Wednesday, January 1, 2014

House of Cards: The King of Cats

I ran House of Cards once before, and since I had a Monday free for a one-shot and +Sarah wanted to played it again, here we are.

  • Toasty played Jasper Reed, the Tower-Bearer. Jasper is a motivational speaker who tries to get his listeners to change things up, regardless of what that means for them. Correspondences: chaos, revelation, elements, fear, transformation. 
  • Glen played Everett Robar, the Judgement-Bearer. Everett is a judge in the fair town of Providence. Correspondences: final word, law, strong arm, fair, brass. 
  • Sarah played Allyson Dietrich, the Star-Bearer. Allyson is trying to become a published novelist, but hasn't quite broken through yet. Correspondences: fantasy, idolatry, totems, writer, "don't stop believing."
  • Cheyenne played Meredith, the Strength-Bearer. She's a corporate lawyer. Correspondences: persuasiveness, might, forte, backbone, monster. 
  • Matt played Sam, the Justice-Bearer. He's an ADA in the same courthouse as Everett. Correspondences: balance, truth, reckoning, cops, law. 

We start out at the end of the day in October. Allyson is in a coffee shop across from the courthouse (it's called the Black Cat, has the famous picture on the wall). Sam, Everett and Meredith are in the courthouse, and Jasper is finishing up his gig in town and heading to get a bite to eat and perhaps a cup of coffee. 

The game is set in Providence, Rhode Island. There have been cat problems lately - the feral cat population has just exploded, and even house cats are getting aggressive. Also in the news, a zookeeper at the Roger Williams Zoo (which does not actually have tigers, but go with me, here) recently mauled a keeper named Rhea Higgins. So when Sam sees a cat in the courthouse, as he's packing up his papers and everyone else has left, he feels a twinge of nervousness. 

He looks for the cat, but hears another one behind him. He looks behind the judge's bench, but nearly trips over a large black cat. He picks it up, but it lunges at him. He jerks out of the way and nearly wangs his head, but manages to avoid any real damage. Everett, in his chambers, hears this and comes to investigate.

The two Bearers see lots of cats in the courthouse. Sam activates Dream-Sense, and sees that many of the cats are creatures of eir (magic). The characters back up into the judge's chambers and lock the door, but the cats have appeared behind them. The cats leap, claws out, toward Sam, but Everett uses Evocation to summon a sword and cuts several of them into raw eir. They decide to call Meredith and meet over at the coffee shop - something is obviously up. 

They enter the coffee shop and spot Allyson, and inform her and Meredith of the action. Allyson uses Dream-Sense and sees that the Beyond of this area has become a deep, dark cave...and something is lurking under her chair, something with a big, lion-like tail. She uses Evocation (seriously, how did I miss this power last time I ran this? Because it's hella useful) to summon up some sparkly lights and sprinkles them by the chair, and a paw appears, starting at housecat size, then growing to lion, and then "holy shit, what is that?" size before disappearing under the chair again.

Outside, Jasper stops his car just in time to avoid hitting a cat. He notes he's near a coffee shop, parks and goes in. Since Allyson has Dream-Sense active, she recognizes him as the Tower-Bearer, and points this out to the others. Allyson decides to engage this cat directly, goes into the bathroom, and uses Mirror Walk to step across. 

Meredith, meanwhile, figures maybe a mundane cat would be safer. She buys a tuna sandwich, goes outside with Sam, and puts a bit of tuna on the ground. It doesn't take long before a kitty scampers up, and starts nibbling. And then the other cats slip up behind Sam and jump him. The characters notice, however, and Meredith grabs the sandwich board from outside and smashes the leaping cats with it, using her Mighty Feat power, and shatters the board, dispersing the cats.

Allyson steps across, along with Everett and Jasper, and finds the big cat. It acts threatening at first, but Jasper summons up rain and lightning with Evocation and pushes it back a bit. They talk with it, but the cat is maddeningly vague (as cats are wont to be), but does say that when the Justice-Bearer falls, the cats will enjoy a meal sweeter than they have known in a long time. Pressed, it reveals its master as "a duelist, a duelist." Everett thinks for a moment, and then remembers that this is the way Mercutio describes Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet - and he also calls Tybalt the King of Cats. 

They all go back into the coffee shop, and figure that they're looking for a Comte or some other nightmare-court creature. But where to start? They figure the woman who was mauled has something to do with this, so they go to the hospital and Allyson talks her way in. They speak to Rhea, who's pretty hopped up on pain meds. They also check the local Beyond, which has become a huge, overgrown jungle, complete with snarling beasts in the underbrush. 

Rhea tells them that the tiger had never shown any inclination toward hurting people before, but this time it laid in wait for her and bit her hand and face. They asked if she'd been dreaming of jungles, and she said she had, and described the jungle. That pretty much explained the transformation of the Beyond into that - she was dreaming in fear and her mind was altered by the drugs. But the characters figured they needed to see that tiger. 

They headed to the zoo and bullshitted their way in (lawyers can bullshit like no one else). The guard let them in to look at the tiger's enclosure (no tiger there now), but there was nothing special, just some lingering bloodstains in the Beyond. They went and saw the actual tiger, now in a cage in the zoo's clinic, and Jasper stepped into the Beyond to see if the tiger was chatty there. As it happened, it was, but at that point Jasper provoked a Shuffle. 

The zoo guard passed out. The lights went out. The tiger, in the Beyond, changed into a slender man in a grey cloak - the King of Cats. The King revealed that what it wanted was to Reverse the Justice-Bearer, so that it could break the Oath of Breath. The previous King of Cats, it seems, had sworn that cats would not drink the breath of people, but this King wanted that power back. Sam, thinking quickly, said that perhaps a new agreement could be reached, and he'd be happy to adjudicate that. That would, obviously, be the easier path (and the King being a cat, he agreed to that). 

They all trooped back to the hospital; to make this work, a human being needed to be present, and they liked the symmetry of having Rhea be the human. In the Beyond, they agreed on the terms - cats would be allowed to drink the last breath of a given person, but they would not be allowed to harm people in order to drink it. The King also agreed to get rid of toxoplasmosis gondii, since no one liked that. Jasper agreed, too, to become a cat and live out the rest of his days as the Tower-Bearer in cat form (this was all negotiated with Jasper as the advocate for humanity and Meredith as counsel for the King of Cats). 

In the end, it was agreed. Jasper became a black cat identical to the one that Sam had seen in the courthouse, and the King vanished into the Beyond, presumably to spread the good news to his subjects.