You learn about the Between the way you learn about anything. Through experimentation.
Except that experimenting can and does get you killed. The first time I went into the Between, it was with an Opener who was in his second year at UCLA. Majoring in something technical, I forget. Engineering, maybe? I don’t remember. He told me that learning about the Between is like this card game he used to play, call “Mao.”
I’d played Mao. It’s this weird little game where you try to get rid of your cards, and talking about the rules is against the rules. So you have to learn as you go, by observation and trial and error. And you lose the first time out.
The Between is like that for Openers. They discover they can Open in response to stress. Problem is, stress attracts Them, and Openers attract Them, so stressed-out Openers usually die the first time they Open. That’s one reason no one has any idea how common Openers are, or ever have been. Anyway, they Open a shadow or a dark area, and suddenly there they are, Between.
I’ll describe what the Between is actually like some other time. Doing that requires thinking about it. Time in the Between is not time you want to dwell on, believe me. Logistically, the Between connects all points of darkness everywhere. An Opener can guide you through the Between to any location he has seen, as long as there’s a shadow or a big enough dark patch there that he can Open to get out. Also, travel through the Between doesn’t take very long; I’ve gone cross country in less than a minute.
Let that sink in. Gateways to anywhere. Near-instant travel. It’s a miracle, right? Well, if it is, God’s a sonofabitch, because the Between is home to Them.
Now, even though Openers can’t control Them the way He seems to, you’d figure that this was all pretty potent, right? And it is, but still, He’s got edges that the rest of us can’t touch. Cheyenne Mountain showed us that.
Right after Jerusalem, Cheyenne Mountain just lit up. The big-brass generals of the Army were gone, but that’s the thing about the Army, there’s a chain of command. The lower-ranked officers just stepped up and someone got the brilliant idea of mounting a resistance in one of the most secure locations on the planet. It wasn’t a bad idea, as plans go, but of course they didn’t know what was really happening. People started flocking to Cheyenne, because it was obvious that there was activity. No one got in, but people were camped outside the installation for miles.
And then it all got quiet. Lights went out. No more movement. Everyone feared the worst. That lasted about six hours, and then the doors leading into the facility burst open.
And out He walked. It was twilight – enough light to see a bit about what was going on, but not enough for anyone to get a good clear pic of Him. He was walking through those massive doors, hands outstretched, with a wall of water on either side of him. He didn’t say anything that time, He just looked out, down the mountain at the hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who just wanted somewhere safe to go.
And He let the ocean have them. He released the water, and He disappeared. The water flowed out from the mountain – from a mountain in Colorado – and washed over everyone there.
Not everyone died. Fatalities were actually pretty limited, all things considered, because the water spread so quickly. Best guess I ever heard was about 500 dead, mostly children, old folks, handicapped, folks who couldn’t swim or get to higher ground. He never made a statement about Cheyenne Mountain, and most people assume what He meant by that act was, “Don’t bother hiding, I can find you anywhere.”
But really, I think He meant to demonstrate something to the Openers of the world. Yes, they can open gates to the Between and walk to places they could picture in a few minutes. He could open gates to any place he could visualize. And so what stops Him from opening a gateway into space and just sucking Earth’s atmosphere out? What stops Him from opening a gateway to the sun during an eclipse – it’s just a big shadow, right? – and burning us all to death?
I have no idea what’s stopping Him. I assume, personally, it’s because He figures things are OK the way they are, now.
So for today’s post, we’ll step back from systems for a moment and talk about the setting. You’ve seen a little of the history of the setting. You can actually play curse the darkness at any point along that timeline, broken down into three discrete periods: pre-apocalypse, mid-apocalypse, or post-apocalypse.
Pre-Apocalypse: The game takes place in the months before Jerusalem. The characters know that something strange is going on, but not what or why. Openers haven’t been discovered yet (meaning that players shouldn’t make Opener characters), nor has the Between. This style of curse the darkness game should focus on investigating what is happening, perhaps by searching for people who disappeared in His initial attacks or by examining the wreckage. As the damage intensifies, characters can become involved with riots, food shortages, clashes between police and protesters and other dramatic situations. They might also be some of the first people to see and access the Between.
In this setting, the Between is a lair. They are here, visible as characters enter, and They approach interlopers threateningly but do not attack. In fact, They look as though something is holding Them back.
Mid-Apocalypse: This game, probably the most brutal option for curse the darkness, takes place within the first 10 years after Jerusalem. The characters need to be very, very careful not to break the laws, and He takes notice much more easily. This style of game will probably involve higher character turnover than the other two options. Stories in mid-apocalypse games would involve coming to terms with the new reality of the world, learning about the Between and Them, and attempting to save and protect the people the characters care about.
In this setting, the Between is a beehive. They swarm everywhere, crawling over, under and around anyone who enters. Violence against visitors and travelers is common (this is represented by the lower Between Point totals needed to trigger an attack).
Post-apocalypse: The war might not be over, but He seems to have done what He wanted to. He doesn’t take as active an interest in the world anymore but still sends Them to kill people on occasion. Opportunistic looters and loyalists make up the opposition, but the resistance is global and working toward understanding what happened, why, and, more importantly, what options there are to fix the world. Characters are assumed to be members of the resistance.
In this setting, the Between is a ghost town. The topography is barren, flat and empty. They sometimes wander through the wastes, but travelers are just as likely to see other human travelers. They do not attack people without strong provocation.