Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Covenant Meetings

Picture from the Cassandra session but it shows three of the Crone
and the now deceased Ordo Dracul, Gary Dodd.

After the events of the last session, there was interest in running a few split "faction-specific" sessions which included the Ordo Dracul, the nascent Circle of the Crone and then finally a Gangrel-led clan celebration. Rather than attempting to go through all of the details on a forum that would be quite slow or an IRC chat room which would creak and sag under the weight of a dozen players, I thought it best to combine them all into a single day.

Since one of our players had to leave for hockey at 1:00PM, we began with the Ordo Dracul game at 11.00AM with people advised to attend as early as 10:00AM for pre-game chatter, meetings and conversation. The fellow who had yet to play a vampire (namely because he was playing the human, Henry Peterson, in the last game) sat in as Louie Bonaldo, the castellan's security minded ghoul.

I'd printed out several copies of the Agenda and after chatting to a few players of the Unsworn, I found the only person happy to MC the meeting was the player of Siobhan O'Baoill. So with that settled she sat down with the Agenda and started going through the following items:
  • Preliminaries
  • Present
  • Welcome to Kettral
  • Apologies
  • Business Arising from Previous Meeting
  • Juris Draconis
Most of the business passed easily, until they reached the heavy weight of the final item.  Michael Novichkov declared a Juris Draconis on Thomas McAllister based off Seamus O'Baoill's testimony that he had seen diablerie marks (basically soul eating) on Thomas McAllister aura. Shortly before Novichkov could even declare the Major Judge, McAllister said "Bye-bye Darling," and dropped Feral Infection. This meant that every person in that room had to roll versus frenzy (had the pre-rolled frenzy checks sorted in secret with the online rolls available to be seen on the forums because doing a dozen rolls in-game kills tension dead). Even the humans risked an anger frenzy!

Rather than telling people the results of their rolls, I instead informed them that they could spend a willpower point to avoid a frenzy for a round and that such willpower points would give them each a +1 bonus to their final roll. While typically you would pre-declare just how many points you would spend at the beginning, I decided to keep to the one-willpower-spent-per-turn method as it felt more organic and gave more leeway. Only once they ceased to spend willpower, or after things settled down, did I inform them of whether their bonuses were enough to go anywhere.  This matches how the game normally progresses as typically you don't make your roll until after you stop spending willpower.

Talitha immediately frenzied on her sire.  Professor Jasmine Hadley barely managed to get out of the way - she scrambled over the table but tripped over Walsh at the end due to a bad Athletics roll. Siobhan also immediately frenzied, having no willpower to spend, and she turned on Hadley and scratched her with her Gangrel claws. Walsh slipped out from under Hadley and went for a loose floor grille in preparation to slip away and hide.  The new vampire, Walther Hawkes (Siobhan's brother whom she only learned was her brother at the meeting itself), sensibly hid beneath the table.

McAllister dropped into Obfuscate on his next turn (good Initiative check) which meant that Gary Dodd (who had used both Coil of the Wyrm to immediately Ride the Wave of frenzy which allowed him to pick an objective to attack in a frenzy) could only pace the room and search for him. Novichkov ran to defend one door. Regrettably Kettral, Taylor and Epcott decided that retreat was the better part of valour and rather than block the other door they opened it -- though this gave McAllister a chance to escape the room it may have also saved everyone's unlife when Novichkov finally succumbed to his frenzy after almost everyone else had left.

By the time Novichkov stopped spending willpower, everyone had cleared out of the room.  It was only then that I informed him of his natural 1 on the roll.  So then he went in an anger frenzy after the other vampires.  First he ran toward the exit, damaging the locked door in its frame, in his efforts to locate someone.  Once that were done, he came charging through the haven looking for prey.

At this stage, Taylor was hiding in Gary Dodd's room behind his desk. Kettral was in his room. Siobhan had come after her frenzy only after Hadley Dominated her into draining Hadley's ghoul to death -- and the two had slipped through the bilge to the security office. Epcott was hiding in a hot desk office that anyone could access which had two doors.

And Gary Dodd had tracked the Obfuscated McAllister's movements into the library where a pile of folklore books sat in a pile ready to burn. McAllister set off a flare (still in obfuscate) to burn the books as Novichkov stepped into the room. Gary tried to kick the flare into Novichkov to distract him but failed to dislodge it from the books and burned his foot instead. Novichkov charged over to him, struck him a blow that stunned him, and then proceeded to shatter his skull. On the second Vigor punch, the Blood Potency 6 frenzying elder managed to hit him so hard that Gary Dodd immediately ashed upon the blow.

Then Novichkov came out of frenzy. McAllister set the alchemy lab on fire and snuck around before finally using a crowbar to pry open the exit and escape. After an hour of searching the Chapter House for him, they went to finish off the meeting. Important things needed to be spoken of.

First there was discussion of the need to call a blood hunt against McAllister. But there was no Prince since Harry Saeed had left the country in a previous downtime period. And so Professor Jasmine Hadley opened a discussion about the possible Praxis.

And then on to other Agenda items. So many of them were meant to be covered by Dodd and again and again there was a moment's silence when these items came up.  All knew that Novichkov wouldn't have stopped until one had died and all knew that Dodd had sacrificed his unlife in the line of duty. People kept as upbeat as shock allowed them and even Walsh seemed relatively peppy as he discussed his own agenda item.

That was to change later during the Gangrel meeting.

Dr. Jonathon Taylor also mentioned a certain fellow he had kept in torpor … who was awoken after being found in the Women's & Children's Hospital as a "patient" and was staked and put in a barrel.  A fellow called Marco Giovanni....  The  meeting ended with his revivification and introductions to the rest of the court.  And no, Marco wasn't a replacement character for Gary Dodd.  None of us really knew what the outcome of that diablerie accusation was going to be.


The Circle of the Crone covenant meeting, on the other hand, was mostly a meet and greet between the new and old players as well as some natural discussion about the problems of the city and the way forward for the covenant. Since no Kindred died, I feel it best to let them keep their secrets. They initially wanted to have a Chorus meeting for those interested in the covenant but whom belonged to another covenant but by the end of it they didn't really have a plan of what to do with them -- the Chorus that is -- and decided to worry about that later once they had more time to discuss things and get to know each other.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Taylor's Special Door Session

Dr. Jonathon Taylor was coming down off a red pill stolen from the fae realm in the second door session and it left him feeling pretty down, as fae pills tend to do.  He was feeling so depressed he chose to activate his stone to see where it took him.

We held the game in my house so that it looked nice and homely, put a roast in the oven, took out a Christmas tree and put birthday decorations around. When he first stepped into the realm, a set of warped Christmas songs (Very Scary Christmas) was playing and everyone but Seamus O'Baoill (actually a representation of Seamus possessed by the Taylor demon) was pretending to be dead around the table.

When Seamus encouraged Taylor to sit, everyone popped up with a "Surprise!"  There was much laughter and mirth from everyone but Taylor.  Then Siobhan had to blow out the five candles on her deathday cake and Taylor was invited to cut it into slices for them … slices which oozed with jam (representing gore). Although it was ostensibly Siobhan's deathday, Taylor kept being invited to do things as the guest of honour.

There was a rousing game of Pass the Parcel with a note from one of Taylor's old patients beneath each layer which Taylor was invited to read to the table no matter who got to unwrap the layer. The patient notes were sad because they were from children in a palliative care cancer ward but they were also inspiring because they were patients he had legitimately helped as he had never harmed any children.  As you may be starting to realise, the entire thing was a play on his old miseries and horrors designed to either break him or motivate him to actually accomplish his dreams.

His guests tied into such guilt.  His prior self (or rather the Strix he had become) was responsible for Embracing Siobhan (using Dominate on Seamus), torturing and killing both sire and sibling (Hadley and Talitha), and creating the demon that possessed Seamus in Campaign one, everything tied into that. There was also an NPC called Julia Dannenburg who had been spying on him under the guise of a depressed Suicide King present for these festivities.

The final layer of the Pass the Parcel was blood stained and when he opened it he found Nurse Cassandra's skull with a little identifying note. I was also portraying Nurse Cassandra, fetching knives and bringing out the cake, giggling and never speaking (my character's tongue was ripped out but he never really looked at me long enough to notice).

Then there was a game of Musical Chairs. Taylor was very reticent about playing and tried to fail on several occasions but the second-to-last person kept refusing to sit or even walked away saying they'd already lost.  Only a few people were allowed to win on their own.  Siobhan "won" the first time and was really excited for her present but when people started saying her prize was to be tortured, she became very scared and started begging Taylor not to hurt her. When Taylor refused to harm her, Talitha went to do so and when he Dominated her to not hurt her, he instead had to allow her to cut off one of his thumbs.

And then Siobhan eagerly said that they should play Musical Chairs again!

And on they went, though this time the winner was Talitha.

The final time it was Taylor himself who won and Talitha Salvatore tortured him quite well under the gentle instruction of "Seamus O'Baoill" who had dropped his Irish accent in favour of Taylor's odd style of speech. I went off to get dressed as the final NPC (the Evil Queen Fae) as the rest of the Cast poked and prodded him emotionally to see if he would break or harden his resolve. After he made a heartening speech about doing better, the Evil Queen arrived and spoke with him awhile, gave him clues as to how to break Cassandra out of the core and he was allowed to leave.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Welcome Session 2

Gustaf, Gangrel Crone.
The first session of Season 2 was a bigger session than usual and was most similar in form, function and structure to the very first session.  In other words all of the vampire characters were spirited away to Cassandra's realm to be tested and littered with various clues as that ghostly figure determined what to do with them.  As it was a new season, it was a good time to advertise and include new players.  After our advertising campaign, we had a total of 12 expressions of interest from new players though only six could make it in the end.  This brought the total number of players up to 20 though only 15 could attend.

 The new characters included:
  • Two humans who had been trapped in the Mirror World for a few years which in the real world equates to seventy years (both NPCs);
  • Hex was one of the proto-vampires called larvae who had been beaten into torpor during Session 7.  Prior to this session he was uplifted into Clan Daeva by Lewis Epcott;
  • Gloria Brown, cousin to Amity Fine, sister to Lewis Epcott and niece to Duchess Alicia Brown;
  • Kettral, sire to McAllister and grand-childe of Yzador;
  • MaidenLad, childe of FatherMother
  • Crowley, childe of the infamous Grandma Hollis of FatherMother's initial circle who was also an uplifted larvae from Session 7
  • Gustaf, new character from an existing player, had newly arrived to locate some family members in the city.
Many of the new characters were designed with a strong degree of inter-connectedness as it eases participation in the game and gives people a quick vested interest in the new characters.  Many of these characters were pre-generated with the option for players to either adopt them or give them back in the end.

So what happened during the game?

In short, a lot!

We had five hours in two main rooms.  The session started with the Circle of the Crone plus humans in one room and the Ordo Dracul in the other room plus the one Carthian PC.  The doors between those two halls were locked (padlock image blue tacked to the door on each side to represent this) and the doors would only open when it was unlocked by both sides (padlock image removed from the other side). You needed Larceny to do it so it gave the thief-types a chance to shine and it allowed the two groups to moderate when they would mingle.  There were other ways to cross that barrier individually (shrinking down to spider form or using Auspex 5 or even Acute Senses).

In each room there were two projectors showing a static blurred figure and occasional text in Typewriter font interspersed with lengthy periods of ambient music.  I'd learned my lesson from last time by using a change from ambient to lyric-based music to signal when the text would display but made the error in having the text move too rapidly (it reads differently when you're sitting at a computer screen compared to reading a projection).  I also made all of the clips add up to six rather than five hours so I had to skip ahead occasionally through the blank spaces between text clips. This also meant I accidentally skipped some text. Luckily that text, while cool, wasn't strictly necessary and can be used again.

There was also an alchemy lab set up which had the ingredients necessary for a couple puzzles and which could be used to forge one of two styles of love potions -- one made with Changeling blood and one made with Vampire blood.  I won't say how many were made, only that far fewer were made than expected and none were given to player characters, which is nice of them.

There was also a blood bowl people could drink to replenish their blood, though no one did, and a back table set up with nice snack foods and sweets that would only taste good for the mortals or those who bought MaidenLad's Flowers of Demeter (which had been given to MaidenLad by Grandma Hollis).

Three of the characters arrived high as kites on special fae drugs, which led to some interesting scenes.  A Major boon was spent by one high character to force another character to take a drug.  This was poor Dr. Jonathon Taylor who really needed more conditions to deal with.

The characters soon discovered that Nurse Cassandra wasn't giving them Strix to glean information from and exorcise like she had last time.  Oh no, instead they had a certain amount of time to solve certain puzzles around the room which would summon certain individuals in to talk with them.  These individuals would slowly deteriorate over time in unique ways and the other characters could either save them or destroy them. Leaving them too long without a decision would cause terrible repercussions … like madness leading to pyromania or spontaneous combustion.

Each time someone was summoned or something similar happened, the bell would ring.  Each bell that rang those who were out would find their curse progress.  This ensured that there were never too many cast out at the same time.

How did I get the cast? Well, I pre-arranged with some players that when a certain puzzle was solved I would appear them with a bell as the ghost of Nurse Cassandra, tap their character on the shoulder and lead them to the summoning sigil. They would disappear, a mask would appear in their place, and the player would then leave to dress up as the NPC. No one knew what arrangements had been made, what NPCs would arrive or which players would disappear.

The characters and their puzzles were:

  • Nicks (necromancer) could be summoned by setting fire to an offering bowl full of bark chips (LED candles hidden in the bark chips to represent fire) at which point his pyre-flame marionette egg would appear in the middle.  He could be saved by convincing him without mystical power to give someone the orb or slain by stealing it from him (which sped up his death).
  • The Blue Girl (true fae) could be summoned by playing her deck of cards "Love Letter" in the usual manner.  She could be healed by giving her the warming potion (she was growing increasingly icy) or harmed by giving her the sleep draught (which had a warning label that it would worsen the symptoms of hypothermia).
  • Skully could be summoned by opening the safe (whose combination was a letter riddle for OWL which could be converted into numbers using the telephone beside it which had say ABC listed over the button for 1, etc.) Skully could be saved through tears of genuine guilt or damned through being shot with the phosphorous rounds.
  • The Maid (Rider -- weaker custom variant of a Geist) could be summoned by answering the riddle put forth by the four paintings that were placed on the window sills (which luckily enough actually had a number permanently etched into them) and then finding a nail which was described via the riddle.
  • The Oracle (Rider) could be summoned by getting the deck of faux tarot cards (actually language teaching cards) from under the scorpion in a box contained in the safe. Normally a riddle had to be answered from the scorpion but the person using Animalism was so polite that they managed to convince the scorpion to simply hand it over. He could be saved by someone giving him a guilty secret powerful enough that it could get them killed.
  • The Cultist could be summoned by three people drinking out of the communion cup but instead of that technique she was pulled out due to a request given to the Blue Girl who simply wove her magic into the sigil to retrieve the woman.  This happened right before the end so that no one really understood what the cultist was raving about.
  • There was also changeling who could be summoned by a game of Gloom (native to Wonder City) but no one got around to finishing that game.
Strangely enough, each and every NPC summoned was saved and their information largely delivered.  I'd expected that the Blue Girl would be purposefully slain and Nicks accidentally killed when no one bothered to gain his trust.  Instead, full win conditions all round!

This time they dealt with Compassion rather than Mercy as the angels sent by the God Machine.  Compassion's shawls fell off her as she ran through the room, sporadically pausing in a seizure mid-speech as she babbled at them about all kinds of matters. Finally she stopped by one table and held out her hands and told them to vote for either Order (the Throne) or Chaos (Cassandra). Each person who had a stone (new characters) had to vote by placing the stone in one of her two hands.

The characters who had been around awhile all encouraged them to vote for Cassandra in the hopes that by empowering her enough they could remove the gloom walls.  When they left they found the gloom walls were all still intact.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Masks of Demonic Nyarlathotep (Telegram from Mr. Elias)

Books, character journals and NPC sheets.
SATURDAY, 10th January

WARNING: These are the session summaries of my Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign adapted for Demon: the Fallen but using much of the Mythos in a similar capacity.  Thus if you are a player eager to play in that campaign you really shouldn't read along due to the inevitable spoilers.

Lady Gwen and Lord Theodore (Gipontel) manage to convince their parents that another trip to New York is in order.  Sincetheir previous trip and visit to the Mogens Estate proved so lucrative, and since the twins are now eighteen, it was agreed upon though their mother, Countess Pettinghew,  was to come along with them as a chaperone.  Especially since the exuberant Letty Harrinton, youngest daughter of Lord Harrington, would be coming along.

They travelled on the Mauretania shortly before New Years Eve and arrived to a very cold and snowy New York.  Lady Gwen and Miss Letty remained as excitable as ever as they disembarked and went to the two taxis provided for them by Ambrose Mogens.  They are taken to the Waldorf-Astoria where they meet with two guides provided to them by Ambrose Mogens - one very sophisticated guide for the countess and a very nervous Ingrid Kensington (Nithriel) who was feeling all the more self-conscious in the dress she had been given for the occasion.

They have two days of tourism which pass by very nicely.

MONDAY, 12th January

Nithriel returns to work and finds Rupert Harper, feeling very smug about a particular telegram he'd been sent by an author who worked for Prospero Press (owned by her parents).  A certain Mr. Jackson Elias who wanted an investigative team to help him with an expedition and who had seen fit to telegram an acquaintance rather than his employers.  Nithriel managed to convince him to hand over the telegram, which he happily did because he didn't want to get messed up in any additional work.

A corpse arrives for their investigation who turns out to have died from drowning.  Nithriel attempts to resurrect him but the man just lies there, catatonic.  It seems that her powers have a certain time limit in freshness.  Nithriel simply covers his face with a sheet.  Mr. Harper forces her to spend the night in the morgue, in case he wakes up and starts doing anything crazy.  He then heads home early.

Nithriel has to sleep on the chair not far from that creepy not-dead man.  After several hours, the fellow expires again.  Thankfully.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Rodazy and the Domovoii

Vampires have such complex feasting tables....
This gathering was held at the Apothecary (in-game venue not real world venue, unfortunately) and it was relatively quiet social gathering.  Little did the other vampires know but it wasn't the Elder Mekhet Primogen running the event but his reflection, Rodazy (Yzador backwards).  You see, Yzador had made a deal with his reflection to allow him to host the event in exchange for providing some information in return on the Mirror World.  Yzador also had five Flowers of Demeter sale for a trivial boon apiece (courtesy of Grandma Hollis) and some reasonably priced Lacrima for sale.  As always, we used Ferrero Rocheres as Flowers of Demeter and iced tea for Lacrima.

The main leaders of the vampire court spent the entire session in a back room as they have a wont to do so people didn't really see Prince Harry Saeed, Seamus O'Baoill, Michael Novichkov or Professor Jasmine Hadley very often at all.
The lower ranks enjoyed their drinks, purchased Flowers and Lacrima, and had themselves a party.  Rodazy (whom they thought was Yzador)  encouraged them to indulge their vices, messed with the spirits of the house (who had already been awoken and inspired to act) and otherwise kept those in the main rooms thoroughly entertained.
At one point a drunk Siobhan O'Baoill convinced most of the room to go with her to the state museum to steal their meteoric iron to better combat the fae.  Sheriff FatherMother (I believe, it's been awhile) went to the back room to rouse the elders to stop them and it was left to Seamus O'Baoill to go and fetch them back in.
I'm sure more happened but, as I said, it's been awhile.  Hopefully my players will tell me if I miss anything significant.