Growing up we all knew the jingle… ‘Atlas in your Home, Atlas at your Work’, but who would have ever thought that you’d end up working in the place…

Atlas Industries LogoAtlas Industries was once an international powerhouse in the production of electrical goods of all sizes – from specialist industrial machines through to the most common home appliance.  Through a multitude of brands, they exported across the globe, dominating the market so far as to say it wasn’t too much of a stretch to believe the company’s claims at the time – that every home in America owned at least one Atlas Industries product!

Trigger Events are a new series of articles for in which we explore various ways to kick start your Dark Conspiracy campaign. Each article provides a sample trigger event, complete with a setting idea and possible adventures.

Background – Welcome to Atlas Industries

A proud, patriotic company, Atlas grew from a single simple factory in the heart of Boston into a mega corporation with dozens of massive plants scattered across the continental United States. Until the Greater Depression struck, of course. Here its loyalty for the good old US of A was one of its many downfalls, and where other industries looked off shore to cut costs and ensure profitably, Atlas stoically stood by its workers until it was too late.

But this is unsurprising, the men and women that had laboured in the name of Atlas had always been the company’s greatest strength; a faithful community of skilled workers who had for generations prospered with the growth of the business – sharing in its profits and battling through the downturns. For those outside of the Atlas, many questioned how an international corporate could command such dedication. The answer was simple – the family first attitude of the board. Atlas not only provided stable, well-paid jobs, but it consciously looked to create a real community for its workers. They ensured that all Atlas employees were providing with affordable housing, free quality schooling for their children and subsidised purchasing power.

It was this approach that, over the decades, grew the Atlas plants, from what began as collections of workshops and administration buildings, into small cities in their own right. While some at the time claimed that Atlas was indoctrinating its staff in some new form of extremist communism, the directors simply stated that they had learnt the lessons given by the rise of Japan’s industrialisation in the years after the Second World War – with a satisfied worker comes a productive worker.

Despite this admirable approach, the dedication of hundreds of thousands of staff could do little to protect the financial stability of the corporation. And with the collapse of Atlas Industries, the communities built by the company also quickly disintegrated. For plants located in more rural locations, this created instant ghost towns, as workers were forced to hunt for other opportunities in the growing metroplexes.

The Setting – Pride amongst the Fallen

In this Trigger Event, the Minion Hunters begin their campaign as some of the last home owners at one of the more remote Atlas manufacturing plants. Known as the Sunrise Plant, this particular complex was dedicated to one of Atlas’ specialist products – automated agricultural harvesters. These massive robots/machines took a considerable amount of resources to design and build, and while initially the international market ensured the swift growth of the particular plant, the economic collapse closed it just as quickly.

As described above, Sunrise was one of the sites where Atlas built a ‘company’ town; initially as a way to attract skilled labour to its remote location, and then latterly as a way to ensure that all steps in the production of the agricultural harvesters could be completed one. Since the Greater Depression began, however, and the plant’s closure, most of the town’s population has moved on, and with it many of the resources needed to keep a real viable community in place. Regardless, Sunrise remains a massive, sprawling complex, covering over 50 square miles of both Atlas owned buildings and privately owned residential homes. While no longer maintained, all of the infrastructure built by Atlas remains, although almost all the corporation’s buildings and factories have been sealed off, out of bounds to the residents.

Only about 500 people remain at Sunrise, the majority of these unwilling or unable to move away, the rest desperate to do so but without the means. Despite this, there is a strong sense of community amongst the those who remain in the community, supporting each other as best they can; a volunteer clinic runs out of the otherwise empty hospital, and a some class lessons are run for the young ones, etc. There is even a couple of ex-workers who take the time to help run supplies up to the site every so often.

As for Atlas Industries, it still remains as a fully legal entity, although this is mainly to ensure protection of its existing copyrights and patents. Representatives of the corporation occasionally visit the community, and they also continue to pay for a security service to patrol the area – although this is more about protecting their property from vandalism, than it is about policing the population. Other than that, they seem happily to leave those living in Sunrise to manage themselves.

Role of the Minion Hunters

As noted above, the Minion Hunters all begin as one of Sunrise’ remaining residents. They may be ex-employees, children of ex-plant workers who haven’t left (or could afford to), or even new comers who’ve recently move in having learnt of the solid community thereabouts. During its active years, Sunrise employed a diverse range of staff, from scientists, engineers, and administrators, through to manual labourers, drivers and security staff, so there is good reason to have a character with just about any background present.

Players are likely to to have their own unique reasons for being in based in Sunrise when they campaign begins,  but some sample ideas include:

  • A financial tie to the location – The Greater Depression ensured that those who’d purchased their own home could never make a return, many staff found themselves responsible for long term mortgages, with no ‘out’ clauses (the downside to the cheap loans). With little prospect for employment, and a debt around there necks, some of the older employees simply hunkered down to see out the economic downturn in the only place they’d ever called ‘home’.
  • A current employee of Atlas – With a site as large as Sunrise, Atlas still ensures that a bare minimum of maintenance work is done on site, and as mentioned they also contract in a security service. These characters might not that the spiritual ties to the plant the other community members, but may have more access to the otherwise out of bounds areas of the complex.
  • Supporting family – Some Minion Hunters may have returned to support family who remained behind, or simply to regularly visit their ageing parents (or ill sister and her kids, etc.). These characters might have grown up at the plant and have mixed emotions at returning.
  • If all else fails, they could be specialist help brought to help Sunrise’s Vigilance Committee (as noted below).

Sunrise Vigilance Committee

To  create an existing bond between the new Minion Hunters, all characters form part of the Sunrise Vigilance Committee, a group of more able individuals who have banded together to protect those who remain in the community. For the most part this group deals with the occasional drunk Hobo who wanders into town or disputes between neighbours. More recently however, they have begun to suspect that one or more Outlaw gangs have an eye on the plant, although this has yet to manifest as any direct threat.

The Committee is led by a Julian Short, an ex-Marine Captain who moved back into Sunrise about decade ago having inherited his parent’s home on the site. He is a calm, collected career soldier, who although now pushing 50, still maintains his fitness and keen eye for detail. The creation of the Vigilance Committee was his idea, and since that time he has negotiated with Atlas to ensure a stipend of support, and acts with an unwritten consent from all of Sunrise’s residents as the town’s arbiter.

The Trigger Event – Something Wicked This Way Comes

The following information is the potential Trigger for initiating the Player Character’s soon to be role as Minion Hunters. While in itself these details are not enough for a complete scenario, they should provide the Referee with enough information to create their own unique story.

  • Julian Short can’t be found. He hasn’t been seen in days, and without him some of the more influential members of the community are getting nervous.
  • Rumours abound that an number of unmarked Black SUVs have been seen on the site, although no reliable witnesses can be found.
  • Karl Witanowski, an ex-Atlas Forklift driver, is also found dead, killed it seems in a hit and run accident.
  • Alex Horwitz, ex-Fabrication Shift Manager at one of the Atlas sites, is known to be stirring up the anti-Atlas faction of the community and the recent ‘incidents’  are fuel to the fire.
  • One of the complexes more remote factory buildings – Assembly Line 24A – has powered back up, despite no one present on the site.

Initial Scenario Ideas – Awaking the Guard

There are any number potential of threats resulting from the set-up described above:

  • Signs of Life – Despite its outwards appearance, Atlas still has a vested interest in Sunrise, and continues to run a secret research facility on site. Perhaps they see this research as a way of return to their glory days, or maybe a single executive has isolated the site to keep the discoveries a secret?
  • Invading Demonground – Given its location, Sunrise is on the verge of becoming a Demonground. A particular group of Darklings might look to use the town as their own base of operations, or simply see it as a prime hunting ground. And, as everyone knows, once the boundaries between the dimensions have been weakened, it is very difficult to mend the damage done; Sunrise could quickly become a battleground over which a number of different Dark Minions fight for dominance, with the residence and the Minion Hunters in the middle.
  • Spark in the Machine – As one may expect, it takes pretty advanced systems to run a complex like Sunrise, and for decades Atlas had been looking to create its own site Artificial Intelligence, to efficiently manage its manufacturing processes. While they thought they never quite perfected this design, they were wrong. SPARK, the name given to this AI, lives on in Sunrise and having fully grown into its awareness looks to ensure its own survival.

Going Forward – Humanity’s Last Defenders

The adventures that happen at Sunrise should be enough to bind together a group of like-minded characters, who given their experiences are able to move out in an attempt to defend the rest of humanity from the threats of the Dark Lords. For a proactive Referee, this open and diverse Trigger Event should be enough material to grow into other adventures, be they home grown or official Dark Conspiracy releases.