Rocks fall, everyone dies

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Re: Rocks fall, everyone dies

Post  Quaetam on Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:18 pm

Clarksdale Part 2: Don't Get Jumanji’d

For a third (fourth?) time, the party agreed to split up: Tailed by Relmitos for protection, Leviwulf would deliver Stranger Sightings to Justin at the Lark Street Church, while the others went to meet Roland again. Without much ado, they quickly finished their lunch and parted ways.

On their way to the church, and absent the Europeans, Relmitos and Levi decided to check on the protest.

The crowd had swelled to about a hundred people, scattered throughout the park, waving signs and cheering loudly. The gazebo had been converted into a makeshift stage, where a red-faced farmer was shouting into a megaphone. While Levi and Relm looked on, he finished his speech, the crowd cheered, and another speaker stepped up to the gazebo: A well-kempt man, with a clean black polo-shirt tucked neatly into a set of khaki dress pants. His smooth blonde hair was combed over to the left, and his polished face sported a charming, white-toothed grin. Seizing the megaphone, this eccentric stranger spread his right arm outward, and began a rousing speech.

Levi and Relm didn’t stick around to hear what he had to say; moving on, they reached the Lark Street Church with a few minutes to spare - Relmitos staying about a block behind Levi, just out of sight. The same thugs that Spoon and Fed had run into about an hour earlier were still standing guard outside the church door, while Justin leaned impatiently against the lot entrance, a concerned look on his face. Recognizing Levi, he lit up with a smile: He’d begun to think Levi had bailed on him. Levi explained there was some trouble at the bookstore, and took Stranger Sightings out of his bag. Justin looked it over, nodded, and motioned Levi to follow him.

They were joined by three of the thugs from the church - the Daniels supporter, the girl, and the farmer - leaving behind two burly bikers, who continued to stand guard. For about twenty minutes, they strolled through the residential neighborhoods, past picket fences, sprawling green yards, and peaceful cul-de-sacs. Levi tried to spark conversation by asking where he was going, and Justin explained that the Sons of Odin required a simple test of will. If Levi was really one of them, it would be no problem for him.

Eventually, the group reached Clarksdale’s northern pine forest, where they proceeded up a long road, winding into the woods. After a few minutes of hiking, they reached a metal traffic gate set into a long brick wall. The wall was bordered on both sides by neatly-trimmed hedges, and to the right of the gate stood a keypad and a sign bearing the words: “Clarksdale Heights.”  

Justin stepped up to the keypad and pressed a few buttons, entering some kind of passcode. The gate swung open, and they entered. Before it could close, Relm sprang into action, making a Dexterity + Stealth roll to sneak through before the gate slammed shut. He achieved an astounding 5 successes - sprinting forward, slipping through the gap, and action-rolling into a hedge at the other side, where he lay quiet and out of sight.

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

The CVS didn’t take terribly long to find - it was only a few blocks away from the cafe, just off Main Street. Everyone could immediately see something was wrong: One of the storefront windows had been smashed, and the area was cordoned off with police tape. Just as Roland had anticipated, two squad cars idled on the street outside, and a quartet of officers were inspecting the area. Raya decided to stop inside and look around while Spoon and Fed spoke to the officer in charge.

They approached the policemen, and with a quick Wits + Politics roll, they were able to identify the ranking officer among the four. Spoon stepped up and politely asked what had happened. The police officer, identifying himself as Chief Frank Robinson, explained there had been a recent break in, and they had been called over to inspect the scene. Spoon attempted to press for information with Presence + Persuasion, but failed. Robinson politely refused: it was against protocol to disclose an ongoing investigation.

Stepping inside the shop, Raya noted that it was a standard CVS - part pharmacy, part convenience store, stocked with everything from food to OTC medicines. In the candy aisle, an old Mexican couple was speaking rapidly in Spanish, attempting to comfort a toddler who had burst into a fit of tears. At the pharmacy in the back, a pair of young women behind the counter were glaring at the family, clearly not happy with the disruption. Raya chose to speak to the cashier, a young teen zoning out and bobbing his head to music over a pair of headphones.  When she asked about the break-in, he shrugged - some addict had smashed the window and lifted drugs from the back; people can be surprisingly motivated when they need their fix.  

Back outside, Spoon tried to explain to Chief Robinson that they were with Roland, but Robinson wasn’t so easily convinced - Roland wouldn’t send a group of volunteers to handle matters of security. At this, Spoon smartly held out Roland’s business card, explaining they’d been sent to pick up Robinson’s dossier on the break-in, and they needed information to bring to Roland. Telling the truth and offering the business card gave him a +1 to Presence + Persuasion, and he succeeded. The Chief sighed, and explained that a thief had stolen their entire stock of narcotics. He wasn’t sure it was an addict, but they had begun to narrow down the list of suspects, and he would be able to email a full report to Roland tonight.

(GM Note: The pharmacists were actually on supporting opposite candidates; if someone had gotten them riled up they’d have revealed more info about the break in and the missing reporter.)

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

Clarksdale Heights was clearly an affluent community - the street was lined with brick mansions and beautiful white-wood houses. Cars had a noticeable polish, and lawns were immaculately manicured. Justin and Levi took a right at the first crossroads, continuing briefly down a side street before turning into a driveway that serviced a large, colonial home. Justin stepped up to the front door and unlocked it, directing two of the thugs to keep watch.

The inside was clean and well decorated - paintings covered the walls, and a crystal chandelier hung proudly in the expansive entrance hall. Justin brought Levi over to a side door where an extremely well-built man already stood guard, and opened it, revealing an ominous stairwell that led toward a flickering light below.

Lined in black stone with an opulent marble floor, the basement was lit by a series of candles, creating an atmosphere of austerity and tradition. A series of benches were arrayed in rows with walking space to the center, and red banners inscribed with the Three Horns of Odin hung to either side. At the head of the room, Levi spotted Ellroy sitting expectantly at a wooden table - round, with a white tablecloth, and a long candle that burned low. To the right Levi could count seven men in robes - to the left a pair sat expectantly; one totally bald, with multiple swastikas tattooed on his head (the group affectionately named this guy Nazi Kid), the other with a comb-over and a tattered black shirt, looking angry and confident. These were the new recruits.

Levi was seated among them, as Justin and his remaining buddy joined their fellow Sons of Odin, and after a moment of silence, Ellroy spoke: “Good afternoon, Brothers and Sons of Odin. Today we gather here in judgement of three who would deem themselves worthy of the chosen race and the Father’s blessing.”

He beckoned with his left hand, and the first kid - comb-over guy - stepped up to the front, taking a seat in the empty chair across the table. Ellroy proceeded to ask him a series of questions, his tone of voice scathing and direct. As the boy answered each, he looked Ellroy in the eye - his conviction unwavering and his gaze unflinching:

Spoiler:
“Why do you wish to join our order?”
“I join to purify the world of the undeserving and secure a future for our people.”

“Do you believe yourself worthy of our cause?”
“Only if our father deems me worthy.”

“What will you do to earn your place among the chosen?”
“I will sacrifice every day and give my life for our cause!”

For a moment, Ellroy stared at the teenager - then he smiled and roared: “He is worthy!”

The crowd burst out in cheers, everyone’s crude hooting and hollering breaking the solemn ritualistic atmosphere that had permeated the room. The new Son of Odin pumped his fist in the air and exclaimed loudly, before taking a seat among the robed figures to the right. Each of the cultists took a moment to shake his hand and pat him on the back. I asked Levi if he wanted to do something, but he declined, content to observe for now.  

As the calm settled back in, Ellroy beckoned for the next guest to come forward. Shaking and slightly nervous, Nazi Kid took a seat at the table, before entering the same line of questioning. He stammered through his responses, but still managed to keep Ellroy’s gaze:

Spoiler:
“Why do you wish to join our order?”
“I-I want to defend our race and our rights as children of the sun.”

“Do you believe yourself worthy of our cause?”
“I will prove myself worthy of our Father’s blessings.”

“What will you do to earn your place among the chosen?”
“I will do anything and everything it takes!”

Once more, Ellroy gave the aspiring recruit a long, brooding glare. Then, with a whipping motion and a flash of steel, he drew a knife and stabbed Nazi Kid in the hand: “YOU ARE UNWORTHY!”

Nazi Kid cried out in pain. Ellroy withdrew the knife - blood spurting all over the table - and punched the kid hard in the jaw.

Nazi Kid fell backwards, clutching his hand, stammering, and at a signal from Ellroy two thugs took off their ritual robes, grabbed the kid’s arms, and dragged him, sobbing, up the stairs. Levi considered reaching for his concealed Glock, but decided to try remaining still - I had him roll Resolve + Composure to avoid looking startled. He succeeded, and joined everyone else in staring steadfastly and silently forward.

Ellroy turned to Levi: “Your turn.”

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

Relmitos stalked Levi down the side street and watched from afar as he was led into Justin’s house. Realizing he couldn’t do anything from outside, Relmitos decided to find some way to enter and be on hand in case Levi needed help. Spotting the guards standing out front, he took his time and snuck around back, where he spotted an open kitchen window. Another Dexterity + Stealth roll got him in the window quietly, and he alighted on the black-and-white tiled floor of a classic suburban kitchen.  

From further inside the house, Relmitos heard some muffled shouts and whimpers: He peeked around the counter to see two men dragging a whimpering Nazi Kid through the hall - blood dripping on the wood floor in their wake. They approached the kitchen and turned left into a side room. Relmitos, checking to make sure the coast was clear, followed behind them.  

He entered a private gym, with a handful of exercise machines against the right wall, a series of yoga mats and mirrors to his left, and several weights and dumbbells scattered about.  As he crouched in the doorway, his quarry exited a pair of sliding doors that opened into a pool area.  Extremely concerned, Relm made another stealth roll to follow them without making a ruckus.  Approaching the glass doors, he saw one thug force Nazi Kid to his knees by the poolside and pin his arms behind his back, while the other forced his head underwater and held it in place.  They were drowning him.  

Relmitos had a choice: Remain inside as effective back-up for Levi if things went wrong, or get involved to save Nazi Kid.  He chose to save Nazi Kid.

Relmitos picked up two heavy dumbbells, approached the thugs with a final stealth roll, and swung hard with both weights in a sneak attack. His Strength + Weaponry roll, aided by his Dual Wielding proficiency, yielded a whopping six successes: He smashed both of the thugs square in the back, sending them - and Nazi Kid - splashing into the pool with a surprised yelp.

Once more, Relmitos had a choice: Help Nazi Kid out of the pool, or get the hell out of there.  He chose to help Nazi Kid.  

Relmitos grabbed the kid’s arm and pulled him up to the yard, where spurted and coughed, spitting up water. Relmitos attempted a Strength roll to lift the dazed teen over his shoulder - and failed, giving him an awkward half-hug in an attempt to lift him off the ground. Nazi Kid, still bleeding and coughing, pushed him away, angrily shouting “Get off me!” .

Meanwhile, the thugs were not happy. After sputtering about for a minute in the pool, they pulled themselves to safety: One sprinted toward the house for reinforcements, the other shot Relmitos a murderous look. Nazi Kid took one look at this guy and sprinted off: He did not choose to help Relmitos.  

Relm looked at the two thugs, glanced at the fleeing Nazi Kid, and decided to book it. He rolled Dexterity + Athletics to sprint away… and completely failed, slipping on the grass and falling face-first in the dirt. The thug who had stayed outside, overcoming his back pain from Relm’s sneak attack, quickly caught up to him - hastily aiming an angry kick at his head.  Fortunately for Relmitos, this also failed, giving Relmitos the opportunity to scramble to his feet and scamper away. Shouting angrily, his pursuer caught his balance and made chase.

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

As things were kicking off at Justin’s house, the others arrived at Clarksdale Heights to find the gate already open. Entering the neighborhood and continuing down the street, they noticed a clear commotion ahead: Ambulances, police cars, and news vans surrounded one of the large brick houses. A crowd of people milled about frantically, and from the sound of things, something was very wrong.

This was probably the place.  

Spoon rolled Wits + Investigation to recognize a face in the crowd, and spotted Michael, one of the volunteers who had been working at the school earlier. Michael appeared unsettled: Sitting on a stone wall next to the driveway, his face was pale and he was rubbing his neck with his right hand. Leaving the others for a moment, Spoon came forward, sat down, and asked the volunteer what was wrong, rolling Presence + Empathy to provide emotional support. Hilariously, Spoon once again totally failed his empathy check, and Michael rebuffed him, too shaken to talk about it.  

Meanwhile, Raya and Fed spotted a pair of paramedics talking to a police officer near the back of an ambulance. Taking the initiative, Raya dragged Fed along and approached, barging into their conversation by pointing out that her friend - Fedaykin - is a trained doctor.  Rolling Manipulation+Persuasion, she insisted that he take a look at the bodies to attempt treatment.

With a nod from the police officer, one of the paramedics led the Europeans over to the ambulance. The medic explained that nobody had died, but two people were being prepared for intensive care in the back. He opened the ambulance door and beckoned for Fedaykin to step forward. Examining the first body with a Wits + Medicine roll, Fed declared he was probably in shock: His skin was cool and pale, his chest rose and fell quickly, and he appeared unconscious. The paramedic reinforced this assessment by explaining he’d fainted during the incident, and was receiving basic treatment.  Fed instructed the medic to elevate the victim’s head and fetch a blanket.

Spoon, meanwhile, insisted that he was trying to get to the bottom of this and he needed Michael’s help to do it. His Presence + Persuasion roll was successful where his empathy had failed, and Michael, still hesitant, described a horrific scene inside. They had been holding a meet and greet event with Steven Henderson - volunteers and major contributors were coming by to pay respects in advance of tonight’s rally - when something started to feel off. A bitter smell and a dizzying sensation compounded over the course of a few quick minutes, alarming and disabling everyone in the room. It felt like the whole world was spinning, and the air itself was vibrating with energy: People tripped and fell over, they started screaming, they vomited uncontrollably…  and then everything stopped.  

Michael had never seen anything like it.

Back at the ambulance, before the paramedic allowed Fedaykin to examine the other body, he warned him not to be alarmed: despite all appearances this man was still alive. He stepped aside, and Fed was greeted by a troubling display. The second victim lay spread-eagled on the gurney; his eyes were wide and bloodshot, his mouth hung haphazardly open. A torn volunteer shirt lay crumpled up on a shelf alongside the ambulance’s standard surgical equipment. Most notably, the skin on the center of his chest had been scarred with a dark red handprint. “We’ve already applied ice to the burn site,” said the medic, “but his mind seems to have gone; he hasn’t moved or said a word since we arrived.”

Fed made another Wits + Medicine roll, and correctly recalled one method of snapping people into awareness if they’re in shock, passed out, or fainted. Reaching forward, he gingerly leaned over the patient’s chest, raised a hand, and slapped the man hard across the face.  

The patient shook his head, sat up, looked around frantically, clutched a hand to the burn mark on his chest, and screamed incoherently.  

Fedaykin and Raya stepped back, surprised.  The stranger fell back onto the ambulance bed, as from every direction, paramedics and officers stopped what they were doing and ran over.

(GM Note: Depending on the party's actions earlier, they could have been sent to meet the candidate at his Clarksdale Heights home and experienced this event firsthand. More on that later.)

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

The candles flickered gently, and a metallic smell rose through the air as blood dripped from the ritual table and Ellroy beckoned Levi to join him at the head of the hall. Overtaken by a sudden trepidation, Levi slowly rose from the bench and came forward, rapidly considering his options: What had the nervous Nazi Kid done wrong? Could Levi avoid this mistake - or should he run while he still had the chance?  Should he pull out his Glock and try to defend himself?

He sat down across from Ellroy, who smiled briefly before meeting his eyes with a steely gaze.  Levi rolled Resolve + Composure to keep his cool, and he succeeded.  After a moment of silence, Ellroy nodded and began to question him:

Spoiler:
“Why do you wish to join our order?” Ellroy inquired.
“I want to purify the world and create a better future for our people,” Levi replied. (GM Note: He had already made this argument to Ellroy in the 7/11 so I didn’t make him roll here.)

“Do you believe yourself worthy of our cause?” Ellroy pressured.
“Yeah, I’m worthy,” Levi said flippantly - almost sarcastically. I had him roll subterfuge to seem convincing, while Ellroy opposed him with an empathy check. They tied: Unsure what he was sensing from Levi, Ellroy remained suspicious.

“What will you do to earn your place among the chosen?” Ellroy challenged.
“I will do whatever it takes and whatever you need,” Levi replied. Still suspicious, Ellroy chose to stare Levi down, scanning his face for any sign of weakness, uncertainty, or contempt. Levi rolled to resist intimidation, and for a third consecutive time, he passed.

Ellroy rose to his feet, declaring the trial complete. He looked at Levi and informed him that his judgement was not complete: Levi would attend their meeting at the Lark Street Church in an hour, and prove his final devotion for all to see. The others rose in turn, discarding their ritual robes and packing them into a cardboard box on the side of the room - when a frantic, dripping wet redneck came stomping down the stairs, shouting at the top of his lungs: “CLEETUS!  HE’S GETTIN’ AWAY!”

Everybody burst into motion (and the party burst into laughter).  Led by Ellroy, the Sons of Odin stormed up the stairs, grabbing assorted objects - baseball bats, garden hoes, an axe - from a wall rack on their way out. Levi followed to maintain his cover and prove his loyalty. The thug who had come shouting for reinforcements gestured frantically toward the pool, and they all filed out through the kitchen, bursting through the back door and out onto the lawn.  

Levi could see three figures running a few yards down the block - but he failed his Wits + Composure check and was unable to recognize one of them as Relmitos.  Determined to prove his worth to the Sons of Odin and earn their trust, he set off in pursuit, and the group of armed thugs greedily followed.  

Glancing back over his shoulder, Relmitos now found himself pursued by an entire angry mob.  

Alarmed, he again rolled Strength + Athletics to continue his sprint away, but his pursuer was faster: The redneck caught up to Relmitos and attempted to tackle him to the ground, rolling Strength + Brawl. He achieved two successes and lunged for his target - but Relmitos managed three, shoving him aside with a powerful stiff-arm.

As the thug hit the ground and rolled, swearing, the mob caught up, and Levi helped him to his feet. Relmitos, emboldened, resumed his flight and finally managed to gain some distance: With another Strength+Athletics contest, Relm achieved 3 successes to Levi’s 1. Finding a second wind, he bolted out of the side street and onto the main road. Frantically searching the area, he spotted the open community gate to his left, and the cluster of emergency vehicles up the road to his right. Nazi Kid was nowhere to be seen. With only a moment’s hesitation, Relmitos took off toward the flashing lights in search of help.

(GM Note: There were two components to the Purity Test - the first was to give convincing answers via Manipulation+Subterfuge or another equivalent method; the second was to show conviction by resisting Ellroy's intimidation at the start and finish.)

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

Ahead, framed by those very lights, Spoon, Raya, and Fedaykin reconvened to share their discoveries. Their discussions were curtailed by a familiar voice: Roland approached them with a friendly greeting and a look of concern. After exchanging brief pleasantries, he extended a hand and asked for the dossier. Spoon explained what the police chief had told them: the thief had stolen a stock of narcotics, and the cops were still narrowing down suspects. Roland frowned, visibly concerned that the report wasn’t ready on time, but acknowledged that investigations can’t be rushed, and thanked the party for their efforts.  

While the main party was speaking with Roland, Relmitos arrived on the scene, panting from his long run. He approached two officers and asked for immediate assistance: He was being chased by an angry foot mob that had tried to drown a teenager. Recognizing Relm’s clear signs of distress, the police rightly sprung into action: One officer took out his walkie-talkie to radio in the incident, while the other told Relm to stay put. They hopped in their squad car, and took off down the street.  

Levi and his Sons of Odin members arrived at the intersection just in time to see the cops peel out and head their way. Ellroy swore loudly, two of the younger members bolted, and the angry man who had rallied the posse shouted for the group to scatter. Everyone bolted in different directions - some sprinting back towards the house, others climbing over the compound’s perimeter wall, and still more vanishing into the hedges and trees.

Levi decided to play it cool, and took off at a leisurely pace down the sidewalk.  After a few moments, the squad car pulled up next to him: “Excuse me, sir… we have reports of an pursuit in progress. Have you seen any suspicious activity in the area?”

Levi, valuing his perceived loyalty to the Sons of Odin over the immediate risk of the situation, decided to bullshit. He rolled Wits + Subterfuge and explained that he was just out for a walk; he hadn’t seen anything unusual.

He failed.

The officer could immediately tell Levi was lying, and pressed for details, suspicious of his motive. Levi attempted to reinforce his lie and act indignant about their questioning with a Manipulation + Subterfuge roll, reinforced by willpower.  

He failed again.

Completely suspicious now, the officer opened the door to the back of the squad car. “Sir, I’m going to need you to step inside the car.”

Out of character, Levi had some pretty choice words about Relmitos setting the cops after him. In character, Levi smartly chose to ask if he was under arrest. After a brief moment of hesitation, the officer acknowledged that he was not - they’d just like to ask him a few questions. This emboldened Levi. who kept his composure and insisted that they don’t have just cause to detain him: They’d better move along or find a warrant. He received a significant bonus to the ensuing Manipulation + Persuasion roll, and finally succeeded. The cops shot him a dirty look, wished him a good afternoon, and drove off.  

Phwew. Relieved, Levi shot the others a quick (and probably angry) text, and set off toward the Church for his cult meeting.

Meanwhile, Relmitos rejoined the party, still deep in discussion with Roland, who asked if they had any information for him. This time, the party was more open: everyone provided details about the Sons of Odin, from the sigils they had discovered around town, to their fears that the group had something planned for tonight’s rally. Spoon asked if it would be possible to have them arrested, but a nearby officer chimed in and explained that without evidence or probable cause, all they could do is observe and watch for signs of trouble. The party protested, but didn’t gain any further ground with the police, who insisted on staying above-board. Nonetheless, Roland expressed his appreciation, and promised to keep in touch. He wasn’t limited by protocol: he would attend the rally tonight and take charge of the security team on their behalf.

(GM Note: To convince the police to get involved and help with the finale, the group would have needed to either convince Justin to abandon the SOO and testify about their plans, or bring in Nazi Kid, who was actually behind the break-in at the CVS earlier and could explain the intended use of the codeine sulfate.)

As they wrapped up their conversation, the honk of a car horn caught their attention: A van had pulled up alongside the emergency blockade, driven by Ramona. She beckoned for the volunteers to hurry along and climb in: It was time for the rally.

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

Alone, Leviwulf retraced his steps away from Clarksdale Heights; back down the dirt road and through the suburbs toward the Church on Lark Street. The neighborhood was no longer quiet: The day was growing long, people were returning from work, and Henderson supporters had already started to flock toward the school for the rally. As Levi approached the Church, he could see a crowd milling around by the front doors, where the same two brutish-looking bikers still stood guard. Succeeding on a quick Wits + Composure roll, he caught a glimpse of Justin toward the back of the crowd, and hustled forward.

Justin was happy to see Levi, and vouched for his status as a new recruit, allowing them to pass through the bouncers and into the main hall. The interior was at once foreboding and beautiful: Maroon curtains hung over the large side windows, limiting the exterior light to a small stained-glass porthole high above, and a series of candlesticks lined the walls, casting a dim pallor over the room. Dozens of people sat along a series of wooden pews, arranged in steady rows against either wall - facing the center, where a wooden podium and a small table stood resolute.  

As Levi took his seat, someone stepped up to the podium, and the crowd began to politely clap.  The speaker smiled and waved; With another Wits + Composure check, Levi recognized him as the well-dressed blond-haired man who had captivated the crowd at the park protest earlier. Exuding charisma, he again rallied everyone with a speech, describing how their ranks had grown by the day, how they had gained national recognition, and now, they would use the power the Father had blessed them with to save the world of white men.  

At this, two burly men emerged from an antechamber, carrying a chair onto the stage; on that chair sat a man with a bag on his head.

“This is our time, children of the chosen, Sons of Odin. This is our moment,” chanted the charismatic speaker.  He tore the bag off of the captive’s head, and the crowd cheered in recognition. Levi rolled Wits + Politics to attempt to realize who this was, but had no luck. “This blasphemer has besmirched our name and slandered our order. He dares let his pride stand in the way of our great mission. Today, by the grace of the Father, he will be judged.” (GM Note: The captive was reporter Patrick Roberts, who had disappeared after publishing an article on Aaron Daniels’ connection to the Sons of Odin. This was a plotline the group didn’t explore much, more on that later.)

The crowd cheered, and five men from the front row got to their feet, withdrawing wooden crosses from inside their robes. They spaced themselves equidistant around the podium, holding each crucifix at chest height. Levi gripped the gun he still carried, concealed, in his pants, but realized it would be useless to fire in a room full of at least a hundred hostiles: The best he could do was watch and try to gain information.

The speaker stepped back as another figure exited the antechamber: Something about his look made Levi’s hair stand on end. Tall and middle-aged, black hair flecked with lines of silver, he dressed in a black robe with a white priest’s collar.  His green eyes betrayed no emotion as he stepped up to the podium and began to chant, in a deep voice:

"Blessed be the children, for they shall receive the judgement of heaven."  

He shook his hand, sprinkling the captive with white powder - Levi correctly guessed this was crushed codeine sulfate. At once, there was a reaction: the five wooden crosses flashed gold and connected in a ring of energy, lighting up and floating in midair.

The crowd replied; “Blessed be the father, for he shall save us from our destitution.”

“Blessed be the chosen, for they are destined to inherit the Earth,” the priest intoned.  He grabbed a small vial of water, and poured it over the captive’s head. At this, the air inside the ring formed by the crosses began to shimmer, as if distorted by heat and energy.

“Blessed be our kin, forever humbled with the mantle of God," the audience replied, Levi among them.

The preacher placed a hand on the shaking chest of his impending sacrifice, and said: "Blessed be the sinner, and may his sins be forgotten, or may he be purged in the light of the Lord.”

The circle flashed red, and the priest withdrew his hand, stepping back. The ground at their feet rippled, and liquefied. The captive began to scream in horror - but was swiftly silenced as an ethereal hand materialized out of the now-murky air and stuffed itself down his throat.

Levi watched in horror (rolling Resolve + Composure to successfully keep his cool) as spectral hands emerged from the floor and gripped the captive’s legs, grasping him, tearing at him, dragging him into the unknown depths. He shook in his chair violently as the hands pulled him below the rippling floorboards - his screams muffled and silenced - until at last he had sunk completely into the ground.  

The ripples stopped, the air returned to normal, the crosses ceased to glow, and all was still.  

The crowd - Levi among them - got to their feet and began to politely clap at the ritual’s conclusion, before shortly filing out of the church hall. Justin slapped Levi on the back and grinned, calling the scene a great show. He gestured for his companion to follow, and the two moved toward a group of SOO members dressed as Henderson volunteers. Together, they set off toward the school.

(GM Note:Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we agreed to rush through this scene; it was designed as less of a cutscene, with a bunch of interactions before and after the ceremony, but we agreed to rush through it in order to save time for the grand finale!)

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

Ramona pulled up around the back of the school, avoiding the crowds that had massed in the front, and shouted instructions for the volunteers as they filed out of the van. As she led them into the entry hall (where Raya and Relm’s banner, conspicuously taped and glued back together, hung over the gym doors), she explained she needed volunteers in three distinct groups; Most people were needed inside, waving flags and directing people to their seats, but two would have to man sign-in, and one should handle basic security checks at the main entrance.  

The party quickly divvied up roles and got to work. Ramona dropped Relmitos and Michael off at the sign-in table, explaining that all campaign personnel were to be given a yellow credential, while all other guests and volunteers should sign in and receive a white credential.  Relmitos and his glum-looking buddy nodded their understanding.

She led the rest of the group to the nearby gym entrance, and handled Fedaykin a metal detector wand, telling him - in my attempt at maintaining her country charm - “Just wave that rod over their fannies and make sure nobody's packin heat.” (GM Note: The party took no expense of laughter at this; I had grabbed a drink of water before introducing this scene, you see, and during that time Raya led a discussion on US / UK cultural differences, one of which was the fact that “fanny” has a more intimate connotation across the pond.)

Raya rolled Resolve + Composure to keep from snickering. She failed, and Ramona shot her a look, before reaching into her bag and grabbing two Henderson flags for Raya and Spoon to carry. Ramona explained that she simply needed them in the gym, directing traffic toward empty seats. They acknowledged and stepped inside as Ramona went off to put her other volunteers into position around the area.  

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

Fedaykin immediately began scanning visitors; politely asking them to open their bags, before waving the detector wand up and down either side of their body. Several people passed without incident when Fed met the first unpleasant encounter of the night, as a trio of burly farmhands approached him with their arms crossed. A Wits + Composure roll sparked recognition: It was the group he’d pissed off in the park this morning. Ron had the same immediate recognition, and growled at Fed: “Ain't you the fella who had the gall to insult my momma? I thought I told you to get lost.”

The three rednecks immediately moved in close, and Ron rolled to intimidate Fed, assisted by his buddies.  

Five successes.

The party groaned - until Fed rolled Resolve + Composure to resist.

SIX successes. Fedaykin passed his dissertation in Thugonomics with flying colors.

Our very own Austrian Kicking Machine puffed himself up, crossed his arms, and told them to move along: he was doing his job and didn’t have time for their nonsense. Ron got a disgruntled look and opened his mouth in protest - when Ramona stepped up to Fed’s side, arms at her hips, with a serious look: “Is there a problem here? You best know that anyone who messes with my team is gonna answer to me.”

Ron looked around, and immediately realized he was not welcome here. Heads had turned in the crowd, and everyone’s eyes were on the fight about to break out, a fight he was no longer sure he wanted. Muttering incoherently, he backed off, turned around, and left in a hurry. Everyone cheered.

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

Inside, the gym was already packed: The tables Fed and Spoon had hauled against the side were manned by Democratic Party staff and local vendors who supported Henderson (including Darkwood Books and Unique Antiques, but they didn’t explore these to figure this out!). Several hundred people had filed into their seats, many of whom carried campaign signs, American flags, or other patriotic paraphernalia. There was a general hubbub and an air of excitement in the room as people eagerly awaited the moment their candidate, and his illustrious national sponsor, would take the stage.  

Spoon decided to search the crowd for any recognizable faces or any potential Sons of Odin members. His Wits + Investigation roll yielded 3 successes. Lynz was helping a few townspeople find their seats, Sam was chatting animatedly with some Henderson supporters toward the middle, and other assorted volunteers were scattered about. About two rows back from the stage, he spotted a row of bald guys sitting quiet and patient, without a hint of excitement. Suspicious, Spoon started to make his way toward them, keeping up his pretense as a flag-waver.

Raya, always genre savvy, knew this was not going to be good. People were being hemmed into a large area, and the Sons of Odin had a political agenda to prove. She decided there was a good chance that this rally was a deathtrap, and chose to search for any signs of people blocking the entrances. Her Wits + Investigation roll got 1 success, enough to catch a glimpse of a few volunteers standing around, suspiciously aloof, near one of the back doors. Raya decided to gradually approach and catch a glimpse of their conversation.  

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

Back in the entry hall, Relmitos continued his deft work at the check-in, briefly greeting volunteers and friendly townspeople - the Mexican couple from CVS, the barkeep from The Stranger, a series of reporters and journalists. Most were simple guests at the rally: Relmitos and Michael directed them to sign up on the sheet to his left, and handed them white credentials. After a few minutes, a blond man with a curiously charismatic smile approached: He explained he was with the security detail and asked for a credential. With no reason to suspect anything and no way to identify this man, Relmitos politely handed him a yellow card.

He had no trouble recognizing their next guest: Roland, still dressed in his black button-down, now with a security badge, a walkie-talkie, and a gun at his belt. Roland immediately recognized Relmitos, and asked if he had noticed anything odd. Recalling Levi’s text, Relmitos warned him that he suspected the Sons of Odin were on the move. Roland put a hand on his shoulder and thanked him. Relmitos gave him a yellow card, and he immediately took off to prepare the security team.  

Soon the line began to thin, and Relmitos kept his eyes peeled - as Fedaykin waved the last few guests through into the gym, several volunteers began moving the last few pieces of equipment into place, and the lights flashed, indicating the event was about to start. Relmitos, still suspicious and savvy, made one more Wits+Investigation roll to check the stragglers. Succeeding, he caught a glimpse of some volunteers moving boxes down a side corridor that led further into the school. Two of them bore the Horns of Odin on their left arms.  

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

Justin, Levi, and the other Sons of Odin - all in volunteer garb - fell in line with the regular rally guests, weaving their way through the crowd towards Clarksdale High. They came in through the double doors and mingled with the crowd awaiting registration and entry into the gym. Justin ducked to the side and beckoned Levi to follow; their group split off from the crowd and headed left, down a small corridor that encircled the site of the rally. On the way, they picked up a pair of boxes that had been stacked in a pile near some trash cans.  

Levi sized up his chances: There were five of them, and one of him. Not good.  He needed to find some way to alert the others and put a stop to what was about to happen - Could he set the building on fire, or pull an alarm? Could he whip out his gun and start shooting? He had worked hard for this cover, and he knew that he would only have one shot.  

Eventually they stopped at a small room containing an emergency exit for the building, and one of the gymnasium entrances that had been closed for the duration of the rally. Ten yards ahead were entrances to the men’s and women’s locker rooms; beyond, the hallway curved around the other side of the gym, continuing out of sight. Here, the Sons of Odin gently lowered their boxes to the floor. One grabbed a crowbar, and pried off the lid. Justin reached inside, and withdrew a large wooden cross.

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

The lights flickered, and volunteers directed everyone toward their seats. Spoon kept an eye on the stage, where campaign staff and well-dressed security agents milled about, preparing for their candidate’s big entry. After a few moments, Ramona stepped out onto the stage to wild applause, greeting the crowd with a grin and a sassy smile: “Good evening Clarksdale!”

She gave a brief introduction; thanking the volunteers (they smiled and waved), the campaign staff (they stood to polite audience applause), and the great people of Clarksdale (everyone shouted and cheered). The Henderson campaign - their campaign - could not be possible without everyone's help, so tonight would be a great celebration of their hard work. “Without further ado,” Ramona exclaimed, bravado and earnest pride resonant in her voice, “It is my pleasure to introduce tonight’s keynote speaker, the great visionary, senior Senator from Washington State - you all know him - Charles Bartlett!”

The lights dimmed, and the crowd got to their feet, cheering, clapping, and waving signs, obscuring Spoon’s view of the front of the room. The lights above the stage intensified, and Senator Bartlett stepped up to the podium, waving at the crowd, smiling, nodding.  As the applause died down, the Senator began an impassioned speech - lavishing Henderson’s work and campaign with earnest praise, and captivating the attention of everyone in the room...

Everyone except Spoon.

As the lighting shifted, drawing his focus to the stage, I had Spoon roll Wits + Composure to notice something - and he succeeded. High above, he glimpsed motion. Someone was milling about the tech catwalks, peering at the stage below. Spoon looked around; nobody else seemed to notice, their attention was on the Senator’s speech. He hurried forward, pressing through the crowd.  

At the other side of the gym, Raya reached the door to find the three volunteers she’d spotted earlier had ceased their conversation and now barred her path, arms crossed, looking at the stage. She tried to get their attention, motioning that she wanted to get through, and the one in the middle shook his head, smiling.  

Her way was shut.

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

The last few volunteers and guests left the entrance hall, closing the door behind them, as the lights were dimmed and the rally began inside. Through the rancour and thunderous applause, Relmitos approached Fed frantically, explaining that the Sons of Odin were here, disguised as volunteers. He pointed off in the direction they had gone. They faced a choice: Head inside to get Roland’s help and alert the others, or stay out in the hall and act now.  

Deciding not to wait, Fedaykin and Relmitos hustled down the corridor in pursuit.  As the noise from the gym faded - Senator Bartlett’s speech reduced to a steady beat, a distant rhetoric and cantor punctuated by occasional cheers - they passed open and empty classrooms, rounded a corner where a bulletin board announced upcoming athletic events, and at last came upon a grim scene.

Three volunteers lay unconscious on the floor, bruised and battered. Standing next to them were a menacing trio. One, muscular, rested a wooden baseball bat on his shoulder. To his left, a cocky-looking teenager crossed his arms.

Beside them, a third held aloft a large wooden cross.

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

The gymnasium was alive, electric. The Senator, fired up, shouted into the mic, continuing his rousing speech - “Clarksdale deserves a better deal!  Greenfield deserves a better deal!” - and the crowd was eating it up. The volunteers and vendors were facing forward, watching the show. The crowd was on their feet, cheering and shouting. All the while, Raya’s nerves were shot.  Survival instincts and alarm bells resounded in her head: She had to get out. With a Wits + Investigation roll, she looked around, scanning for anything that could shut this thing down. At last her eyes settled on a fire alarm only twenty yards away.

Spoon forged through the packed crowd, eyes trained on the man in the rafters. Above the stage, the hidden stranger reached into his coat, pulling out a lighter and a small object - a firecracker, Spoon realized, startled. He lit the fuse, aimed it at the stage below and let it fly.  

In an instant, everything descended into chaos.  

As the firecracker roared, Roland leapt forward, tackling the Senator from behind and knocking him to the floor. The explosive impacted them both and blossomed into a fiery display of color, smoke, and ash. Raya pulled the alarm, which immediately started blaring across the school. The sprinkler system went off, drenching the entire crowd.  

And the rousing cheers turned to screams borne of panic, confusion, and fear.

A man in a Henderson shrit leapt onto the stage amidst the turbulent screams and the gushing water, shedding his volunteer cap to reveal a bald head with the Three Horns of Odin tattooed above his left eye. A hard look on his face, he stepped over the incapacitated Roland and Bartlett, opened a book, and began to read:

“Blessed be the children, for they shall receive the judgement of heaven.”

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

Each of the crosses lit up a radiant gold and rose into the air, suspended by an unseen force. A ring of light shot through the halls, ensnaring the entire arena within a deadly enclosure, and screams arose from within. Ellroy cheered, basking in the ethereal glow and the sounds of muffled chaos. Justin looked away, slightly disconcerted. Another of their companions picked up the crowbar and used it to pry open a second cardboard box. Reaching in, he withdrew a six-pack of beers.

Rather than crack open a cold one with his occult boys, Levi took the initiative. Recalling the speed and swiftness of the ritual at the church, and remembering the note he’d discovered in Darkwood, he used the cult’s crucial moment of distraction to step forward and grab the cross. Levi tugged at the crucifix, intending to snatch it out of the air and abscond, but it held fast - affixed to this spot by whatever unnatural force propelled the grisly ritual within its boundary line.

He tugged at it again; It would not budge. Levi turned around to see everyone looking at him, dead silent. Ellroy growled, “What the fuck are you doing?”

Levi: “Well, it was worth a shot.”

Seizing the moment of surprise and realization, Levi settled on the only remaining course of action - he reared back his fist and punched the cross right at its center.

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

Inside the gym, the atmosphere grew stale and acrid, the ground shook beneath them, and the speaker’s chants reverberated above the screams of the crowd.

“Blessed be the father, for he shall save us from our destitution.”

With each of the cantor’s words, the dizziness and chaos intensified. The air itself started vibrating, the water from the sprinklers stung like the bites from a thousand flies, and Raya felt the room spin around her. She made a Stamina + Composure roll to avoid vomiting; thankfully, she passed, holding it together and keeping her focus. Broadly, the crowd was less lucky: A grisly smell began to waft through the air as dozens retched, emptying the contents of their stomach on the hard gymnasium floor.

Raya rolled Wits + Composure - succeeding, she noticed the floor begin to ripple, the tiles reverberating like a pond recently disturbed. People fell over, trampling each other as they stumbled towards the exits, only to find those exits barred. She quickly sought the high ground, desperate to avoid getting overwhelmed by a crazed stampeding crowd. With a Dexterity + Athletics check, she leapt onto one of the tables Fedaykin and Spoon had arranged, and from there clambered up onto the bleachers.

Steadying herself, Raya surveyed the scene. This new vantage point gave her a clear view of the crowd, and the scene was one of horror. Volunteers, guests, mothers, fathers, children were lying on the vomit-covered floor, clutching each other, terror etched across their faces, failing to comprehend what was going on. The tile had acquired the consistency of a soft putty - clinging like slime to their clothes, sucking them down and holding them fast.

And from the deep, they rose: Ethereal hands, sifting through the floor, clutching at the scattered townspeople and attempting to drag the into the unknown depths.

Levi: “Oh shit, everyone’s getting Jumanji’d!”

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

Relmitos and Fedaykin took one look at the cheering Sons of Odin and their growing cross, and bravely sprung into action.

Relmitos threw himself at the teenager, aiming for a quick knockout: Fedaykin, meanwhile, went straight for the heavy brute armed with the bat, striking at his shoulder with a hard kick. Each rolled Strength+Brawl. Relm swiveled his shoulder and struck the younger cultist straight in the back. The teen staggered forward, crying out in pain. Fed kicked off balance, his foot striking weak and off-mark.

The Sons of Odin moved to retaliate, and everyone rolled initiative. The speedy Relmitos came out on top: He attacked again before anyone was able to react, drawing back his elbow and smashing the teen hard in the chest. He achieved a whopping 5 successes: With the force of his blow, his quarry was sent sprawling toward the closed gym door, bumping his head against the wall and falling to the ground, unconscious.  

Fedaykin was slower to recover, and the other two cultists pounced: The brute swung his bat at full force, achieving 5 successes of his own on Strength + Weaponry to crack Fedaykin hard across the shoulder. As the Austrian reeled from the blow, their third opponent lunged forward, swinging his fist at Fedaykin’s jaw - but he missed, swinging wide, granting Fed an opportunity. This time, spending willpower, he succeeded: He whirled around, turning the momentum from his stagger into a roundhouse kick, smashing the thug in his right side with the heel of his foot.

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

Seeing no other option, Levi released the cross, pulled back his fist, and punched it square in the center. The glowing lights flickered, as if briefly disrupted, and a slight wind blew out from the point of impact.

Ellroy’s gang immediately got to their feet - two smashing empty beer bottles, the others raising their fists in shouts of protest - and rounded on Levi. However, with the luck of a Relmitos, Levi came up first in the initiative order: In an all-or-nothing move, he lashed out at the glowing artifact - rolling Strength+Brawl twice to quickly strike with a pair of blows. His left fist dented the cross, splintering the wood and creating a small crack in the center. His right split the crucifix in twain.

The cross splintered and disintegrated in a flash; the beam of light seemed to pulse and waver, and the entire room shook at its foundations. But the circle held strong.

There was a moment of shock - Justin stared at Levi in disbelief, Ellroy in a deep fury - and then five angry thugs leapt forward, shouting and swearing. Levi bolted back toward the lobby, burning his last willpower to roll Dexterity+Athletics for 3 successes. His opponents only managed 2: Levi slipped through their grasp, but they set off in a furious pursuit, their shouts and footsteps ringing out through the hall.

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

"Blessed be the chosen, for they are destined to inherit the Earth"

Water poured from the ceiling. The fire alarm continued to ring, deafening and shrill. Raya looked on in horror as hands rose from the floor, sifting through the crowd, grasping at the helpless and the incapacitated. Two volunteers sank slowly into the tiles, clutching desperately to the legs of one of the few tables left standing. A young daughter was buried up to her shoulder, crying in fear, clinging to her mother’s arm - even as hands grasped at her mother’s legs, her stomach, her hair, violently pulling her below.

Not content to stand and watch, Raya rolled Wits+Investigation to find anything useful - and succeeded. On the other side of the treacherous gym, across the rippling floor and the rising sea of hands, Raya spotted Roland Towson and Charles Bartlett, climbing the opposing bleachers toward a higher vantage point and a position of relative safety. Immediately Raya rolled Dexterity+Athletics, leaping onto the table below and attempting to parkour across the gym, dodging demonic hands and staggering townspeople in the world’s most disturbing game of “The Floor is Lava”.

Halfway across, Raya shouted Roland’s name over the screams, the cries, and the incessant ring of the alarm. As he reached the top of the bleachers, staring toward the stage, he heard her shout, and swiveled towards her. His eyes, alight with a fierceness she’d never seen before, widened, and he shouted: “What the hell are you doing? Get to high ground!”

As if on queue, the table wobbled beneath her, Raya caught a glimpse of several hands rising to meet her, and instantly she realized she’d made a terrible mistake. She made another athletics roll to desperately leap back to safety, but failed: As she jumped onto the table near the bleachers, it collapsed beneath her weight, spilling her out onto the floor. She landed on hands and knees - tile sticking to her clothes, hands rising from the depths to claim her, screams and alarm blaring all around...  

There was a dim flash of light, cutting through the haze, and the hands retreated. For a moment, the air became still, and the burning of the water diminished. The effect was brief, but it was enough: Raya seized her opportunity with a Strength check. Succeeding, she broke free, and followed up with another athletics roll to clamber onto the bleachers and away from the hands’ reach.

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

Back outside, Levi was on the run, with Ellroy’s group hot on his tail. As he rounded into the lobby, he made a second Dexterity+Athletics check to continue his flight - and managed 4 successes, sprinting into the next corridor just as the gang rounded the corner behind him.

Ahead, Fedaykin and Relmitos were locked in a brawl. Recovering from the brute’s attack, the Austrian smashed the heel of his right foot into his opponent’s side. The skinhead swore, dropping his bat and clutching at his abdomen, and Relm rounded on him in a heartbeat, aiming a punch square at his chest. Relm failed his Strength+Brawl check, lashing out with feeble form and scant force. Angry, the brute retaliated, catching Relmitos in the shoulder with a meaty left hook.

Fedaykin was quick to reply: He reared back and kicked the man straight in the chest, sending him staggering again. Another punch from Relmitos did the trick: He clocked the thug in the jaw, and the burly man fell backwards to the ground, out cold.

While the party members were preoccupied with the big guy, his companion had grabbed the baseball bat, and came up behind Fed, ready to clobber some heads. At this moment, however, Levi rounded the corner, immediately spotting the impending ambush. He ran up and attacked from behind with a leaping punch. With 5 successes on his Strength+Brawl check - adding to the party’s remarkable number of exceptional successes for the day - Levi smashed the cultist in the back of his head. He too crumpled, down for the count.

Levi, Relm, and Fed now stood surrounded by six unconscious bodies, collecting themselves, panting and rubbing their respective injuries. Suspended against the interior wall, the cross glowed resolute. All they could hear were the sounds of horror echoing through the halls, and the sound of angry shouts and footsteps, rapidly approaching.

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

Spoon at last reached the stage, leaping onto the raised podium. For a moment, in the relative safety of the high ground, he looked behind him, and the situation appeared grim: Chairs had sunk most of the way into the floor; people were buried to their stomach, their chest, their neck. Hands dragged down women and children, farmers and businessmen, black and white - indiscriminate and ruthless.

This was not divine judgement: It was a purge.

“Blessed be our kin, forever humbled with the mantle of God."

About ten feet ahead, the skinhead continued to read, slow and deliberate in his words; behind him a scorch mark had seared into the wooden platform. Spoon attempted to identify what had happened to Roland and the Senator with Wits+Occult but couldn’t make out how they’d disappeared. Surveying the scene, Spoon again felt a dizzying effect, and was forced to avoid vomiting for a second time with Stamina+Composure. As he succeeded and kept his wits together, his common sense triggered: He realized that the sprinklers, not the chant, were causing this incapacitating dizziness and keeping everyone subdued.  

Spoon rushed backstage. Scanning the area with a Wits+Investigation roll, he quickly noticed two things: A large pipe that fed to the sprinklers overhead, and an axe in a breakable emergency case. Dashing over to a pile of audio equipment, he picked up a nearby mic stand and swung it hard at the glass with Strength+Weaponry. Still overcome by dizziness, he barely succeeded: Abrams smashed the glass with the mic stand's firm base, cracking it open. Another strike shattered it to bits.

Spoon reached into the case, grabbed the hatchet, and rounded on the water pipe. He swung once, but lost his balance: The hatchet blade glanced harmlessly off the iron pipe, and Spoon reeled, desperately collecting himself. Spoon swung again, spending willpower this time, and his aim was true.

In the hallways outside, Levi yelled for everyone to smash the cross, as Relmitos glanced nervously down the corridor, toward the sound of Ellroy’s approaching thugs. Fedaykin and Levi stepped forward, each taking a swing at the magically-suspended artifact. With each blow, the circle pulsed with light, and the crucifix began to splinter. Relmitos’ turn rolled around in the initiative order, and he stepped forward, giving the heavily damaged artifact an arrogant flick.

As Spoon’s hatchet cleaved a massive dent in the side of the water pipe, and as Ellroy’s thugs rounded the corner to face Fedaykin and Levi, Relmitos touched the glowing cross, and shattered it like glass.

Spoon's axe caved in the side of the pipe, spraying water all over Abrams and the backstage area.  Raya looked on as the sprinklers stopped, and the air in the gym began to clear. Another pulse of light reverberated through the area; the hands pulled away from the villagers, who began to slowly extricate themselves from the vomit-and-blood stained floor. For a moment, the screams stopped, and all that could be heard amidst the relative calm was the continued wailing of the fire alarm.

And then the cantor spoke: "Blessed be the sinner, and may his sins be forgotten, or may he be purged in the light of the Lord."

Emboldened by his words, the ethereal hands returned, tugging and pulling at the townspeople, who began to scream in earnest as their fleeting hope was crushed.  Spoon rushed out from backstage, ready to swing his axe at the skinhead at the podium, or to tackle him to the ground...

A gunshot rang out, cutting through the chaos. The skinhead's body collapsed to the floor, blood spilling from a hole between his eyes. Spoon and Raya both turned to see Roland, standing on the bleachers, fire in his eyes, golden pistol smoking in his hand.

The shaking stopped; the hands dissolved into dust. At last, it was over.

An unseen force erupted in the room; the doors blew open and the lucky few who had managed to survive this long staggered out, crying and shaking. The floor gradually hardened, and with one final ripple, returned to its natural, solid state. This had the unfortunate side effect of amputating and bifurcating dozens of villagers who had remained trapped halfway through; spraying their blood and bile across the tile.

Both Spoon and Raya rolled Composure+Resolve at a serious penalty to keep it together amidst the gruesome scene; remarkably, both succeeded. The room was again filled with despairing wails and cries of anguish, blood and vomit pooled amidst scattered bodies both dead and wounded, and the fire alarm continued to ring out, but it was over; they were safe.  

Outside the gym, Ellroy and his thugs rounded the corner of the hall, coming face to face with Levi, Relmitos, and Fedaykin. Counting their odds, rubbing their injuries the party prepared to make a stand - Levi reaching for his concealed weapon, ready to open fire - when the door to the gym burst open, and injured villagers began to stagger out. Briefly distracted, Ellroy's eyes traced over the survivors, registering shock and disbelief at the ritual's failure, before coming to rest back on Leviwulf.  

Rage at the betrayal he'd suffered etched on every corner of his face, Ellroy stepped forward - and five more gunshots rang out, expertly catching each of the Sons of Odin in the shoulders, the legs, the arms. The survivors of the massacre screamed, ducked, and scattered. The party members looked around in shock.

Each of the thugs fell to the ground, and from the corridor behind them, Roland stepped forth, golden gun at his side, Raya and Spoon at his heels.

"Let's go. I need to get you out of here before Valkyrie arrives."


Last edited by Quaetam on Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Quaetam
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Re: Rocks fall, everyone dies

Post  Raya on Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:07 pm

I loved this writeup Smile It's really interesting to be on the other side of it for a change! Some comments:

Firstly this session was hilarious with Relm, since he seemed to get either critical successes or nothing at all Razz He can Mission Impossible through a gate, but can he hang up a poster? Nooo....

Quaetam wrote:Everyone packed their bags, loaded up the Yankmobile, and gave a brief but earnest goodbye to the others before setting off, blasting their star-spangled horn on the way out.

Just so you know, I'm dying of embarrassment everytime we enter somewhere in the Yankmobile.

Quaetam wrote:Fed: “People like your mother?”

Dammit Fed, I was in the game for all of 10 minutes before you nearly get me killed!

Quaetam wrote: Nonetheless, Raya agreed to let Levi do his thing - but she gave him a warning: If he got in any trouble, she’d go full War of 1812 on the Yankmobile and paint it with the Union Jack.  As Raya backed off, the others relented and followed suit.

Specifically, if he died I was going to turn the Yankmobile into the Limeymobile. It was an attempt to motivate him to stay alive Razz

Quaetam wrote:
Relmitos picked up two heavy dumbbells, approached the thugs with a final stealth roll, and swung hard with both weights in a sneak attack. His Strength + Weaponry roll, aided by his Dual Wielding proficiency, yielded a whopping six successes: He smashed both of the thugs square in the back, sending them - and Nazi Kid - splashing into the pool with a surprised yelp.

As a note, I'd gone to get a drink when Levi entered the ritual, and when I rejoined the chat Relm was suddenly beating people over the head with gym equipment. That was confusing to say the least Laughing

Quaetam wrote:Fed made another Wits + Medicine roll, and correctly recalled one method of snapping people into awareness if they’re in shock, passed out, or fainted. Reaching forward, he gingerly leaned over the patient’s chest, raised a hand, and slapped the man hard across the face.  

Spoiler:

Quaetam wrote:She led the rest of the group to the nearby gym entrance, and handled Fedaykin a metal detector wand, telling him - in my attempt at maintaining her country charm - “Just wave that rod over their fannies and make sure nobody's packin heat.” (GM Note: The party took no expense of laughter at this; I had grabbed a drink of water before introducing this scene, you see, and during that time Raya led a discussion on US / UK cultural differences, one of which was the fact that “fanny” has a more intimate connotation across the pond.)

Again specifically, it's because fanny in British English is a childish word for a vagina, so you just coming out and telling Fed to wave his rod over them just cracked me up. Even more so when you just kept saying it. So immature, I know.

Quaetam wrote:The three rednecks immediately moved in close, and Ron rolled to intimidate Fed, assisted by his buddies.  

Five successes.

The party groaned - until Fed rolled Resolve + Composure to resist.

SIX successes. Fedaykin passed his dissertation in Thugonomics with flying colors.

Hands down the funniest and best roll of the game. We thought we were all screwed when the rednecks got a crit, and then Fed went and rolled himself a crit +1 Laughing


Thanks ever so much for running this and inviting me to play, I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it!

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Spoiler:

FUCK YOU RAYA.

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

AND

FUUUUUUCKKKKK YOOOOOUUUUU

the one time I trust you with my back and you plant a dagger in it.
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Re: Rocks fall, everyone dies

Post  Raya on Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:44 am

TWBB WoD RP: Dude Where’s My Werewolf

Spoiler:

I had the idea for this session bouncing around in my head for a while: the players wake up one morning in an odd situation, with no memory of the night before or how they got there. Following the clues, they would have to retrace their steps and work out what exactly happened to them. I bounced this idea off Stu, who immediately pointed out that this was the plot of Dude Where’s My Car. Bugger. When the game started the players immediately pointed out that this was also the plot of The Hangover. Oh well, part of being a GM is never letting a good plot go to waste Razz

With the group split- and me being in charge of Team Seals- this was the first session in a while with a smaller group. It was also the first ‘proper’ session Snake would have. It would be nice to see how he handled it, plus having things stripped back down to basics. One thing I was concerned about was that a lot of the elements of this session featured in Q’s first session: the politician, the angry voters, the investigation etc. Even though we came up with them independently, I was worried that things would be too similar, or even be seen as a rip-off. Thankfully it didn’t, but it did get some laughs from Q when I confessed!

Sadly Req couldn’t be here for this session, but as I was hoping for him to have a role, we NPC’d him for the duration.

-------

Snake woke up to a sore head and a sticky face.

As his consciousness returned, he became aware that he was sitting upright. His head was pounding, his stomach churning and his limbs shaking from nervous exhaustion. In particular, his forehead was agony. Opening his eyes, he realised he was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car. The steering wheel was slick with blood. The windscreen had completely shattered, the view was filled with a tree trunk and a crumpled engine. It looked like Snake had crashed the car at some speed into the tree. The impact had smashed his head into the steering wheel, causing the forehead wound and the blood. He groggily looked round and found that the rest of the party were also in the car, all unconscious.

Oh shit.

He got out the car and passed his Strength roll to remain upright and not throw up. He took in their surroundings: they were in a field, at the far end was a raised embankment on which a freeway ran. It looked like the car had left the road and crashed into a tree.

Snake: How the fuck did I manage to hit the only tree in the field.

The other PCs each rolled Stamina to see if they came round, but only Q and TD did. Snake opened the passenger door to get Q out, and as he grabbed the handle pain shot through him. Checking his hands, he noticed that his palms were raw with friction burns. On the back of his left hand, in his own handwriting, was a message:

Spoiler:

TD meanwhile checked the others, making sure nobody was seriously injured before trying to move them.

TD: [rolls Medicine to examine Sah]
Me: He’s a bit battered, but otherwise seems okay.
Q: Do you mean he’s unhurt, or is this the British battered where he’s nearly dead.

Thankfully, aside from being knocked unconscious, nobody was seriously hurt except for some cuts and bruises…although, mysteriously, Req had a dressing pad on his cheek. TD requested Snake’s help to move everyone to safety, followed by a further clarification of don’t put the bodies into one big pile. As Sah came round, he noticed something odd: clutched tightly in his hands was a dreamcatcher. It was fairly well made, and decorated with feathers and small bones. Where had this come from?

With everyone now conscious, they examined their situation. They were all standing in the middle of a muddy field and, judging by the tyre tracks the car had left the road at high speed, skidding across the field, before Snake lost control and impacted the tree. The car was a complete writeoff. Also, they noted, it wasn’t even their car. They’d never seen this vehicle before in their life.

It was at this point they realised they all shared a big gap in their memories. They remember arriving in a town named Tateburg the day before and checking into a hotel, but after that…nothing. So the PCs had (presumably) stolen a car, driven it out of the nearby town and crashed into a tree. And now they had no recollection of what had caused the situation. Just what the hell had happened in those missing hours?

A search of the car turned up some membership cards, along with a sub card and a Starbucks card (identifying the owner as one ‘A Brown’), and some groceries, which Snake promptly stole.

Me: A French baguette, bag of apples, some cheap white bread rolls…
TD: A baguette AND some bread?!
Me: Dude really likes his carbs.

TD also checked the car to see if any petrol was leaking out. It looked like the fuel tank had split open, and by this point it had all soaked into the ground. It must have been some time since the crash then.

Checking their phones, they discovered that Tateburg was about 3 miles away, and after some debate decided to walk it.

(GM Note: I was wondering if the players would think about checking their phones for evidence of the previous day. They didn’t, but if they had, they would have found three photos: one of some scaffolding, one of someone they then didn’t recognise, and one of Snake attempting to fit an entire footlong hotdog in his mouth).

On the walk (and after some prompting), the party discovered they had various items in their pockets:

- Quaetam had two flyers folded up.
- TD had a receipt from the town record office, with a note in his own handwriting: ‘11am’.
- Req had a pack of matches, the cover of which said ‘Mad Dogz Biker Bar’, and some shards of broken glass.
- Sah had the dreamcatcher he’d been clutching so tightly when he woke up.
- Snake had nothing in his pockets, but was the only one with rope burns and the note on his hand.

Spoiler:


There was discussion as to what the mysterious message on the back of Snake’s hand meant, and what the two leaflets were about (the date was 28th July, so the protests had happened the day before). Poor rolls gave them no good ideas, so all they were left with was theories and potentially concussion.

Sah: Isn’t it actually 2016?
TD: I think we’re on a rolling timeline.
Me: Also, technically I think it’s supposed to be 2015…

To Q’s alarm, they also realised they were without the Seals, but remembered leaving their behind in the hotel room. They decided to head there to make sure they were safe.

Eventually they got to town, at approximately 10am. As they entered the town square, they saw a large crowd and some kind of commotion kicking off. There were TV cameras, police vehicles, and a lot of angry voices. Approaching, they saw just what was making the crowd so riled.

Lying broken in the town square was a totem pole. It had obviously once stood proudly in the centre, but in the night someone had tied ropes around the top and pulled it down. The impact of hitting the ground had shattered it, and it now lay in multiple pieces. The immediate site had been cordoned off with police tape and the officers were trying to keep the crowds back. Plenty were taking photographs, and it was obvious they were unhappy with what had happened.

As they surveyed the scene, Snake immediately put two and two together regarding the rope and his burns, and shoved his hands into his pockets. I had everyone roll Wits/Composure. Q got zero, in what would soon turn out to be regular occurrence this session (concussion, obviously). For those that passed, they suddenly got a brief flash of memory: they remembered Snake yelling in pain, and darting to the side as something big and heavy smashed down between them. Snake also remembered the sensation of a rope being torn from his hands.

Had…had the party toppled the totem pole like a statue of Saddam Hussain?

TD, Req and Sah went back to the hotel to check on the Seals, whilst Q and Snake investigated the area and made enquiries. Q discovered from a woman the story of the totem pole: it had stood in the square for over 100 years, and was seen as the symbol of the town. The local politician, Max Carter, had arranged for it to be moved closer to the town hall for conservation work. This had angered The Friends, a local group of bikers who often campaigned to save the town’s heritage (but were generally looked on with the suspicion of being thugs). Two protests had happened the day before (the leaflets Q had in his pockets), and although things had been heated, no one knew who could have destroyed the beloved totem pole.

Also spotted in the crowd was a biker with a large dog, studying the crime scene, and a man putting up posters. The biker was ignored (this was actually one of the Friends), and Q went to chat with the poster man. Turns out he was the owner of the car they’d woken up in, and was putting up posters asking for information about his stolen car. When pressed, he revealed that the previous night he’d been chilling in his car, eating a McFlurry, when suddenly a gang on youths fell screaming on his car, yanked him out and drove away with it at high speed. The attack was so suddenly and surprising he didn’t get a good look at them. Q kept a perfectly straight face and thanked him for his time.

He didn’t return any of the cards.

Meanwhile, Snake was causing a scene by calling out Max Carter, demanding to know why he wasn’t there. Funnily enough, Max had been on his way, and pulled up in a car. Getting out he went through the crowds, talking and reassuring people: he seemed like a popular fellow. Q rolled to see if he knew the guy…and got zero. Max was not a big mover-and-shaker, more of a county commissioner.

Snake continued to trash-talk, and now Max had heard him. He refused to rise to Snake’s bait, and after a few curt words made his way to a podium, where he gave a press statement. He was shocked and appalled at the brazen act of vandalism on the town’s totem pole, and promised a full inquiry to catch the perpetrators.

Both Snake and Q though this was too by-the-numbers, and immediate got suspicious. As Max made to leave and get back into his car, Q fought his way through the crowd to speak to him. He asked him why he cared so much about the totem pole, and what he hoped to accomplish from all this. Max skirted the question by saying it was all about the bigger picture. Q pressed again, asking what exactly the bigger picture was. Max shot him a smile and pointed his finger at him like a gun.

“For America, for the future, for YOU.”

This promptly broke Snake who howled with laughter, and Max wound up his window and drove away.

After checking everything was okay in the hotel, Sah and TD decided to head to the town museum, leaving Req behind in the hotel. It was a small place, just a typical town museum telling the story of how the town came to be and how it grew. They looked closer at the Native American side of things; it seemed like Tateburg had had a peaceful existence with the native tribes, who had eventually become absorbed into the town (though it was suspected this may have been sanitised somewhat). They also checked out any prominent local legends/mythology. One was of a time in the distant past when a demon boar terrorised the area, eventually slain and sealed away by a mighty warrior. The warrior then became a star in the sky, specifically Lupus, the wolf constellation. All very interesting.

Since they’d exhausted their investigations at the square, Snake and Q went to the record office. Before the party had split, TD had given them his receipt. He didn’t know what had happened at 11am, but he was wary of showing his face there, so the plan was for the others to go. Their cover story was that TD had lost the documents and had asked them to get some more copies.

The record office was part of the town hall complex, used to conserve and catalogue the town records. They went up to the desk and ran their spiel, only to be told by the lady behind the desk that they’d gotten mixed up: the 11am was the time from which TD’s documents were available for collection. Feeling a bit sheepish, they collected the folder and sat down in the reception area, taking a look at what TD had ordered. There were five separate collections of documents:

- A printed out copy of the Wikipedia page on the constellation of Lupus.
- A page from an astronomy almanac, covered with dense numbers.
- An OS map of the town.
- A collection of newspaper articles about Max Carter.
- A collection of newspaper articles about the Friends biker gang.

They divided the documents between them and rolled to see what they could uncover…and rolled rubbish. So they swapped the documents…and rolled rubbish again. They couldn’t figure out anything with the map or astronomy documents, and all they got from the newspaper articles was that Max was big on local heritage, and at university had majored in Politics, with a minor in American Mythology. He had also set up a folklore society whilst at uni. Having spent the best part of an hour trying and failing to decipher the documents, they gave up and reconvened with the others (sans Req), deciding to take the half hour walk to the Mad Dogz Biker Bar, their next lead.

At this point Snake completely surprised me by pointing out that, according to the Wikipedia article, Lupus was known to the ancient Babylonians as the Mad Dog, and they were going to the Mad Dogz bar. Someone actually read the info I gave them?! Holy moley.

On the way to the bar, Q raised a valid point: why couldn’t they just bail? Whatever had screwed with their heads was obviously powerful, and they suspected they had been manipulated into destroying the totem pole. They could very well be hunted now. Why not just grab the Seals and leave?

Well, they could have done, but it would have resulted in a very derailed and short session. One of the big plot points was that the two rival groups had no idea the party were carrying the dreamcatcher, so if the party skipped town, there was technically no way they would know about it. There was only one way the session could have feasibly gone after that (spoiler tag because it spoils the reveal of the biker’s secret):

Spoiler:
The uratha could have used a spirit to track down the players, and then the pack would go after them. Depending on what the players were doing, the uratha would have either attacked them in a motel, or laid a trap on the road for them. Unfortunately for the players, either of these would have likely resulted in serious or even fatal injury due to how powerful the uratha are (and their holy commandment of not leaving witnesses). Also, they would have missed out on gaining Max as an ally. It would have been, uh, interesting to have to improvise this hunt, but it was less preferable to the actual plot I had planned.


After some debate, the players settled on getting closure/revenge, so carried on with the game. Phew.

Seeing as they’d had no luck, Snake and Q handed the documents to TD and Sah to peruse.  Who promptly rolled decently to decode them (not that it was difficult to roll less Razz). The astronomy page still eluded them, but TD noticed that the OS map was divided in a grid sections, and that perhaps the box D3 corresponded to the message on Snake’s hand…and lo and behold, D3 on the map was the part by the town hall where the totem pole was supposed to be moved to. With the newspaper articles, Sah further found that Max had often campaigned to preserve local heritage and folklore, and a bit about his family history- his father had been a businessman, his grandfather a tradesman, and his great-grandfather an author who emigrated from the east coast (the article selling it as a family rising from rags to power due to hard work and graft). The articles on the Friends portrayed them as an unruly biker gang that were passionate about the area and fought hard against anything that threatened to change it, such as a new bypass. It was rumoured they were also involved with some acts of sabotage and eco-terrorism, but nothing had ever been proven. They were also known for keeping packs of large, ferocious dogs, much like the one they’d seen at the town square.

They wanted to continue to roll to try and decipher the astronomy page, but as time had passed and they were approaching the bar, they put it away to check out this new location.

The Mad Dogz biker bar was one of the last buildings on the way out of town. It stood separated from the nearby boarded up buildings by an alley with a chain link fence. It was not an attractive place, with an overgrown gravel car park and plastic lawn chairs outside. But the handwritten signs and the numerous numberplates from all over the States nailed to the walls showed that it certainly had a passionate clientele and a dedicated staff.

As they approached, they noticed a man-presumably the landlord- sweeping up shards of broken glass from the outside. The big front window of the bar had been completely shattered. An Intelligence/Science roll lead them to notice that the shards of glass were on the outside, meaning that something on the inside had been thrown outwards. As they went forward the landlord spotted Snake and started swearing at him, asking why he’d come back after the bar fight last night and where his friend was. Snake was completely bewildered, but TD leant in to Q and whispered what they’d both figured out: Req had a dressing on his face, so it was highly likely that he had been the one thrown through the window.

Snake tried to pass off his ignorance of the night’s events, saying that he too was trying to track down the mysterious trenchcoated man, since the guy had ~obviously~ slipped a roofie in his drink or something. The landlord was unconvinced, but Q stepped in to collaborate his story. After placating the landlord, Q offered to help him sweep up as the others went inside.

It was a fairly dingy place, with a bar on one side and tables on the other. The damage from the bar fight had been cleared up inside at least. Two groups of bikers were sitting at different tables (it was quiet this time in the day). Three doors were towards the back of the room: the toilets, the manager’s office, and the back door. Snake rolled Wits/Composure, and suddenly had a flashback: he remembered sitting at the bar, when suddenly Req and a huge dark shape hurtled past him, accompanied by shattering glass and a sensation of fear. Perturbed, he ordered a drink and began talking to the barman.

Outside, Q casually pressed the landlord for information. He asked about the rising tensions between Max and the Friends, and if they’d been any incidents like this bar fight before. He learnt that the Friends had a lodge just outside of town, and that although they were suspected of being behind some incidents, they generally kept out of trouble. He thought this whole totem pole moving incident was ridiculously overblown, but it was still a terrible thing for someone to destroy it like they had.

Sah meanwhile decided to socialise with one of the biker groups, rolled very well and made himself some new friends. Snake fished for information from the barman about what had happened at the bar fight. Showing that he’s a master of subterfuge, he specifically asked about “the five guys who robbed the place and knocked over the totem pole”, before realising what he’d said and hastily adding “Oh, and there’s only four of us in our group, by the way.” What a save!

The barman revealed that the fight had happened in the evening, and that Req had gone out the back door behind the bar. A few minutes later he came hurtling back in, pursued by what the barman thought might have been a big dog, the two crashing through the window. Snake ordered another stiff drink.

TD meanwhile decided to ask the other group of bikers (who were Native American), about what they knew about local Native American myths, pretending he was researching folklore. The bikers quite rightly pointed out it was pretty racist to assume they knew stuff like that. These guys were not nearly as friendly as the ones Sah had been bonding with, and TD frantically tried to play up his ‘clueless white and nerdy’ persona to deflect the upcoming asskicking.  He actually managed to beat them in the opposed roll, and the bikers calmed down sufficiently enough to answer a few questions. They expanded on the story of the mighty warrior who slew the giant boar and became the star of Lupus. As the bikers were getting restless TD decided not to push his luck and thanked them for their time.

GM note: Sah was actually in quite a bit of danger here, if he had chosen to speak to this group of bikers. The Friends wanted the dreamcatcher, and if he had revealed to them he had it, they would be gunning for him. Although they wouldn’t have made a scene in the bar, they would have mugged the group on the way back into town. And roughed them up for good measure, warning them to get the hell of out of Tateburg. Would the party have listened and fled, or would it have encouraged them to delve deeper?

After finishing sweeping Q entered the bar, and noticed some security cameras. Had they picked up what had happened the previous night? He persuaded the landlord to let him take a look, and began to search through the archaic machinery. Meanwhile, the others investigated the back of the bar.

The door lead out to an alley behind the bar, a chain link fence separating it from the outside world. It was filled with bins and cigarette butts, obviously used as a smoking spot. They investigated for clues, and noticed both human and dog prints in the dirt. The dog prints were above and below the human ones, indicating that the dog had likely been there at the same time as the humans, or at least wasn’t the last being there.

Q meanwhile had discovered something odd in the footage: he had seen Req and Snake enter the bar, and Req go outside. Suddenly the door flew open, Req re-entered, and almost immediately afterwards the footage went fuzzy and broken. When it snapped back a few seconds later, the bar was in disarray, and Snake was leaping to his feet and chasing after Req. He tried to pinpoint the exact moment before the footage fizzled out, and with a successful Computer roll managed it. Right as Req came crashing back into the bar, a large dark shape followed him, leaping and clearly attacking him. He froze the frame, and there, he could see it: it was a huge, ferocious canine.

Q called Snake in to take a look, and the Texan’s jocular demeanour instantly vanished as with a Wits/Composure he recognised the beast. All colour drained from his face as he was struck by a feeling of sheer terror, remembering that he had seen this monster attacking Req. This didn’t go unnoticed by Q, who asked if he was alright. Snake loudly stated- enough for the landlord to hear- that they needed to talk to Req about what happened. Realising that Snake had just put his foot in it, Q quickly dived in to cover his ass- “Requiem? Was that the guy who drugged you? That’s kinda a weird name.” Thankfully Q managed to bluff it and stop Snake from blowing his own cover story. Satisfied they’d exhausted what information they could gather, they decided to head back to town.

As they left the bar with more pieces of the puzzle, the players speculated that perhaps nothing had actually happened in the night, and that they were all jumping to massive conclusions.

Me: Yeah, there’s nothing suspicious at all going on this session, you’re all just suffering from brain injuries. That’ll teach you to complain that bad things happen every time you go somewhere new.

On the walk back to town they examined the documents again…and finally managed to crack the astronomy page! It was a list of dates and times, saying when and where certain stars would rise above the horizon. They cross-referenced Lupus…and lo and behold, it would rise today at 22:32, the time written on Snake’s hand!

It was all starting to add up now.

Back in town, the party made a detour to check out the town square again and the grid reference on the map. The crowds had dispersed from the totem pole, although the site was still cordoned off with police tape. As they took a closer look, they noticed something unusual. The totem pole had been smashed to bits by the impact, and the top section had broken in half.  Inside was a hollow cavity in the otherwise solid tree trunk. Next came the obvious query and answer: yes, the cavity was big enough for the dreamcatcher to have been hidden inside. So the party had wrecked the totem pole to get at the dreamcatcher- but why? And why had it been hidden there?

Next was the grid reference, the spot by the town hall where the totem pole was supposed to have been moved to. The area where it was due to be erected was covered on three sides by scaffolding three stories high. One side was open to allow the totem pole to be raised. The players queried if they could see the horizon from here: no dice, the surrounding buildings were blocking the view. From the top of the scaffolding though? Certainly. It looked like in order to see Lupus rise, they’d have to be on top of the scaffolding.

GM Note: For some reason when planning the session I had the image of the finale taking place on some scaffolding. I wanted the PCs to be elevated above the NPCs for dramatic effect, and scaffolding fitted the bill. Things were mainly worked out retrospectively from that image.

Returning to the hotel room, the players planned on their next course of action. TD checked Req’s facial dressing, and confirmed what he’s suspected at the bar: Req’s cheek injury was a long clean cut, such as from a shard of glass, meaning he did indeed get thrown through the window.

As they still had some time, the players debated on whether or not to check out the bikers’ lodge, eventually deciding against it as the schedule was tight, and if something bad happened they would miss the 22:32 appointment at the square. There was nothing critical at the lodge, so they didn’t miss out on anything vital by skipping it, apart from further details about the Friends. If they had visited it, they would have found a rundown shack off the road running out of the town, shielded by woodland, and described as “the sort of place where the residents would tell you that you have a right purdy mouth, boy.” The lodge was empty, so obviously the players would break in and take a look around. Depending on how they rolled, the players could have found the following:
- Lots of Native American paraphernalia, such as pipes, decorated animal skulls and dreamcatchers.
- No kennels or dog-related equipment, which was odd, for saying the Friends were strongly associated with breeding and keeping large dogs.
- A calendar with today’s date circled, and labelled ’22:32’.
- A wall of newspaper clippings, listing odd happenings in the area, missing people, sightings of ‘the Tatesburg Beast’, and a lot of stuff on Max Carter.

The bikers would have returned at some point, so the players would have had to figure out how to escape without being shot for trespassing/being asked to squeal like a pig.

Since there was some time to pass before 22:32, they elected to get some rest. Q expressed concern about going to sleep with suspect concussion, but I explained that that’s a myth: sleep is the best treatment for concussion, and it’s brain injuries you shouldn’t sleep on (it’s hard for most people to tell them apart though, hence the idea you shouldn’t sleep with concussion). This lead to TD jumping in and giving everyone a PSA on the signs and symptoms of brain injuries, and what you can do about it. Followed by looking directly into the camera and telling us that knowing is half the battle. Fantastic.

Eventually evening rolled around and the players headed out towards the town hall, taking Req with them. They scoped the place out, but nobody was around, and the scaffolding looked unguarded. So they planned their setup: Sah would take the dreamcatcher to the top floor of the scaffolding, TD and Snake would (respectively) be on the lower levels, and Q and Req would lurk in the bushes (Req armed with the Spooky Satan Shotgun) keeping an eye out for trouble.

At this point I realised that they had agreed to send the guy with a fear of heights 20ft up a set of scaffolding. Sah rolled Composure/Resolve and did well, so although he was scared he held it together and reached the top.

Standing on top of the scaffolding enabled Sah to see over the nearby building and to the horizon. It was a few minutes to go until Lupus rose, so he took hold of the dreamcatcher and waited. What exactly would happen when the star rose? Would he channel the spirit of this mighty warrior? Would he devolve into a mindless beast? Or would be become some sort of wolf!paladin? Speculations were rife, but they wouldn’t have long to wait.

Everyone on lookout duty rolled to see if they noticed anything. Q was oblivious, but Req had spotted something and hissed to get his attention: coming down the street towards them from the east was a man, collar pulled high and walking with urgent purpose- Max Carter! TD and Snake meanwhile spotted a group of three people and two large dogs heading their way from the west- the Friends biker gang!

Q hadn’t seen the gang, so moved to intercept Max. Max was startled to see him, and attempted to politely escape and be on his way. Q was having none of it, insisting that Max gave him answers. Max dodged giving a direct answer, just saying that it was bad things. Q refused to be accept such vague bullshit, and demanded to know they could do to help. He saw Max glance at something behind him, a look of fear crossed his face, and the politician hissed at him.

“If you want to help you need to leave, NOW!”

Max pushed past him and hurried to the scaffolding, and now everybody was aware of all three parties assembled in a Mexican standoff.

TD rolled Animal Ken, and realised that the two dogs the bikers had were ridiculously large, almost like dire wolves. It dawned on him that they may be wolfdogs- dogs deliberately bred with wild wolves to make them more ferocious/edgy, which raised a lot of questions about the Friends and their stability.

Both Max and the Friends were horrified/outraged at seeing each other there, and that Sah was holding the dreamcatcher. They both demanded and pleaded with him to give the artefact to them. Sah asked why he should, and they both gave conflicting answers: the Friends said that it was dangerous and they needed to keep it sealed to protect the town; Max said that the Friends were monsters, and that they planned to use it as a weapon.

This was intended to be a big important crossroads for the campaign: who the party sided with would have massive consequences for the game to come. Now, even though the players were presented with two options, I suspected they may take the third option (breaking the dreamcatcher). Instead, Sah took option #4.

Hugging it to his chest, stepping backwards and declaring he was going to keep it himself.

Every single person present stood stunned for a brief second, and then Max and the gang started sprinting towards the scaffolding, racing to be the first to get the artefact.

Roll initiative!

Sah rolled highest and elected to hold his action to see what unfolded. As Lupus had now risen behind him, he asked if anything was happening with the dreamcatcher: I replied that it felt warm to the touch and was thrumming weakly with some kind of power. Not much, but there was definitely something there.

Q- going at the same time as Max- demanded some answers from him…and got loads of successes! As he ran, Max yelled out that the dreamcatcher was imprisoning a powerful monster, and that the gang would use it to destroy the town. Q rolled to sense motive, and suspected that Max was actually telling the truth.

The gang (wolfdogs included) sprinted forward, the wolfdogs easily leaping onto the first floor of the scaffolding…right in front of Snake. For a guy with a phobia of dogs, having two very large and ferocious beasts appear right in front of him was extremely disconcerting. Not having the time to craft and throw a Molotov cocktail (though having the wolfdogs/scaffolding be on fire would have probably made the situation worse), he elected to parkour off the scaffolding onto the lawn below. And failed, landing flat on his face, but as it was only a short drop the only real injury was to his pride.

Sah then interjected, declaring how he was going to spend his action.

“I yell ‘CATCH!’ and throw the dreamcatcher to Q.”

Sah threw the dreamcatcher like a frisbee, but didn’t roll well so it was a bit off target, still in the air (if he’d rolled well it would have landed directly into Q’s hands, which from the GM’s view would have been hilarious, as both Max, the bikers and the wolfdogs would have dogpiled him). The bikers, Max and wolfdogs changed course to try and intercept the Frisbee, as Q made to catch it.

We then realised that it was Req’s turn.

Everyone debated whether or not he would skeet shoot the dreamcatcher out the air; it certainly wouldn’t be a difficult shot for a farm boy. On one hand, he wouldn’t because he wouldn’t trust a politician…but on the other, the biker gang had beat him up in the bar. Since Req would have visited the bar had the player been there, I let them make two memory rolls for him: one when they investigated the alley, one when they saw the gang at the scaffolding site. Both were passed, so Req had two flashes of memory: in the alley, someone hissing “Hithimu!” at him, and at the scaffolding, recognising one of the bikers as the man who attacked him.

So Req yelled “Fuck you guys!”, stood up and blasted the dreamcatcher out the air.

The dreamcatcher practically disintegrated, pieces of wood and bone showering down. A thick pale smoke bubbled outwards, congealing into the shape of an enormous boar-creature. Eyes and tendrils and vegetation covered its gigantic form, and with a scream it threw itself at the biker gang: and in an instant, they all vanished from sight. Silence reigned at the scaffolding site.

The players rounded on Max, demanding to know what had happened and what he knew about this. Max was reluctant, but rolls from Q and the fact he couldn’t pass off what had transpired as swamp gas made him relent.

“This may be hard for you to accept, but the world as you know it is not what it seems. There are dark forces at work, supernatural forces that operate a shadow war beyond the notice of mankind.”

TD: You mean like this is a WORLD of DARKNESS?!

The players gave Max a ‘are you fucking kidding me’ look. Sah helpfully called down “I’m a werewolf!”

Max revealed that he had been telling the truth about the dreamcatcher: the bikers had sealed the spirit inside it, and by letting it go, the enraged spirit had turned on its captors, freeing the town from their predations. The party asked what the bikers’ deal was.

“They’re monsters, pure and simple, masquerading as humans. In their own debased tongue, they call themselves uratha.”

The players’ reaction:

Spoiler:

GM note: I was a bit concerned that Sah would figure out the bikers were uratha long before the reveal, but asking him afterwards, he admitted he had been surprised as all the others. Yay.

Sharing their tale of memory loss, Max correctly deduced the reason for their amnesia: lunacy. In WoD, seeing an uratha inflicts lunacy on the viewer. The human mind cannot comprehend the sight of such an unnatural predator, and will try to rationalise it away, or alternatively block it out completely. This is what had happened to the party: they had encountered the uratha pack and got smacked with lunacy so hard it had forcibly erased most of their memories of the day.

The two parties realised that they could be of use to each other in this shadow war, and, although the others wanted to interrogate Max, he pointed out that he should leave; a fairly popular politician such as himself couldn’t be seen hanging round building sites with a bunch of strangers. But he gave them his card, and bade them to join him for a private meeting later.

And so, the game ended with the players gaining a brand new ally. What can they learn from him? We shall see next session…

------

So, GM review? I really enjoyed this session, and I think it went a lot better than the past few ones. The party do sometimes still struggle with investigation games, but they handled things a lot better than they had in New Orleans. All in all, I had a lot of fun, and it was great watching everyone slowly piece together the clues.

Also, as a note: the town was called Tateburg, ‘tate’ being a native American word for ‘wolf’. Because I enjoy putting my clues in plain sight Razz

The full explanation of what happened on their missing day:

Spoiler:
The players had arrived in Tateburg and decided to see what the rallies were about. They became suspicious of what was going on about the totem pole, and did some investigations. TD, Sah and Q went to the record office for research, and ordered the documents with the information they needed. They concluded that the totem pole was hiding some kind of secret the two parties were warring over. When they shared the information, Snake wrote the shorthand details on his hand so they wouldn’t forget.

Req and Snake went to the bar to find out about the Friends. Unfortunately for Req, one of them was already there. Remember when Req became possessed by spirits back in the bunker? That sort of thing leaves a mark, and the uratha could smell it on him. When Req went out back he was followed, and the uratha called him a hithimu (the uratha word for a spirit-ridden person). Since uratha are spirit hunters obsessed with keeping their artificial balance, the uratha shifted into his dire wolf form and attacked Req. Req managed to get back into the bar, the uratha crashing after him, the two hurtling through the window. Everyone in the bar saw the dire wolf, but lunacy rationalised it as ‘a big dog’. Realising there were too many witnesses, the uratha fled. Req and Snake did too, not wanting to face any questions. The glass had cut open Req’s cheek, which was why it was bandaged.

Realising they had to uncover what was going on with the totem pole, the party snuck up in the middle of the night with ropes, intending to push it over and lower it to the ground. Unfortunately Snake lost his grip on the rope (causing the burns on his hands) and the totem toppled, smashing apart as it hit the ground. This did uncover the dreamcatcher though, which Sah picked up.

Unfortunately this disturbance of their sacred site had alerted the uratha pack, who were so angered they transformed in front of the party. This triggered a massive bout of lunacy that sent the entire party screaming in fear. In their flight they encountered Mr Brown chilling in his car, and in sheer blind panic tore him from his vehicle, jumped inside and sped off into the night. Due to the incoherent terror and high speeds, Snake lost control of the car as they fled the town, causing it to leave the road and smash into the tree in the field. The impact knocked everybody unconscious…which is how the party ended up at the start of the session.

The insanely high level of lunacy, combined with the car crash, was what had blotted out most of their memories from the day before. The Wits/Composure rolls as certain people encountered a familiar location or object was to see if it triggered one of the repressed memories.


Also, list of times Q managed to score zero success on his rolls:

Spoiler:
> Waking up

> Persuading that person in the crowd

> Remembering what happened in the square

> Politics roll on Max Carter (to figure out what he's after and what his motives might be)

> Occult roll on Friends (to figure out what they're guarding and what the implications of their connection to Mad Dog are)

> Science roll on Astronomy (to find a connection between the map and the markings on Snake's hands)

> Looking at the map (to find other historical sites)

> Intelligence + Science to recognize broken window

> INT + COMP for third time to doublecheck footage

_________________
HG/SS Friends Code: 2364 8721 9695   B/W Friends Code: 2193 7770 9554   X/Y Friends Code:1805-2682-3033
"Foxes never lose their tricks, do they?" - Quaetman
"We'll be going about our business one day and then someone will be like "hm, where's Barda" and Raya will all suspiciously be like "WELL DON'T LOOK AT ME"..." - Rocket Admin Camilla
King Avalanche:
Spoiler:

FUCK YOU RAYA.

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

FUCK YOU

AND

FUUUUUUCKKKKK YOOOOOUUUUU

the one time I trust you with my back and you plant a dagger in it.
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Raya
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