Actual play: pilot part 1

Many parts of the game are still not there yet. Still, we managed to have a great gaming session last night.

My intentions were to flesh out the setting, test the echoes, and refresh myself on the game [social] contract and premise description skills enough that I could explore these topics in this blog. On all those accounts the session was a success, thanks to the awesome and supportive group we had.

Oh, and at this point: a fair warning. This is a play report from a horror game with realistic tone on violence in the spirit of scandinavian noir of tv and books. We don’t go into the gory details in the game (or in this blog), but the narrative does deal with murder, crime and other ugly things.

The characters

As AR was missing from the first session, we created 4 of the player characters at the start of this session. The character creation was run for 2 rounds  instead of 3, and we decided that the players can adjust the traits as the premise is clearer (after or during the game, and within reason).

Johnny Einarson (PL, Family) is a American ranch owner married to the Family and the Curse. He has travelled to Europe after the message from Joel and has been hanging out with the crew for couple of months. His attitude towards supernatural is pragmatic and influenced by the spirituality of the Indian reservation near his home ranch (see Scully of X-Files). He needs to prove himself to the family, as a new member – and there is a sense of urgency to the matter as his wife is going to soon give birth to their first child.

Curt Landen (TK, Touched) is a Gothenburg ex-biker-hipster from Denmark who stumbled into an Echo realm by accident and became Touched. He works as Johnny’s local guide for the Family, and has introduced him to the rest of the crew. Curt has a traumatic relationship with the Echoes and wants to be rid of Supernatural. He is still in contact with the hispter and counterculture circles and used to be involved in all sorts of activism.

Lane Johansson / Farhad al-Hamíd (JT, Old Soul) is a Swedish family man who has started to think himself to be a reincarnated persian torturer. He believes that he has succeeded to escape from hell and feels a need to rescue other souls from the damnation. Without freeing the demons. He is an Old Soul with a passion for travelling and tourism.

Erich Brame (TR, Rogue Ops) is a German FB/Advance SecOps guard who does not think his employer is really interested in protecting the little people from the Echoes and the Supernatural. He is an old left wing radicalist, kept relatively unaged and operationable by the hypertech of the Syndicate. Brame is still a small name in the street art circles for his political pieces and he still uses the art as a way to blow of extra steam.

The premise

From the pre-game premise:

The Pilot game is a two three part game with elements from earlier VEIL games. It explores the game premise and is centered on Echoes, Hallows, and the big bad guys living beyond.

An unknown player calling himself Joel, has asked the characters to help with her older sister’s case in Denmark the Scandinavia. Something is coming to the Old World and it’s targeting her. The plea came through a channel only those already working for the Quick would know. And had a Letter of Debt attached to it.

The Quick always pay the Debt.

Johnny came to Europe to deal with the matter, after Joel had contacted the Family with a query of help with his older sister. During the last three to four months in Europe he has gotten to know the crew through Curt.

Johnny had already started to plan returning to the States for the childbirth as the expected call from Joel came. “Meet me at the Gumslöv gas station. North. 1842 sharp.” (retcon: the station IRL seems to be Statoil, not Jet/Ingo).

Synopsis

The story starts at a cold and slushy night during february 2016 in the gas station south of Helsingborg. The crew sat at a refurbished lunch booth next to two greasy blue collar workers arguing about the tennis world cup or something.

After some chatter and idle waiting, a disturbed young man comes in. He looks at Johnny who’s getting a second cup of joe from the machine. The man looks around and comes to the less scary looking table with the blue collars. He puts his hand on the table and starts to mumble something the crew mostly misses.

As the blue collars rise up with angry looks and try to throw the man out, the crew interrupts. The man is bleeding from his right hand, which later turns out to contain the Joels monogram cut with cheap pen knife. The crew manages the handle the situation without any hassle to the visible relief of the station staff. After little pushing the man handles the crew a map torn from a phone book with a simple message from Joel: Circle around a harbor warehouse and numbers 1842.

The characters stuff themselves into Curt‘s older electric blue Ford Ka.  Erich takes the shotgun with his “bag” leaving poor Johnny to suffer from Lanes constant tries to bond with the fellow entrepreneur.

Drive to Harbour is interrupted with a small group of young punks with heavy goth makeup, who have decided to take over a street for a “dark winter party” or something. They start bashing the Ka and shouting at the car. Erich opens a window and tries to argue with the punks succeeding only in getting one of the rioters half into the car via the window. Curt manages to pull up the owner’s name of a Vegan hipster joint in the Harbour and tells the guy half inside the car that that the Ka is on a supply run for the good guys. This buys the crew a passage through the demo. Vehicles stuck behind the Ka are less fortunate.

The punk who got half inside the Ka dropped his wallet to Erich’s lap. Apparently by accident. The wallet contains crappy fake ID, Visa Electron and some small change.

Characters arrive at the marked location just a little before 2100. They make note of a young-to-mid age woman talking to a smartphone in front of the second warehouse towards the bridge, from the target warehouse. The warehouses are located in a leisure harbour just in front of the center square of Helsingborg. Half of the double door to the marked warehouse has been left open and the warehouse looks deserted in the rainy night.

Instantly after he exits the car Curt starts to feel the creeps. Lane feels nothing, but the others start to get the symptoms quickly. Iron, sulphur and sand on the tongue. Bad omens.

Erich’s health bracelet beeps out an exposure warning, which turns out to be activated by the punk’s wallet. Erich disposes the wallet to sea and the crew decides to check out the empty looking warehouse.

Lane stumbles into a portable generator and finds out it’s attached to some construction light’s. Curt starts the generator and the scene bath’s in the clear light of eight halogen spots. The lumping figure hanging from the warehouse struts turns out to be a dead woman in a bad condition.

Johnny recognizes the esoteric markings on the woman to be from Family origin, as Lane figures out the woman has been hurt by two people. One making obscure markings and another one doing the deed. The one who made the marks was clearly unskilled, unlike the murderer.

The crew decides they need to find out if the lady making a call know something. Police sirens create a sense of urgency and the characters decide to snatch the woman to the Ka. As they try to exit the harbour (Curt fails a roll), the police surround the harbour. They however do not enter the area. Curt tells the crew from his activist experience, this happens only when SäPo is coming. The crew now has 2-5 hours before the other cops arrive. And this only if the real cops at the blockade follow protocol for special circumstances.

This scene with black humour tones, ends with Lane “the family man” sorting out the woman and discovering she is a daughter of the property owner. She found the body while looking for the generator and called the cops. The crew then escorts her to the closed Vegan joint on the next warehouse (note: this Vegan joint acted as an extremely good narrative tool, and it was completely created by the narrative in-time). She happens to have the keys to all the properties here, and proceeds to the safety of the now warmly lit, but empty restaurant.

The Echo is a dangerous one, and the clock is ticking. The cops have seen Curt’s Ka. Curt drives the Ka to the Echo inside the marked warehouse, opening a way for the rest to follow. The characters enter a black and pressed shadow of the real murder scene. Erich gets a second level warning from the band, opening a suggestion hidden memory of 4 possible expose ratings. He needs to see a doc ASAP.

Inside things are out of place. It’s unlike the echoes character’s have seen before. The woman is still half alive, white light bursting from the ritual scars. She looks like an empty vessel for something to inhabit. Grey ash falling from unseen sky. There has been a fight here. Something came through, and fought the cursed things, lying torn at the edges of this realm. Former Life Debt marked Family members whose fading ghost’s should not exist anymore. Especially not here.

The wound in the woman’s belly has ruptured the occult vessel. A muscular ex-convict walks through the Echo, slashing the woman again. All but Lane feel the pain and double down. The crew tries to figure out a plan. Johnny manages to get a photo of the murderers bike. Erich documents everything else.

The muscular ex-convict appears for a second time, Echoed to repeat the act again and again. Lane tries to grab him but is as ephemeral to the Echo as only an Old Soul can. Johnny wrestles with the man and takes him down like a bull (contested roll, with avoided cost of being badly wounded). Curt draws a cry out of the man: he is here to avenge to the women who lied about him. The man’s confession rips the Echo apart. Cursed ghosts holler a bit longer and then sink into the shadows.

The crew exits the warehouse and start looking for a quick exit while a police helicopter hovers above the island. Sea is deadly cold. The characters stay outside of the copters view. Curt feels there is a second echo somewhere and finds it in a ditch next to the warehouse. It’s a curious construct, which leads to mainland. Evaporating as Johnny finds the monogram decorated skull used to create the gateway. This is the route used by the cursed who were in the first echo. Johnny looks like this is something the family knows or is able to do. It’s not.

A debrief takeaway and beer session at Curt’s place. Three in in the morning. Erich makes a small detour to have a bubble bath. Lane tells the crew of a case couple of years back. A known criminal, Storm Danielsson (yes, this name is randomly generated from random.org+most common swedish/danish names list, as are all the npc names), was accused of serial rape. The case had lots of publicity as there were numerous odd things about the case. Storm never confessed, and the media thought the cop’s wanted him in for something completely else. Johnny made a point of this being a possible Family operation – as the Family can buy justice and use the system as it pleases (it can’t but that’s not the point here. It’s what he believes and wants to portray). 

Next: catching the ripper wannabe.

Lessons and notes

In no specific order:

  1. The game manual needs page numbers and index. fixed
  2. Writing to the site and to the manual at the same time is just silly. And does not really add value, fixed
  3. We need to have a one/two pager on “how to create a character” for the pdf and this site. Every aspect can be extended after the how-to if needed.
  4. Adjusting and developing characters deserves its own chapter or paragraph
  5. We need to make a separate page on great work and character motivations. This is one of the cornerstones of the drama created in this game. Why are these people involved, and how wrong can you go with good intentions and bad intel.
  6. Rogue Ops is a perfect Shade option. Why should the Syndicate care, if a SecOps trooper trains with kid stuff on their spare time? As long as the Treaty is not broken. fixed
  7. The psyche stats are mostly unnecessary for this game. Maybe we could make a really light resilience/strain gauge and roll with traits instead? revised, new system in pdf
  8. This is not a mystery game. This is a game about people who solve mysteries. This needs to be clarified. Players are not expected to guess what’s the issue in an echo, the group is supposed to have fun as we explore how the echo will be resolved. fixed
  9. The Quick idiom comes from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_quick_and_the_dead_(idiom) This needs to have it’s own history box or something in the PDF
  10. Pulling things like the Vegan joint from the story is a key drama [or narrative] method used at storytelling game. Being able to describe and instruct the method in the game would be superb.

 


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