God Machine Chronicle – Final Session – What has risen may fall…

Hesitantly raising their phones to their ears and through a hissing and crackling of static Brian can just about make out a panicked voice that sounds a little like to (now deceased) Bartek Prusee crying out “The room numbers, they don’t make any sense… I… I can’t see… is there anyone there?”
Brian attempts to talk back but it’s as though the voice on the other end can’t hear him and soon, it is lost amidst the screeching static. Catia has recovered after her short nap and, pulling out her laptop from her rucksack, begins attempting to access the internet, unfortunately she is unable to establish a connection as the snowstorm continues outside unabated; however after a few moments they notice a hissing static from the speakers and a quite voice reciting a list of numbers, the static resists all attempts to power down the laptop and remove its battery. Finally, worried that whatever lurks in Specto Vale may be listening in, Catia opens the window of Maggie’s flat and, fighting against the wind that rushes in, hurls it into the blizzard outside.
A banging on the door of the flat distracts them, and they open the door to see the young junky that she encountered earlier; they let him in and the panicked young man, who is clearly wired and running on adrenalin, tells them that people have gone crazy in the flats. The violence that was momentarily stopped at the Red Lion has spilled out into the rest of Specto Vale; the youth tells them how he saw a group of polish men kicking someone half to death on the stair, he was worried they were going to turn on him and so fled, he didn’t know where else to go and so knocked on Maggie’s door.
Deciding that they need to get back into the mirror-world to get some answers Brian and Joe force their way into the corridors, now packed with people gripped in throes of some unholy bloodlust; they fight their way up to the 13th floor and Bartek’s flat where Brian begins to work on picking the lock. They are surprised when they hear footsteps on the other side of the door and a far more healthy looking version of Bartek Prusee wearing an immaculate suit opens the door and invites them in. Attempting to seem natural Brian attempts to persuade Bartek that he sold him the mirror recently when he was ill, Bartek claims to have no memory of it but says they’re welcome to the large mirror, he then offers to make them a cup of tea. Brian tries to pass through the large mirror, but finds the surface normal and unyielding glass, he is prevented from going further when Bartek enters and Joe begins to engage him in conversation about purchasing some arms from him.
As they talk a small cat emerges from the back room and sits watching them, Joe shakes hands with Bartek, finding his flesh as firm and unyielding as the surface of the mirror and then, hearing a slight ticking, they bid farewell to Bartek.
Downstairs Catia has just finished giving the junky a couple of paracetamols, hoping that the placebo effect will keep him calm for a while, when Joe and Brian return, having fought their way back down the floors of Specto Vale. Brian explains what just occurred in Bartek’s flat and speculates that perhaps what they heard on the phones was Bartek’s personality being some uploaded in this new copy of him; as he talks Catia checks the patch of numbness on Brian’s arm and finds that it is very slowly spreading across his body. The sound of a cat scratching at the door attracts Maggie’s attention and she finds, to her shock, that her dog is cowering in fear under the bed. Brian flings open the door and Joe boots it across the corridor, although the little beast draws three shallows scratches across his leg.
Realising that Bartek’s mirror either no longer workd or has been replaced, Joe and Brian fight their way down to the first floor and the abandoned flat, where they find the tall mirror waiting for them; Brian enters into the strange reflected world, where a strange iron-like smell fills the air, walking out into the corridor of the mirror-world he sees odd red/black splotches splattered along the walls, ceiled and floor of the corridor. He is about to leave when some movement outside the window catches his attention; looking outside through the flimsy reflection of a window he sees a field of white with the strange black circle floating in it. Tearing the paper thin reflected window Brian pokes his head out and beholds a huge figur towering above the tenement, with pale white skin, colourless eyes, and a perfectly white suit; the hair of the figure is whipped about in an unfelt wind and it stares pitilessly down at the tower block.
In the mirror-world Brian begins moving to the top floor of the building whilst, in the real world Joe begins fighting his way through the rioting crowds to the top floor also.
Reaching the reflection of the top floor, Brian sees that here the entire place is coated with the strange red/black substance, indeed he can barely see any normal wall; he sees that there is a sky light in the ceiling but that he will need something to stand on, but realises that none of the flimsy fake furniture in this mirror world will support his weight. Suddenly he remembers that the furniture in the reflected version of his own flat had been becoming progressively more solid since he had been ‘infected.’
Making his way to the reflected version of his own flat, Brian sees a shadowed figure sat watching the TV, an all too human and familiar arm gripping the TV remote. Grabbing his mini-step ladder Brian attempts to leave without rousing the creature but the freakish scarecrow-like figure, with its button eyes, crumbling straw and all too human arm rises from the chair and advances stumblingly towards him, striking him solidly across the forehead with the remote. Reeling back Brian pins the thing to the wall using the ladder, sprays it with lighter fluid and flicks his lighter; the straw catches and begins to burn, flaming bits of grass and hessian falling to the ground, however the human arm burns like flesh and Brian feels the pain as though his own flesh were catching fire and burning down to the bone. Gritting his teeth against the pain and telling himself that it is not real, Brian holds the scarecrow in place until it hass burned completely, leaving just skeletal arm bones which crumble to dust when touched; Brian is relieved to find that the numbness in his own arm has disappeared.
Climbing up to the roof Brian attempts to attract the attention of the huge, pallid figure, but to no avail.
Joe has reached the top floor where he eventually persuades the owner of Specto Vale Mr Carlson to let him in, the pudgy man looks extremely scared and leans heavily on his walking cane, limping as he lets Joe in. After some persuasion Carlson reveals that he is only a middle-manager, he was once an out of work businessman with a sick mother; a business consortium lead by a Mr White approached him and offered to make him rich, take care of his mother and give him a place to live if he ran Specto Vale for them. As Brian waves at the figure in the mirror world, a red phone on Carlson’s desk begins ringing; Joe picks it up and a moderated voice says “Our security is compromised, I would advise you spend some time with your mother Mr Carlson, your services will soon no longer be required.”
CLimbing back down the ladder, Brian pushes open the door of the single top floor flat and sees a conglomeration of pipes and tubes emerging from the ceiling and pumping the red ichor into an eeriley androgynous figure with a silver shine to it’s skin, resembling a metallic angel, knife-like wings spread out behind it and it’s head hangs as though sleeping. Brian attempts to pull free one of the pipes but with strartingly quickness the metallic angels hand, graps his own; drawing his pistol Brian shoots one of the pipes and, as the pipe flies free and the angel releases him, he dives to one side avoiding the spraying fluids. A few moments later the pipe slithers back into the angels chest seemingly of its own volition and the figure resumes its slumber; removing his can of lighter fluid, Brian sprays the creature liberally and begins to dribble a trail back out to the corridor, he flicks his lighter and tosses it onto the trail of fluid, watching as flame lanced out towards the angel.
Seemingly unharmed by the flames, the metal angel drops from the wall as the pipes burnt away and began to slowly walk across the floor, Brian drew his gun and fired it into the creatures chest; as it moved the creature seemed to be absorbing the stains on the walls and ceiling, feeding on the violence, death and pain and seemingly unharmed by the bullet. In the real world Carlson doubled over in pain, a hole forming in his chest and blood bubbling forth from the wound; Joe grabbed his collar and began to drag him through the crowded corridor.
In the mirror world the angel continues to absorb the stains of death and rage that now permeate the building, with each stain it absorbs it becomes progressively more human looking, until eventually Brian notices that the creature no longer walks but hovers slightly above the ground. The angel seems to have no interest in Brian and continues to move down through the floors (with Brian following behind) until it reaches the 13th floor; a wave of its hand opens the flat that Brian recognises as belonging to the strange cat lady and they go inside. In the reflection version of the room, a strange metallic cockroach-like creature with a hugely distended abdomen lies squirming beneath a pile of fetid blankets, it convulses and one of the sack-headed cat things plops out of it with a sickening squelch; the angel waves its hand and the metallic cockroach begins to fall to pieces, its work now complete. The angel moves to the old woman’s mirror and passes through it, Brian follows and finds himself in the real world version of the flat; there is no sign of the angel but the crazy cat lady lies dead in the next room, one of her cats perched on her lifeless chest.
Brian bursts out of the real world flat to find Joe dragging the bloody form of Mr Carlson past the door; after a brief explanation (dodging the perpetrators of the violence, which seems to be reaching epic proportions) Joe roots around in Carlson’s pocket, finding a mobile phone he scrolls through the phonebook until he finds a number labelled “Mr White: number 111-111-11” and presses the dial button. The calm voice of Mr White answers him and, in response to his questions, tells him that the experiment is reaching its conclusion and that the violence in the hearts of all men has been awakened. Mr White tells Joe that the council block will soon be “shut down” as the experiment ends and that he is empowered to ensure the residents of Specto Vale remain there, but that his storm will soon not be needed.
Joe and Brian fight their way back to Maggie’s flat and, pausing only to grab some recreational drugs, Maggie’s dog, a small tent and some medical supplies they force their way outside to the bus stop where there is still a strange lack of the storm. Holding hands they force their way to the bus stop, set up their tent and settle down, hoping that by medicating themselves to feel no anger or violence they will not feed the thing that rampages through the tenement like a fever; eventually they all drift off to sleep as the adrenalin that has fuelled them over the past few hours fades.
Joe is woken in the morning by something rapping on the outside of the tent, he emerges blearily into the warmth of a sunny, snowless day and find himself face to face with a policeman. The policeman tells them that they can’t squat in the bus stop, people are waiting to use the bus (as a small crowd gathered around seems to verify); the officer tells them that he’ll walk around the block and that, if they’re not gone by the time he returns, then he’ll have to arrest them. Emerging from the tent and looking over in the direction of Specto Vale, Maggie sees only an old burnt out ruin of a building; as Brian and Catia begin to wake, Maggie asks an old woman standing nearby what happened to the building.
The woman looks confused for a second and says “What? Oh, old Specto Vale, some people went crazy in there and burnt it down when I was a girl, everyone died. Must have been about 50 years ago…”
THE END

Planning for my first G+ game

Okay, so a few friends of mine who I do LARP (Live-Action RolePlay) with and myself were chatting a while back about tabletop roleplaying and I was telling them about some of the games that i’m GMing at present; now most of them live a fair distance away and a couple of them were lamenting the lack of tabletop RPG action in their area, also, although we all meet up for weekends of LARP there’s not quite the same impetus to travel the length of the country in order to do a single night of tabletopping. Given that a few of us have been getting more into Google+ and Youtube recently (https://www.youtube.com/user/MrLARGEJO/) and i’ve seen numerous recording ‘actual-plays’ of people using G+ hangouts to play RP sessions over the net we talked about doing something similar; now life, as it often does, got in the way and we never really got to do anything about it as we were swept up in the chaos of the 2013 Lorien Trust LARP mainline seasion.
Recently I decided that we really should make an attempt at actually pushing forward with a session, partly because i’m keen to experiment more with G+ hangout roleplaying and also because i’m interested in seeing what it’s like tabletopping with people whom i’ve only ever really done LARP or boardgames before (both of which are quite different); so I set up a facebook event and arranged a date (this Sunday evening), but then of course we were left with the question of what do we play?
I have numerous RPGs on the shelves in my room but, given that this is the first TT experience for a couple of the players and that it was our first time at RPing over G+ I wanted something that was simple to pick up, kept the game very dramatic and allowed it to move along reasonably rapidly since we only have about four hours of gaming realistically since most of us have work the next day, I want to cram as much game into those four or so hours as possible. As usual when I want a good game to introduce new-comers to TT RPing i’ve turned to one of my favourite systems, Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) along with a brilliant G+ Fate roller extension (http://www.diceboy.com/).
One of the players is quite new to TT and wants some sort of easy to get into fantasy game because, although new to TT, the LARP that we do is fantasy based and he has experience of lots of fantasy films; this is fine, i’ve already done some consideration of how to adapt FAE to a D&D-esque setting (detailed in previous blog posts). For this game though, i’ve decided to keep things simple (anything not mentioned below is as it is in the core FAE book):
Aspects: In addition to their High Concept and Trouble, players will also have a Race aspect (dwarf, orc, etc) that can be invoked (as normal) whenever they perform an action that fits with the concept of their race (i’ll be keeping it pretty simple and stereotypical for this game, orcs are brutish and violent, dwarves are rigid, stoic craftsmen, etc etc).
Magic: In order to have magic a sorceror must have the Aspect ‘Sorceror’, they must also have a Stunt (or Stunts) that defines their type of magic; for example, a sorceror may have the Stunt ‘Fire magic’ and all of their spells will involved heat or fire in some way. Magic will use the normal action rules as described in FAE (attacking, defending, etc).
Equipment: Unless taken as a Stunt equipment is assumed to be of insufficient quality to make any real difference to the dice rolls, if taken as a Stunt then it can add the normal +2 to an appropriate situation.
Taking inspiration from the recent Dungeon World session that I ran, I intend to use the player character Aspects (and a brief Q&A with the players at the start after character gen) to create a rough map of the world and detail out the major threats/challenges, once we have this i’ll run with what i’ve got and see where it goes from there. Assuming all goes well with the technical side of things then the game will be recorded and uploaded to my Youtube Channel  when we’ve finished the session.

God Machine Chronicle – Man in the Mirror

Catia is sat in the Red Lion, a rough looking pub built in the lobby of the apartment block, although it’s not been trading much recently given that fresh deliveries have been entirely cut off by the snowstorm, the manager Redge has a long standing arrangement that he allows the Resident’s Association to use his backroom for meetings; normally the meetings consist of a few busy-bodies who meet up, rattle on for a few minutes and drink the odd shandy or lager, not today though, today the meeting is full of riles up residents who have been trapped in the apartment block together since the beginning of the storm, food is starting to run low and tempers are running high. Despite repeated calls for calm from the few cooler heads in the room (including Catia herself) and chance collision between a youth and a polish gentleman turns first into a shoving match and then into a full scale brawl with parties on both sides wading in, the English blaming the new wave of immigrants for stealing their friends houses, and the immigrants complaining at how they are being treated like dirt and spat upon; during the chaos Catia attempts to duck through the crowd and get clear, she pauses to snatch up a bewildered child on her way out, getting bumped and jostled in the progress, and delivers the young boy safely to his worried mother before advising the woman to take her son back to her own appartment and stay there. Thinking that some sort of distraction might stop the fighting Catia presses the emergency fire alarm, remembering too late that it will also set off the sprinklers in the corridors, they spray a brief gout of water onto the floors of the corridors throughout the building before the frozen pipes seize up and the water flow stops.
In her own room Maggie wakes up from an uneasy sleep to sound of a fire alarm ringing, she looks out the spyhole on her door and notices the slick wet floor of the corridor that has already started to freeze in the cold temperatures, before she can do anything more her mobile phone rings, it’s Catia who tells her what’s going on with riot and asks whether she’d be able to get Joe to help calm it down; Maggie says that she’ll see what she can do, rings Joe and tells him what’s going on in the Red Lion. Wasting no time Joe storms down to the pub where he finds the riot in full swing, spilling out of the pub into the foyer of the building, pushing his way through the crowd, staring down anyone who dares challenge him, Joe finds Redge crouched behind the bar; grabbed a pool cue he smashes it across the chest of the first person who gets too close to him and sends the man crashing to the floor, as a youth spins around with a flick knife Joe picks up a second pool cue and breaks it around the youths head, causing him to crumple in an unconscious heap. As a moments hush falls over the room and the riot pauses momentarily Joe says simply “Enough. Go home.”
Seeing the known to be ruthless criminal standing there holding half a bloody pool cue with two broken bodies lying at his feet the riots think discretion is the better part of valor and begin to disperse, although it is clear from the angry looks being exchanged that the matter is not over, it has just been paused momentarily, the main storm of protest is still to break. Joe checks his phone and is surprised to see that for the first time since the storm started he has a single bar of signal on his phone; ringing one of his boys he receives a garbled response before hanging up:
“Jo…ere ou…een…oads are…in…kay?”
Joe phones Maggie and asks her to bring Catia and meet him in the Red Lion and to bring a shovel, Maggie is only able to locate a small shovel that she uses for potting on her plants but she meets up with Catia and heads down to the pub, by the time they arrive Joe is drinking at the bar with Redge; initially the barman/owner looks a little worried that the rioters might have returned but he relaxes when he sees the two women and goes back to sweeping up the splintered furniture and smashed glass that the rioters have left in their wake. As Joe explains what has happened and that he thinks they should get out of the building (although he has not been able to get in touch with Brian yet), Catia recalls seeing a JCB on a building site to the west of the Specto Vale block just before the storm really kicked in, she suggests that they head to the site, take the digger and use it to make a break through the snowstorm. The three of them dig their way out of the front door of the tower block (which is now massively snowed in) and begin walking to the west, however, after a few minutes they find themselves approaching the Specto Vale entrance again; Catia thinks they must have got turned around since visibility is practically zero, Joe is not so sure though. Deciding to head to the bus stop they arrive and find that there is a still an area around it not touched by the snow, as Maggie described to them previously, Joe tells the girls to stay in the shelter and keep safe whilst he heads of to the building site; however, sure enough, a few minutes after he has left Joe finds himself heading back towards the bus stop, certain that something unusual is going he suggest that they return to the block.
Once they get back inside Joe directs them to the unoccupied flat 113 that they visited previously, the door still hangs in tatters where Joe kicked it off its hinges and the oval mirror is still inside; once the dust sheet is removed from the mirror Catia can see that the room is reflected in it but that they aren’t. Exploring the apartment Maggie finds a small hand mirror abandoned on a dresser in the bedroom, she takes it with her and hands it over to Joe who, acting on a hunch, puts his hand through the liquid-like surface of the large mirror whilst Maggie and Catia look at his reflection in the little mirror, they are surprised to see that his reflection in the little mirror disappears the moment his hand breaches the surface of the large mirror, and re-appears when he withdraws it. Taking the small mirror Joe plunges his head and arm through the surface of the large mirror, on the other side he sees the strange reflection realm, but the surface of the small mirror has turned black and non-reflective, although it returns to normal when he emerges from the large mirror back into our world.
Meanwhile Brian has woken up in his apartment, the sound of the fire bells having roused him from a nightmare about cogs, whirring gears and a strange ticking noise, looking outside his door he sees a frozen skin of water coating the floor of the corridor, confusing he picks up his phone and punches in Joe’s number; Joe explains to him about the riot and, on impulse, puts his phone holding hand and head through the large mirror whilst talking to Brian. Immediately Brian’s voice is replace by a crackling of static and just below it, a business-like voice repeats the phrase “What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again.”
As he heads down to meet the rest of them Brian notices that the wounds on his hand appear to have disappeared but there is a small patch of skin near his thumb where he appears to have lost all feeling and sensation.
Having trouble dealing with the concept of these strange mirrors and feeling beaten up after her experiences of the riot Catia flops down in a chair, a shocked look on her face, trying to be comforting Maggie pats her on the back and passes a large joint across to her, whilst this is going Joe has emerged from the large mirror just as Brian meets them in the flat. Joe suggest to Brian that he enter the mirror-verse and go to Mile’s room, nodding Brian enters the large mirror and makes his way through the twisted reflection version of Specto Vale to Miles room where he finds not the tidied up sanitary version of the room from their last visit but the messy, cluttered survivalists hidey hole of their first visit, however everything in there feels real and solid, not like the flimsy fake furniture and items in the rest of the mirror world, he pockets the blueprints he finds on the walls there and, thinking about what Joe has told him about phones in the mirror-verse attempts to make a call on his mobile. He is rewarded with the sound of static and a faint voice saying:
“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”
Unable to make sense of the number sequence Brian hangs up and heads to his own apartment; it seems (like almost every other reflection version of a place) as an imperfect reflection of his apartment and he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, gingerly pulling them back he exposes a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it would appear the scarecrow like figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, Brian knocks the covers exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he notices with terror that there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.
In our world Maggie has returned to her own flat, she is determined to throw all of her mirrors away but is distracted by the appearance of a jittery youth who is obviously some sort of addict experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he claims to be from one of the second floor flats and says that there aren’t any drugs coming in and that things are going to start getting ugly if people don’t get their fix, he’s heard that perhaps Maggie could hook him up. Maggie only carries weed and so she rings Joe who has a few small samples of harder stuff and agrees to sell the guy some if Maggie gets his apartment number; satisfied the grateful addict leaves and Maggie begins to systematically hurl all of her mirrors out of her apartment window where they shatter on the snowy floor below, however as she throws the last one Maggie swears that she sees eyes not her own staring back at her and then the mirror tumbles into the whiteness and crashes to the ground below.
Brian has traveled through the mirror-block of flats to the reflection of Bartek Prusee’s flat on the 13th floor, he jimmies the door open and walks inside, a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as Brian circles round the chair warily he sees another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; Brian attempts to talk to the figure but gets no response until he tries speaking backwards at which point the head begins to move, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Unnerved Brian writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and throws it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reaches up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note and Brian is horrified to see that its right arm is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”
Suddenly his phone rings and, when he answer it, over the crackling he hears a voice that sounds like Bartek speaking backwards saying “What are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again.” Realising that he is speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories, Brian drags the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Brian steps into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when he crawls out and attempts to speak to Bartek the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting Brian square in the shoulder, the old gangster shouts “Which one are you?”
“I’m the real one” replies Brian showing the blood from his fresh injury, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who directs Brian to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterise the wound, that he has in his bathroom cabinet. When Brian returns, having cleaned himself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realised that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks Brian whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when Brian looks at him blankly, explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. To Brian’s surprise he finds that he can’t remember the exact dates or times either; Brian attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells him not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on you.
Brian attempts to explain about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm, at the end of the conversation he notes that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, checking his pulse he finds that the old man has died quietly. 
Walking back down the first floor, the others are surprised when Brian walks in through the door rather than emerging out of the mirror but they don’t have much time to talk as Brian and Maggie (who has been explaining about the face in her mirror) hear the sound of a janitors wheeled cart approaching; still unsure of what is going on with the odd monosyllabic janitors they duck out of the apartment and head to the Red Lion where Redge has swept all the debris from the riot in a single pile and is now getting drunk. Brian shows the photos and video clips he has been taking in the mirror world on his smart phone and also the bullet that he removed from his shoulder, a brief argument breaks out when Maggie brings up the subject of the face in her mirror about whether she or Brian has had the worst day, this ends when Brian asks Redge about how his stock levels are doing and if he can remember what date the storm started; Redge seems to ponder it for a second before getting very irate and changing the subject, Brian holds this up as proof of what he has been saying to the others, they are not where they think that they are.
As Redge heads into the back room to get some more drinks Maggie notices a low hissing from two speakers fastened to the walls beside the bar, although Redge dismisses it as feedback from cheap speakers when asked, the group decide to ajourn their conversation to Maggie’s flat where Brian outlines his plan to re-enter the mirror world; Catia, obviously tired from her exertions during the riot falls asleep on one of the comfy chairs in the flat. At this point everyone’s mobile phone begins ringing simultaneously, Joe switches off both his and Catia’s phones whilst Maggie and Brian reach for theirs and press the answer button.

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up 5 – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective of my character in a game that I playing.
“After a few minutes nothing seemed to have happened, Agent Brockhurst hadn’t sprouted red leaves or anything freaky like that so he unchained himself, he was behind the door putting away the cuffs in his coat when a worried looking nurse came in holding a full syringe, she was moving over towards me when Brockhurst cleared his throat loudly and stepped out from behind the door at which point the crazy bitch almost broke down and threw the syringe down. With no patience for any more of this backwater towns craziness we were blunt with her and managed to shake out that a man in Ms Aimes room had ordered her to do it.
Clambering painfully out of the bed, I grabbed a spare pistol off Brockhurst and we stormed into the room to see a figure in a red coat looming over the woman, all of the monitors and screens were off; as it heard us the figure started to reach inside it’s coat and was answered by a volley of gunfire from Brockhurst and myself. Pulling the fallen figures hood back as the gunsmoke cleared we revealed Deputy Thomas, and in a second my suspicions about the Sheriff’s department in this shitwater town were confirmed.
Through blood splattered lips Thomas was gibbered about how the Sheriff would soon complete his last sacrifice and begin his ascenscion; again we were not gentle with our questioning and were soon speeding to the car, Brockhurst pushing me in a commandeered wheelchair, my body still not up for the pressures of running. As he put me in the car and clipped himself into the driving seat I rang up our technical support agent and Carpenter to warn them about the Sheriff, it turned out they were already on the way to the station; I told them what had gone down and warned them to go in armed.
SMASH! The window of the van caved in and a huge and horrifically familiar axe smashed through it, I could smell rain outside and then I was frantically shouting to Brockhurst as he gunned the van into reverse and sped backwards, the vehicle squealed round and we zoomed off towards the station with the fading figure of the red coated killer (the real one, not some crazy deputy) stomping slowly after us.
Pulling up outside the building, we could see the red coat killer on the horizon, someone we hadn’t managed to lose it even though we’d broke every speed limit in the book; Brockhurst dived outside of the car shouting for me to get out and let the bureau know what was going on, realising how useless I was in my current state I could only nod before sliding into the driver seat and gunning the engine. As I drove away I stabbed at my mobile phone buttons and began to relay my report to the agent at the other end, in the distance I heard gunshots and could only hope my fellow Agents made it out okay as I requested emergency assistance from Project Valkyrie.
After that case we were all re-assigned, I only ever saw our technical support girl and Carpenter once after that, all of the reports had been locked up and i’d been denied access; we met in a cafĂ© a few months after the case was officially closed, apparently they had taken down the Sheriff shortly before the real red coat killer had turned up and Agent Brockhurst had been killed by the real killer, giving the others time to escape.
I can only hope that wherever Brockhurst is now, somehow he found his father. Agent Dublowski signing off.”

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up 4 – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective of my character in a game that I playing.
“Damn… my head was killing me…I opened my eyes blearly and slowly the irritating noise I could hear became the clear beeping of some sort of heart monitor attached to me; looking around it seemed as though i’d been bought to the hospital. Brockhurst was waiting in the room and seemed relieved that i’d made it; he showed me a jacket that he’d found in the lumber mill (least he’d got there) – I used my ability on it and was able to tell him that it was from the original victim, although the strain caused me to pass out again.
When I woke up Brockhurst was checking me over, the wounds on my neck were strangle marks from incredibly large hands, no wonder it was so hard for me to breathe; I got Brockhurst to read the chart from the end of the bed, but it showed nothing unusual. My fellow agent was talking about the seeds but I kept fading in and out, eventually he was able to make me understand that he had obtained some of the red seeds and was going to hold them next to his skin as part of some experiment, he then handcuffed himself to the radiator and we waited.”

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up 3 – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective of my character in a game that I playing.

“After arriving at the hospital we found Brockhurst in a state of confusion, something had really spooked him; he claimed that something had happened whilst he’d been performing the autopsy on the murdered woman and that his surroundings had changed without really changing and that the Red Raincoat killer had appeared and attacked him, however, he’d squeezed of several shots at the killer (apparently with little effect). Combing the area near where he’d been in the hospital I was unable to find any shell casings or evidence of arms fire, but Agent Brockhurst’s gun had definitely been discharged recently, suggesting that there was some truth to his story; a lot of agents might have blown off the idea that someone could be somewhere one minute and elsewhere the next, sure it sounded crazy, but I worked for VASCU, crazy was our business.

Coaxing him back into the autopsy room and guarding him whilst the investigation continued, it was discovered that the victim Anna had red seeds placed in her mouth and that her tongue had been removed; according to Brockhurst’s medical skills she’d probably died of blood loss as a result of the injury, some sort of sharp instrument had been used to remove the tongue.

Realising that we were getting nowhere and that more people might start dying if we didn’t make any headway I decided that enough was enough, the local sheriff knew something (I had seen it in his face when i’d shown the plant samples to the local forester) and he wasn’t telling; i’d been playing nice up until now, but i’d do whatever it took to get this case resolved and see that justice was done, God help anyone who got in my way. Pushing my way into the Sheriff’s office I confronted him, explaining that I knew he was hiding something and that we were both working to see that justice is done, he could either work with us or tell us what he knew and get the hell out of our way; my tactics seemed to work and he confessed to knowing about a small copse of red coloured trees located near a communal cemetery.

Travelling to the cemetary we met Brian Strange the groundskeeper who showed us to the copse of trees; noting that they appeared to be of the same genus as our original red plants (and remembering that they had grown in corpses) we commandeered some spades and started digging around the bases of the trees. Eventually, to our horror (but not surprise) we unearthed a number of bodies tangled in the roots, some long dead, others more recent, the cult overtones of this case were becoming harder to ignore. I rang the local sheriff and was halfway through calling in our other two agents when my phone shorted out and it began to rain; Agent Brockhurst paled and said this is what had happened at the hospital.

Sure enough we glimpsed a red-coated figure through the trees, it appeared to be dragging some sort of large and improbably heavy axe behind it as it moved through the trees that, in the dim light, looked for all the world like shadowy figures reaching out their arms towards us. We fired off a few shots but it seemed to make no difference, Brockhurst wanted to hold off the creature whilst I made a run towards our other lead, the distant lumber mill but, realising he was faster, I volunteered to hold it off. As Brockhurst broke into a run I kept firing at the killer drawing it towards me and then, as it got closer, and I could see that there was no face below the hood of the coat, I grabbed the large axe, wrenching the heavy weight from its grasp with all my strength and heaved it over my head.

I had hoped that the creature’s (since I had no doubt now that this thing wasn’t human) own axe might be able to injure it where our bullets had failed, but I could barely lift it; I hoped that the fleet footed Agent Brockhurst had got away as the things hands closed around my throat and began to squeeze. Blackness rushed towards me, my heart pounded in my ears as I felt myself falling.”  

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up 2 – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective of my character in a game that I playing.

“We all met up early morning in the dining room at the Grand Deer hotel to look over what informations we’d managed to discover so far; Ms Oxford was buzzing around serving us breakfast so we took the opportunity to fill in some of the details that she’d provided us with last night. The middle-aged woman told us again about the Stuart family and various logging concerns owning most of the land hereabouts; I was mainly interested (given the strange plants we’d come across) in finding out who looked after the local park lands, Polly was able to give me the description of a Jim Green (an old man who was friend of hers and often stopped in at the hotel) who was the local forrester.

Deciding that it was about time we paid a courtesy call to the local law enforcement (since the case wasn’t yet officially ours until we proved a link between crimes occurring in more than one state, and it never hurts to have the boys at the front onside) we drove past the crumbling, mostly empty houses of a town that had obviously seen better days to the Sheriff’s office where the receptionist Thomas McClane seemed surprised we’d responded so quickly to the report of the death in the area. Like I said, it never hurts to have the local knowledge onside and getting justice it’s what’s important at the end of the day, so I plastered what I hoped was a sincere smile on my face and made nice with them, eventually getting introduced to the Deputy Sheriff, Emily Wyatt.

One thing that did strike me as odd as we were lead into the offices; the whole place was decked out as though it had recently housed the trappings of a large investigation and yet the whiteboard at the head of the room (which would normally be used to map suspects and connections) was completely blank.

Deputy Wyatt took us through to meet her boss, the Sheriff, he was an older man with a deep, puckered scar on one cheek (which our research told us was from a gardening accident some years ago); although initially suspicious of federal involvement, my attempt to ‘play nice’ seemed to win him over and he confessed to having known the victim of the murder, a young local girl called Anna who had been found on the parkland by Jim Green’s grandchildren. Apparently the two young children had told their father that they had seen an angel in the woods and, when they had taken him to the spot where they had seen the angel, Anna had been found strung up to a tree with rope.

The Sheriff agreed to take us to the murder scene and contact Jim Green so that he could meet us there for questioning, we were assured that, aside from the removal of the body, nothing had been tampered with and we had photos of the original position of the body that showed the woman kneeling infront of the tree with her hands tied above her head. As we headed down the forest tracks I contacted Agent Brockhurst and explained that the local Sheriff’s office were a little short on medical personnel and that i’d got permission from the Sheriff for him to autopsy the body; as I put the phone down I wondered if I had made the right decision, Brockhurst had the medical knowledge and ability but he was hardly a people person, least I knew when to play nice with others when I needed to, still there wasn’t time to worry about it too much, we needed to find out what was going on in this town.

Arriving at the crime scene we met up with Mr Green and I showed the Sheriff a sample of the red plant seeds that we had discovered; although he claimed not to have seen anything like it before, there was something in his look that made me think he wasn’t being completely honest with me. Mr Green was extremely interested in the seeds, saying that the barbs on them resembled the seeds of several desert grasses or shrubs whose seeds stuck into the hides of animals to distribute them, but that normally the desert plants were much larger than this. Investigating the tree that Anna had been tied to we found it surrounded by the stumps of several candles, initially I though this was a local tribute to the dead girl (not an uncommon site) however, reviews of the evidence and photos showed that they were probably there when she died; I sent a call through to Brockhurst to tell him that we may be looking at some sort of ritualistic crime.

I examined the tree and discovered a symbol found in it, it kind of looked like that old hippy sign only upside down, our technical specialist remarked that it looked like a tree and began trying to research it, although she was having trouble getting a signal out here in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Ironside had been asking the Sheriff about Anna; it was the usual story that she worked locally at a diner, was a sweet girl and well-like by everybody, it’s funny how no-one has a bad word to say about the dead. She had no boyfriend but apparently was very close to a girl called Becky Ames who also lived in the town.

It had started to gently rain and the Sheriff made some offhand remark about the locals all “heading inside”, something about it struck me as odd and when I asked was told that there was a local legend about a killer in the 50s whom the locals had nicknamed the raincoat killed, apparently when it rained the killer stalked the streets with an axe and wearing a red raincoat. A few years ago i’d have blown this off as local superstition, but given what i’d seen during my years with VASCU and our roadside encounter with the red clad runner I set the whizzkid onto researching it, although all the information she was able to find (despite her patchy net connection) seemed to suggest that it was nothing more than a gruesome urban legend.

We were about to ask some more questions when the Sheriff had a strange called radio-ed through from the hospital, apparently Brockhurst had been performing the autopsy there and was now waving his gun at people; jumping into the car we made our way to the hospital as quickly as possible. Much as Agent Brockhurst might be a bit rough around the edges, I knew that he wasn’t the type to just point a gun at someone for no reason, something must have happened.”

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective from my character in a game that I playing.

“Me and Brockhurst were just finishing up a case when the call came through from two other Agents (codename “Ironside” and “Courtney”); they’d tracked a criminal (some crazy woman who’d attached razorblades to her fingers and had cut up Courtney pretty good) to an old house in the Maine town of Rockwell. I’d vaguely read some of the material on the case, it had started with a spate of household pets going missing, then the body of a pet owner had been found bludgeoned to death, but there was no sign of the animal; a further two bodies had been discovered later with the same MO. Following the deaths the crime had been flagged as a ‘serial crime’ and had been bought to the attention of the VASCU serial crimes unit.

The woman’s name was Claire Rantham, a local eccentric, she had attacked agent Courtney when they had approached her and, with unexpected strength had tipped agent Ironside out of his wheelchair; when we arrived the damn place as surrounded by cats, hundreds of the bloody things. The other two agents were waiting in their van outside the old battered house, after a brief discussion me and Brockhurst agreed to take the back whilst Courtney took the front and Ironside managed communications from inside the van. Moving through the house in a systematic fashion we eventually made our way down to the cellar where we discovered a number of strange red plants that I couldn’t identify; with a sinking feeling I directed Brockhurst to slit open the strangely bulbous grow bags and, sure enough, the desiccated hand of a corpse toppled out.

A sudden noise from upstairs caused us to rush to a ladder leading up the attic; Brockhurst went up first, followed by Courtney while I covered them, we did not have to wait long as the crazed Ms Rantham launched herself at Brockhurst. Swinging himself round agent Brockhurst grappled the struggling woman and forced her to the ground where I tazered the bitch and, when she didn’t go down, applied the butt of a weapon to her chin and she finally lost consciousness so we could restrain her. Brockhurst searched the attic, discovering some red seeds that we took as evidence and Ironside began contacting the CDC as we took Ms Rantham back to VASCU headquarters for interrogation and questioning.

It was then that we were informed by our superiors that the military under project VALKYRIE would be taking over the case and that we would soon be re-assigned; this was bull and stank of a cover-up, just like what happened when my partner Jake had disappeared before I joined VASCU and I had been ordered to forget about it (like I ever would). None of us were happy about it and we resolved to find out as much as we could before our re-assignment, although our attempt to talk to Ms Rantham yielded nothing but the following cryptic words

“She’ll gather the family, those who weren’t loved will return to their mother, and if they come to hurt you, i’ll hurt them first.”

Brockhurst hit pay-dirt, one of his contacts on the forces clued him in on a murder with a very similar MO in the small town of Greenvale, we made the decision to travel their and takeover the investigation whilst Courtney dug up details on a Sheriff George Woodman, the territorial small town sheriff of Greenvale who apparently had suffered some sort of facial injury in an agricultural accident. On the way their Brockhurst talked a little about his father had been involved in some shady types and had disappeared one evening when he was young, apparently old Brock has blown his family fortune on trying to track down his father, instead finding only charlatans and fakes; it was clear that the attempted cover up was as offensive to him as it was to me, I told him about the operation that me and my partner Jake had been on for the Bureau when I had got knocked out and woke up to find my partner vanished and that it had been swept under the carpet, I had sworn not to rest till I found him and that i’d never let a case like that be taken away from me again.

We were driving through the thick forested hills of Maine, it reminded me of some of the strange forest flashes that I had glimpsed whilst handling the red leafed plants in the Rantham house, I was so lost in my reverie that I almost crashed when a person in a bright red jacket ran infront of my car, I was able to bring it safely to a stop and leapt out of the car, running after the person with Brockhurst sprinting after me, damn that boy can run. We eventually found our way to a transformer and some sort of maintenance hut, probably belonging to a local logging company according to Courtney’s research, and as we searched around it a ghastly face appeared at the window; smashing open the door and going in weapons drawn, we were surprised to find it empty but eventually had to return to the car.

A few miles down the road we pulled into the lakeside Grand Deer Hotel where we were met by the owner Polly Oxford who seemed surprised to receive so many visitors out of season; we booked some rooms and talked to Ms Oxford who prided herself on being something of a local expert, at our mention of plants she suggested we speak to a local tree surgeon called Forest Cason. Courtney did a bit more research online, discovering that all of the local land belongs to the Stuart Estate and that there was a local point of interest called the Muses gallery and then we all retired to our rooms.”

Outcast 9 – The Cleansing (LRP event)

As a bit of a break from the normal tabletop fare that makes up the majority of this blog I thought that i’d take this post to talk about the recent LRP (Live-action Role Play) event that I attended “Outcast 9 – The Cleansing“; for anyone not aware LRP, or LARP as it is sometimes written, is a style of gaming where, instead of gathering round a tabletop to RP out the various bits of your game, you actually costume yourself and represent that character physically (normally using foam latex weapons sculpted in a realistic fashion that have solid cores but are cushioned enough to prevent injury). I’ve been LARPing since about 2005 on and off (depending on finances, since it’s not a particularly cheap hobby) and mainly attend the Lorien Trust events (a blog of my IC “diary” entries for my last two characters can be found here http://squad-d-lt.blogspot.co.uk/); however a friend of mine started getting on to me about another system called Outcast, which was a smaller system run by Nic Doran and a lot of other people that I knew from the Lorien Trust.
Being quite limited budget-wise I ummed and ahhhed about it for a long time, about whether or not I could justify spending money on more kit and paying for more LRP events; however I was eventually lured into participating both by the enthusiasm that everyone I spoke to who had attending an Outcast event displayed, and how well they treat their crew. Again, to those not familiar with LRP, since the players are physically representing their characters, you also need people to represent the foes and monsters they will face; this ‘monstering’ or ‘crewing’ is normally free or low-cost at most smaller events as a thank you for giving up your time to basically get pummeled on your weekend (in the nicest possible way). Outcast really do seem to look after their crew, operating where you accrue a discount toward the next event you play based on the amount of events you have monstered, with three monster events getting you an event playing completely free; monsters are also catered for and provided with bunks when available (depending on what site is being used).
I attended Outcast event 8 with a few friends monstering and had a great time; being my first experience of a smaller more story-driven system I was initially very surprised by how willing the ref team was to run with story ideas or elaborate on stuff that had been done by the players as a reward for good roleplaying.
Example: At Outcast 8 myself and my friend Pigeon were asked if we would mind playing corpses for a scene, we were the bodies of two deceased knights from the Sol Victus (one of the groups within the game) who had been slain by demons whilst trying to protect the recovered pieces of a puzzle key; after the initial checking of our bodies, etc I was quite surprised when one of the players went to the lengths of laying out our bodies in a repose fashion and saying a prayer over us, even putting one of his weapons with us as a mark of respect. This would have been cool enough, but the refs, as a reward for the players RP and to return his weapon, had the order raise us as Risen (one of the playable races in the game, effectively deceased people given a second (and final chance at life)) who then went to thank the player for his efforts on our behalf. Upon our return to the monster room myself and Pigeon were both told that if we wanted to keep these monster roles then we could do so, needless to say we jumped at the opportunity to play these characters with a bit of background already established.
This was reflected again in Event 9 when I was asked to play a manikin, effectively a golem-like automata created by the Sil, a race of snakemen, to follow their orders and act as combat fodder (basically rock hard combat beasts but with no real motivation beyond following orders was the impression I got of them following my brief). The Sil in Event 9 were being lead/controlled by a number of evil demons who had us out looking for some magical herbs that the players needed to cleanse the land of demonic taint; obviously if we got them first then it was bad times for the players. When the monster group split up, I was ordered to guard the entrance to the glade and do what the snakemen I was with said, the players entered the glade and took the snakemen captive before I could do anything and so I reverted to the original order of guarding the glade.
This lead to an entertaining 15-30 minutes of the players trying to puzzle out what my monster was doing as I remained stationary, pivoting on the spot to face the last person who had moved and only striking if someone came within reach of my polearm; being unable/unwilling to talk (I wasn’t really sure on this on an out of character perspective so I stayed quiet, assuming that I could always have been an early/defective model of manikin) the players couldn’t get anything out of me via conversation. Eventually someone theorised that since the Sil created me I might be programmed to follow their orders and that, since I obviously had no magic, presumably I recognised them by sight; fetching a player snakeman (from a different tribe) the players discovered, after a few minutes, that I would follow orders from the snakeman (although they were a little wary since that meant presumably I would also follow orders from any other snakeman, including the demon tainted Sil).
I spent a good hour or so stationed as an expressionless manikin at the player camp as they tried all manner of mysticism on me, eventually culminating in one of the fey linking his soul to me via a magical ritual, giving him the sole ability to command me; having been well looked after by the players (given drinks and a chair, which was greatly appreciated) I was eventually sent to guard the boats on distance shores, giving me an excuse to return to the monster room and continue helping crew the event. It was a great encounter, good to see the refs run with it, and being asked to bring the kit with me to future events was also rewarding, not sure whether this a potentially secondary character for me if my Solarian dies (again) or just a recurring monster role, i’d be happy with either.

Photograph courtesy of Harland Quarmby.
Outcast is also very much a family system that caters very well for children, those below a certain age are linked to a realm of innocence, dreams and nightmares that contains reflections of things in the real world; this includes monsters, although only those connected to the realm of innocence can repel them. Basically this is a good justification for having monsters (denoted by a blue sash) that can only be affected by children (although the monsters can (mostly) still affect adults), clearly denoting encounters for the younger members of the system whilst also giving the kids a chance to feel like heroes when the adults call on them to help them against the monsters. Obviously there are various levels of appreciation for the rules amongst the very young members of the game, but I was quite surprised by how many of the children fought very safely and, if told how they needed to respond to a certain call or rule, were generally very good at following the instructions.
The rules system in general is very easy to grasp, certainly if you have played Lorien Trust or any other fest based system, I can speak too much for the magic system since I haven’t got into that, although I know there are several distinct types of magic that all work in different ways; all XP and spending is handled online via the game website:
Currently (as of time of writing) the website is unavailable because they take it down and bring a copy with them to each game so that it can be updated, it should be up again soon.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Outcast, event 9 was only my second attempt at wearing any metal armour (my first abortive attempt at Lorien Trust lead to a lot of back pain and swearing), having been kindly donated some shoulder pauldrons and bracers by friends, and I seemed to cope with it a lot better this time, although I will be looking for some more padded clothing to go under it in future (especially since i’m planning on buying a chainmail shirt to go with it). The system is great fun, very story driven and with a friendly player base – i’m booked up to monster event 10, the last event this year and then will do my free play event next year; i’m currently planning to continue the method of monstering three events, playing one, monstering three, playing one since you still accumulate XP for your character whilst monstering and also it helps the system and everyone’s enjoyment by ensuring that they have enough crew.
I highly recommend the system for anyone who wants to try LRP in a (very) reasonably priced, story driven environment with a very friendly player base.