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.”  

One-shot games vs Campaigns

A few months ago myself and some friends (some of whom don’t have the time to game as much as they used to anymore due to family and other real-life commitments) decided that we would run a series of one-shot games on a Wednesday evening every couple of weeks or so, so far we’ve had a Mongoose Judge Dredd game run by myself in which the players tried to track down perps smuggling narcotics from the wasted earth into Mega-City One, a Star Trek hombrew game run by my wife Hannah where the crew of a single federation ship attempted to stop the Dominion in an alternate trek-timeline and a game run by a friend where we played ourselves in a semi-apocalyptic future setting where an evil villain from a RP world had taken over the Earth and our only hope lay in creating characters that could battle him on his own footing. Recently we played a Hunter the Vigil game run by Barry (my description of the session can be found at http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/hunter-vigil-session-write-up-agent.html) that I very much enjoyed and am looking forward to the second concluding part, since exparently we spent so long chewing scenery and exploring our characters that we’d only actually reached the start of the main plot at the first session. The game started me thinking about the potential positive and negatives of running one-shot games over the more tradition (in my case anyway) campaign games.

Character Creation
During the course of a normal campaign game we generally try to avoid characters that are too stereotyped since we know that we’ll have plenty of game hours and sessions to further develop the character and explore him in greater detail, this is not the case in the one-shot where you want to get into playing the character as soon as possible, and you want other people to be able to react to him appropriately; in my experience this leads to creating character based more on easily recognisable archetypes. In a one-off session you want to be able to jump straight in, since you know that you don’t have the (often) more leisurely pace of the campaign game – i’ve found that either creating a history from well known tropes that the other players can immediately pick up on is one what of handling this; for example my character in Hunter, Agent Frank Dublowski, is a hard drinking ex-cop whose partner was killed/disappeared on an investigation that was then covered up by the Bureau – not a bad little background for a few minutes work but one that other characters can easily relate to.
Another method of easing this process is the use of games that already involve this process to some degree in the character generation, this was useful during the character generation for the Judge Dredd session, the MGP Judge Dredd rules use their version of the Traveller rules system, which involves making choices on a life-path system to define a character. Using such systems means that, by the time your character is generated, you already have several major points of their life defined, allowing you to crack straight on with the game.
Plotlines and GMing
Convoluted plotlines tend to be a bit of a no no for the one-shot game session, since time is at a bit of a premium (most of our games tending to run for either one or two 3-4 hour sessions) players will want to jump straight into the action and begin working through the plot; I have observed in our games that the one-shot game tends to lead players to have a more ‘solve the puzzle’ mentallity concerning the plot, it is something there to be solved and progressed with. I suspect that this occurs because the characters are less “unique” (although no less fun to play for this) and therefore there is not the extensive background and character details present to elaborate on, the element of personal development and discovery is lessened in pursuit of progressing with the game plot.
The same applies to NPCs and foes in the game, such people tend to be slightly exaggerated or more easily recognisable as one or the other in a one off game, because there is fairly little chance that the NPCs will crop up further down the line (beyond the one or two sessions of the game); when I have been GMing one-shot games I tend to divide NPCs into two camps, the disposable mook and the memorable NPC. Disposable mooks are just that, they are there to provide a brief speed bump to the players, a small combat or obstacle to overcome but they have fairly little character to them beyond their immediate role; one example of this would be a street gang of thugs that menaces the players but inevitably flees should the fight go against them. Memorable NPCs are everyone that the players talk to or that play a major part in the plot, I tend to create some quick stats for these NPCs (focussing on what role I expect the NPCs to play in the session) and give them one or two distinguishing characteristics or hooks that the players can immediately identify them by; these characteristics could be anything from a certain way of speaking, a physical characteristic or perhaps even a piece of equipment or a location associated with the character, as long as it causes the NPC to stick in the player’s minds and as long as it says or implies something about the NPC.
Conclusions
None of what I have written above should be taken to mean that I favour either one game style or the other, they both fill a valuable gaming niche; whilst a long running campaign can be very satisfying and rewarding if done well (and can go places that one-off games cannot), it is far more difficult as time goes on (and real-life commitments intrude more and more on precious gaming time) to muster the players and planning time necessary to do a campaign game justice. This is where the one-shot game comes in, they can be run in a handful of hours with easy to play characters and plotlines that, whilst perhaps not the most complex or convoluted, are good fun and fast-paced.
I would urge anyone who has not run a one-off game to give it a try and find out what a different experience it is.