CD27: All Saints and All Souls



4pm on All Saints Day 1976 has the white hats preparing for the Tower Heist. The Bianchis, a wizardly and mob family, have set them the task of stealing an artefact known as the Garland from KinzeyCorp HQ on the 21st floor of the Terminal Tower. Since KinzeyCorp is in the frame for plotting for the Apocalypse, the white hats are down with the job. Trouble is, the Garland seems exactly the kind of crazy-making shit you don’t want to leave in the hands of a mob family.


The white hats for this session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.

Scene: Downtown

Theme: Across 110th Street

There’s a good deal of indecision around how to get clear and what final pieces of equipment to bring. They’ve got uniforms, masks and rubber gloves. They have a special piece of hardware to stooge security circuits, Arby’s tools to get past routine locks, pixie dust to fool mystic alarms, amulets to block attacking powers, and a talisman to confuse demonic attention. They do not currently have any major weapons: Doc’s small knife is the extent of their arsenal.

Owing partly to this and partly to Arby having a smart idea about laying on some transport, the other three white hats leave him Downtown and head for DeNaRes ranger station once more. Cutter’s Police .38 (which he passes to Vic) is retrieved en route.


Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: It’s crazy babe

Marie is glad to see Doc but he keeps her at arm’s length as they assemble two fire axes and yet another large knife for Doc, and ensure all flashlights are working. Once again Vic and Cutter make sure they have a stake stowed away in their jacket.

There’s no sign of Arby and they make the decision that time has run out, they need to mount the heist!

Before they go, Danny Castro mentions that the Prof has called in from up at the Lakes and says he has a plan. Cutter shakes his head and grumbles:

“Last plan was tellin’ me to shake my black ass fo’ Sisterhood of Jhe, then Vic push ‘em down Hellmouth while they watchin’ me shimmy!”

Without knowing exactly how to get in touch with the Prof it doesn’t seem worth hearing at this point, but they do conclude that they’ll need to return to the ranger station at some point very shortly after the heist.

Where’s Arby, ranger Kelly wants to know, though she calls him Roosevelt.

“He’s doing a thing,” Cutter explains suavely

“That means, you don’t want to know,” Castro chips in dryly, and she seems satisfied, though a crinkle of concern stays on her attractive face.


The Staties, who seem to be working in shifts, log them out as they drive up to Shaker Station in Cutter’s van.


Scene: Terminus, deserted tunnels

Theme: Get ready

Doc and Cutter follow Vic as he first hesitantly then confidently leads them to a blackened door far in the recesses of an empty line.

[Vic pays a drama point to get by the Int check to recall where he and Arby scouted. The first point of many!]

Cutter gets to work on the lock but it’s not until Vic claws the fire axe into the frame that it can be forced.


Scene: Terminus, forlorn janitorial facilities

Theme: Uptight (Everything’s alright)

After half an hour or so the three find what they were hoping to find, a janitor’s closet with buckets and mops. They don’t seem to have been used in years and smell really funky. Axes are slid out of coveralls and head-down into two buckets next to mops. That leaves Doc carrying a bag that holds spray cans, first-aid kit and the last spirit box. And tongs, so no-one needs to touch the Garland.

“You got them fuckin’ tongs right?” Cutter checks

“Yeah mon, I got the fuckin’ tongs” Doc assures him.

They head up.


Scene: Public Elevator, Terminal Tower

Theme: Move on up

Somehow Halloween seems to have been extended into All Saints… the three people getting in this late at the first floor level seem to be party-goers looking for somewhere private. They seem kind of drunk. None of them remembers to push a button. Doc surreptitiously pushes for the 18th floor.

The bell sounds and the three stumble out. As the white hats hear:

“Hey this ain’t…” the elevator doors close and they are away.

Their stop is the 22nd. According to the blueprint and what Vic says, this ought to be the righteous way down to the target floor, the 21st. As they finish the journey Cutter dusts all three of them with ‘pixie dust’ from Smooth Clyde’s monkey-skull pouch.


Scene: Kinzey Foundation’s 22nd-floor facilities

Theme: Time is tight

A well-lit, well-polished strip of marble allows access to two doors in a partition that has glass or Perspex upper panels, well above head height. A recently-cleaned cigarette receptacle stands between elevator doors, a tiny trace of ash next to it.

Suspecting a cleaner may still be on the floor Cutter ghosts across to the partition and listens. He can hear someone well away from it, singing to themselves. Something about a yellow bird in a banana tree. He examines the doors and can see right away they are very solid and both use a keypad access.

“I feelin’ spooky,” Doc announces.

“We put that dust on, ain’t nothin’ much else to do,” Vic responds. Doc is convinced by this as he feels very tired from a lot of sex and spellcasting over the last 24 hours.

They decide that on balance, and given Doc’s spooky feeling, it’s best to get in now. Cutter easily pops the left-hand pad open and connects his “jiminy cricket” device to the wires. The door, convinced that all is well, clicks open. Cutter unclips, stows the keypad cover back and follows the other two through.

Moving very quietly [Doc burns a drama point on this, because apart from his limp he is carrying a bag full of clanking bits] the three navigate through office space – which smells really good – to the secure inner stair down to the 21st.

As they expected, there’s a security camera monitoring the stairs. And there’s another keypad down there.

A spray can deals with the camera, and Cutter starts work on the keypad. This is much more formidable than the standard device on the outer entry and much more in keeping with the security wing of the Foundation. But he manages it handsomely [a drama point helps!] and the inner door clicks open.

It leads by way of a landing that gives access to the 21st, down further. The 21st is the one they are after though, and Cutter soon has this open too. Pushing it just a crack wider he works out where a camera will be above the door lintel.

But at this point, Doc picks up the sound of approaching people – and it’s not some happy Calypso-beat merchant!

Vic has the spray can and uses his height to reach up through the doorway, and back, and spray blind.


The white hats hustle through, Cutter last because he needs the jiminy cricket box. He closes the door and works the lock shut, keeping as much cover as he can against the wall. A spray of fine wood splinters pinions him as the door is perforated by a series of small-bore bullets coming from silenced weapons! But his cover and the clothing he’s wearing protect him from any real damage. He grabs up the case and hustles after Vic and Doc! They are clear!


Scene: Kinzey Foundation’s inner floor

Theme: Jungle boogie

Or are they?

Even as Cutter hears kicking and more shots from behind him, Vic swings left down an inner corridor heading for the Secretarial pens, and sees up ahead, swinging into view around the next corner, a really big goon. At least six inches taller, and inches wider across the chest. He seems well aware of Vic, grins displaying enormous lower canines, and yanks the starter-cord of a chainsaw!

Vic wastes no time wondering how come Kinzey Foundation decided their best security is an Ogre – he flings the bucket and mop while snagging out the axe with his left hand. As the Ogre flings up an elbow to protect his face, Vic lays into him with a terrific axe blow! The chainsaw hasn’t even got going.

Cutter weaves past Doc, dropping the jiminy cricket case and bowling his own bucket and mop at the Ogre’s legs. The huge man crashes backward, splintering the sturdy partition behind him and turning a T-junction into a ruined four-way.

Vic is immediately stepping up to bat, axe on high and drives it deep into the Ogre’s exposed throat! Blood fountains everywhere, covering Vic’s mask and coveralls liberally and soaking through. Vic heaves the chainsaw up and gets it revving.

Doc can hear a further series of shots and another solid kick and it sounds like the door has been opened! He skitters past the melee – warning Vic and Cutter – looks along the length of the finely-veneered corridor to what should be the doors to twin Secretarial offices. And he can hear a door closing! Cutter grabs his axe up and follows.

Meanwhile Vic is crouched behind one ruined wing of a partition. He springs out and charges down the pair of hitmen running nimbly up to the junction. But only one goes down! The other one spins partly out and gets off a single clumsy shot. It slams into Vic’s thigh and stays there.

[I have to weigh up how near Vic’s slam-tackle is to taking both defences out, he is short by six, so I judge that one avoided the full tackle and can make a single ‘unsteady’ shot. These suppressed carbines do only 12 damage per hit, doubling to 24 since Vic has no armor at present. Remembering that Vic has been taking amounts of damage each combat, that’s no joke.]

Behind Vic, Doc calls on San’ Pierre’s lumen, leans around the corner and throws it, and the hitman is blinded for a vital few seconds as Vic pounds the head of the one he does have down, onto the floor. But then Doc’s attention is fully held by the next crisis!

Cutter sets himself by the Secretary’s door, ready with his own axe. Waiting… but the door opens well away inwards and instead of ambushing someone, Cutter himself is nearly frozen solid as an icy blast sprays across the corridor! He throws himself to one side, and only part of the blast catches him. Friendly Mr. Johnsson of KinzeyCorp is there, getting another spell ready and still chuckling. He’s wearing flowers in his hair. A garland of them.

Vic launches himself up and lunges his fist into the gunman’s goolies! With a sad whimper the man collapses. Vic checks back over his shoulder and sees:

Cutter throws himself to one side, ice coating his coverall. Doc leaps the other way and through the other Secretarial door; he utters quick syllables and gestures with his coco macaque.

Each of the white hats feels an overwhelming pressure against his brain, but each also feels the amulet they carry cut through it. Johnsson begins chanting the next spell, but then stops as though tongue-tied:

Cutter’s axe blurs as he jumps into the room, there’s a huge spray of blood and Johnsson’s head bounces onto the lushly carpeted floor.

“Stood him up just in time!” Doc calls, to make sure Cutter knows he did his part. That was a tough counter-spell in enemy territory.


Scene: Strong-room, glittering with loot

Theme: Cold sweat

Advancing through the Secretarial pen Cutter finds Johnsson left his office door open. It’s really lavish inside, a brilliantly polished desk, but most importantly a giant floor-length painting has been hinged to one side and stands open, the strong-room behind it.

He hurries in, locates the small attaché case that the garland is supposed to be kept in, and snags it up. Then hurries back and uses the tongs to move the garland into the box.

Meanwhile Vic is hearing a voice in his head that tells him those fools ain’t to be trusted with the Garland. He hurries up to the office, silenced carbine at the ready… then as he nears Doc and the talisman the voice ebbs and he stops, puzzled as to why he‘s pointing the gun.

“Looks familiar,” Doc notes. It’s the same type of gun that was used at Case Western to shoot Arby’s pop.

The box dulls the Garland’s scratching little voice but it can still be felt, just. Cutter passes it over to Doc and steps back into the strong-room. Without knowing exactly what’s going to be easily s old he swipes various platinum-cased, gilt-edged items off the shelves and packs them away in his jacket pockets, then zips up his coverall again and signals the getaway.


Scene: Elevator

Theme: Shakey ground

The coveralls and masks are stripped off and piled in the buckets, Doc’s coverall atop them. They ride down, numb with reaction and tiredness. Various office cleaners and early-morning revelers enter and leave: the trip seems long.

The first floor light comes on and the doors open, the last few revelers wander out into the vast hall. Across the way there’s a beat cop, who glances in, looks hard at them and starts towards them. They exude as much innocence as they possible can as the door slide slowly shut. Last view they have, the cop hasn’t gone for his walkie-talkie. Just looking at them.

[Each white hat burns a drama point on Int+Influence as they attempt to look innocent without moving a muscle.]


Scene: Rapid terminus and Shaker neighbourhood

Theme: Mercy mercy me

Clothes roughly sponged, the trio board with two attaché cases, a concealed .38 and concealed valuable items. And concealed stakes and knife. The other passengers are tired and just interested in getting home, no-one bothers them. Or looks closely at Vic, who’s still leaking blood.

The Rapid takes them by stages up to Shaker. As expected, Cutter’s van is still safe. They slide in gratefully and figure which surgery to break into to get Vic treated. They know this area pretty well now and St. Luke’s is the lucky target. Cutter cracks a large enough window, eases himself in and soon has Doc operating in an unused surgical room.

[Somewhat to Cutter’s horror, Doc just rolls Doctor+Dex with no drama point; Cutter has burnt one getting him in. He gets adequate, so the bullet is removed safely.]

They head back down to DeNaRes ranger station. If they knew where the Professor is based they could ask him about this plan, but sleep seems more important right now. For two of them.

There’s about an hour before dawn as Cutter drives swiftly from the station and back Downtown to park as near as he can to the Plain Dealer.


Scene: Plain Dealer bullpen

Theme: Trouble man/I will survive

Cindy Channel, Queen of the Night Desk, is alone at her desk as Cutter expects. Though recollecting, he takes a harder look around and sure enough, Ted the pale and silent photographer is hovering over a coffee refill over to the wall.

As Cutter eases his way past the desks, filing cabinets and stacks of junk Cindy looks up from her typing, stops, stubs out the cigarette she probably isn’t smoking, and gets up, looking pleased and welcoming.

“That far enough! You don’ come no closer!” Cutter warns roughly, hand easing inside his jacket.

Cindy stops, and asks,

“Is that any way to be coming here visiting? Now really, Stevie…”

“That enough! I jus’ saying this once! You don’ get near me, you don’ get near mine, you don’ see me no more! This an end to it! Or I end you!”

“Now you know you loved being sucked…”

“Gaahhh! Last warnin! I been you slave, ain’t no more! No more, nohow!”

Cutter edges away until he’s clear enough and walks out, stiff-backed. Behind him he hears Cindy humming,

All right now go/walk out that door/just turn around now/you ain’t welcome anymore…

Then she softly sings “I will survive!” as she turns quietly back to her desk. The door closes on Cutter.

As his footsteps echo away she shakes her head to Ted who eases off his battle-readiness and walks over to her desk. He sniffs the air where Cutter has been and licks his thin bloodless lips. Glances at Cindy.

“Uh-huh. I agree,” Cindy smiles. “There’s a story wherever that boy been. Whyn’t you get out and listen around, call me when you find out what’s in the air?”

And gets back to filing the story.

[There’s a ‘did I miss something’ moment for the other two players, Cutter’s player jumps to his feet and raves about the hints they missed for a season and a half. Really, Cindy could have turned Cutter and they would only have noticed when he tried to bite them. Sigh. But Cindy was never one of the bad guys. She just likes the attention her thralls give her.]


Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Theme from Shaft

It’s dawn as Cutter’s van is logged in by the faithful Staties. The pinkish kid is already heading in with his thermos flask when Cutter reaches the door. The kid brings up the football results, forgetting they discussed the same thing  yesterday morning.

Captain Kelly is there to make sure he gets his coffee and over his shoulder looks at Cutter warningly and away to the bunk-room passage. He gets the message and slips away to hit the showers before the dark stains on his clothes are spotted as being not just water.

Out of the shower and feeling fresher, he finds Vic has been keeping watch all this time. The big guy wraps his thigh in plastic and hits the shower.

Doc is sleeping restlessly. The talisman stone is atop the case but he’s still getting dreams that disturb him. So is Marie: her nails are digging into her face, even in her sleep.

“We needa get this gone, one way or other,” Cutter agrees when Doc rouses. “Say, Benny there see where Prof set up… Benny! Benny my man!”

Benny Li is roused slow and groggy but after some coffee gets them clear directions on where the Prof set up at the lakes. He doesn’t exactly know what the Prof is looking for… something about water quality…


Scene: a maintenance hut, Shaker Lakes

Theme: Superfly

The Prof gets his pipe going and the white hats gets as comfy as they can be. So what is it, this plan?

“I did some research… on the Bianchis,” the Prof puffs. “My plan is to create a balance of power that gets them off your back, by doing a favor for another team. They have a serious rival family. So you should hand the Garland to the Hagens, out of Chicago.”

After some further questions and detail Cutter spills out the loot.

“Lordy! Now that’ll get some funds,” the Prof comments.

Regretting that Arby isn’t around to help sell off the loot, the three agree to sell it and use the cash to fund them some way out.


And so All Souls comes to a close with a way out for the white hats that does not involve them doing battle with the Jhe Sisterhood or handing the Bianchis an artifact of frightful power.

And thus ends the Cleveland Darkens campaign.

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules

The wrap party

Star cast:

Next 48 hours: STEVE CUTTER yanks Cleo out of her usual round of child rearing, piece-work and protest with an engagement ring; and an offer to make a new start in Chicago with the boys. Within 48 hours they are gone, Arby’s son Kimba none the wiser as to his birth father being alive.

Next few days: VICTOR CREED at one stage is in danger of finding himself hastily elected Alderman. The Democrats win the senate election and the Ward needs a Creed who knows about individual freedoms. And Vic would go over big with the Veterans vote. Vic wangles out and shifts his pop into the role. There’s no sign pop will ease up on the drinking but Vic no longer needs to support him or sis. He uses his DeNaRes contacts to get work further afield. As for his mom, a reconciliation with pop, if only for public consumption, seems likely.

Next couple of weeks: JON ‘DOC’ SAMEDY learns his cousin the paralegal has enough on Case Western, around the easy access it was giving Farmatec, to force them to eat crow and reinstate Doc. But he asks if they will instead recommend him to a reputable Chicago teaching hospital. This they do and he departs, leaving the Haitian congregation to look for the return of the scion. He does not bring MARIE EMANA with him.

Next 180 days: ROOSEVELT ‘ARBY’ BROWN does the full 180 days for auto theft, and lucky Ohio leaves that at 4th degree felony. He re-enters society to grift on the fringes as ever, always meaning to make it big and see his children right.


And the other cast members:

The GRAY KNIGHTS supervise the Republican election night party, which is muted since local man Taft loses and of course, Jimmy Carter beats Gerald Ford for top office. At all times they remain completely oblivious of the Sisterhood of Jhe coven sited within an easy walk of their Armory, under Erie Street Cemetery.

The surviving SISTERHOOD OF JHE wait until mid-November, tending the sigils in the tunnel and occasionally fending off Goblin rebellion, then read the auspices as no longer in their favor and move on.

Doctor WILSON remains convinced he can radically treat psychiatric patients but Susan SPENSER is disenchanted with the Clinic and moves on. Sarah THACKER has already done so, seeking new challenges to her technical brilliance.

Freed from blackmail EMILY PHAN concentrates on making her grades and sleepwalking through her three part-time jobs. She does OK.

Also free from blackmail, though not from regrets, CHARLIE STONE returns to Cincinnati and makes an honest woman of the girl he ditched with his love-child. But the flesh is weak…

MADELINE BURNES never does reconcile with disgraced husband WILLIAM ‘BILL’ BURNES. When all’s said and done, he did know exactly where to pick up those hookers.

NICHOLETTE DE LA FLEUR decides she is safe from legal action, and re-surfaces, but stays away from Cleveland just in case.

WOLFGANG & HEARST are never short of clients. They cut their losses in Cleveland office and form new relationships above and below.

The BIANCHIS are wiped out by rival wizardly family the HAGENS. As a result of negative press about a return to mob violence, LA’s new SWAT model is studied by the SPECIAL RIOT SQUAD for adoption locally. AGENT BODDINGTON writes another report that is read by very few people outside of similar departments in Chicago and Boston.

MORONI THE MOB BASTARD continues minding the store, liaising between his two peoples (or three if you count the undead). Everyone just wants to see money keep coming in, undead and mob alike. THE BONEYARD under SMOOTH CLYDE continues catering to an off-beat crowd; and the music plays on.

Production credits: all available on RPGNOW/DriveThruRPG unless noted otherwise

I had already purchased the Deadly Seven, by Panik Productions and knew I wanted it for the spine of the campaign. But I didn’t have something that would actually run a purpose across that, going beyond the routine ‘we battle demons’ element.

I generated the campaign arcs using Plotlibs – urban fantasy edition. My main plot was:

‘A war-weary vet wants to end the killings in order to prevent the Apocalypse.’

Demonic lawyers are the minor threat.

An insane wizard is the major threat.

Twist – the party have all been poisoned – but with what?

After generating this I tentatively sketched in the role of Milton Warnock as a senior legal element such as a DA, not a dentist as the original has it. I also thought W&H would be in the frame too.

I also wanted a second thread, running here and there around the first. My sub-plot was:

‘The witch living upstairs wants to earn Tengu’s favor to earn one of Wayland’s weapons.’

Overly officious officials are the minor threat.

The Apocalypse is the major threat.

Twist – The villain’s lair only lets corporeal being in – why would dinner need to leave?

I let the occasional appearance of Jim Fairbanks drive that forwards. It soon became apparent that the Bianchis’ sorceress was probably the witch upstairs and Jim would be trying to get the weapon for her. Since Sweet Hell Chicago had a silver hammer in it I thought it likely that it had been in the Bianchis’ possession before the Hagens got it.

Before I move on to NPCs like Fairbanks, I should say that the Eva Shreibach scenario was web-sourced, and is written for Unisystem, unlike virtually all other elements. The other exception I can think of is the original concept of a tunnel system – not the giant loop but a much humbler affair – comes from a Unisystem scenario that appears in Eden Studios Present magazines. The ‘loop’ was a riff on something Cutter’s player said. I guessed he like me had watched Full Metal Alchemist so I figured would pick up on ‘deadly sin’ demons and a giant Apocalyptic loop tunnel.

Not everything was scenario-generated. I also adapted the Wellstone City adventure generator for Cleveland for season one, until the playing field was crowded with factions and conflicting demands.

I used a number of mishmashed d20 and Savage Worlds resources, weaving characters and elements freely into the demons and the general life on the streets. Most of these are Wellstone City related. Burning Crosses, Full Circle and Shots Rang Out were all used in small doses, though in some cases (Nicole of Garfield Heights) the white hats did not follow through. In other cases (Dr. Han) I narrowly restrained them from following through pointlessly.

Some of the most fun NPCs and ideas came from Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown. It is written for QAGS but like Savage Worlds pieces is easily adapted.

Camp Wikacini was an out-of-town scenario I only used to illustrate where the white hats were dropping their ‘raccoons.’ I would have loved to run a zombie-survivor session there but it didn’t quite fit. I ran the Schreibach Estate raid instead.

Cake Walk (deserved award-winner) gave me the rangers, and the sadly-underused Gremlins. Department of Natural Resources is a real thing, that I adapted to be this scenario’s Special Animal Control and Shelter. I don’t believe it is ever abbreviated to DeNaRes, but what a fine fit for the campaign it was.

Professor Josiah Roosevelt, who consults to DeNaRes, is based heavily on The Wire character Det. Lester Freamon, portrayed by Clarke Peters. I believe all of the family members of the white hats and their near and dear were generated using Character Webs. 

Other NPCs were just generated from the adapted street events (see Wellstone City adventure generator above). Jim Fairbanks is one such, Asha Barkley and her brother Haile Selassie Barkley others. I linked them in through the events, and through what the Universal GM Emulator was telling me for any given session. Jim became important as a stand-in NPC, built on the Hero template from BtVS rules. I tacked the entire sub-plot onto him, which moved to a conclusion at the start of season two. The Bianchis were then used as a GM vehicle to speak more directly to the characters about what to investigate.

The Universal GME (above) was used for just about every session, and later I added the Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator (CRGE) which is better at pushing threads to a conclusion. Even in the final session above, the players surprised me by returning to DeNaRes so I rolled on the GME and came up with the Prof’s ‘deceive the standoff’ scheme, very much on the fly. Using these along with a growing number of NPC templates made session prep quick and painless.

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CD26: Fast for a big man/Respect for book learning

Welcome back to Cleveland Darkens!

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules



The white hats have just put an end to the sixth of seven powerful demoniacs, Barnabas, Boss Creed’s coat-holder. Now they move on the man himself, before he has time to become alarmed about an undue period of waiting.

At the back of their minds, a clock is counting down to the time they must also stage a Tower Heist to retrieve a powerful artifact for the Bianchi family.


The white hats for this session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Steve “Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.


Scene: Hospital parking lot across from Ward Square

Theme: Across 110th Street

Doc has convinced the other White Hats that he needs at least a cursory look for wards or the like. They wait in or beside the big black sedan they commandeered after destroying the demon-vampire Barnabas.

Marie Emana squirms around uncomfortable beside Vic in back, and asks if anyone got a joint. Or at least a cigarette. Really, no? Well look in the glove-box then. The Cutter does so and somewhat to his surprise back behind where he dug out a pair of big leather gloves is a crumpled pack. He passes them back to Marie, she hauls out a lighter and lights up.


Scene: Around Ward Square

Theme: Soul Man

Doc limps up 34th to where a beat cop is supervising costumed brats crossing westward. As he gains the corner he’s joined by a small witch. With an unconvincing nose. The crossing light comes on and they cross. From behind him he hears a shrill woman hollering. Up ahead he can see, opposite the well-lit Ward building, that numbers of Community College students, in costume, have been drinking, and their partying is getting rowdy. But the beat cop is heard bawling out some ‘dumb broad’ for trying to cross against the lights, right under his nose!

Doc looks down at the little witch and shoos her gently back towards mommy. Mommy’s shrieks redouble as she sees the gimpy black pedophile on her daughter… but the little witch decides to be shoo’d like a good girl, and the beat cop doesn’t intervene, and the drunken students don’t cross over to Doc’s sidewalk.

On the north side of the Ward offices a ramp leads down to a big security gate, probably a roller affair, just as Arby predicted or recollected. There’s a security guard leaning against the concrete down there, trying not to catch the eye of any drunken student. He’s got a squarish thing beside him, maybe a wireless. Or walkie-talkie. Doc strolls on.

He turns left as he passes the office building itself, because this will be his best chance of getting a mystic drive-by reading. This brings him into view of Ward Square.

Immediately, Doc sees Ward Square has its share of Halloween revelers, some in costume some not, and to his surprise he realizes some of them are Purple Ribboners, maybe demonstrating or just packing up from one. The square is well-lit. Slightly distracted he pauses and scans more of the square… they got the fountain working, and hey, Cindy Channel of the Plain Dealer is sitting on the fountain’s edge, looking as though she’s enjoying the evening!


Scene: back at the sedan

Theme: Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing

At long last Doc stumps over from the parking lot entrance and reports.

“Weren’t no wards as I could see mon. We clear. Lot of to-do around the building! I got me ambushed by Cindy Channel and that creepy photographer! And Purple Ribboners in the square, and students Halloween party going on…”

“Cindy ambushed you?!? What did she do?” Cutter raps out urgently.

“On’y ask me some question or two… seems she hear about a lawsuit on the University, rumor they settle out of court…”

“Nothing about me???!”

“No… why?”

“Oh, it is what it is man. But stay clear! You don’t want that woman be setting her teeth in you.”


After a little more discussion in the polished-leather-and-second-hand-smoke smell of the sedan’s interior, Arby dashes away and buys five masks off the partying students, and dashes back. Cutter meanwhile checks over the sedan’s trunk to make sure they have their full war-chest of supplies. As Arby slides in behind the wheel again, Cutter takes shotgun again, Marie snuggles up Doc’s lap again and they are ready to roll!

I am a little frustrated at this point. I litter the scene with a least three major aids to the office penetration, and the white hats seem bent on doing everything without scene-setting. They even plan to drive away and get masks somewhere, somehow. I charge a drama point and explain – rather ill-temperedly – that partying students in Halloween costumes are a source of masks.

It’s like when you describe a pitch-pine deadfall beside the cavern entrance, and the party decides to head back to the village to buy torches.

The purple ribboners and the reporter, I’m not so surprised about. Such is Cutter’s paranoia about Cindy he would rather risk a major battle than go that way.


Scene: underground parking, Ward Office

Theme: Move on up

The plan works perfectly. The security guard can’t see Arby through the dark-tint glass and almost genuflects as he buttons the gate and allows the sedan through unchallenged. But he radios through on the walkie-talkie to let someone know.

Inside, beside a service elevator there’s a large bin or skip. It will mask movement from sedan to elevator, from the security camera angle. Arby slides the sedan in expertly – it’s a dream to drive after any white hat wheels – and they hit the elevator.

It’s plenty large, maybe a dozen feet across and eight feet deep. A rank of buttons invites, but they’ve been knocked and worn by custodial duties and there are no numbers or names.

Cutter studies them. There’s a locked-off top one.

“Hand me you gadgets,” he demands. Arby would normally feel bound to try that himself, but his right hand is still numb from the near-electrocution. Cutter tries a couple and one likely key may as well have been made for the lock-off. The button jabs in and the elevator clanks up to the top floor, slowly.

They don masks and ready weapons. Cutter is wearing Richard Nixon’s face. He don’t feel bad about it.

[No-one else volunteers what their mask is, but the Nixon mask is so right for a raid I include it here.]


Scene: Top floor of the Ward Office building

Theme: Green Onions

It’s a well-polished linoleum floor, with fire-stop doors left and right. Maybe twenty feet either way. The elevator door clanks shut behind them. Arby pauses to listen. There’s maybe half a minute of dithering. Then the decision is taken out of his hands as the left-hand door opens and a shirt-sleeved, loose-tied office worker walks through. He looks very surprised!

He gets about as far as “hey what the…” when Vic flattens him, smashing his head against the wall.

“Let’s get that guy back in,” Cutter begins, when Arby hears sharp-tapping high heels and a shrill but muffled query, from off to the right.

A general exeunt left, at speed, is conducted and the door hushes heavily behind them. At front, Vic comes face-to-face with another office worker, this one wearing an eye shade. Vic throws himself across a desk and clobbers the dude. Then starts pounding on him when that doesn’t quite KO him.

Marie leaps up on the desk and screams in delight. Her hands start smoldering. Doc simmers her down as best he can.

Behind them the heels sound again, agitato and accelerando, and a well-dressed, well-coiffed secretary-type enters through the fire-stop door. Her eyes pop and she begins screaming, then Cutter clamps his big mitt across her face and muffles the scream.

[The office workers would be distracted by a noisy demonstration and the secretary sidelined by a well-known reporter. No big deal. I only get Vic to roll once to see if he gets a lot of extra levels on the punch; and get Cutter to roll a grapple to see if his muffling hold is effective. The other stuff is given.]

Leaving the two men severely beaten unconscious and the secretary gagged and bound they press on to the sanctum.


Scene: Boss Creed’s sanctum

Theme: Cold Sweat

This is where the shag pile starts in. There’s a magnificent-sized sofa angled against the near wall, a picture window – presumably – curtained off to the left, a vast heavy desk on the right with a large upright chair behind it, and a large heavy painting up behind that. Possibly of Boss Creed. A couple of much smaller chairs on the opposite wall. But they are scarce visible as the man himself looms, or protrudes, towards the entrance, as though he has roused himself slowly off the chair and come to investigate. Seeing a large Richard Nixon armed with a fire-axe heading his way he checks:

“Well, here’s a thing…”

Cutter glances back as best he can through the mask and Vic lines the M16 up. Cutter steps to one side and Vic fires the full clip!

Trouble is, Boss Creed dodges unbelievably fast and only a couple bullets tag him. The rest rip away the desk corner and part of the big painting. Cutter finds himself slammed into the soft shag carpet with Creed on top of him, seemingly about to bring his massive forehead down! Cutter is throwing everything he can into it: this monster is just as strong as he expected! He blocks the head-butt and counters with his own grapple.

Behind the lead pair there’s some confusion. Arby Doc and Marie aren’t even in the room when that goes down. Arby has Vic’s axe and slips it down by Vic, decides he can best help by getting in there, and slides in around the door frame and over by the sofa. Meanwhile Doc is mustering Marie forward. She giggles and slides ungracefully around Vic and across the heaving scrimmage, towards the desk. Cutter is unsurprised to learn she has not bothered with underwear.

Arby scans around the room for inspiration. The big desk is pretty clear, only a blotter, a desk-lamp and a doodad – one of those birds that keep dipping beak into a glass – on it.

Vic drops the M16, and its spare mag, grabs up the axe, and brings it down full-force on Boss Creed’s spine!

The axe head breaks off! And spins far across the room, pulling Vic off-balance slightly. Boss Creed’s body is solidified like steel and Cutter can’t move at all. Cutter can feel the shag-pile strands beginning to writhe and bite at him!

Then Marie screams and electricity arcs from the desk lamp, down through Marie and through the floor. And through Cutter! But he’s not seriously hurt and the strands stop biting him, and Creed is jolted out of the statis he’s set. Cutter once more starts getting a lock on his head.

Arby decides to ready the M16 and scrambles up the weapon and its spare. He only knows enough to switch mags, and manages it. He sidles around to the opposite side, levelling the gun.

Vic grabs up Cutter’s axe and sees his chance and brings it down on Creed’s back, and this time the head sinks deep! Creed bellows in rage and pain, but doesn’t relax his grip. Arby noses the M16 muzzle against Creed’s flank and pulls the trigger. The M16 leaps and most of the mag sprays up to the door-frame where Doc is standing. Doc throws himself to one side as he’s sprayed by plaster fragments and timber splinters. Many of them stick him right through his clothes.

Keeping his lock with one arm, Cutter raises his other hand and drives it into the gaping wound Vic just made. He grabs a handful of spine and kidney and rips it clear! Creed flops dying and Doc, blinking dust out of his eyes, opens the spirit box and the demon flees right into it!

[Doc is conserving drama points like mad, he has few left. He throws one spell in support of Marie, at a severe disadvantage since it is the same day as last fight.

All white hats suffer a -1 for the Slothful effect but their movement speed is normal, owing to the amulet each wears. Marie’s movement is halved. This is the major effect of the Sloth demon.

Up until he is face to face with Creed and makes a successful Fear check Cutter is at further -1 and with drama point limiter, owing to the Cindy Channel effect (i.e. an unresolved relationship).

Doc and Cutter both take some minor damage, I seem to recall Cutter reduces his after the fight by drama point. I allow Doc to halve his with a successful Dex+Doctor check as he picks splinters out.]


Scene: Abandoned rail shed

Theme: Until you come back to me

Cutter slides his revolver up out of sight on a girder. That’s the last item on the list. The sedan has been torched, along with masks, gloves, M16 and axes. Nothing to tie them back to the crime scene, unless they are grabbed and swabs taken off their clothes. So new threads will be needed.

This has taken them close to the ranger station, so they decide a safe haven and a night’s sleep are worth the risk. Trailing Doc’s Plymouth, Cutter’s battered old Ford van rolls away. Riding clean with a clear conscience. Only, Cutter has in mind to pay a visit to a certain Queen of the Night Desk, and he plans to phone Cleo too.

[2xp for completing the task of finishing off this demoniac. Perhaps Vic ought to have a bonus drama point or xp for doing something that he kept threatening to do – kill his uncle! But I don’t want to encourage Vic to actually follow through on everyone he threatens to kill.]


Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Trouble Man

Most of the rangers are right there in the common room, enjoying a quiet Halloween night. The Prof says things aren’t like to blow up, so he’s headed up to Shaker Lakes with Benny Li.

The white hats have some good news and some bad. Cutter coaxes the rangers up to the lookout deck away from possible listening devices and the white hats explain. There’s general agreement that the watch will still need to resume until the Sisterhood are out of business. Captain Kelly, having had a chance to size up Marie, caresses her nape – or alternatively gets a good handful of hair, depending on how you looked at it – and suggests she get her something more fit for the weather. They head below.


Cutter heads to the phone and calls Cleo. Apologizes for being busy this last short while, but things should be clear soon.

“Well now – if you ain’t so busy tomorrow…” Cleo begins and Cutter’s heart sinks.

Seems as how there’s a Socialist Workers’ Party Cleo aims to have the sistahood and some of the brothers, including some ex-Panthers, out supporting. Day after tomorrow is Election day!

Cutter excuses himself with a half-promise of helping ‘when it all settles back’ and sets the receiver down feeling low. As usual.

“You knew that’s gonna hit ya!” Vic scolds him as he sees Cutter’s expression.

[Yes, another -1 and no drama point spend taken in to the next fight scene.]

[The white hats now conclude that they ought to stage the Tower Heist as soon as possible and prior to Election Night.]


Scene: the same, later

Theme: Are you man enough?

Marie, discovering they plan to spend the night, drags Doc off early to test the bed, the wall, the floor of Doc’s favorite ritual room, suggests it would be fun to do it on the freezer.

The other white hats get to sleep as best they can. “Man gotta pay the price fo’ supp’n with the devil” Cutter points out.

“I had that an’ so ev’yone else down the strip. Ain’t no sloppy seconds – that sloppy eighty-seconds!” Vic snorts, buries his head under a pillow and drifts off.


[The next section of the session deals with the Bianchi-appointed mission, to heist the Garland from Kinzey Foundation HQ, floor 21 of the Terminal Tower. They still do not know if they mean to actually hand the Garland over but they are committed to heisting it.]


Scene: the same, All Saints Day morning

Theme: Slim Jenkins’ place

Breakfast time finds the white hats descending hungrily on the common room. Gunnarsson has been cooking early, for he has to be getting down the reservoir again, now the rangers know the need to stand watch is still on. Danny Castro is absent now – maybe he was standing watch last night. The young, pinkish State Trooper walks right on in and sets himself down. He seems to have a good relationship with Kelly – she’s quite maternal to him. He gets his thermos flask filled with coffee and jaws about news.

Cutter checks the headlines. Both the Plain Dealer and Call & Post carry the sensational Slaying of local Ward Alderman as the banner story. The Plain Dealer uses slaying, slain very often. The three witnesses attest that masked black men assaulted them and slew the Alderman.

The Statie is more interested in the sports pages. He grumbles about the recent slide in the Spartans’ stats. Cutter and Arby (mentally) face-palm – with no ready supply from T-Bone of course the team would drop away – that was money just waiting to be made! The young trooper checks that Gunnarsson has left and admits the Minnesota Vikings are doing really well. Darn it!

Gray’s Armory is mentioned elsewhere: there’s a swanky ball for the Republicans on Election Night. Some white guy name of Taft is guest of honor. A picture of the opposing Democrat is shown too. He looks like he’s been run in and out of the stable since the Fifties. No mention of Socialist Workers’ Party.

Breakfast over, the white hats roll away as though to Shaker Lakes; swing off to Shaker Station and park;  board the Rapid along with many another commuter. All four have sponged off their clothes as best they can.


Scene: Downtown, around City Square

Theme: So you’re leaving

The white hats join the general exodus up out of the Terminal Tower without spending more time looking for obscure entryways up from the terminus. The square is massive, open, peaceful. Huge concrete-casemented spotlights would light the Tower up each night. Arby shivers in the cold November rain. He left his fine jacket back, it being too distinct. Shops are opening and it’s time to find a large men’s outfitter or even better, a department store where an overworked clerk won’t recall any black man no matter how big black and scarred he is. Soon enough all four have new threads, Arby springing for a whole new jacket with different cut and look.

That brings them comfortably to mid-morning and coffee cravings are setting in. They pass up Greasy Joe’s for a respectable sandwich house where the coffee is just as good and drugs aren’t routinely traded.

[They say they are looking around. I ask the best Perception for a roll. Arby and Doc both have 6, and Arby makes the roll.]

Sitting on the side of City Square getting the feel of it, Arby glances north and spots the figure of Charlie Stone heading up some steps into a large grey forbidding-looking building.

“Catch him up!” Cutter exclaims and Arby is off like a greased weasel.

“Charlie!” he hollers and the radio reverend turns, just as he’s about to head through a heavy brass-bound revolving door. Looks enquiringly at Arby.

“What is it, son?”

Arby has no clue but fortunately for all concerned Cutter catches them up. Addressing Charlie Stone respectfully as Mr. Stone he learns that Charlie has come to this Public Library to do some research. On demonic powers and ways to stop them.

“Public… Library??”

It seems this place features rare old reference books from earliest days. There’s some co-ordination, and the upshot is that Doc and Cutter assist Charlie while Arby helps Vic scout the Terminal Tower.


Doc emerges from the research with a whole new ritual that ought to delay elemental attacks; and the beginnings of another one that ought to, if eventually polished up, track magic or perhaps demonic presence across town. Charlie says he’s planning on returning to Cincinnati. They wish this unexpected ally well.

[An xp for gaining this ally and help. Much like last session where a call home triggered an extension, this is simply a result of taking the time and saying they are looking around. The rituals are outside of Doc’s culture so will not be as easy for him as for an equivalent white hat with western occult training, but Doc’s high Occult skill and level of Sorcery still mean he’s the best.]

Vic and Arby return from their scouting and update the other two on their findings over lunch and beyond. It’s good as far as it goes but what’s really needed is a definite plan of where the strong-room is.

Cutter heads away to find a payphone. He gets through to Clive, Cleo’s brother in Planning.


Hours later Clive manages to slip Cutter a copy of the 21st floor refit approved blueprint. He mutters something about Socialist Workers, makes a very under-cover fist, and heads back to finish up the day’s work.

[An xp for using this contact in an appropriate way.]

By the time they walk north a few streets to find a uniform shop to buy janitorial outfits it’s well through the afternoon, and by four p.m. their plans are laid. They return south to the Rapid to go collect the hardware!


We still have some minutes in hand but the players – wisely I think – decide to leave the actual Heist Job for next session. At present the plan is to enter from below where the many disused rail areas provide any number of opportunities, forage some janitorial hardware to conceal various things in, and proceed up. Another, still-viable alternative is to use manholes to enter the east-west utility tunnel to get under the tower near ground level. They have a special piece of hardware to stooge security circuits, Arby’s tools to get past routine locks, pixie dust to fool mystic alarms, amulets to block attacking powers, and a talisman to confuse demonic attention. They do not currently have any major weapons: Doc’s small knife is the extent of their arsenal. Stay tuned!

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CD25: Witch Queen/I Want It All/Devil Inside

Welcome back to Cleveland Darkens!

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules


A weird Machine in the Wilson Wellness Clinic has put seven powerful demons into patients! The white hats have identified all seven and have exorcised or destroyed four. The three most powerful remain. Their hosts are Cleveland CP Milton Warnock, Central Ward alderman Boss Creed, and Creed’s coat-holder Barnabas.

Warnock blackmailed radio preacher Charlie Stone into isolating the white hats from their support base. But now they have turned the tables, with the mercenary help of Selma-Beth, girl investigator, and the once-in-a-while help of overworked Department Seven Agent Boddington. Milton Warnock is about to walk into a trap!

The white hats for this session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.

Scene: Little Haiti

Theme: Shakey ground

The four white hats are working steadily, cheerfully, under Cutter’s direction. Arby has used his contacts to locate a surprising amount of wire netting and industrial-grade plastic sheeting, and Cutter’s mechanical skills have turned out a workable suppressor for the M16. Once he’s assembled the DeNaRes rangers’ tranq gun, Vic’s been doing the heavy lifting. Doc has been drawing out a complicated ritual. He says:

“Demon be sensing this if she be live mon. Wonder how it is I can leave it lie ready to set goin’?”

“Sound to me like you gotta calls you moms,” Arby suggests.

Idly Doc lifts the hand-piece of the deserted club’s telephone, and to his surprise [and at the cost of a drama point] he gets a dial tone! He dials Maman’s house in Fairfax.

He’s answered by Barn, Haiti’s answer to the iron wok chef, and when he hears what Barn has to say, his knuckles grip white on the hand-piece.

“I gotta get to St. Joseph’s mon!”

“Whaaa?! You tell that mother o’ yours you gots not time!” Cutter protests. “You gotta thing goin’ on!”

“Family business,” Doc snaps back.

“I go with,” Vic rumbles, checking that his heavy-duty flashlight is in the pocket of his new leather duster and swinging it on.

The pair head out to Doc’s Plymouth.

Scene: St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Quincy

Theme: Soul man

Vic and Doc can see a collection of vehicles already there, and there’s a glimpse of white ceremonial dress under the trees up on the mound. Doc slides the Plymouth to a halt opposite and a little past the cemetery and the pair swing out. Doc counts back – oh yeah, the congregation must be readying All Saints celebrations.

Maman’s traditional build can be glimpsed amongst the other Haitians and it’s not until five Haitians jump him that Doc realizes the ambush has been set for him!

Doc dodges back behind Vic [burns a drama point, his dodge is terrible] and Vic grabs one, meaning to haul him aloft and throw him into the others. He can see Maman has been restrained up against a tree at the mound.

Calling for more help the four press in on Vic, preventing him from crushing them with their comrade. A very wide Haitian brother rolls pendulously toward the melee. It takes him some seconds, and by then Vic has dropped the slim brother and levels fatty with a sweep-kick. The others have to work their way around the circumference, and are easily dealt with piecemeal.

Meanwhile Doc is locked in a battle of wills with Setro, dissident Haitian deacon. Setro has the advantage of setting up the ground and crowd in his favor: Doc has his natural raw power and the coco macaque that channels the spirits. At first the battle goes in Setro’s favor, but then as the thought of Maman sacrificed like a giant chicken and the Haitians permanently under the evil spirits suffuses him Doc drives back the deadly loa leeching his life away and topples Setro! But even as he was lashed by spirits of darkness, Doc had glimpsed Setro’s plans, and knows seconds are precious!

“Fetch Maman! We get her home and get the other two! An’ if you see Barn, kick him for me!”

[I warn Doc’s player it will be drama point for drama point. Cutter’s player suggests Doc use the Righteous Fury approach and I confirm that his Dependents drawback means that seeing Maman about to be sacrificed allows it. Doc burns 2 drama points but gets an ongoing +5 to most things, rather than +10 to one thing. He takes 15 life points as spirit damage during the fight.]

Scene-wipe: the Plymouth, rolling towards the Entertainment District

“I don’ got time to ‘splain much,” Doc rattles to the bewildered Arby and Cutter, “but I see Boneyard and Marie be there cooking up some pow’ful magic.”

“You mean, crazy-ass singer Marie?” Vic checks. He enjoyed a quickie with Marie one time in the Euclid Club when she wanted to get her boyfriend’s attention.

“Be right,” Doc confirms. “Don’ rightly know what loa – spirits – she talk to but watch out!”

Scene-wipe: the gambling hall between the Bar ‘n’ Grill and the Boneyard

The white hats know that if they work through the gambling hall – the one where werewolves are the pit bosses – they’ll be at the rear entrance for the Boneyard, so they go with that. Doc has spirits of Fear ready and unleashes them as the all jog through. It works perfectly on the werewolves [another drama point] but as they dodge past, a heavily built (and undead) bouncer checks Cutter’s shoulder. It slows him slightly as he counters the grab and ducks away. The others head in to face the music. A Hot-tempo Blues sound, apparently.

Scene: the Boneyard

Theme: Witch queen (of New Orleans)

Arby ducks as a fierce light arcs between lamp fixtures – it narrowly misses him! Rolling to his feet he sees Marie Emana standing atop the bar wearing not very much, her eyes showing pure white and her hands burning with fire. Around her and behind her bits and pieces of Smooth Clyde litter the bar-top. Clyde’s eyeballs roll in annoyance. The bar stock has been damaged quite badly – large sections of bottles have shattered and the reek of booze hangs heavy. In front of Marie and on the floor, two of the undead music section accompany Marie.

Doc counters Marie’s next spell with San’ Pierre’s lumen. Meanwhile Arby dashes at the right-hand muso and Cutter does the same for the left. Both knock the instrument down, though Cutter takes muso and bone all in one. As the music stops Vic charges Marie and slaps her off the bar…

“Get down offa that thing!”

…and she goes flying, fight over.

[Vic is going to do a fancy move involving yanking her by the ankles but I point out that will likely kill her, so he goes for the Ike Turner approach.]

“Get some clo’es on girl, I takin’ you to meet Maman,” Doc lectures. Marie smiles at him, sensually, and licks her lips.

Off-scene: Awkward meeting with Maman

Having a slutty girl who reeks of booze and reefer trying to lick your ear is something of a handicap while you explain to your mother that you are a grown man and deserve to take your place in the community; but Doc more or less makes a case. Maman tells him he can move his stuff back into the house. Possibly because with Marie around she doesn’t want to let him out of her sight.

The Haitian congregation is finding itself back in harmony. Deacons and deaconesses agree to be outside Little Haiti at the appointed early-afternoon hour.

[2xp for getting the Haitian congregation reunited and Marie on their side. All of that was ‘in waiting’ for the session but calling home activated it for Doc. So by good fortune and at the cost of several drama points the white hats bring powerful help to the vital next scene.]

Scene: Little Haiti

Theme: I want it all

Cutter is waiting at the phone, and whips it up at the first ding.

“He here,” Selma-Beth reports.

“We’re set,” Cutter says, placing the receiver back, and just catches:

“…and he got…”

Mentally kicking himself Cutter nods to Vic and Doc hiding behind the bar and steps over to the shadowed spot they’ve chosen. From the door his features can’t be seen. Doc looks down the length of the bar at Marie, who is kneeling some twenty feet or so away. Her eyes glow with promise. All set then. Vic cradles the tranq gun and mentally rehearses: kneel up, sight, fire, drop gun, grab M16.

At his hiding spot, Arby flexes his fingers around the pull-cord. Concealed with fake palm frond and coconut cloth, the heavy wire net above should drop right over Warnock as he walks over the floor to Cutter. But right about now Arby’s feeling like something that’s been tied out to bait a tiger.

The door eases open.

Jude Hughes comes in, stooping, tense, and a slim figure in a natty suit follows him. Empty smile, pencil mustache, yeah that’s Warnock. He’s so powerful he doesn’t need to worry about elections, but Cutter has seen his picture somewhere.

Hughes drops to all fours and his back arches as he sniffs the floor.

“Master… it’s the Cutter!”

Doc finishes his spell and a spirit field, undetectable to that point, encloses Little Haiti. Smooth Clyde gave him that tip, to show grateful for being reassembled back at the Boneyard.

The door, rigged by Cutter, snicks closed. He’s not 100% sure it will stay locked like it is supposed to but Warnock steps in, not out. Grinning.

“And the gang’s all here! Pleased to finally meet you! Let’s get this done – because I WANT IT ALL!”

As though in chorus, the noise of Haitian singing raises outside. Selma-Beth has cued them in.

Arby pulls the cord and Hughes leaps sideways and away as the heavy wire net crashes down noisily. Hughes hisses, showing chisel-like incisors.

Vic swings up, the tranq gun barks sharply, but Warnock leaps fantastically up and onto the wall, still grinning. Cutter reaches down for his axe. Plan A didn’t work and it’s beginning to look like Plan B is in trouble. He yells:

“Vic – shoot the muthafucka!”

Doc swallows the power Marie is feeding him, grasps the coco macaque where his blood is smeared and calls on Damballah to grant extra speed for his side. Vic brings up the M16 and the suppressor gives it a dull roar as holes stitch the wall where Hughes was, but the CP moves like lightning, leaping about 20 down to directly in front of Vic, producing a tiny pistol. He shoots calmly four times but Vic hurls himself aside in time. The bullets carome off empty bar shelves, missing Doc and Marie.

Arby deftly feints Hughes out of position, ready to lure him onto the net. The rat’s front teeth look like sharp chisels now! Cutter rushes at Warnock then breaks stride and delivers an enormous blow to Hughes’ side. Caught off-guard the were-rat doesn’t avoid it. He may be immune to steel but such is the force several of his ribs break and he is smashed gasping onto the net, where Arby makes sure he will be tangled and immobile.

Warnock switches aim to Doc. He fires four times and Doc stares death in the face – then behind him Marie screams – something – there’s a flash of electrical discharge – and instead of being drilled by slugs Doc is splashed by molten lead. One bullet does strike him but he remains conscious. The smell of ozone hits his nostrils. Warnock leaps high, bounces off the ceiling and over to where Cutter broke from.

[Drama point from Doc to activate Marie. He takes 14 more damage after his sturdy tweed reduces the base damage. At end of round he can spend another drama point to halve total damage.]

Vic looks around rolling-eyed for a weapon. There’s a cheap-looking wooden spear with fake-palm fringe around the head stuck up above the bar: better than nothing! As Vic reaches up for it Doc slaps it with some blood and mutters a spell.

[Drama point from Vic for ‘but it’s actually a real weapon’ which I think is a genius idea. It turns the cheap touristy ‘vaguely Haitian but could be Hawaiian’ décor of Little Haiti to full advantage.]

Arby and Cutter are now the front line and Arby makes as though to charge, but uses his evasiveness to wrong-foot Warnock. [Arby moves to +1 Ballsy after making a Fear check.] Cutter finally lands a telling blow! Warnock isn’t grinning now – then Vic rams the wooden spear right into his center-mass and Warnock is down!

Doc leaps up, opening the spirit box he has ready. As the demon of greed seeks another strong host it leaps into the box, and Doc seals it.

The congregation, singing outside, doesn’t need to know exactly what happened. Doc sends them on home, with thanks.

Warnock’s body is wrapped in the heavy-grade plastic and is ready for transport in Cutter’s old Ford van (also plastic-protected). That leaves Hughes as an inconvenient witness.

The were-rate deftly switches to the winning side, assures the white hats that he was rooting for them all along, and can be of use. They have a missing CP – and if he’s not accounted for all Cleveland will be turned upside down in a manhunt.

They agree on the deal. Hughes will explain to The Man and whoever else asks that Warnock has been called in to discuss poor polling with the Governor – only they can’t be seen to be worried, so it’s all hush-hush.

[Two more xp for dealing with a major demon.]

Scene: Backwoods of some reserve land

Theme: Take me to the river

Finished with the burial the white hats listen up to Vic, who has thought of a way of splitting Barnabas away from his uncle, Boss Creed.

Trouble is it involves Vic persuading his pop to call Barnabas. They jaw it over back and forward but can’t see any better option. If Vic’s pop don’t call, Barnabas ain’t believin’ that he agreein’ to stand up with Boss Creed on the hustings.

“It be Halloween – ain’t no way we gonna let Barnabas near any kids! So where’s a good place to take him down, that’s believable?”

Scene: Creed’s Furniture Emporium, Central

Theme: Devil inside

Barnabas’ huge shoulders fill the doorway. Looking into the dim store he sees what he takes to be his boss’s brother slouched at a table, bottle of Old Crow part-empty on it. It’s after normal working hours on Halloween. All across Central, groups of small witches, pirates, ghosts and goblins –and the occasional fairy princess – are door-knocking for candy. This area is quiet since it’s retail and the bank shut hours ago.

Seated at the table, Vic lifts the tranq gun from its place of concealment and shoots, but he’s still rattled from having to persuade his pops and the shot goes wild. Cutter tosses the M16 complete with refurbished suppressor to him and Vic catches it expertly. Arby empties a bag of ball-bearings on the floor in front of Barnabas – just like rolling craps. Barnabas’ forward motion checks as he navigates the tricky footing and he bares white fangs. Vic slips the safety off [I make it a hard Dex+2 for military] and fires a burst into Barnabas. The bullets thud into him, doing no more than jarring him slightly. Arby risks the tricky footing and smashes a kick to the back of Barnabas’ knee: it’s like kicking a tree. By this time Cutter has his axe ready and Doc is onto his next spell.

Barnabas clotheslines Vic back and down onto the floor: the chair, table and bottle crash down with him and Vic lands hard: but he’s still in the fight [his duster and natural toughness soak 6, he loses only 8 life points] and brings up the M16 again. Barnabas is leaning down onto him, trying to bite him! Cutter calls for the spear – Doc activates it and tosses it over, Cutter impales Barnabas through the side of his ribs. The spear seems to seek the center where the heart lies and Barnabas rips to his feet with a terrible screech as the vampire shell of him burns away:

Leaving the demon of wrath still in the fight!

And the spear disintegrates.

[Doc gets the kind of spell failure that allows the spell to work but only partially. This seems fair.]

Vic brings up the M16 and blasts Barnabas in the face. [Big negative for prone and with a huge suppressor, but he kind of makes the target!] Cutter leaps back over to his axe and seizes it. As Arby attempts to fake Barnabas out of position he’s grabbed in a mighty hand and raised on high, ready to be used as a spindly hammer on Vic. Marie screams a spell and the copper placed around the spell field activates and an electrical bolt lances from the ceiling lighting, down Arby and through Barnabas. Cutter throws the axe with full force and the demon crumbles into black carbonized fragments!

As they recover breath, Arby groans in pain from where he was dropped. Doc heads over and checks him. How come Arby is still alive? He’s burnt along his wrist, down his arm and chest and to his thigh. By a quirk of fate he still had a sharping-rig on and the electricity ran along the wire instead of through his body.

[A drama point is spent by Cutter for activating Marie and Arby spends a drama point for the twist of chance that he is wearing something that conducts the arc around his tender parts]

Credit-roll scene: Professor is consulted

Professor Jos. Roosevelt is not stupid. Six of the demons defeated so far have represented what the Catholics call a deadly sin. Boss Creed can be assumed to be a demon of sloth.

“We nearly there,” Cutter rallies his tired comrades. “Get this shit sorted and Doc you get you life back; Vic gets his pappy’s life back on track; an’ Arby… you go back to sharping marks I guess. Me, I plan a job fixin’ autos or su’thin.’”

Four xp to complete the session, two for Barnabas, one for turning up and the last for advancing the plot. Cutter also got a bonus xp I promised him when he accurately forecast what type of fighting style Barnabas would be bringing. Figuring that an all-out no-dodging fighter would be faced helped a lot in the planning.

In terms of action this was a dream session to run, and Cutter and Arby’s players were very patient, listening closely to the Doc+Vic Haitian scene. Combats felt very clear to me. If a character was too far from a target for a one-round approach I used Dex checks to decide how they got there.

The strength of the rules in allowing sets to be dressed by the characters since they had the initiative (for once) really came through. Allowing drama points spend for adding to the scene is not strictly in the rules but my players are familiar with the concept so it works well. Drama points were flowing freely. Doc’s player tells me he spent 18 drama points during the session.

The “secondary” plot – the tunnel and sigils to summon the Apocalypse – has been left fallow this session but the white hats are one demon away from ending the “main” plot regardless of whether they ever get to figure out all of the connections. Stay tuned!

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CD24: Picking sides

Welcome back to Cleveland Darkens!

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules


The white hats have the identities of the remaining three demoniacs. But these final three are definitely going to be tough; and they are well-protected besides. And the white hats still have the problem of the split Haitian congregation, so they can’t expect exorcism to solve the problem. That’s far from the only problem. Most have some personal issues to deal with, and their one-time safe haven, the DeNaRes ranger station, is now so compromised that State Troopers are staking it out around the clock.

Meanwhile, exploring the big Loop tunnel under Central led to a series of further tunnels, possibly including one that leads to where the other Sisters of Jhe are holed up. They know to expect at least two more, maybe four, of these very tough fans of the Apocalypse.

And also meanwhile, the Bianchis handed them the job of retrieving an artifact that looks like a garland or wreath from the office of Kinzey Foundation up in the Terminal Tower.

The white hats have split to two pairs to get some solid shuteye. They plan to meet by nine a.m. the next morning, where they can make some plans.


The White Hats for today’s session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque. (Party cleric)

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat. (Party paladin)

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away. (Party rogue)

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies. (Party bard)


Scene: Arby’s pad, by the tracks

Theme: Sweetback’s theme

Doc picks through the notes he slipped into his jacket pocket yesterday and discovers that amid all the ‘call Moroni’ notes there’s one from his cousin/niece Clarice and a longer notepad page jotted down in ranger Laura’s tidy, slightly left-handed hand. It’s about her research on Thacker at the Wilson Clinic and reads:

Thacker is a technician, good one, nothing special found. Checked out Ernst, just a counsellor. Spenser and Wilson the real thing. Clinic closed.

Doc looks around for a telephone then shakes Arby awake to ask.

“Down the block a ways, man”

Doc decides not to limp down there on his own, it’s a rough neighborhood and the diner’s owner-cook seems OK with patrons using his phone.


[Earlier in the week, via email, I opened the table to the players as to which other NPCs want to contact the characters. It did not appear they had put any thought into this by game night, but Doc’s player named two contacts that would convincingly fit into the timeline, so they got those. Laura had agreed to check out Thacker, the technician that operated the Machine in the Wilson Clinic; Clarice is helping with Doc’s get-my-life-back arc using her paralegal skills.]


Scene: Cutter’s pad, south of the tracks

Theme: Trouble man

“What you packin’ this a.m. brother?”

Vic turns from his forlorn hunt for something edible, and produces his hefty flashlight.

“The Man wanna know, I say it be broken, that why I carryin’ it in daytime.”

Cutter nods at this sage piece of logic and stows a wooden stake away in his own jacket.

[At this juncture Doc and Arby recollect that they also packed a stake.]


Scene: Soul Food diner near Brother Gloves

Theme: Pick up the pieces

While the others get started on breakfast (sorting change from pocket-lint by this stage) Doc borrows the phone and dials Maman’s. It’s answered by a cousin he seldom sees, who tells him Clarice is already at work.

The boss tells Doc the next call gonna take a dime.

Doc asks Arby for a dime.

“That one hunnerd bucks an’ one dime you owe now,” Arby retorts shortly, handing it over. He’s sore from spending virtually all his dough on the spirit box that now holds T-Bone’s demon, when Doc could have put it on a tab.

Doc dials Clarice’s law firm and since she’s not a lawyer, gets put through with few delays. She has had an exciting idea for setting Case Western up, thereby forcing them to reinstate him, but it will take some paperwork from Doc.

Other than that Clarice does have a little more to offer on KinzeyCorp and the CP’s office. Until a couple weeks ago the word around the watercooler was that W&H were brokering a deal of some kind, then one of the parties bailed. No-one has seen Johnsson for some days.

Doc scratches down some notes and hangs up and claims his cooling portion at the bench. Cutter waves the phone over to himself.


Cutter’s recollected that he never did see little Selma-Beth after they crawled out of the Loop tunnel, so he checks his watch, dials the Call & Post and eventually gets put through to some guy. Sounding suspiciously as though he is getting hand-signals from Selma-Beth, the guy tells Cutter she will be back in about ten or fifteen minutes. Who is calling? Well say, I never did get to meet you the other time. Call me Bust-a-move. We should get together.

Hanging up, Cutter gets the low-down on Bust-a-move and the Call & Post angle on things. He lays a dime up on the counter and dials City Planning. He’s familiar with the routine and is soon put through to Clive, Cleo’s brother. Clive may have a down on Arby – understandably – but Cutter is OK in his book and he is ready to help. But Cutter asks him about stuff he has few clues about – such as this nonexistent Loop tunnel and where it might go. He assures Cutter the landmarks he’s named mean that it can’t extend westward past Central.

[Here, I’ve handed Cutter and Doc the task of rolling to figure where the ‘goblin extension’ went. They have the opportunity of asking for advice to aid their roll, before making the check.]

Arby interjects and reminds them Doc figured it extended under Central Ave, and from having had a look at a street map [he narrowly fails the Fear test that is triggered by photographic memory, Cutter and Vic reassure him and allow a re-test] he can sketch out exactly what that lines up with.

On the back of a napkin, Arby sketches out the loop of major roads that lies just west of Central, then the Erie Street Cemetery and Gray’s Armory just north of that, and the City Square west, then the Terminal Tower. Yes, the tunnel might line up directly under the cemetery and Terminal Tower.

Terminal Tower… they try to recall what they know of it. Tallest building in the city, way more than 21 floors, and say, wasn’t there some shooting incident back in August when they were all ducking for cover?

There’s a little spall of confusion as the white hats confirm that there is more than one old armory littering the landscape. Gray’s Armory is a swanky private ballroom or some such these days.

It’s been at least a quarter-hour so with another dime down Cutter dials the Call & Post again. Selma-Beth is ready for his call. Being a street hustler it’s a shakedown: she has a juicy secret on Charlie Stone but wants to be paid for it. Yeah, what she got from Boddington just about pays for one hair-stylin’ – she wants real bread. Cutter agrees to meet her once he gets money. Funnily enough she already knows which bank he’s going to use. Yes, it’s the one bank that will cash a check for a black man without seven kinds of ID and a call to the FBI. She’ll be there.


The white hats split again. This time Cutter will head over to the bank with Arby, then on to the Boneyard to ask Smooth Clyde about shit; while Doc will drive Vic over to the Call & Post for a look at the August back-numbers and a talk with Bust-a-move. Doc and Vic pile into Arby’s van while Cutter and Arby walk back to Cutter’s pad for his van.


Scene: Call & Post

Theme: Boot-leg

Doc pulls into the secure lot, reminding himself that he’ll need to get validated. At the press offices, Vic scares the little receptionist less since he didn’t rip anyone’s head off last time, and signs into the morgue no problem.

Meanwhile Doc takes the opportunity to interview Bust-a-move. They fence with one another. [Doc burns a drama point and scrapes by on his Int+Influence, by one.] Although he reveals a good deal to Bust-a-move he also learns a certain amount of detail about how Bust-a-move’s story is going to reveal how the CIA are back at their old game of pushing drugs on the black man to fund illegal wars, probably in Central America. But it’ll take real evidence. So what about Doc’s side? The two discuss Farmatec and steroid supplies to the Spartans and how W&H and the Ward Office and CP are protecting them. Bust-a-move warns Doc that the barrier to getting this past the legal people will be high because W&H are fucking good and the CP is not someone to fuck with.

Vic is all finished by the time Doc exits the pit, he reports that back in August some crazy-ass vet decided he’d take his M16 in to talk with the railroad bosses about their Veterans Act non-compliance. It was up above the 42nd floor, which is as high as the public elevator goes. Later issues don’t get to a lot of detail but it seems like the vet be off somewhere in FBI-land and security in the Tower is tighter now.


Scene: the Boneyard

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

It’s still morning, but the guys on the door recognize the two white hats and let them in. The place is still being tidied up from last night. At the bar, ‘Birmingham’ the guy with the fake West Indian accent is cleaning. A bouncer shambles off to find Smooth Clyde. Cutter and Arby are still a little sore from the ‘frisking’ a PD3 cruiser team gave them on their way to the bank, and take a stool each. Birmingham offers them a new cocktail he’s created: he’s thinking of calling it a Blood Sunset. It has quite a lot of red in it, and needs work.


This is a productive visit, though at one point Cutter gets confused about what factions are on the table. Clyde knows enough about the Sisterhood to give them some inside knowledge:

“You done got the fire-slinger? Then m’man, you got the fire slinger. They each got they own thing. Yeah, ice be water, don’t be in no tunnel when you tangle with air, earth be diggin’ rock no matter how hard. Fifth one’s allus the mind – mebbe that why goblin workin’ in they team.”

From the way Clyde tells it, it sounds as though goblins hate Jhe demons and the sisterhood might have done some major damage around the world.

Besides that, when they ask about Grays Armory Clyde hints the Gray Knights might get involved, but they ain’t his folk so ain’t something he can tell. He does offer ‘muscle’; suggests Doc might persuade Marie Emana to side with him; and has more to say about the other factions.

Clyde clarifies the factions as Kinzey and Bianchi. Both wield wizardly power. Concerning a raid into Kinzey turf, he offers some special dust. Cutter takes him up on it. According to Clyde it should make them invisible to hocus-pocus. It’s in a monkey-skull pouch. “Sprinkle a pinch over you… just like Tinkerbell,” he explains.


Cut scene: below the DeNaRes ranger station

Meanwhile Doc and Vic, still sans cash, head to the agreed meet-up, Woodhill Road below the ranger station. Vic’s planning on buying a new duster with his cash. But he reminds himself half will go to sis.

At length, Arby’s van rolls up and they have a roadside conference. Arby been itchin’ to get that money, restrained by Cutter. Doc hands over the $100.10 with surprisingly good grace. Just makes a remark about rising price of bandages. Now it’s time to check in on the rangers and fetch Doc’s Plymouth back, and go on to find the Prof. Cutter reminds the others not to just rush on in.


Cut scene: outside the DeNaRes ranger station

Not only is there now two Smokies up on the turn-off – and both log the two vans in – but there’s a big-engine cruiser with an SRS paint job parked up right outside the station, beside the various ranger vehicles. The white hats keep rolling by, headed for the lane to the filtration plant.

In the lead vehicle, Cutter cranes back out, slowing to a crawl. Laura’s on post at the expected loft end, and waves. Neither ‘help’ nor ‘flee’ so he feeds gas to the engine and rolls on.


Scene: Professor’s Lair, the Filtration Plant

Theme: Cold sweat

This is another helping of helpfulness. Getting his pipe working the Prof recollects what he can of the Gray Knights. Apparently some time between the Revolution and the Civil War their founder realized that Cleveland had a Hellmouth. He imported a huge block of sandstone from somewhere – maybe Britain – and plugged the Hellmouth, building Gray’s Armory on it. He founded the Knights to watch over the plug and as the core of the Regiment. Later the regiment became federalized but the Knights remain. Probably. He thinks they mostly just supervise the use of the Armory as a swanky venue for Cleveland’s Upper Crust. He doesn’t know quite how to approach them, he’ll get in touch with someone he knows to get a line on them.

[The players are given to understand the Prof will reach out to the Watcher’s Council. This is about the first time I’ve mentioned a Watcher’s Council.]

As for this Garland that Cutter has taken to naming the Crown of Thorns, it’s rumored to have been fashioned by Lucifer himself in imitation of the original – though some say it is the original. The bearer is deceived into becoming a puppet for Beelzebub. The only sure way to get rid of it is to open the Hellmouth and drop it in, and the Sisterhood of Jhe would be able to help with that. Then to close the Hellmouth again, just kill the Sisterhood right there.

Disbelieving silence.

Of course the other option is just to steal the Garland and hand it over to the Bianchis and let them worry about it. Which brings them back to the Terminal Tower.


There are number of options for exploring the Terminal Tower. The obvious one is to walk in. The City Square is broad, well-lit, peaceful. A public elevator runs up well past the 21st floor, as Vic found. The next most obvious one is take the Rapid from the entertainment district to the terminus and get lost in the network of disused tracks that used to operate for the various other rail systems, then find a way up. Then the least obvious one is to explore further along the ‘Erie Street Cemetery’ tunnel to see if it leads out into say, the Sisterhood, or some secret lair below the Tower. Or has a side-tunnel to Grays Armory and the main Hellmouth.


Cutter explains Selma-Beth’s scoop on Charlie Stone. It cost him a Lincoln but was worth it. Charlie Stone used to run more of a hands-on faith mission in Cincinnati and skipped out leaving a bastard child there. That’s what the CP has on him. Confronted with this, Stone has got to play ball one way or another. The white hats agree that the showdown will be after Stone’s next morning slot.

Meanwhile it’s getting late and Doc wants to head up to the Curiosity Shop to get three more Spirit Boxes. They use Cutter’s van since Arby’s should not be driven around the heights. (It used to belong to Neale, who kidnaped babies, and worked out of Monmouth Hospital up there.)


Scene: Curiosity Shop, Garfield Heights

Theme: Give me some of that good old love

Crowded into the tiny interior, the white hats purchase three top-quality spirit boxes from Mrs. Han who agrees to put the total on Maman’s tab.

Cutter asks about protection and yes, Mrs. Han has a bewildering array, from minor Japanese ‘good luck’ charms to top-quality amulets. And how much are those? $69.95 plus tax?? And the tab is used up? Still a bargain! Cutter slams down his roll, and the others take their cue, each buying one. Cutter thinks about pimping it with a fancy chain, but the braided-by-tiny-Asian-hands silken cords sold here aren’t what he is thinking of.


Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Time is tight

Gunnarsson greets them from the kitchen: “Guess you heard we got food back in!”

Apparently Kelly is catching up with lost sleep upstairs – yes, let’s leave her to that – and the Staties are in and out all the time. The youngster left his thermos there in the common room. By the way, Gunnarsson’s tool box is kinda crowded and getting shut of that box would be great, anytime you’re ready, like about now? Ayuh.

Sweeping the place for any other ‘equipment’ they might need the white hats load Doc’s Plymouth with the four spirit boxes. The ‘occupied’ one is easily distinguishable. All three vehicles roll lawfully out of the turnoff out onto Fairhill – duly logged out by the Staties – and down to Fairfax for Doc and Vic, while Arby and Cutter each drive their van down Woodland, west past the interchange and across to explore intersections past Erie Street Cemetery.

[I’m mentally including random pistolry in things that are now in vehicles, plus the fireaxes. Vic’s M16 we agree is at Cutter’s pad, hidden under a mattress.]


Scene: Vic’s pop’s house

Theme: Paint it black

Vic opens the front door and sees a goblin.

“Huh!” says Vic. “There’s a thing.”

“You gon’ get me lollipop, unca?” cheerfully hollers the goblin.

Oh yeah, Halloween just a couple days away now. Vic’s niece is having her costume fitted.

Vic hands over half his roll. But sis warns him Boss Creed’s coat-holder been round more’n once, pressing pop to stand up at Elections. Tell pop again how that be a bad idea.

Vic demurs – truthfully citing the bad words between him and pop last time – but sis allows as how pop listened to him, bad words or no. So Vic mans up and heads in back.

[I handwave off the actual roleplay here, as we are a little shy on time and it’s a given that Vic’s player will rock it. Vic takes a -1 and a drama point block into his next major scene. This is the ‘dependents’ drawback operating and is worth drama points.]


Scene: Maman’s house

Theme: Soul man

Vic meets a new cousin, Bérnard or just ‘Barn’ by name who is a bit of a demon in the kitchen. Vic steers clear and chats from the nearby sitting-room, sipping good coffee until supper is ready.

Upstairs, Doc finds Maman is in a darkened room with three candles burning. As he heads in, she stops him and tells him to leave the Amulet back behind the threshold.

Maman urges Doc to get on with the paperwork Clarice needs to keep moving his case. She will keep the filled spirit box safe. Good luck with the others.


[Meanwhile it’s a given that Cutter and Arby have the skills to work out likely manholes. They can bring this to the next relevant scene if called for.]


Scene: Near Cuyahoga Bridge

Theme: I’m your boogie man

It’s so handy how just as Charlie Stone’s vehicle stalls, the white hats show up and offer to fix it.

[Another ‘given’ that with the skills they have, an alternator arm or distributor cap works loose at the right time.]

Charlie Stone is accosted with the truth and caves in, badly scared. Yes, it’s blackmail. He has nothing personal against any of them. He just said what he was told to say! Yes, by Milton Warnock, the CP. Until a short while back the big tough young colored boy name of T-Bone would tell him personally what to say, but lately this odd-dressed colored man name of Jude is the messenger. Jude Humphrey? Yes, that would be the name.

Stone agrees to set a trap for Milton Warnock. He badly wants out of the situation.

And the trap will be set at Little Haiti.

The session went full length this time, because so much progress was being made. What a difference speaking to a variety of possible sources makes! Previously the white hats seemed to fixate on one or other source and simply blank all others. It was also slightly gratifying that my showing that the Boneyard is not actually evil (last episode of season one) has finally paid off. I did joke that the ‘pixie dust’ is probably just cajun seasoning so Cutter (who pulled Clyde’s leg off and held it to ransom) smells mighty tasty, but I’m sure that won’t stop them using it…

Such a rain of information was pouring down I may have credited the wrong source with one or other piece of it. But the previous secondary thread trail now extends thus:

2.14 It turns out that the Bianchis are a wizardly family, not ‘just’ mob.

2.15 The artifact desired by the Bianchis and held by the Kinzey Foundation, the garland, may be too dangerous to give to the Bianchis.

2.16 The only reliable way to get rid of the garland is to drop it down a Hellmouth.

2.17 The Sisterhood of Jhe would be able to open the Hellmouth.

2.18 Killing all the remaining Jhe sisters right there would then close the Hellmouth.

2.19 You gotta be kidding, right?

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CD23: A Farewell to Legs

Or, what’s one extra torso murder between friends?

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules


For a series of sessions we’ve been dealing with the “main” problem where the white hats have had demoniacs to deal with, helped and hindered by a variety of allies and enemies. They still have the dismembered and frozen body of the latest demoniac, T-Bone, to dispose of quietly.

We now move more to the “secondary” problem, of how the giant loop tunnel relates to factions seeking the Apocalypse.

As part of the arrangements for disposing of T-Bone’s corpse, the white hats help out the Phyllis Wheatley again. Some of the young women of that charity have missed their underwear and a hot trail leads to the secret loop tunnel under Central. At the end of last session the white hats encountered a tallish weird female-like demon surrounded by Goblins wearing underwear on their head. The Goblins have handguns and let fly!

The white hats for today’s session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.


Scene: Fight scene in the Loop tunnel

Theme: Boom Boom

Vic carries a lot of body mass and figures, hey, I can survive a few bullets. As the other white hats drop or throw themselves to one side the big guy charges! Two bullets strike him.

[Adequate shots at the range, minus Vic’s armor, deduct 40 life points]

There’s still enough light [both Arby and Cutter manage not to break their flashlight] that Vic can get a fair view of the foul female-like creature looming over the Goblin gunnies: dark greenish skin, weird snake-like hair, hands that are pulling fire together out of the air. Grabbing one of the gunnies in front of him, he uses it as a shield as the flames sear across the tunnel, ending two flanking Goblins and charring his ‘shield’ to a tattered crisp. His scalp is burnt, and the skirt of the bullet-damaged duster.

At that point, the other Goblins flee like lightning, the demoness steps closer and delivers a stunning spin-kick that hurtles Vic back into Cutter and both onto the ground, Arby squeaks past them with his catch-pole, and Doc summons San’ Pièrres lumen. He has already sent the Goblins packing with a fear spell.

[This second attack from the demon is correctly picked up on by the white hats as an ‘uh-oh’ signal. As is the force needed to kick Vic any distance. Vic takes another 27 life points damage.]

The light blazes. Arby has correctly timed his eyes being shut, and lunges forward, easily snagging the demoness’ neck. But though blinded, she can feel the pole, and grasps it in a grip of iron! As he feels her whipping back on it Arby lets it go. She rips it clear in a tangle of cheap nylon cord and scythes the aluminum pole around.

But by that time Arby is behind her. Vic is charging again, and Arby kicks her behind the knees as Vic slam-tackles her. [She is still blinded at this point so no dodge or fend.] Cutter is not far behind, still clutching his axe.

[Doc throws in a third and most difficult spell at this point, a spell to speed the white hats up. He blows a drama point and scrapes in with it.]

The two largest white hats immobilize her as Arby wriggles out from under. Her snake-like hair stings them multiple times as Cutter breaks her neck.

Unfortunately that doesn’t actually kill her! She thrashes in agony. It does stop her casting spells though, so averting his gaze from her eyes, Cutter chops through her neck, needing several blows. And at last she is still.

Vic decides to bring her head back to the Prof, since Doc’s verdict is ‘She be demon mon.’ He wraps it in the tattered remains of his duster.

Meanwhile Arby has retrieved two reasonable-quality revolvers, with six rounds between them, and a hip-flask of cheap bourbon, which is used to sanitize stings and burns. And fortify Arby’s courage. So with bold spirits he examines the side-tunnel the Goblins fled down and pronounces it safe.

[Vic has used a couple of drama points to reduce damage, and is still fighting fit.]


Scene: Loop tunnel and side-tunnels

Theme: Down and out in New York City

The side-tunnel is certainly whence the Goblins fled, and at length Cutter, who is now in the lead, arrives at a junction cell large enough for all four of them. It appears to him that the Goblins fled into a Goblin-sized lateral. He closes two laterals, and opens a main vent ahead. The vent has a sigil traced on it, not easy to spot but one Doc’s expertise is equal to.

This vent leads to an old brick sewer, repurposed as a general utility tunnel. As best they can tell they are following the line of a street, with gas lines heading up into buildings above them. After a few minutes of not finding a manhole to check exactly where they are, they decide on a return to the main loop.


Questing on, they locate a sigil, and its proximity to another side-tunnel recollects Doc for the location. It’s the Ward Office. The sigil is deeply carved now.

Deciding against confronting two demoniacs – Boss Creed and Barnabas – they return to the Phyllis Wheatley to report that the thieves have been dealt with for the time being, and that underwear ain’t coming back.



Scene: Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: Here I am

The women’s network has gone, taking Reverend Brown and its own special aura of disapproval with it.

The shy intern has coffee brewing. They are parched and hungry by now.

“Damn! That gotta be the best coffee I ever had!” Cutter exclaims, realizing he said it aloud when he sees the intern blushing. She suggests in a tiny voice that she could fix sandwiches, and they agree.

Over this meal, which is as near to mid-day as makes no difference, they plan their next move. Cutter calls around for Reverend Brown, who is now at her church. She agrees they have kept their end of the bargain.

“Head over the Meadow Funeral Home,” she instructs. “Elisha there a solid man, he knows not to ask questions.”


The white hats plan to split up. Arby is going to pawn the Saturday-Night Special and the empty fair-quality revolver. Then he’ll go back to his pad, get pimped out and meet up with the other three at the ranger station.

Cutter will drop by his pad with Vic and Doc, where they can wash up and he can get his best threads on. Then they’ll go to the funeral parlor, arrange things, and meet up at the ranger station.



Scene: Meadow Funeral Home

Theme: Superfly

Steve pulls up in the battered Ford van and the white hats stroll out. Vic didn’t bother to do more than knock the worst dust off, and looks a mess, so stays at the van. The parlor is dead quiet. A youngish professional greeter solemnly greets them. He is Elisha. He shakes Cutter’s hand using the grips and snaps that show he is down with the Movement.

Elisha introduces them to the cheapest end of coffins – “it’s more than he deserves” comments Cutter – and gets the paperwork ready once they have made a decision to take the rear seats out of the van and use it to transport the coffin.

With a final “solid, brother!” from Elisha they take the paperwork and drive the coffin away.


Scene: Following Arby

Themes: Sweetback’s theme/Don’t look back

Meanwhile Arby has gotten changed and pulls his own van – the Nealemobile – into safely neutral territory on the fringe of the entertainment district. He pimp-rolls to the stoop of the most obvious pawnshop, where a couple of drunks are lolling. One raises his bottle and mutters something, the other staggers to his feet and explains,

“What ma frien’ hea’ tryin’ say is, Moroni wan’ talka’ you.”

With a guilty start Arby realizes he didn’t return Moroni’s message last night. Nor the night before. And he’s in the kind of area where Moroni’s contacts will see him. He hustles inside and accepts $15 for the two revolvers.

[Arby uses Int and Crime to select a pawnshop, but makes a merely adequate level. Int and Influence drive the price up from $10.]

The afternoon sun behind him, Arby heads up to the ranger station along Woodland. Passing St. Joseph’s cemetery he notices a small group of Haitians, Setro and his people. Right next to them, the old pumping-station, and he spots a couple of figures ducking down out of sight there. He can’t tell if they are child-size, or larger.

The State Police now have a cruiser, rather than yesterday’s truck, parked at the turn-in to the station. And Benny’s rusty junker of a car seems to have stalled part-way down the lane.



Flashback scene: ranger station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Coffin hidden under a tarp, Cutter rolls past the Smokies and up to the station. He means to check if they got a man inside still.

They do not, but a tense Benny Li is in the common room.

Messages are stacked over there. [Doc tucks them away.] Yes, this would be a good time to get the body out. Yes, he can help. He’ll drive his auto up the lane and fake a breakdown. It will be very believable, the way the bodywork looks.

With the van reversed, the three white hats ease the coffin into the common room. So far so good. Now for the body in the freezer!

“You know, the legs ain’t gonna be the problem…”

“Yeah, we can just toss them in.”

“An’ likewise the head…”

“Yeah, anytime, c’n put that any place.”

“But he kinda curled up now, ain’t gonna fit that mutha in nohow.”

“Well, we got us some popsicle-straightening to do.”

Between them Vic and Cutter get the frozen torso more or less snapped straight [six levels of success on hard Strength tests between them] and jammed in. Cutter hastily screws down the lid once all the bits are inside. Then they wrestle the filled coffin back into the van.

And depart out up the back service lane, past the athletic track and up Fairhill into the outskirts where they will find the crematorium.



Scene: the same

Theme: Sweetback’s theme

Arby arrives on foot – he’s had to leave his van up where Benny is pretending to fix his motor – and finds he’s just missed the other three. All is quiet.

Not too sad to have missed the hard labor, he checks upstairs and chats to Laura and shows her how his binoculars are much bigger than hers. Would she like to swap? No, she’s really happy with the lightweight military binocs. Arby uses his pair to check back on the cemetery and pumping-station lot, learning that the Haitians have packed up and are driving away from the former, and there is no sign of activity at the latter. The sun is very low now, practically level with the station, so there’s not a lot else he can pick out.

Finally unable to put it off any further, he grabs the phone book and looks up the number he knows Moroni is most likely to be at and gets put through to the gambling saloon. And eventually someone connects him with Moroni the mob bastard.



Scene: Crematorium

Theme: Easin’ in hell

With paperwork from Elisha the white hats have no trouble with the crematorium guys. It’s no more than “He’p us with this here coffin huh?”

They don’t offer a comment on not having a hearse or lacking bearers. The solemn music starts up as the coffin is slowly rolled into the furnace area.

One of the attendants offers them a look ‘behind the scenes’ which is eagerly taken up. Turns out that at the temperature the furnace operates at, frozen corpses aren’t a problem at all.


[All white hats get an xp for the operation. I thought it was good division of labor and also used the right kind of help, such as Benny. The whole episode was entertaining but with the chance of disaster, like a lot of the campaign.]



Scene: Filtration Plant

Theme: Papa was a rolling stone

All four white hats have joined up. Before heading down to speak to Moroni, they have called on the Professor to update him on the sigils and show him the demon head. They are all feeling good: they are fresh from a hug and kiss from Captain Kelly who right at this minute is planning what she can stock the freezer with.

Professor Roosevelt identifies the demon as a Sister of Jhe. The Sisterhood seek the Apocalypse and work with anyone that wants to bring it about. They work in covens, usually around five strong though with luck, this could be only three.

The sigil at the tunnel junction has the effect, as best he can guess, of preventing small critters like Goblins from using it. “You might even be onto the private exit of the Jhe sisterhood,” the Prof suggests.

Using a map and Arby’s memories of their paces and Cutter’s practical knowledge, Doc guesstimates that the tunnel was under Central Avenue. It would eventually lead to Downtown by way of the Juvenile Courts, though there are some apartments that way as well.

[Cutter and Arby contribute levels of success, in a variant of Research, as Doc uses Int and Knowledge to make this estimate. Arby has to survive a Fear test to use his memory, as usual.]

By this time it is early dinner time, and the white hats nosh some kosher deli food from the Prof’s stores. It is excellent. Then it’s time to head down to see Moroni.



Scene: Saloon Bar of the Bar & Grill, entertainment district

Theme: I can’t get next to you

Once again Vic’s general disrepair attracts glances, but he is not barred entry. They wait at the bar until Moroni turns up.

He is not pleased at the delay! He spends a good minute turning the air blue and lecturing them, then more calmly explains that the favor expected for lawyering them out of arrest is being called in. He’ll contact the Bianchi’s mouthpiece and they will stay here until the meet is ready. Are they OK for cash? Moroni peels off a C-note and slides it onto the bar, but Cutter politely turns this down. Moroni shrugs and tells the barkeep the first drink is on the house.

[Cutter’s player uses his background of being a Sopranos fan to avoid getting into mob vig loans here]

Alone and more relaxed, Cutter calls on the others to drink a toast. They survived, took down a major demon they ain’t got dime one ‘bout how to tackle, finally got T-Bone gone, an’… say, where-at’s Arby?


Arby has itchy palms being this close to gambling. [I enforce this as his player is not acting on his drawbacks.] He sneaks outside and joins a crap game out back. It’s not something his quick fingers can help much with but he raises the $15 to $20 by the time Vic’s bellow splits the air. With Vic threatening him, Arby has a good excuse to quit while he is winning.



Scene: Over-decorated side-room, gambling house

Theme: Time is tight

The Bianchi consiglieri is accompanied by two youngish goons, each dressed in an over-styled suit, each suit slightly bulged around the left armpit.

He explains that up until recently Bianchi had an alliance with the Kinzey Foundation but they now have a disagreement. Bianchi wants a deniable heist – hence the white hats – into the Foundation stronghold, the Terminal Tower.

They will be getting into the 21st floor – he provides a circuit-board-looper kit that comes in a suitcase – and breaking into the strongroom. There, they should find and steal a case that contains a garland type of decoration. It could look like flowers, or more likely vines. DO NOT PUT IT ON YOUR HEAD he re-emphasizes until they all nod that it is clear.

Less likely, the garland will be on display. Without touching it, move it to the case and steal it.

Worst-case scenario, Johnsson the KinzeyCorp chief will be wearing it. In that case, the ‘no violence’ rule this all operates under is waived and they want his head removed. Then, with or without the head, bring the garland back.

The consiglieri affirms what the white hats are guessing – this artifact connects directly to hell, and the demon connected to it can either completely possess the wearer or in the case of a powerful magus, work co-operatively with him. Either way, not good. The Bianchis like this city the way it is and have no wish for an Apocalypse. But it looks like the Kinzey Foundation wants one.

As an aside more than anything, the white hats also get the Bianchi opinion that the demons they are fighting, such as T-Bone’s one, are also opposed to the Kinzey faction, and working as a quite separate faction. The sisterhood of Jhe – here the consiglieri looks them up on a rolodex-like reference – are allied with one or other faction, depending which they think will have most success to bring on the apocalypse. Like the Professor he has no clue as to why they are using Goblin minions and why wearing underwear on the head is a thing for these Goblins.


Given how near Halloween is, they might be thinking they are almost out of time. That’s not the case. Halloween is irrelevant. Mid-November is the absolute deadline for avoiding this Apocalypse.


Moroni will continue to be the go-between for contact with Bianchi. Good luck and so long.


So with much to think about and plan for, the white hats now split up to get a solid night’s sleep, agreeing to meet at the Soul Food Diner near Brother Gloves by nine a.m. to start planning the scout mission into the Terminal Tower.


Another early end to the session. It felt best to stop there and perhaps give the white hats time to catch up on other calls. Moroni’s messages were not the only ones.

Disposing of a body crops up in various genres but Modern is probably where it most often comes up as a puzzle in its own right. Although it was mostly happenstance – I certainly had no pre-conceived plans – it has been entertaining over a few sessions. I do feel sorry for T-Bone’s parents and aunt and will try to feature their appeals for their boy to come forward.

The updated “secondary” thread now looks like this:

2 Kinzey Foundation is a relative newcomer. It is supposedly charitable but has its own law division and its security wing, KinzeyCorp, is a law to itself.

2.1 KinzeyCorp has stalled W&H from the takeover of the Phyllis Wheatley and other properties that roughly align with the ‘loop’ tunnel.

2.2 But Johnsson, KinzeyCorp CEO/local chief, is not necessarily trustworthy.

2.3 KinzeyCorp Security has taken over BlackHand Security’s contracts.

2.4 Asha Barkley was freelancing for the CIA.

2.5 Asha was originally looking for the killer of her brother, Haile Selassie.

2.6 She progressively pushed the white hats to go after the Rolling 40s, dirty cops, then Corridor Boys.

2.7 When the Corridor Boys were removed, and the dirty cops were reduced in power, Asha was removed.

2.8 There are rumors that the CIA wanted to control the Corridor Boys/Rolling 40s turf.

2.9 An intense gun battle broke out at League Park between two factions, neither specifically known or named. Boddington said one was “our friends in suits;” evidence from Bust-a-move suggests “Little Italy.”

2.10 When the white hats got busted in the Corridor Boys’ turf, the Bianchi family, one of the old Little Italy families, got them out of it.

2.11 Jim Fairbanks was working freelance for the Bianchi family.

2.12 The Bianchis claim that until the gun battle at League Park they and the Kinzey Foundation were allies, but the Foundation has gone off the rails.

2.13 The Bianchis have outlined a heist mission, no violence, against the Kinzey Foundation offices in the Terminal Tower. With the proviso that if Johnsson is found to be wearing the target artifact, violence is very much permitted.

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CD22: That name is not on the list!

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules

The white hats for today’s session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.


Someone is infecting psychiatric patients with demons! Psychiatrist Jill Spenser, Research Psychiatrist Dr. Wilson, or creepy thickset, antisocial Thacker? The Wilson Wellness Clinic in Ambler Heights seems to hold some answers.

Before they head back up there, the white hats have a few little things to worry about: Doc needs to store the last demon encountered in a spirit container; and then there’s the frozen corpse the demon is currently trapped inside. So since Steve is away somewhere, Doc and Arby are out buying the spirit box, and Vic is readying some equipment…

Scene: Maman’s house, Fairfax

Theme: Soul man

Maman looks over the cut-price spirit container.

“They tried to sell you this?”

“They did sell us on it,” Arby chips in pointedly.

“It was all we could afford,” Doc explains to his mother.

“All I could afford,” Arby avers heatedly. He is broke now.

“Why didn’t you mention my name, and get them to put it on credit?” wonders Maman, and Doc face-palms.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, above Baldwin reservoir

Theme: Green onions

“What… the… fuck???”

Vic is only too glad to explain to the newly-returned Cutter.

“See we gon’ need us a di-ver-shun an’ these oily rags and such gon’ add to th’ corpse stink. Ain’t no see-curitty gon’ be worryin’ ‘bout us in th’ clinic when this is all burnin’ under it…”


The erudite discussion of thermodynamics that follows gets to top-of-voice loud and Captain Kelly and the bearded Minnesotian Gunnarsson stumble down into the common room, looking very pissed-off considering their normal frames of mind. Doc and Arby arrive in the middle of the shouting.

Cutter alertly volunteers to make coffee and Doc weasels out after him. Arby attempts to reason with Vic, to no avail.

[I ask Vic’s player if Vic will be swayed by Arby. “no,” he decides. Arby keeps his 0-point “Ballsy” quality.]

Coffee made and Kelly’s feathers smoothed down a mite, some evidence-based discussion follows.

The verdict is that the body will remain where it is, in the ranger station freezer, but really, really needs to get gone asap. Gunnarsson has noticed a Smokey parked up not far away – Cutter didn’t, he’s got to admit – and the corpse has definitely outlasted its welcome.

[I’m guessing that Gunnarsson as the out-of-state guy calls State Police ‘Smokeys’ not ‘Troopers’ or ‘Staties’. Either way it has to be explained to the white hats.]

Doc returns from sealing the demon away and asks for a biggish tool-chest. He has no particular place to store the box yet, and doesn’t want it opened. Long-suffering Gunnarsson soon has the tool-chest on his truck re-purposed as demon-container locker.

[I skip over Doc’s ‘don’t roll a 1’ sealing ceremony, though I note his player burns a drama point to make absolutely sure the GM doesn’t get his jollies from a failed sealing. The demon ‘I am all’ is now secure in the spirit container and the body can be disposed of safely. But how?]

The plan (to the theme of Mo’ onions)

  1. Call Rev. Brown who kind of owes them a favor, get her to help arrange an ad-hoc cremation.
  2. Find somewhere for the spirit container to stay.
  3. All that will have to wait for morning, in the meantime let’s get to the old Luna Park site.

Steve’s backstory – he was busy with womenfolk but he did also see Boddington, who has put some newspaper-girl contact of his onto trailing Charlie Stone. Now he’s ready to smooth-talk Arby’s mom once the phone is handed to him.

[Arby does call his mom Rev Brown – and hilariously forgets the plan he just agreed on – and tries to bluster his way through parental disapproval – but I can’t recall if it happens at this point or later. Thanks to this, Cutter takes a net -1 into convincing Rev. Brown she will want to help with illegally disposing of a body, but still makes it using a drama point.]

Scene: Single-take follow-along

Theme: Going to a go-go

It has been a tense two-mile hike from the tunnel mouth. The white hats are now paying more attention to possible sounds of water mains, and Vic has also been looking out for Charlie leaving booby-traps.

The gunfire-riddled cables are still as they were, but someone has disconnected power. There’s no sign that the clinic has sealed off the utility access. Hmm, suspicious.

[Barring one or two Perception checks for the sound of running water this is all as stated. No-one asks about spirit presence, which surprises me.]

Pushing on, the white hats make their way through a much older tunnel, probably a re-purposed brick-lined sewer. The side-tunnel that services the mental hospital is of similar age. Here, the gas and electricity clearly lead up to the main facility, but there’s also a service hatch that can be wound up, allowing access to what sounds like water mains.

Doc senses spirits around, and Arby starts seeing things on the fringes of his peripheral vision.

Yes, water mains do lie below this level of tunnel. And the hatch has another of those small sigils on the underside. Same as The Machine, in the Wilson Clinic.

[Arby asks to let him look at the sigil so he can commit it to memory. This of course triggers his freak-out check as memories of The Crazy Wall flood back. He shrieks and Cutter and Vic pin him. ‘It’s like you carved a stick, and keep handing it to the GM to hit you with,’ Cutter’s player says unsympathetically. Because yes, that is what it is.]

From that point, the old tunnel continues with few breaks and plenty of cobwebs. Since the floor is thick with dust and dirt, they can see that a group of men has been using it. But now there’s a junction. The tunnel directly ahead looks less used: they can only identify one set of boot prints to and fro. Pretty big prints, too. The well-trodden path lies to the right, possibly to the old Armory.

There’s a little debate, very quiet. The feeling is, see what’s so interesting that this one large dude had to go visit up there. Especially as Doc has a sense of strong spirit or demonic energy up there. They push on.

Vic is just in time to ward off something leaping at him: he slams his M16’s butt into it as it attempts to throttle him…

Behind him Arby feels spirit powers grappling with his mind but keeps it together.

Cutter watches in shock as Vic repeatedly slams his M16 stock against the tunnel wall, seeming intent on smashing it.

Doc unleashes San’ Pièrre’s protection and a rippling wave of light pushes the attacking spirits away.

Ruefully Vic examines the gun. Luckily this model has a synthetic stock, and isn’t too badly damaged.

[Vic being kafoodled by enemy spirits is so much a given I didn’t bother rolling, instead concentrating on what happens to the others. Good reaction by Doc prevents this from getting really ugly.

In hindsight this would have been a better place to unveil an enemy, on top of the spirit attack.]

And the white hats push on (Arby very reluctant, but all brothers) to see:

Scene: Hellmouth, base of the old quarry pit

Theme: Cold sweat

Doc explains the massive runes they are looking at are really old, not his scene mon but this has to be a Hellmouth. There’s more than one, so he hears.

“There’s another one in California, is what I hear” agrees Cutter.

This old quarry has been sealed up, but at some stage in the not-too-distant past someone, and it could be the single person using the old tunnel back there, has carefully unsealed it and cleared away everything from the Hellmouth.

[Think Buffy season 7 rather than season 1. But a bigger metallic cover.]

Side-Scene: the old Armory basement

The other turn is explored for completeness’ sake. The white hats find where the Corridor Boys’ remnant had been hiding. Along with plenty of other crap, comics, wrappers, makeshift blankets and cartridge casings cleared away from the original gun-fight: someone left one of the Saturday Night Specials. The piece has four rounds left. Cutter keeps it.

[There was still one more deduction to make out of this store, but it is unimportant in the wider scheme. Had the white hats decided to explore further up into the armory things might have become even clearer. Or not.]

Scene: below the Wilson Clinic utility room

Theme: In the heat of the night

While above them Vic is using his leg-muscles to gradually drive the nailed-up door open, Doc Arby and Cutter continue their discussion.

“So it could be, man ‘at’s been at th’ Hellmouth be an insider we ain’t seen nothin’ of yet.”

“Could be T-Bone, at that,” Arby reminds them.

“Ey mon, spirits be flowin’ and that sigil be glowin’.”

There’s a crash as the door, finally released of its nails, flies open and hits the wall behind.

[This is one of the first “busting through” scenes of the campaign, if not the first. I move ‘interior door’ up to ‘reinforced door’ to represent a door that is nailed shut but not so heavily it can never be re-opened. Vic is given a Hard strength check, because he wants a slow, quieter push. Vic makes three raises then a few attempts later four raises.]

“That our cue. I be up, then I pull you up,” Cutter decides.

Scene: Wilson Clinic

Theme: Pick up the pieces

This time the white hats are smarter about how they do. Neither Doc nor Arby can ‘feel’ anything bad, so as the minutes tick by they open formation and explore.

[Recall they have a talisman that confuses demons, so have been keeping tight formation round Doc, who is carrying it.]

Arby checks the basement storeroom, and finds a pair of binoculars amongst a large variety of junk. He dons them, well pleased.

The others search Thacker’s office properly. It is a technician’s in nature, and has no patient notes.

The machine’s room has been cleaned up. There’s no sign of fresh work on it. The cabling in the utility room has been given running repairs, but only so far as getting the place running again at a minimal level. In the next room, no longer locked, there’s a janitor’s broom and swept-up rubbish from around the machine.

Exploring up the center corridor the white hats find a couple of small out-of-use offices and a storage-cum-janitor’s closet under the stairs.

Cutter stands looking and listening up the stairs for a good long while. No sign of any slow-moving, donut-chomping security guard. But he has spotted an invisible eye alarm near the top.

[Since he stands there and waits, this is a given.]

From there it’s a simple matter of Vic carefully stepping over the beam, and helping first Arby, who expertly opens the locked door at the top, then the other two.

[A simple Dex check, i.e. Dex doubled, and Vic has his Dex pumped up to 4 these days so not difficult for him.]

They now have access to the lobby, which also grants access to the electronics firm above. There’s one security camera indoors, but it’s pointing at the outside doors.

Two more lock-pick sessions later, Doc and Cutter start rifling filing cabinets while Vic guards and Arby explores another store-room, this one containing an equally-bewildering bunch of crap.

[Arby’s Crime+Dex is very good, he has no difficulty with any of these checks. Later, he is persuaded not to take the silver tea-service he finds. He does keep the binoculars.]

Doc and Cutter aren’t sure what to look for:

“Charlie Stone!” one guesses;

“Silverman!” another guesses;

But how are they stored? Patient? Date? Treatment? Room? Physician? It’s a very chancy search… until Vic suggests Nicholette de la Fleur. From there it’s routine, since the other patients that went through The Machine are filed the same way she is.

[An xp right there for Vic, good idea, which provides an easy roll for Doc. I ask which skills he brings to bear and he appeals for Int+Doctor since these are medical files, and I allow it.]

There are only three names left unaccounted for. And neither Stone nor Silverman are on that list:

  • County Prosecutor Milton Warnock
  • Alderman Creed
  • Barnabas, Boss Creed’s coat-holder

An exit strategy is debated and Cutter’s destructive impulse is overruled: nothing is smashed. Instead only the machine is interfered with again, to make it look as though the white hats were only worried about keeping the machine out of action.

[Cutter proposes they set the scene to make it look as though they got no further than the silent alarm then fled. The others feel that is gilding the lily and a simple withdrawal leaving little trace of above-ground activity is simplest.]

Scene: Filtration station

Theme: Move on up

It is four a.m. and Arby ducks hastily as the new-woken Professor attempts to remove his head.

“Good reflexes son, lucky for you I didn’t have my eye in,” the Prof blusters, stowing the steel pipe away again.

The big news is, of course, the Hellmouth. But what’s the purpose? The Professor studies the sigil Doc copied from the water-access shaft (before expunging it) and agrees with Doc’s guesstimate that it would draw spirits, including demons, that way. So if evil spirits were unleashed from the Hellmouth, they would tend to “flow” into the water main under the mental hospital, then into the reservoir, and from the reservoir, demonic water can be fed into the loop tunnel. Where the key sigils are.

[Doc could possibly have traced a fake sigil using Voudun that would ward the tunnel, instead of attracting, but it seemed complex and he decided against it, probably wisely.]

“That turn the whole city one butt-ugly Hellmouth?” Cutter guesses. “Nobody gonna notice any diff’rence my hood, but rest o’ city ain’t gon’ be too happy…”

“I estimate you right son, least that’s the likelihood.”

The feeling is – particularly from Cutter – that this is nowhere, nohow as simple as a bunch of demons just getting into people and opening a Hellmouth. He points to the nature of Warnock and Creed. Fixers both. Then, Wolfgang & Hearst, the lawyers moving money around. Getting hold of property along the loop tunnel.

[The Professor jokes that he is the main suspect, then later when the difficulty of moving bricks away from the Hellmouth is brought up, jokes that he would need a team of rangers to do that. Cutter’s player gives me an old-fashioned look. Given that the whole ‘patron betrayed you from the get-go’ was the signature of Cutter’s player’s Pavis campaign I am playing with fire here.]

Doc suggests maybe they reach out to Mitchell Delaney, who Arby can contact, to get his side of things. Arby looks startled then remembers, yeah, that’s another Whitey he’s supposed to be snitching for.

What about Jude Humphrey? He works in the CP’s office. Yeah, Doc scoffs, and he’s real fond of us since we took him for that ride. Arby and Vic agree, he did seem kind of shifty yesterday. Was it only yesterday? It seems days ago! So tired!

Over the objections of the Professor the white hats lay down where they have been sitting and get some shut-eye. Except Arby, who can’t help feeling sick-worried.

[Sleeping here is purely based on Con checks.]

Scene: Ranger station

Theme: Walk on by

Sure enough there’s a State Police’s white truck parked at the turn-out. Vic has agreed reluctantly that if they roll down to Fairfax or Central, an M16 ain’t gonna be a good thing. Another fire-axe will be handy though. He slides the M16 under his coat and walks in.

To the common room, where Kelly and a young Statie are seated at the table drinking breakfast coffee. He glances at Vic, but Kelly has the charm going and he pays little heed to the gigantic, deep-black man in the room. Vic and Kelly fake a delivery pick-up between them, and within a few minutes Vic heads back with a good-size box of first-aid stuff, with a fire-axe hidden inside.

And away!

Scene: Soul Food diner near Brother Gloves

Theme: Trouble man

As the four white hats settle in to their chow, a brother finishes up and pushes the paper over to Cutter as he leaves.

It’s the Call & Post and Cutter reads it over carefully for signs of, well, anything really. Aside from splashes on the unsolved gun violence over to League Park, and the general tone of the paper, most of the focus is on the upcoming local elections. Cutter looks for evidence of candidates standing for the CP’s job and finds none.

Outside, there’s the rapid clatter of a woman running in platform heels, then a pause, and Melvin’s apologetic tone of ‘he ain’t work here no more’.

Oh yeah, this is just down from Brother Gloves. With a sinking feeling, Cutter peers down the street and spots Afro-dite talking to Melvin.

Yes, it is him she’s looking for. Rev’rend Brown wond’rin’ where you at. So’s Cleo. An’ Miz Jefferson. Best get yo’ ass over to Phyllis Wheatley!

Scene: Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: I’m your boogie man

Esther Jefferson has been networking with Reverend Brown and the two of them have been networking with the wider women’s network. Right now, they have need of animal control officers. Because one of the girls that stays in back saw what she thought was a child, stealing underwear. And when she followed the kid, he led her to the basement, and a door that ought to have stayed locked.

So it’s back down to the tunnel then!

Selma-Beth – the little chick from the Call & Post – is there with the other women. “I got me a real scoop on Rev’rend Stone!” she tells them. “I fill you in when you back.”

The white hats gear up away from prying eyes and head down, flashlights shining and fire-axes at the ready.

Scene: Loop Tunnel

Theme: Jungle Boogie

Flashlights reflect back off a shinier side-wall and back-light a weird-looking, vaguely female form, and around it a group of child-size creatures. Wearing women’s underwear on their heads. Who bare sharp teeth, pull handguns and open up!

And we leave it there. XP for this session is 4 all round, including 2 for progressing the plot. Yes, to a large extent the advance is owing to NPCs telling the white hats directly to go back over ground they neglected, but that should not detract from their own successes.

The ‘five threads’ the season kicked off with can now be unscrambled and reassembled to look more like this:

1.The sigils in the ‘loop’ tunnel mean ‘the end of the world’.

1.1 The Baldwin reservoir will push a great deal of water into the tunnel.

1.2 Investigation of the heights has located a Hellmouth and a connection between that and the water main leading into the reservoir. The connection is a sigil.

1.3 At least one demon-possessed agent, T-Bone, knew about this connection.

1.4 T-Bone liaised between the CP’s office, Charlie Stone the radio preacher, and Curtis Silverman the CEO of Farmatec.

1.5 The CP’s office is connected to Boss Creed’s office by a slush fund operated by Wolfgang & Hearst.

1.6 Farmatec has access to Case Western, where the machine originated and where it still operates a Med Lab.

1.7 T-Bone also connects Farmatec and Blackhand security and the Spartans football squad.

1.8 Charlie Stone, radio preacher on WKCY’s Feelgood Hour, mobilized his loyal followers to put out of business: Little Haiti; and Creed’s Furniture Emporium; and curtailed the Haitian congregation’s activities.

1.9 Jude Humphrey works in the CP’s office. Notionally, he is liaison between the operational DeNaRes (i.e. the rangers, the Professor’s consultancy) and Head Office. Jude seemed to be trying to get Arby to say out loud what weapons the white hats are armed with.

1.10 The Wilson Clinic lies roughly along the same path as the Hellmouth-Baldwin line and the same sigil technique was used to move demons into a machine there which infected seven patients. Four of whom are exorcised or dead.

1.11 The remaining three demoniacs are Milton Warnock, the CP; Boss Creed, Alderman for Central Ward, and Barnabas, Creed’s coat-holder.

1.12 W&H seems to lie at the center of attempts to purchase various properties lying along the line of the loop tunnel.

1.13 KinzeyCorp has stalled W&H from the takeover of the Phyllis Wheatley and other properties that roughly align with the ‘loop’ tunnel.

1.14 But Johnsson, KinzeyCorp CEO/local chief, is not necessarily trustworthy.

1.15 KinzeyCorp Security has taken over BlackHand Security’s contracts.

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CD21: Several serendipities

Welcome back to Cleveland Darkens!

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules

First, a stocktake of Cleveland Darkens so far

Last season: As they help Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy deal with his dismissal from Case Western’s medical programme and investigate the break-in that led to the death of Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown’s father, the other white hats meet Doc’s mother, who is houngaan to the Haitian congregation, and is known simply as ‘Maman’; and Doc’s cousin Clarice, who is a legal secretary. (Technically she is Doc’s niece.) Later, Maman is instrumental in exorcising demoniacs.

They also meet Arby’s birth mother – and therefore Vic’s Aunt – Captain Kelly of DeNaRes rangers, and his birth father Professor Josiah Roosevelt who consults to DeNaRes. The Professor provides the white hats and Doc in particular with guidance and wisdom. Captain Kelly gives the white hats shelter and a job, and they get to know the other rangers.

Danny Castro – “I’m not saying Nixon was an angel but…” Republican-leaning and 2-i-c to Kelly. He expects a fair day’s work for payment given.

Benny Li – “Yeah, all us Asians are the same” – slightly sarcastic team player.

Gunnarsson – “That’s good then, ayuh” – good-natured tall and bearded Minnesotian exile.

Laura – “I’m washing my hair that night” – country-club exile; the other rangers tend to go easy on her.

One of the first people outside of these close-knit groups to help the white hats is a hard-to-read brother by the name of Jude Humphrey, who claims to be with DeNaRes but works Downtown. He delivers a trunk of weapons to them. Later in a scene that no GM should forget, the white hats take Jude ‘for a ride’ to force him to tell them more about who’s pulling strings, and it turns out that Jude works out of the CP’s office.

So much for the people.

As the white hats operate under DeNaRes papers as “animal control officers” they take their dungarees under the Phyllis Wheatley building where “raccoons” have been heard and clothing is going missing. What begins as a slightly awkward hunt for small humanoids turns into something much nastier. There seems to be a powerful industry lobby fronted by Wolfgang & Hearst, lawyers to the rich and evil, and backed by Farmatec, or possibly someone behind that Pharma company, intent on acquiring the Phyllis Wheatley property and others like it. Beneath the building the white hats find a large loop tunnel connected to the Baldwin Reservoir and forming a huge oval extending as far as the Central Ward offices. In the tunnel are a number of circle sigils partly carved into the floor. The only other things they meet down there are a weird-looking creature and its goblin cohorts. There’s a brief firefight and melee with the goblins. The weird-looking creature departs into a side-tunnel leading further west, and the white hats decide not to go after it. Professor Roosevelt identifies the sigils as portending the end of the world.

At the same time all this is going on, the white hats are stopped or diverted at every turn by a bewildering mix of personal problems, weirdness and civil rights abuses. But out of all this they do stumble upon the distinct trail of evil. Someone is infecting psychiatric patients with demons. Psychiatrist Jill Spenser’s name comes up immediately, as does the Wilson Clinic where she works. They fail to follow either up. Months go by and finally, mainly by the circumstance of looking for what might be fed into the reservoir from above in Ambler Heights, they stumble upon the Wilson Clinic.

By this time, there’s something of a drugs war going on in their hood. In a clever piece of snitching the white hats take the gang du jour, the Corridor Boys, out of action. When they use an old tunnel to explore under the Heights, they meet the Corridor Boys gang leader head-on, and he proves to be a demoniac as well. They defeat him and break into the Wilson Clinic from below, then set off the alarm by cutting the power, then as the alarm is investigated, blast the basement with an M16, thus ensuring the Special Response Squad is called out and forcing them to hastily retreat.

And now to the same night after the raid

The white hats for today’s session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Living for the city

Doc is feeling quite tired but at least he hasn’t been shot. He quickly checks Arby and Vic and finds they miraculously suffered only graze-burns: their garments did not fare as well. Arby studies the note Benny gave him, and Vic strips his M16 down and cleans and oils her. Barry White notes linger in the air… Mmm, baby, jus’ you an’ me.

The Cutter has dragged the phone into the kitchen and all they can hear is the occasional “motherf***”. Man’s got his obligations.

The other three get some sleep.

Doc is up first and feeling hungry, makes a bee-line for the kitchen. Benny is still there, he’s made coffee, but seems too tired to cook. Doc takes over, carving an increasingly ripe ham and getting some grits going. Vic likes his grits. Doc’s got his mind working on the timeline for today. He has to pick up Maman by 11.30am so she can set up here for a 12 noon ceremony to learn the demon’s name.

Smelling the cooking Vic is next up. Danny Castro passes him going the other way, gestures in a random direction about where Gunnarsson is, stumbles off to his own bunk. By this time Doc has noticed some movement off down the slope below the station. An anonymous sedan has turned in and slowly makes its way towards the now-barren building lot, where the Golden Crème place used to stand. Most likely, they were looking to arrive at the ranger station and turned the wrong way.

Sure enough as the grits get serving-ready a cat in platforms and a wanna-be sharp suit makes his way unsteadily across the fields, diagonally from the lot up to the station. Vic thinks something about the little chick with the ‘fro tracking along in that cat’s wake looks familiar too.

So they are completely unsurprised when there’s a knock on the station door. By this time Arby’s just stumbled in, grabbing for a coffee and bleary-eyed.

Scene: ranger station common room

Theme: Green onions

The cat introduces he and his junior as working for the Call & Post, a paper dedicated to Black issues. He says his name is André, and does not introduce the sistah though Vic remembers her as the little chick that lured Cutter and him into the first meet-up with Agent Boddington.

André (call me Bust-a-Move) Bustamante is well-informed about the non-weird part of what’s been going on, though without the weird part it doesn’t hold together very well.

Benny sits in on the conversation but pretends to be Japanese and not speak English very well. For their part the white hats go all vague when André presses into dangerous turf.

[The white hats do not elect a spokesperson so at this stage I get each to make an Intelligence+Influence test, needing at least a raise to not reveal too much. They all do well, so although André will get more than they wanted, they certainly don’t blab details.]

André takes a lot of notes but by the end of the interview the white hats are sensing that he could be a good ally in matters like Charlie Stone’s campaign. He’s very interested in anything that looks like Whitey putting brothers down. Though he won’t be publishing any dirty cop names, and what actually gets printed will be up to his editor and the legal people.

The pair take themselves off, leaving the white hats wondering if the card André gave them was just something he got off an Italian name of Bustamante.

Arby has woken up and scratches his head thinking there was something he was supposed to do. The phone rings and Benny answers, then waggles it at Arby. It’s Jude Humphrey – oh yeah, the guy that left a message for Arby to call him.

Scene: Rapid service depot, over the tracks from Baldwin

Theme: Mo’ Onions

Arby parks up and slides down out of the van, while Vic stays in the passenger seat. The wind is chill and the Fall day is not getting warmer. A sedan, maybe ten years old, rolls towards them. Ten years ago it would have been a shiny Burnt Umber but now it’s just dark-shit brown. It looks like Jude is the only occupant. He winds down his window and leans out.

There’s something about how Jude is asking how they are getting on with things and what they are armed with now that makes Arby nervous. He edges away, and Jude steps out and after him bit by bit, until he can easily be picked off by Vic if things go south. But they don’t. Jude seems satisfied enough with the bland assurances Arby hands him – “we do a’ight brother” – and hands over the promised $20 and drives away.

Arby tells Vic he will hand over the promised $10 once he can split the note.

Scene: ranger station

Theme: Soul Man

Doc’s busy with the telephone directory. Ranger Kelly comes in. Her eyes have dark smudges under them. It seems she’s been helping the Professor set up at the filtration plant, and he likes to be ****ing comfortable, so he’s had Danny and her running ****ing errands all night. Laura’s still not up? Yeah, probably still ****ing umm fixing herself. Who made this ****ing coffee? Well, make a new one and make it strong! She lights a cigarette to keep from falling asleep then says she’ll wait at the table, and by the time Doc has the coffee perking she is asleep, her cigarette smoldering in her fingers. Doc eases it out and stubs it out with the others in the ashtray, and slides the telephone directory out from under her head. She mutters something and keeps sleeping.

He’s already had a few minutes looking for ‘Thacker’ in the directory but the conversation with the ‘reporter’ sucked up most of the time before they need to leave. He hasn’t got far.

Vic and Arby are back by now and join Doc for the pick-up, and since there’s a little time in hand, and it’s on the way, decide to swing by the Call & Post and verify Bustamante. Each packs a hefty flashlight.

Scene: Call & Post, 105th and Chester

Theme: Tell it like it is

The Plymouth swings into the parking lot, and Doc notes it will cost money to get back out, unless he validates. The three swing into reception where Vic’s hideous appearance terrifies the girl on reception, until he jokes about Bustamante’s get-up. Relieved that he’s not there to maim and destroy she readily admits him to the back-issues and he flicks back to the Antioch Baptist shooting to see what the Call & Post really said about it. It’s more radically-phrased than Cindy Channel’s account for the Plain Dealer, and came out a day later (Cindy works the night shift so submitted her story in time for the morning press) but in essence covers the same thing and contains no ‘weirdness’. Vic flicks back over some more issues and decides the Call & Post is conventionally blind to the ‘other’ side of Cleveland, just as you might expect.

[No roll needed. If you do logical everyday stuff like this, you get results.]

Aside from verifying the André that interviewed them is the André that is employed as a staff reporter, Doc learns that the day he was canned from Case Western and stood at the Circle looking blankly out westward, his eye must have roved over the Call & Post building. At the time he was more worried about mysterious black sedans.

The Call & Post is as advertised – dedicated to Black issues. The reception walls are covered with pictures stretching back at least a century, from early days of paper route staff in front of their first permanent offices, through MLK poses, to Panthers clutching assault rifles and punching salutes.

Scene: Fairfax avenues

Theme: Sweetback’s theme

The Plymouth pulls over to the kerb and Arby springs out of the back ready to swap with Doc. Unfortunately Doc’s disability makes him slower, and Bustamante’s sedan also pulls over and waits. But Arby makes up for that with a bold display of losing-a-tail driving and by taking the long way round has ensured Bustamante will not know where they ended up.

[This was an easy Dex check, i.e. Dex doubled, but Doc was -1 for his drawback and made an 8, just under the minimum for competence.]

Scene: Maman’s place, Fairfax

Theme: I got the magic in me

Doc and Vic have bush-crashed through the overgrown vacant lot behind Maman’s from the other side of the block, while Arby is going to time it so that he swings by the main driveway at 11.30 sharp.

Clarice’s sedan is in the drive.

That’s all to the good, because Doc has been worrying about some of the legal ramifications of thing’s he got on his plate:

  • His expulsion
  • The blood work he has on the Spartans
  • Cutter’s naming by Charlie Stone

It turns out Clarice is keen to help and decides – or has already decided – she will be accompanying her Aunt up to the station. That’s a tight squeeze with Maman, who is traditionally built, in the front, Arby driving, and Vic Clarice and Doc squeezed along the back. Clarice is attractive so Vic ain’t complaining.

The reason they took the secret way in was there’s still a sedan opposite up the road, watching the place. Last time this happened, they were pretty sure it was Setro or one of his faction. Maman mutters under her breath and Doc helps her with his spirits and as the sedan swings around to follow them it stalls, as though the engine flooded. Arby wiggles his fingers in an ironic wave as he accelerates away.

[No-one synchronizes watches! Arby misses a simple Int check by 1, meaning he is a little late and the surveillance is well warned of Maman’s exit. Doc contributes his ‘help’ raises to Maman’s automatic success. He adds 3, ensuring a dramatic result.]

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Bridge over troubled waters

Captain Kelly is all the better for her hour-plus of sleep, and welcomes Maman again and is introduced to Clarice. Maman is given the same privacy as last time. Doc helps her set up and drags the various Demon-inhabited body parts from the freezer.

[No, I didn’t check for this. It would have been amusing but Vic could help if need be.]

Vic checks over the station. Danny is really asleep. Laura sticks her head around the corner; she’s handling that fancy little pair of binoculars Arby left around [he didn’t tell me he packed them last couple of Eps so they are general equipment now]. She’s been standing watch up top, but now joins the crew below.

Clarice interviews Arby and Vic, taking notes on their situation; she writes up Arby’s previous employment as ‘street entertainer’ which is kind of true of a 3-card monte player.

Doc emerges from where he and Maman have successfully pinned down the demon’s name and bound it. Now, he can safely take his talisman and not worry whether the demon will tempt someone else.

[Doc again contributes his ‘help’ raises to Maman’s automatic success. Again, he adds 3. I don’t go into the dramatic NPC demon vs NPC houngaan, I just comment that the demon is an ego demon and the demon’s name translates to something like ‘I am all’.]

Maman suggests she lay out the cards again so that Doc can see them. He agrees. She does a full tarot reading for him. She shows him that two powers, recently sundered, surround him bringing danger as well as opportunity. One power is newly-arrived; the other is old. Arby and Doc speculate that the ‘new power’ could well be KinzeyCorp since its security branch seems to have abruptly taken over Blackhand Security’s footprint.

Doc has the idea that he wants to talk more to the Professor, and that being so maybe Maman should talk to him as well. Arby makes a flurry of sandwiches using up the last cold ham; Gunnarsson stumbles in from about 48 hours solid down on the Reservoir and gloms a couple before hitting the hay. Benny’s due down there next.

To Laura, Doc explains his Thacker search and leaves that with her: she’s probably better at calling than he is and has the vehicle plate number to use to fake up some excuse or other. She asks where the Cutter is and the best they can guess is family troubles.

Scene: Filtration plant

Theme: Sympathy for the devil

Setting aside its pretend-gracious-Palladian architecture the plant is one humungous piece of building where every pillar is potential cover and every stairwell could hold a trap. Vic is nervous until the womenfolk are all up on the top floor of the east wing where the Professor has an absurdly comfortable campsite.

There’s a weird kind of four-way meeting. Doc helps ‘translate’ between Maman and the Prof and Arby chips in to help. After all the Prof is his birth father.

[This is not language translation, it’s conceptual. Two different schools or cultures, if you like. It operates under the joint research rules, but using Int+Influence since the white hats are acting as diplomats. They score a joint +9 for helping Maman and Professor to grasp the scale of what’s going on.]

The white hats get an amount of good solid advice from experts and head back to the station with a ‘to-do’ list.

Side-scene: Curiosity Shop, Garfield Heights

Maman has given her son directions to two possible places he can buy a spirit container to keep the demon in, thus allowing them to dispose of T-Bone’s corpse and avoid that embarrassing moment when the law calls round and you have a body in the freezer… Arby convinces Benny to do a temporary vehicle swap… Arby drives Doc Maman and Clarice back to Fairfax, then Doc bids the women farewell and the pair head up to Garfield. The Justice building stands proud at its summit.

Now to find the shop!

[Int check for Doc, he misses by 4.]

They take a long time, and get pulled over by Garfield’s finest who check papers (those were swapped too so no problem) and warn them to be out of town by sundown, but finally find it tucked away in a peaceful back-street that looks vaguely familiar.

The Korean woman behind the counter of the tiny shop is selling a lot of touristy junk out front and has a range of real goodies back of the counter. She offers a top-quality Tibetan item for $149 plus tax, or a near-as-good Jiangxin version for $89.95 plus tax. Arby is the only one with money so it’s the cheaper version. Now he’s tapped out.

A man’s head appears around the curtain to the rear areas: he smiles and asks, in better English than his wife, if all’s well. Instinctively warming to him, Doc and Arby assure that nice Dr. Han that yes, things are fine. – Is this a family business? – Yes, we brought it over from Korea. – Good then, we’ll be going. – Do you have a card? No? Well, thanks for your business, call in again.

Randomly glancing around at various business cards Arby notices Martin Capaldi, Psychic Detective has left his card as an ad., and there’s an autographed photo from Kolchak, Arcane Investigator, Chicago.

Montage: driving/prep

Arby and the pair drive back, clearing Garfield as the sun sinks.

Vic is prepping for a foray back down the Wilson Clinic tunnel to see what’s beyond.

Cutter is making his way back to the station.

I had been expecting some of the bad guys plans to really reach out by now. But the way things fell, I was able to extend a lot of help the white hats ought to have sought way, way back. Arby’s player wondered why, just as a player, he hadn’t pushed for this meeting ages ago. We discussed player laziness when one player is chasing sparkly ideas – ooh shiny! – and it becomes too easy for the others to sit back.

I told them the high result of the Professor-Maman consultation meant that more information would be pushed out in later sessions but for now they have been given some pointed advice, mainly around the two tunnel systems and the need to investigate further. Clarice also gave some advice. She’s moderately confident that Doc’s employment can be remedied but needs a paper trail between Farmatec and something else to show the expulsion was unjust.

If the white hats choose they may now be able to use the media to help them. Cutter deliberately cut his fat pipe to the Plain Dealer (and didn’t use it effectively when he had it) so we’ll see how the Call & Post connection works.

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