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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CD20: Basement blitz!

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!
Urban fantasy gaming using Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG 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.

Steve “the Cutter” Cutter, 6′ ex-boxer, built for fast-hand combat.

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.

Recap: The White Hats have cleaned up T-Bone Bennett, a possessed egomaniac who had been running the Corridor Boys, manipulating the Spartans, and blackmailing Emily Phan. His connections to Charlie Stone and Curtis Silverman and the CP’s office are still unexplained. With T-Bone’s demon safely contained they plan the actual raid on the Wilson Clinic, using the same tunnel T-Bone and his Corridor Boys have been using.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station above Baldwin Reservoir

Theme: What becomes of the broken hearted

There’s some careful groundwork to lay before they head back underground.

Vic is stitched up and given a shot, and starts feeling better almost immediately [as 3 drama points are spent].

“There’s all hell breaking loose over to the old League Park,” Danny Castro updates them. Gunfire, some of it heavy. They recall League Park is one of the access points to the circle-tunnel and its apocalyptic sigils.

They get shut-eye and come dawn, Benny Li agrees to head over to the surplus store again and get two more fire-axes.

Cutter calls Boddington’s office and is quickly answered. They agree to meet up at Soul Food diner.

[I’m not entirely sure why. But Cutter does want to enlist Boddington as an active agent so the personal touch will work best.]

Breakfast is heavy, the perishables need to be eaten quickly.

Doc calls up his Maman. After a time, she answers the phone herself. He explains about the demon in the freezer and is not surprised when she confirms that without the full congregation an exorcism will be tré dificil. What is surprising is that she seems concerned for him, tells him the cards are looking ominous, and checks that he still has the powered-up enchantment in the coco macaque.

After a long, long pause while Maman is off the receiver ‘checking something’ she returns to tell Doc she will try to force the demon to reveal its name at noon tomorrow. And she will need a lift, so be home by 11.30 tomorrow morning.

Arby, with a slight apology to the others, calls up Smoker Man. He’d had a message to get in touch.

“Ah, Mr. Roosevelt. I was wondering why we have not received any report recently. I just want to reiterate that the previous rate of payment will apply.”

“Uh… I’ll try to get some word to you soon,” Arby assures him unconvincingly and after some further meaningless words on both sides rings off. He explains briefly to the others.

Scene: Soul Food diner near Brother Gloves

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

Cutter takes Arby as lookout and meets Boddington, entering only once he’s fairly sure it’s not a trap. Regarding the Hough war, Boddington thinks the “friends in suits” are duking it out maybe with Little Italy. Cutter updates Boddington strategically, leaving out the bits about executing a demon-possessed T-Bone and dragging the corpse back to stow in the freezer. That said, he presses Boddington to tail Charlie Stone, something he doesn’t feel he can get away with himself. Boddington agrees to look into it.

Meanwhile while leaning casually on a lamppost outside, Arby is approached by an street acquaintance he usually sees around the entertainment district. Titus, and Moroni the mob bastard are all looking for Arby. Cherry is wondering where you at too. You got it goin’ ON brutha! Gimme five up here! An’ down here! An’ say, c’n ya spot a brutha five… cool, I pay ya back… later brutha.

[Arby is the only white hat that has received an October stipend so is relatively flush.]

Scene: the tunnel between Luna Park and Wilson Wellness Clinic

Theme: Going to a go-go

It’s hours later. The four white hats camp in the tunnel at the slump, until they can be fairly sure all staff have left the clinic for the day, then trudge on. After at least a mile and a half the tunnel changes into a more modern utility tunnel, where massive cabling snakes down from above and continues on above them. Water and possibly gas lines run along the tunnel side, hissing randomly. It’s also cleaner: the cobweb-covered sides give way to dusty raw concrete.

Listening carefully, Cutter identifies some traffic noise, and Doc guesses they are now past the Athletic Track and small park that lie back of the ranger station along Fairhill. A stub tunnel, where utilities have been sealed off, confirms they are passing a cleared lot and are close to the clinic.

A short walk forward, Doc beginning to feel uneasy and Arby beginning to feel as though things are moving just on the edges of his peripheral vision, then


The white hats hit the dirt as high-velocity rounds smash around them! Vic and Arby are both hit, while behind them Doc and Cutter are safe. While the wounded pair check themselves for damage – and Vic empties his Police .38 down the tunnel – Cutter explodes off the ground and charges the two gunners, closing his eyes as Doc again summons San Pierre’s lumen and blinds the enemy. They are mere kids and have already fired their entire clip so Cutter uses his fists to level one and turns on the other.

As he does so the cabling beside him is torn open by another M16 firing from above and behind him! Wheeling he sees Arby has followed him up and has knocked aside a third gunner’s weapon.

[This seems an improbable maneuver but Arby does score extraordinary success on a leaping attack with his catchpole. So giving credit for using the right tool for the job, I rule it becomes a parry that knocks the M16’s muzzle aside.]

Scene: Wilson Clinic’s utility room

Theme: Jungle boogie

Vic joins the party, clambering up metal rungs that start from about 7’ up and Doc is close enough to give support. The upper gunner hasn’t foolishly run through his entire clip so Doc sends a fear spirit up, which works just about as well as it did last time – the gunner shrieks in fear and the shots go wild past Vic. No-one below is hit. [A 1 on a d10 to represent the random danger.] Vic slams his axe-head up and knocks the kid loose from his perch on the access hole, then scrambles up past the cable that thrusts up into this tiny utility room, and punches the kid’s leg dead, and kicks his head into the solid concrete wall, just as another ganger – Boogedy Jones, one of the Corridor Boys under-chiefs – appears in a doorway and throws down with an automatic and blazes away, hitting nothing but concrete and cable as Vic hurls himself to one side.

Below, Cutter has dragged the kid away from the firing line and behind the spalled concrete that forms a rough defense point. He gets some cheap defiance off the kid, but convinces him to take his KO’d friend Pinkeye and get gone and stay gone, head for the West Coast: You might not ever get rich/ But let me tell you it’s better than digging a ditch.

Then he boosts Doc up to the first couple of rungs and follows him.

Meanwhile Vic’s expert dodge has punched him forward into a lunge at Boogedy Jones and in a close clinch the slighter man has no chance. Vic finishes choking him out as Arby checks the room the struggling pair sprawled into. It’s a dusty disused office, with a table shoved up into a corner, couple of chairs upside down atop it, and one obvious door that looks locked. Marks on the tables and some spare clips show where the gang members were equipping. The available light comes through a reinforced glass pane in the locked door.

On closer inspection and with the aid of a flashlight, there’s an air-con unit up near the door, and a second door is blocked by the desk. Arby gets a chair down and looks at the air-con unit closely, Vic hauls the desk aside, Cutter begins donning the rubber waders and gloves he brought, and Doc checks Arby and Vic’s wounds briefly.

The air-con unit does not have any hidden security; the blocked door leads merely to a store-room with junk in it; and after some brief discussion Cutter uses his fire-axe and severs the power cable, Doc giving some help as to which part to aim at. [Doc’s science and knowledge are help factors, but Cutter’s Mr Fixit is the key skill.]

The building goes dark. It seems the main cable powered all utilities including lights.

Scene: Wilson Clinic basement

Theme: Shakey ground

After a fairly long delay Vic realizes all the others have explored forward, leaving him with the M16 Cutter brought up. He stops petting it and moves to take position at the door to the control room. He notices that the door has a cheap aluminium name-plate reading ‘Thacker’.

This control room lies left off what seems to be a central passage lengthwise along the basement level. It has a big plate-glass observation window and a door that allows access to The Machine.

The Machine is a MRI machine that has undergone some… alterations. Doc thinks it could well have come out of Case Western when they upgraded not long ago. It’s institutional green except where the metal casing has been removed and changes made. Power cables thread out from the main line that extends out of the control room and link to The Machine. The three white hats explore it, keeping close together, because of the demons and spirits both Doc and Arby suspect are moving in the room all around them. Doc has the talisman in his pocket, the one that confuses demon-kind.

Doc begins setting up a magic circle around it, so he can detect magical sigils on it.

And is rudely interrupted when Vic screams:

Die Charlie! Die!

And blasts a clip off into the machine’s room!

Warned by his scream the other white hats duck for cover and the bullets all miss them. Doc tries to leap to his feet while grabbing out the stone… his gammy leg goes out from under him… the stone flies off towards a corner… Cutter makes a dive-roll over the machine and snatches the stone up and slings it neatly back to Doc… they rush Vic as he runs back to the spare office to reload! As the stone nears him he stops, confused.

[An exciting moment! Vic’s Willpower is not great, and he’s easy prey to manipulation of this kind. And Dex tests are tricky for Doc. The ‘fumble’ is my reading of the 1’s as they are rolled.]

In the lull as Vic apologizes and agrees to stick real close, the white hats hear a scramble of feet up above, then silence.

“Security be checkin’ an’ be callin’ in The Man! Let’s get gone!”

Finishing The Machine off with smashing axe-blows to key circuit joints is easy for Cutter and Doc completes his circle, locates one small sigil discreetly hidden under the casing. He erases it then scuffs out his circle making it look like random bits of salt and chalk marks. They all retreat.

Back in the disused office Vic grabs the final three spare clips, drags the unconscious Corridor Boys out of the way, while Cutter packs up his bag of protective gear, and all four white hats descend to the tunnel, safely. Then away!

Scene: Parkland near the tunnel mouth

Theme: Across 11oth street

Emergency sirens howl in the distance as PD4 and the SRS mobilize to deal with the automatic gunfire reported from the Wilson Wellness Clinic. Luckily they don’t throw their cordon out as far as two miles, or they would certainly notice four suspicious characters.

The Mystery Machine has been parked conveniently near the tunnel mouth and the two young Corridor Boys have found it and attempted to boost it. Cutter looks disgustedly at the mess of loose wires and begins to sort them to the point where he can hotwire the van properly.

He’s just about there when Doc says:

Not the red wire!

Suddenly paranoid [Cutter’s player has been quite paranoid so I enforce a Willpower test, which he fails] Cutter spends quite a long time doing a search under and inside the Mystery Machine, to find a nonexistent bomb.

Cursing Doc roundly he returns to fixing the wiring and after some further delay gets it right.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Living for the city

“A guy left a message for you Arby,” Benny tells him. It’s from Jude Humphrey.

“Say that’s a’ight,” Cutter chips in, “I gotta call Jude anyhow. He work in CP’s office, lotta shit goin’ down the CP be all over. Be our chance ‘a’ gettin’ word on it.”

This was a session that I wanted to get through without things going disastrously off. So, objective attained!

There were a number of things that happened, and a few things that ought to but didn’t, that I recognize as being the result of “lead player fraying” having been in this position myself many many times. Decisions that all players should be making in support of group play, come down again and again to Steve Cutter deciding what needs to be done, because no-one else is concentrating. This bodes ill for the end of the campaign.

Having said that, they have effectively put the Wilson Clinic out of business. But how many demonics are still out there? And what will they do to retaliate? Stay tuned!

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CD19: Blood

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban fantasy gaming using Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG 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.

Steve “the Cutter” Cutter, 6′ ex-boxer, built for fast-hand combat.

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


October 1976 is 3/4 over now. The white hats have, since September, lived mostly out of the DeNaRes ranger station up above Baldwin Reservoir. Charlie Stone, radio preacher on WKCY’s Feelgood Hour, has made life difficult. Cleveland’s PD even arrested three of them.

A Stone-inspired protest outside the Antioch Baptist was the setting for sniping – exactly at who, it’s no longer clear. The upshot of that incident is, the CIA has taken freelance agent Asha Barkley off the table.

All of this has made the white hats wonder:

It turns out Asha was working for The Man. Why does the CIA want the Central-Hough-Fairfax corners to itself? And how come Little Italy seems not to care?

Charlie Stone has put several of our allies and support network out of business. We know where he works. Now what?

  • And, is there a way we can reverse the damage done to: Haitian congregation; Little Haiti; Creed’s Furniture Emporium?

Even though Vic’s pop got put out of business, Boss Creed wants to use him in the local election. What the!!!!????

GM – Player time

As the session kicked off we discussed one of the players’ big issues of the entire campaign: whether they need to be told the major threads they are supposed to be focused on, at the start of each session.

My point: It’s the GM’s job to throw distractions at the players. If it was a dungeon, would you spend all your time on the traps, or would you work around them and try to get to the treasure? This is the same thing.

Their point: there are so many traps…

So I read out the five threads still outstanding from season one, again. Doc’s player took notes. We’ll see how that works out.

More constructively the three attending agreed there were two threads in progress from last session: the Wilson Clinic investigation, and the Spartans’ blood work. In the former, the white hats determined that the clinic’s building has an impressive array of modern security, so there might be an old utility tunnel that would allow them to switch the power off – or even access the clinic. In the latter, Doc has been contacted by unpleasant honky med student Tom Spiegel for a meet-up to hand over the stuff.

But the order of things has to be decided so we kick off with:

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station above Baldwin reservoir

Theme: Get funky!

Talking over options for finding tunnels, the three white hats decide that the best way to find a tunnel is to look at old city planning blueprints and the best way to look at old city planning blueprints (without bribing anyone from non-existent funds) is to get Cleo, Steve’s woman, to ask her brother the city planning official to get them ‘for the cause’.

So Vic and Cutter will need to meet Cleo so Cutter can state his case; Doc will meet Spiegel later.

But before any of that happens!

Laura, the perky uptown part-time ranger, has been speaking earnestly to Captain Kelly, who encourages her to interrupt the bloods, saying,

“I’ve had to send Arby off on a thing… but Laura here’s got a suggestion”

Laura explains that she overheard Cutter talking about seeing a nurse-aid named Nicole up at Garfield’s Marymount, talking to a well-dressed badman. She thinks she can help fact-check some of the Marymount details.

“We’re all in this together, aren’t we?” she responds when Cutter wonders why she wants to help.

This sounds like a good daytime job for Doc to help out on, while Vic and Cutter don their dungarees and get to work on Doan Brook again, this time cleaning upstream.

Which takes them below the Wilson Clinic. They poke around the light tree cover and through the quick-growing scrub. If there’s a big convenient outfall tunnel, they can’t find it.

Working-day over (well, over if they are somewhat lazy people who need to clean up and meet Cleo) they trudge back to the station. Doc and Laura have some further checking to do – Doc spent quite a lot of the day staking out the hospital parking lot as it turns out – but he’s got a time to meet Spiegel.

Scene: The Dunham bar, University Circle

Theme: Run to the devil

“So, Jon, a nice little bundle of trouble for someone. Let me guess… planning to blackmail your way back to reinstatement? Kudos!”

Jon frowns but doesn’t respond to Spiegel’s slightly taunting tone. He’s too busy reading over the bloodwork.

“Mmm, some really elevated readings. But I don’t know that the sports administration has enough pull with the dean for your plan to work. Anyway good luck… oh, and the blood samples are in there too.”

Sure enough the blood is showing some performance-enhancing readings. That’s interesting in itself, though Doc will need to use the blood in a ceremony to see if there is a malign influence at work here too.

Scene: High-rise apartments, Central

Theme: Higher ground

Clive offers Cutter a smoke but the ex-boxer still keeps his lungs clean. The city bureaucrat asks Cutter to outline the specifics of what he needs to see. Little sis’ gets what she wants, generally speaking. Clive tells Cutter it will be easy. They talk about ghost stories about the old Luna Park site, not far from the area Cutter wants to know about. Clive tells Cutter he’ll drop the plans over tomorrow, to Cleo’s.

That was so easy it belies the pain Cutter (and Vic too) put themselves through to get that far.

Flashback scene: Cleo’s apartment, earlier in the day

Theme: Trouble man

Cleo has told Cutter off to be sure he ain’t come over ‘thout Jomo’s baseball glove. So he got that. The other two boys are heartbroken their big bro got a fancy new glove and they got nothing!

Jomo wants to play catch, of course.

Cleo takes fire (Cutter figured she gonna) at what Cutter’s hinting at. Yeah, ‘s’all tied into the shooting. So she gets on to her brother (after some time getting passed around his office) and tells him roughly what Cutter wants and to be sure he ready to raise up! So Clive agrees to be there after work to speak to Cutter.

You’d never know she’s Clive’s little sister and depends on him for the apartment.

[Vic and Cutter take more damage as Cleo tries to settle the boys down for the night as they leave. Vic swears never to come back. “It ain’t working like you think it works” Cutter predicts unkindly. Both white hats take a -1 and no drama points spending into the next scene.]


As Cutter puts the Mystery Machine into first gear and gets it rolling Vic spots Afro-dite and another girl chatting in the shadows. He mentions it to Cutter but Cutter can’t make much of the glimpse. Life is complicated enough without Afro-dite.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Doc segregates the small store-room, purifies it and draws a circle. Examining the blood he easily detects a taint. It’s not possible to be more specific but yes, some spirit has been associated with the Spartans.

Out in the common room Vic and Cutter are struggling with the big Fairhill-Cedar Heights plat. It’s complicated.

Gunnarsson comes back in from the surplus store. He hands over two fire axes as per request. They thank him – it’s dangerous for them to be seen in public, especially Cutter. Gunnarsson nods amiable.

“No problem. You owe me next payday – but don’t worry, they’re cheap. Ayap.”

Once Doc joins them with the news about the blood, he helps them get bearings on what the blueprint shows. Luna Park used to have a tour train ride – maybe part of the roller-coaster set up – that was extended into a tunnel under Fairhill. And probably under what’s now the Wilson Clinic.

Cutter checks with Kelly about ‘raccoon’ activity over there, and she warns them that yes, particularly in the last couple of weeks there have been reports of lights. So be sure to bring poles!

Equipment montage

Theme: Get ready

Doc, who needs to carry his coco macaque, brings a sharp knife in his pocket, and a flashlight. He has no special protective clothing.

Cutter dresses in his sturdy jacket, slips a flashlight onto his belt, and carries the lone catchpole.

Vic dresses in his leather duster, also has a spare flashlight in his belt, and carries the two fireaxes that Gunnarsson brought. The plan is, he’ll hand one to Cutter when the action gets solid.

The three white hats head for the Mystery Machine.

Scene: site of Luna Park, Woodhill Heights

Theme: Shotgun/Boom Boom

The Mystery Machine safely parked near to hand, the three spread out and sift slowly through suburban homes. There’s a chill fog or mist: they’re glad their clothes are warm. Based on Doc’s understanding of the map, it doesn’t take long before they are on the right track.

Literally. Vic picks up the marks of shod feet, lining up with where the tunnel ought to be.

Pushing through some wet-beaded bushes they find that the tunnel entrance is easily accessed. Whoever has been using it hasn’t even bothered to make the old boards look as if they are still fastened. They are just leant up against the entrance.

It was built for a miniature rail, maybe, but there’s no tracks any more. Plenty of elbow room, though the sides are cobwebbed over. They step out in echelon: Cutter, Doc with torch, and Vic.

They are in for roughly two miles of tunnel, according to Doc’s estimate. After about 600 paces the most exciting thing they have found is ahead of them, where there’s been a small collapse and the tunnel is a little wider and the slumped wall forms a gentle hump in the tunnel floor. The marks of reasonably new footwear are clear. Combat boots and sneakers, maybe five or so people, to and fro.

Doc senses something and whispers to Cutter. As lights flash up ahead Cutter dives back to shelter behind the humped floor, dropping the catchpole, grabbing the flashlight out of Doc’s hand and switching it off. Vic presses into the side of the tunnel and Doc throws himself off into the concavity of the wall. Shots – pistol shots – crack in the near distance and the volley snaps past them, nicking Steve’s jacket but missing all targets!

Vic launches himself off the wall and sprints to close the gap before the shooters figure the angles better. Cutter knuckles up from the ground and follows, wielding the flashlight. Doc stays low, creeping to the edge of limited cover, and calls St Pierre’s aid to flash a blazing light in front of the shooters!

Vic times it right, shutting his eyes until the flash goes off. There are some more random shots but they go nowhere. Up ahead of him are five bloods, one tall, sturdy and notoriously pimped out – and his eyes are glowing red! Vic launches himself, axes wide, at them all, knocks two flat and tangles with T-Bone.

Cutter runs left, flattens one thug with a well-aimed K-O punch, zigs right as Vic smashes both axes into T-Bone’s skull. Cutter leaps in to grapple the gang leader around the neck, and Doc directs a terrifying Fear spirit at the remaining thug, who spins and fires blindly in the wrong direction. Vic gets one axe into action and severs T-Bone’s left leg – then stops dead as weird words of command gurgle from T-Bone’s throat!

The next few seconds are tense, as Cutter and T-Bone fall, T-Bone’s demon attempts to keep Vic immobilized and T-Bone tries to bust out of the grapple. Doc makes an herculean effort to keep the demon penned into the body as T-Bone bleeds out – Vic smashes one axe into T-Bone’s remaining leg, and the other axe into his own!

The two thugs knocked down get up, rolling-eyed crazy, and Vic warns them to step off! They run for the exit past Doc, who is hurrying forward to help, toting the stone talisman that confuses demons. The terrified thug has already fled the other way.

Doc wraps some dirty shirt around Vic’s leg but it is still bleeding steadily. The demon’s real appearance is blistering through T-Bone’s corpse now – a disgusting and fearful sight. Cutter and Vic think to take T-Bone’s head off, but Doc warns them he can’t be sure to keep the demon pinned there if they do!

Cutter and Doc wrap the demon-possessed corpse in hats, shirts and so on and Cutter drags it out. Vic has his work cut out helping and keeping his fist jammed in the wound. Doc picks up a few important things and they grope their way out again, over to the Mystery Machine and away!

In terms of violence this one is equivalent to the cannibal-themed demon the white hats defeated in Hough. None of this ‘peaceful rehabilitation’ stuff and perhaps rightly so – T-Bone was a nasty piece of work.

Some really good spellcasting from Doc turned the tide. It is the first time ever I have awarded a circumstance bonus – for casting a fear spell, in a scary place, during a combat! It didn’t quite make up for the quick-cast penalty of -2 for the 2nd spell.

XP is a worthy 5 – one for turning up, one for roleplay, one for advancing the plot and two for defeating a significant demonic enemy.

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CD18: Fight the power/Snoopopathy

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban fantasy gaming using Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG rules

The session characters:

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

Steve “the Cutter” Cutter, 6′ ex-boxer, built for fast-hand combat.

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

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, skinny but slick street grifter. He has a 0-point quality “ballsy” since dealing with four jocks up at the ranger station.

This session features all four players (yay!) with Arby’s player turning up a few minutes late.

The first half of the show is all about the dramatic scene we closed with last session. The background to this is that the white hats try to investigate Charlie Stone, radio preacher. Immediately Rev Mrs Brown (Arby’s adoptive mother) who undertook to find out some basics is subjected to Wolfgang & Hearst harassment. Then Stone suddenly announces a big protest outside Antioch Baptist. Why this should be, is far from obvious. Maybe he thinks Rev Brown, liberal but ordained AME, is pastor of Antioch? Cutter, who has become deeply paranoid about all this, believes there must be something about this church that makes the bad guys want to close it down. (Though he’s thinking property rights or secret tunnels, not godly power.)

Intent on watching the protest three of the white hats decide they can see enough from the parapet of the AME. It’s quite a distance back and because of this, they see two different sniper teams setting up as the white protestors start arriving. It’s deepening dusk and they realize there’s not much more to be seen at this distance.

Part one: Antioch action

In fading light, the protest outside Antioch Baptist seems very remote. Cutter slips back downstairs to look for the phone and finds the Rev. Mrs. Brown has just hung the receiver up. Cutter makes a big play to convince Rev Brown to warn the Antioch crowd about snipers and NOT to go outside and NOT to rally the sisterhood against the protest. Because snipers! He gets her to call the Baptists, she hands the phone over, he warns a Deacon Zebold about the snipers.

[Cutter earns a drama point dealing with the reverend]

Cutter heads back, hoping she’s not about to do something crazy once he’s gone. Hard on his heels, Arby shows up. DeNaRes rangers told him what was going on, and he’s borrowed the station’s binoculars. He reports that he has seen police lights on the Central side of Cedar, getting closer.

[Cutter spends that drama point on the binocs turning up!]

The sniper teams leap into focus. The impression the team behind the All Faiths parapet gives is they’re black; the further team perched up on Bolton Elementary is most likely white. Vic notes the near team is using something non-standard and silenced and the far team is using something like a Remington police issue.

Feeling the need to let the Baptists know how much danger they’re in, Cutter heads back down again, lifting a Huggy Bear hat from the cloakroom wall, and out. He decides to pimp-roll down Cedar – just another brother going about his business. Glancing right he sees lights of two cruisers down Cedar.

Meanwhile Jon can see the protest is growing. It’s after the working day now and there’s at least thirty protestors, enough to march backwards and forwards. It seems like there’s some Baptists standing against them: he Vic and Arby can catch the sounds of ‘We shall not be moved’ being counter-sung to the more staccato protest chanting.

The pressure of just sitting waiting for snipers to start mowing down someone is too much. Vic grabs Arby’s flashlight off of him and heads down. Arby follows. Jon offers to help with some powers but Vic blasphemously points out that since they don’t have walky-talkies that’s not worth trying. So Jon mans the binoculars and keeps watch.

[The flashlight is the big police-size, specially selected ‘way back at the Golden Crème episode as being equivalent to a club.]

Vic and Arby, like Cutter before them, decide to ease along rather than running.

So Cutter is easily adjacent to the All Faiths church and well within sight of the protest picket, before Vic and Arby have even walked a block. He decides to cross the picket line – now maybe 50 strong – and talk to the Baptists in person. Looking up Cedar he can see lights of two more police cruisers.

Naturally, they don’t want to let him. In fact three pink-faced idiots get up in his face and a shrill woman is screaming something about the Antichrist.

Cutter pulls a feint – basically points away and says “look! Charlie Stone! – and slips through and up the steps of Antioch to the cordon of gospel-singers barring the entry. They don’t recognize him but assume he’s a fellow-believer. Cutter’s now around the corner from Cedar, so the snipers up on the Elementary school roof are probably taking a bead on him. He eases the Deacon away out of the line of sight and explains – again – that this is a dangerous situation and do NOT raise the faithful to come stand against the protest. What? You already got the Pastor on his way?

It seems the Pastor would normally drive from further up Fairfax, but he has not arrived yet. And Cutter thinks he knows why. The Man has cordoned off the area, and there’s probably other police units up and down 89th. In fact, he riffs paranoiacally, they are probably going to radio in once the pastor walks past them so the snipers know their target is on his way.

Someone’s going to have to stop him aren’t they?!?

Meanwhile… Vic and Arby are looking up the steps to the All Faiths church doors. A couple of stone lions guard the steps, there are big crosses up on the doors and a rainbow above it. The parapet the sniper team is on is flanked by the steep roof on the main building. Arby signals, ‘maybe check around the sides?’ but Vic can see the simplest way will be to go through the church, if the door isn’t locked.

He dashes up the steps and after a moment’s frustration figures the heavy doors pull outward. They aren’t locked. He yanks the right-hand one open and whips through into a dim vestibule. Arby joins him as the door eases shut.

Arby, who is more familiar with church layouts than the scarred vet, guides Vic to a likely access to the parapet and they ascend silently. Vic tests the roof access door. It seems that the snipers have either locked it or jammed it. He motions Arby forward. A few seconds with something like a thin forceps and Arby has removed a couple of sturdy matchsticks that had jammed the door. Vic eases it open silently.

Meanwhile… Cutter has repeated his maneuver to get past the pink-faced idiots. It goes something like this:

PFI: You ain’t pullin’ that twice on me, servant of the Antichrist!

Cutter: I swear dat Charlie Stone!

PFI: Where….? Goldurn it!!! He done it again!

But as Cutter leaves 89th and heads down Cedar there’s a series of flat – whapwhapwhapwhap – sounds and the asphalt is puckered behind him. He breaks into a weaving sprint!


Vic roars “FREEZE” and shines his flashlight full on the sniper…

Who ignores the warning, athletically sweeping the unorthodox carbine around…

Only to be immediately blinded as Doc drops San’ Pierre’s light-flash behind where he figures Vic and Arby must be!

Vic leaps to close quarters and delivers an almighty stomp on the shooter’s groin before he can do more than fire blind. Arby – who is full of confidence since his tangle with the four jocks – races in for a grapple that prevents the spotter from drawing whatever piece he has in his waistband. Which gives Vic time to dot him on the head with the flashlight. Which gives Arby the chance to sweep him flat.

[A number of drama points are well-spent here, resulting in complete victory for the white hats. Comments about the wise mage letting the meat-shields do the work at range are heard to issue from the GM’s chair.]


Cutter at full pace almost immediately intercepts a large-scale counter-protest, involving the Pastor, Cleo (of course) and of all people Asha and her pet goon Pico, the one Cutter is pretty sure is a Golem. Steve’s distressed about Cleo being there and even more distressed to find Afro-dite right there by her, bringing the two youngest she’s supposed to be minding.

Asha shoots him a look, then when he’s done expostulating asks him what he thinks Cleo is doing there and agrees Pico will try to protect Cleo.

Cutter sends Afro-dite home with a flea in her ear, so at least the boys are out of danger. He’s made no headway with the Pastor who comes over all Martin Luther King Junior. The protest marches on…


Pico shoves himself in front of both women as the first shot hammers down from the Elementary roof.



Pico slumps, looking dead.


Asha is hit and falls.

Cutter dives for Cleo, flattening her onto the road.


The next shot misses.

Far away behind the AME parapet Doc grasps his coco macaque and summons the spirits of the dead to put the fear of Papa Legba into the snipers. Firing ceases.

[I decide here that since the Rev. Brown is a liberal preacher, the spellcasting is possible, just a couple steps more challenging. Doc’s spellcasting check is way up the scale so he is OK.]

White and black folks alike are running for their lives. Cutter springs to his feet dragging Cleo with him and yells at her they are getting out!

As police cruisers start racing to the intersection he is running south down 89th; he jinks into the light cover afforded by some hopefully-planted saplings; it’s enough for the cruisers to miss them and keep going. Then they are out and heading home; they catch up with Afro-dite en route so all get back to Cleo’s apartment safe, if a little bruised and scratched.

[It’s a Dex and Crime roll for the sliding into cover. Cutter has wisely increased his Crime skill lately.]

And while that escape happens…

Vic and Arby are cleaning up quickly. Arby confiscates the modern, compact binoculars the spotter was using, and notices he also had two photos lying beside him. He takes those as well. The gun has clattered away somewhere – Vic can’t tell exactly where since his retinas are still giving him green afterimages – so he doesn’t waste time on that. The pair leave the church, once the cops are busy with crowd control. The blare of an ambulance’s horn is sounding loud from the north beyond Antioch Baptist, and they can see at least one victim back at the intersection…

…And Doc sees a female figure loaded into the meat-wagon, after a short period of triage. There’s a really big figure left lying under a blanket as the meat-wagon races back north headed for the Clinic.

Doc descends, judging it high time the white hats left. He finds Rev. Brown distraught by the telephone. She wants to know what’s happened. When he lets her in on the fact her Roosevelt went looking for one of the sniper teams she blows up at him, then starts sobbing, sinking down into a crouch against the wall. Doc punks out, mutters some vague reassurance and retreats to the street where he and the other pair flee to their vehicles.

[No drama point there!]

Given a few seconds in reasonable light Arby checks the pair of photos. One is Cutter, the other Cleo.

And finally…

Cutter expostulates with Cleo (he really ought to know better) and relives the exact same argument that went with the last time she put herself in harm’s way over this kind of shit. And the exact same storm of tears as she howls into his chest.

That’s the end of the escapade. I’ve presented it as one long combat scene which is what it was, with lots of fun interactions. I particularly enjoyed playing Deacon Zebold, who had a reassuring baritone until he learned snipers were sited in above, then his balls retreated somewhere into his chest cavity and his voice went all squeaky. Rev. Brown and Zebold were confused and needed someone to take a firm lead. The Pastor on the other hand went the other way, seizing the moment of glory and letting the march go to his head.

I think all players felt they had agency, and they should have, because they could have stopped all of the shooting. But it was nice to have a lot of it go the way I planned. I think I overdid the Remington rate of fire, which I have rendered as five spaced shots here.

Part two

Riot Squad, Police in action again!

“Multiple police units, including a unit of the newly-instated Special Riot Squad, were in action on 89th and Cedar last Saturday evening.

“Dozens of citizens fled a fusillade of high-powered automatic rifle fire, leaving one slain, one critically injured. It is unclear whether this gun violence was the result of a standoff between blacks and whites outside venerable Antioch Baptist chapel, or was inspired by what some are labelling race hate speech by radio hosts.

“In yet another instance of the rising cycle of violence evident in the Central-Fairfax area, multiple police units, including a Special Riot Squad control van, rushed to the scene following the gunshots. These vehicles had previously been poised around a mile-radius perimeter from the scene, well before the gunfire.

“Your correspondent sought a statement from Captain Leroy Overdale of the Special Riot Squad. His spokesperson Bekah K’Nya’mono said:

‘Acting on information received the SRS was mobilized along with units of Fifth and Third Police Districts. These units were stationed in such a way to prevent innocent citizens driving into the danger zone. The moment the threat became confirmed as real, all units acted in a coordinated, prudent and professional manner, evacuating those in danger and ensuring first response trauma teams were able to evacuate wounded. Attention was then given to the crime scene and apprehending suspects. It is unfortunate that certain members of the community insisted on placing themselves in danger. Had this not occurred the SRS is confident that its actions would have resulted in swift arrests and zero casualties.’

“At time of writing the identity of the slain and injured has not been verified. The injured, believed to be a female woman of color, is under police protection at the Clinic.”

Cindy Channel, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Friends, it’s come to my attention that your so-called Federal Protectors, the people you pay so many Federal Tax Dollars keeping in a job, have taken a man held in police custody and set him loose on the streets again. For what Reason we can only guess. Friends, I think like me you hope and trust that our police department is left to keep the streets free of dangerous thugs. Less than 10 days ago arrests were made after a gun battle. I have it on good authority that three individuals were apprehended possessing firearms and other lethal weapons. Yet only on Saturday one of those three, a Stephen Cutter, was free on the streets, interfering with First Amendment rights and preventing free association of the flock…”

Charlie Stone, WKCY Feelgood Hour

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

The white hats are planning their next move. Clarice, Doc’s niece, has just reported back from her visit to see Asha. It seems men in suits claim she died in surgery and the ward she was in is cleared out.

Cutter has proposed heading to the morgue to fetch Pico, but decides if the CIA has cleared their asset away they will have tidied up the muscle as well.

Kicking around ideas they decide there’s nothing yet they can do about T-Bone, but they can go back to the Wilson Clinic – since Arby seems not to have even looked for security there, let alone assessed it – and they can dig a little further into any tie-up between the CWRU med lab and the Spartans. That sounds like they might need to do some “gardening” while they stake it out.

So they ask Danny Castro if he won’t mind acting with them again.

Danny does mind!

“Aside from Roosevelt there, you done nothin’ this whole month. About your actual job that is. Tell you what: put in a week’s work along the gully and make sure Vic’s friend the Troll stops throwing his empties in the creek, and I’ll help you out.”

Faced with the bleak prospect of hard mundane work, Doc’s brain kicks into high gear.

“I could maybe dig me up someone workin’ in the lab mon. See if they can get me some test results.”

Scene: Dunham Bar

Theme: You needed me/All by myself

Tom Spiegel, Doc’s ex-colleague, smugly rubs in all the rumors he heard about why Doc washed out of premed. Then he listens to what Doc wants. [I asked the players to get this straight beforehand!] Then he asks for two bills to steal bloodwork reports on the Spartans and lets Doc pay for the round.

Alone, Doc chokes over the likely difficulty of getting the money together. Arby been bragging up his roll, so maybe not impossible. The music playing here seems to be about to launch into another power ballad so he stumps out.

[Doc also survives a check to pay for the drinks without lowering his Wealth level. It would have had a knock-on effect so worth checking. Early on in season one I house-ruled a table for acquiring gear so that I could translate from d20/True20 DCs.]

[The white hats also agree to chip in and more Wealth checks are made. The other three quickly run through interaction with Vic’s friend the Troll, involving a simple Con check for the beer-drinking, and digging a latrine.]

Scene: Outside the training track just beyond DeNaRes

Theme: Sweetback’s theme

Equipped for spying on the Wilson Clinic: all dressed in the County dungaree, carrying various gardening tools: the four white hats plod past the Spartans training track. They’ve coincided their walk with Laura’s information about when the training happens, because they are curious to see if Doc can sense some evil spell at work [yay! Finally doing this stuff!].

Doc’s carrying the clipboard he plans to jot notes about the Wilson Clinic on/pretend to be shift super with. He sneaks closer to the squad… only to be spotted by one of the assistant coaches.

“A spy! Sack him, guys!”

Given permission to inflict brutality on a 90lb weakling the entire squad bellows with glee and charges!

Wasting no time, Doc flees.

Vic and Cutter race to help.

Arby runs at an angle to the jock’s massed charge and taunts them. And checks over his shoulder for tall timber to climb up.

Just as well he does! One of the five lead jocks takes the bait – and all of the jocks following! Arby flees like a hare, uses his rake as a scaling hook, shimmies up it and hauls it up after him as the jocks, like a pack of enormous hounds on two legs, comes baying round his tree!


Doc is duly sacked by the two fastest jocks, though Vic and Cutter stop one apiece to prevent real mayhem. Doc squeezes agilely out from under, and further damage is prevented by the assistant coach examining the clipboard and finding it seems to have nothing to do with any rival team. He blows the whistle and the jocks reluctantly get back to training.

Scene: Outside the Wilson Clinic

Theme: Make it funky

Arby is hopeful at first when he sees the burglar alarms on the windows leave plenty of room for glass to be cut. The door is not an option for him: it features an electronic keypad. The back of the place is a sheer concrete wall up to the higher elevation of the hospital. At one end – the dental technician’s end – there’s a large service door but again, a keypad defends it. There’s no easy fuse box on the wall. Somewhere up or down the street there’ll be a cabling box that feeds the neighborhood. Other than that all utilities are buried.

It’s midday so the white hats sit on the grass verge and eat their brown-bag lunch. Chipping in for the two bills hurt everyone. They mutter various ideas for taking the power down. Overall, it seems most likely there’s a utility tunnel leading to the hospital and probably something off that to the Clinic building. Possibly Cleo’s brother Clive could find those plans.

The thickset plain woman scuttles to her sedan again and drives away; again not meeting anyone’s eye. Cutter runs an experienced eye down her overall pants and decides, no, that is the hip-line of a woman. It’s not some dude pretending.

“We better be getting back,” Doc suggests, “Spiegel should have the report by now.”

That was all we had time for, and though as usual we din’t get through all the scenes I had notes on, we have at least caught up with a major thread. 

Is there some secret entrance to the Wilson Clinic? Or at least a convenient switch box? Stay tuned!

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CD17: That old time religion

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!


Urban fantasy gaming using Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG rules


The session characters:

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

Steve “the Cutter” Cutter, 6′ ex-boxer, built for fast-hand combat.

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque. He would like to come to some conclusion about Asha Barkley, the foxy mama who seems to have taken up residence at Jon’s Maman’s house, but who freelances for the CIA. And get his old job back.


Scene: An anonymous bench Downtown

Theme: Get Ready

The Cutter meets Boddington. The weather is distinctly colder now, with occasional chill showers, so they end up in a bus shelter. Sitting down, because Steve’s showing the full hand – all of the bits they juggling like weird patterns in a tunnel, a reservoir about to be spiked with some curse, crazy white chick poisoning the Farmatec crew but she not the mastermind, a green machine in a basement, evil lawyers, demons in people, and now Haitian people split down the middle so the exorcism ain’t so likely to work.

Boddington is less clued up about exorcism than Cutter expected, but he gets the idea. He agrees to put some research into some of these problems.

Meantime the CIA-Corridor Boys problem ain’t goin’ away. CBI ain’t moving like Cutter hoped. What a brother gotta do? T-Bone Bennett’s Quail plan forcin’ brothers offa street, man.

Boddington says he’ll look into that too and offers to bump fists in farewell. Feeling uncomfortable, Cutter does so.

[Agent Boddington is the local Department 7, a one-man squad with little time or resources. He does have many contacts though, and can give the white hats information about what’s going on inside The Man’s machine.

T-Bone Bennett is some kind of vital cog in the bad guys’ machine. He manipulates the Spartans Football Squad, runs the Corridor Boys, and liaises between the CP’s office, Farmatec’s Curtis Silverman and WKCY’s Charlie Stone.]


Scene: Maman’s house, Fairfax

Theme: Cold Sweat

Jon pulls the Plymouth into the driveway, fast, hitting the brakes hard as there’s three other vehicles ahead there. Vic and Cutter roll out and pimp-roll confidently round the back – they know their way around now! Jon follows in his usual anxious way.

It’s chill, and squally, and only a couple of people are out in the yard. Jon stops to talk to them and Vic and Cutter watch as they, Haitians all, greet Jon as the favoured son and wish his studies well.

“I just realized – we his coat-holders, man!” – Steve Cutter watching this exchange

“Ain’t nothin’ but a thing” – Vic

Vic finds himself swiftly left alone once in the house. Or, alone with much smaller people, who feed him. It’s all good. But he’s alone because Cutter has headed off to talk to Clarice, the legal secretary who’s also Jon’s older niece; and Jon has headed upstairs to say hi to Maman and give flowers to Asha.

The flowers are Cutter’s idea. He’s experienced when it comes to dealing with women, or at least, getting them to like him.

Cutter sets up a probable date with Clarice. She’s heard the Boneyard will have a Swing set this Friday night that’s to die for. All going well, pick her up here. Blithely confident he can avoid being targeted by the Corridor Boys, Cutter agrees.


Scene: Upstairs sitting room

Theme: Oh Girl

Asha is wearing white, with African-styled brown relief inlays. And considering how cold it is outside, she’s showing a lot of glorious mahogany skin. She’s pleased with the flowers but throws out some mixed signals, to put it mildly. Once he’s snuggled up with her and they are both sipping red wine, Asha puts a lot of pressure on Jon for results.

When he gives her a holding-pattern answer the temperature drops inside too. Jon shrivels out and back down to his two ‘coat-holders’.


Scene: Downstairs: a private room

Theme: Green Onions

The three white hats put their heads together. Another ‘target’ they have is Arby’s mom, the Reverend Brown of Euclid AME. Cutter wants her to tell them where Radio Preacher Charlie Stone comes from, what his real daytime job is and so on. The only time he’s really run across her, she frosted him. It could be a challenge. They need to strike the right note, and that includes not invading her home.

On the other hand another target is little Emily Phan. Cutter recollects she interns at WKCY – that’s where T-Bone put the heat on her. She might know about Rev. Stone as well. The best way to find her is when she’s coming off-shift from one of her jobs. The nearest being The Clinic. That means, pre-dawn.

They decide (after due hesitation) to sack out in Jon’s sleepout. It smells kinda funky and there’s a lot of student clutter. Maybe even some older stuff. Vic can sleep anywhere and Steve gets enough of a clear space, and after a supper of leftovers they settle for the night.


Scene: Diner opposite the Clinic

Theme: Pick up the Pieces

Emily zombies in at the expected time. It takes Cutter a second or two to get her attention, but when he does she brings her bagel-and-something through the funky smoke-filled diner across to their table and picks at it. She seems to be so tired her appetite is gone.

But she does recall that back when Charlie Stone first started his Hour of Power some law firm, Wolfgang something, set up a fund so he didn’t have to rely on sponsors for the first months. And the same fund seems to go back to Alderman Creed’s office too.

They offer any help, and she asks if they mind dropping her to her next job, Marymount hospital up in Garfield Heights.

Well, it’s early enough that the cops up there won’t have prized themselves away from their desks and over to the donut shop, so Jon doesn’t mind if Cutter and Vic don’t mind. So off the four of them go.


Scene: Beside Marymount hospital, looking across the square

Theme: Playing your game baby

Emily zombies in, and is lost in the general shuffle of early-shift staff. Cutter’s attention is caught by one of the night shift leaving: Nicole, looking sexy in her nurse-intern uniform. She heads over to the diner across the square, and Cutter notices she’s meeting a hard-looking guy dressed in some nice threads. Italian features and mob-style threads.

It’s excessively interesting and Cutter gets out, eases around the square and peeks through the steamy glass frontage. Nicole seems to be having an ordinary meeting with the mook. That’s a nice suit. Tight across the shoulders, but enough room for a shoulder-holster. It’s impossible to say if he’s a detective with enough dirty money for a good suit, or a genuine Little Italy article.

Feeling they’ve worn out their luck the white hats roll back down and around to the ranger station. Where there’s a message been waiting for Cutter since last night, apparently.

It’s from Boddington: meet him at Euclid and 71st, at 9am.

They jump back in the Plymouth and Jon puts his foot down. 9am is gonna be tight!


Scene: Euclid and 71st

Theme: The Payback

Skidding cruisers, flashing lights, roaring bullhorns: the whole nine yards! 51st and Euclid is nice and bare: and no sooner have Vic and Cutter stepped away from the Plymouth when what seems like the whole of PD3 and the Riot Squad besides are all over them. Jon heads out tires a-squealing but skids to a halt in the next few yards, blocked off by cruisers and cops with riot guns.

Vic gets taken down hard: he figures there’s got to be an alley within a few seconds’ run but he’s built for slugging people and not sprinting. The first shotgun blast knocks him sideways and he hits the pavement: and wisely, stays down. Then he just gets beat and kicked as they take his pistol and battleaxe.

Drago makes sure he gets some payback-in-advance: he rides the riot van back to the Fortress along with Cutter, and by the time he’s dragged out to the holding cell Cutter is pissing blood.

Out of respect for Jon’s disability the cops take his stick off him and beat him bloody. And take his knife.


Scene: The Fortress, Downtown near Central

Theme: Take me to the river

The white hats sit around feeling too sorry for themselves to worry how come The Man got them. Twelve hours go by, and they are glad Vic is the biggest ugliest mutha in the cell. After which time they are all three summoned out of the cell by the older, grey-haired whitey Sergeant that supervised the honest Polacks that one time. He heads them into a grimy interview room. Seated opposite is Boddington.

“Sorry… it went down a little harder than I hoped.”

Boddington explains that this little betrayal of his was needed to convince key players that the white hats are off the board. Now the dirty cops, the Corridor Boys and their various rivals and affiliates are sure their enemies are buried in the system.

“I guess they took your money… I don’t have a lot but this should tide you over.”

Boddington (grimly, he is an honest and poorly-paid cop) eases $40 out of his billfold and slides it over, along with five singles.

“It’ll take a while for the Plymouth to be lost in the pound then finagled back out… so I hope you can make do with a loaner. We’ll move you out the back and you’ll be dropped down by the river, OK?”

Skeptically, but not seeing they have much choice, the three are ushered out to a paddy wagon and duly dropped off in Cuyahoga neighbourhood, down along the tracks. At night. They decide to walk through Downtown and make a call to DeNaRes from a pay-phone.


Scene: Ranger station

Theme: Ball of confusion

Gunnarsson has obligingly picked them up from the Euclid Club (where Blue-lips Monroe is playing with the band tonight) and now it’s time to recalibrate and work out what to do next. After finishing the ribs they picked up en route, then a shower and a good sleep!

The morning brings fresh counsel. The Plain Dealer’s front section is full of Street Warfare! It seems that a large-scale bust has scooped up the Corridor Boys three lieutenants – two alive and one dead – and the Commissioner is appropriately depicted supervising packs of heroin being tallied. Cindy Channel’s name is on the byline.

“You ought talk ‘a that woman” – Vic

“She… that woman bad fo’ me. Real bad.” – Cutter.

In the event they lay low at the station for three days.


Scene: St James AME on Cedar

Theme: Living for the city

Rev Mrs Brown is a handsome but severe woman. She is not a welcoming sort when it comes to men with a wandering eye. And she seems to reject the good word Cutter puts in for Arby. But Cutter persists and explains the problem of Charlie Stone and she agrees to do what she can to find out.


Some days later the three are back. Jon parks his now-returned Plymouth well out of the way and they walk to the church.


Charlie Stone has raised a prayer-meeting protest for the evening, outside Antioch Baptist just down the road. The three have tossed up various options for watching, and it seems to them they could get a good view off the St James’ tower.

Rev Mrs Brown is unexpectedly apologetic that she hasn’t contacted them. She’s been distracted. Harassing letters from some legal firm, raising issues about the Church’s title, and conformity to various city ordinances. Cutter nods knowingly and examples her the Phyllis Wheatley. Jon suggests that Esther Jefferson might get together with good counsel with the Reverend, so that is also welcomed.

So the three set themselves up to watch. Dusk comes early at this time of year, and vehicle lights are soon burning. An early crowd begins to assemble down the road, white folk by the look of it.

And they become aware that two separate sniper teams are setting up on rooftops overlooking the protest.

The white hats attending get a drama point for the beat-down, and another for creative investigation. And three xp each after some pleading. Unfortunately it was a very Cutter-centric episode, with lots of social gaming and some Perception checks. Jon had to burn a couple drama points just making sure he drove accurately. 

If you are wondering about the damage taken in the beat-down, I narrated it then enforced a drama point spend on ‘wasn’t as bad as it looks’. If you don’t intend to kill the characters then don’t start handing out damage in numbers – at least, not in BtVS!



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SHC GM-free session 24: Finale


The Chicago Peers are now L21. They are Paul Birkby, Arch-mage and Technomage; Cliff the Tough Bodyguard and Daredevil; Dan Hewstone the Witchhunter; Joe Hitchcock, Charismatic Arch-mage; and Sandi Maclaine, Gun Goddess.

In old Chicago, they have experienced a few setbacks – such as the military pinching the souped-up guns Birkby fashioned in San Francisco – but made a decent fist of the Lair Raid into the sub-surface below the Monk’s Lair.

The Monk! Legendary target of a Great Vampire Hunt dating back four years prior to the time they find themselves in. Through some devious means the Monk survived the Academy’s coup and (so Hitch’s research in the 21st Century suggests) took over one of the Academy Peers.

Equipped with St. Vitellius’ Cup the Chicago Peers are determined not to fail where their predecessors failed!

But the Monk has proved as slippery as could be expected, slipping away to let his Lieutenants fall. And although the Peers do not know this, he has reactivated the Arcane Barrier base they assume has been destroyed.

Depleted of their top spells, the Peers voted to exit the Lair and rest. Now they are ready again.

Scene: The secret entrance

The Peers filter in carefully, taking no chances. Although they all have secure comms, they speak as rarely as possible. Cliff leans around the final corner leading to the last room they visited and waves the all-clear, and they gather ready for the exploration.

Scene ends


Q: Do the Peers use the new exit found to enter? Yes!

No Chaos change. Chaos drops to 4.

Scene: A multi-complex or staging area

The painstaking searching has got on at least one person’s nerves. By the time they discover a secret tunnel, Cliff has had enough. He insists on taking the lead.

“I’m Mr. bag-toter, Mr. meat-shield – apparently! Well if that’s the case I get to decide where we go – or you can find another sucker!”

Dan is ready to dispute this but with silence more of a necessity, it’s waved over. Cliff steps up and takes point. He’s loaded a captured Tommy-gun with ABB ammo and has the Hammer and a brutal-looking stake clipped at his belt.

Sandi looks after him unhappily but takes rearguard.

Scene ends


No Chaos change.

Q: Is it trapped? No. This throws up a random event.

PC Negative (Cliff) meaning ‘overthrow friendship’.

Q: Will Cliff insist on taking the lead? Yes!

This reading is partly based on what’s happened over the season and partly on the original player’s character.

Chaos therefore rises to 5.

Scene: The secret tunnels

Cliff guides the party along in single file. They have no way of knowing whether the Lair is even occupied still, but make no lazy assumptions.

Scene ends


No chaos change.

Q: Are they trapped? No.

Q: Do they skip scenes? Yes.

I ask the last one because I have that stack of pre-drawn scene cards. Secret tunnels don’t automatically allow a scene skip. I roll a d10 for number skipped. By chance this skips them past the human guard (if they are still present).

Chaos drops to 4.

Scene: A vast cellar of some kind

The Peers sense that they are no longer in buried Chicago, but in the everyday below-ground. Or else very close to it. The cellar is sturdily vaulted and bears little sign of decay.

They steal through, exploring nowhere near as thoroughly, as Cliff drives for the one obvious exit, leading up.

Scene ends


The cards call for this to be a random area. Using the Location Crafter I get ‘quietly enormous‘.

Q: Is this a coffin vault? No.

Q: Is this a church vault? Yes!

Chaos rises to 5 since this is random.

Scene: The Cathedral

The Peers start to emerge then the nature of their intrusion becomes obvious and they shuffle awkwardly back down as best they can, without drawing a mass panic. Most of the daytime worshippers are busy in contemplation and do not notice.

Cliff’s embarrassment makes his movements even more brusque as he heads back into the tunnels…

Scene ends


This is, like the previous scene, a Random draw. I get ‘majestically ugly‘. Given the cellar from last scene, that makes this the Cathedral. The Peers head the other way. There was no chaos event but again, since things are not going their way, chaos ticks up to 6.

Scene: A Library

Cliff’s Tommy-gun nozzle thrusts this way and that as he checks the stacks for targets. Hitch Dan and Birkby follow cautiously. As she brings up the rear something warns Sandi and at the last split-second she throws herself forward, tucking and rolling away from a tall, pale-faced, mustachioed man who appeared behind her! She cries the alarm as a wave of sinister energy engulfs her. She fires back but misses: the man dissolves into gaseous form again.

Dan has no chance to ponder what to do next: vampires leap down among them off the stacks and race into contact! Cliff drops the Tommy-gun and whales around with the Hammer, while Hitch and Birkby defend themselves with shield and blur spells. It’s looking very tight for a moment! Then, focusing his concentration, and relying on his flak vest, Dan thrusts the Cup forward and Turns them!

Darkness descends, but Dan immediately counters with Daylight. Sandi comes tumbling into the light: levels her Glock and sends a withering blast back into the Shape she just dodged away from.

In reply a deep purple cone strikes Sandi, who cries out again. Dan yells:

Faith’s Fury!

bathing the shape in holy light, then utters a fervent Prayer. Sandi’s other Glock now barks again and again, and seems to have an effect. A fireball hurled by Birkby engulfs it. In the glare, the form of a mustachioed,  ascetic-featured man is clearly visible. Somehow Hitch has the rough stake Cliff had, and hurls it to slam unerringly into the creature’s chest!

Dan holds the Cup powerfully at the creature: calling on the Light to end the Monk:

it evaporates!

A blast of Magic Missile from Birkby – who has been expecting it to turn gaseous – and it is over.

Scene ends


Chaos Interrupt, NPC Positive, ‘proceedings [to] expectations’.

Q: Is it the Monk? Yes.

Q: Is this an ambush? Yes.

I roll a d6, Cliff now counting as 1 and 2. Sandi is the target. Range is Clubs. Attack is Finger of Death or an analogue of it. Fort SV DC24, Sandi makes it (AP spent). She loses 25 hp.

Q: Is another Peer hit? No.

Q: Does the Monk capture Sandi? No.

The Surprise Round continues as follows:

Spawn-type vampires attack all other Peers. Dan makes a good Concentration check and Turns 20HD of spawn, i.e. all of them on that attack.

Initiatives: Monk, Sandi [then drops to after Dan], Dan, Birkby, Hitch, Cliff

Round 1: Monk throws Darkness and attempts a Slam on Sandi. She evades. Dan casts Daylight, surges, tries a Turn, does not work on Monk. Sandi uses her AP for the round on Leadstorm, and hits. Other Peers still busy but can be presumed to be prepping stake etc.

Round 2:

Q: Are all the spawn gone? Yes. [This triggers a remote event that is not relevant to this scene.]

Q: Does the Monk flee? (Likely) No.

Monk repeats Save or Die style attack on Sandi, she again survives, using an AP, and loses another 25 hp. Dan hurls Faith’s Fury (which is nickel and dime damage to the Monk, but it all adds up!) then surges and Prays. Sandi uses normal aimed double-tap shots but hits with the ABB ammo three times. Birkby’s Fireball comes in and the Monk misses the Refl SV: takes a further 45. Hitch has cast Truestrike and throws the Stake (one of the new relics picked up) inflicting 28 damage. Monk evaporates. Birkby surges and MMs.

Chaos rises to 7 because of:

Side scene: Outside in the upper world, the military have a special squad ready to invade. A strange rumor coming out of the Cathedral has alerted them to where they should be looking.

“We tell the Press, we located some lunatic anarchists plotting to blow up the Cathedral. If need be we’ll blame the Railway strikers.”

“Roger that,” the young Lieutenant acknowledges and begins briefing his men.

Scene ends


I got the random remote event ‘develop military’ earlier. Given the military know about these strange interlopers, and the unexpected exit into the Cathedral, this seems a reasonable development.

Scene: the Ceremonial Circle again

Dan’s voice rings with power and confidence as he destroys the Circle and removes the arcane barrier’s foundation.

“Now it’s really down, isn’t it?” Cliff asks. Behind him, Hitch picks up the Cup from where it has taken center stage.

“There is no doubt this time,” Dan assures them all.

“So let’s hunt some vamp!” Cliff roars. Sandi hi-fives him and they check loads and visors.

“Dan, you want to keep hold of the Cup?” Hitch asks. Dan nods and tucks it securely away.

Scene ends


This is Alteration, PC Negative. Meaning is ‘deceive advice‘. For now I allow the session to play out since the ‘advice’ isn’t obvious. Yet.

Q: Is the Circle able to be taken down? Yes.

This answer throws a Random Event up. It is PC Positive, ‘persecute enemies’.

Q: Does this also cripple spawned and sired vamps? Yes.

Chaos drops to 6.

Travel montage: En route

The Peers evade what seems to be a determined top-down hunt for vamps by the military.

Sandi hands in her notice – by slipping a badly-written note under the door – and trots happily back to rendezvous at the station. She notices Hitch has been following her.

“Just for my own peace of mind,” Hitch reassures her.

“That’s like, sweet of you, Hitch,” she smiles.

Much further south, some stops of the Chicago & Alton later, Sandi notices a dog growling as the Peers stretch their legs. She’s about to comment but sees Hitch quickly shake his head, just a half-shake but she gets the message.

Springfield is reached at length, and the Peers trek along the rail spur, through the lake area and to what will one day be a reserve.

Travel montage ends


The Emulator is still telling me something but I can’t quite ‘see’ it. The various reads I get are:

PC negative, ‘oppose animal’;

Move towards a thread, ‘oppress opposition’.

Based on the latter I judge that overall the Peers are on course to finish the quest.

Chaos is back to 5.

Scene: the Portal Falls

Dan raises his voice over the rushing water:

“As agreed, I’ll remain behind. The future is yours: the past is under my guard.”

“That’s right… but come to think of it, haven’t we all forgotten something?” Hitch asks.

They turn to him, puzzled.

“In the final moments of Roundtree…” Hitch begins, but is interrupted by a spasmodic movement of Dan’s hand: which clutches where the Cup should be.

“Hold him Cliff!” Hitch roars. As Cliff puts the Witchhunter in a full nelson, Sandi slips between clutching fingernails and jams the Cup, bowl first, into Dan’s contorted face. Hitch and Birkby invoke the words of exorcism, Birkby presenting the Hagen relic and Hitch the rugged old Crucifix. With a last scream, the Monk is extinguished; his spirit sucked helpless into the random vortex of between-time.

“It was relatively simple,” Hitch brags afterwards. “once you recollect I made a complete study of the Great Vampire Hunt of 1918.”

He breaks to remark parenthetically and with a note of reproach in his tone, “I did summarise this at the Convention, remember.” Then he continues:

“Doubts always existed in my mind as to whether the Monk’s spirit had not simply inhabited Roundtree, masqueraded as a corpse, then proceeded to travel to the New World.

“And recollect,” he continues, clearly enjoying the sound of his own voice, “I saw the shade of Roundtree – in San Francisco! If he was slain in combat in White Russia (later Poland, footnote at bottom of p518) then why would I see him in San Francisco?

“My suspicions were really confirmed when Dan didn’t remind us to return the Cup, of course. That’s when I cued you in as much as I could. Thanks for putting it all together.”

“Oh – and the puppy!” Sandi exclaims tangentially.

“Not quite as helpful – but up until then I thought you might be Renfielded, Sandi, and if you had been, you wouldn’t have drawn attention to the dog – so yes, that was useful.”

“Why me?”

“The Monk attacked you personally, away from the rest of us, in the same style poor Cross seems to have been. Or so I deduce.”

“Well, I’m most impressed by how you and Paul managed to complete the ritual of exorcism,” Dan comments a trifle gruffly. It has been a soul-searing experience.

“Jolly good show and all that rot,” Cliff breaks in with a feeble attempt at a Brit accent, “but I’m getting old standing here. Do we head to San Fran or not?”

“We most certainly do!”

Scene ends


OK, I have a sneaking liking for foreshadowing and I did sneak it in here and there, but in all honesty, this scene was a surprise and came in a rush of insight. I finally made sense of the ‘PC Negative‘ stuff from way back in the Lair. If you read back over the Great Vampire Hunt of 1918, and the San Francisco episodes of Season Four, it makes sense that the Monk appears to die but in fact, possesses a useful servant. In 1918 Roundtree appears to die. 21st-Century Hitch sees his shade standing over Videnko’s grave. So it was an unquiet death. And if Dan has been possessed it’s even more ideal. The Monk can reinstitute all of  his plots and in addition provide for the demise of our heroes! And to cap it off – I completely forgot up to that point that the Peers are supposed to take the Cup back to Videnko! So I read that real-life senior moment as Dan blanking out on the Cup.

Now, why pick Dan? I use the Emulator in sequence for each Peer to check who the Monk possessed, and get Dan. And that is my preference. It would be super-lame if Cliff got possessed, for example – he’s already in a dramatic tension arc – and only slightly dramatic if Sandi was. But the Cleric! Awesome!

After checking this and that such as Sleight of Hand from Sandi (natural 20) and Grapple from Cliff, I use the Emulator to ask:

Q: Is Dan exorcised? Yes.

Q: Is the Monk really gone now? Yes.

Q: Do the Peers return the Cup now? Yes.

Chaos drops to 4.

A little bit more from the Emulator before the Epilogue:

Threads open: Return (except for Dan)

Q: Do the Peers leave Dan behind? Yes.

Q: Is Jack alive in modern Chicago? Yes!

Epilogue: 2008

Sandi Maclaine, native of Cleveland OH, brings her CV (a thing she can’t quite spell in full) to an office just off the University of Chicago campus. She’s not sure why this place was recommended by Michelle (whose name she can’t quite spell) but, face shining with positivity, presents herself as interested in the reception job. Her ID (brought over by Michelle) says she’s 18, which will be true in several months’ time. The dark-haired receptionist shows Sandi through to an older man named Jack, who is the Boss, apparently. Who interviews her with perhaps a fatherly twinkle in his eye, and tells her she can have a job part-time.

And it all starts from there.

I do hope you enjoyed the Solo Mythic version of Season Five SHC! A lot of what happened is informed by the players and the GM(s) of the first four seasons: how they behaved and the kinds of decisions they made: therefore I hope it stays faithful to the feel of the group.

The Mythic GME doesn’t tie up every loose end. Perhaps deliberately I left the fate of the last Greater Vampire Lieutenant unstated, because Dracula always has to have someone to revive him, even after all the rites are completed. I don’t know what the final piece of Cliff’s ‘mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it no more’ arc would be like. I did have a vignette in mind, which would bring out what Sandi in particular has sacrificed to become a death-dealing gunship, but it didn’t come up. I did not ask if Dan did live on endlessly to found the Judges and imbue them with their deep distrust of mages, even though that does fit the Witchhunter arc. As someone a lot wiser than me said, stories just keep going, but some of the characters fall out of it and their part is over.

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SHC GM-free session 23: the Monk’s Lair

Scene: a crudely-cut stone torture chamber

The five Chicago Peers: Paul Birkby, Cliff, Dan Hewstone, Joe Hitchcock and Sandi Maclaine filter in, ready for trouble. They are heavily equipped.

“Makes sense they’d put this affair next to underground currents – no need to transport a body over to the lake if you have that handy,” Cliff comments. He’s trying to act nice. It seems to him that he is being used purely as meat shield, and it rankles.

“Take lookout Sandi; we’ll search” Hitch decides.

In the vaulting and secreted under some heavy equipment they find two intriguing items. Both magical. One is styled as a cornucopia; the other is a simple-looking robust crucifix, conveniently fist-sized.

The mages don’t have the right spells ready to read these, so they are tucked away safely and they rejoin Sandi.

“No problem?” Cliff asks.

“No – well, just a vamp. But it was alone.” She points vaguely to some dust still lingering in the tunnel.

“You could have called me!”

Sandi just pushes up her NVGs and looks at him with those clear blue eyes.

“I had it covered Cliffie.” Then as Cliff angrily barges past her she adds softly, “We are doing this the whole way, remember?”

Scene ends


I need a beginning scene for the ‘secret portal’ the Deep Ones let the Peers in on last session. The Location Crafter gives me something I translate to what you see there. Chaos check is ‘Move toward a thread: Separate Riches. So the Peers get to seize a useful source of the Monk’s wealth. The Emulator gives me arcane treasure, two items and the Location Crafter descriptions pin them down as general powers and appearance.

And now it’s time for…

The Lair Raid Draw!

Now that the Peers have the entry, I need to know what they’ll be up against and set a series of scenes ahead of time. There’s no known base CR to this lair, because it is the unprotected secret entry. However, the number of AP on the table by this stage promotes the base CR to 19. Here’s the summary:

A minor CR13 human guard of a CR9 mage and his CR9 team;

A CR16 Greater Vampire veteran;

DC32 non-magical traps;

DC34 magical traps;

And a recording device of DC16 to detect.

For scene-setting I assemble 32 cards, with plenty of ‘expecteds’ to represent dank tunnels, two Opponent cards for the opposition above; and a Special that will get reshuffled into the pack each time drawn until it becomes the final exit (if needed). I end up with a list of 35 points, which may not be all needed. Now, with Chaos at 5, we begin with:

Scene: a dining galley

Dan Hitch and Birkby take turns examining the graffiti scratched on and around the bench. They agree excitedly that the coffins are just ahead!

But some exploration later, they realize that was completely wrong.

Scene ends


Alteration: Move away from a thread. Meaning ‘excitement for lies’. I read this as a false clue.

Chaos rises to 6.

Scene: Coffin store/Bunkroom

“You know what?” Hitch muses ruefully.

“Hmm, what?”

“We’ve just sounded a warning system. This was all a set-up. Look, this earth hasn’t even been lain on. The whole thing – including the graffiti – is meant to lure snoopers  in here.”

“So we’re trapped?”

“Not necessarily. It probably just means they know we are down below now. Time to move.”

Scene ends


With the previous scene (barring some tunnels) having set up the decoy, I assume the next major scene will relate to that. I get Alteration, NPC Action, meaning ‘change fame’ so after checking:

Q: Have the enemy detected the Peers? (has to be) Yes.

Q: Is this an encounter? No.

Chaos rises to 7.

A series of tunnels drops chaos back to 6 by the time the Peers find…

Scene: Ceremonial Circle

Dan spends some time checking, but other than the dark magics coursing through the circle itself, there does not seem to be any trap. The others agree. So Dan begins his purification ritual while they keep watch.

At length, he finishes the ritual.

“It is done! The barrier will break!”

“Too easy,” Cliff comments sourly.

“Right you are, that was too easy,” Hitch agrees.

“‘Fraid so,” Birkby agrees.

“They’re coming!” Sandi calls softly.

Scene ends


This is Ceremonial Circle on the Lair cards. No chaos change.

Q: Is this the magical trap? (V Likely) No.

Q: Can Hitch hijack it? (Unlikely) No.

Q: Can Dan hijack it? (Unlikely) Yes.

Dan gets to 27 on Arcane Lore, I allow a try again, he gets 31 which with the +2 help from each of Hitch and Birkby will cross the DC34 threshold. He then gets a natural 20 on Spellcraft to deduce which spells he is interfering with/taking down.

Q: Does this break the arcane barrier? (V Unlikely) Yes.

Q: Have the Peers made an error? Yes!

Q: Is this an ambush? No.

Q: Are enemy n their way? Yes.

Chaos moves to 7 again.

Scene: The same. Combat begins.

The opposition is one CR16 Veteran Greater Vampire, and his Spawn minions. Range is Hearts (near).

Initiatives: Birkby, Hitch, Vampires, Cliff, Dan [Sandi].

Q: Can Dan see the vampires? Yes!

Round 1: Birkby uses a maxed Fireball, relying on the Hagen relic to remove any Fireball protection; then buffs again. Hitch immediately follows with a Hold spell, surges and adds another maxed Fireball. Although the vamps evade the worst of the blasts they are weakened.

The Vampire Lieutenant hammers the team with an Ice Storm (Dan spends an AP on the Mas SV) while the spawn try Dominate, which auto-fail. Seeing this, they race to close range.

Cliff blocks the charge with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, designating Hitch as his protectee. Dan throws up Daylight and surges and Turns to get rid of all but one of the spawn. Sandi resets her init.

Round 2: Sandi uses 2 aimed shots to get rid of the last spawn, turns the same gun on the Lieutenant, then opens up with her second Glock, a withering blast of fire. Birkby hits him with another Fireball and the vampire explodes into a burning column (missing his SV) which turns to ash, then dust.

The only noise in the entire battle has been the screams of the undead being ripped apart. The Peers signal to one another and head out the way the Vampires entered.

Scene ends

Q: did any other monsters arrive? No.

Chaos rises to 8, since that scene was part of the Monk’s defenses, not the Peers’ plan.

Scene: A passage connecting the Circle to the Main Hall

As the Peers steal down the passage, their enemy has not awaited developments! In the Hall where the Monk holds his secret conclave, the Lieutenants have gathered with their minions. Some tote Tommy-guns. The Monk growls his underlings to silence: incants a simple invocation and smiles mockingly.

Behind the Peers, the Ceremonial Circle comes back to life.


I get Alteration, NPC Positive. I confirm that it is the Monk. Meaning is ‘return goals’ so the Circle is back in business!

Chaos rises to 9.

Scene: Main Hall, a vaulted stone cellar of surprisingly large dimension.

Combat begins.

Range is Hearts. Some mechanics as preliminary:

I use Location Crafter to set the scene in more detail. The Main Hall is fortunately important, and what’s going on is dispute anger. This leads me to conclude the Monk himself was present (above) and is ordering his lieutenants into the fray. They may be discontented at this (though the undead hierarchy prevents them actually rebelling, I believe).

Some Emulator questions confirm those present: the Monk, and five lieutenants. I also discern that the Monk will flee as the Peers attack. (I give this an ‘unlikely’ but there you are, he hasn’t survived by risking unnecessary all-out war.)

Then I generate hp for the lietenants – it’s important, because hits from the ABB ammo delivered in a full Sandi volley (either six or more shots, or a Leadstorm) can kill outright. Then I roll d4+1 spawn for each to get to 21.

Just to check if there is any ambush either way I ask:

Q: Is this an encounter? Yes.

Initiatives: Vampire Lieutenant (VL) 5; Sandi; VL2; Birkby; Cliff; Dan; VL3&4/Spawn; Hitch.

Round 1: 

VL5 opens up with Tommy-gun, strafing a wide area, forcing Refl SV from all Peers, twice. Sandi replies by racing forward to handy range and throwing shot after shot into the same vamp, dusting it, and racing back out. VL2 tries to Dominate but again it is futile. [Q: is it nerfed? Yes.] VL2 buffs and moves to close range instead. Birkby buffs Sandi with Haste, seeing her about to be attacked at close range. He surges and hits VL2 with magic missiles. VL1 also tries Dominate and lays down autofire. Sandi is hit and spends her AP on the Mas SV. Cliff levels his ‘Tankbuster’ pistol and misses with everything. Dan Prays, surges and Turns with an excellent result: VL2 is Turned.

VL 3 and 4 both open up with Tommy-guns, though one blasts twice and the other rushes to close range. The Spawn rush forward, firing pistols. Damage on the Peers is mixed: Birkby has a good chunk of his Stoneskin stripped away. Dan takes 14 damage. At the other end of the scale Sandi gets nicked for 2 points, one of which is soaked. In reply Hitch rips a tight Wall of Fire around the inner group, facing out, and surges and seals the entry with Wall of Force. VL1 and 3 will get nickel-and-dimed if they remain where they are. VL4 and all Spawn are in close. They cannot finish their charge this round. VL2 is about to flee through the Fire.

Round 2: 

Sandi, now with the Prayer helping, dances and weaves around the Spawn and VL4 with Defensive Fighting penalty, and with the added attack from Haste is able to dust VL4. She reloads in melee range.

VL2 flees through Wall of Fire and takes the damage, ending cowering at the Wall of Force.

Birkby, relying on Sandi’s ability to not be there, drops Fireball across the Spawn. 14 take full damage and burn to death, a good result. VL1 leaps to melee on Hitch but Cliff activates his Bodyguard ability and melees with him instead. VL1 is hit with the Hammer but remains on his feet, driven back. Dan Turns again, having full effect on the seven Spawn remaining.

VL3 follows VL1 leaping in, this time against Sandi, missing. The damage from the Wall of Fire did have some effect on it. All remaining Spawn flee through the Wall of Fire, incinerating. Hitch holds a counter-spell in reserve in case VL1 comes up with something.

Round 3:

Sandi has VL3 in her face and VL1 not far off. Still with the Defensive penalty she hits time and again, dusting both. (Both are already injured by the fire, that’s not as ridiculous an amount of damage as it sounds.)

Unseen by the Peers VL2 turns gaseous and escapes through a nook or cranny.

Scene ends

Chaos drops to 8 since the Peers sought this encounter and won. They have captured the Main Hall but are unaware that the Circle is back in business.

Scene: Treasure Vault

Sandi strips away the last trap and steps back to let the mages do their stuff. Within a short time they have four items sorted out, packed away and are ready to move again. Cliff signals a number of possible ways forward…

Scene ends


This scene is handled in a similar way to the Torture Chamber. In this case this room is trapped, Sandi makes a fine disable device roll. Then the Emulator and Location Crafter provide the treasures. They get one item that appears to be a useful weapon, and a possible second; and they will have to use some investigation to determine uses of the others.

Chaos drops to 7.

After two more sections of exploration the Peers have located a fresh exit. There’s no sign of the Monk. I do get an NPC action from the Academy.

Q: Has the Academy locked the area down? No.

Q: Do the Peers keep going? No.

Q: Do the Peers take a short rest? No.

So it’s back to the city hideout for a long rest, Chaos drops to 6 then 5 in these sections.

The treasure picked up can be examined during the long rest without any real loss of mage spells.

Session ends

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