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They say home is where the heart is...

Welcome to Carlsville.
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The small town of Carlsville in the state of Wisconsin seems ordinary enough on the surface: a quiet rural neighbourhood, and a happy community. However, this is only the surface layer to Carlsville, for not only do the little town and its surrounding areas play host to a variety of creatures of the night, but it also contains the headquarters of the Rural division of The Cardians Syndicate, who protect the innocent everyday human from the horrors that walk among them, no matter the cost or the method.

A town-wide curfew is in effect, due to what wanders the town at night. The townspeople are forbidden from going to the cornfields on the border of Carlsville, and the abandoned orphanage too. This charade has been kept up by the Cardians for some time, with a great deal of success.

But a new problem has arisen: random people have begun appearing in the town from across the United States, as if seamlessly pulled through space, after their own encounters with the supernatural. The worst part is, the Cardians seem to have no idea what is causing this.

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After ending up in Carlsville and saved by the Cardians in varying circumstances, six people find themselves roped into helping the syndicate, their former lives more or less forever and irrevocably changed.

What lies in store for the six? Only time will tell...

Character-specific tropes can be found here.


Cardians: Rural contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The Role Plays that take place in between actual sessions qualify as this, due to their focus on simple character interaction.
  • After-Action Healing Drama: There've been quite a few of these so far, be it after Sal's tutorial session, or the first mission...
  • After Action Patch Up: ...but for often that not, post-mission healing will go down this route.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Compared with other Cardians divisions, the intentions of the Rural division are much more noble, in that they only seek to protect the people of Carlsville from the supernatural creatures that plague the town. Other divisions will dabble in outright criminal activity as part of their operations, as is usually the norm for the Cardians Syndicate, but Rural has yet to do so, outside of anything related to hunting monsters or gaining intel.
    • This actually makes a lot of sense, as this division doesn't seem to have as much of a budget as other divisions, and its parameters are limited to one small town, and just into its outskirts. Therefore, there's no real necessity for any further illicit activity, and when combined with the fact that the division is quite small in roster size even with the Player Characters, it's no wonder the division is so much more focused on monster hunting.
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  • And This Is for...: A particularly tragic one in Season 3, when Natalie shoots and kills Finnegan for his own murder of Liz.
    Natalie: This is for Liz, you fucking asshole.
  • A World Half Full: Ultimately, this can be considered the overall aim of the Carlsville division (at least as far as the town is concerned): to protect the people while behind the scenes from various supernatural threats.
    • Because of this, the Carlsville division is perhaps one of the most compassionate and empathetic to the needs of those within its jurisdiction. When Dead Man's Hand members Aisha Hellings and Daichi Yao come to town to assist in dealing with the growth and severity of the threats that the short-handed and inexperienced division has to deal with, they are notably more detached than the division is, Yao especially.
    • Black-and-Grey Morality: The nature of the setting does still fall under this, however, as while the threats the Carlsville division face can be malicious towards humans in intent, the division is still ultimately part of a criminal organization.
  • Bathroom Search Excuse: Used by Natalie in Season 1 on the team's first case, when they visit the house of the missing child, in order to snoop around a little.
  • Better as Friends: In Season 3, Danny reveals this to be the case between her and Lallo: they previously hooked up and tried dating, but it didn't work.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A few moments of this have cropped up throughout the campaign.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: In Season 3, in the climactic showdown between the team and Finnegan, Henderson successfully counter-grapples the wendigo to hold him in place as he burns, to not only anchor him to the spot, but also to ensure that he cannot foil the others' efforts to retrieve an injured Julia. As a result, Henderson catches fire too, and has to recover from second and third-degree burns.
  • But Thou Must!: The Player Characters have to remain in Carlsville, unless allowed otherwise. Justified, as to desert would mean treason against the Cardians, which comes with its own dire consequences...
    • Subverted and then double-subverted, however, as once the circumstances of how some of the team of Player Characters got drawn to Carlsville, they are more properly given a choice as to whether or not they will stay in Cardians. This offer gets further extended in Carlsville to all future people who may stumble upon the truth, which ends up including detectives Reyfield and Barrenschmit, Liz, and the gargoyle abductees.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Done by both Cardian and villainous N.P.C.s alike. First, Aisha sparing Sal after he admits to almost killing Matthew. Then, both played straight and invoked by Finnegan on two separate occasions; the former with Arthur because of his bloodsoil knowledge; the latter when he is cornered and threatened with death by the P.C.s and Lallo.
  • Close-Knit Community: Everyone knows mostly everyone within Carlsville, particularly the children, and they all seem fairly amicable with one another.
  • Cold Iron: The weakness of the Hedge Beasts, the gargoyles, and all fae within and beyond the Hedge. A major plot point of Season 2 is the Player Characters lacking any kind of cold iron equipment, trying to find implements made of the metal in order to use them against the hostile Hedge creatures.
  • Crapsack World: This is hardly surprising, given the nature of the setting, but the supernatural threats extend beyond Carlsville. Part of what was so threatening and frightening about the predicaments of the Player Characters is that whatever happened to them did so in their hometowns, or in places that would traditionally be considered "safe".
  • Creepy Changing Painting: In the Diamonds' solo suit mission, Theo and Natalie found one very old painting of Vayne Lafleur, and Omega and Infinity Brittle which altered the faces of the subjects when viewed through the camera of Theo's phone.
  • Crossover: In Season 2, with Cardians: Atlantis.
  • Dark Is Evil: Played utterly straight. The monsters and evil in Carlsville only come out at night and can be diverted by simple porch-lights or well-aimed flashlights.
  • Darkness = Death: See above trope. There's actually a town-wide curfew for exactly this reason.
  • Death by Origin Story: Tomoe is particularly guilty of being involved in this, having a backstory before the game even starts that kills off several of his friends, but Henderson and Sal's introduction sessions both involved killing off N.P.C.s of varying importance.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: This certainly applies to characters that die in the Character Tutorials, be it Henderson's eldest son, or the paranormal investigation team that Sal and his friend Dragoon accompany into the house.
  • Dirty Business: One of the more common instances, given both the nature of Cardians life and duties and the naturally good dispositions of characters such as Henderson, Natalie and Theo. Not even N.P.C.s are immune to it though, with Carly being the most notable: she shot Henderson and threatened to shoot and kill both him and Sal if they didn't stop attacking Hellings in the Season 1 Finale, but was clearly upset and guilt-ridden about it.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Everyone in the Cardians Rural division has at some point, either before or during the time working for the organization, encountered or been a part of at least one traumatic event.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The realm of snow and ice in the Hedge that the team finds, as not only do its natural geography and weather prove to be obstacles, it ends up being revealed as the home of Bo, who is actually a True Fae with powers over ice and cold, and the origin world of the gargoyles.
    • Best demonstrated when the Player Characters and the two members of the Atlantis division they encounter end up swimming through a borderline freezing lake, and also when Theo tries to meet with Bo for the second time, and he ends up almost dead from frostbite and hypothermia from extended physical touch due to Bo'scold powers.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What actually happened to the women that the mandrakes abducted: they got embedded into Hedge trees, their biology being rewritten and becoming living trees that incubate and forcibly give birth to mandrakes after the initial stage of their life cycle, unable to move or break out of their new prison/existence because their bodies have been broken down and merged with the trees that encase them. It is unclear how conscious or cognisant they remained, especially over time, but any possible answer is awful. They are nonetheless very much alive, and because they have been changed by their time in the Hedge so much, it is likely that they will be unable to die of natural causes. It is this reason that once the truth was realised, River euthanized them (but not without it taking a toll on her) and, combined with her escape and Carly's rescue from this fate, Natalie burned down the grove.
    • This trope can also be applied, although more generally, to anyone abducted by fae and kept alive: your biology is rewritten to varying degrees, and your mind bent and twisted to where you are but a shadow of your former self.
  • Fish out of Water: Prior to their time in Carlsville, the six main Player Characters lived fairly ordinary lives, devoid of the supernatural and mortal danger that comes with being part of the Cardians. Now, they must adapt to their new homes and lives.
  • Foil: There are quite a few throughout the campaign, but the main ones concern the Big Bads:
    • Lemons and River to Finnegan.
    • Natalie and the Lafleur twins to Vayne.
    • Theo to Fustrarime.
  • Four Is Death: There are four significant threats to the town of Carlsville: the unnatural darkness, the Hedge portal and the beasts that came through it, the bloodsoil disease, and the machinations of Finnegan the wendigo. Correspondingly, there are four significant threats behind them: Vayne Lafleur, Fustrarime aka Bo, Infinity Brittle (to an extent), and Finnegan.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Bloodsoil and by extension, Infinity. Throughout everything that happens, it is always there in the background as a very real potential threat. The possibility of encountering it is fairly contextual, as it's limited to a certain location until it's discovered that Arthur is its central host, but its influence can be felt many phenomena and increasing information about the mysteries behind the supernatural goings-on in Carlsville.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The friendship between Sal and Dragoon is equal parts close and wholesome.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Everyone within the organisation qualifies as this, with shades of Occult Detectives, even if they are a small division of a mafia crime syndicate.
  • I Knew It!: Natalie's player (and by eventual extension, Natalie herself) put together the theory that the Matriarch was Jessica Hauler, which was confirmed by Chaney in Part 1 of the Season 1 Finale. You can hear him celebrating in the background audio, and the scene is put on pause while the others congratulate him.
  • It's Personal: The death of Elizibeth St. Bellings caused this in Lemons, Natalie, and Arthur. A still openly weeping Natalie even vowed to kill Finnegan for it. And she does.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: One was used by the G.M. as background music for the fight against some Hedge creatures in the cornfield.
"Go tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody
That everybody's
dead"
  • Jade-Coloured Glasses: Pretty much everyone in the division either already wears them, or slowly dons them over the course of the campaign.
  • Just Friends: For a long time, this is the case between Nat and Liz, even as Nat tries her best to either woo Liz or find out if they have compatible sexualities; we still don't know if Liz is either into women or into Nat in that way. Nat eventually comes to terms with the fact that, despite her feelings for Liz, after the "longest night", she has left Liz down too often, and needs to work on herself first. Once Danny comes into the picture, Nat finds herself flirting with her new superior, who in turn propositions her. Nat decides to use this to start a romantic relationship, coming to the conclusion that such a thing wouldn't be possible with Liz due to the difficulties of Cardian life.
  • Love Dodecahedron: The sheer mix of attractions and feelings between many of the characters results in this, particularly when a character has feelings for multiple others.
  • Magical Land: The Hedge: a partially sentient mish-mash of forest, wood, and plant-based landscapes and environments that stretch in both directions in an infinite loop. And are also stacked on top of each other.
  • Meaningful Funeral: At the end of Season 1, and before Season 2, for Aubry Lafleur.
  • Myth Arc: Three, one for each season, revolving around the central mysteries of the town that rise and fall in relevancy depending on the mission and the immediacy of the danger they present:
    • The mysteries behind the Player Characters' entrances into Carlsville and the unnatural night time and the whisps that come with it are linked. The latter is due to the influence of the spirit of Vayne Lafleur, a powerful mage with shadow magic and the ancestor of Aubry and Chaney. The former was part of Aubry's plan to take down Vayne without inflicting trauma upon those close to her.
    • The incursion of the gargoyles and the return of their master: the Fae Fustrarime, aka Bo, who was Fustrarime with altered memories and trapped in a human form.
    • The rising threat of bloodsoil, and how it's being met by both Cardians and Finnegan.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The small town of Carlsville seems fairly ordinary to its citizens, aside from the curfew. This is despite the fact that several supernatural monsters, beings and happenings centre around the place.
    • Weirdness Magnet: The town does seem to have an abnormally large number of said happenings, despite its size. It even contains a portal to the Hedge.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: One of the many atmospheric audio tracks used by the G.M. in the game.
  • Pet the Dog: The Aces perform this whenever the Player Characters do well, be it in the form of increased freedom, information, or promotion in rank.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: By the very nature of it being a tabletop R.P.G. campaign. Most notably, the departure of Sal's player from the group causing Sal to be moved away from the main group of P.C.s.
  • Room Shuffle: One of these occurred in the most recent session involving the Player Characters and Hellings hiding Bo from Elizabeth.
    • To clarify, Bo had been severely injured and was being treated by the others, who were holed up in Liz's mansion for the night. Liz, being a non-Cardian, needed to be kept ignorant of this, so the group had to hastily organise getting the still unconscious Bo out of the house and any residual blood cleaned up.
  • Rule of Three: There are three seasons to Cardians Rural, and each one deals with generally the same base story:
    • The ragtag division tries to overcome the supernatural threats facing the small town of Carlsville, while trying to not only keep things secret from the civilians they look after, but also stay sane and alive and as a team. Through doing so, they uncover further secrets and truths about the town and its history, which usually relates heavily to one or more of their team members. When revealed, even if the problems that are raised as a result are overcome, the division is changed, and won't be the same as it once was, and the season concludes with the whole team being affected in a variety of ways.
  • Scars Are Forever: Every major injury received by the Player Characters leaves scars. As of certain missions, this now includes burns, in the cases of Tomoe and Sal.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Pulled in the finale by two separate groups of the Cardians themselves, for different reasons.
  • Seeking the Missing, Finding the Dead: The Player Characters' first mission was to look into the disappearance of a young boy. After about a day of investigating, they found his body.
  • Shoot the Dog: The result of their first mission, after they discovered that the missing boy they were searching for was already dead.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: All the characters can be placed on the scale at varying points. The Player Characters (aside from Tomoe) started off towards Idealism, but are slowly sliding into Cynicism as time passes, and the missions take their toll.
  • Small Steps Hero: Henderson, Natalie, and Theo: all at different points; all in different ways.
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: In Season 2, Natalie stalls Finnegan in the process of taking Lemons away, with weapons drawn and an intimidating stance & glare. It worked for a time, until Finnegan tried to break away and Lemons assisted him with a counter-intimidation on Natalie, succeeding only after one of his Feats forced a reroll. Nonetheless, because of Natalie's efforts, River was able to join the fray and shoot Finnegan in the eye, allowing them to briefly track the wendigo's movements.
  • Tears of Blood: One of the major and most noticeable late-stage symptoms of bloodsoil.
  • The Bait: Sal's plan to deal with the Hedge Beasts that are roaming around the Carlsville woods and gardens in Season 2 revolves around him being this.
  • The Masquerade: By default, by Carlsville being the setting of a Hunter: The Vigil campaign.
  • The Reveal: Due to the incomplete nature of the information regarding the Player Characters and their predicaments, many of these occur within the campaign:
    • In Season 1:
      • The clock creature was once a human boy, and the adoptive child of Vayne Lafleur, Aubry and Chaney's ancestor.
      • Julia Henderson, Richard Henderson's wife, was found alive and well.
      • The subsequent a few sessions later that she is under the influence of the wendigo, who is manipulating her for his won ends, using her son Rowan as leverage.
      • From Chaney, in the Season 1 Finale: Aubry has been gone to draw the spirit of Vayne to her, so that Vayne will possess her, and so that Vayne can be killed, at the cost of Aubry's life.
      • Also from the same Finale, Chaney is a Mage, as is Aubry.
    • In Season 2:
      • Lemons goes public with his cannibalism, due to his deteriorating health from the influence of the wendigo.
      • There is a seventh Player Character, who is introduced partway through the team's first Hedge excursion.
      • After the fight in the lighthouse at the end of Season 1, Bo begins to have dreams about another life revolving around the snowy and icy forest he saw. This culminates in the team uncovering that Bo is actually a True Fae, specifically the one behind both the Hedge portal in the cornfield and the gargoyles and their abducting habits, with false memories implanted by Aubry to stop his influence after he killed Roderick and his squad.
    • In Season 3:
      • Rowan Henderson, Richard Henderson's son, has been dead since Henderson's tutorial.
      • More of the missing people are discovered: some are found dead, 'Dolly' is infected with bloodsoil, but most are alive.
      • Lemons killed C.C., and did so in order to protect Liz from Finnegan.
      • After waking up from his dream, involving CC, Lemons discovered that he'd been manipulated by Finnegan into killing Liz.
      • The full extent of the threat of bloodsoil: it's a disease with a sentient core mind, that of Infinity Brittle, who had been passed down the St. Bellings family line for generations. Furthermore, if you know about her existence, you are susceptible to be hurt or influenced by her. Natalie has known about it since Season 1, but due to this effect of Infinity's power, was unwilling to tell anyone else, and has fought to keep it secret.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Natalie is the only female Player Character out of six, though this is subverted somewhat by the inclusion of quite a few female N.P.C.s., including two of the four Aces, and one of the other Cardians.
    • Downplayed in Season 2 with the introduction of the seventh P.C., River, and further female N.P.C.s.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Multiple times during the campaign, from multiple different people.
  • To Absent Friends: Chaney and Natalie have an interaction akin to this in the wake of the death of Chaney's twin sister Aubry, where they reflect on her true feelings about the Player Characters that she by and large took with her to the grave.
  • Unfamiliar Ceiling: Has happened a few times over the course of the campaign.
    • In Natalie's tutorial, after being pulled out of the mandrake ensnarement roots by Bo, Nat fell unconscious before waking up in her assigned room in the Cardians house.
    • There are off-screen examples too, for both Hawthorn Henderson and Jason Colt, after both awoke from unconsciousness induced by their injuries.
  • Unreplaced Departed: In the wake of Sal moving from the main group of Player Characters, due to Sal's player stepping down.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Aubry in spades, but especially once the full scope of her actions and plans are revealed. And in Season 2, Aisha and Yao, as part of Dead Man's Hand.
  • Villain Respect: Natalie earns this from both Finnegan and Vayne:
    • The first she earns due to her figuring out that not only was Finnegan was lying to her in the second dream and was actually the real wendigo communicating with her, as well as repeatedly demonstrating her smarts in that talk when figuring out who the wendigo wasm but for being utterly unafraid of him and outright antagonising him whenever they meet. At one point, she successfully intimidates him into staying put after he abducts Lemons. It doesn't last, as Lemons helps break free and they both escape, but for a moment, a human armed with only two knives frightens a full-grown centuries-old wendigo into doing what she wants.
    • The second she earns because of her having figured out the most about how Infinity works as well as her origins, alongside the fact that Natalie makes it clear that she wants Infinity laid to rest for the sake of the innocent girl she once was, even promising Vayne to give her daughter her favourite flowers before the end.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: After Nat was fully ensnared and encased by mandrake roots, she initially woke up to Bo freeing her from the roots in the middle of the town cornfield. Later, a different example happens to Henderson and Lemons. See You Wake Up in a Room below.
  • Wendigo: The antagonist of Lemons' introduction session.
  • Wham Episode: Several:
    • The mission to definitively find out whether Julia Henderson is, or was, within the mimic cave, and if she is alive or not. She was found alive and well.
    • The last episode before the Finale of Season 1, in which night time arrives the soonest and darkest it has ever been, a dead body is found in the H.Q. basement, Julia leaves the house while unsupervised, and a frantic Arthur tries to leave also to potentially stop what's happening (while holding Tomoe at gunpoint).
    • The Season 2 Finale, in which Theo sacrifices himself to ensure the return of the Player Characters, Omega, and Fustrarime's abductees to Carlsville, done without a fight and further bloodshed.
    • The two-parter on the dreams in Season 3: the team are visited by individual spirits of various dead people, and information on both Finnegan and bloodsoil is revealed, as well as the fact that Rowan has been dead since Henderson's tutorial. The most significant incident, however, comes in Lemons' dream, which reveals that Lemons killed C.C. Under Finnegan's manipulations, he 'kills' her again in the dream to get rid of her... only for him to wake up and find that he's mortally wounded Liz, who dies shortly after despite attempts at first aid from Lemons and Arthur. Using this, Arthur conducts a ritual to rid himself of Infinity, and the two flee Henderson's basement, fighting off a thwarting attempt from Caleb.
  • Wham Line: In Part One of the Season One Finale, there were a few: "Theo is gonna grab Henderson's arm and pull him to the door... aaaaand go." "Roll Drive, minus 2." Upon the reveal that Henderson was about to hit Chaney with the R.V..
    • In Part Two of the Finale, from Inksword, Henderson's Player: "Hellings' Defence is 3, right? [...] You're fuckin' on the ground with Henderson, Hellings!"
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In at least two instances thus far, the Player Characters, and even their more senior fellow Cardians, have come across a monster that did not seek to attack them, and they have been split as to whether to kill them outright, capture them, or just let them go.
    • The first was with Omega, where Sal wanted to kill it by punching it to death, and the others had to dissuade him from doing so, with Lemons' skilled manipulation and persuasion coming to the rescue. This was after Natalie and Theo had proven that Omega was sentient, understood English, and, with help from Henderson, made the case that the creature was simply scared, and didn't want to attack.
      • Omega was then later revealed to in fact have mutated from a young human boy, further blurring the line between innocent and monster.
    • The second was with Dagmar Andromalius, an incubus that sought no quarrel with the group, and who Sal also wanted to kill outright. For Dagmar, even the Aces were split as to what to do. Aubry advised the group to leave Dagmar be, as they were not in Carlsville, and were thus outside the division's jurisdiction, but ultimately left the decision as to what to do in their hands. On the other hand, after calling him for additional advice, Hellings voiced aggressively that Dagmar must be killed, as an order. Even then, the group, including the Jack of Clubs Carly, weren't all on board with this; Natalie walked out of the room at one point, after initially refusing to take part.
      • It was this decision by the group to engage Dagmar, at the order of Hellings, that ultimately resulted in Henderson and Tomoe being hospitalised, and the shopping mall in the neighbouring town to Carlsville burning down.
    • The hardest case yet, Bo, the beloved but mysterious Ace of Diamonds, is accused by the ghost of possibly a former Cardians member of being not human, or at the very least not like a normal human, and a danger to others.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: After their first mission more or less succeeded, in that they found the body of the missing child they were looking for, the Player Characters realized upon reaching the house of the child's parents that someone would have to break the news to them. Prior to this, as well, none of them really wanted to even knock on the door. Eventually, Natalie did so, as well as calling the child's father on the phone to tell him what had happened, and Lemons was the one to lead the conversation with the increasingly distraught mother about it. Which he did quite tactfully, considering it's Lemons.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Natalie pulled this on Arthur after the events surrounding the cemetery and the discovery of the hole at Vayne Lafleur's grave, and how both handled them.
    • Natalie herself also had this pulled on her by Aisha, after the former's actions during the "longest night" in Season 2.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: In regards to Finnegan's plan, one of the most important parts of it was the fate of Liz, who needed to die before Arthur to prevent the spread of the main bloodsoil parasite entity, and who the division, therefore, needed to protect. This was successfully achieved at last in Season 3, kickstarting the next stage of the plan: Infinity and therefore bloodsoil can now be killed without risk of her finding a new host, so Arthur is abducted to be interrogated on what he knows before he is to be killed.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: In a mission that combined efforts of both Spades and Hearts, Lemons and Henderson, after going to sleep in the house their mission concerned, find themselves in a different, much larger house that turned out to be the St Bellings mansion.
    • Also happened to Tomoe and Natalie in a dream that may not have been a dream, where they woke up in an alternate version of the Cradians house, and then in a wood cabin belonging to Samuel T. Finnegan.
      • At the start of Season 2, Bo had a similar dream/experience while in his coma/sleep.
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