the SCPs, but has a completely different set of words, classifications, and descriptions.  This is quickly revealed to be the result of a information mirroring of some sort with an alternate universe (the one all the other SCPs exist in).  This SCP reminds me of the show Sliders, with the very nearly matching, yet obviously vastly different parallel dimension.  The artifact itself could be the centerpiece of a campaign of any setting from fantasy to sci-fi.  The case file provides everything from a way in which to reveal nature of the object to how to develop a parallel world beginning with specific basic changes.  More than that though it also provides greater mysteries and ideas from which to draw from.  SCP-1764 is an example of both a great artifact and interesting story telling.

SCP-251:  SCP-251 is a much different artifact.  I see this as something that could produce a relatively short arc, but one that would be quite a bit of fun.  This item is a simple snow globe, except for the fact that there is within it, a scene of terrible violence.  The scene changes, though it is never seen to be changing.  You may see one thing and come back later to find something completely new.  Additionally, the snow in the globe falls constantly, never piling up or needing to be shaken up.  What makes this a good RPG plot device?  The fact that people who are alone with it undergo violence, distress, and xenophobia.  There are many ways to introduce it to a campaign but I’ll throw one idea out there.

Classic D&D scenario.  PCs are going to explore an abandoned wizard’s tower to loot the items that may be there and retrieve a specific thing for someone else.  Among the many things they find in the tower is this snow globe.  The items are all strange and ornamental, but any party with the means to carry items will probably grab every expensive looking item they can.  Whether they chose to grab it or you include it in a list of “expensive looking shit” they grabbed is up to you.  Being in a group the globe shouldn’t effect them, though if the scout has it perhaps that can be played into.  Back at town they sell the items and the shopkeeper begins to exhibit problems.  From there the snow globe may be moved around at your leisure by NPCs or the PCs leisure, depending on what happens.  Over a few days though seemingly random people become violent and murders occur.  What causes it??  What happens if it effects someone with power?  A nice side trek if you ask me.  Oh, and if you do this, I want to hear all about it.

SCP-2400:  There is a lot of potential in this SCP.  Most of it has to do with the extensive information about SCP-2700 and the interactions between the two.  I’ll let you look into that.  I want to talk about 2400 by itself.  A simple door that leads to a probably-endless plain boring, calm nothingness.  However, time passes slower in there as long as the door is closed.  140 times slower to be precise.  In other words, in that other dimension (SCP-2400-A) two minutes and 20 seconds pass for every one second on earth.  Doing the math, an 8 hour rest would take 28,800 seconds.  If inside SCP-2400-A, that’s only a little over 205 seconds for the rest of the universe.  That means a party could rest here and only have lost three and a half minutes.  Would create quite the interesting resource in a dungeon crawl, especially since you can’t move the door.  Without knowing this, the door acts as a red herring until they can figure it out.  It may even distract a party enough to try to figure out how to take it home.  Or, they may never figure out the time-dilation and miss it completely.  Regardless, it would be a strange and fun feature to a dungeon full of the weird.