Thursday, February 7, 2013

Conclusion of The Key, Part One

We were supposed to end this game on Monday, but we got a late start (it was Michelle's birthday, and we were finishing dinner and so on), so it's gonna wind up going one more session. I think, though, that it's going to wind up being a nice segue into my Demon playtest, which is only right.

So last time, Lundy decided the characters would split up, some going to Hackensack, NJ and some going on to Utica, NY. Berry got a call from Cohen, their mysterious time-shifting informant, who told her to make sure they didn't split up. Berry took this to heart and spent the plane ride convincing Lundy. Lundy finally agreed (mostly to shut her up) that they would stop in New Jersey, take or copy the files (since this was very much a cold case, there would be nothing of a crime scene to process) and then get back on the plane and head to Utica.

The characters arrived at the facility that held all these old case file boxes. The cop working the desk was a young guy with his arm in a sling (obviously on injured leave). He checked the characters' credentials, and then asked one of them to come behind the locked cage door to help him lift the box. Lundy, of course, volunteered Mallory.

Mallory and Officer Kondrilik walked down the aisle toward the box, and Mallory saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He had time to react (and use his Defense, which probably saved his life) - a man struck out of the shadows and cut his neck open with an ice pick.

Mallory drew his gun (Quick Draw) and shot the dude, and then wisely backed up so he wouldn't get stabbed again. Berry jumped over the fence around the files area, and King followed (also a parkour practitioner, as it happens). Cochrane tried to shoot the lock on the door and failed; Lundy shoved her out of the way and did it.

The man moved around Kondrilik and stabbed him in the throat. Mallory shot the man again, twice, but the man ran to the end of the aisle. Lundy moved around to the other aisle, but the aisles were closed at the ends. Cochrane used the desk phone to call backup, and then started tending to Kondrilik. The assailant was nowhere to be seen.

Quick work on the characters' parts saved Kondrilik's life, and though Mallory was injured pretty badly (four lethal damage; in story terms, the ice pick pierced his neck and ripped the skin open, but missed his jugular by that much). Mallory had a breaking point when he saw Kondrilik lying, apparently dead, but just picked up the Shaken Condition (again) and didn't lose Integrity.

But then there was the issue of the vanishing man. Cochrane looked over the crime scene, and found that all three of Mallory's bullets had connected (and were retrieved). Blood spatter indicated that the last shot had pierced the killer's heart, so he would have died in 60 seconds or so...but then where did he go? Cochrane had a breaking point, succeeded (no Integrity loss) and picked up the Obsessed Condition, trying to find the piece of evidence that makes this all make sense.

King and Lundy watched the camera footage and saw Mallory shoot the guy...and he just vanished. Lundy had a little breaking point there, too, and picked up the Spooked Condition. King, for his part, accepts that something supernatural is happening, but unlike Berry, he doesn't have the direct experience necessary to put it in any kind of context.

System notes: As I suspected, the revision of Defense combined with the new damage rules means that combat-build characters are scarier. Both Mallory and the bad guy are such characters, and if Mallory hadn't succeeded on the Reaction to Surprise roll he'd probably have died. But the real test this time was the Social maneuvering system, which is what Berry used to convince Lundy not to split up (which, in turn, probably saved someone's life).

I like the system, and I think what's going to have to be important is setting things up so that your impression level gets as good as possible. Otherwise, you're talking days or weeks of game time, and for simple requests that's just not feasible. I think the system works for what it is meant to do, though, and I think it complements, rather than replaces, the idea of using simple Social actions (which means that as I'm writing Demon powers I'm approaching things the right way).