Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Promethean: Off the Devil's Dance Floor

Let's see if I can get this done before I have to leave for work.

So, last time, the characters were out on the mountainside, met the wolves, and then headed back to the lodge. Sneaking in, Grimm, Avalon and Feather all felt guilty enough about stealing the snowmobiles that they experienced breaking points; they succeeded, but got a Condition out of it (Drive, Guilty, and Guilty, respectively). Feather also got an exceptional success sneaking in and put the Silent Condition on the lodge, which kept everyone else asleep.

Avalon crept upstairs and peaked in on Leslie and Madison, but they were asleep and seemed fine. She did note, though, that her clocked ticked louder as she approached, so she set it down in the hallway while she checked. Satisfied with that, she (and the others) went to bed...and dreamed.

Matt dreamed of being an angel, flying over a cityscape, but then his body shifted and he was just a skeleton, and he turned and flew out over a desert.

Enoch dreamed of the wedding, and all of the characters watching (except Feather was officiating). It all went fine, but then everyone got up and went to the reception, and as the door to the reception open, Enoch could hear the deafening ticking of a huge clock.

Avalon dreamed of the reception. Everyone was dancing in frenzy, so hard that the flailed and hit each other, and made each other bleed. She heard the "beat" of the music as a ticking clock, too.

Grimm dreamed of everyone standing on the balcony overlooking mountain, and being attacked by a huge, clockwork monster, which knocked them off onto the mountain.

The next morning, Miguel and Denise woke them up for preparations for the wedding! Matt went outside to clear the sidewalks, Enoch, Grimm and Feather started setting up, and Avalon got to work doing hair and makeup. She did everything really nicely, and Stephanie, the maid of honor, caught her after she left and wrote her a check (Serena, she said, was too frazzled, but she wanted to make sure that Avalon knew she was appreciated).

Miguel came and found Grimm, and asked about the snowmobiles. Grimm lied and said he didn't know what had happened, but offered to help track them. Since Miguel didn't want to tell Ferdinand (who was already stressed), he agreed. They headed up the mountain, and Grimm steered him away from the edge of the mountain where they'd lost the first snowmobile.

Inside, Olly caught Avalon and asked her to come back with him to Boulder (clearly in the late stages of Disquiet). Avalon said that maybe she could, but she needed to focus on the wedding. Olly showed her his sketchbook - he'd filled it. With pictures of her. Some of which showed her disfigurements. Avalon, taken aback and mournful that someone she genuinely liked had fallen so far into Disquiet, thanked him and got back to work.

Outside, Grimm saw something move in the trees. Miguel saw it, too, and moved forward, whispering something under his breath. Grimm turned on Sensitive Ears and heard him: "Ni-zu tag?" He didn't recognize the language, though. "Ni-zu tag? Mennina?"

Something reached out to grab Miguel, but Grimm shot its hand (making a milestone: shoot to incapacitate). The thing that stepped out from behind a tree looked like a man in skiing gear and a sun visor. It asked Grimm what he had done, and what he was doing here, and why he'd left the snowmobiles at the top of the mountain, but Grimm's answers didn't seem to answer his question. He started walking down the hill - on top of the snow - and told Grimm his gun wouldn't hurt him.

Grimm helped Miguel up, and Miguel confronted him about the snowmobiles. Grimm confessed, and said how they'd gotten back down, and that one of the snowmobiles was trashed. Miguel said he had someone he could call, and walked out onto the mountain to get reception. Grimm listened in, and Miguel called someone up and asked if he could go to the mountaintop and bring down the snowmobiles. He also told the voice on the phone about the mysterious wolves in the woods, and about the strange people at the resort (presumably the characters), whom he initially thought were duguthim. The voice on the phone asked if they needed to investigate, and Miguel said, "your call."

On the way back down, Grimm talked to Miguel about it, saying that they were apparently both not really normal. Miguel revealed that he had family who were werewolves, and Grimm advised that they not follow the characters. Miguel said that as long as the characters weren't violating sacred places, they'd be fine.

Matt, meanwhile, had been sent to sweep off the balcony. Looking out at the mountain, he saw a man walking down the snow.

Inside, Avalon went to her room after her talk with Olly, pulled out her clock, and struck it on the side of the bed.

The man on the mountain started running. Matt headed downstairs to dress to go out and confront him (having seen that he didn't leave footprints).

Feather and Enoch heard the crash and came to find Avalon. They found her as she smashed the clock into pieces.

The man on the mountain collapsed. Miguel and Grimm caught up with him, and there was nothing left but clothes. Matt came out to meet them and they explained what they had seen. They went inside, Miguel tending to business and Grimm and Matt joining the others. Ferdinand met them on the way in, though, and Matt overheard him tell Miguel to keep his eye on Avalon. Worrisome.

Inside, Avalon found a tiny piece of the clock, a circle of metal, with some strange symbol etched on it. Grimm knew it wasn't a Pilgrim Mark, but beyond that, no one was sure (Avalon actually did use Translator's Eye, but we never resolved that and I think I'll save it.)

Ellie knocked on the door and told them it was time to get ready. She let them borrow some clothes from her and Ferdinand (since the characters weren't traveling with wedding clothes). Avalon asked her if she had anything sparkly, and her response was strange and suspicious; when she left the room, she didn't take her eyes off Avalon.

The characters talked about their situation. Matt mentioned what he'd heard Ferdinand say, and Enoch explained that Disquiet, as it worsens, becomes contagious. Everyone was getting infected with Olly's Disquiet. They discussed Avalon skipping the wedding, but Enoch noted that doing so might be more distracting for everyone, and make them more suspicious.

So they all went to the wedding. Miguel officiated, talking about how the whole weekend had been a series of adapting to situations - Avalon taking over for the hair/makeup person, Miguel taking over for the officiate, the PCs taking over for other staff. But they'd coped, and that was a pretty good lesson for marriage in a complex world - what you get isn't always what you want or what you'd planned. At this point he turned it over to Babhi and Serena, who said their vows, and then kissed, and then on to the reception (and a milestone for Avalon: attend a wedding).

The reception began, and everyone danced! Matt went into the middle of the dance floor to show off for the girls in the wedding party. He used Pyros to raise his Presence, but used Refined Masquerade to hide it, and in doing so made a milestone (Use all Transmutations).

Olly found Avalon again, and repeated his request for her to come to Boulder with him. They talked about her and her creator, and he talked about having a muse - someone who inspired such creativity in him. "Someone loved you enough to bring you to life," he said, and Avalon wept, because she couldn't know how much was Olly and how much was the Disquiet. In the end, she said she'd see him in the morning, and retreated to her room.

Enoch, tending bar, talked to Leslie. Leslie said that last night he'd had a headache unlike anything he'd ever felt - like his head was on fire - and then suddenly it cleared up. Enoch, figuring that was when Feather had punched the cave wall - said to take care of himself. And then Enoch, wondering where Avalon was (and not seeing Olly, either), mentally animated Fluffy and sent him to peek in on Avalon (making a milestone: send Fluffy to spy on one of the throng). Seeing that she was OK, Fluffy knocked, and Enoch talked to Avalon through Fluffy, saying that this was unfortunately one of the rigors of being a Promethean - and that the road was supposed to be hard.

Grimm found Miguel, and gave him his copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Miguel, touched, gave Grimm a piece of advice: If he ever met a werewolf and things got tense, he should ask ni-zu tag? ("What are you hunting?"). It wouldn't work on all werewolves, but it was a shot.

Feather also found Miguel, and confessed to the snowmobile incident (resolving her Guilty Condition). She also said that the characters needed to go, tonight, if possible. Miguel said that the roads were improving, and they could use his car - just park it at the post office in Manitou Springs and leave the keys in the glove box. She agreed, and got to rounding up the others.

Matt went and found Ferdinand, and said they were leaving. Ferdinand wrote him a check for their work, and Matt nearly refused it, but decided to hold onto it (he didn't know Avalon had been paid, and the characters needed another car anyway).

With that, they all piled into Miguel's car. Miguel told them what to watch for on the roads, and Enoch gave him a card with his contact info and told him to give it to Olly (on the assumption that Olly was going to follow this through and attempt to create a Promethean). And then they headed down the mountain. Mid-way down, they found the wolves blocking their path. The wolves called for Avalon, and asked her: "What are the angels?"

Tearfully, Avalon said, "They're the ones we leave behind."

The wolves merged into one wolf, and told them that, just as they were wolves-but-not-wolves, the not-angels the characters might have encountered were, in some respects, angels, but not from the character's perspective. And with that rather cryptic bit of insight, the wolf vanished, leaving the characters to head back down the mountain, the music from the reception playing from the lodge.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Character Creation: Perfect Unrevised

Taking a break from Demon writing to make a character.

The Game: Perfect, Unrevised
The Publisher: Buried Without Ceremony
Degree of Familiarity: None. Read it, looks interesting.
Books Required: Just the one.

Written by +Avery Mcdaldno (formerly Joe Mcdaldno) the same genius that gave us Monsterhearts (which, as you may know, I am currently running), Perfect, Unrevised is a kind of steampunky, Victorian-ish, dystopia in which characters live under a strict quasi-Puritanical monarchy. Well, kind of monarchy. The queen is dead, and her last admonition (supposedly) was for everyone to be like her. That is, chaste, pure, polite, sinless. Religious observation is mandatory, education, like everything else, is strictly regulated, and selling flowers can get you electroshocked. You could do Dishonored in this game without much difficulty.

Characters are criminals, but it's easy to be a criminal because so much is a crime. The game is divided into four repeating scenes. I like games like that; the only problem I tend to have is that they focus on one character at a time, but history (Ganakagok, for one) has shown that doesn't have to be the case.

So, let's make me a criminal. We start with a name; there's an approved list, which Inspectors in Cadence (our fictional country) will always use, even if my character uses a nickname. I go with Ransom Thorley.

Next we do Archetypes. They don't have a direct game effect beyond firming up a concept, but I could use that right now. What's Ransom's deal? Let's do Idealist and Leader. Ransom commits crimes because he knows that freedom is the desired state, and getting free is just a matter of getting people to claim freedom.

And then Concept. This is a one-sentence description of who my character is, his occupation, and why he commits crimes. So let's say "gentle, kind teacher who tries to inspire his students to claim their freedom."

Class and Waistcoat. My class determines the color of the waistcoat I'm allowed to wear. Based on the descriptions of the Classes, I think it's pretty clear Ransom is a Lesser, and wears a red waistcoat.

Freedoms: These are weird. They're laws I'm allowed to break, but they come with a price. I can choose two, so I'll pick the Freedom of Privacy (I can ask Inspectors to leave my house, but I cannot invite people in) and Freedom of Observation (I can enter buildings freely, but I cannot touch anything). Note that "can't" means "am not legally allowed to" - I'm a criminal, after all.

Certifications: My day job, basically, what I'm allowed to do. I already know I want Teacher's Hegemony (I educate the young), but I get two. I'll also be a Sentinel - I'm what passes for a journalist. And hey, that means I can teach the codes to the kids and then send them coded messages in the papers. Win-win.

Resources and Contacts: Resources are advantages I can use in play, but at chargen it's just a number. I can have 0, 1, or 2 Contacts, and given my character's somewhat social bent, I'll go with 2. So I get 5 Resources, and two Contacts rated +1 each, which I need to name and define a bit. I'll Delphine, my best student, and "Corvus," a code-breaker.

And then I get 3 Aspects, which can be memories, skills, personality traits and tools. I can use them to re-roll failed actions, but once they're gone, they're gone (much like traits in hollowpoint). I'll take soothing voice (personality trait), chalk dust in the air (memory), and personal code (tool).

And that's it! I don't start with a secret society, and everything else is in-play kind of things. I see Ransom as either being betrayed by his students (maybe not deliberately) and getting carted off for reeducation, or actually succeeding in inciting a revolt and watching in horror as it gets violently quelled.

Hey, it's a dark game. I like those.

Actually Playing Better Angels (ep. 2)

Yesterday was Better Angels, so +Sarah Dyer brought little candies to use for the dots on the sheet and away we went!

Last session, which was a while ago, the characters fought an angel-bearer (killed him, really) and saw a magic gold fiddle vanish. We pick up here in the direct aftermath. Livi is on her way home, walking with her parents. Gary is taking the car he stole to a chop shop. Arvo and Willa are hanging around the park, watching the police work and looking for evidence of what happened. See, a Hellbinder died, too, but when a Hellbinder dies, the demon cooks down into an amulet.

Willa uses Dead Ringer to turn into an EMT and goes to check the body. No amulet; she does steal the guy's wallet, though. She wakes up Baal and the demon looks about, but doesn't sense anything - other than Nidhogg, hiding out in Avro's body. Willa goes to talk to him, and they flirt/threaten a little before coming to the conclusion that both the amulet and the fiddle are valuable assets and they should maybe work together.

Livi slips away from her parents ("I dropped my Ring Pop!") and goes scampering back. She gets turned away by the police as she approaches the body, but recognizes Willa and Avro and talks to them. She agrees that if they find the fiddle, they can share it, and she'll go first, but her big brother Toby doesn't get a turn (because fuck that guy). Livi's parents retrieve her and they start walking home again.

Meanwhile, Gary takes the stolen car to the chop shop. His fence tries to haggle him down, and Gary's attempts to resist are kind of fruitless, so he uses Psychic Object to produce a certification for the car that it's a custom job or one of a kind or something valuable in car-speak. The fence agrees and pays him, and Gary heads back to UGA, where he lives in a dorm.

Which is coincidental, because Willa has discovered that the dead ex-Hellbinder was an anthropology prof at UGA, named John Calhoun. She heads out there, and meets Gary walking across campus with a case of beer. Avro is following behind, remaining unobtrusive. Gary and Willa decide they'll try and get into Calhoun's office and see if he left anything of interest behind in his office.

Meanwhile, Livi is walking home with her parents. She passes by the Greater Vine Baptist Church, and sees four guys carrying a very heavy, but very small object out of the church to the trunk of a car. She figures this might be the gold fiddle, and wakes up her demon, Glasya-Labolas. He confirms that the object could indeed be the gold fiddle. She decides that she could take it, and the demon activates her Giant aspect (she initially fails in her attempt to take animal form, but succeeds on the second try, which is good, because her parents don't need to see her giant-ized). The dudes see the giant Komodo dragon and panic. Three get into the car and peel out, while one draws a gun and fires.

Livi, in dragon-form, stomps at the car trying to disable it, but misses. The guy shoots at her and screams to her parents (who are probably wondering if this thing just ate their daughter) to save themselves. Livi swipes at the guy, and then bites him a few times and drops him in the street, bloodied and injured, and wanders off home.

Back on campus, Willa and Gary go into the anthropology building. Gary talks a TA into opening Calhoun's office (using Psychic Object to produce a note), and then Willa uses Dead Ringer to impersonate the late professor and joins Gary in the office. They search a bit, and find some journal entries that Calhoun made when he first took on his demonic guest, a creature called Davros. He also has some sketches of his outfit as the villain "Ravenous." But nothing about the fiddle specifically. Gary finds an appointment he made at a business near the park; it stands to reason he might have been there when the craziness went down.

Avro, watching outside, sees three uniformed police officers and a detective approaching. Since he and Willa exchanged information, he calls her and warns her. Gary leaves the office, looking like a student. Willa, deciding she'd better not look like the dead professor, drops her guise and becomes herself.

The cops arrive, and question Willa. She tries to lie and say that she and the prof had a date, but the detective is suspicious, especially when the TA shows up again and says the prof was here a few seconds ago. The detective, realizing that they might have a metamorph on their hands, has a cop take Willa's ID and go try and see if she was at the park earlier. Willa talks the cop into letting her go to the bathroom, and then Dead Ringers into another woman, slips out, and tries to seduce the cop with her ID. It doesn't go especially well; the dice weren't cooperating at all. Finally she manages to make a deal with the cop (Cloven Hooves), and agree that he'll let her escape, but be a hero in the process. She changes back into herself, and they lead her out. Gary follows.

Outside, they take her to their cars. Arvo, now invisible, waits until they've put her in the back (the cop slips Willa the cuff keys and leaves the door slightly open), and then uses Wither to destroy the engines. The cops leap out, and the detective calls for backup.

Arvo, still invisible, shoves the detective to the ground. Gary, at this point, uses his Dominator Strike power and blasts three of the cops, injuring them and killing the detective. Willa slips out of the car and Baal uncases her Wings. She grabs at the cop's gun, but fails (again), and the cop shoots at Gary, using the Master Die he got from Willa. This, sadly, allows her to reduce his Open automatically, and Gary, now Winged himself, dive-bombs the cop (in an agreement with his demon, Mammon) and slices him up.

He looks up at Willa and says, "You said I'd be a hero." She replies, "Oh, you will be," and flies off.

Two cops remain. Willa grabs one up and drops him in traffic, and Gary body-checks the other into a car. Avro Withers his arm off, killing him in shock, and the demons fly away from the murder-scene.

(Obviously, we had some Cruelty increases.)

Livi, meantime, goes up to her treehouse. Her parents arrive, slightly injured (I like the collateral damage optional rule!) and check on her. She's got some blood around her mouth (from where she bit the dude), but she's otherwise OK.

Later, she sneaks her parents' phone and calls Willa, explaining what she saw. Willa figures she can find the church.

Avro goes back to the Olympic Park, and sees another Hellbinder hanging around, a hippie with dreads and a feral affect. She tells him that she's looking for the fiddle, but he doesn't have it. His demon recognizes this one as Davros, an animalistic, hungry thing. The new Hellbinder accepts his contact info, but then stalks off into the crowd, apparently not interested since Avro doesn't have the fiddle.

But who does have it, indeed?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Prepping for Better Angels

We actually played through the first session in December, but then there was weather in January, so here we are. I have some ideas, but I think I had more ideas back then. I should take notes after the damn sessions. Ah, well.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Warehouse 13: On a Boat

So! Last time, the agents rounded up some data on the rafts that apparently brought freaking zombies to Miami. This time, we tried to get prepped to go out to sea.

(To see what, Colonel? No, Penfold, he doesn't mean 'floated it out to see.' He means... sorry.)

We figured we needed a boat, so Blue called up Walt and asked if he had recommendations on a boat. He did - his fishing buddy George O'Malley was willing to take us. So Blue got in touch with him, and he mentioned that the area we were going to had a habit of flummoxing GPS and such (no shock). Blue contacted Walt again and asked if he had any handy artifacts. Turns out there was a grey marketeer in the area...

So that evening, we all trucked down to Shore & Shore, and met Alan Shore (look, this is not my fault). Shore, a lawyer (duh) met with us and Blue introduced him around the table. It turns out he could see Blaine, so Blue introduced the ghost as well...and he reacted.

They talked a bit, and it turned out he was familiar with the Island of the River of Death. He made some reference to being "beaten to death with a club and left buried in the sand," which viewers of the show might have found funny, because that's exactly what happened to the traitorous Jamison during our last Pirates story. Shore wanted to have a few moments with the "gem" when we brought it back, which was the price of his help. Blue wasn't willing to agree to that, but said she'd have to check with her superiors. Shore graciously left the room so she could do that.

Blaine immediately asked why she hadn't simply agreed to Shore's terms and then revised the agreement later as necessary. Blue answered that she couldn't lie like that; she wasn't a pirate or a lawyer. She called Walt and discussed it with him, and he said that he would back her play either way.

Shore came back in, and she agreed to his terms - they're retrieving a gem, and Shore gets a few minutes with it before the agents take it away. In return, Shore gave the agents a metal emblem with a likeness of Columbus. Blue picked it up, and immediately knew where true north was, and how to sail a ship. With all of this in mind, we left.

Blaine mentioned that he might have been to this island before, but wasn't sure. Blue said that might have been useful to know previously, and Blaine said that for him, memories of his life were like a dark pool - he could reach in and find something, but he was never sure what. Seeing something from his old life (like Shore, maybe, since he seemed to know Blaine) helped him shine a light into said pool, but it didn't help too much. He said that this was troubling to him - he hated not knowing about his past. This gave the others some pause.

They got outside, and Blaine went to go run an errand; he said if the ring he was anchored to got cold to the touch, they were to bring it to the monument where they'd first found him. He went and ran his errand, and that's all you get.

When he got back, he learned that the others had been handing around the emblem. It worked on Blue and Memphis, didn't do anything in particular for Raji, and burned Charlotte's undead flesh. Blaine, using Telekinesis to hold it up, didn't feel anything, either, so they concluded it just worked for living folks.

The characters spent the next day enjoying the sights of Miami. Raji and Blaine went to the beach, Charlotte slept and then hunted, Memphis called up Shore (she was kind of smitten) and met him for lunch at a deli, and Blue went to a bar and had boat drinks.

That evening, we all got on the boat and headed out to sea. Blue, holding the emblem, steered them true, and they arrived at the Island of the River of Death. There was a little dock, and a bunch of garbage.

Blaine teleported to the island, but didn't see anything. The boat docked and then let the others off, and we started going ashore, dead people first. And then we heard moaning coming from the island, and saw shapes a-shambling toward us....

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Promethean: Up the Mountain and Down Again

Soon as my damn fingers thaw, here.

OK, so! Last time, the characters handled the bachelor party and decided they'd head up the mountain to see if they could figure out who or what was controlling the wolves. This time, they bundled up, stole three snowmobiles, and started up the mountain.

As they were zooming up, Avalon (driving a snowmobile with Enoch sitting behind her) got distracted (her player blew a Perception roll a took the Beat for a dramatic failure). She glanced back to see a tree dead ahead, and veered off left. She brought the snowmobile to a halt, and she and Enoch heard ice crackling beneath them. They very carefully got off the machine (as Grimm and Matt circled back to find them), and made it to the treeline just as the snowmobile tumbled over a cliff.

Bloodied but unbowed, as it were, the characters kept going up (Grimm just had three people on his snowmobile). The slope eventually got too steep for them, so they parked and trudged. Grimm took the Shape of the Barghest, but that was rather freezing, so Avalon gave him her coat (and made a milestone: keep someone warm). Avalon herself, along with Matt, was weatherproof, so cold wasn't a huge problem, and Feather used Autonomic Control to keep the cold out. Enoch used Procrustean Shape to grow fur, so that solved the problem for him, so it was really just Grimm who was taking cold-related penalties.

They kept walking, and eventually reached a point where the slope was too steep for the non-athletic characters (Enoch, Avalon, and Matt) to continue. Feather and Grimm went up the hill and found a tree, tied off some rope, and pulled them up, making use of Feather's Might and Grimm's Unholy Strength (they wound up with an exceptional success, which gave Feather the Steadfast Condition). At this point, near the top, Grimm and Enoch Sense Flux...and indeed, Flux was coming down the mountain.

The characters retreated back into the trees, and saw the wolves. They readied themselves for battle, but the wolves just charged down the mountain. The throng figured that they were on the hunt for Leslie, and Enoch suggested sending some of the mountain after them. They all toppled a tree (using Many Hands Make Light Work, the most useful one-dot Transmutation ever), and saw the wolves vanish under the snow cascade.

But now the Flux - and Pyros - was gone from the mountain. Matt searched the mountaintop, and found a cave. The characters delved back and found a tunnel leading down. They tossed some lights in, and discovered it was much like a chute. Avalon went down first, tied and anchored, but it eventually went past the limits of her rope. She kept on, and the others followed. Grimm used Bloodhound's Nose and noted smoke, metal and oil from below.

They eventually emerged in a lower cave, and found they were next to the snowmobile that had toppled off the mountain. The smoke they were smelling came from the ruptured gas tank, which was burning. But the metal...Grimm realized that the sides of this cave were metal, though they looked like rock. He mentioned this, and Avalon tried to use Identification, but failed. Knowing that Enoch was on the same Refinement, she taught him that trick (which was a milestone for him: learn a Transmutation from Avalon), and touched the metal wall.

He realized that the wall was metal, but no metal he could identify. He'd seen it before, though - under the junkyard. He realized that the metal was alive, in a way, sentient, and it extended far under the ground. He revealed the "alive" bit to the others (forbidden as he was to say anything about the Machine itself). Feather, noting that, used Aura Sight on the walls. She failed, but used her Steadfast Condition to succeed.

And she saw the Machine. She saw it extending throughout the Earth, changing the rocks of the mountain into huge, hideous, gears. She saw its intelligence and its vast indifference for anything alive. And she struck. She used Battering Ram to punch the metal cave, and got a lot of successes. And then she stood back, quivering.

She told the others what she had seen, and Enoch gained another milestone (keep the God-Machine secret until someone else learns about it). Avalon tried to use her Aura Sight on it, but couldn't find a way to see it - it was a wall, not a person. She and Grimm did feel a burst of static, though, and heard one word amidst it - "dispatched." The characters figured they'd better get going.

And then the wolves showed up.

But the wolves weren't here to fight. They said that the thing in the mountain - the Machine - wasn't their master, and they'd been sent to thwart it. But now something had happened without precedent. Feather had gotten the Machine's attention, and the wolves' Mission had changed. They told the characters they'd help them as much as they could, but they lacked the ability to help them back up to the resort.

The characters realized, looking up, that they were under a balcony, similar to the one in Feather's Elpis vision. If a body should fall from it, it would land more or less where they were standing. Frightening, that.

The wolves mentioned one other thing, too. "Not all of the angels you have encountered have been angels."

Next time, the wedding(?).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Night's Black Agents: That is a man's HEAD

Saturday was Night's Black Agents. So, here we go!

The agents left Bonn for Frankfurt, reconnoitered, made some calls, and Rousseau called up Father Calderon to see if he could hook them up with lab space. He met them in Rome and gave them information on a facility that rented out lab space, David tapped a cover ID who was a doctor of hematology, and Lockwood hacked into the facility's system and gave David a rented lab. Boom.

Figuring they'd stay in Rome a while, Hanover got a job at one of the museums spotting forgeries, just to keep himself busy. Rousseau busied herself with setting up surveillance on the lab and their safe house, and the others (Smith, Lockwood, and Davd) went into the lab and started working on the head that they'd severed from a vampire in Bonn.

David discovered that the head was showing signs of decay, about consistent with the way they'd been preserving it. He found a weird biological marker in the blood, not consistent with the blood nutrients they'd seen before - might be a way to identify such creatures going forward. He found bits of flesh and blood between its teeth, but also a strange substance on the back of its throat. This substance was a weird mixture of human lymph, blood, and CSF, but it didn't belong to this head. It did, however, have the same biological marker. They found traces of it in the wallet the Lockwood had liberated from the corpse's jacket pocket - had he been doused with it? If so, how and why?

The head displayed no physical alteration. No fangs or exaggerated jaw muscles or tentacles in the mouth. This led the agents to suspect that there might be multiple "strains" of vampire, which was consistent with their other findings (some vampires talk and eat, some don't, etc.). Normal sunlight didn't affect the head, but intense UV light caused cellular damage. The exact effect of bright sunlight, though, was impossible to know without a living specimen.

The character theorized that this all might be caused by an external force, something clinging to the host's body. After all, they'd never seen a vampire unclothed or without a jacket, some hiding behind the back would make some sense. David noted that nothing they'd found disproved that, but nothing proved it, either. They looked over the notes they had from the laptop, and again noted the "Cocktail." Rousseau wondered if the mix of body fluids could be this Cocktail.

The characters didn't have any nutrient samples, but they knew how to get some - samples get shipped from the lab in Paris to Dr. Macan in Osijek. With some creative hacking, they found the route of these samples, and drove Pecs, where the samples flew into. They set up under an overpass. Rousseau and Lockwood leaned on their van as if broken down, and when the van approached, David, from a goodly distance, put a bullet in the approaching van's engine block.

The driver immediately tried to make a call, but the characters had brought a cell phone jammer. The guy got out, and asked if he could use their phone. From his reaction to Flirting, they deduced he wasn't a vampire, and so tased him, bagged him, and left him in his van, after they stripped the plates and VIN (and, of course, the nutrients). And then they headed back, dropping the van in Ljubljana to create confusion.

Back in Rome, David worked with the nutrients, and figured given some time, he could reverse engineer a poison for these creatures based on whatever the nutrients were trying to bolster. The next day, though, Father Calderon came to visit Hanover. He told Hanover that a bookseller had recently started trying to find a buyer for the handwritten diary of a minor 17th century Hungarian baron that, apparently, mentioned vampires. The bookseller, Imre Szabo, had dropped off the radar recently. Calderon figured this might be of interest to the characters.

Hanover brought this to the group. They dug into the baron's history a bit. Janos Ferenci was a minor Hungarian noble, died in 1620, most notable because he'd spoken in defense of Elizabeth Bathory at her trial (mostly "she's noble, so fuck off"). The bookseller was legit; no connection with organized crime or unsavory sorts, but he'd suddenly dropped the price on the book recently, and then vanished. He had no missing person report on him, though, and no crime scene. He lived and worked in Szeged, Hungary.

The characters figured that he, and his book, might be useful, and they needed to get to him before the vampires killed or turned him. Next time, they're heading Szeged to do an extraction.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Where am I? Miami.

Said the trigger-happy ex-girlfriend to the burned spy.

Anyway, last night was the first session of our second Warehouse 13 story. As we open, Memphis was doing computer things, Charlotte and Blue were practicing shooting, and Raji and Blaine were watching Firefly. Walt called us in for our briefing - we're going to Miami.

The situation was this. Three makeshift boats ran aground in Miami, carrying nine people (3 on each boat) from Cuba. They were dead, however. But then they apparently got up at the morgue and attacked people, and were shot. The doctor from the morgue was in a psych hospital. That's it! Go get 'em, tigers!

We flew down to Miami, and walked through the airport, Blaine noting that children here seemed to enjoy wearing plastic mouse ears for some reason. We decided we'd split up. Blue would go and talk to the police, posing as an INS agent. Blaine and Charlotte, being dead, decided to go the morgue and see if there was anything to find, while Memphis and Raji went to the psych ward to talk to the doctor.

Blaine and Charlotte found the exam room in question - it was taped off. They went in and looked about; still bodies in the drawers, and still blood gunk...on the walls and floor. Blaine walked into the rooms across the hall, find an autopsy in progress and an empty office, so nothing outside of this room. Charlotte called Memphis for helped hacking the computer, and found that the Cubans (all with no names listed, obviously), had been brought in with evidence of being nibbled by predators and distended, green stomachs. The word "zombie" started to occur here. Blaine noted this society's obsession with paperwork and figured there had to be an incident report, perhaps kept on sight. Another call to Memphis, and we learned that the "zombies" had actually killed a guard, and the good doctor had taken his gun and shot the assailants.

Charlotte headed upstairs to wait for the others, and Blaine looked around a bit. He found the ghost of Joe, the dead guard, who initially told him he couldn't be here. He changed his form to be more "normal Miami guy named Steve" and less "pirate," and gently led the ghost into realizing what he was, and then asked him what had happened. Turned out the guard had dropped his gun, but his last thoughts had been of getting the doctor out safely. With that goal realized (she wasn't so much "safe" as "held for observation," but Blaine didn't see the need to split that hair), he vanished into a tunnel of light. "There's a sucker born every minute," mused "Steve," before turning back to Blaine.

Upstairs, Memphis and Raji were doing their thing. Raji called a contact of his in occult circles to ask about the dead returning and eating people. Zombies, sure, including the zombi created from voudoun poisons, but also ghouls, usually the result of curses, and more pack-focused than zombies. Memphis raised concerns that Raji was imparting state secrets to outsiders, but he assured her that he wasn't giving his contact any real information.

Memphis and Raji went upstairs to the psych ward, and Memphis talked her way into the ward with her "son", using a pseudonym and some TV hacking on her phone. She talked to Dr. Florentine, who told her that what she'd seen - bodies getting up off the tables - was impossible. Everyone kept saying so. Memphis convinced her (maybe, there were a lot of drugs in the poor woman's system) that she really had seen what she'd seen. She'd been cutting on a body, and all the others got up and rushed her. More evidence of a pack mentality.

Meanwhile, Blue talked to the local police. The lieutenant she spoke to (whose name I didn't catch) told her that the story about dead bodies getting up was obviously absurd; more likely there had been something going on between Joe and the doctor and there was a fight or something involving body desecration (look, that's flimsy as shit, but it's better than "dead guys bit me"). He showed Blue the "boats" they came in on, which were also flimsy as shit. They had a scrap of paper with notes in Spanish, and a diary, also in Spanish. She took these, and we all reconvened.

The scrap of paper was just navigation notes on how to get to Miami from Cuba. The diary was an account of their journey, which talked about sailing too close to la Isla del Rio del Muerte, or the "Island of the River of Death." Raji called around about that, and his contacts came up with pirate history. In the 16th century, two groups of pirates had fought it out over gold (or something) on this island. A century later, someone had supposedly raised the dead of that island, using a voodoo curse, to wreak havoc on his enemies. Blaine claimed no knowledge of this event; "I didn't know every pirate in the area, you know." Memphis opined that being a pirate would suck, stuck on a ship with no food but dried meat. Blaine said that it wasn't so bad, you just stopped and took on provisions at an island, or raided a ship. He mentioned that his boatswain wouldn't have allowed that anyway, being the decent fellow he was.

The diary, though, discussed one of the men getting sick after getting too close to this island. Something there started the illness that apparently led to the men becoming ghouls. The group decided that maybe going out to the island was a possibility, but how would the two mortals (Memphis and Blue) fare doing that? Would they become ghouls?

Questions for next time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Monsterhearts: More blood

So, last time, which was really only a couple of weeks ago, the characters met Briar, and split up to go have a look at the vineyard and the basement (again). Let's watch.

Briar, Cassi, Rook, and Skylar went to the school. Since it's Spirit Week, lots of folks are there hanging up decorations, which is kind of Cassie's way in - she's head of the spirit committee. Briar is doing gymnastics, but she feigns a leg injury a few minutes in and leaves to join the others. The sneak down the hall to the basement door, and find it locked. They look to Skyler, who uses dissipate to go through the door, much to Briar's surprise.

Skylar opens the door, and the head downstairs. They note that the horrible stench of meat has gone, replaced by the smell of bleach. And there's a wall there where there wasn't before. Skylar peeks through it, and sees that it's just canvas and wood frame, like a stage set. They pry it out of the way, and see the butcher block, this time with a body on it - Principal Miles'.

Skylar heads upstairs to keep lookout. Cassi finds a notebook on the desk, with a few series of numbers followed by some of that weird writing. She recognizes the first series of numbers as her address, and another as Rook's. She has Briar look at the writing and, sure enough, it's their addresses.

They decide, after some deliberation, to take the body with them. Briar knows, after all, that the monster needs to eat and it's hunger grows quickly. They discuss this insane plan some, but they agree to wrap the principal's body up in some extra canvas they find and cart it upstairs. Everyone but Briar does so, while Briar hangs behind, douses the butcher block in paint thinner, and torches it.

They run into Joyce Chen, the likely valedictorian, and she holds the door for them while they take their "trash" outside. They throw the body into the dumpster, and then the fire alarm goes off. In the chaos, they sneak the body out, put it in Cassie's trunk, drive it down the beach, and dump it into the ocean. Cassi gets a text from Dora: "Mike is here."

Let's back up.

Dora, Genesis, and Austin head out to the vineyard. Dora gazes into the abyss to see what they should be looking for. She sees a fork in the road, the left leading to the shining, happy vineyard, with Omar waving to them, and the right leading to the dark, foreboding forest. And that, Dora realizes, is where they have to go. She calls Omar on his cell and tells him to meet them out that way. He balks, saying it's dangerous, and asks them to meet up at the main building. Dora tries to manipulate an NPC to get him to come meet them, but she fails, and balks. They go up to the winery, and see a police car out from - probably Officer Feldner, whom they suspect is part of the cult. Dora texts Cassi: "Mike is here."

They don't go in, but text Omar to come out. When they do, they see Mike, but wearing the principal's clothes and jacket, sitting with the cop. He sees them and smiles. They flee back down to the woods, and Omar tells them that this area isn't safe - years ago, there were a lot of unsuccessful attempts to dig wells, here, and a lot of the pits are still around. They need to proceed carefully. The characters get their weapons out of the car, and try to inform Omar of what's going on. He's not really buying it, but agrees to go with them.

(Meanwhile, the others get into Cassi's car and start heading to the vineyard.)

They search around for a while, and then find a pit with a terrible stench coming out of it. Omar says that stray dogs sometimes fall into the holes, but they shine flashlights down and see something glinting back...and then a human hand. Omar panics, wanting to call the police, but Genesis shuts him down and gives him the skeptical condition. Austin says he'll run back to the car for some rope and they can get a better look.

In the car, Skylar, Briar, and Rook all gaze into the abyss for more information about this. Cassi feels a sudden burst of pain, and gazes into the abyss to see Austin's thoughts.

Skylar meditates on how they can stop the dinner party tomorrow, and sees a kitchen, with a big, prominent freezer, and focuses in on the plug. She understands.

Rook focuses on the vineyard and what's happening there. He sees himself tied to a tree and white, corpse-flesh hand slicing his shirt off, then stabbing him.

Briar fails, and she simply feels a sensation of growing dread and being unprepared.

Cassi sees much what Rook had seen, but knows it is from Austin's perspective. Also, Austin was thinking, "No, Cassi, stay away." Cassi pulls the car to a halt and tells Rook to drive. She gets in back with Skylar, who comforts her (and uses his new hungry ghost move to talk her conditions away, which was good).

Meanwhile, Austin hadn't returned. The characters go back to the car, but no Austin, and the car was locked. Genesis takes a branch and lashes out physically to break the car window, and pops the trunk - Austin's rope is gone.

Cassi sleeps, and awakens as they pull into the winery. They take the right fork, and find Austin's car and the others. They all get out and do a quick update, and then hear Austin scream.

Cassi goes charging off into the underbrush. Genesis (I think) tries to shut her down and fails. Briar is close after, and Briar tackles Cassi as she runs into a clearing (lashing out physically). Austin is there, hanging from the tree, covered in blood, barely conscious. They get up and start approaching him, and the monster stands up from the brush and slashes at Briar's shoulder.

Genesis tries to lash out physically with the lighter/hairspray combo that she had, but fails and burns herself. Briar slashes at it with her sword, as does Rook (both lashing out physically), and Dora zips in, locks eyes with it, and uses the binding hex to keep it from hurting anyone. It slashes at Briar, but its hand stops before it connects.

Cassi and Skylar run to free Austin. Genesis tries to gaze into the abyss and learn its weakness, but fails, and is only reminded of how very far from the sea she was, here in this hot, dry place. The monster starts to run. Briar tries to manipulate an NPC to keep it focused on her, but the price for that would have been disrupting the hex, and Briar's player didn't want to do that. Instead, she charges after it, and I triggered her Darkest Self. She had to kill this thing. The others couldn't handle it.

Cassi and Skylar free Austin and help him down. They start back to the cars, not knowing where Briar had gone, and note that Omar is missing, too. They get into the cars and start heading out, Dora texting Omar.

Meanwhile, Briar find the monster and stabs it, twice. It splays out its fingers, daring her to do it again. She tries to manipulate an NPC to figure out how to hurt it for real, but it just laughs and evaporates. Briar, confused but still her Darkest Self, examines its discarded clothes looking for a clue. And then everything goes black.

The other characters pass an ambulance on the way in. Worried, but not enough to stop, Cassi takes Austin to the hospital. Dora gets a return text from Omar: "in ambulance w/ Briar." Not sure what had happened to Briar, the others (in Austin's car) stop to wait. Skylar points out that they could stop the dinner if they unplug the fridge, but worries that if they just unplug it, someone would notice. Genesis points out that they could break the mechanism that kept it cold, but leave the motor running. This was acknowledged as a good plan, and Skylar and Dora creep up to the winery.

They find an employee there and tell him that they are looking for Omar. He goes inside, and they sneak into the kitchen. They find the fridge in question, and damage the cooling system and the temperature gauge. They also check the fridge, and find ribs and liver...probably human. The employee catches them on the way out, but assumes they were just there for wine. They rejoin Genesis and Rook and head for the hospital.

At the hospital, Briar wakes up with a nasty headache. Omar is sitting with her. He tells her that he found her in the woods, unconscious, bleeding from the head, and holding a pair of pants. He says he brought her to the road and called and ambulance. They talk for a minute, and then he goes out the lobby to find the others.

Cassi brings Austin in, and they take him back to work on him. Since he's clearly been stabbed, a police officer takes Cassi's statement. She says she found him in the woods, but then gets incoherent (really, just buying herself some time).

The others arrive, and Skylar sneaks back and creeps on Briar, and then moves into the room. Briar tells Skylar to do something so she knows she's not hallucinating, and they kiss. Briar turns her on, and Skylar slips under the covers with her. (Briar's sex move allows her to heal all her harm, which is good.) Skylar's sex move comes into play, and she asks Briar what her greatest fear is, to which Briar replies, "dying alone." Briar asks Skylar how he died, and Skylar he doesn't know, which might be the first time that came up. They talk, and Skylar tells Briar the basic story - she and Austin went out there together, and the others came out and found him, while Omar found her. Briar notes that Austin doesn't know this plan, and Skylar slips out and finds Austin room.

Austin is still getting stapled up, and Skylar, true to form, creeps on him as well. When the doctor leaves, Skylar sneaks in and informs him of the story, and then heads back out.

The group talks with Omar, and bring him up to speed. They tell him about the cult, and about the principal and Mike, and about the damaged fridge. Omar calls his parents and warns them that police are on the way and to tell them where he is. Cassi calls her mother, and manipulates an NPC to get her to stay away from the party, but the price of that is that she comes home. She agrees, and she and Rook head back to the Metz house. They talk to Cassi's parents, and her father isn't thrilled that her mother now doesn't want to go to the party, but he decides they'll drive down to San Diego tomorrow and stay the night. They insist, however, that Cassi stay for dinner.

Back at the hospital, Briar and Austin are released. Briar takes Austin aside and apologizes for how this went. Austin is about to ask a favor of her, but doesn't. They get texts saying that Rook and Cassi are coming back.

They talk about the monster and how it evaporated, and Dora and Rook both gaze into the abyss on the subject (can ya tell everyone had Dark as a "mark experience" stat?). Dora sees the monster evaporating, but pulled back into a container which is then wrapped up in grapevines. Rook sees himself as the monster, walking in the vineyard, falling into a pit and trying to climb out, but hands cut by grapevines.

The characters reconvene, and realize that they need to trap the creature long enough for it to starve to death, and that grapevines seem to be a weakness. Omar questions this - why does it hang out at a vineyard if it's allergic to grapevines? Skylar gazes into the abyss on this subject, and sees a bonfire. A group of people stand around it, tossing grapevines in, and then cutting their hands and bleeding into it. The four-armed monster stands up out of the fire, grabs Mike (who is one of the folks in the circle), and flows into his mouth as vapor. Skylar notes Principal Miles and Officer Feldner in the circle, too, but doesn't recognize other folks.

So that's why grapevines - the monster is made of grapevines. The characters talk about going back to Cassi's, but because they know that the monster knows her address, they go to Briar's instead (her father is out of town). Cassi also invites everyone to a little party at her place tomorrow night, and Omar is enthused to go. Tomorrow, Omar and Briar decide to take the day off and go gather grapevines.

Some notes that players shouldn't read: