Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dark Before Dawn Season 1, Episode 1: "Prelude In Darkness"

Okay, wow, I just located the following in my Draft Posts.  While I have a more succinct summary in my Dark Before Dawn blog, this one here is here and large and you might be curious about the extended version, so I'm uploading it anyway.  Enjoy!

So after a really enjoyable one shot LARP kick off in 2014, we began the first twelve month season of the Dark Before Dawn.  It began, not in a tavern, but in a plain brick corridor that linked the strange hall they had been trapped within *and* the front porch of the SA State Art Gallery.  So after setting Obfuscate to cover such things as blood stained clothing (from when one hungry guy half poured a bowl of blood over himself), strange clothing and weaponry, they found themselves on the front porch overlooking North Terrace.

There were three players who hadn't played the one shot who needed to be introduced into the game or, in the case of one player whose character was from an early season of the game a few years back, re-introduced.  Since one of the players had a need for sleep, he got a chance to nap in the back room which was very convenient as I wanted to bring in his staked and torpored body once things had settled down a bit.  So the best case scenario worked there!

The other two involved a local vampiress who needed to respond to a text message by another PC to meet at whatever gathering place they chose (which ended up being the Velvet Nightclub in North Adelaide owned by a young Daeva called Amity Fine) and a new vampire who was arriving by cruise ship in Outer Harbor and had to be picked up by another Ordo Dracul called Gary Dodd.

We were using a private residence which worked out quite well because the open planning dining / lounge / kitchen made for a pretty nice bar area, the library made for a good meeting room and the empty room made for a good Scene Room where folks who were outside of the main in-game venue could go through their scenes.

So anyway, they're on the front stoop.  Amity Fine suggests her club and points out that folks should take taxis to get there - she has her own car in a nearby parking garage.  She takes a couple others with her, drinks and Majesty blasts the guy on shift so that she can pull her car out without paying hefty fees (since three months had passed in the real world from the summer solstice to the autumn one) and headed straight for her club.

The others divided into three groups: two got into taxi cabs (portrayed by two of the players whose characters weren't in yet) and the third went for a walk.  I'd prearranged with my two taxi drivers how to behave and gave them (and Amity Fine's player) a few lines of description to read so that they would see a gloomy shroud over Payneham Road where it connects to the ring route.  Thus even though I wasn't there, everyone got the message they needed.

I dealt with the walking guy with a bit of description and then, once everyone else was at the night club, I assigned one of the taxi drivers whose character was just now arriving by cruise ship to play a drunk guy who hassled him for a city block.  After all, he who walks should come a little later than others.  It also meant he got to be thoroughly entertained while doing so and I could be on hand to tell everyone when they tried to contact folks that they weren't picking up.  In fact, most of their phones were out of service.

Basically, their mortal contacts were all there but many of the vampires were out of reach.  This was in part due to really good plot reasons and, in some cases, to cut down on the number of NPCs and retired PCs for folks to handle in the first session of the game.

Since this was the first session and I knew folks might be a little lost, I gave them a bunch of suggested short-term goals that they could follow or disregard as they preferred.  Most chose to follow them, which hopefully means that I picked good ones.

A few points of improvised prop making came up as the game progressed.  Siobhan O'Baoill, a young vampire who had amnesia of all events following her fresh escape from an evil scientist's cell (character went from NPC to PC following the one shot so it was more entertaining for them this way), learned that she'd already separated from her fiancĂ© and that her boss was looking for her (the former by a phone call made by Amity Fine and the latter by an email I had prepared earlier).  She was distraught, so Amity Fine wanted to produce some Lacrima (vampire booze, basically) and while it wasn't pre-planned, it was a sensible and neat idea so I grabbed the bottle from the one shot and quickly made up some red cordial which I poured into some martini glasses.

I portrayed Amity Fine's ghoul here and there, being flighty and nervous and excited (and without blood for the past few months so eager for a fix).  I responded to a phone call as another ghoul who was more pointed about it.  I also wrote down "text messages" to one vampire from mentor and childe (who were in a remote community) which was mostly random conversation and I let Yzador know (via his ghoul) that she'd used some Vitae Reliquaries they'd stolen earlier to keep herself in the blood while he was gone. 

She was over 100 years old, so his disappearance would have killed her otherwise so I didn't mind randomly inventing a few Lancea Sanctum items that the Crone may have stolen decades ago.  The important thing was not to lose her due to plot contrivance.

The Ordo Dracul were busy determining who would join the Chapter House, where folks sat in the hierarchy and what each other could do.  The grand majority of the group are Ordo Dracul by design.  Amity Fine tried to manage an increasingly drunken Siobhan O'Baoill alongside a crone neonate (FatherMother) before Siobhan slipped out with Talitha Salvatore to go poke the gloom.

Over in the Scene Room, Siobhan made it to the intersection, almost, when one of her police allies pulled up onto the kerb and asked her what she was doing and where she'd been.  He also took an interest in the attractive Talitha Salvatore and offered to drive them across the intersection.  Siobhan took him up on it, but a flashing image of her panicky sire appearing in the middle of the road (blood tie hallucination) caused her to grab the wheel and make them swerve left rather than heading into the gloom.

For some reason, her ally, Detective Monroe forgave her (he has his reasons) but she'd now relented and wanted to go the Women's & Children's Hospital in North Adelaide where she and Talitha had been held and experimented upon by Talitha's brother (Dr. Jonathon Taylor).  The hospital was abandoned and surrounded by mesh fences but they tried to ditch the detective and head in to check out the basement.  Detective Monroe let them go ahead a bit before following.  Meanwhile Seamus, Siobhan's sire, had sent out a blood minion to go find her and he used his Vedma powers to teleport into the blood minion's space - appearing behind them.  He used his security status to demand a warrant from the detective to make him back down and then got Talitha to draw Siobhan back out.

Detective Monroe then drove them all back to the nightclub before heading off.

Not long after that, the player of the third new character woke up and was carried into game by an NPC called Peter Walsh (played by me).  I was heartened to see a few people recognised me by my costume even before I had the name badge.  Especially since the costume is just grey suit pants, sneakers, white shirt and woollen sweater vest with my hair in a ponytail.  Naturally I didn't actually carry the player, but we mimed it and I'd pre-explained to folks how he would be entering the game.

We had a thrust-safe plush stake that he held to his chest when I flopped him on the couch.  Gary Dodd searched him (asking and gaining permission to touch him before checking his pockets) and then, upon learning he was the sole survivor from Perth, they took him to a side room and woke him up.  Unfortunately, despite portraying the guy who'd brought him in, I couldn't stick around to see much of that drama unfold as my two aGMs entered the meeting room.  They have their own characters and are more Rules aGMs than narrative ones, but I can't in good conscience allow us all to be in one place, so I left and just checked back in here and again.

Later, the new untorpored guy (who had holes in his memory), identified himself as Thomas McAllister and almost slipped out on his own if not for Peter Walsh noticing him and convincing him to return.  It helped that as a GM I could point out that Adelaide's mystical confluences meant that he felt more alive here and that Peter Walsh is high humanity enough that he could talk a burnt out PI into helping.  All of the other players were busy, else I'd have left it to the other characters, but if he'd slipped out and grabbed a motor boat as he'd implied then he'd be out of the game.

Awhile later, Thomas McAllister spied the bottle of Lacrima and finished it off - causing Amity Fine (who hosted the gathering) to call him out on it.  He was unapologetic and tried to guilt her, in a way, so she told him to leave.  The others followed, largely because he was Ordo Dracul (as an in-game excuse), and because Amity's player had to leave early while McAllister's player did not.

They reconvened in a pub in North Adelaide that the Ordo Dracul owned and discussed the stones that seemed to have bonded to the players of the one shot (a boon they gained from playing).  They discovered the alchemical meanings of the symbols, that they couldn't simply get rid of them, that they seemed to be grown like a petrified wood rather than carved despite their greenish black colouring, and that they could be used to either improve oneself muchly but temporarily (five exceptional successes in a row, can't be used on another PC); open a door to a special realm; or abjure an area equivalent to a city block. 

Gary Dodd drank a bottle of Lacrima and meditated on his stone (his Lesser Work involves narcotics so booze helps him think) and detected the position of the nearest door (he was trying to simply open one but it turns out they're in static places).

They also discussed the curtain wall of gloom that divided their section of Adelaide from all of the rest and mapped it out.

About then the game ended and we had some chit-chats, signed folks up to our forum, and used the downtime box which basically involves envelopes with character names on them in black texta and small pieces of card (like name badge label size) that you could write downtimes on in case you weren't much for forums.  Or in case you forgot what you were meant to do.  Several folks used the envelopes.  Some didn't.  A few wanted to read the books first.

All in all, a good session though it looks like the next one might involve a full group (14 player) module if they go through that door.  That's okay.  I'd covered the book cases with a sheet to maintain the surprise of what was under it anyway, which was partly done in preparation for just such an adventure. 

I'm currently hashing out those plans while sorting out their own personal Your Forums which contains their current XP, basic XP log, downtimes and responses, and character sheets.  They also have threads for different sub-sets of allies and contacts, if they have them, for easier chit-chats.  Again not everyone is expected to use it - folks can always check their downtimes when they come in for game in a month - but it helps me to have it all in one place.


  1. It sounds pretty fun.

    THE Peter Walsh, I take it?

    It never occurred to me before that plush stakes existed, but it makes me happy that they do.

    I'm curious, did you have to do much scene-changing to handle the shift from house to pub?

    It strikes me as a shame that nobody's (AFAIK) managed to podcast any LARPs. It'd call for more editing than most things though, even if you did equip everyone with little radio mikes. A nice idea, though, you'd end up with something more like a radio drama.

    1. Yep, THE Peter Walsh. The original, actually. It all started when I ran a prelude for a LARP character who wanted to tie into him. The player had no idea, at the time, that Walsh wasn't a regular old vampire so it was all very surprising to him. It ended up being a campaign in its own right because vampire hunters, unsurprisingly, make poor LARP PCs since your choice is either to run around throwing PC death around like candy or play a very repressed hunter.

    2. Ooh yeah, vamps + hunter sounds like a really terrible idea.

      Okay, actually, unless you played a variant where staking wasn't permanent, maybe a long-timeframe campaign where it's a temporary foiling of plots rather than death.

      Or Terry Pratchett-style vamps where getting foiled by hunters is all part of a ritualistic lifestyle.

      Or slightly naive hunters who the vamps fool by pretending to be killed, but who are actually too powerful to be killed off themselves, so an elaborate charade is the best way to go.

      Or hunters forced to strike a deal with one lot of vamps, while hunting others. This would probably need a quite specific setup where PCs are relatively benevolent as vamps go, perhaps concentrating on stuff like socialising, politics, study and philosophy as their main goals. That way, more dangerous vamps (and other critters) are an inconvenience to the PCs and good hunter fodder, while the PC vamps can be a useful source of information, and the hunters can do things that vamps can't to return the favour.

    3. He was a vampire hunting vampire, so that made things harder because as a PC it meant kill others or give in to them. :)

    4. I would immediately plot an Ipcress Files-style brainwashing scene, with the aim of getting to hunt himself obsessively, without ever realising it :D But until I managed it things would undoubtedly be ugly, yes indeed!

  2. Also I talk more about scene changes in the Dark Before Dawn blog's write ups of these sessions. I don't think I did much to begin with but later on I've moved things about. Turning a house into a train was a bit more difficult, but still easier than turning a hall into anything. Multiple rooms and more furniture can be a blessing sometimes.

    1. Yeah, I started reading that now - lots of fun, although I got confused about who was who some of the time... that's the problem with being an outsider :)

    2. If you have any ideas on how to make it more legible to an outsider, please let me know!

    3. Not really! It's honestly just a case of matching up names and descriptors to keep track of the characters. Looking back, it's session 4 that was bewildering because things get both crowded and complicated. After a few rereads, I'm now guessing that Bennett and the AFK are the same person, and that Nix and musician-sorcerer-fire-egg-guy are the same person?

    4. Hehe, good point. Using the same name for the same guy is helpful! Why didn't I think of that? No, seriously....