Boarders of Hargrave House
By Ben Bisogno and Steph "Chaotic" Jamgochian
For a formatted and printable version of this piece, see here.
If you play The Between long enough, or games that are Carved from Brindlewood, you may find that recurring Side Characters have a tendency to gather around a playgroup. Often these Side Characters’ motivations and reason for being by the player characters are neglected or are distorted with time.
The following approaches illustrated below are to provide inspiration for how you may structurally approach helping Side Characters remain vibrant and relevant to your campaign's narrative arc. Although the following is written for Jason Cordova’s The Between in mind, and specifically geared toward Side Characters that take up residence in that game’s “Hargrave House”—the residence where main characters live—these suggestions may be incorporated into many games that are Carved from Brindlewood.
The approaches are presented in increasing complexity and each are accompanied by a custom Side Character that demonstrates how you might use a given approach at your table. Adjust and reimagine them to fit your own table’s circumstances. If you like, you may even introduce an example Side Character presented below in your own campaign.
One of the ways we can be encouraged to interact with Side Characters on a recurring basis is to reward a player character with information.
In Threats like the Limehouse Lurker or the Nutcracker, some of the Rewards include characters with whom interactions give bonuses to certain Moves. You could make a specific kind of interaction with a Boarder of Hargrave House work similarly.
Perhaps if you happen to have a Boarder in Hargrave House that is a vampire, as may be the case if the hunters adopt the above mentioned Lurker, you can develop a mechanic that highlights a theme about them, perhaps the Lurker’s innocence: “when you provide fresh blood to the Lurker or help them otherwise cope with their new unnatural existence, you can take plus 1 on the next Information move in which you inquire into the innocence or monstrosity of a Threat or another character.”
An Example Boarder…
Young Lady Matilda Wells she/her
A young lady of privilege, she always has a beast of some variety following in her wake, usually her lemur Fig, but also neighbor’s pets, and even wild animals. Her rooms in the arboretum chatter with birds, marsupials, and insects of paradise. She bears satin silks, and a rouge that is quite inappropriate for a youth of her standing. She is currently under a form of house arrest after she had a bear devour her mother’s left leg.
Quote: “I cannot believe my father has me caged here…and with the likes of you. You, my supposed keepers, are the true beasts around here. Now fetch me my tea, dog.”
Animals of all varieties may enter hunter’s personal quarters..
Animals of all varieties gravitate to Hargrave House, drawn to Lady Wells.
If she is threatened she will command all of her beasts to consume a hunter.
When you give the Lady a privilege fit for a member of her class, or otherwise bend over backwards to grant her petty requests, you may take 1 on the information move when inquiring into the habits and psychology of animals.
You can encourage certain types of interactions between hunters and Side Characters using a simple trigger to unlock a compelling opportunity, especially a simple ”when a hunter does this, that happens” situation. Below is one hell of a cook who, if hired by Hargrave House, helps the hunters tackle the future with more prescience.
An Example Boarder…
Tod, The Cook they/them
An exemplary cook, Tod was recently fired from their position as sous chef at Rouget's on Castle Street, Leicester Square, but still carries the regal bearing of a respected member of a fine-dining establishment. Perhaps what led to their dismissal is the whispering void where Tod’s eyes should sit, and the aroma of ash that wafts about them, entirely distinct from the acridity of tobacco products.
Quote: “To be or not to be is not truly the question. The question is: when will you heed my warnings?... [ominous pause] Also, your breakfast is ready Madam.”
Clergy members at times are seen tied up in Tod’s quarters.
They savor the death of a hunter, and will hasten one given the opportunity.
Tod uses boiling hot water for daily baths, which add up to be quite expensive.
When a hunter employs Tod to work full time at Hargrave House and helps them enact revenge upon their previous employer at Rouget's, unlock the following Custom Move.
Visions of Death
When you consult Tod about how they see your death, hold 3. Whenever
you are about to perform an action that triggers a roll, you may spend 1 hold to
explain how this situation relates to one of Tod’s visions and mark 1 XP. For that roll, on a 6- result you must mark a Mask of the Future.
As all people do, side characters have their own plots and plans. There is always something happening off screen unrelated to the hunters. For this reason every Threat has a “If Hargrave House Ignores the Situation” section. A Clock is a useful way of representing and articulating this off screen behavior.
A Clock is simply a countdown that, when complete, triggers a narratively compelling event. The clock segments could relate to character actions and the development of the in-story fiction. For example, “every time a hunter murders a Side Character, you mark a tick on the Clock”. Another type of Clock could relate to the meta-structure of the game. For example, the Coven Threat’s Clock reads “If Hargrave House doesn’t resolve the Threat within six Night phases, the coven completes their terrible ritual.” Another Clock is included in the Orphan Threat: “If Hargrave House doesn’t resolve the Threat within six Night phases, the orphan will invade Hargrave House and wreck it.”
When you introduce a Side Character to board at your Hargrave House you can create a Clock associated with the character, tied to its themes, with an interesting event that is immediately relevant to Hargrave House at the end. See an example below.
An Example Boarder…
Cain, A Fat Floof He/Him
Cain is Hargrave House’s resident chonky cat, almost entirely black and floofy except for white socks and one knowing corn-yellow eye. He enjoys scritches but perhaps the reason he outlives most of the hunters who have cared for him is his preternatural intelligence, which he often uses to get into locations and food stuff he shouldn’t.
Cain tends to lay in the afternoon sun in the library or in the gardens.
His mews are much softer than you would expect from a predator his size.
He presents mice, Clues, and the love-bites to Hunters who give him affection.
When a hunter scritches his head or belly, mark the following Clock.
When all segments are marked, unlock the following event.
[ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
A Gathering of Cats
During this holy night a vast clowder of cats meets in the gardens of Hargrave House.
Paint the Scene: Cats of all pedigrees and stripes gather here on this most holy of nights to mate, feast, and frolic before a fountain featuring a bust of Bastet, Egyptian god of cats. What do you see or feel that indicates this?
Special Rule: Bastet demands an offering of meat, catnip, or a human host to embody as an avatar tonight. If you give such an offering, you may add the Blessing of Bastet to your Personal Quarters, and The Pride playbook is unlocked.
Like the Janus Mask, any Move that provides a series of memorable narrative beats is something to value. A Side Character could provide this sort of interactive fiction, where whenever you meet with them or interact with them in a meaningful way, you progress a narrative.
The following “Custom Move” is highly elaborate, amounting to a prestige playbook of sorts, given how much it changes a player’s relationship with their character. You are of course free to work this into your campaign if you like, but the aspect of it I would like to draw your attention to is the series of narrative beats that grow progressively grim each time a player decides to interact with it. It is an example of a consensual way to lead a hunter down a dark path.
An Example Boarder…
The Symbiote, An Extraterrestrial Nightmare (see below)
Psalms of the Symbiote
By Ben Bisogno
They said when ships descended from the clouds the stars would fall into the sea.
Is this not one?
The following feature of Hargrave House is unlocked when the Mastermind is Gesod, High Imperator of Venus. It may be introduced during any given Dusk Phase.
The Impact Crater. A streak of light descends from the heavens and directly strikes the gardens of Hargrave House. They are transformed into an alien landscape, almost unrecognizable. What has been lost or twisted that you feel personally impacted by? And what of the entity, at the center of the crater? In what manner is it not of this world?
The following Mask is now available to be marked at any time. However, its prompt may only be answered by the hunter who marked it.
- The Mask of Genesis - Narrate a scene in which an alien creature invades your body and fuses with your physiognomy. Is it pleasurable, like the kiss of life exchanged between Adam and his creator? Or a process of suffering? Take the Permanent Condition Symbiotic.
The following rules apply.
- You must add the Symbiote to your Personal Quarters. It cannot be crossed out.
- When you use the Symbiote for Advantage, mark a Benefit instead of the Symbiote.
- When you use the Symbiote for Advantage and roll a 6-, mark the next available Consequence as well.
Mark the first available Benefit.
◯ Narrate a scene in which you ask the Symbiote its origins and it struggles to answer. You may now uncover the nature of this entity, through dialogue or research.
- When 3 Mastermind Clues are revealed: Narrate a scene in which you learn that the Symbiote is one of the last primordial stewards of the Earth, which escaped into the chill of space during an apocalyptic event.
- When 6 Mastermind Clues are revealed: Narrate a scene in which you learn that the return of the Symbiote was foretold in prophecy.
- When 9 Mastermind Clues are revealed: Narrate a scene in which you learn the Symbiote plans to execute judgment on mankind for abuses to the planet.
- When 12 Mastermind Clues are revealed: You may now use the The Mask of the Revelations, below, whenever you feel is appropriate.
◯ Narrate a scene in which you get emotionally vulnerable with the Symbiote: You may now optionally perform the Vulnerable Move with just the Symbiote present. Ask a fellow player to voice it when doing so, and they may mark 1 xp for their efforts.
◯ You are now able to sense and home in on the whereabouts of unearthly entities.
◯ Add +1 to Vitality (No maximum). At will, you may now stretch, transform, and use your body as a weapon. When you do so, take the Unearthly Condition.
◯ You may now splay open like a venus fly trap and swallow Dangers, Servants, and Side-Characters whole.
◯ The Symbiote cherishes you, but moreover it is attached to this earthly existence and will not permit you to perish. If you are to mark the Blood Soaked Portal, you must now mark a Consequence instead. Additionally, from here on, if you were to mark a Benefit, you must mark a Consequence instead.
(Locked) The Mask of Revelations - Narrate a scene in which you come to understand what Gesod, High Imperator of Venus, fears above all else. What is it? This is a Mastermind Clue.
Mark the first available Consequence.
◯ Narrate a scene in which you attempt to remove the Symbiote from your body, only to discover that it is indeed impossible.
◯ Narrate a scene in which you struggle with the Symbiote over a simple task and wreck a room in Hargrave House.
◯ Narrate a scene in which the Symbiote acts on its own base instincts, disregarding all human social norms—leaving you to handle the fallout.
◯ Narrate a scene in which the Symbiote punishes you socially or physically for straying from its desires and disobeying its commands.
◯ Narrate a scene in which you discover a deeper contempt for humanity than you have yet ever experienced. If you have not already, mark the Darkened Threshold.
◯ Narrate a scene in which the Symbiote takes dominant control of your body, and you become entirely unable to disguise your Symbiotic Condition. If you have not already, mark the Cosmic Passage.
◯ You must mark the Mask of Lamentations before the end of session.
- (Locked) The Mask of Lamentations - Narrate a scene in which your physiognomy transforms and the entity with whom you have been cohabitating your body fully manifests, bent on enacting judgment on humanity. Describe the moment you become a Servant of the Mastermind. Your playbook is now retired.
Although Hargrave House attempts to keep its boarders from becoming festering problems in London, sometimes they do get out of hand. A Side Character in Hargrave House may have a problem the hunters have an interest in solving. Some players worry that Side Characters may distract from investigating Threats changing the frame of The Between. The Special Rule articulated below is an attempt to address this concern.
The Peaceful Public Universal Friend Does Women’s Suffrage Now Portend
The Public Universal Friend (often called the “Friend”) is an American preacher who, reanimated in 1776, has vowed to walk the earth until world peace is achieved. Fleeing the New World, they have taken up residence in Hargrave House’s chapel. The Friend wears adrogynous clothes and has shunned their birth name and gendered pronouns. They stress a message of freewill, sexual abstinence, and women’s rights. Their followers in London, the Society of Universal Friends, gender-fluid individuals, lesbians, and radical feminists associated with the movement toward women’s suffrage, have been visiting Hagrave House for strange and vocal “conciousness raising” rituals each night this week.
Direct to a hunter who has knowledge of American society or one of your choice:
You invited the Friend to stay at Hargrave House. What is your relationship with them such that you felt compelled to do so?
Pose to all the hunters: You see the Friend’s true plans. They are fomenting anarchic acts of uncivil disobedience and even violence in order to further a suffragist agenda. From observing or participating in the Society of Universal Friends’ “consciousness raising” rituals, how do you know this?
Special Rule: During this Side Threat, whenever a hunter finds a Clue related to another Threat, they may interpret it as applicable to this one. When they do so, they either mark Penny or Dreadful. Each is associated with special Moments. When each column is full then a unique Question and Opportunity is unlocked, one associated with Penny, the other with Dreadful. Without unlocking one of these, the Threat is not resolvable. When both are full, a Custom Move is unlocked (see below).
The Friend has a croaking voice, unearthly and sepulchral. Quote: “After negotiating the Treaty of Canandaigua, establishing a legal keystone of relations between the States and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, I was unappreciated in America. In London, I aim to continue working in the name of amity. Paul, saint of public workers, says that "there is neither male nor female" in Christ. I live to embody those words.
Resolve the Threat by detonating London Bridge at the height of a march for women’s suffrage, intimidating parliament into signing women’s voting rights into law.
When all boxes in Dreadful are marked, the following Question and Opportunity is unlocked. What is the core tenet of the faith the Public Universal Friend has in themselves or that people have of them? And how does one destroy it? (Complexity 4)
Resolve the Threat by convincing the Friend or their followers to abandon their cause and present them something more worthwhile to believe in.
When all boxes in both Penny and Dreadful are marked, the following Custom Move is unlocked: The Enemy of My Enemy (see below).
The Enemy of My Enemy
When you pit one Threat or Danger against another, through persuasion or trickery, take 1 Hold. You can spend this hold in the following ways by the end of the Night Phase.
- Make a bosom-friend of a Side Character. When you do so, describe how you suspect you may influence your new acquaintance for the worse… or vice versa.
- Find a Clue related to the relationships between dark entities in London. Ask the Keeper what it is.
- When you assist another hunter with an action you may take the Enemy of My Enemy Condition and the other hunter may add 1 to their roll (no maximum).
- The head of a politician.
- A casement of dynamite.
- A sealed letter addressed to you from the Public Universal Friend.
- A remarkably preserved original papyrus draft of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.
- A memento from the investigation; ask another hunter what it is and then add it to your Personal Quarters.
Whether 1) illustrating guidance for an Information move, 2) providing a fictional trigger with an opportunity, 3) developing a Clock and with a compelling outcome, 4) detailing a dramatic Custom Move that may draw a hunter down a dark path, 5) or crafting a Side Threat, no matter how you approach your Side Characters, as long as you do so in a manner in which your players can interact with them in mechanically clear, or fictionally significant, ways they will stay vibrant and relevant to your campaign.
If you like, please feel free to use any of the Boarders described above in your own table’s Hargrave House.
May you find light and hope in the darkness, for the Night is long, Dawn is distant, and the halls of Hargrave House echo with a void yearning to be filled.
Ben and Chaotic 2022