Large fluorescent type appeared on metal door. “Do you have a lamda-level hall pass? Place your cog-box on the wall and wait for authorization. Response required in 5…4…3…2…1… A hall monitor has been notified. They will accompany you to your classroom. Please enjoy the upcoming tutorial.”
The Re-education Center is a small recursion where characters are trapped within an organizational dystopia. Like most people in the recursion, players are likely to be subjects — pupils — in the Re-education Center. Through the use of advanced technology, the Re-education Center is designed to pacify pupils, force them to report on each other (truthfully or not), and shape them for the purposes of whomever sentenced them to this location. Players can then navigate the surreal landscape of a technological educational system gone terribly wrong. The entire complex (with one exception discussed below) is shielded to prevent pupils from translating out.
Each pupil in the re-education center is provided a unisex body suit and a small electronic box called a “cog box.” Each cog box is a metal box approximately 15cm square interspersed with glowing circuits. It emits a unique color matching similar lines of energy flowing along the pupils suit. The color and circuit design of each is unique — until a pupil fully accepts her or his programming and adopts a shared red glow. The cog box serves a variety of purposes for the pupil. First, it serves as an identity authenticator. Any process of confirming identity will begin with a request to see a pupil’s cog box. Second, the cog box connects pupils to the video terminals in the classroom. As a pupil connects her cog box to any device in the Re-education Center, the device (and likely the circuitry in the areas adjacent to the device) will begin to glow in a color to match the pupil’s cog box. Finally, any cyphers the pupil encounters within the programming of the Re-education center (described below) will operate through his or her cog box.
The largest component of the re-education center is the complex of classrooms in which pupils are subjected to endless streams of educational videos. Each classroom consists of rows of comfortable seating facing video terminals. Each seat consists of a soft foam material with the texture of a leather cushion. The chairs would look luxurious except for the restraints concealed within the arm and leg rests. The restraints activate whenever a pupils even considers leaving or otherwise who resists education (pulling free of the restraints is a level 5 might task).
Watching the terminals reveals a series of propaganda videos to instill submission to authority. Interludes include peaceful images of natural settings accompanied by calming music. A level 6 perception task reveals that the interludes include subliminal commands such as:
Respect your teacher
Do not resist the hall monitors
Believe your lessons
Once characters begin to watch the videos, they are compelled to continue watching through various subtle psychological tricks and the use of advanced technology. Each video includes a manifestations of specific concepts (called “memes” — described below in the bestiary) that manipulate the environment of the scene to reinforce their influence over the pupil. A meme related to authority could bring the pupil into a courtroom setting and interrogate him about events in his past. The meme itself could choose the form of an absurdly large judge casting a shadow over the courtroom and the pupil himself. Resisting the influence of the meme is typically a level 5 intellect task — but a variety of memes can be stronger or challenge pupils in different ways. Resisting the lesson weakens the control of the machine allowing the pupil to leave the chair. The tutorials can include just about any environment or creature. Any obstacle or creature should be scaled to the maximum difficulty of the meme but PCs could face tutorials pitting them against a level 4 Kaiju within the confines of a tutorial.
Escaping the classroom brings characters to the network of hallways that connect the classrooms, and the classrooms to the administrative wing. Each hallways is lined with a series of red glowing tubes embedded within their smooth, metal surface. There are no obvious features other than doors to other classrooms and to other sections of the complex.
The hallways do not seem to follow any particular logic. They are certainly not a simple hub-and-spoke arrangement or a traditional set of wings. Instead, the hallways are, themselves, part of the psychological attack on the pupils. Opening doors to other classrooms is relatively easy only requiring a level 4 might task to physically force the door open or a level 4 intellect task to convince the security algorithm that they need to return to the classroom for their lessons.
Each hallway ends in a metal door that slides up through the ceiling when it opens. Each metal door only opens for authorized users (hall monitors or those they are escorting) unless someone makes a level 6 technological deception intellect task (like hacking a security system) to trick the system into thinking the characters have the authority to pass. Navigating the series of hallways to eventually reach the administrative wing requires a level 6 intellect task. Failure turns the characters back towards their homeroom. Only one member of any party needs to succeed in this navigation check — though they may then need to convince the others in the group that they are directing them in the correct direction. Players can check the first time they each get the sense that they are moving in circles.
The hallways are occasionally patrolled by hall monitors (described in the bestiary below).
The administrative wing includes more active defenses. The bright, sterile materials of the classrooms and hallways give way to a more militaristic feel in the administrative wing. Walls are flat steel lit with more traditional light sconces. Within the administrative wing, each door requires an authorization check with a cog box(still level 6 to deceive with intellect, now level 5 to force with might). Failure to pass an authorization check triggers a defense — a laser turret that emerges from the ceiling pointed at anyone in front of the door (the turret operates as a basic level 5 creature for purposes of skills, hit points, etc.).
One room include a series of inactive robot guardians (hall monitors — described in the bestiary below). Each of the robots is plugged into the walls for charging and is not in a condition to confront, much less chase, characters who make it into the room. The room also includes a sole video terminal. The terminal includes the protocol for controlling the hotel monitors (their paths as long as how they interact with pupils). A level 6 hacking-based skill check can allow the players to modify these routines — potentially to free other pupils or to turn some of the hall monitors into escorts through the Re-education Center.
The only room that is not shielded to prevent translation out of the complex is Room 101 in the administrative wing. The memes know that this is the one way out of the Re-education Center. As a result, they include Room 101 in their settings as a location to fear and avoid. They will threaten to take people to Room 101, discuss the fearsome things that happen or reside within Room 101, or otherwise embed an aversion to the room in pupils. As a result, any pupil who has been subject to such a training session will have to pass a level 5 intellect task to even consider entering the room. On a failure, the pupil will do everything they can to avoid entering the room — including attacking those around him or her and racing blindly out of the administrative wing (back into the cognitive maze of the hallways).
GM Intrusion — If the players are escorting someone out of the Re-education Center, you can use a GM intrusion to have them fail their check to enter Room 101. They will do anything they can to escape the view of the room — and certainly won’t enter it willingly
The interior of Room 101 is relatively uninteresting. There are several mats placed around the room for people to sit while in the process of translating. If the players are chasing someone through the Re-education Center, there may be evidence here to suggest their quarry went this direction. Similarly, this room may include material to suggest who has been working with Doktor Cortis to trap the PCs.
The central hub of the administrative wing consists of a large circular room. It become clear that the entire Re-education Center is administered by a single leader — Doktor Cortis. The circular room consists of a two-story tall dome covered in video screens. Each pupils’ lesson is represented on one of the screens. In the center of the room is a single chair in which Docktor Cortis sits. If pupils enter the room, it is clear that their intentions are not friendly. His chair will rise from the ground and he will attack with various weapons mounted on his chair (described in detail below in the bestiary).
This recursion is unusual in that it only allows characters with one focus — “awakens dangerous psychic powers (Strange Core Rulebook — Page 236).” This limitation has several implications to reinforce the tone of the recursion.
The similarity of the characters’ foci places the emphasis on their descriptors. This is an opportunity to focus on role-playing this aspect of the character that is often overshadowed by the flashy focus powers.
The tone of the recursion involves psychological manipulation. The focus on personality over distinctive combat capabilities reinforces this tone.
The “awakens dangerous mental powers” still allows for some customization — so it is less binding as a recursion where everyone had to have the “abides in stone” focus.
Cyphers operate through the pupils’ cog boxes. A cypher is a program downloaded into the cog box that can then be projected out in a beam of the pupil’s custom color. For example, a character may locate a program that serves as a intellect recovery cypher. This could project a soft beam of light into the pupil’s eyes to calm them. Alternatively, the cog box could project a coherent beam of light as an offensive weapon. As with all cyphers, these cypher codes are only usable one time.
One can encounter cypher codes in several locations. First, one may adapt parts of the environment created by memes within their training sessions. The code can be captured and relocated to the pupil’s cog box. Second, one may hack into other terminals — possibly interfering with an ongoing lesson — and steal meme-based codes from there. Third, direct interface into the security system (at the classroom or the hallway doors) or the hall monitor coordination station. Parts of broken hall monitors may also be adapted into cyphers.
A] The players are chasing recursion miners. As the players attempt to follow the miners, they are diverted to the Re-education Center by a trap. They end up as pupils in the Re-education Center and have to escape.
B] The players are looking for Taylor Lowic — a man from an unknown recursion who has specific information on the location of a key technology hidden in the Strange itself. Of course, there are other people who do not want this information to get out (simply choose any recurring campaign antagonist). These people have kidnapped Taylor Lowic and placed him within the Re-education Center — with the cooperation of Doktor Cortis. The players need to translate into the Re-education Center, locate Taylor Lowic, and escape to debrief him.
C] Some tunnel between recursions has allowed a meme to escape onto Earth. This particular meme teaches people to value conformity over all else. The meme has continued its mission to train people. Various people have begun acting violently attacking anyone or anything they see as unusual. Each time, the person screams “Purge! Vasu says to purge!.” None of the people who commit these attacks is connected in any way. Of course, the notion that something animate can occupy a television, tablet, or computer screen is not a high priority for police investigators — but The Estate may see some connections. The players have to investigate the events, identify the problem as a meme named Vasu, and find a way to confront it.
Subverted Pupil (level 3) — Most of the pupils in the Re-education Center have long ago succombed to the video lessons and memes. These pupils have completely subjugated their identity and all adopt the same red glow for their cogbox and uniform. If the lessons on their terminals are interrupted or they are removed from their chairs, they will lash out at whoever is near them. Individually, these pupils will be easy to subdue. If the entire room’s system is undermined — by PC hacking or the strategic release of the pupils by Doktor Cortis himself — an entire mob of 6-10 pupils may be released simultaneously. They will attack as a mob (per the rules in the Strange Core rulebook).
GM Intrusion — The character succeeds in hacking his terminal to release himself from the tutorial. However, the success was so strong that it shuts down the terminals of 6 subverted pupils in the room. The subverted pupils look around to see the only pupil without their familiar red glow and attacks as a mob.
Meme (various levels 4-6) — Memes are the semi-autonomous programs used by Doktor Cortis to train pupils in the Re-education Center. They are provided a specific mission — to instill specific values like submission to authority — to instill within a pupil. They are autonomous to the extent that they decide how best to teach the lesson. Pupils connected to a video station are drawn into a unique psychic domain which serves as the setting for the lesson. The meme defines the nature of the setting (even clothing for the pupil, etc.). The meme can create any object within the confines of this psychic domain. That object will be of the same level as the meme. The meme can attack pupils within this psychic setting — an intellect task to resist. The meme’s basic form is a spindly, aged instructor in a simple black and white suit — with requisite elbow pads. Once the meme defines the nature of the lesson’s environment, it can morph from this form to any form appropriate for the setting.
GM Intrusion — As a character appears to hack the terminal and escape a lesson, she discovers that the door through which she sought escape leads to a jungle environment — in which the meme plans to teach the pupil that there is no escape from the Re-education Center. The various trees and plants have an eerie red glow like the hallways and other aspects of the Center. The meme transforms from its basic tutor form into a large predatory cat form with glowing red eyes and claws. It cackles and begins to chase the pupil through the undergrowth. The pupil needs to succeed at a level 4 speed task to flee or get captured and dragged back to the room by the meme-tiger.
Hall Monitor (level 5) — The security force of the Re-education Center is a fleet of robots. Each robot moves around on a single ball with an attached torso, arms, and head. Circuitry matching that on each of the cog boxes — but uniform across the hall monitors and growing the bright red of a subverted pupil — covers each of the hall monitor robots. The arms of the hall monitors end in a multi-tool attachment with gripping clamps, a welding torch for repair work, and spray nozzle. The hall monitors are designed for purposes of subduing wandering pupils. Accordingly they have 2 levels of armor (represented by the hardened metal casing) and employ an adhesive spray. The adhesive spray is only a level 4 speed defense to avoid but is a level 6 might task to escape if it does hit. The welding torch can only attack characters in immediate range and is level 4 to dodge (it is not designed for defense, really). The clamps are used for carrying material or rogue pupils. A clamp attack does not damage and can be dodged with a level 5 speed defense. However, the clamp hand requires a level 6 might task to escape once it has attached to a player.
GM Intrusion — The character attacking the hall monitor cracks through its casing into the storage tank of the adhesive. As a result, the hall monitor can not use the adhesive spray any more but everyone in immediate range of the hall monitor is now caught in a pool of the adhesive material.
Doktor Cortis (level 7) — Doktor Cortis is of an unrecognized humanoid species fused into his control chair. His features are vaguely human (2 eyes, shallow nose, mouth, etc.) but with subtle changes that suggest some different origin — possibly bioengineering or simply an alien species. His torso, face, and arms are covered by pale pink flesh over an emaciated form. Red glowing veins, like circuits, glow from beneath his skin. Only his torso and above are visible. Otherwise, he is fused into his control chair. The circuitry in the chair glows with ever-changing hues of colors. It is capable of slow flight by hovering up to 10 feet above the ground. The back of the chair is armed with several weapons.
One armature sprays an advanced version of the adhesive spray used by the hall monitors. This spray is more precise (level 7 speed task to dodge) and is empowered by a series of nanites that leech heat to increase the difficulty of escaping to a level 7 might task. The chair also has a large strobe light just behind Doktor Cortis’ head. The strobe light is difficult to ignore (level 4 intellect task to look away — but doing so increases the difficulty of any attack targeting Doktor Cortis by one step). Each round that someone does not avoid looking at the strobe light requires a level 4 intellect task to avoid being stunned in place staring at the enthralling pattern.
GM Intrusion — Doktor Cortis cackles and turns his attention to a specific PC. He recounts a particularly traumatic lesson they have experienced. The PC has to make a level 7 intellect task to avoid being stunned by the memory. Each subsequent round, the PC can attempt a level 5 intellect task to snap out of this shocking memory.