Sunday, July 16, 2017

Monster of the Week One-Shot: The Sack-Man

Last night I ran a one-shot of Monster of the Week. I liked it well enough; I think it's a decent treatment of the monster-hunter genre with the PbtA rules (of course I have a mighty love for this genre of horror in general). Here is the write-up!

Our characters, first of all.

  • Melissa played Heather, the Mundane. Heather is 25 and not quite sure what she's doing with her life. She's got a new car, now...largely because her old one got possessed, probably because of something Craig did. She babysits for Craig and Annie and is Seamus' cousin. 
  • John N. played Father Seamus Bray, the Divine. Seamus is a priest who has received a Sign that the End of Days is coming, and he needs to do what he can to usher it in. Annie, he figures, is the anti-Christ, so he needs to help her get as powerful as possible. He grapples with some decidedly un-priestly feels for his cousin, Heather. 
  • Travis played Adelia Blackthorn, the Expert. Adelia owns a big house here in southern California, and took in the twins when they were orphaned. She's also overseeing their magical training. 
  • Jerry played Annie, the Spell-Slinger. Annie lost track of her brother when they were orphaned and sent into foster care, but they were reunited thanks to Adelia. Annie is the slightly more responsible of the twins, but that's not saying a whole lot. 
  • John M. played Craig, the Spooky. Craig, like his sister, wields powerful magic, but unlike Annie, his comes from a decidedly unsavory source. It makes things. He once broke Heather's arm with magic because she tried to make him go to bed. 
We decided that this crew doesn't necessarily go out searching for monsters, but monsters happen and they wind investigating. Today's mystery starts at school. Annie and Craig get there and realize that their classmate Miguel is missing. Craig listens in to the conversation between the principal, Miguel's mom, and the cops, and learns that Miguel left for school but never arrived (which his mom discovered when she came to drop off his lunch). 

The twins, as it happens, like Miguel's lunches (they've been known to steal from them), so they figure this is worth looking into. They go to the nurse and tell her they've got a tummyache, which of course is code for "mystery/monster" and gets Adelia to pick them up. 

They start retracing Miguel's steps. Adelia uses magic to scry and figure out where he is. She does that by dripping a bit of blood into a skull and adding fire; there's a puff of smoke and then she sees Miguel walking down the street, towards a playground on the block. He pauses, and heads to the playground instead of school.

This is all very well, but Adelia's car is now full of smoke, and she nearly runs into Heather, who is walking home after crashing with a friend after a late night. She whacks the car and yells at Adelia, who gets out and explains the situation. Heather, not thrilled at having a perfectly good hangover hijiacked by hijinks, goes along to help watch over the kids.

They get to the playground and the twins look around. Annie investigates a mystery and finds Miguel's backpack buried in the wood chips under the jungle gym. There's nothing in it of note, but he was definitely here and someone tried to cover it up. Heather stumbles over something important and finds a path leading out of the playground back into the neighborhood, and the kids follow her. Meanwhile, Adelia calls up Seamus - God may need to be involved here.

Heather and the twins find a rickety, broken fence around an overgrown yard. Craig skips ahead and hears a dog snarl and launch itself at him, but he uses jinx and the dog is stopped short, still on its chain. The dog sits stock-still, staring at the characters, and looks Heather up and down as though judging her. It then turns around and goes into its doghouse.

Annie, perhaps unwisely, follows it in and it bites her on the shoulder. She responds by kicking ass with her blast spell, blowing the doghouse apart and forcing the dog out into the open. Heather steps in and protects Annie by bopping the dog on the nose, and it backs off. Craig, seeing the dog has hurt his sister, uses his big whammy spell to kick some ass, and the dog falls over and starts twitching. About then Seamus and Adelia arrived, and Seamus soothes Craig to calm him down.

Adelia investigates a mystery and realizes the dog is a guardian; maybe it's a real dog that's been enchanted or maybe it's a summoned being, it's hard to say, but it's the house, covered in vines, that's really significant. They start approaching the house, but then they see a man on the sidewalk in a Neighborhood Watch cap peeking over the fence. He demands to know who they are and what they're doing.

Adelia manipulates him, but misses (as does Seamus trying to help), and Wes (the dude) walks away calling the cops. Craig hexes his phone, though, and he drops and breaks it. Heather follows him and tells him the truth, and asks if he's seen Miguel.

Wes did, in fact, see Miguel this morning - Miguel was on the playground and Wes was headed there to tell him to go to school, but before he got there Miguel apparently left. He did see another adult on the playground, though, but can't remember anything about him.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Seamus lays on hands to heal Annie, and she uses magic to heal the last of the dog bites. They decide to enter the house, or at least look into it. Seamus knocks, and the silhouette of a man appears in a window in the door. It talks to them, and asks about the children, and seems entirely too eager. Craig reads a bad situation and realizes that the doghouse is back, completely intact. Adelia tells the kids to get into the house

The dog emerges again and charges the group. Adelia protects the kids and gets bit. Seamus banishes the dog, but it doesn't take effect right away. Heather steps in to kick some ass, and the dog bites her leg. Annie, pissed at the dog, uses magic to summon Tibbers, her monstrous teddy-bear creature. It appears and throws the dog upwards, and as soon as it clears the fence, it vanishes. Seamus lays hands on Heather and probably enjoys it far too much.

Meanwhile, Craig uses magic to break the lock, and the door opens. His dark side, though, warns him against entering, and since his dark side turns off his powers if he disobeys, the stays out. The adults enter the house and the door slams, leaving the kids outside.

Craig's dark side tells him to "burn it," and Craig, not really thinking twice, agrees. Annie uses magic and adds her fire effect, and Craig helps, and the door catches fire. It spreads, and the house starts to burn.

Inside, the adults, see a man upstairs. He's tall and robed and carrying a sack. They talk to him briefly, but he's clearly not human. Seamus manifests his flaming sword and kicks some ass, but the Sack-Man touches his chest and chills him to the bone. The man then vanishes...

...and appears outside. He reaches for Craig, but Craig uses the big whammy and Annie kicks ass with magic, blowing him apart and leaving the yard signed and burnt.

Inside, Adelia grabs the door to get out, but it burns her hand. Seamus acts under pressure and kicks the door out, and the adults escape. Adelia investigates a mystery and realizes they're dealing with a (the?) Sack-Man, a boogeyman that steals children. They aren't really vulnerable to mundane weapons, but can be harmed or killed by protective herbs and plants. Adelia isn't sure which one, but she's got a bunch back at the house.

They head back to Blackthorn House, and decide to call up the creature, trap it, and destroy it (though Seamus argues for transferring its power to Annie). Craig's dark side whispers that "Heather is the key," but they aren't sure why - Heather's just the babysitter?

They make a binding, and Craig uses big magic to summon the Sack-Man. He appears, and sucks Craig into his sack. Adelia has her stock of protective herbs: rowan, yew, ague...heather. She burns some and wafts the smoke at the Sack-Man (and kicks ass), and the Sack-Man collapses, weakened. The sack opens, and Craig - and Miguel - crawl out. Annie kicks ass and pulls the sack down over the Man, and he vanishes, banished.

Miguel, a little confused, asks what happened. Annie hugs him, and whispers "tell your mom you want empanadas for lunch tomorrow."

Miguel can only nod.