Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chill 3rd. Ed. Playtest - Blood Trade

So, last night I ran a playtest session of Chill, using some of the changes we've made to the system. I'm not going to talk too much about those changes here, because they're still in flux, but I will say that we're definitely accomplishing our goals of simplifying the system and removing as much of the at-the-table math as we can without sacrificing the feel of the game.

This was a one-shot game, so the pace was pretty brisk, but I like the way it turned out. Our characters were all taken from the 2nd Ed core book:
  • Michelle played the Baroness Ilse Dumatriche, a Romanian expert in vampires.
  • Sarah played Basil "BB" Bottomley, an Australian bounty hunter. 
  • John played Jennifer Joyce, an American investigative journalist. 
  • Morgan played Dr. Thomas Simpson, a doctor and expert pugilist. 
The envoys were called to Washington, D.C., after a SAVE contact (an EMT at George Washington University Hospital) notified the regional headquarters about a Moldovan woman dumped at the ER with severe blood loss...but no visible wounds. The victim, Dana Albescu, was stable and wanted to check out, and the interpreter they'd brought in had trouble understanding her accent. Albescu was afraid of a man named Grigore, and had attempted to get up and leave as soon as she was stable, but the hospital had managed to talk her down. 

Figuring that a vampire might be at work, SAVE sent the team in to investigate the woman's story, try and gain her trust, and assess any threat. On the way there, Joyce attempted a Clairvoyant/Prescient Dream, but storms during the flight prevented her from seeing anything. 

Once there, the characters met up and formed a plan. Simpson and Dumatriche would talk to Albescu (Simpson had arranged to see Albescu as her doctor, and Dumatriche as an interpreter). Joyce decided to do a little research into Moldavan immigration and see if there was a pattern, and Bottomley hit the streets to see if he could dig up anything on Grigore.

This last was a bust - Bottomley's good at his job, but he's not terribly imposing (Personality 38) and he doesn't exactly blend in in downtown DC, not with that accent. Joyce learned that given Albescu's circumstance, she was almost certainly a sex worker, "recruited" from a smaller town in Moldova and taken first to western Europe, then to the US. Grigore was, in all likelihood, her pimp. 

Dumatriche and Simpson talked with Albescu and examined her, and sure enough, two pinprick bite marks - Dumatriche was fairly certain these were vampire bites. Albescu said that she had gone to a man's apartment (at Grigore's behest) and believed she had been drugged; next thing she remembered was waking up the ER. Simpson consulted her chart - her clothes were disheveled, but apart from the mysterious blood loss there was no injury, and her rape kit was negative. Simpson arranged for a residency condo for himself, and then arranged for Albescu to be released. The envoys wanted her as protected as possible. 

Simpson talked to Roxanne Blaisdale, the EMT who contacted SAVE about Albescu, and arranged an ambulance ride to the condo. She told him that she'd seen a man in a dark car shove Albescu out the door near the ER and then take off. 

They took her to the condo, and interviewed her a little further about the attack. She told them the address where it happened, and noted her address (not far from there), and said she needed to go back there and get some things and check in with her roommates. The envoys weren't keen to let that happen (since they didn't know where Grigore was and what he might do), so they asked her to stay put. 

She told them about the attack - she went into the apartment and remembered thinking that she hoped the man's wife didn't come home, because based on the decor she was pretty sure a woman lived there. The man - Alexandru - had her sit on the couch...and then she blacked out. No drinks were involved. Joyce used Telepathic Empathy on her during this interview, and she wasn't afraid, just confused - apparently the monster had influenced her mind before any real trauma had happened. She gave them a description of Grigore, his cell phone, and the make and model of his car. 

Simpson went back to the hospital and looked for records of similar victims, but there weren't any to be found. Wondering if that meant there weren't any surviving victims, he visited the morgue, and talked to the old coroner, who remembered a similar case in the 1960s - Soviet woman brought in bled dry, but no wounds. He assumed she had some weird disorder and moved on; she was an illegal and not exactly something he was encouraged to spend time on. Joyce, upon hearing this, dug into her own records and found that the neighborhood, which had crime problems now, was much worse in the 60s. Same vampire, maybe, just awakened from a long sleep?

Bottomley took the cell phone and ran it (bounty hunter!). It was a burner, but he was still able to get some data on where it was used - same neighborhood as Albescu, which made sense. They envoys told Albescu to stay put, and took the train to the apartment where the attack happened. Before they did, Dumatriche used her Premonition Discipline and foresaw no danger at the apartment, but did see Bottomley looking with interest out the window. 

They got to the apartment and looked around. They found that the person living her was one Cosmina Petrescu, a Romanian woman in school at GWU. She was gone, though, and the state of her apartment indicated that she hadn't packed for a trip, but that she hadn't been back in a few days. Bottomley found her wallet tossed under the couch, but no blood or evidence of attack. At Dumatriche's request, he looked out the window, and saw an Orthodox church on the corner. 

The envoys called the condo, but got no answer. Fearing that Grigore or - worse - the vampire might have found Albescu, they rushed back, but found a note from Albescu. She was going to her apartment to get some things. They envoys headed back to that area of town, and found her apartment building, with a rough-looking man out front, clearing acting as guard. Joyce distracted him with some targeted flirting and Bottomley (the only one with any stealth skill) crept past him and up to the apartment. She charmed his way in (rolled a Colossal success on Personality, which is tough for him!), and the woman there, who sported a shiner and an obvious drug habit, told him that Albescu had been here and then had Grigore. Bottomley offered help, but she refused, and he told her how to find him, and then left.

The man out fronted spotted Bottomley as he left and stepped up to him, spoiling for a fight, but Bottomley didn't rise to it (and Joyce waved off Simpson, who was about to walk up and sucker-punch the guy). The envoys regrouped, and decided that Bottomley would get in a cab and see if he could catch Grigore, since he knew what the car looked like. Dumatriche would head to the church and see if the priest there knew Albescu or anything worthwhile, and Joyce and Simpson would get on the train back to the condo and see if they could catch Albescu. 

The cab driver had trouble with Bottomley's accent, so Dumatriche translated (he spoke Russian), and found he knew Grigore and was concerned about taking anyone to him. Dumatriche paid him off, and he took Bottomley there. Grigore was standing in a parking lot, near his car, alone, on a cell phone. Bottomley, not well disposed toward the creep, hit him with a damn bola, tied him up, and stuffed him in his car. 

Grigore was none too thrilled, but Bottomley was as cheerful as ever, and drove down the street to the church. Dumatriche was there and had spoken to the priest, but he didn't know Alexandru and expressed concern about Cosmina when told she was missing. 

Bottomley texted the others and they all met up in the church lot (Joyce and Simpson were still waiting for the train). It was just after dark when they arrived. They interrogated Grigore, and he said that Alexandru had approached him on the street about buying a girl for a while, but then when he'd gone to pick her up, she was sick. He also said that he remembered taking her down the stairs and then being at the hospital, but nothing in between.

At this point, the envoys saw a light in the graveyard. Figuring it was a flashlight, Dumatriche, Bottomley and Simpson headed in to check it out, while Joyce stayed with Grigore. The envoys had seen the light by one of the older crypts, but then it vanished. 

Joyce heard a noise behind her, and turned to find a slim, young man in a black suit. She used Telepathic Sending to alert Bottomley. The man seemed to sense this somehow, and backhanded her against the car - much harder than his slim frame would have indicated. 

The envoys came running, but a swarm of bats appeared out of nowhere and enveloped them. Bottomley swung his bola, knocking them away enough to get out of the graveyard, and Simpson just hunched over and ran, but it bought the vampire enough time to slam Joyce's head through the car window. Dumatriche placed a Mental Shield on Bottomley and headed for the church, hoping to get holy water. 

Joyce started limping away, knowing that one more blow would probably kill her. Simpson caught up and used his Heal Discipline to close up the wounds on her head. Bottomley flung his bola and wrapped up the vampire, and the envoys saw a wave of fog rolling up from the graveyard. Bottomley pulled out a stake, and the vampire glared at him...but he felt nothing (thanks to the Mental Shield, though he didn't know it). 

Bottomley drove the stake home, and the vampire fell paralyzed. Dumatriche came out with holy water, followed by the priest, who was at first incredulous, but then saw the vampire's fangs. The envoys beheaded it and placed a holy wafer in its mouth, and it crumbled away to dust. 

They left, and the priest call the police. The FBI took Grigore away, and they found the bodies of two women in the crypt (one of them was Cosmina Petrescu). Dumatriche was able to help Albescu get her papers to remain in the US, and of course the cops raided the building where she lived and removed the other women. The envoys debriefed the priest, as well, who agreed to act as a SAVE contact in future. 

All in all, not a bad night's work.