Friday September 24 - Sunday September 26, 2021

Fatal Bonds. A Noir-style family drama

Set in a Nordic-inspired, rules-light storytelling framework

Setting and Groups in Fatal Bonds

After generations of conflict, the wealthy Vallier family and the crafty Malone family have finally come together to unite their families by joining the heirs to their respective dynasties in marriage. To celebrate, they have invited their families, friends, important political leaders, and even representatives from the troublesome and unpredictable Carter Company to bear witness to this new era of peace and prosperity.

A mixture of high society, blue collar workers, crafty opportunists, and seedy characters will come together for a weekend of rehearsal dinners, social mingling, and eventually a wedding. During this time they will take the opportunity to drive their agendas forward, settle old debts, reconfirm alliances, and possibly forge new ones.

There are four player groups in Fatal Bonds: the Vallier Family, the Malone family, the Friends of the Families, and the Carter Company. The Valliers and Malones have long histories in this town, while the Carters and those who work for them are more recent arrivals. All three groups have allies and enemies within the Friends of the Families, a group made up of influential and important people who have been invited to witness the wedding.

The Families

The Valliers

The Vallier Family’s roots are so entrenched in the city’s history that the casual observer could be forgiven for mistaking the two as the same. The first Vallier arrived with the Marquis de Lafayette and married into a prominent and powerful family whose status matched his own. Over the next hundred years, the Vallier family became involved in the highest level of politics, counting congressmen, governors, senators, and even a first lady among their numbers. They have been a part of the very making of the world as we know it today, and never hesitate to remind anyone of it.

Wealthy from time immemorial, the Valliers have invested heavily in African diamond mines as well as in shipping luxury items from South America. Their mansions are elegant beyond imagining and their name is synonymous with taste and refinement. What they wear sets the standard for the season and what they say inevitably becomes law. They are the closest thing you could find in this city to royalty, and they expect to be treated as such.

To fall afoul of the Valliers means to have your reputation shredded, your fortune decimated, and every door worth opening shut in your face. There isn’t a branch of city hall that doesn’t have a friend on staff, and so if you’re planning on making your home here, you’d best stay on their good side.

You might want to play this family if…

  • Settling for anything less than the absolute best and most perfect just isn’t for you.
  • You enjoy playing “society” types.
  • Politics and powerplays are something you enjoy.
  • Complicated family dynamics are something you enjoy in your roleplay.

The Malones

In 1785, a man named Edmund Malone was made the Baron of Sunderland. That same day, his bastard-brother Addis gave him a middle-finger salute, stole a handful of coins, and boarded a ship to America. Within a generation, the Sunderland baronetcy had fallen into oblivion, but the Malone family in America had prospered so well that many who knew its founder insisted it must be the devil’s work.

What began as the ownership of one tavern in the most dangerous part of town quickly spiraled into an empire of saloons, distilleries, and during Prohibition, smuggling and bootleg liquor. Your favorite pub? They own it. The whiskey you purchase at your little bodega? They imported it. That woman who sells her services at the house own the road? They protect her. Whatever your debauchery, whatever your vice, they know it… and they can always get you more. But despite their wealth and power within the city, they’ve always been on the outside looking in, waiting for their moment to assume their rightful place in society.

As a group who lives on the fringes of what’s acceptable, they live on the edge of the law. Some of their enemies end up run out of town, others end up in the gutter. But no matter the offense, their enemies are dealt with swiftly and harshly, and rumors of what they might be willing to do, are generally enough to keep those who would offend them in line.

You might want to play this family if…

  • You enjoy being in a tight-knit family where you know everyone’s business.
  • Pushing the boundaries of acceptability and propriety is fun for you.
  • You’re looking for a chance to show your “betters” how powerful you are.
  • Leading with your heart and being emotional is something you enjoy in roleplay.

The other groups...

The Carter Company

No one, not even the Carters themselves, know exactly when they arrived in the United States. If you asked them, they’ve always been here, working, growing, waiting for their moment to finally become what they were always meant to be. Little is known about the infamously reclusive Mr. Carter or his twin children who represent them in all his business dealings. They seem to have appeared from thin-air a decade ago and rapidly began making themselves and their company a growing powerhouse within the city.

They started by purchasing run down factories on the edge of town, updating them and adding jobs for blue collar workers suffering during the depression. They began snapping up large swaths of tenements and improving them for their employees, then shocked their fellow business owners by being among the first to support unions for their workers. Their willingness to support their employees and their families have made those who work for them fiercely, sometimes frighteningly loyal. Within the last few years, The Carter Company has been unafraid to engage in trade wars, using their union power to undercut the political influence the Valliers have made. They’ve also established social clubs for their employees and tenants, taking away power from the Malones, who relied on the money these blue-collar workers brought in.

As for their vengeance… that’s a bit of a mystery. Some of their enemies end up in the morgue, while others come around to seeing their point of view, and even more simply vanish. Because they have so little history and there are so rumors abound regarding what they are capable of and what they’re willing to do, no one is quite sure where their limit lies. They’re wildcards, and there’s no telling what they might do if they had the opportunity.

You might want to play this family if…

  • You like playing a character who’s often antagonized by other players.
  • Competition is something you enjoy.
  • You enjoy a feeling of “us against the world” in your roleplay.
  • Being in a group of people who have come together by choice instead of by blood.

Friends of the families

In all honesty, “friends” might not be the best word to call these people, but this is a wedding after all, and no one is going to be uncouth enough to say otherwise. These people have worked for and helped the other groups here, some for decades, and some more recently. Though not blessed with the Vallier refinement, the Malone money, or the Carter tenacity, they have each gained power in their own way, dealing in secrets, favors, and unique tasks that only they could provide.

They come from all walks of life and from the places the families have needed them, including the highest levels of government as well as the morgue. It’s because of their shady or legitimate business dealings, their station in society, or good old-fashioned nepotism that they have been invited to the wedding. After all, there are certain things one must do to keep up appearances in polite society, and if one were ever looking for an opportunity to make new connections, or to settle an old score, a wedding isn’t the worst place to find the person you’ve been looking for.

What allegiances they have are tenuous at best, and at a gathering like this, there’s no telling whether or not the people who call them “friend” will still do so once the wedding is over. But it is certain that none of the guests would miss out on what is certain to be the event of the century.

You might want to play this group if…

  • You like playing a character who has no strong allegiances to any one family.
  • The idea of being someone who will have roleplay and involvement with all three other families excites you.
  • Coming from a “professional” back ground and having skill that others need appeals to you.
  • Having many secrets (and as a consequence, many potential enemies) is something you enjoy in your roleplay.

The Characters

Our characters will follow many archetypes present within noir, but are not considered “cookie cutter” and will be finalized with each player in mind. Approximately 4 months before the event, each player will receive a “blurb” containing the name of their character, the group they belong to, and a brief description for you to accept. The purpose of this is for our players to be able to connect with others in their groups and to prepare costuming for the event.

Closer to the event, we will send out a group history that contains secret gossip or skeletons in the closet that only people in your group will know. From that document, you will also be able to get a better idea about your group’s current situation, which should also help with your character development and costuming.

At least 2 months before the event, players are scheduled to receive their full character sheet. These will include:

  • Your characters full name and the archetype they are based on.
  • A prose section to set the scene for their place in this scenario.
  • A character history and background of three to four pages.
  • Roleplaying tips.
  • Goals and Ambitions.
  • Connections with those outside your group and insight into your relationship with others in your group.
  • A “Who’s Who?” of your group.

Shadow and light

One of the most striking features of noir cinema is filmmakers using various illumination techniques to create sharp contrasts between shadows and light. Half-hidden faces, silhouettes against a foggy background, and mysterious figures disappearing down dark alleyways invoke a sense of mystery and the thrill of these hidden secrets waiting to be revealed once and for all.

It’s these feelings and moments that we want to capture in our game. To create this sense of uncertainty, anticipation, and drama we’ve designed our scenario to have both “light” and “shadow” elements.

By “light” elements, we mean that each character will have:

  • Facts about them that are well known to many other characters in the game
  • Beneficial abilities and traits that prove useful to themselves and others
  • Goals that other characters know about and may be involved in
  • Friendly relationships with other characters
  • Happy and peaceful moments in game

By “shadow” elements, we mean that each character will have:

  • Dark secrets that are known to few, if any other characters, even those closest to them
  • Self-destructive traits that cause themselves and others problems
  • Secret goals and agendas that they are keeping close to their chest
  • Antagonistic and hostile relationships with other characters, secret grudges, or even secret desires to see the downfall of those they claim to care for
  • Sad and painful moments in game

Characters in noir films take big risks, with the potential for terrible failure and incredible reward. Happy endings are not guaranteed, and even achieving the goals that the characters began with might result in losses they never imagined.
To this end, we have designed plots and opportunities for our players to take their characters on these high-stakes journeys. This means that all decisions and actions taken by characters will naturally have “light” elements that benefit some, and “shadow” elements that negatively affect others.