Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spreading Corruption Act III: Bad Dog

James and Hassan follow the tracks from the figure who had fired the gun, presumably at the time the other three died, hoping to find someone who knows more about this situation. They reach the fence line of the houses and see the tracks continue on but decide to see if they can find any more clues inside the house. They open the back gate (basically corrugated iron on hinges, like the rest of the fence) and step into the yard.

In the rear left of the yard sits a large dog kennel where they can hear a dog growling and a buzzing sound similar to the buzzing of flies. Despite using Heightened Senses to improve their vision, they can't pierce the shadowy darkness inside. They give it a wide berth and head to the back door.

Hassan uses his lock picks on the door and heads inside while James Tyler (a Zelani) can't enter without an invitation and so hangs back, outside, alone, in the yard with the creepy dog. He's also feeling exposed because like most places in Adelaide in 2025, they have sensor lights installed which means the rear light has come on while he's standing there (ironically enough making him safer).

Hassan can hear tinny music (A Perfect Circle) coming from upstairs as though someone were wearing earphones. He stealthily climbs the stairs to the lit room and peeks inside. A teenage girl lays on top of her bed spread in Hello Kitty pyjama pants and a white singlet, listening to music through earphones and reading an Avengers! comic book. He heads back downstairs and tells James that there's probably no use asking her for more information. Her father probably just went out camping nearby.

They go to follow the tracks when the dog in the kennel starts barking angrily. They get out the back gate fast but hear the upstairs window slide open and the girl call out: "Shut up, Casey! Goddamnit." When the dog doesn't stop barking, she says: "Fine! I'm coming." She then shuts the window.

James and Hassan look at each other. James' player wondered out loud for a moment what to do as he hadn't played James in awhile. Knowing his characters' motivations pretty well, I asked him: "What would Dean do?" Dean being one of the protagonists in the Supernatural series. The player then stated that James will head back into the yard (he is a hunter, after all, albeit a kindred one). Hassan is having bad feelings about this (also known as sympathetic fear for others) so he agrees to help.

They sneak up to the kennel. James Tyler trains his shotgun on it (he had it under Touch of Shadow) while Hassan blood buffs. As in the Troupire game, Blood Potency depended on the age of your characters rather than experience points spent, and could be added to with merit dots as well, James had Blood Potency 2 (being 90) and Hassan had Blood Potency 5 (being over 100 and having spent merit dots on it). As the extra 15 years had almost popped them into the next 50 year age category, I had granted them both a free Blood Potency. So Hassan had BP 6 and could blood buff for an extra +6, which he needed because he's not very good with Brawl (total dice pool of around 3 without blood buffing).

So Hassan kicks in the kennel and they see through the splintered wood a shadow-blurred black labrador, whose fur writhed with buzzing shadow. They pulled out all stops to try to kill it but since neither of them thought to hit it with a flashlight first (which made sense, being as it was their first encounter with the shadow possessed), it had a total defense of 7. Hassan was on a chance die to hit it unless he blood buffed and James had a pool of three dice with his shotgun. Hassan blood buffed a few times until he only had 2 blood left and was left quite hungry. James did a little better using Serendipidity to help himself when he went full defensive on occasion (though it could still hit him, just with far few dice).

The girl came out onto the back yard in the last round and the rear light popped on but the dog was too far away for it to have any effect. She held a mobile phone to her ear and yelled at them to stop. That was when they finally killed the dog and came hurrying up to her, limping but trying to look all official.

She threatened to sue them and told them she had a friend on the line so they'd better not do anything to her. James told her that she should have called the police first if anything like this happens again. That made her somewhat more trusting as surely a bad guy would never give that kind of advice, right? So he got to get off his Entrance and the two explained to her that they were private investigators who'd been investigating the mysterious death of a local man to rabies. They were merely passing by when they saw her dog had all of the same symptoms. James asked her if she'd played with the dog recently or been bitten. She said she hadn't been and wanted to know if the council would reimburse her. Hassan said she'd have to ask the council but that the two of them had to go to the hospital now.

Then they turned to limp away and heard her say into the phone: "Yeah, I know, it's horrible. You should see how cute those two guys were, though. Wait, let me get a picture." They let her take the blurry picture of their backs as the darkness and their movement meant it wouldn't be so Masquerade-breaching for it to end up a bit dodgy if she even bothered to take a picture of them.

The session continued but the last of it was really Act I of the next section so I'll describe it when I start on that session.

You can find all of this adventures' articles over here if you'd like to start at the beginning or find another article in the series.


A Perfect Circle (starting with The Package which has very suitable lyrics for those two characters).


I could've had the dog attack them right away but it built up more suspense to let it idle as a background threat. By allowing them to avoid it this time, while still pointing out the risks involved in leaving a monster unchecked, I let it remain a viable tactical option. If I'd done otherwise, they probably would never try to avoid a monster again. After all, why hide or avoid something that you know is going to attack you the minute your back is turned? Besides, who's to say that the third encounter they have won't refuse to be ignored? Uncertainty increases tension.

I also ensured the first creature encountered was a difficult one while still choosing something that had little moral ambiguity. This gave them the chance to fully realise the danger of the situation without detracting too much from the overall plot by bringing up the morality of killing a living possessed human being.

I also ensured the characters had the option to keep going and leave that girl to her doom. When they instead chose to heed the Call to Heroism, the characters themselves bought into a more heroic style of game which is what I was going for with this one. It's not the typical Vampire game, which is another reason why I chose to have a side effect of the city being that they now have sincere human emotions (even if it's somewhat less intense comparatively).

I also included a clue as to the dog's weakness though it didn't end up coming up. If they had gone near the rear door at any time, the dog wouldn't have been able to approach them and they would've been able to pick it off (though it would've retained its high defence). Unfortunately, they chose the more moral option of staying away from that door, thus keeping the dog away from the girl when she came out. The benefit of this is that I can keep the tension high by hiding the bane a little longer.

Finally, in the event of a Total Party Kill, I already had an idea of a few potential rescuers who could grab their torpid bodies. This ranged from the person they had been tracking or a Lucifuge hunter turned Mastigos or the Protectorate werewolf pack. I hadn't decided yet, but I ensured there was somebody. After all, the protagonists aren't meant to die yet. Having said that, because the primary player has two other characters in the background, it wouldn't be Campaign Over if James Tyler did die.

I thought it was funny that they both had Striking Looks 2 and therefore were kinda like Sam and Dean from Supernatural. James Tyler being Dean, of course (deeply intolerant of 'monsters', including most vampires despite his apparent politeness) and Hassan being the better educated Sam.

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