At first glance, this painting appears identical to any other Â‘limited collection' replica of the 100 Festival Attenders that are kept by museums and collectors. On close inspection, however, a vague silhouette of a man can be seen in this particular painting that is not found in any others. Even more disturbing, imageries of a massacre occasionally appear in this painting, overriding the scene of a cheerful festival.
This painting had been one of the family collections passed down through generations among the de Albertos. It was a completely mundane item (notwithstanding its high value to arts enthusiasts) then. This all changed within the space of one day. Without any warning, the de Alberto residence was assaulted and everyone within massacred. Almost nothing was taken from the place by the attackers, except for this particular painting. Unbeknownst to them, however, the painting they took is no longer an ordinary painting. The head of the de Alberto family had turned intoÂ Bound OnesÂ by the time all the killings had finished, consumed by the desire to find out the motivation behind the slaughter. Witnessing the removal of the painting, he attached himself to it so that he would have a chance of finding out the truth.
These are 3 distinct possibilities about the truth behind the attack and the role of the painting in contributing to it:
1.Family feud- There is a long-running feud between the de Albertos and another well-to-do family. However, the de Albertos have, over generations, successively fallen down in social status in relation to this rival family. As a result, the two families were no longer sharing so close a social circle as before and thus the feud was mostly out of the mind of the de Albertos at the time of the attack. The opposite was true, though, on the side of this rival family, which had hired assassins to eradicate the de Albertos (The reason for this might be anything ranging from the rival family just being vengeful by nature, a Romeo and Juliet plot, a secret of this rival family that has accidentally fallen into the hands of the de Albertos that they were as yet unaware of etc). Being professionals, it is an unspoken agreement between the assassins that as little of the spoils from the scene of massacre should be taken away as possible for fear that their identities would be exposed. By coincidence, however, one of the assassins at the time developed a personal fancy for the painting and took it (with consent from the others since it is not uncommon for replicas of the 100 Festival Attenders to be in circulation, even for the Â‘limited collection' replicas).
2. Red Herring- The painting was deliberately taken at the behest of the mastermind of the attack to divert attention away from the true motivation for the massacre which could be anything just like in #1
3. Treasure Map/Hidden Secret- The painting is truly important to the mastermind because it contains (portions) of a treasure map or codes that can reveal a secret
Item Properties (Optional/Additional Information)
Possible effects of this painting on its current owner (I think of these as alternatives but no. 2 and 3 are not technically mutually exclusive):
- No effect except for the natural consequences of exposure to disturbing imageries
- Drives the current owner towards madness as exposure to the painting increases as a result of the Bound One becoming more mentally unhinged as time goes on
- Makes the owner susceptible to possession by the Bound One
- PI work- the PCs got involved either because they got their hands on this painting and were asked by the ghost to help discover the truth (for this to work with item property #2, the ghost would probably have to be in the early stage of madness such that the PCs can still reconstruct the story through communication with the ghost) or got hired to find out the truth by a third party interested in the massacre of the de Albertos. If the PCs are asked by the ghost to undertake investigation, the ghost would have been frustrated in his own investigation either due to the painting having nothing to do with the motivation of the attack or failure to act on any clues found (either a lack of suitable victims to possess or the ghost being too soft-hearted for possession). In the scenario that they are hired by a third party, the employer could be an once-ally of the de Albertos, someone interested in the secret hidden within the painting or even the mastermind himself, again depending on the version of The Truth.Â
- Lift the curse- Having driven multiple owners to madness (consistent with item property #1 or #2), this painting has gained fame as a cursed item. An art collector has recently acquired this painting at a cheap price and has asked the PCs' help to lift the curse (transport it to a specific location where the Â‘specialists' will do the work or find a means themselves)Â
- Exorcism- A party member (or maybe someone close to one of them) has been possessed by the ghost. What do the PCs do?Â
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? Responses (5)-5
Ghost-possessed artwork can be done well, but the GM needs to have a clear idea of both its motivations and its plans for achieving its goals. Consider adding a few plothooks to show us how you would use this piece as written. If I were going to base an adventure around the painting, I would probably tweak it just a little:
1. Put more clues on the painting itself as to its origin. A signature or note on the back -- (e.g. 'Happy Birthday, Frank, from your brother George,' perhaps with the family crest somewhere), might be enough to give the PCs a clue about this thing's backstory. Otherwise you have a haunted painting that can possess its bearer, but no way to find out what happened and free the ghost.
2. Change the motivation of the ghost. Instead of 'find out the truth', you could use an old standby like 'get revenge on my family's murderers' or 'find and protect my only living child'. Something to give the painting a more active role in the adventure, and make it a real force.
I take your points on the incorporation of this sub into actual roleplaying and I appreciate the comment. Will add a Plot Hook section when I have time (which is probably next week).
Plot Hook section added based on the item as is. For alternative versions, refer to Dossta's comment above
A nifty plot idea. The Pcs could come across this painting in an abandoned house and be unaware of its history.