Friday, June 17, 2016

Demonic Trails of Cthulhu: First Downtimes

As the last session took place in July 1923 while the next session will begin on the 9th of January, 1925, we have almost two years of downtime.  So what do the characters get up to?  Well they each get two free skill points they can sink in any skills and this is a great time to justify those spends.

Nithriel does some work for the Mogens Institute, bringing a few dead individuals back to life who died from some of the pharmaceutical tests, as well as some individuals of importance to the cult. She's also told to bring likely bodies to be frozen in the Institute's own morgue to be reawaken for possession by a demon once the summoning rituals are complete.  After all she can still raise them even if they've been dead a day, they're just mindless and therefore perfect hosts.
She also gets to know the other two Fallen who work for Belphigor and the only two other Fallen known to him in this world.  These included Zipacna (earth forging angel called an Annunaki) and Ezurial (angel of the wilds called a Rabisu).  She mentions their names to Gipontel during an invocation one night, though both are Faustians, Gipontel is eager to know that another Annunaki was on this world.
She reveals herself to her boss, Rupert Harper, who freaks out and wants her to stop and doesn't take kindly to her raising a random dead person in her true form.  He tries to make sense of her history lessons on a chalkboard but later keeps forgetting many of the details (partially on purpose). 
During her speech she made a point to invoke Haruta while bitching about him and so later on after she had dropped the connection, she kept getting invoked by a mad Haruta in the abyss (or so it seems). He demanded she find a way to free him, and she agreed so long as he ceased invoking her, though to begin with she had no desire to do it.  Until she found out Gipontel's plans and then figured why shouldn't she invoke her oldest friend?

Nithriel also gets to talking to Jackson Elias at Prospero Press about his cult investigations and gets some information (Text Can Be Found Here) on how to deal with cults.  She starts reading his books and gains two temporary 1-point pools to help her in her next adventure.  Sons of Death gave her a 1-point History for how previous regimes have tried to stamp out cults while Way of Terror gave her a 1-point Assess Honesty for identifying cult-like behaviors.
Gipontel returns to his boarding school where he must spend the next year and a half learning how to be a gentleman until his host finally reaches the age of eighteen.  Unfortunately it takes him awhile to realise that his body won't age while he has Faith in his system and so he still looks quite young by the time the trip back to New York takes place.  He makes a point to pick up Arabic and learns some tidbits on occultism and theology from the library as he seeks to summon forth his old friend, Ahrimal. 

Learning that Belphigor has successfully summoned Zipacna, he invokes Belphigor from across the way and demands all of his research materials on that summoning ritual.  The two debate a little bit, politically rubbing up against each other, before settling on Gipontel having access to those materials -- but only in New York.  Belphigor also offers access to his library and laboratory, and limited access to his cult, in order to do it.

Naturally Gipontel can't therefore work on this ritual until he has completed his studies, but what is a year and a half to an immortal being?  Occasionally he invokes Ahrimal who rambles madly, occasionally bursting into harsh barks of laughter or sudden sobs.  It's a very depressing process.  At least he can have socially awkward conversations with Zipacna where the two talk at each other about their own fixed interests while knowing the other won't judge them and is kind of listening -- as is the Annunaki way.
Gipontel also arranges toward the end of 1924 to celebrate his first year free from university.  He even gets permission to go back to New York for a month or two, which his father approves of since his business trip and visit to Ambrose Mogens certainly gave him many financial advantages in the New York sector that he's eager to ensure.  His sister, Gwen, and her friend, Letty, also manage to get permission to go with him so long as he chaperones them.  Their mother also accompanies them.
Finally Gipontel is told by his father, the Earl, that he must have a valet, even as the youngest son.  Since his own father's valet is due to retire, Gipontel arranges to have him as his valet -- with a difference.  He grants his valet his youth again in a demonic pact.  It turns out his father's valet was quite a handsome man back in the day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Destiny's Scythe

The session began innocently enough with everyone invited to attend Yzador's festivities.  There were five Flowers of Demeter available (actually cup cakes) and some bottles of whiskey and wine (actually iced tea and cordial) that could only be truly enjoyed by those who ate one of the flowers.  Since Yzador was only charging a trivial boon for them, it didn't take too long for all of the flowers to be sold.

Most of the upper echelons were in the back room for much of the session, barring the prince whose player couldn't attend and so the character was away on other business.  Yzador spent much of the time as a charming host who had some strange quirks that were unusual for those who knew him.  He also had the chance to introduce everyone to the Crone neonate, Contrary Mary, who had been rescued from the Undercity within the past week during the downtime phase between sessions.

Contrary Mary (a Non Player Character) got to impress everyone with her huge great sword that was too heavy for a regular person to even carry and which certainly drew the attention of the supremely strong elder, Michael Novichkov, who was one of the very few who could swing it.

Professor Jasmine Hadley declared that her childe, Talitha Salvatore, was now the Lesser Harpy and that people could register their boons with her.  The current harpy, Amity Fine, was aware of this development and though she didn't attend the gathering her approval had been sought.

The gathering was plagued by strange spiritual activity which included a bizarre knee-high fog, doors that wouldn't open unless asked nicely, and strange illusions written on mirrors and other reflective surfaces.  Finally Yzador quietly sang that "Alas he cannot stay" and then dove into the tall mirror that had been brought into the event for the purpose.  (Well, the player made the motion and described his action in front of the tall mirror - glass hurts.)

This left the neonates on their own so in typical neonate fashion, they decide to break into the museum to get their hands on some cold iron meteorites as Siobhan O'Baoill was currently obsessed with gathering information and tools against the fae.  Their attempts were interrupted as Jonathon Williams went and told on them and they were chased down by Seamus O'Baoill (well, he hurried up to them as they stumbled drunkenly down the street).

It turns out there were plans in the wings to finally take out the Delphin Island demon.  Everyone was brought together, armed up, and headed over to Delphin Island.

Unfortunately I have no picture of the battle map so you'll
need to make do with a picture of the Pathfinder Pawns from Paizo.

Now since large group combats can be an exercise in prolonged agony and hours of waiting, I've developed a few tricks to speed things up.  I had already pre-rolled Initiative for everyone and so I had them sit in a circle of chairs around a coffee table in Initiative order so that they had a visual reference for when they would be called upon.  I placed a map with some miniatures (from the Inner Sea Pathfinder Pawn collection) on the coffee table.  This was to ensure that everyone had some idea of where they were to cut down on the descriptions and re-descriptions, especially since I knew I would be terrible at remembering where 9 PCs, two dogs and 11 NPCs were standing.

I used a Stone Golem of Deskari from the Worldwound Bestiary Box to represent the demon from the pond which only came up after five rounds of fighting the vampire larvae (near mindless mob of recently made and weaker vampires).  There were three players who didn't have combatant characters so I gave two of them five of the larvae apiece to control and the third got to run Contrary Mary.  He even wore her mask.  I kept control of the Big Demon as I'd been surprised by the sudden assault and didn't have a write up explaining all of the creature's powers to hand.

Some key moments in the combat included:
  • Seamus' two zombie dogs dropping bag loads of salt into the dark ponds to kick things off.
  • The ten zombies standing up in the ponds (ponds represented by plates).
  • Everyone tensely holding their actions so that the two snipers could aim for five rounds.
  • Novichkov staking a larvae with a thrown stake.
  • The larvae mobs tearing the two zombie dogs apart.
  • FatherMother being slammed by a larvae mob to the ground - then Earth Melding away.
  • Yzador being slammed by a larvae mob to the ground - who ignored his Nightmare.
  • FatherMother joining the pile on the ground to help Yzador by smashing larvae into the dirt.
  • While Talitha picked them off the both of them using a rifle.
  • Contrary Mary being slammed by a larvae mob to the ground - who ripped her arm off.
  • The demon rising from the depths of the pond with a giant scythe.
  • Siobhan failing a save and thinking the demon is actually a possessed Monroe (human boss).
  • Siobhan begging everyone not to hurt him and then trying to stumble in the way.
  • Professor Jasmine Hadley being uncertain of her claims and so shoots the larvae.
  • Jonathon Williams using Celerity to tear across the field to the demon.
  • Jonathon Williams using Parkour to run up the demon to reach its head.
  • Jonathon Williams slamming a holy water balloon down its gob.
  • Jonathon Williams being knocked to the ground and then implanted with a parasite.
  • Jonathon Williams arising as a controlled vampire, pops the equivalent of Greater Darkness.
  • Contrary Mary frenzying and feeding on two larvae.
  • Yzador running out of blood and feeding on a downed larvae.
  • Yzador slaying that downed larvae to remove the blood bond.
  • Talitha Salvatore growing wings and flying above the field.
  • Talitha Salvatore getting ten successes plus four damage on a shot that kills the demon.
It was a pretty good combat and while it did take a couple hours, we got through almost twenty rounds and no one seemed bored.  For a mass combat, that's pretty amazing.  For a LARP combat, that's pretty spectacular.

NOTE: Neither the other players nor characters knew of this, but the Yzador they saw for the first part of this session was actually his Mirror Reflection Rodazy that was a sentient and malicious spirit ever since his post-mortem Embrace (see Shadow Mekhet in the Mekhet Clanbook for more information).  Yzador had made a deal with his own reflection to allow him his own party so long as he assisted with spying on the other supernatural creatures in the city.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Rex Rutilus

Siobhan, her cop partner and the criminal snake.

The following is written diary style by one of the players involved in the game:

"So yesterday, which was a month ago but still kind of yesterday, I told Seamus, Amity and McAllistair about my deal with Blue Girl on our way to see ThreePenny Jack. I didn’t mean to, it just kind of happened because Seamus was on my back about something and I wanted to annoy him. So after being lectured for a while, and after heading through the tunnels, seeing Nickz (And hearing about some Serial Killer thing) we went to go see Three Penny so I could find out a little more about the Fae. 

It was a good thing I told everyone because they pointed out all the flaws in the ‘contract’ and Three Penny made a deal with me so that I could get what I wanted out of the deal initially. Me - 1.  Blue Girl – bitter nil. Unfortunately for my deal with ThreePenny I had to have another stone to let him into Rex’s realm which meant I had to ask McAllistair for his stone. I offered a Major boon – MAJOR. But noooo I had to be all touchy feely and he traded me. I’m still not sure who got the raw end of the deal…

After aaaall the yelling, we had to head over to Rex’s domain straight away in case the Blue Girl found out somehow, and Amity went home. Or she was supposed to but she came anyways – more on how that went later.

So we went through the door at Himeji Gardens and I woke up in some old timey kind of office after the cigarette I was apparently smoking fell on my shirt and I was being yelled at by ‘my boss’ about not filing some crappy paperwork or something, I dunno, for pretend it was strangely reminiscent of being at my actual work… Anyways we were all playing our roles or some crap. I was Jack something-or-rather, a detective that didn’t play by the rules, McAllistair was some drunken PI, Seamus was a nosy reporter and Amity was a singer at a club...  Anyways, I had to investigate some stupid murder that happened but didn’t.

Two vampires chatting to a changeling bartender.
Fucking Changelings, I swear. 

“You have to investigate a murder!”

“What are you questioning them for? No one got murdered, they’re still alive right over there, see? But I’ll tell you about someone else that got murdered”. 

“Oh that person's not murdered silly – they’re right over there – but that first person you were investigating…”

Well in the beginning I thought I had to solve the murders to get out. But I didn’t have to solve the murders, the real crime was that they’re all fucking insane changelings and they just murder people because they don’t play their part.

The worst part of not playing your part is when Rex comes and scares the absolute fuckery out of me when I open a door, then just staring at the wall until the bastard disappears because if you look at him you’re dead. Not before the people around you die first. Rule of three or something.

So on my “investigation” I was paired up with newbie cop. Which was good because it was easy to shake her once I told McAllistair to distract her, then told her she needed to question him. I went back to the office try and find some of those onyx stones I needed. All in the safe – freaking win. It took forever to find the combination and I thought I almost got busted but luckily it was only Seamus so we shoved everything into his pockets (including Rex’s ledger, a bunch of random blue rocks and and a crane with Fae-d written on it). 


Gangsters and cops playing card games.
Every time I got back to the Red Room Amity gave me a piece of information as subtley as she could. The first time was about the Red Pills, thinking it was a cure to Rex’s blood disease affecting few of the Changlings, we all went to find out what that was all about. Turns out they weren’t a cure and it was just a party drug made in a changeling murder factory. Out of changelings. Eww why am I only remembering this now. I better not tell Tal – Seamus knows what he ate… It’s no different than the Flower of Demiter right? Grown out of dead bodies / made out of dead bodies. It’s a very fine line. 

I’m going to have to flush this out of my system with a whole lot of alcohol.

Anyways, arrests were made, interrogations were poorly done. Amity told us that the Changelings were plotting to kill us all so we decided to stick in pairs from then on wards. Luckily we did because Seamus wigged at his “boss” and tried to bite him. I’m not even sure what was going on there…
Anyways we needed a certain amount of Onyx stones to summon ThreePenny (We thought it was to escape at the time) and the only person I knew who had what we needed happened to be one of the Changelings I tortured or interrogated, I dunno. He was happy to make the deal with me anyways. (That makes 3 deals in total - aww yeah). 
We summoned ThreePenny, he wrote his name in the wall, some creepy shit happened and Rex came out. I’m not sure what happened to him because I didn’t want to look just in case he could still make us sick and die. 

The Blue Girl came straight away, just like Jack said she would with Changeling Bennett by her side ready for the swap. So as soon as Fetch Bennett appeared behind me I quickly reached into his chest and ripped out his heart and pushed him into the Blue Girl so she couldn't stop me from giving it to Changeling Bennett.

Wow too many Bennett variants. Well, maybe only two but its confusing to write. But that's okay because they're only one Bennett now.  

(GM Note: Fetch Bennett is the one Siobhan knew before who was stolen away from her and who kept flipping into Angel Faced Killer mode which was a serial killer who would crush people's heads using a baseball bat.  Changeling Bennett is who he was originally and essentially a part of his soul had been stolen to make Fetch Bennett.  Combining the two was Siobhan's best chance of saving either of them and allowed her to give Changeling Bennett her Bennett's memories.  Siobhan's initial deal with the Blue Girl was for "Bennett" rather than the "Angel Faced Killer" so she was going to lose her fetch to the Blue Girl and end up with the Changeling instead.  Her later deal with Threepenny Jack to bring in the fetch at the right moment allowed her to take both.)
The Blue Girl, two vampires and a GM / Bennett.

So the Fetch collapsed to the ground and Recombination Bennett opened a portal out of there and we all followed. Including all the Changelings so no one got their memory back and they were all weird and Seamus was too high to do anything, I was freaking out because I killed Bennett - See: ripping his still beating heart out of his chest - Amity was comforting me and McAllistair is McAllistair so Bennett is now the leader of the Changelings and we all went home.  The end."

PCs include:
  • Siobhan O'Baoill (Hardened and Reckless Police Detective)
  • Thomas McAllister (Alcoholic Private Investigator)
  • Amity Fine (Jazz Singer)
  • Seamus O'Baoill (Plucky Reporter)
NPCs include:
  • Drug Dealing Bartender (Ram horns, black veins)
  • Angry Police Chief Bull (little horns and forehead veins)
  • Innocent Cop undercover as Adorable Newsboy/girl (cat ears, whiskers and fake nails)
  • Corrupt Business Executive & Media Mogul (grey skin, frown lines, stoneskin) 
  • Mobster Kingpin (Coldscale, snake, grey with black edged scales) 
  • Mob Enforcer (black and red hair wig, fox ears and whiskers)
  • Rex Rutilus (Fae, hands dipped in red dye to the wrists) GM aaaaaand fill in for one role.
Basically each of these "characters" was actually a role and when one of the character's died, someone else would be stolen to take that role.  This is why a murder could have happened, yet not happen, as the old Jazz Singer is murdered ... but then there's a new changeling in that Jazz Singer's role.  Does that mean they count as dead?  Or not?  Each role also has their own motivations and expectations toward each other which created quite the web of deceit.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Demonic Trails of Cthulhu: Prelude (Part Two)

My husband who plays Gipontel.
I took the first half of the "Drawn From The Water" adventure from Issue 2 of the Arkham Gazette and tacked on the Colours Out of Space from H.P. Lovecraft's own works.  Thus the mission involved the players tracking down a missing artist.  There were several modifications.  Walton's address was moved to Arkham, as were all other Kingsport locations.  Walton was the son of a cultist who belonged to Ambrose Mogen's "Half-Moon Cult" (which worshipped Belphigor as the Black Man rather than an Avatar of Nyarlathotep). 

Instead of using a scrimshaw piece connecting him to a Yugg, I had him commissioned by some scientists with Arkham University to try and capture the colours coming off the meteorite fragment they had taken from a certain farm which I placed not far from Annie Pernell's farm in Innsmouth (which I called Rowley, so my more knowledgeable player wouldn't automatically guess it, though he did in the end anyway).

I also included a private investigator as evidence of the Half-Moon cult's first foray into finding him.  Unfortunately the private investigator had attempted to interrogate Joe Sergeant of the Innsmouth bus and so when his blue hire car was spotted heading into the heath, the hybrid police officers pulled him over, arrested him and then took him to the jail to await ritual sacrifice.  Regrettably the players never spoke to Joe Sergeant, avoided the bus and missed all of that.

So they follow the adventure pretty well, though they don't get any of the written handouts because they all refer to scrimshaw that doesn't exist in this story, and even manage to track down the private investigator's blue hire car and find out that he was quite a paranoid fellow who slept in the car (more spy than private eye, as Mogens used him often).  They even hire the very same model.

They then head out to Falcon's Point, track down the address of Walton, and head over to the little abandoned farm. They pause along the way to try one of the marvellous blackberries which are so big and lush, almost impossibly so, only to find they taste acrid like an ant landing on your tongue (side effect of the Colour).

He warns them to stay away, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Gipontel opens the door and takes a bullet to the shoulder (3 health points).  He slams the door shut after that and Nithriel has to try and patch him up without a first aid kit.  Then Gipontel crawls underneath the building (risen up on short stilts to keep it out of water) and uses his powers to split the floor beneath the ranting madman.  Walton refuses to leave, cannot even countenance it in fact.

Once the man falls the foot (misfiring), he tries to drag him down and under, just about managing to do so while Walton fires blindly into the dark (missing with every shot).  Then the man gets back up the hole with an empty gun, and the three converse about the mural on the walls which depicts his rendition of the farm and the Colour out of Space.  He has to keep painting, or so he believes, or the Colour will come for him.

They head directly toward that farm and see that the flora really is more marvellous and full, and then that it gets greyer and more brittle towards the buildings themselves.  I made use of the various skill use suggestions from the Bestiary in the Trail of Cthulhu book and Nithriel even gets to perform a little autopsy on a dead dog by the side of the road.

They arrive at the farm and head inside only to find a man on the couch calling for his middle son to fetch him some water (when Nithriel tries the kitchen tap, she finds the water is oddly grey and rasping like dry paper).  Much of what follows is taken straight from H.P. Lovecraft's short story.  The wife became deranged and so they locked her upstairs, where she crawled about on all fours and spoke in some ungodly tongue.  And then the same happened to their eldest son, also locked upstairs in a different room.  The youngest son disappeared over by the well, and where is the middle son?  He calls for him but he doesn't come.
They head upstairs and find the eldest son as little more than fragments of skin and desiccated flesh beneath the covers of his bed.  They go to see the mother and find her sitting on the bed, face crumbling inwards, but only as she raises her arm do they see she is still, in fact, alive.  So they rush over to her, Gipontel thinking he maybe should put her out of her misery with the poker he took from downstairs.  Just then they fill something brush past them, and realise (with an Awakening spend) that there was something in the room with them.  Something departing.


My friend who plays Nithriel.
Gipontel heads down after it while Nithriel considers how to save the woman.  In her true form she can provide a little health points, enough to keep her alive enough to move, though the woman is still badly mutilated.  Gipontel merely grabs the man on the couch and drags him outside.  The entity seems to avoid the light, which gives Gipontel the false idea that perhaps it is actually afraid of light, so when it starts upstairs he instructs Nithriel to rip open the window.  Which does nothing.

So Nithriel gathers up the woman as best she can and hurries out the window, gliding down on her wings.  But the motion has undone all of her healing, and the woman now verges on death, requiring the last of Nithriel's faith to heal.

Gipontel takes the roof off the car and forms it into a stretcher for the woman, then reconnects it to the top of the car, hoping that she can survive the bumpy ride up the hill and back into town.  Luckily they took the right road and passed Dr. Bloom's office.  Dr. Bloom was quite a strange sort of fellow, and his mix of alchemy and occult books, and mention of his loss of license, certainly caught Gipontel's eye.  They had to return to him twice more to check on the adults and each time Dr. Bloom forgot who they were (more he didn't recognise them as he knew them once they pointed out the connection).

They rent to the Bar and Grill for dinner (and it was quite late in Real Life) and so I pointed out what they had for dinner both in and out of game that was quite themed.  They had a choice of baked beans, spaghetti and meatballs, devilled ham or tuna, all canned.  The look in their eyes when I brought out all those cans after their very fancy lunchtime made it all worth it.  Though as it was quite late one of the players was just hungry and got the joke more after he'd eaten it.

I played up everything smelling of fish, but I didn't describe the Innsmouth Taint as I still wanted to hide the location.  The well-read player figured it out anyway but here's hoping when they finally return he'll have forgotten his assumptions.  Maybe.

So at the Bar and Grille, Moira Brooks, a hybrid who works there, tries to chat up Gipontel despite his young sixteen years of age.  She convinces him that she'll show him the smuggler's tunnels, using quite dirty metaphors for other things that he didn't quite realise, but that she'd only show him alone.  He went away with her into a nearby empty house and she tried to put his hand on her You Know What.  He snatched his hand away, scolded her, but she was pretty unrepentant.

Gipontel marched off to find Nithriel and the two headed back to Arkham for the night.  Nithriel stated they would be exploring the well tomorrow morning, and when Gipontel tried to explain the reasons why they shouldn't, she told him that she'd go with him or without him.  The two younger kids were still missing after all.  So they returned to the tainted farmhouse and Gipontel spent a couple hours (Relentless, Forge Power) digging a hole down beside the well in the hopes that there might be a cave system beside it, but finding only groundwater.  So he breaks through at the bottom and the grey raspy water rushes over his hands and brings with it two small skulls.  Cue more stability loss!  It gets even worse when he feels the cool draught and sees the slight phosphorescence of the Colour out of Space.

So he flashes his light on it but it really doesn't seem to care, so he gets the hell out of there.

They go back to Walton whom Gipontel sealed into his farmhouse (think I forgot to mention that) and he's still unwilling to leave.  He can't.  He just can't bring himself to.  So they head to Eliot's Drug Store to get some sedatives.  While there they see some rather lovely orchids out the front for sale that seem rather out of place (bred by Lester Davies) and find out a bit about the florist. 

Gipontel is figuring that perhaps this Lester Davies is draining the good health out of the farmlands for his own plants but when they drive by his address (after bribing Eliot) they find the street is still pretty weed-racked and figure it for a red herring.  A shame because Lester Davies is a Cryptic Rabisu (angel of the wilds) and a meeting with Gipontel might have slowly teased that loose.

Before heading back to Walton, they stop by the telephone booth to contact Ambrose Mogens at his estate but as he's no longer at home (busy entertaining the Ashburnes), they end up having to invoke him.  Or rather, Nithriel does while Gipontel stresses over what they have learned to date and how best to proceed.

Luckily Belphigor has had a few hundred years as Ambrose Mogens and is a dab hand at both the Occult and History.  He recalls a few legends of strange natural disasters, fey things of strange colours, seen in medieval Europe and that in one instance they got rid of it by feeding it lots of pigs. He also warns Nithriel to keep an eye on Gipontel because who knows what these stresses could do to a Silver Legionnaire fresh from the Abyss?  "He's seen some things…."

To make it even better, Gipontel's player kept roleplaying his character's thoughtful distress and so when Nithriel's player slid him a sidelong and appraising look it was quite a beautiful moment.

They head to Newburyport to purchase some pigs from a local farmer who had been to the Sunday market (it's Sunday now) and have them dropped off in the barn.  They shut the doors on the place as it grows dark and the well begins to glow.  They head over and drug dear Walton's food and then put him in the back of the car and then drive their hire car all the way to New York.

A week later Nithriel goes back to check on it and finds the whole area surrounding the farm is little more than a blasted heath with two small holes in the ground where Gip's efforts and the well had stood.  And things go back to normal.

Dark Before Dawn Stones of Accursed Blessedness

Stones of Accursed Blessedness are a prop item that are granted to players of characters who have attended a Nurse Cassandra session. If a character dies before using their stone, it will find some way to reach the hand's of the next character of that player -- though the marking will change to reflect the clan of the vampire involved.

In terms of the campaign LARP, from the start of the campaign these Stones of Accursed Blessedness can do one of three things before being utterly consumed and destroyed (though later on they could also be traded for 15xp when we started running low on game time left):

  • Immediately banish all incorporeal beings AND abjure a mall-sized area for an entire year.
  • Unlock a gateway to an alternative dimension to accomplish a certain plot (i.e. the Last Express) which provides something important to the player.
  • Provide an exceptional success on your next five successive dice rolls (may not be used on a roll that will result in the torpor, blood bonding or death of another player character - NPCs are not excluded).  NOTE: No one ever used this version.
These stones *can* be traded and have the in-game value of a major boon* or its equivalent in immediate trade.  Due to mystical contrivances, they can't be demanded by someone with a major boon on you, only offered by someone in exchange for a major boon.  Otherwise the stones will not recognise the new owner and will reappear in your pocket at a later time.  Attempts to mystically command you into using a stone when you don't want to will generally fail (unless you, as a player, are okay with it).  Mundane coercion is fine.  If you die before using it, the stone mystically discovered by another human or vampire (who also happens to be your new character).

*MAJOR BOONS: Boons are like blank cheques traded between vampires and those without boons owed / owing are considered to be incompetent and untrustworthy cheapskates.  A Major Boon represents a massive effort to achieve that can take up to a year to complete.  This could involve cultivating a massive allegiance with the local judicial authorities and then handing over the power to another vampire, clearing out a pack of werewolves who are interrupting another vampire's enterprises or developing a scale (vampiric power) that has little practical benefit to yourself, teaching another vampire that scale and then supporting that vampire's claim to have invented the scale themselves so that they can claim all the credit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Feeding Grounds

The Prince was unable to attend this session
but his influence over the city was certainly felt.
Professor Jasmine Hadley stepped forward as seneschal today to help organise people's feeding grounds claims because Prince Harry Saeed (who had given up the order) was to busy to attend the gathering (aka player was sick).

You see, vampires need to feed on humans and being predators they don't like bumping into each other while out on the hunt.  There's also increased risks that they will over feed on the area, becoming more noticeable as the same human witnesses multiple strange events or risking death from blood loss as a mortal who had lost a little blood, loses a little more to another, and a little more to another, until they collapse.

Some areas are also clearly better feeding spots than others due to having a higher traffic of nocturnal roamers, ideally people willing to walk down dark alleys or go home with strangers.  Thus the CBD, North Adelaide, and Port Adelaide are better eating spots than the suburbs and are therefore called Racks.

If vampires over feed from the area, they damage it and it can support fewer vampires and provide less of a blood bonus in future.  If they groom the area, they can increase it's value and the number of vampires it can support.  Thus it's in the prince's best interests to divide up the land for the vampires and to encourage a sense of pride and ownership in one's feeding grounds.

Professor Jasmine Hadley had her speech and I (as Dr. Mirrim Hargey, prince's childe and general secretary) drew in people's feeding grounds claims onto various printed out maps.  A few people grumbled, namely those who had larger feeding grounds in the last chronicle under other princes, but most people gained more than they had to lose so most were pretty happy with it.

The in-game venue was behind the Tuxedo Cat, an old nightclub on North Terrace that basically opens up into an old and defunct concrete catacomb a few storeys tall.  Amity Fine was the hostess and though she had no music going, I put on some warehouse ambiance from Tabletop Audio.  She declared it Elysium and had Michael Novichkov, who had recently had his status stripped by the prince during the last gathering, perform the duty of Master of Elysium.

Michael Novichkov soon got to play the part of Master of Elysium when Seamus O'Baoill frenzied on Gary Dodd.  Why?  Well,  Seamus O'Baoill had interrupted Gary Dodd's attempts to haggle with Lewis Epcott over the price of a bottle of  top shelf lacrima that Epcott drank last game (under manipulations by the sheriff).  Seamus O'Baoill threatened Gary Dodd for asking such an exorbitant price of a fellow Ordo Dracul (as the starting requested boon was a major) and Gary Dodd told him to fuck off.

So Seamus O'Baoill frenzied on him and Novichkov had to pin him under the table for awhile until the frenzy stopped.  Eventually Seamus exhausted his frenzy tearing apart the table.

This all happened outside where we had popped a few tables and mismatched chairs about on the little courtyard to represent a random inner section of the Tuxedo Cat's concrete clad back rooms.  We play during the day but funnily enough it's not as immersion breaking as you'd think.  In the new 2nd edition rules, vampires can see perfectly in anything other than pitch darkness and so it makes little sense to require a torch to read your sheets.

Dr. Jonathon Taylor was feeling quite poorly, at this point, having also had a pretty rough few weeks.  You see, he was a duplicate of the arch-villain from the last campaign and had been copied a few months before a terrible ritual drove his first self evil.  So he's not evil and has never been evil but many of the things that are plaguing the city are still his fault.  So he gets drunk and smack talks Jonathon Williams who is currently suspected of dressing homeless people up in gimp suits shackled in his haven as his herd.  And then draining them dry.  Jonathon Williams just calls him a hypocrite and leaves it at that.
Feeding Grounds
A map of the vampire's feeding grounds.
Amity Fine lectures a few people on damaging the Racks and tells them to stop over feeding.  She doesn't really address the fact that there are a lot of fangs per location nor does she give them advice on boosting the Rack.  Harpies, huh?

NOTE: A harpy is a social position whose job it is to reinforce appropriate social behaviour, humiliate those who disobey and to record the IOUs called 'boons' that are the life blood of the vampire economy.

Partway through the festivities, I headed off and changed from Dr. Mirrim Hargey's costume to Julia Dannenburg's costume.  Few of the characters currently in Adelaide had met Julia Dannenburg but a number had heard of her due to her crazy text messages that she had sent over the forums.  So that I could keep her appearance a surprise yet still ensure that the older players knew who she was, I made a dramatic appearance that was basically a loud: "Hello!  Julia Dannenburg here!"

There was a bit of a fuss and she was quickly dragged into a private room by Seamus O'Baoill who interrogated her about where she had been and what she'd been up to.  Then he allowed her to return to the main room where she poked a few people, spread her theory that the gloom walls currently dividing up the city were a form of quarantine to prevent the spread of infection.  She also stated that Contrary Mary, another vampire NPC from the old chronicle, was currently trapped in the old Nosferatu catacombs beneath the city by an evil cult.

Then Julia Dannenburg went to chat with the seneschal, Professor Jasmine Hadley, about stuff and things.  Amusingly enough, a few other characters came with them in Obfuscate (and spider form) and hid around the large room.

Normally there'd be a chance to spot people with basic Obfuscate as it just makes them forgettable, not invisible, but the venue involves large gaping rooms so it's not impossible to be within listening distance and remain in hiding.  They got their spying on.  There were a few gasps of surprise.  And I got the joy of dropping a few bombs in a room load of players while playing a character who didn't know they were there.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Demonic Trails of Cthulhu Prelude (Part One)

We worked a lot on the ambiance for this one.
Our first demonic Trails of Cthulhu session was a hefty 12 hours where we all dressed up in period costume and ate fitting foods as the day wore on.  We began with their pre-fall experiences and I read our choice sections of Gaviel's speech as description (from the core rule-book), making sure to keep good eye contact throughout so that it could be far more gripping.  We also dined on delicious raspberry pancakes during this section for morning tea.  Some of the roleplaying highlights included:

·        Shifting the focus from two humans to a very specific immortal yet reproducing race of humans meant that a lot of Asharu (guardian angels) had to be re-directed from other animals to the human race.  This meant that a messenger sub-type of guardian angels, Haruta (NPC), ended up having to protect his own tribe.  Haruta's restless boredom and urge for stimulation, the way he would almost allow his mortals to thirst to see if there was a reaction, gave good contrast to Nithriel's (PC) forthright devotion and desire to protect his tribe as well as her own.  Of course, in the days of paradise humans mingled and passed between groups fearlessly and without much comprehension that they even had swapped around.

·        Abaddon (NPC), herself, confronting Nithriel when she withered and removed some thorny bushes so that mortals could sleep in the shade, thus slowly destroying that species (as all the other Asharu did the same for their tribes).

·        Protecting humans while allowing them to largely wander where they may could prove quite difficult, such as when an Annunaki (landscape crafting angel) called Gipontel (PC) had to tunnel a hole in the side of an about to erupt volcano so that humans could cross it without fear.  The trouble was that the lava was directed into a valley where Abaddon had been storing plants and animals considered too problematic by the other angels, thus ensuring their deaths and, in some cases, extinction.  Since Abaddon is to be an Arch Duke of the ultra-violent Ebon Legion, this should prove interesting indeed.

·        Finally understanding the Ebon Legion's creation in a time before true hatred and violence when Haruta (NPC) saw little point in continuing to protect mortal humans since they would die soon anyway.  Instead he wanted to win the war against god to remove mortality from humans and saw fixation on that goal as a better path.  In other words good intentions could still lead to the Ebon Legion.

·        Seeing early days Nithriel (who doesn't change much through her fall) and Gipontel (who does) is quite interesting.  Early Gipontel has all the social awkwardness of his kind and none of the political grace he will later obtain.

·        Humanity were hidden in a number of cave networks around the world by the Annunaki (angels of the material world) while the Namaru (angels of power and originally the word of God) created a defence against radiation and heat when God smote the Earth (actually a solar flare).  The Asharu (angels of the wind and life) then had to rush off to separate carbon from oxygen and recapture oxygen lost to space to re-form the correct atmosphere.  Within a week humans were back on the world.

July 1923

I had dressed as Gwen Ashburn (NPC).
Then we moved to the human prelude where Master Theodore Ashburne of Astley (PC) and his family are being entertained at the Mogens Estate, New York, as part of a business venture with his father.  Ambrose Mogens is not in attendance (or so they thought) but a number of his investors and other important figures are, though the Earl of Astley finds the whole thing rather humiliating since Ambrose (reclusive millionaire as he is) didn't come out of hiding to see him.

Ingrid Kensington (PC), daughter of Jonah and Julia Kensington of Prospero Press, and student pathologist is also in attendance as she had been invited along by her supervisor, Mr. Rupert Harper, as his Plus One.  Mr. Rupert Harper misunderstood the timing on the invitation and arrived for dinner rather than the gathering afterward but the staff managed to flawlessly include them in the dinner.  Miss Kensington spoke mainly to an alleged medical engineer working of new plastic surgery techniques involving skin grafting - a Mr. Maximillian.  Later she determines that he is a conman, though he declares himself a financier in disguise, because she notices how much he searches the room for angles and opportunity.

Little did she realise that Mr. Maximillian was none other than Ambrose Mogens himself!

We celebrated this dinner with a well-laid table and a variety of yummy sandwiches.  These included such surprisingly tasty fillings as:

·        Two slices of lettuce with condensed tomato soup in between.

·        Sliced cucumber, salt, pepper and dill, with cream cheese on one slice.

·        Mashed banana with raspberry jam spread.

·        Raspberry jam and cream cheese.

·        Sliced tomato, lettuce and cream cheese, with pepper.

·        And then two different types of little tarts, bought from Woolworths.

Later Master Theodore and his sister, Miss Gwen, moved out of the busier main rooms during the main party and came across a partially opened trophy room filled with all kinds of strange relics.  Naturally Miss Gwen became enamoured with a carved silver skull with a key between its teeth and a book of Latin above it.  She asked Master Theodore to read it out to her, since she could understand spoken Latin better than written Latin.  Poor boy soon realised that once he started reading, he couldn't stop, and with nothing more than a glance her way before his eyes were ripped back toward the book, he unleashed hell.

Miss Gwen was slain instantly, dropping dead at the feet of that dread book, while Master Theodore was knocked across the room and laid up by the door (quickly possessed by Gipontel).  Feeling a strange calling sensation, Ingrid Kensington hurried their way and upon discovering the dead girl, having never previously met the owner of the corpses she dealt with, she was utterly horrified.  And in her moment of weakness, Ingrid was slain as Nithriel slammed into ownership of her body.  Nithriel immediately set about resurrecting Miss Gwen as the body was quite fresh, but the poor sixteen-year-old twin remained unconscious.

This allowed Nithriel and Gipontel to speak and realise their true identities.  Gipontel peeled back the marquetry flooring and hid both skull and book underneath, shortly before Mr. Maximillian opened the door and took the three of them (Miss Gwen, he carried) into a sitting room.  There he opened some cognac (which one of my players brought along) to discuss matters and introduced himself as Belphigor.

Both players chose to spend a point of Legacy so we had a flashback to their first encounters with Belphigor.

·        Nithriel wished to heal those mortal followers of God (their enemy) of the wicked disease that another of her kind, an Asharu called Riyazagor, the Black Wind, had wrought upon them.  None of the other Iron Legion were willing to risk his wrath and enter his land … except for Belphigor.  Once they arrived a few mortals tried to signal God's angels, but instead Riyazagor arrived with his squad, and threatened to slay them both for treasonously healing the enemy.  Haruta, one of Riyazagor's subordinates, stepped forward for he didn't want to be responsible for either of their deaths (though he namely pointed out that it was a poor day to kill the Radiant Champion, Belphigor).  So instead the two duelled while the others watched and Belphigor put on a good show while Nithriel smuggled the humans out.  Later when she returns to help him, the others have gone and Belphigor is limping weakly toward her, one damaged wing fluttering.

·        Gipontel had been tricked through political machinations into assisting Belphegor (twin soul of Belphigor and Lady of Sighs) in the cruel citadel-fortress of Ninatan (Palace of Sighs) built in the bowels of a volcano.  We played through his conversation with Belphegor as she eagerly mentions that her brother has offered himself to her so long as she released her mortal test subjects, but she simply took him in and kept the others.  She now needs Gipontel to reinforce the fortresses defences.  Though she betrayed him, Belphigor remains for the full year and a day out of honour and doubtless also out of hope that she might at least release the mortals with him at the end of their time.  She does not.  When he leaves, though, he leaves with three converted fallen and then assaults the fortress using weak points that Gipontel had cunningly hidden among its defences.  It's during their conversations that Gipontel becomes more politically astute, learning how to influence through words alone, and how to identify such influence.  The training isn't formal, more subtle revelations seeded through Belphigor's words, as it seems the Radiant Champion knew from the beginning what Gipontel would do.

Nithriel asks if there is a job she could do for the important and influential figure, this Radiant Champion, this Fell Knight of her Faustian Faction, and he is pleased to accept.  Belphigor offers to distract Theodore's parents and claim that he is convalescing and needs time alone.  He seems confidant that he can manage to do that, so Gipontel assumes he has some sort of mind controlling power, as befits a Devil of Radiance.

Anyway, the mission is long enough to require its own article so I'll type it up later.