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.

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