Family Ties - Session 0: Character Creation
I recently started getting more interested in Ironsworn as the engine for some solo roleplaying. But instead of running in the quasi-Medieval Ironlands setting, I wanted to try a modern urban horror game. Based on some recommendations and feedback, I chose to use the new Starforged system, just removing the starship and exploration aspects, and modifying some of the assets and tables in play.
For setting and mood, I chose the modern world of Kult: Divinity Lost 1 and set my story in a fictionalized version of Richmond, Virginia. For the purposes of a solo game, I felt it would be best to play as a Sleeper character, slowly coming to the realization that the world around him is an illusion, and occasionally gaining glimpses past the Veil.
Some of the themes I wanted to explore in this game are:
- Family duty versus personal autonomy
- Fate versus self direction
- The id, the ego, and the super-ego
Coupled with all of that, I’ve been binging various horror and personal drama media over the past few months that I felt certain would inform and guide some of the situations I’d run into.
I started to develop a character, Simon Brinkman, who’d be a thinker and a helper. Not too old with a few close contacts he could rely on. The idea of a large family came to mind. Many of the dramas I’ve been watching lately deal with the intrigues of family life. The phrase "the seventh son of a seventh son" tugged at me. To keep things mysterious, Simon would be the unwitting seventh son. His grandfather Llewellyn Brinkman sired six sons with his wife Miriam before she died. His father Matthew might not actually be his father… 2
For his stat spread, I gave him 1 in Edge and Iron, 2 in Shadow and Wits, and 3 in Heart. He’s always been good at finding things, so I made him a Sleuth, and he unknowingly relies on his natural Empath abilities. Soon, his Haunted nature will make itself known.
We create one Bond, his good friend Liz Tollier. She’s a resident in the ER at VCU Medical Center. Simon has known her since high school, and apart from a very brief, very awkward period of dating, they’ve maintained a strong friendship ever since. 3
The last step to getting this story started is an inciting event. In Simon’s case, it consists of two voice mails:
"Hey, Simon. It’s your dad. Say, listen. Any chance you’re free this week? There’s… there’s something I need to tell you. And it should be in person. It’s not… nothing… nothing bad, heh. Always that way, right? But best not over the phone, and certainly not on a voice mail. Call me back and let’s grab dinner. Your choice, my treat. Love you."
"Mister Simon Brinkman? This is Sergeant Dennis Beauchamp with the Virginia State Police. This call is in regards to a Matthew Brinkman. Please call at your earliest convenience. Day or night. Thank you."
In the next session, we’ll witness Simon’s father’s funeral, and see how he handles family he hasn’t seen in years.
- Kult relies heavily on many themes and ideas found in Gnostic traditions. The world we inhabit and navigate is an illusory construct. We humans have been blindered to our own divinity, trapped in a material cage. A quasi-religious Matrix, if you will. ↩
- Kult also explores mature topics and uses graphic imagery in its depiction of the world and the inhabitants therein. Throughout my Family Ties posts, I’ll include Content Warnings at the start should these topics and descriptions come into play. ↩
- Since she’s an initial Bond, we’ll make her Formidable (1 box per progression), and she’ll impart a +3 to any roll where they act in concert towards something. ↩