4pm on All Saints Day 1976 has the white hats preparing for the Tower Heist. The Bianchis, a wizardly and mob family, have set them the task of stealing an artefact known as the Garland from KinzeyCorp HQ on the 21st floor of the Terminal Tower. Since KinzeyCorp is in the frame for plotting for the Apocalypse, the white hats are down with the job. Trouble is, the Garland seems exactly the kind of crazy-making shit you don’t want to leave in the hands of a mob family.
The white hats for this session:
Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.
Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.
Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.
Theme: Across 110th Street
There’s a good deal of indecision around how to get clear and what final pieces of equipment to bring. They’ve got uniforms, masks and rubber gloves. They have a special piece of hardware to stooge security circuits, Arby’s tools to get past routine locks, pixie dust to fool mystic alarms, amulets to block attacking powers, and a talisman to confuse demonic attention. They do not currently have any major weapons: Doc’s small knife is the extent of their arsenal.
Owing partly to this and partly to Arby having a smart idea about laying on some transport, the other three white hats leave him Downtown and head for DeNaRes ranger station once more. Cutter’s Police .38 (which he passes to Vic) is retrieved en route.
Scene: DeNaRes ranger station
Theme: It’s crazy babe
Marie is glad to see Doc but he keeps her at arm’s length as they assemble two fire axes and yet another large knife for Doc, and ensure all flashlights are working. Once again Vic and Cutter make sure they have a stake stowed away in their jacket.
There’s no sign of Arby and they make the decision that time has run out, they need to mount the heist!
Before they go, Danny Castro mentions that the Prof has called in from up at the Lakes and says he has a plan. Cutter shakes his head and grumbles:
“Last plan was tellin’ me to shake my black ass fo’ Sisterhood of Jhe, then Vic push ‘em down Hellmouth while they watchin’ me shimmy!”
Without knowing exactly how to get in touch with the Prof it doesn’t seem worth hearing at this point, but they do conclude that they’ll need to return to the ranger station at some point very shortly after the heist.
Where’s Arby, ranger Kelly wants to know, though she calls him Roosevelt.
“He’s doing a thing,” Cutter explains suavely
“That means, you don’t want to know,” Castro chips in dryly, and she seems satisfied, though a crinkle of concern stays on her attractive face.
The Staties, who seem to be working in shifts, log them out as they drive up to Shaker Station in Cutter’s van.
Scene: Terminus, deserted tunnels
Theme: Get ready
Doc and Cutter follow Vic as he first hesitantly then confidently leads them to a blackened door far in the recesses of an empty line.
[Vic pays a drama point to get by the Int check to recall where he and Arby scouted. The first point of many!]
Cutter gets to work on the lock but it’s not until Vic claws the fire axe into the frame that it can be forced.
Scene: Terminus, forlorn janitorial facilities
Theme: Uptight (Everything’s alright)
After half an hour or so the three find what they were hoping to find, a janitor’s closet with buckets and mops. They don’t seem to have been used in years and smell really funky. Axes are slid out of coveralls and head-down into two buckets next to mops. That leaves Doc carrying a bag that holds spray cans, first-aid kit and the last spirit box. And tongs, so no-one needs to touch the Garland.
“You got them fuckin’ tongs right?” Cutter checks
“Yeah mon, I got the fuckin’ tongs” Doc assures him.
They head up.
Scene: Public Elevator, Terminal Tower
Theme: Move on up
Somehow Halloween seems to have been extended into All Saints… the three people getting in this late at the first floor level seem to be party-goers looking for somewhere private. They seem kind of drunk. None of them remembers to push a button. Doc surreptitiously pushes for the 18th floor.
The bell sounds and the three stumble out. As the white hats hear:
“Hey this ain’t…” the elevator doors close and they are away.
Their stop is the 22nd. According to the blueprint and what Vic says, this ought to be the righteous way down to the target floor, the 21st. As they finish the journey Cutter dusts all three of them with ‘pixie dust’ from Smooth Clyde’s monkey-skull pouch.
Scene: Kinzey Foundation’s 22nd-floor facilities
Theme: Time is tight
A well-lit, well-polished strip of marble allows access to two doors in a partition that has glass or Perspex upper panels, well above head height. A recently-cleaned cigarette receptacle stands between elevator doors, a tiny trace of ash next to it.
Suspecting a cleaner may still be on the floor Cutter ghosts across to the partition and listens. He can hear someone well away from it, singing to themselves. Something about a yellow bird in a banana tree. He examines the doors and can see right away they are very solid and both use a keypad access.
“I feelin’ spooky,” Doc announces.
“We put that dust on, ain’t nothin’ much else to do,” Vic responds. Doc is convinced by this as he feels very tired from a lot of sex and spellcasting over the last 24 hours.
They decide that on balance, and given Doc’s spooky feeling, it’s best to get in now. Cutter easily pops the left-hand pad open and connects his “jiminy cricket” device to the wires. The door, convinced that all is well, clicks open. Cutter unclips, stows the keypad cover back and follows the other two through.
Moving very quietly [Doc burns a drama point on this, because apart from his limp he is carrying a bag full of clanking bits] the three navigate through office space – which smells really good – to the secure inner stair down to the 21st.
As they expected, there’s a security camera monitoring the stairs. And there’s another keypad down there.
A spray can deals with the camera, and Cutter starts work on the keypad. This is much more formidable than the standard device on the outer entry and much more in keeping with the security wing of the Foundation. But he manages it handsomely [a drama point helps!] and the inner door clicks open.
It leads by way of a landing that gives access to the 21st, down further. The 21st is the one they are after though, and Cutter soon has this open too. Pushing it just a crack wider he works out where a camera will be above the door lintel.
But at this point, Doc picks up the sound of approaching people – and it’s not some happy Calypso-beat merchant!
Vic has the spray can and uses his height to reach up through the doorway, and back, and spray blind.
The white hats hustle through, Cutter last because he needs the jiminy cricket box. He closes the door and works the lock shut, keeping as much cover as he can against the wall. A spray of fine wood splinters pinions him as the door is perforated by a series of small-bore bullets coming from silenced weapons! But his cover and the clothing he’s wearing protect him from any real damage. He grabs up the case and hustles after Vic and Doc! They are clear!
Scene: Kinzey Foundation’s inner floor
Theme: Jungle boogie
Or are they?
Even as Cutter hears kicking and more shots from behind him, Vic swings left down an inner corridor heading for the Secretarial pens, and sees up ahead, swinging into view around the next corner, a really big goon. At least six inches taller, and inches wider across the chest. He seems well aware of Vic, grins displaying enormous lower canines, and yanks the starter-cord of a chainsaw!
Vic wastes no time wondering how come Kinzey Foundation decided their best security is an Ogre – he flings the bucket and mop while snagging out the axe with his left hand. As the Ogre flings up an elbow to protect his face, Vic lays into him with a terrific axe blow! The chainsaw hasn’t even got going.
Cutter weaves past Doc, dropping the jiminy cricket case and bowling his own bucket and mop at the Ogre’s legs. The huge man crashes backward, splintering the sturdy partition behind him and turning a T-junction into a ruined four-way.
Vic is immediately stepping up to bat, axe on high and drives it deep into the Ogre’s exposed throat! Blood fountains everywhere, covering Vic’s mask and coveralls liberally and soaking through. Vic heaves the chainsaw up and gets it revving.
Doc can hear a further series of shots and another solid kick and it sounds like the door has been opened! He skitters past the melee – warning Vic and Cutter – looks along the length of the finely-veneered corridor to what should be the doors to twin Secretarial offices. And he can hear a door closing! Cutter grabs his axe up and follows.
Meanwhile Vic is crouched behind one ruined wing of a partition. He springs out and charges down the pair of hitmen running nimbly up to the junction. But only one goes down! The other one spins partly out and gets off a single clumsy shot. It slams into Vic’s thigh and stays there.
[I have to weigh up how near Vic’s slam-tackle is to taking both defences out, he is short by six, so I judge that one avoided the full tackle and can make a single ‘unsteady’ shot. These suppressed carbines do only 12 damage per hit, doubling to 24 since Vic has no armor at present. Remembering that Vic has been taking amounts of damage each combat, that’s no joke.]
Behind Vic, Doc calls on San’ Pierre’s lumen, leans around the corner and throws it, and the hitman is blinded for a vital few seconds as Vic pounds the head of the one he does have down, onto the floor. But then Doc’s attention is fully held by the next crisis!
Cutter sets himself by the Secretary’s door, ready with his own axe. Waiting… but the door opens well away inwards and instead of ambushing someone, Cutter himself is nearly frozen solid as an icy blast sprays across the corridor! He throws himself to one side, and only part of the blast catches him. Friendly Mr. Johnsson of KinzeyCorp is there, getting another spell ready and still chuckling. He’s wearing flowers in his hair. A garland of them.
Vic launches himself up and lunges his fist into the gunman’s goolies! With a sad whimper the man collapses. Vic checks back over his shoulder and sees:
Cutter throws himself to one side, ice coating his coverall. Doc leaps the other way and through the other Secretarial door; he utters quick syllables and gestures with his coco macaque.
Each of the white hats feels an overwhelming pressure against his brain, but each also feels the amulet they carry cut through it. Johnsson begins chanting the next spell, but then stops as though tongue-tied:
Cutter’s axe blurs as he jumps into the room, there’s a huge spray of blood and Johnsson’s head bounces onto the lushly carpeted floor.
“Stood him up just in time!” Doc calls, to make sure Cutter knows he did his part. That was a tough counter-spell in enemy territory.
Scene: Strong-room, glittering with loot
Theme: Cold sweat
Advancing through the Secretarial pen Cutter finds Johnsson left his office door open. It’s really lavish inside, a brilliantly polished desk, but most importantly a giant floor-length painting has been hinged to one side and stands open, the strong-room behind it.
He hurries in, locates the small attaché case that the garland is supposed to be kept in, and snags it up. Then hurries back and uses the tongs to move the garland into the box.
Meanwhile Vic is hearing a voice in his head that tells him those fools ain’t to be trusted with the Garland. He hurries up to the office, silenced carbine at the ready… then as he nears Doc and the talisman the voice ebbs and he stops, puzzled as to why he‘s pointing the gun.
“Looks familiar,” Doc notes. It’s the same type of gun that was used at Case Western to shoot Arby’s pop.
The box dulls the Garland’s scratching little voice but it can still be felt, just. Cutter passes it over to Doc and steps back into the strong-room. Without knowing exactly what’s going to be easily s old he swipes various platinum-cased, gilt-edged items off the shelves and packs them away in his jacket pockets, then zips up his coverall again and signals the getaway.
Theme: Shakey ground
The coveralls and masks are stripped off and piled in the buckets, Doc’s coverall atop them. They ride down, numb with reaction and tiredness. Various office cleaners and early-morning revelers enter and leave: the trip seems long.
The first floor light comes on and the doors open, the last few revelers wander out into the vast hall. Across the way there’s a beat cop, who glances in, looks hard at them and starts towards them. They exude as much innocence as they possible can as the door slide slowly shut. Last view they have, the cop hasn’t gone for his walkie-talkie. Just looking at them.
[Each white hat burns a drama point on Int+Influence as they attempt to look innocent without moving a muscle.]
Scene: Rapid terminus and Shaker neighbourhood
Theme: Mercy mercy me
Clothes roughly sponged, the trio board with two attaché cases, a concealed .38 and concealed valuable items. And concealed stakes and knife. The other passengers are tired and just interested in getting home, no-one bothers them. Or looks closely at Vic, who’s still leaking blood.
The Rapid takes them by stages up to Shaker. As expected, Cutter’s van is still safe. They slide in gratefully and figure which surgery to break into to get Vic treated. They know this area pretty well now and St. Luke’s is the lucky target. Cutter cracks a large enough window, eases himself in and soon has Doc operating in an unused surgical room.
[Somewhat to Cutter’s horror, Doc just rolls Doctor+Dex with no drama point; Cutter has burnt one getting him in. He gets adequate, so the bullet is removed safely.]
They head back down to DeNaRes ranger station. If they knew where the Professor is based they could ask him about this plan, but sleep seems more important right now. For two of them.
There’s about an hour before dawn as Cutter drives swiftly from the station and back Downtown to park as near as he can to the Plain Dealer.
Scene: Plain Dealer bullpen
Theme: Trouble man/I will survive
Cindy Channel, Queen of the Night Desk, is alone at her desk as Cutter expects. Though recollecting, he takes a harder look around and sure enough, Ted the pale and silent photographer is hovering over a coffee refill over to the wall.
As Cutter eases his way past the desks, filing cabinets and stacks of junk Cindy looks up from her typing, stops, stubs out the cigarette she probably isn’t smoking, and gets up, looking pleased and welcoming.
“That far enough! You don’ come no closer!” Cutter warns roughly, hand easing inside his jacket.
Cindy stops, and asks,
“Is that any way to be coming here visiting? Now really, Stevie…”
“That enough! I jus’ saying this once! You don’ get near me, you don’ get near mine, you don’ see me no more! This an end to it! Or I end you!”
“Now you know you loved being sucked…”
“Gaahhh! Last warnin! I been you slave, ain’t no more! No more, nohow!”
Cutter edges away until he’s clear enough and walks out, stiff-backed. Behind him he hears Cindy humming,
All right now go/walk out that door/just turn around now/you ain’t welcome anymore…
Then she softly sings “I will survive!” as she turns quietly back to her desk. The door closes on Cutter.
As his footsteps echo away she shakes her head to Ted who eases off his battle-readiness and walks over to her desk. He sniffs the air where Cutter has been and licks his thin bloodless lips. Glances at Cindy.
“Uh-huh. I agree,” Cindy smiles. “There’s a story wherever that boy been. Whyn’t you get out and listen around, call me when you find out what’s in the air?”
And gets back to filing the story.
[There’s a ‘did I miss something’ moment for the other two players, Cutter’s player jumps to his feet and raves about the hints they missed for a season and a half. Really, Cindy could have turned Cutter and they would only have noticed when he tried to bite them. Sigh. But Cindy was never one of the bad guys. She just likes the attention her thralls give her.]
Scene: DeNaRes ranger station
Theme: Theme from Shaft
It’s dawn as Cutter’s van is logged in by the faithful Staties. The pinkish kid is already heading in with his thermos flask when Cutter reaches the door. The kid brings up the football results, forgetting they discussed the same thing yesterday morning.
Captain Kelly is there to make sure he gets his coffee and over his shoulder looks at Cutter warningly and away to the bunk-room passage. He gets the message and slips away to hit the showers before the dark stains on his clothes are spotted as being not just water.
Out of the shower and feeling fresher, he finds Vic has been keeping watch all this time. The big guy wraps his thigh in plastic and hits the shower.
Doc is sleeping restlessly. The talisman stone is atop the case but he’s still getting dreams that disturb him. So is Marie: her nails are digging into her face, even in her sleep.
“We needa get this gone, one way or other,” Cutter agrees when Doc rouses. “Say, Benny there see where Prof set up… Benny! Benny my man!”
Benny Li is roused slow and groggy but after some coffee gets them clear directions on where the Prof set up at the lakes. He doesn’t exactly know what the Prof is looking for… something about water quality…
Scene: a maintenance hut, Shaker Lakes
The Prof gets his pipe going and the white hats gets as comfy as they can be. So what is it, this plan?
“I did some research… on the Bianchis,” the Prof puffs. “My plan is to create a balance of power that gets them off your back, by doing a favor for another team. They have a serious rival family. So you should hand the Garland to the Hagens, out of Chicago.”
After some further questions and detail Cutter spills out the loot.
“Lordy! Now that’ll get some funds,” the Prof comments.
Regretting that Arby isn’t around to help sell off the loot, the three agree to sell it and use the cash to fund them some way out.
And so All Souls comes to a close with a way out for the white hats that does not involve them doing battle with the Jhe Sisterhood or handing the Bianchis an artifact of frightful power.
And thus ends the Cleveland Darkens campaign.
Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!
Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules
The wrap party
Next 48 hours: STEVE CUTTER yanks Cleo out of her usual round of child rearing, piece-work and protest with an engagement ring; and an offer to make a new start in Chicago with the boys. Within 48 hours they are gone, Arby’s son Kimba none the wiser as to his birth father being alive.
Next few days: VICTOR CREED at one stage is in danger of finding himself hastily elected Alderman. The Democrats win the senate election and the Ward needs a Creed who knows about individual freedoms. And Vic would go over big with the Veterans vote. Vic wangles out and shifts his pop into the role. There’s no sign pop will ease up on the drinking but Vic no longer needs to support him or sis. He uses his DeNaRes contacts to get work further afield. As for his mom, a reconciliation with pop, if only for public consumption, seems likely.
Next couple of weeks: JON ‘DOC’ SAMEDY learns his cousin the paralegal has enough on Case Western, around the easy access it was giving Farmatec, to force them to eat crow and reinstate Doc. But he asks if they will instead recommend him to a reputable Chicago teaching hospital. This they do and he departs, leaving the Haitian congregation to look for the return of the scion. He does not bring MARIE EMANA with him.
Next 180 days: ROOSEVELT ‘ARBY’ BROWN does the full 180 days for auto theft, and lucky Ohio leaves that at 4th degree felony. He re-enters society to grift on the fringes as ever, always meaning to make it big and see his children right.
And the other cast members:
The GRAY KNIGHTS supervise the Republican election night party, which is muted since local man Taft loses and of course, Jimmy Carter beats Gerald Ford for top office. At all times they remain completely oblivious of the Sisterhood of Jhe coven sited within an easy walk of their Armory, under Erie Street Cemetery.
The surviving SISTERHOOD OF JHE wait until mid-November, tending the sigils in the tunnel and occasionally fending off Goblin rebellion, then read the auspices as no longer in their favor and move on.
Doctor WILSON remains convinced he can radically treat psychiatric patients but Susan SPENSER is disenchanted with the Clinic and moves on. Sarah THACKER has already done so, seeking new challenges to her technical brilliance.
Freed from blackmail EMILY PHAN concentrates on making her grades and sleepwalking through her three part-time jobs. She does OK.
Also free from blackmail, though not from regrets, CHARLIE STONE returns to Cincinnati and makes an honest woman of the girl he ditched with his love-child. But the flesh is weak…
MADELINE BURNES never does reconcile with disgraced husband WILLIAM ‘BILL’ BURNES. When all’s said and done, he did know exactly where to pick up those hookers.
NICHOLETTE DE LA FLEUR decides she is safe from legal action, and re-surfaces, but stays away from Cleveland just in case.
WOLFGANG & HEARST are never short of clients. They cut their losses in Cleveland office and form new relationships above and below.
The BIANCHIS are wiped out by rival wizardly family the HAGENS. As a result of negative press about a return to mob violence, LA’s new SWAT model is studied by the SPECIAL RIOT SQUAD for adoption locally. AGENT BODDINGTON writes another report that is read by very few people outside of similar departments in Chicago and Boston.
MORONI THE MOB BASTARD continues minding the store, liaising between his two peoples (or three if you count the undead). Everyone just wants to see money keep coming in, undead and mob alike. THE BONEYARD under SMOOTH CLYDE continues catering to an off-beat crowd; and the music plays on.
Production credits: all available on RPGNOW/DriveThruRPG unless noted otherwise
I had already purchased the Deadly Seven, by Panik Productions and knew I wanted it for the spine of the campaign. But I didn’t have something that would actually run a purpose across that, going beyond the routine ‘we battle demons’ element.
I generated the campaign arcs using Plotlibs – urban fantasy edition. My main plot was:
‘A war-weary vet wants to end the killings in order to prevent the Apocalypse.’
Demonic lawyers are the minor threat.
An insane wizard is the major threat.
Twist – the party have all been poisoned – but with what?
After generating this I tentatively sketched in the role of Milton Warnock as a senior legal element such as a DA, not a dentist as the original has it. I also thought W&H would be in the frame too.
I also wanted a second thread, running here and there around the first. My sub-plot was:
‘The witch living upstairs wants to earn Tengu’s favor to earn one of Wayland’s weapons.’
Overly officious officials are the minor threat.
The Apocalypse is the major threat.
Twist – The villain’s lair only lets corporeal being in – why would dinner need to leave?
I let the occasional appearance of Jim Fairbanks drive that forwards. It soon became apparent that the Bianchis’ sorceress was probably the witch upstairs and Jim would be trying to get the weapon for her. Since Sweet Hell Chicago had a silver hammer in it I thought it likely that it had been in the Bianchis’ possession before the Hagens got it.
Before I move on to NPCs like Fairbanks, I should say that the Eva Shreibach scenario was web-sourced, and is written for Unisystem, unlike virtually all other elements. The other exception I can think of is the original concept of a tunnel system – not the giant loop but a much humbler affair – comes from a Unisystem scenario that appears in Eden Studios Present magazines. The ‘loop’ was a riff on something Cutter’s player said. I guessed he like me had watched Full Metal Alchemist so I figured would pick up on ‘deadly sin’ demons and a giant Apocalyptic loop tunnel.
Not everything was scenario-generated. I also adapted the Wellstone City adventure generator for Cleveland for season one, until the playing field was crowded with factions and conflicting demands.
I used a number of mishmashed d20 and Savage Worlds resources, weaving characters and elements freely into the demons and the general life on the streets. Most of these are Wellstone City related. Burning Crosses, Full Circle and Shots Rang Out were all used in small doses, though in some cases (Nicole of Garfield Heights) the white hats did not follow through. In other cases (Dr. Han) I narrowly restrained them from following through pointlessly.
Some of the most fun NPCs and ideas came from Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown. It is written for QAGS but like Savage Worlds pieces is easily adapted.
Camp Wikacini was an out-of-town scenario I only used to illustrate where the white hats were dropping their ‘raccoons.’ I would have loved to run a zombie-survivor session there but it didn’t quite fit. I ran the Schreibach Estate raid instead.
Cake Walk (deserved award-winner) gave me the rangers, and the sadly-underused Gremlins. Department of Natural Resources is a real thing, that I adapted to be this scenario’s Special Animal Control and Shelter. I don’t believe it is ever abbreviated to DeNaRes, but what a fine fit for the campaign it was.
Professor Josiah Roosevelt, who consults to DeNaRes, is based heavily on The Wire character Det. Lester Freamon, portrayed by Clarke Peters. I believe all of the family members of the white hats and their near and dear were generated using Character Webs.
Other NPCs were just generated from the adapted street events (see Wellstone City adventure generator above). Jim Fairbanks is one such, Asha Barkley and her brother Haile Selassie Barkley others. I linked them in through the events, and through what the Universal GM Emulator was telling me for any given session. Jim became important as a stand-in NPC, built on the Hero template from BtVS rules. I tacked the entire sub-plot onto him, which moved to a conclusion at the start of season two. The Bianchis were then used as a GM vehicle to speak more directly to the characters about what to investigate.
The Universal GME (above) was used for just about every session, and later I added the Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator (CRGE) which is better at pushing threads to a conclusion. Even in the final session above, the players surprised me by returning to DeNaRes so I rolled on the GME and came up with the Prof’s ‘deceive the standoff’ scheme, very much on the fly. Using these along with a growing number of NPC templates made session prep quick and painless.