CD6: Cleaning up from the other side

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. This session Jon uses his Occult and Doctor skills very effectively.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session Vic finds there’s always someone bigger. He also ends the session by buying Dex up one.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby focuses on Full Defense. He also lands in the first white hat crisis.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve continues to balance Getting Medieval and Kung-Fu. And his fear of commitment.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station common room

Theme: Ball of Confusion

Steve and Vic have caught up on sleep, some of the bruises have eased, enough to feel breakfast is more important than sleeping some more anyway. Kelly’s at the long common-room table when they enter: she’s being teased by Benny Li – who’s freshening the coffee – about being gung-ho for Carter. Supporting a cracker from Georgia? She laughs it off. The Democrat Convention will be held in a week’s time, in NY, but it’s looking like a done deal for Carter. The real interest is, will he heed Jesse Helms and bring in a black running mate? Probably not.

Steve checks that Burnes is really, really securely tied up, then moves back into the canteen in quest of real food. The Minnesotian, Gunnarson, and Danny Castro are already there, finishing up dishes. Gunnarson doesn’t care about who’s getting the Democrat nod, apparently some guy name of Church from Idaho is a gone goose already. Besides he votes red.

Danny Castro heads back out to the common-room as Steve locates a good slab of ham and Vic demands grits with that. Much laughter around the table as Castro reveals Gunnarson wants the ex-actor, Ronald Reagan, for the Republican vote. Their convention isn’t until August so plenty of time for things to weird up. Maybe not that weird.

Castro doesn’t get (or pretends not to) why Kelly hates Ford.

“It was that whole pardon Nixon first order of business,” she explains. “I got no time for the Man making one rule for I and another for thou.”

So, not Ford the automobile then. Yes, politics is going the rounds today. None of the white hats would consider voting – not that Arby or Vic are even registered – Vic because he’s been crazy, Arby because he’s born lazy.

By the time Steve has a new round of breakfast ready Jon and Arby show up, still sleepy, still aching, but smelling the coffee. Arby’s sporting a heavy bandage right across his left eye. The Professor has trickled out too, taken over one end of the table, and is poking his pipe with something sharp. Aromas of coffee, cigarette and pipe tobacco thicken the air as the white hats put away breakfast. Laurie emerges last of all, skips breakfast, ignores Steve.

There’s report writing to do. The two women will do it. Battered portable Remingtons are produced, and several carbons. The white hats go through everything again, in a lot more detail than last night.

As the reports are being proofed, Professor Jeremiah speaks up.

“By the way… I’ve researched that stone.”

He’s got Jon’s attention. Apparently, it emits a faint ‘good’ radiance that will disrupt curses. An amulet, if you will. Though being the size of a small fist, it’s not something you can just hang round your neck like a medallion.

“I believe some of these curved carvings may have originally allowed a rope binding to be woven around it,” the Professor posits, then waffles off into speculation about which culture may have created it.

Officers are sent out to investigate things, mostly in pairs. Steve belatedly phones in to Brother Gloves to call in a sick day. The white hats rest as much as they can, though Jon is onto the next piece of research! For the Professor has re-emerged from some back room with a large and dusty book. Occult library! It’s time to figure out how best to deal with Burnes.

 

Scene: same place, the following morning

Theme: Get Ready

Vic Steve and Arby gear up for a vampire hunt. The officers of DeNaRes have reported back on the aftermath of the ‘Canned Food’ episode on the Rapid. It seems very likely that the operation has been shut down, and the ringleader has quietly moved on. But a lesser or minion vamp – or maybe not just one – seems to have skipped into the run of parkland that is generally known as Rockefeller. Problem is, it leads out north to a golf course where some influential people play, and there’s a way of getting from that to the port. The vamp is probably trying to stow away, but the danger can’t just be ignored.

Meanwhile Jon is getting himself as tidy as he can, and heading out in his sedan for Maman’s. Research has pointed to Burnes being possessed, but it will take a real professional – meaning his mother – to work out what can be attempted to drive out the demon. Cue Steve’s Exorcist jokes.

 

Scene: Doan Brook parkland

Theme: Mo’ Onions

The station is very near the parkland, so the trio head down the steep wooded slope towards a stream, which they assume is named Rockefeller. Each carries a catchpole, and Arby is designated as flashlight man. He’s up front on the right, Vic’s more or less off to his left, Steve’s the third point of the triangle in rear. They sweat freely, even in the woods: the muscle both have a heavy coat or jacket, concealing an axe and holding a stake and flashlight. And it’s July. They find a lot of trash, and nothing much else. Reaching the stream, they turn downstream towards the Fairhill and Rapid culverts. The gully broadens, reservoirs shoulder up above them on the left.

The first culvert is short, no problem. Then the stream heads under the Rapid and off into darkness. Flashlight on! Arby holds it in his left, so he can use the pole to touch the culvert side. It’s large enough to be comfortable for Steve, but a stoop for Vic, assuming he doesn’t want to splash along the stream itself.

 

Scene: Maman Samedy’s place

Theme: Soul Man

Jon pulls up in the outer sweep of the drive. Two vehicles are in. Steps over, checks them with some care, works out that the genuine clerical nephew, and the niece in commercial law, are visiting today.

Jon heads around to check on his old shack, which technically stands on another property but common consent of the neighbourhood is that all the waste ground is Maman’s. Nothing’s changed. He heads back towards the house (or assembly of different-period house sections) finding that two of the congregation are shading themselves on the back porch.

One’s Deacon Setro, who rejoices in the surname Casimir-Perier. A man more interested in his own importance than the greater good of the Haitian congregation, Jon feels. That would make the other member with him his tool, then. They greet each other politely though without warmth.

 

Scene: first tunnel stretch

Theme: Cold Sweat

Before they’ve completely lost sight of the tunnel mouth, they stumble across a dim form lying amidst rags bottles and cans. Heavy raw-alcohol and white-spirits smell. It’s a hobo. Arby helpfully pokes it with his catchpole. It rears up snuffling and grumbling, staggering. But alive for sure.

A grope-fest! Vic and Steve painstakingly check the reluctant and extremely smelly creature for non-parasitic bite marks, while he staggers around, falling down on people and mumbling about sparing a dime. They clear the scene and depart, feeling like they need laundry service. And de-lousing.

 

Scene: rear parlor, Maman’s place

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

Asha is seated on the settee, bandaged and bruised. She came looking for Jon over a day ago! And it seems she has explained her mission. Jon is beat on (verbally) by Maman, nephew and niece. His ego is torn a new one. What does he mean by letting the danger to the Phyllis Wheatley slide as though he got a job to get to! Or a career of any kind?

Asha thinks the Feds probably arranged the beating-up.

 

Scene: deep in the tunnel

Theme: Don’t look back

Getting clear of the Rapid underpass as soon as they can – when a train passes it’s sensory overload and they are completely vulnerable – the three white hats press on to a fork. Up on the right, a high squarish duct leads off. It was grilled off but at some stage the grill has been pushed in. It would allow a slim person to creep along it. No question of someone Steve’s size trying it. Some rubbish lies on the other side of the grill, as though accidentally drifted in there.

“That be a noise-alarm,” Steve explains quietly, “happen you can cross the rice paper ‘thout a soun’ Grasshopper, you be the dude.”

Arby gulps and allows himself to be boosted up, and gently eases the catchpole in, himself after it. Evades the trash. Almost immediately his light and pole pick up a resting form. The vamp is surprised!

But Arby misses his catch, and squeals as he squirms back as fast as he can! The grill is acting like an eel-trap, making it impossible to get out! Steve grabs it, trying to wrench it free. Vic falls into the stream as he hastens to help.

Arby parries off the vamp long enough for the grill to be torn away, then his ankles are snagged and he’s yanked out fast like a thin black turnip and set down: but the vamp shoots out with him! Eyes glow yellow in the flickering light and it screeches angrily!

It’s all clinch range, which favors the muscle. Steve and Vic get an armlock each on the vamp and Arby hammers in a stake. It takes a couple of tries before the vamp crumbles to dust!

 

Scene: back at DeNaRes station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Asha is welcome to remain behind as a guest, so Jon chauffeurs Maman up to the station. With due caution he checks the storeroom where Burnes is securely tied up still, then shows his mother.

She’ll need some candles, and some feathers.

Well, candles won’t be problem. There are a lot of power supply problems (less since the gremlins moved on). Feathers? No, Laurie is not willing to sacrifice a down-stuffed pillow and down sleeping-bags are expensive. There’ll be some feathers lying around in the park. Good luck with that Jon.

 

Scene: Wade Park culvert

Theme: Walk on by

As the white hats get close, a huge man – or something – raises up out of the culvert and looms over them.

“Hmmm! Humans! You… seen my… hammer?”

The basso rumble is hard to follow, but they’re pretty sure they haven’t seen a hammer. Arby notices a rectangular pack dangling from one vast hand. It’s a crate of C Schmidt quart bottles. The BIG guy -thing – bends close to examine the white hats, squinting against the light, and seems to find bandaged Arby amusing.

“Hohoho! Tiny human! Drink beer!”

Arby manages most of the quart before his gut give up and beer foams out of mouth and nose, and he vomits. Much amusement again. The troll (if that’s what it is) allows them to go through.

The VA hospital is up above them on the right. Vic can point to ‘his’ window. Maybe some of the things he saw were really there?

 

Scene: Wade Park

Theme: Across 110th Street / Boom Boom

Up ahead lies a toy lake, bright in the hot sun, ducks quacking up in alarm as students hurl pebbles at them. The students see three animal control officers carrying catchpoles, and ignore them. The white hats decide to head on the hospital side of the lake – less traffic. The boatshed there is checked, no break-in, but not far along from it they find a coat. A woman’s coat. And blood on the collar.

Steve looks around, trying to figure where a vamp would lie up. On the corner of the VA hospital grounds there’s a strong, stone-built structure that might have been something important once. Vic says it’s a mower shed these days. Sounds about right! They work up the slope and over a quiet road, check the outer door – disused and firmly locked – then hop over the hospital fence to check the other side.

Five street punks, one clearly the leader, jump to their feet, dropping cigarette butts. They seem to be guarding a door that’s been broken open.

Steve and Vic intimidate the punks, showing axes. The punks have brought switchblades to an axe fight, and step off.

As Steve kicks the door in and Vic’s attention turns that way, they jump Arby! Vic is distracted – and Steve has to deal on his own, when the vamp hurls the woman full at him!

Arby makes good use of his scrawny size and dodges away fast, right through the doorway, past the vamp, ending up cowering behind a mowing tractor. Vic menaces the punks again, standing them off. Steve goes axe-to-fang with the vamp, and beheads the creature with two mighty strokes!

The punks depart at speed, not forgetting to yell back “you’ll be sorry you crossed us!”

The woman is alive but completely traumatized. The white hats have their pick of hospitals, and carry her blocks west to the A&E wing of the vast clinic hospital. As orderlies and doctors start yelling something about ‘stat’ they fade away and make it back to DeNaRes afoot and in the late afternoon sun.

“I seen a whole other side of Cleveland” Steve announces solemnly and they have to agree.

 

Scene: Cleo’s place

Theme: Trouble Man

Steve arrives with a roll from his first DeNaRes paypacket. He’s flush for the first time since he lost the gig as manager of Brother Gloves. Cleo’s brother Clive is there. This brother owns the apartment and allows Cleo and the kids to stay there. Maybe not free, but cheap. He’s something in the city – as Steve understands it, if you want something built it has to go through Clive’s office.

Cleo accepts the money, the more welcome since she lost her last semi-reliable work while protesting for Steve’s release, and they exchange a little news. Steve feels his guilt. Clive hangs around.

 

Scene: outside St Joseph’s cemetery, night

Theme: Going to a Go-Go

Steve and Vic are waiting outside the grounds. They don’t really want to participate in this voodoo stuff, but they feel like they need to ride it through.

 

Flashback swipe: DeNaRes ranger station porch

“This man been possessed, demon he name Defiler. Powerful lust demon. We got to assemble the congregation, Jon. You been needed there, houngaan. You got to show the congregation you power.”

“Oui maman, you know I shall.”

 

Flash forward: outside St Joseph’s

Jon’s already inside getting things organized. People in white have been drifting in, unobtrusively.

Arby rolls up. Steve has been waiting for him.

 

Flashback swipe: outside Cleo’s place

Clive catches Steve as he leaves. Lighting up a smoke in the hall, Clive asks if what he hears about ‘that Roosevelt’ is true: the way Clive hears it, Arby is snitching for some big security firm.

 

Flash forward: outside St Joseph’s

“ROOSEVELT BROWN!! I BEEN HEARING YOU SNITCHIN!?! YOU FACE ME NIGGAH! I BEEN RAISIN UP ALL OVER HELPIN YOU OUT!! NOW I HEAR SNITCH?!? FOR THE MAN?!? DON’T YOU RUN NOW!!!”

Arby turns tail and makes a hole in the horizon! Steve pounds after him but decides not to turn it into an endurance race.

 

Scene: inside St Joseph’s cemetery

Theme: People get up and drive your funky soul

It’s quite an experience for the two white hats unfamiliar with a genuine ceremony. Deacons in white oversee a good deal of a long and informal ceremony, there is much singing, and women throw themselves to the ground, writhing around happily. Steve enjoys this part. Jon and his Maman seem to be the priests. Burnes becomes a focus part way through, and they exorcise the demon.

 

Scene: the Burnes residence, Goodrich-Kirtland

Theme: I know I’m losing you

Vic puts his heart into a plea for understanding between Madeline and Bill Burnes. Jon has explained everything in terms of modern psychiatry. It’s hard for Madeline to take, and just as hard for Burnes to forgive himself. They agree to a trial separation.

The three remaining white hats take their leave, a little sorrowful there’s no happy ever after. Vic feels especially sore, because he’d hoped to grandly present Madeline with most of the expense money back: and the hobo had stolen it.

 

Credit-roll scene:

The radio set is playing “The Feelgood Hour!”

It dawns on the white hats they are listening to a diatribe by Charlie Stone, a radio evangelist, against a ‘Haitian Voodoo Menace’. He winds up by thanking his host on WKCY Gerry Toogood. Gerry and the preacher-man, seemingly good pals, toss the feed back and forth to one another. The zinger plays for Toogood’s Feelgood hour closing as Vic and Steve look at Jon.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: With a stipend from DeNaRes for the work they put in, the white hats are back up to the dizzy height of Resources 0, which is richer than Arby has ever been but makes no difference to Vic. I am agnostic as to which location the white hats are at when they hear Charlie Stone but I am clear that Jon Vic and Steve are all together.

Arby’s plight: He offered the others a thin but plausible excuse last session, when Delaney (Blackhand) was so pally. This session he failed to fast-talk Steve – Steve’s player did a great job a playing a raging-mad character – and by running away has literally run himself out of the game. He has lost his Nerves of Steel quality and gained Coward as a drawback. Arby may return – we all hope he does – but his player may try a new character, at least for a while.

Players hate losing gold off their character sheet. Vic’s player was duly enraged when he was told the hobo had pilfered his roll and vowed to return and kill him. (So not a murder-hobo, a hobo-murderer.) Of course with about $500 the hobo is living it up and drinking himself to death as fast as he can. Definitely not living in a culvert.

I don’t think I’ve ever trashed a threat the way I trashed those street punks guarding the vamp’s lair. They just seemed wrong for the situation. At one point I even described the lesser punks as lining up behind their leader, snapping their fingers in chorus-line. Oh well, there are nastier threats.

In case you know BtVS and are wondering about Drama Point levels: players are mostly hovering at the half-full mark. About the point where using xp to buy some back looks not a bad deal.

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CD5: Our town/Flower show/Devil in 106

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

 

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. Jon begins the session with a hand of sharp-edged bone after a spot of urgent magic went south.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session his weakness in Intelligence and Dexterity start him thinking about higher attributes.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby explores what use someone with low Strength can be in a fight.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Getting Medieval turns out to be just as important as Kung-Fu and he’s OK at both.

 

Scene: above Fairhill

Theme: Don’t Look Back

Accustomed to thinking of the city as fairly flat, the sinking sun affords the white hats a stark shade map, picking out higher ground in detail. Lights are beginning to come on, streetlights are lit, automobiles buzz around University circle off to the right, and the vast mass of the Clinic, directly ahead of them, is a wonderland of lights and towers.

Still shaky from the terrifying escape, Jon looks to a nearer landmark, picking his way down to the road and along towards The Dunstan, a bar popular with medical students. Early though it is, a student reels out of the doors and vomits in a carefree fashion across the sidewalk.

“Wha… that?” Steve exclaims as the sharp opening cadence of Mamma Mia bounces around them. “Sounds like whitey music. By whitey whitebreads in white suits.”

“Guess we no goin’ in then,” Jon checks.

“Naw, we gots ta get gone, catch a bus down Cedar to the Phyllis.”

“Or we could take the flyer bus out and around Euclid.”

“That more Hough… some bad gangs like to kill a Central fool.”

Street gangs are unpredictable, and to minimise the risk they decide to head to the Clinic stop and wait for a direct bus. It’s pretty close to Jon’s family home too.

Arby catches a slow-moving black sedan rolling up behind them. Black-hand security! Mitchell Delaney gestures him over enthusiastically.

Jon limps over with Arby, but it’s Arby the man wants. Drapes a too-familiar arm over the skinny guy’s shoulders and brings him around the back of the sedan away from Jon’s direct gaze, mutters something and slaps Arby on the back a couple times and lets him go.

What Jon couldn’t see: a $20 tucked into Arby’s jacket pocket. What Jon couldn’t hear: Arby agreeing to snitch for Blackhand as well.

 

 

Scene: outside Farmatec House

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Ahead on the Cedar corner, University side, an old refurbished building stands amidst a fine renovated parkland. A Blackhand security guard is locking up as a few employees take their leave. He says goodnight to a tall, very fair-haired woman: her hair white-gold in the lobby light. She walks confidently around to the rear of the building where staff autos are parked. A male staff member, looking harassed and angry, accosts her with some folder in hand. She easily deals with him, crushing him with a few sentences, and sweeps on.

A few minutes later her sedan exits and heads towards Euclid. Not specially noted by either the driver nor the security guard, the Cutter watches it leave, repeats the number plate back to himself, and hurries on to catch his fellow white hats.

 

Scene: East 71st, north of Brother Gloves

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

A single police cruiser parked up does not deter the white hats as they pimp-roll south to see if Jude’s courier has dropped off whatever supplies it is Jude thinks they ought to have. Steve’s curious, he admits it.

Two more cruisers slam up over the kerb and hem them in, officers leap out and guns are levelled.

“Freeze hands behind head!”

They are kicked over against the cruisers, slammed into the position and cuffed. Rude words are spoken. Steve checks who it is that’s calling him nigger, and has his face slammed into the hardtop again. But he does glimpse Drago’s ugly face.

Drago is fairly new on the beat but already has a bad rep. He pimps a string of girls on the side and is a hard mack.

The boss of these cops is there too: Sergeant Washington. The skin color of these cops don’t matter, their color is blue but their veins pump dirty green.

Having made sure they are securely cuffed, the white hats are moved off the public sidewalk and into a convenient alley where they take a beating, mostly around the backs of their knees. Then the handcuffs are taken off. Their DeNaRes IDs are returned and the cops leave, disappointed at finding no hidden weapons.

“That shit got my uncle’s greasy prints all over,” Vic explains.

“Amen, happen we could have searched up public records more on the down-low,” Jon agrees.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves

Theme: People Get Ready

Steve helps Melvin figure out what to do with the cash box and the keys, then the white hats have the gym to themselves. There are two boxes waiting to be opened.

They start with the smaller one. It contains hand-mallets and stakes.

“Can’t see much call f’ carry them aroun’” grumbles Arby. But Steve takes a different line.

“Better than a broke umbrella! What I’m sayin’ is, man, coulda done with these stakes onna train before, am I right?”

The larger of the boxes contains hand weapons. Vic and Steve have an old-looking, broad-bladed axe each, Jon chooses a big hunting knife, and Arby has a switchblade.

 

Scene: outside the Phyllis Wheatley building

Theme: In the heat of the night

Things go wrong when the white hats decide that the answer to spotting a patrol car outside the building is to sneak in back and look for an alternative entrance.

Vic stays behind briefly, then reasoning that if trouble goes down he’s best off with the others he heads around the side alley and immediately runs into some trash. Seconds later a very nervous young patrol cop is spotting him with the flashlight, dragging a gun out and yelling for backup.

Vic looms up into the light. 6’6 tall, black as the night itself, and hideously scarred. Arby hears the cop squealing for backup and tries to sneak back to help, but he too runs into something! The cop opens up, wildly.

Vic dodges, feeling a couple of slugs whap close by, then fells the cop with a crescent kick to the chin. With the cop’s partner on the way the four leg it down back alleys and don’t stop until they are far away to the south.

 

Scene: red-light district near the Food Hub

Theme: Shorty the Pimp

Since they ran blocks south, it makes sense to call by and pick up Jon’s sedan. It’s still there. They drive in comfort past the food hub and make a stop at a late-night diner.

Silky the Pimp introduces himself. He’s Cherry’s pimp, likes pimped down threads and gold highlights, and keeps his girls happy with acid tabs. He passes on some useful information about the Monster. In particular the general direction the blue Ford usually heads away towards: Buckeye.

It makes sense psychologically to Jon: Bill Burnes lives around Goodrich-Kirtland, so crossing the tracks and basing in Buckeye-Woodhill will feel like hiding.

Another snippet: ho’s have been beaten – not eaten. This is a rough John who is probably dangerously nuts, but he’s not responsible for anyone being killed. So far.

 

Scene: sleazy motel, Buckeye-Woodhill

Theme: in pursuit of the Pimpmobile

Steve does most of the talking, Jon hangs back to assess. Vic’s peeled off to do the honourable thing by his mom, who needs his muscle setting up a flower display over at the new rec centre. He’s handed off two Benjamins, broken down by an obliging barkeep to ten-spots. Arby’s gone looking for a day’s hard earnings with an off-track betting contact he knows. Now Steve is following an easy protocol: slide a note across the desk to the day-clerk, show Burnes’ picture, and ask if he’s been there.

After a few hits, each of which is earnest in thanks that Burnes ain’t there no more, the two white hats jump down the line a ways. Fresher trail: Burnes moved further away each time he got trespassed out. At the Castle Inn they strike pay dirt, and the clerk says Burnes usually gets in around 1 in the am. It’s going to be worth the ten-spot back for him to be rid of the guest. They pile back into Steve’s van and head back to pick up Vic ready for the night raid.

 

Scene: the new rec centre, Central

Theme: Jungle Boogie

“Thanks for this honey, it’s sweet of you to do this for me,” Mrs Creed, pushing fifty, still attractive, thanks her son Vic again as she unlocks the rec centre. She’d asked if his… friends would also be coming to help out, but Vic is on his own on this one.

Stepping into a basketball court-turned-flower-show Vic half-listens to his mom talking about rare blooms and something about ‘knocking them for six’ whatever that means as he sheds his coat and conceals the axe under it. There’s a heavy scent, flowers over rotten meat. Vic has a sudden flashback to the sodden jungles in the Nam, shudders, and shakes it off. Then as he nears the stacked-up flowers and crates a huge, vaguely humanoid form erupts and looms over him!

He gags on the horrific scent but keeps his gorge down and ducks away, snatching up a trestle table and throwing it at the thing. The form hits it hard enough to give Vic time to leap back to his bundle and snatch up the axe!

Outside, Arby is pimp-rolling over, feeling flush with his small winnings courtesy of Moroni the mob bastard – can’t show his face in Little Italy since he’s black – less the outlay on a meal and drink. The rec centre isn’t far from the entertainment strip and he feels like big-noting a little. Arby hears a woman screaming and Steve’s van rolls up to the centre at about the same time.

It’s time to put the minutes they spent in Brother Gloves working out tactics to good use. As Steve charges in, axe ready, Arby works out that the monster is focused more on Steve than Vic, so he runs interference for Steve instead of Vic. It does little good since he has no weapon worth the name, and the two muscle white hats are left to duke it out with the disgusting, pus-dripping creature.

Outside, Jon grits his teeth and tries the spell he failed last time. This time he makes it! His stick becomes a weapon of power. Then well pleased with this success he stays outside and sits Mrs Creed down on the passenger seat of the van.

Much crashing and cussing later the noise abates and Jon investigates with due caution. Vic has been hurled right across the court to shatter one of the backboards but seems little more than bruised; Steve and Arby are fine. The monster’s segments are beginning to decay more like dead vine than dead flesh.

Mrs Creed decides a freak indoor twister has ruined her display and the white hats help out sweeping and picking up. When she invites them back to her house for iced tea and a rest, they check the time and realise it’s already past 1 in the morning, time to roll out to the Castle Inn.

 

Scene: Room 106, Castle Inn

Theme: Boom Boom

Arby screams as his inept door-opening triggers a knife-trap and he reels back, clapping a hand to his left eye where a thin knife sticks out.

Steve charges in, giving the Monster no chance to adjust tactics, and gets to a clinch with the smaller, foul-smelling man who fights with the strength of a wild man. The room’s lit only by a red lava lamp: vague glimpses of two hookers bound to the bed. Vic charges in after Steve, and Jon remains outside to afford emergency aid to Arby.

Strong, devilishly strong Burnes may be but he’s no match for Steve and Vic combined. Steve keeps he man clinched until Vic gets a headlock then it’s a matter of choking him out. It takes over a minute but works fine. He’s choking out some jibbah-jabbah Vic recognizes as Vietnamese but too fast to work out exactly what now. He goes under.

The two hookers are Cherry – “who is dumb enough to get caught twice??” – and Trixie. They and the securely-bound Burnes are put in the back of the van. Jon drives himself, and Arby, off to the Eye Clinic for a spot of burglary and emergency eye surgery. Steve and Vic stay in the van, head into town, and take a side-trip up to the ranger station above the reservoir. Burnes is dropped off with a very brief explanation then Trixie and Cherry are returned to Silky’s territory, then the two white hats return to ranger Kelly for a much fuller account.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: Arby has been consistent in keeping his ‘snitch’ status away from the others but the buddy-buddy way Delaney treated him leaves little room for doubt. Arby came up with a thin but plausible explanation that once. Vic still has over $500 of Madeline’s expense roll. I played fast and loose with vehicle movements but both vehicles are with their owner.

Some differences of expectation (of gear carried, mostly) cropped up here and there during the game but everyone is down with the idea that we go with what makes it fun but makes sense so no real issues. 

Jon wisely chose to power up his staff before getting into action – but then didn’t get into action – so maybe there was a better use of his time? The combat rehearsal scene at Brother Gloves was just a talk-through of what characters’ strengths were so I have skipped over it here, but it did come in fairly useful. Vic had trouble – twice – deciding what tactics ought to be used and next time there won’t be any time-out for it. 

Acknowledgements: Some general background nods to both Silver Gryphon’s Wellstone City and Les Roberts The Lake Effect. I can’t give away plot elements by acknowledging my main storyline at present.

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CD4: Canned Food

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. Subsequent to last session Jon’s spell list firmed up and a way of coping with ‘quick spell’ was laid down.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. Also currently the richest white hat, since he still gets an allowance to keep him in food and clothing. His massive ‘Mission before everything’ drawback makes him subject to depression if people get killed.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. Currently thinking whether he should specialise in Kung Fu [the fight-with-bare-hands skill] or spread across Getting Medieval [the fight-with-implements skill] up. Arby has Photographic Memory but is being beaten like a red-haired orphan by the GM’s heavy-handed fear tests every time he uses it.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. Fancies the ladies but luckily has reasonably good looks, so gets to do quite a lot of the talking this session. Also wondering about how important Getting Medieval will be.

 

Scene: back where we were, in the Ward Square

Theme: I am the Walrus

Screaming, spinning around them, eyeballs rolling, the crazed hobo keeps shrieking about the end of the world, and he knows who they are. Chills roll up and across their scalps. Behind the guy Arby can see Blackhand security coming down off the steps through the crowd. Vic spots a black sedan rolling slowly off where it has been parked, maybe on an intercept course.

That be some righteous diversion mon thinks Jon, now easily able to get to the Farmatec sales staff assembled below the steps. He beams and takes a prospectus. Barnabas surges forward like a great black wall.

 

Cutaway to Flashback scene: smelly break-room, Brother Gloves Gym

“If we don’t know exactly which buildings Farmatec is looking at, and there must be hundreds, we could start by looking at what they do tell their investors,” Jon explains. “That way we might be able to find out if it’s just the Phyllis Wheatley, or more buildings around it, or somewhere else.”

 

Cut back to Ward Square

Vic moves to intercept Barnabas but tangles up with two of the Blackhand private cops. He fends one but the other wraps him up. Barnabas meets his eye. Tense moment.

A cylinder arcs up over the sedan from somewhere back on the square fringe.

“Bomb!” someone shouts.

Bedlam! People rush screaming everywhere. Steve loses his grip on the crazy, but Arby catches the guy and they join forces again to hustle him away from the sedan.

The sedan no longer moves to intercept: too many people in the way.

Vic and Barnabas lock glares for some seconds then Barnabas eases back, the security guys are trying to get back to their boss, and Vic is free to leave.

“Meet at the Boneyard!” he yells after the first two. Jon catches the same thing.

The Cutter and Arby keep flowing with the stream of frightened onlookers heading back past the new transport hub and towards the food hub and entertainment joints. Steve stops at a roadside dog stand and plies the madman with a sample but he barely takes a bite, keeps raving about how the blood will run.

 

Scene: The Boneyard

Theme: Monster Mash

“Smooth Clyde don’ ‘preciate trash in his joint! You get gone!”

Smooth Clyde is the cadaverous manager of the Boneyard, a club on what used to be one of the old meat-processing facilities. His habit of running a hand up from back of his neck and over his shiny black scalp is less irritating than his habit of speaking in third person.

Steve sees crazy guy out the door, hearing a last imprecation from him:

“It’s coming from below!”

“Ey, now s’all good. Smooth Clyde ‘preciates you keeping standards high! Yo’ gots to have the ched-dah to make grade here!”

Luckily Vic and Jon have caught up so Steve unfolds the dreaded ‘Arby-graph’ and they realise that even if they could stand Smooth Clyde they can’t read the paper in the dim light. But Arby freezes up anyway: he can see the whole thing. In his head.

 

Scene: Lake Trout Diner

Theme: I don’t know what it is, but it sure is funky

They walk Arby up and down once Jon diagnoses a fugue state. Keep his blood flowing. Tell him “don’ mean a thing.” Then sit him down while they discuss the various names written on the sheet. Some things are beginning to make sense.

“What a’ these shapes mean man?” Steve asks Jon, who is his Higher Education Epitome.

“Su’thin’ like computer flow chart mon.”

“But what ezackly?”

“I got nothing.”

“Huh? Where-all that fancy eddication getcha?”

“Got my doctor on mon, computer not be a thing in surgery.”

Jon urges Steve to put the paper away, and Arby recovers, sort of. It’s getting late, so they split: Arby to find a shelter if he can’t get some work on with Titus, his patsy; Steve back to his lonely pad; Jon and Vic to their homes.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves

Theme: Get Ready

The white hats have put some thought into what they want to concentrate on, but Arby puts a word down that changes that.

“My man Titus and me was down to the Rapid, saw me a sight. That Rapid we saw the whitey pitched out of? Got another whitey clinging to it on the outside. Or a brother be holding him there.”

They hear Jon’s results out. The prospectus suggests three public institutions – schools and skills training – on the west border of Central are being targeted by Farmatec, plus the League Park site up in Hough, plus Coors brewery. So more legwork, lining up for public records, is needed for those. Then there’s what might be beneath Phyllis Wheatley. Since they can’t just roll in there, Steve decides to track over to Cleo’s and talk to his woman about the place and any nearby. Come to think of it, since there are a couple churches near the Phyllis, Arby’s mom might know a lot too.

Jim Fairbanks rolls up on the stoop where Steve and the others are posting-up. Jim tells Vic he owes him a solid, since the heat is off now. Being an out of town face, they decide they can use him to do a lot of the legwork around City Hall or the Ward Office. Vic gives Jim a California Bankroll – a fifty around a bunch of singles – and he rolls off happily. Vic is thirty cents shy of a quarter now.

The other matter that’s pressing is the Monster. Sure, they sent him a-running (or driving) off but he’s still out there. Vic hauls out the card and finds it belongs to a Bill V Burnes, salesforce trainer. There’s a phone number on it.

The day is divided up and the team is divided up. Vic and Jon will work on the card. Steve and Arby will work on their womenfolk.

 

Scene: Residence in Little Saigon, the Kirtland area

Theme: I need help (I can’t do it alone)

The last time Vic saw May Li she was a little Hmong refugee awaiting evac. Now here she is, all growed up, two kids, her name is Madeline Burnes and she can speak English pretty good. Not that he’s lost his Vietnamese: but for Jon’s benefit they stick to English.

Madeline remembers Vic and isn’t freaked out by his face. She seen worse. She asks the big guy for help finding her husband and gives him a fat roll to help with expenses.

They found Madeline by trailing back through Burnes’ last employer, Hargrove Industries. They managed to get a home address there. According to them, Burnes was a great trainer but has been let go lately after burning off all his sick leave.

Madeline, being from a normal Hmong family, is quite shy about explaining all of the difficulties between herself and Bill. He is Hmong himself, but went full-American, including a name change. Things were great until the second child, then there was a rocky patch. The marriage recovered but intimacy was gone: then Bill left suddenly with next to no explanation. The police didn’t help.

With Madeline’s permission, Jon and Vic search the place pretty thoroughly. Bill sure left a lot behind. He kept a reasonably full filing cabinet and work table, and it takes a large chunk of the day to eventually turn up a business card of his therapist, Jill Spenser, who is with the Wilson Clinic. Madeline dates the therapy back to the rough patch about three months ago.

 

Scene: Cleo’s brother’s apartment

Theme: Inner City Blues

Steve wonders why he always feels like the butt end of a slug after talking to Cleo, but persists and gets a vague confirmation that yes, the Man is indeed targeting those schools and the skills workshop. Cleo introduces a new player. Apparently this righteous brother named Benjamin Jones works for charitable foundation KinzeyCorp and is helping the network counter the laywers.

Scene: St Adelberts/Fairfax Rec centre

Theme: Respect (Aretha version)

“Get yo’ eye of’n that sista! She be a married woman! Listen up! Ain’t no draggle-tail on the road to righteousness, nossir! Mine eyes hath seen they glory! …and yayss, happen I did hear St. Andrews Episcopal was strugglin’ under a burden of authority.”

Reverend Brown is a formidable, gimlet-eyed woman, even if handsome, and Arby and Steve step off with alacrity, leaving the women of the joint congregations to plan the Bicentennial display. Which reminds them, Vic has rumbled something about helping his mom with a flower show too. Joking about the idea of the giant helping shift a vase or two, they pimp-roll away.

 

Scene: Little Haiti

Theme: I put a spell on you (CCR or original versions)

Steve and Arby are nursing a cheap beer apiece when she walks in, and all Steve can do is goggle at her. Arby notices she has a cameraman in tow, a very pale guy with a big serious camera.

It’s hard to tell in the artificial light of Little Haiti, but Steve guesses her skin would be mahogany. She’s wearing a brief top that looks sprayed on, dark flares that cradle her butt real tight, and a close-fitted turban that hides whatever ‘fro she might have. He gets up and moves to the bar and she sees him, smiles, and heads the same way.

She’s tall, though maybe wearing high platforms. Maybe an inch below his 6 feet. Waist is tiny – the kind that makes a man want to get both hands around it. Her face reminds Steve of sayings about Nubian Princesses – though somehow in an old fashioned way. Makeup is great, jewellery gold but restrained. He asks what’s she drinking.

“Do they have daiquiris here?”

Moe the barkeep scowls darkly. Then mutters something about tourists and begins fixing one.

Behind the group Arby watches the cameraman, who seems happy to be a cipher. Very pale, Roman nose in a thin face, black eyebrows over deep-set eyes, ears that have no lobes and angle back to quite sharp tips.

“I’m Cindy Channel, night crew with the Plain Dealer. This is Ted.”

Cindy wants to know if Steve has a line on what Jude Humphrey knows. She is easy to talk to. Ted doesn’t speak at all. Steve doesn’t even register him. He takes Cindy’s card, one she slips from under her top. It’s cool in his hand. He tucks it away with a smile and a remark about her being one cool mama. Cindy takes her leave.

 

Not long after, Jon and Vic arrive in Jon’s Plymouth and the four share information. Steve checks Moe is still OK with the tab he’s running. Then drops a dime and calls Jude. Jude’s happy to hear from him after all this time, though he seems to know he’s got DeNaRes ID. Yes, he does know of Cindy Channel. Agrees she is wasted writing for a paper when she’d look great as a newscaster. Yes, he does know the agency that runs the rapid – the GCRTA, usually known as RTA. Why? Oh, a problem? Jude asks if Kelly and the gang gave them equipment. No? Just IDs? He’ll drop some stuff round to Brother Gloves as soon as he can.

 

“We got two pieces to pick off, first the Rapid then the Phyllis. Sort out what’s what on the train Arby keeps gloomin’ on. It all seems to happen evenings so that’s now. Can’t wait to see if Jude drops off something. Then head back over to the Phyllis, see what’s goin’ down, down below.”

 

Scene: a Rapid car

Theme: Jungle Boogie

They find seats together, same side of the aisle, two then two. Jon and Arby, then behind them Vic and the Cutter. The Rapid is well-staffed, a guard has checked everyone is comfortable and passed on along. It’s a very modern, sealed unit and warm. People are dozing off. Jon realises there’s a soporific being pumped in, everyone hangs in there, digging nails into palms to stay alert.

Up ahead the door opens, two guards enter: they can immediately see that four of their passengers are awake and watching them. The guards eyes glow yellow and they leap over the twenty or so feet intervening!

Arby rolls down and squiggles under the bench in front of his seat. Steve rises, catches the one aiming at him and slams him pro-wrestler style down onto the aisle: a smashing impact. The guard that missed Arby perches on the seat-back and looks around, seeing Steve’s back.

Vic’s searching for a fire extinguisher or at least an emergency exit but gives up as he realises Steve will be caught by the upright guard. He launches himself out of his seating. Ahead of him, Jon is struggling to come up with a spell. He’s spent most of his coco macaque’s power and has not restored it: next best thing is to cut himself and feed it. He fumbles a pen-knife out. Cuts his palm. Steps out to the aisle. Blood smears onto the stick.

Steve isn’t caught off-guard. He stamps on his victim’s neck and sways easily out of the next leap from the guard behind him: it lands against a seat a dozen feet further back. It screeches with rage, a terrible, tearing, vicious sound that makes them wince but does not stop the white hats from fighting! The one Steve downed throws him back and scramble up. The incisors of both guards are long and sharp and their eyes glow with yellow hate. Jon coolly classifies them as Vampires. Yells some helpful advice.

Steve gets a headlock on his opponent. Arby rummages around and comes up with an umbrella. He lunges forward and slightly irritates the pinioned Vampire. Steve manages to snap its neck. It doesn’t go down, but is seriously inconvenienced. Steve begins working its tight uniform coat over its head then gives up and simply locks it up until Arby strips the umbrella down to a splintered wooden shaft, and stakes the Vampire.

As the second guard leaps forward, Vic launches himself over Steve like a dive over a ruck at the line and the two crash together against the seat-benches: 400lb of impact, hard! Metal buckles. Vic wrenches the creature’s neck across an exposed metal edge and begins smashing it down. Its head comes off and it turns to dust. Vic glares around, and finds Steve and Arby have dealt with theirs too.

“Another one! Stake him mon!”

From the end-door to the car, a third guard has already arrived and is racing in great bounds towards them. Jon tries to call a fighting loa into his stick – a second time – and screams as his hand turns to sharp bone. Arby tosses the thin stake to Vic, who catches it and slams it through the leaping guard’s heart. Dust explodes over him. He spits it out and coughs.

 

Credit-roll scene:

The white hats scramble up out of the tunnel cutting and make their way up Fairhill towards the nearest bus route. Steve is saying something about whittlin’ some more stakes. Behind them, passengers begin peering out and complaining, but the sun sinking in the west, blazing directly into the tunnel, masks our heroes’ departure.

Back in the fight-scene car, the driver has walked on back to speak to the surviving guard. Neither can see who might have pulled the emergency stop and got away. But the driver smells some blood on a seat-arm. He wipes a finger off it and taste-tests it.

“Anyone you know, Mr. Trick?” asks the guard.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: Vic’s roll of hundreds (it began as $800) does not change his normal resources level. There are only two vehicles in the group, we now know, because Vic is a non-driver and Arby’s car, if he has one, is a junker beyond repair. Jon’s Plymouth is way back down the red line at the new terminus; and Steve’s crappy Ford van is back at his pad. But from University Circle, public transport down Euclid is an easy access to the Phyllis Wheatley.

I eased off on the ‘new plot point’ feeds and let the guys sort out what they wanted to concentrate on. It worked well – probably thanks to the SHC sessions – so everyone got an xp for that. With one for turning up, two for the First Real Fight, and one for keeping more or less in character, a 5xp session.

I had a free plot twist point available for the session, specifically for a flash-back, because as I warned the guys, a real smack-down is getting more and more likely, and they should have had a work-out session in a gym to work on team tactics. As it turned out we got to the Rapid scene quite late so they decided to go straight to the fighting. Luckily these were very much minion vamps. Jon spent a good deal of time trying to work out what spell might work, and Vic was determined to find a fire extinguisher. Arby went for a makeshift weapon from passenger gear, and an umbrella was as good a choice as any – though whether one might be packed in late June I leave you to determine. Anyway all good fun, several drama points spent apiece, and our first “magic mishap FX” of the season.

I have said I would acknowledge resources used, so first a belated nod to Cake Walk, from Fabled Environments. That gave us a fun time with Gremlins and some DeNaRes contacts. This evening’s main dish, Canned Food, was also served up by Fabled Environments, and is a one-off set aboard a jet airliner: re-skinned for Cleveland’s RTA. And a quick Funkadelic nod to Joshua LH Burnett and Hex Games, for the most instantly-annoying and the most spectacular NPCs so far.

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CD3: Golden Crème Rumpus/the Quiet Life/Galahad Mack

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The white hats:

Jon Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. This session Jon buys Influence as a new skill, spotting that there are a lot of scenes where you have to talk to people. This costs five xp.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session Vic boosts his Influence, to help offset his other disadvantages. Since he already has a point of Influence, this only costs 4 xp.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. At present Arby seems about right in terms of point build and his player makes no further changes.

Steve Cutter’s player could not make the session. Stevie is a fast-handed boxer of useful size, and doubles as the party handyman.

 

Staging scene

The old Golden Crème Delights factory has stood abandoned for around six years. Even before it expanded to its present size, it was plagued by industrial accidents. Now, the work gang tasked with a full strip-down of the plant can’t risk working there. A few of their forklifts and trucks stand inoperable on the rear carpark as our white hats walk up through the reserve and towards the factory. It is mid-afternoon, and hot.

 

Scene: the factory store-room

Theme: Boom Boom

Vic launches himself forward out of the store-room door with his trench-coat held out wide like a gunny-sack, and swathes the seething mass of gremlins in it, pork-leg and all.

“Finally! We got some!”

To be fair their previous efforts have netted two of the little pests, and those are lying KOed back behind the group.

“Ease ‘em out one a’time, Vic, we tie ‘em up,” Arby urges.

This process allows them to identify the Queen Bee, or Princess anyways, who is dressed up like the Princess Crème Delight in a doll’s dress, and can talk.

This all happens on day two. Day one was a bust – Stevie got himself knocked out, Arby got shanked in the shoulder with a sharp metal brace, and everyone got cut and banged and covered in old old Sir Choc-a-Lots.

Overnight, they’d met Arby’s biological father Jeremiah Roosevelt, who is some kind of professor and ranger, and learned that hot mama Kelly Anderson is his birth mother. Seems like Jerry knocked Kelly up when she was only about 14, and her sister, Vic’s mother, decided to pretend Arby was hers when she placed him for adoption, so Kelly could finish school. (It’s kind of a relief to Vic and Arby both to discover they are only cousins: but Vic is disappointed that Kelly is his aunt.)

Jon had come up with the idea of using meat as bait, and old man Roosevelt added the advice to smear it with something sweet, like honey or sugar-water. It turns out that’s pretty irrestible to gremlins that Jones on Crème Delights and like to scavenge meat where they can.

Now, Jon negotiates with the Princess. It seems that long ago, in her great-grandmother’s time, her people came out of the Dark, into this wonderful fairyland where gadgets and electricity and such exist. Although the factory is ‘their’ turf she reluctantly agrees that somewhere else with gadgets and access to food would do if they have to move.

 

Intermission

With the captives agreeing to a truce, the mission is over. DeNaRes finds another abandoned factory, and turns the gremlins loose there.

Over the next month the four continue working as DeNaRes officers, away from the city. They occasionally drive the Mystery Machine (as someone insists on calling it) out to CVNRA, a forested reserve out in the county where a summer camp, Camp Wikacini, hosts inner-city teens. Naturally the camp’s on the site of an old Indian burial ground… or so legend has it. But their missions are just to release ‘wildlife’ into the reserve away from the city so they don’t speak to the teens nor to the camp counsellors. The kinds of creatures they release give them an eyeful of the weird and somewhat dangerous things that exist in the dark spaces.

They return to city life in June. The city is humming with activity, preparing for the Bicentenary.

  • Vic finds life back at home a lot better now he’s sane. He enjoys time with his niece. One day in a bar, the barkeep passes on a note from a buddy name of ‘Jim’. It’s a man from Vic’s old platoon named Jim Fairbanks, who needs some help, and they agree to meet the next evening. Vic’s mom has a job for him too, but it can wait.
  • Jon’s maman calls a truce with him, but he finds himself consigned to the shack out back where stray cousins are put up. He doesn’t have a set allowance but maman is unwilling to just let him starve, so he has enough money to get by. The barkeep at Little Haiti tells him that Asha Barkley is trying to get in touch with him, and he eagerly waits to see her again.
  • Stevie finds that he can still get a job back at Brother Gloves – but not as manager. His floor-sweeper wage is a pittance, so he’s like Cleo, looking out for day-labor work.
  • Arby returns to life hustling mugs, and is fronted by the big mook again. But this time, Arby got some game. When he fronts, Titus Johnson steps off a little and it turns out what he wanted all along is to get alongside Arby’s operation and get a share. With Titus acting as patsy or shill the usual takings increase, easily maintaining Arby in the same poverty as before.

Scene: Little Haiti

Theme: Soul Man

If Asha looked good before, this evening she is positively edible. Sista’s put some real effort into making herself look dam’ good. Jon’s eyeballs are sweating. Something like a moan comes from Stevie, hidden a few benches down.

The only off-note is the blank-eyed hulking thug that trails in behind Asha, but she flicks off any curiosity about him, saying ‘Pico’ is here to watch her back.

Asha’s got two plays to lay on Jon. First, she’s fired up to get whoever it was put her brother Haile Selassie in an early grave. She can contact some bruthas got access to real weapons if need be. But that will have to wait. Right now, there’s something a brain like him can take on, and that’s the Phyllis Wheatley.

“The Man pushin’ sistas outta there, pressin’ them on leasehold, city taxes, all sorts a’ reg-u-lation papers rainin’ down. Yo’ gotta go behind th’ scenes, Jon, find out who’s pullin’ strings.”

Phyllis Wheatley, an institution that helps women find work or get off to a new start, isn’t one of the charities Jon’s maman helps: it’s a little too far out of her Fairfax stomping ground.

 

First legwork research

Theme: Theme from Shaft

Jon ropes in Vic and Arby to do a lot of the leg-work around public records, since not everything is in one handy place and it pains Jon to stand up for too long.

Even though Vic is really good at not losing his place in a queue, he is a failure at asking for the right records. Arby comes through and provides some help. Within the next two days Jon has worked out that the people doing the harassment legwork all work for Alderman Creed in one sense or another. The legal paperwork is being handled by a Downtown firm, Wolfgang and Hearst. It’s not clear yet which client is greasing the wheels for Boss Creed but there’s going to be a speech at the Ward Square in a few days’ time.

 

Scene: near a red-light district

Theme: Shorty the Pimp

“Yo Arby, sweet man, yo’ spare me a minute? I gots something ta aks ya.”

Arby and Titus swing around to see Cherry, one of the local girls. She’s obviously on her way to work for the evening, just like they are moving their base from the transit hubs to the entertainment hubs. Arby can see she’s bruised and marked up here and there.

Cherry has a problem with a John the girls are beginning to call the Monster. He’s rough, way too rough for what he’s paying. Can he help? Arby agrees to arrange something.

Titus can’t see any money in it and isn’t so desperate for a free ride he’ll take a job like this on in trade. Arby heads off to recruit some real muscle.

 

Scene: No-Name Bar

Theme: Higher Ground

Jim Fairbanks has kept in shape since Vic last saw him at the short end of a tour. If anything he looks tougher than Vic, though he is a shorter and slighter man. Vic remembers him as being smart and as idle as he could be: he’d trade his way out of any hard chores the noncoms dished out. Someone that looked out for a chance to make his post more comfortable and definitely not a glory-hound.

Jim is very glad to find that Vic isn’t crazy no more because The Man is squeezing him. He’s come down from Chicago on the trail of a big-time weapon – Jim tries to describe some old time guy name of Smith but it’s over Vic’s head – and some local dirty cops have him over his old Ohio sheet. Which is not as clean as it could be, him banging around in search of some kind of life after the 101st let him go. At the moment he’s over on the west side and feeling real exposed.

Vic gives him the phone and address of a reasonable man he knows, who will board Jim no questions asked, at least for a short time, for money. They’ll speak again soon.

 

Scene: red-light district

Theme: Pursuit of the Pimpmobile

From where Vic is sitting in the all-night diner he sees an anonymous blue Ford cruise slowly along the curb opposite, driver’s side to where Cherry and a couple of other girls are standing. The steady but slow traffic here isn’t a major problem and doesn’t stop Vic seeing Cherry’s signal as she leans down to the driver’s window.

Vic moves swiftly across the road and through traffic, motioning Arby to get round behind the Ford. Jon stumps along behind Arby, as gamely as he can.

Vic’s spotted, or Cherry gives the game away, and just as Vic roars “gotcha fool!” the driver grabs Cherry’s arm and hits the gas. She’s dragged along, screaming. Vic latches onto the Ford’s door handle and Arby sprints along right behind Cherry. He can see the driver: face distorted into a maniac grin. He’s Asian. The car is really at pace now, and there’s a power-pole right on the curb that will kill Cherry when she hits it.

Vic jiggles the handle, gets the button down, but can’t quite yank it open at this speed.

Behind them all Jon uses his stick to power out a quick burst of light between the driver and Cherry. It’s perfectly placed: Cherry is let go, Arby keeps sprinting and swoops her up and away before she can smash her ribs on the fast-approaching pole. Vic, startled, gets the door open just enough to grab wildly at the seat-leather but misses his hold and the car races away, weaving through traffic. A business card, or something very like it, flutters down at Vic’s feet. He picks it up and tucks it away after a quick glance.

 

Scene: Ward Square

Theme: Pusherman

Boss Creed is finishing up a rousing speech about progress and city renewal, pumping the cause of Black Advancement in union with Public-Private Enterprise. It sounds as though a large Federal fund is being used for this particular scheme. He introduces the head of Farmatec, to much applause from his own people in the audience and polite applause from his loyal voters. Local journalists busily write in shorthand, and cameras click and flash.

The white hats are watching. They’re interested in this Farmatec president, but just as interested in seeing that Mitchell Delaney, the big cheese from Blackhand Security, is right there as the Farmatec man’s coat-holder. Seems like he’s still ‘expanding the footprint’ locally.

 

Credit-roll scene:

Barnabas Marshall is up on the stand behind Boss Creed. He’s spotted Vic. The view pans across the square to Asha Barkley, standing well back in the shadows with her pet thug. Two tough-looking whiteys in sunglasses are watching the pair of them. The view pans and zooms to a plain black sedan. Smoke escapes from the rear passenger window.

 

GM’s corner

Worth noting? Vic is now the rich one with Resources 0. The others are all on -1. Any purchase has to be made prudently. Opportunities for making bread/green should not be ignored.

There are a lot of plot points up in the air, so I’m hoping at least a couple become clearer and resolve themselves into plot lines, next session. Stay tuned!

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CD2: Cleaned Out of Town

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s.

Cast of White Hats

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: player DL. A build that emphasizes speed and card-sharping rather than anything else. This episode, Arby rebalances a little, lowering Influence and raising Kung Fu. He avoids a Cowardice drawback.
Victor ‘Vic’ Creed: player DB. A true min-max tank and restrained with difficulty to a mere 10 points of drawbacks. He has had a 3-point Mental Disorder replaced with a 3-point Obligation to the Mission.
Steve (or Stevie) ‘the cutter’ Cutter: player SM. A nicely-balanced fighting build.
Jon Samedy: player AL. A vodou priest/doctor, using a coco macaque (stick) as a 3-point Quality. He has Oral Tradition rather than Occult Library.

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material

Scene: PD3’s jail

Theme: Trouble Man

Stevie’s still got a swollen jaw from the last time he asked for a lawyer, but they process him out anyway. Maybe Cleo’s protest group – mostly ho’s what had just been kicked out but some of the ex-Panthers from the Rec Centre too – has made the charges more trouble than they’re worth. Or maybe that older white dude that took Arby away had something to do with it. Either way he’s a free man. Stevie shuffles over to Cleo, not exactly the walk of shame but he’s not feeling too fly.

“Girl, this is just a thing, what it is, The Man got me in wrong…”

“You on’y got one thing be ‘shamed fo’, Steve Cutter! An’ that how yo’ babies don’ gonna see you tonight! Tell me Iz wrong!”

“Uhh, an’how, Iz good fo’ th’ money you got comin’ sugah. Got’ be slippin’ cuz work be callin’…”

Feeling like the commitment-shy louse he is, The Cutter crawls off.

 

Scene: PD3’s (clean) interview room

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby smells smoker-man before he sees him. A well-aged whitey, expensive suit, eyes permanently crinkled up from the haze of smoke from his cigarette.

“Roosevelt Brown? Right, that’s you is it boy? I’ll have a word with you, just finishing a quick look through your file…”

It’s a solid stack in police manila, so Arby concludes it really is his file. Smoker-man continues:

“Hmm, your life to date has not been that of a model citizen, has it Mr Brown? Well, there’s an opportunity for you to eh, ‘do the right thing’ as it were. I take it you do care that your father is dead?”

“He dead? But th’ doc…”

“Oh – yes, dead I’m afraid. So, you are concerned? Right. I’m Head of Station Malcolm Lansing, CBI. This is your opportunity to get out of this shooting business and work with us.”

Arby decides to go with the flow, and accepts the role of snitch. He gets a number to call, then Lansing tells him they’ll be bringing him to his pappy’s house to see what might be missing. They know he stole the keys from there. Apparently those ‘conspiracy to commit’ charges have gone now he’s committed himself.

 

Scene: Outside the Dean’s Office, CWRU

Theme: Soul Man

Jon’s out of handcuffs, but a pair of large campus policemen are standing down the corridor, between him and the exit. He’s seated on the uncomfortable form usually reserved for wrongdoing students. At least his stick is back by his side.

His senses are wired though: sounds he’d usually tune out are coming in loud and clear. Salespeople a corridor away, bragging up the targets they are going to hit. He vaguely recalls they work with Farmatec, a private concern affiliated with the Med Lab. Alternately grumbling and whining exchanges behind the Dean’s door. Finally a worried staffer exits and hurries away clutching a sheaf of papers… that dude’s from another wing of this place – the Clinic. Not Jon’s territory – mostly drug trials for middleweight pharma firms like Farmatec.

The Dean doesn’t waste time. Jon is fired. Out of concern for the University’s reputation, the charges have been dropped. In a bewilderingly short time he’s on his own, with a small box of personal possessions, looking west down University Circle. Off in the northern haze a scow’s horn blasts scornfully. Lacking a fixed destination, Jon limps home, forgetting that his car is parked back on campus.

 

Scene: VA Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit

Theme: Cold Sweat

Jon’s calling, courtesy of the Junior League. And his back still smarts from the cane maman laid over it, after he got home. Chided gently by such phrases as:

“Don’ gimme that Creole Jon, you been American these twenny years! I’ll knock the Black off you!”

He’s surprised to find Vic Creed. Though come to think of it, those six policemen dragging Vic away did say they knew the guy and where to send him.

Jo’s also surprised to find that Vic seems quite rational. What’s he doing in the psych ward anyway? Well, the staff there need beds and his diagnosis helps things along. Vic is freed, and the two of them are eventually standing in much the same place Jon was earlier that morning.

There’s a black sedan, nicely polished, too far away to see who the driver is. And closer to hand a thin, anonymous type is leaning, idly watching them. After a quick debate the two decide to head through lower Hough around Fairfax then drop down towards the Brother Gloves gym.

 

Scene: Soul Food Diner near the Brother Gloves gym

Theme: Boot-Leg

Steve and this light-skinned brother that was waiting in the gym settle into the Soul Food diner. Dude’s name is Jude Humphrey. He starts out by claiming he’s with the DA’s office ‘in a manner of speaking’ but when he pushes across a business card, it says he’s with DeNaRes out in the county. And eat up, he’s got an expense account.

“So… what do ‘Department of Natural Resources’ gotta do inna city?”

“Oh… we catch the odd stray wildlife. Raccoons, that sort of thing. It’s a handy card to have, anyway. Hang onto it. Call me if you need something.”

Steve starts pulling a bill off his thin roll but Jude, if that’s his name, beats him to it, laying a twenty down as if it’s nothing. They part ways.

 

Scene: Prof. Brown’s apartment

Theme: Purple Haze

Arby kind of hates to go back in and look at THAT WALL again but since Lansing is there, he don’t see much choice. But something smells different – kind of a bleach smell. And a newish smell, a bit like paint. And something is off about the doorway.

The wall is completely bare. The stand and vase of flowers that was against it has been moved carelessly off to one side. The beat-up floor has a scatter of paint and paper chips, badly swept clean. Arby looks close at the wall. It’s not been painted over – it’s been stripped back – new wallpaper been put up. And the door’s completely gone.

He stands there feeling like he’s looking down a deep well. Lansing’s bored voice comes through, eventually, along with cigarette smoke.

“Yeah. Wall might have told us something about why your father was a target. We think you might be able to help… fill in the blanks, heh.”

Arby can do that: he’s got this freaky memory trick where he can ‘re-see’ what’s he read. It got him lazy through high school. But just the image gets him freaky again.

Lansing finds a decent size piece of paper from somewhere, and Arby sets himself down at his pop’s worn sideboard in the dinette, and draws what he saw that day. He’s no artist, and it’s all in one colour since that what he remembers in. Lansing takes a look.

“What’s this gap?”

“’At’s where door was, man.”

“What was on the door?”

“Dunno, I guess I open the door an’ lef’ it open.”

“But look – most of the arrows go into the doorway. There’s a word, or piece of a word here. ‘Clinic’ maybe. Mean anything? You didn’t see which clinic?”

“No man, Iz freakin’ out jus’ seein’ all they shit written there.”

“Hmmph. Less than satisfactory. Well, keep your nose clean, Mr Brown, we’ll be in touch.”

 

Scene: on Chester just past the Dunham

Theme: It’s a Shame

Vic takes a slow look back and round. Using the one-ways they seem to have lost The Man’s car, but the foot tail is still idling after them. Jon isn’t set up for running and he’d rather ambush anyway. Picking a clump of bushes overgrown nigh to being trees Vic signals Jon and they swing down a walk past the old tavern, keeping a Church tower as a landmark ahead, and duck out of sight.

It doesn’t work. Vic is just too big. The wiry dude makes with the feet – the other way.

Shrugging, and passing off a low five, the pair ease on down over Euclid and towards the Brother Gloves gym.

 

Scene: Outside the Brother Gloves gym

Theme: Superfly

A volley of gunshots brings Arby running: The Cutter’s already there of course: and Jon and Vic come stompin’ in from around a north corner – catching an impression of a dark sedan moving away fast. A brother’s just been gunned down outside the gym. Haile Selassie has thrown his last pose: face up, grimacing, fist raised in defiance.

Steve’s determined to take some action to avenge the brother lying fist-up in the street, and asks Arby where Haile Selassie might have stashed anything he took from the Med Lab, or was trying to hide. Arby can think of three likely places so they set off directly.

 

Scene: Haile Selassie’s pad

Theme: Boom Boom

At the likeliest, there’s another whitey waiting for them, well-dressed, shit-eating grin on his face. Jon keeps him talking while the others get in and start searching.

The man’s name, according to him, is Mitchell Delaney, some kind of big wheel with Blackhand Security. According to him they are ‘extending their footprint’ in this part of the world and don’t mind ‘working with local contacts.’

Meanwhile the other three toss the pad, Steve having the idea that a fly brother like Selassie would stash something outside down the fire escape wall. He’s right, and prys away a piece of siding that conceals – not papers – but a rock. With screwy marks on it.

About that same instant, a sedan howls to a stop outside, four armed men jump out and hell breaks loose.

Without stopping to scan the area, three race up the steps, throwing lead into the stairwell. They are not bothering with silencers. The fourth, the wheelman, does have his eyes open and sees Delaney, who stands out like a well-dressed whitey in Central. The guy lifts his pistol in one hand and empties it into the middle distance, none of the shots coming close to the target except by chance. Jon has strategically taken cover behind Delaney, who whips out an RT handpiece and calls for support. Jon escapes around the building and towards overgrown trees out back.

Upstairs the other three skedaddle down the fire escape, Vic taking the entire window frame with him and ignoring the cuts. They too take to the wilderness of feral allotments and all four make their way away as two police units and a private car with a Blackhand logo race in to help Delaney.

It’s time to lie low. They toss around a few ideas, but since Steve’s point that Alderman Creed is the one most likely paying for the hits, they decide not to go anywhere he would expect.

 

Scene: Stevie’s pad

Theme: Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing

Eighteen hours of rest and sending out for meals has worn billfolds thin. Vic didn’t have any, Arby only had the bills the cops didn’t find. Steve heads out to open up the gym and collect a paycheck, and Vic checks in with his home.

His mom is relieved to hear from him, and it seems like she’s been lining up help. She knows he’s been released from the VA psych unit and has heard he’s in trouble.

“I’m sending a note round by messenger. It’ll have details, but honey, you get yourself out to the reservoir. Not the Lakes reservoir of course – Baldwin. There’ll be a man out there you can trust, called Roosevelt. If you don’t find him, ask for Kelly Anderson. She’ll look after you all. And honey? You have money for a cab? I’ll send some round with the boy.”

 

Scene: Brother Gloves Gym

Theme: Mercy Mercy Me

Steve’s a little late in, and again, there’s a dude perched on the ringside. This one’s built for middle distance not heavy-bag work – maybe around thirtyish but with some grey showing on his short-cropped hair. Wise eyes and a half smile. Wearing a dog-collar.

“C’n I do for you, padre?”

“How do, son. Iz callin’ in as a perfessional courtesy, seein’s how you be a ‘quaintance of my, uh, Uncle Jon Samedy.”

“Uncle?”

“S’kinda comp’icated, son. Get Jon t’ ‘splain it maybe. Anyhow, thought Iz let you know, you a marked man. Time to get gone. If I see you again, it be through a telescopic sight.”

 

 

Scene: crossing the Detroit rail link

Theme: Don’t Look Back

The taxi got them all to Jon’s Plymouth in the University carpark where he left it, and the Plymouth is getting them round and up to Baldwin.

Vic and Arby are keeping an eye out the back. In case of tails, Jon has decided to idle down the road until a transit unit comes up the cutting, then dash across ahead of it. Steve’s calling distance and watching the west side. It works fine. Jon guns the engine in low gear, the car rocks across yawing up and down on its sloppy suspension.

Vic and Arby both see the same thing: As the unit comes up out the cutting, a man plunges head-first out a door, terror on his face: face-plants into the cutting side with an impact they fancy they can hear. Leaning out the door, just briefly before the unit gets into sunlight, a brother, eyes glaring – blazing almost yellow – then he yanks himself back in and the door shuts.

Vic feels a stab of despair: another killing! The others argue against turning back and Jon keeps his foot down.

“Anyhow, a dead whitey ain’t nothing,” Arby reassures Vic, but the big brother is plunged into depression for the rest of the day.

 

Scene: the DeNaRes station, Baldwin Reservoir

Theme: Higher Ground

Kelly Anderson is a nice surprise, Vic discovers once he’s eased his frame up out of Jon’s Plymouth. She’s maybe forty but it’s a young and fit forty. Her skin is café au lait, she wears her hair fairly straight and onto her shoulders, and she fills the Wildlife Officer uniform out in all the right places. She welcomes them all, taking a curious and closer look at Arby.

Jeremiah Roosevelt, she explains, is not in right at this moment, but things have been readied for them. She takes them inside, and the smell of cheap bad coffee and slightly burnt crust welcomes them to the ranger station. Kelly takes a big manila envelope out of a drawer and slides it over.

“What is you do, exactly, Miz Anderson?” Stevie asks curiously, looking at the fake ID with his face on it. Apparently he’s a Wildlife Officer now.

“Call me Kelly, honey,” she reassures him, “Why my branch of DeNaRes really does look after wildlife. Some of it wilder and stranger than others. We gen’ally call them raccoons, around the city. Explains most things.”

Some minutes pass as the four finish orientation and grab coffee and a bite. The ‘regular’ officers are lounging outside, enjoying the late-lunch sun. One’s an Asian, one’s Latino and one’s a cute, preppy-looking girl. Steve strikes up an easy rapport with her, and discovers that Laura is something of a party girl, and is looking forward to getting to know him better. Arby tries some Vietnamese on the Asian and gets a ‘yeah, us Asians are all the same’ look from him.

 

Kelly returns from trying to get hold of J Roosevelt, and says she has a job for them.

“So you want us to what?”

“None of the regular officers here like goin’ into creepy old factories after ‘raccoons’ and as chance happens, we got a call about one, just out this way. I figure you’d like to test the water, so to speak, go an’ ketch the little rascals and settle things down.”

“You givin’ us guns then?”

“Mercy no child! You get catch-poles, an’ a baton, an’ a good solid torch. More than enough for this kinda job.”

“Ain’t we s’pose’a’kill then?”

“Why would you? Mostly, we release the raccoons to the wild again. Oh, an’ as a big bonus, if you do good on this job, you get to drive the station van.”

Feeling deeply confused, and not particularly enthused about the van (like the Mystery Machine but without the paint job) the four gather their equipment and set out afoot for the old Golden Crème Delights factory. It will be mid-afternoon by the time they get there.

 

GM’s corner

  1. I used the fadeout scene of CD1 to step the posse through the process of going to negative life points. At zero, the Prof makes a consciousness roll (Con+Will) and spends a drama point, making it. There is a negative of 1 per 10 negative Life Points. Subsequently, the Prof also makes a Survival Test under the same conditions. He’ll need to keep making 1 a minute.Jon’s Doctor plus Intelligence helps with both stabilizing and resuscitating. For the latter, the Doctor/resuscitator can spend their drama points as well. Since I don’t want to drain Jon’s drama points, I leave the step-through there.

  2. Big Pistols, such as the one the wheelman was shooting with, are Unsteady if not held in two-hand FBI posture. -2 to hit. Big Pistols do 15 damage. Any damage that gets through armor is doubled, so it does not take many shots to whittle away all Life Points.

 

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CD1: The Clean-up Incident

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

Scene 1: Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown

Theme music: Sweetback’s Theme

The new rapid rail is coming in to the transit exchange, and R Brown – ‘Arby’ to people that can stand him – has his Find the Lady stand ready for the suckers coming in to grind away – just enough for the city! They’s getting off now. Time to make the show. Only trouble is, there’s some solid-built dude shouting in his face! Roosevelt ducks his skinny frame down a little, trying to sift the jive to tell if this blood’s got a real beef. It all sounds random shouting, until he yells:

“An don’ think I ain’t bringin’ down tha’ brother a’ hers on ya ass! He be gettin’ a real good story a’ me! You list’nin’ fool? I need Green! Or I ain’t goin’ away now! Dig?”

Arby can see the suckers drifting away from the train, slow like they real tired, hunched against another workday. He’s lost his crowd. And out of the corner of his eye something…? But right now, he can’t get his rap going like he wants to, his throat is dry, another failure!

Roosevelt Brown lives mostly with his mom in Central, though plenty of nights he’s crashed at some blood’s pad, or crawled into the arms of a lonely sista-girl. His mom – not his birth mom – is vicar at St. James AME, and has had a down on him ever since the first time she heard her baby made some girl into a baby-mama. It’s not a good fit with the message of Saving It For Marriage she preaches. He’s got a weakness for women that want to look after him, he admits it, but he wants to do the right thing by them. One day he’ll get rich, then he’ll buy them fancy clothes and a house and his kids – three in all – will never have to worry about where their next meal comes from.

Failure tastes like bile on Arby’s tongue and near chokes him as he dodges up the steps into the blinding heat of Woodland, past the tail of the slow-moving commuters, and as the mook bellows slowly in his wake, he takes his skinny ass through traffic. Traffic he fails to avoid.

 

Scene 2: Victor ‘Vic’ Creed

Theme: Paint it Black

The morning sun is already turning the square in front of the Ward Office Building into a griddle. Only a skeleton crew of four protesters is out here: there’s the crazy no-legs brother in his wheelchair, dirty blanket draped over where he ought to have legs, screaming about death and justice in his thin cracked voice. He’s always out here, since the VA is located here. There’s two sistas, barely bothering to raise fist at the windows or passing cars. And there’s him: big, crazy-twitching Vic. He often can’t focus on why he’s anywhere. When he does, his hands start shaking and his eyes water and the smell of flesh cooking off fills his head.

Vic’s family is proudly Republican and probably the only GOP vote in the ward. They keep him in clothes and give him an allowance, but he can’t always remember to get real to get home to get fed. Then he’ll remember the times his pops taught him to shoot, or how his sis looks up at him from her wheelchair, or how his niece pretends to be scared of him, and he’ll get back home again.

Something’s catching his eye, off in traffic, but right now, there’s a blood fronting and he’s big enough for this troubled giant – the maximum height the Airborne services allowed – to feature as a threat.

This guy’s easily as big as Vic, and fitter. Vic half-recognizes him – he’s a coat-holder for Vic’s uncle, Alderman Creed. Barnabas something….

“Lissen up boy…”

Not a good start! But Barnabas has the hard life experience to front and intimidate the younger man.

“Iz lis’nin.”

He starts to ‘lay it out’ for Vic: His Uncle don’t need no publicity, no protest, don’t need his name called up at City Hall.

Vic’s attention wanders. A thin brother is snaking through traffic… the crazy screaming vet has been turning, turning that chair, now he runs it out into the road, screaming at the cars… and there’s a squeal of brakes and a crash of metal on metal and the vet is smeared over the kerb. Someone’s shaking his shoulder:

“You mind me now, chump!”

Barnabas is furious now. He’s yelling something about People Watching: Enemies as well as Friends. Yeah, ever’one’s ever’thing. Don’t mean nothing. Inside Vic’s head Mick Jagger’s voice is shouting.

 

Scene 3: Steve “the cutter” Cutter

Theme: Trouble Man

Steve Cutter, still known from his prime fight days (a few years back now) as The Cutter, is readying the Brother Gloves gym for the day crowd, not that it ever gets crowded. Coming back in with some soul food from the joint down the road, he discovers that a thin older dude is hovering. He doesn’t look like someone that’s always wanted to shape up, either: he’s wearing a long light bluish coat or smock and has a satchel.

In a very tense, almost crazed voice he demands to see Boss Creed.

“He ain’t work here, fool,” Stevie explains kindly, “He a downtown man, owns the biz, ain’t managin’ it. Step off!”

Clutching the satchel to his smocked chest, the old guy warns Stevie that he’s got the details, he knows what’s going down, and it’s trouble for Creed. The Cutter has a loyalty to the owner, so he asks if he could explain. Gym patrons are drifting in, and the old man is nervous, so wants to talk about it somewhere else. To Stevie’s surprise the oldster names Little Haiti, in the evening.

The Cutter is loyal to his paycheck. He needs the money to support his baby-mama Cleopatra, even though she stepped out with that rat Arby and came away with another kid to go with the two that are his. He loves Kimba like he loves Kenyatta and little Jomo. On top of those hungry mouths there’s sometimes a fine or bribe to get Cleo out vacation time. She’s a street protester from way back. And of course his moms isn’t working much and the rent on their historic home needs paying. He phones the Ward office.

After a false start the Cutter finds he’s been put through to Creed’s office. A solemn-sounding brother with a voice like he’s as big as a room takes some details and hangs up without thanking him.

 

Scene 4: Jon Samedy

Theme: Soul Man

It’s evening and Jon Samedy is leaning, dog-tired as usual, against the Little Haiti bar, walking-stick nearby. He and the club’s barkeep are about the only crew in the joint, it being so early even the conventioneers haven’t found their way in. He’s shucked his bloodstained fatigues and is dressed for as much success as he usually has – none. Then his luck changes when the foxy mama walks in. Sashays in.

In his gran’-mēre’s day she would have been called a high-yaller, a creamy-skinned octoroon who could probably pass, except sista’s got her hair in a proud ‘fro as wide as her shoulders, with a comb stuck in it. Her outfit hugs her like a lover except for her flares, which are double-wide and deep enough to cover her platforms. And she leans over near Jon.

She seems to know who he is, introduces herself as Asha, and asks if they can speak privately. Jon says yes of course, retrieves his curiously-carved stick, and limps across the club dance floor to the deep-cushioned booths on the other side. The Little Haiti experience isn’t really helped by the fake voodoo shit on the walls and ludicrously out of place fake palms, but it does offer some camouflage.

Asha Barkley seems to be out of some agency, though she claims to be a freelancer, and she talks as though her paper – if that’s what it is – has a budget big enough to offer Jon a scholarship for the final stretch of his medical degree. Naturally there’s a trade-off and it seems to have something to do with helping his people, though Asha is very vague about that.

By the time the small talk and explanations are that far in, more people have arrived and they include the Cutter, a boxer and gym-trainer who is maybe a year or three younger than Jon and (like many in the Fairfax-Central border area) has a lot of respect for how far he’s got in life. Asha calls a halt and promises they’ll meet again. He says adieu. She gives a real handclasp now. Her hand is warm, her eyes cinnamon.

Jon could use the extra money, even though his family has financed his Case Western pre-med and intern career so far. He’d love to be able to support maman and give back something to the Haitian community that holds them in such respect.

The Cutter bumps with the barkeep and joins Jon. In short time he explains. His description of the oldster catches Jon’s attention.

“Sound like Professor of Computer Sciences, over on my campus mon. He be name Truman Brown.”

“He taken his sweet time,” grumbles Stevie, “maybe we roll that way, check on him?”

“Amen, be so.”

The two men pimp-roll out of Little Haiti. Jon confidently leads the way round back to the carpark and gestures to a Plymouth.

“Fancier wheels than I got,” Stevie admits.

It’s cooking hot even past sundown, so the windows stay down as they roll up Cedar to the University circle.

Flashback: Just west of Woodland Cemetery

Theme: Sexy Sexy Sexy

Arby’s got his own pimp-roll on, lookin’ good, he tells himself as he skirts by the apartment where one of his kids is being raised up believing his old man is dead. Same as the other two. All over a scheme that started out so right and just went so wrong. Speaking of kids, there’s some playing at that alley. Or are they kids? Arby blinks and looks closer: they kind of red-black, scrawny and scaly under those clothes… but then they fade back into the shadows as if they see him noticing.

Man got to eat to plan the next game. Arby eases into a greasy spoon joint, planning to skip. He’s just set down when a hand like a meat plate lands on his collar.

“You the mutha done run through traffic, got a brutha killed! What you head at, fool? That some Oreo jive!”

Twisting around in his jacket and shirt, Arby sees a deep black snarling face and bloodshot eyes like a crazy man’s.

Think of something! Say anything! Or he’ll pull your arm off and beat you to death with it!

“Ooh man, hadda getaway! See it was this weird dude! On the train! He givin’ evil eye! Uuhh… you not lis’nin a’ ya?”

No he’s not, you better do some ducking and running Roosevelt

His wriggling has no effect, until the monster is distracted by the phone ringing just behind the counter. The cook and server have ducked away, like all the other diners did. The gorilla keeps hold of Arby’s collar as he leans over and picks up the handset.

<Job for tonight> a deep, vaguely familiar voice says, <The computer lab, CWRU. Cleanup needed.>

Vic hangs up thoughtfully and notices he’s still clutching a jacket. And nothing else. Come to think of it, wasn’t that scrawny twig Roosevelt Brown? My half-brother?

 

Flashback: outside the Ward Office

Theme: Take me to the River

Barnabas is distracted by the crash. Vic has a decision to make. He turns from Barnabas and hurries to the vet’s side. He has no trauma skills, but has seen plenty of dying soldiers: this one already has Death writing in shadow script across his face.

The vet reaches up and they clasp hands, blood smears…

“Stop the killings – stop the apocalypse.”

This and flashing visions of many things smash through Vic’s haze. His head comes together and his hands aren’t shaking as he stands up, now with a mission again.

 

Flash forward: the greasy spoon joint

There’s a few ways ‘cleanup’ could be read but Vic can read between the lines too. There’s going to be a killing up at the computer lab. He’s going to have to go up there and check it.

 

Scene: on Quincy outside the Library

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby’s luck changes when the limo slides to a halt near an honesty box. It’s a long full-limo Lincoln, probably only a few months old. The chauffeur gets out and steps over to the box, takes a paper, then opens the passenger door and hands it in. From his angle Arby can see an expensive-dressed old white guy smoking… or is he smoking? Is that steam? … but by the time he’s blinked the door is shut and the limo rolls. Leaving a $50 lying near the honesty box. It’s in Arby’s mitt in an instant!

He swaggers off to the nearest men’s outfitters, to replace his lost jacket, and thence to a real eatery.

Scene Swipe: later still…

“Yo! Arby man, wha’ hap?”

“Hey Hi! Nothin’ shakin’.”

Haile Selassie “Hi” Barkley is the diametric opposite of Arby. Rugged, smart and relatively hard-working. But the two have worked together in some successful capers.

“Arby man, this is good timing. You gotta help me! The Man’s squeezing me – and I need to deliver man, or The Man’s gonna have my balls in the ringer!”

“What’s the deal?”

“You c’n get me access to the Med Lab up at the U man – you old man gotta key. I needs ya ta get me the key, so I can grab what The Man needs to get off my back.”

Arby hesitates, his natural spinelessness at war with his natural instinct to do what the much bigger, faster and tougher man wants.

“You be doin’ me a solid, blood, and look how many solids I done you!”

 

Scene Swipe: later still…

Arby eases the door open and walks through his old man’s mess. Not much of a place. Real mess here. What’s that on the wall?

Ho-lee-Jee-zuz.

There’s lines and triangles and circles and rhomboids and octagons and smears and scrawls and colors bleeding into colors… things begin to click inside Arby’s head… things like why he keeps seeing ‘Have You Seen My Dog’ or ‘Lost Cat’ posters all up and down… some Missing Children posters too…

“You got it yet?”

Arby jumps, switches on a couple lights, finds the key-cupboard easy enough and fishes out the spare Med Lab key. The two ease back out, making sure nothing’s out of place. Then they set off at an easy pimp-roll up to University.

 

Scene: Outside the Science Center

Theme: Superfly

Jon and Steve are walking – slowly and quietly – keeping to the shadows around the Stone Chapel. Adelbert Hall just ahead offers plenty more cover. Ease on down, ease on down, quiet and slow.

Roosevelt and Haile Selassie are easing quietly in past Adelbert Gym towards the Med Lab.

Vic’s boots crunch on the sidewalk, straight up, light or no light. Naturally he’s blocked by two of CWRU’s campus police, night-sticks out.

“You got no bizniz here boy!”

Vic charges right at them, and dives in a slam-tackle that takes both of them.

As he rises to his feet, the two cops – bottom-dollar night cops but toting a badge for all that – are suddenly set on by Haile Selassie, who stomps their heads with a solid size 12 brogue. They sleep. Vic grabs one of their batons, then sees it’s a soul-brother helping. Arby is lurking in the background. Haile Selassie is offered a baton, and strikes a kung-fu pose – then the scene is interrupted by something like a door being slammed, really fast, several times.

Vic knows that’s gunfire though he can’t place what type of gun.

But Jon and the Cutter are practically on top of the sound: it’s coming from directly ahead, in the science center. They both break into a run but Stevie, being fast and fit, is much faster than Jon. The lights have gone off in the center ahead, but he’s heading in fast anyway.

He catches enough movement to be aware of three people, and focuses on the one guarding the wing entrance. The dude starts swinging something up…

Jon hammers his stick’s ferrule onto the walk and cries out:

“San’ Pe’re! Lumee!”

But instead of a fine brilliance, there’s a weird adumbrated flash, more purple than anything, like a curved dome over the hall…

Steve finishes his charge with a dragon kick and the goon, distracted by the flash, hasn’t got his gun up and hasn’t dodged and he goes down, KO’d. Steve breathes a sigh of relief, because that looked a lot like an Ingram, but now he picks it up, he can see it’s some type of light carbine with a heavy silencer.

Jon limps closer and hears a cry for a medic…

 

Scene: a room inside the Science Center

Theme: Pick up the Pieces

First through the door, the Cutter makes pretty sure that the two other guns got gone. Roosevelt’s old man is splattered all across the floor and walls, though he’s still breathing and gasping out something.

“Medic! Jon! Got a man dyin’ here!”

Jon hurries in as quick as he can, and sets to work. But with nothing to work with it’s a lost cause.

“Get me a trauma kit! Get some lights on!”

Haile Selassie sees his chance and badgers Arby again for the key, then sets off at a run for the Med Lab.

Vic takes in the scene, while Steve, who’s inclined to search for the satchel first, reluctantly delegates that to Arby – “yo’ old man hadda satchel – find it!” – then sets out to locate the switchbox.

By the time the lights are on, Haile Selassie, much to Vic’s surprise, has come back toting a big green metal medical kit he’s ripped off the wall.

It’s some help. Jon is good at trauma work.

“Here’s the satchel – it was empty! Did it have some bones in it?” Arby wants to know. “I could do with some real Green!”

Somewhat disgustedly, most of them recognize Arby. Jon spent a short while pumping gas next to him back when they were both teens, before Arby got fired for being a light-fingered malingerer, and of course the Cutter knows whose baby he’s paying for. Haile Selassie introduces himself – striking a fly pose again – before Vic carries the dying professor across the compound, into the Med School compound and to the surgery.

Fade scene with university cops swarming in guns drawn, to Jon claiming he can still save the man…

Credit roll scene:

Haile Selassie slips away with whatever it was he wanted. He meets a dark, important-looking car, and hands some package in the driver’s window with a few words exchanged. The car rolls away. We can see all this from behind the dash of another dark important-looking car, where a woman’s fingers are holding the wheel.

 

GM’s corner

This was our character generation session and first hit-out of the ‘real’ rules using BtVS.

Here is the cast in order of appearance:

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: player DL. A build that emphasizes speed and card-sharping rather than anything else.

Victor ‘Vic’ Creed: player DB. A true min-max tank and restrained with difficulty to a mere 10 points of drawbacks.

Steve (or Stevie) ‘the cutter’ Cutter: player SM. A nicely-balanced fighting build. 

Jon Samedy: player AL. AL spent a lot of time shaping this vodou priest/doctor, I costed the coco macaque (stick) as a 3-point Quality. This may prove too light.

For those looking at the rules:

  • Black is a 1 to 3 point drawback;

  • Female is a 1-point drawback, but no-one took it which is just as well;

  • Photographic Memory is a 4-point Quality, but DL (Roosevelt’s player) still bought it;

  • Everyone is a White Hat. Those wishing to play a teen could not push attributes beyond 3 before Quality changes; those wishing to play an under-30 could not push attributes beyond 4 before Quality changes. Everyone went with a 20-something, though SM had a teen ready as well.

  • Everyone had to be African-American, and not be a monster. Other than that, I also wanted them to live pretty much in the same area.

  • I used Character Webs and a little bit of Universal NPC Emulator to flesh out family and some work-related facts. It was supposed to be a dialogue, but everyone was OK with what I suggested.

There are a number of commercially-available products feeding into this campaign, and in weeks to come I will probably cite them, but here I’d like to tip my hat to Les Roberts whose Milan Jacovich stories have built Cleveland into something I wanted to run a game in.

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GM-Free SHC Season 5: Full Session 3

Welcome back to this third and final instalment of the mini-season of SHC Season 5!

A d20 Modern campaign run by five players and no GM, using Emulators.

We last left our crew of L15 urban arcana characters in their secret base, which needs a lot of things finished to be a real base where people can live. It has mystical wards, but not much more.

  • Dan: AKA Dan ‘Steeleye’ Hewstone: ex-radio psychiatrist and now Acolyte of the faith

  • Cliff: ex-bouncer and now close-protection Bodyguard for the team

  • Hitch: AKA Joe Hitchcock: ex-journo and now powerful Arch-mage of the Mage style

  • Paul: AKA Paul Birkby: ex-white-collar crim and now powerful Arch-mage of the Technomage style

  • Sandi: ex-student and now Gunslinger of the Infiltrator style

Glossary:

Action Point: these frequently appear in the mechanics though this week I skip naming when they are spent. Each character receives a number at each new level. They can only be spent during play, not earned. They grant a small number of advantages depending somewhat on feats, but are principally used to improve dice rolls in skill checks and saves. Most characters began season five with around 60 APs. Assume many of the key saves this session saw an Action Point or two thrown in. As an added feature for GM-Free they can also be used to ‘tag’ a scene.

Descriptions: When I use this term I’m referring to Description tables from the Location Crafter.

Emulator: When I use this term on its own I am referring to the Mythic GME.

Scene: The team’s base. Still.

“Say Hitchie, are you like totally sure we have to go like right now?”

Hitch pauses in packing his bag, his face suffused with emotion.

“HITCHIE?!?”

“OK well Hitch then. Same question. ‘Cause like Paul’s written up this cool schematic and I got to start climbing and wiring. And Cliff’s just assembling the door gizmo thingy.”

“Thing is luv, I got a message from Unit 14, and it’s not all Nice Guy North; it’s also Mean Joe Green. They want a nexus fixed in the worst way.”

“Well OK… only I did think with Dan still hurt and Cliff a teenchy bit banged up we could lay-up and anyway I got this cool idea about how we get to Three Fish Island!”

Hitch sighs, but some of that babble did make sense. Especially to an Arch-mage well shy of the Arch-bit when it came to spells in hand.

“It’s Third Fish Island Sandi. This is not Dr. Suess: it’s January in Chicago. Who would be insane enough to ferry us out into the middle of a Great Lake in winter?”

Mechanics: Since the last session ended on an Interrupt, we needed to check some of the detail around it.

  1. Is this ‘flaring Nexus’ Hitch has learned of also on Third Fish Island, where a previous mission has already aimed us?
  2. Is this something we have to deal with right now given we did not have a complete handle on the time we had rested?

The answers to these questions were extraordinary yes; and yes. Chaos is 5 as this is the start of a new session.

Scene: The team’s base, in a spot where Sandi can get good reception.

“Uh h’lo Uhleesha, it’s Sandi here! …Yeah hi, right, like totally! …So I’m in town… Yeah you had a feeling I’d be here…”

The other four listen with half an ear as Sandi works around to her point.

“So Leesha, Uncle Barry still around? Remember when he took us ice-skating, it must be like three years back! I like need a favor from him so like if you can send me his number, that would be so awesome!”

At length, Sandi ends the call.

“Uncle Barry is Uhleesha’s last father-but-one, he’s a pretty cool guy, and he works on Team Shogren, the powerboat thing, you know. I don’t figure he’d have a powerboat but he could put us onto something and maybe take us out.”

“Uhleesha was one of your room-mates, right?” Hitch verifies.

“Yeah, like, the bigger one.” Sandi gestures as to cup-size.

“I wasn’t going to say…” Hitch murmurs tactfully.

“Oh she totally wouldn’t mind, she loves how she’s got it over us other two in that department.”

After a brief discussion on approach and needs, Dan prays for Sandi’s charm to increase and she makes the next call. The others listen in as she puts it on speaker. This is easy to follow. Barry knows a guy, and if we have money, he could be the right guy for an unscheduled boat trip out into the deadly waters.

“But since we’re looking at heading east to the shore tomorrow morning, we do get to rest after all. Cliff, Sandi: keep working!”

Mechanics: There are no Chaos events. We use the NPC Emulator to set Barry’s mood in this conversation given his current relationship with Sandi, then move to d20 mechanics for Sandi’s Charisma check (at +5 rather than +3 thanks to Dan). Sandi uses an action point to get DC14. This is enough to give us a contact. The NPC Emulator indicates it is a contact, and that he wants money. Chaos moves to 4 as this scene went the way we wanted. The spellcasters are given a chance to rest in a compromise on time. It’s not logical that a boat could appear ready to take us, so some time has to elapse anyway.

Scene: a deserted parking-lot off Tower Road, on the lake.

“That’s a fancier boat than I’d expected,” Paul remarks. He scans it anxiously, one might say paranoiacally, for signs of coastguard or police insignia. The clear grey light of morning betrays no such thing. And there’s only one man on the jetty, though any number could be hiding behind the nearby ‘Tower’ building, its smokestack an easy landmark.

“Team Shogren has some really rich guys, like sponsors, you know. I guess Uncle Barry knows a guy with a fancy boat,” Sandi replies vaguely, being too busy moving bags of gear from Cliff’s Ford Excursion over to the jetty. She’s wrapped up much heavier than usual, and her nose barely pokes out of her fur-lined hood.

“Hmmm… oh well, let’s front up Dan, you do the talking I’ll chip in where needed,” Hitch avers.

Dan’s bulk is even bulkier in his winter layers and as he follows the man’s tottering path to the jetty, Hitch can’t help a mental picture of the sweat being wiped and a ‘Sheeeit’ escaping, even though Dan has never ever sworn in his presence. He does note the boat, a handsome launch, might have come from the north, where the rich estates are, many of them locked up for the winter.

Since Dan has a bundle of high-denomination notes, and knows how to talk to a brother, the negotiations are swift and successful. He can’t help but suspect that this boat is stolen, but the insurance claim of some vastly wealthy person is something he’s willing to live with. Glancing over at Hitch as they clamber down onto the launch deck, he can see the Britisher thinks the same.

“Cliff! Make sure to move the car back to somewhere less obvious!”

“Roger that!” Cliff replies cheerfully. He’s loving the position of key driver and he’s still stoked from installing the hardware needed before they left. The SUV rolls into the anonymity of the main carpark and under the barren embrace of a snow-laden beech.

“Nice-looking family,” Hitch comments, looking at a smiling family on the cabin’s wall. Every face is many shades whiter than their pilot’s.

“Oh, uh, sure, well no mind that now, H’ep y’sel’ ta th’ drinks cab’net!”

Mechanics: very similar to the last scene. There are no Chaos events. We make assumptions that the NPC is willing to deal, Dan makes a diplomacy check aided by Hitch (like most of this family of rules there is no ‘haggle’ in d20 modern) and the only question left for the Emulator is:

Is our contact willing to pilot us? [Likely] A: Yes.

There’s some doubt about how far south we had to go but, like the uncertainty of time between Dan’s action against the Harpies and our final return to base, it’s the simplest explanation that is used. Since we have money, our contact can meet us more or less due east of where our base is, so a short drive for us. We have not moved grid-wise, so no need to test for an event.

Chaos is back to 5, since we did not quite get the Uncle Barry solution we originally wanted.

Scene: the icy waters off Third Fish Island

“Is this it?”

“Shu’nough, that what the compass an’ GPS say. On’y compass be acting crazy, an’ wind be pickin’ up, so man, you gots to getcha asses on that dinghy and I gots to get depth!”

“Into the boat kids!”

Hitch turns back to ‘Slick Willie’ as he’s decided to name this anonymous pilot.

“There’s a dock somewhere around the island – we’ll meet you there tomorrow!”

“Can do! I knows ya don’ wanna be here longer than ya haveta!”

With a last wave the little dinghy speeds up to a sandy shoaling beach and Cliff jumps out and runs it well up, careless of the outboard’s setting. It’s a piece of salvage now anyway.

Mechanics: This was just dealt with via the Emulator. No Chaos event. Did he find the dock? No. Did he pack a boat for landing? Yes. Will he agree to meet us? Yes.

Chaos drops to 4 since we got where we wanted and landing at the dock (where the Deep Ones’ human hybrid allies are bound to notice) is not necessary.

Scene: Third Fish Island

Exploration: I have prepared a hybrid of Location Crafter and Mapping Cards, coupled to a playing card deck mechanic, for exploring Third Fish Island. (Having a week to prep made this easy.) I had not been happy with Mapping Cards on their own. By creating a number of unique and common cards I have a system that offered a random exploration with good chances to interact with the inhabitants.

Mission reminder: This is a thread given by Judge Maynard. “Recruit the Deep Ones” to help break the barrier.

Other threads: Close down the Nexus activity.

The team, burdened by heavy clothing and various bags, makes its way off the sandy shore and up through stands of evergreens, mainly pine, the needles sliding underfoot. Snow was old-packed into any northern slope or hollow.

Sandi, in the lead with ‘toaster’ or Nexus-device, crouches into cover and signals Cliff forward.

“Possible RP?”

Cliff weighs up the dangers of walking up to what looks like a lookout point, against the potential to spend the night walking through forest. He gives the thumbs-up and Sandi, shedding a layer of fur parka and a bag, weaves almost unseen up there. She gives a soft-called report, bringing the others up to the high ground to see what she has seen.

“Deep Ones!”

“That looks like some kind of ranking chief.”

“Actually Dan that would be a female,” Hitch explains. “I’ve done some background in this field and we could be looking at a Priestess.”

“Those others don’t look friendly.”

“They’d be her guard of honor. Brutes or maybe female Vestals, tough fighters either way.”

“So, we’ve caught our deep ones and now we just have to land them and cook them!”

“Not actually funny Cliff,” Paul snarks.

After some details from Hitch as to what the Priestess might bring down on them if negotiations go sour, Hitch and Dan buff themselves and set forth down the slope.

To the watching trio, it seems to take forever. But at length, the dynamic duo return and report.

“She’s given us the go-ahead!” Hitch announces jubilantly.

“I can only see God’s hand guiding us in this,” Dan agrees, “we can close the Nexus problem and it looks like that will sway her voice to our side for Deep Ones councils.”

“Whereabouts are we ‘going ahead’ to?” Paul asks acidulously. Cliff and Sandi muttering about ranges and damage from the G3 has frayed his patience.

“Down roughly opposite where we came from, there’s an old lighthouse. Apparently that’s where we have to sort something out,” Hitch explains cheerfully.

“To the lighthouse!” Paul sneers: even his cultural references have a barb in them.

Mechanics: exploration generated a chance of bad or good at DC13. The likelihood was that it was harmful but the Emulator disagreed. This meant that a Spot DC13 would provide an advantage. Success (it’s a take 1 for many in the party) moved us to a Description: Fortunately Warlike.

Since that ought to be Deep One related, I read possible deep ones out and we decided the logical one to meet was the Priestess (plus entourage). We were on a lookout, and the card drawn was a diamond meaning range, so the team had plenty of time to prep.

The scene then moved to a diplomacy session, though it probably should have been a new scene. The NPC Emulator gave us a current attitude off the norm, and d20 Diplomacy mechanics moved the priestess’ attitude to Friendly.

It was now time to learn what ‘Friendly’ actually meant. Returning to the NPC Emulator, now with Friendly as a base, we find her bearing is Prejudiced Discrimination. That sounds bad but I argued convincingly that this being an Advantage, means the priestess is discriminating enough to treat us different to all other humans and actually see us as useful.

So what is it that she wants us to do? The Description gives us ‘Rudely Glorious’ which suggests the abandoned lighthouse, and the Action gives us ‘Travel Liberty’ which means we can walk there without being attacked.

Chaos drops to 3.

Scene: approaching the lighthouse

Dan strides forward confidently, holding his cross-cane aggressively outthrust before him. A dozen or so grey-green foul beings launch themselves up out of the earth around the entrance, and he bellows:

“FEEL THE POWER OF GOD ALMIGHTY!!!”

Seven of the ghouls evaporate but the others mob Dan, who scuttles back unadroitly. Choking down a laugh Cliff hammers shots into two, dropping them, then a third that staggers and a fourth that falls as well. One remains unwounded, loping down and tearing at Dan’s coat. Hitch sprays Magic Missiles selectively into these two last, and they fall. Sandi has stood relaxed, coat open, side on, and as she expects, there is no call for her to produce her Glocks. Paul sniffs, rubs his nose’s tip with an ungloved hand, and hastily puts the hand pack in a fur-lined pocket.

Dan trudges back up to the lighthouse, poking at dead ghouls and making sure they really are dead.

“That was easy!”

“It could have been harder if we hadn’t met buried ghouls before. And of course we are pretty sure to spot this kind of thing. Well, kit ready, let’s get down there. No electricity and I gather there’s some kind of tunnels below ground. So let’s prep for darkness.”

Mechanics: since the things we did know about the lighthouse were that it does contain a route below ground, and that the Deep Ones want us there, it seemed best to roll descriptions again, as well as a Monster roll. There was no Chaos event.

The descriptions are: Slowly Empty; and Stop Nature.

We get quite excited thinking this could be a major league vampire, but I have not prepped a Vampire Lord (Note to self: prep Vampire Lord as a boss.) It seems undead-y, so when a monster roll comes up with a mere CR3, Dave, who is instigator this week, comes up with ghouls. I did forget to point out that Action Points used thus far could be used to boost the CR, but that came in later so was not wasted.

The descriptions also influence our choice for the level boss later.

The ‘buried’ ghouls are my own touch, they could just as easily have been pouring out of the lighthouse and adjunct building. Either way we did not feel in any danger, this is a no-xp encounter.

Chaos is back up to 4 though because it was an attack on us.

Scene: below ground under the lighthouse

Sandi is in the lead again, toaster creating a ruckus-in-miniature. The Nexus is close and as Hitch warned, it is off the charts. She nearly misses floating, ichorous tendril-like things slowly extending down from the roof just in range of her NVGs. She signals and pulls back, dropping the toaster lightly back into its satchel.

Then all present feel their minds being invaded! All save Paul shake off the gloatingly crepusculous mental attack and ready weapons. Paul’s nature is – just perhaps – slightly more akin to these spores from hell’s cesspit, and he readies a devastating attack on his fellows.

Cliff opens the ball with bursts from his G3, the final one collapsing one of the floating oozes into writhing tendrils, which crumble swiftly to dust. Hitch, with the benefit of the Darkvision he’s using, spots two more, and chills them down with a Cone of Cold: then holds, to see what they do. Dan also pauses – range attacks aren’t always his forte and besides, Sandi has yet to open up. Then he notices Paul’s spell – and it’s an attack on the team!

“Confusion take you all!”

No-one is affected – luckily! Sandi hasn’t even noticed and now the toaster is away she has two hands free. Glocks appear like magic and bullets, empowered by Hitch’s best enchantments, scour the other two oozes off the ceiling. Paul clutches his temples as the compulsion to get rid of his fellows is broken.

But Dan has also spotted more trouble: those were not the only ichorous fiends in the passage!

“Faith’s Fury!”

Four ichors drifting towards the team are bathed in a column of holy flame. Their tendrils thrash, but they bend their fiendish intelligences into the next attack.

But some miracle preserves everyone’s mind this time. Hitch glances sharply at his fellow-mage but can see Paul is back to ‘normal’ so casts Haste on Cliff; while beside him Paul throws a Cone of Cold that devastates the four oncoming oozes then hastes Sandi.

The extra speed granted allows Sandi to run in, blast with her Glocks and run out again as three of the four collapse behind her. Dan finishes the last one with a Searing beam of Light.

But before the team can congratulate one another on a job well done, their minds fill with Confusion!

Paul’s eyes narrow as he sees Sandi some thirty feet in front of him. “You think you’re sooo stealthy, you and your perky can-do personality! Try something a bit more conspicuous!”

Sandi’s form is bathed in coruscating sparkling dust, and she is brightly outlined as the Glitterdust settles.

“Oooh sparklies! Sparkly bullets, sparkly me! Cool!”

Dan, who alone is unaffected by the ensorcelment, has spotted where the fresh menace has appeared. It’s more of the same!

“Faith’s Fury!”

“Flaming Wrath!”

The latter fiery spell has a devastating effect on the three sluggish ichors. But none collapse and the team’s future teeters on the balance!

Hitch swivels around and drops a fireball on Dan, standing somewhat behind the others. The ground scorches right up to his toes. To his surprise, as the flames wash out, he sees Dan is still on his feet! But he has no time to consider a follow-up, because from beside him Paul fries him with a Lightning Bolt! Hitch jumps with the shock but staggers back to fighting stance – and this time, Paul is in his sights!

Dan knows enough about spells to be well aware that this is Trouble. He’s got time enough to give a quick prayer of thanks that Sandi and Cliff are wandering away, not joining the mayhem. He pulls Spell Immunity against Magic Missile up and then with a surge finishes the ichors off with another Flaming Wrath.

But the mages are now locked in a Mage Duel. Hitch maximizes his Magic Missile and Paul screams with the pain as the multiple bolts arc home. But he stays on his feet and ripostes with another Lightning Bolt! Hitch evades enough to avoid the worst of it, and readies his next attack: then Dan’s Dispell shatters the Confusions from them!

“Whoof! That was close! I’m dreadfully sorry Paul!”

“So am I…”

Hitch chooses to read reciprocity into the grudging drawl, and asks:

“Quick! Dan! Where are the other two?”

“Upstairs…”

Hitch runs, thankful that his Darkvision was not stripped away, and Paul follows. Just in time! They briefly catch a glimpse of Sandi snuggled quite close up against Cliff, then she grabs for her guns:

“Dispel!”

“Dispel!”

And before the startled Cliff can react, his Confusion is also gone.

“All safe and well? We’ve taken a beating but we’re still all up, so let’s shut this mother down and get home!”

Mechanics: This mini-boss-fight comes from a relatively simple monster check, based partly on the previous “Stop Nature” description. There were three AP in the kitty and these were used to boost the card draw to CR10 from the 7. The options included Satanic Ichor, which seemed to fit best, so that was chosen. The d20 cross-roll was a 20, giving three groups of 3-4. This is a tough combination since teams can’t target more than one group at a time. The Ichors were immune to bullets but Sandi and Cliff use +4 Magic Bullets so not an issue. Their mind attacks were potentially deadly and very good work from Dan saved everyone.

Chaos is now 6.

Scene: The Nexus

Mechanics: The team closes the nexus. There is no chaos event so this is a non-event. Chaos drops to 5.

Scene: Audience with the Deep Ones

Mechanics: using the NPC Emulator heavily, with support from the Descriptions, we move from Cautious to Helpful via a Diplomacy check. Again, Dan leads and Hitch helps. I ask that this is double-checked off the NPC Emulator and we get Knowing Examination. We conclude that the Deep Ones did not just take Dan’s word for it that the Nexus was calmed: they went back and examined it. Over to the main event: result of negotiations. We make two paired rolls on Descriptions. First, Defiantly Creepy. Then, Befriend Allies. Awesome! The Deep Ones will continue to act in their own creepy way, but are now allied with us in our own mission.

Thread ‘Recruit the Deep Ones’ is closed.

Thread ‘Close the crazy Nexus’ is closed.

Chaos drops to 4.

Scene: The dock

“Nope. No-one on the horizon either.”

A feeling of desolation vast as the grey ice-flecked lake beyond fills the team. Trapped on Third Fish Island! Hitch kicks a bollard moodily.

“Slick Willie must have seen Coastguard or maybe Police were out after him. Either way he’s not going to come back any time soon. Bugger.”

Sandi’s native optimism bubbles up through her parka.

“Say! Let’s not be down about this! I bet if you geniuses got up into that Lighthouse you could rig something up to radio across!”

“Or increase our coverage to get to the shore… you’re right! Let’s get up there and rig a booster!”

It’s not long before Paul and Cliff have fashioned a rough and ready cellphone booster. Hitch is looking at his notepad thoughtfully.

“We’re ready!”

“What? Oh… right! I’m going to see if I can get us a wire-walk into UC.”

“Why’s that Hitch?”

“My research points to Jack Deverick’s secret library being stashed in a lockup near there.”

Paul sighs.

“Going off half-hitch-cocked again? You know we need to get back first, rest up, collect Cliff’s car…”

“Alright, alright, let’s do it step by step. I’ll try Yelp for some fooderie, we’ll get across then sort things out. You ready?”

“If it’s wire-walk you are referring to, yes. If it’s another glimpse of Sandi enjoying the view with Cliff, no.”

It is not long before the Golden Arches on Green Bay Road has five sudden drop-in guests, all heavily kitted up for the winter as though they had been out on the lake shore. The short stocky one heads out quickly saying something about a car, and the lone woman heads after him. They arrive back in an aging SUV about ten minutes later. The other three bicker about who is picking up the tab, pay, and leave.

Mechanics: Chaos intervenes for the first time in the session. We get an Interrupt, just when we think we are about to chug back in triumph. The Event Focus is Moving Away from a Thread, and by the guidelines it is the current thread – i.e. we don’t get home. To double-check, we roll action and subject on the Emulator and get Betray Adversity. This is convincing enough – ‘Slick Willie’ has indeed fled the law and left us high and dry, and cold.

The ‘can we get cell coverage’ is handled via Emulator though I personally think a booster would be needed, so wrote it in.

Hitch has some unrevealed research, as to the whereabouts of Jack Deverick’s occult library, and does check at this point via the Emulator whether it is on 3rd Fish Island, but it is not.

Chaos rises to 5 since that was an Interrupt.

Epilogue: A secure lock-up compound

Sandi gives the all-clear and Hitch moves in swiftly, entering the lock-up alleys and choosing one in a very quick time. He waves his hand and the lock unsnaps. The others move up, open the lock-up and begin transferring boxes into Cliff’s SUV.

“And now… we have a campus!”

Mechanics: even though it’s getting late we add this scene on. Sandi makes an Open Locks roll – her other skills are Take 1 level for not being seen or heard in the night and away from people – and we agree this gets us into the lock-up. We don’t bother tagging the scene because it doesn’t matter, unless something happens, how big it is. It’s less secure than a Bank and more secure than unattended locked sheds. Hitch has a Knock spell capable of opening normal locks. We call the scene, allowing us to discuss xp.

Thread ‘Set up a secure base in Chicago’ is closed.

XP and Future Sessions

So far in the three-week trial we have avoided xp discussions. At this stage we take feedback and put some thoughts about how xp is gained on the table.

XP options vary from ‘just what you kill’ through ‘everyone gets the full xp of kills’ to ‘thread based – a major thread is a level’ and considering how the GM used to deal out xp we opt for the third option. This gives us a clear path of objectives and just as importantly, will not gear the season as a monster-hunting exercise.

All characters rise to L16. Dan has the worst problem because he is considering moving to Shadow Slayer – an odd choice but he’s taken some odd choices throughout – and was told he needs the Carpathians to instruct him. Hitch and Paul just stack on more Archmage; Cliff is looking at more Bodyguard and Sandi takes her first level of Gun Goddess (AKA Kowloon Gun God).

 Overall, the group is satisfied with GM-Free play, if not willing to switch to this mode completely.

‘A lot better than I expected – because I thought it would suck’

‘Not as much fun as with a real GM, but bearable’

These are typical of the bottom end of approval, and with two players happy enough to repeat the exercise when the schedule allows, we’ll be seeing more of Cliff Dan Hitch Paul and Sandi in the future.

Keep an eye out – we’ll be back!

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