Friday, June 28, 2013

Character Creation: Earthdawn

As you may know, in between Promethean stories, we run "intermezzo" games, including Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. So now, having just finished a story, we're going to play Earthdawn.

Yeah, I'm a little worried, too. I don't normally run fantasy, Earthdawn is kinda involved, and it's a lot crunchier than I'm used to (amusingly, the runners-up were Critical! and Secret of Zir'an).

So Michelle and I are going to make characters to get ourselves ready for group chargen on Monday! Huzzah!

The Game: Earthdawn, 1st Ed.
The Publisher: FASA
Degree of Familiarity: Basically none. My brother bought this game years ago and I think I made a character. I don't remember ever playing, but if we did we probably played once and Jon's GM ADD kicked in.
Books Required: Just the one.

So! We start at Step One: Choose a Discipline. Well, I usually play spellcasters in fantasy games and I figure I'd better learn how the system works as much as I can before Monday, so I'll go with Illusionist. These guys, as the name suggests, cast deceptive magic. I like that, sounds like fun.

Next, we Choose a Race. Earthdawn has a lot of the standard fantasy races (elf, dwarf, human) but also some odd ones like the reptilian t'skrang and the rocky obsidiman. My first thought is t'skrang, since they're dramatic and flamboyant and that fits with an illusionist, but y'know, I like a challenge. I'm gonna make a troll.

Now we Generate Attributes. There are two ways to do this, point-buy and random. Since Michelle is going to do random, I shall do point-buy. I get 66 points to buy Attributes. It's not a one-for-one buy, which annoys me, but eh. I need Perception and Willpower to be high, but I have to have Strength and Toughness at 11, because trolls is big. I do, however, get bonuses there. Hmm.

Well, let's do this. I'll buy Strength 7 and Toughness 9, that'll put me at my minimums after the modifiers. That sets me back 6 points.

I'll buy Perception at 13 and Willpower at 11, which sets me back a further 16 (22 total). Hmm. This is better than I thought. OK. Let's buy Dexterity up to 14 (I see this guy as lean for a troll), which is 13 points (35 total). I'll buy Charisma at 12 (8 points, or 43 spent). That leaves me 23 points. OK. Let's spend 10 more each on Perception and Willpower. That means I spent 16 on Willpower (for a value of 15) and 20 on Perception...wait, hang on, gotta spend one more. 21 gives me 17 in Perception. OK. I've spent 21 points, I have two more.  Let's put those into Toughness, why not. That puts me at 10 Toughness.

OK, now I apply racial modifiers, and my Attributes look like this:

Dexterity 14
Strength 11
Toughness 12
Perception 15
Willpower 15
Charisma 12

Now we record step numbers and action dice, which tell me what to roll. I'll put that on the sheet.

Next we Record Characteristics, which is derived traits, which I still don't understand putting in the middle of chargen rather than at the end, but whatever. I fill out all my stuff. It's on the sheet if you want to look at it; I don't have a good sense of what it means anyway.

Now we Record Racial Abilities. I have Heat Sight as a troll. That's easy. Oh, hell, now I just realized something. As a troll, I need an unmodified Strength and Toughness of 11. BALLS. Hang on.

I need to free up five points. Blargle. Let's knock off three from Willpower (dropping me to 14) and 2 from Charisma (dropping me to 11). That's actually OK; it knocks my Willpower down a step, but jacks my physical stats up a bit. I'm still at minimum for my race, so I'm still a fairly lean and quick troll. Oh, I do have to adjust my characteristics, though.

Now for the fun bit: Assign Talent Ranks! I get 8 points to assign, and because I decided to be crazy and play a spellcaster, I get to fuck with that system, too. My Talents are:

Karma Ritual
Read and Write Language
Read and Write Magic
Spell Matrix
Spell Matrix (yep, it's in there twice)
Thread Weaving (Illusionist)

Hmm. So apparently I can't put ranks into, like, melee weapons, which is kind of dumb. Lessee now. Well, reading the spellcasting system, it's a multi-step process. I basically have to weave threads of magic into a spell matrix, and then I carry the matrix around (it's apparently a physical thing that can be damaged) until I need it. So it's a little more elegant than "memorizing spells" (LOL DND) but still kind of clunky.

Well, first thing's first. I'll put a Rank into Karma Ritual. I'll put 2 points into Spellcasting and 2 points into Thread Weaving (Illusionist). I'll buy two Spell Matrices at 1 point each, and the last point I'll put into Read and Write Magic. Actually, no, you know what? I'll put that last point into Spellcasting.

OK, now I'll fill in the details on my Talents, and then I gotta pick spells. Spells come in circles (1 and up), but as a level 1 character, I can only cast level 1 spells. Now, I can take higher-level spells, but they eat my points, so it seems like it'd be better to load up on lower-level spells so I can use them. But I don't know how hard it is to advance a circle. Hrm. I get 7 points in spells, and Circle 1 spells are 1 each. There are only 8 listed, so basically I can just pick the one I don't want.

Some of these are pretty dumb, actually. Or rather, they don't fit the vision I have for this character. I'll take Disguise Metal, Displace Image, Light, Rope Guide and Unseen Voices, and then I'll take one Circle 2 spell. How about...Monstrous Mantle.

Now, Skill Ranks. I get a rank 1 Artisan Skill (Robe Embroidery). I get two ranks in Knowledge Skills, which I can basically make up, so I take a rank in Wild Animals and a rank in Creature Lore. I get my native language (Troll) and I speak Dwarven, since that's kind of the lingua franca.

Equip your character. Oy. Not a fan of this part. OK, two. I get 120 silver to buy shit, and armor can make a difference. I'll buy padded leather armor (20 silver), a troll sling, a blowgun, and a mace. I could buy other shit, too, but I'll leave that.

Finally, Flesh Out Your Character. Here we take personality traits, and do the 20 questions thing.

So, I see my troll as a hunter. As a young troll, though, he became fascinated with the idea that animals could camouflage themselves, blending in to surroundings or mimicking their predators. It was that interest that led him to be an illusionist, trying to find a way to mimic - or fool - the Horrors and become a legend that way. I'll take Watchful and Curious as my personality traits.

My troll is slightly shorter than average (8'5''), and weighs in at a lean 450lbs. His skin is a dark olive tone, and his hair is a muddy brown color. His robes are mostly earth tones, but the inside of his robe has a bright red stripe - he likes the color, but doesn't want it showing unless he's ready to fight.

He was born in the mountain ranges, and his family has a warren-like network of caves near the foothills. His parents and siblings were hunters and warriors, but his aunt was a wizard, and they figure that's where his bent for magic comes from. He likes to hunt, but detests fighting other thinking beings (though he will when necessary). He doesn't like to reveal that he's pretty weak for a troll, and loves talking to other magic-users about their craft. His name is Rejik Malirin.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Movie #196: Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship is a horror movie about, no real surprise, a ghost ship, starring Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Washington, Juliana Marguiles, Karl Urban, Desmond Harrington, and Emily Browning.

The Arctic Warrior is a salvage ship captained by Murphy (Byrne) and crewed by Epps (Marguiles), Greer (Washington), Munder (Urban), Dodge (Ron Eldard) and Santos (Alex Dimitriades). They've just hauled a ship back to port, when a weather surveyor named Ferryman (Harrington) approaches them, claiming to have found a ship adrift at sea. They go to investigate, and discover it's a huge Italian cruise liner, lost in the 60s with 1100 souls aboard. When the characters go aboard, however, they discover...those souls are still there! (Dramatic chord.)

So, actually, Ferryman is the bad guy (spoiler alert, right?) He's a "salvager of souls", here collecting a few more dead sinners to send a boatload home, and he just needs the crew to fix the ship. Back in the 60s, he brought a boatload of gold aboard, then waited for the crew to kill everyone stealing it, killed the few remaining conspirators (actually just the one, I think, the femme fatale played by Francesca Rettondini). But a little girl (Browning) who "died without sin" remains uncontrolled, and tries to warn Epps and company. It...doesn't go well.

I saw this movie in Atlanta when it opened because I got a free pass somehow, and actually I really like it. There's some gore to it, and it's not exactly high art, but it's a pretty effective horror movie in terms of isolation of the protagonists and convincing reasons to keep on keepin' on even after people die (that is, if we don't fix the boat we all gonna die). I think the exposition of Ferryman and his motives could have been handled a little more artfully (as it is, it's too late in the movie and it's just clumsy dialog), but he actually makes a pretty good villain, and Katie is nice ally for the characters. This movie is a game of Chill, because it's not quite bad enough to be a game of Slasher Flick.

Note: This movie's from Dark Castle, like House of Wax and Th13rteen Ghosts, and like those movies, has some fun extras and the DVD the provide a bit more context to the events in the film. I enjoy that. And I continue to wonder how they got the cast they did.

My grade: B+ (look, I like horror movies)
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Ghostbusters

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie #195: Ghost in the Machine

Ghost in the Machine is a terrible 1993 slasher movie, starring Karen Allen (in her low period), Chris Mulkey, Ted Marcoux, Will Horneff, and Jessica Walter. It's directed by Rachel Talalay, the genius behind Tank Girl (we'll get to the Ts), which I didn't realize until now.

So. Carl (Marcoux) is a serial killer known as the Address Book Killer, who steals people's address books and then murders the people in them, all the while taunting the original victim. This movie is set in Cleveland, and that fact does not cast the Cleveland PD in an especially favorable light, since this guy is not the most subtle of serial killers but he's been killing for three years.

Anyway, Terri (Allen) is the mom of Josh (Horneff), and little Josh is having trouble coping with their father running off; he's running scams and trying to talk black, but these people are from Lyndhurst and, to quote Taye Diggs in Go, if this kid were any less black, he'd be clear. He is something of a computer genius, but computers in this movie are off the fucking map, because...well, for instance, Terri goes into a computer store (where Carl works) to buy her boss some software for...desktop organization? I dunno. Anyway, it's apparently got a hand-held scanner peripheral that lets you scan in your address book, which then translates directly to text (hands up anyone who had OCR that good in 1993? No?). So she leaves behind her address book, Carl nicks it, gets in a car wreck on the way home, gets put into an MRI, there's a power surge, and BOOM! HE'S IN THE MACHINE!

Carl spends the rest of the movie zooming through power lines (not actually computer lines, since he jumps into things like dishwashers to kill people, like Final Destination only 1000% stupider), killing the people in Terri's address book, while a hacker named Bram (Mulkey) finds her out because of the damage this "hacker" is doing. Eventually they kill him with a particle accelerator, because magnets.

This movie is fucking terrible, and I don't know why I own it. It's a low point in a lot of careers, including Jessica Walter (who went on to play Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development). The effects are pure 90s CGI trash, the deaths are gratuitous (though no nudity, although there's a bit of babysitting exploitation), the science makes you yell at the screen. It is, however, a superb movie to MST3K, and has been since my brother and I did it back in the 90s.

My grade: D
Rewatch value: Medium, but this tape is through and I'm not replacing it

Next up: Ghost Ship

(One-Shot) Slasher Flick: Rook

Yesterday, we played a game of Slasher Flick. I have run this game before, and it makes for a fun one-shot. Once again, going in I had no idea what was going to happen, and once again the Destiny Deck saved me.

So we're at an archaeological dig in Eastern Europe, digging up what was probably a pagan burial site (remember: crappy horror movie, questionable history). Here are our characters!

Primary Characters:

Secondary Characters: 
Tertiary Characters:
  • Mike, the site coordinator. 
  • Angus Whitehall, the backer.
  • Sven, Shannon and Wilson, security. 
  • Assorted diggers.
The Killer: Rook, the pious judge. 

We start off with a tracking shot through the woods and following a car, where Annie is talking on the phone. As she gets out, we realize she's talking to Angus, who is coming to the dig site tonight, rather than next week as originally planned. And he wants to see something, something that makes him feel like this dig is worth his time...and money. 

Annie, distressed by this, goes to Mike in the dig site and asks him what they can show Angus to sex this up a little. Mike says that one area of the dig site is more promising than the others, but the ground isn't stable. Annie gives him the go-ahead to concentrate on this area. 

Meanwhile, CJ and Sam look on, CJ taking pictures and them both wondering what's happening. Devin approaches, hung over and stumbling, and talks with them, and then all three of them see someone wandering in the woods. They inform Annie, who calls Patrick. He radios his guys, and Sven radios back that that's Shannon's area...but he hasn't been seen in hours. Annoyed, Patrick takes his jeep out and finds Tim wandering in the woods. 

Patrick was trying to hike to the next town, but was woefully wrong on the distance. After Mike agrees that Tim can hang around as long as he doesn't get in the way or take pictures, Patrick and Tim are left alone. Then, we learn that Patrick is planning on stealing something from the dig site and giving it to Tim, who will then fence it later. (Dramatic chord.)

Work progresses, and the diggers uncover a stone tablet with something in Latin and a carving of a bird (lots of shots of crows in trees, probably with bad puppets for close-ups). No one can read it, though, but Annie is thrilled that this might be a find. They go digging and find that it's actually the top of a pillar, and start digging around it. But then the ground caves in, dumping Annie, Sam, Mike, Patrick, Devin, Wilson, and Sven into the ground. Tim manages to jump to the top of the pillar before falling. He shines a light down, and sees a strange figure in a tunnel. He yells, "who the Hell is that?" before CJ pops a picture with a flash, blinding everyone...after which, the figure is gone. 

No one seems to be hurt (though Wilson doesn't respond, but more on that later). Tim has CJ throw him his backpack and he rappels down. They characters are in a huge catacombs, with four spokes. The pillar has names and sins all down the side (Tim can read it, for whatever reason), and at the bottom, "The Wages of Sin are Death," with that same bird picture. Wanting to explore and maybe find out where Wilson is (now they notice he's gone), they split up. 

Everyone finds bodies, with little coins on their foreheads. Most of them steal at least one (Devin pockets as many as he can, as does Tim). Annie takes one for "research" purposes, but then she and Devin find Wilson's body, stuffed into a crevice with a coin on his forehead. Annie screams, but Devin covers her mouth, and then peeks under the shroud that Wilson is wrapped in - his eyes are gone. They run back down to the main room, and inform the others. Annie is freaked out, not just (or even mostly) about Wilson, but about what this means for the dig. Mike convinces her that he and Sam will go look at the body and figure out what to do.

In the spoke, Mike convinces Sam not to bother with doing the paperwork just yet, to give them time to see about the true value of these coins. But then his light goes out, and he hits the ground. Sam ducks, but then her light goes on, and a man in leathers stands next to her. "Thief," he says, and steps on her neck. Her light goes out. 

The other characters climb out, and Angus' Jeep pulls up. Heidi and Gavin get out, Heidi utterly disdainful at all the dirt, but Angus is thrilled about the pillar and the big hole in the ground. He asks that Annie explain all this over dinner, but maybe Devin should take Heidi and let her freshen up?

In the trailer, Heidi and Devin are immediately all over each other (well, obviously). They fall onto the bed, failing to notice the door open. And then Rook is standing next to them, and says, "Fornication. Adultery. Lust." 

Heidi claws at him, and falls away, and Rook grabs Devin's head and crushes his skull in. Heidi runs, and Rook slashes at her with a knife, but she survives (seriously, she's a tough cookie). She runs to the mess. 

Meanwhile, Annie has been explaining (bullshitting) about the coins and the catacombs to Angus. He's enthralled, and not just about the idea that the coins have value. But then Heidi bursts in, wounded, screaming about Devin's eyes popping out. Patrick and Sven go out to investigate.

Sven sees the trailer door open, and goes to check it out while Patrick covers him. But then Rook appears behind Patrick: "Liar. Thief." And goes to stab him. Patrick loses, but his player spends the genre points for Sven to take the hit instead, so Sven tackles Rook and gets his neck snapped for his trouble. Patrick shoots at him, several times, but Rook doesn't seem to mind the bullets, and Patrick meets his end.

Inside the mess, the gunshots alert the others. CJ takes pictures, and Annie watches in horror as Rook goes into the trailer and comes out with Devin's body. He sets it down next to Patrick's, and the crows arrive and start eating their eyes.  

Annie runs out. Tim runs out to get Patrick's gun, which he left. Annie starts running for Patrick's trailer, maybe to look for another weapon, and Rook arrives. Tim shoots, but strike Annie in the shoulder. She winds up in Patrick's trailer, barricading the windows and doors, but Rook hurls a cinderblock through the window and the birds swarm in. Annie finds a hockey mask and a goalie stick (you can spend genre points to find shit, you know) and fights the birds off, but then winds up too close to the window, and Rook yanks her out. "Thief." 

CJ looks through her pictures to see if she can see where Rook went (after he goes out of shot), and she see he's gone around back. The door to the kitchen opens, and the cook's body, sans eyes, falls out. Rook walks in, but ignores CJ and Gavin (Tim's still outside) and stops at Heidi. "Fornicator," he says, and pulls a thing that looks like a melon baller out of his cloak. "Open your eyes," he says. Badness ensues. Rook leaves, looking for Tim. 

Angus doesn't want to leave the bodies here, but Gavin and CJ (and now Tim, who's doubled back and escaped) want to just take his jeep and go. Tim figures the keys are in it, so the three of them run for it. The keys, however, are not in it, and Gavin and Tim argue, but CJ hotwires it, and away they jolly well go!

Meanwhile, Angus lays Heidi's body out, and places the coin Annie gave him on her forehead, thinking that will take her soul on. Rook reappears, and informs him that she must be laid to rest. Shot of Rook carrying bodies on his shoulders, while Angus follows with Heidi, and then cut to them walking down the spoke in the cavern (because how did they get down there? Who cares?). They lay the bodies in the niches, and then Rook informs Angus, "Now you must be judged."

Angus acquiesces, and kneels. "Open your eyes," says Rook. 

Up top, the Jeep in the woods! But then up ahead, Rook stands in the forest. CJ hits him with the Jeep, but he smashes his fist through the windshield at Tim, riding shotgun. "I want only the sinner!" he says. 

CJ considers this, but won't give him up. She whips the wheel, trying to shake Rook loose, but fails. Tim tries to climb into the back seat, but Rook grabs his shirt. Gavin tries to pull Tim, but Tim grabs him and holds tight, and all three of them fly out of the car. Gavin's head is crushed against a tree, and Rook starts for Tim again. 

CJ spins the car and rams Rook, and Tim clambers into the car, yelling "GO!" They drive away into the ways, leaving Rook behind. 

Shot of him walking back toward the cavern, then in the cavern, pulling out a chisel, and carving the names of the dead characters and their sins into the pillar, as credits roll, and this song plays. 

Pirates! Yarr! (Part 1)

So, two freaking weeks ago, we played Pirates of the Spanish Main for the first time. I've been meaning to do this write-up for a while, but I haven't because I don't have the character sheets I didn't bother to check because (I'm not running the game) and I'm a numpty I can't remember everyone's name. However, since I'm spending today catching up on various blog-related things, I'll go ahead and do it, and fill in the names later as necessary.

The basic premise here, BTW, is the our pirates are going to be finding and stashing magical artifacts, and then we're going to jump to a modern-day, Warehouse 13 type of game (in Cinematic Unisystem; I'm playing a ghost!) to track them down again.

But first, dinner:

Balsamic glaze, strawberry yoghurt, yams, baby bok choy, sole (not pictured).

Sauteed the sole in butter, lots of butter (salt, herbs, as well). Cut the yams up small and then cooked them like risotto, with the yoghurt and some milk and broth as the liquid. That was interesting. Cooked the bok choy with the vinegar glaze; simple enough, but it worked.

OK, so, characters:

  • "Bloody" Jason Blaine, quartermaster (me). Blaine's nickname doesn't come from the fact that he's a skilled fighter; he is, but he's a pugilist first and last. He's actually afraid of the sight of blood, and so avoids stabbing or shooting. 
  • Georgina St. John, surgeon (Michelle). Upper class English woman who went against her family and managed to find a medical school that would take her, but the only place she's been able to practice is on the high seas. 
  • Francois, navigator (Toasty). Haitian former slave (has Outsider and Branded, so he was naughty at some point). 
  • Morgan, gunmaster (Amanda). Old lady, half deaf, but very adept with shooty things. Likes to talk, perhaps a bit too much. 
  • Madigan Maye, boatswain (Sarah). Irish lass and graduate of the Ladies Academy (it's in PoTSM, look it up). Wanted for crimes her player can't remember right now because it's "early." 
So we begin as the characters leave Tortuga, heavily laden with supplies and off on more pillaging and adventure. We bed down for the night and Blaine takes the first watch...and promptly falls asleep. Morgan wakes up to the sound of grapples on the ship, and runs (shuffles, anyway) to the warning bell to ring it. But it's missing its clapper. It makes no sound...and has a soporific effect, and she dozes off. 

We all wake up in chains: The PCs, the captain (Jack Snow), the pilot (Dubloon Swallowin' Quinn), the power monkey (Crazy Pegleg Ivan), and several sailors. The dude who attacked our ship the Poseidon's Due), a pirate whose name I can't recall (had a "Red" in it) cast us off the boat with some supplies, onto an island, and sailed away on our frickin' ship. Only later did we realize we'd only seen our ship sailing away - what had he sailed up on? 

So we're on this island. Now, we'd been heading here anyway. There's a legend about another pirate ship that had been lost around here, and maybe we could find the ship and at least use the supplies? So we set out through the jungles, stopping long enough to cut down some bananas, and along the hike we found some bodies of the pirates of...this other ship (arrgh, can't remember the name), and finally the ship itself (more bodies). 

We got to work making it serviceable again, which involved cutting down trees to repair the masts and using the cargo we found (silks) to repair the sails. We found the captain's log and discovered that the ship had run aground after sailing up the river on the island, and the crew had died of dehydration and dysentery. Their only request: That their bodies be taken out to sea and dumped there, rather than be left to rot on this island. We decided to oblige them, and loaded the bodies onto the ship, and sailed out...looking for the bastard that took our ship. 

(Future updates will have more detail, but again, it's been two weeks and I kept forgetting to do this one.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Origins 2013: General Update and GM's Report Card

I started doing GM's Report Cards for con games a few years ago, and while I've never managed to recapture the magic of the one year that I played a bunch of games at Origins that were all fantastic and all well-run (seriously, lightning in a fucking bottle), this year was pretty spiffy. Let's begin!

We left Cleveland on Wednesday morning and got to the hotel without incident, with a stop at Grandpa's Cheese Barn because duh, Grandpa's Cheese Barn. We arrived at the hotel and Michelle picked up her trusty steed.

Wait, what? Well, Michelle had a little gardening mishap last week and sprained her ankle, and the doctor recommended against walking too much. As you know, "walking too much" is an Origins staple, so she got a scooter:

Scooty-puff junior? 

Meanwhile, we had dropped Sarah off at the entrance to the Convention Center with our booth stuff, and I met her in the exhibit hall to set up the booth.

 The booth in its larval form. I hadn't seen the exhibit hall during set-up in a long time, and it was kind of cool to see everyone unpacking boxes and getting ready for the craziness of the weekend. Little did we know, the craziness was already in the house.

Sarah and I heard a loud boomy kind of noise, but I figured someone just dropped a big box or a pallet or something. But then we saw that the lights were out in half the exhibit hall, and then they told us to evacuate. Whoa.

We went outside, figuring it was just a blown transformer (do not Google that phrase if you value your childhood). And then came the emergency vehicles.
All of them, I think.

I apologize profusely for catching this woman in this pose, I just wanted the fire truck.

So Sarah and I sat on the grassy knoll (not gnoll) and waited. And then we got bored and walked around to the Hyatt so we could catch up with Michelle. We eventually got back into the dealer's room and completed the booth:

Note no copies of Tragedy, which John helpfully drove down later that evening.
I was scheduled to play in a game of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but it got canceled, so we went to dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse. On the way there, we saw protesters.

Because nothing says "God's love" like "passive aggressive emo violence."
I have no idea what they were protesting. Maybe us, but that'd be a first. Maybe Pride, but that's a couple of weeks away. Maybe just immorality in general. Michelle's comment was: "I want to walk up and tell him, 'I'll listen if you let her talk.'"

Anyway, after delicious meat-face (ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse? Let's just say it's not vegan friendly) we went back to the hotel and crashed out for the evening.

Next morning, I had a Games on Demand slot to run, but there were more GMs than necessary (this would be a repeated theme), so I wound up playing in a game of Psi-Run. Now, Psi-Run is available here, and I just bought it, and you should,, too. You're playing a group of psychic folks with amnesia, chased by sinister agents who want to bring you back. What's "back?" You need to delve into your own memories to find out (you make characters by posing questions about your powers, your weaknesses, and your past).

Our game was pretty darned cool. Three players: Myself, and then a guy and his son. The kid did pretty well with it; a little excitable, but not at all age-inappropriate, and he seemed to enjoy it. He wound up captured and we broke into the prison to save him, and all wound up captured, but then teleporting to the other guy's uncle's cabin in Vermont.

The GM made it cool, but unfortunately he was also the one kind of hosting the GoD booth, so he wound up getting up and dealing with GoD-related stuff, which made it hard to build any momentum. In a game that's basically a long chase scene, momentum is pretty critical. That said, one of the reasons is was so frustrating was because the game was so much fun, so that speaks well of it (like I said, just bought it, planning to run it for some of my players).

GM's Grade: B+

The kid is lying down because his character is unconscious. 
So from there, we got some lunch, and the Michelle and I got to play in a game of Rotted Capes. This is basically Marvel Zombies: The Unlicensed RPG. Well, that's maybe not fair, because MZ has a lot of backstory and tone that Rotted Capes doesn't, but it's still a mashup of super heroes and zombies. I'd backed their Kickstarter, and wanted to try it out. I got to play Arc-Lightning (or, as the character sheet, "Arch-Lighting"), an ex-super villain archer.

This game was a lot of fun. The GM wound up being a little late, having literally just rolled out of bed, but once he was there he kept things moving and responded well to player suggestions and craziness (and considering it was his first time running the scenario, I'll forgive him reading directly from the text). He knew the game well, and since Rotted Capes has a not at all simplistic system (it's not overdone, it's just involved), that's good. I was a little frustrated that while my character could hit accurately, damaging zombies was an issue, but that's maybe something I could fix with a few tweaks. Michelle really enjoyed the game, so I might wind up running it for my folks at some point.

GM's Grade: A-

That huge pile of dice is mine. They weren't all necessary. SHUT UP.

So then we got some dinner at the food court and I had to go back to Games on Demand, where I had priority since I didn't get to run in the morning. I had folks there (a couple of whom had played in Rotted Capes) who wanted to play curse the darkness, so who am I to argue?

The game was set in Cairo, and the characters had rigged up an irrigation system...only to see the Nile stop flowing (I know, right?). They investigated, but the first Removal Challenge came after they procured camels;  the beasts stampeded, dragging one of the characters down the street and killing him, which is our first camel-related fatality in curse the darkness.

The second Removal Challenge, though, came off with no fatalities and everyone making the essential choice, and they discovered a man in the Between, comatose, apparently keeping a big enough shadow Open to let the Nile flow into it. The Opener they had with them closed the shadow, and they rescued him. The story ended with more questions (like, how long had he been there and how'd he do that?), but that's how I roll.

Everyone seemed to have fun and a couple of them came and bought the game afterwards, so I'll call that a win. :)

Watch out. They spit. And kill.

 That was Thursday, then. Friday I worked at the booth for a little while in the morning, and then got some lunch with David and Filamena and their kiddos, which was nice. We had to get back for a game of Cold Steel Wardens, which I'd also backed on Kickstarter. No pictures this time, I'd forgotten my camera.

So, Cold Steel Wardens is based on Iron Age comics; Dark Knight Rises, Watchmen, and the kind of grim, grittier superhero stories that we all know and love. Characters, therefore, are supposed to be somewhat darker and willing to, y'know, murder. And that's all fine. I enjoyed the game and I'm looking forward to seeing it finished. I have a few issues, though.

First, the system (roll a dice pool of d10s, 6+ is a "hit", 1s cancel hits) has a lot of what Michelle rightly referred to as "design remnants". Things like 1s cancelling successes, which was a bad idea in OWoD and it's a bad idea in general, because it's a) one more thing to remember and b) makes you worse at things as your pool gets bigger. And the game has a lot of that, little extra fiddly things that could probably be cut in the service of focusing the game a little more. Which leads me to...

...the system doesn't serve the game very well. As is, it's a servicable supers engines, but there's very little in it that marks it as Iron Age. That said, I don't have a suggestion right offhand, but I personally feel that a game's mechanics should reflect what it does, rather that the game engine just being a physics engine and the game's text doing the work of creating the narrative.

Also, some (not all) of the characters we had were too derivative. Michelle's characters was introduced as "basically Rorschach." Well...that's kinda lazy. I mean, "inspired by" is fine, "like," is fine, but for one thing Rorschach is a complete bastard and he's hard to play, and for another, it serves your game better to make up characters that showcase the game well.

That said, my character was pretty cool - former EMT who developed the power of phasing and fought crime as Sawbones, wearing a surgical mask and a trenchcoat. I didn't like a lot of the flaws he was given, but the concept was neat, and lent itself to some fun tactics.

The game was basically "ambush the drug dealers and kill them," so we did that. The GM obviously likes his game, so that's nice. Five demerits for not letting us keep the character sheets, though.

GM's Grade: B

So then I worked the booth for a while, and then went to Games on Demand, hoping to run Demon: The Descent or A Tragedy in Five Acts. Problem was, while there were a lot of players, there were also a lot of GMs, and I wound up without a table. I knocked around a bit trying to find something to do, but in the end decided to stay up in the room with Michelle and watch a movie on Netflix and recharge. That was a smart decision, as it happens.

So then Saturday! I spent a lot of time in the booth on Saturday, as my friends Andrea and Corey got married at Origins (like, it was in the event book and everything), and Michelle and Sarah both wanted to go. I did, however, see Daredevil wandering around (though I assume he didn't see me).

Hooray for Blindy!
During my booth-time, I Tweeted a bit about wanting to run Demon. And lo and behold, someone hit me back and said he was available. I just had a game of CthulhuTech to play first.

Well, actually, no, it got cancelled, so we played Demon: The Descent that evening at the Games on Demand room. The game was fun; the Integrator betrayed everyone and gotten ripped to shreds by the Destroyer and the Psychopomp. And then said Destroyed exploded because he bit the head off an angel right after the angel had activated self-destruct (weird game). 

We finished up fairly early, and wanted to play Pandemic with our amigo and contributor to The Road to Hell on Earth, Jonathan Lavallee. But he was stuck in a game of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, as Rocket Raccoon.  

No, really.
Here's the thing about running Marvel: If your GM is sitting on 5d12 in the Doom Pool for an hour, it's time to fuck off and play Pandemic. So there ya go! We saved the world from disease. You're welcome. 

So then we hung out for a while, chatted about game design and our upcoming cyberpunk game, and then eventually crashed out.

And then Sunday. Sunnnnday.

I had the 9AM shift at Games on Demand again, and once again, lots of players, but lots of GMs. But I wasn't taking it lying down this time, and got a little more assertive about running, and boom! I got to run Demon: The Descent again. Four players, with very different spins on the characters than last time (they also glommed on to Agenda a bit more than the others). One player had to duck out early, so got stuck in a Solitary Confinement caused by a cell phone, but the others destroyed the Infrastructure forming on Port Angelus and then got the heck away before more angels showed up. The fellow on the right in the picture, by the way, is Peter Adkison, who was a lot of fun to play with.

Angels don't tap their feet to the music. Demons do. 
After that, it was all booth all the time until 4PM, when the booth closed and it was time to pack up and head out! We took turns doing some shopping; I picked up swag, which I will show you:


Board games.

Origins was good this year. Our first year with a booth, and so it was expensive. But the gaming was good, we got to hang out with some awesome people, and I'm hoping we can figure a way to get some booth space next year.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie #194: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a weird Jim Jarmusch film (like there's another kind) starring Forest Whitaker, Henry Silva, Camile Winbush, Tricia Vessey, and Isaach De BankolĂ©. I'd only seen it once before, and it improves on a second viewing.

Ghost Dog (Whitaker) is a modern samurai. He lives alone and apart from most people, he tends to his pigeons, trains, maintains his own weapons, and performs assassinations for his master, a mob man named Louie (John Tormey). The main story arc of the movie traces the fall of the modern mob and this modern samurai; Ghost Dog performs a hit (another mob guy who is having an affair with the daughter (Vessey) of the mob boss (Silva)), but after killing him, finds the girl there with him. She gives him a copy of Rashomon, and he leaves, but now the rest of the mob want him dead for killing one of their own.

Ghost Dog then proceeds to kill the rest of them, except for Louie, to whom he remains steadfastedly loyal. The end of the movie sees Louise (Vessey) taking over her dead father's criminal enterprises.

What I did not notice, or maybe just didn't remember, from the last time I saw this movie was the sorry state of the mob. They can't even afford their rent, no one is afraid of them, and they're a bunch of fat, pathetic white dudes in bad suits. The only ones who are remotely competent are still blinded by their own traditions and prejudices; if they had left Ghost Dog alone after he did a job they asked him to do, everyone would still be alive. They lament the changes around them even as they choose death over adaptation.

Meanwhile, Ghost Dog is just as tradition bound, but his own traditions allow for a more zen mindset about the whole thing. When Louie finally shoots him (tying up the last loose end so that Louise can assume power), he unloads his gun, gives his gear to his friend Raymond (De Bankolé), and accepts his fate.

The movie is interspersed with Ghost Dog reading quotes from Hagakure, and the quotes directly translate to what's happening. Likewise, when we see the mobsters, they are intently watching cartoons (mostly classic; Woody Woodpecker and the like, but a couple of Itchy & Scratchy) that tell us what's about to happen in pretty literal terms. Like pretty much everything Jarmusch does, there's layers here, and it's fun to experience it.

I need to mention Camile Winbush, too, who plays Pearrline, a little girl who befriend Ghost Dog and "avenges" him by picking up his unloaded gun and dry-firing it at Louie as he flees Ghost Dog's body. She also takes his copy of Hagakure, implying that she'll follow in his footsteps. I'd watch that sequel.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Ghost in the Machine

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Character Creation: hollowpoint

I do love the little indie games that only do one thing, but they support that one thing mechanically and make it all about that. (I also enjoy more traditional RPGs that do lots of things. Turn, turn turn.)


The Game: hollowpoint
The Publisher: VSCA
Degree of Familiarity: None.
Books Required: Just the one.

I haven't played hollowpoint, though it looks pretty cool. It's basically playing members of the shadowy agency, shooting lots of bullets - high action, high lethality, kinda Tarantino-esque. I can get behind that. Now, the first step in all this is generally to create the Agency - figure out who we work for, why we do what we do and generally what the parameters are (they give reference examples from James Bond, 100 Bullets and G.I. Joe), but honestly I think I can skip that for my purposes. Let's just assume Agency, shadowy governmental or quasi-governmental folks who do bad things what need doin'.

Step One: Rank. I start out at "Agent," so that's easy.

Step Two: Skills. There are six Skills (a game that used supernatural elements, f'rex, might add more, but six basics), and I get 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 to put into them.

I find it useful to think about where my character is weak. So where do I put my zero? I think I'll put it into Terror. My character is just not a scary guy. He's skinny, and kind of frail-looking.

So, likewise, I think Con isn't his strong point. I'll put his 1 there, and his 2 into Take.

Now we're into the competent bits, and I've got Kill, Dig and Cool remaining. I'll put 3 into Cool - he can remain stony under fire. I'll put 4 into Kill, and 5 into Dig. If he wants to know about you, he knows.

Step Three: Name. It's not a real name, anyway, the book assures us. My character's name is Gillette (his first assignment, he had to generate an alias on the fly, panicked, glanced over at a TV playing a razor blade ad and, well, here we are).

I take a little time to flesh out a description, here, too. Gillette is only 5'6''. He's fairly well filled-out, but he's not muscular. He wears his black suit well, but he'll never look as cool as some of the other agents. But that's OK - his kind of cool is more the avuncular, knowledgeable, patient kind. He isn't the sort of agent to engage in acrobatic firefights. He's more the sort to make you realize you've fought your way to a room that's now locked and filling with nerve gas.

Step Four: Traits. Traits are kinda like aspects, they're material things or scars or just things about your character that you can burn to get bonuses. If it's a material thing, it's destroyed when you use it. If it's a scar or whatever, you just don't tell the story again.

The book gives a few different ways to generate them, but the one that works best for my purposes is by Q&A. So.

1) You wear a black suit over a clean white shirt and skinny black tie. No hat and well groomed. Nothing to make you stand out except for a gold wedding band, worn on the right hand. (Gillette was engaged once, but never married. He wears the ring on his right hand because of that.)

2) You don't have a lot of scruples, but you would never kill medical first responders. (Cops are one thing; they're corrupt as hell. EMTs, though, they don't deserve to be collateral damage.)

3) That one time in Utah you took a souvenir, it was a deck of cards with the Mormon Tabernacle on it. (Gillette likes the irony of gambling with Mormon cards.)

4) This is a hard job, but you love it because you get to watch people. (Gillette is a total voyeur.)

5) You're a pro and you know you're a pro because you always clean up after yourself. (If your picture winds up on the news, you did it wrong. In Gillette's case, it's more making sure his investigation doesn't get traced back to him.)

Step Five: Complications. Having a Complication is optional, but c'mon. I'd totally take one, but they have to relate to the mission at hand and I don't have a mission. So actually that puts me done.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How an Angel Dies: Part 4

Wednesday, we played our fourth and probably penultimate session in How an Angel Dies, the SAS for Demon: The Dysphagia. If you want a refresher, last session is here.

So, the first thing we did was spend some experiences. Michelle bought the Fungible Knowledge Embed, and then plugged that into her Cipher (formerly known as Interlock Matrix). Her character experienced an epiphany, and achieved her first Interlock: She can convert her own Skill dots into Willpower, temporarily, to refresh her Willpower pool (so if you're going into a fight and you don't reckon you'll need to know how to whittle, you can convert Crafts to Willpower). She also gained a dot of Primum and gained a permanent glitch: her voice echoes slightly.

Edgar hung out in the lobby as the second act of the ballet progressed, and wound up missing something important (he rolled Perception, failed, took the dramatic failure for a Beat). Whatever that was, though, that let him ask the next question for his Cipher. Now he knew that the next Embed for his Cipher was a) in the Vocal category and b) used Wits. That narrowed it down to one of five. Figuring that Voice of the Machine was the most likely (or at least the most interesting), he spent some experience and bought it, and then, crossing his fingers, tried it in his Cipher.

Success! He, too, gained Primum and a glitch (tattoo of a wristwatch on his wrist; it'll start moving and ticking if he gets temporary glitches), but also his first Interlock: He can divert an angel to another target, which can give him a reprieve or make someone else's life hard. But all of this doesn't help him to figure out what he's missing.

He feels a ping of Aether, as do several of the demons in the house. Will goes out to investigate, but sees nothing. The show ends, and the characters follow the cultists out. Saskia buys the Across a Crowded Room Embed, and attempts to use it, but fails. She takes the dramatic failure for the Beat, and can only whisper for the next hour. She also notices Will's shadow detach itself and slither across the room to attach itself to one of the cultists.

The characters mean to follow the cultists, who go to the parking lot and pile into two cars, but they realize belatedly that they didn't procure a way to do that. Luke hails a cab at the taxi stand, and Jamie uses Lucky Break - it's a checker cab, and those thing seat nine. They also wind up with a cabbie who's a little on the shady side, and totally willing to play "follow those guys."

They ride through town to Bellevue, into Redmond, into a subdivision full of identical, 50s housing. They get out of the cab and follow the cultists to a house in a cul-de-sac, and Amy sneaks up to the window to peak in. Sadly, she fails the Stealth roll and (again) the player takes the DF for the Beat. She doesn't see the cultists...but she sees someone sign at her, "I'll be right out."

They figure (correctly) that he's a demon. He walks out and introduces himself as Simon Flannery. He chats with the characters for a moment, claims not to know Gordon or have any idea what he was up to, and claims that this cult is just an experiment - he wants to push the limits of the time splinters. Will mentions that he wasn't expecting such a polite confrontation, and is a little disappointed (he's a Saboteur through and through); Simon says that, since they've brought this "cult is getting more important" thing to his attention, he'd better go and make sure it doesn't get worse. Edgar asks him what would happen if he stops the ritual now, and Amy uses Freudian Slip, just to see.

Simon snaps, "Then all my hard work would be fucked."

(As an aside, I don't know that Freudian Slip should work on demons, certainly not without a resistance roll of some kind, since it technically forces an honest reaction. Since it was a PC using it on an NPC, however, and since said NPC has kind of a low Cover, I was fine with it. Context, people.)

Anyway, Simon, realizing he's fucked (the characters hadn't really been believing his line anyway), turns around, bursts into demonic form and dives into the ground, phasing into the basement. Will and Edgar both change to demonic form. Edgar crashes through the picture window and runs halfway down the stairs, where he sees the cultists performing their highly stylized ritual. Will smashes through the front door ("OH YEAH!") and gets to the top of the stairs.

Amy changes to demonic form and uses Clairvoyant Sight on Simon, since she's met him. He's surrounded by fire, apparently about to punch upwards. Amy says, "He's in a pit of fire!"

Jamie says, "A pit of fire? You mean the firepit?" and uses Play on Words. They run around to the backyard, where, indeed, Simon is standing in the barbecue pit that houses in this era almost always had, and is looking very confused.

With Blind Sense, Edgar can tell there's a stone slab in the basement, below which is a hollow. He relays this to Will. But then Simon uses Swift Resolution (which is a gamble, because while it ends the conflict, it means he loses because he's clearly outgunned). I got an exceptional success, so I stipulated that the characters couldn't kill him. But they chose to stop him. He changes to human form and holds up his hands.

This could have been the end of it...but then Will decided to get dramatic. He jumps down the stairs and smashes the stone slab in, taking most of the foundation out (using Shatter). And lo, Marchosias was released.

The demon-wolf was apparently trapped beneath the house, an immense, fire-breathing monster. The cultists are already dead, killed by the destroyed of the slab and the backblast from below, but now the beast is free.

Edgar uses his newly acquired Voice of the Machine Embed and learned that the Lambent was incoming - apparently they'd missed their chance to angel-jack.

Saskia uses Combustion to make the stones around Marchosias more flammable, figuring maybe he'd burn himself up. Luke uses Multiple Images (himself now in demonic form) to confuse the demon-wolf, which works; the wolf snaps at them. Edgar and Will get out of the basement, and Marchosias breathes fire. The whole place goes up in an inferno.

Meanwhile, Simon changes back to demon form and takes to the air, using his wings. Amy and Jamie follow, starting a chase.

Marchosias leaps out of the pit, burning and angry. Luke teleports up and tries to grab Simon, but misses. He alters his descent to land on Marchosias, and the demon-wolf yelps like a wounded dog (but otherwise, it growls like a diesel engine). Edgar tries to banish it using what he remembers from The Lesser Key of Solomon, but nothing happens. Saskia spends more experience to buy Solitary Confinement (not an Embed!), and tries to imprison the wolf in an oubliette, but again, fails and takes the dramatic failure. She vanishes into her own little prison-dimension.

Jamie catches up with Simon and grabs him, but he punches her and uses Knockout Punch. She plummets toward the earth, and Amy flies down to catch her, but now Simon is far ahead of them.

Will calls up his Intimidating Aura and roars at Marchosias, and the wolf backs off into the fire and snarls. He's cowed it for the moment, but Simon is gone, Saskia is trapped, Jamie is unconscious, Amy is carrying her, and the Lambent is apparently en route.

Tune in next time, and find out the exciting conclusion of How An Angel Dies!

Movie #193: The Ghost

The Ghost is a 1963 horror movie starring Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin and Elio Jotta. It shares some DNA with House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts (the originals, not the remakes). Like the other two old-timey horror movies we've watched, it's not terrible, but lord, it ain't good.

So, plot: Dr. Hichcock (Jotta) is very ill, and being given a cure for his mystery disease that he himself designed, which involves getting an injection of a poison and then an antidote, administered by his friend and fellow doctor, Livingstone (Baldwin). Sadly, his pretty, young wife (Steele) is banging Livingstone, and wants her husband dead so that she can finally be out from this odious marriage.

So, naturally, one night Baldwin simply doesn't give Hichcock the antidote. He dies, but when it comes time to open his safe and collect his money, the key is missing (key to a safe?). The key turns out to be in his jacket pocket...which he was interred with. They find the key, open the safe, but it's already empty, but then it turns out Livingstone might have stolen it. So Margaret (that's his wife, sorry) goes nuts and stabs Livingstone to death, and then pours a glass of poison...for suicide purposes? Not sure. But then (spoiler alert!) Hichcock turns up, fully cured by his own regimen. Turns out he engineered his own death to catch and kill the lovers, and now he's poisoned Margaret with curare, and is going to flee the country with his loyal assistant and housekeeper (Harriet Medin), but instead he shoots her dead...and drinks the poison that Margaret poured, mistaking it for gin.

So where's the ghost? There isn't one. Hichcock gaslights the lovers a bit by pretending to be a ghost, but mostly the movie is about the relationship between the characters. In that, it's not bad - it's melodramatic and overwrought, but it's fun to heckle and it actually makes a nice game of Fiasco, if you think about it.

My grade: D
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Promethean: End of the Third Story

Last night was, as the title suggests, the end of the third story (Dark Angel/Devil Song) in my Promethean: The Created chronicle, The 7th Angel. So here we go!

The characters were in junkyard, remember. Avalon stayed with the freed captives in the house, Feather was dead, Enoch had gone down into a hole in the junkyard, Matt, Grimm and Skip were with him.

In the hole, Enoch saw the whole cavern lit up with fiber-optic cables. He saw a man there, a man with eyes made of the same thin threads of light. The man told him that this place was a shrine of the Seer (see "The Seer's Pilgrimage" in Magnum Opus), and that he'd be willing to let Enoch see it, but that he couldn't tell the others what he'd seen here.

Enoch asked him to clarify, and the man told him to look down. There was an immense cavern beneath them, a cavern with huge gears that would occasionally link together. The man (?) said that they were too close to output now, and that Enoch couldn't tell the others about the Machine. If he did, the man would rescind whatever knowledge he got. Enoch agreed, and the man gestured and the cables folded in on themselves to reveal pilgrim marks.

Enoch saw a vision of a dark-skinned woman reading them, and then saying, "Of course. Where 'three become one, in a high place.' Obviously." The marks, to Enoch, also were musings on Torment - if you made your home in a place of Torment, would that Torment affect you? Or if you made your home in place while experiencing Torment, would it affect the place?

In the house, the lights went out with a pop and a smell of ozone. Avalon grabbed a flashlight and tried to keep the folks calm.

Meanwhile, up above, the characters felt Azoth call to Azoth - Feather had returned. Matt and Grimm went off to find here, while Skip stayed with Enoch. But then Nergal mentioned there was a ghost about, and Skip headed back to the house to look.

Matt and Grimm found Feather underneath the cars, and helped her climb out. She was sad and somewhat surly, but told them about the death of Red Odell and how he was trying to come back from that death. And then they headed back toward the house. They got there about when Enoch and Skip did, and found the ghost of Byron Odell, Jr. (the younger fellow they'd put in the basement). Feather and Skip tried to talk to him, but when Skip mentioned the people in the basement, he flew into a panic and ran back into the house. They heard glass breaking, and the characters ran into the living room. The big picture window was broken - and that was right over where the captives had been sitting.

The characters ran in, and the ghost whipped around and flung the glass at them. Feather went past the ghost, picked up one of the captives, and took them outside through the broken window. Skip punched the ghost, but didn't do much damage. Avalon used Suggestion on him and calmed him, and Skip grappled him.

They managed to get him calm and rational, as the other folks entered. He revealed that he'd electrocuted himself in the basement, because he didn't want to be left holding the bag for what his father had done. (Enoch's approach allowed him to Regain Willpower through his Virtue, which was a milestone.) The characters felt maybe a twinge of remorse, and told him that he wasn't to blame for his father's crimes - his father was a monster, and he'd only been a kid. Byron revealed that a few years ago, he'd seen a black woman hide in the junkyard after an altercation with his father, but hadn't told Red (he didn't want the lady to be locked up in the basement, and figured if she got away she'd bring the police). She'd driven down from Trindad, he said.

Enoch realized that "Trinidad", a town north of Truth or Consequences, could very easily be "where three become one." He asked the boy if he wanted to pass on, but Byron wasn't quite ready to do that yet. He asked the characters to find out if the woman made it out OK, and then sank through the floor into the basement. The characters thought they heard chains rattle.

The captives had been wanting police intervention, and Feather walked with one of them around to the back and found Red's truck and the CB radio (there were other cars that might have worked, but the Prometheans used up all the batteries healing last time). They called for help, and then went back to the captives. They explained that they really shouldn't be there when the cops arrived (and again, one of the captives seemed to get it), so they climbed the fence and left, driving away in their van.

They stopped by a transformer and healed up, and then thought about heading back to the trailer park, but Feather wisely pointed out that this would potentially bring scrutiny on the other folks who lived there. They agreed, and instead headed for Trinidad.

As they approached the city, they saw Fisher's Peak looming in the distance. "A high place where three become one..." that seemed likely.

Arriving there, they stopped at a thrift shop. Avalon and Enoch, since they weren't shot and therefore had no bullet holes in their clothes, went in and bought clothes for the others. Avalon also found a lone encyclopedia volume (which was an Aspiration for her), as well as an old "Hike New Mexico!" book, and some beat-up backpacks. With their last few dollars, they bought some cheap food (dog food, maybe), and then found a place to start their hike.

I just kind of glossed over the process of getting up the trail, because if there is a trail, then a bunch of Prometheans should have no trouble with it. They got up to the peak, which is really a plateau. Skip looked for a ghost, as did Avalon (by means of Tainted Azoth). Feather, Matt and Enoch meditated (Elpis). Grimm used Sense Pyros.

Grimm felt Pyros in abundance, gathering like storm clouds. Feather, focusing on her recently regained memory of the flood in New Orleans and saving her young charge, but not the boy's mother, saw herself standing in rage against the river...and winning. Yes, the river spilled onto the banks and did some damage, but it was unable to staunch her fury. Matt, again, saw the bright light, and saw himself not looking away. And Enoch, looking for his creator...saw her. (As did Skip and Avalon - she's a ghost.)

She appeared naked and beautiful, a mother goddess in the setting sun. She told them her name was Astira, and seemed pleased to see Enoch (whom she called "Valentine"). She told them she'd created him because she'd wanted to bring life into the world, but found she couldn't. Her way had been fraught with difficulty and pain, and in the end, she hadn't lived to get down off the mountain - but Enoch had, and that was what was important.

They talked, and the characters added their own tidbits (Matt apologized again to Feather for killing her). And then Grimm, who'd been quiet up to this point, informed them that there was a storm of Pyros coming. Astira told Enoch she loved him, kissed his forehead and vanished, but did apologize, saying that what was coming was not of her doing. "You are all in a web that would make Anansi proud," she told them, "and I hope that you get out again." Enoch achieved a milestone (Find his Birthplace).

She vanished, and a bright light appear. It burned their eyes (but Matt stared into it), and a booming voice asked Enoch: "What are the angels?"

"They're the ones who love us," he replied.

The light asked him to clarify, and he said, "She made me because she couldn't have a child. The angels are the ones that bring us here, that create us" (meaning demiurges).

The light didn't respond...but the firestorm started. It immediately blinded Feather, Enoch and Grimm, and damaged the others with flung stones. Avalon tried to keep everyone together, but Matt walked into the light (making a milestone: Stare at the Firestorm Without Looking Away). Feather, angry and saddened over her death (and, y'know, drinking from the River of Woe), entered Torment.

The others felt her rage, and backed off. The winds whipped Matt and Enoch off the mountain. Feather, having made a milestone (Succumb to Torment) whirled around and punched Skip...and used the Bludgeon Transmutation, stunning him. The winds flung him off the mountain, and his Azoth faded. Avalon led Grimm back to the trail, where the Firestorm ceased to have any effect (and she made a milestone: Survive the Firestorm Without Taking Aggravated Damage). Feather pounded the ground in rage, and the winds took her, too.

The characters found each other, later on, Grimm tracking them all down. They never found Skip, nor did he return. Feather, who had no memory of her frenzy, asked where he was.

By the time she'd hit him, Enoch and Matt had been flung off the mountain. Grimm had been blinded. Only Avalon had seen the truth. "He flew away," she said, and left it at that.

The throng decided to head north, to Denver. Some snow would be nice.

As usual, we're going to take some time off and play something else, but I wanted to note this idea I had:

At a ski resort; probably get them there by having the van break down and have them hitch a ride on a bus there. Young folks there skiing, probably some folks getting married, because I want to have this be Avalon's story, so we want love triangles and whatnot. And maybe werewolves, since there are some of those in Denver. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

End of the first Op (Night's Black Agents)

Last night, as the title suggests, we finished the first op. It was...not the way I expected the ending to go, but that's not a bad thing. Check it.

The characters went to Osijek, deciding to be proactive and do a little digging into a man they knew was involved, Dr. Radovan Macan. They rented a house amidst a bunch of student housing, and got to work. They learned that Macan had been at the university since 1976 (it was founded in 1975), and that he worse his age extremely well. He had, when he first got there, made his bones doing research into the effects of x-rays on soft tissue, but he hadn't done much of note since then...which was weird, because he also wasn't a clinical doctor, and he only taught one course a semester. Hanover hacked his bank account, and found that he had a lot of money saved up...but it wasn't from sordid sources. He just barely spent any.

Lockwood hacked his school account, but there wasn't much there, either. He seldom used email to communicate, and most of the incoming was from his students (asking for clemency). The agents realized that  to figure this out, they would need to do physical investigation.

So, they tailed him for a few days, and his habits were...odd. He left his apartment very early in the morning, always accompanied by two men. A third man joined them as they walked to the university. They'd go into his lab (which was windowless and required keycard entry), and then work all day. If he had a class to teach, he'd do that, but the men apparently stayed in the lab.

Lockwood took a cover as a student, and sat through a couple of his classes. He was cold, formulaic, and brusque, and the students knew better than to ask him questions, because he didn't call on them in class and his office hours are "by appointment only." It was pretty obvious he wanted to be back at work. He had a grant from a medical company, and was supposedly doing research on x-ray effects on blood. The medical company, based in Paris, was called Tasse Medical.

He'd stay in his lab until the building closed, and then he and the three men would walk home. But one of the men would leave, while he and the other two went upstairs...and it was never the same one two nights in a row. Upstairs, his light stayed on until late into the night; he apparently only slept a couple of hours a night.

The next night, the characters figured they'd better do some tailing. So Rousseau and Hanover followed the third man as he left the good doctor and the other two, while David and Lockwood broke into his lab.

Getting into the lab wasn't hard, but it was strange. The lab had multiple x-ray machines from across the decades in various stages of repair. Lockwood figured he was trying to miniaturize it, making a collar that shot x-rays directly into the neck...but why? That wasn't safe at all. They also found a refrigerated room, and several blood bags, all sent from a lab in Paris and shipped by a man named Luc Lemarque. David read the research, and realized that these blood trials involved putting some kind of nutrient into the blood - but apart from acting as a slight preservative, he wasn't sure what it would do. For the recipient, it seemed like "very little." The company sending the blood looked like a small testing facility, so it wasn't Tasse directly, though Tasse might farm out the testing to the place.

Meanwhile, Rousseau and Hanover followed the man into the red light district, and watched as he approached a prostitute. Hanover positioned himself so he could watch them go into an alley, while Rousseau hung back to overwatch. Hanover saw the man push the girl's head against the wall...and then he bit her throat. Hanover watched in horror as he drained her dry, then picked her up (holes in the throat clearly visible, but oddly not gushing blood) and tossed her casually into a dumpster. Hanover fell back, collected Rousseau, and met with the group back at the house.

Showing the pictures around, they started to put the pieces together. The men with Macan had shown up as missing people, but they'd gone missing in red light districts from cities "serviced" by Hi-Klass Escorts. The escort service was involved in human trafficking, from as far away as France...which was where the blood samples were coming from. The blood nutrients (which the players nicknamed "Bloody-Os") would do very little for the people holding the blood, but to a vampire drinking the blood, it might be of benefit. The agents realized that this all went much higher than Macan himself.

Hanover was ready to bug out and get clear of this, but the others weren't sure if they could. They looked into recent news stories, and found that a corpse per night had been found since a couple of days after their incident at the train station (where they'd first seen Macan). They decided to get more data. They had bugged and camera'd Macan's lab, and broke into his apartment to do the same.

The place was sparse, but had stacks of books, mostly from the library. Macan apparently read everything he could get his hands on. His kitchen had cheap, bulk-available food (oatmeal, ramen), and a blood bag in the from the lab. Several more empty ones were found in the trash. The bedroom looked used, but the spare bedroom had a big, industrial-grade air conditioner, and showed signs of being duct-tape sealed from the outside - odd.

That night, the characters watched the footage. Macan and the two men went upstairs (the third walked on, apparently on the hunt - Macan was rotating these people). They got upstairs, and Macan handed the men the blood bag. One drank half, the other drank the rest, not spilling a drop. Macan led them into the spare room, turned on the air conditioner, and taped up the room. And the men just sat there. All night.

Macan himself made a bowl of oatmeal and read until 3AM, and then went to bed. Not a word was spoken all night.

Suitably creeped out, the characters put together a few more pieces. The three men seemed to be bodyguards, maybe test subjects? Clearly they were vampires; they had the same body language as the men at the train station and in Budapest, so they were strong and fast. But why the cold? Maybe they rotted if they got too warm? And then what was Macan? He was clearly strange, but they'd never seen him drink blood.

Hanover started hacking again, looking to trace Hi-Klass' money. He traced it to a Russian bank, and then to a bank in Vienna, and then to a London shell company, and then to the Isle of Man...just like when he was hunting down the money they'd been paid with for the Lennart job. But when he tried to track it back further, the security came down (again), and he realized he'd been made. He told the others, and they swiftly packed up and left, heading to their second safe house (which, with Preparedness, they'd already set up).

A little annoyed at Hanover, they watched as two SUVs with tough-looking Russian men with guns got out and checked their old place. That was fast, but on the other hand, no vampires that they saw. Separate issues?

They watched Macan during the day, and when he and the three men got to school, he put them into his fridge-room there, where they sat, silently, all day. He worked in his lab, and took a call at one point. The characters didn't get much from the call, just "Yes. No." But then, "Yes, they might still be in town. I don't know. We can't keep this up. I can't keep up three for too long. I do need more, send me twenty."

The "more" he was talking about was, presumably, blood bags, since he was out. And apparently this conspiracy involves the Russian mob, up to a point, as well. The characters decided to do a little experiment. They broke into his apartment again, and Rousseau rigged the air conditioner to switch to heat at about 3:30AM. They all stayed up to watch, and when that happened, the men grew uncomfortable and pounded on the wall. Macan undid the tape, winced at the heat, and yanked the plug from the wall (prompting the agents to note that the vampires weren't very bright). He then opened the air conditioner's machinery, but Rousseau had covered her tracks well enough that it looked like a malfunction. He fixed it, and went back to bed.

The characters discussed blowing up his lab with the vampires in it, but they reasoned that if they did that, it would tip their hand to the larger conspiracy, and the only real advantage they had at this point was the intel they had ahead of the conspiracy. As such, while taking a loud approach might be satisfying (and save some lives), it really wasn't worth the risk. (And here we see Drives come into play; rather, we see which Drives they characters don't have.) They decided to bug out, go to Hanover's cabin in the Alps, rest up, train, and then go to Paris and look into Luc Lemarque and Tasse Medical.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's that time again - game prep!

Holy cats. Lots of gaming this week. I'm running Night's Black Agents tonight, Promethean: The Created on Monday, Demon: The Diatribe on Wednesday, and Interface Zero on Saturday.

Now, I don't need to do prep for Demon, 'cause it's already done (beyond rereading what's already happened). I do need to prep Interface Zero, but mostly that means I need to read the pdf, and that's not happening today. That leaves the other two, yeah? Let's gooooo!