Friday, September 9, 2016

Making Boffer LARP Classes

I've spent the past few months working on a new set of boffer LARP mechanics for a Science Fantasy game involving a "interdimensional solar system" where several inhabited planets (plus one uninhabited planet) rotate not only in their own systems and dimensions but also, when looked at through an inter-dimensional cross-section, around a strange celestial body of ropey flesh known as the Writhing One.

Thus each world belongs in it's own universe with its own rules on how reality operates -- ranging from the utterly magical to the entirely technological with all kinds of variations in between.  I'll be starting off with a year of theatre style LARPs in various locations to help do some world building and exploring a variety of different LARP types.  You can check out my poll on which games to run over here.  Please don't vote unless you actually plan on attending them though feel free to comment in the General forum threads.

So I have 150 pages of rules, background and GM thoughts (i.e. monster traits, modules) and I'm in the process of editing and changing them to bring them further in line with my plans.  You see, I initially had the semi-typical fantasy list of classes that included: Alchemist, Artisan, Diplomat, Exorcist, Hexcaster,  Ritualist, Mesmerist, Merchant, Outdoorsman, Performer, Physicist, Ranger, Thief.  Outdoorsman was kind of like Ranger but with non-mystical abilities.

Later I realised that those roles didn't really fit my ideas of an inter-dimensional colony settled by citizens of other worlds as part of a scientific research facility that included both magical and non-magical representatives (as this world allows both magical and technological sciences, so long as the technology is "hidden" from whatever runs this place).

For starters, when you're selecting new personnel you'd never choose "Thief".  That's far too antisocial.  And yes, you could create a Security Ops person but that wouldn't work for certain skills such as Pickpocket. So I traded Thief for Journalist.  Same abilities: Stealth, Pickpocket, Escape Artist and Lock Picking but an entirely new vibe.  Now the person breaks and enters for the big scoop, picks pockets to find scandals, and sneaks about to get the news for their next article.  Not only does it create a more prosocial position but it's one that's deeply embedded into the colony and suggests a wide range of goals.

As for how classes work, well, each one is sort of like a specific skill-set that is tied to a particular role.  When you select a "class," you gain a core ability for free and must spend one of your three skill-slots on a class skill.  From that point on you never need purchase another skill from that class again.  You can mix-and-match!  But you can never get a core ability from a different class.

I'll give more information as I think of it.  Just thought it'd been awhile and I might as well put in my thoughts.  You ever dealt with boffer LARP classes?  Got any handy tips for me?  Any thoughts on what I've put up?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Demonic NPCs

I've re-read the entire Masks book with an eye for demons and I've decided on who will actually be a Fallen and who won't be.  I've also decided to muddy the waters by having the Grand Ritual allow for the escape of every fallen in the pit alongside additional power to the more dangerous and utterly insane Earthbound.  This will give the players some conflicting motivations.  Do they unleash Hell on Earth?  Or do they leave their ancient family trapped?

So I've decided on a few changes to the cast list because as things work out in play I come up with better ideas than the usual.  Initially I was going to have Belphegor as M'Weru, but then I read about Markeeva who was responsible for the water in the womb and that ties in too much with the Spawn of Nyarlathotep. 

I also figured that Belphegor, the Defiler Twinsoul of the Radiant Champion, would make for a very interesting Ambrose Mogens so I came up with a complicated tale of time travel and horror.  Basically in the Victorian Era, Ambrose Mogens is Belphigor (the Radiant Champion) but by the mid to late 1890s he is pulled out of his body by his sister who assumes his place.  As a Defiler of Transfiguration, she has the special power of being able to appear as any other Fallen while in her true form so she can better masquerade as him.

What does she do with her brother?  Well, desperate to finally make him understand her she used Zipacna to use one of her gem's to allow herself to impregnate a woman with a nephilim and then used a dark ritual to place her brother's fallen essence inside that baby shortly before it were born.  It took a few tries but she was eventually successful using the assistance of the London Raveners to whom she now owes a great debt.

She then reared this nephilim-brother at one of the places of business controlled by Mogens Institute.  I'm thinking inside the Half Moon Hotel so that he was right under Gipontel's nose the whole time.  Due to the similarity between her name and her brother's, it was a relatively simple matter to hijack any invocations meant to go to him, but she cut out her son's tongue as a baby just to be sure.  This is also a good idea because he can control people with his words.

Belphigor is more confused than most fallen as his memories are all the more buried.  He is growing up institutionalised, monitored by Zipacna and the trusted few in sections of the hotel that Gipontel never explored (since the tour convinced him that he saw all he needed to see).  His nephilim heritage also pulls him in dark directions as he lacks a normal mortal physiology to fall back on *and* he has no host memories to shroud his own.  He'd be completely mad, if not for the fact that his body is human enough.

His twinsoul now acts as his father and is trying to groom him in a particular direction, to become like her, but he is at his core so very different to her and that's starting to show.  The poor boy ages slower than mortals, though, as fallen do not age if they have any faith within them.  Thus she has had to use a Drain Power spell to remove that from him, costing him mental torment here and there, while he was a baby, or cutting him so that he would be forced to heal it.

She also used a few links from the Devil's Chain, an ancient artefact that prevents a fallen from using their magic and keeps him constantly cuffed, though the cuffs themselves aren't always meeting in the middle.  So that's going to be an interesting change.

The other Fallen you will find in the campaign (not including several fallen whose names and summoning rituals are included in scrolls and tomes) include:

Micky Cohen - Kel Asuf the Deceiver (Devil Faustian-Turned-Cryptic).

M'Weru - Markeeva the Crucible of Shaping (Defiler Faustian).

Egyptian Priestess - Mythocht (Devil Luciferan).

Carl Sanford - Sauriel the Releaser (Slayer Ravener).

High Priestess of Bast - Bastet the Playful One (Devourer Cryptic).

Ssathasa - Ga Gorib (Devourer Ravener).

Justin Geoffrey (author of the People of the Monolith) - Valac (Slayer Cryptic).

Then I realised that Ho Fong, in one of the fictional accounts, returns from the dead when slain, which matches the Fallen.  I randomly rolled for Ho Fong and got Devourer which works because as I don't want to unveil the Deep Ones yet (want some surprises left for Innsmouth), I can instead gift him with the ability to warp people's forms toward aquatic ends.

The Bloody Tongue - Ladon (Devil Reconciler).

The Black Wind - Riyazgor (Scourge Ravener).

Cthulhu - Belial (Defiler Ravener)

The  Sphinx - Abaddon (Devourer Faustian)

The Dark Pharoah - Asmodeus (Fiend Cryptic)
 
The Bloated Woman - Befana (Malefactor Cryptic)
The Sand Bat - Fossegrim (Devil Reconciler)

Sleeping Thing Beneath The Australian Deserts - Tiamat (Defiler Ravener)

NOTE: I include the factions of some of these people simply because the Fallen might recall them from the pit and not because the Bloody Tongue God holds any connection to Reconcilers (or indeed, to Devils) or the like.

Trail of Demonic Cthulhu (Devil - Draclan)

Fallen Name: Draclan

Titles: Angel of the Burning Voice (Devil).

Sub-House: Flame (Nusku).

Legion: Ebon (War At Any Cost).

Faction: Luciferan (Military).

Demonic Powers

Draclan Personality Traits and History: He always wanted to be somebody and strove to be the best devil he could be.  Initially he worked for Fossegrim the Bright Eternal, and followed him into the Ebon Legion where his liege soon became Fossegrim the Unyielding, Ravager of Innocents, after the Cainite atrocity.  They worked to enslave humanity from mortal villages where his master would often assuage his own lusts or making them fight and die to entertain his troops. 

Yet when his master heard of a nightmare spawn of the chaotic outer reaches was preying upon mortality, he armed himself and sought for months to destroy it.  After a week of constant battle, he managed to keep the Beast obey until the threatened mortals escaped their ruined citadel … then destroyed the beast. 

His lieutenants wondered at his actions, and he replied, "Mortals are our playthings, our property, and that makes us responsible for their preservation and their destruction.  No misbegotten aberration of chaos may be permitted to prey on humanity, for such is our province and may not be usurped.  Those mortals saved from this monster now know that their lives belong to me - not to God, nor to some abomination - and thus is the pride of the Ebon Legion preserved."

Draclan served his master well, though partially out of fear alone, and when he reached the Abyss he did what he could do distance himself from that master by professing his allegiance to Lucifer alone. 

Host (Lewis Mackintosh): Draclan came into the body of a privileged young adult in Liverpool whose parents bankruptcy in 1922 left him with such rage and spite that he assaulted a wealthy older man walking down the street and stole his money and his watch.  That older man was the one who benefited the most from his father's losses, stealing in to purchase his business and properties and becoming quite wealthy from them. 
 
Unfortunately he was recognised and the wealthy man had the police call in to pay him a visit, beating him bloody while the old man watched and being forced to grovel and kiss the man's boots or else be arrested.  He was arrested anyway

While in a jail cell awaiting trial, he gave another police officer some lip and was beaten bloody.  Left to choke on a ruptured lung, his prayers sang out at the unfairness of it all and Draclan answered.  Draclan rose from the floor, spat fire into the face of the officer who had jailed him, and then walked on out.  No one wanted to mention what they saw.  Few could truly remember it.  So no one went after him.
 
He had been on the run ever since until Sir Aubrey Penhew heard of him through Edward Gavigan's surveillance of odd things in England.  Penhew didn't trust Gavigan to meet with the young man and so had an invitation sent out for the boy to meet him in Shanghai.  At a loss and desperate to meet people, especially a likely other fallen, Draclan went.  There he gladly gave his celestial name and was quickly ensnared by the Earthbound (Great Old Ones) that encircle this conspiracy.  Now he serves them, grudgingly, and waits for a way out.  Whether that comes before or after his sanity dwindles to 0 will depend on the PCs.

He will be sent to kill Theodore's family once the investigators start sniffing around as a means of distracting them.  It will take a week for him to arrive in England, however, from the point they arrive in England so unless the investigators stick around for seven days they will miss him.  No matter.  Inana is ready to counter his actions with water and Belphigor retains a few links of the devil's chain with which to undo his magic.

Physical Form and Powers:

Aruru Power (Flaming Death): Draclan can set fire with a thought to anything flammable and may spend a point of Faith to set fire to typically non-flammable materials like concrete *or* to create a burst of intense heat and size (effectively doubling it).  He can also create and hold flame in his hands though can't do much with it that one couldn't do if they were holding a burning torch but it makes a neat party trick.

Namaru Ability
(Wings): A pair of eight-foot-long golden wings extends from his shoulders which allow him to take off from a standing position and glide up to three times her running speed.  These wings have long pinions that are sharp as razors and quite flexible (+1 damage), which allows the Devil to attack opponents in the middle of a movement which will likely leave them out of reach of melee opponents.

Nusku Form Ability #1 (Burning Spit): Draclan can spit burning liquid that counts as a +0 weapon and otherwise acts as a thrown weapon in terms of range and usage.  This liquid can melt through thin metal with constant exposure (i.e. if he can bring handcuffs to his lips).

Aruru Form Ability #2 (Creature of Flame): He suffers no damage from heat or fire, whatsoever, and those who are within Scuffling range will take 1 point of damage every time they damage him.

ACTUAL STATS

Abilities: Athletics 7, Health 11, Sanity 4/9, Scuffling 6, Stability 7, Weapons 3

Faith: 3; spells - Summon Fire Vampire.

Hit Threshold: 3

Alertness Modifier: +0

Stealth Modifier: +0

Weapon: 0 (Burning Spit).

Armor: 0

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Gangrel Thing

FatherMother, Skully, Siobhan and Talitha, again from the
Cassandra session as I have no Split Session pictures,
but both Siobhan and FatherMother are Gangrel.
And then we had the Gangrel meeting…. Kindly enough, the hosts (Gustaf Freya'barn and FatherMother) allowed non-Gangrel to attend so long as they were willing to get involved in the festivities. We set up the big hall so that the little stage at one end was the fire pit, the big painted circle on the floor was the bear pit for later duels, and the cross hatched paint work to one side stood in for two cages - one cage filled with animals and the other filled with unconscious humans with nasty back stories (i.e. bad guys) who were doped with particular drugs.  The Gangrel had etched the name of said drug into their foreheads. There was also a set of chairs in a circle that people could move around as they pleased.

There was no music and there really didn't have to be.

When Siobhan rocked up with Seamus and Walther, she immediately punched FatherMother under the mistaken impression that she had blood bound Bennett (whom she had a crush on). FatherMother thought they were playing and put her in a painful headlock and then when Siobhan kept going in the fight, she threw her in the bear pit and leapt in as well. Soon enough Siobhan frenzied (she was hungry anyway) and that just increased FatherMother's gloating though she did take a little damage.  Eventually, Gustaf threw in a dog that Seamus had used Animalism on to force the dog to attack Siobhan (a poodle) and distract the frenzy.  FatherMother then ran up the wall of the pit to clamber out. Siobhan's frenzy redirected to the dog (she was hungry) and she drained it of blood.

Then she grumpily left the cage and ate all the other dogs in the dog cage out of spite. She didn't touch the humans.

Other highlights included a series of cage matches with Peter Walsh:
  • First the human, Torvald, from the Freya'barn ghoul family. Torvald found Peter Walsh's massive defence (9) annoying and also his irritating lack of interest in actually throwing a punch at a human. Torvald scored a couple good punches, took a few weak ones, and was rewarded with ghouldom from the family's vampire leader (Gustaf) for his efforts.
  • Crowley entered the ring and threw some solid Vigor-backed punches but Walsh managed to get in some cheeky shots and - mostly due to an inability to hit each other - Crowley left with a few bashing damage.
  • MaidenLad entered the ring with her dog and was far more successful once the dog dragged Walsh down in a grapple. MaidenLad clawed him across the face several times, damaging the Daeva's pretty face in a way that worked on him, though he healed so fast it barely lasted. Walsh hadn't fed yet kept healing. How much blood did that boy have in his system? Walsh won in two surged strikes. One involved hauling up the dog and body slamming MaidenLad into the wall (before being dragged down again) and then later lashed out with a kick against her ankle. She hobbled away with her dog and drank a guy spiked with all of the drugs to death.
  • Finally Walsh fought with Bats (after Bats kindly told him to go and feed which he left for five minutes to pretend to do). When they entered the ring, Bats stayed in the shadow of the bear pit. The two had difficulty hitting each other until Bats got him in a grapple, damaging him a few times in spine crushing hugs, until Walsh decided enough was enough and erupted bone spurs that would have damaged Bats if not for Celerity. Bats knocked Walsh on the ground in a pin, foot planted beneath the spines, hands gripping Walsh's wrist and pulled back, demanding Walsh yield. With an inhuman snarl, Walsh twisted the bone spurs out of his back, wrapped them around Bats leg and managed to sever it with another strength surge (lethal not aggravated damage).  This was the first visible sign that Walsh wasn't a vampire but few of the other vampires actually twigged to this -- or perhaps they didn't care and merely accepted that Walsh was an enigma too bothersome to uncover.
  • At that point, a high on PCP FatherMother leapt into the cage and elbow dived onto Walsh. Bats quickly Obfuscated the two of them. Worried that someone might die, Bats Obfuscated the two of them and FatherMother was left to wander the place in confusion. Walsh and Bats then merely sat there, talking, and then they clambered out as FatherMother tried to attack Seamus who had been walking on the walkway to tell Walsh to stop and who now simply faded (Ignore Me type of spell) out of there.
Gustaf jumped over the fire pit while naked (flashing off his Giant Size + Striking Looks combination) and used resilience to avoid taking any damage.  He managed not to frenzy from the flames.

FatherMother wasn't so lucky and frenzied during her first attempt to vault the flames.  So Gustaf used his web ability from Protean to stop her from killing folk and Walter brought her out of it by grabbing one of the prisoners and throwing it at her (under orders from Gustaf).

Siobhan convinced FatherMother's ghoul, Daryl Whicker, to proposition Seamus O'Baoill whom she had recently discovered was gay. Daryl put a hand on Seamus' shoulder and asked him if he'd like to go off with him.  Seamus first used Auspex to figure out what kind of woogie was being put on him, and when he realised the man was genuine, Seamus simply let him down gently - admitting that he had envisaged his first time being different than a random pick up and one night stand.

Walsh and Bats spoke telepathically for awhile (Bats' power) and then Seamus told Walsh to come with them to leave as Seamus had had enough of all of the Gangrel shenanigans and low Humanity hijinks. Walther Hawke and Siobhan followed the family patriarch as they left with Walsh quickly trading numbers with Bats before leaving.  Everyone leaving at his command gave Seamus that little bit more of a status boost. Like he needed it.

I waited until after the session to roll Humanity for people, querying if anyone wanted to cancel out any breaking points in exchange for banes, as I felt the vibe of a Gangrel gathering should be one where you don't really pick up on your loss of Humanity until afterward.  I did pre-warn the players that this would be how it worked before they entered the session.  There were a lot of banes earned that day.

NOTE: In the new vampire rules a vampire can adapt to monstrosity by choosing to gain some supernatural flaw in exchange for no longer caring about a particular inhumane act.  Since vampires can otherwise lose humanity when they do nasty acts, becoming closer to the Beast, if they don't do this it creates quite the incentive.  Of course not caring about an inhumane act has its own problems as certainly occurred with Seamus who gained the Bearing Witness bane so that he no longer cared about the horrors around him until he made a point of getting involved.  This made him colder indeed.
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Covenant Meetings


Picture from the Cassandra session but it shows three of the Crone
and the now deceased Ordo Dracul, Gary Dodd.

After the events of the last session, there was interest in running a few split "faction-specific" sessions which included the Ordo Dracul, the nascent Circle of the Crone and then finally a Gangrel-led clan celebration. Rather than attempting to go through all of the details on a forum that would be quite slow or an IRC chat room which would creak and sag under the weight of a dozen players, I thought it best to combine them all into a single day.

Since one of our players had to leave for hockey at 1:00PM, we began with the Ordo Dracul game at 11.00AM with people advised to attend as early as 10:00AM for pre-game chatter, meetings and conversation. The fellow who had yet to play a vampire (namely because he was playing the human, Henry Peterson, in the last game) sat in as Louie Bonaldo, the castellan's security minded ghoul.

I'd printed out several copies of the Agenda and after chatting to a few players of the Unsworn, I found the only person happy to MC the meeting was the player of Siobhan O'Baoill. So with that settled she sat down with the Agenda and started going through the following items:
  • Preliminaries
  • Present
  • Welcome to Kettral
  • Apologies
  • Business Arising from Previous Meeting
  • Juris Draconis
Most of the business passed easily, until they reached the heavy weight of the final item.  Michael Novichkov declared a Juris Draconis on Thomas McAllister based off Seamus O'Baoill's testimony that he had seen diablerie marks (basically soul eating) on Thomas McAllister aura. Shortly before Novichkov could even declare the Major Judge, McAllister said "Bye-bye Darling," and dropped Feral Infection. This meant that every person in that room had to roll versus frenzy (had the pre-rolled frenzy checks sorted in secret with the online rolls available to be seen on the forums because doing a dozen rolls in-game kills tension dead). Even the humans risked an anger frenzy!

Rather than telling people the results of their rolls, I instead informed them that they could spend a willpower point to avoid a frenzy for a round and that such willpower points would give them each a +1 bonus to their final roll. While typically you would pre-declare just how many points you would spend at the beginning, I decided to keep to the one-willpower-spent-per-turn method as it felt more organic and gave more leeway. Only once they ceased to spend willpower, or after things settled down, did I inform them of whether their bonuses were enough to go anywhere.  This matches how the game normally progresses as typically you don't make your roll until after you stop spending willpower.

Talitha immediately frenzied on her sire.  Professor Jasmine Hadley barely managed to get out of the way - she scrambled over the table but tripped over Walsh at the end due to a bad Athletics roll. Siobhan also immediately frenzied, having no willpower to spend, and she turned on Hadley and scratched her with her Gangrel claws. Walsh slipped out from under Hadley and went for a loose floor grille in preparation to slip away and hide.  The new vampire, Walther Hawkes (Siobhan's brother whom she only learned was her brother at the meeting itself), sensibly hid beneath the table.

McAllister dropped into Obfuscate on his next turn (good Initiative check) which meant that Gary Dodd (who had used both Coil of the Wyrm to immediately Ride the Wave of frenzy which allowed him to pick an objective to attack in a frenzy) could only pace the room and search for him. Novichkov ran to defend one door. Regrettably Kettral, Taylor and Epcott decided that retreat was the better part of valour and rather than block the other door they opened it -- though this gave McAllister a chance to escape the room it may have also saved everyone's unlife when Novichkov finally succumbed to his frenzy after almost everyone else had left.

By the time Novichkov stopped spending willpower, everyone had cleared out of the room.  It was only then that I informed him of his natural 1 on the roll.  So then he went in an anger frenzy after the other vampires.  First he ran toward the exit, damaging the locked door in its frame, in his efforts to locate someone.  Once that were done, he came charging through the haven looking for prey.

At this stage, Taylor was hiding in Gary Dodd's room behind his desk. Kettral was in his room. Siobhan had come after her frenzy only after Hadley Dominated her into draining Hadley's ghoul to death -- and the two had slipped through the bilge to the security office. Epcott was hiding in a hot desk office that anyone could access which had two doors.

And Gary Dodd had tracked the Obfuscated McAllister's movements into the library where a pile of folklore books sat in a pile ready to burn. McAllister set off a flare (still in obfuscate) to burn the books as Novichkov stepped into the room. Gary tried to kick the flare into Novichkov to distract him but failed to dislodge it from the books and burned his foot instead. Novichkov charged over to him, struck him a blow that stunned him, and then proceeded to shatter his skull. On the second Vigor punch, the Blood Potency 6 frenzying elder managed to hit him so hard that Gary Dodd immediately ashed upon the blow.

Then Novichkov came out of frenzy. McAllister set the alchemy lab on fire and snuck around before finally using a crowbar to pry open the exit and escape. After an hour of searching the Chapter House for him, they went to finish off the meeting. Important things needed to be spoken of.

First there was discussion of the need to call a blood hunt against McAllister. But there was no Prince since Harry Saeed had left the country in a previous downtime period. And so Professor Jasmine Hadley opened a discussion about the possible Praxis.

And then on to other Agenda items. So many of them were meant to be covered by Dodd and again and again there was a moment's silence when these items came up.  All knew that Novichkov wouldn't have stopped until one had died and all knew that Dodd had sacrificed his unlife in the line of duty. People kept as upbeat as shock allowed them and even Walsh seemed relatively peppy as he discussed his own agenda item.

That was to change later during the Gangrel meeting.

Dr. Jonathon Taylor also mentioned a certain fellow he had kept in torpor … who was awoken after being found in the Women's & Children's Hospital as a "patient" and was staked and put in a barrel.  A fellow called Marco Giovanni....  The  meeting ended with his revivification and introductions to the rest of the court.  And no, Marco wasn't a replacement character for Gary Dodd.  None of us really knew what the outcome of that diablerie accusation was going to be.

-------------

The Circle of the Crone covenant meeting, on the other hand, was mostly a meet and greet between the new and old players as well as some natural discussion about the problems of the city and the way forward for the covenant. Since no Kindred died, I feel it best to let them keep their secrets. They initially wanted to have a Chorus meeting for those interested in the covenant but whom belonged to another covenant but by the end of it they didn't really have a plan of what to do with them -- the Chorus that is -- and decided to worry about that later once they had more time to discuss things and get to know each other.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Taylor's Special Door Session

Dr. Jonathon Taylor was coming down off a red pill stolen from the fae realm in the second door session and it left him feeling pretty down, as fae pills tend to do.  He was feeling so depressed he chose to activate his stone to see where it took him.

We held the game in my house so that it looked nice and homely, put a roast in the oven, took out a Christmas tree and put birthday decorations around. When he first stepped into the realm, a set of warped Christmas songs (Very Scary Christmas) was playing and everyone but Seamus O'Baoill (actually a representation of Seamus possessed by the Taylor demon) was pretending to be dead around the table.

When Seamus encouraged Taylor to sit, everyone popped up with a "Surprise!"  There was much laughter and mirth from everyone but Taylor.  Then Siobhan had to blow out the five candles on her deathday cake and Taylor was invited to cut it into slices for them … slices which oozed with jam (representing gore). Although it was ostensibly Siobhan's deathday, Taylor kept being invited to do things as the guest of honour.

There was a rousing game of Pass the Parcel with a note from one of Taylor's old patients beneath each layer which Taylor was invited to read to the table no matter who got to unwrap the layer. The patient notes were sad because they were from children in a palliative care cancer ward but they were also inspiring because they were patients he had legitimately helped as he had never harmed any children.  As you may be starting to realise, the entire thing was a play on his old miseries and horrors designed to either break him or motivate him to actually accomplish his dreams.

His guests tied into such guilt.  His prior self (or rather the Strix he had become) was responsible for Embracing Siobhan (using Dominate on Seamus), torturing and killing both sire and sibling (Hadley and Talitha), and creating the demon that possessed Seamus in Campaign one, everything tied into that. There was also an NPC called Julia Dannenburg who had been spying on him under the guise of a depressed Suicide King present for these festivities.

The final layer of the Pass the Parcel was blood stained and when he opened it he found Nurse Cassandra's skull with a little identifying note. I was also portraying Nurse Cassandra, fetching knives and bringing out the cake, giggling and never speaking (my character's tongue was ripped out but he never really looked at me long enough to notice).

Then there was a game of Musical Chairs. Taylor was very reticent about playing and tried to fail on several occasions but the second-to-last person kept refusing to sit or even walked away saying they'd already lost.  Only a few people were allowed to win on their own.  Siobhan "won" the first time and was really excited for her present but when people started saying her prize was to be tortured, she became very scared and started begging Taylor not to hurt her. When Taylor refused to harm her, Talitha went to do so and when he Dominated her to not hurt her, he instead had to allow her to cut off one of his thumbs.

And then Siobhan eagerly said that they should play Musical Chairs again!

And on they went, though this time the winner was Talitha.

The final time it was Taylor himself who won and Talitha Salvatore tortured him quite well under the gentle instruction of "Seamus O'Baoill" who had dropped his Irish accent in favour of Taylor's odd style of speech. I went off to get dressed as the final NPC (the Evil Queen Fae) as the rest of the Cast poked and prodded him emotionally to see if he would break or harden his resolve. After he made a heartening speech about doing better, the Evil Queen arrived and spoke with him awhile, gave him clues as to how to break Cassandra out of the core and he was allowed to leave.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Welcome Session 2


Gustaf, Gangrel Crone.
The first session of Season 2 was a bigger session than usual and was most similar in form, function and structure to the very first session.  In other words all of the vampire characters were spirited away to Cassandra's realm to be tested and littered with various clues as that ghostly figure determined what to do with them.  As it was a new season, it was a good time to advertise and include new players.  After our advertising campaign, we had a total of 12 expressions of interest from new players though only six could make it in the end.  This brought the total number of players up to 20 though only 15 could attend.



 The new characters included:
  • Two humans who had been trapped in the Mirror World for a few years which in the real world equates to seventy years (both NPCs);
  • Hex was one of the proto-vampires called larvae who had been beaten into torpor during Session 7.  Prior to this session he was uplifted into Clan Daeva by Lewis Epcott;
  • Gloria Brown, cousin to Amity Fine, sister to Lewis Epcott and niece to Duchess Alicia Brown;
  • Kettral, sire to McAllister and grand-childe of Yzador;
  • MaidenLad, childe of FatherMother
  • Crowley, childe of the infamous Grandma Hollis of FatherMother's initial circle who was also an uplifted larvae from Session 7
  • Gustaf, new character from an existing player, had newly arrived to locate some family members in the city.
Many of the new characters were designed with a strong degree of inter-connectedness as it eases participation in the game and gives people a quick vested interest in the new characters.  Many of these characters were pre-generated with the option for players to either adopt them or give them back in the end.

So what happened during the game?

In short, a lot!

We had five hours in two main rooms.  The session started with the Circle of the Crone plus humans in one room and the Ordo Dracul in the other room plus the one Carthian PC.  The doors between those two halls were locked (padlock image blue tacked to the door on each side to represent this) and the doors would only open when it was unlocked by both sides (padlock image removed from the other side). You needed Larceny to do it so it gave the thief-types a chance to shine and it allowed the two groups to moderate when they would mingle.  There were other ways to cross that barrier individually (shrinking down to spider form or using Auspex 5 or even Acute Senses).

In each room there were two projectors showing a static blurred figure and occasional text in Typewriter font interspersed with lengthy periods of ambient music.  I'd learned my lesson from last time by using a change from ambient to lyric-based music to signal when the text would display but made the error in having the text move too rapidly (it reads differently when you're sitting at a computer screen compared to reading a projection).  I also made all of the clips add up to six rather than five hours so I had to skip ahead occasionally through the blank spaces between text clips. This also meant I accidentally skipped some text. Luckily that text, while cool, wasn't strictly necessary and can be used again.

There was also an alchemy lab set up which had the ingredients necessary for a couple puzzles and which could be used to forge one of two styles of love potions -- one made with Changeling blood and one made with Vampire blood.  I won't say how many were made, only that far fewer were made than expected and none were given to player characters, which is nice of them.

There was also a blood bowl people could drink to replenish their blood, though no one did, and a back table set up with nice snack foods and sweets that would only taste good for the mortals or those who bought MaidenLad's Flowers of Demeter (which had been given to MaidenLad by Grandma Hollis).

Three of the characters arrived high as kites on special fae drugs, which led to some interesting scenes.  A Major boon was spent by one high character to force another character to take a drug.  This was poor Dr. Jonathon Taylor who really needed more conditions to deal with.

The characters soon discovered that Nurse Cassandra wasn't giving them Strix to glean information from and exorcise like she had last time.  Oh no, instead they had a certain amount of time to solve certain puzzles around the room which would summon certain individuals in to talk with them.  These individuals would slowly deteriorate over time in unique ways and the other characters could either save them or destroy them. Leaving them too long without a decision would cause terrible repercussions … like madness leading to pyromania or spontaneous combustion.

Each time someone was summoned or something similar happened, the bell would ring.  Each bell that rang those who were out would find their curse progress.  This ensured that there were never too many cast out at the same time.

How did I get the cast? Well, I pre-arranged with some players that when a certain puzzle was solved I would appear them with a bell as the ghost of Nurse Cassandra, tap their character on the shoulder and lead them to the summoning sigil. They would disappear, a mask would appear in their place, and the player would then leave to dress up as the NPC. No one knew what arrangements had been made, what NPCs would arrive or which players would disappear.

The characters and their puzzles were:

  • Nicks (necromancer) could be summoned by setting fire to an offering bowl full of bark chips (LED candles hidden in the bark chips to represent fire) at which point his pyre-flame marionette egg would appear in the middle.  He could be saved by convincing him without mystical power to give someone the orb or slain by stealing it from him (which sped up his death).
  • The Blue Girl (true fae) could be summoned by playing her deck of cards "Love Letter" in the usual manner.  She could be healed by giving her the warming potion (she was growing increasingly icy) or harmed by giving her the sleep draught (which had a warning label that it would worsen the symptoms of hypothermia).
  • Skully could be summoned by opening the safe (whose combination was a letter riddle for OWL which could be converted into numbers using the telephone beside it which had say ABC listed over the button for 1, etc.) Skully could be saved through tears of genuine guilt or damned through being shot with the phosphorous rounds.
  • The Maid (Rider -- weaker custom variant of a Geist) could be summoned by answering the riddle put forth by the four paintings that were placed on the window sills (which luckily enough actually had a number permanently etched into them) and then finding a nail which was described via the riddle.
  • The Oracle (Rider) could be summoned by getting the deck of faux tarot cards (actually language teaching cards) from under the scorpion in a box contained in the safe. Normally a riddle had to be answered from the scorpion but the person using Animalism was so polite that they managed to convince the scorpion to simply hand it over. He could be saved by someone giving him a guilty secret powerful enough that it could get them killed.
  • The Cultist could be summoned by three people drinking out of the communion cup but instead of that technique she was pulled out due to a request given to the Blue Girl who simply wove her magic into the sigil to retrieve the woman.  This happened right before the end so that no one really understood what the cultist was raving about.
  • There was also changeling who could be summoned by a game of Gloom (native to Wonder City) but no one got around to finishing that game.
Strangely enough, each and every NPC summoned was saved and their information largely delivered.  I'd expected that the Blue Girl would be purposefully slain and Nicks accidentally killed when no one bothered to gain his trust.  Instead, full win conditions all round!

This time they dealt with Compassion rather than Mercy as the angels sent by the God Machine.  Compassion's shawls fell off her as she ran through the room, sporadically pausing in a seizure mid-speech as she babbled at them about all kinds of matters. Finally she stopped by one table and held out her hands and told them to vote for either Order (the Throne) or Chaos (Cassandra). Each person who had a stone (new characters) had to vote by placing the stone in one of her two hands.

The characters who had been around awhile all encouraged them to vote for Cassandra in the hopes that by empowering her enough they could remove the gloom walls.  When they left they found the gloom walls were all still intact.