Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: The Last Express

The Maid and Gary Dodd.
It all begins through an online play-by-post scene with Gary Dodd trying to escape the Mirror Realm and being herded by the Angel Faced Killer into the National Railway Museum.  Gary Dodd uses his sigil stone to open a Doorway so that he can escape and it crumbles between his fingers.  As it does so, an onyx train chuffs silently to the platform and a skeletal hand reaches out and beckons him onboard.  He enters...

A few days later, the LARP session begins with all of the players waiting outside the front door of my house in the dark.  Gary Dodd's "Train Summoning" has caused several of the vampires to be brought to the train though Dodd doesn't yet know they will be coming.

So Gary Dodd (and his player) arrives before everyone else to my front door.  The Conductor NPC goes forth to speak with him and he does so, striding enthusiastically and making demands in a very loud and officious voice while carrying a clipboard.  He read out the thirteen rules quite loudly and then called for the Maid to provide him with Gary Dodd's tokens (used as currency).

The Maid came rushing down, waving a hand vigorously as she went to catch his attention (as she was mute).  She carried one of those poker chip cases with her and then stood to one side in the corridor, drawing the tokens out one at a time with wonderful flourishes and dropping them into Dodd's outstretched hand before letting him move further in while she awaited the next "guest".

I stayed out-of-character, describing what he saw in terms of sleeping car compartment doors, and he ended the Bar Car first where he ordered a drink from the bartender.  I had divided up the living area into a Lounge Car, Dining Car and Smoking Car using couches and we had a side room set up as a Library Car as it was lined with bookcases.

Our venue thankfully has one of those wide counters (all-in-one living / kitchen / dining area) which worked a treat for this with four chairs pressed up against it.  While he chatted to the bartender, I dropped into character and came rushing down the corridor to berate the Conductor for taking so long in reading out the rules to each new passenger currently waiting at the doors.
The Conductor checks off new passengers and reads them the rules.
The Conductor reading out his list.
Since we all had one Rival that we had to undermine (the Cast, that is), I was waved away by the Maid as I, the Doctor, was her Rival.  My own Rival was the Oracle and I made a point to describe him as a Charlatan here and there to the various PCs.  I did that so often that some people started to think that was his name and started calling him the Charlatan.
The Cast were fantastic.  I told them to really go to town with their characterisations and gave them all quite brief summaries of who they were and their motivations so they built on it quite a bit.  The officious Conductor took the first line directly beneath the header and really ran with it:

All may be disobeyed.  You have free will.  Disobedience is ill-advised.
So he kept making up new rules to suit himself and the situation.  Only three people in any one of the compartments at once - which was good because the compartments were separate rooms and it made it more interesting to keep them moving and force them to negotiate who could remain in any particular situation.

The Oracle ended up in the Dining Car, running his Secret for a Secret games in a quiet corner.  I'd given him a large Halloween porcelain pumpkin full of optional questions he could ask to obtain secrets as well as a few sheets with PC names listed on top that held up to 7 secrets they could gather by giving him a few of their own.  Funnily enough people generally respected the privacy of that car and it was mostly the Cast who occasionally tried to listen in.

I had a large Doctor's Bag with me that had a few ink blots and some of the Dr. Kaupfmann puzzles (Dead or Sleeping? and Pairings) from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.  I only really got to use one (Pairings) before the Maid convinced someone to throw the doctor's trunk (and my fetter) out the window into the bleak Underworld as part of our rivalry.  She didn't know my fetter was inside (we weren't playing for that kind of high stakes ICly) but luckily I got chosen at the end so got to survive.

At least Gary Dodd gave me some interesting hints into his psychology from the Pairings angle, so that's something.  Rather than putting them into pairs of two, he spread them out so they were all alone.

The Maid at the Candle Puzzle.
The Maid at the Candle Puzzle.
It took awhile but eventually the PCs learned that each one of them could obtain one of us for the price of a stone (Gary Dodd would get first pick as he'd already spent one) and that we could ease resurrect a newly dead human being, simply fettering ourselves to them so we could see the world.  We weren't Geists, but something different.  Something called a Rider (custom creation).

Without my Doctor's Bag I basically just went around trying to convince people to use up their Stones, explaining that there's no real catch to the resurrection of people into mortals, and also trying to get suitable characters to bed her.  At one point, Prince Saeed used my NPC as a foot stool and I happily got on all fours for five minutes before the player felt so bad he insisted I get up and rejoin the others.

The Conductor soon came around to each of the Riders to convince us to lie (again, a Cast Member decision and a good one) but my NPC wasn't too sure of trying her hand at that.  Instead she would deflect certain questions or encourage people to seek out the Conductor for the truth.

The Bartender lit people's marijuana joints on fire, set the table when the Dinner Bell rang and gave a listening ear to those who wished to drink.  He did really well at spending most of his time behind the counter so I applaud him for his patience.

Finally there was the unnamed Skull NPC who was literally a floating skull.  Naturally we had a Cast Member who was responsible for carrying the Skull around and talking for it.  Funnily enough it became very easy indeed to ignore the person in favour of talking to the skull who gestured, and flirted, and tried to prostitute the Maid (who fainted dramatically at the very idea!).

The Skull got the name Skully and people advised him to seek out Mulder for a dynamic duo.
Eventually they solved all of the puzzles, and it was time for them to select which Rider they wanted in exchange for a sigil stone.  Since the vampires only had one sigil stone each, and they could use them for other purposes they weren't too sure about doing it at first.  They could use their stones to open doors into inter-dimensional places, abjure an area from spirits and ghosts or to gain five exceptional successes on the next five vital actions.  But they could only use them once....

As the clock ticked toward the end of the session, the characters started stepping forward to take a Rider.  Gary Dodd took the Maid.  Seamus took the Oracle.  Yzador took the Psychologist.  Talitha took the Bartender.  Jonathon Williams took the Conductor.  Since all five were taken, Gary got to keep Skully as well.  Something he later regretted as Skully could be very annoying when it wanted to be.

Each of them then got to exit the train, clutching a large crystal (to be placed over the heart of a corpse), two onyx stones (to be placed over the eyes of the corpse), and a small fetter (to be placed in the right hand).  And that's where we left it, with them leaving the train.

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