Posted in Settings

Setting: Hang Ups

Hang Ups is a random idea I had for a campaign setting. I haven’t played any or read much of InSpectres, but I have the feeling that Hang Ups could serve as an alternate setting for that system. Primetime Adventures, Spirit of the Century, Savage Worlds, or Otherkind Dice would work really well too. I’m looking forward to playing this one with my group this year for a few sessions.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

Emergency services are inundated with calls that they terminate because they appear to be pranks or non-emergencies. Stuff about aliens and werewolves. That kind of thing.

That’s where Hang Ups comes in.

They’re an independent (and not technically legal) group that intercepts these abandoned calls and sifts through them for seeds of truth. Armed with their knowledge of the paranormal, they respond to potentially legitimate calls to help those that the authorities ignore.

Hang Ups is a rag-tag group of people with various reasons for chasing after crazy-sounding emergency calls. Some might be bored, some might be slackers in this for a quick buck (ha, good luck!), others might be UFO nuts, disgraced scientists, or former law enforcers or agents who got kicked to the curb for looking too deep. I imagine that you’d have a very diverse group of people at Hang Ups. Also, they probably just work out of a warehouse, apartment or basement.

Getting the Call

I see this game as a good one for getting players involved in building the story. I plan to begin sessions like this: first, I’ll ask who’s the Operator for this game. This position will rotate through all the players. The Operator roleplays listening in on the emergency calls. In-game, it’s a pretty boring job and the character will probably be sitting there for hours on end until they find a call that might be true. But out of game, it should be a lot of fun.

What happens is, each player roleplays some NPC placing a call to emergency services. As the GM, it’s your job to ask a few questions to dig for a little information, and then brush them off as a prank caller. It’s the privilege of the Operator to select which call to take. Get a few calls from the players, and then when the Operator has heard them all, or hears one she really likes, she should jump in and “pick up” the call.

After this, the player who placed the call gets to fill in some sketchy details from the NPC, who is likely frightened/drunk/dishevelled/etc. The Operator gets to ask questions. Other players can offer questions, but it’s up to the Operator whether she asks them now or not.

Here’s an example of Getting the Call:

GM: “Okay, so it’s Joe’s turn to be the Operator this week”
Joe: “Sweet! Okay, I’m on the couch, kicking back with the headphones on”
GM: “Alright. Montage time. The calls are rolling in. There’s the usual junk, but a few perk your interest…”

[GM looks around the table for anyone with an idea. Clara puts her fingers to the side of her head like she’s on a phone.]

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Clara: “Uh… hi. Um… there’s something outside my house making these weird noises”.
GM: “Could you describe the noises?”
Clara: “Yeah… like, um… growls. But they don’t sound right.”
GM: “What do they sound like?”
Clara: “I don’t know… it’s not a dog, I don’t think. Maybe a bear? But it sounds sick or something. I can hear it moving in the bushes! My neighbour, he’s been working late nights on something in his garage. I see smoke and light and stuff coming from there and sometimes I hear animal noises. Wait… there it is again! Please send someone, quick!”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Ooh, is he making a monster? Hmm…”

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Gavin: “Yo, dude. Dude! They’re, like… everywhere, man! Seriously!”
GM: “Sir, could you please explain the nature of your emergency”
Gavin: “Everywhere, man. All these… like… cocoon things, you know? Some nights they’re there. Some night’s they’re not. They’re there now, though. They glow and stuff. Oh… no way! No way! Some of them are hatching or something! What the hell is that!? Dude, you gotta get someone over here! Hello?”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Haha, these are great!”

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Beth: “They’re in the computer!”
GM: “Madam, could you please explain the nature of your emergency”
Beth: “Beings… of electricity. I see them, crackling. It’s stormy tonight. That’s when they come out. It’s like… glitches in the computer screen. But also, my lights go on and off. Uncle Mort says it reminds him of something, the way it flickers. He’s been having dreams, he says, in the storms. My phone rings and I hear crackling. I feel like they’re watching me. I just got home and saw my lights flicking on and off. I can’t find Mr. Fluffy… what’s that burning smell?”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Awesome, guys. I think I’m gonna go with cocoons. I wanna know what’s hatching out of there!”

Gavin: “Yes!”
Clara: “Cool. I liked that one too!”
Beth: “Aww, we’ll have to wait till some other time to find out if Mr. Fluffy is okay. I’m in though. Sounds good!”

GM: [in a recorded-sounding voice] “Please hold, you are being transferred to Special Priority Emergency Services Unit”
Joe: “Special Priority Emergency Services Unit. Sir, could you tell us more about these cocoons?”
Gavin: “Yeah, no worries, man. You really gotta see this…”
[Here, we ‘fade to black’. It’s assumed that the caller keeps explaining what little he knows about the situation, but it’s the GM’s job to come up with these details on the fly to keep the players excited and guessing. That’s half the fun for everyone: players make the seed of the story and the GM improvises as the game progress.]

Answering the Call

After you get the call, you respond. Here is where the real fun begins. Who knows how legitimate the call is? Can it be explained with science? Is it really something supernatural? Will the real authorities end up on the scene too, having never heard of this ‘Special Priority Emergency Services Unit’? Is the threat a physical danger? Can the Hang Ups take it down with whatever weapons and tools they legally (or not) have managed to get their hands on?

Most importantly, how are they going to get paid, this time? Are they going to ask for a ‘call out fee’? Will they take something valuable as ‘evidence’? Will they admit that they’re a group of vigilantes who need to keep food on their table?

Once the mission is done, the Hang Ups head back to base, swap Operators and do it all again.

When I present this to my players, I’ll explain most of this as we go. If you know of a system that’d be good for Hang Ups, or if you give it a shot, feel free to chime in below. I’d love to hear any other comments too or potential calls. I think I hear the phone ringing…